Version: sleeveless with high-scooped neckline
Fabric: silk for outer-fabric and lining
Notions: rayon thread; invisible zipper; hook-and-eye
Instructions: fine, but I switched things up because of the silk
Modification: French seams on skirt; hand sewing; bias around neck and arm; rolled hem; adjusted darts; invisible zipper installation; more hand sewing
Recommend: this is the second time, so yes
Are you a doodler? I am a doodler, but my sketches are not cute or fancy. Mine turnout more like a ball of yarn then interlocked hearts on a white silk background. When I first saw this fabric, it ended up in my shopping cart immediately and I never looked back. It is one of my favorite prints that I have ever sewn. While I like the print, the silk was a new challenge for me. Truth: it scared me stiff.
Butterick 5982 has a straight hem, princess seams, and while there are pleats and gathers, a majority of the fabric lays flat. I know this because I had success previously making this pattern nearly a year ago. I also thought it was wise to use a pattern that I was already familiar with because the silk would be a challenge. I have very little experience working with it, and am intimidated. Granted, I did use it on a Lonsdale dress, but the washed silk had a heavier weight. This project's fabric is more delicate. The heart fabric is semi-sheer and needs a full lining for a realm of modesty; therefore, a white silk was selected for the under-material. One of Butterick 5982 versions includes a overlay for the skirt, so it was clear that this was the right pattern.
Knowing the fabric would behave differently than anything I had worked with before, I made a test swatch and tried different stitching techniques. I learned that my normal machine snagged both the lining and printed fabric when passed across the feed-dog. Fortunately, I have my grandmother's old Viking machine that handled the fabric wonderfully with no snags and I was able to use smaller stitch sizes. A needle made for silks and a new to me tool improved the seams on this dress.
I choose to use rayon thread for the entire project, including hand sewing, after seeing the polyester thread I always use caused ripples no matter the tension. Checkout the lovely buttery yellow dress I completed prior to this project that helped me become familiar with this thinner, lighter weight thread before attempting to use it on this project. Rayon thread was a dream to hand-stitch with and made the machine sewn stitches lay flatter and flow better than all purpose thread.
In order for the print not to be seen through the fabric, measures were taken to hide the seam allowances. The skirt, though easy to complete, took a number of hours to make. The first step in making this dress was to hand-roll the hemline. This is my first attempt at this technique (in quantity), and while it is far from a perfect execution, it resulted in something better than a folded or machine stitched hem. I made a quarter-inch stitch guideline with the machine and took my time wrapping the raw edge between hand stitched strokes. This was done for both layers of fabric. After that task was complete, French seams were used on the two skirt side seams.
I wanted to keep the integrity of the silk to flow and drape at will. I selected a size 14, which makes a bodice that is loose but slightly fitted on me. One issue was resolved with the drafting of this pattern bodice---the darts resulted in cone shaped points on each bust. Even on my previously made dress, the darts were too sharp and pointy; so here, were adjusted by reducing the angle.
For the bodice, the seams where sewn and then the raw edges were whipped-stitched as a finish. Whip-stitching is another option for finished edges. In this case it was a good choice since other methods, like serging or binding, would cause ripples that were visible on the outside of the garment. From my experiments, it works best on thin fabric that will not be heavily used. It does take time to complete, as in a couple of hours depending on the number of edges. I make very small stitches about an 1/8 inch off the edge and about equal distance between. The stitch, in a way, ties the fabric weave in place.
Along with hand finishing the edges, I also hand stitched bias in place around the neck and arm holes. With the outer-fabric being sheer, having the seam allowance between the layers would have been visible. With narrow bias, the raw edges can be brought behind both layers of fabric and tacked into place through the lining. I was VERY careful not to stitch into the printed fabric so it could flow freely and no stitches were visible.
Special attention was applied to the waistline. The skirt is composed of flat sections at the front and rear with gathers at the sides. This was done as instructed, but was reinforced with rayon tape and very small stitches just above the true waistline seam. More hand sewing along the top edge of the tape makes the two sections one.
An invisible zipper was used on this project, as this is my preferred closure. I know it has been said so many times before, so let's say it again. The fabric is sheer. The seam allowance for the zipper was taken into account because of this along with the fact that the zipper needed reinforcement for stabilizing. Unlike my usual zipper installation method though, I added extra fabric to the allowance so it could be folded over to create four layers of silk. That is to say, I doubled the seam allowance, folded in half, and then applied the zipper per the instructions included on the package. This worked lovely, but certainly would not work for every project or fabric type. After the zipper was installed, I used rayon seam binding to improve the look of the zipper by hand sewing the rayon to the zipper tape and then to the lining of the dress.
This dress involved a load of hand work. Which was fun and I enjoyed the long process. The dress is turning out like I pictured it would with one exception. The fabric is still stiff and not as droopy as in my minds eye. After a wash and a few wears, I think I will hit perfection by relaxing the fibers. With that said, I wish you the perfect Valentine's Day this weekend. If the ninety-degree weather continues, I have the perfect thing to wear for a hot day. Happy Valentine's Day!