Thursday, May 18, 2017

To Infinity and Beyond!

This post starts with a confession: I like to wear dresses. I really do. There is something inexplicably beautiful about wearing a dress, even if it's an about-the-home dress that's easy to throw on and ok to get a bit of sticky-fingered-child-love on. 

I don't get to wear dresses enough, because even though dresses can be, they are not always practical for the kind of work I do. The kind where pockets are a must for all sorts of miscellaneous essentials like tissues, lip balm, rocks from who knows where, animal toys, phones, keys and the like. The kind of work where I'm going to be sitting on the ground and may have to suddenly lunge with no warning to save a child from some imminent danger, thus needing to be modest and flexible. 

Sigh. Not many dresses fit this line of work at all. It's rather disappointing when every day I wear the same outfit in a different variation: shorts and t-shirt. Now that it's coming into winter, it's a mix of jeans and a t-shirt, sometimes with a hoodie! Sigh. 

A few months ago, I was hanging up dresses in my cupboard and I found one that I can not remember seeing before at all. Honestly. I do get many of my clothes as hand me downs from my generous patrons of fashion (also known as my sisters). There is probably about an 75% hand me down to 25% self bought ratio, although in recent years the gap is closing, so in all likely hood this dress was just another hand me down that I have forgotten about, but I was still perplexed as to how it got into my cupboard with no recollection from me. 

What was more perplexing was that when I put it on, it fit so comfortably, that I have no idea how I could possibly have had it in the cupboard but not realised what a great dress it was! Curious and curiouser! 

After wearing it a few times, I decided I must recreate more of this fabulous dress, because, perfectly fitting though it was, it was lacking in pockets. So I looked at the dress and thought about it, and drew my own pattern for it. 

I'm a little bit shocked at how far I've come with sewing. That I can now look at a dress and know what parts go where and how it might be constructed is astonishing to me. That I can confidently cut the fabric and sew with some semblance of a unified seam allowance leaves me perplexed. In a good way. 

I have heard/read of people who make a "muslin" before they make the actual dress, and for once I found myself in the same boat. The "muslin" is just essentially a rough draft dress that you use to check that everything fits where it should, and give you practice at sewing it. I've never sewn one before because it seems like a waste to me to make an entire dress just as practice. And I've never had enough money to justify buying material for a rough draft dress either. 

Enter the space bed sheets that Steve's mum gave me as hand me downs from Steve's childhood. (I've used them before here.) These were in the drawer, and I did need to start cleaning out those drawers, so why not use them for the rough draft dress? Once the problem of material was solved and I started sewing, I realised another exciting factor about sewing the draft dress: you don't have to finish it. 

By "finish it" I don't mean you can leave it half done, but that you don't have to finish the seams (that's the technical term). It means you don't have to sew them so they don't fray, because you won't be wearing this rough draft dress (in theory), so you just sew the basics. No hemming either, or binding the neck holes, or finishing the sleeves. Sewing a draft dress is fast. 

Of course fixing the mistakes of the draft pattern takes longer, but at least you've made progress, and you've seen the way the dress could come together and be amazing. I'm officially converted to making a muslin, because I know if I do it, the end result will actually be great, rather than something I might have to adjust. Here's hoping that people continue to give me old bed sheets to use as drafts for the rest of my life and it does not become a financial burden. 

Back to my story. The first draft dress worked well, but there was something wrong with the bodice fit. Not for nothing did I read iKat Bag's series on dress drafting though! At the time when I was reading the posts, which were long and involved, and slightly over my head, I was wondering if this information would ever come in handy. But when I looked at the draft dress bodice and knew that I needed to take 2cm off the side bodice pieces to bring the princess seams to the correct place in the armscye, I felt empowered beyond belief. 

When the adjustment proved to be exactly correct in the second draft dress, words can not express my joy. There may have even been a dance around the living room. 

Can you see how the Princess Seam fits perfectly there!? 
I'm not sure why I have no photos of these draft dresses, or why I don't even know the current location of these dresses. Surely I didn't throw them before I finished blogging about all this sewing? Who knows. Anyway, in draft dress two, now that the bodice fit, I also added sleeves. Traditionally I don't sew anything with sleeves. Not sure if you've noticed on the girls dresses, but in four years, I've only sewed one with sleeves. 

I had been reading some Sewing Rabbit posts about dresses, and she has a different way of putting sleeves into dresses that seemed to be way easier that the usual way a pattern will tell you to, that I was keen to try. Draft dress two was the perfect time, and again, reading the copious amounts of sewing related blogs paid off. 

It was time to try the real thing but I wasn't quite ready yet. Mostly, after all the sewing of draft dresses using super cool space material (that was also super soft because it had been well used), I kind of wanted a space dress as well as the dress out of the material I originally wanted. I rationalised this by saying a third practice dress that I actually put all the finishes on would be good practice for me, and it would use more space material (remember I needed to clean out the drawer?). On top of that, I could use it when I'm working, because it would have pockets, and I could make it as long as I like for modesty and easy wear. 

So I did. This is actually what I spent most of my Mother's Day on. I sewed while Steve played with the girls. It was really nice to be listening to them play while I got to sew. So spoilt. 

So the Self Drafted Wearable Muslin Space Dress is finished. Sophie's reaction was: "What a beautiful dress Mum! You should wear it to playgroup." I'm a little sad that it's coming into winter and I'll have to layer it, but I think I will be wearing it, and soon. 

And now that it's done and it turned out beautifully, I'm even more excited (if that was possible) about sewing the dress in the fabric I had dreamed about all along. Just wait and see! I really do feel like the options are limitless: to infinity and beyond in the world of dress making! 

No comments: