The finished garmentI'm not sure how long after Christmas you can wear your Christmas dress. As you can see from me posing in the sunshine by the grapevine on 27 December I was a bit ambivalent, wearing it with my Camper sneakers rather than my red shoes.
Can you wear a dress covered in baubles and presents past Twelfth Night? Does wearing it past 5 January cause bad luck like leaving your Christmas decorations up? Although there is also a superstition that Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night should be left up until Candlemas Day (2nd February) and then taken down. Don't think I'll be wearing this dress over the next month it is now safely ensconced in the wardrobe until December. Tidied away like the Christmas decorations.
There was a thread on Pattern Review about sewing old patterns and did that make you look frumpy. So here I am in a new Style Arc pattern feeling frumpy. The big contributor to the frumpiness is the cardigan, completely the wrong length for this dress but good from a colour perspective. Or maybe its the too high neckline or the flat sneakers. Whatever it is this picture does not have me feeling my best.
The fabricA pre-Christmas impulse purchase from Liberty of London (I succumbed to their marketing email). The fabric was washed as soon as it arrived and cut out soon after to make the Gertrude Designer dress. The stash came into play for the lining fabric which is a plain black cotton voile.
|Liberty of London House of Gifts navy tana lawn|
The patternThe Gertrude Designer dress is described by Style Arc as a designer dress featuring a fitted bodice, dropped shoulder line, tucked sleeves, inverted pleats and a back zip. The reverse inverted pleats give this designer dress its unique shape. This dress has a fitted bodice along with a dropped shoulder. The shape of the engineered sleeve is created by the under-sleeve tucks. The essential side pockets and mid-calf length give this dress its designer feel.
Suggested fabrics are washed linen, crepe, silk and rayon, so similar to the tana lawn I chose to use.
The pattern alterationsAmazingly no pattern alterations were made to this dress. Based on the finished pattern measurements I cut a straight size 12 (I did check the sizing by comparing to my TNT dress pattern). No forward shoulder or sway back. The only change I had to make when cutting out the dress was to shorten it to knee length because I didn't have enough fabric for anything longer. I also omitted the back zipper.
As this is a limited wear dress being made from a Christmas print I did wonder about just doing plain short sleeves without the tuck detail but decided in the end to just go with the pattern flow.
If I make this dress again there will be alterations, at the minimum: a sway back adjustment; shortened sleeves and lowered neckline.
The sewingThis was certainly not a quick sew for me partly because I used french seams and lined it but the pattern itself has a number of details that take time.
There are a number of steps to construct each of the eight bodice pieces (two front outer fabric, two front lining, two back outer fabric, two back lining).
Step one: sew the bodice princess seams together including the inverted pleats at the skirt end. Press the seam open and the pleats flat.
Step two: sew the centre front and centre back seams (two of each). I used French seams on these four seams.
Step three: add the two raglan sleeve pieces to each of the front and back sections. Press the seams open.
Step four: sew the shoulders of the dress and of the lining together. Press the seams open.
Step five: Attach the lining and dress together at the neckline. Trim the neckline seam and under-stitch.
Step six: For the side seams I used French seams and treated the dress and lining as one but made the sewing more complicated by keeping the pockets.
So what about the pockets. I puzzled this a great deal in one of my early morning awake sessions, trying to work out how I could have a pocket in a French seam. I tried to take pictures as I went along but of course when deep into sewing you forget all about pictures.
Step one: sew the pocket bags around the edge wrong sides together leaving a small area unsewn at each end by the side seam edge.
Step two: sew each side of the pocket bag to its corresponding dress side seam wrong sides together. Sew the dress side seam (wrong sides together) up to the pocket bag in two steps - hem to pocket bag, underarm to pocket bag.
Step three: press the first part of the French seam towards the pocket bag.
Step four: sew each side of the pocket bag to its corresponding dress side seam right sides together. This is where you need the small unsewn area of the pocket bag so you can separate the two halves of the pocket bag to sew them to the corresponding side seam. Press the finished French seam of the pocket bag towards the pocket bag.
Step five (no picture): Sew the dress side seam's second part of the French seam. This is sewn how you would conventionally sew the side seam with pocket bag in one continuous length - hem to pocket bag, around the pocket bag, pocket bag to underarm.
Step six (no picture): press the French seam towards centre front in order for your pocket bag to be facing the right direction.
The sleeves because of the tuck detail consist of an under and upper sleeve. The tucks were sewn into the under sleeve, the shoulder dart sewn in the upper sleeve and both pressed. The under and upper sleeve were sewn together with French seams and a narrow hem was machine stitched. Once the dress side seams were sewn the unlined two piece sleeve could be inserted also using French seams, treating the dress body lining and outer fabric as one.
The final step was to hand sew a narrow hem. As I only had a limited amount of fabric (two metres) I had made the dress as long as possible but the only way I could have the hem end just below my knee cap was to have a 1" hem (⅜" for the first fold and ⅝" for the second).
After all that sewing the dress was finished on Boxing Day and has had minimal wear. Waiting for Christmas 2020 to shine!
There is much discussion about the quality of Style Arc directions. For me the Gertrude Designer Dress instructions were adequate clearly illustrating how to construct the princess seam tucks and the tucks in the under sleeve. This was pretty much the only time I referred to the pattern instructions, especially as I lined the dress and had to decide how I wanted to treat the lining and outer dress fabrics.
Outfit of the dayHere is the dress in action being Mrs Claus handing Christmas presents to my beloved (which he had to wait until Boxing Day for). I know pathetic but if you are going to the trouble of making a Christmas dress it has to have some purpose and he didn't seem to mind waiting the extra day (or twelve hours if we celebrated with our northern hemisphere family!). He also appreciated the pre-Christmas clean the house got which is what caused the sewing delay.
To be perfectly honest I felt more Christmassy dressed in my Twirling Rebecca Taylor dress with a red cropped top and United Nude Lev Wrap Lo red shoes than I did in my House of Gifts Christmas dress, even wearing the same red shoes.
Sewing out and aboutThe dress was started two Sunday's before Christmas whilst we were away on the West Coast. The Sunday afternoon was wet and miserable so whilst my beloved read his book I sewed at the little dining table.
After sewing the Christmas dress I gave the little Featherweight a Christmas treat with a good dust, oil and grease, plus I finally replaced her bed cushions (the little rubber feet).
The bed cushions are supposed to grip the sewing surface for vibration and noise absorption. Mine unsurprisingly given the age of the machine were hard and smooshed down. To remove the old worn cushions I had to dig out the old rubber with a screwdriver. I got better at the digging out with each one I removed. The picture below left shows all four cushions removed and on the right shows the difference between two new ones (face up and face down) compared with the older cushions.