Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Birthday Party Dress, takes 2 and 3

I'm starting to get the hang of sewing ... this pattern, at least.
Well, I did eventually finish the kitty cat dress of the last post (except for the sash which will eventually get done, I hope), though I am not at all happy about the way the gathers lie at the waist.  I tried lining the skirt with a nice, lightweight blend I found here -- no idea what it's called since it's only labeled in Chinese, but it was soft and cheap, so I went for it.  I was planning on sewing up the lining and the skirt into tubes and then just slipping one into the other and treating them as one fabric for gathering the skirt and attaching it to the bodice, but I had made a rookie mistake.  Instead of measuring the width of the skirt I had just been going from selvage to selvage since it was close enough -- a great idea, in theory, but I didn't take into account the fact that the lining and the cotton fabrics were sold in different widths.  Sigh.  I had to gather then separately and pin all three layers together, and then, since the lining was on top and not the outer skirt, I couldn't really adjust the gathers when sewing the whole thing together.  That, coupled with the fact that I added a tier to the lining, made the whole skirt a bit too poofy and the gathers a bit wonky.  Oh well.  It was a play dress, anyway, and once I get around to the tie, hopefully it will pull together well enough for getting covered in dirt and ice cream and marker and play-doh and all the other thing little girls love, but as of yet, it still sits on the hanger unworn. 

My latest attempt also had a few bumps in the road to completion, but I couldn't have asked for a better end result.  Initially, I had planned for a more elaborate Easter dress from a new pattern, but an immigration deadline for paperwork regarding my older (adopted) son meant I couldn't seriously think of starting anything until the week before Easter, so I went with the one pattern I had quasi-mastered.  (Also, I might have wanted to make up for my last attempt at it.)  So, I went with a sweet little pink print that Vivienne and I chose together last time we went fabric shopping.  (She's 3.  It's not all that difficult to talk her into anything in pink or purple.)  We also have a large Japanese craft store here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.  It's very different from the kind of store you'd find back home.  It's incredible for needle felting and bedazzling, not so strong on the standard needlecrafts.  One thing it does have in spades, though, is cotton lace, and their wholesale prices really are reasonable.  A few weeks ago I bought some to try out and already had it pre-washed and ironed, so this seemed like an ideal time to try it out.  The only tricky part was figuring out how to finish off the cut ends on the sleeves, but I ended up seaming it and trimming it several times until it curved nicely at the ends.  It seemed as long as my thread matched the color of the lace pretty well, I could get away with not really knowing what I was doing because the stitches pretty much just disappeared in the lace's thickness.  I also had to sew it on really, really slowly and pin really, really well to make sure the seam caught it completely, but the end result was worth it.

The problem came "Easter-eve" when I was almost finished the dress.  While winding a bobbin, something snapped inside the bobbin casing, and from then on, the machine refused to pick up the bobbin thread: in other words, it wasn't going to sew anymore, no matter what I did.  Having gotten that far, I really didn't want to give up on my daughter's first homemade Easter dress (even though I am the only one who cares about such things around here -- she was the only little girl in an Easter dress at either of the two church services we went to the next day, and at 3, she doesn't really know what an Easter dress is).  So, I sewed the gathering stitches at the top of the skirt by hand and then seamed it onto the outer bodice.  That left sewing down the inner bodice lining, a feat usually achieved by a nice, fast row of top stitching along the waistline.  I'm not terrible at hand stitching, but there was no way I wanted a whole long line of my stitches showing, and I had already pretty much stayed up most of the night sewing.  I had to get creative.  A long time ago, in my cardmaking days, I picked up a large pack of pink rick rack which I had earlier noticed went very well with this cloth.  I decided to sew it only the high waist as I attached the lining.

Soon, I realized that this was exactly the right call because the rick rack only needed one tiny stitch each little wave.  Not only did it make the seam look nice and pretty, but it saved a whole lot of time.  I felt like I discovered a prairie mother's secret weapon from the heyday of hand sewing.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to be hitting up the local quilting shop for their extensive rick rack selection in the future -- at least until Vivienne is old enough to think she's too cool for the old fashioned look.
Finally finished!
On the way to church -- the sash didn't survive the whole day, so it was just as well it had the pretty waistband.

Totally gratuitous cuteness.  This Easter outfit is completely courtesy of Gymboree and not mommy, but I can't resist this photo of baby brother David.

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