Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Dressing

It's been a really hectic month for me, with so much sewing to be done for clients' projects. This Spring I was commissioned to make 4 custom dresses or gowns, 3 for mothers-of-the-groom/bride. In my sewing business, most of my work is doing alterations, and it's pretty rare for me to have more than one custom project at a time. The due dates for these are spread out through the summer
, with the first delivered late last week, but all but one has gotten to the point where the patternwork is pretty much done, the materials have all arrived, and the serious sewing is underway.

It always takes far longer to get to that point in a client's project than I expect - or estimate - it will. The process is usually complicated along the way by design changes that are requested during the initial fittings, or by construction 'puzzles' and their solutions that come up as the garment takes shape. As much as I love to sew, issues and problems like these frustrate me, sometimes almost unbearably:
  • one client asked if we could change the front bodice of her dress to a cowl neck, influenced by what I was wearing that day as much as how her fabric behaved, as I draped the cloth over the lining during her muslin fitting
  • a wide, soft belt was added to design of a dress, to cinch the fullness and make the shape more pleasing 
  • the dress I was about to begin patternwork for may need to become full-length rather just below the knee, once the MOG consults with the MOB who's changed her mind about what SHE's wearing to the wedding - and the fabric has already been purchased
Adding to this confusion (all these issues came up in just a two week period) I had a very complicated bridal gown alteration that I needed to undo. It was a bulky, multi-layered boned bodice that wouldn't stay in plastic clips, let alone allow pins to penetrate. My method of recording the amount to be taken in proved less than accurate - I'm pretty sure it had to do with the stretch of the bias cut pleated overlay that has to be altered separately....It was one of my less stellar moments as a "bridal alteration specialist" when the zipper failed to go up at this bride's follow-up fitting. Sigh, at least I had the presence of mind to bring her in for this extra fitting, and to have only basted the changes up to this point. No great harm done, though - I redid the alteration and the bride picked up her gown, very happy with the final fit. (Since the wedding hasn't taken place yet, I won't include photos here yet. I wouldn't use her name, but I still wouldn't want to publish anything her groom might see!)

After two or three exhausting days where it felt like I was putting out fires or rushing to get something done just in time for a fitting, I walked into the studio the other day with a plan. Feeling the pressure of deadlines, I listed the work I needed to get done and prioritized it, including a category of "non-client" or personal sewing projects. Two of those got a level 2 priority - higher than several items that are client work - because I am the boss my gut and my blood pressure told me I needed to give myself some time to sew for enjoyment. It took most of the morning and into the early afternoon, but I completed the highest priority items one by one and crossed them off my list. Then I chose one of my personal entries, and less than 3 hours later I'd cut out and sewed the shell of this summer dress for my favorite doctor - aka my daughter.

I love the way the floral is broken up by the multiple seams in this design.

She'd shopped online for the fabric for this and another summer dress, when I offered to make them. (Okay, I admit I steered her to the right website.) The fabric is from Sawyer Brook, called Tanice (I think there's still a bit available). It's a cotton satin stretch, and such a pleasure to work with! I used McCall's 6027 which I used before to create the red wedding dress. To my great surprise I was able to use the same size for Erin's dress, simply undoing the folds I put in to "petite" the pattern for my client. 

Construction of the dress is pretty straightforward, I barely used the directions. Because the lower part of the armhole isn't contained in a sleeve seam, how to finish that edge might have been a problem - the dress is unlined. I had created a one-piece facing for the neck and armseyes, so the facing on the shoulder strap covers the seam attaching the cap sleeves. 
The front facing

Back facing and the cap sleeve. I haven't done the understitching along the lower armhole, allowing for any fit adjustment that might be needed.
I used a narrow hem, pressing up the 5/8" to start and folding the edge under as I stitched. I didn't try my narrow hem foot, as it makes a pretty tiny fold - it seemed to me the stretch in the fabric would cause problems feeding through. I could feel the fabric bounce as I stitched the hem, and it was a bit stretched and rippled when done, but pressing took care of that. 

Just another hour or so over the weekend and the dress was ready for a fit check - and just in time, too! With her husband out of town this week, the doctor called to ask her dad to come for a mid-day visit with his grand-dog - so I sent the dress along with him. Haven't heard yet how she likes it, so I'll post a photo when I see her wearing it.

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