Current dressmaking project…finished!

Last month, I was still contemplating what to do for my next dressmaking project. I had decided on the New Look #6723 pattern and was going to change the sweetheart neckline to a V-neck.

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New Look pattern #6723, $4.99 from PatternReview

After some various alterations which I’ll go into later, I’ve finally transformed the watercolour fabric that I got from The Netherlands into a dress that I plan to wear for a very special occasion.

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Watercolour fabric from The Netherlands

I haven’t been working on it the entire time since I posted about it back in May. I got it finished pretty quickly, but there were some other alterations I had to make to the finished dress. First of all, I’ll explain how I changed the neckline to the pattern:

1. You’ll need to first cut out the pattern pieces if you’ve bought a brand new one and find the one you need (ie the front bodice piece)

2. Using the bleached/white baking paper (you can get 8m of this for £1.05 at Tesco), put the pattern piece underneath and trace the pattern along the size you need. Most patterns come with more than one size, you can either cut it to the right size if you wish. I prefer to keep all the sizes in case I make the same dress for someone else, or need to go up/down a size myself. The lines are marked in intervals with the size numbers so trace these on the baking paper.

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Note: Make sure all the notations marked on the original pattern piece is also transferred to your traced pattern. If you’ve never used a dress pattern before, the notches help you align your pieces in the right place (ie skirt pieces) and the black circles are important for when you put all your pieces together in the end (ie sleeve to the bodice).

3. Leave about 2cm seam allowance on the top and bottom edges of the pattern to allow you to do a rolled seam. Use a ruler to join up these points. (I only did a rolled seam because this dress isn’t lined. If you intend to use lining for your dress, use a ruler and draw a line to join the top and bottom edges of the pattern. You can also ignore the steps on doing a rolled hem)

4. Cut out the traced pattern

5. Place all your pattern pieces on your fabric according to the pattern diagram or in a way which minimises small pieces of fabric being wasted and pin these

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6. Once you’re happy with the alignment, cut carefully, making sure to cut out the notches as well

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7. Along the neckline, roll the edges and sew this first. To do this, fold over approx. 1cm of the fabric and pin. Once you’ve done the length of the neckline, go back and roll it again so that the edge of the fabric is now underneath

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Your end rolled seam should look like this:

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8. Tack the rolled hem

9. Sew the hem. I prefer as an added measure of security to keep the pins in until it’s ready to be sewn, then I remove it before it goes under the foot and needle of the sewing machine

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10. Do this for both front bodice pieces, then follow the instructions for making the dress.

Here’s my finished dress:

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Finished dress by altering the neckline to the New Look pattern

A lot of the time when you read blogs about how people have made their dresses, it sounds as if they do it quickly and pain/frustration-free. In one of my previous posts, I tried to explain some of the tips that I felt would be helpful. In the end though, I think bloggers want to show the end product and maybe given time and experience, it’s not so hard. But to be brutally honest, I experienced some difficulties with making this dress that I think would help those new to dressmaking that everything’s not always smooth sailing, especially if you’re doing something different. It’s like baking a cake, if you’ve never made the recipe before and aren’t sure what to do to fix a problem, you’re stuck. But there are times even when you make exactly the same recipe, something goes a bit awry and you’re still left stumped as to how it happened. Here’s the things that delayed this post:

1) The dress ended up too big when it was first finished. No joke, even after making sure I cut out my pieces using the correct sizes (I had to use a size smaller for the bodice top to the size for the waist) and constantly tried it on to check the fitting, once it was all put together it just looked…boxy on the hanger. When I finally tried it on after it was put together, the bodice was about 2 inches too big! I had to get my OH to help me pin the sides so it fit better and had to re-stitch the side seams.

2) The hook and eye kept creeping out too far. You’ll usually find when your dress calls for a hidden zipper, you’ll also need a hook and eye at the top back of your dress to hold the back pieces together so it doesn’t gape at the top and somehow encourage the zip to slide downwards. Who knew when trying to sew these bits to a dress that they would be so fiddly? I had sewn it on twice and realised it left too much of a gap between the two sides of the back bodice pieces and decided to give up until I’ve done the zipper. I found the easiest way to sew these on was to hold onto the loops you’re meant to sew on (previously I was holding onto the hook and eye bits so I could align this properly with the open ends where the zip was to go). Less fidgety that way.

3) Trying to get the hidden zipper, well, hidden. I had no issues with the exposed zip on my shirt dresses, but for some reason trying to keep the edges straight to hide the zipper isn’t as easy to do. I had pinned the edges in place along the hidden zip line, pinned and tacked this before going under the needle, but for some reason it still came out wavy. So I had to unpick the stitches (took me 45 minutes doing this) and decided I had to leave it that way and pick it up again another day. I’ve re-done this and it’s still not perfect, but it’s not obviously terrible, so I’ve decided to leave it as it is, especially with all the knicks I’ve gotten from the pins I’ve been using to align the zip.

4) Somewhat related to the zipper issue, even though I had aligned the back bodice pieces with the zipper, for some reason one of the top edges of one piece ended up being about 1cm higher than the other. After some fidgeting around, removing all the pins, re-aligning and re-pinning the zip it still happened. I ended up having to work my way down the top edges and pin it that way.

I can’t stress enough that if you’re not dressmaking as a profession, don’t forget that it’s a hobby and if you need to take time away from something that is frustrating you a lot, leave it and do it another time when you feel ready to tackle the problem. I’m sure even experienced tailors and dressmaking bloggers experience the same issue every now and again. Remove traces of the mistake you made and leave it for when you’re ready to tackle it again.

My next dressmaking projects I’ve got in mind is to get fabric for the wedding and bridesmaid dresses and to make a maxi dress with the silver grey snakeskin voile I’ve got. After all, it’s finally summer and maxi dress season! What could be more comfortable than a loose fitting light dress to wear in this heat?

Any tips you want to share about frustrations you’ve experienced while dressmaking?

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