Sorry for the puns, I just can't help myself. I'm on a bit of a shirring drive at the moment, after making my Staple Dress I was just working through a bodice muslin for Gertie's Shirtwaist Dress when I decided to drop everything and make this. This is the Simple Sew Amelia Tea Dress from Love Sewing Magazine.
I bought the magazine on a whim too before boarding a long flight, not really that bothered by making any of the patterns (the sample made up in hot pink satin for this dress is truly hideous. I'm sorry but it's true). The free gift of thread snips have come in very handy for this make, keeping all the ends of my shirring rows neat, and actually I am rather tempted to add the gored skirt pattern, also from the magazine, to my growing list of things to make...
I cut the size 14 for this based on the finished garment measurements, which is all the pattern envelope gives you. I think I judged pretty well, although if I was being a perfectionist I probably could have cut a smaller size and done an FBA, and in this size a swayback adjustment would have been good too. As it was, I decided the week before my friend's wedding that I hated all my wedding-appropriate attire and wanted to make something new. A quick and easy, pretty yet modest dress was exactly what was called for.
This fabric was bought at my last Goldhawk Road trip from upstairs at Classic Textiles – I think I bought about 2 m for around £5-6 in total, intending to make this into the Colette Pastille dress which I ended up going all gingham over. I was drawn to the delicate floral pattern but was worried in the wrong dress it might end up looking a bit frumpy. This pairing of pattern and fabric seems very classic, if a bit safe, to me, but it worked!
The main problem I ran into was that the pattern called for 60” wide fabric, and this was 54”. I thought I could wing it, but after completely ignoring the cutting layout and getting stuck in with my front skirt first, I realised it wasn't going to work. There was a reason they called for 60” wide fabric with the flare of that skirt! Anyway, with a bit of headscratching I managed to get the front and back bodice pieces cut out correctly, squeezed the short sleeves (I had initially wanted the longer version, but beggars can't be choosers) on the bias onto a stupid triangle scrap I'd ended up with due to inefficient cutting. They're meant to be cut on the straight grain, but actually the print seems to match up better this way. I did however have to shorten (by about 2”) and narrow the back skirt pieces (making sure to make the same adjustment to the front skirt after the fact), and cut them in opposite directions on the cross-grain to fit them onto what was left! The eagle-eyed among you may be able to see that the paler flowers are facing different ways, but thankfully I think this print was remarkably forgiving given the hash I'd made of it.
While working out what I could and couldn't get out of my fashion fabric, I straightaway put my facing pieces to the side, and in the end had to give up on having a matching shirred waistband portion too. Again, through serendipity, this blue cotton I bought to be the contrast collar and binding on the Baby Dress and Knickers I made recently happened to match the paler flowers, so although it is a much stiffer fabric I think it works pretty well for the midsection. Because of the difference in weight I used it for the facings without the addition of interfacing, as it was beefy enough to do the job on its own. I was a bit worried the fabric wasn't suitable for the waistband as my shirring didn't seem to be gathering up as nicely as it has on previous makes, but thanks to a tip from the magazine a blast of steam from the iron shrunk it down like magic.
I did hit on a couple of further minor snags – one was I didn't have a matching zip in my stash. I nipped out at lunch from work to buy one in the local nice sewing shop – and balked when they asked for £4 for it! I out it back pronto and headed to the market nearby and bought one that was actually closer to the correct length and a better match for my thread for £1.50. However, I did wonder if it was the zip of hubris when I managed to fully mangle it that night. I managed to get it out of alignment when I accidentally caught some of my stitches too close to the teeth and then gave a frustrated yank to try and free it up when it got stuck! I had to unpick and bin it, but the next day I went back to the market and the chap on the stall gave me another one for 50p. So still cheaper than the shop, and the second one was the charm!
And, another confession. I think I put the sleeves on backwards. They kind of work, but the shoulder doesn't quite sit right. When trying to insert them as usual with the double snip matching the marking on the back bodice, none of the other notches would align, and I couldn't work out what was meant to be happening. So, I swapped my sleeves with the usual back markings to the front and all the other marks aligned fine, so I went with it. I don't really know what happened, whether it's a pattern mistake or something that happened in the almighty mess of cutting my pattern pieces, but if I have another go I'll definitely look out for it. However, as my dress form shows- sleeveless might be a nice way to go for future versions.
So, although this was a bit of a hatchet job with a few frustrations on the way (as sewing to a deadline without a careful plan beforehand always seems to lead to), I actually think this dress turned out pretty well and I'm looking forward to having an occasion to wear it again. It got lots of compliments at the wedding I wore it to, kept me cool during a hot day out in the sun, allowed room for eating as much as I wanted and was great for dancing. Even after narrowing the skirt a tad there was still plenty of flare – and even a few near-Marilyn moments when the breeze picked it up!
Have you ever sewn occasion wear to a deadline? Would you do it again?!
Now, on to that shirtdress I've neglected, before the summer leaves us...