I’ve taken on a few sewing commissions lately and this dress was very nearly another until it turned into a fabulous collaboration.
Etta had scored a bagful of beautiful Asian braids from Portobello market and asked if I could either make her a white tiered-dress or show her how to make one so that she could then embellish with the trims she’d found.
I so love an idea that’s sparked by the decoration! Much like decorating a room to match the cushions!
I haven’t properly ventured down the teaching road to date so I thought I’d give it a bash. And Etta would be a great guinea pig to rehearse my teaching skills!
Sewing a tiered skirt would be the easy bit but I needed a quick and simple bodice pattern to work with and that is totally when my nine-year collection of Burda mags comes into it’s own! In order to find what I want, I just search up the pattern options online and then note the magazine issue number. I’d like to report that I file my mags in date order to complete the efficient process but sadly that’s not the case!
Took a wee while to get to March 2013 but it was worth it for the perfect sundress bodice pattern. Nice and simple for a beginner too.
On first inspection I though the skirt part of the dress was made of gathered tiers but that would have been too flooky! Stitched on lace gives the illusion of tiers, here, but Etta wanted the real deal so we just needed to trace the bodice section and we would make our own tiers.
The look on Etta’s face was priceless when I explained we would have to first locate the lines to trace it off!! Luckily for her there were only 2 small pieces and a couple of straps.
This was to be Etta’s maiden go on a sewing machine. She was a natural! I must also give credit here to Brother for the 3-speed control on my Innovis 1250. The slow settings are great for stopping the over-enthusiasts from veering off piste!
Once the bodice and straps were sewn, Etta put it on so I could measure down to the desired length of the skirt.
To create the tiers we divided that measurement in half and accounted for seam allowance on each section (adding a bit extra for the hem on the bottom tier). Now we had the depth of each tier, I’m pretty sure we took double the width of the base of the bodice for the length of the first tier and doubled the length of the first to get the second.
I showed Etta how to make gathering stitches by using a wide machine stitch either side of the seam line; pulling up the gathers to fit, and then sewing the seams between the gathering lines. It helps to keep the gathering neat and in line.
Here’s a photo of what the dress looked like before it was trimmed. Etta had chosen a lovely white cotton twill which had a lovely weight to it.
We managed to sew most of the dress in a day, and I took it away to insert the zip and hand sew the bodice to cover the raw edges of the skirt inside. Etta had traced, cut and sewn every other piece herself.
It’s a really interesting experience sharing knowledge. I’m sure all you teachers will be rolling your eyes at me now. For the most part I’m a doer. I rarely look up. And it never occurs to me how far I’ve come either in my day to day job as a designer or indeed my other part time passion as a seamstress. So on the rare occasion when I’m teaching someone I always worry about not knowing enough to share – that the pupil might know more than I’m about to teach – a terrifying thought! Is that a certified phobia?!
In reality the polar opposite has been the case. And I’m always asked lots of questions, to repeat procedure or simply slow down. Which is totally reassuring and absolutely fine by me!!
The deal of this exchange was to be some fabulous photos for my blog. And Etta stepped right up to the mark and took these beauts in her Granny’s lovely garden.
Just love it when a plan comes together… doesn’t she look gorgeous?!