I ran out of time (and steam) and only made the capelet and the dress. But these were the two major components I wanted to enter in the contest, so mission accomplished! The voting has begun, I’m quite nervous. I don’t know if I really have chances in winning one of the prizes — in any case I worked really hard on both my capelet and my dress, with grading and tracing and figuring out how to construct something without instructions!
The pattern comes only in one size, Small (sizes 10-12). By comparing my bust measurements to the ones on the pattern envelope, I discovered I fell somewhere in-between sizes Medium and Large. But the challenge remained: this pattern is in size Small, and I need to make it bigger! I am familiar with the slash and spread grading technique, but I just couldn’t see where/how I was supposed to slash the cape pattern pieces, they are so very different from a normal top! And getting the collar to fit just right after grading the capelet was also a challenge for me.
I went through my (modern) patterns stash and found a pattern for a cape. I observed how the grading was done – adding more to the side seams, a bit less to the neckline, and not adding any length at all. And then I carefully reproduced a similar grading on my own vintage pattern (which I had previously traced on pattern paper, of course! ;))
I quickly whipped up a muslin to check the fit. When I assembled the collar, it became very obvious I had somehow added way too much to the under collar piece. I knew I was supposed to ‘ease’ the under collar while attaching to the upper collar, but this wasn’t easing, this was making pleats!
Back to the drawing board!
I compared the upper and under collar pieces, spotted the differences, and decided to re-draft my under collar closer to the upper collar shape. I measured the neck opening of the capelet pattern pieces with my flexible ruler — making sure I measure between the circle of the font piece and the center back, subtracting seam allowance, and transposed the measurements to my collar pieces. I cut it again out of muslin fabric, assembled the pieces and ahh! Much better! (By the way, the wrinkles are because of wrinkles in my fabric!)
The final collar looks pretty good on my capelet, so glad I managed to make it work!
Whipping up a muslin and actually making the dress are two completely different things, I discovered. I omitted the back neck facing when making the muslin, for example. And order of construction doesn’t really matter because it’s just a muslin anyway, right? But now that my dress is cut and ready to assemble for real, I’m having doubts about what I should sew first. There is no mention of interfacing on the list of notions or fabric needed, but I decided to interface the cross-crossing edge of the pleated front pieces with a strip of fusible interfacing, to give them more body. I also interfaced the back neck facing.
N.B.: I have no idea if the order of construction I improvised for my dress was the best order possible, I just tried to do what seemed the most logical, step by step. And I decided to start with the pleated front pieces, which appeared like the most labor-intensive part anyway.
And it was. It really was.
I had to mark the pleats, circles and crosses twice, as the markings was fading from manipulation and steam. And each time I thought I was done steaming the heck out of these pleats and ready to baste them in place, I would try to line-up the pleated piece with its facing, and realize it just didn’t match. Ugh! I had to ‘un-pleat’ and ‘re-pleat’ the front pieces at least 3 times each until I reached an acceptable matching between them and their facing. I basted my pleats in place and then basted the front pieces and the facings together.
Then, I stitched the back shoulder darts, and stitched the back neck facing to the back piece. Now the tricky bit: How do I get the back facing and the shoulder seams to be all neat? I puzzled a bit, and then figured out I had to wedge the back facing between the front and back pieces, wrapping the front piece around. When done stitching, cut the corner, trim seam and turn inside out. It didn’t turn out perfect, I guess my pleated front in all its layers was just a bit thick to really make the edge even with the back piece.
My next step was to make the front and back darts. This step is relatively simple — only relatively because there were some strange markings telling me I had to stitch horizontally, and it just didn’t make sense to me. I decided to ignore them.
I thought this was the best time to sew in my invisible zipper to the left side seam, stopping the stitching at 1,5 cm from the bottom edge, to be able to sew the side panels without going over the zipper. I also closed the right side seam, this time stitching all the way to the edge. At that point, I still wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with the armholes opening. There are no facing pieces. I don’t see any stitching line on the drawings. I left the armholes as is for now, I figured I’d solve that puzzle later…
Pleats, pleats, I love pleats, give me more pleats! Time to pleat the side skirt panels. Again, the pleats were very tricky as the pleats on each side edges need to form a box pleat when stitched to the front and back pieces. Pleating the side panels went quicker than the front pieces, for sure — I guess experience was finally sinking in?
To attach the side panels, I aligned the center pleat with the side seams, and eased the rest. Indeed, my front and back pieces together were a few cm bigger than my side panels. I thought it was a bit strange, as I had carefully marked my cutting lines of all my pattern pieces with my chalk marking tool, carefully marked and press my pleats, etc. The tricky bit of the side panels were indeed the pleats formed by the joining of the panels, giving the illusion of continuity with the front and back darts. I was off by a couple of millimeters every time, nothing that couldn’t be corrected with a few hand stitches on the final dress!
At that point, I tried on my dress, squealed in delight, but realized the horizontal seams at the side panels were stretching a bit and the whole thing was losing its shape and sharpness quickly. What to do, what to do? I grabbed a piece of twill tape and sewed it in place as an emergency measure. No more stretching! Crisis aborted!
Armholes, right? Nope, let’s push this problem to later. Let’s do the hem instead! That one is easy!
I used horsehair braid to give more body to my hem. My horsehair was white, and I didn’t like how it looked on my blue fabric, so I ‘hid’ the horsehair with a bit of black lace. (For step-by-step instructions on how to do this, see this post on my blog.)
Yes, the armholes. I refused to address the problem until now, no way around it, I have to find a solution. Then I laid my eyes on a pack of bias tape I originally bought to neatly finish my seams (but ended up using my pinking shears instead)… bingo! I’ll use this tape as a facing, and hand stitch in place, brilliant! Problem solved!
The last, last step was the bow. I cut a strip of fabric 10 x 35 cm, folded in 2, stitched around at 6mm leaving a small opening for turning. Then slipstitched by hand the opening shut. Tie it up in a cute bow and hand stitch in place.
I love it. LOVE IT. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT. Worn with a petticoat, it’s really one of my dream as a little girl come true! Look how twirly it is!
And worn with my capelet for a bit more coverage, I’m ready for a vintage night out!
There’s one down side to this vintage pattern contest: it has rekindled my interest in vintage fashion and I’m definitely going to try other vintage patterns (or vintage reproduction patterns) I have in my stash. Where shall I start…?