Thursday, 26 January 2017

Give scuba a shot - you will probably LOVE it

Hello! Happy 2017, I know we're are nearly at the end of January, but I'm still in week one somewhere - where has time gone? Anyway, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and you had a fun NYE enjoying ALL the cuddles at midnight. I'm here to report on my latest make, and I am VERY excited about it!

A couple of weeks ago the lovely Lucy at Sew Essential contacted me to ask if I would like to sew up one of their patterns with a fabric of my choice. Was there ever a more redundant question?! I merrily headed straight over to their lovely collection of dressmaking fabrics and patterns. Choosing the pairing took some time! I decided to let the fabric drive the pattern choice - I normally operate in this order. I was tempted by a couple of the beautiful woven fabrics, but I decided I wanted to try something a bit different. Then I stumbled across this...

A scuba jersey with this beautiful paint stroke design. I wanted it: an interesting fabric and ALL the colour. SOLD (or not as the case may be!). I've worked with scuba once before for a wedding guest dress for a lovely friend, and I was thrilled with the result.

By Hand London Anna Dress with a dipped hem half circle skirt in a reversible scuba from Fabric Godmother

It has beautiful body, and I love the look of the raw cut hem. Here it is on said lovely friend (beautiful body and all)...

Decision two: the pattern. This was mainly driven by the dress above. The dipped half circle skirt worked so beautifully with a scuba, but I'd been there done that. So this is where the peplum obsession began. I wanted a new dress for work, so a wiggle dress was a strong contender and perfect for a peplum. Several patterns fitted the bill on the Sew Essential website. I wanted a simple darted bodice with sleeves and a straight skirt. I thought if I couldn't find the perfect pattern with a peplum I could draft one just as you would a circle skirt. However, I was in luck I stumbled across Butterick B6087 - it even had a dip shaped peplum!

I decided I wanted to go for the view B bodice with short sleeves, the shaped un-gathered peplum and the view C straight skirt (apparently the view versions are different on the front and the back of the envelope! Anyway, you get the idea).

The last scuba I worked with had a relatively small amount of stretch but a good weight. As I hadn't handled this fabric, I was a little apprehensive to dive straight in. Lucy offered to send me a sample, but I was too impatient to wait, and I threw caution to the wind!

It arrived very quickly, and I was over the moon. It was beautiful! Lovely and soft against the skin with good structure for that peplum. However, it did have more stretch than I had imagined. This wasn't a particular problem for the dress itself, but it made working out what size to sew a little more difficult. I was planning to cut a pattern size smaller to compensate for the stretch, but I needed confirmation. Why worry when you have such wonderful women at you fingertips for advice? I turned to Instagram.

I measured the pattern pieces to get an idea of the built in ease and settled on a size 8. I should have been patient and waited for Sew.Very.Bridget's advice as the dress ended up being enormous! She suggested wrapping the fabric around my bust considering the stretch and fit I desired then comparing that to the pattern pieces. Perfect advice that I will follow from now on when sewing up a stretch fabric with a woven pattern -Thank you, Bridget!

The pattern suggests a lining for the bodice. As I was working with scuba, I decided to draft a facing to reduce bulk in the bodice.
I sewed up the shoulder seams, the facing, and the side seams before pinning it along the back seam at S/A and squeezed it over my head. It was huge!  I could pinch a good 1.5'' S/A either side at the back! I should have waited for Bridget and taken into account the amount of stretch in the fabric as well as the ease in the pattern before cutting. I unpicked the side seams and re-sewed them to redistribute the excess on either side and at the CB.

I figured I would have similar problems with the skirt, so I went straight in and matched the S/A to the bodice side seams. This worked perfectly.

Next for the sleeves. I measured the sleeve ease by walking it around the bodice armhole using a pin. I knew I wanted a sleeve that sat perfectly flush with my skin, so the ease had to go. Just as in the bodice and skirt, the built in ease for a woven pattern to allow movement just isn't required with a stretch fabric. I went ahead and removed that ease using the techniques I learnt at a pattern drafting class at Bath College last year. It has been so useful I thought I'd share a summary below. You can use either or both techniques depending on your requirements to add or remove ease in the sleeve head.

I then moved on to that dreamy shaped peplum. I cut it out very carefully as I knew I wanted to keep the raw edge un-hemmed. I increased the S/A as I had for the bodice and skirt. Other than that it came together quickly and it hung beautifully!

Instead of inserting a zip I sewed the dress together along the CB seam. The joy of stretch! I finished all the seams inside in yellow on my overlocker. I left the peplum and sleeve hems raw, and I hand stitched the CB hems of the peplum and the skirt hem. I would have left the skirt hem raw too, but I was typically indecisive about hem length. Un-hemmed, the skirt hit me around mid-calf. I loved this look but only with heels, and realistically this is not how I will wear this dress for the majority of the time! Boots or small heels will dominate, and when you are only 5ft, I had to hand stitch the hem in place so it hit just above the knee. I do like that I have the option to bring it down if I change my mind (or suddenly grow!).
I realised after I'd done it that I'd normally leave the facing free and stitch to the seam allowance from the inside by hand - don't do it the way I've done it in the photo! 
All in all the dress only took me a couple of hours to sew after I'd done with all the umming and ahhing about the sizing. I love the finished dress - I've worn it twice to work this week, and I plan to wear it out for dinner for my Dad's birthday this weekend.

My confidence sewing with stretch fabric is growing. But those pesky machine hems still seem to cause me the most gyp... cue daydreaming about owning a Coverstitch machine! I stumbled across this beauty on the Sew Essential's website when I was browsing fabric. I can feel my other half rolling his eyes as I type this. One day... I'll have to find a bigger flat first!

Thank you again to the lovely Lucy at Sew Essential for the beautiful fabric and pattern - I love my new dress!

Lots of love to you all x