I purchased this fabbo fabric in Australia – I am normally an upcycler of fabric and can’t recall buying any fabric in a shop, other than a charity shop, for at least 20 years. I couldn’t resist this printed cotton fabric though – it was meant to be. I was in Australia to teach crochet and was on a trip to the craft store to help my hostess choose yarn. I only got 1.5 metres and had no idea what I would make. It was too good for pyjamas and there was too much fabric for just a skirt – a dress? If they can do it on the Great British Sewing Bee, then I can do it. Do you like my self portrait? – you can just see the camera remote in my right hand!
Now, I’ve never made a dress, I made a skirt at school, and a couple of skirts when I worked in a posh tea room in Pasadena, California over 20 years ago and needed to look smart and English rose-like on a budget. I am not a big fan of sewing machines, I prefer hand crafts, but even I am not about to hand sew a dress! I find it difficult to buy dresses because they never fit – so I thought this would be a way to get a dress no one else would have and that would fit me – short body, big boobs!
My friend lent me this pattern which was her mother’s – it wasn’t my size but I thought I could use the shapes to give me an idea. I bought some amazing papery material from our local scrap store for 25p/metre. It is used to make disposable surgical gowns so I thought I could use it to make a prototype “paper” dress.
I cut out the pieces using the Simplicity pattern I had, pinned it together and tried it on. Too big. I did some cutting and snipping and made a smaller version. I used this version to make a paper pattern from wrapping paper (all I had).
I then used some more surgical gown paper to make a new version and sewed it up (including zip) tried it on and it fit.
I made adjustments to my gown prototype and corresponding snip, nips and tucks to my wrapping paper pattern and then cut out the fabric. I make all this sound easy – it wasn’t – well not for me anyway. I could have just bought a pattern my size but where’s the challenge/satisfaction in that? I would have still have had to customize the pattern a to fit me.
The front is one piece with two darts on each side – a bust dart and a French dart (into the side seam). The back is two pieces with a zip in the centre back seam and a small dart on each shoulder. I know I sound like I know what I’m doing but I just learned the technical lingo from a couple of vintage (charity shop) books on dressmaking I just knew would come in useful. Now I have the pattern it should be easy to make more, well, zips are never easy (I hate them, but buttonholes are even worse). I hand sewed the hem – the most enjoyable part of the whole process.
The whole process took me three days (and evenings) but I am so pleased with the result – I may have to make a couple more with different fabric. I did use a reclaimed zip and upcycled pink linen fabric from an blouse for the facings. The thread was also from charity shop. I have a strip of fabric left over – very short skirt? Although, come to think of it, my ironing board does need a snazzy new new cover. Watch this space.