Monday, 18 August 2014

An Archer-ish shirt dress

Do you ever wake up and realise that you're not in the same place you thought you were when you went to sleep? I don't mean physically, more mentally. I have these moments in sewing quite a lot, little milestones that seem innocuous but they smack me on the face with the knowledge that I know how to do this and I might actually be good at it. My Prom dress was one of these moments, my first culottes were one of these moments and this dress is one of these moments.

I've wanted to turn the Archer into a shirtdress for a while know, but the problem is that I like my dresses quite (Very!) fitted up top, and the Archer is the complete opposite of that. After fudging around for a while I realised I could smash (technical term) the Archer button bands and collar onto an existing fitted bodice and save myself the hassle..
Buttoned up

I actually don't have a go-to fitted bodice pattern (Slap wrist! Bad sewist!) so I dug out a vintage Women's realm pattern I bought before I started a sewing often enough to know my measurements by heart. That's a long winded way of saying the bodice for a 34" bust and i'm 36", so I decided to take the plunge and do my first FBA to make it fit. Turns out FBAs are really easy and make you feel oh-so professional as you slash and spread.
Unbuttoned- Ignore the random wet spots from freshly washed hair

The FBA worked like a charm but on my toile I found I had some excess fabric at the back, which pinched out, and the shoulders were far too big. Google to the rescue! By typing my symptoms into Google I was diagnosed with a rounded back (Soo true!!) and told to take a horizontal tuck out of the bodice front to remove the excess fabric. My final issue was seriously pointy darts. I've always preferred princess seams to darts so converted the pattern (like this) and Presto! Points disappeared!

Fitting done it was time to Archer-ify!

I basically reduced the bodice neckline to the size of the Archer's and then extended the Center front to the width  of the Archer's left side button bands. I decided not to complicate it by doing the right side as a separate band. I pretty much eye balled it and it probably shouldn't have worked but it did. Strangely, the collar fit fine on the toile but on the real dress it came out 1" too big for the neckline, so I had to reduce it as I went.

Most of the dress went together in one fell swoop, and I used my Overcasting foot to finish all of the seams. The Overcasting foot also came in really handy for top stitching because it has a plastic edge that you butt the fabric up against to get a really straight line.
Collar!

The fabric is this really cut pin-dot chambray I bought in a John Lewis sale a while back, it was about £5/m and I had about 1.5 meters. The armholes are finished with self-made bias binding. I'm also officially obsessed with making bias binding, it makes everything so pretty! In other news, I've finally made peace with my machine's buttonhole stitch so these are the twelve prettiest buttonholes I have ever done! At this rate I might even have worked out how to use the buttonhole foot by Christmas... The buttons are from my grandmother's stash and the skirt is just a gathered rectangle.
Left: Side view & armhole                                                Right: Buttons & Buttonholes

In my opinion though, the best thing about this dress is the hem. My first ever hand hemmed skirt and I'm now addicted! To save skirt length I did a tiny rolled hem and catch stitched it down. I'm definitely not the fastest hand sewer but what this hem lacked in speed it makes up for in beauty! I had no idea that not having a line of topstitching would make such a difference.
Left:  Wrong side of hem                                                     Right: Right side of hem

For me this dress is a milestone . I can usually pick out flaws in my sewing like it's my job but with this dress I know that I've exceeded my expectations and there's nothing about it that I'm nit proud of. This dress is the culmination of hundreds of mini lightbulb moments along the way (Like "Aha overcasting!", "Aha topstitching!", "Aha bias binding!") I've been slowly building up skills and it took this dress to show me that I'm not the same girl who picked up her mum's sewing machine to cobble together a skirt two years ago. I'm not in the same place I thought I was. I'm somewhere better!

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