This dress is one reason I wrote last week's post about procrastination. I cut it out over a month ago, then there it sat. I couldn't get the impetus to start it, until I forced myself to sit down and work on it for half an hour. That half an hour turned into an hour and a half, and when I stopped for the day, I had the bodice and one sleeve done! After that it was a breeze and I enjoyed finishing it.
It's my first 2017 Polka Dot Project, and I have to say, I love getting back to using the print, and love the fabric. It's some of the higher end quilting cotton at JoAnn's, gotten on sale, and there is definitely a difference with how it handles and launders compared to their cheaper bolts (makes sense, right?) It has polka dots of three different sizes, and the narrow plaid pattern made it ideal to help me make things straight when putting it together. It presses and lays like a dream, and I'm hoping it won't need ironed too badly when washed, because I will wear it a lot more often if I don't have to iron it first.
It's also my first attempt at a 1950s classic - the coat dress.
It's funny that whenever I do a project that closes with a zipper, I think, "At least I don't have to do buttonholes!" and when I do a project using buttons, I think, "At least I get a break from putting in a zipper!" :-)
But all bets are off now, because I got to use for the first time my new one step buttonhole foot (came with my new Singer machine I purchased when I got married) and I love it. It's so easy, does everything all on it's own, and I get perfectly sized buttonholes every time. I don't think I'll dread buttonholes any more!
Speaking of buttonholes, I came to a grinding halt with this project when I realized I literally had no buttons in my huge stash that would work. I was toying with the idea of covering some, but not completely happy with that notion, when we happened to stop in at a thrift store the next day and I asked them if they had buttons. They did, and most of them were navy blue! I wish I would have had one more card of these, since I didn't have enough to button it down quite as far as I'd like, but they were the perfect match.
After listing all the "firsts" about this dress, let me get back to the details. It really is a basic dress. I interfaced the buttonhole side of the skirt, and the bodice, with some muslin. It is easy to adjust to fit, because you can try it on so handily and adjust the various seams. I omitted the cuffs on the sleeves since I wanted this to be a practical house dress with no fuss to it - I definitely need some transitional everyday dresses in my wardrobe, so that's what I'm working on supplying, and this one fits the bill since it's cotton (I can layer with a slip if needed) and has 3/4 sleeves.
The sleeves were interesting too - my first time doing a sleeve in 2 parts like this one was. A front half and a back half, with a seam running down the center, matching the shoulder seam. Interesting. I think they must have done it that way to cut out a lot of the ease at the top, which otherwise would have been puffy if it had all been gathered in to the shoulder. I actually think these sleeves are a little too full for my taste (though more comfortable than the fitted 3/4 sleeve style). I already have wide shoulders, and don't want to look like a football player. :-)
The skirt has a nice fullness and flare, without being too full or needing a crinoline. I don't think it would fit over my crinolines anyway.
Because this is a house dress, I paired it simply with navy blue vintage heels and the classic strand of pearls. The belt is a modern one. I later found a different belt that would have looked better, but too late for these photos.
We were hurrying to finishing photos before an upcoming winter storm reached us, and the wind made things interesting!
The collar is another alteration. I did the mandarin collar version originally, but it turned out larger than I expected, and didn't lay right against my short neck. I fixed it by tacking it down and so I ended up with a small turn-down collar instead. Still Period, and more becoming.
(Sigh...These certainly aren't my favorite outfit photos, but we still have enough snow and slush everywhere that I have a very limited range of photo spots at the moment, and have to take them when and where I can.)
So there's my latest sewing project. I'm not absolutely in love with every element of it and I don't know if I'll make the pattern again, but it was fun to do, fills a need in my closet, and is certainly a classic!
Much as seamstresses love to sew, sometimes we can get excited about a new fabric or pattern, and even go so far as to pair it with the perfect match and cut it out. There it is, neatly stacked and folded beside the sewing machine...and we just can't find the initiative to sit down and actually work on it.
Here are a half dozen tips I've found helpful to save another project from the UFO pile, and break through the fog of sewing procrastination to get things done.
1. Set rewards for yourself. If you have to work on something more mundane (say, like maybe a slip you really need instead of the detailed 1930s dress you feel like making), set yourself the reward of making a Want project next. When I have things I need in my wardrobe, I'll alternate them with projects that I want to make. This spurs me to finish the Need project...and of course, I'm always glad I have it to wear when it's finished, even if it wasn't the most interesting and exciting project.
2. If you have a hard time getting started, fix it in one of two ways. First, set a timer for yourself for just 30 minutes. Force yourself to sit down and sew for those 30 minutes. You'll be surprised how fast you can get a project done in increments of only 30 minutes at a time. It's not that big of a time commitment, and should be easy to fit into your day. The bonus is you'll likely get interested and want to sew longer, which is fine too!
The second fix is this: look at your pattern instruction sheet. Decide to do Steps 1-3, or however many steps it will take to get to a good stopping place. This might be just the front and back darts and shoulder seams of the bodice. That's ok. Next time you are that much farther along. The main thing is to keep coming back, even if it's just for a short time. A little a day really does add up!
(The first fix also works well for mending and UFOs. Work for 30 minutes on your mending and UFO pile, then allow yourself to get back to what you're really itching to work on.)
3. If there is a particular step that you are dreading in a project (sleeves, interfacing, hand sewing, buttonholes, a flock of tiny tucks or pleats...) sew right up until that particular step. Then stop for the day. The next day you can start right in on the dreaded part while you are fresh, and it likely will be much easier and go faster than you anticipated! It's no fun to put in and rip out a sleeve 3 times just because you're tired. Don't force yourself to keep going if it only ends in frustration.
4. Take a break from sewing. Do something else for a while. Then browse Pinterest for photos of clothing you're interested in making. Often that will get the creative urge back in full swing and you'll be excited to start another project. A trip to the fabric store is often inspirational as well...though perhaps more expensive. :-)
5. If it's hard to finish a project because you were initially excited, but it isn't turning out like you had hoped, or maybe doesn't fit or flatter you as much as you had anticipated, you can either decide to finish it anyway and sell or give it away, or put some thought into a refashion before you spend more time on it. Sometimes a dress will work better as a skirt, with the bodice pieces used as trim for a coordinating blouse or beret. If it turned out too short, try adding a band of a contrasting solid color, which you can tie in with little bows of the same fabric on the sleeves. If it's a button-up, try it with another kind or color of buttons - it's amazing how a dress can be taken from ordinary or a wee bit boring to elegant and stand-out with just a few finishing touches. If you are adventurous, try using buttons of different sizes, or covering your own with a bright print.
Make sure you try it on with a belt and shoulder pads before you despair, though. Shoulder pads can be magic in making a bodice suddenly fit well, and a belt is even more amazing to give some definition and interest to what had been a too-shapeless dress.
6. Clean up your sewing space. It's amazing how much more you'll feel like working in a tidy space. Dust the table and sweep the floor. If you don't have room for your things on shelves or drawers, at least stack them neatly. Then sit down with peace of mind and get some sewing done. Never mind that you're just making the floor dirty again! :-)
Actually, interestingly enough, the same thing goes for you too. If you are dressed and combed and feel well put together, you're more likely to want to sew, and to do things well. How you dress affects your attitude. Try putting on nail polish and heels to spruce yourself up before you sit down at the machine!
My first project in 2017 was a fun and simple one. I badly needed some winter-appropriate additions to my wardrobe, so as soon as the holidays were over I got out some black and raspberry gingham rayon and a pattern from around 1946 to make myself a dress.
This dress is super simple, with two neck options. The only bit of special trim are the front bodice darts which are stitched on the outside - unusual for vintage patterns. It also has a peplum, which is supposed to be sewn in at the waist, but when I first saw it, I thought - why not make it detachable and have two different looks for the same dress?
It ended up being very easy to make the peplum detachable. Instead of sewing into the waist seam, I sewed it into a belt, which I then folded over and top stitched. I'd intended on sewing it to a narrow belt, but that changed when the dress turned out to have a super high waistline, almost an empire waist. Not what I expected! I've gotten so used to adjusting patterns for my short torso that I automatically take a pinch out of the pattern pieces when cutting them out. Usually it ends up a better fit. This one was so short that I'm wondering if I would have needed to adjust it at all! (I know, I know...a muslin would have told me...)
But because of that, I had to use a wide belt in order to meet the waist seam. Even still, I like it. Just tie it on and it has a smart jacket look, suitable for a town dress.
And I can untie it and wear the dress with a belt for a different look.
I made my own additions to the neck edge also. I used the option of View B, but faced it with black velvet, folded the points down instead of leaving them plain, and added a self covered button.
Some simple black accessories and a brooch were the only additions needed. I paired it with one of my favorite 1940s hats.
Other than the fit not being perfect, I'm happy with it. It's a great addition to my wardrobe, and was quite easy to put together which made for a quick project. Its versatility means it will probably get more wear during the fall and winter.