I’ve been sewing about 18 months now and had some great successes with fit mostly by chance. I’ve made several items for myself but suspect I’m a pretty standard shape/size because they usually pretty much fit me (when I made the right size in the first place! see Vogue 2903!).
I’ve heard lots of people talking about pattern grading but haven’t as yet had cause to try it because I have avoided making for others on account of fear of the unknown. I was intrigued as to how that fear may be conquered however and the time finally came this week for me to make a dress for my sister who has a few weddings to attend this Summer…
Here were the problems:
My sister: Lovely lovely sister is NOT a standard size. I worked out that she’s a 10-8-12 according to the pattern sizing charts.
Her fabric: It’s a gorgeous vintage cotton sateen print which she bought on Ebay. However, it’s 45″ wide, there’s under 2m, it has quite a large pattern repeat and it also has a couple of big flaws I’ll need to work around.
The pattern: Trying to explain to a non sewer why they can’t use certain patterns can be challenging. She initially wanted a fuller skirt but I had to suggest she needed a straight one or a pencil due to fabric constraints. I had Vogue 8184 in my stash and pretty much insisted it would be great.
She liked the idea of version F with a halter and I was delighted to see that it would only require 1.5m of fabric.
Step One – Take measurements of bust, waist and hips.
I almost immediately lost these measurements so decided that the best thing to do would be make a toile in a size 12 then fit it to her. Yeah I just bandied the term “fit it to her” around in my head, no clue how to go about doing that but I’d find out!
Step Two – Cut fabric pieces out of an old duvet cover.
To my horror/delight I discovered that the bodice of this dress is self lined so in theory I could line with another fabric and thus conserve even more fabric for errors and such. This is also when I realised that the dress is boned. Oh crikey.
Step Three – Construct dress in size 12 being a good girl and paying special attention to using the seam allowances on the actual pattern!
This was remarkably straight forward, the instructions were fab and took unnervingly little time.
Step Four – Be smug with self for several minutes then ponder for several more.
Great! Size 12 dress! Clearly going to be too big for her though and no way of fitting her because she’s not available for several says and also I don’t know how to do that.
Step Five – Be impulsive.
We’re moving house in a few weeks so I really wanted to crack on as I’ll need to pack my sewing machine at some point. I’m also super impatient so I decided to guess how much smaller to make the dress.
Step Six – Find reference point.
I had a skirt on hand that I had taken in for that same sister and hadn’t given her back yet but I knew fitted her waist and hips so using that as a template I drew new marks on the bottom half of the toile.
Step Seven – Maths!
Gawd. Maths has never been my forte but I measured the waist of the skirt which I knew fitted and then the dress which I knew would be too big. The difference was 7cm. I adjusted my markings of the bottom half to make sure it was even and then turned to the bodice.
There are 7 pieces in this bodice meaning 6 seams including the two princess seams at the bust. I divided 7 by 6 and got 1.17cm. I considered leaving the princess seams as they were as she is quite busty and then reducung the rest evenly but ultmatetely decided to reduce them all. I didn’t have any fancy tools for doing this, I just used my tape measure and drew dots every couple of centimetres down the existing seams.
Step Eight – Sew again!
I then sewed the new seams parallel to the old ones tweaking it a little bit to make sure the front seams still lined up with the darts and side seams.
Step Nine – Wait.
All I could do now was wait impatiently for an opportunity to get her to try this on…… drums fingers…….watches butterflies….makes another cup of tea…..
My gorgeous and super talented designer friend and colleague Jemima of K’outure fame offered moral support and even said she would help with the fitting if I got stuck. What a sweetie.
Step Ten – The moment of truth
She came round last night and to my amazement the dress actually fits! I even stuck a very wonky zip in it with her hovering over my shoulder (have you tried that? It’s so hard with someone watching – well done Sewing Bee-ers!) so I could see the proper lines etc and it just bloody well fits!
So now what? I guess the next challenge will be matching the print in the real fabric and doing boning and stuff….