Tuesday, 2 October 2012

It's a nice day for a white wedding.....friends wedding and Simplicity 2281

Simplicity 2281
OK, I am pretty sure my sewing machine is a Terminator or possibly a host for an alien species.  Am not sure who else may have experienced this twilight zonish behaviour, but now my sewing machine sews by itself......unexpectedly......careening off at a million miles an hour, bashing out a seam line of its own choosing.  All I can do is sit back, maybe waiting for it to speak up 'we mean you no harm, puny human' as it tries to stab me with the needle (not sure, but somehow I think my 'alien' machine would sound like a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Marvin the martian).

Of course it could also be that the foot controller has gone kaput and possibly shorting out now and then but it did make for some contentious sewing for a while.  I could take the machine to the service agent - it is under warranty - but I have SO MUCH to sew.  So now the foot controller is unplugged and I am using the stop/start button on the machine to sew my creations (I imagine it is like trying to paint with your feet........).

So what was so important I couldn't give up my sewing machine for even a week........was excited to be making an evening dress to wear to a friends wedding.  To make sure I followed through on it, I made sure I told everyone that I was making my dress.......made for some nervous moments when 4 days out the dress in no way resembled a dress.

I decided on Simplicity 2281 - a Cynthia Rowley design.
Pattern 2281

Not to be confused with item 22281 Barbie make your own natural (oxymoron me thinks) beauty products on the Simplicity website -
Item 22281

I've read a lot of comments about the Cynthia Rowley patterns on patternreview and must admit it did sound like her designs were not 'flattering' to those of the pear shape persuasion.  But when I saw the cover photo for the dress C I  knew it would work.  Reasons why
  • I have narrow shoulders so the cut-away sleeves is a perfect way to give the illusion of wider shoulders.  Ladies with broader shoulders should consider dress B/A.
  • the high neckline and 'founcy' gathered effect is great for those with a small bust and/or if your decolletage is appearing a little weathered.  I think if you are a D cup and over you may wish to avoid this pattern entirely
  • the waist midriff is a good option for pear shape as it gives you opportunity to emphasise the waist before dealing with the downstairs area.
As per usual I went straight to patternreview for all the reviews.  Only 7 reviews done on this dress - but most either were highly recommending it or recommending with modifications.  Key points were
  • no surprise here, a lot of comments regarding the skirt and the frumpy gathering. 
  • the sleeves and sleeve placement was of concern.  Sleeves were dropping off on a lot of people
  • bodice vs midriff lengths.  A few people tinkered with the lengths to suit their body shape/heights.
  • bulky seams - consider your fabric type carefully.
Overall, fairly positive I say.  Going into it I knew there would need to be some 'adjustments' for my peculiarities in body geometry (narrow shoulders, short shoulders, sway back, narrow back, blah, blah, blah.....) but I could work with that.....

I made a mock up version of the bodice first in some cheap poly cotton - just to test out the proportions.  I used my bust measurement and waist measurement to go with a size 12.   After making the changes to the pattern pieces from this mock up version I tested the pattern out to make a wearable muslin.  Some final changes later and I was ready to make the proper dress.  A summary of my changes
  • Moved the bust darts out about 1".  My puppies are far, far apart....
  • Took about 1 " off the height off bodice front, bodice lining and bodice back.  Just be careful that the finished height of your bodice front and bodice lining are the same.
  • Reduced width of bodice back by 3/8" to account for narrow back.
  • Well over 1.5" taken out of sleeve length and even more out of the 'flutter' part of the sleeve.  The sleeves are definitely way too big unless you want off the shoulder.
  • I moved the location of the sleeves up by about 1/4" to compensate for my narrow shoulders
  • I reduced the midriff height by 1/2".
  • I removed another 5/8" from the side seams under the arms and tapered out to 1/2" from the side seam at the midriff.  I left the waist seam untouched. This gave more shaping to the upper body part of the dress.
  • I used a similar skirt pattern to one I used on the Collette Hazel pattern that I just completed - it uses pleats instead of gathering and has more of an A-line shape rather than tulip.
  • I didn't bother with the pockets - this was going to be an evening dress after all.
  • Does anyone else think the applique design on the midriff is a little naff??? Resisted the temptation and ditched the appliques.
my adjusted pattern pieces  - clockwise from top left: bodice front, bodice lining, sleeves, back

Now for the real dress.....

I had some fabric from a previous buying expedition at Spotlight - a shiny stripey fabric (that's as much technical info that I have on the fabric) that was half price (yeah!).   I knew that I wanted a contrast fabric for the midriff of the dress so I made a quick dash to Lincraft and the only fabric in the blue I wanted was a fabric called Cupro.  I like to call it Crappo - slippery, slidey, horrible fabric - I cut the midriff pieces out 3 times and none came out looking like the pattern piece - you wanted a rectangle piece of fabric?, how about an oval wavy shape instead...ugh!.  I ended up applying the interfacing to the fabric first to 'stiffen' it and then cut out the pattern.  I soaked some other fabric in a gelatin solution and then dryed it, so that I had some chance of cutting out the bias tape for the neckline ties. 

Finished the dress last Thursday, wedding was down at Agnes Water (beautiful beaches) on Saturday.  Last minute mad dash to the shops on Saturday yielded a pair of shoes that matched the dress and I was set to go.  Evening was lovely, had a great time with friends and was nice to see another part of the Capricorn Coast.  

Final Dress.

Back to the dress, while I loved the end result there are a few construction traps/follies that I found a long the way
  • The lining attachment makes for a very neat effect on the inside of the dress but I found it a huge pain when trying to 'tweak' the fit and adjust the seam widths.
  • Didn't like the gathering of the bodice front.  You must be able to take PhD classes in how to 'gather' properly because I am sure my attempts at gathering look like a two year old has just smooshed the bits of fabric together.  I was tempted to try and pleat rather than gather but I ran out of time.
  • I would also ditch the gathering of the back bodice and possibly add in a dart instead.
  • I understitch the arm pieces on the back (or as much as you can understitch).  You understitch the front, it makes sense to also do the back.
  • The instructions are not great if you are making dress C or D as the drawings follow the sleeve and necklines of dress A and B.  Getting the neckline binding attached to the front and back pieces takes a bit of trial and error. 
  • I am not 100% sure but think the instructions are wrong at step 23.  I think you need to sew the opposite side seam (the LEFT seam) on the midriff lining that you did on the midriff front so that you get the right orientation when you attach the lining.   
  • It may be worthwhile considering a lining for your skirt - that way you can also avoid having to do any hand sewing of the midriff lining to the waist seam.

wishing I'd bought a blue zipper - couldn't be bothered to redo the zipper - oh well :)
and finally, happy snap of the special occasion.

So dress in summary

Pattern:           Simplicity 2281
Fabric:             Shiny, pretty fabric (maybe a silky satin) and some blue cupro
Instructions:   Was slighly disappointed with them 
                         I used the Colette tutorial for inserting invisible zippers
                         The pattern diagrams are really just for dress A and B which can be confusing
                         when doing the neckline on dress C/D.
                         Interesting lining technique.
Modifications: Too many to mention again.  See above. 
                         Main changes were around the sleeve dimensions and location.  I think the
                          model in the pattern cover must be 8 feet tall. 
                         Highly recommend you use another skirt pattern.
Conclusion:    Would recommend this dress to pear shaped ladies and if you have narrow
                          It is a very pretty dress that would be nice for a night out. 
                         I wouldn't mind modifying the pattern into a top/blouse instead. 
                         Agnes Waters is a lovely place to visit on the capricorn coast if you happen to
                         be in the area!
                         Brought the happy dance back out.

I will leave you with Loki the helper deciding he was soooo over sewing time and really wanted cuddle time

Blog Title Reference:  White Wedding by Billy Idol