The May dress… the bodice. Mrs. Roper gypsy dress…

Greetings jackalopes. I believe in you. I do. What I find UNbelievable is that evolution and/or the higher-power-of-choice chose to make the antlerless version of bunnies. What useless and strange creatures!

Moving on. I am sorry to reporrit (anyone a Pern fan? That was dolphin-speak) that I didn’t get the May dress completed during the month of May. Ah, well. I got a good start, so I’m not beating myself up over it. I suspect once I DO get it done it’ll be the only thing I wear for the rest of the summer, so I’m taking the time to do it right! So far I’ve got the bodice done, or nearly done, and I’ve started working on the skirts (there are three of ‘em!) Here’s the bodice.

Great googly moogly, I love that fabric! Also, sorry for the dirty mirror! Guess I should probably dust that, huh?

OK, this post is mostly about process. When I last left off, I had made the muslin for the bodice and figured out what changes I wanted. Changes on my list were to 1) shorten the center front 2) shorten the sleeves 3) line up the pleats and slightly shift towards the neck in the front. Let’s start with #1, shall we?

Shortening the center front of the bodice

As a reminder, this is where we left off – I wanted to shorten the CF of the muslin a bit, from the straight-across look on the left to the more interesting shape on the right.

 

I folded up the center front of the muslin to show how much I wanted to shorten it. In the photo below the center front and side seams are marked in pink (CF is to the left) and the fold to remove is marked in green. I wanted to remove the most from the very center, easing out to nothing at the side seams. A wedge!

 

The largest part of the fold was right around 2 inches, so that’s what I want to take off from the very center.

 

Rather than just drawing a straight line, I used my curve ruler to make a more organic rounded shape. I just lined up the ruler two inches up from the hem at the center front and ended at the original hemline on the side seam.

 

The finished adjustment!

 

Shortening the arm length

Here’s the muslin again. I really liked the sleeve and shoulder, but thought that it would be more flattering if I shortened the sleeve just a bit.

The need for shortening is more obvious in this shot… frump city!

 

The sleeves of the bodice aren’t really sleeves at all! The bodice is just a big rectangle, with some angles, so there wasn’t really anything to shorten. Here’s the muslin laid out, the shoulder and underarm seam are marked in pink. The current seamlines have been traced with machine stitching and I’ve turned back the sleeves and pinned – marked in green – how I would like the finished bodice to lie.

 

Measure my fold – one inch!

 

Smooth out my pattern piece and find the matching curve on my ruler. It’s hard to see, but I’m holding my ruler upside down and the curve lies between 2.75 at the underarm and 13 at the shoulder.

 

Pivot the ruler over, keeping the 2.75 line at the underarm seam and lining up the 13 line where I made a mark 1” up the shoulder. Cut along the ruler and I’m set!

Drafting a shaped elastic casing

Next I needed to draft my pattern pieces for the elastic casing. While I started out with a commercial pattern (Burda envelope pattern 7697), that pattern is intended for knits and the shaping is provided with a waist tie. Since I’m working in wovens I’ll need a casing, and since I took that wedge from the center front of the front bodice piece I was concerned that if I just cut a straight casing it might lie funny. Time to take out my Swedish tracing paper!

Note! Before I go any further… I know VERY LITTLE about pattern drafting and just did what seemed reasonable. It worked out, but I’m sure I missed some very salient details about the proper way to go about these things!!

Here’s what I did for the front pattern piece. I pinned the pleats into the shoulder of the front pattern piece, then laid the pattern piece over my Swedish tracing paper, lining up the grain marking with the straight lines on the mat below – the ruler is holding it in place.

I traced the bottom edge of the bodice pattern piece, marking the grain line with a double headed arrow and the center front.

 

I made the elastic casing 2” deep. At least, that’s what I’m doing in the photos. (After further consideration, I made the real casings 1.5 inches deep, but there aren’t photos of that!) I drew 2” lines for the center front and side, right along the lines on the mat.

 

Next I fine tuned the curve of the top of the casing by drawing along my curved ruler – since I had used the ruler when taking out the wedge from the bottom of the center front of the bodice, the curve of the top of the casing also followed along my ruler.

 

I drew the bottom of the casing, using the same curve on the ruler and connecting the ends of the lines drawn in for the center front and side seams.

 

I drew the ‘place on fold’ arrow for the center front so I’d keep the pattern piece oriented correctly.

 

I made marks 5/8” from my lines (marked in green on the top of the pattern piece) and drew dashed lines along those marks. The dashed lines are my cutting lines, the solid my seam lines.

 

Finished! I did the same for the back. The only difference is that I had to find the right curve on the ruler so I could use the ruler as my edge for tracing against.

 

Final step. I know from experience that it’s hard to figure out by sight which way pattern pieces in this sort of shape are supposed to go together. They’re very similar to the facing/waistband pieces for a contoured waistband. I planned on cutting the front and back on the fold and only attaching at the sides, so I added notches to both pieces. I put the notches pretty high up towards the top so that it would be CLEAR where they were. It annoys me that the notches on a lot of commercial patterns are offset, but still close enough to the center that it’s hard to tell where they are on the fabric pattern pieces!

 

Matching up the pleats

The last adjustment I wanted to do had to do with the pleats. I don’t have any great photos, but here’s the before and after pictures. The pleats are pressed in the actual bodice, plus the fabric is printed, so they aren’t as dramatic as the muslin photos!

 

My main pleat problem was that the pleats closest to my neck didn’t start in the same spot on the front and back bodice pieces. Also, I thought they started a teeny bit too far away from my neck, making everything look a little droopy. I shifted the mark for the first pleat over about 3/4” toward the front bodice piece, then carefully measured and marked the pleat markings, then I matched up the back bodice and traced.

Taran from Tanit-Isis Sews had an excellent suggestion to sew the bodice pieces together at the shoulder before pleating so they would match exactly. I didn’t do that for this project (although I think I will for others!) because 1) there are more pleats in the front than the back because I graded up the front in the pleating area, but didn’t want to change the length of the shoulder seam – I graded up in the back neckline on the back bodice piece 2) I constructed the garment with french seams and thought it would be bulky to pleat over that and 3) I’m lazy and marked my pleat lines with snips in the edge of the fabric. If I’d sewn together first, I would have had to do something more labor intensive, you know, like using my chalk marker…

Assembling the bodice

Time to sew everything together! The bodice of the dress is constructed of the main fabric with a lining. Since I’m using voile, the fabric’s pretty see-through and I didn’t want to wear a slip with this sort of flowy, loose dress. I considered underlining with the lining fabric, but didn’t really want to hand baste everything together – this isn’t the easiest fabric to sew!

I tested out my machine. I found that, contrary to Claire Schaeffer’s excellent advice in her fabric book, I HAD to use a 2.5mm stitch. She suggests going down to 1.5 – 1.75 for voile, but when I did, the tension was super wacked with loops on the back of the fabric. In general, sewing at 2.5 yielded no loops, but the seams gathered a bit as I sewed. Sewing over tissue paper took care of the problem and with just a bit of extra work I ended up with fairly smooth tight stitches!

Since I’d headed out on my own, I had to come up with my own order of construction and other details. Here’s what I did.

  • Staystitched necklines, front and back.
  • Marked, folded and hand basted pleats.
  • Sewed center front seam – french seams used on all bodice seams.
  • Sewed shoulder seams.
  • Sewed side seams
  • Sewed lining and bodice together at neckline. I used a french seam here as well. As you all probably know, french seams + curves = bad. I made it work, though. I sewed, turned, then clipped a few threads at the shoulder and center front seams where there was weird pulling. I turned, then after understitching (next steps), finished from the right side by hand where I’d clipped the seams open.
  • Understiched the neckline by machine along the back neckline and front neckline.
  • Understitched by hand at the shoulder and center front seams.
  • Hand basted the sleeve hems and bodice hems together.
  • Sewed the main and lining fabric elastic casings together, leaving an opening on one side of the main casing.
  • Sandwiched the bodice hem between the main and lining casing, right sides together (so, the main fabric bodice/casing were right sides together as were the lining bodice/casings.) Pinned to death and stitched.
  • Pressed the casings down.
  • Hand basted the bottom edges of the casings together.
  • Wrapped 1/4” elastic around me until it felt snug but not tight. Cut length of elastic, leaving enough for a 2” overlap. Threaded through the casing, fastening with a safety pin.
  • Done! I haven’t finished the sleeve hems and will do so by stealing Tasia’s bias strip finishing from the Pendrell pattern. I just am waiting ‘till after I’ve put together the skirts before cutting bias strips. I want to make sure I have enough fabric!
  • How’s it look?

    Good question! Here’s some dusty mirror photos!I am SO in love with this fabric! And it feels so dreamy and light… I can’t wait ‘till it’s done!

       

    Sneak peek! Skirts!

    Oooooo… super blurry photo! I’ve started working out the skirts. I want lots of movement without lots of gathers, so there will be slits involved. Also, I like all the colors together! This is my Mrs. Roper gypsy dress! The skirts are all tucked into the elastic and there’s about 12 inches too much length stuffed in there, which is why it looks so bundly. I’m draping so that the selvage edge will be the bottom hem for the two underskirts… I may have to practice my catwalk and figure out how to shoot a video on this one, just so all you jackalopes can see how the skirt moves when I walk – it’s, to quote Cartman, awesome-o.

     

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6 Comments
  • julandmatt
    June 1, 2011

    Love the fabrics. I don't understand alot of the directions, instruction because I'm new to sewing BUT I love to stop by every day and see what you're doing.
    peace.

  • Stacie
    June 1, 2011

    I love the fabrics!

  • Pretty Kitty
    June 1, 2011

    I absolutely love this dress and I'm sure you will also!

  • Mama Violet
    June 1, 2011

    Fabulous dress!

  • LAP
    June 1, 2011

    I love those fabrics together! Is the finished dress going to have a front slit? I hope so since I am loving the butterflies peeking out from underneath..

  • Tanit-Isis
    June 1, 2011

    This is going to be so much fun (not to mention super trippy!)

    Mmm, can't wait to see you do your little turn on the catwalk! :D

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