Monday, May 20, 2013

Working On The Purple Black Dress

A friend's daughter is expecting a boy in June. After seeing what wasn't in the stores when I went shopping for my grandson, I decided to knit a sweater as a baby gift. It's a nice change from scarves and gave me a break from working on the purple black dress which is what I've - mostly - done so far this weekend.

The fabric is a nightmare to work with. It's a stretch lace that's snappy, snags easily, and sticks to itself. The serger won't cut it, the walking foot catches, and it doesn't press. It's also see-through so I used a black ITY knit as the lining with the seam allowances on both layers facing inward. Above, the layers are hand basted at the armhole and neckline. Hand basting was safer than using the machine and making a mistake since it would be near to impossible to remove stitches.

I'd have preferred nicely serged seam allowances however, since that wasn't an option, I stitched them at 5/8" with a slight zigzag, trimmed to 1/4", and attempted to press open.

A single layer of the lace would have been too bare on the sleeve so I doubled the fabric by cutting the hemline on fold.

The long sleeve seam is stitched, trimmed, and pressed and then the piece is folded in half with the seam allowances inside. The cap line is matched notch to notch and the resulting sleeve is sewn into the armhole as one.

The dress was drafted using Katherine Tilton's Vogue 8691 t-shirt pattern. I lengthened each seam so that the shortest straight section at center front would end up just below knee length. The hemline is jagged and longer in the back. Above it's unfinished. I debated several hemming options which all seemed too fiddly and heavy and in the end zigzagged over the edge with purple thread, a wide stitch, and tight tension creating an uneven, rolled hem with a slight lettuce edge.

How close together the stitches are, how wide they are, and how much tension you put on the knit determines the finished look of the hemline. In the sample above, the lining fabric curls and waves and has a tendency to flip up which isn't good so...

... instead I zigzagged over the edge with no tension which resulted in a rolled but flat edge. This works. I'm debating whether the hemline should be shorter which could be easily done by cutting off the required length and repeating the hemming choices.

While I worked on the rest of the dress, the neckline kept stretching. To bring it back into shape and to prevent further stretching, I created a facing-like piece using silk dupioni interfaced with fusi-knit. It's light weight and strong. I also softened the sharp angle of the V by curving the neckline edges slightly as you can see with the chalk lines.

This piece was pinned to the neckline on the inside wrong sides together and then basted in place. It's not seamed. It's simply sitting behind neckline. By basting from the facing side, with the lace below, the presser foot helped to ease in the stretched length.

Here are the three layers - neckline, lining, and silk facing behind. The neckline is now stabilized although the edges are still raw.

To finish, I zigzagged one edge of a 2" strip of lace and then folded it over the neckline covering the earlier basting stitches and secured it in place by stitching 1/4" from the edge. It's very soft as opposed to the harsher line a seamed facing would have provided.

The dress is mostly finished. I'll post the results tomorrow. All that's left is to fine tune the fit through the back and - as I said earlier - debate the length although I'll most likely leave it as is until I've worn it a few times and decide. It's terrible fabric to work with but a great pattern and the results feel wonderful on - a comfortable t-shirt dress.

While Howard's in Guatemala, I plan to give the house a thorough cleaning.  Typically, I just do it all at once and get it over with - and that may still happen - only first I'll try working in sections. Today's goal is a general clean of the upstairs and a thorough clean of the hall closet, the bathroom cabinets, and our bedroom. Since I cleaned my closet and dresser drawers not too long ago, I won't need to spend much time there and I should be able to get back to sewing early afternoon. I hope. I can think about my next project while cleaning.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - persistence in the face of horrible fabric, great results


  1. I always hand baste underlining and outside fabric together. I feel like that gives me much better control. I can spread everything out flat on my work table and get the two pieces lined up the way I want and they don't then shift while I'm basting as they might (will) if I tried to do it at the machine. While I don't really like to do much finishing by hand, I do find that I do a lot of prep work by hand and I'm much happier with the finished result.

    The dress is looking lovely. I hope it is a happy dress when you are finished. ;)

    Lois K

    1. Like you, I use hand work only where it improves the results otherwise I much prefer working by machine.

      LOL - I think it will be a happy dress.

  2. I have a sheer knit print that I was thinking of today and how best to use it. One of my thoughts was exactly what you've done! The biggest problem is finding a solid that will work under it. It's soft to mid tones in pink and peaches to just shy of an orange and I've had trouble matching it.

    I can't wait to see the finished dress.

    When you're done cleaning your house would you come do mine?

    1. For a lining - in most cases - I find that one of the darker neutrals such as black, brown, or navy works the best. The gradation of colors in your fabric sounds really pretty.

      The dress will be in tomorrow's posting without head or heels but...

      LOL - when I'm done deep cleaning my house, I'm going to be a lump on the couch.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.