Friday, April 18, 2014

Made by Me Files: New Look 6097/Almost a Starlet.

UPDATE: I wore the dress in Florida on our second evening of the vacation, and it was a hit.  Very easy to wear and exactly the right weight/color/pattern for the evening out at Downtown Disney.  I am eventually going to do an ootd post for the trip, but have decided to add two photos of me wearing this dress there to this post.  They are the first two photos you see below.

As you all know, I LOVE the Garnet Hill Starlet Knit dress.  Every year without fail I have purchased one or two of these dresses and anticipated yet another year of buying one.  Then I saw my choices and was a bit underwhelmed.

Fortunately for me, I learned to sew knits in the meantime and also happened upon a Reader Sew Along sponsored by one of my favorite fabric shops, Fabric Mart, so I decided to try to kill two birds with one stone, participate in my first ever sewalong and also make a dupe (as close as I could anyhow) of the Garnet Hill Starlet knit dress.

Here is the end result, all dolled up with a cute J. Crew cardigan.  It has many of the features of the starlet dress, including a crossover (surplice*) bodice, pockets, and a travel friendly knit that doesn't wrinkle.  It isn't perfect, but I am glad I made this one so the next one I make will be just like the Starlet knit dress.  I now know what I need to do to get it there, which will be outlined below in the other photos I share of this dress.

*The term surplice also refers to what priests wear.  Hmm.

But first I want to share the original I made of this pattern, which I knew was meant to be a muslin (or practice version), but secretly hoped would work out to be a wearable muslin.  In the end a few things kept it from being wearable, but I certainly learned a lot from the process of making it.  I actually made it a couple months ago, and was stoked when I learned about the sewalong since I had already done one version and had always had it in my mind to try again, so I appreciated the gentle nudge.

It looks *okay* above, but in reality it has issues. But first what I did right with this version...

1. The bodice is pretty well constructed.  The sides are on the correct sides (I reversed them by accident when I cut out the floral version), but in the end, and from what I see in my google searching, a whole lot of sewers out there do that too.

2. I also really dig how well my neckline was made on this version.  My floral version is not *quite* a hot mess, but I wasn't convinced that it was going to look good enough to wear until well after the process started.  I took a lot of time constructing this neckline, and I believe I did something better with this version to make it work better than the floral version.

3. Though hidden by the belt, the waistband was properly made.  I forgot this step in the construction of the floral version, which asked you to sew up the casing for the 1/4" elastic on the seam allowance from the waistband, but not onto the bodice.  It is so much cleaner looking.  To make sure your waistband stays up, you sew it up to the bodice at certain points (hand sewing).  On my floral version, I just sewed the casing with the seam allowance straight onto the bodice, and to make matters worse, the thread is very light, so if you look close you can see it.  Ugh.  At least it was on a patterned material, right?

4.  The sleeves look really good on this version.  I didn't add sleeves to the floral, but that was because I wanted it sleeveless, so it would look more like my Starlet dresses.

Here is what went wrong...

The skirt is a big huge mess.  The pockets turned out great, but I have had a lot of experience with these kind of pockets (pocket plus integrated yoke) that I can pretty much do these in my sleep now, which is pretty exciting.  The dang problem I faced with the skirt came from the fact that the bodice was cut at a 12 while I cut the skirt at a 16.  I could have cut a 12 skirt, but it would have been too fitted, and I really prefer something easier for summer.  In attempting to fit the skirt with the bodice, I added darts to the skirt, which did not work at all.  They look less messy from the front, but it is still bad in front.  Ugh.

OMG. So bad.  I am only showing you this photo so that if you have a different size on bottom than not attempt darts in the skirt unless you really know what you are doing.  This mistake made the whole dress completely unwearable.  Sigh.  At least I was using a "freebie" fabric from Fabric Mart (it was in one of their "free" bundles they offer from time to time).  Lesson learned--sage green activewear knit fabric and darts do not mix unless you know what you are doing.

Having learned my lesson from the first version, this time I made sure to carefully pleat the bodice bits and to take care with the neckline (even though I thought I had screwed it up, I did better than I had thought).  I definitely made sure to GATHER the skirt waistband instead of darting the skirt to properly fit the bodice.  That was far more successful, and this time the skirt portion looks really good.  The pockets were still super easy.  :-)

From the side you can see it fits well, just skimming over my curves, but because of the pleating in the bodice, I have a little something something extra up top that I don't normally get.  :-)

The length is a bit short, honestly, and I need to remember to mark the pattern to increase the length of the skirt by two inches to make up for the extra length I need.  It looks fine this length, and is great for summer, but I prefer a bit more coverage usually.

The back views definitely looks better here than in the green version.  YAY!

There are a few things I am going to point out, though.  The back waist is still too long, and as usual with me I have just a touch of wrinkling above the waist.  The only way I can adjust for that is to do a swayback adjustment, but I need to practice that first before I try it on something I want to wear in real life.  I also *know* there is a better way to hem the sleeveless armscye.  Here I stitched 5/8" from the raw edge (with a zig-zag setting) which gathered the fabric a bit causing it to turn under a bit.  After that I placed stay tape in the seam allowance of the hem and pinned it all down and proceeded to stitch the stay tape and armscye hem all at the same time (3/8") with a straight stitch. Again, it looks fine, but I could have used the fabric from the sleeves that I had cut out (when I was cutting I wasn't sure if I really was going to go for the Starlet dress) and made binding from it which would have probably worked better to finish off this edge.  Oh, well, it works.

Here is a photo of the bodice before I sewed it all together.  I put the beginnings on Triple D (Dressmaker Dummy Dina) to make sure it looked okay.  Looking at this photo, I really wish I had been more careful with the neckline facing and the armhole bit.

Thankfully the pleats still look this good in the finished version.  Those pleats are awesome!  (Secret--I kind of hated them on the solid version, they look so cool in this floral version.)

Testing the bodice out on me.  I knew it would fit, but you are never supposed to rely just upon the mannequin, even if you are 99.9% sure everything will be fine.

For those of you wondering, I think investing in a dressmaker dummy is smart.  I rarely have big fitting issues since I have a static, objective body that looks just like mine in front of me.  I always can tell from her if something is just not going to fit, no matter how much I want it to.  Very sobering to put a few pins and some fabric or pattern paper on her and see that the seams are just too small to make it work.  That said, I can adjust for the changes needed before I start sewing, and that feels pretty good.  It is really hard to tissue fit on your own body without someone else there, and as much as I adore Angus, he would make a terrible assistant.

I nearly had the setting correct for the ITY knit fabric I used.  The bit in the middle shows how the seam is supposed to look.  To the right it is a bit loose, that is because I fed the fabric in at a different rate than I should have.
Oh, I should mention that sewing up the muslin of this pattern pretty much convinced me that getting a serger (overlocker) would be a great investment since sewing up the muslin with the sewing machine's knit stretch stitch (called the lightning bolt stitch) was a BEAR.  It took so long.  I still had to sew up parts of this floral dress with the sewing machine, but the seams on the bodice and the skirt were done on the serger and it took so little time.  Seriously it was like an hour less total time using the serger for that step.  (The serger sews very fast, has a very secure, stretchy stitch, and cuts and finishes the seams all at once.)  Now that I am more confident in the serger and what it can do, I might try to do more of my future projects on the serger to make them even easier.  For those of you wondering, I bought a Brother 1034D, which is pretty much what every sewer starting out buys when they go serger shopping the first time.  It is as good as all the reviews on Amazon make it out to be.  (I bought mine on ebay for a screaming deal, though, nearly $30 less than what it was on Amazon.)

Notes on this project:

1. Pattern: New Look 6097.

2. Fabric: ITY Knit from Fabric Mart (Brushwork Floral).

3. Changes made: Made it sleeveless, encased the waistband elastic by sewing the waistband to the bodice (not supposed to do that, though, so don't follow my example), and gathered the skirt to properly fit it into the smaller bodice size.

4. Changes I will make on the next project: Lengthen skirt by two inches, properly encase the waistband elastic the way I did in the muslin, face the armscye instead of turning the fabric and stitching, and be more careful with the neckline.

5. This project is part of the Fabric Mart Reader's Pick Sew Along.  I finished early, but you will know why when you read the next few sentences. 

Okay, that's it for now.  I hope everyone is ready for Easter weekend.  :-)  We are headed to Florida on Sunday night and guess what I am wearing Monday?  Yep, this dress!!!