Monday, September 22, 2014

Made by Me File: Garnet Hill Knit Tiered Sundress...COPIED!

UPDATE (9/24/14): You can now vote for my creation, if you so desire, here at this blog post by Fabric Mart!  :-)  Thank you!!!

In June 2013 I decided to finance a Bernina machine from my local fabric store.  Eventually I decided on which machine would be my "forever" machine (it dang well better be!) and when I went to the stores to sign the papers, I was wearing one of my most favorite summer sundresses, the Garnet Hill Knit Tiered Sundress (which you can see on me here in this post--second to last photo).  As I was walking around waiting to get the paperwork in order, one of the managers there looked at my dress and said, "well, now I guess you can make yourself a version of that pretty dress with your new machine."  I just kind of chuckled, thinking he was putting WAY too much stock in my abilities as a sewer. 

Little did I know that eventually he would be right, but it took Fabric Mart's Fashion Challenge competition (third week, woo!) to make this dream a reality.  Because he was right, I *did* want another version of this dress since Garnet Hill no longer made them, and to get my hands on another version would mean my hands would actually have to do the work to construct it!

Here are the rules as stipulated by the competition:

Carrying out the Challenge - Did you successfully create a new garment using your favorite RTW garment as a pattern/guide? Don't forget to show us the original RTW garment!

Process Explanation - Did you explain to the viewers how you went about copying the RTW garment and making a brand-new handmade garment? You will need to create a post on your blog. (I will link your post up with our blog.)

Craftsmanship - Did you put a lot of care into the construction? Top-stitching straight, careful overall construction, etc.

Presentation - While we totally understand not everyone has a professional camera and the perfect backdrop for photographing their creations, (Me included!!) you are in front of a world of other sewers! Make yourself look presentable. Submit a photo of the front, back and side view of the garment, as well as a "presentation photo" (this should be the best photo!) Detail photos are also requested so we can be better judges. So if you do some embellishing or a specific technique, zoom in and share with us!

And here it is--my dupe of the Garnet Hill Knit Tiered Sundress!

I had not thought that I would actually physically make a copy of this dress from the actual dress I owned, but instead I had planned to use Butterick 5757 and Butterick 5653 to fake it.

It turns out there are a gazillion tutorials on how to make tiered skirts and dresses on the internet, but barring a few, most are for little children, which while adorable, will definitely not work for me in my current body shape.  ;-)

But in the end, and after (I think) 16 hours of work on this project, I am far happier with this result, since I suspect actually copying from the garment you love will yield a far better duplicate.

Now I own a nice paper copy of this pattern and can remake this one whenever I feel like I need another casual dressy summer sundress in my closet (and if you know anything about me, you know I LOVE a great sundress).

The one place I was most worried about as far as fit and construction were concerned was in the bodice.  I knew that I had patterned it according to all the various instructional videos/sites/tutorials I had seen out there, and I knew I had applied the binding to the neck as precisely as I could, but you never know until you actually get the garment on you completely finished.

The fit is really good.  If I have more time to fiddle with the serger next go round (I did this dress completely on the sewing machine), I think that could make for an even easier/more flexible fit, especially since the seams will be super-stretchy instead of "just stretchy enough."  I will still have to apply the neckline and strap binding on the machine, since I don't own a coverstitch machine, but that's okay.

I decided not to fiddle with the serger for this dress simply because I had already put nearly eight hours of work into patterning and cutting (I work slowly and very carefully, agh!), I knew I didn't really have the option of spending another hour trying out samples of this knit (a very lightweight knit from Fabric Mart called "Fuschia/Cherry/Multi Abstract Paint Daubs Burnout Knit") to get the right tension on the needles and loopers.

So speaking of this fabric, I am really glad I picked up nearly five yards of it from Fabric Mart when they had it on sale for $1.99 a yard.  I love this print and think its coloring suits me more than the original print in my original Garnet Hill sundress.  So for a grand total of eight hours sewing time (those gathered tiers take SO much time to sew) and $4 in fabric, I have a beautiful sundress that I (shh, don't tell Garnet Hill) love more than my original.

In order to make this garment, I needed to take a look on the inside of the original and make notes of what I saw so I could make the dress as close to the original as possible.  I didn't need to make alterations (though I did make mine a touch longer), so I did an exact copy from the original.

If you open up this photo in a new tab, you will see my notes on construction order and on the tier measurements.  My stepmom was the person who clued me into how to construct the actual tiers.  I knew that *most* tiered dresses and skirts are just a set of rectangles, but this dress had a very large difference between the top of the tier and the bottom of the tier, I just kind of figured the shape was more trapezoidal than rectangular.  My stepmom just showed me how very gathered each TOP of the tier was (to match the bottom of the tier/bodice above it) and that was why it seemed the bottom of each tier was so much wider than the top.  Aha!  Lightbulb.  After that I knew I could construct the garment, but I also had a *tiny* inkling of how much work it would be, since I don't have an industrial elastic gathering machine sitting in my house.  LOL.

Armed with HOW the tiers are rectangles, I set out to measure how wide each rectangle would be by using my flexible measuring tape on the bottom of each tier.  The top tier (below the bodice) on both sides was 9" long by 25" wide.  The top of that tier needed to be gathered to 17" to fit the bodice bottom.  The second tier (below the first tier) on both sides was 9" long by 36" wide.  The top of that tier would need to be gathered to 25" to fit the bottom of the first tier.  The last tier (below the second tier) on both sides was 9" long by (A WHOPPING) 60" wide.  The top of the last tier would have to be gathered to 36" to fit the bottom of the second tier. 

Yes, if you are doing the math, I had to gather over 240" of material.  Sigh.  That was when I decided traditional gathering was for the birds and decided I would at least try elastic gathering before I gave up and resorted to traditional gathering.  (Yes, the elastic gathering worked, thank goodness.)

I spent the majority of my patterning time on the bodice since this fit is so crucial.  You can kind of fudge the tiers a bit since there is so much material in all of those, but you can tell if a fitted bodice doesn't, you know, *fit.*

I was unsure if I was going to use my needle point tracing wheel (purchased when I was doing a pants patterning class last year) or if I was going to do the method Steffani Lincecum showed off in her Pattern Drafting from Ready to Wear class (involves a lot of pins).  I knew I didn't simply want to fold the bodice in half and trace around it, since I would personally worry that I would trace it too big, and one of the reasons I sew is so I can get garments that properly fit my very bony/narrow chest and neckline.  And since the neckline/chest area is one of the hardest to alter, I knew I couldn't afford that mistake.

I found using the needle point tracing wheel very accurate and very easy to use.  So while I plan on taking away *how* to pattern draft from RTW from Steffani Lincecum's class, I think the needle point tracing wheel will be how I actually get the proper shape to each pattern piece.

Do note that I did end up drafting the bodice pieces so they would be cut on the fold so I could have symmetry.  I also added a 1/2 inch seam allowance (just like that amount for me, and since it is my pattern for me, I get to call the shots).

BTW, that gridded paper plus the gridded cutting cardboard surface is amazing for getting exceedingly accurate measurements.  If you have any interest in patterning yourself, buy both, trust me.   (I got mine at G Street.  They have an amazing notions area, I feel fortunate they are just down the street.  If I had to rely solely on Joann's for notions, I would probably sob. Or get proactive and hunt down the best notions supplier on the internet.)

Like all bindings, these were made from rectangles, so I just took the measurement, added a half inch to either end for seam allowances and doubled the width measurement.  (I wanted a 22 inch piece for the shoulder straps with a 1 inch total shown binding.  1/2" is shown on the outside of the garment, the other 1/2" is on the interior of the garment.  The other 1 inch is folded under for stability--almost acts like a facing for the part of the binding shown on both the inside and outside.)  Since this was a knit garment, I did not cut these on the bias, instead choosing to cut on the cross grain, as is per usual when making bindings from knits.

After the long process of getting the pattern pieces ready (and checked for accuracy against the original garment), I was ready to lay out the pieces on the fabric.  The fabric was a little bit of a bear to lay out since it is so lightweight, but eventually I told it who was boss and it behaved.  (It involved a lot of pinning on my part.)

I then set to begin the stupidly long process of gathering each tier's top with elastic.  It isn't simply a matter of taking the elastic and putting it on the fabric and sewing it on with a zig-zag stitch.  Nope, it involves marking the elastic in equal bits and then matching those equal bits to the equal bits marked out on the tier itself.  And then the process of gently, yet firmly, ugh, tugging on the elastic while sewing it on the machine with the zigzag stitch.  Anyone out there who has a tutorial for this and is all, "ooh so easy you all" is a LIAR.  LOL.  Or maybe they had less gathering to do and didn't start cursing their choice after the first 200" of gathering.

But having said that, it was worth it since the elastic gathering made for very even results and did help give the dresses seams some stretch, even though I wasn't using the serger.  And since the fabric is so light, it gives the dress some heft where it needs it.

I wanted to ensure the binding was going to lie as flat as possible against my skin, so definitely pressed it until I was fairly certain that it would lie flat.  I also made sure to press the gathered seams up (I guess they could be pressed down but seemed to want to be pressed up, so that's what I did).

BTW, I like this tutorial by ikat bag and this tutorial by pattern scissors cloth for knitwear neckline binding.  They helped me better visualize what I needed to do on my dress to succeed.

By the time I tried the dress on Triple D (Dressmaker Dummy Dina), I was fairly sure I had a winner.  But I needed to get it on me and take photos of it and the original to be sure I had successfully accomplished my goal.

And here it is.  And I would say it does look an awful lot like the original.  Barring the extra length, the silhouette is the same, especially in the bodice *YEAH!*.  It is harder to see the gathered tiers in the darker print, but up close, the gathering is very obvious (you can look at it in the third photo from the top again, if you so choose).

What makes me kind of chuckle, though, is how my poses are nearly identical, too.  You must have a "set" place you like being, and I guess I am proof of that in these photos here.

Anyhow, that's all for tonight.  :-)  I am slowly winding down after a crazy weekend!  (Quick rundown--in-laws in town for my daughter's sixth birthday party; finishing the Elsa costume for my daughter for that same birthday party; going to one of my son's baseball games, and of course working on my duplicate dress for this contest.  I will sleep well tonight!)

P.S. Tomorrow I am hosting a pretty big giveaway, which is being done in conjunction with a review/ootd.  If you are a fan of Boden, definitely make sure you stop by.  ;-)