Sewing lessons, or further adventures in silk

I have an entire shelf of silk in my sewing half-room that I dream of turning into beautiful swishy dresses but am mostly too afraid to cut into. After making the green school-dress Anna I had a vision of a maxi, silk chiffon, fully lined version to wear to my brother’s wedding. (Confession: I actually bought new silk from eBay, but only because I didn’t have five metres of anything existing.) How hard could it be – I’d already made the pattern and it’s a relatively easy sew.

But the reality of it was this: sew a dress in three nights of a parliamentary sitting week, a week in which you also have to bake 100+ cupcakes and decorate a wedding cake tier, and a week in which you’re back to living solo for the first time in years. With puppy. And it’s your first time sewing both chiffon and satin.

Sure, no worries.

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The lining actually sewed up pretty easily although I did get confused a few times about which side I was doing the French seams on. Chopped about 20cm off the bottom before hemming it because it was waaay too long on me. (It is hemmed in this pic but I can’t work out how to make Bessie stay at the proper height.)

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I bound the waist seam with this super cute bias tape which was supposed to be used on the pink wool Anna I was supposed to make before going to Paris. France, snails, etc.

Cutting the chiffon was frustrating. I tried using the rotary cutter but my cutting board was too small to fit any single pattern piece on and the fabric kept stretching with scissors. Maybe this should have been the first sign.

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Second sign was the way my machine kept eating the fabric. I stretched the threads out, tried to adjust the tension and was happy the bodice seemed to come out okay.

Then some of the skirt pieces pinned together with almost 10cm difference at the end – even though they’d matched perfectly on the lining.

Then I attached the lining inside out from how I’d intended, so I had to either unpick the whole thing or move which seam the thigh split went on. I moved the split.

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I took the whole thing (along with boxes and boxes of cupcakes, fondant toppers, one wedding cake tier and about four kilos of cream cheese icing) to my parents’ place the night before the wedding with thoughts of hemming it in bed. My mother admired the beautiful silk and pointed out how the poorly tensioned French seams were ruining the line. The wiggly, waggly seams I had been ignoring in my quest to make the thing in under a week. And the way hemming out the mysteriously non-aligning skirt pieces would make it sit at an awkward ankle length instead of skimming the floor.

She was right.

I wore another dress to the wedding which turned out to be a blessing because it bucketed with rain, the ground turned to mud and knee-high outfits with bare feet became the most practical.

Now the future holds approximately 14 metres of unpicking and learning how to tension my machine properly.

Lesson from all this: don’t sew under stress. And seek help earlier rather than later.

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