Saturday, May 24, 2014

Smithson 2014: The First Cut

There's something about the thought of cutting into expensive fabric that just paralyzes you.

Over the last few days I started in earnest on my dress (after all, the gala is a week away!). The first thing I did was to clear enough space on my sewing table to spread the fabric out and take a careful look at it.

From one angle, it's predominantly blue.

But look at it from the other corner, and it is a totally different color.

To clarify the orientation, the top picture is viewed from the "bottom" of the fabric, and the bottom picture is taken from what will be the top edge.

I spent quite a while thinking about how I was going to tackle this. With the help of my PMB Users Group friends, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the end product to look like. The real issue was getting there, with as few seams as possible.

The first step, of course, was to actually cut the fabric to make the basic dress shape. I wanted what was essentially a big tube, so I figured the easiest way to get that was to measure my widest point (my hips), and cut a tube that fit around that (plus some ease and a seam allowance).

First I tried draping it on my dress form, inside out, to see whether I could just sew it inside out that way and have it work. But the fabric is sooooo slippery that it really didn't feel like it would work properly.

Nope, didn't look like much at all. Time for plan B.

Then I realized: why am I trying to reinvent the wheel? I have a knot top shape that fits me well; why not use that as the basis for this dress? So I grabbed my "Tried and True" knit top pattern and laid it out on the fabric in such a way that it was cut as one single piece, with double-ended darts in place of side seams, and a single seam running down the center back.

Here's where that difficult first cut came into play.

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..." And with that, I started cutting.

(Note to other sewists: sequinned fabric is not difficult to cut, but it sure puts up a fight. My hands were quite sore when I got through!)

Then I just sewed the shoulders, darts and center back seam on the sewing machine (after testing on a scrap and deciding that the machine-sewn seams didn't look all that bad) and tried it on.

Front view:

Not too terrible, I think! Here's the back view:

The big wedge opening at the bottom is where I will be inserting a godet to make a slight train.

Here's one of the darts.
I'm not thrilled about the dart, but really can't think of another way to do the shaping of the dress; without some kind of dart, it's just going to look like a shapeless tube.

So there you have it; Progress!! I'm going to continue working on it tomorrow evening; now that I know it pretty much fits, it's on my dress form for the tweaking stage. I need to do something about the front and back necklines (such as adding cowls), and finish all the edges. I'm also going to add lining so it slips on and off easier. Then, of course, I still have to make the vest for Bob, as well as a purse for me. Stay tuned for updates!


  1. It's looking lovely already and I'm totally enamoured of the way it plays with the colours.

  2. Going to look wonderful. That one week deadline would have me in a panic, but I know you'll get there.

    Sue C

  3. Oh wow, all the colors of the Caribbean waters. I love the way this dress drapes and can't wait to see the finished outfit.

  4. OOOOO la la! Your Smithsonian gowns are always lovely and interesting.

  5. Love the colors, love the dress! Can't wait to see the end product. :)


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