Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hazel Construction Notes

I put the finishing touches on my Hazel dress this morning, but before I model it, I wanted to post some notes about the construction.  I did a lot of things on this dress that were new to me, so I want to keep a record of it!  And maybe it will be useful information for some of you as well!

I spent five days working on this dress - for me, that's a lot.  The construction is not difficult, but I had decided in advance that I would only work on it a little each day, to try to avoid the mistakes and sloppiness that come with fatigue.  I've got to say, I really enjoyed taking my time on this and just savoring the work!

On Sunday, I finished tracing the pattern and then cut out the pieces.  Since I'd chosen an eyelet fabric, I needed to underline it - which meant cutting out all the pieces twice.

On Monday, I began the process of attaching the underlining to the outer fabric.  My outer fabric is a cotton/poly blend that I bought at Hancock Fabrics a few months ago specifically for this dress, and specifically to make myself try underlining something!  This was my first time, and just like everyone says, it really isn't difficult.  I used a lightweight cotton/poly shirting from my stash in very pale yellow.  I probably would have been better off using something lighter since my outer fabric is on the heavy side, but it was nice to get this piece out of the stash, and I think the colors go together nicely.


I was able to get all the pieces except the skirt back and one of the fronts attached to their underlinings before my bobbin thread ran out.  I decided that was a good place to stop for the day, so I picked it up again on Tuesday.  Once all my pieces were underlined, I continued with the construction and put together the skirt, bodice and straps.  I had cut out pockets, but in the end I decided against them since the dress was already kind of bulky.

On Wednesday, my first task was to do the gathering of the skirt.  I really hate gathering, but I had decided in advance that I would try out Colette's method (outlined in the instructions) of sewing rows of stitching at 3/8", 5/8" and 7/8" - which of course means that once the piece is gathered and sewn to the bodice, the bottom 2 rows of stitching must be taken out.  I was curious if this would help me get a more even gather, and I feel that it did. 


As an aside - do you see my pins?  I've been trying to convert myself from being a Parallel Pinner to being a Perpendicular Pinner!  It's hard to change a habit like that after so many years!

Another thing I've started doing is machine basting my gathered piece to my flat piece before doing a smaller stitch.  You know, like you're supposed to!  I always used to skip the basting, but I've really come to believe that basting is my friend. 

I was proud of myself that I did the gathering stitches in a contrasting color (red), which made them much easier to pick out afterwards.  Here you can see the yellow I used to attach the underlining, the red gathering stitches, and the blue seam.


Two lines of blue stitching:  one basting, and one shorter stitch.

On Wednesday, I also attached the zipper.  I used Sunni's method (from her Craftsy class) of basting in the zipper with fusible web - this method is really working well for me.  I did find that the 22" zipper called for on the pattern envelope was way too long for the opening given on the actual pattern - next time I'll probably buy an 18" zipper.  No problem though, I just sewed my own stop and cut off the rest.


As usual, I finished all the edges with my serger.  I've been having a little trouble with Sergio lately, but I think it's sorted now, thank goodness!  I can no longer imagine life without him!

 
Once I had the zipper in, I was able to try on the dress, and was surprised that the bodice was a tiny bit loose!  I had been worried it would be a little tight because my fabrics were so bulky.  I ended up shaving off 1/8" at the side seams, starting from the underarm and angling to nothing at the waist, since the bodice was already attached to the skirt and the zipper was in!  I was a good girl and immediately noted the changes on my pattern as well, and made the same change to the facing pieces.  Hard to believe that 1/8" at the side could make such a difference, but when you add it up, it's 1/2" overall - pretty significant!

I had the dickens of a time attaching the straps - I probably spent close to an hour yesterday positioning them with pins, trying the dress on, taking it off, basting the straps, trying it on again, picking out the stitches, repeating the process.  Finally I decided to set it aside until today when I was fresh.

This morning, I had a brainstorm:  part of the problem with trying to attach the straps was that I didn't have enough hands to hold the dress up while trying to position them!  So I basted the straps onto the back, then put on the dress and pinned it right to my bra so it would stay up on its own.  That left me free to pin the straps in place just where they needed to be.  My right shoulder is about 1/2' lower than my left, so I really wanted to make sure I got them each the correct length.

I had also noticed when I was trying on my muslin that my bra straps lined up with the seam at the back of the bodice, so I attached them there rather than using the markings from the pattern.  I think it's so great to have a strappy sundress like this that completely covers up my bra straps!


Placing those straps was probably the hardest part of making this dress!  But once I had them basted on, I knew I was almost finished.  I attached my facing with no trouble at all, and took Lisa's recommendation to use pick stitch to do the understitching.  It really felt nice to do the final bits of work by hand - meditative!  And I always have a hard time with understitching by machine, so this was easier for me.


When I had the dress on for placing the straps, I also checked the length.  As written, this dress is shorter than I'd usually choose - and that's with the added length of a size 8 skirt attached to my size 2 bodice.  Next time I will add a couple inches on so I can do a proper hem.  Since I hadn't thought of it this time though, I sewed some cream cotton voile binding left over from my first quilt to the bottom edge, then folded that back and hand catch-stitched the hem to the underlining.  This ended up being a good solution for this fabric:  a double-folded hem would just have been too bulky with this embroidered fabric.




And here it is, inside and out:





It looks quite nice on, although I can't really say it's my most favorite thing I've ever made (my floral coat takes that prize!)  I chose the eyelet in part because I wanted to be in on the trend, but I don't really think it's the best choice for showing off the style lines of this design.  And while there are imperfections here and there, both in fit and in construction, I'm pretty proud of the work I did and the time and care I put into this dress.  And I feel really good for having tried a couple of things that were intimidating me:  the SBA and underlining.  So now I feel like I can move forward and continue honing these new skills on Hazel Dress #2, for which I've already purchased fabric.


With any luck, I'll have time and light enough in the next couple days to take some pictures.  I've already been thinking of outfits and shoes to go with this dress!

36 comments:

  1. oh my goodness - I LOVE this post. Thanks so much for taking the time to discuss this. I love your fabric choice and can't wait to see it on you. It's really pretty. I've been wanting to make this dress for ages but haven't gotten around to it because I know that I have to make some adjustments to the pattern - I guess I better working on it!

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    1. Oh hi, Jenny! Thank you - I'm so glad it's helpful, rather than me just blathering on!

      I put this off for a long time too, but in the end I spent far more time procrastinating than I did actually making the pattern changes and sewing up the garment! It wasn't nearly as hard as I'd thought it would be.

      Don't forget to also check out this post* by Symondezyn about how she did her FBA for this pattern. If you need a SBA, you would just overlap instead of spreading, but the set-up is the same.

      * http://symondezyn.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/colette-hazel-fba-tutorial/

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  2. ummm... fantastic, much? i think so! so glad you were able to get zen with the pattern and really do a great job. i happen to love underlined dresses. letting the seam allowances show on the inside makes me remember and appreciate the work i put in it! and i love the blue eyelet. can't wait to see it on you!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! I really like the inside of this one too: the contrasting colors and many seams make it look like fancy boning to me, which I hate wearing but think looks cool!

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  3. I hope you get to post your pictures soon since the dress looks fabulous! I really like the level of detail you've gone into and you've noted some great tips. You've also reminded me to watch Sunni's class. I have a terrible habit of collecting Craftsy classes that I never get around to taking.

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    1. hehehe - I have that habit too!

      I'm hoping to get some pictures over the weekend, however, we have storms in our forecast, so it will depend on how dark the skies get!

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  4. What interesting fabric, Gail! This is a great color.

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  5. Thanks for sharing how you made this - I love reading the details of construction and nearly always learn something. The eyelet is beautiful. I'll be watching Sunni's class later today as I add an invisible zipper to my Peony.

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    1. Thanks, Claire! I think you will love the class - I did. Although I will admit that I fell asleep on it many times: I was watching it right before bed, and Sunni has a very calm and soothing voice! I felt bad for falling asleep because it really was interesting, but she just really relaxed me, LOL!

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  6. That's a great dress, all the detail you've included is really helpful too. I'll check out the FBA post, thanks for the link - I have a Hazel muslin gathering dust because of that very problem, which is a shame as I have the perfect fabric :)

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    1. Thank you, Jacq! I tried to be as comprehensive as possible!

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  7. What a great post! I love the detail you've gone into, and it does really show that you've taken such time over the dress. I can't wait to see you wearing it.

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  8. Thanks so much for such a comprehensive post. I'm enrolling NOW into Sunni's class and from now on I'm basting in a different colour!! I hope we get to see you in the dress as well! Despite it not being your favourite it sure looks lovely!!!

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    1. Thanks Kirsty! I'm very glad to know that some people are finding this kind of post helpful and interesting! I'd hate to be boring the socks off you all!

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  9. I can definitely tell that you put a huge amount of time and effort into this dress, and it sounds like you've learned a huge amount from the experience too! My mind starts running for the hills when thinking about this much detail.

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    1. Hehehe, my mind usually does the same! No need to read it all if it's not interesting!

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  10. Yay, you did it! Congrats, can't wait to see this on you. Sometimes slow sewing really is the best.

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    1. I did it! Thanks for the kick in the butt! Next up is my 1966 open-backed dress: baby's first princess seams! (shaking in boots!)

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  11. I love your choice of fabric and all the details. Incidentally, I've just bought some black eyelet with red lining/underlining, get us, all bang on trend! I'd love to see what this dress looks like on you...photos soon?

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    1. I feel like I'm ticking off the trends this summer: maxi dress, maxi skirt, eyelet! And soon there will be a CHEVRON maxi skirt as well!

      Oooh, the red and black combo will be so striking on you - wondering what pattern you will use!

      Fingers crossed for photos this weekend! MAYBE even somewhere more interesting than the grey wall in my dining room!

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  12. I LOVE that eyelet! Such a beautiful dress, it really makes me want to try it out the Hazel pattern.

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    1. Hehehe! I'm not surprised - you are the eyelet queen!

      In retrospect, I think this was a good choice for me as an early foray into pattern alteration. There are so many places you can adjust this dress to get a better fit: strap placement, bodice adjustments and choosing the size skirt you need for your bottom half.

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    1. Looks like the weather isn't going to cooperate this weekend though :-(

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  14. I'm going to say what everyone is saying: Can't wait to see you in this dress. What a fabulous choice in fabric and color.

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  15. What a great dress and a great post too! I love all the construction details that you describe.
    Now I indeed want to see some pics of the dress in action :)

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    1. Thank you, Kim! Glad the details were interesting!

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  16. It looks great! I love the eyelet, and it's such a pretty color.

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  17. This looks so cute! I love that color!

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  18. just found this in my search for info on strap placement on hazel. my straps also are coming out (if i want them to cover my bra straps) right on the seam line. i thought maybe i was crazy or doing something wrong because in most images people seem to have placed them where the dots are... yet i also noticed a lot of exposed bras! so glad to see you opted to shift them and i will also.

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    1. I'm glad this was helpful to you! The more I sew, the more I'm convinced that the pattern is really more of a road map - the details are often determined by my body shape, which generally doesn't fit that map!

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