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Jun 29, 2010

CORRECTION: Watermelon

Friends, I owe you an apology. 

The color of my McCall's Twenties dress is not frappe di fragola, strawberry parfait, Slightly Spam, or whatever I'd been calling it up to now.  It is the color of that most thirst-quenching of summer fruits, watermelon.

Now before you run off to your local Whole Foods, Piggly Wiggly, or roadside stand to pick some up, let me tell you about my dress.

Things are going well despite the fact that this pattern has no formal written instructions as we've come to know them.  It shows you what's attached to what and then you're on your own.  Presumably women sewing in the 1920's were up to the challenge and let's face it: this is a shift dress with a yoke and a sash.

I wouldn't have minded some hand holding though.  I'm underlining for the first time and I have never worked with poly chiffon before (let alone two layers) and it has presented some challenges.

I cut the yoke out of the solid sheer chiffon I purchased on Saturday and needed to finish the slightly scooped neckline.  I'd intended to finish it with bias cut from either the dotted or the sheer solid (self) chiffon but neither takes a crease very well and I didn't think it would look clean.  So I used the cotton/poly Wright's bias tape I'd bought and, while I generally don't like the stuff, it came out great. 

Yesterday I found just the right color Gutermann thread and I was able to top-stitch the tape very discretely.

I wanted to finish other edges -- like the attached drape -- with my rolled hem foot.

Generally I have good results with this foot, especially with cotton shirting and with the aid of some of Susan of Spare Time's fantastic tutorials.   Poly chiffon is simply too shifty for the task, however.  My test samples looked like this -- or worse:

So I improvised.  I've serged the edges, folded them over once and stitched (You're only going to see the outside).

In a perfect world I'd have serged with pink thread but this isn't a perfect world, not nearly.

I'm reinforcing most seams with Hug Snug rayon bias tape, especially where there are gathers.  The sleeves are my next challenge.

So there you have it.  I'm hoping to finish this up later today and then maybe treat myself to a large iced coffee and an hour with Connie Stevens in "Susan Slade."  Keep it simple, that's what I always say.

Another 90+ degrees here in NYC.

If you'd like to read a highly romanticized view of what it's like to shop with me in the Garment District, pay a visit today to In the Heyday.  Of course, it's mainly about Shona, but still interesting!

Have a great day and wait -- is this indeed watermelon???


  1. The dress is turning out beautifully, Peter. My favorite trick for working with chiffons is using a thin strip of Sulky Stiffy-Tear Away under the fabric to stabilize it. It works brilliantly for doing tiny hems...but, the dark side of it is having to carefully tear it all off afterwards! But, so far, I have found it worth the tediousness. I just read an article in one of my really old Threads magazines where the author/sewer used strips of newspaper in the same way (just the unprinted paper edges). That is worth a try in my book; probably not so much papery stuff to remove later. Good luck with finishing up...I think it is going to be smashing!!!

  2. You have a serger too? Please don't tell me you found that in the trash. I don't need another machine but I think a serger might be useful. Hmm. It seems to have worked great on your edges. They really look wonderful. Seriously. I'm loving the watermelon. I hope Cathy is feeling summery in it, although I suspect it would make a nice mid-winter pick-me-up as well.

  3. It's beautiful! I'm excited to see the final result. Watermelon is my favorite shade of pink.

  4. Ah, to live the life of Peter, sewing all day. Don't you have a job, mister? Or are you lucky enough not to?
    The dress is looking "formidable" as the French say. I can't wait to see the end result.

  5. this is looking beautiful. i (begrudgingly) love your final fabric pick!

    if you find that the white serger threads peek out when cathy struts, you could always hand sew some pink lace hem tape to the inside. doesn't that sound like fun?

  6. It looks beautiful so far. I wondered if you would have trouble with poly chiffon -- I love the look of it but hate sewing with it. To do a narrow hem on it you really need the narrow flange hemmer that does a tiny 1/16 inch roll and then another to double it. But you improvised and it worked --that's what counts. (Plus that foot is harder to get).

    I was wondering how the instructions in the pattern would be. I've never used one this old, so I'm glad you're keeping us informed. Does it use 1/2" seams?

    Can't wait to see it!

  7. Can I have your life AND your skills?

    Although I'm no fan of your fabric (you know I detest polyester and polka dots, what a double whammy!) but you are doing an outstanding job, it looks fabulous and I'm envious of your skills.

    Can't wait for the next Cathy model shoot! BTW, what is her fee, if I may be so rude to ask?

  8. Chiffon. I hate it. Making a blouse out of chiffon has been on my 'to do' list for like five years and at the moment, mine is in the 'wadder' pile. So, ideas to stabilize this (even during the cutting out phase) are really important. But the dress looks fab - Cathy will love it. But..what color shoes? White?

  9. Fantastic job! Can't wait to see Cathy model it.

  10. Ohhh - are you jealous it was not enough about YOU in my post? PETER!;-)
    The dress is looking fantastic and I am envious! I do the same with fussy hems that won't do as they should, as over locking stitch gives it enough definition that you can fold it neatly.

    I am really looking forward to the photo shoot too - you know we all are!

  11. WOW! that dress looks like it's coming along great! if it were me.. the bias tape would've been all wobbly and crazy- i can't wait to see this watermelon dress when it's finito! :)


  12. Nice job sewing a super tricky fabric! Sheers are a challenge but your dress is coming together seamlessly (seamingly?) Looking forward to the finished dress & photo shoot!

  13. Wow, Peter. You're one of the fastest sewistas out there! I can't believe how much progress you've made. I hear you about the bias tape. Oy! My coat project calls for it on EVERY seam. Forget that, it's easier to cut and sew a full lining. I did struggle with it on the hood, and there are still spots that I should go back and tweek a bit. Keep up the great work. Your current project makes me very glad I'm working with wool herringbone! :)

  14. "but this isn't a perfect world, not nearly" = HA!

    I think the serging/topstiching combo looks great, honestly. Well done.

  15. oo! oo! oo! oh please give us a hint at the accessories.

    And thanks for the detailed post of how you are putting this together, oh great bold teacher! I mean seriously, chiffon is a pain the rear to sew with. You are doing a great job.

  16. Watermelon. Frozen. The answer to 90+ degrees. Eat it by the ton, straight from the freezer.

    Two layers of chiffon? You're a brave man. Cathy ought to be very grateful for the pains you go to for the sake of her glamour-shots.


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