Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Ashland Dress

I loved the Schoolhouse Tunic so much, I made Sew Liberated's Ashland Dress as well!  Here's a photo of the bodice:

And here's the pattern photo:

 I ended up buying the kit for the dress from Sew Liberated's website, along with the pattern because it saved me from having to choose the fabric for this project.   I know, choosing the fabric is the most fun part, right?  I agree, but in addition to trying brand new patterns, I'm trying to break out of my rut and try new kinds of fabrics that I wouldn't ordinarily try.  The fabric in this kit was a cotton chambray with some lycra in it - something I have never, in the past ten years of sewing, ever used.  I'm somewhat of a natural fabric snob, so sewing with stretch fabrics hasn't appealed to me.  So this was my opportunity to give it a try.

I've also discovered that I am a ditherer - I could spent months trying to figure out which fabric I wanted to use to make this dress.  Frankly, I wanted to just get on with it, and I figured that if Sew Liberated was selling this particular fabric for this pattern, it had a likely chance of success.  We all know that matching up the right kind of fabric with the proper body and drape is the key to successful sewing.

The kit came with four yards of the fabric, a navy invisible zipper, and some interfacing.  I was first puzzled by the color of the zipper, as I thought the fabric was grey:
But it turns out that the fabric is made of navy and white threads, rather than black and white.  I was concerned that the color and dress style would look a little too pilgrimy, but then I decided it was a pilgrim time of year, so I went with it.  The fabric ended up being a pleasure to sew.  Yay!

I also discovered that the interfacing included in the kit isn't enough for this dress, so I used my stash interfacing and I used the kit interfacing for my practice buttonholes.  Interestingly, there were no buttons included in the kit, but much to my suprise and elation I found five one-half inch navy buttons in my stash - and the chances of that happening is right up there with winning the lottery or losing weight on a cruise.

Let me say upfront that I really like this pattern and this dress.  But despite my efforts to move this project along by ordering pre-selected fabric, it still took me over two weeks to make the dress.  The first hurdle was tracing the pattern.  This took significant time and trouble.  Normally, I'm not a tracer kind of gal, but the pattern cost $ 15, and it came with different bodice pattern pieces depending on whether you were an A cup, B cup, C cup, etc.  I had no idea as I wasn't completely sure whether I should make a size 6 or 8, or what cup size I should go for, so tracing made sense in case I was wrong.  But with so many sizes, the tracing was confusing.  Here is a dart in one of the skirt pattern pieces:  
The Carpenter remarked that it resembled an electrical diagram on construction plans, and he was glad it was me and not him who had to sort it all out.  There was at least one pattern piece where I traced the wrong pattern size, but I figured it out before the mistake was irrevocable.

Of course, after tracing, I had to cut out the traced pattern pieces.  Then I had to cut out the pieces in the fabric.  (I'm apparently a slow cutter-outer.)  I ended up tracing a size 8, with a C cup.  I don't normally think of myself as a C up, but the finished measurements of 37 1/2 inches was the same as the Kwik Sew pattern I liked so much. 

The second reason this dress took so long was because there were a lot of pattern pieces to it.  I ended up cutting out enough pattern pieces to complete a step or two in the directions, and then going back to cut out some more.  I eliminated the in-seam pockets and the waist ties, mostly because I didn't want to bother tracing and cutting them out.  The other reasons are that I generally avoid in-seam pockets as my hips don't need extra fabric around them, thank you very much, and I thought the waist ties were unnecessary and this fabric seemed a little heavy for them.

The third reason it took so long was the invisible zipper.  The invisible zipper isn't completely unknown to me - I've managed it before - but its not my go-to preference.  I'm much more comfortable with the centered zipper application so it takes me much, much less time.  So with the invisible zipper, I spent more time putting it in, and even more time dithering and worrying about it beforehand.  I had to rip one side of the zipper out because it got twisted before sewing, even though I thought I had carefully placed it.  But I got that rascal in, and while it isn't perfect, I decided not to worry about perfection.  What I need is practice, so I've decided to use invisible zippers hence forth, and so make myself practice.

One thing I really like about the pattern is the fact that you make your button holes right away while fashioning the bodice.  I think this is an excellent idea - if you muck it up you can just cut a new new bodice and you haven't ruined your dress. I'll think I'll start doing that in the future, to the extent it is possible with other patterns.

Since I had made the Schoolhouse Tunic previously, I understood how the back facing and front bodice go together and it wasn't a problem.  I like it, and it makes for a nice finish on the inside of the bodice:

In the end, I think the C cup was a bit big on me, and if I make it again, I'll try the B cup.  The front gaps a little bit, so I pulled out a white collared blouse I made from an old bedsheet, which gave me more coverage and warmth for this time of year.

This pattern is well drafted, meaning, the sleeve caps weren't drafted with a ridiculous amount of ease like the big four patterns.  Between the nice sleeve caps and the lycra, the sleeves went it easily.  The only problem I had with the pattern was that the sleeve cuffs were somewhat tight on me.  I don't think of myself as having heavy arms, so it is entirely possible that I got confused in tracing all those pattern lines and traced the wrong size.  I might have even traced the cuffs for the three-quarter sleeves rather than the elbow length sleeves.  Who knows?  By the time I was done, I was too tired to find out, and I just let the sleeve cuffs out by a quarter of an inch and they fit fine now.

I ended up putting a one inch hem, rather than two inch the pattern called for since I want more coverage (I'm not in my 20s anymore!).  I give a big thumbs up on this pattern, and I can envision making it in a baby cord fabric with the three-quarter sleeves for winter.  You can see all the summery versions at Sew Liberated's website.

I think I'll make this one again, but this weekend I'm going a Sewing Retreat where I plan to make my dress for my company's Christmas party.  I'm excited about spending the entire weekend with other sewers - sewing and eating constantly!  I'm taking several patterns and several pieces of fabric, so I don't know what exactly I'll end up with.  I never underestimate the power of Sloth in my creative process.  : )


Vicki W said...

You are a cute pilgrim! Have fun at your retreat. I can't wait to see your party dress.

Anonymous said...

Love the dress. HATE the boots! :-))

Audrey said...

This dress has interesting and unique seams on the bodice. My thought was crisp and school marm-ish, and I like that look. The collar is not big enough to be a pilgrim. Glad you had a good experience with the stretch woven fabric. I also am looking forward to seeing your party dress. You always make such pretty ones.

Beccy said...

Thanks for the review. I am about to dive in with my kit and your feedback is quite helpful!

Unknown said...

Really lovely sewing! You did a great job of describing your process and showing the pattern! I recently bought it for myself and am dithering!