I went on a Sewing Retreat the weekend of November 11th, but haven't been blogging because my computer wouldn't turn on. At all. And I'm not talking about the blue screen of death, I'm talking about the black pit of darkness that was my lap top screen. I finally submitted to the ultimate fix - I took my lap top to work. I don't know why this works, but as soon as I got it to the office and pushed the power button, it fired right up. I guess my lap top just likes to get out of the house from time to time. It's evil that way.
I really don't need to go on a Sewing Retreat to sew - The Carpenter lets me sew any time I want to, but my friend Maria really wanted to go, and Maria is like so many quilters - to really sew all weekend, she has to run away from home and let her family fend for herself. Maria is a new sewer (which I like to believe I somehow helped inspire), so I joined her at a 4-H camp about an hour and half from home. It was very productive and I met wonderful women, all quilters. I was the only garment sewer. I decided to spend the weekend making my dress for my company's annual Christmas party, which was renamed the Holiday party, for political correctness. I still call it the Christmas party because if it wasn't for Christmas, we wouldn't been having it.
I normally make my dress every year but I never blog about it because it is the busiest time of the year, plus my dress is usually not my best work - I cut major corners sewing it. Mostly because I don't have a lot of time. And I am fine with that because the dress is going to be worn once, maybe twice, three times tops. I don't worry about finishing seams or any imperfections. The party is large, dark, and most everyone there is at least slightly tipsy. No one is noticing whether my hem is perfect.
But this year I set aside an entire weekend in November to focus on the dress. I like to make my Christmas dresses with circle skirts so I can wear a big crinoline underneath because if it ain't poofy, it ain't a party.
I was inspired by this book by Mary Adams that I bought this past summer when I wasn't sewing but I was reading about sewing:
I love the white/dark blue combination; it looks very classy and chic. The book comes with patterns for three dress variations, so I used her circle skirt pattern which I traced. For the bodice, I decided to go with the Kwik Sew pattern 3760 I love so much:
The pattern has the waistband that I added to the circle skirt, and I knew the bodice would fit me well. I made the skirt and waistband from some royal blue/violet taffeta someone in my sewing guild gave me several years ago. I don't know the fabic content (although I am pretty certain it isn't silk), but it is stiff and rustles like taffeta. For the bodice I dithered for weeks about what to use. I thought that silk shantung would be too sheer (something I learned while sewing my wedding dress), and I didn't want to try to wrangle something like silk charmuse for this dress. I finally went with a man made fabric I found at Joannes that shimmered a little, even though I usually hate working with synthetics. The Joannes fabric ended up being very easy to work with, although it raveled like crazy. By the end of the retreat, I had a completed dress that only lacked a hem:
Sorry about the poor quality photos - the lighting wasn't great. But you get the gist. Here are some photos that show the fabrics a little better:
I ended up binding the armholes with silk shantung bias strips (silk was leftover from the wedding dress project):
I have found that silk shantung is awesome for binding armholes. It is thin, presses well, and is very strong, but flexible. I cut my bias strips 2 inches wide, then folded them in half, wrong sides together, and then I sewed them to the armholes using a 5/8 inch seam. I then trimmed the seam allowances to 1/4 inch, and pressed the bias strip to the inside of the bodice. Because I had the time, I hand sewed the binding to the bodice.
So I took more time with this Christmas dress than I usually do - I finished the seam allowances. When I have the time, I can't NOT do it. : )
Once I got home, I hemmed it. The taffeta is very stiff, and because I had such success with the silk shantung in binding the armholes, I decided to use the same process to hem the circle skirt as well. I used hot pink silk because I had more of it (and the hem of that skirt is yards and yards long). After I got the pink silk on the skirt, I liked the way it looked, so instead of pressing it up into the skirt, I just pressed it down so it shows. So now I have a thin strip of hot pink at the bottom of the skirt and it made me so happy I had to dance around in my dress. I love it when that happens - it is one of those happy accidents that makes my design better.
I'll post a good photo of me in the dress taken at the party, which is on December 8th. But next up: I'm working on McCalls 5972.