Monday, 10 June 2013

Posh frocks and good mates

I love craft fairs. Not so much the ones where people sell what they have been making, but the ones where retailers are selling equipment and materials to make your own projects. I have a very dear crafting friend, Jenni, who is the best company to go to them with. She and I have similar crafting tastes, and can become equally absorbed by the minutiae of a technique for far longer than it would take other people to become bored. Each time we attend a fair together, we promise ourselves that we will look at every stall before we spend money on anything. It never quite works. It is a good policy, since different companies can be selling the same things at differing prices. Somehow, though, excitement and enthusiasm overwhelm one of us (usually me!) as we spot something that is "exactly what I've been looking for! I'd better get it now, in case they sell out."

The first one we attended had a great fabric stall, with some beautiful ribbon-decorated fabric in both burgundy and a petrol blue. We both fell in love with it, and promised ourselves we would return and buy some later in the day. On that occasion it didn't work for us. By the time we returned, the seller didn't have enough of both colours for us both to buy the amounts we wanted. (As a hoarder, I tend to buy fabric because I love it, and work out what to make with it later. To ensure I have enough fabric, I usually buy two metres at a time - two metres being enough to make most items of clothing. If I need more fabric for a project, I buy as  needed. This could be the reason for my ever-growing fabric stash!) We agreed to buy one colour each, and as we were debating which colour to have, Jenni confessed that she wanted the fabric to make a present for me. I am so lucky.

Courtesy of Jenni Dash

What she created was this beautiful 1950's style dress jacket. It has a rolled collar, pointed sleeves, and adjustable tie at the back to enhance the shaping. It also has a double, removable lining to the bodice. The main lining has full length sleeves and is in burgundy satin, but she added a fleece fabric interlining, which can be worn separately as a waist-coat. It makes the jacket comfortable in both hot and cooler weather - what a genius piece of adaptability!
I'm also hugely impressed by the fact that she ran it up on an over-locker. I have one, and use it regularly, but I don't have the confidence to construct a whole garment on it.

It took me several years of keeping the burgundy fabric in my stash before I came up with a project I wanted to use it on. After all this consideration, it finally made perfect sense to make a dress to go under this stunning jacket! (You can just see the skirt peeping out at the front in this photo.)

I had a pattern from "Sew" magazine for a 50's style dress. It seemed the perfect compliment to the jacket. I was a bit short of fabric to make the shaped skirt (my "two metre rule", failed me on this occasion!), but I adapted it by making the bodice according to the pattern and gathering a long rectangle to make the skirt. I could have got around it by making the skirt shorter, but I wanted to keep the length to match the jacket.

I did encounter one problem. I solved it by hiding the mistake, but I still can't quite work out how it happened! When I inserted the zip (centre back), the two sides of the waist seam sat with one side about an inch higher than the other. This would have made sense, if the same difference could be seen in the hem, but the hemline was even! I checked to see if I had strayed whilst stitching the gathered skirt to the bodice, but there was no tell-tale widening of the seam allowance. And I'm sure the cutting was correct, because the bodice was hanging evenly before I attached it to the skirt. So, I'm stumped!

If I had been making the dress for someone else, I would have had some serious dismantling and reconstruction to do! I'm not nearly so conscientious for myself. I considered leaving it as it was, as I will mostly wear it under the jacket. However, it seemed a waste of all that work to have created a garment that would have to be kept hidden because of a small fault at the back. So, I made a fabric bow, stitched it at one side of the zip, and put hooks on the other side. It covers the fault, but still allows me to get the dress on!

So, at last, I have a dress which I feel does justice to Jenni's amazing jacket. And although it has a fault, no-one will know - unless I bump into you whilst I'm wearing it!


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