As I planned at New Year, I have made some clothes for me. They are extremely basic — three tent dresses.
They were inspired by a dress I bought a few years ago in a shop selling items made in Tibet — it’s a very light, loose-weave cotton patchwork and it had been overdyed with purple, which I didn’t realise until the dye disappeared after a few washes. I don’t like the olive colours remaining so I’ll have to re-dye it and hope that the dye lasts longer this time.
To make the pattern I roughly traced around the neck and armhole openings, front and back, of the Tibet dress. I didn’t add seam allowances as I intended to bind the openings, but I made notes on the pattern where they should be added. I had to extend the side out a little further because the dress wasn’t actually based on a square as I had thought. After the first dress I realised that the armholes were very large so I moved the side seam up by three inches, but that was a little too far so I had to drop it back an inch for the third version and that was almost perfect. The front pattern piece is extended down so that I can cut a lining if required, but I didn’t need it for these fabrics. For the hem, I marked a line 12-13″ / 30-33 cm up from the point and then used my French curve to draw a line up to the edge of the fabric.
I had bough three metres of the white stripe some years ago to use for laundry bag linings, but it’s good quality fabric and I realised that the diagonals would be vertical in a bias dress so chose it for the prototype. The second dress was a pink and white polka dot cotton and the third was also a quilting cotton but it’s a poorer quality — the threads are thicker and the weave coarser (but not so coarse that it needs a lining).
I had a surprise inspection by Verya while cutting the pink fabric — I heard a meow from above me and there she was, looking down from the loft bed.
Vanima turned up shortly afterwards — she hates to think she’s missing out on anything.
I used purchased bias binding for the neck and arms in all three dresses. The first two dresses had (years old) polycotton around the neck and cotton around the arms. For the third I bought new polycotton which was much easier to stitch through but also wrinkled in the wash — I’m not sure why, as I’m always careful to pin my bias parallel to the seam and pull it over with a perpendicular motion. I’m fairly sure it was all the same brand, too — Birch is what most shops sell.
I used 100 wt silk thread for the seams and bias binding, and 50 wt white coton à broder for the hems and seam allowances.
The tent dresses were made entirely by hand, for no other reason than I prefer hand sewing to machine sewing. Since the side seams were cut on the straight grain I knew that they would fray rapidly so they were my priority. I marked out a line half an inch from the edge and pressed a double-turned quarter inch. I then did the same around the hem. I stitched the side seam allowances down with a running stitch and then whip-stitched the seams. Once that was done I stitched the hem in place, also with a running stitch. I bound the neck and arm openings with bias binding, using applique stitch on both sides and an invisible join. Each dress took me about 10 hours over a few days, excluding futzing around with the pattern and cutting the fabric.
Vanima tried to burrow into the dress while I was binding the armholes, and when she couldn’t manage that she plonked her very hefty butt on the fabric instead (luckily she didn’t end up on the pins). It took three passes with the grooming brush (which she hates) to shift her back down to my feet.
[There are no pictures for this — I tried to photograph the fit around the arms, as that was the part that needed adjusting, but I couldn’t manage to hold the camera still enough for the autofocus.]
These are not dresses for a petite woman. They’re not particularly flattering but then that is not their purpose — they are for casual wear around the house in hot weather. They are very cool as the fabric swirls around and creates draughts around my legs. NB Why I chose the coldest summer we’ve had in years to make these I have no idea.
Also, if you spotted the stains on the front of V1, well done you! I was eating a cheese and tomato sandwich the day I wore it and of course all the tomato slid out and landed on the dress. I thought it would wash out without specific stain treatment but I was wrong.
Comfortable summer dresses can be made in a few hours even by hand.
1. Even loose-fitting garments need to be tweaked for individuals.
2. Polyester cotton bias is a lot harder to stitch through than cotton bias binding. NB the polycotton bias in the first two dresses was pretty old and very stiff but I had to buy new for the third and it was a lot softer, so they have obviously changed the material or the stiffening agent.
Notes for future versions:
I think I’ll tweak the back neckline and armscye a little more, as in V3 it still feels just a bit tight around the back of the shoulders whenever I reach for something.
If I ever want to make facings rather than bindings I’ll have to make the shoulder straps a bit wider.
I took enough photos while cutting and sewing V2 that I could make a tutorial on the dress and/or the binding. Would anyone be interested in seeing either of them?