It has been such a joyous occasion for me recently. Both my mom and sis are here in the UK for a visit after 3 long years of being apart due to the pandemic. It is only right that I spoil my family with lots of love, endless amount of delicious food, lots of laughter and lots of shopping.
On one such shopping trip, my sis was browsing the sales for a summer dress and realised that designer dresses were extremely expensive, especially for something that has a short trend life. Instead of spending that amount on single dress, I mentioned that it would be much cheaper to buy some fabrics from Liberty and for me to make her a dress instead. Sis promptly agreed and as there was a sale in Liberty, she requested for 3 dresses to be made, one for each year we have been apart. She picked 2 tana lawn cotton fabrics and a gorgeous silk crepe fabric and all three fabrics cost a quarter of what a designer dress would cost.
I recommended her the silk for a full length dress as it moves beautifully and I can easily knock up a pattern so it fits her. With the fabric bought, we decided on the design and the outcome was an ankle length dress, puff sleeves and a high neckline. She was adamant that she did not want any flounce or ruffles anywhere on the dress.
With the design agreed, I took some measurements from her and quickly drafted a pattern based on the dress block I had for her. It’s been refreshing to draft women’s patterns again, as it reminded me of my first lesson in pattern cutting when we had to manipulate pattern blocks to achieve the design that we wanted. Returning to basics also made me refer back to my pattern cutting book to ensure I had manipulated the sleeve pattern right for the puff sleeves I wanted.
With the pattern cut out, I proceeded to cut the silk. I was concentrating so much to ensure that the silk was not warped when I was cutting it. Later I was told that the tension was so high that everyone avoided me as I looked as if I would snap at the first person who talked to me. Oh dear! I do have a bad temperament when I’m concentrating. I told them that cutting was the easy part because sewing it to a professional finish was much more difficult.
After nearly two afternoons of sewing and lots of French seaming, I managed to get the dress finished. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.
For a first attempt, the voluptuous sleeve also turned out rather nicely.
A trick I used to sew the centre back without French seaming (due to the zip) was to cut the centre back on the selvedge. This meant that the fabric will not fray and I can leave the edges as it is. The only annoying bit was this huge strip of white on one side of the fabric due to the way the fabric was printed. I eventually left this strip of white as a big seam allowance and used it to my advantage to show the name of the fabric design.
I made a bias binding with the same fabric to finish the neckline. A hook and eye fastening was also sewn in to secure the zip. I also managed to match the zip to the colour of the fabric. My forward thinking in amassing lots of different coloured invisible zips came in useful.
Although I had fitted this dress to my sister a few times, I was finally able to let out a huge sigh of relief when she wore the finished dress. Thank goodness it fits her well. Being silk, it would have been a pain to alter.
I was initially a bit stressed out with the construction, but this fabric was easier to work with than the more liquid silk satin. Sis wore it out for a meal and she looked a million dollars! I’m glad I offered to make it for her instead of her buying it off the rack. It’s all part of the wonderful memories that we have made for this family reunion.