A most frustrating dress

Ottobre Beckie dress

This weekend I continued working on my wardrobe-for-hot-weather project. I had plans for another dress and to draft a shorts pattern but this fairly simple jersey dress ended up taking most of the weekend. Sitting down at the new to me overlocker I was expecting some trouble, afterall I'd never used one before and they have a firm reputation for being temperamental. Balancing the tension took some fussing, there is an enormous pile of offcuts under the table to prove it, but it wasn't hard. The very first seams on the dress are the curved insets and I'll admit I had to re-do three of the four of those. Not because sewing along the curve was particularly difficult but because I was so focused on learning new skills that I completely forgot the old ones — like not lining up the point of the inset with the cut edge of the main piece, once the seam is sewn will begin too far in from the edge.

With the fussy curved pieces sewn the remaining long straight(ish) seams were flown through and I started to appreciate my new purchase. One pass. Done. Finished edges.

Perhaps a twirly skirt trumps messy binding?

Perhaps a twirly skirt trumps messy binding?

And then the next step in the (fabulously terse) pattern: 'finish neck edge with binding'. Ok, I've done that before but I don't sew with knits much and there are a bunch of different methods. So I turned to the excellent intro to sewing with knits: Sew U Home Stretch. And, of course, to complete my research, I googled it to. Having settled on a mock binding the overlocked seams went smoothly. I loaded a ballpoint needle into the regular machine, set it to a narrow zig-zag, tested it on a scrap, and attempted to topstitch the binding. It was appalling: a stretched out, wobbly mess. I picked it out, one stitch at a time because zig-zag. That scrap had only been two layers and this, with the seam allowance trapped between was more. In this stretchy, thin, fluid viscose the fabric just wouldn't feed through the machine without stretching. In the end I gave up on the version you see here, stitched with a twin needle with the tension really tight. It's.... not great. And I think this was attempt number four, or six? I don't know. It might be passable, at least in a casual setting!

Ottobre Beckie Dress

I'm almost tempted to re-do it by hand Alabama Chanin style. I suspect that the only solutions would involve new tools (wheesht with any comments about poor craftsmen and blame), potentially a walking foot or coverstitch machine. A walking foot feeds the fabric in from above and below, rather than just below, which was defnitely part of my issue, whereas a coverstitch machine is specifically for sewing hems and bindings on knits. I suppose that choice might depend on what else I wanted to do. Bernina walking feet are painfully expensive, but perhaps I could try one for the vintage singer I also have. Or I'm totally open to other suggestions. In the midst of the frustration it didn't even occur to me to press the seam allowance down instead of within the binding so perhaps I'll try that.

Anyway, I'm rather pleased with the shaping, and might make a colourblocked version one day (although not in these colours!). The fabric, while difficult to work with, feels amazing and I'm very excited to wear such a cool flowing dress in temperatures 20 degrees warmer than this.

And sandals! Our winter has been exceptionally mild, but I'm still looking forward to sandal weather, especially as we only ever get a few days a year where they're appropriate. Maybe I'll even paint my toenails and shave my legs. Or maybe not, I could be sewing those shorts.

The pattern is Beckie from Ottobre Magazine's spring/summer 2013 issue and the fabric is this.

seemeknit: Stephen West

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