I did it. I went fabric shopping in Toronto. My god, what a budget-buster that is.
(Digression: It’s not just that I’m undisciplined when it comes to fabric. In fabric stores close by I have no trouble walking away from things if I’m not sure or don’t have the time to sew it up soon. But Toronto is not an easy trip for me: it takes me a couple of hours to get downtown by train and a couple more to get home again, and most weekends most of the year, I need to be home by late afternoon on Saturday in order to be here when my daughter gets back from her Dad’s. So my opportunities to get down there and spend the day are very limited–a few weekends a year–and so when I’m down there and I see something I like I know it will be months before I have the chance to get back and buy it again. My credit card weeps in advance of these trips. Anyway.)
But this dress was not a budget buster. Not at all.
Whenever I’m on Queen W I make a point of stopping it at Downtown Fabric, because it’s a lovely well-organized little shop with a wide variety of fabrics, from inexpensive and simple to insanely nice. I didn’t see any of the fall stuff I was technically looking for, even with the assistance of the shopkeeper’s employee’s two adorable young daughters, who accompanied me throughout and kept showing me what they really liked and thought I should get. (A sweater knit with large cats on it featured prominently.)
But a lovely polyester knit panel print caught my eye.
Polyester! I know! But it was soft and thick and the print was so beautiful–a panel grading from cafe-au-lait at one end to cream at the other, with a white floral pattern in the background and a black and pumpkin floral design covering one half of the lower bottom–and it wasn’t at all expensive. (Note: The guy who runs the store will give you a discount on whatever the price is on the bolt. Sometimes a substantial one. Saunter around and take your time and you’ll probably get a good deal.)
Anyway, I got two panels’ worth, or about two metres, which I figured would be just enough to make one sleeveless Moneta. Not that I was planning on making another Moneta, but the drape of the fabric and the print placement just cried out to me, “I want to be a simple knit dress with a long sweeping skirt!” And who am I to deny a fabric its deepest heart’s desires?
I chose to lay out the pieces so that the dress would grade from pale to darker from shoulder to waist, and then darker to pale from waist down, with the large flowers as close to the side-bottom as I could get them. The skirt is lengthened considerably to give the large flowers space, from about knee-length to more like tea-length, but I really like it. It makes the dress very work-friendly and classy, and the flowers on the fabric are quite pleased with it too. The bodice is self-fabric lined, and I used knit hem stabilizing tape on all the seams and hems. Still love that stuff. Often I’ll fuse it on, make up the seam or hem, and then peel away the excess. It’s still in there making the seam strong and flat, but you can’t see it at all.
But assembly was not as smooth as all that, Dear Readers. First off, my sewing machine flat out refused to stitch on this with a lightning (stretch) stitch. I tried regular, ball-point and microtex needles, and various kinds of thread. No luck. I guess that’s how you know a fabric is a good synthetic–the stitches skip and the bobbin thread knots up on the back. So I had to do all the major seams on the serger, including the neckline and the finish on the armholes. An interesting experience.
Getting the clear elastic on to the waistband was an exercise in frustration (and by “frustration” I mean hollering). The serger just flat out refused. I spoke to it nicely. I pleaded and cried. “No!” it said. So I basted the elastic on with the sewing machine using a regular stitch, and even then had to stop and re-thread every so often because it would start skipping.
After I joined the shirred skirt to the bodice and tried it on, it became obvious that the clear elastic was just not comfortable around the waist. It digs in. Same thing as the first version, so no surprise, but I decided I didn’t want to have elastic digging into my midsection whenever I wore the dress. So I serged that seam again to cut off the elastic, figuring the bodice lining would help support that seam when I stitched it all together. In the course of serging off the elastic, I accidentally cut a little hole in the bodice front. I know. A scrap of fabric put behind with some double-sided tape (didn’t want to risk sewing it up by hand and making it even more obvious) fixed that problem. Hemmed it with a straight stitch, which is ok because the hem doesn’t need to stretch anyway. And then sewed the bodice lining to the waistband by hand.
Taking out the elastic on the waist did make it a lot more comfortable, though. It’s not any looser, but it doesn’t feel so constricted.
Hours past when it should have been finished, it was finally done.
Now that I’ve made two Monetas (link to the first), I can safely say that the bodice is just too snug for comfort for me. The first one I made has relaxed somewhat, and I hope this one does a bit too. I even added an inch at the sides of the front bodice piece, and it’s still very snug. Still, I think the longer skirt balances the look out enough to make it work-appropriate, and I love this print.
Besides adding a bit of space to the bodice front and lengthening the skirt, I also deepened the front neckline by about two inches. The original is quite high. There’s lots of room for alteration there.
Anyway. It is done, I have survived, the dress also survived, the fabric is happy to be part of this dress, and I am happy to wear it. I’ve already worn it to work, and it was comfortable and swished elegantly when I went to the kitchen to fill my tea cup. I also wore it to the inaugural meeting of the Ottawa Chapter of the Dragon Tea Society, from which I have stolen some of the above pictures, figuring it was more interesting than anything I was likely able to take of myself. And given the colours, I think I could add a jacket or cardigan to this and wear it into the fall.