Better Late Than Never

Well, I’m late. I tried so, so hard to meet the OAL deadline, but I only got part of the way there. My sweater, which I started a bit later than I intended, was finished first. Then, there was the dress. Oh, this dress. The bain of my existence for weeks, I tell you! Nonetheless, I did manage to finish everything on this problematic dress a week in advance of the deadline. But the one thing I wasn’t able to do before the deadline was take pictures. So here I am, more than a week overdue, with a pretty new outfit to show you.

IMG_20150803_130058This being a good news/bad news situation, let me get the bad news out of the way first. I started my Colette Peony as soon as I could, and things seemed to be going well at the beginning. Since this dress is rated by Colette as being easy to make, I decided to try out my tissue fitting skills before launching into my first muslin and, based on the finished measurements and the pattern itself, I determined that I’d need to do a 2 inch FBA and to take 1 inch off the bodice length. My muslin looked just okay, which I chalked up to my lack of experience and/or improper pressing rather than to problems with my adjustments. Despite my misgivings, I pressed forward and cut into my not-so-wicked-awesome Breton stripe fabric (more on that soon), and the result was a truly hideous and ill-fitting dress.  After a time-out and once I got to grips with my embarrassment at having done such a poor job, it finally occurred to me that the problem was likely with my FBA–my bust is sizeable, but maybe I didn’t need those two extra inches after all. So, I cut a straight size 10 and, to my great surprise, the fit was more or less perfect. Lesson learned: make your muslin first, make fitting changes second. And because I had the foresight to purchase extra fabric, I was able to cut a new bodice and reuse the skirt.

I wish I could say that it was smooth sailing from this point on, but it wasn’t. Don’t let that smile fool you! I ran up against myriad problems in making the final version of this dress, and they can all be traced back to a single source: the fabric. That’s right, I’ve said it. This was a very poor choice of fabric for this dress and/or my skill level. First of all, you’d never know that I pressed this dress before photographing it… the fabric wrinkles like crazy if you just look in its general direction, which is more than a little annoying. There’s a lot of unfortunate sagginess in the front and the back of the dress, and this is, I believe, a product of sewing with rayon. This fabric was so slippery and badly behaved, and I’m sure that it stretched out while I was working with it, despite my having staystitched  the neckline and armholes. The front neckline refuses to sit flush against my chest, and the back neckline? Well, see for yourselves:

IMG_20150803_115545052_HDRMatching the stripes was also a major challenge that, in this case, proved to be insurmountable. Eventually I came to realize that the stripes, which were printed irregularly instead of yarn dyed, were never going to match perfectly despite my efforts. And so, I gave up on perfection and settled for good enough. You can’t really tell that the stripes aren’t a perfect match from the photo below, but that’s only because the damn thing is so baggy and wrinkly in the back. In any case, I know that they’re not a perfect match, and that’s enough.

IMG_20150803_131519Anyway, let’s move on to the good part: my sweater.

IMG_20150803_114328164Whatever issues I had with the dress, making my cardigan was the exact opposite experience in terms of production and result. My cardigan is a hybrid of two patterns, one selected for the beautiful twisted rib and cable design feature and the other chosen because of my familiarity with its construction and its potential as a blank canvas for interesting stitch pattern. The biggest challenge I encountered with this was translating the chart so that it would be compatible with my chosen method of construction–while Audrey in Unst is designed to be knitted from the bottom up, Florrick is a top-down contiguous set-in sleeve design–but it was a fairly easy thing to overcome once I stared at it long enough. There was a bit of trial and error at the start and I did have to rip out and redo the cable portion at least one time, but it turned out perfectly in the end.

IMG_20150803_130255I made a few slight modifications to this version of Audrey in Unst in order to get a slightly better fit than the last one. I shortened the body by 1-inch so that it hits exactly at the top of my hip bone, which is the perfect length for me to wear with dresses and skirts. As before, I added a 2-inch horizontal bust dart, and I also added shaping to the fronts and sides to get a marginally closer fit (back shaping was incompatible with the twisted ribbing and cable in the back). I’m very pleased with these small changes–the sweater’s bottom ribbing sits horizontal to the floor no matter how much I move around, and it conforms to my body shape just a little bit better than the first version I made.

IMG_20150803_114716656Another slight modification I’m happy to have successfully implemented was to knit the first row of stitches on my set-in sleeves through the back loop instead of the normal way, and I’ve never had a neater looking set of armholes than on this sweater. This is a trick I read about so long ago that I don’t remember the source, and I’m glad I (finally!) remembered to try it out this time!

IMG_20150803_114823428Alas, there is one small change that I’m not totally happy with. Instead of knitting the collar in a rib stitch and making a new buttonhole to close off the top, I followed the original instructions and finished the neck with an i-cord. It looks very pretty, but it doesn’t close up all the way at the top now, and I find myself really missing that extra buttonhole…

So, there. My first Outfit Along. Despite everything, I’m about 90% pleased with the outcome. The dress, while problematic, is definitely wearable. On the first day that I wore it to work, a complete stranger went out of her way to tell me that she thought I had good style, so it can’t be all bad, right? And the sweater, well, she is perfect.


Dress: Peony by Colette Patterns

Fabric: Rayon of unknown origin, purchased from King Textiles

Modifications: Omitted sleeves; replaced facings with bias binding for neck and armholes; raised waist by 1 inch; 6/8 inch swayback adjustment; replaced skirt gathers with box pleat

Sweater: Audrey in Unst cardigan by Gudrun Johnston. Incorporates design feature from Florrick by Justyna Lorkowska

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Gypsy Tonal

Modifications: Shortened ribbing; shortened body length; eliminated Unst lace pattern; added 2-inch horizontal bust dart; added front shaping


6 thoughts on “Better Late Than Never

  1. That sweater is lovely! Great mods, and your sleeve caps look fantastic! Sorry to hear that the dress gave you trouble, but it does look great on you 🙂

    • Thanks, Kat! I’m pleased with the sweater, and the dress was a great learning experience if nothing else. There’s nowhere to go but up when it comes to my sewing skill (I think/hope)…

  2. Your persistence paid off! I know the pain of making a bad fabric choice, and I have to admit I’ve not rescued one as well as you did this! It looks well made, fun and festive. And the sweater? Gorgeous!

  3. That’s a beautiful sweater! I love the color too.
    And the dress looks great – I’m no good at sewing, but it seems like you had to do a whole lot for it.

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