Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Miss Petra and the Rose Clones: BGD Violet Dress

Good afternoon, my darling wombats! Today, we're going to discuss that most beloved of all sewing projects: the comfort sew. Personally, I am a total creature of comfort. I adore cozy things anyhow, but times of emotional upheaval have me reaching for favorite books, baked goods, teas*, and--yes--sewing patterns. Sometimes, all you want is a happy ending, whether in literature or a guaranteed success of a dress. 

While March has had some wonderful happenings, it's definitely been an emotional month. Amid the excitement of filming two classes for Burda in Colorado and visiting our dearest friends in Nebraska, we were also coping with my brother's hospitalization back home. He's fine now--Thank heavens and Xarelto!--but his diagnosis had some potential health ramifications for my whole family. Consequently, some big decisions (namely: timeline des bébés) rose up last week and demanded immediate attention from Sam and myself. Add into all that a gravy of food poisoning, writing deadlines, and potentially needing a new roof, then you come to my mental state, these past few weeks. We're not even going to talk about how my best friend/soulmate of fifteen years is moving to Chicago**, or else I'll turn into a blubbering mess. 

*Books: Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton, Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Baked Goods: Pumpkin Bread in the fall, Lemon Blueberry Cake in the spring
Teas: Yorkshire Gold from Taylors of Harrogate

**Moment of bragging: Steph got a FABULOUS promotion and was plucked from Dallas by very wise people, indeed. She's going to be brilliant and completely conquer the Windy City, armed with beautiful coats, two delightfully quirky cats, and an indomitable sense of adventure. Plus, Sam and I are going to visit all the damn time. Chicago sewists, I may be inflicting a lunch/fabric shopping adventure on y'all this summer, if you're game. 

Obviously, a comfort sew was needed. 

Last fall, I pattern tested the BlueGingerDoll Violet dress for Abby and was instantly smitten. The curved v-neck and blocked bodice are such pretty, interesting variations on the basic knit dress. My test version was basic black, but I knew more colorful iterations were in my future, with the final pattern release. Last week, while contemplating The Fabric Closet of Doom, my eye was drawn to this cabbage rose jersey from Girl Charlee and the possibility of a Violet swirled out before me. Is there anything more comforting than secret pajamas made up in a large scale floral print? I think not. 

There are only a few Girl Charlee fabrics in my stash, ordered in a fit of knit excitement last spring. They were such a mixed bag, quality wise, that I haven't braved another order. My turquoise Bonnie dress has held up shockingly well, however, and this rose fabric was washed twice with no ill effects. It's a medium weight cotton jersey, with good stretch in one direction and moderate stretch in the other. The ends curl like the devil and its recovery isn't the greatest, but it also doesn't bag out after a day's wear. Plus, well, ROSES. Enough said. 

The cutting out of this dress was, shall we say, eventful. There may have been a horrific rotary cutter incident, in which my front skirt piece was completely cleaved in two. I then may have screamed in horror, thrown a pincushion in disgust, and flounced out of the sewing room in a tantrum. Maybe. After some pinot noir and an episode of The Mindy Project (Stephen Colbert's guest appearance as Danny's new priest was my everything.), I returned to cut another skirt front. I was just able to eke out the new piece, but there wasn't enough fabric to prevent those rose clones around the waistline. Sam claims it doesn't bother his eye and I'm going with it, because this dress is otherwise lovely. Besides, it's a comfort project, remember? I refuse to be hypercritical of this dress, kittens. 

The construction, luckily, was an absolute joy. I switched back and forth between my serger, for major seams, and my sewing machine, for the more fiddly bits. A lightning stitch, which is easier to control than serging, is my modus operandi for sleeves, neckbands, and other areas that need extra care. Violet's curved v-neck is formed by subtle gathering at the center bodice front and darting on the neckband, which was a blast to construct. Like I said above, this isn't your average knit dress! 

The shoulders, waistband, and gathering are all stabilized with clear elastic, to prevent stretching over time. I took a pretty narrow hem--a half inch--which was turned with fusible knit tape for stability, then top-stitched with a twin needle. The sleeves were also turned and twin-stitched to finish, which brings me to an esoteric wondering, friends. What is the ideal look of twin-stitching on a knit? I've been experimenting with my tension, trying to find that perfect balance between security of thread and minimal channeling. However, I don't even know that channeling is verboten. Sometimes, in the secrecy of my sewing cave, I admit that it actually looks cool on a solid hemline. Neither my mother nor my grandmother sewed with knits, so I've come to most of my knowledge later in life, from the internet. Most knit tutorials end with "then top-stitch with a twin needle!" That's great and all, but my science background insists on more detail. Does channeling make a hem wavier? Does low tension make the hem weak over time? What would happen, if we zig-zagged a hem instead?

I swear, some days I'm tempted to pull a Christopher Kimball and turn this blog into America's Test Sewing Room. Sewing tutorials and books so often tell you how to do something, but rarely why. I crave the philosophy behind these actions, the nitty gritty details about what happens if you do something else. Does backstitching dart tips really increase the chance of bubbling? By how much? Which is truly better, tying them off or narrowing your stitch and clipping the ends? Do these answers change according to fabric type? I suspect tying off is always better on silk, but I wonder if backstitching is a-okay on medium-weight cotton. These are the musings of my overactive mind. 

Oh, right. We were talking about this cute dress, before I devolved into the sewing mysteries that keep me up at night. Let's forge ahead! I'll try not ramble about whether or not to baste across and down pleats. 

If you ignore the brief cutting mishap, this really was a comforting project. Fit-wise, everything is spot on for me, thanks to a narrow shoulder adjustment and some grading between sizes. Abby drafts on a D-cup, so I usually trace off a size based on my full bust measurement, which is a novelty indeed. This one is a size 20 through the bust, grading in to a 14 at the waist and out to an 18 at the hips. Why, yes, my proportions are ridiculously dramatic. I wonder why RTW dresses never fit me correctly? Curious...

In the end, I adore this dress, rose clones and all. It's right in my sweet spot, style wise: the perfect mix of comfort and pretty fabric. Black background florals are, hands down, my biggest fabric weakness. I want to buy them all! Fingers crossed that this particular fabric launders well, over time, because this dress is destined for heavy wardrobe rotation. You will also see Violet again, in the near future. There are a few woven projects on my sewing table right now, but then I'm going to play with a polka-dotted version of this dress. Bring on the warm weather sewing!

Note: The Violet pattern, from BlueGingerDoll, was given to me in exchange for testing the original version last fall. This post assesses the final pattern, not that tested version. 

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