Sunday, August 28, 2016

Miss Gloria and the Swinging Vines: Papercut Sway Dress

Good afternoon, kittens! This weekend was filled with Hitchcock movies, turning plums into plum cakes, and a fair bit of sewing. After a summer of illness and calamity, we're reveling in the change of seasons. Well, metaphorically anyhow. It's still decidedly summer around here. To quote Stella from Rear Window, "You'd think the rain would've cooled things down. All it did was make the heat wet."

My fall sewing list is as long as my arm, but each piece is more impractical than the last. Stevie Nicks dresses and pink wool coats are exciting, sure, but I can't wear them until November! So, I'm instituting a rule: for every impractical garment I sew, the next piece needs to be wearable immediately. After giving Butterick 5878 a spin (a swishy, long-sleeved Stevie dress yet to be blogged), it was time for something practical. Namely, that green linen tent dress I mused over a few weeks ago. 

This is the Papercut Sway Dress again, made up in a medium-weight emerald green linen from Mood Fabrics. When this fabric first arrived, it was stiff with sizing and scratchy against the skin. Rather dreadful prospects for a garment. However, I took the brilliant Carolyn's advice about sewing with linen and washed it not once, but three times. This fully relaxed the linen fibers, washed away the sizing, and produced a soft, draping dream of a fabric. 

This method also protects somewhat against the worst of linen's wrinkles. There are still enough for character, of course, but I can definitely tell a difference between using this method and just single pre-washing. I can wear this dress all day and not look a complete mess, two hours in. 

I ordered two yards of this linen, which isn't quite enough for the pattern. Some creative cutting and adding a front yoke as a "design detail" sorted things out. I also changed a few things from my first version. The Full Bust Adjustment, with its angled dart at the side seam, remains, as does the fantastic all-in-one facing to finish the neckline and armscye. However, I sloped the hemline for a subtle high-low effect, giving the dress a little more swish. The waist tie is also twice as wide, which helps cinch in the heavier fabric. If you'd like more pattern construction details, check out my first Sway Dress review, which goes in depth about that process. 

Let's talk about actually sewing with linen though, shall we? Linen is one of my favorite substrates to wear. Perhaps I've watched Romancing the Stone or The African Queen one too many times, but wearing linen makes me feel both glamorous and ready to swing from a vine, should the situation call for it. However, it can be a bear to sew with. The loose weave grows as you handle the fabric, causing curves to stretch and seams to warp. It will also relax around your body, with wear, so fitted garments require planning ahead for bagging out and drooping. 

There's a fantastic article from Threads on sewing with linen, including guidance about seam finishes, linings, and pre-washing. Cobbling together advice from that article and a few others, I changed my process for better accommodate linen's idiosyncrasies. The facing for this dress is made with a coordinating green bamboo voile, which has a hand and structure like silk organza. That gives more support where the linen needs it: around the curves of the neckline and armscyes, plus along the shoulder seam, which carries most of the dress's weight. There's fusible interfacing around the neckline to stabilize it and twill tape in the shoulder seam itself, for further support. I also stay-stitched every possible curve, immediately after cutting my pattern pieces out, to prevent warp. 

In the Sway Dress instructions, we're told to let the dress hang for twenty-four hours, before hemming. This lets the bias parts of the skirt drop with gravity, so the hem won't be a dodgy, up-and-down affair after a day of wearing. With linen, this step is even more important. I let it hang for two whole days, to ensure everything dropped fully. This fabric has such a loose weave that the bias portions dropped over six inches at each side seam. Yikes! This is how that slight high-low hem came into being. I figured that I was going to spend an eon evening the hem anyhow, so why not make it more interesting? Thank heavens for dress forms, y'all. 

Voila! A totally practical emerald green tent dress. This really is perfect for end-of-summer Texas wardrobe blues. Sure, I'd rather be hauling out sweaters and tights, but this billowy, bright dress makes me smile every time I wear it. The extra wide waist tie mimics a fit-and-flare silhouette well, but the linen skims every curve and dances around the body. It's ideal for running errands on muggy days and dressing up for casual summer dates. Also, if I could source it in every substrate, I would probably wear this color every day. Emerald cashmere coat, I will have you, eventually!

Now, I'm going to plot my next impractical project and possibly bake a loaf of challah. I've been re-watching old seasons of The Great British Bake Off lately and they're giving me delusions of kitchen grandeur. We've had way too many clafoutis-related emergency grocery store trips, lately. Sam even had to talk me out of making ├«le flottante at midnight, earlier this week. Maybe a bit of frivolous sewing will curb such whimsy elsewhere? One can hope. 

Disclaimer: The fabric for this project was provided to me free of charge, as part of my membership in the Mood Sewing Network. However, I picked it out and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Miss Gloria Feels the Heat: Papercut Sway Dress

Hello, my loves! After six years of blogging, quiet summers have become something of a tradition on Idle Fancy, haven't they? The temperature skyrockets and all I want to do is wear yoga pants, drink iced tea, and wallow around in the air conditioning. Sewing begins to sound dreadful. 

Fit-and-flare dress? Ugh. Too tight. 
Cozy cardigan? Beyond depressing. I wouldn't be able to wear it until October. 
Jeans? Your optimism is hilarious. 

There is one silhouette that has been on my mind, however: the tent dress. They've been everywhere in stores again, this year, and have won me over. Sure, they're shapeless and--well--tent-like, but they're also flowing and lightweight and ideally suited for triple digit heat. I fell hard for a striped knit swing dress at Old Navy, then an embroidered white version at Anthropologie. They're not my usual silhouette, but they're the only garments I crave right now! 

Since I'm hopelessly late to this bandwagon, there are heaps of tent/trapeze/swing dress patterns already out there. There's the voluminous, bow-tied Cynthia Rowley design, Simplicity 1105, the notch-necked and subtle trapeze of New Look 6340, and even a chic silk Mart Visser collaboration from Knipmode's last issue

As usual, I gravitated toward the woven options. My stash is robust, but I don't buy knits on a whim, like I do lightweight cottons and rayons. When I want to sew a knit pattern, the fabric has to be sourced, ordered, then waited on. That doesn't work for impulse sewing! So, to try out this silhouette, I settled on the woven Papercut Sway Dress

This pattern has been made up dozens of times in blogland, to great effect. It's a classic tent dress with a v-neck, side seam pockets, two hem lengths, and an optional tie waist. The longer, cinched version appealed to the feminine core of my style. It has all the ease of a tent dress, but in a length and general shape I'm already comfortable with. Even better, the PDF version of this pattern only has 32 pages! It was printed and cut out in less than two episodes of Stranger Things (#JusticeForBarb)

I paired it with a cotton batiste from Mood Fabrics, in an orange tropical floral print. Batiste is an easy to work with fabric and the perfect weight for a light, floaty dress. I didn't bother matching the floral, since it has a large repeat, and love how the busy print worked with the simple lines of the Sway Dress. 

Of course, I don’t quite fit into Papercut’s size chart. Their final size goes to 44″-36″-46″, an inch or two off my bust and hip measurements. However, with my high bust of 42″ and this pattern’s generous ease through the body, the XL fit me well. To better accommodate my bustline, I did a 1.5 inch Full Bust Adjustment, adding a dart to the side seam of the front bodice.

While that’s a straightforward adjustment, this pattern only has two main pieces: a front dress and a back dress. As drafted, the dress is fully reversible, so the wearer can choose whether she wants a v-neck or a rounded neckline on any given day. This makes a ton of sense in a voluminous design, but my FBA rendered this impossible. I had to choose which neckline I wanted as the true front and opted for the v-neck. Huzzah for open necklines!

The other adjustment I made was to lower the pockets by three inches on each side. Maybe my height caused this problem, but they sat right at my waistline initially. Egads! That might be fine for the true tent version of this dress, but I made the longer view, with a tie that cinches in the waist. Having tie and pockets at the same level seemed absurd.

This dress was ridiculously simple to put together, kittens. There are only four body seams in the whole garment–joining the sides, front center, and back center–then the neckline and armscyes are finished with all-in-one facings. I haven’t used facings like this in years, but I love the clean finish they give. They’re more fiddly to install than traditional facings, but they don’t flip out while wearing and add a level of sophistication to the garment’s interior.

The two more labor intensive parts of this dress were the tie and the hem. While turning a tie right side out is always a trial, this one is super long, skinny, and made of fairly flimsy fabric. My usual method of turning it around a knitting needle didn’t work, so I switched over to the safety pin method, which sped things along. As for the hem, I used a narrow baby hem, after leaving the dress to hang for a day. Papercut mentions this step in their instructions and I highly recommend following it, instead of rushing through construction. My side seams dropped a good four inches, after hanging.

Overall, this is a well-written and thorough construction process. A beginner might find the method of attaching facings a bit confusing, but if you’ve put in a lining by machine before, you’ll be just fine. If you add an FBA to the pattern, remember to alter your front facing as well, to match the new curve of your armscye.

So, here's the big question. Can the cinched waist devotee fall for a tent dress?

Reach for the smelling salts, my dears. I actually love it! It’s lightweight, breezy, and swishes with every step. When suffering through another triple-digit heat index, those are priceless qualities in a garment.

Admittedly, this isn’t a silhouette I’ll wear without the waist tie or a belt. The longer length of the pattern hits me right above the knee, which is too long to make the unadorned tent work. At the shorter length, it would be flirty and kicky, even without the tie. As it is…well, the longer one really does give those muumuu vibes, doesn’t it? My waist and hips are completely lost in the dress's lines. For my purposes, though, it’s ideal. I don’t mind belting this dress, when it still has tons of ease through the bodice and hips. Either way, the Sway Dress is infinitely more comfortable than anything else in my closet!

Craving more Sway Dress inspiration? Check out the dresses that made me fall hard for this pattern: Nicole's flirty LBD, Rachel's chic linen midi dress, and Heather's fun crepe giraffe print. The lovely Gillian is also on a recent tent dress kick, sewing up pretty knit versions, like a graphic floral Jorna and bold scrollwork Groove dress

It might not be my usual look, but I am digging this dress, y'all. To truly kick the sewing malaise aside, I’m already sewing another version in lush, green linen with a wider waist tie. Take that, Texas summer!