Back in March, I travelled from London to New York and was lucky enough to hit Mood Fabrics not once, but twice. On my first visit, I spotted some plaid and glitter polka dot wool that I fell in love with. Yes, you read right – plaid and glitter polka dot. Big glitter polka dots. But I was too overwhelmed with choices to make a purchase and left empty-handed. On my second visit, Mood very kindly offered to gift me enough of this fabric to make a dress. All they asked in return was that I blog about my make. I ran around a corner and did my happy dance. Then I went back to Meg and said that I would reluctantly find room in my suitcase for this Marc Jacobs wool challis.
Now, this is how it works for me. The moment someone gifts me fabric, my life gets crazy busy and I can’t do anything with it. This time was no different, but fortunately Meg had encouraged me to take my time.
I took my fabric home and stared at it quite a lot. It had a gorgeous drape and I could feel the quality, but the print also dipped a toe in the ‘novelty’ arena. I’d have to think carefully about my chosen project. Originally, I’d planned to make a Hollyburn Skirt, but I felt I had to up my game in return for Mood’s generosity. Two things happened to help me make my final choice:
- Beth of Sunny Gal Studios reminded me that I’d bought and so far failed to use Craftsy’s Susan Khalje Couture Dress course.
- I watched The Great British Sewing Bee. (Did any of you catch it? Of course you did, why am I even asking?) In the first episode, Mark made a dress with contrast panels. I had some solid black wool crepe in my stash…
Bingo! I’d found my make. Some solid black panels would break up my plaid/glitter polka dot mix. I was off and running! A slow run, but running nonetheless.
I made my toile out of stash linen and some old men’s shirts. I took it into work so that a colleague could fit it to me in the office bathroom. The fit was pretty good, other than being a bit roomy. Increased sewing wisdom meant I’d already done an FBA on the toile, which saved a lot of hand-wringing and head scratching.
Next, I had to trace off the toile pieces onto my organza silk underlining. The trace lines weren’t showing up when placed down on my fashion fabric, so I went over them in bright red washable felt pen. Now, if you’re thinking, Sacrilege! I can’t believe she’s doing that to her silk organza! I say to you: Get over it. You should see what Susan Khalje does to hers. Seriously, that woman would write her shopping list on her underlining, given half a chance.
Then came cutting out my fashion fabric. Phew-boy. I’d set myself a challenge and then some. Those glitter polka dots? The rows didn’t run true to the rows of plaid. Each glitter dot had an incrementally different placement. If I was going to cut anything out to line up I needed… No, not a stiff drink! That was the last thing I needed. I needed a good night’s sleep, a clear head, buckets of optimism and patience and the self-knowledge to take things really slowly. I also needed lots of fabric. It helped a lot that I knew I had plenty for my dress. It doesn’t matter, I told myself. If you need to re-cut a piece, that’s fine. Seriously, guys. If you have a pattern to match, buy extra fabric. It will save your sanity!
I only cut out two pattern pieces at a time and basted them to my silk organza. Then I would press over a seam and start trying to find matching glitter dot and plaid placements on my fabric to line up with. This took a loooonnnnng time. No doubt about it, the most intense cutting out experience of my life. (I still have the skirt pieces to cut out and wonder if I’ll foul them up or not.)
It took an entire weekend to cut out some – some! – of the bodice pieces and baste to the silk organza. One whole weekend, of extremely careful work. Even then, I felt very unhappy about how things were matching up. The fabic had a fluidity that made sewing plaid together very difficult, even when carefully matched. But basting together the front bodice section got me thinking. I might see a way forwards. Maybe.
In the Craftsy course Susan talks about the psychological highs and lows of a make at this level. The excitement of choosing your fabric, the dreary admin of making your toile, the frustration of trying to make everything work and then back to excitement as things start to come together. Susan Khalje is a very wise woman. She’s also a perfectionist, winkling out my perfectionist streak.
So, onwards! We all know that this project has one of two possible outcomes: success or failure. Time and other guest blog posts will tell. In the meantime, if you have any hints and tips for working with plaid/glitter polka dot I will be for ever grateful…
A sincere thank you to Meg and Mood for giving me this opportunity to test myself. This post first appeared as a guest post on the Mood Sewing Network.