Remember how after Me Made May last year I said I don’t really wear dresses? Well, it seems that’s all I’ve been sewing lately. After a quiet autumn with very little sewing done (if any at all), I’ve had a busy January at my machine, turning out two and a half. The extra half is a Sew Over It vintage shirt dress that I started at a class, but need to finish the buttonholes, but that’s not what this post is about.
Yesterday I spent a fabulous afternoon and evening out on the town at my friend Karen’s hen do. We started off with a very ladylike champagne afternoon tea in Mayfair, followed by drinks and games and then a trip round central London’s best… ahem… cheesiest bars on a party bus (it had the potential to be awful, but when it came to it, it was awesome). Karen is probably the most stylish of all my friends with an outstanding wardrobe, so I knew I needed a fabulous dress for the occasion, but after such a long break from sewing I wanted something quick and simple.
I bought the By Hand London Zeena dress pattern when it first came out last year, but despite the best intentions I’d never managed to make it up. I’d even bought some lovely double gauze from the Village Haberdashery for the purpose (they still have some in a different colourway)! The hen do was the kick up the rear to get it done.
The Zeena is billed as a beginner’s pattern with a full pleated skirt and a bodice with relaxed, kimono sleeves. I made up a really quick toile (seriously, it took me about three hours) in a straight size 14 in the shorter length and which really helped with the fit. It’s meant to be quite loose, but the toile showed that I needed to roll the neckline in a little bit and lengthen the skirt an inch and a half. I tried it with a belt (aka an iPhone cable… needs must) which showed that the bottom of the back bodice wasn’t sitting at my natural waist, so I shortened that by an inch and a quarter, blending it in to the front bodice.
I put most of the real thing together in about a day, all told, including a full lining. Since we’d be going round London in January I thought I’d like a little bit more warmth, cos let’s face it, even though double gauze can be nice and snuggly, it’s still quite flimsy. I used some black cotton lawn which sewed up very nicely – in fact the whole thing was stress free.
One thing I’m really pleased with about this dress is the hem. While I hemmed the lining on the machine, I blindstitched the outer shell, and it is properly invisible. Result! Obviously, having two layers of fabric means that you don’t have to go through the whole thing when hand sewing, so no visible stitching at all, even when they’re supposed to be teeny tiny.
I’m also quite pleased with the zip, but for other reasons. I started sewing it last Sunday, but had to leave it for a couple of days (important cinema trips and work got in the way) and in the meantime, all the lights in the kitchen failed. When the kitchen doubles up as your sewing space, it’s a bit of a bugger. I inserted the zip and hemmed the lining by lamplight and practically blinded myself in the process. It’s not easy to sew in the dark when your fabric’s black!
When I finished the dress I tried it on straight away without even bothering to iron it first. That was a bit of a mistake as when I looked in the mirror I thought it looked awful – it didn’t seem to sit nicely because of what I thought was too much bulk in the waistline, which I assumed was due to the lining. I was contemplating removing the skirt lining, but instead gave it the benefit of the doubt and popped it in the wash. I heaved a sigh of relief when I gave it a good iron and it fit perfectly. Phew!
The dress held up really well throughout the hen do – from the afternoon tea, to the bus, to the bars. The lining worked a treat – I was neither too hot nor too cold, and one bar in particular was like stepping into London’s biggest sauna.
I think I love this dress – it’s simple yet classy, and versatile too! While its great for a party, the fabric design is also suitable for work so it’ll take me from the office to the bar too. I really enjoyed sewing it up, and I think I can see many others on the horizon. Yay!