Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Beautiful and the Damned: a Tale of the Chemise Dress

I have a confession to make. I'm working on the chemise dress from Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing, and I can't hem it. Seriously, I have sewn many hems in my lifetime, but I am unable to hem this damn thing.

I keep pinning it and re-pinning it, pressing it and re-pressing it. I try it on and take it off. Rinse and repeat. It's crooked no matter what I do. And it just looks more wretched and rumply with every attempt.

The more I fuss with it, the more frustrated I get. I feel like I'm defiling the dress--just getting my grubby hands all over this lovely silk fabric. While it was once a pristine length of fabric straight off the bolt, now I can only see it as this mangled thing that I keep making uglier every time I touch it.

This is a straight hem. This dress is a rectangle. I don't even like this pattern that much!

Sometimes, I feel like VoNBBS is mocking me. They just make it all sound so easy, you know? When they suggest that you hand-baste the entire damn dress together for a fitting, here's what they say:
" These are long seams and hand work, so why not turn on the radio . . . get a Coke or a cup of tea . . . and enjoy yourself while basting."
They might as well suggest that adorable woodland creatures are going to come gather around and help me baste, all while singing a merry tune. Seriously, stop being so damn chipper, VoNBBS. I've had it with you for tonight.

I hope that my perspective (along with my ability to hem things) has been restored by tomorrow.

Also: am I going crazy? Have you ever suddenly been unable to complete the most basic sewing task?


  1. Gertie-- I don't know if I should laugh or cry after reading your post. The woodland creatures were pretty funny! But seriously, I have been in your shoes when I am so frustrated and everything I do turns out bad. Usually it is when I have been sewing too long and I am tired but want to finish. I can get so frustrated.
    My advice...if you want some...put it down for the night and come back to it tomorrow. If you can't fix it...Plan B...take it to your local dry cleaners with a tailor. That is where I took all my sewing prior to learning to do it myself...and they never had a problem...or at least told me about it! It just comes back neatly pressed and hemmed on a hanger with plastic bag on it...perfect.

  2. Sounds like the dress needs to go to time out, along with the book!
    I know how you feel, all my easy projects are giving me fits.
    Give it a rest and it will all work out fine when you come back to it.

  3. Sometimes I get stuck on fairly simple things and rather than just undo and re-do, I let it rest and move on to another project, and return when I feel more confident.

  4. Oh my gosh, I'm totally with you on this one. Sometimes I can put together the most complicated thing, but when it gets to something simple like a facing or hem or fasteners, suddenly my sewing powers are empty. HA. Totally normal.
    And I've never enjoyed myself while hand basting long seams. That's what the long stitch on the machine is for ;)

  5. Cindy, the idea of taking it to a tailor is seriously genius. If the situation gets any worse, I might just do that.

    I'm hoping that taking today away from it will allow me to get back to it tonight. Or that my lovely woodland creatures will have finished it while I was away at the office. :)

  6. O.K. now you're are cussing the book out LOL...time for a drink!!!! Ha Ha

  7. My sewing powers always desert me when it comes time to make buttonholes. That, or my sewing machine's powers suddenly disappear. The machine keeps making French knots until I want to throw it and myself out the window.

  8. Ceka, I feel your pain. Every now and then my machine will get stuck in the middle of a buttonhole. There's absolutely nothing worse than ripping out buttonholes, is there?

    I think I've gotten the hem situation under some sort of control. Or as under control as it's going to get!

  9. I'm glad the hem's under control - that sounded like an awfully frustrating problem.

  10. Good morning Gertie, There is a fairly simple solution to your hemming dilemma; face the hem as you would the neckline. It may not be in the directions, but if the directions don't work for the fabric you have chosen, why not think about this? Cordially, Nehmah

  11. Nehmah, I like that option! I'm going to tuck that idea away for later use. Though I imagine you'd have to make sure the facing was absolutley straight before sewing it on. In my case, I couldn't find a straight line on the hem to save my life--perhaps because the fabric was so slinky.

  12. OMG - This is so true and so hilarious. Sometimes it will take me a whole day to put in a pocket where I'm used to putting one on a jacket in 1 hour and I think - Good Grief! I'm back in kindergarten.

    I guess we just have these memory blank spots! I try and put it down (and I do not have time for a coke or cup of tea thankyouverymuch!), and do something else then come back to it. Now I do have a meditation tape that I tend to need more often than not, so maybe that's my cup o' tea or soda!!!

  13. Hi, I just found this post and I know I'm real late but I hope this info helps (I didn't read all the comments and this may have been mentioned).
    Your pattern is a rectangle however, you are not. When a similar, straight hem hangs unevenly on you, don't forget that the "protruding lady parts" required the fabric to travel a longer distance to get to the hem. That hem would only hang evenly on a hanger if it was indeed cut as a rectangle. If you try this pattern idea again, try shaping the hem to be a little longer in the front (and back too if necessary). This is why skirt hems look semi-circular. If you do this, it will be easier to turn up a hem with uniform depth all around and the inside will look nice.
    The dress looks lovely on you.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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