Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Making of the Satin Sheath Dress



Here she is! The fabled red satin sheath dress! Sewn entirely on Mrs. Exeter, my "new" 1952 Featherweight.


The late-day, short sheath dress.
The perfect dress for informal evenings is the slim, supple sheath, photographed here in satin with a fur stole. Change the accessories . . . and it'll have another smart look. You'll learn to handle fabric with a nap. When completed, you'll know how to fit a bodice and face a square neckline. It should take about ten hours to make.

- Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing
Sewing this was a very cool experience. Of everything I've ever made, I must say this is the garment that I'm the most proud of. Sewing on Mrs. Exeter really feels like dressmaking, you know what I mean? I never thought I'd say this, but I actually preferred it to sewing on my computerized machine (Sorry, Betty). There is something to be said for simplicity in a good machine.

Here's an inside shot for construction detail.

I stitched flat seam binding to the facings for a neat look. I also applied seam binding to the zipper before installing it, a tip from Claire Shaeffer that Cindy wrote about on her blog.

And a shot of my lapped zipper, which went in without a hitch!

A few miscellaneous notes:
  • Why do my pinked seams look more like they were chewed on by rabid wolves? Is this a tool problem or a user problem?
  • Sewing flat: a revelation! When I was worried about sewing in the round (i.e. sleeves) on this machine (which doesn't have a freearm), commenter Elephantschild made the suggestion to sew flat as much as possible. So instead of constructing the bodice and skirt and then sewing them together at the waistline, I stitched the front bodice to the front skirt, and then then back bodice to the back skirt. Then I sewed the side seams. This was a HUGE help on this dress, where there are so many waistline darts to line up perfectly.
  • As I mentioned earlier, the belt is custom made by Pat's Custom Buttons and Belts. Look for a post later this week on using this service.
VoNBBS also includes instructions on making this in flannel, in linen, and in corduroy. I love the idea of corduroy, perhaps in a vivid mustard yellow. As VoNBBS says, "For a cool weather country dinner dress - or to be coupled as a jumper, with your cashmeres and shirts." I can just see myself, perhaps up in the Catskills for the weekend, in my cool weather country dinner dress! I also love it as a jumper, illustrated above with the jaunty scarf. I'll have to add some cashmere to my wardrobe, darlings.

But, for now, I'm putting the sheath dress pattern away, with just a little bit of sadness. (I'm going to miss the old girl.) Next up is the bolero in black velveteen. But first I'm going to take a little break for some other exciting projects (including a dress for a dear friend to wear at her wedding reception!), which I will update you on soon.

Here are the closing thoughts from VoNBBS on this dress:
Finishing touches: Remove all basting threads. Overcast seams. Press lightly on wrong side. Isn't it wonderful? We hope you have a special date soon - so you can surprise everyone by announcing, "Why thank you! I made it myself!"

58 comments:

  1. It is really beautiful. Well done!

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  2. Hubba hubba, what a lovely dress and it suits you beautifully.

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  3. Gertie, it's really lovely, both inside and out!

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  4. This dress fits you like a glove! It's perfect! I really enjoy your blog and your projects

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  5. GORGEOUS!!! Red looks really fabulous on you.

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  6. It's adorable! I have to say I love the idea of it in corduroy, I could see wearing that all fall!

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  7. Wow! I actually helped someone! The red is gorgeous, and the dress is beautiful. (Now I want to make one!)

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  8. Your dress looks fabulous! One thing you might want to consider in the future to get an invisible hem is to underline the fabric and stitch the hem to the underlining. It looks great, though, so your hemming technique works well too.

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  9. Stunning! Gorgeous! I love the choice of red. Red really makes a statement.

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  10. Va-va-VOOM! You look just perfect. What a triumph!

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  11. Stunning dress! It looks beautiful on you!

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  12. :S:S:S Do you make it in one day??? wow, It's beautiful!! woman in red heheh

    P.D.: I love your hair

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  13. Outstanding! Its a fabulous dress and you look fabulous in it. And the inside looks great too! Well done.

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  14. That dress is absolutely beautiful and you look gorgeous in it. Great job!

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  15. Absolutely lovely! It looks marvelous on you. How did you find working with the fabric went with the machine? I know your previous post mentioned some issues with the fabric itself, but did you find it any more difficult on the vintage machine than you would have on 'Betty'?

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  16. Va Va Voom! What did you husband think of this one?! Is he taking you on that date the book mentioned?

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  17. Lovely! Absolutely lovely. I want to se a close up of the belt though. By the way... I love the way you always pose. It suits the dress and you. :-)

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  18. Wonderful! It was worth the wait to see the completed project. You will be the belle of the ball in this!

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  19. Great dress. Satin is not a forgiving fabric and you did a terrific job on this. Yes,sewing in the flat for as long as possible is always good, but from a woman who learned to sew on a machine without a free arm, let me give you an old tip. You sew from the inside with the garment on top, not below as with a free arm. If you are sewing a sleeve you'll sew from the inside of the circle with the rest of it above. Does that make sense?

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  20. Beautiful dress and beautiful lady!! That's some impressive sewing, especially the bias binding. Can't wait to hear about the belt.

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  21. oh my you look devine!! The red really suits you!! I bet your so happy with the result! xxx

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  22. The dress looks great and you look fantastic in it.

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  23. You look fabulous! I love the red! By the way, did you happen to get the Saturday Morning pattern I sent a few weeks ago? I forgot to follow up. :-)

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  24. Gertie- It looks fantastic...better than fantastic! I love all the juicy details that you supplied! Thanks for a great post. I am becoming obsessed with good insides of a garment! Hope you can wear it a lot because it looks very flattering on you!!

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  25. Absolutely stunning! The sewing flat tip is a good one that a friend gave me a while back too - also if you're not as well behaved as you when it comes to tissue fitting/muslins it makes it easier to make size alterations to a dress as you can adjust the side seams without worrying about other seams.

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  26. Nicely constructed and a ravishing look.

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  27. Absolutely beautiful -- the inside looks like it should be worn on the outside. Nicely done!

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  28. Well aren't you all sweet! I'm glad you like it. Thank you all for your tips--next time I sew with duchesse I will definitely underline with organza. Hindsight and all that. Nancy, thanks for your tip on sewing without a freearm--it makes perfect sense, so thank you!

    Knitosaurus, the machine worked beautifully on this fabric. The Featherweight really does make a beautiful stitch! I thought Betty's stitches were just fine, but now that I see the difference--well, I just might be sewing on Mrs. Exeter full time! I really have no complaints about the machine. But then again, this project didn't require any advanced stitching like buttonholes or zigzagging.

    I don't have any plans to wear it yet. But I have decided to add a lot more red to my wardrobe. It's my color, apparently. :)

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  29. You did a beautiful job, and it looks fantastic on you! Brava!

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  30. You look A*M*A*Z*I*N*G. You are gonna turn head in that for sure... people will think Joan Holloway has come to life. You and Mrs Exeter are the unbeatable team!

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  31. Gertie, you and Mrs. Exeter really showed out on that one! I love it, color, fit and all. And about the pinked seams. I think that pinking shears just don't work well on some fabrics.

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  32. You and your dress look AMAZING! Congrats on finishing it so beautifully.

    For the future... Underlining is the key. It makes your life so much easier. It isn't a new technique, but adds that couture finish.

    I love what you share. We are all always learning different and new ways to do things. Can't wait to hear about the covered belt.

    So glad to hear you and Mrs. Exeter are getting along well. I love my Featherweight. I named her Edie after my great aunt who was her first owner.

    All the best.

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  33. This is fantastic! It looks amazing on you! Great job :)

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  34. You are a "red" for sure. You remind me of Debra Mazur(spelling?)

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  35. Gosh you did such an amazing job! And it suits you so perfectly! You look amazing!

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  36. Gertie, what a lovely dress you made and how lovely it looks on you! I love following your adventures with mrs. exeter. Thanks for sharing!

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  37. I'll just join the choir: Wonderful!

    I'm so impressed by you making a dress so well-fitted and in that fabric! You are such a great source of inspiration, every time I check in here my fingers starts to itch for sewing. =)

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  38. Really beautiful dress! You did a fantastic job in a difficult fabric.

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  39. Oh (*gasp*) la la! Lovely, sophisticated, chic...Thank you so much for sharing...I was waiting with anticipation and you did not disappoint.

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  40. This looks amazing! Red really IS your colour!

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  41. Stunning dress!! You should be very proud of your work!! I can't wait for you to find an event to which you can wear it!

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  42. It is beautiful! And if you want some cashmere fabric Kashi has some at Metro Textiles that's not toooo expensive!

    It is interesting watching your journey through the book as well as your journey as you learn to sew better.

    Can I make one suggestion? Please feel free to ignore me...but your insides would look even more finished if you folded the seam binding in half and then stitched it down...the seam binding wouldn't flutter so.

    You are making amazing progress in the book and with the garments!

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  43. Thanks for the cashmere tip, Carolyn! And also for the note about folding the seam binding. I'd been wondering that myself actually. VoNBBS instructs to sew it on flat, which always seemed a little strange to me. But I'm new to seam binding, so I thought what the heck. I'm going to try your idea next! Thanks--I welcome the advice!

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  44. What a gorgeous dress! And the colour is perfect.

    Thank so much for the idea of sewing the dress flat. I am horrible at matching darts, but this way I might actually manage it. I also just noticed that the pattern has two underbust darts, and one under the arm... I need to try that, as well!

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  46. Thank for sharing tips. I love you.

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  47. this is delicious. i have an almost perverse love of pretty underlining and the one on your dress is so pretty.

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  49. Wow the dress is gorgeous! I love the seam binding, great job!

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  50. This is my favourite! wonderful work, your finishing is fantastic!

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

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