Colorblock Tunic Dress

Saturday, May 12, 2012
Since I've been fairly successful drafting up patterns to sew from lately, I thought I'd try sewing a dress. I was nervous to begin it. The fabric I chose is brighter than I'd usually wear, and it was chiffon. The last few times I've worked with chiffon were messy and disastrous. (I only post my successful crafts.. or as my dad says, craps) here. I crossed my fingers, and toes for good measure and set to work.

It turned out better than I expected. I couldn't believe it when I pulled up the zipper and... it fit! It fit?!?! I always mess up my calculations! (I still messed up, but I'll tell you about that later. First the dress...)

I keep thinking... Gladiator! Bring me a sword,
where is my shield and leather sandals?
(Also, where are those man servants
with those grapes? Don't make fun of my daydreams!)
So let me back up. BEFORE this point, this so called chiffon fabric was intended for a skirt, like this. Easy peasy, but I failed. 1) I didn't have enough chiffon. I got it out of the remnants bin for super cheap. 2) I read the instructions wrong. 3) I figured out the right way to do it, but when I tried it on, I looked like a clown wearing a tutu. I have hips. I don't need to look like I have double hips. I don't think I cut the fabric right.

So plan B... cut up the skirt, and start again. I traced the outline of a dress I already own, and cut pieces out of satin for lining, layered the chiffon on top, and a spool of thread later, I ended up with this. E always sighs when he sees me sewing. "Why do you have to do everything three times? Don't they say measure twice, cut once?" Me grumbling. "I did measure twice. I need to do it ten times." For some reason my brain flips things upside down when I'm sewing. You see this angle? The back and the front should be mirrored... red stripe in middle, and the pink stripe all down one side. I ended up cutting the top piece upside down. GAH! It was too late to fix it, so I just went with it. Random stripes everywhere.

Side view. You can see the side stripes
better here. Let's not tell anyone I goofed.
It was supposed to be like this! Really!
So to save you some agony, I have some tips for working with chiffon. It's really not that difficult if you do a couple of things:
  • Change the throat plate of your sewing machine to a smaller hole. If you don't have another (I don't) putting a piece of tape over the hole, and piercing it carefully with the needle will work just as well. This stops the chiffon from getting stuck inside. It's slippery.
  • Narrow hems are the best for finishing edges. A roller hem foot is your friend.
  • I used a stitch length of 2, smaller is better. 
  • Also use the finest needle point that you have.
  • I used a double row of stitches along every vertical seam. There's probably a better way to do it, but it worked for me. 
  • Always cut it bigger than you need. It frays like crazy. You can trim it back after you've sewn it together.
  • Don't skip basting your lining to the chiffon. I did this by hand. It's so much easier to work with the lining and the chiffon as if they're one piece, especially if your lining is another lightweight, slippery fabric (I used satin). 
Lessons learned. I'm still waiting for my grapes.
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