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Making a Mock Wrap-Over Dress by a Complete Sewing Novice!

Hello everyone!

Firstly let me introduce myself. I'm Alison (aka 'Thalbobbins') and my connection with Minerva is that I am another daughter/sister of the owners. Annette is my mum and Vicki my sister. I often work in the Minerva Craft Centre shop on Saturdays, so for in-store Minerva customers, you may recognize me. I have been invited to blog some of my projects here on the Minerva blog for you all to see and I am really looking forward to sharing them with you :)

To describe myself as a ‘dress making novice’ is being kind!!  I have grown up with my mum making everything imaginable from clothes to three piece suite covers and even my Wedding Dress, yet I have never mastered the art.  I can knit and cross stitch yet sewing and dress making is the craft I have yet to master ... and master it I will!!

I have had a go at a few dresses over the past eighteen months but I have always had my mum on hand to do the ‘tricky bits’ whilst I have made her a brew!  I have learnt a lot from having a go and watching my mum but I had still to make something that I could honestly say ‘I have made that’ and feel proud to wear my own creation.

I am going to a family party in two weeks where I will be meeting some of my husband’s family that I have never met so I want to wear a dress which I will feel confident in and one that I know no-one else will be wearing!  My sister Vicki recently made a gorgeous wrap over dress which I love but after talking to my mum, I have realised that this is something which I can aim for but not tackle yet.  Keeping this style in mind, I have chosen a Vogue pattern, V8724  which has a mock wrap around style but is a ‘Very Easy Vogue’ pattern which sounded appealing!

The pattern is made in a jersey fabric so I have chosen a beautiful bright floral jersey print.  The dress pulls over the head so the only other item that I needed to buy was a black gutermann cotton.

Before I started, I read the instructions on the paper within the pattern to ensure that I had a good understanding of what I would be doing.

I realised that the front of the skirt was cut out in one flat piece; not cut along the fold.  The chest was cut in two pieces and the best thing was that the pattern supplies four different cup sizes; A, B, C and D.  The back of the dress was cut in three pieces; one central back piece and two smaller pieces for each side of the back.

I cut the paper pieces out of the pattern and decided to cut the skirt part of the dress out on a bigger size than the top of the dress as I am a 8 at the top and 10 at the bottom, so by cutting it into a bigger size at the bottom I was hoping that it would fit better.

I laid the skirt pattern out onto the fabric and positioned it so that I had three of the coral flowers in a prominent position on the front of the skirt.

Once I had pinned the pattern in place, I cut it out making sure that I used good quality fabric scissors which cut the fabric smoothly and easily, ensuring that I snipped the darts so that I could line the pieces up easily when I came to sewing them together.

The pattern then explained how to create the fold at the top of the skirt area.  I followed the pattern, created the fold and pinned it into place.

I then cut out the cups, making sure that I turned the paper pattern over so that I had a left cup and a right cup.  The pattern had a dart the base of each cup to provide the shape.  After watching my mum in the past, I knew to snip the base of the dart and place a pin at the top of the triangle shape of the dart.  I then removed the paper part and left the pin, at the top of the triangle of the dart, in place.

I turned the fabric over and folded the fabric from the pin at the top of the dart, matched the two snips and pinned it to create a triangle shape.

I set the sewing machine to a stretch stitch and sewed down the pin line to create the dart and shaping on the chest; I repeated this with the other side and then ironed the darts so that the folded fabric lay towards the middle of the dress.

This created a sharp dart and the shaping of the cup.  I laid the pieces out and admired my work so far!  So far, all my own work!

Next, the pattern told me to work on the back of the dress.  I placed all three pieces into place and pinned them together leaving 5/8 of an inch space between the pins (sewing line) and the edge which I had cut out.  The edges of the pieces were not straight so I had to follow the shaping which I knew would form the shaping of the dress, ensuring a lovely fit.  First of all, I pinned the top of the pieces, then the bottom.  I laid the pieces out flat then pinned where I had cut the darts; lining the snips up.  After that I made sure that the pieces were together and smooth and then pinned between the pins, evenly, 5/8 inch in from the edges.  I repeated this for the other side then laid the back out flat to make sure that there were no ‘puckers’, the edges were lying flat and it was ready to sew.

I started to sew the pieces together, using a stretch stitch.  To make sure that I sewed in a straight line, I lined the edge of my fabric up against the straight line which says ‘15’ underneath the foot on the machine.  By following this line, I could make sure that I always stayed 5/8 of an inch in from the edge and the sewing line followed the ‘curve’ of the cut out fabric, ensuring that the shaping of the dress was sewn.

As I am a novice, I take my time and sew at a relatively slow speed ... well, much slower than my mum does anyway!!  By taking my time, I have more control over the stitching and I am less likely to make mistakes.

I then ironed the seams open to make a professional finish ... and I have seen my mum do it many times!

Next I was ready to attach the cups to the back of the dress.  I pinned the shoulders of these two pieces to the shoulders of the back, keeping the right sides of the fabric together.  Again I pinned it at 5/8 of an inch down, making sure that the shoulder pieces were lined up so that they were pinned together at the sewing line.

Once I had sewed the shoulders, I pressed the seam open, like I did with the back seams.

The pattern then told me to hem the edges around the neck.  I pinned a hem line around the neck and down the two front edges and I pinned this so that it was narrower than the other sewing lines, making sure that the shoulder seams were open and did not pucker at all, ensuring a neat finish.

When I sewed this edging, I followed the narrower line underneath the foot of the sewing machine, following the line which says ‘10’ rather than ’15’ which I followed on most edges.

I then ironed the edge to create a neat finish.  I was very proud that the edges were nice and neat and not puckered in any way.  There is nothing worse than buying an item made from jersey from the shops and seeing that the hem or edging has moved whilst being sewn and looking all puckered; it never looks neat and will not iron flat.  I had managed to sew this pretty perfectly – even if I do say so myself!!

The next stage was to pin the skirt part of the front to the cups – this was the scariest part as I knew that if I messed this up, I could ruin the whole dress and I was doing well so far!  I had to sew the two pieces together, making sure that the folds stayed in place, the fabric did not slip and the sewing line was in the correct place to ensure that the length of the skirt was the same at the front as the back – a lot to get right!!

I pinned the two pieces into place and then, I have to admit, I asked my mum to have a look at it to see if I had pinned it right.  My mum suggested that before I pin the skirt to the cups, rather than rely on the pins holding the folds into place, I sewed them down using a normal straight stitch; this way, the folds would not fall out and there would be less pins in place which would be less bulky when sewing the seam.  I followed my mum’s expert advice, sewed the folds down and then re-pinned the seam.  My mum checked it and said that it was fine to sew.

Very carefully, I sewed this seam, after switching back to a stretch stitch, following the ‘15’ line under the foot of the sewing machine to ensure that I followed a straight line.  When I finished this seam, I was scared to look in case I had gone wrong but luckily, it was fine – phew!

Next, I had to iron the inside of the seam to make the fold lie ‘upwards’.  Where the fabric was quite bulky, I trimmed some of the excess fabric away and re-ironed it and the seam lay flatter.

The dress was all in one piece now; the back was attached to the cups by the shoulder seams and the skirt was sewn onto the cups.  Now I had to sew the side seams up.

As I have grown up with a dress making perfectionist, I was fully aware that the dress needed to be tried on now to double check the fit and see where the side seams should be sewn.  I could have just sewn the sides up at 5/8 of an inch but by doing this, I would have run the risk of the dress not fitting me; either being too big or too small!

I tried the dress on inside out and asked my mum for her help in fitting it on me.  Whilst I was wearing it (and admiring my work so far), my mum pinned the side seams to check the fit.  Luckily, it was a perfect fit, pinning the seams at 5/8 of an inch in from the edge.  I unpinned one side, took the dress off and re-pinned it at 5/8 of an inch.

I sewed the side seams and then tried it on again to check the length.  The pattern comes in two lengths and I had decided to make the shorter version and wanted the hem to lie on my knee.  The dress came a few inches below the knee so I knew that it needed to be shortened.

Again, I asked my mum to help and mum virtually led on the floor whilst I turned around very slowly to check that the bottom of the dress was level all the way around (I have spent many an hour doing this over the years!).  My mum was happy that the level was straight so she placed a pin in place which would be my sewing line.

I followed this sewing line and pinned it across then cut the excess fabric off, making sure that I kept a straight line, leaving enough fabric for my hem.

I pinned the hem in place using 5/8 of an inch depth and then sewed all around the hem following the ‘15’ line under the foot of the machine.  Again, this seam was a scary seam as I knew that if I messed it up, the hem of my dress would be puckered and uneven which would look a total mess and ruin all of my good work.  Luckily, I did well; I pressed it to create a sharp hem and admired my work!

Finally, all that was left to do was to sew a neat seam around the arm holes and my dress would be finished!  I pinned a narrow hem, like that around my neck line.  This was quite tricky and fiddly as the armhole space is quite a small area.  I was quite scared doing this but knew that once I had done it, I had mastered my first dress all on my own!  I took my time, sewed it along the ‘10’ line and then pressed the seam flat, again very pleased that I did not have any puckers in the seam.

I can honestly say that I am over the moon with my dress!  I have made it all myself with the comfort from knowing that my mum was in the next room if I needed her! 

My next project will be a dress for my 15 year old daughter, also for this party.  I have chosen another easy pattern whilst I am building my skills and confidence but I will face the challenge of making an outfit for someone else and fitting the dress on a ‘model’.

Roll on next Sunday when I can continue to master this new skill and enjoy my new hobby!!

See you next time,

Alison x

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