Staple Dress + Cotton Voile from J&V
Emily, of J&V, and I started chit-chatting about my fabric conundrum after I posted about my black scrubs and my Easy Tee which I love, but is simply not flattering. I had this conversation with a number of friends who sew, and I think I'm left even more confused now than before. I simply have to keep experimenting between fabric, fiber and silhouettes.
In her ever supportive and optimistic way, Emily decided she needed to help me on this voyage and when I proposed trying the voile with the Staple Dress she generously offered to sponsor this experiment and had me pick out which print from Cloud 9's Palos Verdes line I wanted to use. While they're all beautiful, I went with the La Venta print.
We also decided that the voile was way too thin to be worn alone with any decorum. So I'll be lining it with some plain voile from the same collection.
I've never lined anything before, so this'll be... interesting. But I figured this has got to be one of the easiest silhouettes to start with. It's basically a long tube with some shaping and openings for arms and neck.
I've also never worked with voile before, so I was curious. I did a little reading online and this is what I've come up with. Voile and Lawn are very similar in that they are both semi-sheer, evenly woven and are generally made of cotton, linen, silk or wool. Lawn fabric is made from threads that have been combed first to make it super smooth and silky in feel. (Immediately I thought, "Oh, it's like a worsted-spun yarn!") They're both very crisp, and I don't know if that's a characteristic of the weave, or if it's a treatment applied to the fabric once it's woven.
Because of voile's delicate nature compared to something like quilter's cotton, I found some advice on what needle and thread to use. A cotton machine embroidery thread was suggested, so I bought some Mettler 60 wt. cotton embroidery thread from Rose Rushbrooke. And I made sure I had some 70/10 machine needles.
While I was prewashing the fabric, I decided to get started on the muslin. After trying it on, I found it a bit snug in the armhole, and that I'd rather the top of the sleeve a little longer. (I am not a fan of my upperarms.) So I extended the shoulder line, and brought down the armhole and reconnected those new points.
As a knitter, I'm so used to the front and back armholes being the same, I forgot that these pieces would be different. Anyway, I repeated the process of what I did on the front to the back instead of simply copying the front line onto the back piece.
When I grabbed the fabric out of the dryer I made note that it did shrink a bit. But there was no color bleed at all. And, the crispy stiffness was gone. The voile was much softer than I originally thought. A nice surprise.
I used my new pattern pieces to cut into the voile, and used tailor's tacks to mark.
I had been struggling with pins and chalk and erasable markers to mark my fabric - I found it so annoying. The markers wouldn't show up on all fabric, and chalk would sometimes just wipe away. Thread however just stays put and it's really so much easier to apply. I used Pam Howard's Speed Tailor Tacks method I learned from her Craftsy class along with the thread she suggests. The thread is a japanese cotton hand basting thread and it's the perfect weight, comes in nice bright colors and is so smooth. It's brilliant. (And what knitter can resist thread that comes in a skein?!)
So after a lot of thought, this was my approach to this dress to include lining:
1) In addition to cutting out the fashion fabric, I cut out the front and back pieces in the lining material.
2) Sewed shoulder seams for dress, and then for lining, separately. I think I should have done sewn them together, but it turned out fine.
3) Sewed together at neckline, right sides facing. Then, understitched lining to the seam allowance.
4) Using the burrito method (starts on Step 5), sewed the lining to the fashion fabric at armholes one at a time. This burrito method is brilliant, and much like the "Yoke Trick" that Pam Howard uses in her Tailored Shirt class. Understitched the lining to the seam allowances for each armhole. Got a little fussy getting under there, but worked out fine because the armholes are large enough. If I had followed all of Blithe's instructions I would have sewn the shoulder seams together. Oh well, next time.
5) With the lining and the dress laid out separately (not tucked into one another), I sewed up the entire side seam from the bottom of the dress up to the bottom of the armhole, and then onto the lining fabric and down to the lining's hem. Per the pattern instructions, I stopped for the pockets on both the dress and the lining.
6) Sewed up the pockets per the pattern instructions, and sewed down the seam allowance around the pocket opening of the lining as a sort of finish and slipped the pockets through the lining's holes.
7) Finish off the lining hem shorter than dress, then hand stitched dress hem to lining. I love hand stitching, especially for hems. They're the part of the garment that needs to have the most fluidity whether it's the bottom of a dress or trousers. Whenever I use a machine to tack down the hem it always looks so stiff and seems to not hang naturally. That, however, could be my machine sewing skills or lack thereof.
8) Shirred at each side through dress and lining for waist shaping.
So here is my dilemma. I'm not sure I like the shirring. I don't know if more shirring would help.
I could shirr all the way around, or just the back with a few more rows. I didn't originally want to shirr all the way around because I don't like the potbelly-paunch you get below it. I already have a stupendous potbelly so I don't need help exaggerating it. A friend has convinced me that an elastic may be a softer way to add some waist shaping. So I may try that. I may add a casing to the inside of the lining and slip in a 1"-1.5" thick elastic in there and see what happens. But it may need something. I don't wear belts, so I don't think that's a solution for me.
I'd love to hear your input on the shirring. You guys a big fan of it? Will keep you posted on what transpires!