Back in September, my friend Sadie and I challenged ourselves to make a dress each in a day, which led to the creation of this Bettine dress, my first dress handmade from scratch. In the intervening months I clearly forgot just how stressed and crazed I was towards the end of the day, as I have decided to do it again.
This time, I’m making the Ultimate Shift Dress by Sew Over it, which I received as a free gift for subscribing to Simply Sewing magazine. It was a complete kit I received, with a pattern, instructions, fabric and notions – so this dress was completely free of charge. Fabulous! It did mean I didn’t get to choose the fabric, but the ditsy blue floral cotton I received is pretty but understated (and also disguises a multitude of sins!).
Spurred on by the 9 long, sewing-free weeks I’ve just had to endure, I chose to embark on Dress in a Day: the Sequel the very day after I returned home for the Easter holidays (two days ago). The aim was to have the dress finished for my Mum and Grandad’s birthday dinner last night. But would I make it in a day?
10:00 – I measure myself to figure out what size I need to make, iron my fabric (washed and dried overnight) and start cutting out the pattern pieces. I can do this, I think to myself, dress in a day? Easy! It doesn’t take long, however, for my mum to distract me with coffee, cake and catch-up chat (we haven’t seen each other for 9 weeks, after all). So, going well.
11:40 – I return to the task at hand and pin the pattern pieces to the fabric. Am feeling slightly at sea by this stage, without Sadie or a Disney soundtrack to help me out.
12:30 – main panels cut out with my beautiful rotary cutter, I move onto the sleeve and facing pieces.
12:45 – a lovely lunch of cheese on toast is taken in the lounge, seeing as I’m using the dining table as my cutting table, and Mum is too scared to ask me to move. I am well and truly ‘in the zone’.
13:40 – it’s not long after lunch before I’ve finished cutting out the pattern pieces. I smugly think back to the first Dress in a Day, when it was a further hour before I’d finished cutting out. Probably because I kept getting distracted by singing along to Disney songs.
14:45 – after quite a lot of faff with tailor-tacks and marking my darts, I actually get round to some sewing. Incredible. I feel less smug now, as I’m only about half-an-hour ahead of where I was last time (and there are fewer pattern pieces anyway so I’ve done less work). However, I feel relatively proud of what can only be described as the best darts I’ve ever sewn.
15:15 – a new burst of energy and enthusiasm hits me and I sew up the centre back seam, finish the edges and press the thing relatively speedily for me.
15:30 – another fifteen minutes later, and I’ve edge-stitched around the back neck opening, too. All is going surprisingly well. Almost too well.
16:45 – I return to work and sew my front and back pieces together.
17:15 – I’ve moved onto the sleeves and I’m a bit nervous. They’re my first ever set-in sleeves and so I take it a bit slower as I ease-stitch across the top and sew up the side seams.
18:30 – it’s dinner time. I realise that I am completely and utterly starving, and I wolf down my risotto at an alarming rate.
19:30 – dinner finished, I return to the sleeves and spend a stressful half-hour easing them into their corresponding armholes.
20:00 – I break to eat a chocolate fondant. Because why on earth would I not do that?
21:30 – after an hour of the most stressful sewing of my life, my first ever set-in sleeves are, well, set in. There was much huffing and puffing, wailing and gnashing of teeth, sharp intakes of breath as my sewing machine threw mini tantrums about the number of layers of fabric I was expecting her to sew through.
21:45 – after those pesky sleeves, the neck facing seems a doddle, and the pieces are sewn together within the next fifteen minutes. The end is in sight!
22:00 – the stress of those sleeves have made me a bit delirious, so it’s a relief when my boyfriend Skypes me and I can take a break. We chat for about an hour, before he declares “I need to go to bed.”
“I need to sew,” I say, expressing vocally what my brain is screaming internally about 95% of the time.
“For the sake of your sanity, Hannah,” he says, “go to bed.”
23:15 – BUT WHY SLEEP WHEN YOU CAN SEW ON A NECK FACING INSTEAD?! So I do, even though I’m now so tired I nearly sewed over my fingers a couple of times.
23:45 – after much trimming of seam allowances, notching, pressing and pleading with my facing, I embark on my first ever round of under-stitching. It goes alright, though my machine is now heartily protesting whenever I make her sew over more than four layers. She’s clearly just as tired as I am.
00:00 – the facing is done, and so am I. I begin to wonder why I ever thought making a entire dress in a day was a good idea. I decide it’s probably best to finish the hem and hand-stitching in the morning, when I’m not shaking and muttering to myself. After all, I would have finished had it not been for the two coffee breaks, and the hour long Skype chat. And the chocolate fondant #noregrets
So, the next morning I slip-stitch the edges of the facing to the back neck opening, catch-stitch the facing to the shoulder seam allowance, and sew on the hook and eye at the top of the back opening.
Then I bake a cake (Happy Birthday Mum and Grandad!).
Then it’s back to the machine as I press up and stitch down my bottom hem.
This dress is dedicated to all the haters (aka Dad) who said I wouldn’t finish it in time to wear to Mum and Grandad’s birthday dinner.
I’m pretty pleased with how this dress turned out. Sew Over It’s Ultimate Shift Dress pattern is perfect for beginners (if done in a nice cotton, like mine) since it’s relatively straightforward, and it’s a relaxed, loose fitting shape, so there aren’t too many fiddly nasty bits like zips or darts to worry about. Because of my body shape, I reckon I’ll wear it with a belt (it looked a bit sack-like without!), but there’s always the option, if I eat one too many chocolate fondants, of taking it off and letting everything loose (oo er). The sleeves are a bit tight, but hey, who needs to move their arms, right?
I didn’t quite finish it in a day, but I’d say I didn’t do too badly – it was only the hem and a few hand-stitches which were left for the next morning. I might have to rename the title to Dress Mostly in a Day, or Dress in a Day and a Bit – ideas welcome.
Considering this dress was a cost-free make, and considering I finished it before being home from college for 48 hours, I’m pretty chuffed.