This dress is made from the oldest piece of fabric in my stash. February has been a month of challenges – all from the Stashbusting Sewalong group, with the aim of ridding our stashes of red fabric, most disliked fabric, longest piece of fabric, and now, the oldest piece of fabric.
I left this particular piece of sewing until last for very good reason. This is a piece of cotton crepe that has been maturing in my stash for ever and is left over from the flower power era of the late 1960s. I used to get it out of the cupboard, stroke it lovingly and gently place it back on the shelf. When I have considered making it up, I would find that I either have too much fabric, and would therefore waste it, or too little fabric. Well the time had come to move it out of the sweatshop and into the wardrobe.
I wanted a 1960s pattern to go with the fabric and found this Lutterloh shirtdress.
I tested the pattern on some lovely cotton lawn and it came together brilliantly except for a couple of minor issues, namely a front shoulder seam longer than the back shoulder seam, and I needed to sort out those very high bust darts. I fixed the pattern and laid my fabric and pattern on the cutting board, being very aware of the pattern matching. This went on for two days whilst I tweaked and fussed and fretted.
Finally I went for it. I took a deep breath. Then another. And another. Then I was hyperventilating! Seriously; a friend rang and asked if I had been running, and I had to explain that no, I was just cutting out fabric! I don’t know when I have last been this anxious. I figured that I would be a tad short of fabric, so thought I would give the sleeves a border in some blue linen which I used for my blocked dress. I had a little bit left over and it seemed like a pretty good match. All was going well.
Then I managed to cut the whole dress out of the original fabric so I thought I would put a flat piping round the collar and sleeves to break up that very bright pattern. I have new respect for people who do flat binding round curves. I would get it almost perfect and then find that it was out a millimetre, but obvious to the naked eye. I had the collar apart more times than I would care to count. In the end I decided that cord piping was the way to go as the cord gave me something to sew against. I had a rummage in the stash and found some builder’s string that my mother had been hoarding. Hmm, seemed about the right dimensions and is clearly vintage.
Worked like a charm. I had already put the flat piping round the sleeves, so unpicked all of that and replaced it with the cord piping.
Seam finishes were another area of concern. I didn’t want to overlock and I thought the fabric might be a bit stiff for French seaming so I did the plain seam with the clean edge finish – simply turned the raw edges under and sewed. This was fine until I got to the sleeves. I had pretty bulky edges because I had piping and a false hem on the sleeves to accommodate the piping, so I used the Hong Kong binding seam finish. I was even able to use the scraps of bias that I had cut for the piping. I will mention that the pattern on the collar does align perfectly with the pattern on the back, I’m not sure what’s happened here.
I had been trying the dress on periodically and was becoming more and more concerned – dinner lady anyone? Truly, did this look like some sort of gaudy overall? I was so disappointed that I nearly
threw it put it neatly in a corner and moved on, but the challenge finishes on 28 February (today!) and I wanted to finish it. So, pushing on regardless of the unattractive look, I tackled my next problem. Buttons! I had two issues here. I had so carefully cut the fabric out but was about 2cms off with the pattern matching down the front. I could move the fronts out, but then the buttons would not have been on a spot and might have looked silly, or if they had been on a spot they would not have been down the centre. I also didn’t have a massive amount of folded back fabric due to aforementioned lack of fabric and I was running out of room to sew on the buttons. After much consideration I decided to forego fabulous pattern matching and just get the buttons placed correctly. I am deeply disappointed about this, as my other pattern matching is pretty good. The buttons themselves caused me anxiety as well. I had nothing in my stash, except 3 yellow buttons and 4 blue buttons that might do it. I considered covering buttons, but decided to go shopping. I couldn’t find anything that reminded me of the ’60s and which would suit this dress, so went with the original 3 yellow and 4 blue. I am ok with this and I can’t even see the blue buttons on the blue dots.
Bottom line? Mark absolutely loves this dress, and he managed to photo bomb me. Here he is walking past telling me how much he likes it – and you’ve gotta love a man who does the food shopping, wearing clothes that I’ve made.
I still feel a frisson of disappointment for some reason. I think I will wear it a fair bit though, so all’s well that ends well.
In a nutshell: Pattern is 1960s Lutterloh, fabric is from the 1960s. The belt is a piece of blue elastic with a daisy buckle also from the 1960s. Shoes are XSA from Dimatina in Subiaco, and yes, I should have found some cork wedges…