Saturday, July 14, 2018

True Bias // Southport Dress

I fell in love with the True Bias Southport Dress that Cashmerette posted on her blog and I knew I had to make it.  I also knew if Cashmerette could rock it, I had a good chance too!  Spoiler alert:

IT'S A WINNER!!!! I <3 Southport!

True Bias is graded for a C cup, which I am not, but the way I choose which size to make was by taking my under bust measurement and adding 3 inches to it (for the A, B, C cup), then choosing the size that had the bust measurement that matched mine most closely.  Had I chosen the size based on my bust measurement, I would have cut the 18, but my formula had me cut the 16.

I cut a 16 in the shoulders and bust, then graded out to the 18 at the waist of the bodice starting under the bust dart.

checking the fit after muslining the bodice

Playing around with tissue fitting, it looked like I needed to move the shoulder seam towards the back by .5", so while I was at it, I also moved the shoulder seam back by .5" by adding .5" to the top of the front shoulder and removing .5" from the back shoulder.  After sewing my muslin, I ended up reversing this and just doing the shoulders as the pattern had them in the first place. Sometimes tissue fitting leads me astray...

Tissue fitting this pattern had it looking good width-wise, but I was still on the fence about adding a 1 inch full bust adjustment (half an inch to each front piece).  From the pattern pictures, the bodice looks a little 'blousy' so I ended up doing the 1 inch full bust adjustment to the pattern before the muslin stage, figuring a probably couldn't go too wrong with such a small change, especially since my bust was nearly 3 inches larger than the 16 calls for (the blousy-ness is saving me here).

checking the dart placement after muslining the bodice

With tissue fitting, it was a little hard to tell how much length I needed to remove from the bodice.  I knew it would be something (I'm short, 5'4", and super short-waisted).  I didn't want to play around with guessing, so at this point I made a muslin.

What I Learned From The Muslin

  • As mentioned above, I needed to put the shoulder seam back where it started.
  • The shoulder width and overall armscye length fit great!
  • I needed to shorten the bodice length by 1.75 inches.

I pinned the front of the muslin closed along the button band, and then placed a pin parallel to the ground at my natural waist, which was 2 inches from the bottom of the bodice.  I needed to add the seam allowance back in to that though, so I would have had to reduce the overall length by 1.5 inches to have it end at my natural waist.

I read that the drawstring casing is attached to the top of the skirt, and I wanted this to fall right at the middle of my natural waist, so I needed to know exactly how much length would be added by that piece (without seam allowances, it was half an inch), so I divided this number in half and removed that amount from the bodice as well.  This made the total length removed from the bodice 1.75 inches.  The drawstring casing actually didn't add any length to the bodice or skirt because it is attached to the top inch and a bit of skirt, so I was totally wrong on how I went about removing more length, but it worked out fine in the end, and the waistband hits in the right spot.

I added 2 inches to the skirt length, since I like my skirts to come basically right to my knee.

my new kitchen atelier 

I was just planning to muslin the bodice and then go on to my 'good' fabric, but I really liked the look of the polka dots and had just enough to keep going with it, so I ripped the seams I had made for the muslin, re-cut the bodice (I was able to place the shortened pattern piece on the fabric I already cut, and re-cut, even though I had removed the length at the lengthen/shorten line).  The only thing I wasn't able to do was move the shoulder seams back to where they were supposed to be, but they're fine. I'm still considering this version of this dress to be a muslin, just with finished seams.  Now I am familiar with all the construction and I know that I won't be cutting into my good fabric for nothing.

I made my own bias tape using this tutorial on an easy way to cut it, and this tutorial on how to sew it and use my bias tape maker that I bought 10+ years ago and never used.  Making my own bias tape was surprisingly fun and now I'm thinking of all the fun bias tapes I could make for future neck and arm holes.

The single fold bias tape was really easy to apply, and will definitely make me dread bias taped armholes and necklines much less. Previously I've preferred making a facing because it feels like the easier way, but I haven't used the single fold bias tape before.

I had originally planned to use some buttons from my stash for this dress - and I've been waffling on whether or not to make functional buttonholes - but when it came down to it, I really didn't have anything that went very well, resulting in a late Friday night trip to Walmart.  I picked up bagels, found 3 packs of possible button candidates, and witnessed a fistfight...and I had told my hairdresser I didn't have any plans for the night! Ha!

The pattern calls for 1/4"-3/8" buttons, which are super tiny, and surprisingly hard to find at Walmart (this was my first foray into Walmart supplies, and it definitely not my preference).  The buttons I found are 9/16ths (14mm), which is slightly over half an inch. I think it still goes with the button band though and doesn't look out of place.

I had to figure out how large to make my button holes though, and since I had taken length off the bodice, I had to re-draw where the buttons would go on the guide anyway. I made the buttonholes 2 centimeters long, with 3 centimeters between each button.

To figure out the length that the buttonhole should be, I took the button width and added 1/8" to each side, which worked really well (1/4 inch total).  I still had plenty of room for 4 buttons on the bodice. I think I would have needed to add at least 2-3 extra buttons if I had used smaller buttons and kept the front as long as it was originally. I definitely would have had gaping.

I sew on a Bernina 1230 that was made in 1992.  I bought it (used, obvs) in 2010 from someone whose mom had owned the machine and recently passed away. It needed some maintenance, but was in really great shape, with lots of presser feet and accessories. It was $$$$ for an old machine and a 2 hour drive away, but it has been a wonderful machine, sewing through anything with ease and never giving me any hassles.

part of my 'fleet': Bernina 1230 and a Juki 654DE 

Last year, when I made my first Kalle Shirt, I used it for buttonholes for the first time, and it gave me big hassles.  The zigzag stitch on the right side of the buttonhole had the tension way off, and no amount of adjusting, re-threading, using the little arm thread-through hole in the bobbin case, etc made any difference.

I ended up finding a service manual online and found the description of my problem right away. I had to put the machine into maintenance mode and go through a bunch of steps, then test with one of the decorative stitches (if it needed adjusting, that particular decorative stitch wouldn't look right, and that would effect the buttonhole zigzag on one side).  Anyway, I whole bunch of fiddling in maintenance mode later, and I had fixed the issue!  Side note: if this is happening with your machine, you should probably take it in for service, as it's a pretty easy fix for someone who knows what they're doing (surprisingly, dh and I have serviced quite a number of sewing machines over the last 10 years), and can easily really screw up your machine if you don't.

My tension is now great, but only if I don't use the hole in the bobbin case that changes the tension. The really nice thing is that I don't have to adjust any of the settings on my sewing machine to get it to sew a nice buttonhole now - just push the buttonhole button and get sewing.

left is threading through the little bobbin case arm, right is not threading through the little arm

I tried a new way to mark where I wanted my buttonholes to start and stop this time, since previously I've struggled to see the lines at the stop and start, and to keep things straight.  You can see here that I did a chalk line down the middle of where I wanted to buttonholes to go, and then used a pin at the side of my fabric for the top and bottom of the buttonhole, and an extension of the pin with chalk into the actual line of fire. It worked well for me and I will be using this technique again in the future -

I also learned that it is possible to sew on a button using a regular zigzag stitch! I followed this blog post and it worked for me, but your mileage may vary.  For the test button and the first two buttons on the dress I just turned the hand wheel manually because I was scared something would go wrong, but it went really well!  Sewing on buttons is my absolute least favourite thing to do with sewing and knitting.

Final Impressions

This fabric is scraaaaaaatchy af.  I bought it on sale (for maybe $5 a meter) at Fabricland at the end of last summer.  It has basically no drape, isn't soft (potato sack), and is a bit more see-through than I'd like, but I am considering this pattern and this dress a 100% complete win.

I like that it is 100% cotton, love the polka dots, and the black and white feels very 'me'.  Southport was really FUN to make! I actually enjoyed the entire process for once (haha).  That drawstring waist makes it easy to get a good fit, and my bra straps/band don't peek through from the dress at all.  I am SHOCKED by how well the shoulders fit me.

I probably could have got away with cutting a 16 in the waist/hips too, instead of grading up to the 18, but I like the bit of extra fabric. It would probably be more flattering if my fabric had some drape to it, but I am really comfortable in this dress and will absolutely wear it.

It is absolutely the perfect thing to wear to my Nana's memorial tomorrow.  She was a seamstress, and I feel like I definitely have her blood running through my veins.  This in an homage, a tribute to her, her legacy, and that she lives on in my heart.

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