We all have garments we love to wear and some of us keep wearing them long past their “sell by” date.
So when a woman called to say she was willing to have her best, most comfortable dress taken apart and copied so she could have more made, I understood. She went on to explain that she had worn it for 30 years and it still fit her. Wow, quite a feat but once I saw the shape of the dress I knew why. Enter the world of the pillowcase with tie straps:
Do the words “comfortable” and “linen” EVER conjure up stylish or flattering? I don’t think so. This dress was worn through with holes on the elbows, all around the tie straps and basically misshapen as there was not a scrap of interfacing in it. My job was to take it completely apart and make a pattern. Before I share the photos of the process I will give you a hint where this dress was made 30 years ago…Amish country in Pennsylvania. The label is “Aly Wear, proudly made in Pennsylvania” produced by a now defunct company after the owners were indicted on defrauding a lending institution to the tune of 3 million dollars…interesting what Google turns up. Even Ebay had this exact dress up for sale for $9…imagine!
Let’s get started with some tools I use…Soil Separator from Home Depot makes great patterns. It is a thin fabric mesh that can be pinned and folded and can be used over or under garment pieces for copying. It is cheap and available and is also sold under other names like Do-Sew.
Once the dress was taken apart and pressed to get the edges flat I realized that the inside of the seams were white, and never absorbed the dye after it was manufactured. In other words it was made first as “greige goods” out of un-dyed linen and then dyed whatever color they needed to be sold.
Here are the only features that take it out of the BAG category…the neck has bias binding, a keyhole opening and the skirt has faced pockets that just hang like sad sacks on her hips. No interfacing in the top bias edge lets them sag.
The rest of the pattern pieces are created in the same way: Back top and bias binding hem edge sleeves (no front or back difference) and back skirt: Notice that I am squaring up the hem as it was not straight after many years of wearing but I followed the weft (left to right) lines to make sure it had been originally cut on grain. And now to the tricky part…layering the pockets, pocket facings and top of the skirt to be cut away:
First I flipped the top edge of the skirt down, traced a piece of pocket Do-Sew 3/8 larger than the finished pocket, duplicated this with a facing and layered it all together to make sure it looked like the original. They will all be stitched, flipped to the inside and top stitched but being bias I will use some interfacing to prevent it from stretching later.
When I take apart any garment I record the sewing sequence and number the pieces…whether I am the poor unfortunate seamstress who has to re-create this masterpiece, it is better to be organized than not. So, here is the result, a page of sewing directions, and a stack of Do-Sew pattern pieces labeled with masking tape because Do-Sew does not like any sort of ink. and the old dress bagged up for future reference:
Hoping that you are not asked to copy any well-loved garments any time soon but if you do, track down some Do-Sew, tracing paper on a roll and record the sewing sequence, you will be glad you did. This week I will be enjoying the new peppers and eggplants being produced in the veggie garden and thinking about the autumn raspberry plants that are showing flowers!