Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Rachel Dress 2 - Construction Details

I found this fabric in the craft store that masquerades as a fabric store years and years ago...when I still deigned to cross it's threshold.  It was in the 50% off area and I loved the appliques on the fabric so I bought it and it's been in the collection ever since waiting it's turn to become something wonderful.

I pulled it out when I was inspired by this Jason Wu dress last fall:

It really called out to become my Fall/Winter version of The Rachel Dress. Then after looking at and blogging about the Chanel Spring Couture 2012 line with the emphasis on pockets, I knew I had to get this dress finished before it became too warm to wear it.

So here's some details:
Fabric Prep:
I steamed the heck out of the wool to pretreat it.

Pattern Prep:
Yes, I ironed the pattern pieces - *LOL*

You would think that careful placement of the lace appliques would be a priority when laying out the pattern pieces. However, after examining the fabric I realized that except for not getting some right over my backside (which I managed to do anyway!) the randomness of the appliques meant that I had to have a "go with the flow" attitude about the applique placement. 

This was also one of the most ravelly fabrics that I've worked with in some time! It shed whenever it moved until I serged all of the edges and even then I had to constantly clean my serger blade and stitch area because the fabric made alot of fuzz!

Also because the fabric was so soft I had some challenges with the neckline stretching out during the serging process.  I thought I would be okay, but as I worked with the dress, the neckline became even more distorted.  I really should have dealt with this issue at the beginning of the construction process. However, I did manage to bring the neckline back under control.

*First I measured the wayward dress front against the front of my TNT dress pattern piece:

*Then I measured a piece of stay tape against the front of the pattern piece. *After cutting it exactly (which is important!) I pinned it to three crucial points on the dress' neckline.  
*At each corner of the shoulder and in the center point of the dress, the stay tape was pinned down.  
*Then using a larger stitch (stitch width 4) I slowly stitched the stay tape down, easing the excess fabric in.  
*Finally, I pressed the stay tape flat.

As you can see, this tamed the wayward neckline.  I then added stay tape to the back neckline and when I sewed the shoulder seams together it was sewn into those seams also.  I treated the fabric like a knit since it liked to grow at certain stress points.  And yes, I know I sewed the stay tape to the front of the garment instead of the back, but since I will be adding a lining to the garment, I don't think it makes much of a difference...unless of course I broke one of the major sewing rules! *wicked grin*

The center back seam was fused with a 1" strip of the baby interfacing from Farmhouse Fabrics, to stabilize it for the invisible zipper insertion.  This is a really old tip but just in case someone isn't aware of it ~ I cut about a quarter of a yard of fusible interfacing into one inch strips and save them in a ziplock bag for times like these.  That way I always have some on hand.

Finally a shot of the dress on the hanger sleeveless...

Front with the pockets

back view with those
appliques near my backside!

The dress will have short sleeves and I will add a lining.  I'm trying to decide if I will add some black rayon bias binding to the neckline and sleeve hems...ah decisions, decisions! always, more later!


  1. Oh Carolyn - that must have been so annoying - literally it was falling apart before your eyes. Terrible - thank goodness you and your stay tape were able to corral things back together again!:)

  2. Raveling fabric is so annoying! Also, I vote yay for adding bias binding to the neck and sleeves.

  3. I vote yes for the binding/trim. Thanks for the tipcs on fixing the neckline and stabilizing for invisible zippers. I assume that applies to regular zippers, too?

  4. Interesting fabric, pretty dress.

  5. Thank you again for your wonderful tips - next zip I put in will be stabilised! Excellent info re handling difficult fabric.
    The dress is very pretty, I love it!

  6. This is a great dress. I love the houndstooth and the applique just dresses it up beautifully. You have such great vision to be able to plan something like this and then fly by the seat of your pants when the unexpected happens. (the neckline) Just a fabulous job so far!

  7. Another great dress in the making. Can't wait to see the finished product. (And I also vote yes for the binding.)

  8. Great dress as always. I learn so much from you!!

  9. I really love where this is headed, very fun.

  10. great fabric and compliments on the pattern placement, always a tricky issue. Had to laugh at your comment about the craft store masquerading as a fabric store, I feel the same way.

  11. Pretty dress, pretty fabric, too. I vote for the binding. I think that it tie the dress together nicely. Now I wonder what craft store you are talking about. I think I know unless there is more than one.


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