Friends who know me and my knitting life will know I don't swatch. Of course that can have bad results but give me a skein of squishy woolly goodness and a new pattern and I just can't wait to cast on 'properly'. It's the same with making a toile when I'm dressmaking. I mean, there's slow fashion and there's #whenamIEVERgoingtogetthisdone?' fashion. But I am making an exception with my Joan Dress - two reasons
1. There is a lot of shaping in this pattern, it has a waist seam and darts in several directions. Each dart and seam must be in the right place. If I get the fit wrong it will not forgive me
2. My gorgeous Japanese fabric from Raystitch has very little give, I love it and don't want to ruin it but for me to do justice to the pattern and the fabric it must not be too tight or too loose.
So I made a toile. Well actually I made up the lining as a toile using this lovely vintage fabric. I bought it in a sale, from a place that gets stock that has lain in people's lofts for years. It feels like silk but I don't think it is, could it be rayon? Does anyone know how to test? I think there is something called a burn test but that sounds dangerous.
My two main fitting concerns were the waist, I am a UK size 16 and the bust and hip measurements were fine but I needed a couple of centimetres more at the waist, and the bodice length. I decided the darts had enough in them to ease the waist size and to add 2.5cm to the bodice length midway down the underarm seam. Otherwise I cut the pattern out as it was printed.
I had some cat help!
The fit was pretty good, the waist in the right place and the sleeve/shoulder seam sat just right. Sitting down, the skirt did not ride up too much
But there was a problem with the sleeve. It looked fine with my arms straight but as soon as I reached forward it was too tight. The solution was to widen the sleeve - possible with the outer fabric but what to do with the lining that is already cut? I decided it would be OK if I let in a strip of fabric down the centre of the sleeve, from crown to hem giving me another 3cm around the top of my arms.
This of course means the sleeve is fuller at the crown, with too much to shrink away with the usual double line of gathers. The solution was to make the armhole bigger. So I split the 2.5cm extra length for the bodice by adding 1.5 above the bust (giving me a total of 3 cm extra circumference to the armhole) and 1 cm below the bust. It worked! The only other modification I made is to shorten the skirt so that the finished length is just above my knees.
Needing to make notes on my modifications and not having a notebook to hand I wrote on the lining with a frixion pen - the writing will magically disappear when the fabric is ironed. Before laying the toile pieces out on my fabric and cutting out I ironed everything with Flatter By Soak. An ironing spray, originally developed for patchworkers but also fab for dress making, it's not a starch, it does not clog your iron but it does give a lovely professional finish to any fabric and smells nice too.
When I made the toile I used a wide machine basting stitch and some bright red thread so that I could easily unpick and iron before using the modified lining pieces instead of the paper pattern.
And so, using my toile as a pattern I cut out my fabric I only have 2.5m of fabric, much less than the pattern states. To make this work I am going to 'bag' the lining (i.e. a similar construction to a coat or jacket), make the sleeves shorter and cut the collar out of a contrast material (to be revealed in a later post). I just made it with not a centimetre to spare!.
I stitched all the darts, the shoulder and side seams and now I must pause, I need to shop for a zip and wait for my contrast fabric to be delivered.
More sewing coming soon