Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Finally Making the Walk-Away Dress - Butterick 4790

A couple weeks ago, Marika of Enchanted Rose Costumes announced she would be doing a sew-along of the "Walk Away" dress pattern, live on YouTube the last weekend in March. This pattern was released by Butterick in the 1950's, and was quite popular. A few years back, Butterick re-printed the pattern as part of their "Retro" line, Butterick 4790. During one pattern sale or another within the last few years, I bought the pattern to make for myself, and never actually got around to making it. About a year ago I bought 5 yards of black floral quilting cotton to make the dress out of. And I still didn't get around to making it. Thus, when this sew-along was announced, I decided what the heck, it was time for me to make that dress. All my other sewing plans for the weekend were pushed aside and out came my fabric and pattern. This dress was happening. Finally.

When the sew-along live stream began Saturday afternoon, I had my fabric ironed and was all ready to cut my dress out. Pretty quickly however, I realized a couple minor alterations would be needed to make the dress fit my personal preferences. 

First off, the pattern had no side seams, so I wouldn't be able to add my standard side-seam pockets to it. I don't do dresses without pockets, so this needed to be addressed. I briefly considered adding patch pockets to the dress, but decided against in. I really wanted side-seam pockets. Thus, I cut the circle skirt over-skirt pattern in half, adding a side seam.

Able to proceed with my pockets like normal, I moved on to the next pattern alteration. The skirt for the under-dress pattern was very straight, and I was afraid it wouldn't cover my back side. So I used the slash and spread method to add some extra fullness to the back of the under dress.

Pattern alterations done, dress cut out, it was on to the sewing. That Saturday afternoon I got the basic construction of the dress done, and put it on my dress form to let the circle skirt stretch for at least 24 hours.

On Sunday afternoon, I had other plans so was unable to watch the sew-along and finish my dress. Thus, it stayed on the dress form until Wednesday evening, when I finally had time to work on it again. First I checked the circle skirt hem. To my surprise, no stretching had happened so no even-ing up was required. That was nice.

As I watched part 2 of the sew-along I hemmed the circle skirt with a narrow double-turned hem and the underskirt with a wider double-turned hem.

  Hems done, it was on to the binding. Nearly the entire dress is finished with double-fold bias tape. Originally, I was going to use whatever pre-made bias tape I had in my stash which looked decent with my dress fabric. The bias tape which fit the bill was lime-green. It would have worked. . . but I decided it wasn't quite what I wanted.

For some reason, I had "pink" stuck in my head, so I went through my fabric stash, found a 1/3 yard remnant of quilting cotton in the correct shade of pink, and made my own bias tape.

The pattern called for 3 packages of double-fold bias tape, but didn't tell me how many yards that translated too. So, I pulled out a package of bias tape from my stash, saw that it was 3 yards, hoped that was the standard size for a package of bias tape, and took it to mean I needed to make 9 yards of bias tape for my dress.

After cutting the entire 1/3 yard remnant into 2" wide bias strips, sewing them end-to-end I had just over 8 yards of bias tape. I hoped that would be enough, proceeded to press it into double-fold tape and sewed it to my dress.

I applied the bias tape entirely by machine. (There was no way I was hand sewing the binding all around the entire dress. Visible top-stitching was fine in my opinion.) 8 yards was more than enough. I have pink bias tape left over, even after going the extra mile and binding the raw edges of my pockets in bias tape.

The hemming and bias taping was the most time consuming part of making this dress, and I got it done while watching part 2 of the sew along. 

Next up it was time for the closures! I'd intended to sew on the closures while watching part 3 of the sew-along, but life got in the way. So, I took the dress with me to work instead and sewed on buttons, hooks, and eyes while helping children with their school work. (Yes, I am still working, even with the world shut down due to Covid 19. Child care is essential.)

The under-dress fastens in the back with a single button and loop. I made the button loop out of a small elastic pony-tail holder.

The center front of the dress fastens with hooks and eyes.

I alternated the hooks and eyes on either side of the opening for a nice secure closure. (Just like I did on my German Renaissance gown last fall.) 

Once the hooks are done up, the front of the dress lies nice and smooth - and there's no way the hooks will come undone on their own.

Once the last hook was sewn on, the dress was done!

I wore it last Sunday. Even though the world is shut down, it made me happy to get dressed up. Physically going to church isn't a thing right now, but wearing a dress to online church in my own living room helped to make things feel a bit more "normal".

So, with that, what do I think of this dress?

I've definitely read quite a few blog posts and reviews of this pattern, and every single one of them mentioned multiple fit issues, and highly recommended making a mock-up and a bunch of pattern alterations.

The week before the sew-along, Marika posted a video showing her alterations and mock-up of the pattern.

And yet, I decided to skip the mock-up and alterations and just sew up the dress. I've made a bunch of patterns and am aware of how Butterick patterns generally fit my body, so this seemed like a relatively safe option for me.

I picked my standard size in Butterick patterns - which is one size smaller than my measurements would indicate I need based on the Butterick size chart. (Standard as in the size I generally pick for this pattern company, not my store dress size.)

This was absolutely the right decision size-wise, as the finished dress fits well.

Once of the most common complaints I read online about this dress is that the weight of the circle skirt would drag the dress down in the back, pulling the front of the dress up - especially on smaller busted ladies, the under-bust fastenings in the front wouldn't stay under the bust.

Well, I am definitely not small-chested, so I figured the size of my bust would do it's job in keeping things in place.

It did. The dress stays fastened exactly where it should, no getting dragged toward the back at all.

As for the alterations I did make, the pockets turned out just as beautifully as I'd hoped!

However, I wish I'd done something a bit different with the underskirt. It is just too straight for my hips and likes to migrate upward while I'm wearing the dress. The under dress is all one piece, fitted with darts and no waist seam. I think I might cut it off at the waist, thus adding a waist seam, and replace the too-straight skirt with a more A-line one. I believe this alteration would take this dress from "nice, I'll wear it occasionally, but too annoying to wear often" to "a go-to every day dress I love". Now I just need to actually make the time to replace the underskirt,

And so, that is my Walk-Away dress, made with Butterick 4790.

I am thrilled to have finally gotten around to making this dress!

Thank you, Marika, for hosting the sew-along and motivating me to actually do it!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Black 1840's Corset

Back in November I decided I was going to make myself 3 new corsets before the end of the year, and I was 2/3rds successful. I wanted to make a 1910's corset, and I got as far as cutting out that pattern, but nothing else. Next, I needed to make an Edwardian corset to go with the 1901 pink and fur gown, and I actually got that one done. Finally, I needed a new Victorian corset to replace my burgundy one. I altered my burgundy corset to fit better after I gained weight on the World Race. Then, once I lost the extra weight, the corset was no longer comfortable, thus it was time for a new one!

For my new Victorian corset I decided to do something I'd do something I'd never done before for a corset and use a pattern out of a book, rather than a commercial pattern.

I decided to make the 1840's corset from Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh. I've got a few 1840's dresses in my closet, so I decided a corset specific to this decade would be a good addition to my collection. However, as I don't feel like making a corset specific to every decade I costume, this will get worn with more than just my 1840's dresses. The shape is general hour-glass Victorian enough to pass for several different decades.

I started by copying the pattern out of the book, then using the scale at the bottom of the page as a guide for drawing a grid over the copied pattern.

I think hand-drawing a grid over the whole pattern is one of the more fiddly ways to begin scaling up a book pattern, but I'm pretty confident working with gridded patterns, so that's what I did.

Once I had a grid on the pattern itself, I pulled out some wrapping paper with a 1" grid on the back, and drew out the pattern at full size.

Once scaled up, I was pleased to discover the pattern appeared to be approximately my size (I have a 37" bust, 28" waist, and 38" hips, for reference.), so I went ahead and made a mock-up from some heavy cotton in my stash before making any alterations to the pattern.

The mock-up was boned with heavy-duty zip ties, had a separating zipper in the front so it would come on and off easily, and had a pair of lacing strips (which I specifically made for corset mock-ups) basted into the back.

The mock-up fit better than I expected! There were just a few minor adjustments to make. Some length needed to be trimmed off the bottom, the lacing gap needed to be a bit wider, and I needed a bit more room in the hips.

I trimmed off the extra length, added a hip gusset, figured out how much I needed to take in from each seam to get a 2" gap in the back, I decided I was ready to make my corset.

I disassembled my corset mock-up and transferred the alterations to my paper pattern. 

Pattern ready, out came my fabric!

A while back, Joann's had cotton coutil, a fabric specifically designed for making corsets, in their cosplay fabrics line. It only came in one color, black, but still. It was coutil! When this fabric went on clearance for a reasonable price, I snagged some. 

Thus, my new corset was made from a layer of black coutil, and lined with light weight cotton ticking from my stash.

The corset is boned primarily in spiral steel boning, with spring steel along either side of the grommets in the back. The boning is sandwiched between the two layers of the corset.

I finished the corset with hardware from my stash, so the busk and grommets are different colors. Gold grommets, and a silver busk. 

I was on a deadline to finish this corset before the Christmas Ball, so it's entirely machine sewn, including the gussets and binding.

After patterning and mocking-up, this corset went together very quickly. Looking at the close-up pictures I can easily see it's not perfect, but - it's comfortable and does its job, so I'm happy with it!

As I'd hoped, the shape is generic enough to work for pretty much the entire Victorian era, if you're not too picky.

So far I've worn it for 1840's, 1860's, and 1890's. I'm pleased with the fit, and it's not uncomfortable.

I shouldn't need to make myself a new Victorian corset for a couple of years!

I'd say this first attempt at making a corset without a commercial pattern was a success!