The thoughts, sewing projects, and fabric oglings of a dedicated sewist.

Wool Wiggle Dress, Gertie Style


In my last post, I asked people to guess what I was sewing from this picture:

Those funny organza strips went into making underarm gussets for wiggle dress I made for a client last week. 

Pretty cool, huh?

The dress pattern is from Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing.  I've made two other patterns from this book, the Bow-Tied Blouse (here) and her Pencil Skirt (here and here).  The wiggle dress I made had shorter sleeves like the dress on the book cover.

Fitting this dress on my client was relatively easy.  I cut a size 10 on top and scaled down to a size 6 at the hips.  The muslin looked a hot mess at first.  I've been following the LCD fitting technique I learned in a Peggy Sagers workshop (LCD - adjust length then circumference then depth) and when I pinched 1.25 inches off the length of the bodice (where it looked bunchy between bust and waist), it all worked.   The only other alterations I made was to take in the side seams at the hip about 1/4", peg the sides at the hem by 2" overall, and take in the princess seam under the bust at the second fitting.

I used a lot of the skills I learned from Susan Khalje's Couture Dress Craftsy Class and advice I got from Rhonda Buss while making the wedding dress.

The dress is underlined in black cotton batiste, which kept the soft drape of the wool but gave it a bit more support and structure.

I added organza selvedge strips to the back opening to keep the bias cut from stretching and hand-picked the lapped center zipper down the back (most of the zipper was inserted during Cora's piano lesson):

I attached the lining to the sleeves by hand with a slip stitch and understitched the lining with a pick stitch:

I added drapery weights to the back vent and thread chains to help the lining and dress move well together:

I bought 5 yards of this wool/wool blend fabric from a woman who was destashing on Craigslist before moving out-of-state.  The lining is an Ambiance Bemberg lining I purchased from about a year ago when it was on sale.

This dress made me think about couture vs. home or industrial sewing.  I used a number of couture techniques, but I also used quicker techniques when I thought going couture wouldn't add significantly.   Here are some of the places where I decided to go the home/industrial route:
  • I didn't hand baste the pieces before sewing (although I probably should have done this with the princess seams as I had to sew the second one three times before I got it right).
  • I serged the seam allowances instead of binding them in some way (I love the way a bound seam looks but I knew my client didn't care enough about this to pay for the extra time).
  • I attached the lining to the dress at the neckline by machine and understitched by machine with only a few hand stitches where I thought they were needed (time/cost issue).
One of the co-organizers of Berwyn Makers (a group for folks needing help running a creative business) wrote an interesting blog post on this issue last week.  Elaine Luther is a metal smith and jewelery maker (and lately, a painter).  She recently attended The Zoom Symposium, to discuss the Future of Craft, and she sums up how her thoughts on process have evolved over the years in a post on what she calls The Cult of the Handcrafted.  It's interesting to read about how she has moved away from needing to handcraft everything to deciding in certain instances to use quicker/high tech methods.  You can read the post here.

I'd like to take a course soon on industrial sewing techniques so that I can learn more about that side of things.  I want each garment to involve making decisions about technique based on the fabric, the style, the client, the cost.  What matters to me in this case is that I am happy with the way the dress turned out,  I don't feel like I cheated in order to save time, and my client loves it!

What about you?  Do you enjoy couture techniques?  When do you use them and when do you not?
7 comments on "Wool Wiggle Dress, Gertie Style"
  1. I'm so glad you included the picture of her in the dress - it looks fantastic on her! Also, I really need to watch that Craftsy class! (hangs head in shame) It was one of the first ones I bought, almost 2 years ago! I think I wasn't ready for it when I bought it, but I am now. I agree with you - couture sewing is lovely, but may not always be the most time/cost effective.

    1. It's a little too easy to buy classes on Craftsy! I have at least three I haven't watched yet. I just got started on the Jeanius class so I'll be posting about that going forward.

  2. The dress looks wonderful! Couture techniques are a little bit addictive. Once you get a taste for them, you always want more ;)

  3. The dress turned out lovely! I'm not big on couture techniques. I'm more in to the "quick, I have some time to sew!!!" But I sure do love a hand picked zipper. Lovely.

    1. I was the same way when my kids were littles! I've found it useful to have hand sewing to do as my kids get older. It seems I'm often waiting somewhere for someone. It saves me from have small talk conversations when I'm not feeling social.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.