At last my Emery Dress is finished! I began working on it in October when indie designer Christine Haynes’s Emery Dress sewalong for her lovely sewing pattern. (You can buy the pattern here on her website.) This dress has a fitted bodice with bust and waist darts, two sleeve lengths, and an optional collar and bow. I made a variation of View A with the short sleeves. I didn’t add a bow because it’s not my style but I did add a collar and a few other embellishments, which is why it took me a while to finish. Also, in between making the Emery Dress, I participated in the Red Velvet Sewalong, which began on November 11, and made my Chevron Red Velvet Dress. It was a dress month!
I made my Emery Dress from two 42-inch wide (about 1 meter) cotton remnants that I got on sale (30% off) from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. One remnant was 1 1/2 yards (1.4 meters) and the other 1 1/8 yards (a little over 1 m). The pink piping at the waist and the lace at the bottom are also from Britex. If you are ever in the Bay Area, you must visit this special store – three floors of fabrics (many of them imported) and one floor of notions. Though many of the fabrics are quite pricey, you can find generous cuts of remnants (2 and even 3-yard pieces) and a wide range of prices on notions.
I wasn’t planning on putting a collar on my dress because I didn’t think I had enough fabric but after I cut out the bodice, which has bust and waist darts, sleeves, and skirt, I discovered that the 2 7/8 yards I had were just enough. However, I didn’t have enough fabric for the bodice lining or pockets so I used a solid black cotton for the bodice lining (also from Britex) and another cotton fabric I had for the pockets. View A (size 10) requires 3 3/4 yards of fabric.
I love the fabric. I don’t know if you can tell from the photos but it is a dark navy printed with stylized silver flowers that have a bubblegum pink center. Those flowers look white here but they are silver with a slight metallic sheen, which is difficult to capture in a photo. (You can click on any of my photos to see a larger version.)
I didn’t want my collar to just blend in with the bodice so I decided to add an embroidered running stitch similar to the collar on my 1940s Girl Friday Blouse, which I made for the Fall for Cotton sewalong this past September (you can see the Girl Friday collar details here). But instead of doing two rows of embroidered stitches, I did just one using a double strand of floss – one strand of metallic silver and one strand of pearly grey, which I got at Lacis in Berkeley. I also bought some pink floss to match the pink in the print but decided against adding another row of stitches because it looked too busy.
I went to Britex to see if they had any ready-made piping that would go with my fabric. I had a swatch in hand and looked at a pink and silver options. I went with a hot pink that’s closer to magenta. I got the idea of putting piping at the waist when I saw a beautiful 1950s vintage dress with this detail at the Alameda flea market last fall.
Though I haven’t had any experience with piping, I decided to go for it. I found a couple of tutorials on piping on Pinterest but they were about piping on pillows, not clothes. The important thing I learned was to make sure it lined up along the seam line. This would have been a lot easier if the piping width matched my 5/8″ seam allowance.
So I pinned and basted the piping to the bottom of the bodice.
Then I sewed the gathered skirt to the bodice. The challenging part was getting close enough to the piping using my zipper foot. (There is such a thing as a piping foot but I don’t have one.) I couldn’t see the piping because it was sandwiched between the bodice and skirt so I used my fingers to feel where it was. I had to go back over a couple of spots where you could see the stitching on the piping.
The collar does lay flat but the dress is a little tight at the sleeves. I did make a couple muslins of the bodice but I think I need a little more room on the armscye. It doesn’t cut into my arm so it is comfortable to wear but the sleeve wrinkles a bit if I raise my arms up. :/
I was really nervous about making the piping line up in the back where the invisible zipper was. After I sewed the piping to the bodice, I checked to make sure it would line up it the center back seam when I put the pieces next to each other – right sides together. Check.
Now it was zipper time. After I sewed one side of the zipper (also from Britex), I laid the dress flat, stuck one pin in to attach the top of the unsewn zip side to the bodice. Then I used white chalk to mark on the zipper exactly where the piping should be. You can sort of see it on the right, near the pin. Then I pinned the rest of the zipper, making sure that white mark lined up with the piping.
And it worked! The piping lines up! Wahoo!
Sewing a 22-inch invisible zipper in the back wasn’t easy because I don’t have an invisible zipper foot so I used a regular zipper foot. I had ordered an invisible zipper foot for my Kenmore sewing machine but it didn’t work very well. The regular zipper foot worked better.
I’d only installed two invisible zippers before this one and those were a lot shorter and thus they were easier to handle. It’s harder to manage sewing a longer invisible zipper using a regular zipper foot. In several places I didn’t get close enough to the teeth so I went back and sewed more stitches to get closer and then hand stitched a few areas as well. Ugh.
Here’s a view of the back – isn’t the collar cute!
And now to the nitty-gritty details.
Emery Dress sewing pattern – $18 ($25.30 with shipping and California tax)
2 5/8 yards (42-inch wide) cotton print fabric (just enough for bodice, sleeves, skirt and collar) – $21.69
1 yard black cotton (45-inch wide) for bodice lining – about $10
1 yard bright pink piping $2.70
1 3/8 yard of navy lace $8.16
1 skein of DMC metallic silver embroidery floss [can't remember price]
1 skein of DMC gray embroidery floss
22-inch invisible zipper
matching thread – Gutterman
70/10 Schmetz needle
fusible cotton woven interfacing for collar and for invisible zipper area
navy seam tape
My pattern adjustments before cutting my fabric:
Bodice – I did my first small bust adjustment on this dress (you can read about my adjustment here) and a slight wide shoulder adjustment. I cut a size 10 bodice.
Skirt – I added a few inches to the length. My waist (30 inches) is closer to the pattern’s size 10 (29 1/2 inches) but my hips are a size 12 (41 inches) so I cut a size 12 skirt.
I wanted it even longer but alas, I didn’t have any more fabric so instead of making a making a hem by folding the fabric over 1/2 inch and the 1 1/2 inches as instructed, I added seam tape. Somewhere in the midst of all this I injured my right middle finger so I couldn’t do any more hand sewing. My finger really hurt after I hand sewed the bottom edge of the bodice lining to the skirt. So no more hand sewing until my finger is healed!
But now I needed to figure out how I would hem the skirt. I posted a photo on Instagram (@csews) and shared it on Twitter (@csewsalot). On Twitter, Leila (@lbreton) of Three Dresses Project suggested that I do a blind hem by machine. She event sent me a link to Lolita Patterns blind hem tutorial (thanks, Leila!). I was going to do this but after I tried on the dress again, I decided to add more length by adding some lace. I really like a long skirt – preferably tea length.
I made a narrow hem, folding over the seam tape, pinning and then sewing the hem (note: seams are finished with a three-part zigzag stitch).
Then I went back to the notions floor at Britex to look at lace and got navy cotton lace that’s about 1 3/4 inch wide (4.4 cm), soaked it in very warm water for 30 minutes, air dried it, and machine sewed it to my hem. I used June Tailor’s Fray Block and hand sewed the ends at the side seam.
And here are some more views of the completed dress – yes, the dress has pockets!
Photo shoot details: I was waiting for a warm day and I was in luck last Sunday, Dec. 15. It was in the 60s in Berkeley. So I put on some makeup, stuffed my hair under my vintage hat; got dressed in my skirt, black slip, tights, my new patent leather Mary Janes; grabbed my tripod and digital camera and walked about a block to this location. I positioned my tripod and set the timer on my Sony Cybershot at 10 seconds and began shooting. Yep – no photographer. Just me.
I shot for about an hour, which went by really fast. I should have brought mirror with me to check my collar and other things. By the end some strands of hair were falling down in the back. I guess this is why you have hair and makeup people! I’m gradually getting more comfortable in front of the camera but it’s hard to pose without looking awkward. I’ve edited out many photos with stiff arms and oddly angled legs.
My hat is one of my favorites in my vintage collection. I use a hat pin to keep it on my head. I got it at All Things Vintage in Oakland. Love that store!
It was fun to participate in the sewalong. Christine Haynes provided plenty of tutorials and tips throughout it. I found the small bust adjustment and wide shoulder adjustment very helpful. The instruction booklet that comes with the pattern has very clear step-by-step direction and it’s well illustrated. But I recommend checking out the sewalong posts for extra tips and to see photos of other Emery Dresses.
Do you make many pattern adjustments when you sew a dress? What do you usually do? Do you have any tips for armscye adjustments?
Who is your photographer when you shoot garments you’ve made for yourself? Is it just your camera timer, a friend, partner or husband?
Thanks for visiting!