Monday, September 23, 2013

#2: Salme Challenge - From Dress to Duster

Welcome to Challenge #2 in the FabricMart Fabricista Fashion Challenge!

Challenge #1 was so much fun! Challenge #2 was a bit more... challenging, at least for me! Here are the rules:

Using the pattern that we have selected for you, create a unique garment that reflects your personality. You can alter the pattern or add to the patterns to make it more you. Think of one or two words that describe you to inspire your look. You will be judged on creativity, craftsmanship, fit, how well represented your description words are in your design, and difficulty.
The Pattern: The Salme Yoke Dress.

This is a long post, so let me start with a summary. The words I chose for this challenge were ARTSY CASUAL. I converted the pattern from a dress to a sleeveless duster, which is something I can wear every day but still has the artsy vibe that I like. I made the denim lace (which I call 'thread lace') featured on the duster. I also made the earrings.


  • Pattern Alterations and Modifications
  • Materials Used
  • Thread Lace
  • Earrings
  • More Pictures

Pattern Alterations and Modifications

While it might seem like I used a completely different pattern, the changes I made were fewer than you might think. I first purchased the pattern, printed it, cut off two edges from each piece of paper, and taped them together in a grid. I then traced off the largest size, a size 16, which is my size based on my upper bust - before an FBA. I traced off everything except for the skirt, which I did not use.

I traced the front as a single pattern piece and the same with the back. It's much easier to do an FBA that way, as well as other alterations. Once I completed the alterations, and had traced off the armhole and neckline shape for the facings, I then separated the front and back yokes from the front and back pattern pieces.

Separating the yoke after all alterations.

The fact that this pattern does not include seam allowances made all of these alterations much easier. I actually like working this way. I have sewed long enough that I eyeball the 5/8" seam allowance when I do the cutting and it comes out accurately.

After I traced the pattern, I noticed an error. The front and back shoulders had different slopes.

In the picture above, you can see that the front and back shoulder lines have a different slope. I adjusted them so they would be the same, favoring the slope that most closely matched my actual shoulder.

Here are the other alterations I made:

  • I did a 2" FBA.
  • I lengthened the front and back bodice to make them knee length. I omitted the waistline darts.
  • I feel that a sweetheart neckline is incongruous on an older, busty silhouette like mine. (As Margy said, "I am nobody's sweetheart!") I straightened the line on the front so that the front yoke had a shape similar to the back yoke.
    The dotted line shows the original sweetheart yoke shape. The bold line is the new yoke shape.
  • I split the front to make it a front-opening duster, held closed by a button tab. I also reshaped the neckline slightly to have more of a v-shape.
  • I split the back to make a button closure. This was to break up the expanse of denim on the back.
  • I drafted facings for the front/back neck and for the armholes.
  • When sewing up the side seams, I left side slits that were approximately 10" long.
  • I drafted patch pockets. I copied the curve of the yoke, which curves down at the outside edge, and echoed the shape at the top of the patch pockets. The patch pockets are self lined.

I did not make a muslin. I tested the fit in paper.

I did not look at the instructions for the dress and made up my own. I finished all inside seams. I lined the yoke. I turned the raw edges under on the side seams and sewed them down by hand. I used bias binding on the hem and the other exposed seams.

Inside finishing.

Materials Used

  • Tencel denim. I had 3 yards and it was just enough - I had only small bits left over.
  • I lined the yoke using blue Vera Wang pebbled silk from FabricMart. It was leftover from my Sandra Betzina jacket.
  • Vintage German plastic buttons from Britex in two sizes. One large one for the front tab and 5 smaller ones for the back.
    (I brought a chunk of the denim and the denim lace yoke with me to Britex to purchase the buttons. I was at the button counter, receiving some excellent help, when the owner of Britex, Sharman, saw the denim lace yoke on the counter and came up to study it more closely. She really liked it, and it was fun to chat about the process I used to make it.)
  • One sew-on snap, size 10. This is what actually holds the front tab closed. (To avoid a giant buttonhole.)
  • Denim threads left over from the Denim Rag Rug I made last year.
  • These vintage buttons have huge buttonholes. I sewed them on using Finca No 8 thread in navy, which is similar to pearl cotton. (I bought it at Britex.)
  • ProWoven Shirt Crisp interfacing from Pam Erny at Fashion Sewing Supply. I love this stuff and need to order more! I interfaced the front and back facings, the armhole facings, the front button tab, and the back button band.

Thread Lace

One year ago, when I decided to make a denim rag rug, I started collecting jeans from my friends and their husbands. I ended up with quite a few pairs of jeans in various shades of blue, grey, and black. I started ripping the jeans into narrow strips for the rug. This generated a lot of denim threads. As I sewed the strips to the base fabric, I raveled the edges. This generated a lot more denim threads.

I was throwing the threads away into a plastic bucket that I keep in my sewing room, along with other detrius such as bent pins and broken needles. As the bucket started to fill up, it bothered me to throw away the jumble of pretty threads. I finally scooped the entire bucket of threads into a gallon ziplock baggy. I just *had* to use these for something, but I didn't know what.

I even took the bag of threads to Design Outside the Lines, thinking I might get some inspiration.

Last April, my friend JillyBe took a workshop called "Wabi Sabi Scarves" from Brecia Kralovic-Logan at PenWAG. I was lucky to see JillyBe's wonderful scarves in person, but she did blog about the workshop.

Inspired Jillian's work, last April I ordered some Water Soluble Bags (Melt-A-Way bags) from Mountainside Medical Equipment. I paid $16.95 (plus shipping) for a box of 25 bags, which is much cheaper than an equivalent amount of Solvy!

The bags arrived and I didn't even open the box, but shoved it into a corner. Until this week.

Testing how hot the water needs to be to melt the bags. Hot tap water is hot enough.

The technique Jillian learned in the workshop involved dyeing silk strips, weaving them, and stitching them together in straight rows, sandwiched in the dissolvable bags. I decided to go a different route. (In fact, based on Tanya's first project, it sounds like a recent issue of Threads shows this technique, but I haven't read the article as I don't subscribe to Threads Magazine and am not a Threads Insider.)

I traced off the front and back yokes, creating a single pattern piece, with no shoulder seam. I wanted to avoid bulk as much as possible. I cut the seams off of one of the melt-away bags creating two layers of plastic. I laid down the tracing, put one piece of plastic on top, and then started distributing the denim threads. It felt like sprinkling cheese on top of pizza, back when I used to do such a thing. :)

The second piece of plastic is laid on top, creating a sandwich.

The whole shebang is pinned thoroughly.

I dropped the feed dogs on my sewing machine and stipple quilted the layers, which is a type of free form embroidery. (During my early motherhood years, I took up quilting. In fact, when I was 11 my mother signed me up for a machine embroidery class at the Stretch and Sew store in Santa Rosa where I grew up, so this technique goes waaaaay back to the 1970s, but I hadn't used it since the 90s.)

I had major problems with the stippling. The thread kept fraying and, a couple times, the needle broke or bent. The thread would often fray after I'd sewn just a few inches.

This happened over and over and over.

I switched from my classic Bernina 930 to my Janome Gem. The problem continued to happen, over and over and over. It was driving me batty.

I asked my friends for advice. They told me that I should change the type of thread and maybe the needle. I was using Guterman thread, which I thought was good quality. I eventually changed to Metrosene, which worked MUCH better. (I was already using a large-sized Microtex needle.) Both Metrosene and Mettler threads are more slick than the Guterman and are better for this sort of work, as they are less likely to fray through the eye of the needle. Now I know. (And thanks to Heather, Sue, Margy, and Luanne for advising me!)

Eventually I got the quilting finished.

I then dunked the piece in hot water, dissolved the plastic, and laid it out to dry overnight.

Thanks to the quilting and the hot water bath, the yoke had shrunk and was now far too small.

I had to start over, this time making a much larger piece, which took much longer to quilt. I hadn't yet switched to different thread, so it broke many more times.

Pinned and ready to quilt

Partly quilted
Washed and drying

Back yoke

Front yoke

But it was ok, as I used the too-small yoke on the pockets.

Lace pinned.
Pockets completed.


This is the same technique I used to make the beads for the necklace I made last week. Except this time I used a 1" strip from the tencel denim selvedge and raveled the non-selvedge edge to make a fringe. I made two balls and turned them into earrings.

More Pictures

Trying to twirl, but tripping.
The End

P.S. I am also linking up to Visible Monday! Thanks, Patti!