sewing a purple dress

I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with this sewing project. It was going swimmingly when I started it back in April* Then I broke a sewing machine needle trying to install the zipper.

See, my real problem here is I lack a zipper foot for my old sewing machine. So I dread zippers because I have to balance the two pronged foot on top of the hard part of the zipper and try and control everything so it doesn’t slip off. If it slips one way it won’t be sewing the zipper to the fabric anymore. If it slips the other way the needle hits the zipper teeth and breaks. I should probably try and find a zipper foot for the machine, but it’s from the 1950’s and I’m afraid I won’t be able to find parts…

Oh, right, I was actually going to tell you about the process. This dress was inspired by the very warm spring we had. I decided I needed a new sun dress. It’s a mish-mash of two other sewing patterns. The bodice and straps are one pattern, the skirt with the inset is from another.

purple dress bodice

I decided to line the bodice. Lined bodices are easy (just cut out two of everything!) and make a more finished garment than those silly little facing that never stay in place and disrupt the smooth look of a fitted top. The outer fabric is a fake silk crepe that I’ve had in my stash just about forever. The inner lining is a cotton (ok, it’s a re-purposed bed sheet, got a problem with that?) And the straps and contrasting fabric are a green corduroy also from my deep stash.

purple dress skirt

I assembled the bodice according to the directions, I assembled the skirt according to its directions. The hard part was combining the two. I just measured the length of the waist at the bottom of the bodice and then found the point on the skirt that was the same length.

purple dress attaching

This means after sewing the skirt I ended up trimming an inch off the top before attaching it to the bodice. Encasing the raw edge of the skirt inside the lined bodice means there isn’t an exposed seam to be found anywhere in the garment. Or there won’t be when I’m finished. You can see the green trim in that photo. The top edge is stitched to the top of the bodice, then folded down over all the raw edges and the bottom edge is stitched to the outside of the dress. I’ve decided the best way to do that will be with some invisible hand sewing. I’m almost done.

After attaching the skirt and bodice I tried to install the zipper. And that’s when I broke a needle and shoved the whole project to the back corner of my craft table for a month and a half.

purple dress finishing

But I finally brought it out again. I fixed the zipper issue as best I could and finished the rolled hems on the skirt. The zipper still isn’t pretty, but it’s as invisible as I can get with the tools at hand. And it’s on the side of the dress, so it’s not really very visible.

I hope to finish the hand stitching soon, and then I’ll have finished dress photos for you!

*according to the metadata on the photos…


7 responses to “sewing a purple dress

  1. I am sure I had a zipper foot for that machine. Let’s try to remember to look for it when you’re here next.

    • Ooooh that would be exciting! I think I might have seen some sewing machine attachments in the guest room closet, but I just assumed they went with your machine…

  2. Hand-sew the zipper next time! It’s nearly invisible, doesn’t take too long (I get them set in in probably 20 minutes, which is longer than it takes to put it in by machine if it works perfectly the first time, but it never does work perfectly the first time) and saves lots of needles from a terrible fate. I use a prick stitch – a backstitch with just a tiny stitch on the “right side” of the fabric, a longer (1/4″ or so) stitch on the back.

    I’m excited to see the finished dress – the fabric looks lovely!

    • You know, every time I’m sitting there ripping out the third zipper seam I think “this’d go faster if I just did the sewing by hand!” But do I remember this next time? No… Next time I will give it a try! Unless I’ve found a zipper foot, in which case I’ll be so hopeful. Even if it means I’m ripping seams again.

  3. I have zipper PTSD. Long story, but I worked on a production of Anything Goes and the damn chorus girls would eat way too much pasta and we were constantly having to sew them in and out of costumes and replace zippers NIGHTLY on their tap pants. It gives me the shivers just thinking about putting one zipper in a garment.

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