Swing dress sewing misadventures

This weekend was one of those weekends that really made a somewhat novice sewist want to chuck her sewing machine out the window.

[from Sensibility.com]

In Casey’s Swing Dress Sew-Along, we started the muslin. Because not only have I never sewed a dress before but I’ve never sewed anything with that kind of overlapped v-neck, I have been very diligent in going through all steps. I cut my pattern pieces out of Swedish tracing paper (I love that stuff), measured my nape-to-waist and trimmed down the bodice pieces accordingly, along the line it tells you to. I sewed it all up and the waistline in the back was 2″ above my waist. I took it all apart, cut out another set of bodice pieces 2″ longer, sewed it all up again and it looked like you could fit a sack of potatoes in the bodice with me. I even posted the horrifying photos on the Flickr group for the sew-along, which was helpful if a bit humiliating. (I am so not posting them on my blog.)

The next day, I cut the bodice pieces again, this time a size smaller. Then I trimmed the overall height of the waistband a bit, but lengthened it to account for an extra 1″ in the skirt that I thought I could use at the waist. That extra 1″ is something I haphazardly let out in the skirt instead of actually cutting out the next size larger skirt pieces, because I basically have no muslin left to play with at this point. All I did was decrease my seam allowance on the front center and back by 1/2″ per side and ripped out the old seams.

I sewed it all together. This time I got a much better looking fit on top, with the exception that it feels like the bodice is riding up my girls a bit. The waistband isn’t sitting flat on my stomach at the top, but hovering in a little gap between my waist and my bust. (I also don’t like that the way you attach the waistband on the front is by top stitching, but that’s just me. Can you just turn the pieces right sides together and stitch that way?) I’m thinking an extra 3/4″ in length would help. Since I knew I was running out of muslin, on this third set of bodice pieces I cut the original size, folded up the excess I wanted to get rid of and sewed it. Because of this bit of trickery I actually think I’ll be able to rip out the stitches, re-fold giving myself the extra 3/4″, sew it again and not even have to undo the construction of the bodice and skirt (which is a pain in the ass…especially when you’ve done it three times already). I’m hoping that will get the front waistband in the right place.

I still have a lot of issues to overcome. The side seams look like a mess, with my size 12 bodice and half-ass modified size 14 skirt that’s going to eventually get cut between the 14/16 sizes—nothing matches up smoothly at all (I tried adding in a small fabric insert to make the transition from the bodice to skirt at the side seam smoother, but I didn’t need the width of the extra fabric above my waist). Plus, it occurred to me on the bus this morning on the way to work that the reason I haven’t been able to get my skirt notches to match up on the side is that I must not have the back waist seam in the exact center where the front waist would be if it didn’t have the wide waistband. I’m not sure what to do about that (and not sure which side is higher since I’m at work and my muslin isn’t). I also don’t have a dress form and this has a side zipper, so I’ve been making do with one side seamed and the other held or awkwardly pinned together, but I worry it’s not giving me a complete picture of how the waist will fit. (I’m going to have to install a zipper on my muslin, aren’t I?)

But overall, I feel better about it today than I did on Friday when I made the first two ill-fitting muslins, or Saturday when I took the ugh photos of the worst muslin. I do admit, on Saturday after taking the bad muslin photos I just abandoned the sewing completely for a craft I actually understand.

 (Which reminds me, more info on the vintage sweater knit-along coming tomorrow!)

And in-between bouts of sewing nonsense, we did have a productive thrifting adventure yesterday. I found a 1960s yellow floral nightgown/house dress (similar to what Divine, as Edna Turnblad, wore in Hairspray while ironing), a simple vintage cotton blouse and a pair of cute red Hush Puppies. They’re from the 1980s (and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I do not consider something from the 1980s to be vintage *shudder*), but I think they have a cute kind of outdoorsy vintage look, with their sensibly tiny wedge heel. I think they’ll be fun for summer and camping.

I also got a fun Etsy find in the mail. Some deadstock plastic barrettes, still on the original cards.

The little ones are sadly too small to hold back my hair at the sides like I sometimes wear it, but they may prove useful for some future hairstyle. The large one, however, is perfect. It worked great for a casual hair day like yesterday, when my curls from my set had relaxed to waves.

The seller has several other sets of barrettes obviously from the same lot, for anyone interested. Now that I have long hair for the first time since high school, I’m remembering that “jewelry” for your hair can be fun.

Distractions aside, anyone else working on the Swing Dress Sew-Along who’s having better luck than I am? I guess at least I can say this is a good learning experience, even if I’m a complete hack at how I’m going about it all!

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Golly, 8 Comments!

  • Blimey lady!! That’s one heck of a summary! I’ve just finished assembling my epattern (paper ones out of stock in the UK)which was an adventure in itself!!! I’m not quite sure I can fathom where you’re at form this tirade 😉 so I’ll pop over to the flickr group and have a look when I get a chance, lol. You’ll so work it out though. I’ve resorted to raiding our bedsheets for muslin material. When a girl’s gotta muslin, a girl’s gotta muslin, thats what I say!
    Great thrifts,and love those hair clips.


  • Those barettes are awesome- thx for the link. I’ve been looking for a similar pair of shoes for a while, but with white crepe soles-like you say, perfect for outdoors in the summer!


  • Feel free to email me with any further questions on the S&S swing dress. I made several sample garments for her website (and the old paper catalog), including the swing dress. If you go to the S&S website, on the swing dress pattern page, I’m the plus-size gal in the black dress with pink flowers.


  • @Miss P I saw your ePattern, good grief I couldn’t imagine putting together all those pieces!

    @SusieQT You’re welcome! And yes, the shoes are great. I am always on the lookout for more cute casual shoes.

    @Andrea Wow, I had no idea that was you! I was just admiring your dress yesterday when poring through the S&S photos for the umpteenth time to get a better idea of fit. I may very well take you up on your offer, thank you! I’ll see how things go tonight. 🙂


  • I totally agree with you on having a serious problem with people calling stuff from the 80s vintage!


  • Thank you for the post – you have given me bravery to get my sewing machine out again and try something that I HAVE ALWAYS wanted to try, but have been too dang chicken!! SEWING something especially for me!!! Thanks!! I will check back often!
    ~Christina 😉



  • oooh you are good making a muslin I have never ever done that and end up faffing about with precious fabric, mostly it’s cos I leave it too late to sew in time for what I’m making it for ha ha!

    Sorry it was such a pain though!

    On the plus side, great barrettes :O)


  • I love your thrift finds! Those barrettes are so great and I totally dig a good Edna Turnblad dress. And I could not agree MORE about things from the 80s not being vintage. God, it makes my hackles go up any time I see someone post in communities about some “vintage 80s” something-or-other. I realize at some point it will be so old we will have to give in, but I just can’t lump 80s and beyond into the same group as 30-60’s stuff.

    I guess it’s kind of how I don’t think of pre-20s stuff as vintage, per se, so much as I would call it Antique. That makes me wonder about the mental distinctions we make in our minds… Anyhow, I digress. This is turning into my OWN blog post. Shut it, Moe.

    The dress project sounds terribly frustrating. I’m so sorry to hear that it isn’t going so well. I am totally game for our own mini sew-along, be it interim or along side this one. I firmly believe that crafts should never frustrate us to the point of not wanting to keep at it. We’ll plan our mini sew-along over email. Yay!


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