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I finally finished my shirtwaist dress from Gertie’s book. Fe-yoo! I say finally because I kept needing to make changes and when I finally made a bunch of bust changes I needed to make more changes due to the change in the armscye. I basically nearly botched it. I had so much fun hanging with fellow sewcialist, Heather. She was doing Me-Made-May and posted more pics on her blog as well as on flickr. Heather set up a whole set of our photoshoot. We took a lot of pics.

First thing you’ll notice is that our shirtwaists look a lot alike but are also still different. For one, length. I chopped off about 6 inches of my hem at the last minute. At first I thought I had made a huge mistake (Arrested Development style) but then I actually liked it. Heather also did her fair share of convincing.

My sleeves are also shorter. This is because I kept taking away from the sleeve head. I feel like it’s a case of “If you give a mouse a cookie” (check out the children’s book here but the premise is that there is a chain of reaction to every action, in this case, giving a mouse a cookie, or in my case, addressing my full bust).

First, I pinched out some extra fabric in the front of the armhole of the bodice cos it was gaping. Then, I did an FBA (don’t ask why I did them in that order, I was being a dork) and it fit so I figured I’d be good to go. However, I didn’t want the underbust dart so I rotated it to the shoulder.

I shaved off about 3/4″ off each shoulder but the sleeves still hung off my shoulder. The tricky thing is that my upper arms are bulky so if I don’t balance them out with a poofy sleeve or a small shoulder pad, I often feel awkward, on account of my shoulders being so narrow in comparison to the rest of me.

But, still, the shoulders had to be dealt with. I figured I’d just finish the dress and deal with them later when I would be visiting Heather.

I stitched up the entire dress and even had all the buttons and buttonholes done, thinking I could just fiddle with the sleeves later. I needed a break from the fitting stuff.

Before heading to hang with Heather, I did do an armscye dart to take out some of the fullness I had put in when I pivoted the FBA’d underbust dart to the shoulder- I basically was sloppy doing all of that which is why it didn’t go as well as it should.

Now, however, I had taken out too much out of the circumference of the armhole. Yipes. I could still get my arm in but it was a tad snug. Other than that, everything fit and I had enough body ease for movement. Sleeves felt fine, if a little full. Still, I had to hop a plane so I left it for later.

Heather helped me and cheered me on as I basted in the sleeve 3 or 4 times, making small adjustments each time. I tell ya, she was helpful except when we laughed so hard I got distracted and adjusted the wrong sleeve. LOL

I took a lot out of the sleeve head, making my sleeves shorter but they still fit so I thought I’d be fine.

All in all, it was fine. The weather was really warm, which I love, but I think for that kind of weather a lawn would work better for this dress. Anything lightweight. I’ll still get mileage out of this dress once it cools down a bit.

I already have plans for another shirtwaist using this pattern. I like the shirring in the back a lot. It makes for a really easy fit along the waist. I will need to go back to the original sleeve and armscye and fiddle that better than I did with this version.

You probably saw a lot of other pictures Heather and I posted while we hung out. I had a blast and I even got a skirt sewn up, along with helping her with fitting some stretch pants and we both traced patterns and giggled.

The Facts:

  • I started with the size 10 of Gertie’s shirtwaist dress pattern
  • I have narrow shoulders, I think.
  • The upper part of the back of my neck seems to be narrow cos everything hangs forward on me. I kept tugging on my dress to keep it level.
  • I chopped off 6 (or was it 5) inches off the hem; serged the raw edge and stitched it up for a 1″ hem.
  • I didn’t have enough fabric for the facings so I used a black and white polka dot. You can’t really tell in the pics unless you look closely. I like it- yeah, me using TWO prints. Who knew.
  • After the FBA, I added 1.5″ to the underarm to bring it up and give me more movement. It totally worked.

Now that I’ve done all this work, I want to go back and get the sleeves figured out and make another shirtwaist. I’m looking at lightweight fabrics for summer- it’s already nice and warm.

I took notes in my sewing notebook but toward the end I forgot what all I did. How do you keep track of the pattern changes you make? Do you make pattern changes before your first muslin? Any alterations you know you’ll always need to make?