Thursday, 29 August 2013

Completed: Cambie Dress, Take II

I’m pretty sure it’s my favourite garment I’ve ever sewn. I do have other recent projects that I may or may not blog about, but why save the best for last?

I’m calling this my “duvet dress” because I made it out of an old duvet cover, purchased at the thrift store for $6.99! I keep thinking that someday I will run into its old owner, and they will say, “It’s funny, I used to have a duvet with the exact same pattern as your dress…” And then I will shuffle my feet and awkwardly try to explain….

I wish I had taken a better picture – this was taken on my phone. You can see a small stain on the striped fabric, but other than that and a very small hole near one of the edges, the fabric was in excellent condition.
After I cut the edges off, I was left with 2 and a half metres of each fabric. As if it wasn’t a good enough deal already, the fabric was about 84 inches wide, rather than the usual 60… which means that it was a lot of fabric for $6.99! The striped fabric, for the time being, has gone to my stash. Since it is 100% cotton, I’m considering participating in the Fall for Cotton sew along and using it for another dress, but living in Vancouver, cotton dresses are not the most practical fall clothing. Maybe a shirt?

Isn't the design amazing?

I have no idea how old this duvet is. If anyone has more experience working with vintage fabrics than I do, I would love some help dating it! Not that it really matters; I love it no matter how old it is. It’s 100% cotton, which I wouldn’t have believed before I found the tag. It’s so soft and drapey that I could have sworn it had some rayon in it! The tag also said that it was made in Canada, which (in my mind, anyways) means it’s not very recent. I wish I had of taken a photo of the tag, but now I can’t find it! I don’t remember cutting it off, but it’s definitely not there anymore. 

So, the dress! The floral pattern is on a pretty large scale, so I thought the pattern was better suited to a dress rather than a blouse. I really felt that this fabric would suit a vintage-style full-skirted dress. However, my collection of vintage patterns is pretty minimal at the moment. So, having recently made the Sewaholic Cambie dress in view B and been pleased with the results, I took a deep breath and started cutting it out.

Although it was great that the fabric was so wide, I did have trouble fitting it on my cutting table! And again, sorry for the bad photo - this was just snapped on my phone because I couldn't be bothered to go and get the camera.

I decided on a self-lined bodice because on my first version (which I may or may not get around to blogging about), there are a couple places where the lining shows. Even with a self-lined bodice, I got the whole dress (minus the skirt lining) out of 1.5 metres of fabric! 

I do love the self-lined bodice! Sorry about the bad lighting... I wanted to take detail photos in natural light but it's been raining all day.

As for the skirt lining, I decided on Bemberg rayon lining. I wanted a “proper” lining this time because I wanted it to match the drape of the fabric. It was actually my first time working with proper lining, which was a bit of a learning experience for me. I never realised how slippery it is! However, I think this was probably a good project to try out proper lining, because all I used it for was the gathered skirt. Now I know what to expect the next time I use it! Although if I do use it again, I would figure out a better way to finish the seams. I tried serging the edges, my go-to finishing technique, but the fabric puckered horribly, and looked really messy. Ironing didn’t help at all! I tried a couple different methods and in the end I just did a couple rows of straight stitching. It doesn’t look as nice as serging, but at least it’s on the inside. (If anyone has any tips on how to finish Bemberg lining, they would be much appreciated!)

My lining pieces before they were sewn in.

The construction went pretty quickly, for me anyways! I tend to be a slow sewer. The fabric was beautiful to sew with. Although it has gorgeous drape, is wasn’t slippery in the slightest and went together wonderfully.

It has pockets!
Having already made and fitted the dress, I made very few changes to the fit. I had to shorten the straps a little, even though I made then exactly the same length as my first dress. Funny how much the fabric can make a difference! I also had to take a bigger seam allowance in the back. In my last version, it was a little tight and I had to take a smaller seam allowance, but I guess I overcompensated when I added onto the pattern piece. In retrospect, I could have taken a little more out – the waistband isn’t quite as snug as I would like it. When I put anything in the pocket, it pulls down a bit. It’s such a minor thing that I don’t think it’s worth going back and redoing it – and of course, by the time I noticed, fixing it would involve ripping out and redoing quite a bit of the dress, including a fair amount of hand stitching, so I didn’t bother.

This photo doesn't actually do this dress justice - it looks a little bit more fitted than that in real life (at least... I think it does?). I think it was just the way I was standing... but all the same, I could have taken more out of the waistband and slightly above it.

I also decided to understich the sweetheart neckline, which was probably a mistake. At first, it made it sit much more smoothly, keeping the lining to the inside, but once I put the straps in, it gaped oddly. I think the understiching might have just stretched it out a little. I fixed the problem by sewing another line of stitching in between the seam and the understiching and easing it in slightly. It’s not very pretty on the inside, but it will do.

You can see the original understitching, and then the second line where I eased it in.

Other than that, it went really smoothly. After a disastrous invisible zipper on my first version (more on that later when I blog about my first one), I cut to the chase and did a hand-picked zipper, according to Tasia’s tutorial. I love this technique! It does take a little more time but I love the finished look. As per Tasia’s tutorial for hand-picking a zipper in the Cambie dress, I sewed the lining and the main fabric together in the back where the zipper goes in, and then inserted the zipper by hand. I considered sewing the zipper to just the main fabric and then slipstiching the lining to it, but I figured that even if the lining does show, it’s the same as the fabric so no one will be able to tell. In retrospect, it probably would have looked neater on the inside to do it that way, but I couldn’t be bothered to do all that extra hand sewing.

Sorry about the wonky background colours in this photo! This dress does not like to be photographed... getting the colours of the dress accurate involves sacrificing the background.

To contradict myself, I catchstiched the hem by hand, which took a good hour or so. I nearly always hem by hand; I just love the way it looks so much more than a line of stitching across the bottom. I know, with this busy a print, it wouldn’t have shown much, but I’m still glad I did. It would have looked nice to use seam binding for the hem, even though I didn’t need to ease it in, but I hadn’t bought any and I was so close to finishing that I didn’t want a trip to the store. I also added on 2" when I cut out the skirt pieces - I find a more generous hem is less visible, and adds to the swishyness (is that even a word?) of the skirt. I actually did the same on the lining - although I sewed it by machine - but looking back, I could have saved a few inches of fabric and just done a regular 1" hem.

Overall, I’m really pleased with the end result.

I love the fabric. It’s wonderful to wear and I love the feel of the lining, too. I really like that the fabric is very colourful without being too bright. I love the soft, girly, vintage-inspired look of this dress.

In most of these pictures, it’s worn with a crinoline. I found that even with all the gathers, the skirt didn’t have the same oomph as my first version; I suppose just because the fabric was drapier. I still love it! In fact, the less dramatic skirt makes me feel a little more at ease wearing it places that I wouldn’t normally wear more dramatic clothing. And then if I need a little more volume, I can add the crinoline! Or… maybe not, because it itches like crazy. It’s vintage, given to me by my aunt, who wore it for her graduation in 1960. I love it, but the tulle is really stiff and itchy.

As I said before, I’m pretty sure this is my favourite piece I’ve ever sewn. The fit is very good overall – even if it’s a little big at the waist, it’s still very flattering and comfortable.

Without a crinoline - it looks a little flat, in my opinion, but I'll probably wear it without more often that I'll wear it with.

Well, there you have it, my first actual blog post! Special thanks to my brother for helping me with the photos. I hope you visit again! (That is, if anyone is reading this in the first place.)

More photos on my flickr, so check it out!

Shoes: Thrifted


  1. Love you dress, the fabric is gorgeous. I like it with and without the crinoline. Well done on your new blog, I ll visit again.

    1. Thanks! I have been sewing all summer so I hope to have some more posts up soon, I just have to take pictures!

  2. I love it! Saw your post on WeSewRetro and I had to check out your blog :)

  3. Hey, Love, Love, Love this dress! What a find that fabric was :) Following you now after reading your 'we sew retro' post, cant wait to see what else you've stitched.
    Freya May

    1. Thanks so much! I will have some more posts up soon about stuff I've made over the summer.

  4. Beautiful!

  5. This is a beauty. Love the vintage style and the lovely print and colors.

  6. Really pretty. Love the fabric choice.

  7. I hope I won't sound all grown-up, like I'm patting you on the head, if I say, "My, aren't you adorable!", because oh. my. goodness! --- you ArE! I found you on Sew Retro. (I've been a lurker for years, but never a poster, because, well, I've never sewed anything retro, just dreamed and dreamed....)
    Your dress is lovely and your skills very impressive, and very nicely presented. I'm sure I'm not alone in looking forward to following your sewing exploits. Many happy sewing projects to you!

  8. Love, love, love that dress. The fabric is beautiful, and I was very disappointed that it was one of a kind. Dress suits you perfectly.

  9. Well done! Visiting via Wesewretro. I'm a Vancouver blogger too.

  10. I love that print! And you did a lovely job on the dress.


  11. Oh, I love this! And the fact that you made this out of an old duvet just makes it even better. Nice job.

  12. Love your dress! That fabric is beautiful! I can't believe it used to be a duvet! I just blogged about my cambie. Check it out!

  13. This is an incredible dress, I love the fact that it's made from a recycled fabric. If you want the skirt to stay in place when you put stuff in the pockets, just put a petersham or gross grain stay tape around the waist, you cut it to fit your waist and simply add to the waist band. Stay tapes are common in couture garments and I think Gertie's blog for better sewing probably has a tutorial, although so would lots of other blogs.

  14. Such a beautiful dress, and it suits you perfectly. I love the part where you wonder if you'll run into the previous owner, I've often thought the same thing!

  15. This is so pretty! I love the set-in waistband (is that what it's called?). It adds really nice detail to the dress without standing out and being ostentatious :) The style is so classic and fun. And the fabric choice is lovely too! That would be SO, so funny if the old owner of the duvet said that to you! You'll just have to come up with a smart remark to keep handy in case of confrontation :)

  16. This is a beautiful dress!

    About your scratchy crinoline vs flat dress problem - have you thought about sewing something into the hem of the lining, or of the dress? I've read that horsehaid braid is the couture way to go although I've never tried it myself - I usually go for the cheaper version of sewing a couple of rows of twine into the hem of the lining.

    1. Thank you! I've used horsehair braid before (when I made my grad dress), but I hadn't yet discovered it when I made this. I'll definitely use it again though!