Wrestling with the Picnic Dress

The Picnic Dress

The Picnic Dress

My Summer Picnic dress (aka Butterick 5882), is finished. It was a bit of a rushed make, as I had a deadline, and, well, I kind of had a bad case of the perfectionism that didn’t really work out. I mean, it never does, but usually I manage to keep it in the bag when it comes to sewing, or to let it out in only small, manageable ways.

Which is not to say that this dress is not a success. I think it is, or will be, once I’ve had a few weeks to put some distance between myself and all the seam ripping. So, this dress was kinda a bad idea in a lot of ways—limited time frame, unfamiliar pattern (I haven’t made a lot of Buttericks) and having a really crisp, clear vision in my head of what I wanted it to turn into. Which is always a perilous thing. On the upside, the fabric is a lovely, well-behaved cotton woven plaid, and the lining is a cotton-poly broadcloth. Easiest things to work with in the world.

So close

So close

I covered the first few stages of the dressmaking already, which went relatively smoothly. The first hitch came, predictably, when I tried to attach cups to bodice.

I’m not sure what was off—my cutting, my seam allowances, my marking of the CF line? But no amount of fiddling could get my cups to line up with the bodice pieces’ notches and still fit properly at the upper/outside edge; if I forced the edge to fit, they were overlapped WAY far. I went ahead and stitched anyway, hoping against hope that somehow it would all work out, but end up with a weirdly-folded, mashed mess that didn’t fit my bust AT ALL. I couldn’t bear to take a photo of the mess my pretty little cups became.

Rippit, rippit.

After I recovered from that (which took a day or two,) I decided that damn the seamlines, I had to make this thing fit me, after all. Thence followed a lot of fiddling and futzing in front of the bathroom mirror. Tape was invoked. Pins were applied liberally. Apparently my bust is much wider than the pattern was drafted for? Or… something.

Fitting, fitting, fitting. With tape.

Fitting, fitting, fitting. With tape.

You can see how much wider the cups on my bust are than the curve of the bodice. Oh, yeah, I also took 1/4″ out at each sideseam at this stage, for a total of 1″ around the whole bodice. And there was still some to take in at the back, although I’m not sure how much because I used it to make the lapped zipper extra-lappy. Maybe I should’ve made the 10? I’ve had 10s end up too small, though, so that scares me. /sigh.

Keeping track of boning

Keeping track of boning

Incidentally, the tape is very handy for keeping track of the bones. I stuck them to the wall in the order that they needed to go into the dress. Although this brown paper tape was a bit too sticky, and did some damage to the casings when I peeled it off. Oopsie.

My shape for the bust.

My shape for the bust.

I widened the opening for the bust cups quite a bit.

Hand stitching the cups in place.

Hand stitching the cups in place.

And then, I fell back on that good old standby when things don’t fit… lots and lots of hand stitching. The cups are stitched in entirely by hand.

The extra part of the cup.

The extra part of the cup.

This is the part of the cup that got “cut off” when I moved everything around to fit me. I decided to leave it, sandwiched between the two layers, as it’s padded and seemed to be smoothing and supportive. Also, the pattern doesn’t call for the bones to run all the way up the bust, but I wanted them that way, so I attached these two bones to the shell, while the rest are attached to the lining.

And voila!

And voila!

And somehow, it actually fit!

Faced skirt hem and lining hem.

Faced skirt hem and lining hem.

I wish I could say that it was smooth sailing thereafter, but there were still a few issues. I wanted a lapped zipper in the back. I’m not good at them, but sometimes you just have to go “What would Gertie do?” And I do like the look better than a centred application. Anyway, because I was also taking it in, I think, this didn’t play well with the back skirt seam (which I had already sewn at this point, yes, and serged. More ripping. Argh. I was able to squeeze enough bias tape for a not-terribly-wide hem facing. I interfaced my bias tape (prior to bias-tape-cutting) in the hopes of getting a slightly stiffer hem, but I think with the weight of this fabric it mostly just weighted the hem down more. Which is not awful—I do like a swishy hem—but not quite what I was hoping for. I should, perhaps, have sucked it up and done horsehair braid. One triumph was the edging on the skirt lining—I was able to coax a successful rolled hem from my geriatric serger! Those of you with fancy newfangled sergers that do rolled hems at the touch of a button have no idea, I’m sure. Mine requires a screwdriver, a different needleplate, and disengaging the blade to work properly. In celebration, I zig-zagged this teeny little lace trim along the edge, which has been kicking around forever. I think it’s cute, although the fact that it has a lot of snags already is tweaking that perfectionism I mentioned.

Full view

Full view

OK, enough whining. Deep breath. Step back. Enjoy. Please ignore the footless tights.

Back view

Back view

You’ll have to forgive my altered photos. It’s the “Cinemascope” effect in Google Picasa, and I love the sun-baked look it gives. This dress deserves to be sun-drenched. Yes, those are still snowbanks in my back yard.

It'll do.

It’ll do.

And on that note, I’m going to breathe deep, let it all go, and enjoy my dress. And hope for some real sun-drenched days in the future.

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59 Comments

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59 responses to “Wrestling with the Picnic Dress

  1. This is beautiful! But I had exactly the same issue as you with the cups – my bust was just far too wide. I didn’t have your patience though and just gave the whole thing up. Anyway, with a bit of distance and some better weather I bet you’ll love it!

  2. This is so gorgeous and summery…a picnic dress for flowered fields. Well worth all that effort and unpicking. And I am admiring your porcelain skin…not all sun-damaged like all of us Aussis!

    • Heh… I like “porcelain.” This time of year I’m inclined to say “fish belly” or “blue-skinned”… πŸ˜‰

      The camera’s pretty helpful there, though. In real life I’m all freckly, too.

  3. Jo

    this is beautiful! Well done for persisting, and I hope that snow melts soon!

  4. I love how you took up the challenge and made it fit you nicely! I knew the pattern would never fit my bust without some seriously dedicated altering, so I haven’t even gone anywhere near buying it…
    Your pretty dress now deserves some real sunshine, not just Picasa! πŸ˜‰

  5. It’s gorgeous! And you even made the plaids match. I hope you will enjoy it a lot (once the seam-ripping memories fade). The effect filter gives the pictures a nice touch, I hope you will get that sunshine for real soon.

  6. So pretty! Great matching too. πŸ™‚

  7. This is beautiful and well worth all that work! I hope you get an opportunity to wear it soon! PS I think Gertie would be proud! πŸ™‚

  8. It’s beautiful. Well worth all the alterations. Hope you get some sunny weather soon!

    • It’s funny, y’know, we get plenty of sun. Lots of bright, squinty days. Just… friggin… cold. Now the snow is (mostly) gone, it’ll warm up quickly, I think.

  9. Once again you amaze me in how you can just DO something like this, jumping in without so much worrying. Or at least it seems that way from here.

  10. What a terrific outcome!! Well done!

  11. Amy

    Way to make it work! Gorgeous, as always. And, your plaid matching is phenomenal!!

    • Aww, thanks! I’m glad *someone* thinks so… I have a hard time seeing past the imperfections, large and small. But it does look pretty good in the photos, at least some seams…

  12. Uta

    This is lovely and looks like summer’s here. Well done and enjoy!

  13. Cute! Hope you get some nice days to wear it out soon!

  14. Well for what its worth I think its a beauty. Makes me want to add that pattern to my pile and who knows perhaps even make it one day.

  15. It’s gorgeous. Hope you get to actually wear it on a picnic, or at least that the weather warms up enough that you could.

  16. I’m sorry this was so problematic for you but the end result is stunning!

  17. Gorgeous! Wow!
    Sorry you had such a hard time. Butterick is my go-to pattern brand. Needs very little adjustment on me. Funny how its different for everyone.
    Anyway it looks great and spring has sprung!

  18. glad you were able to stick with it – your result is beautiful! I’m not sure that realistically I’ll get around to this pattern, but yours sure is inspiring!!

  19. Kat

    Very cute, and a nice fit! I’ve only sewed one or two Buttericks, so I don’t know much about their fit either.

    Love the summer dress/snowbanks juxtaposition, too.

    • This is not an easy one to generalize, either, because the details are so unique. I’ll have to try more at some point… πŸ™‚

      It’s funny, we had some nice weather this weekend and those snowbanks are pretty much gone. Yay!

  20. Really lovely! Congratulations on persevering – definitely worth the pain and seam ripping!

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  22. Okay, that’s adorable! I’m impressed with your plaid matching, especially across that skirt. Hopefully the weather warms up enough to actually wear it. πŸ˜€

  23. I just won that pattern in a giveaway and am hoping that I can make mine as pretty as yours!

  24. This is all kinds of awesome! What a fabulous make and hats off to you for not losing it along the way!

  25. Struggle or no, the end result looks great. A little time and you’ll forget all the pain and just enjoy the dress.

  26. Oh I just love itβ€”it fits wonderfully and what a fabulous pattern combo! I want it!

  27. This is just BEAUTIFUL! Looks like it was quite difficult to make, as well. I have the same problem with cup gapage and why I don’t usually wear sleeveless or tops with boning.

  28. Way to just barge on ahead and make it work! I’ve looked at that pattern and passed it off as being too difficult to fit, but you make it look, well, not easy, but doable πŸ™‚

    I love a red dress, and this one is no exception! Had to laugh at the tights and fake sunshine, though πŸ™‚

  29. Gorgeous! Love your altered photos too

  30. I think all your alterations were definitely worth it, glad you didn’t give up, it looks amazing and I love the petticoat peaking out the bottom πŸ™‚ I would also like to offer you some mad props for a beautiful centre front pattern matching, *high five, and I love how all horizontal lines look intersecting at all the skirt side seams, great fabric choice!

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  32. I totally missed this when you first posted. Head in sand, probably. I love your dress! I’ve been going on this cake (daily wear) binge lately making tshirts (gasp!). I think I’ll need a palate cleanse with this dress or something equally frilly and enjoyable.

  33. Oh my gosh this is BEAUTIFUL! I love it so much. The futzing and ripping and cussing have paid off, what an astonishing dress you’ve got here. Love it! (Love the hint of petticoat too!)

  34. I think this is gorgeous. I was looking to see what the pattern would look like with a white bust instead of the red that is shown on the envelope (eugh, not for me). I think this turned out beautifully for you. I will buy the pattern with a similar dress in mind (perhaps blue gingham instead of your fabric?) with the white bust.

  35. I know this post is super old, but I was re-visiting it today and totally want to make this dress now! Thank you for the details on fitting- they are super helpful! It is encouraging to see the steps of the process for someone else as I’m still in the stage of semi-competent sewist but can’t quite figure out how to make things fit me. UGH. Anyway, thanks for posting- it’s inspiring and encouraging!

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