Noble & Daughter is named for my grandmother. One of the many reasons for this is because it is on her 1980s Frister Rossman Cub 3 that I rekindled my love for sewing a couple of years ago.
Sadly, my beautiful, funny, twinkly Grandma died last month at the tremendous age of 95. Being so far away at such a time is horrible. I wanted to be able to say goodbye properly so I flew home to be with my family for her funeral. Grandma was an incredibly glamorous lady who loved beautiful clothes and I wanted to make a dress to wear to her funeral that would make her smile. It had to be elegant and feel sumptuous and be finished as immaculately as I could manage and it had to be worn with seriously sparkly jewellery as she loved sparkle.
I decided on the Tanja dress by Schnittchen as I love the simple lines of the bodice and the pleated tulip skirt. One of the many things that manages to keep sewing fresh and interesting for me are the endless possibilities. The focus of a particular garment can vary so drastically according to your fabric choice, your individual manipulations to the style and the degree to which you decide to go all out on the attention to detail and the finish. Whilst Tanja is a pretty straightforward pattern and made in a cotton would be a very easy to wear everyday dress, I thought that if it was made out of a classically beautiful fabric and fully lined it would have the quality feel and simple chic look that would be right to celebrate Grandma.
I found this absolutely divine soft black wool crepe online at Emma One Sock and then used black silk habotai for the lining. I have never worked with wool crepe before so I had to google the best way of preparing it. I found this excellent tutorial by Diary of a Sewing Fanatic and set to with a bucket of water a couple of cloths, the iron and a whole world of steam to pre-shrink it. It didn't take as long as I expected and I'm a little concerned that I wasn't thorough enough and it may shrink some more when dry-cleaned, but as this isn't an every day dress and will endure minimal cleaning it will hopefully be OK.
I made a muslin of the size 40 and amazingly it fit with no alterations - I didn't even have to add my usual inch to the bodice length. I did, however, add three inches to the skirt length by slashing it a few inches above the hem and spreading it so as to maintain the shape of the skirt and the width of the hemline.
The crepe was seriously lovely to work with, it stayed where it was supposed to and the stitches just seem to disappear into it. It does fray a lot though, so even though I was going to line it, I serged the seam allowances as well.
The Tanja pattern instructions are quite brief and don't account for a lining so I had to wing the construction somewhat to figure out how I was going to line it particularly given there is no centre back seam to the bodice and there are cap sleeves. It took a while but I eventually found another excellent tutorial on Ragbags and Gladrags.
So my construction went something like this:
- Sewed darts
- Joined bodice at shoulders
- Hemmed cap sleeves and attached them to the bodice
- Left the bodice open at the sides
- Did exactly the same for the lining (minus the sleeves)
- Attached the lining at the neckline; graded, clipped and understitched the seam and then flipped it to the right side and pressed it.
Then it got interesting:
- Following the instructions on Ragbags and Gladrags I laid the bodice and lining, face up, completely flat and then rolled it up from the right hand side to the left, so that the whole bodice would be rolled tightly enough to fit between the neckline and the armhole of the left hand side.
- I then dug out the lining and pinned it to the wool along the armhole so that the rest of the bodice was encased inside and the fabric is wrong side out. You with me? Clear as mud? The picture below shows what it looks like at this stage but probably best to refer to the tutorial linked above for a clearer explanation!
- Then I stitched, trying to make sure I followed the stitchline I had previously made when attaching the sleeves and that I didn't catch anything else in the stitches. I sewed veerrrrrrry slowly.
- I graded and clipped the seam. This was pretty nerve racking (relatively obviously) as I couldn't check my stitching from the right side. I'd never be able to turn it back wrong side out to correct it.
- It is definitely magic, as when I pulled it through from the front; ta dah! totally clean finish, fully lined bodice - well when I'd done the other side in the same way.
I am so so pleased with how it worked. It is exactly the quality of finish I was hoping to achieve.
After that I:
- Stitched the right bodice side seam
- Pleated and staystitched the skirt and skirt lining pieces, joined them at the right side and then attached these individually to their respective bodices. I removed a couple of the pleats from the pattern before I cut out the lining so it was smaller and didn't interfere with the hang of the main skirt.
- Added staytape to the waist seam of the main skirt. The fabric isn't too heavy but I don't want it to stretch out at all.
- Then I inserted the invisible zip in the left side seam. Unfortunately it isn't black. I could only use what I already had as I had such limited time, but it doesn't notice too much.
- I had to finangle (technical term) the lining / fabric / top of zip to make this look neat, but it worked pretty well.
- Then I finished the rest of the left side seam and slipstitched the lining to the zip tape.
- The hem is finished with a facing which gives it a beautiful clean finish, but I was a bit concerned that only attaching it to the skirt at the side seams would mean it would droop at centre front and back. So I make a couple of tiny stitches in these places - which the crepe hides well - just to make sure.
It is an immensely comfortable dress to wear; the silk lining is dreamy and despite the voluminous shape of the skirt over the hips, I think the fitted bodice makes sure it is still flattering.
I am so pleased with the finish and I felt put together and grown up wearing it. I hope I did Grandma justice.
Keep up the good fight Grandma, I miss your twinkle so much xxxx.