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Apr 082015

Let’s begin with a point of clarification:  the supposedly fun thing is sewing with silk, not making Grainline Alders.  That is a definitely fun thing that I’m looking forward to doing again.  I’m planning at least one more Alder as we speak.  Further clarification:  I am going to sew with silk again.  I have some silks prints in my stash that I love, so I’m going to sew them up.  I’m just going to change my processes.  Lest I perpetuate the notion that sewing silk is ZOMG hard, let me say that most of the construction on this was easy.  I used a size 60 needle most of the time and a size 70 when going through multiple layers.  I used silk thread.  I tested everything I did on a scrap before doing it on the actual dress since I’d never sewn silk before.  As a result, I had few problems.  However, when it came to doing the narrow hem and finishing the armholes, I was ready to scream.  One supposedly fun thing I will 100% never do again is use silk bias strips to finish armholes.  Talk about a pain in the arse.  My hem isn’t so narrow and my armholes are pretty wobbly.  In the future, I’ll do a clean-finish lining or use a more stable material for my bias strips, and I’ll also use those same strips to stabilize my hem instead of just doing a fold and turn.

You might be wondering why I made a sleeveless lightweight silk dress when it’s still pretty cold in Chicago.  Well, a week ago I returned from a trip to Florida to visit my grandma.  For some reason, whenever I tell people I’m going to visit my grandma in Florida, they groan.  They think I’m in for a really bad time.  But I have no idea what they’re talking about; I love my grandma.   I also love the ocean, and she lives right near it.  So I look forward to these trips.  I’ll likely be making them more often in the future because my mother is planning to move to Florida this summer to be with my grandmother, who needs some extra care nowadays.  Anyway, in the days leading up to the trip, I freaked out and sewed three summer dresses.  I’ve gained some weight since last summer and I was feeling anxious about my lack of a summer wardrobe.  I made this silk Alder plus two dresses out of my recently acquired Vlisco fabric.  I’ll post about those two soon, along with some thoughts on buying and sewing wax print fabrics.

The funny thing about my summer dress freakout sewing extravaganza was that there was only one day on our trip where summer dresses were really required.  I ended up wearing cardigans over my summer dresses most of the time.


For most of our trip it was a bit chilly (for Florida; it was in the 60s) and verrrrry windy.  I really wanted to take pictures at the beach because I only ever have pictures of me in my living room, but taking these pictures was a dangerous adventure – the danger mostly consisting of flashing everyone on the beach my underwear.  In the picture above, I’m standing strangely because I had just finished yanking my dress down, I believe.  But I really liked how my hair is being blown, so I included it.  I’d like to style it this way and maybe join a Flock of Seagulls tribute band.


More windyness!  I was so excited about splashing in the ocean like a little kid, but we only got to do that on the last day of our trip.  It was too cold to even think about getting in the chilly Atlantic before then.  But I did put my feet in the water a couple of days when it was too cold to swim.  I just lovelovelove the ocean and couldn’t stay away.


I’m trying to look pensively into the sea here, but I’m pretty sure I’m grumbling about my fluttery dress.  It’s not just that it was windy while I was taking these pictures.  I was also wondering how I’d ever wear this dress in the windy city.  Fun fact:  when I was a teenager I read that the origin of the phrase “windy city” was a reporter’s description of the windbag politicians in Chicago, not the amount of wind blowing around the city.  Chicago is purportedly actually not much windier than other cities.  I was sort of insufferable as a teenager, so I loved correcting people when they would talk about Chicago being windy.  Then I moved here and had to stop wearing my hair curled because it would turn into a rat’s next in short order because of the wind.  While Wikipedia still assures me that Chicago isn’t significantly windier than other cities, I’ve read that the way the buildings are constructed and the way the streets are laid out on a grid means that the wind really does come off the lake and whip down some of the streets and around some of the buildings.  On UIC’s campus, the building where my office is housed always has me complaining to myself as I’m walking inside because the wind just swirls around it like crazy.  Legend has it that the campus’s brutalist architect (look it up:  it’s a real architectural term) designed it so that the wind would whip around the building and discourage protestors from gathering around it (it was built in the 60s, so this was a major concern).  I’ll buy it.  As one of those protestors, I’m proud to say that it hasn’t kept me away, but it really does make the space more hostile for people to gather.


I think maybe you can tell in the picture above that I’m pretty fed up with the wind.  We headed back to the safety of the car after that one.

My silk is from Mood, but it’s no longer available, sadly.  I got it last spring

Now for some pictures where you can actually tell what’s going on!


I’m hanging my dress on a lamp above because I’m classy like that and because the only places where I can actually hang things in my apartment are dark.


First silk problem:  My collar pieces must have stretched a ton because I ended up with the above.  As you can see, I basted it on before I realized the problem.  FYI if you haven’t made a collar before:  the edge of the collar should NOT align with the edge of the button placket!  So I had to rip that off, undo my stitching on the collar, cut it down, and restitch it.  Annoying, but easily fixable.


You can see in the photo above where the collar should end in relation to the button placket.  Yes, mine had stretched quite a bit!  I used Tasia’s tip to make a collar stand template and I liked the results I got.  My topstitching is a bit wobbly, but the shape of my collar stand is good.


Here’s the corner where the gathered skirt piece joins up with the rest of the front on view B of the Alder.  SO MUCH better than on my first Alder view B, which you see below.


I was too timid in clipping on my first Alder.  I made sure not to repeat that mistake this time.


I asked Instagram whether I should make orange or cream buttonholes, and most people agreed that they should be cream.  I guess I could have tested out orange buttonholes with cream thread on the buttons themselves, but I felt like both things should be done with the same thread.


There’s a finished button and buttonhole on the dress!  The buttons seem simple, but I had such a difficult time finding buttons that I liked for this dress.  I wanted buttons made of shell or glass, not plastic.  Joann’s had nothing suitable, so I headed to Soutache, which is a store in Chicago that has tons of trims – buttons, ribbons, rhinestones, feathers, and more.  They were the exact opposite – they had so many great options that I had trouble deciding!  The owner was very helpful, though, and she and I decided on the shell buttons you see here.  If you visit Chicago or if you live here and haven’t stopped by yet, I can’t recommend Soutache highly enough.  These buttons were more expensive than anything at Joann’s, but it’s very worth it to me for a fine fabric like silk.  Vogue in Evanston has a large button selection as well, but they’re a bit of a hassle to deal with for a few reasons.  Quite often, I find a button I like only to open the box and find that they’re sold out of the button.  Plus they’re on a huge wall that requires you to use a ladder to get to the top shelves.  There is a ladder present, but you’ll get yelled at if anyone sees you using it.  But it’s also so hectic that it really isn’t feasible to get an employee to stand there all day pulling button boxes for you.  Soutache’s selection seems to me to be of higher quality and as long as it’s not busy (it wasn’t when I went), the owner is very happy to help you find what you’re looking for.  She also left me alone for a bit just to browse, so it’s not like she’s hovering annoyingly the whole time you’re there, which is one of my pet peeves.  Bath and Body Works, I’m looking at you.  I’m just here for foaming hand soap, please leave me alone.


This just wouldn’t be a post on Feminist Stitch if I didn’t talk about something I did wrong.  My bottom button is improperly spaced because I decided to flip my fabric around when I got to last buttonhole.  If my buttonhole foot hangs over the edge of the fabric, it tends to not make such great buttonholes.  However, because I’m bad at math and spatial reasoning, I corrected my beginning point in the wrong direction, so the bottom buttonhole is closer to the penultimate one than it should be.  I realized this at the precise moment that I’d finished cutting the buttonhole open.  I hope it’s out of the line of sight enough that most people won’t notice.  If they do, design feature?

So that’s my first time sewing with silk!  I’m achieving a lot of sewing milestones lately:  silk, blazers, and I’m working on a pair of jeans right now.  I’ve decided to just go for theses things rather than freaking out about them after discussing with another blogger the way we get hung up on certain aspects of sewing more as advanced sewers than we did as beginners.  To wit, the first garment I sewed for myself on my own was a denim skirt with flat-felled seams and a front fly.  Shortly after that I sewed a Burda magazine pattern for a friend and added a lining to it on my own.  I thought nothing of these things at the time.  I only became afraid of things after reading Pattern Review and sewing blogs and seeing people talk about things like they were big bad monsters.  No more, I say.  My jeans are going swimmingly, and I’m excited about the next new thing I’ll tackle, whatever it may be.

  6 Responses to “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Silk Grainline Alder”

  1. You are a sewaholic my dear and that is wonderful! The detail on the silk dress is perfect, I am so impressed and very proud of you. I recently hemmed the linen pants and found linen easy to work with, however when I hemmed a pair of scrub pants similar silk, could be some kind of rayon, the fabric stretched and I thought what would Gina do? Anyway, great job as always! Your posts are so funny.

    • Hi Momma! Linen is so nice to work with and to wear! If you’re having trouble with fabric stretching out while you’re sewing it, there are a few things you could do. First, you could try to reduce the presser foot pressure on your machine. On yours, I think there’s a knob on top of the machine directly above the presser foot and needle. Another option is to use a walking foot, but you’d have to buy one for your machine. If reducing the presser foot pressure doesn’t work, your best bet might be to try stabilizing the hem before sewing it. You can use fusible interfacing (I have fancy stuff, but you can just get Pellon SF101 from Joann’s for this purpose) or just something like Stitch Witchery or Heat ‘n Bond and fuse it to the part of your hem that will be folded under. It should help prevent your fabric from stretching.

  2. I think this dress turned out beautifully! The fabric is amazing – like I said before, you do find the best prints! That turned corner is perfection.

    And I totally agree about the wind here! Certain streets seem to be worse than others – the street where my husband’s office is sometimes gets so windy that we have a hard time opening the car door!

    • Thanks – I’m so proud of that corner!

      I really need to start buying and making some solids. My closet is getting out of control with prints!

      The wind here really is obnoxious. Sometimes I think I should stop making so many dresses because the wind makes wearing them so annoying!

  3. […] sewing machine and never used it.  I was making this dress at the same time that I was making my silk Grainline Alder and since I was having trouble with my bias-bound armholes, I thought I’d test this thing […]

  4. […] back is longer than the front and the sides are shorter than both the front and back.  My other two view B Alders are unaltered, but this one just has a regular hem which is a very easy […]

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