Frills and (potential) fails

I have a big weekend this weekend! Its the Wellington annual swing dancing extravaganza, and its going to be awesome! Four days of classes and workshops, four nights of themed balls and all night after parties. The Saturday night ball has a 1950’s theme (the theme of the whole weekend is Back to the Future, because its October 2014, of course) and I realised last week that I hadn’t put any thought into what I was planning to wear to any of the events. So…

Complete with Stepford smile!

…before you get too excited, I didn’t make the dress. I borrowed it off one of my lovely friends. I did, however, make…


…the petticoat! I know, its a bit of a soft option, but last week I was stuck at work late every day, and my last assignment was due of Suday, so I didn’t have much time for sewing. And I was really hopeful that I might have my Malu coat finished, but I’ve hit a bit of a block with that, so no joy (more on that later).

I’ve never sewn with tulle before, and I don’t think I’ll be in a big rush to do so again! What a pain in the arse! At one point, it looked like I had exploded the Royal Ballet in my sewing room. Monsieur wandered in to see what I was up to, looked around in horror and then slowly backed out of the room again. Anyway, I used a pretty basic petticoat ‘pattern’. I measured the length of the skirt (25″), decided I would make life easy by having a 5″ wide panel of chiffon around the waist, and cut 10″ wide strips of tulle for the floofy part of the skirt. I found the blush coloured chiffon in the scrap bin at The Fabric Warehouse for $5, it had some pretty major flaws in it but there was plenty of fabric to get the waistband out of it. I doubled it over, to strengthen it up a bit, and ran some elastic around the top. Each layer is twice as long as the one above it, so the chiffon layer is 1m long (sorry for the mixed units!) and the next tulle layer is 2m, and the bottom layers are 4m. Easy peasy!

It was really difficult to photograph, its so…ephemeral

I decided that I needed two layers of tulle in the bottom layer, as the cotton of the dress is quite heavy, and I wasn’t getting the fullness I wanted at the bottom of the skirt. More gathering! I wanted to cry a little (I was very tired). Happily, I realised just before I started that Nana had bought a gathering foot for her machine, so that made everything so much easier. It has a hole through the length of the footplate which you thread a length of cord through, then sew with a zig zag stitch and it keeps the cord perfectly centred! It was brilliant, I don’t think I could have brought myself to do another layer if I was just sewing lines of basting stitches…

No petticoat….petticoat!

I’m looking forward to dancing the night away in my floofy dress! Though I must remember to wear a slip under it, that tulle is bloody scratchy…

Also, if anyone is interested in the type of dancing I do, this is it! Balboa, being danced by two of the incredible teachers we have coming to teach this weekend. Can’t wait for their classes!

So, sewing oracles of the internet, I need some advice. This is my unfinished Malu coat so far



I’ve done all the construction work, except for the sleeve cuffs, hem and topstitching, and I just feel like it isn’t fitting in a very flattering way! I’ve already shortened it to mid thing, as I looked like I was drowning in the knee length version. I would take the curved shaping at the hips, but then I’m afraid I won’t be able to sit down in it! Looking at these photos, I wonder if I just need to take in the the centre back seam and put some shaping in it? I don’t wan’t it to be too fitted, or it will be restricting to movement, but I also don’t want it to look like a ski jacket. Help, please and thank you!

14 thoughts on “Frills and (potential) fails

  1. Oooh dancing!! I hope you have the time of your life! šŸ™‚ I’ve never sewn with tulle either, and I want to keep it that way šŸ˜€ I don’t know how to help you with your coat, I don’t see any major issues with it… Do you feel like it’s too poofy? Could it be because the fabric is stiffer than the one on they used for the pattern envelope? Just guessing here…You’re right to be careful and not take it in too much, or you’ll end up with something unwearable. Hope you figure it out šŸ™‚

    1. Yes, I think the fabric is probably not quite right for the pattern, which is a bummer because I really like both! I’m really scared to take it in any more, because the fabric shows up all the holes I put in it :S

  2. I like your dress and that event sounds like real fun!
    And your coat is definitly no fail! I like the fitting, but maybe you could add a cord at the waist so you can change the fitting easily.

      1. I like the Minoru coat, but I wonder if the elastic could pull too much when your coat isn’t closed, you know? That’s why I would prefer the drawstring, it’s more flexible and easy to adjust. I’m curious what you decide. šŸ™‚

  3. I think the drawstring idea is kind of a genius one. Your fabric has a lot of pattern going on, so perhaps that, combined with the silhouette of the pattern, makes it a little bit overwhelming. I think that the waist definition provided by a belt or drawstring could be a real lifesaver! Why don’t you try it with something tied around the waist and see how it looks? I think it looks stunning anyway, by the way!

  4. Nice work on the tulle. Amazing to think that about 7 years ago I made myself a tulle skirt, copying a famous Australian designers version. I just sailed in blissfully ignorant and cracked on. Turned out very well actually. Your petticoat is so pretty. And that coat! It looks fab but I see what you mean, it’s swamping you a bit. I think the waist shapings a good idea. Or a belt?! Have you belted it! Like a cocoon trench hybrid!

    1. I’m pretty keen on the drawstring idea! I didn’t think about what sewing tulle would be like either, but now I feel bad for my mum, having to make my sister and me all those tutus when we were kids!

  5. Gosh, I miss swing dancing, and that dress is adorable beyond belief! I’ve made my own vintage petticoat, although I used silk organza (and Gertie’s fabulous tutorial), which was easier to work with than tulle but doesn’t give the same fullness. I think yours is perfectly confectionery and adorable. I don’t have much advice to offer in re: to the coat (sorry! Outerwear is one of my sewing weaknesses), but I ditto the drawstring suggestions. šŸ™‚

    1. It is a gorgeous dress! I usually go for 30’s-40’s for swing, so its fun to be branching out to the 50’s this weekend! Silk organza would feel so much nicer than tulle, but I wanted maximum floof from minimum sewing/fabric, so I went basic šŸ™‚

  6. Such a pretty dress! It looks great with and without the petticoat. Your Malu Coat looks great! Tough call on what to do about the shaping of your coat – I was going to suggest making a belt for it but the line drawings suggest that might not work. If you have extra fabric, it could be something to try. It doesn’t look like a ski jacket to me at all.

    1. Thanks! I’m seriously considering stealing the dress from my friend, but I think she might notice…I have a fair amount of coat fabric left, so I could try a belt. I’m going to leave it for a bit, and see if I feel better about it after some other sewing! Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s