Saturday, March 26, 2016

Bird Dress

I think my hero worship of Gertie Hirsch is pretty well established at this point seeing as I've written about her at least four other times on this blog. I bought her newest book, Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book* the day it came out and spent a happy few days reading it cover to cover and picking out pattern pieces. I absolutely love that the skirts, bodices, and sleeves are interchangeable so you can mix and match to get way more than the 23 styles that she features. Although I don't love every dress in the book I do like most of them. When I bought the book I didn't know what dress I was going to make first, but I did know what fabric I was going to use.

Back in November, I bought a pretty quilters cotton with a surprisingly soft hand and good drape featuring a blue background and stylized birds. I originally thought I would use it to make a skirt, but then it came time to move and in the chaos, I never got around to using the cotton. Later I decided to make a dress instead, but I didn't want an all over pattern of the birds because the fabric had a distinct horizontal stripe and I didn't think it would look good in a bodice so I picked up a yard of plain light blue cotton and 5 yds of navy blue piping. Then the fabric sat for another month.

Finally, this week I made myself a dress.

I was going to make the Floral Surplice Dress, but the pleated skirt that it called for would have had my birds sitting sideways, which would have just looked wrong. So instead I used the Surplice Bodice and the All Around Pleated Skirt - basically more like the Floral Chiffon Dress, but I left off the cap sleeves. I added pockets because it's me and I will always add pockets. 

Yay pockets!

One of the big challenges of this dress was the piping that I used to outline each section of the dress. I love the finished look, but I had a heck of a time sewing it in place because it was smaller than my seam allowance so it was invisible once it was sandwiched between pattern pieces. I have no idea if there is a "right" way to sew in piping, but what I did was machine baste a line on each dress piece at 5/8" then I hand basted the piping to that line. Then when I sewed the pieces together I sewed over that line again so that my piping was exactly where it was supposed to be. 

This technique actually ended up helping me fit the bodice too. When I made a muslin of the bodice I noticed a couple of fit issues. Not surprising seeing as Gertie even warns that for those over a C cup an FBA will probably be required. I didn't have to make major modifications, but I did have some gaping at the neckline. I solved that by making small tucks along the neckline while I was hand basting the piping. 

From the front, the tucks are nearly invisible and now my bodice sits nice and snug to my chest. 

The other fit problem I corrected was the bottom edge of the midriff piece. The pattern nips in pretty sharply at the waist, but my actual waist is straighter than that so I drew a new line from the armpit of the back boatneck bodice and the front surplice bodices pieces down to the bottom of the front and back midriff pieces so I could smoothly add the extra 3/8" that I needed on the bottom edge of each piece. Because the skirt pieces are pleated I didn't add anything to them, I just adjusted the pleats until everything lined up correctly.

One thing I wish I had done was make the arms a bit bigger, they are a little snug under my armpit. I didn't notice on the muslin, but I do on the finished piece, which makes me wonder if it has something to do with the piping. It doesn't bother me enough to try and fix it on the dress, but I will keep it in mind when I make another dress out of this book (and yes, I am totally already thinking of the next couple of dresses I'm going to make). 

Another change that I made was to line the midriff. The Floral Surplice Dress uses a facing instead of lining the bodice. I am so used to lining the bodices of dresses that I forgot about finishing the seams (which was totally dumb on my part because Gertie talks about seam finishes and lining versus facing in earlier chapters of the book and reminds you to finish your seams in the instructions). I was super bothered by the unfinished seams and didn't want to try and pink them because of the piping caught in them, so I partially lined instead, and in the future, I will stick to fully lining my dress bodices. 

One last note: I did not bother trying to perfectly match the patterns for the skirt side seams, but I did line up the branches that the birds are sitting on. The first time I cut out the back skirt pieces I didn't think about the pattern until I laid it next to the front skirt piece and realized it was off. So I cut my pockets and front facing from the skirt back and recut the skirt. I am glad I took the time to do so because I would have just been driven batty if I had sewed them together and the pattern didn't flow.

All in all, I am really happy with this dress, and I cannot wait to make more dresses from Gertie's Ultimate Dress book. I think I am going to make the Blue Wool Work Dress next. 

*P.S. I am totally not getting paid to promote Gertie Hirsch, her book, her patterns, or her blog. I just think she is rad and I totally want to be like her when I grow up. :)


  1. Great dress!!! I really need to get my hands on Gertie's book... :)

    1. Thanks! I totally recommend Gertie's book, it's got some very cute designs.