Zips, hems and last-minute changes

The sewing process became all consuming in the final two weeks leading up to the wedding, so unfortunately, I couldn’t keep up with the blog. However, I’m going to attempt to cover the remaining stages of the project retrospectively. Before I do, I thought my dear old sewing machine deserved a bit of attention for being so reliable! It was purchased at a car-boot sale around 15 years ago and is still going strong!

I became incredibly fearful of sewing the zip during this project. I needn’t have been. Several good Youtube tutorials later (stopping and starting the video a million times while following all the steps) and I had finally overcome the challenge of sewing the famous “invisible zip”!…..which, by the way, is no ordinary zip. It has been manufactured specifically for the purpose of becoming invisible when sewn into the garment. Its a pretty amazing feat of engineering, as far as zips go.

The hem was the next challenge. This was not so complicated, but it was incredibly time-consuming. And back-breaking. It involved multiple “trying-on” sessions which was incredibly tedious.

Finally, the skirt was complete. Waistband, zip, lining and hem all turned out far better than I had ever hoped they would! But there was one small problem: A change of plan. At the last minute, with only a week and a half left to go, I changed my mind about how I wanted the whole outfit to fit together. I no longer wanted to wear the skirt over a fitted, cream lace top (as per my original design). I wanted the skirt to have a matching, fitted deep red top that would show off the lace trim of the shrug I was making. The main issue was that I had nothing but scraps of fabric left, and not enough to make an entire top.

I literally cobbled together what I could out of the tiniest of scraps, copying the 4-panel style top-half of an existing dress and hoping I could pull it off. Looking back, I honestly think luck had a huge part to play in the making of this dress/outfit. I have no idea how this worked, but it did!

I was so grateful for having purchased some bias-binding early on in the sewing project. This was essential to give the V-neck that neat, finished look. As you can see here, my seam allowance is tiny, due to the narrow scraps of fabric I was forced to use to construct this part of the garment.

This is literally all I was able to make with what I had left. There wasn’t even enough to sew the back of the top. But I had a plan (which I discussed over the phone with my mama aka queen of thrift and all things sewing!) Why not attach the front half of my newly-sewn top, to an existing garment, (in this case it was the fitted slip-dress that the entire outfit was modelled on). No one would see the back or sides, because the lace shrug would cover it up, and it would be too cold in March to remove the lace shrug anyway… so that’s exactly what I did!

And hey presto, it was finally, finally, finished! No one would ever guess that what you are looking at here is not actually a dress, but is a skirt and half-finished top, pinned together and attached to a pre-existing under-garment! The only parts of the under-garment that is visible here are the straps, which will be covered by the lace shrug.

A final touch was to add two tiny buttons to the waistband of the skirt. This helped everything stay in place on the day. I was so happy with the results!

Waistband, zips and ordering supplies

If you haven’t planned your entire project out from the outset, and like me, you’re figuring it all out as you go, you’re going to face some pauses in between steps while you wait for supplies!

In pre-pandemic times, I would get around these delays by jumping in my car and driving to the nearest haberdashery/sewing supplies shop as and when necessary.

Alas, these options are not available to me at the present time since all retail outlets are still closed. However….. ordering online is King (or Queen) at the moment, so I scoured Google to find what I needed.

(Quick note: I will dedicate an entire separate post to links of shops and Youtubers who have been indispensable to me throughout this project, because I think they really all deserve to be acknowledged for how brilliant they all are!)

Waistband

As you can see from the picture above, I have almost completed the waistband of the skirt. If I ever make a second skirt, I’d like to think I’ll plan ahead to ensure I have enough material put aside for the waistband. For this project I was so determined to use the fabric I already had at home, that I simply didn’t think that far ahead. So I cobbled together a few different pieces of remaining off-cuts and just hoped I’d be able to hide the joins.

There’s a special kind of fabric used to go INSIDE the waistband to make it a little more rigid. I think its called interfacing. This is something I did not have, and had not thought to order. Instead, I folded my waistband fabric over some stiff fabric remnants I had at home and hoped for the best. It worked, but its not ideal.

I used a method called “stitch in the ditch” to attach the waistband to my skirt. I love this method! I learned about it from a youtuber called Eli Ebberts who I will credit in the next post. Everything worked out exactly as she said it would!

Obviously, lining up the places where I joined my off-cuts together with the side seams of the skirt are not perfect, but I don’t really mind. I doubt anyone’s going to be looking very closely at this outfit to see whether the seams line up!

Zips

I should have thought about zips earlier. I HAD bought a zip online when ordering the thread and lining fabric. I soon realised that this kind of skirt required a special kind of zip called an “invisible zip”, which isn’t what I’d ordered. So I scoured the internet again to find an Irish supplier of invisible zips. I was very pleased to find a company in county Clare and placed my order straight away.

An invisible zip is designed to be sewn in such a way that neither the stitching, nor the zip, will show on your finished product. They are brilliant! But I needed another Youtube tutorial to teach me how to actually attach them. I studied the magic of attaching invisible zips like a student learning algebra for the first time… it was fascinating, and more than a little bit daunting. But I had time. My order took 5 days to arrive so I busied myself with other jobs.

Above and below are pictures of my first attempt at sewing an invisible zip, following the expert Aneka’s youtube tutorial. I took the advice of my mother, a friend and even my partner (who knows very little about sewing but a lot about my frustration when I ruin a project!) and used a spare zip on some lining fabric to try the process out before attempting to do the real thing.

Sewing the “test zip” was enough for one day, so I then moved onto a different part of the project: A lace Shrug. I had a single rectangle of ivory/cream lace left over from a dress my mother once made. The edges were very rough and would not look nice with a simple hem. That’s where my Co.Clare supplier came in handy, as they had just what I was looking for!

I can’t remember what its called (this blog is really starting to reveal just how little I actually know about sewing!) but it worked a treat! I spent a couple of hours hand-stitching this… lets call it edging… to my rectangle of ivory lace fabric.

I hope the above image shows just how unglamorous the process of sewing a garment actually is! Sitting on the floor of a room used for ironing and storing blankets and pillows is probably not the best way to complete this task, but I have two dogs and I didn’t want them getting anywhere near this delicate fabric! One doggy-toenail caught in the holes and the whole thing could be ruined!

Tomorrow I’ll have to tackle attaching the zip to the skirt ‘for real’ and trying on the whole outfit before moving forward. So this seems like a good time to take a break and writing up a post on the many suppliers and experts who have helped me get this far in my sewing project!