Monday, July 7, 2014

Feliz Cumpleaños Frida Kahlo 2014!

I literally had this photo taken right after I was done. 
I should have added a few Frida'esque accessories.

"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true, I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you."  ~ Frida Kahlo
  If Frida were alive today, she would be 107 years old. July is a special month, besides it being the month of my birthday, it is also the month of Frida's birth and death. According to Frida's actual birth certificate, she was born on July 6, 1907. But Frida used July 7 as her official birthday.  I decided to hold a sewing tribute on her selected day. But to cover all the basis, I had a little Frida birthday party on the sixth. 
  On the sewing front, I decided to step it up a notch this year by making a full dress. I've been collecting several yards of silk fabric as of late, and it's finally time to cut into some.  It's hard to imagine that I've never sunk my sewing teeth into silk. It's really lovely to wear, and at least for my first project, surprisingly easy to sew.
  Yearning for cool-weather dresses, and in keeping with my Japanese-inspired theme, I settled on the Satsuki dress from Victory Patterns. My idea almost spoiled by the fact that the pattern needed 60-inch-wide fabric. I didn't have any silk wide enough to fit the bill, and buying more was out of the question. 
  I salvaged my plan with some dumb luck because I realized my sari fabric was printed on the cross grain anyway. I used the end section of the sari fabric which was a completely different pattern and color for right side of the final dress. I thought it gave it a completely different look from my muslin below. I know It's a bit quirky.  I also added pockets to this version.

Sari fabric is surprisingly sturdy and easy to sew. I would never thought so by looking at how delicate it draped. If the chance comes up again, I might pick up some more and use it on more projects. For quilters out there, I heard they make great warm-weather quilts.
  After reviewing the Satsuki sewing pattern, I thought it looked relatively foolproof and decided to make the muslin out of the same sari fabric. I paid roughly five dollars a yard for it at the FABMO sale. Although it was more expensive than cotton muslin, I thought it would be worth using if only to see how the dress would ultimately drape. 

  I used the v-neck with shoulder cut outs for the muslin. I took some liberties and played around with the sari selvedge with a lovely gold and navy trim. To slim the silhouette down, I added it to the front center.  I also considered making the sash out of the selvedge, but in the end, I like the dress better without the sash. My muslin ended up being a wearable dress too. Double surprise! I can't decide which two I like more. What do you think?

The sari hanging out to dry before cutting. The blue end is at
the far left of the photograph.
Overall, the pattern and fit worked out great. If you haven't used Victory Patterns before, they run big so at least for me, I don't have to do much upsizing like I do with all my other patterns. I love the whole collection, and I plan to make at least one more dress from Victory Patterns this year. Check them out HERE.

Sizing and pockets
  A couple of technical issues for folks interested in making this dress. Although I added pockets on the final dress, I'm still on the fence about it. The pockets sit a little low.  I'm keeping them for now. When I wore the muslin, my hands kept looking for pockets, which is why I added it to the second version.  I made the dress in a size 10. I would consider making it in a smaller size next time. The thin sari material gave the extra ease a nice drape, but might feel bulky with thicker cloth. 

Neck Facing
  For both the muslin and the final, I found the neck facing slightly off. This could be a cutting issue coupled by a printing issue of the grading marks. I think it would have been better if there were more facing pattern size instead of squishing all the grading marks onto one pattern piece. I had to tweak the neck facings manually to get a good fit. I could have double checked the facing beforehand and balanced out the difference before cutting the fabric. I guess I'll do that next time. I used light fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supplies.  

  The front flounce on the final version was heavy due to the light fabric, and to avoid having the flounce pull on the neckline, I had to secure the facing down more to provide better stability. I was fearful it wouldn't work, but it did.

Cutting on the cross grain
  Even though I recommend cutting on cross grain whenever a pattern could benefit from it, I don't know if I would do it again with another silk fabric. I think I lucked out here with the sari silk pattern wise. I also don't recommend using stretch fabric for the version with the shoulder cut outs. I think it would be difficult to stitch the binding without stretching. The cut outs on my muslin was passable but questionable enough for me to omit it from the final cut. 

Kimono sleeve
  For the Kimono sleeve edges, I followed the pattern instructions for hemming, and didn't think the result made a huge difference especially after you factor the extra hand easing work involved. I double hemmed it on the muslin, and it was okay but thick. On the final, I just did a basic stitch after over-locking the edges. If I were using a thicker fabric, I may need to use the sewing instruction version. I would say this is a trial and error thing depending on your fabric, and what side of the grain you're using.

Other fabric options
  I do think a rayon viscose would look wonderful with this dress. I have some of this fabric, and I'm considering a third version for the fall. A little added weight would definitely create a more sensual look. 

Downloaded pattern
  Unlike my first Victory Pattern (Lola), I downloaded this version from the internet. Although it's more work. I was a bit pressed for time, and wanted to save a few dollars on the pattern. Everything printed up and taped together just fine. I regret not copying the pattern into my size after I finished taping it. But I was a bit burned out from transferring all my other Japanese sewing patterns.  

Happy birthday Frida! I know wherever you are, 
there will always be fresh flowers and vibrant colors. 

Frida Kahlo - July 6 or 7th 1907 - July 13, 1954.