What I wear, when I wear it, and how it works on my bike
I sewed up the 9217 today, as a new muslin, which really drove home the truth that the important parts of sewing mostly happen when the fabric not in the machine. First, I had just enough left-0ver quilting cotton to make the dress, but I did I seriously dumb thing laying out the two pattern pieces (cut one on the fold for the front, cut two for the zipper-up back).
Two! Two whole pattern pieces and I screwed up the measure-twice-cut-once adage. I was able to salvage it by cutting out the back pieces with a waist seam, but I was really annoyed with myself. I had chosen to use the left-over quilting cotton instead of muslin from the bolt because I thought that if it fit–even only just as well as the one I found in the fabric box–it would make a cute sundress.
So, First Important Thing that Happens when the Fabric is Not in the Machine: Cutting! Do it carefully. Really carefully. If you have just as much fabric as the pattern wants, placement of the pattern pieces needs to be precise.
Having managed to get the three pieces of dress cut out, I transferred all the markings, which is the Second Important Thing that Happens when the Fabric is Not in the Machine. I have gotten pretty good at this lately. Having good ruler options, as well as good marker options, and using tailors tacks instead sometimes really helps. Because this was a fitting muslin, I transferred the waist and bust markings, too.
The Third First Important Thing that Happens when the Fabric is Not in the Machine is putting your own marks on the pattern.
Vogue Easy Options 9217 is out-of-print and I almost certainly bought it in the very early 1990s. It’s a pretty simple dress–A-line, with bust darts and four doublepoint darts at the waistline for shaping. It closes with a center back zipper and I had made the earlier version without sleeves. It has no facings because it’s fully-lined with the lining standing in for the facings. Really, this can be completed in an afternoon, even if you substitute facings or binding for the lining.
I made the dress from the pattern 20 years ago and I have just a vague recollection of doing it. I’ve no idea what I felt about the fit when I made it, but on 20-years-later-me, the dress gapes at the armscye and balloons around the shoulderblades. There’s no way I’d be comfortable wearing this. I suspect it wasn’t much better when I first made it, as it’s been folded up in the fabric box all this time.
But the muslin I made yesterday fits entirely differently. The armsceye is too tight and too high. The back is too snug across the shoulderblade. Obviously, I made adjustments last time I sewed the pattern, but I have no idea what they were. Fortunately, the adjustments are all wrong, so I haven’t lost anything not knowing what they were, but if the red 20-year-old dress had been a perfect fit, I would have cried when I put on the new muslin because I would not have known what I did to the pattern to make it fit so well.
Which leads to the Fourth (and Most Important) Thing that Happens when the Fabric is Not in the Machine: fitting.
I have reached peak frustration with the notion of fitting and common pattern adjustments. I have lots of detailed guides on how to do full bust adjustments and small bust adjustments; how to make adjustments for square shoulders or sloping shoulders. I’ve got good guides on lengthening or shortening darts as well as bodice and sleeve length. I’ve successfully graded a dress from one size on top to another on bottom. Basically, I’ve got excellent resources telling my how to make the most common pattern adjustments, as well as some good guides on pinching excess fabric into an existing dart.
But I’m having trouble knowing when to do what.
For instance, on 9217, the waist marking hits at exactly my waist (which is unusual), but the bust mark hits about an inch and a half above the fullest part of my bustline. There’s tightness in the armscye, but no pulling across the bust. The shoulder seam hits too far back and the neckline hits higher than the pattern says it should. The zipper strains, but the hips lie flat without pull lines.
So what needs adjusting? I have no idea which of the common pattern adjustments to make. And I am very frustrated indeed.