In the end, I removed the black handstitching and went back to the first idea of random herringbone stitch in metallic thread on top of the digitised embroidery, having first used red and orange Markal sticks on the to blend the colours. Each of the six skirt panels are slightly different in colouring. Taken with the metallic machined spirals, the dress does have bit of sparkle, so I haven’t added any rhinestones. the green sash has crossing lines in metallic thread machined over it to echo the herringbone stitches. We are going to a feis this weekend so I can se then if it needs any more oomph. I can also check if the skirt hangs correctly when she is dancing – I had terrible trouble getting it attached to the bodice and getting the zip in,and had to keep unpicking. Despite lots of pinning and tacking, it kept shifting under the needle - another time I will ask a favour of a friend with an industrial machine. The skirt is stiffened with craft vilene as well as the velvet and interfacing which makes it very difficult to manoeuvre. This explains why the time taken to assemble the dress is so long. I am intending to make a video of my daughter dancing and bring it to summer school with the dress so we can see how it looks when it is on and how it moves – I don’t think the photos on a dummy do it justice.
So, here is the breakdown of costs and time followed by my reflections on the project.
|Irish Dance Dress Cost and Timings |
Cost in £
|Calico for toile, 2m @ 1.62/m||3.24|
|Black cotton velvet 3.5m @ 7.29/m||25.51|
|Black polyester lining 1.3m @ 1.75/m||6.13|
|Digitally printed silk/cotton mix 3 yards (including p&p and import charges)||79.44|
|Bondaweb 4m @ 3.02/m||12.08|
|Stabiliser for machine embroidery 3.5m @ 3.49/m||12.22|
|Vilene interfacing 3.5m @ 1.95/m||6.82|
|Craft weight Vilene 2m @ 5.97/m||11.94|
|Metallic machine sewing thread 1 reel||2.65|
|Metallic stranded thread for hand sewing 2 skeins||2.90|
|Rayon thread for machine embroidery – 7 colours @ 3.50 per 1000m cop. Used about half of each.||12.25|
|General sewing thread for seams etc 1 reel||1.49|
|Bobbin thread for machine embroidery, 5 pre-wound bobbins||1.50|
|Total Cost||£179.22 |
|Time taken in hours|
|Pattern drafting, making toile, adjusting and fitting||15|
|Designing and samples, preparing embroidery designs||58|
|Surface decoration (free machining, digital embroidery, hand stitching, painting) and dyeing||81|
|Cutting out and making up dress||29|
Reflections on Making the Dress
Well, first of all, if I had seen those figures before I started, I probably wouldn’t have made it – 183 hours is a huge amount of time to spend on one project – no wonder I have been feeling chained to the sewing machine recently. It is surprising how large the total surface area to be decorated is; a single one of the six skirt panels would be a reasonable size for a wall-mounted piece. But I am glad I did perservere and hope she doesn’t grow out of it too quickly. I added large seam allowances, but I am not sure I could face undoing them to let it out.
I am generally pleased with the dress but as always, there are things that could have been done better. I like the way the colour changes and the curves sweep around but, as I have already mentioned, I should have brought the embroidery further down the bodice to better balance the size of the skirt panels. I love the colour and the feel of the green silk/cotton fabric but to be honest, the image I had printed doesn’t really show up, so I could have used plain satin and cut down on the costs. I think I have updated the classic three panel shape successfully by using an asymmetric design.
It took a surprisingly long time to assemble the pieces, but on the other hand, it was the first time I had made this style of stiff skirt and not having a pattern or instructions to refer to, I was really making it up as I went along. I wouldn’t have chosen to make this type of skirt but it is what my daughter prefers and I agree with her that the shape does suit her figure.
I really enjoyed the challenge of this project, I would love to make more dresses but preferably with the soft skirt style. Some I have seen recently have a very simple, almost plain gathered skirt so that all the emphasis is on the bodice decoration. It would also be good for my eyes to work in a colour other than black. If I were making a dress for someone else, I think I would need to go for a simpler design to keep the cost realistic (if anyone reading this is interested, I am open to offers).
I also found sitting down drawing knotwork designs very relaxing so I will be doing more of this at some point and incorporating it into my work.