Sunday, 11 May 2014

Completed: Sew La-Di-Da Sweetheart, with a little heartache...

Woah, this creation has been a long time in the works, and I have to say I'm not 100% pleased with how it's turned out. This is partly due to me using the wrong materials. But it's also partly to do with me not really getting on with the pattern and instructions-there have been long periods of me just not feeling up to doing any sewing because I couldn't be bothered to decipher the instructions. I'm not saying it won't work for everyone- but let's just say it wasn't really the most relaxing or pleasurable make for me, and it is supposed to be for 'Beginner Level 1'.  Settle in folks; there's quite a detailed rundown of all my gripes with this pattern below.

My first set-in sleeves! They look a tiny bit lumpy here, but overall they didn't come out too bad. I could probably have taken this in a little more at centre front- more on this below. 
OK, to be fair, let's start with my faults. I thought this would be really sexy in broderie anglaise, as the cut of the dress is quite modest, so having a little peek-a-boo action with the fabric would give it a naughty little edge. However,  to keep the dramatic neckline shape facing and interfacing is involved. I went for the angular neckline rather than the eponymous sweetheart, as I thought it might be easier. The pattern calls for iron-on interfacing, I had some other stuff left over from some vampire capes I cobbled together many years ago and decided I would use that.

Vampire Cape in action, modelled by Lady Libertine
Bad idea. It's far too stiff and made going round all those sharp corners hard work for my poor machine, so the sharp neckline is a little...blunt. It's gone a wee bit lumpy and isn't entirely symmetrical. Plus I had to sew a backing fabric on to my interfacing stop its crisp whiteness showing through the broderie anglaise, which created even more bulk to shove under my needle. I should have thought about this a bit more- broderie anglaise with facing showing through is always going to look a bit daft. Perhaps I should have thought about fully lining it.

Line drawing for the 'Sweetheart' dress
So- the pattern. It looks deceptively simple- but it isn't! True, there are relatively few pieces- the bodice and skirt are all cut in long sections together. But this isn't really a bonus in my opinion- A) because not having a separate bodice means that I couldn't line it, which would have looked far neater and more professional than my daft facings on my fabric, and B) because this means it's very difficult to adapt neatly to get a good fit. Once I'd sewn up all the seams and inserted the zip (I'm getting better at this but still it's still not totally invisible!) the dress was massive on me- it hung down like a tent from my chest. I took it in at all the seams- at the front and sides from bust to waist by just drawing a semi-circle in tailor's chalk and going with trial and error. At the back I took in from armhole to waist. If there had been a separate bodice this would have been much easier and neater! As it is there are tiny pleats where my adjustments have stopped at the waist. Not the end of the world- and maybe even a design feature in themselves? Anyway something easily hidden with a belt. But there are no instructions given on how to improve fit.

Front view with slightly asymmetrical neckline and waist pleats 
I think I've been spoilt really by starting out with the By Hand London patterns and having the online sew-a-long tutorials. It makes going back to grainy black-and-white printed booklets a chore. I have to say, although the presentation and packaging for the Sew-La-Di-Da patterns is attractive and the patterns themselves are printed on hardwearing thick paper, the instruction booklets don't have the highest production value (and mine had missing instructions! Although the missing steps are now available on the website).

Back view with awkward arms! As you can see it's a little bit cheeky and see-through. Depending on the weather/ occasion I could always wear a slip!
And, judge me if you will, I found the instructions myself a bit too brief and cryptic for me, and there are quite a few steps along the way that say 'depending on the nature of your fabric/ machine' without explaining how to make your choice. As a beginner I don't know enough to make a judgement call on what the nature of my fabric/ machine is!  And there are a few points where it feels like a step is missing or has been taken for granted- for example- the instructions for attaching the facings has no mention of joining the shoulders before pinning to the neckline- might be obvious for some but certainly not to a beginner! Also, there's no mention of hand-stitching down the facings once they're sewn on to secure them and finish off. The instructions and diagrams for techniques like understitching weren't at all clear to me- so I just went back again to good old By Hand London and found one of their 'nerdy sewing tips' to work out what to do!

So overall, a cute design but not a beginner pattern. A more advanced sewist could whip this up pretty easily but I'm sure they would make several tweaks of their own to improve the fit, finish and quality of the dress. I know I keep banging on about them, but with By Hand London there are recommendations on the different techniques to use and advice on why you might choose them, and there's always an extra step if you wish to take it to improve the finish or long-lastingness of your garment (such as how to add a lining or use a sturdier type of seam) if you want to go over and above the basic instructions. None of this in this Sew La-Di-Da pattern- in fact it seems a bit 'whack it all together as quick as you can and 'Ta-Da'!

I actually have another Sew La-Di-Da Pattern that I've bought some gingham for, again a gorgeous design, but I might make something easier in between to give my poor head a rest. In fact, as my burlesque troupe Salacious Sirens have a gig coming up I think my next post may be a guest one from Ottolie Divine as there's plenty of costume to whip up between now and showtime on the 23rd May! 

What are you making? Anyone doing Me Made May? I haven't made enough stuff to feel I qualify for this year!

Until next time,

NorseOtter xxx

Confession: I drafted this post before even completing the garment- I started writing to vent some frustration, and at the time still had hems and sleeve hems to finish, as well as neatening up the inside (which I will not be showing- it's a total mess!). 


  1. Hi there. I sympathise with what you say about sewladida patterns. Ive just nearly finished their Blitz teadress but I also found the instructions a bit cryptic to say the least. I also tried to go solo on the neckline so got into a bit of a muddle. see my efforts on my blog thegreatsewingmrsb if you're interested. Anyway happy sewing!

    1. Hi Andrea, just checked out your tea dress, lovely fabric choice! I hope it all comes right in the end. Glad I'm not the only one that's found the instructions tricky! I think they could have been better written for such an expensive pattern. I'm viewing my dress as a wearable toile (which needs --taking in again) and hoping the next one will be easier now I've found better sources to explain the techniques!