Saturday 21 May 2011

Oolong Part One – the first of many posts I fear…

I’ve just started work on the Colette Pattern Oolong dress as a back up dress for my brother’s wedding (in case it’s too hot for my wool crepe swing dress). 

There are hardly any versions of this pattern out there  - I wonder why this is?  It’s such a flattering looking dress AND has no buttons or zips (always a big plus in my book), but still it’s thin on the ground.   The two nicest versions I’ve seen have been this gorgeous red number by Isaspacey and Amanda’s pretty flowery version.  In fact it was Amanda’s version which inspired me to try out the pattern.

The pattern arrived and I cast my eye over the cutting layout….  

... no words needed, just a deep breath.  The entire dress and the entire separate lining is cut on the bias from a single layer of fabric, no folding. I almost backed out there and then, but something about the dress was calling me. The Oolong has a 1940’s look about it with the gathered sleeves and the cut under the bust - so a vintage-y looking fabric was called for. 

I settled on this cotton lawn, if the weather does turn out sunny then it should be lovely and cool.  As it’s a wedding, I wanted a bit of luxury so I decided on a silk lining which I picked up at last week’s Goldhawk Road Fabric Fandango.  And that, my friends, was my fatal error.

Without doubt, this fabric has been the absolute worst I’ve ever sewn with.  Bar none.  I took Isaspacey’s advice and decided to use the lining as a muslin to check any fitting issues.  It took ages to cut out and just wouldn’t behave itself.  However much I weighed it down and held it still, as soon as I’d cut each piece out it immediately changed shape.  

It all looks a bit sinister but it's just the lining fabric stretching
I then had to let the pieces hang for 24 hours, then press and stretch each one before the sewing machine even saw the light of day.  Tedious and tiresome.  And the icing on the cake?  I cut a size too small.  Grrr.  I had enough fabric left to cut out another bodice in the next size up and thankfully, this was a good fit.  So, I sewed the skirt section up and tried it on.  Disaster.  Yes, it also could have done with being the next size up but that wasn’t the problem, it was the feel of the lining fabric that was just dreadful.  It was so static and absolutely clung to me, I felt like I’d been wrapped in cling film. 

You can see how much better the fit is on the top half compared to the bottom

The skirt has to be sewn with a zigzig stitch which puckered like mad on the silk lining
The pictures on the dummy are pretty accurate of how the dress looked on me size-wise but NOT a true representation of what it looked like on me cling-wise!  BUT, through the darkness I can still see that the dress is perfect for the curvy figure - even resembling sausage meat forced into a skin it was extremely flattering. I’m going to continue making the dress, but I’ve obviously made an error with my choice of lining (a BIG error, I'm definitely out of pocket). After a lot of pondering and dreams about it, I’ve decided that the best lining for a bias cut dress made from cotton lawn is more cotton lawn. I like the idea of a traditional lining fabric, but can’t bear the thought of it clinging to me like a limpet.  I'm hoping that cotton on cotton won’t have any clinging issues and will give a nice, smooth finish. 

I’ve 95% made up my mind on this but any advice on what lining has worked for you, and what to avoid (well, I can answer that one already) would be very welcome. I think I need to step away from it for a few days though. The saga continues…


  1. Only advice I have is I've lined a skirt with cotton before and the outside was cotton and it tends to hitch up and think it's the lining clinging to the outer and pulling it up. How about one of those anti static linings? I know it's man made fibres but find them a better lining for A-line skirts than cotton.

    How about you keep the silk lining on the bodice if that now fits ok so at least you haven't got man made fibres on your top half to keep you cool and you won't have to cut out that part again?

    Good luck! It's awful when something goes wrong and am really sympathetic to your dilemma.

  2. I have no advice to give, but I wish you lots of luck with it! I take my hat off to you. I would have given up ages ago, or most likely not even started!

  3. Yikes, it must be a pain to sew with it on the bias! It is pretty though.
    I lined my beignet skirt it a normal polycotton. Its fine without tights, but with tights it hitches up at the back which then pulls the front up. Not a good look. But if you're planning on not wearing tights, I think it'll be fine in a cotton :)
    Ashley x

  4. oh no!!! Sorry to hear about the lining conundrum! What about a slip? Or you could try underlining (attaching the pieces together and treating as one piece)? I don't know how that will behave with something cut on the bias though!

  5. Ouch, that can be frustrating! I second what Debi says, maybe trying a batiste underlining? Just a guess though, hopefully someone who has made this will be able to help you.
    It is a gorgeous dress though!

  6. Wow Jane, you are one determined lady! Good luck with it all, with your skills you will end up with one gorgeous-looking dress, no doubt about it! I've seen some anti-static lining that might work, or like Debi about a slip?

  7. Oh dear, what a nightmare. Mena at Sew Weekly just made one of these and used a slip instead of a lining so that may be the way to go??

    Maybe like Maire suggests an anti -tatic lining would work, but hate the way they stick to my body when i get hot, so I'm with magpie mimi in keeping the silk for the bodice lining.

    Hmm good luck on this quest.

  8. I can't provide any practical advice, except agree with your decision to step away for a while, in case you make a hasty decision. That cutting diagram looks pretty intimidating!

    I don't think I'd seen any versions of this dress until I saw The Sew Convert's, which is lovely:

    Good luck!

  9. Oh, Jane! I feel your pain SO much. All that work; all that frustration; all that money wasted. I wish I had some words of advice but I don't. I've never tried working with a silk lining, but I can totally understand all the problems you've been having ie with finishing the seams and the fabric moving the minute you touch it with a pair of scissors. All I can say is WELL DONE YOU for persevering. You are a saint amongst sewists. And oh - you're right. The silhouette is va-va-voom!

  10. Hi Jane!

    Working with bias cut patterns, pieces and garments is a little rotten isn't it? This is very similiar to how my first bias project turned out and I swore up and down that I would never touch bias again. But I've learned a few tricks since then. I don't think all is lost here, but here are some of my own tips.

    Use a longer stitch length than you probably normally do - like a 3mm. You can straight stitch or zigzag, but longer is better so that when the bias shrinks back up it won't pucker.

    As you sew, pull/stretch the seams as you go (just a little, don't try to distort it). It really does work and helps the seams not to pucker too!

    One more tip when sewing is to sew strips of tissue paper or freezer paper to the actual seams. Then tear them away after you've sewn your seam.

    I personally don't think that hanging the pieces - like the pattern says - really helps anything. Instead, hang the finished garment for 24 hours.

    Don't finish the edges with a serger - not that you did - instead pink or zigzag after you sew the seam.

    Definitely using a slinky silk fabric is harder to work with. I think that if you try a cotton lawn it will work better for one of your first times working on the bias, but I think you can still selvage this piece too! Oh I do know how you feel! Bias is so tricky! But gosh look how lovely it just hugs those curves! Hopefully this helps a little!


  11. No advice, just total admiration!

  12. Sorry the Goldhawk silk's not worked out as you planned Jane. It will be a killer dress though, but I feel your pain! Slinky fabric + bias = super challenge. I'd also be tempted with a slip too .......but I reckon you've got the grit to master it, so well done for where you've got to so far!

  13. Mena Trott from the blog "the sew weekly" did a 7 day colette challenge and this was her last one, here is the link to that blog entry...


  14. Hi Jane,
    So sorry you had the trouble with the lining.That is so frustrating,isnt it? I noticed someone else had mentioned that Mena of sew weekly did the oolong with out lining it.. She stated that she had talked with Sarai [colette patterns] and she said it would work fine with out lining..
    I have this pattern and I intend to not line it. It has facings already,so I think it would work fine.
    If I were going to line it ,I think I would try the batise cotton.It would be soft and easy to handle.
    I have a question too..On the I understanding it correctly....that you take the bodice and lay on top of the dress skirt and sew on top of it, instead of putting the right sides together and sewing them?? Would apprecaite your help on this one.. Really didnt understand it?? thankyou..

  15. Thank you so much everybody for your sympathetic comments, they were so spirit lifting and have made me even more determined to conquer this lining issue! The links to Mena's version on Sew Weekly were really useful and made me realise it's not the end of the world if I don't follow a pattern to the letter. My plan is to cut out and sew the dress using Sunni's invaluable tips (THANK YOU Sunni!) Then I'll make a cheap cotton lining as an experiment, if it's a smooth fit, great, if not, I'll wear a slip. I'm not planning to wear tights so it may just work. Thank you again all of you, it really means a lot to me. Jane x

  16. Hi Sew Blessed Maw, I thought I'd answer you separately in case my answer got lost in the general lining debate! On the bit of the pattern you mention, the skirt is laid on top of the bodice then topstitched in place (not right sides together). It still gives a neat finish because the top of the skirt piece is turned under - have a look at the picture of my dress on the dummy for a very rough idea of what it looks like (it's just pinned in place, I never got to the stage of sewing it together). This detail is used a lot in vintage patterns of the 30's and 40's. If you need any advice re top stitching pieces together here's a link from Casey's Swing dress tutorial which is pretty clear.
    Hope this helps! Good luck with your Oolong, would love to see how it turns out. Jane x

  17. Hi I've just found you via didyoumakethat? I have looked at the OoLong Pattern several times and nearly bought it so I'm interested to see how it makes up, I shall be following the progress. P.s. I'm Janey and known in my family as Janey that makes stuff so felt a connection as soon as I saw your blog title!

  18. Hi Janey/Bagqueen! I'll certainly let you know how I get on with the Oolong... glad to meet another Jane(y)! x

  19. Is that a polyester lining fabric? That is notorious for being staticky (is that a word? LOL). Ambience lining (made from rayon) can be tricky to handle, but is not particularly prone to static. I really like it. Silk linings are also nice. One thing you may try is starching the slippery fabrics to make them more manageable. Test on a sample square and see how it washes out.

    Good luck!

  20. Hi Jane! I tried to comment several times yesterday but Blogger wouldn't have it so I'm trying again. First, thanks for the link and the compliment! I do love this pattern.

    I did what Sunni suggested: lightweight paper pinned to the fabric to help keep my seams straight. I couldn't keep the Bemberg rayon lining fabric from slipping without it! I serged the seams though, which Sunni is saying not to do with bias fabric, whoops! Interesting that she's saying you can just wait until the end to let the fabric hang (rather than do the individual pieces at the beginning, which I did).

    This pattern definitely ran small on me too. I went 2 sizes bigger at the bust than what the pattern chart says I measure. When I saw Mena's use of a full slip I thought it was genius! Looks like others beat me to the punch on that one.

    I hope you keep going with this one because I absolutely love your fabric choice and I think we agree the Oolong needs more representation out there!

  21. I wonder if a walking foot on your machine might help - just an idea. I was using mine yesterday to stitch polyester wadding to cotton bag pieces, and everything stitched together beautifully without the wadding slipping, rucking or tucking as it usually does. In fact I wondered why I don't use it more often!

    Other than that I don't have any advice to offer with bias sewing.

    Don't loose heart, keep going and wow us all with your stunning Oolong creation.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...