In fact, if it hadn't been for the good old internet, I doubt if I'd have managed it. However, with the help of many useful links (all of which will feature in this post), I finished my dress in time to wear it to the PTA summer ball. By way of a reminder, this is the pattern I started with:
It's a DKNY design for Vogue and I fell in love with the clean silhouette, dropped waist and on-trend pockets. I wasn't quite so keen on the neckline - lovely for the day, not so great for an evening dress. And I do not do sleeveless dresses. So I made up a muslin, tried it on Mabel, and used this pattern from Ottbre to re-cut the muslined bodice, which I then used to make the final pattern.
It was a good plan and ought to have worked. But it didn't. This is primarily because I neglected to make up a complete muslin - sleeves and all. So when I had made up the bodice in the silk, all but the sleeves, I discovered that the shoulder seams were much too wide and gave the dress a dropped shoulder look, which did not go well with the high sleeve caps on Ottobre's sleeves. So... off to the internet for some help.
I spent an entire evening wading through Google where I came across some tremendously helpful links but the first real breakthrough came with this Threads article on how to fit sleeves by ensuring that the bodice fits. I went back to Mabel and wielded my tailor's chalk to some purpose.
This doesn't deal specifically with sleeve fitting but is really useful for other fitting issues. The photographs of badly fitting garments are particularly instructive. If only I'd read it before top-stitching the seams of my dress....
This was useful, if wordy, on matching the sleeve and armhole.
Once I'd re-cut the armhole (and then the sleeve), I was able to set in the sleeve. Ottobre recommended the method of sewing two lines of basting between the notches, pulling the threads to gather to size, and pressing to shrink the fullness. I did try this, but my pre-shrunk silk wasn't cooperative. I didn't want to trim any more from the sleeve cap (heck, I wanted to be able to move my arms in the dress!) so, back to surfing...
Gorgeous Fabrics' blog provided the answer. This is an amazingly clear tutorial on setting in sleeves by simply pinning & tacking them in place. It doesn't look as though it will work, but it really does. As these pictures of the finished dress prove. The overall fit isn't great, but by golly, the sleeves are smooth.
Which just leaves the neckline. I wanted it to have some pizazz so I trawled John Lewis to see what was in style at the moment. There were a couple of dresses with pleating so I had a try at a pleated neckline. I used some organza for backing, cut some bias strips from the scraps of silk I had left, and set to work with the iron. It isn't perfect, but it looks effective.
So I would say that I learned a lot from this dress. Not least that a dress that is snug before you add the lining is going to be uncomfortably tight once you've added that extra layer of habotai silk!
(By the way, if you're looking for a UK supplier of nice quality silk at a very good price, I heartily recommend Beckford Silks. Excellent customer service, reasonable price for delivery, nice products. NAYY)