Sometimes making the first cut is the thing that takes the most time in sewing. A cut can’t be undone, so some projects never get off the ground because I am too scared to make that first cut. Before the first cut, the fabric’s potential seems endless. Each next step further limits what it can become. Of course, this is necessary and good. Potential clothing is impossible to wear.
I say all that to say that I finally got around to adding some embellishments to my jet lag dress. As I said in the post about this dress, I thought it looked a little uniform-ish and wanted to do something to make it more personal. Browsing through my Alabama Chanin books, I saw some “circle spiral applique” projects that I thought would be perfect for this dress. That was August 21st. Now, 43 days but only 3 hours of work later, I did it. I just had so much trouble limiting the potential of my dress (a.k.a. deciding how big, how many, and where the circles should go). In case you'd like to try this idea on something, here's a little how-to.
How to put circle spirals on a dress
1) Decide what your contrast fabric will be. I used a light yellow polo shirt that used to belong to my brother, then belonged to me, and then belonged to Jon. It matched the contrast thread already on the dress perfectly.
2) Decide where and how big things should be. I wanted one big circle and two different-sized smaller circles, all together but not touching on the lower right front of the dress.
3) Cut out your circles and cut them into spirals. I traced mixing bowls to get nice circular circles. I traced the spirals lightly with tailor’s chalk before cutting.
4) Pin your spirals onto your dress to make sure you like the layout. I thought two of them looked great and one looked bad with the other two, so I moved it. Not wanting to waste it, I tried it on various parts of the dress before settling on the left hip. It kind of looked like a pocket, and pockets are useful, so I decided to make it a pocket.
5) Pin down the spirals in a few places. (Pin the pocket spiral to a spare piece of fabric.) Don't obsess over how you want the spirals to fall; in the end, you won't have a lot of control over it. Overlap the end of the spiral with the place where you started the cut. Sew about 1/8 inch from outside raw edge of circle. This anchors the spiral so it won't get out of control when you do the rest of the sewing.
6) Sew around the rest of the edges in the spiral. Start from the outside where the spiral begins. Sew along that line until you get to the center, then turn around and sew the edge back to the outside. I found that the fabric naturally fell into a pretty nice circle-spiral partly overlapping, partly gappy position. It also puckered and gathered quite a bit. Instead of fighting the pucker, I decided to pretend that was what I had in mind. It’s a feature!
7) Make the pocket. You’ve sewn one spiral to a scrap of fabric. Cut the fabric as close to the stitching line as possible so you have a circle of base fabric with a slightly larger circle spiral on top of it. Sew that circle to the dress, leaving part of it open so you can put stuff in it.
I like my embellished dress. I think the spirals achieve their intended purpose of making the dress a little more personal and fun and less like a green nurses' outfit. I also love having a dress with a pocket! It’s not a huge pocket, but it’ll hold a cell phone, keys, and a few cards and cash. I still think the dress looks a little costumey, but that might just be because I don't wear dresses of any sort very often. I must admit that I really liked it today when people commented on my dress, and I got to tell them that I made it.