Animal print is all over the place now, and as you know, The Selfish Seamstress has a bit of a weakness for the stuff. Python is hot, leopard is a ubiquitous classic, snow leopard is waiting in the wings. Admittedly zebra and tiger have yet to pique my interest. But what I have really wanted for the longest time is a giraffe print wrap dress.
A suitable giraffe print stretch fabric is surprisingly hard to come by. Giraffe shows up frequently in decor fabric and quilting fabric, on velboa, and on minky. (ARGH do NOT get me started on minky and why it is that certain online fabric stores that previously sold Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren fashion fabrics at great prices appear to have switched to an all minky + cutesy cotton flannel format. WHO is keeping the minky business afloat? WHO is buying that much minky? Don’t say it’s the unselfish seamstresses who sew for kids (ARGH do NOT get me started on sewing for kids…) – even if you have kids and you ugh sew for them, can you really be putting that much minky in their wardrobes? Do they really need a whole lot of minky garments? Do your kids wear jammies all the time? Seriously? Minky?) Umm. So, as I was saying, it took me a long time to find the right giraffe print fabric. The thing about grown-up-appropriate giraffe stretch fabric is that when you do find it, often much of the giraffiness has been abstracted away, sort of like these:
Now, there’s nothing wrong with these fabrics. They’re perfectly lovely prints. But this was not the effect I was going for, not the wrap dress that had been simmering in my head for more than a year. No, I wanted something a little bit more naturalistic and detailed, something that looked as it if had been ripped right off the soft, warm neck of an innocent, adorable baby giraffe, like this one:
Or this one:
Or even this one:
You know, all the animal-y goodness with none of the cruelty. After much searching I found a suitably realistic (now sold out?) ITY jersey in shades of giraffey brown, tan, and beige at Spandex House:
I basically sat on this project for a while because I’m not fond of sewing knits. I graded the pattern down to 32, traced it, cut most of the fabric pieces and then put it aside out of a lack of desire to deal with it. And then this past weekend, a new love showed up at my door:
It was my new Babylock Evolution!
And so I replaced Dan with the new serger. And then Dan had to go out of town for a 2-day offsite at which point the Evolution, the giraffe fabric, the 9/2006 issue of Burda and I found ourselves with a few hours alone together.
(Yes, I am standing by a window in our living room that houses a small collection of carnivorous plants. Did you expect that Selfish wouldn’t take joy in watching the helpless insects who venture into her home being viciously trapped or slowly drowned by hungry plants, leaving nothing but slowly decomposing exoskeletons?)
I have to confess that I had never used a serger before, nor watched anyone use one, so I was kind of winging it. But the Evolution is so easy to thread and you don’t have to worry about tension adjustments that within an hour of pulling the German language manual out of the box, I was four-thread overlocking in glee:
The machine only came with black and white serging thread, so I used the black for the seams, and then used a twin stretch needle with brown thread on my Husqvarna Platinum (I still love you, sweetheart) to finish all the hems and openings.
I made some small changes to the pattern, such as making the ties narrower, removing a lot of ease from the sleeves, and omitting the facings (who does facings in jersey?) Instead I turned under the edge and used twin stitching to finish. I also shortened at the hem by four inches for an above-the-knee length.
The back could have benefited from a pinch taken out for swayback, but with this kind of lightweight stretchy fabric, I really don’t mind having a little bit of extra creasing in the lower back.
The one think that’s bugging me about this dress is that the shoulder sticks up a bit if I don’t have my arms hanging down by my sides, as you can see above. The sleeves are serged into the armscyes, so it’s not a matter of trimming seam allowance. Anyone have suggestions? Did I need to shorten the neck-to-shoulder length a little bit? The seam doesn’t stick up if I have my arms down:
Oh, and one other thing- although I don’t *have* to pin the neck closed, I am doing it anyway, as otherwise the neck is very deep and threatens to do a little sliding door action. The neck doesn’t gape (thanks to a SBA that I did on the pattern, and which I am thinking about rebranding as a DBA – Dainty Bust Adjustment) but it is a risky cut when not pinned, and one that I definitely couldn’t get away with wearing to work if my bust were any less dainty than it is. I’ll probably stitch a snap on.
So there you go, my first serger project and long-desired giraffe wrap dress. I must say, using the serger feels almost like cheating. The whole thing (minus pattern grading and tracing) took maybe 2 hours. I didn’t even pin most of the seams before I stitched them, and now there’s no finishing on the inside on which I am procrastinating. Just instant gratification.
And that’s right up Selfish’s alley.
UPDATE: Since there have been a couple of comments about the shoes, I thought I’d mention that they’re “Barbara” in shade rust, from Plenty by Tracy Reese. I got them over the summer and they’re fantastic- definitely some of the coolest shoes I own, and I can feel the envious stares of other women as I walk along the train platform in them. They also come in an awesome “calcium” shade, which I ruled out on account of already having another pair of wedge sandals in that color. Anyway, I just checked and they’re on sale at Endless for less than $70, which is a pretty good deal.