Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Raving for Rayon Challis


As a child I enjoyed watching the A-team "I pity the fool!" and the phrase "I love it when a plan comes together" has stuck with me over the years. This dress started as a pitiful dress and was an example of a plan not coming together! Read on to see what went wrong, then right.

I was tremendously excited to see the new line of designer rayon challis by Riley Blake Designs. The prints range from bold and colorful to subtle and muted. The fabric is silky with a smooth hand and lovely drape. I fell in love with several of them with the mind to make vintage maxi dresses from patterns in my stash. I chose the Tidalwave design for my first project.

After much deliberation and consultation with a friend, I chose Simplicity 5383 from the '80's. I love the full maxi length, the square neck line, the gathered inset, shoulder ties and side seam pockets. I felt it was a perfect pattern to showcase this lovely fabric.

Rayon challis can be a challenge to work with because of its silkiness. I find it best to cut the fabric with my pattern weights, a rotary mat and cutter with a very sharp blade. These tools help me move quickly across the fabric preventing shifting as I go. 

During construction I find it best to pin aggressively to keep the layers together. and I like to use a serger to finish the seams.

I worked on this dress while video chatting with a friend as she sewed in her sewing studio miles away. I was really enjoyed the process of making this. My track record with vintage patterns has been very successful over the years. I know what size works for me in each of the big four brands and usually I have few fit issues. I tried on this dress and it was a frumpy disaster!

I made it exactly to size, but it was really wide and super long. Yes, this pattern has a lot of ease but it didn't even fit in the places that were supposed to be close to the body. I was disappointed. I put the dress in time-out and decided to rethink the project.

I considered converting it into a skirt, but in the end, I really wanted this to be a maxi dress.  I decided to modify it to work with McCalls 7405.

I have made this dress before and really like it. I thought the detail of the front inset of the original dress brought some added dimension to the overall look of my modified dress. Because there was so much excess fabric, I simply laid the new pattern on the center front and back folds of the dress and recut it. I eliminated the pockets out of resentment for the failure; I didn't want to do anymore work on it.   

The neckline casing makes it easy to adjust for more or less coverage with the back slit. 

Though the calendar is hinting at Fall, it is still Summer weather here in the Texas Gulf Coast. This lightweight fabric with the two leg vents is perfect for the heat.

I think I will use the other prints to make transitional tunics as we move into Fall. For those, I will use tried and tested patterns for guaranteed success.

Happy Sewing,