The Alexander Henry Collection is a wonderful range of fabrics with delightfully quirky print designs. If you are into dressmaking, home furnishings or crafting, you have probably come across them. Some of the best known designs depict sugar skulls, cowboys and cowgirls, Hawaiian beach babes, vintage cars, Day of the Dead, manga and tattoos, but the collection is vast.
Earlier this year I purchased a couple of metres of “Love City” – the design is a monochromatic cityscape featuring buildings large and small, cats on rooves, flowers in window boxes, lovers under streetlights, joyful pooches, men bearing bouquets, birds in treetops, women leaning out of windows, stars, moons and of course lovehearts. The material is cotton and I’m pretty sure there is a small elastane content as the fabric stretches on the weft (horizontal) thread, making it perfect for dressmaking. Today I finally got round to making it into a dress, which was an enjoyable experience and, as always, has also been an education.
My main lesson learnt is that when you have a fabric with a large repeat (ie it’s a picture or scene) it’s best to cut adjoining pieces on single thickness fabric so you can see exactly what you’re going to see when the garment is made up. I tend to be quite impulsive and can’t wait to get on with a project, so cut my fabric as usual when it was doubled over and the picture was hidden. The back of my dress looks better than the front because there are no joins in the fabric (apart from at the waist) and so we see the complete picture of the fabric design.
The pockets could have been cut better too; with more forethought and more fabric to play with I could have made the pockets blend perfectly with the skirt so they would be almost invisible. As it was, I was very tight on fabric and had to change my neckline and sleeves from my original choice as I just couldn’t squeeze all the pattern pieces onto my layout.
For the first time ever I had my sewing machine sew on my buttons. This entailed dropping the feed teeth (which grab the fabric from underneath and keep it moving through the machine while sewing) and removing the presser foot. With a zigzag stitch selected, the button is clamped beneath the presser foot “ankle” and you can start. As the fabric is not moving through, the needle simply goes from side to side through the twin holes of the button until you tell it to stop when it automatically ties off. It saved loads of time and I will definitely use that feature in the future.
Overall I’m very pleased with my new dress, and although the weather is still a bit chilly here, I am wearing it now with a cardigan on top and thick tights underneath.
FYI my sewing machine is a Husqvarna Lily 530 from 1999. Pattern is New Look 6587.