Saturday, September 22, 2007

11. Wedding "Theme" and Dress Design

Susan and her fiance have a vision for their wedding that expresses the idea of two unique and separate people joining together. They are going to use two colors throughout the decorations to capture this - each color representing one of them. Susan, whose nickname is "Sunny", will be represented by some shade of yellow or gold.

They have even decided to continue this theme into their clothes. While she hasn't settled on the final design, Susan is considering having the majority of her gown done in a creamy off-white, and the godet (and maybe even the bodice) in a golden yellow tone, with a lace overlay to mute the contrast a bit.

Here are some swatch samples to give an idea of the kind of look she has in mind:

There is more to their vision than this - I haven't really done it justice here. Maybe Susan will add a comment to this post and elaborate a bit? (hint, hint...)

In any event, I think that this is going to result in a truly beautiful and one-of-a-kind wedding dress - for a truly beautiful and one-of-a-kind bride, in a truly beautiful and one-of-a-kind ceremony! :)

10. Our First Fitting!

Sunday, September 16th was the big day - our first fitting! Susan spent the previous day dress shopping - seeing what was commercially available, getting an idea of what looked good on her and how much the dresses cost.

She emailed me some photos (clandestinely taken - apparently that was not encouraged by the shops she visited) and her thoughts ahead of time. She had found two dresses - one more formal and one more casual - that she really liked. And she was concerned about the Vogue pattern that she had picked - she was afraid that the folds in front and the side godet were not going to be flattering with her figure. But she did have some ideas for ways to modify the pattern to still make it work.

Truthfully, I was a bit worried. I wasn't sure if I could figure out how to incorporate the changes she was suggesting into the pattern. And I suspected that I was going to be "fired". Even though the most important thing to me is that Susan get THE dress - you know, the one that makes her heart melt and her knees tremble - regardless of whether it was one she bought or one I made - I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't be a little tiny bit disappointed if she ended up buying one.

But I wasn't going to throw in the towel until she tried on the muslin and we both got a chance to see how it looked.

We started with the lining, which I had completely assembled to the size that I thought would fit. It was WAY too big on her - easily a complete size too big from top to bottom.

So, while she patiently waited, I assembled the outer layer, increasing the seam allowances by one half of an inch. Then she tried it on.

It was beautiful! :)

My pictures don't do it justice, the fit still isn't perfect, it's been made in a cheap cotton and you have to ignore the bra straps...

But it was beautiful!

She looked gorgeous!

And I still have my "job". :)

9. Preparing for the First Fitting

After the cut fabric pieces had hung over night, I prepared them for our first fitting. The Khalje book recommended marking all of the stitching lines by basting them into the single pieces of fabric with thread in a contrasting color, and then joining the pieces by basting them together with a second contrasting color of thread.

The idea is that, once these pieces are adjusted to fit, the pieces themselves become the pattern pieces that are used to cut out and mark the real fabric. While the muslin is a bit flimsy, it's a lot sturdier than the tissue paper that the pattern is printed on!

By comparing the markings on the original pattern pieces, I was able to determine that each size was drawn 1/2 inch larger than the previous size. In order to adjust for the different sizes that I thought I'd need to fit Susan, I marked the smallest size at the bust, one size up at the waist and a third size at the hip, and then connected those marks with a french curve. Finally, I marked 5/8th of an inch inward from those lines, to show the seam allowance.

I did get tricked once - one of the pattern pieces only adjusted in size along one seam - not all the way around... Once I discovered that, I worked more carefully and so was not tricked by the two pieces (center bodice and godet) that were the exact same size for all versions of the pattern.

I will say that basting (I used the longest setting on my machine) and using two different colors of contrasting thread (in my case: black to mark stitching lines and red to connect pieces) did make removing stitches much simpler! I was glad I had followed that bit of advice! :)

Finally, I did not follow the instructions for assembling the dress. Instead, I basted up the lining to create a "stand alone" dress that Susan could try on first. In addition, I basted up the folds in the front of the outer dress, but didn't connect the pieces of the outer dress. I figured I'd have her try on the lining first, and then, depending on how it fit, assemble the outer layer accordingly.

8. Cutting the Muslin - Take Two

Susan, (like most of us!), fits in a smaller size above the waist than below the waist. After some deliberation, I decided to cut out all of the pieces in the largest size called for across all of her measurements and adjust around the bodice and waist by using larger seam allowances.

Given that this is a practice dress, I also decided to at least TRY each of the steps that I know will be important with the real fabric. At this stage, that basically means making sure that your fabric is "grained" correctly before cutting out any of your pieces. This ensures that the dress will drape beautifully. :)

First, you need to make sure that your width-wise edge is on the grain. (I guess the odds are good that the finished [length-wise] edge [the selvedge] is on the grain...)

There seem to be two main ways to do this. If the fabric rips easily, you can take a small snip near the cut end and then rip down the entire width of the fabric. This rip should be along the grain.

Luckily, this worked fine with my muslin.

Apparently the second method (for fabric that doesn't rip so nicely) is to literally pull a single thread out of the weave the entire width of the fabric, and then carefully cut along the gap it left. I think this is called thread tracing. All I can say is, "Yikes!"

Unfortunately, you are not done yet. Next, you have to make sure that your length-wise edges are perpendicular to your width-wise edges. Having a cutting board marked with a grid is helpful for this.

This picture shows what it is SUPPOSED to look like.

It actually looked more like this:

You can see how far off grain the muslin was... :(

I guess if you steam the fabric (with your iron) and pull / stretch it, you can often get it on grain. Truthfully, given that this was just the muslin, I worked with it even though it was a bit off grain.

Finally, you are supposed to let your cut pieces hang for a day or so, allowing the weight of the fabric to help bring the grain into alignment. (I learned these things in the 2 classes I took on PatternReview and am trying to incorporate them into my routine sewing practices...)

It took me the good part of a day to mess around with the muslin's grain and get all of the pieces cut out, so I went ahead and let my pieces hang overnight before starting the next step.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

7. Diversions

I must admit that I was a tiny bit discouraged to find out that I had cut out the wrong size. So, instead of plunging in and cutting out a new muslin, I took a short break and made up one of my TNT (tried and true) patterns today: a Hawaiian shirt for my husband. I used fabric that he had picked out this summer in Hawaii! (We went there to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.)
(To see my review of this pattern click here .)

Here he is in his new shirt:

It wasn't a complete waste of time, wedding-dress-wise, because I practiced a technique for attractive seams - I made French seams. A small tutorial on how to make French seams can be found here: click here

Here are a couple of close-ups of the inside of my husband's new shirt:

See, no raw edges showing anywhere! Inside or out!

Now, it's back to the wedding dress! :)