Saturday, January 26, 2008

24. Deconstructing the Muslin

All that work to create a well-fitted muslin version of the dress, and the next step is to take it apart! ;)
See, the idea is that, once you have the muslin fitting exactly the way you want, you turn it into your pattern for the real fabric. Here are the steps I followed:
  1. Mark all the seams on the assembled muslin with pen.
  2. Take apart the muslin and remove ALL old thread (there's a lot of it!).
  3. Baste over all the pen marks with brightly colored thread.
  4. Whenever necessary, trim to a 5/8th seam allowance.
  5. Overlay the original pattern pieces and make sure to mark all symbols on the muslin pieces.
I spent A LOT of time on this - probably 2, 6-hour days. My logic was that the more careful I was at this stage, the less work I would have to do modifying the real dress. You know, "measure twice, cut once"...
One of the things that I tried to be very careful about was working with the pieces that were supposed to match. For example, there were four pieces cut from the same original pattern piece at the back of the bodice - 2 to be cut in the silk and 2 to be cut in the lining. I paired up all 4 pieces, aligned their seams and then trimmed them together.
Here is a shot of all the bodice pieces.
Here is a close-up of one of the bodice pieces, showing how I labeled it, marked the seams with pen (while it was still assembled), and then stitched over the pen with colored thread. This piece still needs to be trimmed in a couple of places to make all of the seam allowances equal to 5/8ths of an inch.
I am so happy to finally be done with this step!
The next step - cutting the real fabric! I'll probably do the lining first. Then the silk organza I got for the underlining. After marking those pieces, I'll hand sew them onto the silk satin and then cut into the silk. There's still a lot of work ahead before I actually start assembling the real dress...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

23. Godet: Fabric & Lace

I cut the godet base fabric first. Why? Well, mostly because it is some of the cheapest and most easily replaceable fabric in this dress. ;)
The first question was, of course, was the fabric grained correctly?
The first answer: not too bad...
Here's the godet pattern on the gold fabric. The straight seam is actually aligned on a fold so that it will open out symmetrically.

The next logical thing to cut was the lace - unfortunately for my nerves, this being a jump from the least expensive and most easily replaceable to the most expensive and least replaceable material in the dress.

The next picture shows the godet pattern laid out on the lace. Right away, you notice a problem. The bottom of the lace has a nicely scalloped, finished edge. The bottom of the godet pattern is rounded and if I were to cut out the pattern exactly, the majority of that nice finishing would be lost.

In a stroke of serendipity, an experienced seamstress happened to be at the store where we bought this lace and noticed this problem when we were measuring it. She recommended the outline of a plan. (There are still a few details that I'm going to have to fill in for myself.) First, she told me to extend the cut down to the edge of the fabric.
Then, somehow (and this is the bit I'm vague on), I am supposed to do a kind of dart in the lace to make the finished edge of the lace line up with the hem of the godet. It's like a dart shape, but of course the extra fabric will be cut away and the resulting raw edges of the lace sewn together.

I know that Susan Khalje talks about this in her wedding dress book, so I'll go back and re-read that section carefully. I can already see one thing that I shouldn't have done - cut the side seam of the lace exactly on top of the side seam of the godet. This limits the extent to which I can fold up the lace along the side. I should have given myself extra width (an inch or two) in the lace along the side of the godet for wiggle room. I'm reasonably certain that I can still make it work (fingers crossed), but I think it would have been easier with that extra width.

22. Time Management Lesson Learned - The Hard Way

Where did all the time go?

It seems like just yesterday I had months before the wedding, and suddenly here it is - the end of January, with the wedding on March 8th - and I haven't even cut out the pieces in the real fabric! :(

Using 20-20 hindsight, I realize that I made a simple mistake. I was estimating the level of urgency based on the number of calendar days between today and the wedding, when what I should have been using was the number of days I actually have available to work on the dress!

It turns out there is a very big difference in those 2 estimates! Most months have somewhere between 30 and 31 days in them, right? Plenty of time... But between a full time job, some volunteer tutoring, household chores and Saturday afternoons rock climbing with my husband and our friends, I typically only have 3 or 4 days available when I can really devote a reasonable chunk of time to working on the dress. So suddenly my 30 day month becomes the equivalent of only 3 days worth of progress! Yikes! :(

I hope I can remember this lesson for other projects in the future. For now, I just have to commit all of my time to the dress. Obviously, this may include letting some of the above slip a bit. I may even have to take a few days of work off in February. Hmmm... Staying home to sew instead of going into work - it'll be rough, but I'll try to find some way to bear up under the strain... ;)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

21. Interlining Indecision

I've been going back and forth about my decision to not underline (interline) the dress. Originally, I decided not to, because the silk satin can hold the folds by itself and I am inexperienced with this technique and thus was afraid I might mess it up.

More recently, I've come across some things that made me doubt that decision. Several of the blogs I read regularly have talked about underlining their outfits and the benefits - one that grabbed my attention was the ability to mark all of the pattern markings on the underlining, not on the fashion fabric. Another blogger (and I'm so sorry, but I can't remember who) talked about how the underlining fabric helped her control the silk fashion fabric. I haven't worked with silk before, but if it's difficult to control, then I would like all the help I can get!

Finally, the latest issue of Threads magazine (Tauton Press) had an article on underlining/interlining by Kenneth King, and he recommended cutting out the underlining first, hand stitching it to the fashion fabric, and then cutting out the fashion fabric.

Last night I couldn't fall asleep - I just kept wondering what to do. Finally, after 11 pm, I gave up and hopped on the internet, buzzed over to Thai Silks and ordered 7 yards of silk organza. I paid extra for rush delivery - the wedding is March 8th and I'm starting to feel the press of time...

I hope this was the right thing to do.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

20. Never mind...

This is so weird. Susan and I did our "fitting" in the restroom at the climbing gym Wednesday evening. Using pins, I tried taking the extra width out of the bodice in different distributions across different seams - the princess seams (the ones that come up over her bust), the side seams and the back center seam. For each attempt, we checked the alignment of the side seams with my homemade plumb line and Susan evaluated the look, security and comfort.

In the end, she preferred having the entire amount taken out of the back center seam. Of course, that's where I had it originally - but without putting any real thought into it. So I am definitely glad we checked it.

I haven't revisited the actual pattern pieces, but I suspect that this isn't truly "legitimate". (The back center seam probably remains constant across the various sizes and all the adjustments for size probably occur at the side seams.) Still, it does look the most flattering - other options seemed to squeeze her so that she bulged over the top a little bit (one of those things that was much more obvious to her than it would be to anyone else, but she's the bride...) And it didn't really mess up the side seams like I thought it would. So, there you go... :)

I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who has been following this blog and leaving comments for me. First and foremost, of course, is faeriekat - who has been encouraging me from the very beginning! :) Thank you so much!

More recently, some accomplished seamstresses, like Connie, aggietect04, and Emily have stopped by - your interest, encouragement and offers of help really mean a lot to me!

Knowing that at least a couple of experienced seamstresses check in here sometimes, I thought I'd throw out a question. This is my first time working with real silk - what am I in for? I read on one blog that someone leaves a generous seam allowance because silk frays at the edges. I read on another blog that it's difficult to work with, but I've heard lots of people rave about how nice it is to work with high quality fabrics (in general). What should I expect and are there certain techniques that I should consider - for example, would french seams be a good idea?

Thanks in advance for any information and advice you can provide! :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

19. Whoops...

Did I say "last" muslin fitting? My bad... ;)

So, over the last couple of days it has slowly dawned on me that I did something foolish during our fitting on Sunday. For some reason I took out all of the "slack" in the bodice along the back center seam.

While I think I ended up with an accurate measurement of how much the bodice needs to tighten up, I can't just take it all out of the back center seam without considering how that will impact the location and alignment of the other seams on the dress. For example, that might pull the side seams back so that they no longer fall along the side of Susan's body.

In addition, as I think I mentioned in my last post, the amount to come out along the top of the bodice is larger than it is at the bodice-skirt seam, which could result in (brace yourself!) side seams that aren't perpendicular to the floor.

I'm not sure exactly what horrible things will happen as a result of this, but I'm pretty sure that it can't be good - probably something about the dress not hanging or moving nicely.

So, Susan and I are meeting at the gym tonight to climb, and I'm taking the muslin with me. We will do a quick assessment in the changing room. I even remembered to bring my homemade plumb line - an empty thread spool tied at the end of a long piece of thread. You hold the thread under her arm and let it hang straight to the ground - the goal is to align the side seam with the thread line.

My goal is to figure out how much of the overall slack should be taken out at each of the possible locations (seams and darts), in order to maintain the appropriate locations and positions of all of the seams and darts. THEN I'll be ready to mark these seam lines on the muslin, take the muslin apart, and use the muslin pieces as the pattern pieces for the real fabric.

Thank goodness this occurred to me before it was too late… ;)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

18. Last Muslin Fitting!

Well, we had our last muslin fitting today. Susan came over around 1:30 pm, with her friend Angie and Angie's 2-year-old daughter. The skirt had been fitting well for a while - the real focus of my recent fine tuning has been the bodice. The other big thing that we hadn't resolved was the length, because she hadn't selected her shoes yet.

She finally had some time to go shoe shopping and was able to find a pair that she liked. They are mostly gold and are very dressed-up and fancy looking. I also had a pair (purchased in 1999 for a turn-of-the-millennium New Year's Eve party) that I thought would look good with the dress. They are a bit more subdued, covered in white fabric that matches the dress nicely. The heights were quite similar, and we could come up with pros and cons for each pair, so I suggested she wear each pair around for a while and then choose based on comfort. (I'm not a big shoe person - you can probably tell from that silly advice...)

Regardless of which pair she chooses, it looks like I can trim 4 inches off the pattern pieces and be left with enough for a narrow hem.

As for the bodice, despite taking in almost 4 inches around the bodice-skirt seam (based on our last fitting), it was still a little bit too big! How can that have happened? Clearly, Susan is sneaking around behind my back losing weight! The nerve! This has got to stop! ;)

Actually, most of that extra room was across the top of the bodice, not at the bodice-skirt seam, and I had not made any adjustments up there, so I guess this isn't completely unbelievable... Although it still astounds and aggravates me that I used Susan's measurements and the table on the back of the pattern to pick the size(s) to cut, and I'm now sewing at least 2 sizes smaller on the bodice (and 1 size smaller at the hips). What was the purpose of that table again?

In any event, the adjustments are small enough (and the wedding date close enough) that I've decided to mark them on the muslin pieces, but move on to working with the real fabric. So, today was our last muslin fitting. :)

Angie was a great help! I was so glad that she came. In addition to helping me pin in the necessary adjustments, she encouraged Susan to move around the room, sit down and stand up, etc. Even Angie's daughter helped - running over to give Susan a hug (so that Susan could lean down and pick up a squirmy 2-year-old in the dress) over and over again. Those mini-experiments helped give us all confidence that the fit was going to work and there wouldn't be any "wardrobe malfunctions".

Now to the part that I've been putting off talking about - the undergarment situation. I have lots of information about how to make a kind of corset that is built right into the dress - including detailed instructions generously provided by a professional on the PatternReview website (click here).

But despite several attempts, I just can't seem to get a fit that provides the same shaping and support as Susan's strapless bra. And the bra fits under the dress... The only bit I'm wondering about is whether or not there will be a small ridge visible through the fabric the marks the top of the bra. It does show with the muslin. But the silk is thicker, and there will be boning in it, and it will be covered with lace that has a lot of detail in it...

In the end, I think we all pretty much agreed that the small negative of the ridge (which may not even show in the real dress) doesn't compare to the large positive of the nice shape that it gives her. So we are going to go with that strapless bra.

As long as I'm admitting this, I might as well admit my other big "sin" - I'm not underling the dress. This was another difficult decision. On one hand, I know about all the benefits of underlining. On the other hand, the silk satin will hold the folds by itself, and I don't have any real experience underlining (I don't think 2 half-size garments in an online class really counts as much experience, do you?) - so this is something that I could easily mess up. (Don't believe me? Read some of my earlier posts to see the things I've already managed to mess up!)

So, bottom line - there's a reason that professionals charge thousands of dollars for custom wedding dresses, and I am not a professional. Susan is not getting a couture gown - she is getting a dress made with love by a friend. Luckily, that means more to Susan than a "couture" rating... ;)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

17. We Got It!

For the month of December, as planned, Susan and I stopped into the Sewing Studio Fabric Superstore about once a week to keep an eye on her fabric. Instead of staying up to watch the ball drop, I was in bed by 10 pm on New Year's Eve - all in preparation for: The New Year's Day Sale! On January 1st, I got up at 5 am and was at the store by 6:30 am. I had been hoping to be first in line, but one woman actually beat me - by about 5 minutes. Another woman arrived about 5 minutes later and the 3 of us visited companionably, sitting on our folding chairs in front of the store for about 30 minutes before anyone else showed up. Then, slowly but surely, people starting trickling up to join the line. Susan joined me around 8 am and by the time the store opened, at 9 am, we estimated that there were around 40 people in line.

I had a list with all of our selections (including lining, button loops and 50 little pearl buttons!) and we divided up the list ahead of time, with plans to grab our respective bolts and meet at the cutting counter. Scotti (the person who had been helping us all this time) saw us at the front of the line and so he had the silk satin and lace out and waiting for us as we came in the door! I'm pretty sure that those were 2 of the first pieces of fabric cut that day.

The store had run out of one thing - the lining that we had picked - Ambiance Bemberg rayon. Luckily that's commonly available and I was able to order the exact color we wanted on the Internet that same day. (It's already arrived.) I had a bit of difficulty finding the golden fabric for the godet, but Susan was able to pick out the right bolt from across the room. We were out of the store by 9:30! Pretty amazing!

It's very difficult to get a photograph that accurately reflects the colors, especially the just-off white of the silk satin, but here goes my best effort. The first shot shows the silk satin for the main dress and the gold (polyester) satin for the godet with the champagne lace on top of it.
This second shot shows the silk satin with the champagne lace laid on top, as we have planned for the bodice.

The colors aren't perfectly represented, but the fabrics really look beautiful together and using the same lace for the bodice and godet really makes the whole thing come together.

We're scheduled for our final muslin fitting next Sunday (Jan. 13th) and then... Then I have to find the nerve to cut into the most beautiful (and most expensive!) fabric that I have ever touched in my whole life... ;)