Saturday, February 23, 2008

32. Construction Begins... The Bodice and a Lace Decision

Due to important meetings and out-of-town visitors on the Tuesday and Wednesday after President’s day, I had to go in to work. But it’s time to get serious about finishing the dress, so I took off from last Thursday through next Wednesday; that’s 6 days to sew and 1 day to attend Expo.

On Thursday, I got to work on the bodice. One big topic I haven’t spent much time on yet in this blog is the boning. Last Fall I envisioned writing a post called “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Boning But Were Afraid to Ask…” – I was completely amused by the word play, as if I was the first to notice it. (Yeah, right.)

Unfortunately, I had to ditch the idea because I can’t even begin to pretend that I know enough about boning to write such a column. I did start a thread on Pattern Review asking for advice (
click here to read) and received tons of advice from the knowledgeable and generous community there. Interestingly, I also accidentally started a bit of a (gentle) dispute – it turns out that there is no globally agreed upon answer to the question of what type of boning to use, but there are people with strong opinions… ;)

While it is called “boning” because it used to be made from whale bones, the three main materials in use today are steel, plastic and spiral steel. The main disagreement appeared to be between proponents of plastic and proponents of spiral steel. (Nobody lobbied for steel.)

What I got out of the discussion is that spiral steel moves in more directions than plastic and thus may be more comfortable for the wearer (although plenty of people said that plastic can be perfectly comfortable), but is difficult to snip and cap. Plastic, on the other hand, is relatively easy to snip and the ends just need to be smoothed off with something like emery boards, can be gently shaped with heat over a pressing ham and will hold its shape well, but it doesn’t have any give in the side-to-side direction.

Boning is so cheap that I bought some of both types to play with. But I totally cheated on the spiral steel, and bought a number of different pre-cut and pre-capped lengths that were as close as possible, without going over, the lengths that I would actually need. So I didn’t mess with snipping or capping at all. In the end, I liked the spiral steel better and so I used that. I also bought boning channel tape, so that I didn’t have to make my own. (I got everything from Farthingales in LA [] and was very happy with their great service!)

As for the actual construction, I began by gently taking apart the lining bodice and then re-sewing it using French Seams (click here for mini-tutorial). As per the pattern instructions, I attached the boning channels to the lining after it was assembled. Because I didn’t snip the bones to the exact lengths of the seams, I did have to adjust the location of some of the bones to a spot where they best fit between the upper and lower seam allowances. I also put in twice as many bones as they indicated. Here’s a picture:
Then I turned to the silk satin and constructed the outer bodice. I worked slowly and carefully, pressing each piece before and after working with it. It came together nicely and looked beautiful! I didn’t use French Seams here, because I expect to press the seams open and hand-stitch the seams to the organza underlining. Finally, I attached the lining and outer bodice. Here are a couple of pictures:

With all that handling, the silk satin started fraying horribly and I sent panicked emails to Julie (the woman who made this dress for her goddaughter’s prom and posted the review
click here for her review) and Sarah Veblem (the woman who taught the excellent class on underlining on Pattern Review click here for class description). Both have been graciously helping me with the miscellaneous questions that have been popping up as I work on the dress. Both agreed that I could serge the cut edges. Sarah recommended an alternative as well – encasing the seams in a binding made of organza. I’m pretty much out of organza at the moment (except for my press cloth), and it felt like an emergency, so I serged it before the entire bottom seam allowance frayed away.

I still have some finishing details – pulling out the basting stitches and hand securing the seams open – but the bodice is basically complete!

I particularly wanted the bodice done that day, because Susan came over that evening (to spend the night and attend Expo with me the next day) and I wanted her to consider the big lace decision – how did she want the lace on the bodice aligned? This question could be broken down (primarily) into 2 sub-questions – vertical placement and horizontal placement. These pictures illustrate the options she is currently considering:

What do you think?

One last bit of good news – my new labels arrived! I felt like the labels I usually use when I sew were too casual for a wedding dress. Here is one:

(I get these from Name Maker - .)

So I ordered these from Heirloom Woven Labels (

The next few days are going to be a flurry of sewing – I’ll try to keep my posts up-to-date with pictures of the dress as it comes together.


Anonymous said...

GORGEOUS lace!! I like the top 3 pics, probably the one w/ lace extending the most above, followed by the other one w/ dome shape centered. BUT I think it would depend on Susan's build, shoulders, etc, so it could end up that the heart shape centered may look best on her. My 2 cents for what it's worth!! -Kathy

Anonymous said...

Can we pretty-please see the lace ON Susan to make a good decision? Or is that bad luck ;)

Wishing you happy sewing thoughts and positive machinery vibes!