Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I hand-stitched these darts - twice! ;)
And I think it came out great! Even with close observation, I don't think anyone is going to notice my dart...
Finally, I basted the bottom of the lace to the bottom of the bodice and removed the baubles from the lace underneath that basting line. Next up: attaching the skirt to the bodice, inserting the lining, and adding a waist stay! There's still lots of work to be done, but the end is in sight! :)
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Susan, however, decided how she would like the lace to go. She asked to have the bottom of the scallops just over the top of the bodice. One of the things I belatedly started worrying about was how the lace would fit under her arms - something we would have known if we had tried it on her, instead of just putting it on the armless dressmaker's dummy. (I tried to tell Susan that we have to make sacrifices for beauty and fashion, but she insists on keeping her arms!)
So, I wrapped it around myself and discovered a different problem. The lace is floppy and doesn't stand up nicely when it is extended above the bodice. One possibility, of course, was to settle for moving it down level with the bodice. But I decided to try and strengthen it by putting some of the silk organza behind it.
Once again, I found myself regretting that I had washed the organza. It would have been stiffer if I hadn't. I called all the fabric stores in Lakeland (that took all of 90 seconds!), but no one stocks silk organza. So I used some of the left-over bits from underlining the dress and, to make up for it being washed & softened, I doubled it.
I only put it behind the scallops, because it would have dimmed the shine of the silk underneath the lace. Here are a couple of shots (front and back) taken partway through the process of applying the organza:
It took me longer than I expected to get the organza backing on and attach the lace along the top of the bodice. I still need to attach the lace along the vertical seams in the bodice and that's going to require adding tucks to get the flat piece of lace to conform to the shaped bodice...
Monday, February 25, 2008
Okay, is it just me, or is that wedding countdown starting to freak you out too? As long as the number was over 20 days, I was fine. But 11 days!?!?! I may have to take it off my blog... ;)
I spent the weekend working on the skirt. First, I completed the skirt lining - including french seams and a narrow machine hem (as taught by Susan Khalje in her online class at patternreview.com on "Top 10 Couture Techniques".)
Then I moved on to the silk. I serged all the edges to prevent fraying and started by hand-stitching the folds into the skirt front. Then I put the darts in the back pieces and sewed the side seams. Of course, there is a big gap on one side for the godet...
The fabric needs pressing, but the silk satin is never going to be perfectly smooth - that's just not in its nature... In any event, here are a couple of shots:
First, a view of the whole skirt from the front:
Second, a closer-up shot of the folds:
I spent today working on the lace for the godet. You may remember from way back when I cut it out, that the godet has a curved bottom and thus the finished edge of the lace doesn't naturally line up with the godet's bottom.
When we were measuring the lace in the store, a professional seamstress who makes wedding dresses (among other things) for a living was watching, and she recommended that I put a dart in the lace to get the finished edge to match the godet bottom. She also told me to use tissue paper when sewing the lace, to get it to move smoothly through the feed dogs on my machine. (I've done this before when sewing vinyl - it's a great tip!)
After re-reading the section on lace in Susan Khalje's book, I spent some time studying the lace to see if I could find a way to cut into it that preserved the pattern. I only had a very small left-over piece to experiment with; I tried a couple of different cuts, but couldn't come up with anything that worked.
So I went ahead and tried "brute force" - I just folded the lace over, stitched in a dart, cut away the excess and took a look. When you held it in your hands, you could definitely see the seam. But as soon as I held it up against the wedding dress fabric and stepped back an arm's length, the seam seemed to disappear. So, that's what I did with the godet lace...
Here is a picture that shows the approximate size and location of one of the darts. (I put in one on each side.)
Probably the most difficult step was getting the tissue paper wrapped around the lace and maintaining the location of the stitching line for the dart. Here is a shot at the machine:
Oh, if you are wondering, the answer is - Yes, the more wild and crazy the tissue paper, the better this technique works... ;)
Once the dart has been sewn, the next step is to gather all your courage and cut away the excess lace. I tried to trim very close to the stitching line.
Finally, you peel away the tissue paper...
...and open it out.
The stitching line does show in this picture, but when I hold the godet up to my body, I can't see it in a mirror and my husband can't see it when I stand right in front of him. :)
Saturday, February 23, 2008
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 [http://www.farthingalesla.com/] 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:
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 - http://www.namemaker.com/ .)
So I ordered these from Heirloom Woven Labels (http://www.heirloomlabels.com/):
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.
In the morning we took a 3-hour class entitled “Body Type Pattern Selection” with Cynthia Guffey (http://www.cynthiaguffey.com/). It was our first experience taking a class from Cynthia Guffey, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be our last. Cynthia is a high energy, highly entertaining whirlwind. She cuts right to the heart of things in a matter-of-fact, yet wry way that is funny and compassionate without pulling any punches. While the class wasn’t quite what I expected, it was very interesting and valuable.
On the pattern selection topic, I think her main two points were:
1. To get a proportioned line with your body, you may need to build up smaller areas with your clothes to bring them more in line with your larger areas. This goes against our natural tendency to show off our good areas by wearing fitted clothes on those parts.
2. To make clothes fit well over generously proportioned areas, you need patterns with additional seams in those areas – princess seams in a blouse, gored skirts, etc.
She also touched on fitting, especially tops, and explained two frequently overlooked measurements that, if adjusted for, should ameliorate many fitting problems – the shoulder slope and the back curve. (She has 9 fitting DVDs, if you are interested in learning more.)
She talked a lot about small changes that bring attention to and flatter your face. Her argument was that you should echo 2 aspects of your face – the shape of the features (round versus angular) and the amount of contrast between hair, eyes & skin – in the clothes and accessories that you wear around your face. She gave a powerful example of what she meant by contrast by having us imagine Elizabeth Taylor and Sissy Spacek; two beautiful women who should (and do) dress very, very differently because their natural colorings are on extreme ends of the contrast continuum.
Finally, she had each class attendee come up to the front of the room for a quick assessment. She identified their facial features and contrast, indicated if they were dressing and accessorizing appropriately, and discussed the types of patterns they should select. After asking each person if she would prefer a top or skirt pattern, Cynthia identified a pattern from her line that she thought would be most flattering for that person and noted it to be mailed out after she returns home from the Expo.
Susan and I were among the last to be called to the front of the room, so I spent some time thinking of what she was likely to say about me. I think my face is round and my contrast is low, so I expected kudos for my round glasses and round jewelry and the blouse I was wearing in muted colors. My problem area is a thick middle, so I expected her to recommend a gored skirt.
If there was any thought that I might have psychic abilities, the question has been resolved once and for all, and the answer is no.
I was shocked when she announced that the round glasses had got to go, because of my angular features, I needed a more blunt haircut without the curves, and I was NEVER EVER AGAIN to wear muted colors or floral prints. (I wanted to ask if kitten prints were out too, but didn’t get a chance.) She said I should I go for angles, contrast and drama – in my glasses, hair and clothes. She did warn me that I could be an intimidating presence if I went too far…
She didn’t mention my thick middle. She recommended an A-line skirt and said that I have a cute butt. (She even had me turn around and show it to everyone. Yikes!)
My very first reaction was shock.
My second was something along the lines of, “How can I have lived 45 years and be so wrong about myself?”
With some thought, however, I realized that I haven’t actually been wrong, I was just reacting in the opposite way to what she was recommending. While I may never have used the word “angular”, I’ve always known that I don’t have small, pretty, feminine (i.e., round) features. I deliberately select round frames and round haircuts to try to soften my features – instead of selecting angular accessories to play that up.
And I do enjoy wearing bright colors – even if I hadn’t realized exactly that muted tones were washing me out in such an unattractive way. So, I’ll be more careful with the colors right away, and I guess I’ll spend some time thinking about whether I want to continue to try to soften my features or experiment with repeating them in my accessories and clothes.
We ended up with only 30 minutes to grab a quick lunch before our 3-hour afternoon class, “Super Slick Serger Tricks Workshop” with Diana Cedolia (http://www.simplydianaandkothy.com/). This was a hands-on workshop and it was fantastic! We each a serger to work on and a packet of pre-cut pieces of assorted fabrics in various sizes. Diana walked us through a number of simple techniques with wonderful results! Here are some of my results.
First, a blanket stitch and my first attempt at using a gathering foot.
Second, a crisp serged corner, a tote bag bottom and a piped pillow top (from my first time using a piping foot).
At the very end of the class, Diana demonstrated a few tricks using a machine that can do a cover stitch. The whole class was a blast and I learned a lot! I have 8 specialty feet for my serger that I’ve never used, and I’m really looking forward to doing more than overlocking a seam and coverstitching a hem!
Finally, from 4 to 6 we wandered the exhibit floor. We were both trying to be “good” this year and not spend much money. I only had one item on my shopping list – champagne colored silk thread to attach the lace to the bodice of Susan’s wedding dress. We located that right away, and then worked our way systematically up and down the aisles exploring all the booths. In one booth with lots of quilting fabric, I found this print:
It is perfect for my Mom (a classical musician) and I’ve never seen the print anywhere before, so I bought her a half yard panel. It would make a nice cover for the chalk bag (making a rock climbers chalk bag) I made for her!
I was drawn in at a booth selling patterns for making quilted jackets using a sweatshirt as the pattern pieces and batting. One particular pattern/kit – very bold, wild and dramatic (Cynthia Guffey would have approved) kept calling to me. I turned to Susan and jokingly asked, “Aren’t you supposed to hit me?” and – she did! Right in the arm! Ouch!
Just a cautionary note to everyone – I’d minimize rhetorical-question-asking around Susan. (I’m not blaming her – I DID ask for it…) And, it worked. I put down the pattern and we moved on to the next booth, which happened to be selling patterns and materials for making undergarments – something that Susan has been thinking about getting into for a while. She really liked the products, but eventually put everything down, collected a business card with a website, and we wandered along our way.
The last two aisles of the exhibit hall contain some of the fashion contest winners and the quilts. Talk about inspiration! I’m just a hobby seamstress, but I know Art when I see – and those quilts are Art!
Finally, around 5:45, we decided to head home. We started in on some
** foreshadowing alert **
premature self-congratulations for our shopping restraint. I had only purchased one spool of silk thread and one half-yard panel of cotton fabric for my Mom. Susan hadn’t purchased anything!
But, I think the realization that she hadn’t purchased ONE SINGLE THING was too much for her, and she decided to just nip back to the undergarment booth and pick up one pattern… and maybe some of that elastic in just the right width that isn’t easy to find anywhere else… and maybe…
Of course, as you may remember, the undergarment booth was right across from the quilted - jackets - made - out - of - sweatshirts booth (http://www.moonlightdesignquilts.com/), so I decided to loiter in there while she was making her purchases… That same jacket had gone from murmuring my name to calling out desperately to me! And the proprietress mentioned that it was her very last kit in that particular color & print combination and there wouldn’t be any more because it was from her last year’s collection… I think you can guess what happened.
Here are pictures of the pattern and the fabric that came in the kit. (You supply your own sweatshirt.) I may ask Barbara and her husband Jerry to help me make it.
So, it was a wonderful, wonderful day and we left the way the Fates (or at least the Expo organizers) intended – with less money and more knowledge, inspiration and projects than when we had started... :)
Monday, February 18, 2008
Next up: assembly! :)
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I was a bit worried about how long all the hand-stitching would take... As if she could read my mind (although more probably it was because of reading this blog!), Barbara, a very dear and long-time family friend of Susan's fiance, Matt, called me up out of the blue and offered to come and help! As an accomplished quilter, hand-stitching is one of her strengths, and I was all over that offer as quick as a bee to honey! ;)
Well, I did have one concern - letting her see MY hand-stitching... What if she passed out from horror and shock, and, while falling to the floor, hit her head on the corner of my cutting table and had to be rushed to the emergency room? I could just imagine trying to explain it to Matt... "You did WHAT to my Aunt?!?!?"
So, I did warn her ahead of time, and she generously made the almost one hour drive out to our house to spend Saturday afternoon underlining with me. We had never met before, but we clicked instantly and had a delightful afternoon.
When she arrived, I wasn't quite ready to begin attaching the organza to the silk - I had to make sure it was on grain and deal with ironing before we could start pinning.
As you may remember, in order to figure out the grain on the rayon and organza, I began by making a small snip near one cut edge and then ripping the fabric. The silk satin, on the other hand, declined to rip, so I had to use another method - thread tracing. I still started by making a small snip, but I used that openning to access a thread, and then I pulled that thread all the way through the entire width of the fabric.
Once the thread it was out, it left a "cutting line" that indicated the location of the crosswise grain. (Sorry for the blurry pictures - I haven't figured out how to get my camera to focus on close-ups.)
Once I carefully made the cut, we checked the grain. It looked really good! That's the last fabric for the dress and I am so thankful that I didn't have to mess with trying to straighten the grain on anything!
Next up: pressing. It turned out to be incredibly helpful to have a second person there to help with the mechanics of dealing with 6 yards of silk satin. We got it wrapped on the pvc pipe and worked out a nice system of ironing. We ironed on the back of the silk and used a large organza scrap for a press cloth - Barbara managed the fabric and moved the press cloth around and I did the actual ironing.
Then we started the pinning. I had us work on the (large) back skirt pieces, because I figured I could do the (small) bodice pieces pretty easily by myself. Barbara had lots of good advice from her quilting experience - for example, she showed me how to do a special knot and how to use a needle threader.
We got one back skirt piece completely stitched to the silk, and the second back skirt piece pinned and stitched up the middle. I finished stitching it later that evening, so both back skirt pieces are done! Yea! :)
It was a truly delightful afternoon - Barbara brought a small album with pictures of some of the quilts she has made for friends and family and I was just blown away! On top of her technical skill, she puts an incredible amount of love and thought into designing quilts that suit the personality and passions of the person she is quilting for...
And now she has put some of that same love into Susan's wedding dress. That makes two of us, and I'm pretty sure that when two people who care about you put love into your wedding dress, that makes the dress magic... ;)
Thank you, Barbara!
Sunday, February 10, 2008
So, with the lining ready to go, I turned my attention to the underlining - the silk organza. It was too wide for my ironing board, but, luckily, it didn't wrinkle as easily as the rayon, so ironing wasn't too bad. More happiness - it was pretty much on grain.
I was able to cut all of the organza pieces on Saturday. In general, the next step is to transfer the pattern markings to the organza, then pin the organza to the underside of the silk and carefully hand stitch around each piece. Once that is done, I will be able to cut out the silk pieces, and they will already be underlined!
On Sunday, as usual, I started with the cheapest and most easily replaceable fabric - the godet. I had actually already cut out the godet, so I flipped the plan and stitched the godet to the organza before cutting it out. This is one place where it might have been better if I hadn't pre-washed the organza. The godet fabric is polyester and very soft. It probably could have used the stiffness of the organza before washing. But the silk of the dress will be behind the godet in a kind of facing arrangement, so I think it's going to be fine.
Here is a shot of the godet pinned along one edge to the larger sheet of organza, and hand stitched along the other edge.
I've heard that you should stitch up the middle of "large pieces". I'm not sure if the godet qualifies as large or not, but it didn't fit on my cutting table and I knew I'd be shifting it around (which you are not really supposed to do), so I figured stitching it up the middle couldn't hurt.
I didn't know exactly what to expect from the process of hand stitching the 2 pieces together, but it was kind of peaceful. I also spent some time transfering the pattern markings to the organza, but haven't finished yet. I'm staying home from work tomorrow for a memorial service in the afternoon - hopefully in the morning I can finish the markings. Then (gulp) it's the silk satin...
Parting shots: When Jackson's 16-year-old brother and litter mate passed away, he sunk into a deep depression. It lasted for months, so we finally gambled and brought home two kittens, hoping that he would make friends with them. Looks like our gamble paid off!
Friday, February 8, 2008
I adjusted all the darts to get the center back edges of the bodice and skirt to line up. I basted it all together and basted in a zipper. Susan came over for a fitting.
Well, I suppose it could still be a smidge tighter (she could breathe), but I think I'll leave that adjustment for the buttons. ;)
It hangs beautifully.
I don't have to re-order & re-cut the lining, and I'll be able to use my existing muslin as pattern pieces to cut the underlining and silk - all I have to do first is adjust the darts.
I'm kind of in shock and still waiting for it to sink in. But I definitely feel a smile growing from deep inside... :)
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Okay, I'll try to get off the self-castigation kick and report what happened. I cut out the pieces for the lining and basted them together - first the bodice and then the skirt. When I went to attach the bodice to the skirt (for another fitting - this isn't the actual assembly process), the bodice extended a total of 6 inches (3 inches per side) beyond the skirt. Six inches! When the muslin was assembled, these pieces lined up correctly. In the process of disassembling it and preparing it to become the pattern pieces for the real fabric, I somehow managed to insert an error of that magnitude… :(
Not surprisingly, I didn't have the heart to take a photo.
I've been trying to figure out what happened and here is the most likely explanation I can generate: At our last fitting, the dress was still a bit big in the bodice. I determined the amount that it needed to be taken in. I had the options of (a) re-doing the muslin yet again and having another "last" fitting or, (b) just making those adjustments "on the fly" as I took apart the muslin and prepared the pattern pieces for the real fabric. I selected option (b). I think that, when making those adjustments, I must have accidentally taken that extra width out of the skirt twice (once at the back seam and once at the back darts), instead of just once. That would account for the discrepancy.
So, what's done is done.
And let's all take a moment for a silent prayer of thanks that I only cut the lining, not the silk!
What are my options for moving forward? I have two, actually. One is to order more rayon and start the lining again. This may very well be where I end up, but it turns out that I do have another choice worth investigating. There are 4 darts in the skirt, taking up a total of 8 inches in width. I can open them, free up 6 of those inches, and then put them back in, distributing the remaining 2 inches between them. This should result in the center back edges of the bodice and the skirt lining up.
In fact, I'm going to try this and have a fitting with Susan, to see if I at least have the size right! Then Susan and I will assess the look of the lining (Do all of the seams line up correctly? What is the impact of making such tiny darts on the way it hangs? Are there too many tiny holes in it? etc.) and decide whether it can be used or I need to get more fabric and start again.
Of course, I also have to figure out how to fix the error in the (muslin) pattern pieces for the underlining and silk satin before I do any cutting there. I really didn't expect to be having problems of this magnitude at this stage. The whole purpose of the muslin was to have all of this worked out before touching the real fabric. What in the world made me think I was good enough to take on this project? :(
It is a reference book, organized alphabetically, with 2 pages per fabric. One page has a photo and general information such as how the fabric is produced, common uses and some sewing tips. The second page addresses the same 14 topics for each fabric: pre-shrinking, layout, marking, cutting, interfacing, thread, machine needle, stitch length, presser foot, seam finish, pressing, topstitching, closures and hemming. Sandra recommended pressing rayon with a dry iron set to a medium temperature.
I wish I had remembered this book a bit earlier, as I had already pre-washed both the rayon and the silk organza (the underlining fabric). But a quick check indicated that I hadn’t done much damage. (Of course I had used cold water and the delicate cycle on my machine.) According to Sandra, pre-washing is the right thing to do for rayon, and softens silk organza. Luckily, I’m not depending upon the underlining to stiffen the silk satin, so I don’t think that’s going to be a big deal. Phew! ;)
Oh, one quick tip I picked up on PatternReview for pre-washing. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who recommended it, but someone suggested serging the two cut edges of a piece of fabric before pre-washing it, in order to prevent (or at least minimize) raveling in the washing machine. I tried it, and it worked like a charm! :)
I think it would work better if the sleeve (or slipcover) fit more snugly, but overall I really like it, and may try to work up something a bit more permanent than a freestanding TV tray… And I can envision something like this on my cutting table too.
After ironing - the big question: Is it on grain? The answer: Pretty close! :)
Next up – cutting, basting and one final fitting! :)
Parting shot: Sammy snoozing in the Florida sun...