Sunday, November 22, 2015

50 Hours In, and Here's What I've Got to Show For Myself

Bodice Nearly Finished and a Hat Plan
As you can see, I managed to get the bodice nearly finished yesterday with collar facing and sleeves attached, and the lower edge of the bodice finished with bias tape turned to the inside and stitched down by hand.  There is a lot of "by hand" in this project, as I'm discovering...  In case you're just now tuning in, I'm making a Christmas caroling dress using Simplicity 1818 and I need to wear it on December 3rd.
Double Fold Bias Tape Pinned to Bodice Front, Ready for Machine Stitching

Sewing in the sleeves was weird.  I'm used to sewing things that are pretty flat -- quilts and draperies.  Sewing a tube inside a hole was just all kinds of uncomfortable!  I used my free arm and, so I could concentrate on sewing a seam without puckers rather than watching my seam allowance, I used my little cloth guide attachment that came with my #97D patchwork foot.  I am also not used to what a 5/8" seam looks like, since I use 1/2" seams for home dec and 1/4" for quilts.

Setting the Sleeves
I am finishing every raw edge on this dress with a serger narrow 2-thread overlock, by the way, overlocking the seam allowances separately after sewing each seam.  My silk fabric frays so badly that it's practically disintegrating before my eyes as I sew.  How do I love my serger?  Oh, let me count the ways...

Once we got the bodice pretty much together (it still needs buttonholes and buttons sewn on), I decided to switch gears and make the ruffled trim from my black silk shantung.  For one thing, my pattern instructs me to finish the bodice with trim and all before starting in on the skirt.  I was also half afraid that, if I didn't have the ruffles already made and ready to go by the time I was ready to stitch them on, I might be tempted to skip them.

Simplicity 1818
I wasted a lot of time yesterday experimenting with how I was going to make my ruffles.  I had already decided that I didn't like the look of the wide ruffles shown in the pattern photo. 

February 1863 Peterson's Magazine
See how the period fashion plate illustration that inspired the pattern has five rows of narrow, flat ruffles or fringe rather than three wide, frilly ruffles like in the pattern photo?  I'd rather have more rows of narrower, flatter ruffles on my dress, and I wanted nothing to do with the convoluted method of sewing rectangles into tubes, drawing lines on the tube, THEN cutting my ruffle strips.  So I cut my ruffle strips the way any self respecting quilter would do it, using my rotary cutter and acrylic quilting rulers.  I don't even know how long my strips are -- I just folded my fabric up selvedges together and cut my 2 7/8 yards into 2 3/4" wide strips until I ran out of fabric, leaving just enough to cover the buttons for the bodice closures. 

Of course the black silk shantung fabric ravels and frays just as badly as the green silk shantung, so after cutting and seaming my strips into one ridiculously long strip, we starched it crisply with heavy spray starch and then I attempted to follow the pattern instructions, finishing the L-O-N-G edges with a "narrow double hem."  Well, first I tried the 4 mm narrow hem foot on my Bernina 750 QE, and didn't like the results.  Too wide, and too fussy getting the edge to roll properly.  Next I tried the 2 mm narrow hem foot on my 1935 Singer Featherweight sewing machine, and it was lovely... but I still had to sew fairly slowly to ensure the fabric was rolling around the metal coil properly, and I despaired of ever finishing the ruffle that way.  What's more, the edges of the long black ruffle snake were beginning to ravel as I handled the strip, and I worried that I would run into serious trouble trying to roll a severely frayed piece of silk by the time I was halfway through hemming the edges.

Silk Shantung Ruffle Strips, Raveling Already
So, SERGER TO THE RESCUE!  I know it's not "period correct," but I was able to get an attractive 3-thread rolled hem on the edges of my ruffle with only minor hiccups along the way, and I was able to serge with the pedal to the metal.  How long did it take me to hem both edges of my ruffle strip?  It took me four hours.  FOUR.  HOURS.  Four hours of running my serger continuously at full speed.  One cone of serger thread (YLI Elite) completely used up by the upper looper, too.  I have no idea how long this strip is, either -- I don't want to know yet.  Don't want to get discouraged.  But I am not going to gather it.  I experimented with the Bernina ruffler foot as well as my vintage Singer ruffler foot on the Featherweight and decided that I just don't like the look of a gathered ruffle for this dress.  I'm going to do a 3/4" triple fullness knife pleat ruffle instead, like the "plaited frills" on many of the mid-Victorian dresses on my Pinterest board
Circa 1862, Met Museum
That looks like a box pleat ruffle, don't you think? 

I just hope I have a long enough fabric strip to go around the bottom of my enormously full skirt a few times.  My pattern called for 5" cut width ruffles, but if my math is correct they were only supposed to be about 1.6 times fullness.  I need to put my pleated ruffle trim around both sleeve edges as well as several rings around my skirt hem, and I really don't want to have to buy more black silk and then spend another ENTIRE DAY making more ruffle trim!  I still have to pleat this stuff, too!
3-Thread Rolled Hem on Edges of Silk Shantung
Isn't it lovely, though?
Black Silk Ruffle Strip for Dress, Green Silk Ruffle Strip for Hat Trim
I was testing my serger settings on strips of leftover green dress fabric, and decided that I kind of liked the look of the black edging on the green silk.  So while I still had the serger set for a rolled hem, I made some green silk ribbon strips edged in black thread.  I'll use them to decorate the plain black costume bonnet that I bought on Amazon, because clearly there will NOT be time to make a special bonnet from scratch!

This dress still needs:

1. Buttonholes and buttons sewn on the bodice

2. A skirt (panels are cut and silk shantung fashion fabric has been hand-basted to the silk organza underlining -- Mom did that while I was making ruffles today)

3. Ruffles need to be pleated and stitched by machine

4. Ruffle trim, purchased gimp trim, and bows all need to be stitched to the dress.  (The trim definitely needs to be stitched to the bodice by hand...  But I wonder whether I could possibly get away with stitching my pleated ruffle to the skirt by machine?)

5. White blouse "undersleeves", not even cut out yet

6. Some kind of fichu or chemisette (per the pattern) to fill in the neckline of the dress

7. Decorate the ugly black cheapo bonnet

8. Still need to make a fabric cover for my music binder

9. I need to make a little drawstring purse ("reticule") for my keys, chapstick, etc.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I've already got close to 50 hours into the making of this dress.  I REALLY hope it's more than halfway done!

I'm linking up with Can I Get a Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt, and Design Wall Monday over at Patchwork Times.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Adventures in Flat Lining, Underlining, Basting and Dart-Making

Same Silk Dupioni Fabric, Dresses on Left Underlined with Silk Organza
Okay, so we're looking at this photo from my little sister's wedding in 2003 or 2004.  The bride picked out a teal silk dupioni fabric from and each bridesmaid got to choose her own dress pattern and seamstress.  The girl with short blonde hair closest to the bride is yours truly, and my other sister is the bridesmaid standing right next to me.  My mom made both of our dresses, underlining them with silk organza, and the other two girls are both wearing lined dresses made from the exact same fabric but without the silk organza interlining between the silk dress fabric and the lining.  As you can see, the silk organza adds shape, structure, and body to the thin silk and greatly reduces its tendency to wrinkle.  Since my green silk shantung dress fabric is very similar to the silk dupioni bridesmaid dress fabric, I decided to underline my entire Victorian Christmas caroling costume in silk organza.  Not only will this help to reduce the wrinkling of a dress that I need to wear to at least six events within a two week time period, but it will also strengthen the seams and help support the weight of the skirt trims and ruffles.  One more reason to underline the dress with silk organza is that although I am making this costume, my mom is helping me every step of the way to make sure I end up with a wearable dress, and I wanted her to teach me how she did it!

We're starting with the bodice of the dress, so we cut out all of the pieces in the green silk, the ivory silk organza, and the green poly/cotton broadcloth shirting fabric that I selected for my bodice lining fabric.  I basted the green silk to the organza through the center of each piece along the grainline, then draped the two pieces over my thigh right-side-up to pin and hand baste all the way around each piece within the seam allowances.  The reason I drape the fabric pieces over my arm or leg is to allow for that slight turn of cloth once the pieces are seamed together. 

Hand Basting Silk Organza Underlining to Silk Shantung, Right Side Up
Sleeve Section After Basting Silk Organza Underlining, Right Side Up
Stack of Basted Bodice Pieces, Wrong Side (Silk Organza) Up
I should mention that there was a collar facing piece that was supposed to get fusible interfacing -- in that situation, the interfacing gets fused to the silk organza PRIOR to basting the organza to the fashion fabric.  This was important to me as well because, had I fused the interfacing to my silk shantung fashion fabric, it would have noticeably altered the sheen of the piece that was interfaced and it would no longer match the rest of the dress.  All of the markings go on the interfacing only, and from this point you follow the directions and treat each piece as though it were a single layer of fabric.

Now I should point out that what Simplicity is calling "lining fabric" on the back of the pattern envelope is, strictly speaking, actually used as an UNDERLINING fabric.  Typically a lining is constructed separately from the rest of the garment, functions to conceal the seam allowances and other construction details, and is attached at the hems and facings of the garment.  Underlining (also known as flat lining) does not conceal any of the garment's construction, since it is sewn into every seam along with the fashion fabric.  So my first step of the instructions was to -- ugh! -- hand baste all of the so-called lining pieces on top of my silk organza.  Very annoying!  Would I still have elected to underline with silk organza if I knew the "lining" fabric was really an underlining?  Probably not -- but I'm glad I didn't know, because I really, REALLY like the way the three fabric layers are working together for my dress bodice.

Inside an Antique Nineteenth Century Dress Bodice
Interestingly, I found this photo of the inside of a 19th century dress bodice on an antique clothing auction site.  I was intrigued to see that it was put together almost exactly the way my dress pattern does, with a sturdy muslin underlining or flat lining sewn into the seams, and boning that is stitched to the seam allowances of the side and back seams as well as to the seam allowances of the darts.  This is a LOT like what my dress will look like inside out -- except that my seam allowances are getting serged instead of bound or whatever they did to control fraying 150 years ago.  Pretty cool, isn't it?

Stitching the First Dart, 3/8" Seam Allowance
After underlining and marking all of the bodice pieces, I learned how to sew darts!  I took pictures and I have to write down what I did so I can remember for the next time I sew a pattern with darts, so feel free to skip this section if you are already a seasoned Dart Diva.

This pattern called for 3/8" seam allowances in the bodice darts, and fortunately my Bernina foot #1D is exactly 3/8" from the needle to the right edge of the foot.  I am using my machine's Dual Feed feature for this project, and I'm sure it's helping all of these layers to feed smoothly and evenly through the machine. 

I sewed the dart up from the bottom edge of the bodice, until my needle was even with the place where the cut fabric seam allowance ended and the folded bit of the dart began.

Marking the Stitching Line for the End of the Dart

At that point, with my needle down, I raised my presser foot, laid a ruler from the needle to the dot marking the end of the dart, and drew a line with a pencil.
Sewing Along the Line...
Then, when I got to the dot marking the end of the dart at the fold line, I took a stitch right on the fold line and left long thread tails to tie off by hand.

Ta-Da!  It's a Dart!
This is how far we've gotten on the dress bodice so far.  Unfortunately, there have been a lot of setbacks -- LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES.  For instance, so many of the bodice pattern pieces were marked in multiple places to indicate a 3/8" seam allowance, and we thought that meant that ALL of the bodice seam allowances were to be 3/8".  Wrong!  The side seams, shoulder seams, and curved back seams are all 5/8".  By the time I realized this error, I had already sewn boning to the side seams' seam allowances and everything.  Had to carefully remove the boning, resew the seams, and then resew the boning.  But it was worth it because the fit is pretty good now:

We also lengthened all of the bodice pieces by 1/2" to fit me -- but forgot to lengthen the collar facing sections by the same amount.  So after cutting, fusing, hand basting, seaming, overcasting raw edges, we were ready to pin on those facings today and stitch them on but they did not fit.  No choice but to recut those pieces and start over again. 
 Doesn't that bodice make me look WEIRD in the back?!  That was the look, though -- wide, droopy shoulders and seams angled to make your waist seem as tiny as possible.
So tomorrow I will attach the front collar facing to the bodice and the bias tape stuff that goes along the bottom edge of the bodice.  I do have both sleeves made and ready to attach to the bodice, and they will go on next.  Then we have to make black fabric covered buttons and buttonholes and trim the bodice with ruffles, ribbon and trim.  Then on to the skirt!
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