Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Underpinnings

After a whole lot of last-minute sewing, the dress was finished just in time to be worn to the Gala event yesterday evening!  (There a few sneak peeks over on Instagram and Facebook.)  But to be honest, I do not have the energy to go through all of the photos right now, so those will come later . . .

Before all of the steps disappear from my memory, I want to work through more of my process here on the blog.

I knew that a foundation layer was going to be needed with an off-the-shoulder dress that dips in the front and back.  A corselette was the perfect solution. 

I used Vogue 7698 as a starting point.  Since I previous used it for my Emerald Green Ceil Chapman Gown, I knew it would go together easily.

First up was a muslin.

I tried a couple of different things with the bust cups, only to go back to the original, although I did end up adding a bit more coverage to the upper edge and lowered the center back.  I also lengthened the lower edge to match back to the dropped-waist and pointed bodice pieces of the dress.

The underlining is plain old quilting cotton that is leftover from various projects.  I ran out of black, so I pulled out some blue.  I knew there was a reason I kept all of those small scraps of cotton stashed away!

I traced the stitching lines with my fabulous waxed tracing paper onto the quilting cotton and then used those pieces to cut out and thread trace the stitching lines onto the black coutil.  They are treated as a single layer from this point on.

This is the first project that I have used this technique, and I was a bit concerned that I would miss having those raw edges to help match everything up.  Well, there was no need to worry.  It is quite easy to feel the thread tracing and match it to the next bit of thread tracing.  And just think how much more accurate this would be when working with a fabric that frays easily!

Before hand-picking the zipper, I basted one in to check the fit.

I have to say I love all the hand sewing this requires!

The most annoying part of the process comes later on, when the basting has to be ripped out from underneath the final machine stitched seam.  That is not so much fun.

I splurged on pre-cut spiral steel boning – no time or energy to fight with a pair of wire cutters for this project!

After the boning channels were stitched into place, I catch-stitched the trimmed seam allowances into place.  Some of the side seams had to be clipped at the waistline to make everything lay flat.

Instead of attaching the waist-stay after the lining was in place, I placed it between the coutil and the lining.  I figured this would be more comfortable (especially with the wider grosgrain) and would keep it from digging in at the waist. 

But I needed access to the ends of the ribbon.

My trusty bound buttonholes came to the rescue.

The waist-stay was stitched to the seams of the corselette and fed through the buttonhole openings on the lining.  The lining was then hand stitched in place along the bottom and zipper edges.

Then, of course, the stay needed a few hook & eyes as a closure.

I often get lazy and just use a larger skirt hook & eye, but they can dig in a bit.  So I went the more labor intensive route and used four small ones.

I was not careful about measuring the stay, so I ended up making it too small the first time around.  Whoops!  Thankfully, I had left enough of the ribbon folded under to extend the stay.

So guess what I was doing Friday evening?  Ripping out and re-stitching lots of little hook & eyes which have a tendency to fly out of my hand.  Then, of course, I had to find the things among all that black fabric.

A pair of bra cups was added, and the top edge basted together (eventually it was bound with my dress fabric).  And that is the corselette!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Chalk Marks and Cotton Underlining

I am totally in love with waxed tracing paper!  Okay, I’ll shut up about it now.  But I think I have found my new "can't live without" sewing notion.  Will it eclipse rayon seam binding as my all time favorite?  Probably not, but now my Hug Snug has a best friend to play with in the sewing room.

For this predominantly black dress, I used both yellow and white sheets of the tracing paper.  Both of them disappeared under the steam of an iron while I was pressing my seams open later in the process.

I imagine that might not work with the darker colors.

But until the steam, the marks are super visible!

After cutting and marking the underlining, it was time to pull out the delicious silk/wool blend.

It was the moment of truth – would I have enough of the cherry print? 

Normally, I start pinning and cutting things from one end of the fabric, and go my merry way.  This time I was paranoid about running out of irreplaceable gorgeousness, so I laid everything out with a few pins here and there and worked my way through, hoping the fabric would not run out before my pattern pieces did.

And yes, everything fit!  I may even be able to squeeze a small project out of the remnants . . .

Next up was a whole lot of thread tracing.

This is probably not the best technique for anyone who hates hand sewing.  But I truly love it, so this part of the process was a lot of fun.  Which is a good thing . . . there were a whole lot of massive pieces to deal with this time around.

Not to mention many, many more hand sewing opportunities!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fitting all the Pieces Together

Did I mention that these patterns do not come with directions?

These days, I do not pay a whole lot of attention to the given directions, but it is nice to know they are there, just the same.  Goodbye, security blanket!  

This time around, my muslin was as much a test for the order of construction as it was for fit.  There are hints on the pattern pieces, of course, but I was very grateful for a practice run.  

As I mentioned, the patterns do not come with seam allowances, and I was going to use Susan Khalje’s couture tracing technique.  But I just could not bear yet another project struggling with the tiny sheets of wax-free tracing paper that are easily found at a big box store.  The stuff just does not work, especially with huge pattern pieces. 

So I called up Richard the Thread (excellent customer service, by the way) and ordered some of the waxed variety.  What a difference!  To be honest, I was a bit concerned that it was going to make a mess, but thankfully, it did not.  And now I never have to deal with those pesky little sheets of the crummy stuff.  Whoo-hoo!

I really like working with the thread-traced stitching lines - it makes it so easy to visualize the finished style lines.

The first muslin had a bit of an issue at the side seam (I am sure that is my own problem because of the two bodices being joined together).

The biggest question I had was about the sleeves.  What on earth would they look like in real life?  And how would they fit?

Love them!  They will need a bit of support, but they look fabulous in muslin, which is a good sign.

The upper edge of the back bodice did not look right to me with the added portion of the lower bodice from the second pattern.

Instead, I trimmed it down into a v-back.

And then I needed to take a wedge out of the back bodice for my flat back.

For many projects, I can't bother to make a second muslin.  But for this dress, there were enough changes to warrant the time to re-cut the back bodice pieces.  (And I just love using my new tracing paper!)

Might as well get it right.

And there was also some fun with pleats, and lots of muslin.  I actually ran out, and had to make a trip to JoAnns to get more.  This dress is a fabric hog!

The front skirt piece was also swinging forward, so that piece had to be widened.

Oh, and I also altered the bottom of the front bodice after sketching a few different options.  This is what I came up with.

Time to cut into my underlining!