Wednesday, December 27, 2006

American Beauty - Dress - Part X

Zippedy-Doo-Dah! and a few other things.

I need to get you caught up with where I'm actually at on this dress. As of today, I am doing the last edge of installing the lining. At least I think I am, until I try it on and discover the lining is pulling in some funny way or something equally disastrous!

The zipper was suprisingly the easiest part of the dress. It's just a plain old, hand picked zipper. So, in it went without a hitch, with tiny stitches, placed 1/4" apart, up one side and then up the other. No drama. Which was a real nice thing since the lining ended up being too much drama for the week before a holiday. Below you can see the zipper tape on the inside, catched stitched to the bias strip at the edge of the opening. In the next picture, you can see my not so great measuring system. There's clear tape over the seamline to make sure the stitches are equidistant from the seam and there's my pins to make sure they're exactly 1/4" apart. The stitches themselves are pretty tiny.

I started the strap seam right at the bottom zipper stop, in the last picture above, you can see the finished product, with the underlying strip for the strap seam folded and stitched right to the bottom of the zipper tape.

Here's the finished product, the end of zipper is near the center of the picture. The beads moving toward the left of the picture are those right on the seamline of the zipper opening - I placed them there because I liked the way it looked continuous all the way from the underarm to the hem. Traditionally, a bead is placed at each stitch, but I chose this instead.

Let's see, what else? Right, the lining. Ugh. That's a story, so here we go. I was going to machine stitch the lining, corselette and dress together. That works well for strapless gowns, sometimes. This isn't, so you know that didn't go well. It was ok, but not quite right for some reason.

The other preferred method is to fell stitch the lining to the dress. No problem. I stitched the shoulder seams, turned down the seam allowances, clipped, and catched-stitched all the neck/shoulder edge seam allowances to the underlining of the dress. I then stay-stitched the lining corselette together, turned down the edge and fell stitched it in place. I got at far at the armhole and that wasn't working either. Why? Well, there's 4 layers to corselette, plus the dress lining layer. That's 5. Now, at the seams, where the seam allowances are pressed open, that's 10 layers, now turn that edge to the inside and you get - ta da! - 20 layers. Not good. Very lumpy, bumpy, and thick, not to mention probably uncomfortable to wear.

That was the day before Christmas. Fortunately, I got some new books (see last post) for Christmas, and immediately started digging for info on corselettes. Knowing I couldn't start over, I just did some skimming and looking at the pictures and decided I'd look at the dress the day after Christmas and see what I could do. Wouldn't you know it, the solution came to me at 2am, when I woke up for the 3 or 4th time that night. It's strange but things like that happen to me all the time. Solutions just pop into my head at the weirdest times. The shower is actually a good place for me to think. Anyway, I guess my unconscious brain needed time to percolate the solution based on the new info I fed it.

So what is the magical solution? The solution was to bind all the edges of the lining corselette and then fell stitch that unit into the dress. That's it. A two inch piece of china silk solved the problem. The thickness isn't an issue at all, and the inside of the dress looks pretty nice, too! Here, take a look:

Lesson learned: don't make linings/corselettes unduly thick! Next time I make something white, I'm going to try a flesh colored lining, as suggested by Alisa. (Thanks, Alisa, not sure why I didn't think of it in the first place!).

I need to finish the last edge today, the armhole with the zipper opening. I need to stitch down the binding, fell stitch the lining in place and then prickstitch. After that it needs 3 hooks and eyes, hems, a custom label and the bustle finished. The bustle is hemmed, but not assembled, and the roses need to be made still. Maybe next week I can start finishing the coat! Back to work . . .

Saturday, December 23, 2006

American Beauty - Dress - Part IX

And the winner is . . . .

The velvet inset! Yes, I had decided on the velvet, for exactly the same reasons many of you came up with. It certainly has more depth and is a bit more lush. Or plush, depending on how you look at it.

I needed to face the inset with something, so I decided to use the red silk for that. I had a leftover piece of diamond quilted silk and cut the facing from that. Due to the batting, netting and stitching, it had stability like it was interfaced, so it seemed like a good choice. I gathered the velvet on both sides, and stitched it to the silk at the top, then prickstitched the top edge at the back so the facing wouldn't roll over the top. After that, I tried it on for placement - that's what I was doing the other night in the gown. Here I am prickstitching - I think my daughter had the camera.

Once I got it pinned in, I still needed to finish the bottom edge, but marking it with chalk or pencil was difficult due to the nap of the velvet and all the gathers. I ended up running a basting around the neckline edge in white so that I could see the curve on the red. Once removed, I stitched the bottom edges together and trimmed it. Once I got it pinned back into the dress, I hand stitched it in. Below you can see the piece from the back during the stitching, and then from the front after completion.

Now, for the drape. I've changed the design a bit. I agree with you that it should be white or sheer of some kind. No red, and it was as I thought; see, dark colors usually draw attention, and that swath of red on my butt is not the kind of attention I'm looking for. Yes, it will be sheer only, with the red roses and still removable. I did do another mock up, I shortened the drape into a gathered bustle, but still has the roses. I also experimented with placing it on a curve rather than straight across the back, which does look much better! One other issue that a lot of you brought up was that I'd lose a bit of the bead work. Some of that it is taken care of with a shorter bustle, and once the edges are hemmed, I'm going to bead them with the red beads, 1/2" apart like the seams, so that there is visible beading. I wanted to incorporate beads into the flowers somehow, but I think this will satisfy the inner magpie just as well, and keep the roses simple and beautiful just as they are. So, here it is:

Keep in mind that the actual roses will *not* be that big, and I think the bottom layer won't be as long.

Yesterday, I did get the entry forms into the mail for the American Quilt Society national show in Paducah, KY. That's why I had to do another mock up of the bustle - I needed pictures. The dress looks fairly complete, although it's not by a long shot. The coat obviously needed a hem, but I still have time to complete it and I won't get notification if I'm in until March anyway.

I will most likely be taking Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off from the blog, so I will post about the zipper and putting in the lining on Tuesday.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

American Beauty - Dress - Part VIII

The Corselette

Just for a recap, I chose the corselette because I wanted to bone the bodice of the dress for some support beside the narrow straps, but I couldn't do traditional boning on the underlining due to the strap seams.

Let's just start at the beginning with the pattern and materials. It's based on the same pattern as the dress, just a bit tighter. As far as materials, I used 4 layers of fabrics to make it. The outside layer nearest the dress is made of lining and firm cotton used as one layer. Since the dress is all white, I didn't want any show through of boning, cups, etc. The next layer is a layer of buckram. Yes, buckram. I don't have anywhere close that will sell me Haro or the other traditional bustier/corset materials and I didn't think far enough in advance to order it. I washed the buckram to get rid of the sizing and hence "crunchiness" (who wants to wear something crunchy?). After it was dry and ironed with a layer of starch, it was firm, but not crunchy. I attached the boning and cups to this layer. The last layer was another layer of lining, needed as this is the layer next to the skin. Other supplies included the cups, poly boning, hook and eye tape (had to drive 45 minutes one way to get 1/2 yard of that!) and wide twill tape for the waist stay.
Once all the layers were cut out and stitched, I was ready for boning. At this point, I think I've actually made this dress about 6 times - 3 layers of corselette, 2 linings and the actual dress. The boning came with a casing, and really I don't know where I bought this boning, but it was in with my other stuff, so I used it. The actual boning was strange, usually it's just a piece of whitish plastic, but this stuff had some sort of netting over the boning. It was only annoying when trying to reinsert the boning back into the channels. Below you can see the front, with partially boned side front seams - I left room above them for the cups.

It was then ready for a try on to get the cups in the right place. That was interesting. Something didn't get translated right between the last fitting of the muslin and the actual garment - the armholes were way too high, and I had some weird gaping, too. I spent an evening figuring that out and fixing both the dress and the lining by recutting once I got the corselette right. Not sure what happened, could have been anything, but it fits now and that's all that matters. I did finally get the cups positioned right, too. Below you can see almost the whole thing, with the cups catch-stitched in place.

Next, I layered the outermost layer and the boning layer together and the placed the last lining layer right sides together and stitched across the bottom only to close one end of the boning channels and finish the bottom. After that, I inserted the hook and eye tape with a combination of machine and handstitching. The hook side just had to line up with the outer edge, but the eye side needed an underlap so that the hooks and eyes wouldn't dig into the skin. I just cut a piece of bias lining, folded it in half and attached it along with the eyes. You can see it up close in the middle picture.

Once those were complete, I attached the waist stay to the bottom edge by topstitching it on. Later, if needed, I'll tack it to the lining/dress at the seamlines. Below is a good shot of the waist stay (still needs hooks and eyes to close it), the underlap and the eyes.

There it is, ready to insert into the dress, this is the side facing the dress, not the body. The eye tape is on the far left, the hooks on the right and there is a little tab of the waist stay on the right where I'll put the hooks after a final try on. I made it that way so that it fits neatly overly the eye tape, and so that I can do some micro-adjusting with the placement of the stay's hooks/eyes.

So there it is. Not terribly glamorous, but will do the job it was made for. Tomorrow, I will post about the red inset, and maybe the zipper install. Tomorrow is d-day, too, so I need to get back to finishing the zipper seam.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

American Beauty - Dress - Part VII

Here's the mock ups . . . .

First though, I had made *major* progress in the last few days. The inner corselette is done except for a few hooks and eyes and a little hand-stitching here and there! I am at the point where I can start assembly! Yeah! I will do a long post soon about the corselette and show all the insides and how I made it.

Once I get the lining, corselette and actual dress together, I need to work on the finishing details. That brings me to this post and some mock ups for you take a look at. Now that I've seen the pictures, I think I know what I'm going to do. That could change. I said "think", in case you didn't notice! Up first, the bust inset. The first picture shows it with the velvet and the second with the dupioni. The neckline will be a bit lower and the straps will actually be about 1" or so wide when they're done. The last picture is just a reference so you can see the whole effect, rather than just the neckline. BTW, the corselette is actually on the dressform under the dress, not that you could tell, but I figured I'd throw that detail in.

Second the back drape. The top one shows the drape in white with the rose overlay. The next one shows the drape as it would look if it were red. The flowers are not the ones that will be there, just ones for the mock-up, but you get the picture. I'm planning on small roses and a few more of them.

Well, there's choices. I managed to get through the post and not post my opinion, so what's yours and why? Also, is there something else I need to add or subtract?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

American Beauty - Dress - Part VI

Should have listened the first time!

I'm now working on the lining for the dress. My first issue was the seams, for competition they need to be finished with no raw edges. I had bounced around the idea of narrow french seams, and some of you agreed with that idea. So what do I do? Something else. Of course. Which I didn't like. Of Course. What I did do was sew the seams, then turn under the seam allowances twice and stitch them down. Looks good, actually, but is not quite right for this project as there is now a railroad track of topstitching at each seam. It would look great in a suit, but not this dress. Here's a pic of the inside of one of these seams:

Now, I did this in the silk! DUH! I can't take it out without leaving holes. Off I went to Jo-ann's for lining. There isn't silk within an hour's drive of me, and then I'd have to call ahead and see if they had any to begin with! I'm not too bummed about the actual fabric - the poly lining will probably hold up better over time than the silk anyway. I heard another designer in the dressing room at the National Show in Paducah lamenting the fact that one of her silk linings was ruined and she now uses only the poly. Besides, the flocked overlay is some sort of synthetic, too.

With new lining in hand, I set out to put it together with the french seams. Once it's put together, I notice it is white. Ok, so why is white a problem? Well, although the silk, overlay and organza is white, it is a softer almost *off white*. What went wrong? I ignored the little voice inside at Joann's that said, "Get the softer white, don't get the hospital-just-scrubbed-with-bleach white." Sure enough, where was I today? Out buying the off white lining. I suppose third time's a charm! I'm not even really upset about having to make the lining 3 times. Getting right is more important to me.

With that issue being solved, I did some research on the corselette. I have Susan Khalje's book, Bridal Couture, and a couple of articles from Threads, one on bustiers from a few years back and one recently on building a bust line. Not quite enough info, so I started looking at patterns to see if there was one with an attached foundation to see if I could modify it or make something similar. The deal is, I really want underwires and cups in this gown, but the princess seams make this a bit difficult if I'm going to use the dress pattern as a base for the corselette. I found that Vogue 2928 has a foundation with bust cups and after reading the instructions in Joann's, I gleaned a few tidbits of information. More about that in updates to come.

What else have I percolated? Well, the front inset - I need to decide whether it should be the red dupioni or the crushed velvet and whether it needs fabric roses accents - I might take some mock-up pictures and see what you think. I also percolated what I'm doing to the back for some interest. I'm making a detachable drape/bow like thing that will attach at the waist with clear snaps and be embellished with fabric roses. I just need to figure out whether it should be the red velvet or just sheer. I'm thinking the red velvet is all you'd focus on, yet the sheer might not be substantial enough on it's own. Problem is, I don't have enough dupioni to do the drapes . . . wait, I know! It just came to me while typing. I can salvage the old china silk lining and make it into the drape with the flocked sheer overlay! It will be light weight enough, but not focus all the attention on my butt!! (Something else that didn't go back in the right place after having children!)

Ok, I'd better get off the computer, get the house vacuumed and guacamole made for our Christmas party tonight, and if I have time before people get here, cut out that third lining!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

American Beauty - Dress - Part V


I am excited! I am making some real headway on the dress - not much other sewing has been going on, but since I'm now at serious deadline time, I need to get with the program. Here's the deal: in order for me to enter this ensemble into the Mid-Atlantic Wearable Arts/Quilt Show and the American Quilt Society National Show, I need to get the entry forms in by January 3. They always require pictures of the garments, and so they need to be finished enough so they can see what the garments look like. It is part of the jurying process to make sure the garments are the right quality and type for the show, but in some cases, it's for insurance purposes too. With the two holidays at the end of the month and the volume of mail at this time of year, I've set myself a deadline of Dec. 22 to get the stuff in the mail, particularly the AQS show. Even though this show isn't until late April, I know many people need a lot of time to organize so it will run smoothly.

Up above, you can see the front is done. I've just pinned it to the dress form at the shoulders and waist, to give it some form. I'll have to admit, it is encouraging and inspiring to walk into the studio and see it on the dress form really taking shape. Below is the back, as you can see, one side back piece still isn't done yet - that's today's task.

Below is a close up of the beadwork on the front. If you look closely, you can see the beadwork running down all the seams in the full length pictures.

For the moment, I've only got a few seams to go: the side back, the right side, the hand-picked zipper and the side below the zipper.

Next, I'll tackle the lining and inner corselet. I'm always thinking ahead to the next step as I have plenty of time to think while hand-stitching! So, here's a question for all you divas and experts. How should I finish the lining seams? Normally for a dress like this (prom, formal, etc.), I don't or I use the pinking shears. These are "one use" type dresses and because it's a lining it's not a big deal, BUT, I've had judges comments on other garments that all the seams should be finished. I'm assuming they mean serged (don't have one!) or french-seamed or whatever. I'm tempted to do really narrow french seams because the lining is china silk.

What do you think?