Friday, January 26, 2007

Thank you!

I owe all of you a great big thank you for all your positive comments on American Beauty! I'd also like to thank you for the words of encouragement and help during the long process of making the ensemble. You don't know how much it helped to see a comment when I was going through a particularly difficult, long or boring task.

Not many people would undertake such a task, and not many people have such wonderful friends from all over the world. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings and helping me out.

One more thing - I forgot to show you what I did with the appliques, so here's a picture of the ones on the front lining edge. The small ones ended up on the sleeve lining and the large one on the upper back lining.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

American Beauty - Final Post

Here's it is, the moment you've been waiting for! The pictures aren't the best, as I only had one photographer (the other one was practicing his piano lessons!). My daughter did comment that I looked a whole lot different that when I go skiing! She thought this ensemble was more beautiful than my wedding gown, which I made. Anyway, I finally did get the coat lining in, but I'm sure you don't want to read about that (basically, I adjust the lining/facing seam and everything lined up nicely and the hem went in! Duh!), you want to see the pictures. So here they are: coat front and back, dress front and back.

Notice how the hem stands out pretty nicely on the dress (thanks to one mistake) and the coat completely covers the dress. I wanted it that way, but forgot to measure when I made the garments. Only when I put it on today did I realize it worked out! The gloves are my mother's prom gloves. I don't have the jewelry made yet and I am going to buy red shoes, too!

So why did I make this ensemble? Mainly, because I can. I love those grand 50's gowns, and I love to take what we're doing currently in embellishment/quilting and use those techniques in vintage patterns. I also like trying out new things - like making the fur from rows of stitched yarn. I also enter this sort of thing in competitions, but that's not why I do it; it's coincidental. Trust me, if I didn't love doing this sort of thing, I wouldn't put the time into it. I also enjoy challenging myself to learn new techniques and to improve my sewing. I have learned a ton from this ensemble.

Is it perfect? No. There are many things I'd change. I don't like the wrinkles on the bodice from the strap seams - trust me, it may look tight in the pictures and that's the usual reason for the horizontal wrinkles, but I can still pinch out 1/2" or more fabric around the waist/ribcage. The lining in the coat bothers me a bit still, and I'm still thinking of doing something with the cups in the corselette (I can sneak in and do that and handstitch it all closed). Right now I need to let it rest and look at it again in a month or so and reevaluate it all. I'm too close to it right now, and can't see the forest for the trees!

So, with one final look, we'll say goodbye to American Beauty. If you like following my crooked paths through the sewing world, I have a two more large vintage projects planned for the year, so look for one to start up sometime in February.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

American Beauty - Coat - Part XVII

Are we there yet?!?

Last summer, I drove my two children under the age of 10, down to Georgia by myself to visit my parents. I know what "Are we there yet?!?" means. That's how I feel about American Beauty about now. Some of you must be thinking the same thing. Good news: the hem is in, and I just need to do some final touches.

I did get the labels in:

I use a variety of labels for my artwork - usually something in the shape that is similar to a motif in the garment. In this case, I just wanted something simple. For competition, name, adress, etc. has to be on the label, so that complicates things a bit. One of these days I'm going to get custom labels made up, in the meantime, I make my own.

Here's how I made this one. First, I cut a piece of freezer paper exactly the same size as a sheet of paper, and cut a piece of fabric the same size. Then I ironed the fabric to the freezer paper - you can iron fabric to the shiny side. Then I typed up what I wanted the label to say on the computer and printed it out. Next I went down to our great old photocopier at school and put the piece of fabric/paper to be printed on in the bypass tray. One press of the button later and out came the fabric with two labels on it. All that's needed is heat setting with a hot iron. I then can cut out the shapes and applique them where desired. Do be careful if you try this - you might end up with the paper (fabric) jam in the machine, you could void the warranty on the machine, and the lettering does fade a bit through the wash, even though it's heat set. (Ask me how I know these things!)

Here's hoping for some final pictures in the next few days!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Make It Work!

I'm trying to finish American Beauty. I am down to the hem on the coat. That's where there's a problem. Ugh. I really don't need another problem with this ensemble. I feel creatively drained. It seems like I've had quite a few challenges with this ensemble, and I couldn't finish it easily without one more! I've had quite a productive day, too. I cut the lining carefully and even measured the pattern to make sure, but the hem is slightly too short in the back, and too long in the front. The front is the real issue - I can't trim it because of the appliques. So, while sitting on the floor on my workroom, those famous words came back to me, "Make it work!".

Strangely coincidental because I just read an article/interview with Tim Gunn in the Feb./Mar. 2007 Quilting Arts magazine. I sat down this morning for a break and settled on that article. I think it's a bit of an unusual place to find Tim Gunn, but regardless of media, I think his advice on design principles is applicable. The quote that came to mind was:

"How do you take existing conditions - an in-seam without enough allowance, a
sleeve that isn't set in correctly, a skirt that's too short and there's no
more fabric - how do you take those challenges and create a successful design?
It's 'Make it Work!' time. And I believe that there's no greater educational lesson than making something that isn't working work."
That said, I must go back to the studio and "Carry on!".

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

American Beauty - Coat - Part XVI

Fit to be tied!

Literally and figuratively. I forgot about having to tie off all the threads in the quilting where the quilting is interuppted by the applique. It's about 10-12 hours of work just to tie off all the threads on the 5 appliques on the lining. That's what I've been doing recently in addition to quilting the lining pieces and dreaming of working on anything but this.


I'm seeing the end of this project this weekend, maybe Friday if I get the snow day that's in the works. Stay tuned for the final few episodes of American Beauty!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

American Beauty - Coat - Part XV

Um, where were we?

Let's see, we left off working on the coat sometime back in November? Not sure. The dress sort of got moved into priority with it having to be photographable for deadlines. Now that the dress is done except for a few minor things, it's back to the coat!

What does it still need? A buttonhole and button. A hem. And, um, a lining. Yeah, a lining would be a good thing. Sad to say, the lining isn't (or wasn't until last week) near complete. Actually it still isn't. It *will* be this week!

I decided to tackle the button and hem issues first, while working on finishing the applique during my commute as school bus chaperone. (Don't even ask - I have learned to be able to applique and beadwork in some of the most unusual places! One day, I'll show you how it's done.) The idea is that when I'm away from the house, I can still make progress by doing handstitching. Anyway.

I've decided for the button, just to do a simple covered button with the red velvet. The button is so near the fur collar that anything else would get lost, and anything with prong set stones or beading would snag. So, I give you the covered button:

The buttonhole was a bound buttonhole - standard variety, nothing exciting there, either. I did the lips for the button hole in the velvet, just for some contrast. The facing, on the back of the buttonhole, I finished with a windowpane-style opening. Basically, you complete the same first step for a bound buttonhole. It just leaves you will a small rectangular hole that is finished on the inside edges. I then handstitched the buttonholes together, wrong sides together. Here's the partly finished product. The buttonhole is on the left, finished. On the right is the facing with it's silk square ready for stitching the rectangle.

Next, the hem. I decided a long time ago to do a hem facing, as the hem is curved and it's just easier than easing in the curve. (See the dress hem post!) I still had to quilt and assemble the facings, and once that was done, it was pretty easy to just stitch them on. I then catch-stitched the facing to the coat. Here's the hem facing being attached:

The only issue remaining regarding the hem is the portion where the front facing meets the hem facing. Usually there is a raw edge left over, as you can see in the picture below.

My solution was to bind the portion that will show after the lining is attached. Neat and easy, and will look much better in the finished product.

So what's left? Finishing the lining!!!! Once the applique is done, I need to quilt the back. Then I need to cut out all the lining pieces, stitch it together and install it. After that, it just needs the button sewn on and a label. I'm hoping to get it done this week, maybe.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

American Beauty - Dress - Part XII

Everything's coming up roses . . . .

The roses are complete and consequently, so is the bustle. I promised a close up of the bead work on the bustle. There was a concern about the bustle covering up some of the bead work on the seams, but I fixed that by beading all the edges of the bustle, 1/2" between beads just like the dress. Here it is:

The roses were actually 2 different types. One type was made from long strips gathered along one long edge, rolled and hand stitched. The other type was made from petals of two half oval shapes of stitched together, gathered along the straight edge and then rolled and stitched to form a rose. I used the velvet for one side of the petals and the lighter red dupioni for the other side. The instructions were in Threads issue 111, Feb/Mar 2004. Here they are being cut out, notice the baggies in the second photo to organize the different sizes of rose petals:

I ended up making seven roses total, in varying sizes and fabrics. I actually like the roses made from the half ovals better than the other style. They're more work to make, but to me they look more realistic. Figures that the more labor intensive ones were the ones I liked!

For leaves, I free hand cut out some leaf shapes, stitched a pair together leaving an opening, turned them right side and stitched the opening shut. I then ran a line of gather stitches down the center, pulled up the threads and stitched the gathers in place with some green sparkly Sulky Holoshimmer.

Once the roses and leaves were complete, I arranged them from the smallest on the outside edge to the largest in the center of the bustle, plus some leaves and stitched it all in place by hand.

Last, but not least today, the hem of the skirt. Which I didn't mess up. I trimmed it, bound it, and then had to deal with the curve of the circle skirt. It was a bit too curved to shrink out the fullness. I did try. It looked weird and wrinkly like a Shar-Pei dog. Next option: to stitch out some small darts in the hem as needed to take up that fullness and give a smooth hem line on the inside. That worked beautifully, and the bottom photo shows a dart more clearly:

The only thing left is the dress hangers and a custom label. I've waited on the hangers because the top edge was too thick to begin with, so I'll just stitch them to the corset. I'll wait on the label and do the coat and dress label at the same time. The only other thing I can think of is that I might need to tack the corset to the dress/lining at the seams to keep everything from twisting about while wearing. Not sure yet.

So, it's almost done. Now it's back to the coat, I think I can get it done before the end of January . . maybe . . .

Thursday, January 04, 2007

American Beauty - Dress - Part XI

Not exactly what I had planned . . . .

I'm down to the finishing details of the dress! I got the bustle done, and will post pics of it and the beading when I post about the roses.

Anyway, because of the full circle skirt, I let it hang and then trimmed the dress and pinned up the hem. No problem. I then trimmed the lining. That's when something when awry. Look:

Somehow, between my scattered brain, my children coming in an making some grand proclamation, I got off track and trimmed too much in one section. Ugh. Now I can't just do a narrow hem as I have a section 2" shorter than the rest. This is a stupid fabric trick of major proportions. I have taken out and redone a good portion of this dress, which is unusual for me, and now this. I was almost in tears. I fixed dinner, but couldn't even eat it, so I told my husband I needed to just leave the house for a bit. Which I did, and formulated a solution. Behold the new lining hem:

No matter how bad a mistake may seem, there's usually a solution if you calm down and think about it. I wanted to put horsehair in the hem and forgot to buy it at Jo-ann's - I was thinking about something else at the time, a cool new piece of fabric I bought - so I didn't end up doing that. I wanted a bit of lift to the hem in case I didn't want to wear a petticoat, and a nice petticoat ruffle attached to the lining was the solution. I trimmed off 6 inches from the lining, bought 4 yards of petticoat net and away I went. I cut 12" strip crosswise and folded it in half for a 6" ruffle - no hemming and no scratchy edge. I cut 8 strips - that's about 400" or so of ruffle at 54" per strip. That was interesting, no pictures, sorry.

First, I attached 2 ruffle sections to each quadrant of the skirt:

I then attached the binding, but in an unusual way. The binding of the seam allowances was necessary to keep the net from scratching legs/pantyhose/whatever. Because the net was so stiff, I had to attach the binding from the lining side, or else the lining would get folded up in strange ways and stitched underneath that way.

Next, I wrapped the binding around the seam allowance and not only stitched down the free edge of the binding, but also through the lining to tack the whole seam allowance down. This is actually shown in the last picture, but I'm at school and my laptop has keyboard issues and I can cut, but can't paste.

Finished, from the back:

and from the front:

Here's the stitching the whole thing down picture:

Tonight I need to finish the hem and work on the roses and replace some beads. After that, it's some spot cleaning, pressing and the dress is done!