Friday, October 31, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part I

Starting To Quilt

Since I didn't have all my thread to finish auditions at the end of last week, I wasn't able to start working on the borders. I decided instead to start working on quilting the body and sleeves of the coat. When working on large projects like this there is always a point where you can't work on exactly what you want to for some reason or another. That doesn't mean that the whole project has to come to a screeching halt! The solution is to find something else productive to work on. That something else was the quilting of the body and sleeves.

The body and sleeves are being quilted in a 45 degree diamond pattern with a twin needle, with the lines spaced 3/4" apart. Because this a large coat, the quilting is a rather time consuming project. It isn't a hard to do, just a little tedious and certainly not as exciting as applique or beading. It does need to be done, because what I have planned for the borders (more on that and another sample in another post!) is rather complex and the simplicity of the quilting on the body will give the eye a place to rest. It is difficult to look at a piece that does not have some simple places to compliment the complex ones - I feel rather bombarded with visual input when I look at pieces like that.

Below, you can see a portion of the back already quilted. These pictures will also give a sense of the shade of blue that I'm using. Pictures don't do these sorts of things justice, but you get the idea.

Here's another shot, showing one of the fronts attached and ready for the quilting to begin:

I should be finishing up more samples and finishing this quilting over the weekend. Once those two things are complete, I can start working on the borders.

Parting Shot: Polished Rocks! My daughter brought these home today from school. Her class studied rocks and minerals this quarter and they had a rock tumbler in their classroom. It has been running for quite a few weeks and here's the result (along with a quieter classroom!).

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Dress - Part I

Bodice Muslin

Just for fun, today I decided to make the dress bodice muslin. I know this is pretty early in the project, but given the style of the dress and that the pattern is actually a size too large for me, a muslin is something I must do. Making one this early allows me plenty of time to get the fitting done and to think carefully about any changes that need to be made.

Here is the muslin so far, and yes, it is too big and the shoulders too wide:

The bodice is interesting to make as there are only four main pieces, albeit irregularly shaped pieces. As a review, note the pieces in the diagram below from the instruction sheet:

The front and backs are similar, and both are attached to side front or back pieces with two seams. The fabric is reinforced, then clipped and the side is attached, then a shorter seam is sewn to the edge of the sleeve, making an underarm. You can see a back section below, completed:

Once all the pieces are put together, the fronts and backs are joined at the shoulder and overlay in one seam. I like how the shoulder seam portion is slightly curved to fit the shoulders better:

Lastly, the side seams and sleeve seams are sewn in one long seam from the sleeve hem to the bottom of the bodice. Notice that there are no gussets in this dress, as is common in many kimono sleeve style dresses of this era due the underarm seams created while attaching the side backs/fronts.

I've tried it on and there will be quite a few fitting sessions. I need to get the boning in it and then try it on again to start the fitting process. By the way, in case you're wondering, this dress does have a center back zipper. I'm not moving it, either.

Tomorrow I will finish the Houston dress (just the hemming left!) and show the final details on Monday!

Parting Shot: Picking out Patterns. My son needs a new pair of trousers, and I just happen to have some black corduroy in my closet. I've let my son loose with the magazine and a pen and he's marking what he likes. Besides trousers, he seems to like the blazers with the detachable hoods.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Introduction - Part III

Thread and Bead Auditions

Part of the fun of making these art garments is getting to pick out all the fancy thread, beads, sequins and rhinestones. Of course that means that there are some things that won't work for the current project. The only way to find out is to make samples.

To start, I pull out all the thread, beads, etc. that I *think* will work for the project. You can see these below, assembled with the sample. If I don't have enough supplies, then I purchase threads and beads to fill in the gaps. The nice thing about the tubes of beads is that my local bead shop will exchange the unused tubes for the right beads once I figure out exactly what I want.

I then sit at the machine with a sample of fabric, batting and backing (important because the finished product will have all of these layers) and just play - I try out all sorts of decorative and straight stitches in all sorts of threads. Once I think I'm getting close to what I want, I'll add some beads to see if I like the effect or if I need to change something.

This is also a good opportunity to check thread tension. You can see some fuchsia thread from the bobbin in the sample below - not good tension at all, but at least I know that now! I try to use up all my odd ball left over bobbins during the testing phase, so that explains that odd bobbin color choice.

Here you can see that I'm testing two different shades of a shiny poly/rayon blue thread for the satin stitching. I like the lighter color toward the top of the photo better than the darker color so far.

Once I get an idea that I think will work for my project, then I start adding beads to check that effect:

What part of this sample will make it into the final project? Well, only one shiny blue poly/rayon, one metallic blue and one gold metallic thread. I'll need size 8 gold beads, size 11 gold beads, size 11 ivory/cream beads, gold sequins and green sequins. The only problem is that I'm not quite done testing yet! I'm supposed to get a shipment of thread on Monday, one more gold color to test, before I make a final decision - of course getting brocade samples may influence that, too! Keep watching and reading and you'll get to see what goes into the final product!

Parting Shot: Vintage Earrings. I found these vintage earrings today at a local antique shop. There are a lot of neat things that I will pick up there when I have some spare change. I am hoping to wear these with the Houston dress, but I'm not sure yet. I am going to make a small pair, too. I'm a bit concerned that they'll overpower the button, plus they're clip earrings and a bit tight! We'll see.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Introduction - Part II


Today I'm going to show you a little of the artwork that I've been working on for BOH. The artwork isn't all complete at this point, so I'll continue to work on it as it needs to be done. The main part of the artwork is the border for various parts of the ensemble:

In the photo above, I'm not done with the border, but you have a good idea of where I'm going with it. Along with the hand drawn artwork, I worked up a sample, just to see if what looks good on paper will look good in fabric. I also made the sample to try out a few ideas; some worked, some didn't. Not every concept on paper or idea that looks like a good one, is a good one for the current project. The ideas aren't wasted, there might be a project in the future that is perfect for today's discarded idea.

I still need to draw some flying bluebirds. I showed you the bird perched on a branch that I drew and colored the other day, but I know I'll need some flying birds. For inspiration, I've pulled these two birds out of my vintage embroidery transfer collection that was once my mother's. If you look carefully, you'll notice that the flowers I drew are similar, too.

The next step for this project? Auditions. The thread and beads must be auditioned to see what will actually make it into the project or be sent back to the bins.

Parting Shot: Buttons. I'm almost done with these two buttons that I've made for the Houston dress. I still need to put the sequin edging around the paisley one. I had planned on doing that last night, but had choir practice. (We were working on Christmas music.) I haven't decided which button to put on the dress yet. What do you think?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Introduction - Part I

A New Project!

Are you ready for another long term project? If you've been waiting for another one, here it is! This one is going to be called Bluebird of Happiness and referred to in the future as BOH. Let me give you a few details.

The ensemble will consist of a coat and short length gown from this pattern:

I know you've seen this pattern before, and I've done an "Inside the Envelope" post on it already. Now you're going to see this one made up, both the coat and dress. So far, the coat will be blue with a cream lining and the dress will be cream with blue accents. This may change, as things often do along the way, but this is what I see for the ensemble right now. There will be some slight changes to accomodate my artistic vision, but I think this will end up being pretty nice.

There will be a few bluebirds (see one below in some of my preliminary artwork) in the ensemble somewhere, but the main feature will be some feather quilting, which I'll show you in another post regarding the artwork.

I'm still working on a few final fabric details, but the fabric will be mainly blue and ivory. More specifically, this blue, called curacao from my favorite silk seller, The Silk Baron. Since this is *blue*bird of happiness, I had to have blue! I'm not sure about the ivory fabric yet. I need it to be synthetic for a few artistic reasons, but I have yet to settle on anything yet. I really wanted some brocade for the coat lining, vintage or not, but haven't located anything I'm really happy with yet. Brocade was popular during the late 50's and into the 60's for evening wear, and I wanted to add that detail. If I can't find anything that detail will have to wait for another ensemble. I may just end up with some really nice satin which would work for many reasons.

In the next BOH post, I'll show you some of the artwork.

Parting Shot: Fabric Princess. Remember that I had to re-hem the FMK dress? I could not even leave the dress by the sewing machine before the fabric princess had to come by and make herself at home. I immediately made her leave, and keeping her off the fabric is quite a job!