Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Dress - Part II

A Tale of Two Muslins

A while back I mentioned that I discover (while looking for something else!) another dress pattern with a very similar style bodice, but yet in my size. Since the original bodice has some unusual pieces with the underarm gusset and integrated collar treatment, it is not the easiest pattern to grade down. I have partially fitted a first muslin, but it isn't quite right and I'm still swimming in it.

The nice thing about these patterns is that from mid ribcage down to the waist seam both patterns are the same. This means that I can still use the skirt pieces from the original Vogue Couturier pattern. The waist isn't the part that I'm have fitting problems with anyway. You can see in the photo below that while the pieces are not exactly the same, the total amount of fabric for the waist is nearly the same.

The real issue is through the bust, shoulder and armhole area. Because I am petite and smaller in the shoulders and waist, I usually buy my vintage patterns a size smaller than my bust measurement. I find there is plenty of ease in the bodices for the bust line, and it is easier to add at the bust line if needed than trying to subtract through the shoulders and armholes. The photo below shows the difference between the two patterns through the shoulder and armhole area. There is a french dart for the white pattern, but it isn't visible.

Here's the original muslin, even with taking it in, the shoulders are much too large. Too large that they won't stay in place and the bodice ends up around my waist. Not elegant or pretty at all. For the record, the shoulders and neck on my dressform are larger than my own, so that's why the bodice stays up and looks like it should.

This second bodice, a size smaller than the original is so much better, although it probably doesn't look like it!

Right away, it fit very well in the front, and only needing about 1" taken out at center back. The shoulder seam at the neckline was taken up 1" and tapered back to the original seam line about 4" from the neck edge. I will have to raise the neckline at center front a bit - these bodices are very low, despite what you see on the pattern envelope. They just didn't draw in the cleavage! I am hoping that I will be able to use the collar from the original pattern and make it work with the second pattern. You can see that I have some things pinned to the muslin to see how it will work Monday morning. I will be redrawing that neckline and trimming the excess muslin and then checking to see how that collar looks on me and if it needs to be trimmed down any.

While this might not seem like a lot of progress, but it really is. If you been sewing for any length of time, you know that getting the fit right is half of the job. If your pattern is pretty close to your size, it makes it that much easier.

Parting Shot: New Toy. We bought a snow blower from a colleague of mine that was moving to take a teaching position in England and was selling all his household goods. Today was the first real chance my husband had to use it (and will get to use it again for tomorrow's storm!) and he said it was worth every penny!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XXV

The Borders - Phase 9, Part 2 aka Back to Beading

This is one of the most exciting parts of the work that I do - the part where it all comes together! Today you will get to see what I have been working towards with all these phases of work on the borders.

Now that all the edges are finished properly inside and out, it is time to attach the two pieces. Again, there is a moment of slight panic when the pieces are abutted for the first time. You never know if you've traced or sewn or clipped enough when turning! Thankfully, it is all good. Once the pieces are position properly and pinned, they are loosely basted together. The basting needs to keep the pieces aligned, yet have enough space (about 1/8" to 1/4") for the beads to be attached.

The beads and the stitching to attach them are the only things holding this border to the coat. I'm following the gold decorative stitching to add each bead; a bead goes on the edge where the is a valley in the stitching so that these gold beads visually alternate with the cream ones. These are the same size 8 seed beads that I used on the other edge of the border. (Yes, the higher the size number of the bead, the smaller the bead actually is.)

The basic procedure is to bring the needle up in the left side edge and pick up a bead:

Next, stitch down into the right side edge and back into the left side, under the bead. Repeat at the same bead - for strength.

Put needle back down into fabric at the left side and come up at the next place a bead needs to be stitched.

Repeat whole procedure. About - you know the drill - a thousand times. Yeah, not hard, not exciting if you think about the repetition of it all. Once in a while, I'll pull out some of the basting (which is removed at the end, anyway) and stand back and take a look. Now that's exciting - actually seeing the progress. It is enough to keep me inspired to keep going!

From the inside, the final product looks like what you see below. The lining does not bag - it just isn't attached to anything at the top right now.

I do hope to get this phase done by the end of Friday night. Meanwhile, I have been doing a little work on the dress and I will try to squeeze in a few posts about that before Christmas.

Parting Shot: Sneak Peek! Here it is, not finished by any means, but you get the idea. The sleeves still need to be attached and I need to figure out the collar, but I'll get that done soon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XXIV

The Moment of Truth - Phase 9, Part 1

This is it! This big moment where the borders are finally assembled with the coat! Before that actually happens, there is a lot of prep work that must be done. You see, I am planning to attach these borders to the coat with beads only, sort of like what is known as a strap or slot seam.

This means that both the edges of the border and coat must be finished before joining the two. The edges of the border are already done, which leaves the coat edges. The lining and the coat body have been constructed and now they need to be joined at the front and hem edges. As a side note here, the coat has raglan sleeves and is shaped at the neck with darts. Because of the thickness of the quilted outer fabric and the muslin underlined silk lining, I've slashed the darts and pressed them open. This distributes the bulk a little better than pressing the darts to one side.

If you've noticed, the edges of the border are curved, which means that the coat edges must match if they are to be joined. To make sure both pieces will match perfectly, the border is laid face down on the wrong side of the quilted coat body - here's the nervous moment - and hopefully, it will fit and the side seams will match.

Yes! It fit. The border side seams and fronts all matched the body of the coat. When modifying patterns like this there is always that moment of doubt when you wonder whether you left enough of a seam allowance, if there's enough fabric, if the border is too big or too small, and then what you're going to do about any or all of these problems.

In the photo above, you can see that I have the ruler and measuring tape out to make sure that the side seams are the exact same length and that everything else is the same distance from the neck edge.

The border edge is pinned and traced onto the wrong side of the coat body - this becomes the stitching line. The coat and lining are then carefully lined up and pinned together. This process takes a while because the lining and coat must match perfectly. The lining can not bag or sag at the hemline as it will spoil the entire effect. Once I thought I had it pinned, I would pick it up and let it hang from the neckline to see if the lining or coat bagged or sagged in any way. After adjusting and doing this a few times, I was pretty sure it was right.

The two pieces were stitched together, trimmed, clipped and pressed. The armhole and neck edges are not joined at this point. The respective sleeves will be attached to either the coat or lining once the border is on. After that, the collar and closure need to be done and lastly, some interior work on the lining (which will come much later!).

Whew. This really was the nerve wrecking and hard part.

Before Christmas, I promise a photo of the coat, not quite finished, but close enough so that you can get an idea of how it will look.

Parting Shot: Even in the Snow. Yes, the trash must go out. Today we got about four inches of snow, and with two more storms coming before Christmas, it looks like we will have a white Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XXIII

Borders - Phase 8 - Beading

More beads?!? Absolutely. No major project of mine is complete without the thousands of beads that make most people's eyes cross and mine roll across the floor after a day of too much beading!

These beads are the ones in the smaller outer borders (ivory size 11 seed beads) and along the outer edge (gold size 8 seed beads). They could not be done before attaching the facing to the border because they'd be in the way of the presser foot of the sewing machine.

Thankfully, while there are a lot of these beads, this is easy beading to do. Stitch one bead in each space. Repeat. About a thousand times.

Tomorrow I have an Inside the Envelope for you. Once inside the vintage spacesuit pattern, I found too many interesting things to ignore.

Parting Shot: Archaeology. I received this journal today from my brother, who is an archaeologist. He co-authored and illustrated the article contained therein. He is quite the learned sibling!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XXII

Borders - Phase 7 - Assembly #1

Now that the flowers and leaves are attached, the time has come for the first part of the border assembly. This assembly is to attach the border to the quilted facing. I'm not just going to sew these borders to the coat, I'm going to attach them with beads, and to do so the borders need to be finished on the back.

I've already quilted the facings with the same diamond quilting as the body of the coat, so they are ready to go. You can see the entire coat border in the photo below on my work table being pinned for stitching. It is rather long and it is hard to get a sense of how big it is since it is in folds, but needless to say, it is quite a long border.

The pieces are stitched together very close to the outermost row of satin stitching.

The whole piece is then trimmed, clipped and turned to the right side. You can see the border below in the process of being turned.

Once pressed, it is ready for the next phase, more beading!

Parting Shot: Necklace. My daughter made this necklace while home yesterday from school for her little cousin as part of her Christmas gift. She picked out beads from my collection and strung them on nylon. The necklace is purposely big enough for her to put over her head, so no clasps were needed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XXI

The Finishing Touch for the Flowers

Regarding my burned hand - thank you all for the well wishes for healing! I've had quite a few nasty burns over the years, and this one is one of the worst in recent memory. Paco was right when he said that this work can be rather risky! Between the machines themselves, the hot ironing equipment and the pins and needles, I would guess everyone's had some sort of incident.

The little flowers on the border are not quite done - you might think they are but, really they need one more little touch. Going way back to this post, if you take a look at my original artwork, you'll see that these flowers are sort of like dogwood flowers. What is missing are those little lines on the petals.

If I were doing a regular turned edge hand applique, I'd apply two bugle beads to each petal and call it done. This isn't regular applique and I didn't want more beads (not that I don't like beads!) because I wanted the flowers to be sort of free moving/floating and only anchored at the centers. Those lines then had to be done via some other method, ideally a pen, pencil, ink, paint or dye of some sort.

This of course, calls for another round of auditions:

We've got some DecoFabric paint markers by Marvy/Uchida, Jacquard's Lumiere paint in gold, and a gold glitter finish paint by Pebeo. After trying each of these on some spare flowers and comparing the color to the thread, beads and sequins and rating ease of use, none of them passed the test. Notice how orange looking the golds are in the photo below. I needed a new idea.

I then had an idea that maybe I should be looking for a permanent marker or pen of some kind. I made a quick field trip to the local office supply store and picked up what you see below, a pair of Uni-ball metallic pens. The packaging says it is waterproof, fade proof and can be used on many surfaces. Why not? Nothing else was quite right.

After a quick audition, it was clear this was the right pen! The line is thick enough (1mm according to the package), doesn't bleed and is the right color. In case you're wondering, in the photo of the auditions above, the dark single line on the flower in the lower right is made by this pen. The bonus is that I can go and buy another one should this one run out without having to order it over the Internet.

Parting Shot: Very Funny. Seeing as my current project is named Bluebird of Happiness, a reader, Shelley, sent me a link yesterday to this photo posted yesterday on another website, icanhascheezburger, which has many interesting photos of animals (primarily cats) and captions to go with them.

funny pictures of cats with captions

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XX

The Flowers

The flowers found in the borders of the coat are made by cutting synthetic fabrics with a wood burning tool. Let's first talk about why synthetics are the fabric of choice and the wood burning tool is the tool of choice.

Synthetic fabrics are ideal for such a technique because at high temperatures they melt not burn like natural fabrics such as cotton or silk. This means that once cut, the edges will seal themselves and not fray. These fabrics do have a tendency to fray, but if sealed by heat, they won't. The sealed edges are perfect because the edges do not have to be turned under and stitched down as in traditional applique. I can place flowers or other motifs where ever I'd like and hold them down with just a few beads.

The wood burning tool (yes, used for burning designs into wood) is ideal because it has interchangeable tips for cutting lines. The only negative thing about the tool is that you must be careful with it as it can burn you, too. Witness my hand below. I accidentally touched the metal part when the tool was hot while I was on while doing something else at the ironing board.

To make consistent shapes, I use metal templates. Any other template material would melt or burn - plastic or paper specifically. I make the templates from aluminum roof flashing that I get at the home improvement store. I trace off the desired motif from the original artwork and then cut out the shape with a pair of old scissors reserved for this job. Once the template is cut and tested to make sure the shape is right, the edges are filed with a bit of sandpaper so that the edges are not sharp.

To cut out the flowers, the fabric is laid on another piece of aluminum flashing, the template placed on top and the flower traced.

I usually cut ten or so at a time, and then pull off the excess fabric surrounding the flowers. I can easily cut a lot of flowers in a very short time. You can see that there are negative shapes created, too, which could be useful in another piece of artwork.

There are really only two downsides to this process. One, the possibility of getting burned, which we already discussed. Two, the fumes released from the melting synthetics. I would suggest doing this in a well ventilated area. Even in the winter in cold climates a window and a fan for the short time it takes to cut out motifs is a good idea.

Next, the final touches for the flowers!

Parting Shot: Mantel. Here is this year's mantel decorations. I change them around a bit every year - sometimes the topiaries are on the mantel rather than the hearth and the flowers are arranged differently.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XIX

Leaves and Flowers - Phase 6

Thank you all for the compliments on my daughter and her Christmas outfit! She's just at that age where it is hard to dress her - either the clothes are too young or they're too mature. If you want to see another great holiday outfit for this age group, check out EricaB.'s recent creation for her charming young lady!

We're getting pretty close to the final phases of the borders with phase 6 being the leaves and flowers. After that there is an assembly phase, another beading phase and a final attachement phase and the border will be complete and attached to the body of the coat. Yes, this process is long! It does help to break it down and keep on track if it is organized. Just like the last post of BOH, breaking a large task down into sections is helpful not only in getting the work done, but also in the feeling of accomplishing little goals along the way.

You already saw some of the leaves being formed last week, and here they are appliqued into position and beaded. I chose to space the beads out similar to the beading on the feathers just to echo that beading.

Next comes the flowers, first the beige satin flower with beige crystal organza overlay. You can also see my lid with flowers, beads, sequins and Silamide beading thread.

Then a beige satin flower with gold crystal organza overlay is stitched to either side of the center flower.

The flowers are held on with four central beads/sequins:

The flowers themselves are cut out from synthetic fabrics using a wood burning tool. There will be more on how I made the flowers in tomorrow's post!

Parting Shot: Just a Dusting . We haven't had a major storm yet and if it rains tomorrow this probably will be all gone. The children will enjoy it this afternoon nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XVIII

Little By Little

Really, that is the way to tackle these sorts of projects. Know what you need to do, organize yourself, make a plan and do it! Below you see a perfect example of this, some silk leaves.

I figured out that I'd need about 124 or so these leaves, give or take a few. I'll make any extras if I need them when I'm closer to the end. Now, 124 sounds like a lot of leaves to make by hand and then stitch in place. In reality, it is!

So how do I cope with what seems like a long and not so fun task? Break it down, of course. I figure that if I make 8 leaves per day, then it would only take a few weeks to have them all ready. I won't be able to use them all immediately, but they will be waiting for me in their ziplock bag when I need them.

This task only takes 15 minutes to do, sometimes less if I'm organized by having enough fabric on hand and the templates already ironed in place. This is small, easily achieved goal and gives me a little sense of accomplishment when I'm done with my 8 leaves for the day.

Thank you so much for you compliments on this project - they really are encouraging. I am at the point now where I've got a lot done, know how much there is to go and am just working through it. Your kind words have really helped me to keep moving on this project.

Now, off to make my 8 leaves for the day, only one more week and they'll all be done!

Parting Shot: New Carpet. We finally decided to put new carpet in the house. Our old carpet was original to the house, and is over 20 years old. The children are past the baby and toddler stage, so now is a good time. We picked a blue/grey berber style carpet which is much better with the blue and grey we have throughout the house than light brown carpet we did have.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XVI

Borders - Phase 5 - Feather Beading

I've continued on working on the borders for the coat by working on the next phase, beading the feathers. This work probably could be done after the final border assembly, but it is much easier to tie off the knots and get to the wrong side of the work since it will be fully lined during the final assembly phase.

All of the feathers are beaded in the following pattern:

Each feather gets two to three beads (depending on the size of the feather) and a sequin with a bead at the outer edge. Yes, this is time consuming - it takes about 25 minutes to completely bead one feather if I'm not interrupted or listening to TV. I could have used hot fix crystals in place of the beads, but honestly, I can bead by hand faster and they're rather boring to use when you need thousands of them. Just for reference, there are 96 beads on average for each feather set. There are about 14 or so feather sets on the coat border, and that count doesn't include the sleeve borders; so that brings the total to 1344 beads just on the feathers of the coat body borders alone. That's not nearly all the beads that will end up on these borders!

There will be more beads, but that's another phase for another day!

Parting Shot: Spacesuit! This is my latest vintage pattern treasure found on eBay. I have and have seen a lot of cowboy patterns, but this is one of the few spacesuit patterns I've seen. It is supposed to be a pajama pattern, too. The "Great Space Race" and the "Space Age" were definite themes of the late 50's and 60's.