Friday, July 26, 2013

Wedding Dress Saga: Underlining, lining, lace edge finishing, ahh!


This post is just a quick shout out to the very intelligent sewing enthusiasts over at (and Liz! if you care to chime in). I'm somewhat stuck and stumped on how to proceed with the see-through lace portion of the back of this dress.

Here (above) is what the front looks like thus far. The lace is underlined in the handkerchief linen. I've basted on some trim. The midriff piece (with the pointy center) is underlined with the linen and also has a layer of cotton broadcloth behind that for stability. I went to my sewing teacher to ask about how to interface the waist, and she pointed out that it didn't have to be organza or hair canvas - any fabric which felt right could work. What a smart lady. Cotton broadcloth seemed just the right weight.

Here are the pieces for the back.

Again, there's a separate sort of waistband piece, which aligns at the sides with the midriff piece above. It is underlined with both linen and broadcloth, just like the front. The upper back piece, however, is supposed to be see-through. Since the lace is rather floppy on its own, I thought I should underline it with silk organza (on the right in the photo). That accomplished, I'm not sure how all this is going to work with the lining I intended to make out of cotton batiste.

Do I just make a lining for the front pieces and the back waist band piece? How, then, would I finish the edges of the upper back made of lace? I can see how the edges at the shoulder and the waist could be tucked inside the batiste lining, but what about the armhole edges and the V opening down the back? Do I make bias binding for that part? Or should I make a full bodice lining out of batiste, but substitute organza for the upper back pieces? In that case, I suppose I would insert the lining like normal... would that work? I think the first way makes more sense, but if someone else has dealt with a back like this I would love to hear how you did it!

The only thing I've found online for comparison so far, is Julia Bobbin's wedding salsa dress:

The basic elements of her dress look quite similar to the one I'm making - I'm going to email pester her. But in the meantime, I would welcome any and all advice!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wedding Dress Saga - Not quite couture

How good is good enough for a wedding dress? Haha! That's a dangerous question, isn't it? Especially in our society, where people drop thousands and thousands of dollars in an attempt to create the most perfect day EVER.

(google images of "extravagant wedding" turned up this beauty)
Well, I do want my sister's dress to be perfect, but I also know that perfect for her does not necessarily mean perfect by couture standards. Given that there is slightly less than one month to complete the dress, I'm willing to accept that this dress is not going to quite pass the Susan Khalje test. On the other hand, I think there's a lot of nice touches I can do that will make it special. So I'm going to dub this dress "not quite couture" and show off some of the corners I'm cutting and others I'm not. As for all those corners I'm not aware of yet... I guess I'll just have to live and learn.

One thing I've decided not to worry about is matching the lace pattern on the upper skirt and bodice. I'm not exactly what type of lace I'm dealing with. It kinda seems to resemble guipire like the lace below:

However, Katie's lace seems to be lighter and with looser stitching.

It also doesn't have the satin stitch around the motifs that guipire is supposed to have. Instead, it looks like the threads have been couched. Maybe this lace doesn't have any particular name.

I've learned that the proper way to deal with guipire lace is to do a clever overlapping, applique technique at the seamlines, so that patterns are neatly matched and seams are neatly hidden.

a lovely guipire seam done properly, from Pink Hollybush Designs
I might have been able to do this with Katie's lace, but I don't know if the motifs would hold up as well as real guipire. They seem too light and floppy. Also, this looks hard. Maybe someday I will attempt something like this. Someday when I have more patience and more time. As is, I tried just making a regular ol' seam with a sample of Katie's lace, underlined with organza.

It worked nicely, and even though the patterns aren't matched and the seam is visible, it doesn't really bother me. When the lace is laid over the linen underskirt, the seam allowances are hardly noticeable.

On the other hand, I am doing quite a bit of handstitching, though that doesn't necessarily make it couture. I used tailor tacks to match up the skirt pieces. I'm hand-basting the underlinings to the main fabric. I underlined the lace skirt with silk organza. For the bodice I'm underlining the lace with the same handkerchief linen of the underskirt.

For all this handstitching I've been using silk thread, and ooh la la! I like it! So much smoother. I basted the underlining to the main fabric along the dart legs as well.

To stabilize the neckline and armholes and to prevent them from stretching, I'm using strips of silk organza - a technique I picked up from Gertie's blog a long while back. I've been cutting the strips with  my pinking shears to prevent excessive fraying and/or placing the selvage along one edge.

Although now that I revisit that tutorial, I'm noticing that she used many short strips of organza folded in half, rather than a single long strip of organza, as I'm using. Is this enough to warrant a re-do? I'll have to think about it. Another thing to ponder - what should I use to interface the waistband? Horsehair canvas? Suggestions always appreciated!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wedding Dress Saga - Skirt progress

I'm no speed demon, but I'm making progress. I've cut the lace for the upper skirt...

I'm underlining it with silk organza. The lace itself is cotton (with a bit of nylon, I think), and it hangs quite limply on its own. We don't want no limp skirts. So hopefully the organza will do the trick. I cut matching pieces of the organza, pinned them down to the wrong side of the lace...

And then hand basted all the way around the edges. Here is a comparison of the lace that hasn't been underlined (left) and the lace that has been (right).

I've stared at sewing manuals before with these same side-by-side photos, trying to see the difference. It's subtle, but I think it's there. The lace on the right has more body, doesn't it? I'm also trying to figure out if I can put horsehair braid in the hem to help give it a little more oomph. Does anyone know if this would work with lace? I'm gonna do some googling this evening and see what I can turn up. If only I had access to Susan Khalje's book... I'm sure all my questions would be answered (*hint* *Christmas gift* *hint*). Too bad it's so damn expensive.

I also washed some of the lace I've been working with. It came from my mom's stash, left over from her sewing days in the 70s probably. I threw it one of those bags that supposed to protect your lingerie in the wash.

I threw it in the washer and dryer, along with the silk organza. I'm not really sure if you're supposed to do that with organza, but if people use it for pressing cloths, it oughta be up to some heat and stress, right? It came out quite wrinkled, but seems otherwise fine.

Pidgin continues to give encouragement.

The next thing I'm pondering is how to handle the back zip. Since there are two layers of skirt, I'm thinking I should I insert the zip into just the under layer and leave the top lace layer free hanging. Right? Not right? I've had Grainline's tutorial for this bookmarked for a while...

It would also be nice to use some pretty vintage buttons to hold the button placket closed. Uh oh. I may have to lose some more time browsing Etsy. Speaking of vintage and weddings and buttons, did you see this post on the Coletterie blog a while back?

I love getting to see all the construction details on dresses like these, and maybe I should do something similar for the zipper on Katie's dress. I also love all those little rhinestones that are set into the dress. While sewing on the silk organza, I couldn't help thinking about how beautiful it would be to attach little seed beads all over the skirt, sprinkled on in little patches at the center of the lace flowers. Can you visualize it? So pretty! Or perhaps this would be a good time to do a beaded, hand-picked zip...

from Threads
The decisions are far harder than the sewing!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Wedding Dress Saga - Cuttin into the good stuff

pinterest board of potential time-sucking doom
Last week I finally sat down and started cutting out the fabric for my sister's wedding dress. In case you're following, here's the post on inspiration, and here's the post on the trials and tribulations of long distance fitting. There are many reasons why it's taken so long to get to the fabric cutting stage:

  1. Pinterest overload (Holy crap, so many things to look at.)
  2. Etsy overload (Holy crap, so many things to buy.)
  3. procrastination (I'm a pro)
  4. fear (I don't wanna try anything until I know I'll do it right)
  5. selecting fabrics and trims (Is it gonna drape right? Will these look good together? How the hell will I attach this trim to that lace? Should I order from China now that there's only a month left?)
  6. fitting difficulties (Katie, quit yoyo-ing. - Just kidding.)
Big projects can be paralyzing, and I don't know if it gets much bigger than a wedding dress. But I'm forging ahead. Cutting the fabric alone has presented difficulties, just because the pattern pieces are so large.

Here's some fabric laid out in my sewing room. Having this expanse of fabric laid out makes my very adequate sized sewing space suddenly seem teensy. This fabric is a handkerchief linen from New York Fashion Center Fabrics. I'm going to use it for the underskirt and for the bodice. Here are the patterns for reference:

left: McCall's 3643 (bodice), right: McCalls 6698 (skirt)
To make life easier, I chopped up the huge length of linen before I ironed it. I  laid out my skirt pieces first to make sure I wasn't going to waste any yardage, and then I joyfully hacked a piece off, thus creating a much more manageable piece.

The above piece is folded in half, with the fold running vertically on the left side of the photo. To maintain that fold, I basted the selvages together. I don't know if this is a common tactic, but it seemed like the thing to do. It did make it easier to iron the linen and cut the skirt pieces out.

A couple more things that have made life easier...

I hung a clothesline on the wall and pinned up my pattern pieces. I hate having clutter everywhere when I'm sewing, and it can be so easy to lose a piece of a pattern. With everything pinned up, I can see it all easily without having it crowd my work space. I also don't have to worry (yet) about Pidgin attacking the paper because someone (me) foolishly taught him to play with wadded up pattern paper when he was young. Pidgin favors my sewing desk as a nap spot. It's cute, if sometimes inconvenient.

Since the handkerchief linen is kinda delicate, I've been worried about the skirt pieces stretching out wherever they are cut on the bias. So rather than go ahead and cut the other patterns pieces, I decided to sew these together first. I think this whole dress is going to go "cut, sew, cut, sew, cut, sew." It may not be the most efficient way to do it, but it eases my nerves about what those seams lines are gonna get up to before I have a chance to sew them together.

To stabilize the skirt seams that run down each side and the center back, I cut long strips of silk organza with my pinking shears and sewed them into the seams.

Like a lot of the stuff I do when sewing, I'm not sure if this is a proper technique, but it seemed like the thing to do. I also sewed a strip of organza around the waist instead of stay stitching. Next I had to figure out how to finish those seams. I would have preferred to sew French seams, but I want to be able to do last-minute adjustments once I finally get the dress to Katie, three days before the wedding (eek!). I used 1" seam allowances on the side seams for that purpose. I guess... now that I'm thinking about it... French seams are technically adjustable? But could you really have a 1" wide seam allowance with a French seam? Would that even make sense? It makes my brain hurt just thinking about it. So instead, I decided to use seam binding.

This stuff is frustrating to work with. If anyone is a pro and know some way to easily apply Hug Snug, lemme know. As is, I almost abandoned it and just serged the seam allowances. But I couldn't bring myself to do that on my sister's wedding dress. Is that silly? I know nobody would see it, and that it actually gives a very neat appearance, but it just seems so commercial. I kinda want this to be mistaken for a vintage dress. Even if that isn't possible, the Hug Snug gives it a nice look.

There are some ripples and wrinkles in the binding, but most of these disappeared with a quick press of the iron. Thank you Josh, for suggesting that I iron the fold into the binding first. How the heck did he know? You should have seen my first attempt. It was ugly, and I ended up having to unpick about 7 feet of seam binding.

Here you can see the organza tucked into the seam:

Now I'm pre-washing the lace and silk organza for the upper skirt and playing around with my lace options for the top...

Hopefully I'll be back soon with another progress report!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Scout Woven T in black cotton gauze

Guys! Where is summer going???

I did manage to squeeze in some canning. Saskatoons again. Also strawberries from our old garden.

don't know why I decided to date stamp things for a while there...
We moved to our new place finally! Pidgin thought he was going to be left behind and tried to pack himself...

We got away last week for a camping/canoe trip over the fourth of July, which was an amazing time.

And somehow is July 10th now and I have one month and one week to make a wedding dress.... Eek!

Anyway, getting to the point of this post, I do have some finished projects back-logged. One is my belated birthday dress (it got finished, but not in time for the big 3-0). The other is my Scout Woven T:

I made it with the black cotton gauze I bought from several months back.

The pattern, of course, is from Grainline Studio. I have the feeling this T is the beginning of an unhealthy obsession with Grainline patterns.

I slashed a spread the pattern to make room for the pleats, which was an easy feat since the pattern lines are so simple. I didn't bother cutting a spreading for each individual pleat - instead I just cut marked one horizontal line where I wanted the top pleat to start, marked another horizontal line where I wanted the pleats to end, and cut across that second line. Then I shifted everything down about 12". My pleats are 3/4" wide, meaning for each pleat I need 1 1/2" extra (cuz the pleat doubles back on itself), and there's 8 pleats total, so 8 * 1 1/2 = 12". Make sense? In retrospect, I should have done a little extra to account for turn of the cloth (all tiny amounts of fabric taken up by curving around a fold). But it all ended up okay. I just used a narrow hem at the bottom instead of a wider one.

Here you can see the sheerness of the fabric better:

I like how simple and wearable Grainline's patterns are. I'm also glad I chose this fabric, because it's so soft and drapey. You wouldn't want to make this up in anything stiff. The loose weave was a little difficult to work with, but it feels great on. I just hope I don't snag it on anything.

I used French seams throughout, including for setting in the sleeves, thanks to Jen's tutorial. Fancy right? Look how neat it is on the inside...

Here's a tip for French seams... plan which way you're going to press them so that you don't end up trying to sew through two of them at another seam. For example... armhole:

You can kinda see in the photo above that the french seam on the sleeve is pressed to the right, while the one below it is pressed to the left. That way, when I sewed the two together I didn't have to sew through 8 layers of fabric. That have been cause of serious frustration.

I also added a back neckline slit with a button, using the method I worked out on a (failed) blouse earlier this year.

The gauze didn't hold up so well to this manipulation though. Maybe I should have used something else for the binding or interfaced it. Next time.

I love this shirt, and I definitely want to make more. Maybe some in rayon challis? Maybe that silk I bought which has been languishing in my stash for years? But first... I gotta go make that wedding dress!