Friday, July 29, 2011

trim details

When I start making patterns for the costumes, I usually don't have any idea of the trims that may be used or the button size that may be chosen but those things make a huge difference in the final pattern and in the making up process of the costume.
With our footmen costumes, the shape of the wide trim and the placement of the trims dictated the amount of button stand and the spacing of the buttons as well as the construction technique to a degree.
I first fit the waistcoat by pinning it together along the CF line so I have a true line to go by once the trim is decided.
After the designer pins the trim in place, I have to work everything out for the stitchers.

(I also need to make sure that there is adequate support behind the trim so if I haven't cut enough support at the beginning I have to add more later. Luckily I had cut it in the first place.)

So I need a map of sorts.
I made a small sample of the front, and went to the buttonhole machine to put in some holes so I could determine the smallest hole size I could use. I wanted the wide trim to cover the tail end of the buttonholes, and I also wanted the button spacing to work out so that there was a buttonhole at every curve of the wide trim.
I needed to allow just enough space in front of the buttonhole to accomodate the narrow trim.
Once I had all of that figured out, I could mark the garment properly for sewing.

Armed with the map, the seamstress did a preliminary lay-out of the trim, so we could make sure it worked for button placement and also to figure out how the best way and place to turn the corner with the trim as it travels around the skirt and neckline of the waistcoat. This preliminary work allows us to sew most of the trim on by machine which is usually the most efficient way of applying it.
The right front is not a problem in that the trim could go on by machine before the facing and lining were installed. The difficulty with trims and functional buttonholes is that the buttonhole machine does not take kindly to trim, so we had to be clever and put the trim on around the skirt of the waistcoat by machine and then stop just below the bottom buttonhole. The buttonholes have to go through the facing, so the facing was put on and basted to the inside, then I put in the buttonholes. After that, the trim was basted in place, covering the buttonhole ends and then handsewn to the fronts. The facing and lining seam was then joined by machine and the waistcoat front was finished as usual.

It is interesting how many details need to be thought out in order to finish a garment. More than most people would realize, don't you think?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

18th century coat finished

This is the final stage of the coat that I blogged about here (toile) and here.
Both of them. (there are two matching footmen in the show)
The other coats are done too!
Stats for those who like them:
I cut this coat out of 5.25 m of 140cm wide upholstery damask/brocade
(sorry, I'm not sure what I would call this and I'm too tired to search for it today)
Lined in pink silk duppioni.
13.5 m of the wide trim on the coat
13.5 m of the narrow trim
buttons: 49
It took three and a half days to stitch the trims on the first coat. Less time on the second as we knew where everything was meant to go.
No trim on the sleeves, which was surprising but that is what the designer wanted.
Here's a little close up of the back.
I feel a bit stunned that all the coats are completely finished. Now I really feel tired!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

more coat cuff progress

I was going to say that these coat cuffs were finished but they are not quite done yet. They are attached to the sleeve and the sleeve is in the coat so we have made progress but they still need their decorative buttons.

Obviously at some point, historically speaking, this cuff style was literally buttoned up onto the sleeve with functioning buttons and holes. A practical solution that grew out of the fashion for display and ornamentation.

Often we will make sham buttonholes out of trim and the button will be sewn on the cuff to make it look as though they were really buttoned on. This time the buttons will be sewn onto the border of plain blue, but we often will tack them through to the sleeve at the front so that the cuff has some support and to keep it from falling down.

We have managed to make everything wearable for the tech dress rehearsal, but we have a lot of finishing yet to do.
It is nice though to be backstage when the actors first get a chance to see each other in these elaboarate costumes. They were thrilled and we were too.

Monday, July 18, 2011

making coat cuffs

Here are the coat cuffs in progress. In the first photo you can see the inside structure. The cuffs have been sewn together along the front seam after the structural portion has been flat mounted to the plain silk.
The next photo shows the beaded silk inset basted in place. I decided to not put a seam in the beaded fabric, even though there is one underneath. The shaping at that point is quite minimal, and it looks better without a seam.
The next step was to machine the edge of the beaded fabric through the structural layers, then lay on the first trim, pinning in ease as needed then stitching it through all the layers.
I missed getting photos of the lining being attached, but the next step was to sew the lining seam, then bag out the cuff with the lining, turn it to the inside and baste it in place.
The narrow trim then went on by hand I believe, and then the cuff will be seamed onto the sleeve.

Almost ready.

This is the only pair of cuffs that I am making in this manner. The other coats are getting a more "theatrical" finish where the cuff is closed all around and then applied to a finished hemmed sleeve. Those are easier to alter as the cuff can come off easily, the sleeve length changed and the cuff is then slipped stitched back on.
The sleeves and cuff treatment above is more true to the period in that where the cuff folds is the hem length of the sleeve. the back of the cuff is open and you will be able to see the inside lining of the cuff. Still alterable but a bit more work would be required.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Sometimes, in the midst of getting through the enormous workload, I wonder why it is taking so long to accomplish anything. Then I cut something that really points out why I am feeling behind. Here's the latest example. Cuffs. Simple right? No, the end result will look simple, but in reality there are seven layers to be cut for these particular cuffs. They need structure otherwise they will floppy and sad, and the fabric is too thin to give any help, so I had to experiment a bit to see what would be the best solution. Experiment = time.
Okay, once I decide, then I have to cut all the pieces out, which means drawing around the pattern for each layer and either cutting out with a seam allowance or carefully cutting exactly to size, which means cutting inside the pencil lines (if you don't cut away the pencil line the piece gets bigger). It means locating the materials to use- which could be a trip to the cage for support fabrics, and then a bit of pressing, then laying them out to cut, keeping track of how much is used for budget purposes, returning them, and then doing the same with the fashion fabrics. Next thing you know, most of the morning is gone, and you have two cuffs cut out.

The order of layers:
1. white woven crisp sew in interfacing- pattern drawn out on it, cut with seam allowance.
2. stitch wichery - cut exactly to size (4 pieces)
3. hair canvas- drawn and cut exactly to size (4 pieces)
4. fusible canvas- drawn and cut exactly to size (4 pieces)
5. duppioni silk, background colour
6. beaded silk inset- separate pattern made for stitcher to have for marking placement
7. lining silk.

The hair canvas was stitch-wiched to the white woven interfacing, then the fusible canvas was fused to that. Theses layers were stitched together to prevent delamination from occuring. This structure layer was then flat mounted to the background silk. Since the canvases were cut to finished size, the white interfacing it is attached to gives us a seam allowance to use when bagging out the edge. It also provided a smooth surface for the thin silk that we are using.

Once the background silk is flat mounted, the placement of the beaded silk inset can be marked. The next step is to baste on the beaded silk, trim excess seam allowance, remove the pearls from the seam allowance by crushing them, then stitch down through all the layers.

Then the trims can be applied. When all is satisfactory, the outer edge of the cuff can be bagged out with the lining, turned and basted in place. Next, the cuff can be sewn to the sleeve, the hems sewn and the lining finished.

Repeat for the other cuff.
Repeat in variations for all five coats.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

warning: trim ahead

Trim, trim and more trim.
Remember the post here of the toile 18th century coat? Well here it is in progress. The trim has been chosen and we've laid it out and stitched most of it on by machine. Then we stopped.
We have two of these coats to do, identical trimming, so this one is waiting for a pair of hands to come free to continue with it, and in the meantime we are working hard to get the second coat to the same stage. We're working on the best spacing for the buttons in the picture above. The narrow braided trim was a pain to work with as it separated easily, and was quite thick, so it went on with a zig zag stitch down the middle.
That trim also shrunk- a lot- 15cm per metre, so the moral of the story is don't just measure the trim and tell the design team that 40 metres is enough, preshrink it before measuring! Luckily, they purchased more and we were saved .

The wavy gold trim was nice and flat but the designer wanted the scalloped edges to hand over the front edge and hemline of the coat. So, we stitched the inside edge down along the scallops, and left the other edge free for now so we can attach the facing and turn the hem first. When that is done, we can finish stitching the trim edge. We also have to put the shoulders together in order to finish the trim along the neckline, so we have a fair bit of work to do on this before it is wearable.

Everything has trim on it and here's a snapshot of figuring out the the cuff detail of the coat of beaded silk.
I recut the sleeves in the beaded fabric, mocked up the cuff and Denise got the coat ready with the beaded fabric so the designer could have a look at all the proportions and give us the go ahead.
We discovered that the pearls could be crushed with a pair of pliers, leaving the chain stitch and the embroidery threads uncut. The large pearls we removed by cutting the thread but most of the small pearls that lay in the seam allowances and close to the seam lines needed to be removed before stitching. It was a strangely gratifying thing to do, crushing pearls, but time consuming nonetheless.

More to come as more gets done.....

Saturday, July 9, 2011

next step

After the fitting, we dressed the stand up and left it for the designer to play with trim placement.
This is what we saw in the morning.

Originally the designer wanted to use the shapes inherent in the beaded fabric to create a scalloped edge. I thought the shapes were too big and didn't work, but the idea of leaving a border of the plain silk on the front edge was a good one.

Turns out we are ditching the scallop idea and using the fabric plain, with borders of the plain silk. Yeah!

The beaded silk will lay on top of the existing fronts. We'll figure out how to best attach it, avoiding stitching over the beads of course, on Monday. The trim will cover the edge of the beaded silk so that works in our favour. I imagine we will try to stitch the beaded fabric edge down by machine, and sew the trim on by hand. The trim is very wobbly and by the time you baste it on, it could have been sewn by hand . Same with the narrow braid that serpentines down the front, winding its way around the button placement.
I'll have to make copies of the coat front pattern and work out all the details concerning the size and shape of the band of plain fabric on the fronts and hem, the button placement and the serpentine pattern of the trim. Same process for the cuffs and pocket flaps.

The beaded silk will end at the first turnback of the skirt pleats, so the pleated area will remain the plain silk, on both the fronts and backs.

I will just cut new sleeves in the beaded silk as it makes no sense to double up the fabric where it is not needed. There are some alterations to do on the size of the cuffs anyway. The cuffs will also be of the beaded silk with a border of plain blue and a repeat of the trims.
This is a typical process here where the first idea simmers along for a while and then changes once the garment is three dimensional and on the body. I just wish we were at this stage two weeks ago, and the stress of getting it done in a week and half would be much less.
Oh well, I got another stitcher starting Monday so that has to help. I just need to get it all cut out so we can move ahead. I hope one fitting is going to be enough because there won't be time for another.........
As I was cutting into the beaded fabric on Friday, I kept wondering what the machinery looked like that made this beaded fabric. Boggles the mind really.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Canada Day and work

We are a bit behind the eight ball these days, trying to overcome the loss of productive hours when we were stalled on two shows about six weeks ago.

Ok, we were/are really behind schedule to the tune of about 300 sewing hours and I can't say how many cutting hours, so, after a meeting with my boss, I have gained two more stitchers for the next two weeks. I also managed to pass on one of the six outfits that I was assigned to someone else too, so I feel a little less pressured.

Since we were behind, we worked on Canada Day, but we always make time to celebrate. We've hosted so many parties in our room that we have the set up and clean up so organized that it takes mere minutes to accomplish. Cake, strawberries, punch and friends- what could be better?
Now for the work,

Here are a few pictures that I grabbed before leaving work today so you can see what is keeping us so busy. The silver dupioni coat is going to get an overlay of the beaded dupioni, and I have a fitting tomorrow morning with it, and the green coat I will also fit tomorrow, so it can then be trimmed up and head toward finishing.
These coats are challenging because each fabric requires different treatments to get the shape the designer is after and to keep that shape, while remaining as light weight as we can make them. The dupioni is paper thin so it was flat mounted onto a thin but very crispy sew-in interfacing cut on the cross for maximum resistance to folding flat in the pleat area. I then interlined the complete skirt area with a horsehair canvas cut on the cross as well.
The green coat is an upholstery fabric and on its own has quite a bit of body, so I didn't have to flat mount it completely but cut interfacing through the skirt area to keep it from collapsing onto itself.
I may need to stitch in some wide crin ribbon in the hems, but first things first- get it on the body, fit, altered and all the trim figured out.