Friday, December 12, 2014

A postcard

I finally managed to have a moment to get the photos off my camera. I didn't really take very many as I was so busy just being there.
But I thought I would share a few visuals of my time in Montreal.

The wardrobe shop with a costume for Brighella underway. You can see the trial muslin sleeve.  We just had barely enough fabric so I didn't want to make decisions that would be unchangeable.

A pattern for a coat pinned on the stand. The eighteenth century seems to be stalking me lately. This was a pattern for Lelio, the Liar himself.
The view from my window. At night the cross is illuminated. 

One of Montreal's iconic exterior staircases.

Architecture at McGill university and a light installation outdoors at Place des Arts.

I had such a great time. I went to the Défilé du Père Noël, the Musée des Beaux Arts, a great Bach Magnificat and the François Barbeau exhibit at the University of Montreal, among many other things.
Ahhh, well, it is good to go away and experience new things, meet and work with new people but also good to get home too.
Bonne soirée, a bientôt!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Back home

Je suis revenu a la maison!
I had such a wonderful time in Montreal, I was very busy building the show but I had time to walk, walk, walk around the city and go to museums and visit with friends too.

The time went by so quickly and now here I am almost halfway through December with no Christmas preparation yet and the next work season is looming in the very near future.

Before I get reorganized here at home I want to encourage any of you who are in Montreal, or will be this week, to
GO and see the show at the National Theatre School. It is only $9.00 per ticket, and the bigger the audience, the better.

Other links here and here
Seeing these young actors in this show was such a breath of fresh air to me. I hope you think so too.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I am away

Hello all,
I am just posting a little update to inform you that I am away for the next month in the beautiful city of Montreal.
I have a nice studio apartment close to downtown. I can see the cross on the mountain from my window and I am having a great time working on a production here.
I don't have access to my computer, so posting will be sparse until I get access to one, so bear with me.
Today, I had a day off and I walked for hours, doing some window shopping and I took in an exhibition at the McCord Museum called "Wearing our Identity" the first peoples collection which was astoundingly beautiful. The garments and accompanying blankets and jewellry were the best examples of their kind that I had ever seen. The beadwork ranged from subtle to completely amazing, the Inuit fur garments had very interesting shapes and I may just go back and puchase the exhibition catalogue. I highly recommend going to see this exhibit if you have the chance. The design of the exhibit was also very well done, the pieces were well displayed, and just enough negative space or walking around room, so that you could focus on each item or group of items without feeling visually overwhelmed.
The other two exhibits were "Montreal-points of view"which I also enjoyed, and an exhibit about Sam's diner, an  institution in the city for close to a hundred years.

This evening I am off to see a production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" in French. This should test my listening skills! At least I know the show in English.

I hope to fill all my spare time here getting to as many museums and art exhibits as I am able.
So, I will check in later!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Parka pattern and bonus beadwork!

So I have just been in a whirlwind of activity since finishing the opera. I am not sure if I am afraid that when I stop I will crash, but I have been getting a lot done. Except for the still needs some TLC.

But following up to the previous post in which I am making a pattern for an amautik inspired parka, I made a toile for Yvette, and fit it on her on Saturday. It wasn't too bad, although the hood needed work, as I suspected.

Today I managed to alter the pattern and trace a copy of it out for her so she can order material. She is planning on making it out of melton with a separate wind resistant outer shell.

Here is what it looked like on my table. No sleeves in the photo.

Interesting don't you think? Can you see how it goes together? This is a simplified amautik inspired piece. The child's amautik that I took a pattern from is much more complicated!

Interesting things are the only "extra-curricular" projects I take on these days.

This was indeed "interesting", and I hope she gets her fabric soon, because now I am interested in seeing it as a finished garment. I will leave it to her to add her rickrack trim details and patch pockets. I wonder if she is going to put beading on it? She showed me some beautiful beaded pieces that she rescued from mukluks and other garments they wore in the north, that finally wore out.
Really beautiful work.

Oh, I have a pair of beaded gauntlet gloves.....just let me run and get them.

These were given to my father in law many years ago. He worked for the Indian Affairs Department of the Canadian government in Saskatchewan.

Smoked moose hide. They still smell. Even now.
Early 1960's I think.  Northern Saskatchewan.
Beautiful bead work.

Thanks to my DH who happened by and was willing to be a model.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Project puzzles.

Every so often interesting projects turn up out of the blue and I have to say that  love it when this happens.
Give me a puzzle and I am on it.

This week I am making a pattern for a friend who spend quite some time in the Arctic decades ago and wanted to make herself a new winter coat. She wants a modern take on a traditional amautik. 

I have not checked all the information I was told about, and I do not pretend to know very much at all about these garments. Just be forewarned. 

She told me how the Inuit would wrap their babies when they were small and carry them inside the coat, up against the mothers back. The coats were cut in such a way that as the babies grew, they were accommodated by the shape of the coat. The hoods were made large enough to cover the heads of both the mother and child.
The babies were held in place with a cord or sash that looped through a hanging cord at the centre front of the coat, pulled down between the breasts and wrapped around the waist holding the back of the coat tight and keeping the baby inside. She recounted how the mothers would line the inside of the coat back with moss, (no diapers then) that would absorb the child's urine and feces for later removal.

She gave me a child's size cotton amautik that she had, which I took a pattern from, and I have to say it was a very complicated garment. More complicated than it looks.

I am refraining from posting a picture of the pattern I made, as I believe that it is considered the intellectual property of the Inuit and that needs to be respected.

It was quite fun to design a coat for her incorporating some of the traditional aspects of the amautik.
I will have a mock up fitting with her tomorrow, and I am interested to see if she likes it. I know the hood isn't quite right on mine, but I really was winging it! Hooray for mock ups! She plans on making the coat out of melton, and has a nice little Arctic fox in her freezer (really!) that she may use to trim the hood....

The other puzzle I am working on is a soft case for a stand up bass I made for another friend almost 20 years ago. The zipper finally went!
Just a wee repair, but it was another one of those fascinating puzzles that grabbed my attention. His old case was not sturdy and it was falling apart and I took it on myself to make a new one all those years ago.

In other news, if you want to see the waistcoat for the Opera in action so to speak, click here.
The beautiful dress and the other ladies' costume was cut by my colleague Margaret.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Woman's period waistcoat

A little while ago I posted about a waistcoat that I was cutting for a woman, and here it is all finished.
(Please forgive the dotty covering on the stand, it is a bit annoying to look at but I don't have time to change it.)

It is too bad that the detail seaming I put into the backs is lost with this fabric but hey, I know it is there.
If I was making another maybe for myself, I would either pipe the seams or make a detail of it with top stitching or something. Would look great in leather or suede.......don't you think. Not that I will ever get around to making it for myself. Sigh

Well, I guess it is not completely finished (what ever is?)  as I do not have a pretty ribbon or cording to lace the back up, but I am sure I will get something before this show goes in front of the audience.

It doesn't quite fit my stand as well as it does on the real person (what ever does?) but I am quite happy with the whole costume overall. Considering I don't do women's wear.....

Sunday, October 12, 2014

structure in period coats

When I am making period coats specifically the 18th century style with full skirts, there always is the question of what to put in them for structure and support.
The fabrics that we are given are what we have to work with and they can often be a challenge to work with.
I doubt that any of our modern fabrics have the body of some of those silks that were used then.
Most designers want the skirts of these coats to stand out and the trick is to find some kind of interfacing or interlining that will work. something with body that won't lose its oomph over time.

I have been using a sew in interfacing called "sew sure" for many years now. I find it fits the bill providing a lightweight and springy structure that lasts over time. It has a natural tendency to fold flat upon itself lengthwise (warp), but resists folding across the weft, so I cut it so the weft sits vertically at the front edge of the coat. It is also inexpensive, which helps because some of these coat skirts are quite large.

I have a woman's coat to make in a variation of the style of the men's 18th century coats. They are full skirted with pleats but ankle length. The skirts of the coat needed to be a kind of hybrid between the men's look and a woman's dress. The designer wanted the skirts to stand out but we didn't want the full structuring to come right up to the hip where the pleating and the flaring began.

So I modified the technique a bit, using the sew sure interfacing in the bottom 14 inches of the skirts panels. They couldn't just float inside, so I cut a layer of thin poly cotton and attached the sew sure to it and then flat mounted the inner structure to each panel of the coat.

Here is the back of the coat with the structure inside and the trim sewn on the back. I think it works to give the skirts body and make them stand out at the hem.
 I notice a bit of rippling going on on the right side but I think it is just sitting strangely on the stand. Will check it tomorrow.

please forgive the picture quality I am literally snapping photos as I am leaving the studio, since the deadlines are pressing!

Monday, October 6, 2014

trim layout

These period coats have scads of trim, and the placement of the trim needs to be worked out in detail according to the sketch and what the designer has chosen.
The construction of the coats would come to a standstill at some point if we don't have the trim decisions.
Luckily, the designer of this project is organized and has thought out which trim he wanted to purchase and where it would go. On top of that, the trim arrived with tags indicating what it was for and in individual bundles/bags, separated by character.
Budding designers take note! 
This is a way to impress your construction team.

The first thing I do is make a trim map on my pattern, and then lay out the trim flat on the table.
The trim choices can dictate changes to the design. For instance the design may have 12 horizontal lines between the neck and waist but the spacing change if the trim is narrow or wide.

Our designer M.G.  dropped by the studio and we tweaked the layout of the trim a bit, at which point I make a trim map for the tailor. This means a separate pattern piece that they can use as a guideline for chalking out the placement.

Here you can see the coat fronts in progress. The trim must go on by machine. No budget for handwork on that scale.
Another note for budding designers. Get to know how garments are constructed and why things need to be done in a certain order.

The coat does not sit on the body like it is pinned here. It will look even better once they sit at the correct cutaway angle.

Onwards, I have two more trim maps to complete.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

pint size

I have to say that making patterns for the woman's costume was a lesson in scale.
Having just made patterns for the men, the woman's pattern was unfamiliar in terms of what I usually see on my table.
It challenged me to some degree.
This week, I took on a project that challenged my sense of scale even more.

This is about half the chest size of the last men's shirt pattern I made! About half the hip size too for the trousers.

Since my daughter is now an adult, it has been a long time since I made something in this size.

I did find a child size hanger though.

This was a request made through a dance/skating connection, and although I am busy with the Opera project, I couldn't resist this.

I had a fitting yesterday, and all went very well. I will let you know what it was for after the event, as it is to be a bit of a surprise for the audience.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Back at it

Oh my gosh, time flies.
I feel as though I have lost a month somewhere.

So back to it.
It is usually feast or famine in this business, and it is shaping up to be a bit of a feast year so far. This is good because last year was a bit lean in the fall. This fall as soon as I started on the current project, another one came along. That one will be interesting as I get to go and work in Montreal for a month, and I am really looking forward to it.

But, right now, I am moving forward on making three 18th century inspired costumes for a production. One is for a woman dressed as a man, but we are not trying to hide her shape. I rarely get to do women's wear, as there are lots of people who have that background and training.

I did feel a bit out of my element at first. Just the scale of the patterns felt unfamiliar and so small.
Of course when the patterns for the other costumes are for men with 48" chests or who are 6'5" tall  it doesn't help.
I made mock ups anyway because I didn't get a chance to measure the woman myself, and we were using the period as inspiration. The coat for the woman is ankle length and has almost 2/3 circle in fullness. It is going to take a lot of fabric, and I didn't want to mess up!

Here is my waistcoat toile after the fitting. I decided to offset the princess seam from the bust point so it was less obvious (in my mind anyway) but in the back, I used inspiration from the dresses and corsets of the period for my seam placement. The designer wanted lacing up the back which gave me that idea.

My judy is just a bit bigger and certainly less squishy than the real person, so the fit doesn't look optimal, but it was good.

I did have to pin up some extra length in the back and reshape the armhole a bit and move the collar to account for the bulk of the shirt and stock/cravat that she will wear.

I think I may give the hem a bit better shape, it looks a bit blah, and it needs a pocket placement.

I like the back so much it reminded me of an idea I had years ago to make myself a similar waistcoat. never got around to it then and probably won't now either, but hey you never know.

Now I have altered the pattern and just have to cut it out of this. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

creating a waistband unit

This is a technique I used for the waistband on a stylized "Egyptian" shendyt. The fabric for the waistband was flimsy (lame´ and organza on the bias), so I was not going to cut a waistband to sew to the shendyt and interface later. I needed to create a solid waistband unit to apply once the body of the shendyt was ready.

We also use this technique for military tunic collars that need substantial interfacing, or any other time when you need a stiff interfacing but don't want that interfacing to go into the seam allowances.

I thought this would be a good tutorial, but only after we got through most of the process, so these first photos are just samples.

First, you need to determine what the structure of the waistband will be. In this case I used two layers of hymo fused together with stitch witch fusible web. Then I stitched through the layers so they would not ever delaminate. Essential for long term use!

Prep, then cut the waistband (or collar) interfacing to the finished size.

Cut a layer of cotton silesia on the bias. This should be bigger than the waistband interfacing. Stitch it to the waistband interfacing. Make sure it is on the side that faces outwards, so your fashion fabric will sit against it. (this cushions and protects the flimsy fabric from the roughness of the hymo. Trim the silesia so you have 1/2" extending beyond the interfacing on all sides.
With a military collar in wool you would attach the cotton to the inside, allowing the fibres from the hymo to "grab" the wool and then the cotton on the inside gives you something to cross stitch to later.

Rough cut a layer each of lame´and organza on the bias, big enough to allow seam allowances on all sides. Don't worry about being precise here. Slightly bigger is better. Oh and if you are working with lame´, press it first because it shrinks!
Baste the organza over the lame´ by hand. Once down the middle and along each edge as well.

Lay the lame´ and organza over the interfacing layer, and baste in place. Since I was using the lame´on the bias I didn't have to ease it on, but if you are making a collar, and your outer fabric is on grain, you should baste it in place over your hand or on a convex surface. If you baste it flat on the table then try to curve it around a neck, the outer fabric will be short and will forever try to return to being flat, pulling and distorting the collar. You will regret that collar!

Go to the machine and stitch around the interfacing, not right up against it, but a few millimeters or 1/8" away.  You want to be able to leave this stitching in forever.
Stitch through the silesia and the outer fabric only.

Cut a layer of silesia or lining to finish the inside of the waistband. Cut this on the straight grain- the same grain as the interfacing.

Put the lining and the interfaced piece right sides together and bag out the upper edge of the waistband.

Press and trim the seam allowances and then under stitch, turning the lining to the inside of the waistband.

Baste the lining to the inside by hand.

I like to leave the ends open and finish them by hand.

Now you have a waistband unit that you can sew to the waist of the shendyt.

Sew it on, do not catch the silesia/lining in your seam. Trim the seam allowances, and cross stitch them up to the inside of the waistband if desired.

Finish the ends by hand, and slip stitch the lining in place along the waistline.

Install the closures. In this case a press in hook and bar at the CF, and sewn on snaps on the over and under lap ends of the waistband. Since the ends of the waistband cross over at an angle,  onto the body of the shendyt, we used a small square of twill tape for support under the snaps.

Did I take a picture of the finished shendyt?  No, I didn't.
Why? I don't know.
It has been a crazy season and my wits are at their end. I will show you the clever loincloth inside the shendyt later. I took pictures of that.
Now for a week off,  maybe go to the beach, maybe read a book. I will return then.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Creating Armour

  My working life is never boring due to the fact that I may be called upon to make almost anything in any given season, and the only common denominator is menswear. Usually that means tailoring which I love to do, but at other times it could be spandex bodysuits or togas, or what I was doing last week, which was armour.
We needed Roman style armour to go with the togas and chitons required in one of the shows I have been assigned. We had some in stock but all in big sizes and not in great shape, or the right colour of leather for the designer.
So I took a look at what we had and drafted up a set of armour in a smaller size.
I started with a general fit using a very heavy denim fused with canvas, tweaked that a bit and moved onto a set in 5mm thick industrial felt, fit that and then tweaked the pattern a bit more before it was cut in leather.

This is the armour in water buffalo hide, in an unfinished state.
The fronts are quick changed in advance so that you can adjust the fit slightly with the straps but the strap mechanism then snaps over so the buckles do not have to be undone to get in and out of it.
The shoulder pieces still need to be riveted down to the body and we need to attach a d-ring on the shoulders for the capes to attach. The designer was contemplating adding a removable apron front, so that may still need to be worked out.

There is a lot of hardware involved- close to 220 rivets per set, 8 sets of buckles, 20 D-rings, 8 sets of snaps, its a lot of hammering.
The backs are adjustable by lacing tighter or looser, so these should fit  quite a few of our guys.

This was a fun project to do, and something that comes along only once in a while, but it certainly keeps things interesting.

They will also be a welcome addition to our stock for future use.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Something old....

I have to tell you that the availability and affordability of trim for period garments seems to be getting worse with every passing year.
We still have a lot of trim in stock but it is old stock, purchased by the 50 m and 100 m rolls many years ago.

Within this cache is a stash of really old trim. I think it must have been a donation many moons ago. Probably 1920's vintage, and we have scads of it in both silver and gold. We have it in widths from 1/4" to over 2" wide, and it is so pretty with its label and the black paper that separates the layers.

I have always loved this trim, as have many designers over the years.

Sadly, the silver trim is a little less stable and we no longer use it on costumes as it doesn't withstand the wear and tear and cleaning, but the gold has been pulled out to be used on a costume we are making. 

It is a bit finicky to put on and doesn't bend around corners very well, but I think Susy has done a fabulous job with it.
Oh in case you were wondering- this is a view of the back hip area of an eighteenth century coat we are making.
Here's the coat in progress. I still have to do some alterations and correct the sleeves, and the collar is just a basted idea at this stage, but it is coming along.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Layers and things that are hardly seen

I was looking through some of the work photos I have taken this year, and it struck me that some things which we make just kind of get lost in the final look. I know they are there, but overall they seem a bit lost to an audience. I like to think they would be missed if they weren't there. :)
Actually I know that is true!

so here are a few shots to illustrate....

Here's the final look, but what is under that big square cut robe and chain of office?

A silk sash, with a nice fringe and trim detail.

The blue velvet sleeveless gown and belt under the sash.

The doublet and ruff worn under the blue velvet.

There is also a pair of suede breeches, which didn't make it into my camera, but are indeed worn under the blue velvet gown.

Many layers indeed, and quite a task to wear and perform in under the hot stage lights in the middle of summer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

prom dress wrap up

To wrap up the prom dress saga, here's a rundown of the finishing process.
Once I had the skirt attached to the bodice, I turned the CB allowance on the bodice to the inside and cross stitched it down.
I sewed a hook and loop at the top and basted a zipper in place. I then pick stitched the zipper in.

Then I made a belt out of the bias lame that I had fused with wool fuse. I didn't want it to lose its shape so I sewed in a piece of grosgrain. I stitched it by machine on one side and cross stitched the other side down and finished the inside with a piece of ribbon to cover the gap. It had two hooks and loops sewn on the ends to close it, and it was tacked to the dress waist by hand at the back and sides. I tacked it at the CF too but not quite in the right place as I noticed it pulled a little when she had it on. Oh well....

I stitched the bias straps in place by hand, picking through about an 1/8th of an inch from the bodice edge.

Last but not least I made a bow tie. How could I refuse at this point?

Why blue? Two dresses. I made two dresses for two different proms. Can't believe I did that!

But here's a crazy story... I took the blue fabric scrap to work so I could fuse some interfacing on it. I did it at lunch. Every one had left the room and I had just finished pressing 3 metres of muslin for a toile. I got the fabric and interfacing ready on the ironing table and walked away for a minute to check something else, and when I returned I took the iron and put it on the fabric and it melted right through the interfacing and poly stain. I mean melted it leaving an iron shaped hole in the fabric and a melted crust of blue polyester satin in an iron shape on the iron table cover. I have never experienced this before. The iron thermostat had gone haywire and overheated. I took some hot iron cleaner and tried to clean the sole plate and it boiled.
Good thing it wasn't the dress!!!!
Luckily I had another scrap of fabric.

Finally, two dresses, one happy girl, one exhausted mother (awake til she got home, hello 3am).

I really meant to be more diligent with documenting the process, but you know, I think I would still be stitching them if I had.

Now somebody has to get out and cut the weeds grass in the yard! The things that get neglected while sewing after work.

Now back to the usual fare here. I have some 18th century and Roman costumes to do!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Prom dress update- almost done

Well, like many projects, I had the best intentions of documenting the complete process, and then reality took over as I was sewing after work and at home and before I knew it, I realized I hadn't taken as many pictures of the process as I had envisioned. At least the dresses were finished on time!
Here's a little summary:

The chiffon over skirt was pleated up and I hand basted the pleats first then I ran a line of machine stitching on that line as well as a half an inch both above and below before trimming away some of the excess fabric. I figured that I wouldn't be lucky enough to not have to adjust the length so these lines of stitching kept everything together when the time came to adjust the length. I basted the chiffon skirt to the underlayer at the waist and pinned it to the bodice on a dress stand to check the hem, and sure enough, I needed to make a little adjustment on the sides, so I unpicked the basting bit by bit and repinned until everything looked good and then I rebasted the waist of the skirts.
You can see the amount I adjusted at the sides in this picture.
The bodice is two layers of polyester white satin. Certainly not the most forgiving fabric. That being said this is a dress that likely will be worn once, so no point in bemoaning the fact that it is what it is.
I marked out each piece separately for both the under and overlayer.
I used the seam allowances of the underlayer to create bone channels for the plastic boning. The only seam allowance that gave me trouble was the front panel over the bust. This fabric doesn't take well to being eased and as the edge of the 1/2" wide  seam allowance is slightly longer than the seam it is a part of, it rippled a bit when making the bone casing. It wouldn't press out well either, so if I did it again, (which I did in the second dress) I would make a separate bone casing for that particular bone and then the seam allowance can be trimmed down and made to behave.

I also made sure to machine stitch the top edge and waist line of each of the pieces for the inner layer. This shows me the pattern line, but more importantly, stays the areas of the bodice that are a bit on the bias, such as the side front panel at the top edge. I checked the measurements of the pieces against the pattern after this. That side front panel had stretched out ever so slightly so I used that stay stitch to ease the edge back to its correct size.

I then sewed the top layer of satin just on the outer edge of my pattern lines to allow a smidgen of ease.
Place the bodice right sides together and bagged out the upper edge, pressed, under stitched and trimmed the seam allowance down. Then I basted along the upper edge to hold the fabrics as one and smoothed everything in place before basting the layers together at the waist, and then serging the raw edge of the waist and CB seam allowances.

Once the bodice was prepared, I worked on the pleated overlayer. I used a bias strip rather than the shaped piece in my original plan (thanks again to colleagues!). The bias can mold around the body and a bonus was that the tension on the bias piece made the front area stand up vertically and the rest of the strap laid flat! I also could make length/tension adjustments easily!
I fused the lame with a piece of wool fuse which is a soft spongy fusible I had on hand.
 I had this prepared and prefit from an earlier fitting,
so I stitched the top edge of the pleated net to the lame and then arranged the pleating at the waist. Baste the layers together at the waist,  then baste the skirts on and fit to check.

Everything seemed fine! so I finally machined bodice to skirt, and trimmed the excess seam allowances down.

The worst was over!

next up will be all the finishing details.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The finished cape

I don't want to neglect the fact that I have had other work to do- its not all prom dresses here. I confess though to making my daughter two dresses! There I said it. Call me crazy, but the deal was the second dress had to use some of the original fabric and the same bodice fabric and shape..
Anyway....more on that later.

Earlier, I had posted about the very large red velveteen cape here but I haven't followed up yet with how it turned out.

So first, the finished item front and back.

The designer had the crowns embroidered onto the off cuts of the velveteen. Once they came back from the embroidery place, they had a fusible backing applied to them. In the best of all worlds with no budgetary constraints we would have liked to sew them on by hand, but in reality, we couldn't do that, so our decorating department did a test using a paper backed fusible- and it worked, so they were fused and then they were individually cut out and trimmed to shape.

We had a fitting with the full costume and the cape to determine the hem length (the front length is important to get right) - we don't want to trip up our actors! The actor did a bit of movement in it, at which point we decided that it needed to have a harness inside to stay put. We took it back to the table, removed the lining which had been basted in for the fitting, made a neckline correction, and then prepared to hem the beast. 
I knew the cape had to have a closed lining, which means hand sewing the lining hem to the velveteen, but hemming the velveteen by hand seemed like both a daunting task and perhaps not a strong enough technique. We have a semi industrial Bernina that does a blind hem stitch, so the velvet hem allowance was trimmed to one inch and hand basted in place to prep for the blind hemming. It worked like a dream and was pretty much invisible. That process alone trimmed hours off the time. 

Once the hem was done, off it went to the designer, who, with her assistant, laid it out first on the floor to place the crowns, then put it on a stand and tweaked the placement until she was happy with it. 

The next stage went to the decorating department, and they carefully fused each crown using a velvet press cloth to minimize any chance of crushing the surrounding velveteen.

Then it came back to us. 
It was laid out again on a big table for the lining to be basted back in. Each step needs to be checked, so back it went onto the stand to make sure the lining wasn't pulling anywhere, then back to the table to be hand sewn along the front edges, neckline and hem.

Not quite done yet! 
The last stages were to make a harness, and cover the harness in the same fabric as the doublet. The harness was then hand stitched to the cape  from the back neck to just in front of the shoulders. 
Last but not least, the front corners of the cape needed to attach to the doublet and look like it just sits there magically. A couple of hooks and snaps took care of that and then we were finished.

All done and happy with it. 
Now do I keep the pattern for it, or not? Maybe the half muslin would be easier to store.....hmmm.....

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The fabric I fear....

Well, I am a tailor for a reason.
I like like wool. I like fabrics with some body that don't slide off the table if you look sideways at them. So I was a bit apprehensive about sewing the chiffon of the prom dress.
So what happens often with the thing you fear the most is that it turns out to be not a problem at all, and so it went with the chiffon.
OK, the seams were straight grain which helps.

First thing I did was pull a thread to determine the vertical cut I was going to make. Then I measured the amount I needed plus an allowance for french seams, pulled another thread and cut.
Then I had to unpick some of the flowers so I had a clear area to seam the skirt.
I did a french seam.

Once that was done, I marked a hem line on the underskirt as well as the chiffon layer and basted it in preparation for a bridal hem. (the chiffon was done on the straight grain so I didn't baste, just marked and pinned)

I am not sure whether this is a common technique anymore now that sergers are in widespread use. My colleagues offered two options of the same finish. One uses a narrow zig and the other a straight stitch. I chose the straight stitch version.

The technique in a nutshell: you turn up the hem allowance so the fold is about 1/8" below the hemline you want, then either zig or straight stitch through two layers on your basted line. Carefully trim away the excess hem allowance, right close to the stitch line you just did.
Now turn that folded edge up and stitch through the layers again, encasing the raw edge beside your first line of stitching.
It looks like this when it is done.
No lengthening after this so be sure that it is the hem length desired.

Oh, you need small sharp scissors (not like the ones in the photo) to trim close to your first line of stitching, and always go slowly and carefully when trimming!

Did I mention that the chiffon wasn't a problem?
I decided to pleat the waist rather than gather it, and up to this point it was all fine and dandy. I was feeling great until I started to pleat. It was like trying to corral a herd of cats.
That took some time (much longer than I planned as I did it twice), and a bit of cursing and required wine afterwards.