Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dress capes and fancy linings

I seem to have a variety of capes to make this year and here are two of them.
These are what I would call dress capes, something usually worn with formal wear earlier in the last century, but for our purposes, worn as character pieces with regular suits underneath.
The brown cape is a cotton velveteen with a silk velvet collar and facing and a wild orange paisley lining. Very vibrant and lots of fun!

The capes have an arm slit for optional wearing opportunities. You can just see the inside of the double piped slit here on teh velvet.
The second one is made of a plain cream wool, and has a wild pink and blue lining.
The difficulty with this one was that the lining showed through the cream wool, which was not an effect we wanted. So what I ended up doing, was to line the cape with a dark beige lining first and then apply the colourful lining as a separate layer to the inside.
This certainly added time to our budget, but on the other hand, the fancy lining could be pulled out at a later date and the cape would then be suitable for a more sedate character.

One tricky thing to keep in mind when making lined capes is the bias drop. The side seams of these capes, being on the bias, drop considerably and the outer fabric and the inner lining drop at different amounts due to the individual fabric qualities.  This means after the outside shell is sewn the lining must be checked and adjusted for size, because as the bias drops the fabric panels get narrower. The lining must always be slightly larger than the outer layer as well. So I always start with allowing a centimeter on the double extra on the CB and side seams of a cape of this size, then adjust as needed.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

step two- prom dress idea/drawing/breakdown

OK, the next step is to get the dress idea on paper.
my daughter saw a dress she liked on the Internet. Yes, she could have ordered it from a mystery place in China, but I have dissuaded her from doing so. These are my reasons:

One- will it arrive in time or at all? Panic if it doesn't.
Two- will it fit? Altering it could be a pain, and could be a panic due to time restraints.
Three- at the price, we are contributing to underpaid labour and worse maybe child labour.
Four- lets support local businesses, so we bought the fabric locally.
Five- Quality? for the online price, it may not look like you want it to.
Six- I can make it.

So we have modified the original design to reflect the fabrics we found locally. We had a great time one evening at our local fabric store, the manager and the salesperson all got into the act, pulling fabrics out and discussing the pros and cons of the colour combinations and such.

Break it down:
A structured strapless bodice, boned for support.
A sheer chiffon over skirt that has fabric roses along the hem. Gathered into the waist.
An underskirt, that will likely have panel seams to eliminate any extra bulk at the waist and give enough walking room at the hem.
A neckband which will need a bit of structure. It wraps around the back and attaches to the bodice almost under the arms.
The neckband supports a pleated sheer net over-layer that covers the front of the bodice, and ends under the waistband/belt.
The "belt"/waistband is applied to the bodice.
Likely a zip closure CB.

We need the shoes to determine the length of the skirt, and I need to get some fabric for the inner bodice, and a zip, oh,  and thread. Sigh.

I'd like to take a moment here to say that in general I think the prom dress situation is out of hand. Now I am going to be making this, and the fabrics were less than $100.00 and it will look like a more  expensive gown than it is, but there are girls buying $600+ dresses for a one night event and it makes me uncomfortable.

I have been trying to get across the fact that you don't need to peak in high school.
Thumbs up to everyone who is venturing to make their own dresses.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Step one: measurements

I have been so busy at work but I knew that I must get started on the prom dress before it turns into a problem, so the first step is measurements.

I cannot stress how important measurements are.
Good measurements.  Accurate measurements. Many measurements.

This means that you cannot take your own measurements. Get a friend to help.

I thought I should go over the list of measures I take and tell you why they are important.
Wear the undergarments you will normally wear under the clothes to be made.
For men, wear a snug t shirt, non bulky trousers if possible, for women, a camisole and tights/shorts, or non bulky trousers. Take measurements in stocking feet, and measure to the floor where indicated.

Pin a piece of elastic or a twill tape around the waist, this is non-negotiable.

These are the measurements that I take. Measures specifically for women will be noted in red.

height: taken in stocking feet. Useful for comparison with other measures, and in proportional formulas.
weight: useful if sending measurements to someone who hasn't seen you in the flesh
neck: taken close to the base of the neck
bust/chest: taken over the fullest part of the bust, tape level, and for men, make sure  the tape does not    slip down in the back.
ribcage: taken under the bust
waist: for men, at the navel, where the waist tape should sit. For women it is usually slightly above the navel, usually where the torso is the most narrow.
hip: around the fullest part of the hip for men. For women, take an upper hip and full hip measurement.
across front: this is taken horizontally above the fullest part of the bust, from the crease of where the arm joins the body.
bust point to bust point: distance between nipples.
front length: from the base of the throat to the waist tape.
across back: horizontally mid back from the crease of where the arm joins the body.
back length/nape to waist: from the nape of the neck to the waist tape. The nape is the seventh cervical vertebrae and can usually be seen or felt.
nape to back of knee: feel for where the knee bends
nape to floor: in stocking feet
nape to shoulder: feel for the bone in the shoulder socket.
nape to elbow: taken with elbow slightly bent
nape to wrist: over the slightly bent elbow to the wrist bone on pinkie side of wrist
nape to bust point:  generally for women only
nape to waist front straight down over full bust: useful as a balance measurement
nape to CF waist: useful as a balance measurement
shoulder width from neck: from the side of the neck to the bone in the shoulder socket
bicep: at fullest part of arm, flexed
forearm: a few inches below elbow
wrist: around the wrist
waist to knee: measure from the waist tape to the level of the middle of the kneecap
waist to floor/outseam: measure from the waist tape, to the floor in stocking feet
inseam: from crotch to floor in stocking feet
thigh: at fullest point
below knee:  in the hollow below the knee proper
calf: at the fullest point
ankle: around the ankle
girth short: from waist centre front through the legs, to waist at centre back
girth long: from throat, between legs to nape of neck
bra size: useful for determining proportional bust darts

some tailors will take a measurement from shoulder point to shoulder point, and some take a measurement around the whole body at the shoulder level, so it encompasses the bulk of the arms.
rise: some take it by seating the person on a chair and measuring from waist to the chair seat.
glove size: over the knuckles with the hand clenched
Bowed legs: check for bowed legs or knock knees by asking the person to stand with their feet together, and look. Measure the bow if it is severe.
Stance: best seen in photos but check posture when the person is relaxed, do they stand slumped, or hip forward, or erect?
Seat: do they have a flat, average or full seat? again photos help.

any measurement that doesn't have a definable fixed point to start from, such as side length from underarm to waist, or measuring to end at an approximate position such as a side seam.
Measurements such as these cannot be used with any accuracy when drafting or even checking a commercial pattern.

very useful and recommended:
three photos, hopefully in good light face on, in profile and the back.
These are very useful in seeing figuration like shoulder slope, sway back, hip stance......and most helpfully, disproportion. If the person carries a lot of weight a photo helps to determine where their weight is distributed.

I think I remembered them all!
This may seem like a lot of measurements but they all have a function in draftting. You can also use them to check a commercial pattern.
Proper measurements will enable you to get closer to your desired fit right from the start. There will always be tweaking of a pattern but good measurements and the interpretation of the measurements will hopefully eliminate major alterations.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

a very large cape

Once upon a time I had occasion to make quite a few large garments and one of the things that makes handing large patterns and garments time consuming is that they do not fit on the cutting table.

My cutting table is four feet wide by eight feet long, and most of the time it is perfectly adequate for laying out fabrics that are folded in half lengthwise as most are. Sometimes though, it makes more sense to lay fabric out its full width, so if I have 60 inch/150 cm wide fabric, it is wider than the table and hangs over the edge. This is irritating because I cannot draw out the full pattern at once, and it takes much more time to align the fabric properly, draw out a portion of a pattern, then shift the whole piece of fabric over, so the other side hangs off, and then realign it all and draw out the remaining pattern.

I solved this problem first in my personal space by having a 12 inch wide extension made that hinges to the full length of my table, so when I need it, I prop it up and go to town. At work, I requested an extension and they made me a removable 12" x 8 foot long extension that sits on clever slide out supports.
So far so good. I have used them over and over and it is quite helpful.
This year though I have a pattern that doesn't fit even on the extended table.
I am making a very large cape.
The centre panels are 3.9 metres long.
It is floor length and has a modest train of only 24 inches or so, but it is 7/8 of a circle and I had to find another place to work on it, from drawing out the paper pattern, to cutting a half muslin for the designer to look at and for decoration to be placed,  to laying out the pieced panels of velvet and the silk lining.

It doesn't even look big at this angle!
The lobby turned out to be the best place for the task, so this past week I have been up and down between the basement at one end of the building to the third floor level at the other end of the building more times than I care to think about.
 Laying out the lining.

I think it is coming along now that the panels are sewn.
A heap of velvet, soon to be a cape!
Cotton basted into the front edge and around the neck to provide support.
Next step: cut away everything that isn't a cape!

Now we just have to baste the lining in, and the hem up for a fitting. I am hoping this will be able to be done on the spare tables in the wardrobe proper or else we are all going to be paid by the mile until it is finished! Thanks to Chris and Laurie for helping me on Saturday!