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.

Monday, May 19, 2014

prom dress: toile bodice fitting

Finally getting to the dress.
I am excited to be making some progress! Sometimes just doing something different kind of perks you up.

So I have fit the bodice I drafted, and was very pleased with the fit so far.

I pinned out about .5cm on the double on the side seams, as well as a dart in bodice side front panel as you can see here.

We were also playing around with turning the neckband around to see what a halter strap would look like. 

I might do a little shaping under the bust as well, and make the CF a seam instead of cutting it on the fold, but so far so good.
I used some rigilene boning in this mock-up because I had it on hand, but I do not like it.
The boning I will use is 1/4" German plastic boning that I will get from Farthingales. You do not have to worry about the ends poking through or capping the ends, it can be inserted into channels or stitched through.
The other type of boning that I would typically use is 1/4" wide spiral steels. They have the advantage of flexing around curves much better than anything else, so in this case, I may use one over the front curved seam or see if I can redistribute some of the shaping between the front and side front panels.
I will try to use the seam allowance on the inner layer to create casings for the bones, and may move the side seam forward to give a bit more support to the front of the bodice.

One note that applies to all sewing projects- start as you mean to go on. By that I mean you should include things like shoulder pads when making a jacket, boning if you are making a strapless bodice. I have also noted that people often choose fabric for a toile/mock-up that is totally unlike what they plan to use in the end. Pick something that has teh characteristics of the final garment, otherwise it just won't give you the true story.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

doublet sleeves with slashes

Do you ever wonder about how fashions develop and why they are popular and what keeps trends going? I do. I especially wonder if in the future some poor costume maker is going to have to recreate the style of trousers worn by guys today, the sagging ones hanging on with no visible means of support, and wonder why it was popular. By then of course the deep meaning of it will have been analysed and discussed and theories made and so on, and it will all make some kind of sense.

I relate this line of thinking in some ways to the fashions of the past which we are now trying to interpret for the stage. Now, we are not trying for academically historical accuracy, but theatrical interpretation and one of the things we have been working on it slashed garments.
I am not going to go into the history behind it here as you may Google to your heart's content and read all about it. 
What we have to do is interpret what the designer is after.

We want a slashed look and there are a few options to making that happen.
First, you could cut slashes or holes in the fashion fabric and have a coloured lining beneath that which shows through the holes you have made. The downside is that it can look a little flat.

Second, you could have fullness in the coloured under layer so the coloured fabric poufs out through the cuts in the outer fabric. A more interesting look.

So, can we manipulate the coloured fabric to show through the cuts consistently over six months of wearing and dry cleaning and still have it looking good to be used over and over again? Yes, we can. There are probably endless possibilities or at least quite a few, but here is one that we used this year.

We have a pair of suede sleeves with slashes.  The good thing about leather/suede is that we do not have to finish the cut edges of the slashes as leather isn't about to fray. The slashes were cut first, using  small chisel and a pair of scissors. The chisel gets the cut started and you finish the cut with the scissors. The slashes are shaped, not just straight cuts.

There will be lines of narrow trim running vertically between the columns of slashes.

This gave me the idea to use those lines to attach the pouf fabric on the inside of the sleeve.
This is our sample.
You can see that the suede has been painted down. The original colour is in the middle. We also showed the designer the two different colours of silk that she was interested in using. We used the more yellow version on the right.
The pouf fabric was cut on the bias and arranged in place on the back of the sleeve. Once we were satisfied with the amount of fabric coming through the slashes, it was basted in place and then machine stitched to hold it permanently. The silk fabric was stitched in, then narrow trim was zigged on, covering the previous line of stitching.

After that, the lining was inserted into the sleeve as usual. I don't think that the poufs will require any further stitching to hold them, but while the sleeve is flat we could have stitched a tack at the ends of the slashes.

I think that was quite successful and it has the advantage of not being bulky.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

prom dress part four - drafting

 I feel like the month of May is trying to rush by, and I have been slogging it out doing overtime at work. This means that I feel quite behind on the prom dress project but I managed to squeeze a bodice draft into my week-end.
When I was first training as a cutter, I used Dress Pattern Designing by Natalie Bray as a text, so since I am familiar with it, it seemed the best choice to use for this block.
Some of my colleagues use it or use it as a jumping off point.  Just like the men's drafts, you cannot expect it to be 100% right off the page. With practice, of course, you begin to see the shapes being created on paper and can recognize areas that you can tweak or modify right away for a better fit, but a toile or mock-up is always a good idea.

One thing I did was to reduce the amount of ease in the basic block. There is usually 2 inches on the half in this draft, but I want a close fit, so I reduced it to 1 inch on the half.  This should be close to what I need.

I didn't take all the ease out beacause I wanted some ease in order to be able to fit it properly.
Too tight is always more difficult to deal with. It is so much easier to be able to pin the excess out, and see that your alterations are not causing other problems. If your garment is too tight, it can be difficult to determine how best to fix it. Too tight at the waist for instance can cause bodices to ride up, distorting the position of darts as well as affecting the armholes and even neckline and shoulders. You can end up in a guessing game that entails multiple changes when really all you may have needed is more fitting ease.

I marked out the style lines on the basic pattern, front and back, then I traced them to a clean sheet of paper using a needle point tracing wheel. I will keep the original block intact so that I can go back and manipulate it as needed. For instance,  even though I measured her myself, I think the bust point to bust point measurement seems narrow, so I could go back and easily make the front panel wider, and the side front panel narrower, without throwing anything off.

Once that was done, I trued up all the seam and style lines, and cut out my pattern.
Then I cut out a mock-up, leaving an inch of seam allowance both below the "waistline" as well as above the upper edge of the bodice. All the lines on this pattern are "nett" so I can choose how much seam allowance I want in specific areas.

Next will be the skirt and then a fitting. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

prom dress part three-pattern sketch

When I am getting ready to make a pattern for  garment, I often find it helpful to sketch out the rough pattern shapes. This dress is not particularly complicated but it is a helpful process to go through nevertheless.
  You can then look for potential style, cutting or fitting issues. 

So, as I would if I was actually drafting, I would start with sketching out the basic block, and then drawing in the pattern lines.

The bodice front will be in two pieces to fit closely over the bust.
  Allow enough seam allowance on the top edge so if bodice needs pinching in along the top edge, you can still correct the line. Same goes for the waist seam allowance.

The back could be cut in two panels or the two sections could be made into one, and eliminate the seam.
  If cut as one piece, allow enough seam allowance to make changes without re cutting.

The collar/neck piece shape is made by closing the bust dart from the bust to the shoulder, closing the back shoulder dart and then putting the front and back shoulders together and drawing out the shape desired.
  It could be cut in one piece but if the CF is on the straight grain, it puts the majority of the neck piece on a bit of the bias which may stretch, so it may be more prudent to allow a shoulder seam in the neck piece, which would keep the back portion on a more stable grain. Not sure how much tension can be put on this piece without it buckling on either edge. It will be a more decorative rather than a structural part of the dress. 

The pleated overlay is created by initially closing the panel seam/dart from waist to bust, then opening/flaring out the top edge. You could calculate how many pleats you want at the neck, and how deep they might be first and then measure out how much more you need open the top edge.
  The amount to add depends on the fabric chosen and what looks good, so allow enough for changes to be made. The more flare, the more the side ends up on the bias, so that may be an issue with stretching.

The bodice will also need some kind of boning to keep the shape, and provide support. The boning will have to be attached to an inner structure.

The under skirt could be cut into panels which keeps the waist seam flat and allows for flare at the hem.

The over skirt has to be cut with the bottom edge straight, so figure out how much fabric is needed at the hem, then the length at the front, side and CB is marked, and the gathering lines are drawn in hitting those marks. 
  Remember that gathering an edge tends to hollow it out and therefore shorten in the other direction, so keep it in mind. Alterations to the hem have to happen at the waist.

Pick the shoes! they are needed to get the final skirt length.

Did I miss anything? Oh yes, figure out where the closure will be and how long it needs to be. I imagine CB. It may need a waist stay, so perhaps an inner grosgrain waistband that hooks closed first and takes tension off the zipper closure.......

Okay, onwards!