F3348 & V7975: Slow Sewing

The first half of this year gave me an incredible amount of time to ponder my sewing style, and as a result of having a bit of distance from the actual act of sewing anything ‘normal’, I’m finally beginning to feel like I have a bit of direction to curate my ‘to-sew’ list. Simply put, I’m happy to buy basics and to put my sewing skills (and limited sewing time) to use creating beautiful, structural and really well made items that fit in with my basics.

It’ll be quite a long while until you see another dress on this blog – and I want to get back to sewing what I love most – jackets. I’m excited about it because there’s still so much I want to ‘get right’ in this area of sewing skills, mostly around setting in sleeves and getting them to look really professional. It’s the main area I really notice as being sub-standard on all the (non-French!) jackets, coats and blazers I’ve made to date.

So, I’ve started out on two jacket projects which I’ll be working on either exclusively or in the background when I’m enticed away to sew something else.

The first, a gift for my Mum – as she’s having quite a significant birthday event in early May next year. It will be a French Jacket, in a boucle I got from B&Js. It’s a lightweight fabric because Brisbanites don’t get nearly as many chances to wear jackets as we do further South! It will be tough to work with, as it’s already fraying like a Beast…

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It will also mean interstate trips for fitting – the first of which is already done to adjust the muslin and so she could select the lining from a bunch of samples I took up with me.

Mum is virtually identical in body shape to me (although I guess it’s technically me that’s identical to her) so her adjustments were minimal as the Vogue 7975 pattern fits her nearly as well as it did to me.

I’ve already cut out and begun the basting process… fun times ahead :)

The second Jacket project is for me, and the intent is for it to be a hybrid between French and Tailored. I’ll be sewing with Marfy 3348, which was one of the free patterns that came with the 2014 catalogue (you can also buy it online – they have pdf now, whoohoo!):

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The collar and front facing will be tailored – pad stitched and horsehair canvas – while the rest of the jacket will be quilted. Although I’ve yet to test out the quilting for this fabric combination so that may change based on how well it turns out. This project was inspired by Leisa’s tailored/French hybrid with Marfy 3182, which you can read about here.

My fabric is one of those special fabrics that you hoard until the ‘right’ moment, although this is probably less of a ‘right’ moment and more of a ‘can’t wait any longer’ moment. I’m not a patient person.

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It’s a cream and mint boucle, from one of my favourite shops – Stitches to Style.

The current plan is to underline the parts of the jacket that will be quilted with some lamsbwool (from A Fashionable Stitch) so as to keep the balance between the weight of the front which will be backed with horsehair canvas. The lambswool is deliciously soft, but not very amenable to staying on grain!

via A Fashionable Stitch

Lambswool interlining, via A Fashionable Stitch

But I’ve yet to decide whether I’ll be setting in the sleeves, or hand sewing them in to get that lovely soft shoulder curve that my French Jacket has. Potentially they’ll be set in as getting the right location for hand sewing may be a bit too challenging on my own. We’ll see.

The Marfy pattern as intended has a contrast section at the collar which I’d original though to use the lining for. After making and adjusting my muslin, the collar feels a bit smaller than I was envisaging, so I’m thinking of using a matching pale cream charmuese here instead – using the illusion of colour to visually cheat and make it look a little bigger.

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The Marfy jacket has darts, which I converted into princess seams before cutting out my muslin (easier to deal with when I knew I would be working with thick-ish fabrics). I’m glad I did, because the adjustment you see here is one I need to do quite regularly. I’ve added some extra space at the bust to the side front panel, which allowed the collar to sit flat across my chest, rather than gape like on my left side.

The jacket pattern is only slightly fitted – of course, it fit really very well out of the packet – just with the need for a bit of extra boob space. I did flirt with leaving it otherwise unadjusted – but decided in the end that having a non-waist-defining jacket wouldn’t be doing me many favours. So I did pin in the side and princess seams slightly to get a closer fit, and I more than likely will add more space at the upper arms. I can determine that better at the first basted-together fitting, as my fabrics will be thicker than my mock-up! Thank goodness for large seam allowances, as they really do allow you to take into account the differences between how the toile’s fabric and the final fabric react to the pattern.

Also, simple things like the fact that the upper and lower collar pieces allow for turn of cloth make me smile. The sleeve cap looked fabulous just in the muslin, too. Here’s the final, adjusted, un-clipped and un-pressed muslin… gosh they always look terrible on camera:

Marfy 3348 muslin 2

I finally go to try out the walking foot on my machine, to see how the combination of fabric, lambswool and charmuese worked with quilting:

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Totally luxe and lovely on the inside… but the lines do show through somewhat on the outside (probably due to the loft of the lambswool).

For now I’ll most likely power forward on my mum’s French Jacket (because I know what I’m doing there) so I can ponder just how I’m going to bring all those elements together into the Marfy Jacket and decide whether I’m willing to ‘go Jackie O’ (I’ve read that apparently on some of Jackie Kennedy’s Chanel Jackets, the quilting lines were visible). In the meantime, I’ll be posting progress shots on instagram, of course.

Until soon!

 

Project WD: Marfy S963 Bodice

The final and most complex part in my 3-post series on constructing my wedding dress!

I used Marfy S963 for the bodice of my dress, which I thought was very elegant – a bateau neckline at the front, deep V-neck at the back and a capped seam that curved down around my shoulder somewhat. The front design is pretty special – with princess seams across the bust which join with two darts to create shaping at the waist. As I was only interested in the top half of this pattern, I also added in a waist seam once I’d muslined it.

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I think this dress would translate incredibly well into a sheath dress suitable for work also, once you remove the rear flounce and raise that deep V in the back to account for hiding your bra. But then when skimming through some dress inspiration pictures saved on my computer (pre Pinterest!) I saw this – look how well it would work for a dressy dress too!

Kate Emilio

Kate Ermilio

As for the muslin – after all the pain of sewing and fitting my bustier, this was a dream in comparison. I distinctly remember wiggling into my first version of this, hardly able to wipe the grin off my face because it was so DAMN GOOD.

The bodice barely needed any adjustments other than a dart-be-gone at the back to remove some very minor gaping, extending the front princess seam a little closer towards my arm (standard adjustment for the broad shouldered) and moving the waistline down the same 3.2cm (1 1/4 inch) as I did to the bustier pattern.

The muslin was easy and came together in a flash.

The real thing? Not so much!

Forcing the very structural taffeta into the booby curve of a princess seam was a nightmare, probably complicated even further by the stiff organza on top of it…

At the muslin stage I marked out the location of my bustier underneath, so I could determine where to join the souffle to the opaque part. I then thread traced the souffle and the taffeta pieces and joined them all together. Once at this point, I could play with the placement of the organza overlay – doing my best to match the more obvious parts, like the princess seams:

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I sewed up the back and side pieces first – which is when I realised that any kind of normal thread against the souffle would stand out like a burnt pixel on an LCD screen – kind of ruining the sheer effect!

A trip to Spotlight later and I had some ‘invisible’ thread – basically a very fine fishing line. This thread was about a third of the thickness of your regular gutermann poly thread, and incredibly difficult to work with… because you can’t bloody well see it. Also, it curls up worse than cotton thread after being under tension, and very easily snarls itself up – working with small lengths of this ‘thread’ when hand sewing was a must. I went cross-eyed every time I had to thread a needle with it, and quickly realised that sewing it would have to be relegated to daylight hours only.

I sewed the souffle seams together with the invisible thread on the machine (it handles fine as long as you go slowly, otherwise you’re dealing with too much plastic on plastic friction and it gets stuck on the machine’s spool holder, ruining your tension). I then cut back the seam allowances to 1cm and used the (hand sewn) rolled hem technique to seal everything up.

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It looked quite pretty I thought!

You can see in the photos above that the organza overlay was initially separate to the souffle – once I’d got the bodice sewn together, I focused on joining these two layers. I cut away the sheer part of the organza from around the floral shapes – there was of course a small amount of fraying but I liked the way this softened the cut lines.

Initially I thought I’d use a pick stitch, but the invisible thread doesn’t work so well in angles. What did work was a (pretty haphazard) loose running stitch – there’s actually a lot of thread sitting on top of the organza overlay – but you can even feel in when you run your fingers over it, let alone see it.

The Belt
The original inspiration dress (an indeed many of the dresses from that particular collection) had a metal belt with a matching leather buckle at the back of the dress – the metal part tying in beautifully with the gold of the fabric.

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From the 2012 Fall Couture Elie Saab Collection, via Style.com

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From the 2012 Fall Couture Elie Saab Collection, via Style.com

As a tribute to this, I used a silk and metal blend dupion to create a contrasting line at the waist. This was such a fabulous and unusual fabric! And one that needs to be stored rolled up, else the metal parts of the fibres remember the fold line and refuse to be ironed out… Entirely irridescent and perfectly metallic in appearance:

metallic gold fabric Tessuti

‘Gold Fanta’ photo via the Tessuti Shop

I used a 1.5cm wide strip of horsehair canvas and covered it in the dupion, using a fell stitch on the wrong side to enclose the canvas. I chose the size based purely on the size of the buttons at the back so it would all tie in nicely. I sewed this directly to the bodice along the waist seam line, leaving the top un-sewn to encourage the illusion of it being separate.

The perfectly matching gold 'belt'. And one little spot where my organza placement didn't quite cover the piece. The result of piecing with scrap! This later got an applique and lace over the top to hide it!

The perfectly matching gold ‘belt’. And one little spot where my organza placement didn’t quite cover the piece. The result of piecing with scrap! This later got an applique and lace over the top to hide it!

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There was one little spot on my dress where I just didn’t have scraps big enough to cover the entire piece… I was originally going to then applique stitch a cut piece of fabric over it, but in the end decided not to (it looked wrong).

I did end up sewing a horse shoe shaped piece of lace over the top of it :)

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From that little imperfection I was bizarrely reminded of my visits to several notable Mosques – Hagia Sofia in Istanbul and pretty much every Mosque in Iran – and the incredible relief artwork and mosaic tiles. The artists have been said to intentionally make mistakes in their intricate geometric patterns – an interesting article about that here. As an imperfect being, I rather like the parallel. And even though there are small errors – the overall effect is still strikingly beautiful. Indulge me with the particular holiday snap that inspired this?

The ceiling of the music room, at AliQapu Palace, Imam Square in Esfahan, Iran.

The ceiling of the music room, at AliQapu Palace, Imam Square in Esfahan, Iran.

The Closures
The Marfy pattern shows the use of rouleau loops and buttons at the back – I absolutely wanted to keep this feature. After reading about some wedding dress zip horror stories from your comments to this post, buttons seemed like a doubly safe option! I saw on this J’Aton dress (um… oh how I love those boys’ creations – inspiration alert!) how they extended out the fabric on the button side of the closure to act as a sort of facing, and decided to copy the concept:

J’Aton gown from Pinterest

As I’d already cutout my fabric and sewn the pieces together at the time of seeing the above picture, my facing wasn’t quite as wide as I’d perhaps prefer it to be.

Of course, it also recommends to do this in Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture book, as otherwise when placed under tension the two fabric edges would be likely to gape. I’m sure I had read over this paragraph (it’s on page 40) multiple times before seeing the picture above and having it click into place though… definitely a visual learner!

Once all my fabrics were cut out, I sent in my covered button order to Kate at Buttonmania – she’s never failed to impress me with the quality of her work and this time was no exception. I had a series of 13mm round-top buttons covered with just the taffeta, the taffeta and organza overlay, and the gold metal dupion. I didn’t end up going with just the plain taffeta in the end – too jarring a combination against the organza! Seems completely obvious when you see the buttons on the fabric though…

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From Susan Khalje’s online shop I bought a strip of rouleau loops – no way was I going to make this myself if a ready made option was already available! The cord was white though - and I was planning to attempt dying it. That wasn’t something I ended up getting around to though, which I’m a bit sad about. You can’t see a huge amount of white, but it’s still there to be seen if you’re looking. I was running out of steam… and time!

I used tailor’s tacks to mark the location of each button, before hand sewing them on. It was quite an exciting moment to see each button be added to the placket :)

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Pinning the rouleau loops in place

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Tailors tacks marking button shank location

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The final button at the waist was in the gold dupion to match the fabric belt.

The Lace
This is where I REALLY started getting excited! I couldn’t wait to get home every night from work so I could sew more on :) I did have a moment of wondering if the lace was even really necessary because it was so lovely just on its own… but nah.

Well. The lace – which I’m told was made specifically to match the organza – was a super gorgeous embellished chantilly with a giant border repeat on one side, and a tiny repeat at the other selvedge. In between was paisley shaped teardrops of the same. I decided fairly early on to use the tiny selvedge repeat down the V-neck at the back – it would be light enough to be supported by the souffle and in turn provide some stability along the bias edge. This was the first lace I applied, using the invisible thread (ugh, nightmare).

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The rest of the lace was cut and appliquéd across the bodice and down onto the skirt. The shapes I cut were dependant on the lace design to some extent – in the photo below are two repeats with the bottom one turned upside down so they ‘connected’ with the same beads at the centre. The lace on the skirt is a different part of the repeat, with a few smaller shapes that I could easily cut out (without having beads going flying off in every direction) to try and make the placement look a little more organic.

I had a yard of this lace… and I didn’t even use a quarter of it, if you discount the fact that I used virtually the entire small selvedge along the back line. When using lace as applique – it becomes an incredibly economic fabric to sew from. You need a lot less than you think you do!

Once I’d secured the edges to the fabric and finished hand sewing it down, the netting was cut off.

I started on the bodice and worked my way down the skirt.

I started on the bodice and worked my way down the skirt. I sewed this on over the course of a week, again due to working with the ‘invisible’ thread it was only able to be done during daylight hours.

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I’d purposely cut the front skirt panel to have a big floral motif closer to the hem and a bit of empty space at the waist, which I thought at the time would do well for lace placement. The original inspiration gown had lace ‘tumbling’ down one side of the gown front, so I imitated that.

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How natural light makes a difference to the colours! This is probably the most true colour representation of the fabrics and lace in this post.

Learnings from the bodice…
Quite a few. Namely, the taffeta was very challenging to work with. Just because you test a garment by making a muslin, doesn’t mean it will turn out that way – because fabric hand can change everything.

Whilst I absolutely loved the end result of my dress, there was one element that didn’t work out on the day that did break my heart a little (I’ve accepted it now though):

Wedding Dresss 2

And that’s the pooching of the bodice under my bust. I have two theories – the first being that I had the position of the very-snug waist stay not quite in the right position – this was up against the bustier so wouldn’t have been able to move once done up and incorrectly positioned. The other theory is that it’s the taffeta = 1, my sewing skills = 0. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

It’s all been parked for things to take into consideration should I ever work with silk taffeta again.

And that, my pretties – is it. Well, mostly. I also made two other dresses… coming up next!

Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

Project WD: Marfy S655 Skirt

I spent considerable time in Muslin-city before I felt confident to pull out the fabric bolt hiding under the couch!

I was using Marfy S655 as a base, but I wanted more volume, especially at the waist. I had two private lessons with Vikki Leigh Martin to get it right – first we played with a bias cut piece of calico, gathered and pleated and pinned to me to figure out an approximate ratio of volume that looked visually appealing – ending up with 1:3.

We then slashed each of the three skirt panels down the centre and along the grain line, adding in additional strips of calico to widen. We pinned and pleated on a mannequin, then we stood back to admire:

Adjusted skirt S655 muslin #1, Dec 2013

Adjusted skirt S655 muslin #1, Dec 2013

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After I marked all the fold points and other necessary bits, I used this iteration as the pattern pieces for Muslin Mk II. This time I used an inexpensive poly taffeta underlined in organza to try and replicate how it would translate into the real thing. Unfortunately for my tactile senses, I’d already bought the silk taffeta I’d eventually be using so working with the poly taffeta was a relatively horrid experience!

I didn’t get a picture of the second version of this, but it didn’t look right on the mannequin, nor on me when I pinned it to my bodice and tried it on. The volume that looked great in cotton muslin didn’t appeal to me in the taffeta. And the train you see in the calico above got completely lost in translation – it pulled an distorted and collected in a heap large enough that it could probably have had it’s own post code.

In my second lesson with Vikki (in late January) we worked on reducing the volume. It’s odd how reassuring it was having someone with experience and who wasn’t emotionally invested get involved. Here’s where we ended up:

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After this photo, I gave myself a bit more ease at the bodice side seam. Lining those bra cups instead of having them as a soft cup takes up a bit more space!

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gotta love the bizarre facial expressions that pop up when you’re talking as a photo is being taken!

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I felt great at the time I was wearing this, but later upon reviewing the photos, I was still a little worried about the ‘harsh’ look of the pleats at the front. Muslin photos always look crap, don’t they? I reasoned I could always play around with the real (uncut) fabric to get this right… and that perhaps the colour and pattern of the final fabric would camouflage this to an extent.

We used pleats on top of each other at the back (Vikki’s suggestion – I would never have thought of this) to get the volume without it being too visually busy, and a small amount of gathering at the side to soften the ‘flow’ from front to back, and we pulled the length of the train in – even with our new fabric arrangement, the length of the back looked wrong and when I walked – pulled the skirt and all it’s additional fabric in on itself. Off with its head!

Cutting:
I thought I would be super nervous cutting into the real thing, but with the whole muslin process behind me, I was more zen that I thought I’d be. Don’t get me wrong – the heart rate was still definitely up there!

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Before cutting though, I had to align my pattern pieces. I had exactly 3.5 meters of organza – I’d paid for 3.5 yards, but I found Alice to be extremely considerate (verging on overly generous) in her cutting. Obviously I’d been keeping in mind the amount of fabric I had during muslin stage, and I just managed to squeeze it all in with a very small seam allowance at the hem of each my skirt panels. Thankfully due to the super wide fabric (60 inches), I’d still have enough left over for my bodice and the covered buttons. Not much, though!

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I played with the positioning as much as I could, and got my favourite part of the repeat (which was 1.2m wide) down the front skirt panel. I simply had no room to play with for matching at the side seams, and looking at the finished skirt – you’d never guess I tried my utmost to get the best match possible at the centre back seam.

I had known that when I was at muslin stage though, so I ensured the side seams were along a pleat ‘trough’ at the sides.

Construction – Preparation:
I used many of the couture methods I learnt whilst under Susan Khalje’s tutelage in Baltimore last year, from her bridal couture book and from watching the Couture Dress class on Craftsy. With my tracing wheel and carbon paper I marked the seam line locations on my silk organza underlining, before aligning on the silk taffeta and then thread tracing the two together. Only then did I align on my main fabric before cutting and thread tracing again.

Whilst the organza overlay was 60” wide – the silk organza I used for underlining and silk taffeta were not. I had to cut the two back skirt panels in two parts each, before sewing together to give me three skirt panels. I placed the located of these two seams at one of the inside folds when I was working with my poly taffeta muslin – but the hand of the silk taffeta and organza was a lot stiffer and didn’t fold in to the same degree, so they are visible if you know what you’re looking for. Ah well.

The three seams where then pinned together and sewn, then the seam allowances trimmed and catch-stitched.

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At this point, I hung the skirt up on my dress form and got to work on the bodice.

Construction – pleats, gathers and folds
Once my bodice was at a point where I could attach the skirt, I got to work forming the pleats. I hand sewed the pleats at the back to keep the softness of the folds:

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Then I attempted to coerce the rest of the skirt into the predetermined pleats. Quite simply, it just didn’t want to comply with my commands. I ended up scrapping all my carefully thread-tracing pleat markings and gathered the fabric instead. The organza/taffeta/organza fabric sandwich was considerably stiffer and more bouyant than I had anticipated – and the pleats just looked too structured and clinical. But the gathers? Divine! Like Susan Khalje says in her book though – silk taffeta is so tightly woven and thick that you need to use your widest machine stitch possible, and even then it will probably be too small.

Using a machine gathering stitch (with the strongest thread I had – poly cotton) left marks on the organza overlay fabric, and I was worried that if I did the two requisite rows of machine basting stitch for gathering that the holes would be visible once the thread was removed. As Bridal Couture predicted – the taffeta is so tightly woven that even on my machine’s longest stitch (5.0mm) I struggled to pull it through. I hand basted two rows instead with silk thread, and incorporated a single pleat fold on each side. With a bit of finger nail scratching and some judicious use of iron steam, I managed to coax the silk organza threads back to their positions pre-basting stitch.

Then, I sewed it to the bodice. Another high heart rate moment!!!!

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Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

Construction – A Waist Stay
An essential part of the dress. The skirt has both considerable weight and a drag effect – supporting that shouldn’t be a part of the bodice’s job description. The waist stay ensures that the skirt’s weight is secured to the waist and doesn’t pull down on the bodice.

I bought some of the cotton/rayon petersham ribbon from Susan Khalje’s online shop which I sewed into the skirt’s seam allowance just shy of the seam holding the skirt and bodice together. Using my waist measurement whilst wearing the bustier, I sewed some or the leftover hook and eye tape from the bustier to the ends at exactly that measurement.

This served a dual purpose of also hiding the seams from the skirt, which I decided to fold under instead of tucking up into the bodice – there was quite a bit of volume there and I thought it would be great to have that supporting the ‘bouffy-ness’ of the skirt, rather than adding bulk to the waist.

***photo to come once I pick it up from the dry cleaners!****

Construction – Closures
There’s no escaping that I made a complete hack job of the zip on this skirt. No couture methods here!! I used an invisible zip which I painted the zipper-pull with nail polish so it would match.

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Yes. I instagram now. It’s fun.

That's my first hand picked zip!

That’s my first hand picked zip!

I machine stitched the zip to the seam allowances of the skirt, then used a pick stitch in ‘invisible ‘thread to hold the fabric in place to hide the zip. I figured I could get away with it because it was short, hidden by the pleats to some extent and also because there was no tension or pull on the fabric at this point.

Why such a dogs breakfast of zip sewing? Well, The fabric was too thick and bulky to successfully sew in an invisible zip the way an invisible zip is intended to be sewn in – but I couldn’t find a regular zip that had an attractive zipper pull. There was so much going on at that centre-back junction between skirt and bodice that the zipper pull of a regular zipper would potentially show through due to it’s bulk. At least – that’s what my instinct told me.

I’ve all but given up on the Birch zipper crap we sewists get force fed here in Aus – especially after seeing firsthand the quality of other zips when I was in New York. I’ve been buying YKK zips from this Etsy seller, and I see also that M Recht sell them (I’ve yet to buy from them but will be doing so at some point soon) in their online shop. What’s even crazier is that Birch zips are rather a bit more expensive than their YKK cousins. Sewing enthusiasts of Australia – we’re being duped!

I would usually hand sew a cover in lining material onto the zipper end, but as the skirt layers were so structural, I instead sewed a strip of taffeta onto the seam allowance, encasing the zipper end in a sweet little pouch:

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Construction – Hemming
Ah, hemming. Usually my most loathed sewing activity, but on this type of garment – just a little exciting! I decided fairly early on that I wanted to have a taffeta facing for the hem, mainly because it just gave such a wonderful shape to the poly taffeta I made up a practise skirt in. Thanks to my private lessons with Vikki Leigh Martin and the mannequin I loaned from Mr poppykettle’s brother’s partner’s mum (you figure that out) the hem location was worked out during muslin phase, so it was pretty easy.

Again, it was again bizarre that I had on the off-chance bought exactly the right amount of taffeta – after cutting out hem facings for each of the three skirts I had virtually nothing left of it. I sewed them together, pinned to the dress, sewed in place, pressed and clipped ,then catch stitched to the underlining. Easy as pie.

In the middle somewhere I toyed with a little horsehair braid – to see whether it would add or detract. Once pinned in place I decided against it – the facing already achieved what I wanted – with the horse hair braid it was too much. Taffeta is really rather a stiff, structural fabric!

The skirt hem before facing was applied:

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And after with facing applied (it’s a late night iPhone photo):

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The width of the facing was half arbitrary, half determined by the remaining taffeta I had – I wanted it deep enough so my footwear wouldn’t catch on the catch-stitching! There was a LOT of diamantes and things for those stitches to be caught on:

Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

To Bustle or Not to Bustle?

In the days leading up to me actually starting to sew the skirt, I clicked onto one of my favourite ‘for a laugh’ sewing blogs – Fit for a Queen – who sews and alters wedding dresses and blogs about the experience (and the crazy clients!). It’s wonderful picking up little gems here and there across the interwebs – but it was here I was confronted with the issue of bustling. Hmm.

Even with my short-arse train, it seemed like the right thing to do. Problem is, my skirt fabric being quite stiff was not exactly compliant to the concept of being gracefully draped back over itself. In fact – it wasn’t amenable to the idea at all. Every attempt and combination of bustle points looked both ugly and ridiculous. To be fair – the silk organza overlay behaved more like a gazar, and taffeta isn’t exactly known for its drape.

So that did it – no bustle for me!

Lining:
Yep… no lining here. I felt that it would be a little weird to have a drapey fabric hanging underneath such a structured skirt.

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At the end of sewing the skirt, I was finally able to look at this part of the dress objectively. It’s actually a rather simple skirt, made to appear more complicated than it actually is from the number of fabrics involved and the dramatic impact of that organza. Basically, it’s just a rather simple-ish gathered skirt, made large by some stunning fabrics. But that’s just how I like it.

Project WD: Marfy 2630 Bustier

Even though this wasn’t seen by anyone at the wedding, this is the garment I’m both the most proud of and got the most satisfaction from sewing out of this whole wedding dress business. Pretty underthings have always been a weakness of mine – even when I was a cash-strapped University student pulling a wardrobe together from eBay purchases and second hand shops, I always found the money for lovely (and well fitting) lingerie. Corsetry has also been a fascination of mine, but one I’ve only vaguely flitted around the edges of.

This pattern – Marfy 2630 – blends the best of both of those worlds. Leisa blew me away with the muslin pattern pieces for this at Camp Couture last year. Marfy styled it as outerwear – which I think would be incredibly lush made up in a winter coating material like boiled wool or cashmere, or more dramatic in a brocade. I’m already day dreaming about another version of this in colour blocked heavyweight silk satin – either way it’s an absolute winner of a pattern.

Marfy 2630

Marfy bustier F2630

The Muslin(s)… and the back story:
I sewed my first muslin of this pattern after getting back from Baltimore, adding in spiral steel boning and underwires at the cups before trying it on properly for the first time. I think I may have cried at this point (101% likely due to bad timing with hormones more than anything) because there was just so much that needed to be tweaked and it seemed like too much at the time. I gave up and threw it onto my sewing cabinet, where it fell down behind to be temporarily forgotten.

Figuring I’d take a short cut I went out and bought a RTW strapless long-line bra. It fit ok and I could easily have left it at that, but after wearing it for a day here and a day there as a trial, it became uncomfortable, the plastic boning bubbled out in some places and dug into me in others - and I was sure I could do so much better. Like 99.99% of us, I don’t fit RTW well, and having being spoilt by the fruits of my sewing labour these last few years, putting up with something sartorially substandard just niggled away at the back of my mind.

So I reached down behind the horn and pulled it out, ready for the first round of fitting changes. The only structurally significant change was to move the position of the waist down 3.2cm (1 and 1/4 inches) – I’m just long in the body. The other changes were minor but numerous – tweaking the various seams by taking them in here or there and reducing the height of the back down by an inch (so it wouldn’t show under the deep V neck of the bodice’s back) - and I figured once I’d got the bodice part of this sorted, I could focus on fitting the cups.

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F2630 muslin #2 – Dec 2013

That’s my second muslin above. At this point I’d made most of the major bodice fitting adjustments, including moving the position of the waist down 1 and 1/4 inches and grading the seams. I already knew I’d be removing the front panel angular detail, so I’d stopped adjusting the seams at that point.

The cups are obviously the most challenging point - and I’ve got one original cup and another traced from a favourite moulded strapless bra on in the photos above. Even though the difference between the two was slight, a bit of additional fullness in some parts and less in others (and I’m talking in mm here) seemed to make a rather large difference.

I tried a few more cup adjustments before moving onto my next muslin – a ‘dress rehearsal muslin’ – in the same fabrics I’d be sewing the end result in. I’ve got a whole new appreciation for bra’s now, that’s for sure. They really are engineering masterpieces! Recognising how a simple change in either grain direction or fullness can have a flow-on ripple effect was fascinating. I’d solve one problem and create three more because if it. Then I’d back track and try to fix what I thought was the problem rather than the resultant effect and in the process be experiencing life at a rate of several WTF’s per second. I eventually got it to a point I’m about 99% happy with – it looked fine underneath the wedding dress bodice muslin, so near enough became good enough.

Marfy 2630 muslin #3

This muslin presented some new issues. Mostly that the final fabrics I was going to use have ZERO give, whilst the calico obviously did when put under so much tension. This resulted in it being too small! I could get it done up, but the cups were now too close to the centre, with me being at risk for falling out the side. You can sort of see that in the photo above if you look hard enough at my left boob. Go on. I dare you.

Also, with this muslin I took a risk and decided to move away from soft cups. The cup here are lined with some 2mm foam instead. I’m not going to talk extensively about fitting and how I tackled changes because really I had no idea what I was doing. Basically the foam lining seemed to exaggerate the fitting issues from what looked ok as an unlined cup, and I was sort-of-sure that might be from the cups now being slightly smaller due to the layer of foam.

I managed to get a picture of my black muslin in the afternoon light – a) so you can see the seam lines and detail and b) because about the only photo manipulation skill I have is cropping. And I only just manage to achieve that half the time!

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My first ‘dress rehearsal muslin’

The Fabrics:
I used Sea Island Cotton, which was commended by Susan Khalje as being the ideal foundation garment fabric, because it’s smooth, very finely woven, incredibly strong and breathable. It’s pretty special fabric, actually – and I had mine sent to me from B&J’s in New York. Also, Leisa gave me some whilst at Camp Couture last year. Sewists really are the most nice people around. I used this as the outer fabric and also as the lining.

Underneath that is some white Shapewell canvas, which is basically a lightweight horsehair canvas – and definitely a contributor towards the dress rehearsal muslin having zero give! Melburnians – you can get this from Clegs.

I used those two layers to sew channels for the boning:

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The seam allowances also needed to be catch-stitched down to keep the bodice smooth, so having another layer in between always helps for that:

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That was taken during some really late night sewing!

The 2mm foam I used to line the cups with, I got from Booby Traps. Their minimum order length is a meter, which was annoying – and it also arrived with some pretty dirty marks on it. Along with some other reasons, I won’t be buying from them again. It seemed I forgot to take any photos whilst I was sewing these back in December 2013, but a few months later Amy from a Cloth Habit did a 3 post extravaganza on sewing bra cups with foam. It was so lovely to read her posts – especially because she did it in a virtually identical manner to what I did, so instead I’ll leave you with the links to her posts:

Cloth Habit – Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 1
Cloth Habit – Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 2
Cloth Habit – Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

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I also used some self-made bias binding to close up the hem – made up in some of my all time favourite Liberty Print (of which I’ve yet to sew anything from! Criminal!):

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The Hardware:
I pilfered some underwires from a favourite bra that was out of commission (sob!), but these had to be cut back because they were a wee bit too long for this pattern at the sides, especially as I’d lowered the back to fit under the deep V-neck backline of my Wedding Dress.

Thankfully, Amy had also covered this in another handy post, so I felt confident cutting into them with some wire cutters.

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I was at a loss as to what to use for ‘tipping’ them though… and even though I made and finished the bustier back in mid-January this year, I of course left the underwires until 3 days before the wedding – when I really didn’t have time to go searching for such things. So I used nail polish. It took overnight to for several coats to dry properly, but it did ok. Next time I’ll get something more appropriate!

The other hardware was of course – the spiral steel boning. I bought a 10m continuous length from Aussie Corset Supplies (an online shop that I would highly recommend), plus some metal tips as well.

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My first attempt at cutting was disastrous and relied solely on excessive brute strength – after 2 or 3 cutting attempts I realised there’s a sweet spot in the boning’s circular repeat where the wire cutters can snip through with very little effort. That made thing so much easier!

Notions:
Instead of sewing channels for the underwires like I did with the boning, I chose to use a pre-made underwire channel as it worked with my construction method. I bought two types during muslin phase, one from Aussie Corset Supplies, the other from Booby Traps. The ACS one was a few cents more expensive, but considerably better in quality.

I used the underwire channel to ‘hide’ the seam allowance between the bodice and the cups, which worked a treat:

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Firstly I sewed the bodice layers together around the cup seam line

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Trim back the seam allowances

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Pin in the cup, using my ‘death by a thousand pin stabs’ pinning technique

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Use said pinning technique again to place the channeling in place… probably a good time to tell you that saliva is the best thing to get rid of blood spots. Use it immediately and it works a treat!

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Secure in place with more pins so you can topstitch it all in place. The inner topstitch is effectively a ‘stitch in the ditch’, the lower topstitch is of course, on the bodice.

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Ta-daa! It’s tougher than it looks to get your top stitching even and in the right place! Hence the excessive pins you saw previously…

A back closure was a little more tricky. A zip is completely inappropriate – they simply aren’t designed to handle that kind of tension. I know, because I used one on all my muslins to make it marginally easier to get in and out of, and yes – they kept on breaking.

I ended up going with some hook and eye tape which I bought from Susan Khalje’s online shop. It’s lightweight, supple, super strong, well spaced and ends up being quite subtle, even though it’s white and my sea island cotton is ‘ecru’.

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Before I realise that was an option, I had also ordered some hook and eye tape from Booby Traps. I didn’t use it because it was stiff, scratchy and bulky – not the kind of thing I wanted pressed up against me. But you can’t know this from looking at it online, so that was a risk I knowingly took. What shat me off is that they thought it was appropriate to send me that minimum-order-length of a meter length in two sections – stapled together. I did email my disappointment through to them, and got a prompt and pleasant response back indicating they do this in order to keep costs down. Whilst I ended up throwing it out, if I order a length of something, I full well expect to receive that as a continuous length, unless otherwise advised of at the time of ordering. Combine that experience with the foam I ordered from them that had dirty stains on it, and I won’t be ordered from them again.

The Construction:
Obviously without instructions, you sort of have to go at it your own way. Making muslins really helps in this regard, you really get a feel for what needs to be done. The trickiest part is the cups, which you can see in the series of photos that cover the underwire channeling.

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Otherwise, you’re simply dealing with three layers of fabric. The canvas underlining I sewed directly to the outer layer of the cotton, which means you only have two layers to deal with instead of three. I sewed these together along the tops of the bustier, folding it over and pressing, so I could then sew around the cup seamline to sew in the cups.

After sewing in the hook and eye tape by sandwiching it between the inner and outer layers, I closed up the hem with bias tape.

The Finished Bustier
I’m ecstactically over the moon I persevered with this pattern – it’s so much more comfortable compared to the RTW version I bought. I get damn good boobage support thanks to the underwire, I can move freely and not feel restricted, and most importantly – I’ve got a totally custom-fit-to-me foundation onto which I could sew the bodice of my wedding dress.

What absolutely blew me away is how amazing it feels to not have the weight of your chest supported by your shoulders. I honestly thought bra’s were comfortable until I wore this around the house for a day! Afterwards I really noticed the pull on my shoulders – and I always get fitted when I buy bra’s so I know I’m wearing the most suitable option. I’m absolutely going to sew up another one of these and play around with making the boning channels removable (??) so I can wash it and make it everyday wearable. The spiral steel boning is technically rust proof because it’s been galvanised (which means the steel has been coated in zinc so it doesn’t react with oxygen (you know the term ‘oxidise’)) – but the moment you cut it to length there’s a break in that seal meaning rust is definitely a potential outcome from washing. I wasn’t able to acquire ‘tipping’ fluid to seal off the ends with in the time I had, so I might investigate that also. Not sure how I feel about taking a garment like this to the dry cleaners! (and yet, here I am flaunting it all over the internet….). I ended up unpicking my fell stitches along the binding and removing the channels so I could hand wash it after the wedding, which isn’t really something I want to do on a regular basis.

I was originally planning to sew the dress directly onto this undergarment, but by the end of it all, decided to keep them separate so I could get some more wear out of it. I’m still undecided as to whether this was an intelligent decision.

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With all the craziness that is getting ready prior to the wedding, I never did actually get any photos of wearing the final iteration… but you can see it peeking through in the photo above. I probably could have given myself a little extra breathing room – it’s a tough call to make when it’s your first time sewing such a thing!

Next up… all about the construction, design and sewing challenges of my Wedding Dress skirt :)

wedding dress

My Wedding Dress

We were married under three 100 year old London Plane trees in Victoria’s high country in mid-April, just as the autumn leaves started to turn. I sewed my wedding dress (duh) and I don’t think I’ve been prouder of something I’ve achieved for myself – ever. It made the experience that much more special!!

I think photos convey what I want to share with you all better than words, so this is a selection that showcase the dress. More on the inspiration, fabrics, construction and lessons learned to follow…

Props to:
Leisa, my Fabric Fairy Godmother
Alessia and the crew @ Marfy – the best patterns out there – thank you!
Vikki Leigh Martin, for helping with proportion & fit
Susan Khalje, for enabling
And to Mr poppykettle, who took on the lions share of domestic duties and sat alone on the couch for many, many nights whilst I toiled away in the sewing room. He knows it was worth it ;)

You guys rock!

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Attempting to convince my darling photo-bombing god daughter to stay out of the picture for a moment.... it would appear my negotiation skills need some work!

Attempting to convince my darling photo-bombing god daughter to stay out of the picture for just a moment…. I think my negotiation skills need some work!

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Mr poppykettle made our wedding cake - from a sour cherry and chocolate fruit cake recipe that Melissa Fehr pointed me in the direction of. The top layer was altered to be gluten free (so I could partake in the cake eating) and I ate that whole layer myself. It was really, really good.

Mr poppykettle made our wedding cake – from a sour cherry and chocolate fruit cake recipe that Melissa Fehr pointed me in the direction of. The top layer was altered to be gluten free (so I could partake in the cake eating) and I ate that whole layer myself. It was really, really good.

He made it at home then put it all together the day before our wedding :)

This was the day before when it was putting it all together! :)

Neither of us as so good at the whole 'dancing' thing.

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All photos (except the one of Trent icing the cake) were taken by Todd Hunter McGaw