The Trouser. The Sequel.

Thanks for your input on my last trouser post – it was really fascinating hearing everyone’s thoughts and opinions. I don’t think I’ve had a pattern disaster quite this bad before! In the aftermath I’m left wondering if indeed my perception of fit has been overly influenced by a lifetime of badly fitting RTW clothing.

533b4695c81e5Jacques

Case in point – many of you mentioned that you could tell looking at this picture that the fit would be bad – mostly due to the way in which the side slant pockets stuck out and the pleat disappears. I’ll admit… that’s actually one of the things I like about this pattern, but I can’t explain why. I suspect it has something to do with spending the entirety of my teenage years wanting slighting bigger hips, and the optical illusion provided by those pants kinda delivers on that.

So, I turned to a variety of different resources to beef up my knowledge on pants fitting.

CRAFTSY
I logged in after what must have been two years to discover that at some point in the past I had bought the class ‘Pants Fitting Techniques’, by Sandra Betzina.

I watched the whole thing (for the first time) and it does have some excellent tips, if you don’t mind Sandra’s rather chaotic approach of explaining things, and that you already know what your areas for improvement are. There are some good descriptions of how to make changes based on your desired improvement, however what I really wanted was a before shot showing the issue, and then the correction. Visual learner here. Notwithstanding, for the small price point you pay, there’s some really useful information in this course that shows you how to adjust without delving into depth the reasons why you need to adjust (at least, beyond saying ‘because of protruding thighs).

KENNETH KING’S SMART FITTING DVD
Another recommendation left in the comments of my last post was this. I haven’t got it, but it’s something I’d maybe consider adding to my wishlist.

KENNETH KING’S TROUSER DRAFT DVD
This, I now have – and what a gem it is. I borrowed it from someone and ended up buying my own copy. He not only takes you through a very logical, easy to comprehend set of reasons why a particular adjustment is required, but shows the symptoms of the issue and the fix. I totally got his reasoning and I honestly think it’s going to change the way I look at fitting. Something about the way he describes ‘net loss and net gain’ just made my brain click all the missing puzzle pieces together – best US$25 I’ve ever spent. It also includes a detailed method and formula to draft your own pants block from scratch using the French Method. I did attempt to do this, but vowed to come back and revisit my numbers/calcs after a break because my pants draft looked really, really wrong. I must have an incorrect calculation in there somewhere, which just compounded the problem.

SO WHAT HAVE I BEEN UP TO SINCE?
I tried on Jacques again. And holy crap I must have been having a fat day of epic proportions previously, because they fit. I’ve got no explanation for that, especially as I tried them on multiple times previously.

I really, really want a pair of slim fitting trousers. Something a bit Brigitte Bardot-ish.

Brigitte Bardot

So with my new found knowledge of net loss and net gain all thanks to Kenneth, I spent several hours in front of the mirror, straining my neck and bending down to pin and back up again to check. His e-book does contain a lot of fitting information and solves, but nothing on the lower half of the legs.

Unaltered side view

Unadjusted side view

Adjusted side view

Adjusted side view

IMG_7604

IMG_7605

I did initially attempt a ‘hyper extended calf adjustment’, as per what Cation Designs describes in her (really excellent) pants pattern alteration post, but preferred what I did above.

My legs aren’t straight – they curve outwards quite substantially at the knee. What I really wanted to see was how pinning out these pants to match my leg shape would translate into 2D. I was rather disturbed after unpicking everything, it looked… ugly. Not the lovely straight lines we’re accustomed to seeing from a sewing pattern! The yellow lines are the original pattern lines, the orange is where I’ve pinned out excess and the black is the final line where I’ve taken out the excess in a vertical dart.

IMG_7613

I then sewed my muslin back together again, this time along the new seam lines I’d marked, to see how it fit. I knew I’d still need to mark new side seam lines as they’re quite crooked in the photos above, but the moment of truth would be in how they looked now I’d been playing around with them a lot…

I’ve also sewn on the waist band here – it’s far too tight, I know. I may still grade up the waistband 2 additional sizes and see how the proportions sit then, but I think it’s unlikely you’ll ever see a finished version of these pants.

But I am really quite happy with the progress I’ve made on a slim leg!

IMG_7616

Waistband is too tight. Something… ?? …. is going on at the crotch. But the both legs looks good!

The side that has not been tampered with. I've noticed when I 'lock' my knees back, I get the drag lines going on.

The side that has not been tampered with. I’ve noticed when I ‘lock’ my knees back, I get the drag lines going on. These photos have made me realise that I actually quite like the leg of this pattern now. How fickle!

The tampered side.

The tampered side.

I have the waistband pinned where it's folded over because I quite like the proportions of that depth of waist band on me. It's still too tight between the waistband and pants though. Oh, and looks like I needed that hyperextended calf alteration after all.

I have the waistband pinned where it’s folded over because I quite like the proportions of that depth of waist band on me. It’s still too tight between the waistband and pants though. Oh, and looks like I needed a hyperextended calf alteration afterall.

What I’ve taken an incredibly long time and huge amount of futzing to figure out – is that I need a ‘knock-knee alteration’. I guess the benefit of taking the long way to find that out is I know exactly how knock-kneed I am. Cindy from Cation Designs has an amazingly informative post on this alteration and a stack of others (including the hyperextended calf alteration) – definitely recommended reading.

What I have veered away from is making a comfortable trouser suitable for the office environment. I can see myself wearing these (very close fitting) pants made up in a floral cotton pique on a warm spring day, but they really are too tight for the office. Time to get back on brief!

A PANTS FITTING CLASS
Then, Oanh invited me to join her in a pants fitting class she was taking. It wasn’t quite what we thought it was (which was a trouser drafting course), but after a few short hours, I had a rather well fitting, high waisted wide leg trouser outline.

The Front

The Front. One leg has been tapered a little. Ok, maybe a lot. Also, the rise is higher than my natural waist.

The Back

The Back. Nothing like a horrid muslin photograph to accentuate my lack of hip curve. le sigh.

The Side

The Side

They’re comfortable. Really comfortable! The kind of comfortable that I could spend anywhere between 8 and 12 hours straight sitting in – which means they pass the office-suitable test. They look good in the mirror. The fit even looks perfect on camera!!!

So why do I feel so ridiculously dowdy in them?

That’s something I think I’m just going to have to get over – because those muslin photo aren’t lying.

So I’m going to sew up a wearable muslin from a fabric I don’t mind sacrificing to this cause (which will be a wool crepe), which means I can effectively test drive how the style would work for me. I would like your opinions on a waistband treatment though:

1. A really wide waistband so I can work in the slanted pockets still (this is not a pair of pants I’d feel comfortable tucking my shirt into, so it would be covered. That way I’d still get the ‘look’ of hip height pants, but with the comfort of waist height.)

2. A facing and no front pockets?

3. A picked zip at the side seam, or a centre back invisible zip?

I await your advice!

The Trouser.

Say that with the accent and delivery style of May – one of the judges from the Great British Sewing Bee – ok?

So at the beginning of July my working situation changed a little bit (this is a good thing!). Even though it’s immaterial to this little sewing space, that change was enough to get me (re)thinking about the clothes I drag out of my closet on weekdays. Ever heard the expression ‘dress for the position you want, not the position you’re in’? Yep. So I’m turning my sewing sights on trying to perk up my work wardrobe a little.

I’m almost recovered from my last pants sewing effort to attempt them again – as my legs and arms must be covered in the work place regardless (it’s a construction/operations site safety thing). I’ve always preferred skirts in the office, but it’s a general rule that no matter how fabulous your skirt, it will always look terrible with steel cap boots.

On the 9th of June, I ordered these – the Jacques Pantalons, from Republique du Chiffon:

I received them on the 1st of July – which seemed synchronous, that being the first day I started my new role. I even had a little impromptu postage race with Puu’s Door of Time who also bought this pattern… although even with a 1 day handicap start, I lost by 4 days. Not bad really, when you live in a city Jerry Seinfeld once described as the ‘anus of the world’. Personally I think that honour should belong to Hobart, but hey.

This pattern has been made up by three lovely and leggy French ladies – Jolies Bobines, Les Trucs de Tatihou, and my personal favourite pair by Cosy Little World. So how would they look on a definitely-not-leggy, non-French lady that tends a little closer to stocky than lanky?

This is them in their muslined glory, unaltered in any way. It was my second muslin. (You’ll have to pardon the blurry-ness):

IMG_7552

Capri pants and I were never meant to be friends in the length department. Ignoring of course that I’ve pinned them up unevenly… these pants are too small. The pleat detail is completely lost, I can’t get the two front seams to meet, and the side pockets are straining open due to the lack of ease.

The ease issue starts pretty much at the crotch, and gets exponentially worse the closer to the waistband seam you get.

You can see I’ve drawn the grainline of each of the four leg pieces – I can’t confirm if this is actually the case, but I would think that a properly fitted pair of pants would see the grainline perpendicular to the floor all the way along. I’ve ordered a few books on pants fitting as I really feel the need to beef my knowledge up in this area.

IMG_7554

IMG_7557

I like this photo because it makes it seem like I actually have a bum.

IMG_7561

Aaaand I finally got the focus right, fourth time lucky.

Firstly – lets talk size. My Waist and Hips exactly matched the measurements for the size 42 – so that’s what I cut. You can see in the pictures above I can’t actually get the front seams to meet to do them up.

I double checked the instructions to see if I did the right thing – it says quite clearly (albiet in French) to measure yourself nekkid and then compare it to the table. Which is what I did. So I double checked my measurements, nekkid. Nope, still the same. Lastly, I double checked to see if the pattern pieces I traced off were the correct size. They were.

Pretty simply, that’s a big f*** up, Republic du Chiffon.

 

 

Once I had the chance to blow off that little bit of steam, I returned to thinking logically and reasonably. There is one explanation for why this didn’t work out for me – the rate of change between my hip and waist measurement is vastly different to that used by RdC’s design fit. A diagram shows it best:

Me (left) vs RdC (right)

Me (left) vs RdC (right)

I know I’m long in the body – both above and below the waist. I also know that one of the main reason’s I sew is to have clothes that actually fit me. Once again I’m reminded of the fact that patterns are just a starting point along the way – I can’t expect them to fit me out of the packet any more than I would expect a RTW piece of clothing to fit me off the rack. Knowing all of this doesn’t stop me from throwing a tanty when it doesn’t go right, but.

So let’s talk about my second Jacques-related tanty. Let me make it clear to those not in the know, that this pattern DOES NOT have seam allowances. I found this out about 5 seconds after I finished cutting my first (and now discarded) muslin out.

” Les marges de couture ne sont pas incluses sur le patron”.

I didn’t even need to type that into Google translate before that sinking feeling set in… Entirely my fault though.

Other disappointments? The back dart is very definitely not in the centre of the welt pocket location. I’m usually one to like a bit of imperfecion though, so I’ll leave it be.

IMG_7564

I tried out a new thing with welt pockets though – the faux piping at the bottom – and I’m liking it a lot!

So now… do I bother trying to make them fit, or dump them and try something else?

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…

IMG_7522

IMG_7523

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!):

Untitled

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.

IMG_7524

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.

photo (1)

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:

IMG_7530 IMG_7532

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.

Marfy 936

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:

IMG_7275

IMG_7281

IMG_7288

IMG_7290

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.

IMG_7303

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.

backline

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

belt idea 2

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!

IMG_7321

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 :)

IMG_1744

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…

IMG_7308

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 :)

IMG_7323

Pinning the rouleau loops in place

IMG_7327

Tailors tacks marking button shank location

IMG_7331

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).

IMG_7334

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.

IMG_1736

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.

IMG_7337

IMG_7338

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

photo 2

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:

final muslin photo 1

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!

final muslin photo 3

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

final muslin photo 4

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!

IMG_7274

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!

cutting layout

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.

IMG_7347

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:

IMG_7305

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!!!!

005

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.

photo

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:

IMG_7349

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:

IMG_7342

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

IMG_1750

IMG_7359

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.

dress 1

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.