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 :)

Project WD: The Inspiration, The Design and Fabric – Glorious Fabric!

Patterns and Fabrics

Skirt – Marfy S655
- silk organza (Mendel Goldberg)
– silk taffeta (D’Italia)
– silk organza (Sew Squirrel)

Bodice – Marfy S963
– soufflé tulle (B&J Fabrics)
– silk organza (Mendel Goldberg)
– beaded & sequinned lace (Mendel Goldberg)
– silk taffeta (D’Italia)
– silk organza (Sew Squirrel)
– silk/metal dupion (Tessuti)

Bustier – Marfy 2630
– sea island cotton (B&J Fabrics)
– shapewell canvas (Clegs)

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photos by our phabulous photographers, Todd Hunter McGaw…

It's a white goods graveyard!

… In a white goods graveyard.

My sewing strength lies in my technical ability more so than in the creative realm – so for me to sew my wedding dress was always going to be a case of finding a source of inspiration and drawing from that. Also known as – copying!

I went to New York last year with two very specific ideas in my head – a #1 dress concept and a #2 for backup, both of which came from extensive trying on of dresses in bridal shops beforehand. I was unable to find the very specific fabric for the first in the right hue for me (which was sequins on a silk chiffon backing fabric!) and as the fabric for #2 was a simple but utterly gorgeous duchess silk satin (obtainable at home) – I mentally shrugged and figured I’d be going home empty handed.

After a weekend of fabric shopping in NYC, I was meeting Susan Khalje and the French Jacketeer’s at Mendel & Goldberg on the Monday morning to buy boucle and charmuese to make our French Jackets. I got there two hours before their scheduled arrival so I could browse in peace – and immediately upon my initial walk around I was so very strongly drawn to a particular bolt…

A sheer blush peachy coloured organza with large iridescent gold flowers created by gold thread being woven throughout. Upon gazing at it admirably, Alice – the store’s proprietor – pulled out the matching lace…

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Admiring the fabrics over the top of some gorgeous boucles in Mendel Goldberg

I was already in love, the final KO came when she showed me the runway picture of the fabrics in action…

Elie Saab Fall 2012 Couture Collection, look 14 from Style.com

Elie Saab Fall 2012 Couture Collection, look 14 from Style.com

I was almost pushed over the edge into making a purchase right there and then. But being a little overwhelmed at suddenly having a new dress possibility being thrown my way, I decided to sleep on it, and if I was still enamoured with the idea later on, I figured I could always order the fabric over the phone and have it delivered whilst I was still in Baltimore.

Fast forward a week and I was on the phone making my order. Even though it was a pretty big departure from the two options I originally had in mind, I absolutely adore full skirted dresses, and the bodice shape was one I knew I could make work for me. Oh, and letting the fabrics take centre stage instead of design lines meant it would be a hell of a lot simpler to pull this together pattern wise than either of my two initial options. The next day it arrived:

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Over the duration of the French Jacket and Couture Sewing classes, I conferred with Susan over the best way to go about recreating this. She said silk taffeta would be best for underlining (at the time I didn’t truly understand why). From staring at the Elie Saab original dress inspiration picture I would guess that the skirt was either a) many layers of the silk organza on top of each other giving the illusion of opaque-ness, or b) underlined in an exactly matching fabric of similar/identical hand.

The organza fabric is opaque where the gold fibres are woven through, semi-opaque where the flowers are and very sheer everywhere else. Looking at the fabric rolled up on a bolt (which I kept wrapped up and hidden under the couch until it was time to sew with it) the colours were intensified into this gorgeous, peachy blush orangey-pink.

I certainly wasn’t willing to buy enough fabric to replicate suspicion a), and sourcing such a perfectly matching fabric for suspicion b) would be mission impossible.

Sourcing co-ordinating fabrics for the skirt
When I got back home I started silk taffeta recon. Several times I was recommended by well-meaning fabric store assistants to use silk dupion instead as ‘that’s what all the brides are doing these days’. Not this one, thanks!

I did source some beige-y cream taffeta from D’Italia, which complemented the organza overlay fabric pretty well. I’ve gotta say – it’s pretty delicious stuff!

Now, this isn’t something I can show in a photo, but if you put silk dupion and silk taffeta side by side, the difference is stark. Silk dupion (gorgeous stuff) is ‘slubby’ with a reflective surface showing off the weave, a soft drape and if you scrunch it up – it sits quite flat, and kinda flops back in on itself (remembering of course that this is relative). Silk taffeta on the other hand has a smooth surface texture, less sheen, is very tightly woven and is lighter in weight but if you scrunch it up – has a wonderful light buoyancy to it that the dupion just doesn’t have. Seeing this first hand I finally understood why Susan recommended it! It would provide opacity to the organza overlay without weighing it down.

One other random tidbit I learnt whilst in Baltimore – the sound silk taffeta (specifically) makes when being rubbed together is called ‘scrupe’. ha!

Fabrics for the skirt – sorted.

I’ll admit, initially I was a little concerned about how underlining in taffeta would change the overall look – easily the most terrifying unknown of sewing a dress like this is not knowing how the combined elements would look on me when finally together. And not really having much (umm… any!) experience in sewing such a garment felt like I was trying to find my way in the dark. From browsing through the collection that the inspiration dress came from, I found this:

Elie Saab Fall Couture 2012 Collection

Elie Saab Fall Couture 2012 Collection

elie saab dress 2

It’s a similar-ish fabric in a another colour way, but which appears to be constructed differently to the original inspiration dress, resulting in a slightly more structured skirt. It was amazing how these two visuals went a long way towards calming my mind!

Sourcing fabrics for the bodice
For the bodice, I went on a picture searching frenzy to get some closeups – and I noticed that the fabric for the bodice was actually quite different to the organza skirt – some kind of embroidered loveliness – and that there was two different types of beaded/sequinned lace on the bodice.

elie saab close up fall 2012 couture look 14

elie saab belt

But that was fine, my dress was always going to be just ‘inspired’ by this one – not an exact copy of it. I am certainly no Elie Saab.

During Camp Couture Susan showed me a fabric called ‘swiss illusion’ (Marina makes reference to it here) which is basically sheer against the skin – as it’s less a fabric and more a mesh – but was deceptively stable in its weave with a small amount of stretch. It was fascinating to look at because it had a hexagonal weave.

Once back home I emailed B&J to see if they had it or something similar, which they thought they did. A million thank you’s to Leisa (my fabric fairy godmother) who went in to veto what they thought I wanted! She dropped their original suggestions and got them to send me a different mesh, which was called ‘souffle’. That worked wonderfully – it has a very small amount of stretch along the grain, a good bit of stretch in the crossgrain – and excellent recovery in both directions. AND it was virtually undetectable on my skin.

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Looking now with fresh eyes at Marina’s picture of her swiss illusion – it appears identical to my souffle. From what I recall of Susan’s swatch of swiss illusion though, it’s different. I specifically recall that having a very distinct hexagonal structure… but we all know the mind can alter your memory as it see’s fit! You can see how the selvedge curls up nicely in the photo above – that gave me a few ideas on finishing the edges of my bodice.

But no matter. With that fabric in hand, I figured I could use the taffeta to provide the opaque factor, and with some artfully placed applique scraps from the organza overlay fabric and my lace, it would transition from opaque to sheer in an acceptable manner.

The lace is a super gorgeous embellished Chantilly with a giant border repeat on one side and a tiny repeat on the opposite side with paisley-like shaped features in between.

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Sourcing a belt:
One thing I left to the last minute was the belt. Lisa from Tessuti came to the rescue with a silk and metal blended dupion fabric with exactly the kind of metallic lustre I was after. Thank you Lisa!! You saved the day on that one :) It was a very unusual fabric and super fun to work with.

metallic gold fabric Tessuti

And finally… patterns!
After being so incredibly impressed with drafting of the skirt (and whole pattern in general) of Leisa’s Marfy Ballgown which I had the pleasure of watching come together at Camp Couture last year, I ordered Marfy S655 – from their bridal collection. This skirt was about the right proportions for what I wanted, and conveniently the amount of fabric required matched what I had bought:

S655 Wedding Dress (skirt) pattern

And I wasn’t disappointed – the skirt was gorgeously drafted. You’ll be forgiven if you have an ‘eh?’ moment – I did alter the skirt quite considerably in the end! More on that later.

When I received that pattern in the mail, I was over the moon to discover they’d included a copy of their bridal pattern catalogue and offered to swap the pattern I’d ordered with another from the catalogue should one take my fancy. Thank you Marfy! I loved the skirt lines of S655 so I wasn’t willing to swap, but I was drawn to the design lines of S936 (not online) for the bodice, which I promptly bought:

Marfy 936

The gorgeous lines of which does get a little lost in the fabric and lace. But I know it’s there, and the neckline, back line and slightly capped and curved shoulder were exactly what I was after. It’s a stunning pattern, and I can see myself making this up as a shift dress for work – removing the train/flounce and raising the back neckline.

There is also one final pattern which you haven’t seen yet – I sewed a bustier complete with bra cups and spiral steel boning as the support foundation undergarment. For this I used Marfy 2630, a stunning pattern that Leisa traced for me. I feel a little odd admitting this, but it’s actually the part of this dress that I’m the most proud of.

Marfy bustier F2630

Which segues rather nicely into my next three posts – which will cover the construction process of each of the three elements – the bustier, the skirt and the bodice.

Until soon!

Project WD: And so it begins.

This is heads up to say there’ll be a fairly extended radio silence here as I bunker down to sew The Dress.

With everyone’s advice saying I should give myself more time than I think I need, I thought I’d start right now rather than next year!

I’ve hunted and gathered and now have everything I need to do this… including the book Bridal Couture (whilst the gowns may appear outdated, the basic techniques used certainly aren’t. This really is the reference book of all reference books.), the feature fabric – safely stowed (and regularly pulled out for admiration purposes) and of course the patterns… plural as I’m using the skirt from one pattern and the bodice from another. Both which will probably be altered along the way, but Toile #1 is currently traced, cutout and ready to be fitted.

Actually I ordered two patterns from Marfy – one of which was specifically a bridal pattern – as I was planning to franken-pattern the two together. When those arrived I got a fabulous surprise as they included a copy of their bridal pattern catalogue as a gift and a letter congratulating us on getting engaged – saying I could swap the pattern I’d ordered if I preferred any of the others in the catalogue. Thanks Marfy – you sure know how to make a girl swoon!

I adore the skirt proportions of the bridal pattern I got so I wasn’t going to give that up, but I was very, very tempted by the bodices of 3 of the dresses in there…. one of which I ended up ordering.

So, I thought I’d leave you all with some of my favourites from the catalogue, as well as some that just intrigue me. I love how they have a bit of everything when it comes to style, and even though many of the dresses aren’t me… I can still appreciate their fabulosity and the fact that for someone somewhere out there – it would be perfect. It would be such a boring place if we all liked exactly the same things!

S936

S854

hello EIGHTIES!!! heehee!

S811 S820 S842 S843 S858 S859 S873 S881 S906 S908 S910 S912 S913 S921 S922 S923 S926 S948 S971 S975

Gorgeous, yes?

So whilst it’s going to be super quiet around here for the next 5 or so months (barring the next SewcieTea, which I’ll hope to start organising early in the new year), I’ll still be stalking you all and commenting of your creations of course! :)

See you guys sometime next year!

xo

Couture Sewing School: Day 5 & 6

Ah, the last two days of the Couture Sewing School. Hard to accept that it was coming to an end, and struggling to keep the mojo up to get lots done.

Highlights? I broke my first ever sewing needle:

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I made my first ever hand picked zipper, too. I’ve always been in an invisible zipper gal personally, but I can see the allure with this method. You get an incredible amount of control throughout the process, and I love how easy it is to get the top part of the zipper on that slight angle, which helps share the strain on the hook and eye which will eventually be at the top:

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What’s always interested me about this method is the potential for embellishment, like using beads in each stitch:

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But, it won’t be a regular thing for me. I prefer the invisible factor, plus unless you get your stitches perfectly distanced, the uneven puckering is not for me. I may still unpick this…

I learnt a new way of sewing pin-point turns – doing it in two passes, rather than the single swipe I’d always done (hit and miss). Having both pieces stay-stitched rather than just the piece you clip helps aligning it all up, too:

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Once I’d got the bodice permanently stitched together, I had some fun with the pleats. The pattern calls for topstitching along the basted lines you see here:

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As I’m not yet decided on whether or not I’ll do that, I’ve catch-stitched the pleats from the underside which will secure it all together should I decided not topstitch all the things:

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In other, equally-as-unexciting news, I started cutting out lining…

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Which is currently holding nearly all my pins to ransom as I’ve yet to get past the align-and-cut phase. There’s the option to either thread trace the lining… or to use carbon paper to trace the outline onto (in a light colour) and get your sewing lined up perfectly so none of it shows through. Indecision rains!

And lastly… I got the little overcoat fitted :) This is the part of the garment that would have been a lace overlay, but which I’m going to sew as a separate piece in this lovely mottled fabric. Had I made it in the macrame lace (as recommended), the darts would have been intentionally lost in the detail. To make a bit of a feature from them though, Susan converted them to two ‘french’ darts on the diagonal (in blue). It softens the shape and I really like the effect!

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By Saturday afternoon… people were leaving and there’s nothing I dislike more than having to say goodbye, especially to such wonderful, inspiring people!

I all but lost the mojo and spent the afternoon relaxing by starting to hand sew the first row of trim on my French Jacket… and just like that – it was all over. :)

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