Friday, February 24, 2012

Lady Mary's Underthings

Bodice from the right side - one row
of lace left to be finished.
I will admit it. I have an unhealthy obsession with Downton Abbey. I don't worry about it too much, because I think it's a very common problem right now. Hopefully it will fade with time, only to come back with a vengeance in time for season 3. (Shirley MacLaine! In hats! Trading barbs with the Dowager Countess!)

It's not going to clear up as quickly as I would like because the series coincided with the Vintage Pattern Lending Library's 1912 Project, so I'm basically sewing things right now that would have been in the Crawley girls' wardrobes at the beginning of the series. Right now, I'm working on a princess-lined slip that would have gone over their corsets. All this work and prettiness only to be hidden by more work and prettiness on the exterior.

I've never done insertion lace before, and that was why I took on the challenge project. Turns out it's not that bad - especially if you're using a machine. I can't imagine the horrors of pre-industrial insertion lace, where every seam has to be sewn basically 5 times (seams, lace sewn on either side, then the central seam slashed and rolled back and sewn under the edge of the lace). No wonder they needed dressmakers and ladies' maids.

Cutting behind the lace is a little nerve-wracking.
That being said, I got my ivory cotton batiste from Gorgeous Fabrics yesterday (this project also coincided with Ann's 5th anniversary 25% off sale, which made her cotton batiste less expensive than's, and we all know the quality will be 10 times better). I soaked it in hot water, then threw it in a hot dryer for a half hour, and am hoping I got maximum shrinkage because I wanted to get started.

Once the cut is made, the
seam allowances are
pressed back.

Since I'd already muslined the bodice of the slip, I used the muslin pieces to cut, adding 1.5" to lengthen the waist and then drafting outward over the lines of the skirt to match the width I added above. I sewed the front pieces together, then pinned and stitched the first 3 lines of lace, down the center front (nicely marked by folding and ironing) and then down each of the princess seams. The lace only starts below the bust. After the lace was stitched and pressed, I took scissors and sliced up the center of the fabric - a little nerve-wracking considering that if I slipped I'd have to find a way to repair the lace. And I'm no lady's maid, doing invisible mending in the servants' hall.

Once the seams were opened, they were pressed back against the garment and trimmed so that they would fold back neatly, to be pinned down and stitched almost on top of the original stitching line. The historically accurate instructions say to roll the seam allowance and whipstitch it, but that means I'd still be on the first seam, so it's me and my Singer, all the way.

Stitching the seam
 I have to admit that so far, I'm enjoying the process far more than I expected. It's nitpicky, but not really difficult once you get the idea down. I actually cut my seams and pressed them last night in the workroom and came out to the desk and caught up on some online reading while I folded and pinned the seam allowances back. Talk about a juxtaposition of time and place, Edwardian underwear sitting in front of the computer!

I don't know when I'm ever going to get to use this technique again. I think it's lovely, but it's a little frou-frou for my taste (unless it's a historical costume) but I'd love to find some way to work it into something, just because. I hate learning a technique, knowing I'm likely never to use it again.

Closeup of the neckline.
 This evening the postal elves delivered the last bit of trim I was waiting for, a length of threading eyelet I found on Etsy. I didn't know the difference between eyelet and threading eyelet (can't even say I've heard of it before), but apparently threading eyelet is what you can THREAD a ribbon through. Gotcha. The eyelet gets applied to the unfinished edge of fabric around the neckline, has ribbon threaded through it, and then there's gathered lace sewn around the neckline and armholes. 

I've pinned the eyelet onto the neckline here to get the effect, but it will be done more neatly and the corners will be mitered.  And I need to find ribbon to thread through it.  That I'm sure I have in the trim stash.

Slip front with trim pinned
at neckline, all lace inserted.
 My weekend sewing: hopefully finishing this up and working on a little something for myself. 

I haven't even starting constructing the back yet, or added the ruffle at the bottom. The back is pretty straightforward, princess seamed again, with a button placket because of course a lady couldn't dress herself. It might have been a prettier time, but damn, it was inconvenient.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Listening to the Fabric

I'm playing with muslin tonight, trying out a first draft of the 1912 slip pattern, and I'm beginning to make myself cross-eyed, so I thought I'd post here a review I just put up on Patternreview.  Fairly un-Edwardian, but other than that, quite nice.

Pattern Description: High side slits and wide bands on the bateau neckline give this simple t-shirt a trendy appeal. (Burda calls it a t-shirt in 2 of the 3 descriptions, but the third version, pictured here, is done in satin and there's no mention of t-shirt. Heck, the model even forgot to put on the rest of her clothes).

Pattern Sizing: Burda sizes 36-44; I made a 38.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? More like the line drawing, since Burda contorts their models to the point where you miss most of the garment details.  (Except for the bad airbrushing on this photo - I noticed that detail.  Catch how the gold band on her near sleeve doesn't go all the way to the edges?  And on the other sleeve, the gold is on the inside.  Nice touch, Burda).

Were the instructions easy to follow? It's a very simple top, and I disregarded the instructions because I was afraid Burda would confuse me and make the whole project a lot more complicated.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? When I first saw the magazine, this was one of the patterns that didn't get me, but when I looked at the line drawings, it jumped out and said that it wanted to be made. In this particular fabric. I'm not a big tunic top wearer, but you have to listen to the fabric, right?

Fabric Used: Black, gray and white flamestitch knit from Metro Textiles, approximately 2008 or 2009. Accents of black poly satin recycled from a thrift store purchased slip.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: None, surprisingly.

The pattern went together easily enough. I'm not sure how Burda wanted me to apply the bands, but I wanted a clean edge so I sewed them right side to wrong side, then flipped them and topstitched them very narrowly along the inner edges. I didn't want visble stitching along the edges, especially using the satin. And satin it apparently had to be -I was originally going to use a remnant of black knit, but after I cut it out I couldn't do it. The picture in my head said the contrast fabric had to have a shine.

If I do this again (and I'm not sure I will; while the top looks nice and I got a number of compliments on it, I'm not sure it's me) I'll bring the neckline in a bit. As drafted it goes nearly to the shoulder and would show bra straps. From the wide neckline, the shoulder yoke is dropped over the upper arm. Beyond that, it's actually pretty flattering for a tunic - or maybe I should just re-evaluate how I think I look in them. I always think I look wider in something that doesn't have a defined waist, but since I don't really have a defined waist, maybe I'm wrong.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? As I said, I'm not sure I'll sew it again, but that's a personal style issue, not a criticism of the pattern. I'd recommend it - it's a nice pattern, goes together well, and the only time-consuming bit was stitching and pressing the contrast bands. The shape is good and the straight neckline is actually a nice change (though you might want to check the width before sewing).

Conclusion: It never hurts to sew outside your style comfort zone, just to see if you like it after all. And in the case of this top, if I change my mind, I have 2 co-workers who offered to take it off my hands.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Raising the Titanic: the first pattern

We're slowly but surely getting our first round of patterns in the Vintage Pattern Lending Library's 1912 Project.  Technically, my group hasn't gotten their pattern yet, but the pattern pictured here was issued as a special challenge pattern, to be sewn at our choosing.  Challenge patterns are either more difficult than the other patterns, or have special or more time-consuming techniques.

With this much insertion lace, this pattern definitely falls under "time-consuming," but I think it also falls under "gorgeous," "fabulous" and "I want a waist small enough to wear that."

Which I do not have, but I don't think many women do - even back then.  That's why they wore corsets.  And this beauty was meant to be worn over the corset, which was in turn worn over some kind of combination chemise/underdrawers garment.  So this is actually the third layer of getting dressed. 

No wonder these women felt faint all the time.

After I printed and taped the pattern together and laid it out on the living room floor (do I need to tell you how many pictures I erased before I got one without a cat in the frame?), I flat measured the waist seam, which is marked.  Sorry the markings are so faint - they're pretty light in reality and no matter how I tweaked, I couldn't get them to come up any darker. 

Get this - with a corset and more underwear underneath, the waist measurement is 26 inches.  How much wearing ease do you think that probably is?  Again, no wonder these women felt faint all the time. 
I'll be making this up to fit me, but it's going to take some maneuvering.  Just looking at it, I know I'm going to have to lengthen it from shoulder to bust, and then again from bust to waist.  Waist to hip I might be okay, and the fit isn't as specific there anyway. 

The slip, by the way, takes 3 yards or so of lawn for the garment itself, 12.5 yards of 1" lace for the insertion (or 8.5 if you don't add it to the pleated ruffle), and an additional 1.5 yards for said ruffle.  There's also 2" lace for the top, and eyelet that gets threaded with ribbon.  That's a lot of work for underwear.

Even though I'm generally not the fluff-and-ruffles type, this will probably end up being a nightgown.  I can't go through all this effort only to have it hang in the closet, unworn, and damned if I'm making going through all that for someone else's benefit.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Autumn Camouflage - My Image Spring/Summer 2011 #1115

I posted the full patternreview for this dress, which has a few more details and a bit less about the profanity involved in creating it - since most of my issues were self-created, it didn't seem fair to really dump on the pattern, which is actually quite nice.

As I said in the review, I don't think I'll make it again, but that's mainly because it's a pretty distinctive look. 

It's as cold as February here today, so the dress did not get taken out for a test drive.  I'm out of practice with winter; getting outside at 6:30 a.m. to give the chickens their water (I take it in otherwise it freezes overnight) has been downright painful. 

Photos will arrive when warmer weather does.  The photo here is from My Image, and proves that I'm not the only one out there who likes a loud print.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Victory over the dress

No way was it going to get the better of me.  No stinking way.

But oh, how it tried.

Not only did I have the previously-recounted neckline issues, but I had hem issues as well.  Let me just say, for anyone else who bought this fabric at Metro during the last Elizabeth-inspired NY shopping trip, it is hell, pure and simple.  It's pretty, it's drapy, and it's HELL.  It sticks to everything, the rough spots on my hands, my fingernails, it hangs up on pins - yet pins fall out of it - and it has a distinctly unlovely tendency to get holes if you pick a stitch out of it. 

It even upset my coverstitch!  I pressed and pinned up the hem, and attempted to sew it on the coverstitch.  A few inches in, and the fabric started bunching up.  WTH?  I raised the presser foot, retrieved the dress, and unraveled the hem.  There was a big thread ball under where it had stopped.  I blew out the machine, completely rethreaded it, and sewed it again.  It did the same thing, a few inches later.  Repeat the unraveling, add a few really good strings of profanity, and off I go to the regular machine to sew the hem.  There's a slit in the front, under the gathered seam, so it's not a tight skirt.  Fine.  Dress hemmed.  (Yet the sleeve hems worked fine.  Go figure).

And now, about that neckline.  I fixed it the other night, and I had an idea about the trim.  I just thought it might be a weird idea.  So on Thursday I looked for trim.  I had nothing in stash.  I called Karlin's, my local store, and asked what they had in the way of black trim.  Grosgrain ribbon, satin ribbon and some upholstery braid, that was it.  Today, we went to Jomar, where I scored the lace I need for my first Titanic-era project (more about that soon), but no interesting black trim there, either. 

I decided to go with the weird idea, which was this black faux-leather barbed wire trim I bought at M&J in New York a few years ago.  I had no idea what I was going to do with it at the time; Connie, who was with me, looked confused.  But then, she was buying so much bridal trim it's a wonder she got it all home.  Not one to really talk about my need for barbed wire trim.

I pinned it around the neck, straight, covering the stitches, and it looked skimpy.  I decided to loop it on unevenly, to see what it looked like, thinking I could weave in two strands of wire.  I liked the unevenness; I didn't like the double strand.  One strand of wire it was, sewn by hand onto the dress while it was on the form.  Standing. 

This dress has been more trouble than any knit dress I've made in years.  But I like it.

I showed it to Mario, and he liked the effect from the distance.  Then he got close up and asked, "Is that . . . barbed wire?"  Yes, I said.  "Does it hurt?"  No, sweetie.  I'm not using real wire around my neck.  They say beauty knows no pain, but you're talking about a woman who refuses to wear Spanx because they cut off my blood supply.  I'm not wearing wire.  He's so cute. 

The tactful word he finally came up with was "avante garde."  For lack of anything better/more complimentary, I'll take it.

At least I didn't give in to the repeated urge to take scissors to it.  And now I'm glad. 

No proper pattern review yet; when I can face writing one, I'll add a link to it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Beware the Hubris

Because it really hurts when it bites you in the ass.  Ask me how I know.

In my month-end review, I mentioned a dress that was almost done.  The key word there, if you were listening, was almost.  I had hems to do, and I needed to finish off the neckline. 

Alice - not totally gratuitous photo
- her 8th anniversary is this weekend.
The neckline is asymmetric, and my favorite part of the dress.  When I turned the dress from a woven to a knit, I ran into the evil facing issue.  I didn't want to do a binding, because I didn't think I could get the square corners clean enough.  I ironed a strip of interfacing around the neck edge to keep it from stretching, and I used the right interfacing there and on the facings.  I sewed them on, clipped my corners, trimmed my seam allowances, everything. 

It looked okay, but of course knit facings are going to flip up at every opportunity, so it couldn't end there.  And instead of putting it aside until my head was clearer, I kept going.  I knew I could make it work

Hubris told me it was okay to topstitch the neck with a stretch stitch which is impossible to pick out, and to continue stitching around the entire neckline even when my instincts were telling me something horribly wrong, and then to look at the lumpy, misshapen result and throw it on the floor until I recovered sufficiently to pick up the seam ripper.

It took three nights of ripping, but the lumpy stretch stitches are gone.  Of course now there are picks in the knit and a few small holes (thankfully on the underside), and the pristine newness of my fabric is shot to shit.

What's a recovering know-it-all to do?  I pressed my facing down again, used a little Steam-a-Seam this time to keep it from flipping (which I didn't need to do the first time because - repeat after me - I knew what I was doing.  I ran a line of non-stretch basting stitches around the neck, because I really don't need it to stretch anyway.  Then I decided the best thing to do to cover the wear and tear I inflicted on the area was to add some trim.

I'd considered trim when I first started the dress but vetoed it because the fabric was busy enough.  But now it's necessary and I'm glad I was for it before I was against it.  I'll think about it tomorrow.  Right now I'm just happy that I've worked myself back out of the mess I made, and I know that some answer will present itself as regards to the trim.  Enough.

Beware.  When you're absolutely certain you know what you're doing, think again.  Hubris might be lurking behind you, waiting for its chance to bite.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

January 2012: Month End Review

Wow, this was a good start to the new year.  Looking at it as I went, I didn't feel like the month was all that productive, but I realized last night as I looked back, I made 8 pieces, and cleared 16 yards of fabric out of my workroom.  (Plus random pieces of knit that moved to Andrea's stash, but that's not the same as sewing; however, it still frees up more space, so I'm all for it).

First off was the tripleheader tshirt day at Annette's sew-in.  It cleared out space and expanded my wardrobe, all in one afternoon.  With snacks and friends included.  How fun is that?

I also made my Retro Striped Dress, which I really love.  I've only worn it once so far, because it's been a little chilly for skirt-wearing, but I really have to suck it up and wear it again.  It could actually be REAL winter instead of this faux-November thing that's confusing every plant in my garden.

Also in January:  Mario's white-and-black shirt (pictured here because he finally wore it last night), my new jeans, the black Party in the Back skirt, and a knit dress which is finished all but the hem, so I'm counting it as January sewing.  Finish work, so long as it does get finished, can run over into the next month.

While I'm waiting for my first Titanic-era pattern to arrive, I started in on a somewhat late Christmas present for a friend's baby.  She loves something on Sprout called the Good Night Show, and her mother was unable to find her something called a Star Doll.  Could I make one?  Apparently I can, out of yellow bath towels, but now there are terrycloth fuzzies all over the sewing table and all I really want to do is work on something else.  I don't have a great future in selfless sewing.  I was pretty sure of that anyway, but this confirms it.  (Shirtmaking doesn't count as selfless sewing; I get a lot out of that in several ways.) 

Beyond finishing up my dress and this strange stuffed object, and anticipating the trials and tribulations of Downton Abbey era dresses, I'm not sure what's up next on the agenda.  Possibly another pair of jeans, since I have them down to assembly line status now, or maybe I'll start playing with my Fatina dress pattern yet again, because it's going to be the basis of my YSL Mondrian dress knockoff. 


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Good Jeans

Not great jeans, not yet.  But damned good jeans.

These are the Frankenpattern of the infamous Jalie 2908 stretch jean, the Ottobre jean and the fly front from the McCalls men's shorts pattern I made for Mario this summer.  I'll go over the pattern changes in detail in another post, once I lay out the various pattenr pieces and document what I did to them.

I wore these to work today; they've decided to give us casual Fridays from now on, so long as we don't "abuse it."  So I wore my new jeans and got abused because they weren't denim enough for a jeans Friday.


Also, having held off wearing these to work because I wanted photos, it was such a busy day that I never had time to ask Andrea to take a few pictures of me in them and instead had to make do with table photos and asking Mario if there was any way on earth that he could take a flattering picture of my ass.  Apparently it's too much to hope for, but this is what I have to show for now.

Basically it's the upper part of the Ottobre pattern (lowered slightly from Mom jeans rise to still-above-my-underwear rise).  The waistband is slightly narrowed, and contoured (Ottobre, not Jalie).  The back pockets are from Jalie, with random patterns done with the satin stitch on my machine.  I fused lightweight interfacing on the backs of the pockets before doing the embroidery; one of the things I hate the most about stretch jeans is that the pockets end up stretching out when you stitch them, and then they stretch more and look wonky when you wear them.  These stayed nice and flat. 

The shape of the lower leg is the Jalie boot cut.  Ottobre offers a straight leg or a boot cut, and I've tried both, but the I think the Jalie shape is more flattering. 

Structural changes that I've arrived at after several pairs of previous unsatisfactory jeans: the fly front application that I used on his shorts this summer, which is the applied fly piece along with a fly shield on the inside.  Yes, it adds a bit of bulk compared to that piddly little tab that both Jalie and Ottobre seem to think can adequately anchor a jeans zipper, but have you ever encountered a pair of jeans that didn't have that thickness at the zip?  It would feel flimsy without it.

Also regarding the zip - because of the narrow, cut-on fly on both the Ottobre and Jalie patterns, I can't get the zip to sink back far enough beneath the overlap so that it's properly invisible.  With the applied fly, I had much better luck with that, though I have hopes for better next time.

Pockets:  neither one of those patterns cut the pocket so that the lining doesn't peep out over the topstitching.  I've cut them lower and lower, but this time, since my denim wasn't particularly bulky, I just cut the pocket from the denim and then the pocket facing from a scrap of Liberty I had on hand.  I get a little bit of pretty, but none of it shows. 

Also with the pockets - if there are pocket stays at all on jeans patterns, they are again piddly, flimsy things that don't actually keep your pockets from creeping or shifting.  Since my pocket was made of the denim, I decided to take advantage of its stretch.  I cut the stay all the way to the fly, and anchored it on both sides in the zipper installation.  In doing so, I also stretched the section of the pocket from the pocket bag seam to the middle, which does a tiny bit toward flattening my stomach without feeling tight.

Every little bit helps, right?

I have no idea where this fabric came from.  It's been in stash a good few years, and I washed it when I got it, so there were no stickers left or receipts rolled up in a fold.  It's nice quality, not too heavy and with just enough stretch.  I wore these for an 8 hour work day, out for drinks with a friend and then at home until after dinner, and while they accumulated a few creases from being sat in, all in all they held up really well and didn't grow much at all.  Can you tell I'm still haunted by the incredible growing Clover pants? 

All in all, I'm really pleased with these.  There are a few things I'll change next time (but aren't there always?), and I also want to try cutting the pattern a size larger, and make them up in a non-stretch denim.  I actually prefer jeans without stretch, they're just nearly impossible to find, as is non-stretch denim in a fabric store that isn't basically dress-weight. 

Working to finish a dress tomorrow that I would like to wear for my belated birthday dinner tomorrow night.  It's not looking good that I'll get it done, but you never know.  I also have a few other things I want to clean up in the workroom while I'm waiting for my first vintage pattern to arrive.