a frou frou wedding gown

Did I mention that I’m doing the alterations on Vicky’s wedding gown? Umm, yeah… and it’s been an interesting process so far! I was one of the fortunate few who was there when she found it – and wow, is it amazing! It’s a Reem Acra gown – pure silk satin, with some lovely embroidery and a touch of beading and sparkle.  (As a side note, she bought it at Vows in Watertown, MA… and I am so going back there to find a dress for myself sometime soon… well, unless I decide to go back to making my gown. Put that’s another tale for another day…)

Anyway, she came by last week, gown in hand, to get fitted and decide on the hem length. Well, the bodice needs some alteration above the bust point along each of the front princess seams. No big deal, right? Yeah.

Post alteration... all the bits are pinned in place waiting to be tacked down.

So, nearly four hours later, the bodice is mostly altered (I just broke a machine needle and decided that was a good stopping point) with the following remaining to do:

  • right side lining needing to be taken in
  • the right side canvas interlining needs to be basted back to the interfacing layer
  • right side top edges sewn back together
  • the lining understitched along the top edge
  • lower edge of bodice lining stitched to skirt lining
  • bar tack along the outside edge of each front princess seam to keep lining from rolling out
  • all the embroidery and beading handstitched back in place on the gown front

It took some patience to remove the tacking stitches without wrecking the netting or embroidery!

And THEN we can start on the hem. Yikes. Actually the above should go pretty quickly – the toughest part was removing all the tacking stitches on the embroidery and then rearranging them back over the altered piece. A bit of trial and error on the first side, but now that it’s almost finished, I’m very happy with the results.

The only thing I’m not enjoying is all the bodice layers – 5 all together, plus the embroidery and some interior boning in a few places.  On one hand I love seeing how the gown is constructed. On the other, it’s a b*%@# to take apart and put back together. The embroidery was done on very fine netting, but much of the netting is cut away so that the embroidery appears to be on the surface of the gown. This means that in some places, the individual motifs that were cut to close to the netting are starting to come undone and each individual stitch needs to be tacked back down. Such fun, eh?

The next outside layer is the silk satin and that’s underlined with silk organza. Easy enough – except that they are both slippery.

the guts... all six layers

The interfacing layer is a dense but soft canvas – not one I recognize – and it duplicates the bodice in shape but as a separate and distinct layer. Each seam is pressed open and stitched 1/8″ away from either side of every seam, through the seam allowance. Sew through boning is added to most seams, but stops below the bust along the princess seam. There are also extra pieces in the back and at center front. There’s also a piece of tightly woven canvas (feels similar to waistband interfacing) that is basted to wrong side of the interfacing layer, about 1/4″ below the top seam line. That piece is about 2″ wide and extends from side seam to side seam across the front.

Last is the lining – a regular synthetic lining – really pretty basic… and of course, annoying to press as most synthetics are!

Plus many of the layers were basted together – embroidery to top layer, underlining to silk, those three layers to the interfacing – before being sewn and then understitched along the top edge.

However, any small annoyances aside – it’s fun to work on such a gorgeous gown. And despite some of the challenges of working with a gown that is so well made… well, I can’t help but enjoy learning about what went into making it! (Oh and there are photos… but as usual I can’t find the card reader to transfer the pictures. ugh!)

**Edit** Photos finally added!

Panic attacks not withstanding…

Today was NOT a good day. But since there are but 30 minutes left as I write this, I’m trying to move past it. The upside of today’s insanity was that I learned to operate a video camera. However there are too many downsides to include in a single post!

So… thinking positively and moving ahead instead.

My friend’s wedding is one month from today and I’m very excited for them both! She came over with her gown last night to be fitted for alterations. It needs a fair bit of taking in along the two front princess seams above the bust apex, but besides that it should just need hemming and bustling. So that should be an interesting project to take my mind off more stressful endeavors. And the silk is gorgeous.. as in stunning to look at, to touch, and of course, to work with! Can’t wait to dive further into the construction – always interesting to see how things are put together.

Of course, the bride will look fabulous when all is done and ready. But I, the seamstress,  have not yet figured out what I am going to wear to said wedding! So… this evening’s stress reducing endeavor is to search high and low through the pattern catalogs online to find the perfect something to make and wear for the wedding. And I haven’t even started to think about fabrics yet. Except that it shouldn’t be green, purple, or blue. Because that’s what the bridesmaids and/or moms are wearing. So that still leaves the field pretty wide open ;o)

Now off to the races, err… catalogs.  Hmm, really doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

a flirty brown velvet jacket, finis

It’s done! And I’m even wearing it today…

The final steps went really quickly.

Tom has nicknamed these the birdcage sleeves... or he thinks they should be fitted with lightbulbs. Boys... ugh.

Sleeves: These were sewn right sides together along the lower edge and turned to finish the lower edge. I had originally thought I could put the sleeve lining in by hand as the final step – but due to the sleeve hem being sewn right into the armscye, that plan wasn’t going to work. As result the lining and sleeve heads are gathered separately – but it still ended up working just fine without creating too much bulk.  As a side note… I’m not crazy about the sleeve. It really stands away from the body – and it’s not just because of the weight of the fabric. If you look at the pattern envelope, you can tell… but it didn’t jump out at me until the jacket was done.

Just before sewing in the lining...

I had already constructed the bodice lining at the same time I was putting the jacket bodice pieces together. So it was simple a case of bagging – pinning it right sides together along neckline, fronts and lower edges. Sewing it up went quickly, and I was very careful to shorten my stitch length as I approached the lower edge of the lapel and pivot exactly at the corner of the front jacket edge. I was able to get a very precise finish as a result.

The jacket was turned through one of the armscyes, pressed from the wrong side (so it’s not super flat… but that’s price of this velvety stuff!) and the remaining arsmcye edges were turned to the inside and finished with an underhand hemstitch.

Phew! Almost done! I grabbed a few scraps to test buttonholes and found an old button in my stash. A few minutes later the jacket was complete. (Well until I tried to try it on… and realized I needed to cut the buttonhole open… doh!)

Just what I wanted - it matches the dress perfectly!

You can see the back piecing.. but it's not so bad. Plus it's done, and really that's more important!

Now to get back to the little black dress!

a flirty brown velvet jacket, part deux

A busy end to the week but then the weekend finally arrived! It took sleeping late, a bit of house cleaning, general tidying, a few loads of laundry, and many, many cups of coffee but by 3pm, I was ready for some fun sewing.  I have three ongoing projects, and the brown jacket won today. Stupidly, I wasn’t paying close attention to the deadline for the Refashion Challenge on Pattern Review and missed the chance to enter. It was Thursday night… not Friday, which was when I was planning on doing my sewing. Boo!

Too cute! Although it might even more charming with sleeves and without the raw edges!

However,  I was (and am)  determined to finish the jacket anyway – contest or no! So after all the tables were cleared off (see tidying note above) I grabbed the leftover brown Ambiance lining left over from the dress this jacket will be worn with. It was an odd shaped piece but I just managed to get everything cut out that I needed to.  I wasn’t paying attention to how long that took… but my guess is about 45 minutes at most.  This was actually done earlier in the afternoon – it’s a Saturday… tough keeping track of every minute!

Anyway, moving on… the sewing went outrageously quickly! I did decide to make a full lining, and the collars and pocket flaps  were faced with the Ambiance, too.  Since there was enough, and I figured it made sense, I cut linings for the sleeves, too. In three hours (we’re up to 6pm now) I managed to get the jacket bodice done, with flaps & collar, and the jacket  bodice lining sewn, too. The only things left are sleeves, attaching the lining, and buttons and buttonholes.

Okay… I admit, that does leave a bit to do. But I do love how it’s looking already!

a flirty brown velvet jacket

My very wrinkly and ill-fitting but super pretty brown velvet pants. Doesn't the crazy bedspread just add a special touch?

I keep reading articles about re-purposing, recycling and otherwise re-using old garments by transforming them into something new.  I’ve also been searching for just the right color brown velvet or corduroy for a jacket to go with a dress I made during Christmas break. After having no luck at the local fabric shop (Oh, how I miss the days of perusing yards and yards of pretty things at Fabric Place!) or reviewing my excessive personal fabric stash… I stumbled upon a pair of J. Jill pants in the laundry room that were EXACTLY the right color. And I hated the way they fit. Woo hoo! Perfect candidate for transforming into a jacket. But could it actually be done?

I first decided on a great jacket from Ottobre Magazine… but after tracing off the entire pattern, I quickly realized there was no possible way that one would work with the amount of fabric I had. So back to the pattern catalogs… and found Butterick  5331.  View D turned out to be the winner.

Earlier this evening, I ignored the little black dress calling to me from the corner, and embarked on the puzzle that was getting all the pattern pieces of a short sleeves, hip length, notch collared jacket to fit on four pieces of fabric that had once been pants legs. (Taking out every last seam stitch except serging, plus a good pressing helped increase my chances of success!)

And the results:

Top leg: right sleeve, back, left sleeve AND Bottom leg: two pocket flaps, left side back, right side back(in 3 pieces)

Doubled pant leg: lapel, front, side front, collar (2 piece instead of on fold)

*Almost* every piece is accounted for. Due to the obvious fabric limitations, I’ll be fully lining the entire jacket with leftover brown Ambiance from the coordinated dress, so no need for facings. In addition, I’ll have to cut the under collar, under lapel, and under pocket flaps from the Ambiance as well. Not ideal – but at least by being consistent I can pass it off as deliberate design choice! And yes, everything is more or less on-grain and the nap is all going in the same direction. Plus I even managed to add an extra 1/2″ torso length.  Now to get the puzzle pieces to the sewing machine.

a little black dress, part deux

Well, unsurprisingly to me, I haven’t gotten much further on the dress. But I have managed to both take some pictures of the journey and get them downloaded on my computer. That’s a small little success right there!

My starfish-shaped bodice. They had themselves some serious darts in the 1950s!

Our most recent class chat was Sunday evening, two nights ago.  As I had a busy day and not much time to get ahead with sewing before the chat, I put the laptop nearby and continued to alternate basting pieces and typing for an hour. I was able to get the entire bodice hand-basted together just before our chat came to an end… and lo and behold… the darn thing actually fit pretty well.

A few notes while they are still relatively fresh in my mind:

  • It took about one hour to baste the entire bodice together. This includes side seams, shoulder seams and six bodice darts.
  • I need to continuously remind myself that this is a 1950s vintage pattern. It was meant to wear over 1950s lingerie (aka bullet bras) which I do not currently wear. (Nor do I plan to… but that’s a whole other topic.)
  • It’s a fine line between getting a good high bust point and maintaining the vintage look while still being able to wear the dress comfortably over modern skivvies.
  • The bodice will be comfortably snug when finished, especially with the lining layer thrown in there. However, I always find that linen relaxes on the body so I’m keeping that in mind relative to the ease of the finished dress. We’ll see how the cotton batiste underlining effects that…
  • It’s going to take some really delicate yet manipulative pressing to get the bust just right. But if I’m patient and take some time on it it will be worth the effort.
  • Lastly… keep the orange and white cat away from the little black dress pieces. A single cat hair is too much.

I will baste the skirt darts and side seams next but won’t bother trying those on. The muslin from the waist down has been just ducky so far. Once all the basting is done, it’s time to whip the whole thing together on the machine and starting turning all those seam allowances to the inside. And add a zipper. Here’s hoping it’s as quick as it sounds in the directions….

a little black dress

Not surprisingly, I’m juggling several projects, but the one currently getting the most attention is my little black dress made of linen. I’m taking Susan Khalje’s online class through Pattern Review and am both learning a ton and having way more fun with the meticulous steps than I had expected. The pattern I chose is Vintage Vogue (reprint) 1137. The finished dress will be 100% black linen from Joann’s, underlined with black cotton batiste (because I had 4 yards just sitting around). Lining is yet to be determined.

The muslin fitting stage was the most tedious so far – primarily because I had to alter a single front bodice piece to fit 3 cup sizes larger than the pattern, using only one vertical dart and one horizontal dart on each half. So… five muslin bodice fronts later, I was finally happy with the result. Not ecstatic-jumping-for-joy-happy but more of a subdued yeah-this-will-work-happy. And while part of me wishes I had kept track of the hours that went into that portion of the project, let’s just say it’s probably better not knowing!

Earlier this evening I had some time to work on the next few steps – namely marking the seam lines on the underlining, cutting out the underlining and the linen, and then basting each piece to it’s underlining along the seam lines. I can report that all of that took roughly 4.5 hours. I’m pretty sure the basting took about 1.5 hours of that… but I wasn’t paying attention when I started the first piece.

The gory details of the steps… along with photos are up next. Oh, and basting the pieces together to see if my yeah-this-will-work muslin did the trick after all!

And so it begins

Whaddya know… I just had to start another blog.  With sewing on the brain more and more each day, this little corner will be my place to rant, celebrate, whine, brainstorm, complain, show-off, and generally muse about my ongoing  efforts at and around the sewing machine.  With photographs added for inspiration, amusement and education. (I vow to enjoy learning from mistakes!)

And as much I want to believe it will make me thin, wise, witty, charming, and more beautiful … for now I’ll settle for well-dressed! Now to find the right patterns, fabulous fabrics, unique notions and just a tad more free time.

What’s a girl to do?
She does it herself, and she sews, and she sews, and she sews!