a great white driving coat and hat, part troix

I think I’m gonna need to practice my French numbers… I’ll be lucky if there are less than six or seven (or should that be sept?) posts to finish this project!

Note the all important iced coffee on the ledge... it was truly motivating!

I had a burst of energy last weekend and made some major progress on the coat… and if my luck holds, I’ll have more time to work on it tomorrow, too. It’s actually starting to look like a coat – and that’s making me want to finish it.  That and we have a sewing club meeting on Thursday and I REALLY want to move on to a more interesting (and authentic!) project. The photo isn’t so great and it has sort of 1960s Elvis collar feel at the moment… but I assure you it is starting to look pretty!

One of the things that had slowed me down was the simple fact that I decided to use a hong kong seam finish on all the interior seams. Partly for practice, partly for durability and aesthetics. But this meant needing lots and lots and lots of bias tape! A month or two ago I had treated myself to the bias strip cutter machine from Simplicity (no, not the official name but I don’t have the box in front of me!) and once you get it set up properly… wow, can you create miles of bias strips in minutes! In all it probably took 15-20 minutes of cutting enough strips to bind the seams. Actually applying the strips took considerably longer.

I remember this being a bigger pile… the strips were cut from some kind of synthetic satin leftover from a past project

I did find that you need to do one side of the seam at a time to get a good finish – although that may have something to do with this particularly binding fabric. In any case, it worked best to apply it to the right side of one seam, press it perfectly, then go back, finish that side and do the first step on the opposite side of the seam. Press again, then finish the second side. It was good practice… but I’m not sure I’ll use the technique for such longgggg seams again.

I was so careful with the trim... even making sure the overs & unders were symetrical for each flap.

Applying the trim was much more fun! I started with preparing the pocket flaps  and then lightly tracing the trim pattern onto the right side of each finished pocket flap The trim was pinned in place at each corner point of the pattern, and then I permanently secured it in place with a wide machine zig-zag stitch. This worked pretty well, even without any special trim feet for the machine. I jumped ahead and trimmed the collar… but sadly this turned out to be a mistake. It’s supposed to be trimmed after it’s sewn to coat as the trim extends down through the lapels, too. Oops!

This was when the frustration on this project started to kick in again and I began cutting more corners. I opted to sew the pocket flaps to the coat, without the welting strips or pocket pieces. It doesn’t look too bad… but I think if I start this again when I have more energy, I probably will undo the pocket flaps and the collar trim… and follow the directions properly!

But let’s see what happens in the morning, shall we?

a frou frou wedding gown, part trois

It’s done! So really this should be be the ‘finis’ post, but since I can’t share photos of the beautiful bride in her gown until after Saturday’s wedding, there will be one more post to complete the story!

When all was said and done, I think it was the tulle that was finally the death of me…

So. Much. Tulle.

There had to be something like 12 or 13 layers, some went all the way around, some stopped at the sides, and some were only the back. Yikes! Fortunately one of the bridesmaids is an amazing seamstress herself so I advised bringing scissors, just in case any is STILL peaking out when the gown is bustled.

From earlier testing - the 3 point bustle

Most of the alterations took about as long as I expected, except for bustling. I had planned on a three or five point bustle based on the seam locations and the back pleating detail of the dress, but do to the insanely full skirt and back sweep of the gown, we finally ended with a seven point bustle. The last two were added while Vicky and her girls were here and luckily they were patient!

After a few ‘dancing’ tests to be sure everything was at the right level, the finished gown was re-packed and the happy bride took it to be stored at her parents until the wedding on Saturday.

In looking back at the amount of time I worked on this, I’d probably say it was a total of 12 hours, plus a bit more time for fittings. (Since the fittings were also some seriously high quality friend time… it’s hard to count that accurately!)

Considering this was a relatively simple set of adjustments (take in the bust fullness 1/2″, hem and bustle)… well you can see why alterations are such a costly part of the wedding attire budget! I’m so glad I was able to do this for Vicky, and now I seriously can’t wait to see her in all her bride-y glory at the wedding!

Yay! Congratulations to Matt & Victoria!

a frou frou wedding gown, part deux

Thanks to this year’s bout with bronchitis, it’s been another long weekend more or less spent at home in bed. Fortunately I had already planned to take some time off so getting back to Vicky’s wedding gown wouldn’t be a problem. Now to just find the energy!

She was last here about two weeks ago and the dress fit beautifully! I did mark the bust to be taken in ever so slightly by hand – just to soften the sharp angle from the bust point to the top edge. The embroidery was pinned back in place and rearranged to be more as symmetrical as possible. We also marked the hem, which took some doing! Again, thanks to beautiful construction… it’s a bit of bear to alter.

So, catching up… here’s what’s been done since the last fitting:

  • Take in bust fullness very slightly, satin only
  • Whipstitch all the loose edges of the embroidery to the bodice
  • Bar tacks added to either side of bust seam below top edge (to keep lining from rolling)
  • Skirt/underlining and skirt lining trimmed for new hem lengths
  • Skirt hem facing stitched right side to skirt/underlining
  • Understitch skirt hem facing close to seam
  • Fold hem facing to inside and pin to organza interlining

And what still needs to be done? Here’s the very short list to be done tomorrow morning:

  • Whipstitch the bodice lining to skirt lining at waist (30 min)
  • Catchstitch the hem facing to the organza skirt underlining (60 min
  • Hem skirt lining with horsehair braid to stiffen (15 min)
  • Trim tulle petticoat layers (15 min)
  • Add blue grosgrain ties & loops for bustling (15 min)
  • Tack strapless bra to gown at sides (15 min)
  • Steam dress (30 min)

So about 3 hours left of gown altering to do and then it’s ready to leave. Good thing too since the wedding is Saturday! Now, I wonder if need a different dress to wear to the wedding myself…

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!