Sunday, July 27, 2008

Just in time

I just barely finished the dress in time to wear to the wedding last night, I had to do a quickie hem that needs to be redone but it was wearable. I am really pleased with the way the dress came out. Because of the construction order I used I couldn't try it on until it was almost finished, so I was putting a lot of faith in my muslins. They were worth the effort, there's not much I would even consider tweaking.

Right before running out the door!

After, sweating in 90+degree heat outside sure did press in some wrinkles.

Silk charmeuse lining, understitched by machine along the neckline, and hand fell-stitched around the armholes

Zipper inserted, lining attached all by machine

Fell stitching

I am quite proud of my efforts in many of the components of the dress, not the least of which was working with the silk 4-ply crepe. It is truly beautiful but very demanding. I basted the underlining to the fabric while thread tracing all the seamlines, and did a fair amount of hand-basting during the construction, even with a walking foot it was shifty. It shows pin and needle holes so you have to pin carefully and use fine needles, glazes easily with the iron, suffers from pressing show through even with underlining, snags easily, and dulls needles. I went through 3 Microtex 70 sharps, yikes!

But the fit is as good as I've ever done, the 3 layers of slippery, shifty fabric lay perfectly together, my zipper looks fantastic (well a personal best anyways), the neckline and armholes hug my body exactly as they should, and most importantly I feel like a princess when I put it on. Do you all have something in your closet that makes you feel that way? I hope so.

I need to take more pictures of it on and finish the hem properly, but that will have to wait until it comes back from the cleaners. There's some faint water spots from the wedding that I don't want to risk pressing in with my iron, *sob sob sob*. They will come out, right??

Monday, July 14, 2008

6 muslins later...

My hard-earned lesson for the week: Copying RTW is only worthwhile when the garment in question actually FITS. If you need to make a lot of adjustments you might as well start with a pattern. (Like this Vogue, thanks Carol!) The J.Crew dress I borrowed was 1-2 sizes small for me, with enough room for maybe an A-cup bust. I didn't think it would be as hard as it was to make it work, but I essentially ended up grading the entire thing, as well as fuss with a large FBA that created even more problems.

Here is my 4th or 5th muslin, I lost count after about number 3. I don't know how many times I had to increase the size of those 2 tucks on the bodice, after taking out a dart at a gaping armhole or neckline and transferring it to the bust darts. I also had to realign the shoulder straps, all those armhole adjustments finally pulled them out of position. And I must mention the importance of tracing off your last pattern attempt onto a fresh piece of paper before mangling it, that way you have a record of each step and can go back if needed. In this case I pulled out one of the earlier patterns to check the angle of the shoulder strap, realized it had become tilted, and retraced the old onto the new, reblending the upper neckline and armhole. I also drew a new back neckline so it dips into a shallow V, deepened the back darts, and shortened the back lengths of the skirt and the upper bodice.

Not bad, but still too much ease under the bust, and small diagonal drag lines on the skirt.

Again, this was not my first muslin here. I kept trying to mess with the back darts as well as the CB seam, which obviously wasn't working.

I ran out of muslin and decided to use some leftover linen, it has similar drape and shiftiness to the 4-ply silk I'll be using. I took out 3/8" in length at the CB on the bodice and skirt backs, tapering to nothing at the side seam, leaving the band alone. I redrew the darts as well, making them shaped as opposed to straight. For this muslin I just pinned the side seams on the outside, they were swinging to the front on the last muslin so I knew I would need to realign them. It's always helpful to have large seam allowances at this stage for doing that.

Another small gaping neckline adjustment, which worked, as well as rotating some fabric out of the front skirt darts toward the side seam, to fix the diagonal drag lines.

Back is much improved, but I still need a bit more length off the bodice back.

I started on one more muslin this weekend, after realigning the side seams and adjusting the back bodice length I thought I should check it again, as well as figure out the construction order for the full lining. I am so glad I did, as it turned out to be somewhat difficult with that crossover neckline. I think I successfully reverse-engineered the method used on the J.Crew dress, thankfully I took pictures before I sent it back (whew!). My next post will detail the procedure I came up with.

One more tip to take home: Inserting a zipper to test fit is really easy. I don't have a dressform or a nearby sewing buddy so I rely on this. Just sew your seam normally with a long stitch length, press the seam open, and pin any kind of zipper you have on hand to the inside of the garment, with the zipper closed. Just line up the teeth with the seam. You can even use invisible zippers, it doesn't matter because all you are doing is topstitching it. Sew down one side of the zipper, close to the teeth if you can, then the other. Inside of the garment is on top. Once the zipper is sewn in, run your seam ripper down the basted seam on the outside of the garment, and that's it. Takes me no more than 5 minutes now, and is much more accurate than pinning, especially with a fitted garment.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Yet another J.Crew knockoff

As much as I wanted to finish the Patrones skirt, when I looked at the calendar I realized I have about 3 weeks to make a dress for a wedding I am attending. Yikes! I borrowed a J.Crew dress to copy weeks ago from a friend, and had some 4-ply silk crepe earmarked for it, but have been putting it off thus far. Yesterday I fleshed out the copied pieces, cut a muslin, and sewed most of it together. I ordered silk crepe de chine for the underlining, and charmeuse for the lining from on Monday, which with any luck will be here by next weekend. I hope.

J. Crew Jane Dress
This style has a crossover bust with 2 unsewn darts, wide underbust band, and darted front straight skirt. The top back has a dart on each side, which line up with the darts on the skirt back on either side of the underbust band. Did I mention the J.Crew dress is made in wool twill? Try watching the grain on that. I had a hard time figuring out the darts, what I ended up with was a close approximation of how deep they are, and a marking of where they stopped and started. Claire Schaeffer has a good explanation of how to copy darts, however it depends on being able to see the grain. You basically mark the lengthwise and crosswise grain around each dart, enclosing it in a 3-sided box. Pin a square of muslin to those grainlines, matching the grain. If you followed the grain correctly, you should get a bubble of fabric in the middle where the dart goes. Smooth it flat, and you get a dart. Then you mark the depth, start, and end points. I figured I got close enough and could work out the rest in the muslin. The dress I borrowed was a little small for me anyhow, I knew I would need to alter it.

Pattern pieces, no seam allowances

Here are the pieces I ended up with. I used my serrated tracing wheel/ironing board trick again, I am happy to report it works with wool twill as well, no damage to the fabric at all. Since the copied pieces have no seam allowances, you can either add them before you cut out, or in this case I knew I wanted to mark all the seam lines on the muslin so I cut them out exactly. I used a china marker to trace all around the pieces on my muslin, then cut them out with wide seam allowances, I didn't even measure since I didn't need the edges for accuracy, all the seam lines are marked already.

This is what I got done yesterday, not bad for a first try. Some of the seamlines don't match up, and I'm going to need some more bust room but I need to put in a zipper first so I can see the fit. Asking DH to pin the back is hit or miss. Mostly miss. :-)

Sides sewn down to waist only

Neckline and armholes staystiched and clipped

Now for my favorite part of this whole project: THE FABRIC!!!! Can I tell you how much I love 4-ply silk? It is lustrous, delightfully heavy, smooth without being overly slippery, the dye just emanates from it, and it doesn't want to wrinkle. I want to be buried in it. I consulted Susan Khalje's Bridal Couture for tips, she suggested a silk crepe de chine underlining. After seeing one of her 4-ply creations at a handsewing class, I figured she knew what she was doing. Silk charmeuse for the lining is the icing on the cake. Well pretend the cake is inside out. :-)

Turquoise 4-ply silk from Fabrics Fabrics in LA

And a big thank you to everyone who helped with Patrones translations, I got some very nice emails with additional information that my friend had missed. Thank you!!!!!