Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
She is finished (well, mostly. Still need to slipstitch the bottom of the bodice lining) And I am triumphant, mostly. (I also had WAY too much fun with the Lomo-ish filer in Picasa while editing these photos. Sorry.)
I am definitely going to chalk this one up as a victory for Project Drop Waist. Bodice has been lengthened, and it fits, I think, pretty darn well. Minor dart issues aside. I will confess, after completion I took the bodice in a smidge at the side-seams. It was pleasantly skimming, but I fear I prefer “hugging.” Eve if it’s not objectively better. /sigh.
Boring Construction Bit:
The only problem with sewing with bedsheets is that your fabric is, well, bedsheet. Which doesn’t always have the greatest drape. So I wanted to underline. Digging through stash spat out a couple of pieces of cotton-poly broadcloth that seemed like they would work well while adding a bit more body to my fabric. I wanted to underline the whole thing, and then line the bodice. Once I cut the underlining, I used those pieces to cut out the shell (aka sheet) pieces. The cream broadcloth was just sheer enough to make positioning the motifs (aka Luke & Leia) a breeze, and I’m very glad I didn’t try to cut them out on the fold. I used this tutorial for the pattern-matching on the back; it’s not perfect, (and I may have thrown the back slightly off grain—but not the underlining!) but I’m satisfied. I didn’t attempt pattern matching anywhere else—I would’ve lost too much width on the skirt. And it wasn’t possible to match the side-seams and the back seam.
I used the trick of stitching down the fold of the dart first, to keep the shell and underlining from shifting when sewing the darts, and it worked like a charm. Sadly, I wasn’t able to completely avoid dart-tip poofiness. I’m not quite as panicked about darts as I used to be, but I am still a long way from mastering their subtleties (I’m just happy they usually turn out more-or-less symmetrical these days). I think the fact that the original pattern was designed for a pointier, early-60s bra didn’t help the situation. Anyway, not make-or-break. I did all my marking on the underlining, with my new chalk pencil (in bright fuschia. I am currently convinced that those marks will never come out…), which worked well except for when I tried sharpening it and broke of a big chunk of “lead”. I don’t think it’ll replace my love of my wash-away marker, but it is nice for larger areas, and comes in loads of colours. I also used a tracing-wheel and some of my vintage tracing paper, which I’ve never really gotten comfortable with in the past. But it was really handy for tracing the dart shaping more precisely than I tend to.
Once I had cut the bodice pieces, I trimmed the rest of the sheet (it had been a fitted sheet, so there were some odd notches from the corners) into a rectangle (rrrrip!) losing a couple of inches to a small tear that I’m ever so glad I noticed, and determined (YAY!) that I would have enough fabric to make the skirt two sheet-widths wide. I got the sheet-widths stitched together, and the underlining as well, and then had a panic that the skirt was going to be insanely full. I mean, I was going for pouffy gathers, but there’s pouffy and then there’s pouffy, you know. I pulled out the original skirt pattern pieces, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that while my skirt was a bit shorter than the original pattern pieces (remembering that my “waist” is a couple of inches lower, too), the total width I had was actually only a few inches wider than the pattern suggested. Not enough to be bothered about in a skirt like this. Win!
Keeping the underlining and lining of the skirt together, smooth, and not wonky over that whole 3m+ length was distinctly nerve-wracking. To continue my couture efforts, I decided to use the 2″ horsehaid braid I found at Fabricland a few weeks back, for the low, low price of $4/m (fortunately 50% off). I considered slipping the horsehair between the underlining and the fashion fabric, but in the end went with stitching it to the fabric and then wrapping the hem around it. I was going to just link to Gertie’s horsehair hem posts, but checking them over, none is exactly what I did. Though they’re all lovely methods. Obviously I should’ve taken some photos—oopsie. I then did some quick and dirty retro-fitting to stitch part of the rear seam (but not all of it because I didn’t want it stitched for my zipper insertion) so that I could overlap the horsehair braid at the seam. And then I realized I needed to figure out a way to finish the back edge, again only partially. I opted for binding. More retro-fitting. Not my most well-thought-through process (there was quite a bit of that in this project). But it’s all together, now. I hand-stitched the hem in place, catching it to the underlining (mostly), while watching Chronicle with Osiris last night. That was pretty fun.
I used the zig-zag-over-supplementary-thread method to gather the top of the skirt. (I originally learned this method with dental floss, but it occurred to me that the dental floss I buy is the super-fancy-expensive slippery stuff, so probably another sturdy thread is more economical; I used some button thread I have). This is my favourite gathering method, far and away, for medium to large amounts of gathering where I need a precise ratio of gathering. I used this clear foot, which I think is meant for inserting invisible zippers, because the grooves were pretty good for holding the thread underneath, and the clearness made it easy to keep track of where the thread was. It’s still not quite as good for this purpose as a cording foot, but I don’t seem to have one of those at this point. Really any zig-zag foot will work, but the cording foot holds the supplementary thread in a little tunnel, not just a groove, so it physically can’t slip out from under the zig-zag.
Another dig through of my vintage zippers turned up a blue invisible zip in the suggested (14″) length (plastic teeth this time). I was a bit surprised how short of a zipper was called for, but then I remembered that the back of this dress is way low. And 14″ is plenty, although the invisible zip doesn’t really like going past the gathered part at the waist. As per usual, I used this method for insertion.
The one thing I was concerned about, dropping the waist, was how it would affect the proportions of the skirt. Rather than having a short bodice and a long skirt, I now have a long bodice and a shorter skirt. The skirt comes a bit below my usual knee-length, but I was worried that making it any shorter would just look weirdly odd—like a tutu, perhaps. I considered doing some funky golden ratio calculations but in the end got lazy and decided to run with my current length and see. I can’t really lengthen it, after all, and I can always take it up if I need to. Now that I look at the photos, I think it’s all right—I don’t think I would want it any shorter, though. (And yes, I’m wearing the crazy square-dancing crinoline. It’s not really possible to wear this one without the lace showing, since the inner layer hangs lower than the outer layer. So it’s a design feature. 😉
I was considering adding a waist-stay, but then got confused. where do you put a waist-stay in, in a dropped-waist bodice? At the waist seam (down on my hips) or the actual waist? There’s a couple of inches of ease at the hips, so I’m worried a stay there that was snug enough to take the weight of the ruffles would cause a gathered look at the bottom of the bodice. On the other hand, it might make a weird fold at the waist. Hmm.
In hind-sight, piping the edges of the bodice and even the waist with something dark would’ve been a nice touch. I thought about trim going in and didn’t want to because the print was so busy, but I think a solid navy or black piping would’ve anchored the edges. I also didn’t understitch anything, though I should probably do some hand-understitching to keep the white lining from rolling out.
Still, pretty happy. Now where am I going to wear it?