Monthly Archives: April 2013

Just under the wire

Me-Made Months Past

I, Tanit-Isis, of Tanit-Isis Sews, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’13. I endeavour to wear me-made clothing for everything except socks and underwear each day for the duration of May 2013. And to take photos of it, which I’m thinking will be the hardest part this time around.

Better late than never, right? I’ve loved Zoe’s Me-Made-Month challenges since the first time I did one, about six months into sewing my own clothes. These days, it’s very rare for me to leave the house without wearing at least one me-made item (plus most of my jackets are me-made at this point). But I have been relying on my surviving RTW knit tops for a fair number of things, so going all-me-made will still be a challenge. And the photographs… last time I did a MMM, I was blogging every day. (I like to think my posts, though less frequent now, are more in depth. Yes, no, maybe? Sometimes?) I don’t think that’ll happen, plus outfit photos get boring for some people. I will probably post them on twitter (@tanitisis) and Flickr, of course. I am expecting a lot of iPhone photos this time, though, so be warned. Quality is not guaranteed. (Considering I haven’t had a really good photo shoot since maybe last August, I guess if you’re still reading you’ve adjusted to my crappy photos these days? I mean, I’ve never been a photo guru like Carolyn, but even I get tired of fuzzy indoor phone pics.)

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Wrestling with the Picnic Dress

The Picnic Dress

The Picnic Dress

My Summer Picnic dress (aka Butterick 5882), is finished. It was a bit of a rushed make, as I had a deadline, and, well, I kind of had a bad case of the perfectionism that didn’t really work out. I mean, it never does, but usually I manage to keep it in the bag when it comes to sewing, or to let it out in only small, manageable ways.

Which is not to say that this dress is not a success. I think it is, or will be, once I’ve had a few weeks to put some distance between myself and all the seam ripping. So, this dress was kinda a bad idea in a lot of ways—limited time frame, unfamiliar pattern (I haven’t made a lot of Buttericks) and having a really crisp, clear vision in my head of what I wanted it to turn into. Which is always a perilous thing. On the upside, the fabric is a lovely, well-behaved cotton woven plaid, and the lining is a cotton-poly broadcloth. Easiest things to work with in the world.

So close

So close

I covered the first few stages of the dressmaking already, which went relatively smoothly. The first hitch came, predictably, when I tried to attach cups to bodice.

I’m not sure what was off—my cutting, my seam allowances, my marking of the CF line? But no amount of fiddling could get my cups to line up with the bodice pieces’ notches and still fit properly at the upper/outside edge; if I forced the edge to fit, they were overlapped WAY far. I went ahead and stitched anyway, hoping against hope that somehow it would all work out, but end up with a weirdly-folded, mashed mess that didn’t fit my bust AT ALL. I couldn’t bear to take a photo of the mess my pretty little cups became.

Rippit, rippit.

After I recovered from that (which took a day or two,) I decided that damn the seamlines, I had to make this thing fit me, after all. Thence followed a lot of fiddling and futzing in front of the bathroom mirror. Tape was invoked. Pins were applied liberally. Apparently my bust is much wider than the pattern was drafted for? Or… something.

Fitting, fitting, fitting. With tape.

Fitting, fitting, fitting. With tape.

You can see how much wider the cups on my bust are than the curve of the bodice. Oh, yeah, I also took 1/4″ out at each sideseam at this stage, for a total of 1″ around the whole bodice. And there was still some to take in at the back, although I’m not sure how much because I used it to make the lapped zipper extra-lappy. Maybe I should’ve made the 10? I’ve had 10s end up too small, though, so that scares me. /sigh.

Keeping track of boning

Keeping track of boning

Incidentally, the tape is very handy for keeping track of the bones. I stuck them to the wall in the order that they needed to go into the dress. Although this brown paper tape was a bit too sticky, and did some damage to the casings when I peeled it off. Oopsie.

My shape for the bust.

My shape for the bust.

I widened the opening for the bust cups quite a bit.

Hand stitching the cups in place.

Hand stitching the cups in place.

And then, I fell back on that good old standby when things don’t fit… lots and lots of hand stitching. The cups are stitched in entirely by hand.

The extra part of the cup.

The extra part of the cup.

This is the part of the cup that got “cut off” when I moved everything around to fit me. I decided to leave it, sandwiched between the two layers, as it’s padded and seemed to be smoothing and supportive. Also, the pattern doesn’t call for the bones to run all the way up the bust, but I wanted them that way, so I attached these two bones to the shell, while the rest are attached to the lining.

And voila!

And voila!

And somehow, it actually fit!

Faced skirt hem and lining hem.

Faced skirt hem and lining hem.

I wish I could say that it was smooth sailing thereafter, but there were still a few issues. I wanted a lapped zipper in the back. I’m not good at them, but sometimes you just have to go “What would Gertie do?” And I do like the look better than a centred application. Anyway, because I was also taking it in, I think, this didn’t play well with the back skirt seam (which I had already sewn at this point, yes, and serged. More ripping. Argh. I was able to squeeze enough bias tape for a not-terribly-wide hem facing. I interfaced my bias tape (prior to bias-tape-cutting) in the hopes of getting a slightly stiffer hem, but I think with the weight of this fabric it mostly just weighted the hem down more. Which is not awful—I do like a swishy hem—but not quite what I was hoping for. I should, perhaps, have sucked it up and done horsehair braid. One triumph was the edging on the skirt lining—I was able to coax a successful rolled hem from my geriatric serger! Those of you with fancy newfangled sergers that do rolled hems at the touch of a button have no idea, I’m sure. Mine requires a screwdriver, a different needleplate, and disengaging the blade to work properly. In celebration, I zig-zagged this teeny little lace trim along the edge, which has been kicking around forever. I think it’s cute, although the fact that it has a lot of snags already is tweaking that perfectionism I mentioned.

Full view

Full view

OK, enough whining. Deep breath. Step back. Enjoy. Please ignore the footless tights.

Back view

Back view

You’ll have to forgive my altered photos. It’s the “Cinemascope” effect in Google Picasa, and I love the sun-baked look it gives. This dress deserves to be sun-drenched. Yes, those are still snowbanks in my back yard.

It'll do.

It’ll do.

And on that note, I’m going to breathe deep, let it all go, and enjoy my dress. And hope for some real sun-drenched days in the future.

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Jumping in

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So sometimes, you make a muslin, and then another one. And sometimes you get cocky and fit as you go. And then sometimes… You throw all caution to the wind, and just sew.

It occurred to me sometime after I painstakingly cut out the entire dress single-layer that, while I may have the Simplicity bodice block figured out, I probably shouldn’t be quite as cocky about Butterick. The last Butterick pattern I made myself was my winter coat, which is a bit of a different creature. And the way this is constructed I may not have any idea what it’s doing fit wise until I insert the zipper. So I may well be making a meticulous disaster. Ulp.

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I tackled the most terrifying part of this dress yesterday—those folded cups. I got it into my head that I should pad the cups, partly because I’m using a really soft cotton for the contrast bit and partly because the curve of the dart really scared me once I had it stitched up, and this way even if I don’t fill the cups they won’t sag too badly. I’m liking the fit post-padding much better.

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I used pretty much the method Tasia describes here, although I did nothing so responsible as re-reading her post. That would’ve been too easy. Basically I used the liner pattern piece, cut in some kind of batting that was kicking around. I cut out the dart (curving the legs for a nice shape), butted the dart edges and stitched them closed with a zig-zag stitch, and trimmed off my seam allowances with pinking shears. Then I free handed a couple of oval/egg shapes, progressively smaller, to fit inside, also with pinking shears, and hand-tacked them in place. This poly batting doesn’t feather as well as a cotton batting (Read Tasia’s post for a description of feathering), but with the pinked edges I think it worked okay.

Getting the pleats figured out took some more work (and even reading the directions!)… Mostly because they fold in the opposite direction from what I had assumed. Some seam ripping and swearing were involved, and my folds aren’t anywhere near as crisp as some of the other versions I’ve seen. I think it works with my picnic dress vibe, though. It does, right?

Now for the second-most terrifying part of this dress—that bias strap! And then, friends, then… The try-on!

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Oh, yeah…

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The best laid plans.

Plaid is a print.

Yeah, that red plaid from yesterday is intended for this little queue jumper. I am weak, and apparently have the attention span of a jellyfish. Also I’m gonna have to do some saving up before I order the rest of my corset supplies.

Anyway, it’s not often that I actually buy fabric based on the envelope suggestions. I’m more of the “oh, I think I’d like a dress, better get three metres,” type of fabric shopper. But I did for this one. I’ve been fantasizing this fabric/pattern combo since Gertie first announced this pattern. But, y’know that little bit where they say “allow extra for matching prints”? Well, it didn’t even occur to me until I was finished tracing out the pattern.

So… Now I’m trying to think of fun things to do with plaid. Bias? Bias side panels? Or just do my best to keep things matching nicely?

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Oops

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The stash may have gotten a wee bit larger in the last few days. Oops.

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Premature Corseting

Butterick 4254

Butterick 4254

Despite a number of itty bitty things like, oh, not having ANY actual corset supplies (except eyelets, I do have eyelets), guess what I did when Osiris’s best buddy dragged him out of the house today, leaving me alone for HOURS?*) I make a mockup of Butterick 4254. After I deflated the mound of empty boxes that was occupying most of my charming new sewing dungeon space, and got the one machine that I have over here set up.  I have traced out View C, which is about as simple as it could get.

Before even starting, though, there were a couple of things I wanted to do. First was shorten the pattern above the waist. I took a 2 cm tuck across all of the pieces. The grainlines on some of them are really weird. Any experienced corset makers reading—should the grain lines go up and down relative to the piece, or relative to the corset overall? Shouldn’t those things be more or less the same thing? I confused. Anyway, for the mockups I went with the grain as drafted.

I read all the reviews on PR. Some (who appeared to be the more serious corset-wearers) found that the pattern lacked compression (i.e. it’s drafted at zero ease, not with negative ease at the waist. So the size 10 (the largest size in my envelope, and a size smaller than I normally make) has a 25″ waist, as drafted. Me being me, this is plenty of compression. I was a little less sure about the bust and hip, but willing to go with it. Several people said they found the corset short, and since I had just shortened it further, I figured I would extend it by a couple of cm all around the back.

I did not make one of my staple adjustments—a swayback adjustment. I did, however, add a bit of extra width at the high back hip.

And I made a mockup. As per the suggestions in Linda Sparks’ “The Basics of Corset Building,” I added a 2″ panel to the back where the lacing will be. Since I haven’t got a busk (see above about having no actual corset supplies), I subtracted the seam allowances and cut the front on the fold.

I’m torn on the whole busk thing. On the one hand, that’s a lot of money and effort and waiting (I would have to order online) for my first corset. On the other hand, I’m aiming for that Victorian corset look and as far as I can tell, they were all about the busks. Anyone with actual historical-fashion expertise (as opposed to my rather lazy google-fu), please correct me if I’m wrong. And yes, I’m aiming for at least superficially historical here. Why? Well, basically my mother’s been involved with a local small museum volunteer type thing for yonks, and there’s a possibility we could maybe develop a “pioneer sewing” program-type component and, well, I’m having visions of everything from treadle-sewing workshops to steampunk picnics when (if) summer ever comes, so yeah, I’m feeling historically oriented with this project. Vaguely, anyway.

Version 1

Version 1.0

Anyway, about that mockup. Will you ever forgive me for these horrible dirty-bathroom-mirror fitting photos? I may never forgive myself. Especially the back photos, which I took with the reverse camera on the iPhone, which has crappy resolution and no flash. Anyway, so, bust fit seems ok (recall that since the top and bottom of the corset are bound, there’s no seam allowances to fold under there). Waist fit as well—it’s tighter, but it’s supposed to be, right? It’s just below the waist everything goes, um… yikes. Ok, so obviously my hips are not appropriately Victoriany. But the biggest thing, really, is that weird length thing from front to back. The corset, from the illo,  is supposed to arc up over the hips, and down in front and back. Well, I have the back bit just fine, but the front? WTF? So, obviously I will be lengthening the bottom of the front. Like, a couple of inches.

Anyway, I took in the loose wobbly bits below the waist, probably a total of about four inches.

And then I stitched down my seam-allowances to make boning channels. Except I have no boning (not even zip ties) to put in them.

Version 1.2

Version 1.1

Nonetheless, I think the results are MUCH better (OK, not trying it on with seam allowances out probably looks better, too. It’s just much easier to make the adjustments with seam allowances out.) I think the fit over my hips at the side is spot on. I’m a little more worried about the back—it’s doing its usual sway-back wrinkle, assisted, no doubt, by shoddy pinning. Will the boning smooth it out, though? Or should a corset be “fixing” my little posture problem, anyway? For that matter, how appropriate *is* fitting a corset? I mean, isn’t the point of a period silhouette that it squishes you into ITS shape, not the other way around? Thoughts?

The altered pattern

The altered pattern

Anyway, here are my pattern alterations, to the extent that you can see them in the dappled daylight on the kitchen floor. I guess I could’ve moved them to a better spot on the floor, but that would’ve required, y’know, forethought. The red outlines my post-fitting changes, both where I slimmed the hips and my length extension in the front (on the right). I suppose I should really do a second mock up to test that length alteration, but I’d really like to plunge ahead and cut my real fabric. Not that I have proper coutil or anything, either, mind you.

*Just for the record, I love my husband. I love spending time with my husband. I love that he wants to spend lots of time with me. But right now, he’s getting a lot more alone time during the day, while I’m spending my day surrounded by and interacting with people, and while my introvert/extrovert ratio is pretty close to even, the fact that I’ve had NO ALONE TIME EVER for seven or eight months is starting to take a toll and I’m really wishing to just have time to do my things. Like sew.

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First signs of sewing

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… At my new house. Erm, why am I tracing a corset pattern?

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April 8, 2013 · 10:58 pm