Excessively Heirloom

I’ll do proper pictures when I get a chance, but I wanted to throw this up before I forget everything. Like much of my recent sewing, this project draws on my desire to wear historical clothing, except not actually be in costume.

I first fell for McCall’s 6956 back in the spring. The Plucky New Girl at work had taken it out as a project, and, well, kinda bit off a bit more than she could chew, what with never having sewn from a pattern before. Since this was pretty much my entire approach to sewing from about 1989 up to, oh, 2010, I give her full credit. I just hope she wasn’t too traumatized. Anyway, me (and some other ladies) got to play angel and help her finish it off, and in the process I got to try it on and was, well, thoroughly charmed by it.

Also, I am so deep in sundress mode right now, I can’t even. ALL THE SUNDRESSES!!!

Anyway, it’s that awkward seasonal changeover at Fabricland where the old fabric is on the way out but the new stuff hasn’t much arrived so project pickings are slim, and it’s best to focus on the small core of non-seasonal fabrics that are always in stock. 
And did I mention sundress mode? Also, I was still craving DETAIL after the fun of the Gabriola skirt and its bodice. 

So I doodled up a picture something like this:

To be made out of our always-in-stock cotton batiste. And then I went looking for a pattern that sorta fit, and ended up with McCall’s 6956.
And then I went half-ass-heirloom insane.
OK, so I am not totally clear on the exact definition of “heirloom sewing”. I’ve read a few old Threads articles, and a lot of Victorian sewing manuals that describe the techniques, but not under that name. Anyway, what I’m basically saying is I experimented liberally with pin tucks, lace insertion, and faux-hem-stitch using a wing needle.

The pin tucks took the longest, partly because pin tucks take FOREVER and partly because I had a friend over so my sewing setup was optimized for hanging out rather than for quick changing between machine and pressing. No regrets. I tested out the cheater-pin tucking with a twin needle, but while I have a pin tuck foot for my Janome, I didn’t have a real twin needle, and while I can put two needles in the Rocketeer at what would be a perfect distance for twin-needle pin tucking, the foot won’t fit that machine and when I tried with other feet everything just went wonky quite easily. So all the pin tucks were done the old fashioned way—measure, mark, and stitch. I switched the Rocketeer to straight-stitch plate and foot for this, which I think helped me get the teeny tucks I was going for. (Oh, and I also wasted quite a few hours on quarter-inch tucked panels, too, before deciding I wanted a more delicate look. Hopefully I can use those for something else later.)
I cut the pieces for the bodice out of pre-tucked fabric (pintucks taken at 1 cm intervals, by the way), but did the tucks on the skirt after cutting. There was a lot of laying things out on the floor to make sure the tuck-lines matched up. (Mostly they do.) 

Everything else blurs into a haze of lace-insertion and indecision. I had gotten a bunch of this ladder-type insertion trim on deep clearance, and wound up going to town on that. I ran a strip down every panel except for the centre back ones (and I would have gotten them too except I ran out of trim.) 

I put the skirt all together. 
I pulled it off again.
Twice. That’s how long it took me to figure out the lining needed to be completely free from the outer dress, otherwise it just looked stupid. Eventually I figured out how I wanted the dress constructed. Then I started adding lace.

And cutting out the fabric behind it.

And, let’s just say I had better be damn careful when I wash this thing.

When the lining was incorporated into the pleats, it was way too puffy.


Oh, the tucks in the front are not as long as the pattern dictates, partly because that’s the look I wanted and party because I cut a size 10 and the waist was, um, snug. This fabric has a lot less give than that glorious grey linen-cotton. The bust fits perfectly though. 

Batiste is not really the right fabric for hem stitching, but it was still fun to do. I spent quite a bit of time (how many times have I said this about this time-suck of a project?) experimenting with how different stitches looked, but in the end one of the nicest was a simple zig-zag. Which is good because I used that lots of places. Whether it was a good idea, will remain to be seen…

My initial concept sketch buttoned up the front, but when I started working with the pattern I decided I liked the centre front tuck too much to get rid of, so while there are still some buttons, they are strictly decorative. And I have no photos of them because I actually sewed them on right before I hung the dress at work. 

There are millions of mistakes, flaws, and other irregularities that I won’t go into. The only one that’s really bothering me is that the front isn’t quite symmetrical. My best guess is that this happened when I was inserting the ladder-trim—I think when I cut the piece in half to sew the insertion in, I didn’t line it back up perfectly (since the top edge is slanted this is a bit tricky, I should’ve worked from the hem.) And I didn’t realize until well after everything was topstitched and lace slapped on and fabric underneath cut away and, well, crud. It is what it is (and, if you didn’t notice anything until I said so, well, hey, what’s that over there? No, pay no attention to the rest of this paragraph…)

Anyway. Finished the hem with zig-zag faux hem stitch, and the lining hem with the last of my lace. Seriously, I had like six inches left over. Whew!

And then I raced off to work to hang it, so I didn’t even get any decent finished pictures. Which means they’ll have to wait for their own post after I get it back at the end of August… Basically, after sundress season is over. Um, not my best planning ever. 😦

Oh, well. I should really be making Tyo that birthday flannel she wants, anyway. πŸ˜‰

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17 Comments

Filed under Sewing

17 responses to “Excessively Heirloom

  1. mutti39

    Pin tucks and ladder lace – whew! I developed a small headache visualizing your project. What a lot of improvising, guessing and just doing it!

    Beautiful dress – the details are outstanding.

    Thanks for the long, photo-filled post.

    Suz

  2. gilliancrafts

    That is so cute and so you! And I love your fashion drawing!

  3. I love this! Very pretty πŸ™‚

  4. This is so pretty, I am wishing for some very hot days in September for you!

  5. vintagethrifter51

    Love, love, love the dress. The detail is gorgeous. Cheers, Michele

  6. Just never ever ever ever put it in the dryer. And use one of those mesh wash bags for the washing part. I hang dry pretty much all of the memade sundresses for mostly the same reasons. That and it makes the laundry room look very cheerful. Too many spiders outside.
    I do not know why I have …yards and yards of the laddery stuff. But I do. Maybe it follows people home.

    • I hang-dry most of my me-made dresses, too… but my kids are largely handling the laundry these days. Which is, erm, wonderful. Mostly.

      I feel like random lace breeds in corners. Although, usually not enough for whatever project you might want it for. πŸ™‚ Something like this could theoretically be great for using up random lace bits, I think…

  7. Lynsey

    Such a gorgeous dress, it looks so difficult and mind boggling, the effect is stunning though, if I see something similar to this in shops I always stand, admire and investigate. Maybe on my next make I could just add one strip of lace or trim, start small.

    • Thank you! It`s funny, it really is just adding one little thing. And then another. And then another. Some of it would definitely have been better with more planning, but really it was a lot about making each step, and then deciding what more could be added. (And then knowing when to stop?)

  8. Freaking impressive! Wow!

  9. coming up from under my rock — I love pintucks, I never have the patience for them, but I do love the look. I usually see things late, and it seems silly to say what several other people have already said… but damn, those pintucks.

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