Archive for January, 2009

The fabric that I’m working with is still annoying, and the results are still beautiful.  I have the neckline finished (stay tuned for a post just about the neckline, once I’ve taken pictures of it), both sleeves put in, and the gores and side seam done on one side.  There’s a LOT of skirt, and it’s lovely.  I’m very pleased.


This evening I cut out HRH’s gown and put together the front & back panels with their gores, cut the neckline, and assembled the sleeves.  OK, when I write it that way, it doesn’t seem like all that much for two hours of work.  The cutting took me about half an hour.  As I was working, I realized that I have an order that I ALWAYS make gowns in.  I pin as many pieces as I can so that once I sit down at the machine, I can just sew.  The first pieces done are always the first pass of the gussets to the sleeves, the center seam of the split gore if I’m using one, and the shoulder seams if I’m using two body panels.  This time, I swapped out the first pass of the front gore to the front body panels for the shoulder seams.  Then I finish the sleeves, place gores, and sew side seams.  This time, I’m going to be facing the neckline, so that’s next on the list because it’s easier done while the garment is still two-dimensional.

I had a brief moment of panic when I convinced myself that I had once again made the sleeves too small, despite accounting for how the bad pair on the underdress fit.  I agonized about this until I realized – I have the too-small pair lying around, I could just check the new sleeves against them.  The new ones were, of course, just fine.  I was just being paranoid.

I found the fabric a little annoying to work with; it’s EXTREMELY ravelly, made me cough when I ripped the straight cuts, and was generally just … weird.  I was becoming very disenchanted with it towards the end.  But then I draped what I have  done over the dress form and stood across the room, and everything was better, because it LOOKS stunning, annoying as it’s being to work with.

Liadain UnderdressI finished up Liadain’s underdress last night during textile guild.  Hooray!  
Here’s a sampling of what the finished seams look like. The shoulder seams were on the selvedge, so I didn’t bother to fell them, I just laid them flat and stitched them down.

Liadain Underdress I ALWAYS seem to mess up when I fell the seams on a tunic. Always.  This time, I very cleverly said, “Oh, I can just trim all the way around the outside of the gores and the shoulder seams, and  it’ll work out great!”  Yeah, except for those pesky side-seams, genius.  Doing it that way means that you have trimmed BOTH SIDES of the side seam, leaving you nothing to fell.

Having messed up one side, I decided to at least be internally consistent, so I deliberately made the same mistake on the other side.  Liadain UnderdressThen I cut small strips of linen and stitched them down over the raw edges.  It’s not too bulky, it looks clean, and the raw edges are all contained.  So that was a good solution.

In fact, it was such a good solution that I may try it again.  The gore / side seam / gusset area is ALWAYS a pain when you’re felling seams, and this makes it so much less complicated.  I think it’ll depend on the weight of the fabric, though.

Today or tomorrow I’ll cut out the overgown.  It’s going to have a LOT of skirt!  Right now I’m planning on about 160″ of hem between the body of the gown and the six gores (one each front and back, two in each side).  Lots of seams to finish, but it will be sooooo luxurious!

The sleeves were too narrow – fine on top, but not big enough just below the elbow.  So I ripped out the old ones and cut entirely new ones.  I COULD have just used a teenytiny seam allowance and made the old ones work, but those sleeves are a good size for me, so I’ll just keep them and stick them in my next underdress, which also means that finishing those seams won’t be a major pain.

I also discovered that the person who took the measurements that HRH supplied me with takes their measurements VERY SNUG.  Which is fine, it’s just good to know before I start making the gown.  This gown is going to be FABULOUS.  HRH loves lots of skirts… so there are going to be at least 140″ of hem, possibly more if I decide to do double gores everywhere in the sides and back (which is really, really tempting).

Finally, look what came in the big brown truck yesterday!

That’s a periwinkle silk herringbone – the color is more purply in person than it is in the picture.  It is getting put in a spacebag and saved for a special occasion, but I couldn’t NOT buy it, especially at $6/yard.  I did it at the right time, too – when I went to send someone the link to show them last night, it was all gone.

I’m making a set of 13th century gowns for HRH Liadain and took today (while watching the inauguration) to do the bulk of the construction on the underdress.  It’s all together now… I’m a little concerned about the fit of the sleeves, but we’ll know for sure how they’re fitting on Thursday.

The whole thing, inside out and not hemmed or anything.

These garments really don’t read well on the dress form, but what can you do? I’m definitely going to do center gores on the gown itself – HRH wants a keyhole neckline, too, so I’ll just do seams up the center front & back to facilitate the placement of those gores.

Sleeves… the top one is right side out; the bottom one is inside out.
Underdress Underdress
Details of the gussets & gore tops, one of each side.  As I work to make the silhouette of these gowns more true to the contemporary illustrations, I’m putting more and more of the fullness of the top into the gussets – because otherwise you end up with VERY droopy shoulders, which just doesn’t look (or seem like it would feel) right to me.

So it’s hanging on the form to let the bias stretch out before I hand-fell the seams and hem it.  Once I know how well it’s fitting, I’ll be able to settle on the sizes of the various pieces of the gown (which will be done in a navy blue 85% wool blend) and get going on that.  Like the underdress, I’ll be doing the structural seams of that garment on the machine and the finishing by hand.

I used to keep everyone’s measurements in a little notebook, where I would also sketch patterns, cutting diagrams, etc.  These days, though, I keep everyone’s measurements in a spreadsheet.  It makes the math much easier, and means I don’t have to go flipping back through the notebook to see if I have them already.  Plus I can see how much Shoshanna has grown!

Cutting Layout in NumbersUntil tonight, though, I was still doing my cutting layouts by hand in a notebook or on a scrap of paper.  This meant that they were easily lost, and never even remotely to scale.  And then tonight it occurred to me… why not create a table in my spreadsheet with square cells and as many columns as my fabric is wide?  At first I was intending to superimpose semi-transparent objects on top of this table, but then I realized that I could just mess with the background color of the cells… one color for each piece that I need to cut.

Yeah, it’s in now way medieval.  But it sure works!

The punchline is, I’m not even going to use this layout for the underdress I’m cutting out and assembling tomorrow while I watch the inauguration.  I have a couple of decent-sized linen “scraps” that are probably big enough for both sleeves and the gussets, or maybe even for the gores, of this garment.  So I pressed them plus another 3 yards (way more than I need) off of the 9 yards I had in the space bag of linen & cotton and that will be more than enough for the underdress.  (Have I mentioned here that my entire fabric yardage stash fits in two extra-large space bags?  I’m either doing something very right or very wrong… but we won’t talk about the couple of tubs of smaller scraps that I have.)

So tomorrow I will cut and do the machine-assembly on this underdress, and then the recipient will try it on later in the week so that I can do the hand-finishing and then make the overdress that goes with it.  And she shall look faboo in her 13th century finery!  I will take pictures as I go, just for fun.

I finally got a picture of Shoshanna in her striped woolen cyclas that she’s had for several months.  That plus a brief description are here.

There’s simply no way I will have all my entries done by then.  Modern life, both professional and home-ownery, has interceded PLUS I have volunteered to do some time-sensitive sewing for other people.

Just so I don’t get yelled at, I will probably show the mauve gown as an “in progress” piece and maybe the cyclas that I made for Shoshanna in costuming.  I’ll finish off the award medallions to show in embroidery, heraldic display, and fiber arts.  There is no way I’ll have the braies paper done in time for the February deadline and that’s kind of the linchpin of the whole thing.  So NEXT YEAR I swear… I’ll have the mauve gown done, the braies paper done, as well as some EVEN BETTER (opus anglicanum?) award medallions.