Sunday, August 21, 2011

Simple Wedding Dress

I was asked if I'd be willing to make a "simple" wedding dress. Now let's just clarify something right away. I believed them when they said it. A good friend of mine who has made quite a number of wedding dresses called out a warning before I met with the bride and mother, "beware if they use the word SIMPLE". All of a sudden I was a bit stressed. There wasn't going to be time before the wedding to have anything other than simple.
After meeting with the Bride and Mom I decided it would be simple. But with a simple gown other things have to be so "right". The fabric, fit and execution. But really how hard could it be? After discussion a decision was made for an empire waist, short cappish sleeves, and full length BIAS skirt. That's it.
I was pushing for some silk charmeuse just for the luxury and beauty of it, lining it with habotai. I knew with this simplicity the fabric would have to be very nice. I gave her a couple of samples 5"x5", but it wasn't convincing until she spied a large scrap of white silk charmeuse on my sewing table I had been running sample stitching on. I let her take it with her to JoAnn's. :~)   You know she called me right away from JoAnn's stating she couldn't find anything she liked.
A great place to order beautiful white silks is   or
Both of these resources have terrific customer service and I have had wonderful experiences with both. Now that I live less then 100 miles of both of them I receive my  packages within two days of ordering. I have been ordering from both of these places for about 15 years now and even at a further distance the service was perfect. A lot of seamstresses don't know about these sources unless they are into surface design. They are selling to the fabric artist. But so much more economical for white silks, linens and cottons. Check out what other things they have you might like. You may decide to do some surface design.

I was able to help this little gal get beautiful silk for her wedding dress at a cost comparable to the polyesters at a place like JoAnns. I have to say I enjoy so much working with fine fabrics. But some problems arose and I again questioned wether or not I want to custom sew for people. I find it extremely stressful. l want everything to be so perfect. There were problems with the bias skirt, the fit of the sleeves, the darts, oh my goodness the darts. I thought I was going to die before getting them looking nice. If I had followed the balanced dart technique to start with a lot of misery could have been spared. These problems became huge before being resolved and I have definitely learned a few things. That is the best learn by doing and I always seem to learn more from making the mistake first.  UGH!! It feels so hard at times.

Here is the finished dress.

Here is the front inside bodice lining.

 The back bodice lining.

 Hand rolled hem.

   It turned out quite lovely. But I have decided that garments look best on a person and I need to maybe use my real camera instead of my phone. I also need to figure out how to give finished garments a better press. Or maybe that is one thing I take to the cleaners. I do meticulous pressing as I sew, but when the garment is finished and it is a dress or larger inclosed garment, I find it harder to get that final press to look really nice?  I also drafted the pattern myself.
  The bride added her own embellished sash as she wanted to do something special for the gown herself.

Construction details:

I used a very lightweight fusible interfacing on the WS of the entire bodice to give more body to the charmeuse fabric. I fused the interfacing to a block of fabric before cutting out the bodice. Darts in this fabric without the interfacing was not doable. I also used the balanced dart technique  Lynda Maynard uses in her book, The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques. Available from Amazon. I highly recommend this book for anyone hoping to gain a more professional finished garment. It may be couture but you can do it following these easy to understand instructions. The book is beautiful.

Bias Skirt
I looked up ways to handle charmeuse on the bias and found the recommendation (I followed) was to cut the skirt out adding an inch to two inches on all seam allowances and stitch up with a long stitch. Let the skirt hang for a minimum of 24 hrs. Take out the stitching and recut the skirt. I followed this for both the lining and fashion fabric. The width I must tell you grew quite a lot.  I ended up taking out more than I expected on the side seams in the back so it would drape properly. My suggestion to others is to follow what the fabric tells you to do! I would have saved a lot of ripping out seams if I had listened to my instinct the first time when I went to attach the skirt to bodice. I didn't think the back skirt could have possibly grown as much as it did in width.  I eased it into the bodice which resulted in very poor draping.  I had to rip out the bodice to skirt seam as well as the side seam and cut off more width.

Invisible Zipper
I cannot figure out why people have such a hard time with invisible zips. I have loved them for close to twenty years once I realized they always look great. I suppose I got lucky in the application technique when I followed the packaging instructions precisely. They just have always worked so much easier for me. ??? I have learned a couple of new tricks though. One big one is to interface the seam allowance where the zip is to be placed. The second is to use Dritz "Wonder Tape". It is located on the notions wall at JoAnn's. I buy it when the items on the notions wall are half price. It is a double sided tape 1/4" wide and washes away when washed. I also found an article in Threads which  demonstrated how to achieve a gorgeous looking neckline where the zip is installed. Now that I am posting about it I can't located the article. Sorry. If I find it I'll post it.

Hand Stitched Rolled Hem
I googled how to hand stitch a rolled hem in silk charmeuse. And found this
I followed the tutorial. I'm thinking about how much I love tutorials and how appreciative I am for those who post them.
It occurs to me that I might want to help others in posting my own for things I have discovered tricks for. I'll let you know when I get one done.

Sleeves on the bias.
To create this sleeve to move more with the bride as she hugs and dances I put it on the bias. I also put the lining on the bias and stitched the two together at the hem line with a tiny zigzag for more ease and comfort. I inserted the sleeves as one into the armhole and stitched in the usual manner. I wanted the entire gown to have a clean finish. So I made some bias tape from the habotai lining fabric and applied it to the seam encasing all the raw edges.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Mother of the Groom" dress from Moulage

A friend of mine called a few months ago and wanted me to make her a dress for her son's wedding. I'll leave out all the crazy things that happened that almost made it impossible.  I started out measuring her for a moulage. (see earlier post about moulage) when I got the muslin made and fitted she was so amazed at the fit. She couldn't believe it. She was also my first real life test other than myself of using this method. I was so excited to discover that I could actually take a piece of blank paper and measurements, and custom fit a victim. After making a moulage I took the pattern to sloper and then drafted the pattern for her dress. The dress is a two piece look with the skirt attached to the lining. It has princess seaming and raglan sleeves. The dress is very slimming on her figure. The third photo shows the lace  with the rosette close up. I realize that I didn't get a photo of the lace detail finish. This first photo is not the finished lace. I also changed how the lace sits on the sleeve before it was done. 
The dress is made from poly crepe in a light sage green with beautiful champagne colored lace at the neck line and sleeve. The green crepe fabric was purchased at Discount Fabric in San Francisco (don't let the name fool you) and the lace was purchased at Britex also in the city. Yes the dress does need a final pressing. She will be traveling and consequently be doing it at her destination. If I get a chance to get a photo at the local reception I will post it. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Pretty Blue Coat - Threads

I just love this little article about details in this jacket. I think it would be fun to consider and use some creative ideas like this to add interest to our own sewn fashions.

A Pretty Blue Coat - Threads

Monday, July 25, 2011

MOULAGE or fitting the French way

vThis past spring I took a moulage class from Lynda Maynard at Canada College in Redwood city.

A moulage is the beginning of a sloper. It is a  "sausage" casing for your torso as Lynda calls it. It is the precursor to a sloper. It is taken from your actual measurements and put to paper. The ultimate of fitting can be obtained quickly using this method. Lynda Maynard and Kenneth King are good friends so it was only appropriate we use Kenneth's book on CD to learn this technique.  Here is the link to order one for yourself.
I highly recommend trying it out. You will be amazed as everyone who took the class was at how close everyone was to having a fitting sloper in flat pattern. The moulages were done in muslin and were fitted. A second moulage was sometimes needed but quickly made. Then we took the moulage to sloper and made a muslin. By the end of class we each had made a basic sloper pattern. If you've ever wanted to conquer the fitting challenge I recommend Kenneth's CD.  You can have your CD made into a hard copy very easily at Kinko's.