Monday, July 5, 2010

Princess Petunia's Pettiskirt: Making a Start at Last!

A week ago, I was all fired up about starting this girly-girl pettiskirt project, and then I got an emailed video clip from Janice the Manice that featured Princess Petunia, twirling around and dancing in the pink tutu and rhinestone tiara that Janice's mother-in-law bought for her.  *SIGH!*  I know, a tutu in hand is worth two pettiskirts in the bushes, and a grandmother on a shopping mission cannot be stopped.  Still I felt discouraged and had to sulk for a few days, wondering whether my pettiskirt efforts would be in vain, despairing over whether the pettiskirt of my not-yet-started-labors would be redundant.  Yes, my pettiskirt will be nicer than this little pink costume tutu, but what are the odds that my two-year-old neice will have developed a sufficiently discriminating eye for fashion to make that distinction?

Janice the Manice (my little sister) says that the pink tutu is a costume that lives in the toybox and is not permitted to be worn outside the house.  She says that the tutu is scratchy, and does not make a satisfying swooshy noise when twirled.  She says that the turquoise pettiskirt can be worn all day long with a cute little tee shirt, and leggings in the fall.  In a nutshell, Janice the Manice says that SHE can tell the difference between the tutu and the Pettiskirt of Dreams, and she still wants me to make the pettiskirt.  I feel so much better now!

In case you missed my previous posts about this project, I'm using the pattern instructions from Kari Me Away.  So today I accomplished Step One: Cutting the Fabric.  This sounds so deceptively simple, but it turns out that nylon chiffon is a slippery, uncooperative beast when you are trying to fold a 16-yard piece up to about 36" wide so it fits on your cutting mat, all the while keeping the selvages and cut edges lined up neatly and wrinkle-free.  The idea is to cut all the strips lengthwise instead of across the grain, because there are a LOT of strips to cut.  Fourteen 2" x 576" strips and four 5" x 576" strips, to be exact.  After an initial failed attempt at folding and packaging the nylon chiffon on my own, I called in reinforcements in the form of my mother, and we battled the fabric together.  What finally ended up working best was folding the fabric in midair like a sheet, using mini binder clips to hold the slippery edges together between folds.  Then we'd have it hanging smoothly in the air, but everything would shift out of whack when we laid the fabric down on the cutting table, until I remembered my handy dandy tag gun.

I bought this nifty contraption from Rowley Company.  It works just like the tag guns that retail stores use to attach price tags to garments, except that I have 1/4" and 1/2" tags instead of the long ones for price tags.  I bought it for my drapery installation tool box that I keep in my car, as it comes in handy for things like training jabots and cascades to hang properly.  Whereas pinning can cause an unnatural-looking pucker in a drapery treatment, that little bit of slack left by the tag gun holds the folds in place the way I want them but with a much more natural effect.  Anyway, while my mother held the folded fabric up in midair, I used the tag gun to secure the fabric down both 54" long sides as well as across the bottom.  Then, when we moved it to the table, we had far less shifting and were able to get the fabric completely smooth and wrinkle free for cutting. 

You can see the little tags better in the closeup picture.  I used a small scissors to clip and remove the tags as I came to them while I was cutting. 

The rotary cutter and cutting mat were a godsend for this, although part of me felt that I should be cutting into fabric for a new quilt instead of this evil slippery chiffon, but all in due time.  I have a feeling that folding and cutting the fabric will turn out to have been the most difficult part of this project.  It's a lot like sewing drapery panels, actually -- you read the directions and it's all straight cuts from selvage to selvage, blind hems...  Easy sewing, anyone can do this, right?  Until you are rolling out expensive silk drapery fabric on the hardwood floor in your foyer because that's the largest flat surface in your home, crawling around on your hands and knees as you try to cut fourteen perfectly square panels to exactly 148" each, with the pattern motif in exactly the same spot on each panel...  Been there, done that, not going there again any time soon.  A skilled drapery workroom (with gigantic worktables designed especially for handling these huge lengths of fabric) is worth every penny and then some.  My sewbabies would rather make quilts than drapery panels anyway!
By the way, Kari Me Away sells rolls of precut chiffon, as well as complete pettiskirt kits on her web site so you can start sewing right away.  If you'd like to make a pettiskirt for the little princess in your life but the thought of cutting all those chiffon strips makes you ill, the kits or chiffon rolls would be a huge timesaver.  I was tempted to go that route myself, but I wasn't excited by the color choices. 
Here you see the fruits of today's labors, a gazillion yards of nylon chiffon draped all over my treadmill (which I have actually been using lately, so I'm not going to leave the fabric draped there for very long!):

Next up: First thing in the morning, I have to drop off a client's fabric and work orders to my drapery workroom, and make a few business-related calls, but then I am headed back into my studio.  I am going to use my little vacuum gizmos to suck every last speck of lint out of my sewbaby, give it a couple drops of oil, and put on the ruffler foot, the correct needle (whichever one that turns out to be), and the perfect shade of turquoise thread.  I'll need to do some test ruffling on scraps of chiffon to get the ruffling adjusted to four times fullness, but then I should be able to gather the ruffles and attach them to the tiers all in one step, which will get me that much closer to the finish line (and that much closer to the next quilt!).

Wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

Rebecca, you have so much more patience than I do for something like this, yet, as I was reading I couldn't help thinking about my "Grace" panels. Once you accomplish this pettiskirt, you are ready for the "Grace" project!

Can't wait to see this finished, although I would've taken the lazy route and bought the strips pre-cut :) But then again, they probably didn't have leopard, did they?

Rebecca Grace said...

Tammi, I'm not patient at all, just stubborn as all get out! I didn't look that hard for precut strips this time because I didn't realize what a pain it would be to cut the chiffon strips until I was actually doing it. And the site I bought the pattern from only sold the precut rolls in pastel yellow, pastel pink, baby blue, and pale lavender. I can't sew fabric that I don't like. :-)

Janice the Manice said...

Oh la la, there seems to be so much fabric for little Princess Petunia! It's going to be twirly and whirly and fuller than my tomato plants! Sarah WILL know the difference.