Sunday, November 22, 2015

50 Hours In, and Here's What I've Got to Show For Myself

Bodice Nearly Finished and a Hat Plan
As you can see, I managed to get the bodice nearly finished yesterday with collar facing and sleeves attached, and the lower edge of the bodice finished with bias tape turned to the inside and stitched down by hand.  There is a lot of "by hand" in this project, as I'm discovering...  In case you're just now tuning in, I'm making a Christmas caroling dress using Simplicity 1818 and I need to wear it on December 3rd.
Double Fold Bias Tape Pinned to Bodice Front, Ready for Machine Stitching

Sewing in the sleeves was weird.  I'm used to sewing things that are pretty flat -- quilts and draperies.  Sewing a tube inside a hole was just all kinds of uncomfortable!  I used my free arm and, so I could concentrate on sewing a seam without puckers rather than watching my seam allowance, I used my little cloth guide attachment that came with my #97D patchwork foot.  I am also not used to what a 5/8" seam looks like, since I use 1/2" seams for home dec and 1/4" for quilts.

Setting the Sleeves
I am finishing every raw edge on this dress with a serger narrow 2-thread overlock, by the way, overlocking the seam allowances separately after sewing each seam.  My silk fabric frays so badly that it's practically disintegrating before my eyes as I sew.  How do I love my serger?  Oh, let me count the ways...

Once we got the bodice pretty much together (it still needs buttonholes and buttons sewn on), I decided to switch gears and make the ruffled trim from my black silk shantung.  For one thing, my pattern instructs me to finish the bodice with trim and all before starting in on the skirt.  I was also half afraid that, if I didn't have the ruffles already made and ready to go by the time I was ready to stitch them on, I might be tempted to skip them.

Simplicity 1818
I wasted a lot of time yesterday experimenting with how I was going to make my ruffles.  I had already decided that I didn't like the look of the wide ruffles shown in the pattern photo. 

February 1863 Peterson's Magazine
See how the period fashion plate illustration that inspired the pattern has five rows of narrow, flat ruffles or fringe rather than three wide, frilly ruffles like in the pattern photo?  I'd rather have more rows of narrower, flatter ruffles on my dress, and I wanted nothing to do with the convoluted method of sewing rectangles into tubes, drawing lines on the tube, THEN cutting my ruffle strips.  So I cut my ruffle strips the way any self respecting quilter would do it, using my rotary cutter and acrylic quilting rulers.  I don't even know how long my strips are -- I just folded my fabric up selvedges together and cut my 2 7/8 yards into 2 3/4" wide strips until I ran out of fabric, leaving just enough to cover the buttons for the bodice closures. 

Of course the black silk shantung fabric ravels and frays just as badly as the green silk shantung, so after cutting and seaming my strips into one ridiculously long strip, we starched it crisply with heavy spray starch and then I attempted to follow the pattern instructions, finishing the L-O-N-G edges with a "narrow double hem."  Well, first I tried the 4 mm narrow hem foot on my Bernina 750 QE, and didn't like the results.  Too wide, and too fussy getting the edge to roll properly.  Next I tried the 2 mm narrow hem foot on my 1935 Singer Featherweight sewing machine, and it was lovely... but I still had to sew fairly slowly to ensure the fabric was rolling around the metal coil properly, and I despaired of ever finishing the ruffle that way.  What's more, the edges of the long black ruffle snake were beginning to ravel as I handled the strip, and I worried that I would run into serious trouble trying to roll a severely frayed piece of silk by the time I was halfway through hemming the edges.

Silk Shantung Ruffle Strips, Raveling Already
So, SERGER TO THE RESCUE!  I know it's not "period correct," but I was able to get an attractive 3-thread rolled hem on the edges of my ruffle with only minor hiccups along the way, and I was able to serge with the pedal to the metal.  How long did it take me to hem both edges of my ruffle strip?  It took me four hours.  FOUR.  HOURS.  Four hours of running my serger continuously at full speed.  One cone of serger thread (YLI Elite) completely used up by the upper looper, too.  I have no idea how long this strip is, either -- I don't want to know yet.  Don't want to get discouraged.  But I am not going to gather it.  I experimented with the Bernina ruffler foot as well as my vintage Singer ruffler foot on the Featherweight and decided that I just don't like the look of a gathered ruffle for this dress.  I'm going to do a 3/4" triple fullness knife pleat ruffle instead, like the "plaited frills" on many of the mid-Victorian dresses on my Pinterest board
Circa 1862, Met Museum
That looks like a box pleat ruffle, don't you think? 

I just hope I have a long enough fabric strip to go around the bottom of my enormously full skirt a few times.  My pattern called for 5" cut width ruffles, but if my math is correct they were only supposed to be about 1.6 times fullness.  I need to put my pleated ruffle trim around both sleeve edges as well as several rings around my skirt hem, and I really don't want to have to buy more black silk and then spend another ENTIRE DAY making more ruffle trim!  I still have to pleat this stuff, too!
3-Thread Rolled Hem on Edges of Silk Shantung
Isn't it lovely, though?
Black Silk Ruffle Strip for Dress, Green Silk Ruffle Strip for Hat Trim
I was testing my serger settings on strips of leftover green dress fabric, and decided that I kind of liked the look of the black edging on the green silk.  So while I still had the serger set for a rolled hem, I made some green silk ribbon strips edged in black thread.  I'll use them to decorate the plain black costume bonnet that I bought on Amazon, because clearly there will NOT be time to make a special bonnet from scratch!

This dress still needs:

1. Buttonholes and buttons sewn on the bodice

2. A skirt (panels are cut and silk shantung fashion fabric has been hand-basted to the silk organza underlining -- Mom did that while I was making ruffles today)

3. Ruffles need to be pleated and stitched by machine

4. Ruffle trim, purchased gimp trim, and bows all need to be stitched to the dress.  (The trim definitely needs to be stitched to the bodice by hand...  But I wonder whether I could possibly get away with stitching my pleated ruffle to the skirt by machine?)

5. White blouse "undersleeves", not even cut out yet

6. Some kind of fichu or chemisette (per the pattern) to fill in the neckline of the dress

7. Decorate the ugly black cheapo bonnet

8. Still need to make a fabric cover for my music binder

9. I need to make a little drawstring purse ("reticule") for my keys, chapstick, etc.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I've already got close to 50 hours into the making of this dress.  I REALLY hope it's more than halfway done!

I'm linking up with Can I Get a Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt, and Design Wall Monday over at Patchwork Times.


P11otter said...

Whow! Great project so far!

deb @ frugal little bungalow said...

This is amazing and you are amazing to tackle it.

Grandma Kc said...

Impressive! Deb sent me over and I am glad she did. It is just amazing. I used to sew a lot -- mostly clothing items and not quilts but since my vision has gotten so poor I just don't enjoy it anymore. Get the new contacts today and maybe all of that will change. That bodice really is beautiful!

Churn Dash said...

I wonder how long it would take to sew completely by hand.

The outfit is really coming together nicely.


Rebecca Grace said...

Yikes, Helen! I can't even imagine... But it's taking so long for me because I'm learning everything as I go along. Like when the pattern says to under stitch the facing, I have to go look up "what is under stitching" before I can do that step. And today I will have to get out my machine manual and read about buttonholes, and do a lot of practice, before I can see the buttonholes on my dress. There have been a number of screw-ups and do-overs along the way as well, and that definitely slows things down. If I was more experienced with dressmaking, my dress would probably be completely finished by now!

Thanks for stopping by,

Anonymous said...

WOW! This is some dress. I think she'll be beautiful when completed. I used to make my clothing and my daughters' when she was little. I never made anything like this though. Blessings, Gretchen

Lara B. said...

A true labor of love Rebecca! It sure gives me and even deeper appreciation for the labor and skill that went into sewing these dresses by hand... with silk no less. We just made a silk lined bag so i know exactly what you mean about it disintegrating before your eyes.

Patsy said...

I'm so impressed that you know how to do all this stuff and that you're sticking with it. Sorry to say that I would have thrown in the towel long ago!

Bonnie said...

Can you imagine doing this by hand??? The labor alone now or then would be prohibitive I would think. The dress is lovely. Where will you be singing? You'll have a beautiful finished dress but oh the hours in it!

Nadine said...

I noticed that you didn't choose the form with the half leg.....reason? I'm considering the Fabulous Fit form and would like your input please. BTW, your 2/15/16 post is fabulous! I too have a number of WIP....variety keeps us fresh! And yes, there are different weights of vellum, just like paper. You can buy pkg of foundation papers that feel like tissue paper and some that are a light weight newsprint.

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Nadine! Several reasons. First, I am not a big fan of pants and don't plan to sew them any time soon. Second, if you get the half leg form, you have less flexibility with adjusting the torso length as you pad out the form. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up because the crotch is a fixed point. Whereas on a traditional dress form you can shift the waist and hips up or down with padding to create either a tall or a petite torso and it all works out. But I confess that my primary reason for not going with the half leg form is that aesthetically I prefer the way a traditional dress form looks as a decorative accessory in my studio. I don't like how the pole is off center on the half leg form, even though I know this makes the dress form more versatile.

Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your dress form adventures!

Janice Holton said...

Wow! Rebecca, I am so impressed by what you are tackling! Outstanding! I can't WAIT to see you in this! You are going to model for us, aren't you?

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks, Janice! This is an old post; this dress was finished last fall. So yes you CAN see pictures of me in the finished dress here:

Thanks for stopping by!