Thursday, November 19, 2015

Adventures in Flat Lining, Underlining, Basting and Dart-Making

Same Silk Dupioni Fabric, Dresses on Left Underlined with Silk Organza
Okay, so we're looking at this photo from my little sister's wedding in 2003 or 2004.  The bride picked out a teal silk dupioni fabric from and each bridesmaid got to choose her own dress pattern and seamstress.  The girl with short blonde hair closest to the bride is yours truly, and my other sister is the bridesmaid standing right next to me.  My mom made both of our dresses, underlining them with silk organza, and the other two girls are both wearing lined dresses made from the exact same fabric but without the silk organza interlining between the silk dress fabric and the lining.  As you can see, the silk organza adds shape, structure, and body to the thin silk and greatly reduces its tendency to wrinkle.  Since my green silk shantung dress fabric is very similar to the silk dupioni bridesmaid dress fabric, I decided to underline my entire Victorian Christmas caroling costume in silk organza.  Not only will this help to reduce the wrinkling of a dress that I need to wear to at least six events within a two week time period, but it will also strengthen the seams and help support the weight of the skirt trims and ruffles.  One more reason to underline the dress with silk organza is that although I am making this costume, my mom is helping me every step of the way to make sure I end up with a wearable dress, and I wanted her to teach me how she did it!

We're starting with the bodice of the dress, so we cut out all of the pieces in the green silk, the ivory silk organza, and the green poly/cotton broadcloth shirting fabric that I selected for my bodice lining fabric.  I basted the green silk to the organza through the center of each piece along the grainline, then draped the two pieces over my thigh right-side-up to pin and hand baste all the way around each piece within the seam allowances.  The reason I drape the fabric pieces over my arm or leg is to allow for that slight turn of cloth once the pieces are seamed together. 

Hand Basting Silk Organza Underlining to Silk Shantung, Right Side Up
Sleeve Section After Basting Silk Organza Underlining, Right Side Up
Stack of Basted Bodice Pieces, Wrong Side (Silk Organza) Up
I should mention that there was a collar facing piece that was supposed to get fusible interfacing -- in that situation, the interfacing gets fused to the silk organza PRIOR to basting the organza to the fashion fabric.  This was important to me as well because, had I fused the interfacing to my silk shantung fashion fabric, it would have noticeably altered the sheen of the piece that was interfaced and it would no longer match the rest of the dress.  All of the markings go on the interfacing only, and from this point you follow the directions and treat each piece as though it were a single layer of fabric.

Now I should point out that what Simplicity is calling "lining fabric" on the back of the pattern envelope is, strictly speaking, actually used as an UNDERLINING fabric.  Typically a lining is constructed separately from the rest of the garment, functions to conceal the seam allowances and other construction details, and is attached at the hems and facings of the garment.  Underlining (also known as flat lining) does not conceal any of the garment's construction, since it is sewn into every seam along with the fashion fabric.  So my first step of the instructions was to -- ugh! -- hand baste all of the so-called lining pieces on top of my silk organza.  Very annoying!  Would I still have elected to underline with silk organza if I knew the "lining" fabric was really an underlining?  Probably not -- but I'm glad I didn't know, because I really, REALLY like the way the three fabric layers are working together for my dress bodice.

Inside an Antique Nineteenth Century Dress Bodice
Interestingly, I found this photo of the inside of a 19th century dress bodice on an antique clothing auction site.  I was intrigued to see that it was put together almost exactly the way my dress pattern does, with a sturdy muslin underlining or flat lining sewn into the seams, and boning that is stitched to the seam allowances of the side and back seams as well as to the seam allowances of the darts.  This is a LOT like what my dress will look like inside out -- except that my seam allowances are getting serged instead of bound or whatever they did to control fraying 150 years ago.  Pretty cool, isn't it?

Stitching the First Dart, 3/8" Seam Allowance
After underlining and marking all of the bodice pieces, I learned how to sew darts!  I took pictures and I have to write down what I did so I can remember for the next time I sew a pattern with darts, so feel free to skip this section if you are already a seasoned Dart Diva.

This pattern called for 3/8" seam allowances in the bodice darts, and fortunately my Bernina foot #1D is exactly 3/8" from the needle to the right edge of the foot.  I am using my machine's Dual Feed feature for this project, and I'm sure it's helping all of these layers to feed smoothly and evenly through the machine. 

I sewed the dart up from the bottom edge of the bodice, until my needle was even with the place where the cut fabric seam allowance ended and the folded bit of the dart began.

Marking the Stitching Line for the End of the Dart

At that point, with my needle down, I raised my presser foot, laid a ruler from the needle to the dot marking the end of the dart, and drew a line with a pencil.
Sewing Along the Line...
Then, when I got to the dot marking the end of the dart at the fold line, I took a stitch right on the fold line and left long thread tails to tie off by hand.

Ta-Da!  It's a Dart!
This is how far we've gotten on the dress bodice so far.  Unfortunately, there have been a lot of setbacks -- LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES.  For instance, so many of the bodice pattern pieces were marked in multiple places to indicate a 3/8" seam allowance, and we thought that meant that ALL of the bodice seam allowances were to be 3/8".  Wrong!  The side seams, shoulder seams, and curved back seams are all 5/8".  By the time I realized this error, I had already sewn boning to the side seams' seam allowances and everything.  Had to carefully remove the boning, resew the seams, and then resew the boning.  But it was worth it because the fit is pretty good now:

We also lengthened all of the bodice pieces by 1/2" to fit me -- but forgot to lengthen the collar facing sections by the same amount.  So after cutting, fusing, hand basting, seaming, overcasting raw edges, we were ready to pin on those facings today and stitch them on but they did not fit.  No choice but to recut those pieces and start over again. 
 Doesn't that bodice make me look WEIRD in the back?!  That was the look, though -- wide, droopy shoulders and seams angled to make your waist seem as tiny as possible.
So tomorrow I will attach the front collar facing to the bodice and the bias tape stuff that goes along the bottom edge of the bodice.  I do have both sleeves made and ready to attach to the bodice, and they will go on next.  Then we have to make black fabric covered buttons and buttonholes and trim the bodice with ruffles, ribbon and trim.  Then on to the skirt!


SJSM said...

Looking foward to seeing you make the details. You are doing a lovely job of controlling the layers to have a beautiful hand to the finished dress. I await to see what kind of buttonhole method you will choose to employ; bound, Spanish snap, hand made or machine? The mystery has me intrigued. Adding the sleeves will give the bodice a different look once attached. It will be the look you are working to achieve.

You are doing great! As in quilting, taking one step at a time you will build towards a finish project. Keep it going!

Rebecca Grace said...

Thanks, Susan! I am planning on machine stitched buttonholes -- which will be challenging enough for me! I should be able to make nice ones with my Bernina, but this isn't a skill I've used in quilting or drapery sewing. I will, however, want to be able to fearlessly sew buttonholes by machine on a few blouses that are on my Wanna Do list, which is another reason to do them that way on my costume. That, and the fact that I need to be done with the dress AND bonnet AND fabric cover for my music binder AND little reticule purse for my keys, all by December 3rd, which is only 13 days away. Oh, and Thanksgiving is at MY HOUSE this year. So, there will be no period-correct handmade buttonholes! :-)

Thanks for stopping by,
Rebecca Grace

deb @ frugal little bungalow said...

this is all so interesting ; what an adventure you are on!

Donna Driver said...

I have been chuckling - in a nice way - over your learning experiences. I make the skirts for The Dickens Carrolers in Seattle. The company provides the costumes. We make two every year to replace the ones that have been dragged through the mud one too many times. Each skirt has ten rows od ruffles -30 yards - that have to be serged on top and bottom edges. Oh yeah, and they are black! My old eyes were challenged. I was thrilled to deliver the latest two and see them on the girls at the gala kick off concert last night. Good luck on the costume and have a wonderful time signing your way through December. A good alto is a treasure!

Donna Driver
In beautiful Fall City, Washington (the state)