I probably should have mentioned earlier, but this year I’m undertaking in MA in Theatre Design at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. I had my interview back in May, and while I had a great time talking about my work, I walked out thinking there was no way they’d take me. My lack of formal art training seemed to be a real sticking point at the time – I guess it didn’t bother them too much since I received an unconditional offer about a month later.
So this post is all about not what I was working on last week, but the week before: the bodice!
The next step after zig-zagging all the seam allowances was piping and facing the bottom edge, like so:
Kind of a fiddly job because you have to pin the piping and the facing all at once, and then make sure it doesn’t shift about when you sew it without actually being able to see the piping (as it’s sandwiched between the layers), but the end result is pretty neat:
And then it came time to face the pleats at the back, and what a headache that was. I spent half a day on those damn pleats, and that was with Pauline’s help. If I never pleat anything again it’ll be too soon.
Although to be fair, working out the pleats probably wasn’t as bad as the four hours I spent pin-tucking the center front panel, which I wasn’t even sure I liked the look of after I’d finished. But that was a moment of madness, I think, because now that it’s all coming together I quite like it:
This was the stage I’d got to by the end of the day on Friday September 2nd, when it was all meant to be finished. To be fair I did get all the major construction elements finished (sleeves set, collar on, center front panel more or less finished off thanks to Pauline), but there was still a lot left to do.
I say “was” because, a week later, after two straight days of hand-sewing and very little else, I have finally made a dent in the finishing. I’ll write it out in list form so I feel more accomplished:
slip-stitch bias binding around armholes
slip-stitch piping bias around cuffs
slip-stitch bias binding of front panel
slip-stitch collar of front panel
hand sew 36 hooks to bodice
6. hand sew
36 14 bars to front panel
7. cover 42 buttons
8. sew on 42 buttons
Ok, just as I was starting to feel like I’d gotten somewhere, this list exercise has brought me back to reality. The buttons are scaring me a little. This is the first project I’ve decided to cover my own buttons, and the ones I’m using are small and fiddly. The few half-hearted attempts I’ve made to cover them so far have ended in failure.
And surely you’re wondering, why 42 buttons!? Well, there are 18 down either side of the front panel (originally just for decoration, but conveniently also to hide the stitching from the hooks) which makes 36, two on each cuff, and two on the back (the last four will be the slightly larger buttons). I may be crazy, but the thought of sewing them all on doesn’t actually bother me – they’re not functional so only have to be secure enough to not fall off, and the stitching from the hooks marks exactly where they need to go so there won’t be any double- and triple-checking that they’re all in the right place.
Let’s see if that’s still how I feel after I’ve made a start sewing them all on.
And now for the fun stuff: more fitting photos!
I reckon I’ll need some slightly higher heels – those pleats just aren’t falling right. Although Pauline did say that was probably because the skirt closures aren’t finished and once the proper closures are on, the cage, petticoat, and skirt will stay hitched up and won’t sag so much. Yes, skirt closures, that’s another one for the to-d0 list…
We’ll end with one more photo, because I think this one best shows off the back pleats (note the piped edges!):
Phew! That was only a week overdue.
Coming soon (hopefully): 1940s evening wear!
Having to be productive on a Bank Holiday Monday while the rest of the country takes a day off generally makes for a relaxed attitude toward whatever it is one is meant to be doing. Combine that with having only gotten six hours of sleep, and the approach becomes positively lethargic. I did feel a bit perkier after my twenty-minute lunchtime nap, but even so, I could have accomplished a lot more today.
Today we started on the bodice, and it was slow going. Period bodices involve lots of curved seams that just don’t want to ease in nicely, no matter how much you coax them. And, along with all the usual faff, we had the added bonus of zig-zagging, in scalloped shapes as necessary, each and every seam allowance. I don’t like zig-zagging to start with; somehow I can never quite get right on the edge of the fabric like you’re supposed to. But zig-zagging in a scalloped shape? That is a whole new kettle of fish. Let’s just say I ended up with some “special” scallops…
Oh, and then there was the forty-five minutes I spent on about two inches of a seam to create one of my pleats at the center back. It’s one of those awkward things where you have to stitch two bits together right up to a specific point, and then carry on from that exact point with one of the original bits and then a new bit. It’s a similar thing to what got me that day with the jacket – pleats and corners are just not my strong suit.
Here’s another photo of the inside, just for kicks:
So then at the end of the day I put it on the form, and you know what? Somehow it doesn’t look as good as I thought it would. I have no idea what I was expecting, especially as this is what I had planned for all along.
I currently have three fabric options for the pin-tucked/bloused out panel that’s going into the center front (which I went over budget to get), and do you know what? I think I am going to scrap all of them and use the striped taffeta instead, to better combine the two halves. I’m also going to cut some bias strips of the stripe and pipe around the hem, and what the heck, I’ll add a stripey detail at the cuffs too. I think.
So that’s that. We’re staying late tomorrow night and Thursday night, so that should help make up for today’s lethargy. The game plan for tomorrow is to finish finishing the seams (i.e. zig-zagging and scalloping three more bits), cut out some facing, make some piping, hide the mess and hem it all up nice, and make up the sleeves. I actually don’t know if I am capable of all of that in one day – it all sounds simple enough, but then it’s always the simple things that take ages for apparently no reason. We can but try.
Here’s hoping for sleeves by tomorrow night!
There’s nothing more debilitating than having a few days off. Going back to York on Monday, I had the same groggy feeling I get when I wake up exhausted after finally getting the sleep I thought I needed. I spent the whole day in a dozy fog that I couldn’t seem to snap out of. Fortunately it was a day spent drafting patterns for my bustle dress, so it wasn’t too demanding and I managed to not fall behind. Good start.
So, that was Monday. I spent all day Tuesday cutting out and making up the skirt and drape, and all day today draping the bodice. Here are the fruits of my labor:
So after I got to that stage at about 4.30 this afternoon, it was a mad rush to get the proper toile pieces all cut and sewn together. The goal was to be finished by 6; I left at 7.20. I think I made damn good time considering I am generally quite pernickity and slow when it comes to sewing, and these are all awkward curved seams.
Tomorrow it’s sleeves and decoration samples (in my case, a whole lot of box-pleating), and then it’s fittings on Friday!
And oh yes, I chose some buttons for my menswear! …Which, as it turns out, I only photographed with my phone and not my actual camera which means you’ll all see them later. But trust me, they are nice. We’re staying late tomorrow night so those of us who need to (i.e. me) can catch up on our buttons. Finally, I might be getting somewhere!