Belated Bodice Update


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:

1. slip-stitch bias binding around armholes
2. slip-stitch piping bias around cuffs
3. slip-stitch bias binding of front panel
4. slip-stitch collar of front panel
5. 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!

Facing and Boning


I am not a 3D-thinker. I can not look at somebody else’s perfectly faced breeches and translate them into the steps I need to take to face my own. Before this sounds any weirder, I’ll say that the facing is a bit of fabric that goes around the inside hem of each trouser leg – the same idea as a waistband. It sounded easy enough when Pauline explained it to me last Friday, but when it got down to it the whole button-stand/button flap thing was completely baffling and as a result I’ve done it Slightly Wrong. Turns out the flap that I so carefully and neatly slip-stitched into place is supposed to flap open so that you can actually button them up.

how not to attach facing

It’s not a problem really; it just means that my flap doesn’t have facing on it because I didn’t think it needed it (since it was going to be sewn down flat anyway, right? wrong) and had to budge it around so the damn facing would actually fit around the hem.

less-than-ideal solution

That’s the one I’ve adjusted; I still need to unpick and neaten up the other side. It seems so obvious now, the way the flap works, but yesterday morning I Did Not Get It. Le sigh. At least I know now, right? Trial and error, problem-solving, all that nonsense. Facing a pair of breeches will never baffle me again!

Now all I’ve got to worry about is that flap being strong enough to hold the buttons. I’m sure I interfaced it, but it it feels a bit floppy so maybe I didn’t (again, I’ll put that down to not having a clue how that bit was going to work). I brought the breeches home to fix that other bit of facing, which of course led to an impromptu fitting:

they fit! just about.

The first thing he said was, they’re too small. And I said what?! No, no they are not, they can’t be. What you think is “too small” is actually a perfect fit; you’re just not used to the way trousers fit in the 19th century. I was saying all this to convince myself as well as him, but once we got him pinned into everything (no buttons yet, as ever – sigh) he agreed that yes, ok, the fit is fine, just a bit tighter than he’s used to. What I need to do now is make damn sure those buttons at the hem go on nice and tight, because there’ll be a lot of strain on those when he sits down.

In other news, the sleeves of the jacket are well and truly finished! Properly on, lined and everything! I left myself notes for Monday when Pauline wouldn’t be here so I’d remember what to do:


Here it is, the nearly-finished product:


A close-up of the collar:

could use another press, I think

I still need to stabstitch the lapel so it matches the topstitching on the collar, so I might go back in on Friday to work on that. Or I might leave it until the buttons and buttonholes bonanza.

Lastly yesterday I got all the bones into my corset! There was only one channel that I really struggled with; the rest were roomy enough for the bones to slide in fairly easily. AND the bias binding is on!! My finish isn’t brilliant but, for all intents and purposes, the corset is done. I brought it home with some lace hand-sew onto the top, more to hide some wayward stitch-in-the-ditch-ing than anything else.

There are still loads of things to do, mostly (bet you can guess) buttons and button-holes and some hand-finishing here and there. But the point is, everyone still has loads of little things to do! I’M ALL CAUGHT UP!!!

I’m going to relish this feeling, because no doubt it won’t last long.

Swings and Roundabouts


So, remember how I thought I had been really clever with my choice of breeches fabric, choosing something sturdy that wouldn’t need lining and thus save loads of time leaving everyone else in my unlined dust?

Well, I was wrong. I didn’t fully understand the implications of cheap twill-weave synthetic fabric until I attempted to cut the waistband. The first time I cut it, I ended up with a startling curve. So I thought right, I’ll try again, this time using silly amounts of weights and pins. It was the same again. This stuff was literally warping in my hands. Defeated, I consulted Pauline and she advised interfacing and cutting it on the cross-grain right up against the selvage edge. That’s how I got my straight waistband, but it was a hollow victory having realized that I would, indeed, have to line my breeches. Harrumph.

So, lining it was. I thought oh, that won’t be so bad, just run it all under the machine together and get on with it. NOT SO! Turns out the technique here is “flat tacking,” which means sit and hand-sew the lining to the facing fabric with a long basting stitch along the sewing line. (Side note – “tacking” is English for “basting.” Weird, right?!) In the end I stayed until 7.30 to finish all the flat tacking, thinking that if it was all done last night I could come in and overlock first thing this morning and roll merrily along.

Again, not so. Overlocking was a pain, especially since there were five of us needing to do it and only one machine. After overlocking we started with the split-falls which, despite having done them over and over again on Tuesday, is a fiddly, complicated process, the details are very easy to muddle up after two days not doing them. Having a substitute tutor instructing us differently on how to put them in really, really didn’t help either.

By the end of the day, my table (and my brain) looked like this:


There was actually one point when I almost started to cry. Every time I thought I was getting closer to the end (of just finishing the split falls, for chuffin’ hell’s sake) something else came up, and then it turned out my pillars are too tall and so how do I sew on the lining if I lined up the top of the pillar with the top of the seam allowance?! I couldn’t ask because the tutor had left before I got that far. It certainly felt like dire straights by 5 in the afternoon – two of the other girls not only finished their fall fronts but then had sewn together the actual trouser legs as well, even wearing them for fun!!, while mine were still in pieces in my hands. Not a nice feeling.

Fortunately this inconsolable desperation coincided with 6pm, when it was time to pack it in for the weekend. It had gotten to the stage where even if it had been the middle of the afternoon and Pauline was there, I would’ve had to stop because carrying on in such a flustered state would just be counterproductive. Truth be told I’m not that far behind – just some lining to sew on and some pressing and hand-finishing before the falls are done, and then sewing up the side seams really takes no time at all once you get going (not that you can think reasonably like that when you’re in that kind of mood). Becky hasn’t finished her shirt and Suzie still has to alter her jacket pattern before we start cutting on Monday – so it’s all swings and roundabouts really.