Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gray Wool Dress Part 1

With my new pattern ready to go, I was able to get a good start on my new gray wool dress. The outer layer is a suit-weight gray twill wool and the lining is a lighter linen. The dress will be light as far as weight goes, but will be on the warmish side (which is part of the reason I opted for a sleeveless gown.)

Speaking of which, here's a reminder about my inspiration for this gown:

This detail from Rogier van der Weyden's Saint John Altarpiece leaves much to the imagination, but you can clearly see that it's a sleeveless gown with a fairly full skirt and a fur lining. I'm skipping the fur lining, obviously. Since this figure is so small, and the gown in black, it's impossible to know where the seams are and if this is a waist seam kirtle or not. I knew, however, that I wanted to attempt a waist seam kirtle, so this seamed to be a good opportunity for it.

After cutting out my bodice pieces according to my pattern (with generous seam allowance), I went to work cutting out the panels to form my trapezoidal panel skirt. I wasn't sure how many panels I would be able to get, but I knew I could get at least 8, so that's what I went with. Using Mathilde's instructions, I calculated a 7" top. I had to use my linen, folded in half, to determine the bottom measurement. That ended up being 20". From one end, I measured a length of 40"- my length plus seam allowance- marked 7" in from the left on one end and from the right on the other, then drew a straight line to join them. With my folded fabric, that gave me 4 panels from one 40" length. Lather, rinse, repeat, and I ended up with 8 panels each of the wool and linen.

What took the longest was matching the linen to the wool and pinning them all together- that alone took me an hour and a half!

Now here's an important note: If your fabric has a wrong side, and you fold it to make your panels, you will end up with two mirrored panel sets! They will not match up straight edge to bias edge on the two ends. So, I had 4 panels in one orientation and 4 in the other, meaning that the front seam matches straight to straight and the back seam matches bias to bias. No big deal, though- it just means I have to pay attention to where the seams are in relation to the bodice.

After a short break, I sewed the bodice together and gave it a try. I had to rip the arm holes open a bit for them to fit, and at first it seamed like it may be too tight, but after wearing it a bit, it wasn't bad. It was a little short, though.

So, for next time I just need to not cut it off so high- it needs only about 1.5" more of length to be perfect. This is cool, though. It fits and that's all the matters at the moment!

After sewing all the panels together and sewing it to the bodice, I held my breath and put it on for the first try. Not great.

It's not so clear on the front view, but the side view shows that the skirt isn't as full as it needs to be. There are no pleats in the seam on the skirt, and clearly there needs to be. I'm also not too keen on how visible the seams are, but I think that's just the way the fabric is, and I'm not sure there's much I can do about it.

Luckily, I had enough wool left for two more panels. In order to get two more linen panels, I had to cut them across the grain. I took the dress apart and pinned the new panels back in, but I still need to sew it all back together.

So stay tuned!

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