Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ugh. Sleeves.

Have I ever mentioned before that I hate working with set-in sleeves?  I mean, I know that they are necessary for my persona and everything but, ugh.  They are an absolute drag.

I spent almost my entire day getting the pattern for my sleeves completed, and though they are still not exactly correct, I can't waste anymore time on the patterning part.  They work well enough for me to move on to creating them in the wool and linen and getting on with the dress.

I've completed the hand sewing on the side and back seams and the shoulder seams.  I've held off on doing the front center seams (the main seam as well as the gore seams) since I've been using the lacing strips for my test fittings for the sleeves and I've had a chance to see if my initial idea for the front of the dress is a good one.  I think I just need to make one small modification- start the lacing about 1/2" above the gore point, rather than exactly at it, which is where it is now.

I've been playing around with some test buttons, and I'm not happy with the way any of them are turning out.  I've tried both the round and square methods, and they are both awkward.  I like the mathematical nature of the square method, but I can't get it to be as even as I'd like.  I'm contemplating doing a turk's head knot button instead, but that would be cheating.  I can achieve the size I need easier with the square method, so that's probably the way I'll do it, it's just frustrating when perfectionism strikes over the smallest details.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Silent but deadly

Fart jokes aside, I've been so quiet lately for one very simple reason- I found my stride and somehow it didn't include stopping to talk about it! Let's remedy that right now, shall we?

In addition to making some period-inspired toys for the kids to take to events, I finished my new dress pattern, and I've been working on my new dark colored wool dress. I fully intended to document that whole process and share it with you, but after the first round of fitting, I was a little embarrassed to share the photos. They were highly unflattering, as the process is not something you want to do in public anyway, so I decided that I wasn't going to share them.

I can, however, share with you a little about what I did and some things I've learned.

First, I LOVE the lacing strips I made.  They have made this entire process 20 times easier, and I've used them three times already.  They are now my favorite thing in the world.

I started the whole dress fitting process using some corduroy fabric.  A bottom weight, denim or light-weight canvas would also have worked.  Using a heavier cloth for the fitting was suggested by Mathilde, and I believe that for larger women, with a lot of fleshy bits to get into line, the stiffer fabric is a must.

Once my corduroy pattern was finished, I transferred it to muslin (so I could store it easier and write all over it), then also transferred it to my lining material- a light green linen.  I assembled the linen pieces (which only extend to my hips), attached the lacing strips again, and wore it around the house for about an hour.  This allowed the linen to ease in and stretch out.  I then had my mom (who helped me with the fitting all along) pin the lining to fit it again.  After taking it apart and making the necessary adjustments, I used that final lining pattern iteration as the pattern for the wool.

At this point, the wool dress is assembled, but there's still a good deal of work to be done.  I have to tackle the sleeves still (I need to create a pattern for those too), and finish the majority of the seams.  Then I'll do eyelets for the lacing and buttons and button holes on the sleeves (six each).  Oh, and the hem.

When I tried it on last night, I was superbly pleased with it.  There's nothing I can do about certain aspects of my own physiology (I do have 4 kids, after all), but it's comfortable and definitely has the corseting qualities it's meant to.  Now I just keep repeating in my head: "Don't screw it up!"

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Illuminated Manuscript on Wikimedia Commons

Did you know about this? Wikimedia Commons has a directory of manuscripts organized by century? No really, it's right here:

I'll be over there goofing off for the rest of the evening now....

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lacing strips for dress fitting

I don't remember exactly where I first heard about lacing strips in dress fitting, but I was reminded of them when I re-read my favorite instructions the other day. Planning ahead with my fitting, I wondered if this tool would be a good one for plus size fitting, so I decided it was time to find out.

Lacing strips are two narrow strips of fabric that contain evenly spaced holes. When attached to the center front (straight) edges of your pattern, they provide an easier way to get into and out of the pattern, without having to sew yourself in and cut yourself out over and over. If you take the time to make them well, they will also be reusable for anytime you need to do a dress fitting.

They are straightforward in construction, and can be made easily by using a sewing machine with a button hole function. I don't have step-by-step photos for you, but the instructions should be pretty easy to follow:
  1. Determine how long you'd like the strips to be (I suggest making them as long as you might ever want the lacing to be, even if you might typically want it shorter. Cut two strips at that length and no less than 2.5" wide.
  2. Fold each strip in half and sew down the length to form a tube. Use a 1/4" seam allowance.
  3. Turn the tube inside out and iron flat, positioning the seam along an edge.
  4. Sew along the edge with the seam about 1/8" (or less) in to reinforce that edge and prevent the two layers from shifting.
  5. Lay both strips out, side-by-side, with the reinforced edges together. Using a spacer (I used a piece of cardboard) the width you want the lacing holes spaced apart (1" is typical), shift one strip down half that space and make a mark on the other strip to indicate where the shifted strip starts. This will allow you to easily mark both strips at the same time while still creating offset holes for spiral lacing.
  6. Keeping the strips shifted from each other, use your spacer to mark across both strips at the same time. Shift the spacer down to line up with those marks, and make new marks, and so on.
  7. One strip at a time, use the button hole feature on your machine to sew buttonholes at each mark, just inside the sewn line you did earlier. The holes don't have to be long- 3/8"-1/2" is fine.
  8. Trim off any extra threads, and use a seam ripper to open the button holes.
  9. When you attach the strips to your fitting pattern, sew them on along the non-reinforced edge, with the other edge lined up with the opening where the lacing will be.
 Since I haven't used them yet, I can't vouch for how easy they are to use, but in theory they shouldn't be difficult and will hopefully assist in the process of achieving a consistent fit throughout the fitting process.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Getting ready for another fitted pattern

Despite the fact that I've now done three fitted dress patterns (thanks kids!) I still feel like it's a good idea to read up and plan before I dive into the task.  My first stop has always been Mathilde Bourrette's fitting and construction documentation. When I perused her pictorial patterning guide this time around, I was delighted to see that she'd made some revisions that make total sense.  I go to her first because, besides being extremely informative, she has a similar shoulder/bust/waist ratio as me and her advice on how to fit it is invaluable to me.

The second place I go is Tasha Kelly's La Cotte Simple website and her fitted dress instructions. From everything I've been able to gather over the years, I believe Tasha's method is the first generation of instructions after Robin Netherton's offline instructions hit the recreation community.  For some reason the straight-forward simplicity of her step-by-step relieves my anxiety over going through the dress patterning process, and though it hasn't been updated recently, it still seems valid and is easy to follow.

Finally I do three separate Google searches.  The search terms I use for the three are "Gothic fitted dress", "15th century fitted kirtle" and "15th century supportive gown".  I do this primarily to see if any new instructions or recreations have popped up that may offer further insight into the patterning process.  I first look at the web search results (typically only the first three pages of results), then I switch over to the image search results.  This time around I found instructions I had not seen before from The Medieval Tailor. She suggests skipping the draping phase and starting from rectangular construction and measurements.  I am intrigued by this idea, as it seems feasible as a period method (since everyone was familiar with rectangular construction already).  I don't think this is something I will do this time around, but I like the idea, and will try it next time.

After these little reassurances, I'm ready to tackle the pattern again.  I'll be using a thin corderoy (since it was on hand) for the initial patterning, then I'll transfer it over to the green linen I have to line my dark colored wool to finish up.

Wish me luck!