Friday, September 30, 2016

The Great Pumpkin, Part 1 - The Petticoat

I'm finally back at it again! It feels like forever since I've been able to work on anything, and I'm diving right back in, and finally getting to work on The Great Pumpkin. If you don't remember the dress, let me refresh your memory of this glorious creature.

Yeeees, it's so fantastic. How could I resist making something so completely kookie and fabulous?

I purchased the fabric for this dress last fall, but didn't have the time to make it for our annual Georgian Picnic, so they languished in the Stash for a while. I was lucky to find them when I did, because when I went back to the same warehouse a few months later, they were both gone. But, I bought 7 yards of the orange taffeta (red/yellow shot) and 5 yards of the teal taffeta (blue/green shot), so that should be enough to pull together the entire outfit.

I tried to manipulate the photo above to get the correct, true to life colors, but it didn't work so well. The fabric really does look different in every light! Sometimes the teal is bright emerald green, sometimes it looks cobalt blue, it really depends on how the sun is hitting it. It's sort of fantastic, but also frustrating to photograph. The orange does this, too, sometimes picking up more yellow or red, but it's not nearly as noticeable as the teal. You can really see how variable the colors are in all the photographs in this post. The fabrics never look the same twice!

I decided to start with the petticoat, since it was the easiest part and I could work on it while I figured out the gown construction. The pattern is super simple - two 33" panels of the orange, two 13" panels of the teal, and three 4" panels of the orange for the box-pleated trim. I had to cut everything out with pinking shears since the fabric had the tendency to fray.

I sewed all the long interior seams on the machine so they wouldn't show. I didn't realize it before, but I actually used a modified mantua-maker's seam. Since I'm working with two very different colors, it's easy to demonstrate this seam with the skirt panels.

I start with right sides together, offsetting one panel of the fabric by 1/4".

I then fold the offset fabric over the lower panel to encase the raw edge.

Then I fold both fabrics over again, to create a smooth edge and not have any raw edges showing at all.

To close the seam, I stitch as close to the edge as possible with the machine. I could do this by hand and close it the way I would a hem, but since the seam is on the inside and it's likely no one will ever see it, I didn't bother with the hand sewing on this. This method creates a very clean seam on the inside, though, and since I'm using two different fabrics it also creates a sort of decorative element, as well.

Once I had all the long seams sewn together, I hemmed the bottom of the petticoat. I used a fairly wide 2-inch hem, which I sewed down by hand to create a clean look. I was really happy with how the hem just sort of vanished into the fabric, even on the inside. You can see the inside of the hem at the top of the pic below, and the outside of the hem at the bottom.

Then I tackled the narrow length of fabric that would become the box-pleated trim. I sewed three lengths of fabric together with mantua-maker seams to create one length of fabric, 180 inches long by 4 inches wide. I then hemmed the entire thing by hand on both edges, which took forever and was horrible. I already hate hemming by hand, but this was so tedious and long and terrible, and I hated it. But, it does look pretty spiffy now that it's all done, and it was worth it not to have big ugly machine stitching visible on the right side of the trim. I still have two other sections of box pleated trim to look forward to, but I'll huff and puff over those when I get to them.

Once I had the trim hemmed, I started applying it to the skirt. I lined the top of the hem on one edge of the trim with the line where the teal fabric connected to the orange, and began creating small box pleats all along the join of the two fabrics.

Once I was happy with the placement and spacing of all the box pleats, I tacked them down by hand. I used tiny prick stitches to make the stitching as inconspicuous as possible. This actually didn't take as long as I expected, and I was finished attaching the trim in less than two hours.

With that, the worst part of making the petticoat was over! I put the petticoat on my mannequin over the skirt supports I intended to use, and adjusted the length of the front skirt at the waist. The back length didn't need to be adjusted, since the skirt is over a bum pad. Instead of cutting away the extra length at the front, I just cut a slit down the centre front, and then folded the excess fabric back. It was a little scary to cut right into the middle of the skirt panel, but it worked perfectly!

Once the length was adjusted, I put the skirt back onto the mannequin and pleated the fabric to the waist. Once I was satisfied with the width and placement of the pleats, I basted them in place.

After that, all that remained was to add the waist bands. I used the skirt fabric to create the tapes, so it all matches nicely.

And that was it! The next step will be to pattern out the under-bodice so I can start on the levite gown itself. I was really pleased with how quickly the petticoat went together, even with all the hand-sewing that needed to be done. It gives me hope that I can put the rest of the gown together fairly quickly and have it ready for the Georgian Picnic in November.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Finished Embroidery and The Burgundy Suit Continues

If you follow my Facebook or Tumblr, then you know that THE EMBROIDERY IS FINISHED!

I took all of Monday to work on the fill pattern on the left side, but now it's all wrapped up and I can pack up my embroidery threads. This project felt like it took forever, but when I looked back at my sewing diary, it actually only took me 16 days of total work. Granted, I was doing anywhere from 5 to 12 hours of work on the embroidery those days, so if I had just done an hour here or there it would have taken much longer. I did the bulk of the work back in February, when I was trying to cram in an entire embroidered suit just before the Francaise Dinner, set it aside to drown in schoolwork, and then picked it up again at the end of the semester.

In other 18thC suit news, I dug out the pieces for M's burgundy breeches and got to work on those yesterday. Things seemed to be going pretty smoothly until I actually flipped everything right side out and saw that things had gone horribly wrong in the drop front. Ugh. So, I had to cut out an entirely new front and started over, this time working much more carefully, and it all worked out.

I still have to finish the vents on the legs and add the waistband. I'm using the Simplicity Pirates pattern, and it's working pretty well. The only quibble I have is that there isn't a band at the hem of the pant legs, and I've never seen a pair of extant breeches without a band. That's not something that will be hard to add, though, so it's not a huge deal.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Embroidery Continues!

I can see the finish line! Last night I managed to complete the fill pattern on one half of the waistcoat, and if I can finish the other side tonight, and the remains of the second pocket flap, I'll be done!

Because the fill pattern needed to be in a grid and I didn't want to spend hours marking out and measuring a grid on the fabric, I picked up some gridded interfacing and used that to guide me.

The interfacing had a one inch grid on it, which was a little too dense for what I wanted to do, so I marked out an inch and a half grid using the lines on the interfacing to guide me. It was much closer to what I wanted, and using the interfacing made life a lot easier, especially since it was transparent enough that I could see the waistcoat through it and place it correctly without any hassle. The interfacing was a bit thick, so I had to poke holes into it with a pencil where I wanted my pattern to transfer to the fabric, but otherwise everything went swimmingly!

I started by sewing on each spangle.

I then added the stem and a couple of leaves, each in a different shade of green.

One hoop full of fill pattern took around 40 minutes to an hour to complete, so completing the entire thing took around 5 hours.

I'm so excited that I can move onto construction next week. M needs a new shirt, too, so I'll probably begin work on that at the same time. I have some really fabulous lightweight linen/cotton fabric that will make a great shirt, and I may sneak some lace onto the cuffs while he's not looking.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Back to Embroidery

I've had a bit of down time since the semester ended, so it seemed like the perfect time to really get back to the embroidery for M's 18thC court suit. I had been working hard to finish it for the Francaise Dinner, and then we didn't end up getting to go. Then I tried to finish for the DFWCG's own Georgian Dinner, and there was so little time to devote to it that I decided to make something else so I didn't rush it.

Well, now I have time! The past couple of nights I have devoted a good number of hours (around 12 hours a day, actually) to finishing up the embroidery so I can finally move on to construction. The first thing I needed to do was finish up the last of the embroidered border on the bottom edge of the waistcoat, which took about 6 hours.  Then I moved onto the buttons.

I had debated whether to make embroidered button covers or to find some jeweled buttons to use, but I finally settled on the embroidered ones. Because the buttons are so small (5/8") I couldn't do anything super elaborate, so I just did a little blue flower ringed with spangles.

With plenty of time to devote to the embroidery design, I decided to make it a bit more elaborate. I stitched an outline for the pocket flaps onto the body of the waistcoat that was accented with spangles, since I'd seen similar designs on extant waistcoats. Then I moved onto doing the pocket flaps themselves.

They are outlined with the same dark green that I stitched the waistcoat body with. I wish now that I had made the flaps in a different shape instead of the parallelogram that I've used for his other two waistcoats, just to change it up a bit, but I guess that gives me an excuse to make another waistcoat!

One pocket flap took about 12 hours to embroider and spangle completely.

The other pocket flap is nearly finished, but I ran out of green floss late last night and wasn't able to complete it before turning in. I should be able to finish it tonight, though! Then I'll just need to create the little filler pattern for the rest of the waistcoat. If you remember my last post, the body of the waistcoat looked like this -

Most extant waistcoats have a tiny, regular fill pattern to that big blank space, usually a single flower or something like that. I found a waistcoat from our decade (the 1760s) that had little flowers that used spangles as the bloom and had the stem and leaves embroidered in. I love any excuse to add more spangles, so I'm going to try that for this waistcoat. The original fill pattern from my inspiration waistcoat is probably a bit too much for M (TONS of spangles), and I don't fancy spending a bunch of time on filler, so I'm glad I came across the spangle flowers! You can see the original spangle flowers below, and clicking the pic will take you to its listing on the Met website so you can see the whole thing.

I'm hoping to finish up the embroidery by Monday and begin on construction soon afterward, so stay tuned!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Georgian Dinner

I had been trying to make this event happen for over a year. I had been to the Francaise Dinner in Georgetown last spring and the bug had bitten me. I wanted one of my own. Unfortunately, the universe being what it is, things didn't come together quite as planned. Finding a French restaurant in Dallas is difficult in the first place, and finding one that will actually contact you back is something else entirely. There were also insanely high room minimums to contend with, and eventually we settled on just making a reservation at a good restaurant and dealing with not having a private room.

The day of the event I was still sewing, so we were a little late out the door to get to the restaurant. My friend Jen had offered to let us change at her place, which was wonderful since the restaurant was a good hour and a half from home and driving in all those layers in a car without air conditioning was not a fun idea.

Traffic caused us to be even later, so we rushed to dress and make it to the restaurant, arriving fashionably last. Thankfully, the rest of the evening went smoothly! We had good conversation and good company, and it was a relaxing and fun event.

Dinner was held at an Italian restaurant in Dallas. It had some nice old world feel to it, and was decorated nicely, but, weirdly, they decided to play reggae music all night long. Otherwise, it was a very lovely evening. I'm glad that we finally had a chance to do a sort of fancy dinner, and I certainly hope that we get the chance to do more of them in the future!