Friday, January 30, 2009

Bluebird of Happiness - Dress - Part VII

Skirt Lining with Petticoat

On my list of things left to do for the dress is to make the skirt lining with attached petticoat ruffle. The lining part isn't hard, that is made the same as the skirt for the dress. The petticoat ruffle can be a little difficult to manage, but since I've made many of these sort of lining over the years for art garments and for my daughter, I've developed a system that works for me.

First, I use a rotary cutter and mat to cut all the pieces of petticoat netting. This is much more accurate and quicker than scissors since I am cutting rectangles. I cut strips the width of the fabric by twice the width of the finished ruffle. The strips for this dress are 12"/30cm wide. I always cut 8 sections, two for each quadrant of the skirt. Depending on the width of the netting, this is usually around 400"/10m or so of netting to handle. You can see how long this piece is, as it stretches out into the next room in the photo below:

The netting sections must be seamed together. I prefer to lap the seams and stitch two lines of stitching rather than a regular seam or a french seam. It is much quicker and netting does not fray, anyway. I overlap the two pieces by 1/2"/1cm and then stitch 1/8"/2mm from each cut edge.

The entire thing then needs to be gathered. To start this process, I fold the netting in half to the finished width and press the crease. I then open the netting back out and this crease is where I will stitch the gathering stitches. There is no 6"/15cm seam guide on my machine, so this is the best way I've come up with to do this. I also try to use up all my odd colored bobbins, too, left from other projects long since finished.

Once the netting is gathered, the lining skirt must be marked for the stitching. With a wash away making pen, I mark a line 6"/15cm from the hem of the lining. This is the stitching line and where I will pin the line of gathering stitches.

The sections are pinned on in quadrants, two sections at a time. I often will pin and stitch only one or two quadrants at a time. This breaks a very awkward task into much smaller and doable segments.
Once all the sections are stitched and all the basting threads removed, the netting is folded in half again, creating a double ruffle . This method also produces a smoother transition between the netting and lining, with no ruffle header to show through on the outside.

Now to insert the skirt lining into the dress!

Parting Shot: Turning the Heel. I've turned the heel on my sock and am now working on the instep. After this section is done, all I have left is the toe. And the other sock.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bluebird of Happiness - Dress - Part VI

More Collar

It seems like the wrap skirt was hit with you readers! Thank you so much - it was fun to make and wear it, even it just for the photo shoot. One of children thought I should have just left it on for the rest of the day! If you're looking for a similar modern pattern, this one by McCall's suggested by Primatoide futile might work. With a little adjusting, you might be able to make it wrap to the back and have those super large pockets, too.

I haven't shown you the dress in a while, so I thought it would be good if I updated you on that. The collar is finished and has been attached to the dress. I am glad this part is done - it is not the easiest type of sewing. Partly because everything must line up and lie flat, partly because of the corners and partly because I'm using a collar that I have modified to fit a bodice from another pattern.

The collar is attached the same way the coat collar was, with a piece of bias binding to cover the seam allowances. This was the cleanest way to join all these layers. Even if the collar rolls down a bit, there will still be a bit of blue before the lining.

I still need to press it properly, but there is some progress being made!

I also added ties to the back of the dress, to form a pretty bow in the back. They are made of the blue silk, which creates a nice contrast with the ivory dress. These ties are made the same way as the tie on the coat. Reducing bulk as well as maintaining consistent construction with the coat was important.

The dress still needs a skirt lining with petticoat, the inside belt, dress hangers, the lining hand stitched in place, a hem and a label. Looks like I need to get back to work once I'm done with this post!

The coat is done for all practical purposes. I will be picking at it until it needs to leave for the first show. You know, I will be clipping this little thread here, taking off and restitching beads or flowers, etc. until I think it is done. Just little tweaks. Some of you mentioned that you'd like to see how the bow looked once tied, so here's a picture for you, I hope this will tide you over until the photo shoot post:

[Bunny, yes there is a special label, too, maybe I'll give it as a sneak peek in the next few days!]

Parting Shot: Storm Total. Many of you mentioned the weather was not the best where you live, and I believe you. Even those in the Southern Hemisphere have their own weather woes: heat! Remember, it is summer down there! Here are the snowfall totals, first in inches, then in centimeters:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XXXIV

The Prismacolor Pencils

I showed the Prismacolor pencils in a Parting Shot a couple of weeks ago, and now it is time to show you what I'm doing with them for BOH. The coat is very, very close to being complete, but still needs a little work on the insides.

In case you haven't noticed, there are no actual bluebirds on the outside of the coat. The coat is blue, but there are no birds, just quilted feathers. Now, I couldn't do a bluebird ensemble without the bluebirds, so I drew a few bluebirds:

Where are they going? Inside the coat of course, as appliques. I always like to put a little something interesting on the inside of my garments, too, so like American Beauty had roses, and Midnight Garden had crickets, BOH will have bluebirds.

The only problem with the bluebirds, is that in regular fabric they are rather boring, and the pieces are so small, some of the details can not be done in fabric in a way that I'm happy with for this project. The drawings have to be adapted for applique, and sometimes that means losing some of the very tiny details. That's where the colored pencils come in. I am using the colored pencils to provide some of the extra details for the birds.

Take a look at this little birdie. He's not very exciting, and doesn't even have an eye or legs!

With some colored pencils and a bead and sequin, he's got an eye, feathers and legs.

This little birdie got details and a nest, too, although she is not quite done:

I think the coat will be done in the next few days!

Parting Shot: Quilt Square. The children are working on a small wall hanging sized quilt. Here is one of the squares that my son made. There will be more of this quilt to come!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XXXIII


Not closure, like this is the end. Closures, like something to keep the coat closed. Yeah, I know, this project is getting sort of long, isn't it? Really, when you see me working on the closures you know I'm almost done with the garment.

The coat originally had one little lonely hook and eye to keep it closed, which you can see circled in red in the instructions below. You can also see the non-functional, decorative tie ends, too.

I am really concerned about one hook and eye being the only closure for a coat of this size and weight. As usual, I turned to an alternative closure, and one the I've used before with good success, the fabric covered snap. The snaps are a great choice because you can get an exact match of color and they can be put places where a button and buttonhole can not. I had used these before in a few projects, most notably, Midnight Garden in which both the jacket and skirt closed with snaps. Once the snaps are covered, they fit more tightly together, which is an added bonus for security. For the tutorial on how I make covered snaps, click here.

The coat now has four snaps, two right at the neck line and two more a bit further down. I may not always use all four snaps, but I feel a little better knowing that the coat has a secure closure.

I did have a few readers ask if I was going to show the coat when it was finished. I always do a photo shoot post at the very end once all the pieces are complete. I get dressed up with all the right accessories and the children have a good time being the photographers. Right now it looks like the photo shoot post will appear in about two weeks or less. Hang in there, I'm getting close to the end. (I think that last comment was as much for me as for you!)

Parting Shot: Cables R Us. In an ongoing effort to clean out some of our storage areas, my husband decided to clean out his cable and computer spare parts containers. We had a lot more wires and cables than I realized! Of course, we won't say anything about how much thread or beads I have. ;)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XXXII

Collar - Inside Details

Thank you all regarding the ties! It is very difficult to make a design change, think you have it all figured out and then find out things are not going to work properly. Those are the moments where there are many doubts and questions. Such as: Why am I doing this? Why did I even begin this project? What was I thinking?!? and How am I going to fix this? Moving forward and seeking a solution is the right answer, but it is hard not to get tangled up with the emotion of the moment.

So, moving forward, the collar must be attached to the coat! That actually was the easy part.

First, the collar must be supported properly and the roll line established. What is really nice about this pattern is that the roll line is printed on the pattern piece. This is something I really wish the Big 4 would do more often these days. It is difficult to establish a proper roll line unless you have a little experience. I do enjoy using BWOF and other foreign patterns because they do print the roll lines. This is important when building the under layers of interfacings and other things that will support the chosen design. Here's the pattern, you can see the roll line, we'll take a look at what I did with it later in this post:

Because I had changed the collar to a slightly larger size, added a lot of beading and added ties, I needed more support than a medium weight interfacing would supply. I turned to that old favorite of tailoring, hair canvas. I've use a fusible hair canvas and cut it to the shape of the collar and then fused it to the underlining (which is muslin) of the undercollar. I did not want to fuse it to the silk at all. I did not do the pad stitching, since it was a fusible and because I did not want the collar super stiff. I wanted a softer sort of roll of the collar.

To reduce bulk at the center back of the under collar, I overlapped the hair canvas and center back along the seam line and stitched along the penciled line you see below and trimmed close to the line. This is better than stitching the seam and then pressing it open for reducing bulk.

I did not use any fusible or hand stitched tape inside the collar at the roll line, although now that I'm thinking about it, I should have. Oh well, next time, maybe I'll do that! I did make one line of stitching through all three layers (silk, hair canvas, and muslin) on the roll line. I've seen this done on shirts and jackets that do not have a separate collar stand to help establish the roll line. This line of stitching will also help me to keep that roll line nice when touching up the ensemble between wearings and showings.

After carefully shaping and steaming, I had the collar you saw yesterday on the the dress form (scroll down to yesterday's post for the picture.)

Now for the actual attaching! Because of the way the border is attached, the ties ends and all the layers I'm trying to attach together and finish all at the same time - that's a lot to think about isn't it? - I wanted one technique to tie all this together and look neat at the same time. I know that is a lot to ask, but it is possible! The solution? Binding.

I pinned the collar to the coat, with the wrong side of the collar to the right side of the coat - as if it were finished, and then pinned the binding on top of that. One seam joined all the layers, and I stitched another line of stitching 1/8" away just for security. Grading and trimming was the next task, and is very important in this type of situation. For the coat body, there was a quilted layer, plus the lining and underlining which was joined to a collar that had a layer of quilting, plus an undercollar of silk, hair canvas and muslin - grading is a must with all these layers! This brings me to a little side comment - now do you see why I use tulle as a backing and a split layer of batting for my quilting when doing garments? All those layers add up quick, even when using split layers of batting and tulle. In the photo below, you can sort of see how many layers there are, and yes those seam allowances are also trimmed on the diagonal at the intersections.

The binding was then turned down over the seam allowances and hand stitched to the lining or border.

Neat, clean and finished! Not only is the collar finished, but also the edge of the border than extends beyond the collar is finished, too.

What is left for the coat? Well, not much! I need to do the closures, inside details and label and that is it for the coat. The dress, unfortunately, needs a lot more work.

Parting Shot: Surprise. When I got home today, I found a little box in my mailbox, which contained the items below (minus the chocolate, the children and I made quick work of that!). It is a little thank you gift from the founders of MQX, and was a unexpected little bit of sunshine in my day! Notice that the bright yellow mug was wrapped in batting to protect it for shipping - very clever and not surprising since these ladies are big names in quilting! Thank you, MQX!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bluebird of Happiness - Coat - Part XXXI

The Ties

I'd like to thank you all for the kind words regarding the Knipmode skirt! I hope I've inspired you to try your hand at drafting or even taking a pattern and modifiying it a little bit to make it yours.

The ties at the neck of the coat originally weren't functional ties at all, but just decorative tie ends that were attached along with the collar and facing. The ties that I wanted actually tie into a bow. While this idea seems fairly simple, bringing it to life was not. There were two major obstacles in the whole process.

First, the fabric. I could not get quite the color I wanted for the ties. Due to lack of local availability and the time frame I am working within, I could not get the exact fabric I wanted. The other problem was matching the ivory. You would not think that color matching would be an issue, but it was. In the end, I found exactly what I was looking for - right in the fabrics I already had and used. I used the ivory dupioni for the tie, and I think it was actually a good choice because the bow holds the shape of a bow better than the georgette would have.

Second, and the bigger obstacle, was attaching the bow to the collar. My ties are attached directly to the collar, not the center front of the coat. I changed the roll line of the collar just a bit so that I'd have a 2" space at the edge of the collar to attach the ties. Why go to that trouble, when the pattern was perfectly fine? Because I had a certain vision for the front of that coat and changing the pattern a bit would make that happen.
That said, it wasn't the easiest thing to make reality. Reducing a double layer of dupioni 8" wide down to 2" was the hard part.

I tried a variety of things to reduce that width so it would fit. Gathering was the worst idea. The resulting wad of fabric was way too thick. Furthermore, there are no gathers anywhere else in the ensemble, so this seemed a little odd to me. Then, I narrowed the width of the ties to 6". This is the same width as the widest part of the border, so visually it would look similar. Pleating was a bit better and a bit flatter with only the 6" width to work with, but I still could not come up with an arrangement I was happy with. After a frustrating afternoon, I was starting to run out of ideas.

What to do? When I start to run out of ideas and inspiration, I sit down with all my lovely books and start to look at pictures. The book I chose to start with was The Art of Fabric Manipulation, by Colette Wolff. I started flipping through it trying to get ideas for reducing large amounts of fabric into smaller areas. This picture, although a bit unrelated to the current problem, gave me an idea:

Why not narrow the sides of the tie closer to the actual attachment point? There are two good reasons for this, one, it solves part of the original problem. Two, there will be less width at that point in the tie resulting in a less bulky knot. That's what I did:

You can see that I narrowed the tie by 2", and then tapered both sides so that they would be narrower at the end that attaches to the collar. Once stitched and trimmed, the end looked like this:

Now, I still had too much fabric, so in order to get rid of that fabric, I used a dart. This again narrows the tie a bit more, and is consistent with the rest of the ensemble because all the shaping in this ensemble is done with darts.

After stitching a dart on either side of the tie as seen above on the left and right, I trimmed the seam allowances and pressed the dart open.

Once turned to the right side, the ties were nice and flat and fit perfectly into the space they needed to fit into. Here is the collar once it was finally constructed, there will be another post with more construction details:

Not an easy task and a very customized solution. I am very happy with how they look now that they are done. Working through the solution was the hard part. Lessons for the day: do not get too discouraged when things don't work out and keep looking for a solution, you never know where inspiration will turn up!

Parting Shot: Sock Status. I'm done with the cuff portion of the sock and have started the heel portion. It is taking a while, but I am getting there. I try to do a little knitting everyday - make a couple of pattern repetitions or 8 to 10 rows. It does add up after a while!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bluebird of Happiness - Dress - Part V

The Collar

Thank you all for the compliments on the pajamas - they were very warm and cozy! With the temperatures we had last night (see the Parting Shot below), the new pajamas were perfect.

Yes, the dress has a collar, too. Thankfully, it was a much easier decision as to what to with the dress collar, than with the coat collar! Today, I'll show you how I came up with the collar and the progress to date. There will be another post later showing how it will be attached to the dress.

At this point, the dress bodice has been assembled and attached to the skirt, but we'll need to go back to the muslin stage to understand how the collar came about. Here's the last incarnation of the muslin, with corrected neckline:

At this point, I was hoping to do a little combination of the two patterns. Remember that the original Vogue was a size too big, with the second Vogue fitting better. The problem with the second Vogue's collar is that it was split over the shoulders, needing to be made in four pieces. The original Vogue had the collar integrated with the bodice, but the collar, once stitched, continued from center front to center back with a break. The nice thing was that there was a collar facing piece, which I used to shape the collar.

I began by pinned the collar to the muslin, hoping it would fit the other bodice neckline. It actually fit very well, with just a little trimming to make it fit properly. I then was able to trim the collar to the correct size and shape. I wanted the collar to have scalloped edges and the collar also had to fit my petite frame without being overwhelming.

As you can see in the photo above, muslins are meant to be drawn on and trimmed. Their whole purpose is to work out all the problems and drafting issues before cutting into the good fabric. I was able to draw my design right on the muslin to make sure it fit. Until I made the muslin, I wasn't exactly how much space I'd have for artwork.

To complete the artwork and to get a pattern piece, I unpinned the collar from the muslin, traced it off onto a sheet of freezer paper (I use freezer paper a lot!), and was able to add seam allowances, plus complete the artwork.

Here are the collars as they are now, they only need flowers and to be attached to the dress:

Q/A: Designdreamer had two questions, first, " . . . . I wondered if people used the muslin or transferred the changes to the muslin. I've tried the later, but measuring didn't seem accurate enough to me." I've successfully transferred changes from muslin to paper pattern, but many people prefer just to use the muslin for pattern pieces. It can be done either way, and I've done it both ways. To be accurate, I like to use a metal C-thru art ruler for all my measurements. I think accuracy has a lot to do with tools used to do the measuring. A final fitting doesn't hurt, either.

Second, she asked, "HOW does one thread trace? I mean I've seen the end result, but HOW do you get the tracing in the right place without tearing the pattern away after wards? First, I've never seen thread tracing done through the pattern tissue. You can thread trace one of two ways: either use a pattern that does not have seam allowances and trace right at the edge of the paper pattern or use tracing paper and a wheel to trace the seam allowances from the pattern to the fabric and then thread trace the marked line. This later method is described in Susan Khalje's book, Bridal Couture.

Minne had this question regarding general construction of quilted garments, "I was wondering do I quilt the material first then cut my pattern or do I cut the pattern first and add extra seam allowance?" I generally rough cut out my pattern first, leaving anywhere from 2 to 4" extra all around, then I trace the pattern piece onto the fabric so that I know where to quilt and then quilt the fabric. Once the quilting is done, I then will compare the quilted piece to the pattern and retrace it and stay stitch the cutting line before finally cutting it out. To see a few more details, check out this BOH post regarding quilting/garment construction. It is the same method I use for all my quilted garments.

Parting Shot: Deep Freeze. No joke! Take a look at our outside temperatures this morning, the number in the lower right. The photo was taken right before I took the children to school. For those of you using the Centigrade scale, converted from Farenheit, that temperature is: -26.5 degrees Celsius.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bluebird of Happiness - Dress - Part IV

Bodice Construction, Part 1

I finally got my muslin fitted for the dress bodice and now that I'm happy with it, it is time to actually make the bodice. If you have done changes to the muslin, there are two basic ways of then making the changes and cutting out your fabric. One, you can take apart the muslin and use it for pattern pieces noting new seam lines, etc. Two, you can carefully measure the changes, transfer them to the paper pattern and cut out the garment.

For this bodice, I am measuring the changes and transferring them to the paper pattern. You can see in the photo below that I've actually written the changes on the muslin in Sharpie marker. The reason for this is that I am keeping this muslin and I can reference the changes I made right away. This style of bodice is used frequently in 50's fashions and if I have a good one that I know fits reasonably well, the next time I need to make a bodice like this, I already have a muslin and pattern. I've also saved a good strapless one, too for the same reason.

I cut out the muslin underlining first, then used it to cut out the fashion fabric. With a patterned fabric, it is much easier to cut it out flat, rather than on a fold as demonstrated by the bodice front below.

The basic construction of the bodice was not hard, except for the french darts. These type of darts must be very carefully made - they are a major stress point in this style of bodice and I've seen more than one ripped out in vintage dresses. To start, I've basted the muslin and fashion fabrics together at the edges. I then traced the dart and slash line. To reinforce the tip of the dart, where there is very little fabric and shredding is a problem, I've used a small 1" or 2cm square of silk organza and stitched it in with the stay stitching. I also reduced my stitch length to 1 mm near the tip of the dart.

Once slashed and spread, the side fronts or backs can be attached first at the vertical seams, and with a second seam horizontally. The horizontal seams actually form part of the shape of the sleeve, too. You can see the two seams in the photo below, which is an old one from the first muslin I made.

This part is the hardest, as there is very little seam allowance at the top of that dart. I ended up basting a bit and then finishing the very top with some hand stitches and some Fray Check. I hope that for all that work the bodice will hold together properly!

Q/A: Regarding the underline and finish method a few people wanted to know if it is best to use the method with straight seams only or could curved seams be used. I think it would be best on straight seams. Many curved seams need to be clipped for them to be pressed properly and that would defeat the method altogether, I would think. For princess seamed garments, I think a regular lining would be the best thing.

[Note to KathleenC.: Not a problem, that would be fine. I've made other embellished buttons and posted them in the past. I couldn't find an email address for you, or else I'd email you!]

Parting Shot: Bookends. Now if I could only get the girls to sit on the book shelf instead of the the ironing board. Hmm . . . on second thought, maybe that's not a good idea I think they pushed something off.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bluebird of Happiness - Dress - Part III

Skirt Construction

I'm still working on the collar, but some things have stalled my progress. I am out of size 8 gold beads, a fact which I did not discover until last night. I will get some today. I've finally decided how the collar is going to be attached to the coat and where the ties are going to be attached. That isn't the problem, though. The problem is that my fabric has not arrived for the ties and I still need to do a mock up for those. I will need to do some re-engineering for this all to work anyway. For right now the collar will have to wait. Instead, I've been working on the dress. The next few BOH posts will be regarding the dress.

The skirt is made of seven panels. The fullness of the skirt is controlled not only by the shape of the panels, each looking like a triangle, but also by a dart at the waistline extending into the skirt. Many of the very full skirts of the 50's have gathers or pleats at the waistline, which can be bulky. The darts are much more slimming, but still allow for a very full skirt.

I have decided to underline the dress completely in muslin as the dupioni is thin and such a light color. This helps to support the fashion fabric and to provide opacity. Since the skirt seams will still be able to be seen if the lining is pulled up, they need to be finished. I've used the underline and finish method to join both the muslin and silk for each panel and then stitched all the panels together before making the darts. I believe this method or a similar one might have been published in a book by Sandra Betzina (not sure, I know someone out there will know); there is also a tip for this method on PatternReview by JulieB. Here's how I did mine:

To line/underline cut your lining or underlining fabric 5/8" wider than the fashion fabric at both side seams.

With right sides together, stitch the pieces together at the side seams with a 1/4" seam. Notice that when pinned, the underlining fabric will bubble because it is too big. Not to worry, that will be taken care of in the next step.

Turn pieces right side out and press, wrapping the extra fabric of the underlining around the seam allowance of the fashion fabric. This will look like a Hong Kong or bound finish. The seam on the right has been pressed, but the seam on the left has not.

When completed, the edge of the underlining can be top stitched to keep the underlining in place and look neat. In the photo below of the skirt, you can see the edge on the right before top stitching, with the pin holding the fabrics in the proper position. On the left, the edge has already been top stitched.

In the photo below you can see from the wrong side what a completed seam will look like using this method. Both seam allowances are neatly finished.

The darts were made after the underlining and fashion fabric were joined together. Both fabrics were treated as one for making the darts, basting down the center of each dart and along each dart leg before stitching.

For right now, the skirt is ready for joining to the bodice. Of course, that would happen if the bodice were done! It is partially constructed, but I need to add the boning channels before joining the skirt and bodice. I also have a feeling I might have to do a little work with the seams and darts to make everything line up right since I'm using a bodice from pattern and a skirt from another. That remains to be seen!

Parting Shot: Button. I completed this button yesterday, as just a little side project for a diversion from BOH.