15 May 2005
The next fit of the saga... The sewing room travels 600 miles in one weekend, and a bodice happens... Slowly!
My mother-in-law was unwell and in hospital again, and I needed both to visit her and a distraction. After a break, I also needed a way back into sewing before tackling some bridesmaid outfits in red poly crepe backed satin, and a large pile of velvet panels for a photographer...
So I packed a bag (or three!) and we fled north for the second weekend running.
|First I turned my friend's conservatory into a temporary sewing room, having taken the little Elna Lotus with me. I laid out the pattern pieces and cut them out. I added a little to some of the waist seams, to compensate for my still not quite a size 14 waist...|
|After a bit of tension adjustment (with a screwdriver!), and the removal of some thread caught round the bobbin (the result of not having threaded the take-up lever! Oops!), the cute little machine sewed the boning channels very well indeed.|
|Here's the front all assembled: I intend to make yet another departure from the instructions at this point: Simplicity would have me sew all the seams, THEN neaten the seam allowances, and then assemble it with all the seam allowances of the lining showing on the inside of the garment. The outer fabric seam allowances will be hidden between the fabric and the lining, and don't need to be neatened. What I intend to do is assemble the back and the front, put this to the outer fabric enclosing all raw edges, and neaten the outer fabric and lining seam allowances together at the side seams. This will cover all the seam allowance raw edges except at the side seams, and allow some adjustment of the waist later, without having to unpick two lots of seams...|
|At the top of the Princess seams on the bodice front, one has to clip and turn the seam allowances to allow them to lie flat for a later process.|
|Once this is done, I inserted the boning in the front: first the ends were clipped to ease insertion, and then lengths were snipped off to fit each channel.|
At this point there was a hiatus... Lunch was ready, after which we had to visit Mother-in-law in hospital again, and then get on the road south to home, so the temporary sewing room was packed up for the return half of the journey.
|Mmmmm... Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, fresh vegetables and roast spuds, followed by home grown rhubarb crumble. No wonder I dozed most if the way home! Not driving has occasional bonuses!|
|Before cutting the
outer fabric from the sari, there had to be a fitting session for the
bodice lining. It would be no great tragedy to re-cut and re-sew
the lining, but I don't want to have to do that with the outer fabric!
I thought when I looked at the pieces that this bodice would be too short, but it really isn't when I get it on. It did come up a bit on the large size, however. I could easily have got away with cutting it a size 12. You can see that it is too loose, and the front really pokes out! Mind you, my tummy doesn't help!
One thing you really MUST do, even if you end up wasting some boning, is insert the bones for the fitting! This type of heavily boned top really does fit a different way with the bones in! Longer pieces can be cut down if need be, and re-used, so you will really throw away very little. In the end, I just needed to take out two short pieces, and move the ones at the back/side back seams.
|Alan did an excellent job of fitting me in and pinning the back, then moving all those pins up the side seams, and pinning the front! He isn't a tailor, but he is an engineer, and he's seen me do this to customers occasionally, and I think he did a really good job. Now the pins are in the basic fit places, I can refine the lumps out when I mark, re-pin, and stitch. Sticking pins into the garment while not puncturing me was a major plus, especially with the bones in to make things more difficult!|
|The front now fits much
better, and the back too. I can see that I need to take a small
shaving off the back at the top of the side/back seam and skim the
armhole, but that little bit can be done 'by guess and by God' as the
saying goes! I can also just cut the top fabric the same size as
the lining, and incorporate the changes at the seaming stage as there
are no radical alterations.
Some of the pokiness of the front is due to the curvature of the boning from being on the roll. This will flatten out over time, and with the timely application of a hot iron when I press it. Having pinned the whole thing closer, much of this feature has vanished anyway.
Many thanks to DH Alan for fitting this beast to me, and for the photos. I just wish there had been a third person available to do the photos and capture some of Alan's expressions, complete with the Dressmaker Special - serious frown with pins in mouth!
At this point there was another pause in the process. A couple of urgent projects landed on my sewing table: An emergency gold ball gown and a choir uniform that had been delayed by the people organising it rather than the customer!
More of the sari saga...
Today was a day off customer stuff! I just wanted to do a bit of 'me' sewing! The first thing I did was sew in the pinned alterations on the bodice front. I marked the new seam line at the side seams with pins for later, and stitched the new side boning channel...
Then it was time for the sari!
|I started with the laying out and cutting of the bodice fabric: this needed to be cut and sewn together before being applied to the interlining and boning layers. I missed taking a picture of it, but the front panels are cut up the hem decoration strip to match the guards on the over skirt.|
|It was sewn together using the lines pinned into the interlining, and the seams were matched carefully as it was applied. Even though it was handled carefully, you can see how much this bullion woven sari frays!|
|The side seam edges were serged before the seam was stitched to help prevent further fraying. As this is right next to a boning channel, I use the zip foot.|
|Once the bodice was stitched together, it was time to try it on Dolly... Using the hem strip for the front panels seams to have worked well. I'm pleased with the effect.|
|Next it was time to do the piping. I cut the strips 2" wide, from left over skirt fabric, and sewed the chord in place. While the fabric is thicker than standard garment piping fabric, I thought this would be supple enough to go round the steep curves of the bodice and strong enough to keep the boning from escaping.|
|Then it was time to
apply it to the bodice: It was a little tricky round that centre
front point, but otherwise the bottom edge went on just fine.
Once it was stitched, it was time to check that the front point was reasonably even.
|The end of the piping was neatly folded in after trimming the chord out of it.|
|That steep pointy bit needed a bit of extra careful trimming before it was all slip-stitched into place using a double strand of silk thread. Silk is good for hand sewing for two reasons: firstly, it snags and knots less than poly or cotton thread, and secondly, it's stronger than cotton, so is good for things like this where it will get a lot of wear.|
The hand stitching of the bottom edge was the last thing I did today...
The bodice continues...
Over the last few days I have fiddled with this thing, completing the piping and stitching the bias tape down inside. I also stitched the back facing on and stitched it down on the inside by hand. The inside (except for the armscye - more on that later) is now all neatly finished, with outer fabric seam allowances only showing at the sides in case I or a later owner wants to take it in or let it out a little.
This morning was hook and bar sewing day...
|First I used the
buttonhole spacing gadget to space my hooks. As I wanted 8 sets of
hooks and bars on the back, this was easy!
Hm... I was using larger hooks than usual as they have to take the strain of a close fitting boned bodice. Why do large black metal hooks always remind me of bluebottles? Not an image I really need just before lunch!
I could not find hooks and bard anywhere, but luckily I had enough bars left over from previous projects: very often I use worked loops as they tend to show less. However, in this case I thought I needed the strength of the bars, so I cannibalised a spare set! keep anything long enough and it will come in handy!
|Now the bodice is complete, except for the sleeves. Ooer! Looking at it on Dolly, it looks incredibly small! Am I really that tiny? I cannot get used to having lost 57lbs and gone from a pattern size 22/24 to a 12/14!|
|Well, I put it on, and Alan did it up with less of a struggle than I did on Dolly, and it fits, so I must be that tiny! Now I really REALLY want to get the sleeves in and the skirt finished...|
|I'm not too
happy at the way the front neckline pokes out, but I think there will be
less of this when I have a better bra on under it! Some of
the gap will also be filled with the partlet. Remember that
this bodice is supposed to be close fitting, not to fit like and act as a
corset. I have yet to try sitting down in it, but it feels fine and
there is plenty of breathing room in it.
It fits well at the back now. The armholes felt a leeetle tight, but they will be trimmed back a bit when the sleeves go in, so I'm not going to worry about them for now.
Now that I can see the bodice on, and see how it settles, I have to say that I'm quite pleased with it. Yes, there are fitting faults, as with any commercial pattern, but it has gone together remarkable well, and while a more experienced fitter could have helped eliminate that gap in the front of the bodice. I think cutting it the size smaller and allowing for a slightly bigger waist might have been a good way to go. This part of the making process really DOES point up that this is NOT a pattern for beginners! There is no way to get a good fit by yourself with only the aid of a dressmaker's dummy. They simply do not squish and breath the way a real live torso does! It rides up a little at the waist, but once the skirt is done and the bodice hooked to it, this should cease as there is enough length in it. Mind you, I have a back/waist measurement of 16.5": I wouldn't like to be taller in this pattern! It really pays to have a full set of measurements and make alterations whenever possible at the pattern cutting stage.
My only real departure from the pattern was in construction rather than anything else: I chose to make the lining/interlining with the bones into a full lining, hiding all but the side seam allowances. Partly this was for comfort: the sari fabric with its bullion threads can be scratchy and uncomfortable against skin. Partly it was for durability: the sari fabric frays like nothing on earth, and covering all those fraying edges made good sense. If they are hidden inside, they won't fray! And partly it was for fit: making it this way with the side seams NOT fully enclosed makes altering the fit at a later date much easier.
The pattern has the sleeves made of metallic organza mounted on some of the skirt taffeta. As I am using a solid fabric rather than a sheer, and one that is already highly decorated, there will be some modifications...
|The first is a lining: I decided that as the fabric has so many threads exposed on the reverse, protecting it was important. It would be all to easy to catch a finger in one when putting the bodice on. I also felt that this would help with the fraying and with general comfort, protecting me from the bullion threads.|
|next came the upper sleeve puffs. I wanted to use the border of the sari for this, so I folded a little tuck into the pattern to straighten out the lower edge. It will make no difference to the fullness of the gathers, but it will allow me to cut it along the edge of the fabric.|
|It seems to be working. The puff is gathered and sewn along the placement line and the upper edge. I did think about using an interfacing along here, but the fabric is so heavy that it won't do the job I want...|
|Once stitched in
place, the 'flop' becomes more obvious. While the bullion threads
do stiffen the fabric somewhat, they are not enough to make it work by
its self, so I shoved a puff of cloud in there... Actually, it's cheap
and cheerful poly toy stuffing, same as I used for the bum roll! I
didn't stuff the puffs anything like as firmly - there's just enough to
support them but not enough for them to look like they are solid!
Once it's in, there's a little fiddling to do to make sure the two are even...
|Then it's time to
sew the sleeve seams! First I sewed the fabric and the lining
together at the cuff for a neat finish. Then the seam down the
sleeve... The puff end was not really too difficult, though it did
try to catch all those gold threads round the presser foot toes...
The pattern instructions would have you sew the sleeve seam before you attach the puffs, but I thought that this way would be easier as I was stuffing them. The puff is a bit longer under the arm than the sleeve from armscye to placement line, but I just pinned a tuck in this and stitched it down.
|With that stuffed
puff, getting the sleeve board in place to press the seam open was
fun! I ended up holding it in mid air, wishing for a second person
to take the pictures while I attempted to press! Never mind, it
got done and the sleeves are looking good.
somehow these stuffed puffs look a bit bigger than I remember from the pattern envelope...
Armpits and pins do not mix...
Having finished off the sleeves today, I think I need to get them into that bodice before the armscye frays away to the neckline! Had I realised just how keen to disintegrate this stuff is, I might have clean finished all the edges before sewing. Just handling it makes it unravel like the tide going out. Note that I don't say I wouldn't use the fabric - just that I'd treat it a little differently! This is one of those things about a project like this: when you find a fabric that is difficult to work with but perfect for the project, you use it anyway and learn a whole new bunch of stuff along the way!
|The sleeve head needed a little ease stitching to get it in smoothly. I did this by hand as it was easier with all the other stitching in there, and the gathers of the puff - not to mention the stuffing!|
|Stuffing the thing
through the sewing machine was fun - not! So far I think this has
been the most trying bit. Never mind: by sewing very slowly (one
of the things Lily does really well!), and adjusting the way the fabric
was lying on the machine bed every inch or so, we got round. I try
to make as few mistakes as possible, but with this sort of mad
construction, getting it absolutely right first time round isn't going
to happen! However, even if you get a wiggle or three, and
slipped-out- from-under bits, once you have gone round, any gross errors
are fairly easy to put right. Just relax and accept that this will
happen, and keep the frog-stitching tools close to hand! This was
one time when the free-arm of neither Lily nor the serger was of any use
at all, because of the stuffing in then puffs.
I think stuffing it through the serger was even more interesting than stuffing it through Lily! Luckily, I can also go really slowly with this machine (as well as really fast!), so I could do an inch at a time and adjust it as I went.
|And here is the
completed bodice on Dolly!
You get a close-up of the mad sleeve puff to go with it, too...
I didn't do the cuff opening: my paws are quite small, and I didn't need them to get them through the cuffs, so I just missed them out altogether!
On the whole I am quite pleased with the way this came out. After a bit of fitting adjustment, it fits reasonably well, the sleeve modifications worked in the end (despite being a bit of a struggle!), and it looks fine. I could go on about wonky bits of armscye seam, but they are a function of the stuffed puffs, and something to be aware of if you go this route. With a lighter fabric some sew-in Vilene would work better as a support than the dress net the pattern recommends: it would give just as good support and be less scratchy in the seam allowance. If you need a sheer or semi-sheer support for a sheer fabric, go back to the old couture way of doing it, and use a layer of silk organza. One thing I do find a little odd is that the size 16 farthingale and bum roll fitted perfectly, but the size 14 bodice was too big! Be aware of this as you cut yours out!
Now the bodice is done, I need to get back to that skirt and finish it!