Dressing Janneane

Anya has a lovely wedding gown, but couldn't find a gown for Janneane, her Matron of Honour, that complemented it.  Colour was one problem: she needed a true Burgundy - that dark red with a hint of brown to it.  There were plenty of maroons and other dark reds in the bridal shops, but none were quite the colour she longed for.  Style was another - they all looked like lampshades!.  So she rang me, and they came to see me.  And we chose fabric and patterns, and set too...  Janneane is lovely and slim, and the gown chosen will be an excellent one for the day, and great for Christmas parties later!

patternenvelope.jpg (86146 bytes) The pattern is a good one: very floaty and feminine.  We are doing view C in plain Burgundy, with the added sparkle of beads and jewels.  The only thing that makes me wary is that it is Simplicity...  They have recently developed a habit of making their patterns huge, so fittings will be essential.  I shall dial up Dolly to the customer's measurements and check it out before the first fitting.
Burgundyagain.JPG (65721 bytes) Our amazing Burgundy polyester chiffon: another hit from BL Joshi UK Ltd of Wembley.  I have yet to go to the shop and come away empty handed!

The chiffon is backed with a simple poly habotai style lining from the same magical emporium.

fabricweights.JPG (258166 bytes) Here you see my special weights for sewing - soup bowls!  Well, these ones are heavy, being stoneware (Hornsea's Contrast, and a wedding present 20 years ago).  There is no need to buy expensive special weights for sewing when you have things like soup bowls lying around!  Tins of cat food or tuna work just as well, or baskets of fruit (a little large!) and trays of cutlery...  Anything clean that won't roll off the table will do!

Here they are being used to stop the fabric sliding off the table rather than for weighting the pattern down.  This sort of fabric tends to want to live under the table rather than on it, especially once you start cutting.  If you place weights in strategic places, it fails to realize its ambition!  You need to place the weight to stop the bits you cut off falling on the floor, as well as the bits with pattern pinned to them!

pinsedge.jpg (61047 bytes) Chiffon can be tricksy stuff, and wander off by itself, meandering about like a succession of ox-bow lakes...  To prevent this, as well as the weights I like to pin the selvedges together.

Here you can see the minimal pattern alterations I needed for this one: graded out from a size ten top to a size 12 hip, from the waist!  No length adjustments, nothing tricky!  

3layers.jpg (61095 bytes) The body of the gown is to be made in three layers: chiffon mounted on lining, beaded, and then given a full lining.  There are two reasons why I'm going to all this bother:

The first is that the chiffon alone may not take the weight of the amount of beading we might put on it.

The second is that the lining will cover all the threads on the back of the beading, ensuring that stray fingers and bits of underwear don't catch the threads, and prevent them showing through on the outside.

I have stacked all the layers for cutting out as they are all so light: this chiffon would be a pig to cut on its own, but pinned to two layers of light weight lining, it's relatively easy, as the whole stack is more substantial.

pins&bowls.JPG (76342 bytes) Here you can see that the weights have been shifted so that while I cut out the back, the front doesn't fall on the floor and pull the fabric out of alignment.  After cutting the back, the fabric was moved over very carefully so I could cut the front sections.

Because of the asymmetrical hemline, this gown pattern has a full front and back pattern, rather than the half pattern one usually gets.  It takes more room, and more cutting out!

soupbin.jpg (78747 bytes) Soup bowl scrap bin!  Well, no point in leaving them lying about for the cat to play with...

Do remember to keep the four footed sewing inspectors well away from this sort of fabric: it's very easy for little paws with claws to snag and pull it!

chiffon.jpg (66398 bytes) Now we're into chiffon only with the flounce round the hem...  To give it a bit more cover without being to heavy, Janneane came up with the clever idea of making it with two layers of chiffon.  Her legs will get a little more cover, and we will decorate the top layer only.
Rheinstones.JPG (92323 bytes) Here are some of our decorations.  Red Rocaille beads (the tiny seed things) and red rhinestones.  We are also thinking of adding some bronze ones...  I shall indulge in a bit of experimenting to see what works and looks good!
silkbasting.JPG (145064 bytes) One of my many extravagances - silk basting thread from Empress Mills!  It's suitable for machine sewing too, but makes fabulous basting thread.  Silk has the glorious combined properties of being great for hand stitching and leaving far less of a mark when used for basting, especially when as fine as this.  Here I'm starting to mark the darts with tailor's tacks.

The end of the first day!  Janneane will be here for a fitting on Monday, so tomorrow I shall have to get basting!

The second day was a short one: there was a bit of housework to catch up on, and we were going out for Sunday Lunch.  But I did get a bit done...

7:30 am Sunday morning, and this is a fairly typical view of our dining table - sewing at one end, computer at the other!  Boring 'puters... Let's get on with the sewing! typical.jpg (63993 bytes)
Here the tailor's tack is complete.  Everywhere there is a dot, you need a tack: these get matched up later, and mark things like the ends of zip openings. completetack.JPG (146353 bytes)
Notches also need to be marked.  I usually do it this way, bur some people cut them so they stick out.  I find that cutting them off and clipping them into the seam allowance works as well for all but the most ravelly fabric and is far quicker.  Once all the tacks and notches and placement lines for pockets and things are marked (no pockets on this dress), it's time to pull the pattern off. clippednotch.JPG (127452 bytes)
First take all the pins out!  After that, one at a time, pull the tissue off the tailor's tacks. pulltack.jpg (103426 bytes)
You will end up with a hole in the tissue.  If you know beforehand that you want to use the pattern several times, reinforce these areas with something like iron-on Vilene and cut the dots out with a hole punch  Then you can stitch where the holes are, and removing the pattern is easier.  Whether or not I want to use the pattern again, I fold it carefully as I remove it and put the bits back in the envelope.  That way, if something goes wrong or gets distorted, I have the pattern to refer to. paperofftack.JPG (100524 bytes)
Once all the pattern tissue is off, check that none of the tailor's tacks have come away... nopapertacks.JPG (32876 bytes)
Here I'm separating the second layer of lining from the stack.  I gently tug the tacks out to their full extent and clip the threads, so there is one layer of lining on its own and one layer with the chiffon. tackseparation.JPG (91073 bytes)
Here the lining on its own is completely separate, with its thread markers intact.  This layer is put aside for later... liningtacks.JPG (152501 bytes)
Next I need to baste the chiffon to the mount layer of lining to stop them drifting.  I use a single silk thread well inside the seam allowance.  This is so that should the needle and thread mark the fabric, it will not show on the outside.  I generally stitch the side seams first, then the top, then the hem or lower edge of any garment mounted like this.  It's better to do it as 4 separate runs than to start in one corner and go all round for two reasons:

Firstly, it minimizes the risk of a small error at one corner becoming a huge one by the time you get back to it!

Secondly, should something go wrong, the shorter run is easier to correct!

Keep the basting stitches to about 1 cm in length, and keep the work on the table, fully supported.  Distortion creeps in when the weight of the fabric is suspended from the needle.  The seamsters in couture houses work this way, sitting at the table with the work in front of them and arms resting on the table.  This way they can work all day without their arms getting so tired.

bastemount.JPG (43759 bytes)
Next we want to make the darts: match the tacks carefully... matchtacks.JPG (114773 bytes)
  ...and make a fold between the tack at the point of the dart and the centre point of the dart on the seam allowance: I pinned this in place using very fine pins to avoid snagging and marking the fabric. pindart.jpg (137752 bytes)
As this is a structural element, unlike the previous basting, the dart is basted with a double thread for strength while trying the garment on. bastedart.JPG (198200 bytes)
Here's the dart from the outside: I'm leaving the tacks in for the present, as they may be needed as reference points for alterations. dartoutside.JPG (105027 bytes)
Here you can see the notches I clipped are matched up so that the seams hang as they should.  Notches should always be matched before pinning the rest of the seam.  Remember that when you are pinning, basting, and sewing the garment together, it is the seam lines and notches that should match, not the cut edges! notchmatch.JPG (103111 bytes)
This garment has the standard 5/8" seam allowance of most commercial pattern companies.  A handy gauge for this is the standard dressmaker's and tailor's tape measure, which is 5/8" wide. tapewidth.JPG (95217 bytes)
Check you seam allowances!  If you make them too wide, the garment may come out too small, and if you make them too narrow, it will be too big!  You also run the risk of the seams allowances of ravelly fabric vanishing like the morning mist... seamallowance.JPG (76701 bytes)

Tomorrow morning I need to cut and assemble the straps, and baste them in place.  When that is done the garment will be ready for the fitting.  I hope to have time to put it on the dress stand first, just to be sure it isn't too small.  A size 10-12 dress looks very tiny to me...

 I also want to find time to play with some seam tensions and hem finishes for the flounced bit, and try some beading and jewel experiments...  Fun morning



ARRRGH!  Best laid plans, and all that!  I awoke feeling truly dire after only 8 hours sleep in three days, and the morning was a dead loss!  I didn't get my experimenting done, but discussions at the fitting mean that what we are going to try to do is make sparkly diamante straps, and then see what hem edges we like after I experiment with some different threads and bead work.  I need to get to the phone and do some talking to a couple of companies to see if I can get some better quality rhinestones in red and in the larger size, and more lining and chiffon to be sent to the bride's mum, as she is going to make a bridesmaid dress for one of the little nieces.  (This is fine with me - my other two or three projects are keeping me busy!)  I'm also going to order a light weight concealed zip.

The fitting itself went well: the dress is a little big, so I'm taking it in by about one size all the way down.  This is excellent compared to the last couple of Simplicity patterns I used, where, having cut them out according to the measurements I'd taken, I had to take them in by about 8"!


Much later...  A whole MONTH later!

One small part of this project has proved to be a real pain!  The people who make the stones, a company called Impex, have been a lot less than helpful...  I ordered 3 packs of stones from World of Sewing, the large branch of Bromley Sewing Machines in Tunbridge Wells.  The shop has been as helpful as they could be, but first Impex told them they were out of stock of the red stones, and then that they would put them in the post, but they didn't - twice!  Then the rep spoke to them, and that was over a week ago, and they STILL have not sent them!  GRRR!  So, Impex, if you ever see this page, I shan't be ordering your stones any more: it would have been quicker to get them sent from the USA!  The result of this tardiness is that the crunch time on two projects has coincided (and I REALLY wanted to avoid that!) and I am getting short of time to complete this beaded and bejewelled dress!

One of the other things that happened in the time was that my serger had fur balls, and needed to be sent away for ritual disembowelling!  I had to buy another to tide me over.  You can see it more fully on the Tina the Toyota page.  MORE stress an hassle!  Never mind: Tina did a good job on the poly chiffon...

sergingseam.JPG (82771 bytes)  tinyseam.JPG (78373 bytes)  outsideseam.JPG (132273 bytes) Tiny Tina serging the seam on the chiffon flounce.  This rolled seam is nice and fine on the sheer chiffon.  It isn't something to use on an area where there will be a lot of stress, but for a skirt like this it's perfect.
edgerolling2.JPG (92572 bytes)  lettucedge.JPG (152080 bytes) Then we do the rolled edge.  Little Tina does this beautifully, rolling over the seams without a hitch, and producing this fluttery 'lettuce edge', which is perfect for this gown.
hem.JPG (100605 bytes)  flounceon.JPG (161343 bytes) Here you see the effect when attached to the gown itself.  Now I have to leave it to hang out and drop before fixing the final length...  This will be shortened from the top rather than re-rolling that lower edge.
clover.JPG (40219 bytes)  redstones.JPG (64797 bytes) The next thing to do is test the iron-on Rhinestones.  I bought the Clover Mini-iron to do this.  This way I can heat just the stone, with far less a chance of scorching or melting the fabric.
fusing.JPG (102699 bytes)  glue.JPG (126356 bytes)  fusedstone.JPG (138017 bytes)  glueback.JPG (136912 bytes) Here we go; the plastic film keeps the stone in place while it is being ironed, and then peels off, leaving the stone behind.  You need to leave it to cool down before you lift it, or you end up with the glue making a mess!  Once done, the stone is firmly in place, and the fibres of the fabric firmly embedded in the glue.  No falling off while you dance in this one!
jemline1.JPG (144517 bytes)  jemline2.JPG (138922 bytes)  jemline3.JPG (302063 bytes)  Making the jewelled straps was fun!  First I lined up the jewels (glue side up) on a bit of the clear film, and then laid that on the fabric.
jemline4.JPG (372845 bytes)  jemline5.JPG (62640 bytes)  jemline6.JPG (156884 bytes) It proved easier and quicker to fuse them on from the wrong side, so I flipped the row over, and using a circle of silicone paper, fused them in place: I knew when to stop ironing when the glue showed up as darker dots on the paper.  Being silicone, it came off really easily.  They looked good from the right side.
jemline7.JPG (318703 bytes)  jemline8.JPG (100989 bytes)  jemline9.JPG (58233 bytes)  I made several short runs and laid them end to end for each strap, checking the length against the marked tape.  Once the two rows were firmly fused to the chiffon, I could cut them apart.
jemline10.JPG (162078 bytes)  jemline11.JPG (98775 bytes)  jemline12.JPG (142004 bytes)  jemline14.JPG (110649 bytes) Each row was trimmed down to the right width for finishing.  Because of the gems, it was impossible to pin the straps, so I used a bit of Wonder Tape and glued them down.  This stuff really is magic in this sort of place!
jemline15.JPG (52059 bytes)  jemline17.JPG (94595 bytes)  jemline18.JPG (123115 bytes) The second side was trickier to get in place, but eventually it was done!  Then I just slip-stitched the edges together, using a machine embroidery thread: there will be very little strain on the stitching, and the thread matches perfectly, giving the next best thing to invisible stitching.

 I have to thank a new photographer for the photos in the above section: my nine year old son James did most of them!  Didn't he do well!  Proud Momma moment here!



The next bit to be done was all the beading and that was fun on its own...


Beading is fiddly work, even when done as a free-form exercise, like this.  Picking up the beads can be slow work, and they are slippery little devils!  Once on the thread, I feel safe!  

beadingsupplies.JPG (75161 bytes)  beading1.JPG (77391 bytes)  beading2.JPG (194554 bytes) 

The lines of beads are done with a sort of back stitch, with the beads on the bit that would show .beading3.JPG (127880 bytes)  beading4.JPG (203360 bytes) 
This is a machine embroidery thread, and a very good match, but it does tangle occasionally.  When this happens, it needs careful detangling. untangling.JPG (86828 bytes)
The lines are of uneven lengths, jagging up and down like a graph!  Once the lines are done, they are topped with an area of randomly scattered beads.  The whole effect is very pretty. I must have put about 6 oz of beads on the whole dress! beading5.JPG (201208 bytes)  finishedbeading.JPG (79635 bytes)

My thanks again to James for the pictures.  I can't sew and use the camera at the same time!


Once the beading is complete, I need to decorate the skirt flounce section and put that on.  It will have the smaller size iron-on jewels scattered over it in a random pattern.


August Bank Holiday weekend: Now we've done it!  The whole thing is complete, and the last pictures are ready for showing!


Fairyfrillon.JPG (108294 bytes)  fraying.JPG (150952 bytes) Here you can see the tiny Fairy Featherweight coping superbly with the poly cobweb chiffon and beads!  I stitched the flounce back on after shortening, and on the inside you can see just how much this stuff frayed with all the handling.  It might have been a good idea to do a machine line round the edge rather than hand basting, but that has its drawbacks too... It can leave a ridge in the seam allowance when you press.
Mammasticking1.JPG (78135 bytes)  Mammasticking2.JPG (82466 bytes)  Mammasticking3.JPG (82071 bytes) Here I am welding the jewels onto the skirt flounce!  This has to be done carefully as the jewels are quite tiny...
beadsclosetpp.JPG (121085 bytes)  flounce.JPG (50110 bytes)  Bead&fringeSCF0038.JPG (91145 bytes) Here you can see the final effect of the beading, and the jewels on the flounce.  The shawl is edged with a beaded fringe, and made from a crinkle metallic shot polyester satin.  This stuff is surprisingly easy to work with, and the Featherweight once more proved its worth by sewing it impeccably!
finalback.JPG (51101 bytes)  finalfront.JPG (125586 bytes)  complete.JPG (55682 bytes) And finally!

The completed back, and front of the gown, and the whole ensemble with shawl.

janeanne.jpg (96178 bytes)  janeanne 1.jpg (60657 bytes) The lovely Janneane in her beaded dress in the sunshine at Leeds Castle.

This was such a fun project to do!  I really enjoyed working out how to do all the different elements, and just wish I'd organised my time with the other bridal project a bit better so that I had not had quite such a rush to complete everything during the school holidays!  The sewing parts were not really difficult, and the beading was quite relaxing, but I would have liked more time to fine tune some of the finishes.  Anya, the bride, and Janneane the Matron of Honour both love the dress and shawl, so that was just dandy!    Anya said she chose me from the phone book rather than any of the other dressmakers because I do costumes and she thought I'd be more imaginative and open to suggestions than a traditional dressmaker who'd force them into an A line garment in sugar pink!  Moi?  (in my best Miss Piggy voice!).  No!  Nonononononono!  I'm more likely to suggest fairy wings and a jewelled feather boa!

Next time I'll also  remember to charge a realistic price for the hours of beading!


August 2004.

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