Join me in my adventures as I write romance novels and sew vintage and contemporary fashion.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Simplicity 1818--Done!

The  Victorian dress is done!

I finished this weekend and while I'm quite pleased by the way it turned out, I'm frustrated by the difficulties in photographing it. I have two choices in the dim winter light--a little too dark or the blazing effect of a camera flash reflecting off taffeta. I'm hoping to get better lighting this weekend, even if I have to haul Tillie outside.
Here's the bodice (displaying a moderately blinding flash effect) without the sleeves.

And here are the sleeves:
The elastic in the top rides comfortably just above the elbow, allowing the sleeves to billow out. Back in the day, the sleeves had ties instead of elastic, of course.

The Victorian silhouette is different than a modern day silhouette, so the bodice is padded above the chest.
The pad looks like this and is attached to the armhole. It's made of two layers of batting in a cover.
And since Tillie's jacket is open, this is a good time to take a look at the chemisette, which is kind of like a Victorian dickie. It allows for a collar and blouse effect without the bulk of an actual blouse.
The chemisette ties at the sides:
Here's the back of the dress. I love the point.
The center back, the side seams and the front darts are boned for the bottom 6-8 inches, to help the bodice keep it's shape.

I can't wait to post some photos of Rachel modeling the dress.

Now that I'm done with this project (except for the hem), I'm forging on into men's wear territory. The next project is a pair of Victorian pants to go with my husband's frock coat. I hope to finish by this weekend. Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Simplicity 1818--How to Put A Lot of Fabric onto a Small Waistband

Before making my first Victorian skirt, I'd given no thought to how all those yards of fabric were attached to a small waistband. If someone had asked me, I would have guessed that the fabric was gathered and sewn onto the waistband in the usual way. I would have been very wrong.

The skirt from Simplicity 1818 is 170 inches wide--the width doesn't vary with the size of the pattern, only the size of the waistband changes. The waistband I'm using for this skirt has a total length of 29.5 inches. Gathering 170 inches of fabric onto a waistband that size would probably be impossible. No...I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it is impossible--especially if one is using taffeta, as I am.

Instead of gathers, the waistband is pleated in two different ways. The front and sides are pleated with a series of overlapping pleats while the back of the skirt is constructed with a clever kind of pleat--the accordion pleat--which allows a large amount of fabric to be attached to a very small length of waistband. Intrigued? Please read on... 
The accordion pleats are on the left, the overlapping pleats on the right.

The first step to making an accordion pleat is to mark dots, using a disappearing ink marker, every 3/8 of an inch across the 52 inch back panel, and then making a second set of dots 1/4 inch below that.Then buttonhole twist is used to sew through the dots. 

After completing this step, you get to abandon the accordion pleats for a bit and forge on with the more familiar overlapping pleats. These are made by folding the skirt at marked places and bringing those folds to a specific point and pinning them in place.
Overlapping pleats pinned in place in front and on sides. The back is prepped for the accordion pleats to be made next.

As the fabric is folded again and again to make the overlapping pleats, it gets very thick--too thick to apply the waistband in the normal fashion.
Therefore the waistband is sewn on by hand using a whip stitch. This is a lot easier than it sounds. I rather enjoy it, but a sharp needle is a must. At this point, only the overlapping pleats are attached to the waistband, leaving the rear portion of the skirt unattached.
The waistband being sewn to the skirt front.
After the pleated front and sides are attached to the waistband, it's time to deal with the back. As you can see, there's a lot of fabric to go on a very small amount of waistband. The first time I made this pattern, I was like, "Oh, yeah. This is going to work." But it did.
In this view, the skirt is folded in half. The front and sides are attached to each end of the waistband, leaving the back part unattached.The portion of the waistband held in place by the shears is the amount of waistband available for the entire back section of the skirt. 

To start making accordion pleats, all you do is pull the strings, creating folds.
Only the front edge of the fold is sewn to the waistband.... that the back part of the fold swings free.This is what allows a tremendous length of fabric to be attached to a short span of waistband.
Outside view of accordion pleats attached to waistband.
Inside view of accordion pleats, showing how only front fold is attached to waistband (lined in black cotton poly) while the rear fold swings free.

Front view of overlapped pleats:

Here's the back with the accordion pleats:

And here's my unpaid assistant, Tillie, modeling the unhemmed skirt. The skirt is supported by a 120 inch hoop and a crinoline.

Next, the jacket, which I hope to finish tomorrow before heading back to school on Tuesday. Wish me luck.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again (or rather in the rolling chair in front of my sewing machine)

I woke up this morning to find out that I’m the featured member on the Sewing Pattern Review. That was exciting and immediately made me aware of the fact that I haven’t blogged in a long time. I have a good excuse.  I started a new teaching job at a rural high school at the end of August and had book deadlines on September 30 and November 1.  Note to self—don’t do this again.

The job is working out well. I love working at a school with only 40 kids in the high school. I teach six different subjects, but my big classes have twelve kids in them.  Our football field is interesting—the north goal post is in Oregon and the south goal post is in Nevada.  I took the student council to a regional conference. We rode on a school bus for seventeen hours round trip for a five hour conference. Good thing I love my kids, eh? They were excellent, but had to eat every hundred miles. I found as long as I fed them on schedule, peace reigned.

The writing went well, too, as in I survived the deadlines and I like the story. All for a Cowboy will be released next June. I also received the cover for my January 2014 release, Cowgirl in High Heels.  Nice, eh?

And the sewing…I haven’t been able to sew for two months and it killed me. I just started a project last weekend—a Dicken’s Fair dress for my son’s lovely girlfriend, Rachel using Simplicity 1818. I should have the dress finished within a week now that I’m in the job groove and have no pressing book deadlines. I also have to make my husband a new pair of wool slacks for the event, which means searching through the wool stash to see if I have anything suitable. I don’t think I have time to order new fabric.
Rachel’s dress is a gorgeous burgundy/cinnamon taffeta. (It is so difficult to photograph taffeta, since it reflects light, but trust me, it's a gorgeous color.)

She’s decided to leave it
untrimmed for now, because the color is so rich and lovely.  I’m currently working on the skirt and I’m quite happy that I’ve made this pattern two previous times, so there are no surprises. That doesn’t mean I won’t screw up…it just means I won’t be surprised when I do it.

I have a three-day weekend ahead of me, so will pop back in a day or two from now with a Victorian dress update and some photos of my next vintage project.

Take care and glad to see you here,