Monday, March 12, 2018

Pink draped dress

One of the sketches that I had done for In The Sketchbook was done from an idea that came to me when I draped some of my fabric on my dress form.
It all started when my lovely friend Wendy from Couture Counsellor gave me 2 sets of opera gloves for Christmas. A beautiful hot pink stretch satin pair and a black lace pair. The pink was the most perfect shade of pink for me, it was MY color!!

Wendy and I at the Lyric Opera House

I took those gloves home and went right to my fabric closet and ran those pink gloves up against my hanging fabric and BAM!  Hot pink silk dupioni and hot pink and black lace on  netting jumped out at me. I really had no idea what I wanted to do with them just that I wanted to use them.
My new opera gloves along with several options of fabrics that I pulled from my fabric collection.

 So I draped them on my dress form and let them take their time in talking to me. Thinking about the free form draping workshop that I did with Sarah Veblen, I was inspired to look over my notes and photos from that workshop. Then I decided to just let my fingers play with the lace fabric. No right, no wrong, no  judgement, just playing. I ended up with the lace draped as one single long piece, with tucks around the body from front to back on each side, I then wrapped the silk around the top to simulate a bodice.
My fabric choices draped on my dress form in a loose idea of what I was 'seeing' in my head.

Leaving that on my dressform, I took some photos and then decided to make a couple of sketches to fill in the details. My first idea was that it would be a knee length sleeveless dress with a defined waistband with the lace attached to the waistband and a bolero type jacket/topper. I spent some time thinking about the silhouette and realized that I had a dress pattern already that I could use as a starting point. In fact, I still had the muslin. This was from the black/red/later cut scuba dress that I made last year. I quickly tried on the muslin and in the mirror drew some changes on the muslin in sharpie. I took the muslin off, snipped here and there and pinned some other muslin on. From here I transferred the changes From the muslin to a newly traced pattern and made a new muslin. With this second muslin I took a piece of muslin that was the exact measurements of the piece of lace. I marked it up with the grain lines and pinned this to the muslin in several ways until I came up with the perfect size of pleats to make a symmetrical drape. The drape was originally inspired by how Balenciaga used and constructed Fabrics in his dresses my brain made the leap to draping and from there it is all history.
Muslin on the dress form. You can see the grid ,arks that I drew on the muslin prior to draping.

Back to my process, I made the changes to the pattern for the princess dress. specifically to the neckline and the amount of ease. I wanted something that was slightly more relaxed so I wouldn’t have to wear shaper wear underneath ( I don’t mind a smoother to smooth out the appearance of the.. ahem, rolls..but , I really don’t like wearing spanx or. Similar garments!) with these changes I took the dress muslin and literally cut it in half at a high waist level, sewed in the giant piece of pleated fabric and sewed the dress back together and that was the muslin.
Final iteration of the muslin in the fitting and design stages.

Making that muslin really helped with a couple of things. I was able to know exactly how the ace fabric would attach and I was able to work out the construction method. In order to make this lace insert the easiest or more practically, the method with the most control was to construct the top of the dress. Each piece of dupioni was underlined in silk organza and lined in a deep purple ambiance lining. Wit the top constructed, I moved to the bottom half of the dress. Thee were also underlined in organza, however not all the way to the hemline. I only did it that way because I didn’t have enough silk organza and since the bottom of the dress was going to have the lace overlay, I wasn’t too worried about it!
Dress details: sweetheart neckline shape, view of the purple Ambiance lining (this helped keep a strong pink color). Bottom 2 photos show detail of the skirt front. I was careful to keep the front panel flat with the pleats not starting until the side front. This minimized some of the bulk at the front.

Once the bottom was constructed I basted the pleased lace to the it and then sandwiched the top over it and sewed it all together. With some trimming and pressing everything laid quite nicely. The zipper was next to go in. I had a 22 inch invisible pink zipper that I installed by hand with a small back stitch. I was originally a little nervous about putting an invisible zipper in by hand! There was NO need for that nervousness, putting that zipper in by hand was so easy and afforded me much more control.
The dress in a final try on prior to adding the hooks/eyes and snaps for the bustle. I am just holding it up in these pictures with my hands. 

The lining was sewed together at the neckline, clipped, graded and  under-stitched and the pressed the neckline. I’m not 100% happy with the neckline. The shape is gorgeous but for some reason the lining wants to peek out. I pressed again and realy let is set and this seems to have helped. The lining was attached to the zipper by hand and for the armhole I tried a different technique. I trimmed the lining back to the seam-line and then hand rolled the fashion fabric around to the inside and hand stitched it down. I really like how it looks and the lack of bulk.
The invisible zipper was set in by hand, such amazing control when done this way! The lining was then hand stitched to the zipper tape. My label and bra strap keepers were added as the final details.

With the dress lined and all the finishes done the last thing I needed to do was to figure out how to bustle the lace. This gave it the distinctive shape that I was looking for with the deep draped sides. Playing with pins, I figured that I needed 4 hooks and thread bars. 2 on each side of the zipper with the thread bars being just at the level of where the lace attached into the dress. After my first wearing I realized that this was not going to work… unlike were a wedding dress is bustled which is usually at the butt level or below, this was at my high waist so every time I sat down the fabric would push up and come right out of the thread bars. I had to carefully smooth the fabric down before sitting and that was a bit better. The next day I added 2 clear plastic snaps. One on each side just above the outer most thread bars and this helped greatly to give it just the extra security it needed to keep the hooks in.
Close ups of the bustle hardware. the top shows the 4 thread bars and the 2 plastic snaps at the back of the dress on either side of the zipper. (double click on the photo to see it in a larger view) The bottom photos show the hooks sewn on to the lace. I used tiny bits of silk organza under the hooks to give them a little bit of stabilization.

I didn’t make the bolero topper. 2 reasons. 1- I tried on one that I made for a different project, different fabric but just to see how it would look. Not good. Remember I used a high waist to attach the lace drape and it would have had to be so very short and look fairly ridiculous and with the regular bolero length it was way to much. Pleated fabric all around my waist and then a bolero. Took away any shape that I had. The second reason that I was secretly happy about the bolero was not good was a time factor, I was just about out of time!

Close up of the shawl. the top shows the fussy cut portion. I only tacked down the lace in several areas and caught it in the side seam. This left the bottom scalloped edges free and the fussy cut portion just tacked.
With the bolero out I went and got a one of my shawls and this was a much better option! I had enough silk dupioni left to makes long shawl and just enough lace to fussy cut and add it to the ends of the shawl. I love it!,
The dress and shawl hanging. I am leaving the bustle down while hanging to minimize the pull on the hooks/eyes and snaps.

The final dress on my dress form. Top show front and back. Bottom photo shows side front and side.

The entire outfit along with the elbow length hot pink gloves looks amazing! I wore this dress to the opera on a Saturday night. I am just loving living downtown Chicago, so close to so many of the things that I have always wanted to be a part of.

At intermission during the opera.
One of the nicest things was that several other opera goers had commented on how nice my dress was! It really felt nice to bring this cool garment to life!!

Some fun candid shots!!
Special thanks to Wendy for the hot pink gloves, Sarah Veblen for the draping knowledge and to Balenciaga for the inspiration. 😊

Happy Sewing!!

Kisses from my girls!! 

Friday, February 23, 2018

In The Sketchbook- February 2018

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.

This month, I am playing with sleeve designs.

I drew some of my inspiration from photos that I have taken and have in an 'Inspiration' folder on my computer. Sleeves are a great place to add in detail. I have spent much time in perfecting the fit of my basic sleeve and now that I have fit down, I feel like it is time to really play with design.

Each of my sketches are done in half. Meaning I sketched one design on the right and another on the left. 

These first two are of different set in sleeve types.
On the left we have a gathered sleeve head with a button vent at the wrist and on the right we have a very traditional smooth inset 2 piece sleeve with a split vent at the wrist. 

I did not draw these from any photos, just from my head as they are 2 variations on a simple design.

these are sleeves from the bodice of different contemporary dresses.
On the left is a raglan sleeve with trim at the short sleeve hem. The photo is with a geometric lace, I just drew it as a solid.  On the right is an off the shoulder sleeve that comes from bands across the bodice. A strange looking top, I cant tell if it is purposely asymmetric or if the left side is just falling off the models shoulder... Maybe a little of both!

Both of these sleeves were taken from paintings in museums. Both of them incorporate a large amount of lace.
On the left you have a double tiered lace flounce with the upper sleeve and bodice overlay in a sheer material, the band on the off the shoulder neckline matches the band attaching the lace flounce to the sleeve.
On the right you have a more modest design with a very structured bodice and large lace flounces around the neckline and forming the bottom half of the sleeve.

These were photos taken at the V&A in London.
On the left is a type of Juliet or Leg-of-Mutton sleeve and the right is a sort of Bishop sleeve with a lot of fabric manipulation going on

These are both taken from more contemporary designs as you can see in the photo below.
The left photo is an updated and clean looking version of a bishop, especially when compared to the bishop sleeve in the previous sketch/photo above. The Sleeve on the right looks well enough while the arm is straight and hanging softly by the body. I'm not sure how good it would look say while in a business meeting and taking notes on an iPad. It is interesting enough to maybe make a mock up of.

More photos from the V&A.
The left is a sort of  layered Kimono which is very, very pretty! Although I'm certain that unless you had on some super corset you could not attain that shape! On the right is a very cool play with stripes using a mild puff sleeve.

These were photos taken at the V&A as part of the Balenciaga exhibit. (they are NOT Balenciaga)
Both of these are what I would call extreme sleeves. Very cool, very runway and not practical at all!
However, they were fun to adapt to my shape using my croquis!

More from the V&A!
The design on the left really had me itching to get into the case and see what was really going on with that sleeve! From my view and the photo it looks like it is an organza that has been gathered and only attached at the sleeve head. It looks cool but I cant quite figure out what is happening in the lower part....
The sketch and photo on the right are of a cut on sleeve. I really like the look of this. I keep thinking it would be fun to develop one for myself. However, it would need to be impeccable like this one and i'm just not sure how that would look in motion. Fine as it is standing perfectly motionless on a mannequin where a curator finessed the drape and folds to be perfect! in real life would it just look like a baggy mess???

The sleeve on the left is really just made up of bodice with a cut on sleeve and then wide bands of fabric joining the front and back together. An interesting concept.
The short sleeve on the right is a trickier one. Hard to tell from the photo if it is clever pattern work with origami like folds to create the look or if it is separate pieces. Would love to get my hands on this to give it a good look over!

These last 2 are mens clothing from the l700's.
I mostly decided to sketch these because I am fascinated with where the heck the shoulder are! This silhouette is so different from what is current. the sleeve is very narrow and shaped to the arm, the sleeve is set in very far out with the cut of the upper chest being very wide. I am very curious to know if they stuffed or wore some special shoulder pads to make the shoulders so sloped. These sleeves are 2 or piece sleeves and the under sleeves are cut on the bias.the one on the left has a separate cuff sewn on that was cut on the cross grain. the on eon the Right has no discernible separate cuff. Just a vent.

My idea in using photo's to sketch from was that I would play with ideas that I would not normally gravitate to and this would help increase my sketching and rendering skills. It has and it has been fun, I've been diligently checking out sleeve designs every where I look! It has also seemed to let some of these alternative shapes seep into my imagination and have shown in up in other designs that I have been working on. 

Make sure to stop by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor to see what lovely sketches and ideas she is working on. Please feel free to share your sketches and ideas with us.

Happy Sketching!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Details of the Winter Coat

For those that like the details! Last post I showed the final product of my Nanette Lepore knockoff winter coat and discussed a little bit about my process and gave a high level overview. In this post I am sharing the photos I took during construction and giving a little bit more detail.

Loving my new coat!!

***Warning***  A heck of a lot of photos! 26 to be exact!!
If you only want to see the final product and the highlights of the project go to this post: 

Nannette Lepore inspired knock off! A Winter Coat

Step 1: Create a pattern. For this I used my mater darted bodice pattern. Rotated darts into horizontal lines, used the Pamela Vanderlinde Patternmaking for Jacket and Coat Design book to guide me on how and where to expand for wearing ease.
First draft of pattern- I made 4 versions before getting to final coat version.
 Step 2: Lots of muslins. I ended up making 5 muslins. I was okay with doing this because I was in full control of the design. Each step of the way I made changes and depending on how big the changes were sometimes I re-muslined after just 1 big change as in the photo below. This was muslin 2 with some big changes to move to muslin 3. I make sure that I write notes on my muslin in a sharpie so that I can clearly delineate any changes I want. IN this case some changes were for fit of the winter coat but many of them were for design elements. I make a muslin, put it on myself, make any notes, put it on my dress form and then make those changes on the muslin, transfer them to the pattern, do the pattern work and then make another muslin!
Muslin between version 2 and 3. I always get the body portion of the design nailed down and then move to the sleeves last.

Final muslin with sleeve added. 

Showing the sleeve with the zipper slit 
 Once the muslin was perfected. (and BTW I did try the muslin on with a very thick sweater. This way I could make sure that I had the room I wanted for winter in Chicago dress.

Moving on to construction: In the last post I mentioned that I ended up cutting out 80+ pieces of fabric! the Front and back main bodies each have 18 separate pieces of fabric. Each main wool fabric piece was underlines in cotton flannel. Each piece of cotton flannel was hand basted to the accompanying wool piece.
Hand basted cotton flannel attached to the wool fabric.
 After the hand basting, the piece is then treated as a single piece of fabric and the construction of the garment begins. The shoulder darts are cut and pressed open, the flannel is trimmed closer to the seam allowances to reduce bulk. in the areas where there were multiple seams meeting I made sure to leave the seam allowances free. this allowed me to trim and press in any manner that I wanted to reduce bulk.
Construction of back pieces. Underlining trimmed and measures taken to reduce bulk. The horizontal seams are top stitched for design.
After main construction, I then catch stitched down the vertical seams to the underlining only.
Close up of catch stitching of the vertical seams to the underlining.

Photos of the inside and outside of the back.
 With the back completed, I started on the front. Other than the front opening, the other change that I made was to add in-seam pockets. Due to the shaping in that lower horizontal seam I had to cut separate pocket pieces verses cutting the pockets in one piece with the lower and middle piece of main fabric. I cut a facing piece for the front and back of each pocket out of the wool and then the pocket bags were cut out of the lining fabric.I really, really wanted to make sure that the pocket opening was stabilized. I want no chance of the pocket pieces stretching out over time.To do this I used the selvage edge of silk organza plus on both side plus I also used a very narrow piece of twill tape. the pockets look great and so far there has been no gaping!! If I make these again, the only change would be to make them maybe a 1/2 inch wider.
Detail of the external pocket construction
 Once the front and backs were together, I tried it on and pinned it shut along center front to make sure that there were no changes needed before I moved on in construction.
In-progress photo in the mirror.
 At this point I completed the lining. I almost always sew the lining first or midway through. Why? because once I get towards the end of a garment, it annoys the hell out of me if I have to stop and then construct the lining, it sort of puts a stop to my good feeling of being almost done! I know, weird. It works for me and I bet everyone has there own little quirks in their sewing methods!

Look at that plaid matching!!

The biggest challenge in sewing the lining was matching the plaid! I wanted it to look like that the back and front pieces were cut out of one solid piece of fabric and not cut out of 6 separate pieces!
On the facing I was able to eliminate the back shoulder dart by taking a closed wedge across the pattern piece. This helped to reduce bulk! I used an fusible mid weight hair canvas for the facing pieces and this was a perfect amount for stabilization! I also used a modified method of adding a pocket in between the facing and the lining from the book Cool Couture by Kenneth D King. In his method he adds piping. I wanted a very sleek invisible look.
Details of lining, facings and inside pocket.
 Next up was the sleeves... each sleeve has 6 pattern pieces. After I hand basted the flannel underlining to each piece I very carefully labeled and pinned the piece name and description to every piece so I wouldn't screw them up!! I also always make sure to pin my labels to the top of the pieces so I know orientation as well.
Detail of sleeve pieces and flat construction to do the top stitching.
Once the flat pieces were constructed and top stitched I sewed the underarm sleeve and left the opening for the zipper. The sleeve was then carefully steamed and pressed.
Details of the sleeve inside and out prior to sleeve head and zipper insertion.

I used a sleeve head made of tie interfacing cut on the bias to smoothly gather the sleeve head and to provide some support and keep it from collapsing. This eliminates having to baste and gather the thick fabric and you can see how nicely shaped they are after sewing these in and a steam shaping/pressing. 
Details of sleeve head and the shaping the help provide.
 For the zipper I used the selvage edge of silk organza to add some extra stabilization, hand basted the zipper and then sewed it in on the machine using a center zipper application.

Details of the lower sleeve and zipper insertion.
 Next up... bound buttonholes. I always test out my buttonholes on a scrap sandwich of the fabric, lining, facing, interfacing. Whatever the final sandwich of fabric will be, I make sure to test on those exact same fabrics. I do this no matter what type of buttonhole it is and no matter how comfortable I am with the process.

Details of my test welt buttonhole and details of making the actual welts.
 On the coat front I used silk basting thread to trace the CF and the boundaries of the buttonholes. This makes sure that placement is exactly where I want it!.
Details of the tread basting and of the welts sewn on to the front of the coat
 On the inside I used a piece of silk organza to add some extra stabilization to the buttonholes.
Details showing the silk organza , the welts sewn on and the clipping of the fabric to make the opening from the back side.
Once the opening is made the welts are pushed through to the inside and then basted shut with diagonal stitches. Once the welts are securely sewn the basting stitches are removed and you have a beautiful bound buttonhole!
Details of the bound buttonhole process.
 With the buttonholes created, I then set in the sleeves. This needed to be done very carefully so that the horizontal seams on the bodice front and back lined up perfectly with the horizontal seams on the sleeves. To achieve this I pinned and hand basted first and then went to the machine.
Details of the sleeves set-in with the horizontal seams matching almost perfectly!
Next step was sewing in the lining. I used a partial machine/partial hand method. The center front around the neck and back down was done on the machine. The body and sleeve hems were done by hand and the inside buttonholes were hand stitched. 
Details of the inside of the facing side of the buttonholes and the hand stitching of the lining.
 Somehow I totally forgot to take pictures of the collar in progress! The inner collar was underlined in the cotton flannel and the outer collar was interfaced with a fusible to hold its shape. Somehow, where the collar meets at CF the under collar is a little lower. At first I was irritated about this and was going to take it off and re-do it but then after trying it on and pinning it closed as is and pinning it closed as if it was perfectly even, I decided that having the inside collar a little lower was better! It did not tend to rub against my lower chin. SO I actually modified the pattern piece to make this a detail rather than a mistake!!
Details of the collar and the coat front prior to the buttons and collar snap being sewn on.
I have now had this coat in my winter coat rotation for a little over 2 months now and I love it!!
If I were to make it again there are only 2 things that I would change about it. (other than design features or style lines!)

  1. I would make the inseam pockets slightly wider.
  2. I would experiment a little more on the hem finish. This was basically lined to the edge but I feel like this was a little wimpy for this coat.
Other than that I am over the moon and staying nice and warm :)

Once again a picture of my niece and I in Utrecht, Netherlands.
 Happy Sewing!!

On a walk with the Princess yesterday and we had to jump in every puddle!! Reminds me to take joy in the simple things of life!