November 8, 2011

*Insert Various Impolite Words Here*

This.  This is what happens when I rush.  Not only do I do a sloppy job (you can't see that part) but I stop cleaning as I go and I end up doing something stupid like not noticing my pattern is stuck underneath the seam I'm ironing.  Anyone know how to get ink out of silk taffeta?

October 28, 2011

Wrestling With Millinery

Finally!  I've had the urge to try my hand at making a hat from scratch for ages, but the closest I've gotten is gluing a handful of crap haphazardly to a cheap hat and calling it good.  Years ago I purchased Lynn McMasters Early Victorian Bonnet pattern, but I never got around to trying it until a few months ago.  Since then the project has sputtered along in fits and starts while I tried to figure out what the hell I was doing.  This hat making business is hard!

 I made a few mistakes in cutting out my buckram (note to self: read the ALL the instructions next time!) so I had to piece in some extra bits to get it right.  I learned that my machine has a love/hate relationship with sewing through buckram and over millinery wire, and my fingers have a hate/hate relationship with handsewing through buckram.  Between all the stitching holding two layers of the stuff together plus a third and fourth layer in some areas, I created... the FrankenBonnet!

The FrankenBonnet sat on a shelf for a few weeks until I got around to mulling it (mulling is the process of covering the form with flannel to smooth out all the ridges and bumps).   After covering it with one layer of flannel I could still see a lot of ridges from all the stitching, so I stuck another layer on to be safe.  I needn't have bothered, as the fashion fabric I ended up using was rather thick in its own right, but at the time I was considering covering it in a thin silk which would have shown every bump.

The hat sat around for another few weeks as I tried to figure out what to do with it.  I wanted something much plainer than what was pictured on the pattern, and I wanted it to go well with my Dickens dress without being too matchy-matchy.  A remnant of brown and black wool fabric in a donated box at work caught my eye, and I decided it was perfect.  Now to get it on the hat...

 Pinning everything inside-out to get a proper fit

Lots of pins to hold it all in place while the glue dries

Thankfully, it didn't go too terribly!  The pattern has you put trim everywhere there's a join in the fabric, so you don't have to be too neat about it.  I chose not to put trim at each seam though, so I had to make neat seams with as little bulk as possible.  I'm amazed it turned out so well!

I got a bit crazy and decided to use some of the extra evil silk gauze of evil from the lattice gown for the inside of the bonnet.  It behaved as per its usual bitchy self, but by and large I wrestled it into submission.  I gathered a loooong and wide strip of it and fitted it along the inside, stitching it down along the outer edges and a couple of inches in from the back of the hat.
 Yup, still evil.

After attaching the silk and the last piece of outer fabric, I bound the edge with a wide strip of brown silk ribbon.  I sewed it down on the outside (and wow my machine stitched through all that like butter), then flipped it over to stitch the inside by hand.  Unfortunately, you can't successfully use a straight needle on an inside curve like that, and my only curved needle was a honkin' big upholstery one that was ill-suited to making nice neat stitches.  I ended up gluing the inside edge down, which left me with an uneven edge and bits of glue showing through the thin silk.  *sigh*  I'll pull it off one of these days and redo it properly by hand, but for now I'm crunched for time and it will have to do.  At least all that gathered silk looks preeeeetty. 

I've left the inside back unfinished for now while I wait to get my wig.  I want to see how the hat sits, and whether I need to add anything back there to help it fit right.  The FrankenBonnet is still visible, and that amuses me greatly for no particular reason. 

Oh hai.

Now the fun part- trimming!  My boyfriend generously donated the first cravat I made for him to the cause, and I added a few flowers from Michaels.  I'll be adding more very soon so that the poor bonnet doesn't look quite so bare, but this is it for now. 

The little ruffle that covers the back of the neck is only half the length it should be, but I ran out of fabric, so it'll have to do.  

All in all I love it, and I can't wait to see how it looks worn with the wig!

October 14, 2011

And So it Begins...

The fabric for my Dickens dress is finally here!!!  It took its sweet time meandering across the country, pausing halfway for nearly a week in some Midwest warehouse and convincing me it had been lost en route.  But it's here, and I can finally start sewing my day dress immedia... next week.  Sigh.  That whole "responsibility" thing compels me put aside what I want to do and focus on some other stuff for the next few days.  But here's a sneak peek at the plan...

 Click to embiggen 

It's changed a wee bit since I initially drew this up, but the basic silhouette and description are the same.  The main dress fabric is a brown wool with thin stripes of blue and white, and I'll be adding three thick bands of flat trim made from a pretty blue plaid wool at the hem, with skinnier bands of flat trim to decorate the pagoda sleeves.  The piping in the bodice will also be made from the blue plaid for a bit of contrast.

The bottom left of the image seems to show the fabric closest to its true color

I can't wait to get started!

October 11, 2011

Sewing Your Custom Drafted Hoops

I showed you how to draft a custom hoop skirt pattern here.  You should have ended up with a pattern that looks something like the following image, plus a list of hoop circumferences.

Now I'll show you how to sew it up.  It's really quite simple.  Here's the quick and dirty instructions in nine easy steps, followed by the slightly more complicated process I used for mine (partially by choice, partially because I screwed up), with a few photos-

1.  Trace out your pattern on your fabric.  It's easiest if you just use one long length of fabric so you only have to make one seam.  Make sure you mark the lines where your hoops are going to go.

2.  Sew your side seams together so that you have one big tube of fabric.  You'll want to flat fell your seam or stitch down your seam allowances so that your hoop boning won't get stuck in that space between the fabric and the seam allowance.  Trust me, it's a pain in the ass if you don't.

3.  Hem the bottom edge.

4.  Make a casing for a drawstring at the top by folding the fabric over and sewing it down, leaving enough space to run your drawstring through.  Just prior to doing this, you can make two button holes at the top center front for your drawstring to pass through, or you can just leave a small gap as you're sewing the casing.  In previous projects I've entirely forgotten to do this and ended up ripping small holes in the casing to get the drawstring in.

5.  Sew lengths of bone casing or grosgrain ribbon down along the lines you drew for your hoops.  Sew along the top edge and the bottom edge of each length of casing or ribbon, leaving enough space between for your boning to go.  Be sure to leave a small gap unsewn so you have a place to insert the boning.

6.  Cut your hoop boning to size.  You found the circumference of each hoop when you were drafting the pattern; add 1" to that measurement so that you can overlap the ends of your hoops.

7.  Feed your boning through the channels you made, overlap the ends by 1" and join the together with hoop connectors.   I believe it's easiest to start with the top hoop and work your way down.

8.  Run your drawstring through the waist casing.

9.  Your fabric will probably be gathered and bunched on the hoops strangely, giving them a misshapen and lumpy appearance.  Put your hoop skirt on a mannequin or a willing assistant and adjust the gathers so that they are evenly distributed around the hoops.  This takes some fussing, but in the end you'll have a beautiful hoop skirt shaped exactly as you wish!

Of course I had to make it slightly more complicated than that. 

Step 1.  Remove cat from fabric.  De-fur as best as possible.

They're still carrying this in the utility fabric section of JoAnns if anyone is interested

I used a striped cotton pillow ticking I picked up at JoAnns.  With a coupon it came to about $3 a yard.  It's finer and more tightly woven than regular ticking, and I love the combo of florals and stripes!

Plastic covered spring steel hoop boning and hoop connectors

You'll need some sort of spring steel hoop boning.  There are several kinds, but I tend to use a medium strength variety that consists of two bands of spring steel coated in plastic.  You can find it at  They have another kind that is similar, only coated in buckram, but I find the plastic stuff is easier to cut and is a little stronger than the buckram stuff.  1/7/18 ETA: Two or more years ago this type of boning disappeared from the market entirely due to the death of the owner of the only machine producing it. Now there's a new company called that produces the plastic coated version. At this time they do not make the buckram coated version, though I'm not a fan of trying to stuff that type into fabric channels anyway. 

I know that Farthingales has heavier duty spring steel boning, but I've never used it so I can't say much about it.  You can figure out how much you'll need by adding together all the circumference measurements you came up with when you drafted your hoops (add an extra 1" for each hoop to allow for overlap). To my displeasure, doesn't carry hoop connectors, so I purchased mine in person at Lacis.  

Awesome cheap boning cutters from Lacis.  Possibly the only thing that is cheap at Lacis.

I got my boning cutters ages ago at Laci's for the dirt cheap price of $10.  They cut through the plastic coated steel like butter, but may not be as effective on the super heavy duty stuff.  

It's easiest to use one long length of the fabric so you only have to make one seam, but that would mean I'd end up with horizontal stripes instead of the vertical ones I wanted, so I sewed multiple panels of fabric together to get one long panel of the appropriate width.  Then I followed step 2 and sewed up the sides to form a tube.  All of these seams were flat felled so that the hoop boning wouldn't catch on seam allowances later on when I fed it into the channels.

Step 3. Remove other cat from fabric.  Attempt to de-fur fabric again, give up.  Consider at least getting matching cats next time.

At least piecing is period, right?

Step 4.  I realized I hadn't paid attention to my measurements earlier and had cut my panels too short, so I pieced in extra fabric at the top to bring it back to the right length.  Again, I flat-felled all seams.

Step 5.  I used a narrow rolled hem foot to hem the bottom.  It takes a little practice to get the fabric feeding in correctly, but it makes a very pretty, very narrow turned hem.  You can see a photo of a rolled hem foot in action here.

Step 6.  I made two buttonholes near the top center front, then turned the top edge down twice and sewed it to form a casing for a drawstring.  

Step 7.  I started out using bone casing purchased from, but I ran out after the fourth hoop casing.  I grabbed some grosgrain ribbon to finish off the last four casings.  

Step 8.  Unwind all the cats from the ribbon and kick them out of the room so the last casings can be sewn on in peace.

Pleats vs gathers.  Pleats look meh, gathers win by a long shot.

Step 9.  I had decided I wanted to use some excess fabric to make a pleated trim to go around the base, but upon pleating a small scrap to test the idea I decided that it looked like crap.  I'm kinda bored of putting gathered ruffles on things, but I had to admit it looked better than the pleating, so I hemmed and gathered 6 yards of fabric and sewed it to the base.

Step 10.  Quickly open door and throw some catnip toys to the yowling furbeasts to appease them.  Shut door before they can get back in.

Step 11.  I cut my boning to size (adding 1" to allow for overlap) and started feeding it through the channels.  I started at the bottom and worked my way up, but I think it's easier to to it the other way around.  Before I inserted each hoop I stuck a bit of tape on the end to cover the rough edges so they'd glide through easier.  To join the ends I overlapped them and taped them securely.

I finished each join by using pliers to clamp metal hoop connectors tightly over the taped area.  Those suckers aren't going anywhere!  

Step 12.  I inserted the drawstring, accidentally pulled the opposite end all the way through and had to start over.  I used a 1/4" wide grosgrain ribbon I had lying around as a drawstring.  The texture of the ribbon seems to keep my bow from untying itself when I tie it tightly, but keeps it from over-tightening itself to the point that I can't get it undone when it's time to take it off.


Step 13.  I wish I'd taken a photo of the lumpy mess that was my hoop skirt directly after I finished inserting the hoops, but you'll just have to imagine.  The fabric gets all gathered up on the boning while you're stuffing it in and those gathers need to be redistributed evenly around the hoops to get a nice even shape.  It's easiest if you have a mannequin or somebody willing to wear a hoop and stand still for a while so you can work on getting those gathers distributed right.  Both my mannequins were at work when I first finished my hoop, so I very nearly had my boyfriend put it on for me.  The photos would have been hilarious ;)  Eventually I got it all sorted, and the end result is pretty damn awesome.    

There's just one part that didn't work out for me.  While I was at Lacis I found some fine silk ribbon in the exact same shade as the stripes in my fabric.  I purchased it with the intent of making little bows to adorn the top of every fifth pleat or something, but since I did a gathered ruffle rather than pleats I don't know what to do with it.  Bows look a little silly on top of the ruffle.  I'm considering using it to trim my chemise, bloomers and petticoat so that all of my underwear matches, but then I'd be tempted to make a new corset so that it would match too.  I should probably bury the ribbon somewhere deep in my stash till such crazy thoughts subside...

September 29, 2011

Since Every Costume Blog Seems to Have One...

Well chickadees, I've got to run off for a few days to party with the family and celebrate a wedding.  I promise to show you how to put together your hoops when I get back, but until then I leave you with Marcel. 

September 28, 2011

How to Draft A Round Hoop Skirt With the Exact Shape You Want

And I do mean pretty darn exact.  Check out this photo of my finished hoops with my draft laid over the top for comparison-

Spot on!  (Ignore how high the hoop is off the floor, I like to set my mannequin to be much taller than me so I can comfortably sew hems and such)  You can use the following method to create any type of round hoop, whether cone shaped, bell shaped or a crazy undulating shape.

 You can't tell me you don't kinda want the third one now.

The key is that only round style hoops can be done like this; bustle/hoop combos, elliptical hoops and panniers won't work with this method.  But if the silhouette of your intended hoop design is identical from the front, sides and back then this will work for you. 

To start, you're going to need a largish sheet of paper, a ruler or an architect's scale, a pencil and the following measurements in inches:
  • your height 
  • your waist to floor measurement
  • your corseted waist measurement
  • desired circumference of hoop (optional; you could just draw what you like and go with the resulting circumference)
  • desired distance between floor and bottom edge of hoop

We're going to make our drawing to scale; that is, it will be drawn to the exact measurements we need, only smaller.  For instance, you could draw it so that 1" = 1/4".  If I am 65" tall and want to draw my figure in 1/4" scale I would draw it 16 1/4" tall.  Choose the largest scale that will allow you to fit a figure your height on your paper.  You'll be taking measurements later, and it's harder to take accurate measurements off a tiny drawing.  Once you've picked what scale you'll be drawing at, stick with it all the way through.  I'll be using my real life measurements as examples, but assume that from here on I'm converting them to scaled measurements when I actually draw them (so when I say I drew a line 65" up from the floor line, I'm actually drawing it to my scaled height of 16 1/4").   
    I've already got my figure drawn to scale, but I'll show you how I got there.

    To begin with, draw a line at the bottom of your page to indicate the floor.  You'll also want to draw a vertical line down the center of your page so you can center your figure and hoops exactly.  The top of your figure's head will be [your height in inches] above the floor.  In my case, I'm 65" tall, so I drew a mark 65" up from the floor to indicate the top of my figure's head.

    Make another mark where your waist will be using your waist to floor measurement.  My waist to floor measurement is 41", so I measured 41" up from the floor and made a mark.

    You can guestimate the diameter of your waist by dividing your corseted waist measurement by π (3.14).  Usually your waist is more of an oval than a circle, but a corset tends to compress your waist on the sides more than front and back, making your waist very close to a circle.  My corseted waist measurement is 25".  Divided by π, I get a diameter of 8", so I drew a 8" wide line centered at waist level (green line in the above picture).

    At this point I sketched in my figure from the waist up to that mark I made for the top of the head.  I got a bit fancy and drew undergarments and whatnot, but don't worry too much about details.  It's also no big deal if you can't draw people very well; the point is to just get a very rough idea of the shape of the body above the hoop.

    I know I want my hoop skirt to have a total circumference of 95".  I can find the diameter of my bottom hoop by dividing 95" by π, which gives me 30.25".  I also want my hoop skirt to be 6" off the floor, so I drew a line 30.25" wide 6" up from the floor (make sure it's centered!).  I added in some feet to complete my figure.

    Now you can draw the shape of your hoop skirt!  So long as it starts at each end of the line you drew for your waist, finishes at each end of the line you drew for the base and is symmetrical you're golden.  I made sure my shape was exactly the same on both sides by drawing it on one side, then copying it to the other side by folding the paper in half on the centerline and tracing it.  Whatever shape you draw is exactly what you'll get, so take some time to get a shape that pleases you.  I wanted a very bell type shape reminiscent of the early 1850's just before hoops were invented, when layering multiple petticoats gave women's skirts a shape just like an upside-down U.

    Once you've got your overall shape down, you'll need to draw in where your hoops go.  Keep in mind that you can space hoops farther apart in areas where there's little change in shape, but you'll need to space them closer together in areas where the shape changes drastically.  In the drawing above, the most drastic shape change takes place in the top half of the hoop skirt, so those hoops need to be closer together to maintain that shape.  Also consider the overall size of your hoop skirt.  Larger hoop skirts will require more support than smaller hoop skirts.  I once made a giant hoop with a nearly 180" circumference that failed because it only had 6 hoops holding it up.  It's better to err on the side of caution and add too many hoops than to have to few and watch your hoops collapse under the weight of your skirts!

    Click photo to embiggen 

    Now that you've got your hoop skirt drawn as you like it, you'll start taking measurements.  You are going to measure each space between hoops at the side edge of your hoopskirt (see photo above for example).  Don't forget to measure the distance between the top hoop and your waist too!  Measure straight from the edge of one hoop to the next, disregarding the curves.  Remember, you don't want to measure in the middle of your drawing or you'll end up with too little space between your hoops.  In the photo above, look at the area between the top hoop and the waist.  If measured on the edge, the result is 5".  If measured in the middle, it's 2".  That's a big difference!  You can write these measurements directly on your drawing or put them on another sheet of paper, but make sure you have them for later when you make your actual pattern.

    Next you'll measure the length of each of the lines you drew for your hoops.  This will be the diameter of each hoop.  You'll only need these numbers long enough to find the circumference of each hoop.  

    Now that you have the diameter of each hoop, you can easily find the circumference by multiplying the diameter x 3.14.  The result is the length each of your hoop bones needs to be (well almost; we're going to add a bit extra for overlap when we actually make the hoop skirt, but ignore that for now), so write each one down next to its corresponding hoop for easy reference.  

    Click on picture to embiggen

    Now you've got all the measurements you need to make your pattern!  You can draw your pattern out on paper full size, or you can save time and draw it directly on your fabric.  

    First, you'll need to make a rectangle as long as the circumference of your bottom hoop (so 95" in my case) and as high as all of the measurements in between each hoop combined (in my case, 6+6+6+6.25+3.25+3.5+2.25+5= 38.25).  

    You can also draw in lines for each of your hoops, using the measurements you took in between each hoop to space them properly (see above).  

    Add however much you want on each side for your seam allowance (yellow area in above picture).  

    Add a bit on the bottom to fold up to make a neat hem (green area in above picture).  If you add enough on the bottom, you can also use it to encase your bottom hoop.  

    Add enough on the top to fold down to make a casing for a drawstring (pink area in above picture).  Ta-Da!  You're ready to start sewing up your hoop skirt.  I'll show you how in the next post! Update: Learn how to sew up your custom hoop pattern in this post.

    September 20, 2011

    The Lattice Gown, Final Edition (Until I Decide to Make Lattice Gown 2.0)

    Oh hai.  The Real World™ stole me for a bit, and "tomorrow" turned into next week.  Anyways...

    When I left off the skirt was totally done and amazingly awesome, but the bodice... meh.   It was just a super basic bodice; no sleeves, no bertha or any trim and ill-fitted to boot.  While I plan to make a completely new bodice in the future, I decided to get another wearing out of this one by finishing it off and correcting what bits I could.  Again, I didn't take many pictures of the process, but hang around till the end and I'll show you lots of the finished dress!

    First up- sleeves.  Although I used Simplicity 5724 as a base for my bodice, I find the sleeves on the pattern to be almost comically ginormous (although that could be a result of my fabric choices the one time I used it).  Judge for yourself-

    I'm pretty sure that enormous sleeve has devoured my upper arm and is making plans to snack on my elbow.

    I like them for some things, but for this dress I wanted a smaller, more delicate sleeve.  I opted to use the sleeve pattern from Truly Victorian 442.  Unfortunately I don't recall if I used it as-is or added some fullness.  I used the evil silk gauze of evil, but since these were just two small sleeves I didn't mind that I had to hand sew them (and pin the everloving s**t out of them, and deal with the fabric deciding to shift and veer off in unpredictable directions, and washing my hands every two seconds, and... yeah, ok it was still annoying as all hell).  Since you can see through the gauze I used French seams so that no raw edges showed.  I decided to bind the top and bottom edges of the sleeves with skinny bias tape made of the cream silk used in the skirt for the same reason.  The sleeves were fully finished on all seams/edges/what-have-you before I attached them so that they can easily be taken on an off at will.  I whipstitched them to the bodice at the top and sides of the armscye, leaving the bottom open.  I wasn't sure what the range of movement would be with these sleeves, and since they are made of such a delicate fabric I figured leaving the bottom unattached would allow me to raise my arms without the possibility of ripping them.  I'm quite a fan of how the sleeves turned out and will probably take them off of this bodice and sew them to bodice 2.0 when it is made. 

     French seams, handsewn bias edging, and the bottom portion of the sleeve left detached from the bodice.

    Fresh from a fairly successful experience sewing the evil gauze, I started on the bertha with high hopes for fairly painless success.  That quickly devolved into growling and cursing.  I wanted the softer look of the gauze for this part, rather than the crispness of the taffeta or dupioni.  Initially I  wanted to make a pleated bertha, perhaps with the cream dupioni to back it, but with this gauze?  No friggin' dice.  After much fussing and pulling of hair (figuratively speaking of course; I had a buzz cut at the time) I just took a length of the stuff, pinched and tacked it to the bodice at CF and the shoulders and let it fall loosely in between the tacks. 

    I couldn't quite figure out what to do with the excess in the back.  I tried a few things, then ended up tacking it a few inches shy of the CB and letting it fall freely from there.  The ends aren't finished or anything; I figure if they fray too much I'll trim them between wearings. 

    To finish off the trimming I tacked the two roses I'd saved from earlier on at the shoulder.  To see how these roses were made, go here.

    I still cannot get over these roses.  LOVE THEM.

    As mentioned previously, the bodice was in serious need of some padding on top.  Each bust pad in the Simplicity pattern is made with three stacked layers of batting; each layer is cut in a sort of teardrop shape and each one is smaller than the previous one so that the pad is thicker in the middle and thinner on the edges.  I wasn't able to use the original pattern as is b/c I'd modified the neckline too much.  Cutting the pads down on top didn't quite work either; for some reason they just didn't set right.  I ended up making custom pads.  I started by laying down a single layer of batting across the whole bust to give a smooth line.  I "feathered" the bottom edge of this by gently pulling the batting apart so that there wasn't an obvious ridge where it ended.  I then cut a small oval to fit in the pointiest part of the bust, then a slightly larger oval, etc etc.  The shape of each piece changed slightly to accommodate the shape of the area it covered.  As I added each layer, I loosely tacked it to the previous one.  Periodically I held the bodice up to my body to see if there were any spots that needed more padding.  When I'd added enough to fill out the bodice adequately I cut a scrap piece of lining to cover the whole mess and carefully stitched it down around the edges.  

    And more padding, and more padding...

    I could have ripped open the side seams and let the waist out some, but I didn't care enough about the gap in the back to go through all of that, so I called it done.  On with the finished pictures then!

    You can see the sleeve quite nicely here.  You can also see that I forgot to understitch the lining at the bottom of the bodice so that it wouldn't creep out and be visible.  Ah well, next time I'll likely pipe it as I usually do.

    So far I've worn it out to dance twice, but currently I've got it packed away waiting for some awesome event to pop up that requires an over the top dress.  Any suggestions?

    September 12, 2011

    You'd Think I Could Manage to Not Screw Up a Simple Bodice...

    Where was I before I got completely distracted by vintage sewing machines?  Oh, right.

    Unfortunately, I'd spent too much time on the skirt and now had only one evening to make the bodice before the ball (I debuted this at the February 2011 Gaskells).  Since I didn't want to attend nekkid from the waist up I quickly threw together a basic bodice with the intention of fixing it up later.  As often happens, too little time = errors and unfinished bits.  I did end up adding to it for its second wearing, but I'll probably scrap it and make a completely new bodice one of these days.  For now, I'll show you what I put together for that first night out, complete with a few crappy iPhone photos b/c I was in too much of a hurry to find my camera or take pictures.

    To save time I decided to use Simplicity's ballgown bodice pattern (#5724, out of print).  I've used it a few times before; usually all I have to do is take in the waist a little.  Of course, I've never bothered to mark the pattern with the changes I make, so every damn time I have to do a quick mock up to adjust it.  While I'm generally a huge fan of the deep front point in this pattern, I chose to cut it down to a much more shallow one to avoid competing with the points of the overskirt.  I always lower the neckline of this pattern a bit, but in this mock up I overdid it and had to make a note to pull it back up an inch when cutting out the real thing.  Nothing says classy like falling out of your bodice gals!

     Oh hi.

    I went about constructing the bodice differently than I usually do.  I wanted a fairly lightweight bodice with no canvas interfacings, and I didn't want any raw seams showing.  I cut sets of all the bodice pieces out of the green silk dupioni, the silk organza, some cotton organdy and a pretty vine patterned quilter's cotton for lining.  I flatlined each piece of green silk with the silk organza, and each piece of quilter's cotton with the cotton organdy.  I sewed all the flatlined pieces of silk together to form one layer of the bodice, then did the same with the cotton pieces.  Now I had an inner shell of cotton and a separate outer shell of silk.  I sewed my bone casings on the cotton shell and used spiral steel bones to fill them. 

    The pretty quilter's cotton I used for a lining.

    I chose to do something odd to join the inner and outer shells.  Very often, one sees a lot of wrinkling 'round the waist and ribs of tightly fitted ballgown bodices.  I thought about a technique I'd learned for making corsets from the Corsetmaker's forum on Livejournal in which a little extra room is given to the fashion fabric layer, usually through roll pinning.  In part it accounts for the extra distance the outer fabric has to travel compared to the inner fabric as they bend back on themselves at a seam, but also for the extra distance the outer fabric has to travel around the body itself.  Since I just reread what I wrote and realized it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, here's some terribly drawn pictures.

    The fashion fabric has farther to travel, both at a seam (above) and around the body (below)

    Imagine looking down at a cross section of your torso wearing a corset or bodice with an inner layer and an outer layer.  The inner layer only has to go around your body.  The outer layer has to go around your body and the inner layer.  It doesn't seem like much, but it adds up!

    If the fashion layer is the exact same size as the lining, it ends up straining to go that extra distance and you get stress wrinkles.  I'd already sewn my outer pieces together, so I wasn't going to be able to account for turn of cloth at those seams, but I hadn't yet sewn the inner shell to the outer shell yet.  I pinned the inner shell on my dummy with the right side facing out.  Then I put on the outer shell, right side facing in.  I matched it to the inner one at the center front, then smoothed it till it lay nicely all the way around the dummy.  When I got around to the back, I could see that the fashion layer was nearly 3/8" shorter on each side.  That means the outer layer needs to be nearly 3/4" larger than the inner layer in order for it to lay smoothly around the body with no pulling! 

    That's quite a difference! (Ignore the weird fit on the not-yet-uniquely-me, I haven't gotten around to loping off the excess in the shoulder area and it makes everything funky)

    I figured I could lose 3/4" off the back and just make a placket to fill the gap, so I pinned the two layers together at the back edges and trimmed off the excess lining.  I sewed the layers together down the back edges and all around the bottom, then clipped seams and turned it all right side out.  I put two boning channels with room for grommets between them along each back edge.  I sewed the shoulder straps together, then bound the neckline and armscyes with thin strips of self bias.

    Twee little strips of self bias.

    In my rush to fit the mock up, I had somehow managed to take the waist in too much.  Unfortunately, I didn't notice till I was assembling the final pieces on the dummy.  Between that and the 3/4" I took out as a result of my little experiment, I had a larger gap at my lower back than I'd planned.  I had also run out of time.  I had hoped to be able to slap a bertha or sleeves on before the ball, but I had to go without those or any trimmings. 

    Looks so plain!

    I also ran out of time to recut the bust pads that go with this pattern.  Victorian bodices are meant to be wide on the top so that the waist looks smaller in comparison; oftentimes that meant padding for women who were less than well endowed.  This pattern includes giant pads and is cut with extra room in the bust to assist that tiny waist illusion.  I had a set of pads made up from the last time I made this bodice, but I lowered the neckline so much on this one that they stuck right up out the top.  Sexy, no?  With no time left I wore the bodice as is.  While it fit perfectly smoothly at the waist and lower ribs, the bust looked wrinkly and unflattering. 

    Lovely photo by Anthony Argyriou
    Pretty skirt, meh top.

    Thankfully, the skirt was a huge hit and drew most of the attention away from the bodice!  I had a blast dancing at Gaskells and managed to not dirty up/rip/spill anything on my lovely gown.  I did have a moment of alarm when the lattice snagged on the button of a passing gentleman's jacket mid-dance, but once freed I was thrilled to see that it hadn't harmed it one bit.  Yay for heat'n'bond I guess?  Anyways, check back tomorrow to see the changes I made to make the bodice less crappy.