Saturday, October 31, 2009


Grumpy pumpkin says: Get off the lawn, you kids!

Taken last year in Old Town St. Charles.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Simplicity #8881: Elizabethan gown almost finished

I'm posting a few pics of the dress as it is without the ruffs. I think it looks pretty good as is, but I'm still going to try to get the ruffs right.

These pics were taken by my husband with his new camera, which I got him for our 5th anniversary last week. Also, he helped me do up all the hooks and such in the back of the bodice which I can never hope to do up myself. :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Elizabethan gown: Simplicity #8881

Part 4: Hemming and Hawing

Well, it's been over a month since my last post. Work on the dress has been going slowly, mainly because work of a (monitarily) gainful nature has been aboslutely nuts and making me work a lot of evening shifts. In order to keep myself sane, I needed to convince myself I was finishing something. So I decided that the best thing to do was to finish several smaller projects, that way I could look at a small pile of "done" items and hopefully trick myself into thinking that things weren't all that bad. I was working 50 hours a week between two jobs and not really seeing my husband, who was also stressed out at work. So, things were generally not happy. I did, however, finish a crib-size quilt made from a batik jelly roll, put the finishing touches on that Civil war ball gown I started last year and never finished, and three knitting projects, as well as several repairs to pieces of clothing. But enough of this. You're not reading my blog to hear me complain about my situation. You want to read about this dress...

I started hemming the skirt. Since this is long, somewhat tedious work, I'm just doing one panel at a time, from one seam to the other per day. Each layer of skirt needs to be hemmed by hand, and I am doing so with a single waxed silk thread. I am turning a 2 inch hem on each layer, not bothering with turning the top under or attach a hem tape, because I have serged the edges of both layers. It is going about how you'd expect.

I moved along to the bodice shortly after finishing the last major construction on the skirt. I took 2 layers of percale of the same sort as Susan's Farewell dress (see first two posts on this blog) and used them as the underlayers, stitching boning channels and marking dots and symbols on them. This is a strong material, and I want this bodice to hold up. After stitching channels and cutting bones, I decided to put a layer of thin quilt batting in the front of the bodice, between the boned layer and the outer fabric. It's only a thin layer of cotton, but it helps to puff out the main fabric just slightly, and it also helps hide the boning inside. I thread-basted the pieces of the front sections together along the center seam, then laid the sections over my thigh to get them to curve, so when I basted the other side together it would have a natural curve to it, and hopefully not get any strange lines or stress points when actually put on a body. I clipped the batting to the seam allowances, to reduce excess bulk. After basting the peices of each front together, I finished the edges that would not be bound over by piping binding by binding over them with bias strips of china silk (dressmakers' or Hong Kong finish). I had gotten the peach china silk from Thai Silks from their shop in Palo Alto. It was a remnant of about a yard long. I think I got it for less than $5. After lots of basting and binding, I sewed the bodice pieces together as per the envelope instructions, and bound off the top and bottom edge with piping binding covered with the same green silk as the skirt. Here's a picture of the inside:
Rather than slip-stitching the edge down as specified, I used a tightly spaced whip stitch. You might not be able to see it in these pics. I take most of them with my camera phone. I have found that through much wearing the slip stitch tends to come out, while a small, tight, even whip stitch will stay put and still be fairly unobtrusive. And, people in 50 years looking at your nice, even, miniscule whip stitches will think you were nuts and wonder why people don't do that kind of workmanship anymore. Heck, your contemporaries will think you're nuts. I sewed the hooks to the back, plugged in the sleeves, and tried the bodice on with the rest of the outfit. I found that the bodice shoulders kept slipping off, mostly due to the tightness of the bodice sleeves. I find my upper arms are a little larger around than average, and adding about half an inch into the width of the sleeve helps things fit better. After letting out the underarm seam I felt better able to move in the bodice, but it was still a bit loose in the shoulders. Since the partelett was made to snap into the neckline of the bodice, I figured that this would help hold the shoulders up.

The partelett was made from the handkercheif linen I found at Jackman fabrics, one of the independant fabric stores here in the St. Louis area. I bought three and one quarter yards of it, unsure I would be able to find anything else suitable anywhere else (I did my usual several days of google searching and sitting on eBay for weeks, and didn't find anything else more suitable). I really wanted pure white linen lawn or organdie, but this is rather hard to find. I'll say more on this when I do the ruff. The neck liner was made from a scrap of silk organza I had left over from another project, with some white decorative cord to close it at the neck. This is the linen here:

So, it seems that all I have left to do is make the ruffs and figure out how to starch them and set them. I will begin with the wrist ruffs to perfect the tecnique and then decide what I want to do with the neck ruff.