Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Workroom Session #13: Gussets and casings

I started out tonight with the intent of preparing the four back gussets - but plans change!  I did sew in the gussets on each of the middle back pieces.  I noted that I didn't catch the top edge of the slash on the body, but that's OK - the structural nature of the flat felled seams made it a non-issue (although I did have to spend a moment or two mentally reminding myself, "it's just a costume!").
Detail of casing stitchlines crossing gusset point, right side

 Continued behind the cut.....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Workroom Sessions #10, 11, 12: Construction

Well.... I have let myself get behind.  Every so often I get bogged down with a bit of existential angst.  I had about a week where I got very little done in my day to day life, let alone the project at hand.  I worked on Saturday (the 18th) a bit, but had plans for the entirety of the 19th that turned out to be both extremely fun and a little stressful.  That stress was very difficult to recover from - and the costume project probably contributed.  I had not been eating well, and the strict schedule of work left me feeling a little isolated and a little pressured.  Once I had gotten off schedule, I had a difficult time getting back on.

Also, I had not blogged the work I had done on Saturday.  Now, more than a week later, I am going through the pictures and kind of scratching my head.  What exactly did I do each day?  What was my process?  Lesson learned - write after EACH sewing session!  As it is, I have that session, some work from Tuesday, and now tonight's workroom session to talk about.  This post will be big!  To help keep things a little more manageable, I will split the work sessions up.

Session #10:  Joining the first pieces

Saturday I started the process of connecting the pieces.  Since the whole project will be worked from the center front outwards, I took the next pieces out and prepared them.  In this case, that means I needed to sew boning casings to the inside of the middle front pieces.  I rolled off lengths from the packaged featherlite boning and cut the pieces including the plastic bone.  The bones themselves will be cut down to fit post-binding.  I marked each plastic bone and each piece of casing with one dot at the top edge, and removed the cut plastic bone from the premade casing.  This was pinned onto the muslin side of each piece at the top notch, following the stripe.  I stitched down the casing following its stitchlines; technically this is bottomstitching, since it was done from the wrong side of the finished garment.  The casings went on quite nicely.

Continued after the cut.....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Workroom Session #9: Preparing the pieces

 I started out tonight by cutting the remaining pieces and preparing some auxiliary bits.  I plan on a triple bone at center front since there is no  busk, and double bones up the sides.  These will be slipped into cases made of the shell fabric, stitched to the exterior of the  corset.  I also prepared facings for the center back and fused them with a little bit of interfacing to help prevent raveling around the grommets.  There will also be a modesty panel inserted under the lacing gap, but I need to wait to prepare it until after I have trimmed the top edge.  I will also be cutting each gore piece to match its stripe just  before it is inserted.
Back facings, prepared with fusible interfacing
The plan is to start at the center of the front and work outwards.  To this end, the very first thing to be done is sew down the boning case at the center front.  I took the strip I had cut and trimmed it to length, and lined it up with the clips at the center front.  I marked where the stitch lines would need to be with little dots (the lines are straight and don't need to be drawn since there are stripes to follow).  I pressed under the edges and pinned the strip onto the body piece.  I also used a few pins to hold the muslin interlining secure to the ticking.  I don't use a whole lot of pins, but they definitely have their place.

Workroom Session #8: Cutting, accessories, and a little history

I started out by digging through my fabric stash for something "right" to jump out at me to use as the interlining for the corset, as I feel the ticking is actually a little bit stretchy.  I found a piece of shirting, but it wasn't enough sturdier than regular white muslin to justify cutting so nice a piece of cotton.  I briefly considered a piece of caramel colored vintage linen; the color would be lovely, but I was concerned that the age of the fabric could compromise its strength, and that the surface is a little rough to be worn against the skin.

Cutting the muslin interlining
So muslin it is... but I cut on the cross-grain.  The muslin was cut on the double (folded selvage to selvage), and the peices arranged perpendicular to the fold.  This is 90 degrees off of how you would usually arrange the pieces on the fabric, but normally you want the vertical length, along the warp threads, to stretch the least.  I wanted that touch of extra beefiness to run horizontally instead.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Workroom Session 7: Finishing the pattern

I was a little bit of a slacker and didn't use my 5 hours very effectively today.  However, I did manage to get a few important things accomplished.

First and foremost, I have finished the pattern.  I didn't take a lot of photos along the way as the final stages of drawing the pattern are rather uninteresting.  The one thing that was relatively interesting - measuring the sewn length of the seams to check that the pattern edges would fit together - involves bending a flexible ruler around any curves on the seamline.  It takes both hands, so I wasn't really able to take pictures.

I made a few decisions about the sewing process.  One, the center front will be cut on the fold.  It will have a strip of fabric running down it with THREE bones, applied to the outside of the corset body.  Two, the pieces need to be cut out one layer at a time so that some attention can be given to matching the stripe.  Three, I will be underlining it and am starting to think that I should use coutil for that.  I'm not sure, though - I need to go up to Nancy's and see what the stuff actually looks like.

I also made one more gusset sample.  I'm happy with how it came out, but realize that I am going to need to practice controlling the Mercury a little more before I work on a finished product.  I have just the thing for that.  There are a few exercises in my text from my design school class.  I will go through them; that should be adequate to fine-tune my ability to drive the machine with good results.  I may also need to adjust the machine a bit more, and the only way to know for sure is to experiment a little.  This will be high on my to-do list, as I would like to get the corset constructed by this time next week.

Since I've decided that I will be making a denim skirt and jacket to go with, I went to have a look at yardage for that.  I started at Pacific Fabric's outlet in SoDo.  They had lots of denim flat-folds, but it was all heavyweight.  I need a rather light denim, so that was right out.  I came home via Aurora and popped into the Shoreline Jo-Ann Fabrics.  They had a nice 6 oz indigo denim for a reasonable price.  I went ahead and purchased it, and had a look at patterns for the jacket.  I was sadly dismayed by what the plus-size pattern selection looked like.  I wanted a basic shirt pattern and a basic princess-cut jacket pattern.  I did find a jacket pattern, but no blouse pattern that I was happy with.  (I'm secretly hoping to just buy a top to go under the corset and jacket, but we'll see what I can find.)  The jacket will need to be modified, but that was the plan anyway.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Workroom Session #6a: Developing a new sketch

I also worked on a new drawing tonight.  I did not get it colored, but I did get a nice design worked up.  The base is the striped body, with the flare skirt - paired up with a short jacket with elements of classic denim jacket elements, military look, shirred 3/4 length leg-of-mutton sleeves and a shaped hem.  If I were to make this, I'd seek out a commercial pattern for a simple jacket and tweak it to suit.

The preliminary step did not photograph adequately to show.  The base for the figure was drawn VERY lightly, using blocky geometric shapes to frame out the figure.  You'll notice that the figure is, for a fashion drawing, fairly robust.  The garments are for me, so I see little point in sketching them on a super skinny fashion figure.  The next stage was to rough in the figure a little more, getting the pose ready to be used as a base for the clothing.
Stage 1:  Rough figure
Continued behind the cut....

Workroom Session #6: Something different

I didn't get much done during the long weekend.  Instead, I relaxed and had a nice time.  This has, of course, put me somewhat behind where I'd like to be.  I had not decided for certain what I want to make. I had not done any sketches, I had not moved forward with building the striped corset.  After a little bit of contemplation, I realized that I'd be happier if I had something that could be accomplished relatively quickly and still look great for convention; if I had time left, *then* I could go back and make a third build of the corset with a front-opening busk and a fancy dress.  Anything else can be produced at my leisure and enjoyment once I have something to present at SteamCon.

So, I will be building the ticking-stripe corset.  It will be the focal point of an outfit, paired up with a jacket and skirt made out of lightweight, dark colored denim.  The skirt will simply be a calf length flared skirt; the jacket is looking like it will be a cropped military jacket.  I'll pair this up with a straw gambler and natural leather accessories.  I worked on some sketches tonight.

Art behind the cut.....

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A break from the workroom

It's a three day weekend.  I'm taking today off, but plan to use my paid holiday to sew quite a bit.

Well... more accurately I'm taking today off from the sewing machine.  I'm going to be ordering myself a pizza for dinner and working on some sketches afterwards.  I am also going to be doing some tidying up around the sewing area and making some layout changes to this here blog.

The problem for the current project is that I don't *actually* know what I'm making!  I know I have seven weeks until Halloween, and that I am approaching construction time on a garment; the garment is still just a mockup, but should be wearable and easily integrated into a Steampunk wardrobe.  That doesn't make an outfit, though.  I have given myself a new deadline - I will make a decision on what I am going to make by the end of the Labor Day holiday. I need to keep it relatively simple, as the time is flying by.  I have used 20% of my workroom hours and haven't even really begun.

My mother mentioned yesterday that the work I've done so far is well beyond what the average home sewer could accomplish.  She's got enough skill herself to make an easy to moderate pattern; she can make a buttonhole, put in a zipper, hem, knows how to operate a home machine, etc.  I also had a comment from a friend on yesterday's late night entry saying "I wish I understood more."  I forget that my audience isn't indoctrinated in the special jargon that comes with sewing.  Where this is intended as documentation for my procedure and not as an educational blog, I don't want you all to be lost.  I simply don't have the time to define every single term along the way, but if you see something that interests you or leaves you particularly perplexed, let me know so I can tell you more!  Comments are a great place to ask questions.

I've already begun to think about what I will do once the SteamCon project is completed for this year.  The obvious answer is "Start on next year's!"  The less obvious answer is to find something in it all to take to market, but another thing I would really LIKE to do is get into more of what I just said this blog isn't - teaching other people about sewing.  You'll stop seeing Workroom Session posts and start seeing posts that are headed up with Sewing 101.  After Steamcon.  Until then, I'll keep showing you all what I'm doing each day as I work.

Workroom Session #5a: Gusset practice

As I was waiting for my mom today, I realized something.  If I was to make the changes I wanted to make, I was going to have to sew in triangular gussets into a striped fabric.  Yikes!

I have never done any sort of gusset, gore, or godet.  The closest I have come is setting a sleeve placket, which is a strange sort of fabric magic.  It's right up there with zipper flys, which come out nicely every time but I couldn't really tell you how or why.  I had an idea of how to do it, but wasn't sure.  I looked in a few of the sewing resource books I have around, and didn't find anything useful.  So, being the sensible creature that I am (and also too lazy  to paw through all the back-issues of Threads on my shelf), I immediately sought out help on the Internets.  I found a very nice tutorial on machine-sewing gores posted to a blog by a local costumer.  Or well, at least someone who says they are a member of the region's SCA chapter, An Tir.  Thank you so much for the help, Internet!

More, including photos, of my self-taught gore lesson behind the cut.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Workroom Session #5: Corset fitting redux

When working on the corrected pattern, I struggled with making the back hemline smooth and even along the span of the VERY substantial in-seam gore that had been created.  I thought about it and thought about it, and finally decided that it needed to be redone.  Not only was the increase too much to insert into one spot, the in-seam gore would make boning the corset problematic.  I took some time and reviewed source materials for Victorian period corsets.  They used gores extensively, and they were virtually never inserted into the seams.  So I turned back to the mockup and decided, based on the amount of spread needed, that two gussets set into the back panels would give better results.  I called Mom, and she came over this morning to help redo the fitting.

More, including the de rigueur photos behind the cut.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Workroom Session #4: Correcting the pattern

I didn't get anything done yesterday; I wasn't mentally focused at all and so decided to move my scheduled times up a day this week.  So today is the first of two weekday sessions.  Not too many pictures today, in part because the task at hand turned out to  be a little difficult to document.  I did the first part of making the pattern corrections, which went very quickly.  I got through all the pieces, including making a new piece for the gore.  There is another step, truing the modified pattern, before I can really say it's done and feel comfortable cutting the next mockup.

Back to tonight's work!  The first and second pomodoro were spent preparing.  I took the time to repair my workroom table; one of its casters had come off, and it had gotten a little wiggly.  I cleared it off, turned it over, and went around and tightened each of the caster nuts with pliers.  I also tightened every bolt to make the table more stable.  I had to use my bike multi-tool.  You'd think I'd own a set of hex wrenches, but no.

Then it was time to get to work on making my pattern corrections.  For each piece, I started by making a quick tracing of the original pattern piece.  I then took a good look at the changes marked on the canvas fitter for that piece.  I found it useful to take out the pins and darken the marks my mom made.
The marked canvas
Since I knew I was going to have to add 1" to the top and bottom of each piece, I started with that.  Then, I carefully transferred the fitting marks to the pattern copies.  I used gauges to try to make this process as accurate as possible.
Gauges showing that changes are accurate
Then, any editorial changes were made.  For example, I added a little more curve to some of the back seams to help blend the gore in a little better, and I also added some length at the bottom center front and center back above and beyond the 1" I had already added.

I did have to make a new piece for the gore.  I unpinned one of the inserts from the canvas fitter, and used rulers to make the shape on paper.  I added some matching marks along each leg of the gore to help make sure it would be sewn in the right way, as the two sides are both slightly curved and are not the same length.

The new pattern piece
The next step is truing the pattern.  This is one of those things that a lot of people wouldn't be bothered with, but I feel it's important to make my pattern as technically correct as possible, and with the significant changes from the original I would like to be doubly sure that the pieces will fit together correctly.

Before I can sew, I will need to make a run to the fabric store; I want to purchase bias tape for the bone casings, and possibly some better thread.  Ideally when I am done, the fitter will be a wearable corset of its own, so I may also pick up a few yards of trim.