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.....

The prepared center front and middle front pieces, from the inside

Detail of bone casing
Continued after the cut.... Then it was time to make the first joins.  At last, real construction was happening!  I pinned the pieces, being careful to pin so that the pins would be on the top for both seams when sewing from top to bottom, wrong sides together.  I then stitched with a 5/8" seam allowance.  Why the big, flappy seam allowance - and why put them to the outside?  Because the next step is to flat fell them - like the double-stitched seams on a pair of jeans.

The fronts, sewn together

The felled seams were pressed to the outside, and then the underlayers were trimmed to reduce bulk.  I decided it would  be worth the time to trim the muslin interlining even further; a second pass with the scissors removed another 1/8" or so of the white muslin.  The intact allowance's raw edge was carefully folded under, and, using a pressing ham and a steam iron, pressed under for stitching.  I ran into a little problem here.  I had made clips at the pattern markings, and they were a) a little too deep and b) the fabric had frayed a little with handling.  My marks left tiny frayed spots along the folded edges.  Since they won't  make holes in the garment, I am not going to worry about them.  I may decide later to put a dot of Fray Check on them, but for the time being, it's irritating but not harmful.

Trimming the seam allowance
I then topstitched the pressed allowances, creating the double row of stitching that forms a felled seam.  Making it around the curve of the bust was difficult, and I am not 100% pleased with the results.  I had a hard time getting nice, clean, straight stitchlines.  I felt the work done was a little disappointing, and didn't meet my standards of quality.  Over the next couple of days, I would seriously debate cutting new fronts and redoing the work.

I also attempted to prepare the side pieces, but was unhappy with the results there, too.  The strips I had cut just wouldn't center nicely.  I sewed one down and did not like the results.  I walked away from the session, tired and a little frustrated, without even removing the stitched strip from the side piece.

Session #11:  Machine practice

By Tuesday I had come to the conclusion that part of the issue was the machine.  I had fought the industrial machine quite a bit, and a good part of my uneven stitchlines was probably caused by my inability to control the machine as carefully as was needed for the difficult task of felling a curve.  I stopped at Fed-Ex and made a few copies of the paper practice sheets from my design school sewing textbook (Sewing for the Apparel Industry by Claire Shaffer, 2001).  The exercises consist of sewing with an unthreaded needle through guidelines on paper.  They cover straight lines, corners, concentric squares, curves, and concentric curves.  I went through at least two of each sheet.  By the end of the session I had improved, and more importantly, was much more able to control the speed of the machine.

I also took the time to do some further stitch-offs; I wanted to make sure that the stitches were balanced and forming correctly.  Again, the results were quite worthwhile but not very interesting looking.

Session #12:  Back to work!

After a week, I finally made it back to the workroom.  There was nothing for it but to get going, so I put on some music and evaluated my progress.  With that time lost, recutting a new front was out of the question.  I had a look at the side piece I had stitched one of the casing strips to; the strip really was not workable, so I removed it.  part of  the issue was that I had cut the strips too close to the fabric selvage, and the warp threads were... well, warped.  The stripes were not straight, and could not be matched to the body piece's.  Cutting new, wider strips solved this.  The new pieces blended nicely, and were easy to sew down.  I applied the double bone casing to the outside of both pieces, and only then stitched the seams.
Sides with applied double bone casings from right and wrong sides
Once again, the seams were to be felled.  As I did before, I pressed the seams, trimmed the excess allowances from the inside layers, pressed under the raw edges, and then topstitched.

Since you have seen the process in action with the center front, I did not take photos of this.  In fact, the construction details become quite repetitive so you may expect to see less pictures in the next few posts.  The next sections have gores, applied casings, facings, grommets to be set; you've seen the gusset stitch-off and the applied casings already.

Tomorrow I will insert all four gussets into the back and center back pieces.  If I apply myself, I may be able to get the middle back pieces sewn to the sides.

I will be at my parents' over the weekend.  I not only get to play with their kitties, I have Mom's consent to go ahead and work while I'm there.  Since I can't bring the Mercury with me, I am going to start on the next stage of the costume - the jacket pattern.  It will not be as difficult to build as the corset - I have an adequate commercial pattern in my size that only needs some relatively simple modifications.
The assembled corset front

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