Worked steadily yesterday (and stayed in my pajamas!), getting a lot done. Where to begin?
I started by assembling the back pieces and catch-stitched the seams down using doubled silk thread. The age-old question: to wax your thread or not to wax your thread? I say yes and no. I wax silk thread. Otherwise, the smooth fibers of the thread are more likely to knot themselves as I work. Wax also has the ability of melting into the fibers, making them sleeker and easier to pull through the fabric. When using silk thread to construction, like tacking down seams or catch-stitching, I use wax.
You can buy sewing wax at the big box stores, but it’s a tiny amount and it quickly breaks off into chunks. I invested in a larger cake over the summer and it’s taking me awhile to even make a dent in it.
When I’m hand-sewing with polyester thread, I typically don’t wax. It doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose and the wax isn’t as likely to meld with polyester fibers anyway.
Then I drafted strips of flannel to use as the waistband. Much later, I’ll be attaching a 5/8” beaded trim to the middle and decided that a 1 1/2” waistband would serve as a perfect frame for the trim. Above, you can see the blue lines I used to mark seam allowance. Save a little bit of time and baste the strips together by machine, rather than by hand. Tip: As you sew, repin perpendicular to the stitching, rather than parallel. If you sew with your pins parallel, you’ll end up shifting the fabric as you run it through the machine.
After basting, meld the two pieces together by pressing gently. Notice my ratty organza press cloth. Pressing the two pieces after basting is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. It really helps to not only blend the two pieces, but evens out a lot of the waviness and puckering that can occur from machine basting. Tip: Press satin from the wrong side only! Satin has a tendency to mark from the right side and shows seams underneath like no other. Always use a press cloth, as well, even with poly satin.
Line up the marked seam lines and carefully pin. Can you see here why we don’t really care about the seam allowance in couture sewing? It’s about the stitching line. (Fresh pins only!)
You can see here I trimmed the seam allowance a little closely. Ordinarily, seam allowances should be a longer. Why? When you press, you’re less likely to see an imprint of the seam on the right side. I cut these seam allowances a little short—I don’t want too much bulk along the waist line. These allowances ended up being about 3/8”. After pressing, catch-stitch the seams down. Tip: Unless you’re sure about fit, don’t cut or stitch down the seams until you’ve done a fitting! I went through two muslin fittings on my student before I started work using the fashion fabric and felt pretty confident with my fitting.
Time to join the flannel underbodice to the lower drape by first basting the two together. Start at each corner and pin in from there. Remember that the lower drape is cut on the bias and it’s possible that it’s stretched as you worked on it. Gently ease the lines together and smooth (Don’t pull!) with your fingers as your work.
See all the slack? Ease it in gently. It’ll all come together in the basting, but you have to be patient. Don’t be afraid to use lots of pins.
I’m pretty satisfied with the basting, but I see the lower right side is kind of loose and bubbly. I have a feeling I’m going to need to pull out the basting and re-baste it flush or there might be an adjustment necessary on the seam line. Off to the form to check fit!
Here we are on the form. Fit is pretty good so far, though I adjusted the right side seam. See the dragging lines on the lower right side? I smoothed those out and brought the seam line in about 1/4”. Notice as well the large cuts in the slack on the bottom. Ask yourself, “Is the dragging because of a seam line that needs to be changed, or do I just need to clip and release tension?” Clipping released tension when I was initially fitting the satin, but at this point, I’m pretty certain more clipping won’t help, we need to re-adjust with altering the seam line. No biggie!
When making an adjustment to a seam line after you’ve already basted, take out the basting and re-baste. Don’t think you’ll remember it later when you sew the seam. You won’t!
Adjustments made, I sew the waistband to the lower bodice. I really like the gentle pleating, rather than pressing them down firmly. So, to set the seam, I’m only pressing in the seam allowance. See how careful I am not to press in the seam? And there’s my natty press cloth again!
And there we are with the waistband. Lovely. I notice some puckering along the neckline—I think I’ll readjust the basting there, too. See what I mean about satin? It shows everything (good and bad!) and takes patience. Don’t hurry; you’ll get there! I think we can move on to the upper drape.
I start by pinning the organza to freshly pressed satin. I’m using tons of pins here. Don’t forget to line up your grain line with the bias! We want that bit of stretch to help drape over the bust later.
I place the pinned satin over my piece of lace to see how much I need. Cut generously around with good scissors. The lace I’m using is beaded, sequined, and corded, so I generally cut around the motifs to avoid cutting into beads and any allowance I might need later. Before cutting, I lightly steamed the lace to remove a few pesky wrinkles.
Once I placed the satin on the lace, I repinned to catch the lace with the satin and organza. Lace can be shifty, so I made sure to, again, use lots of pins.
Baste all layers together. After basting, I realized the pleating would need more support. You can see in the picture above that the pleats are shifting. On the right side, the lace was struggling to stay in the pleat and I couldn’t tell where the lines should be. That’ll never do!
See what I mean? The satin is pleating just fine, but the lace is really misbehaving. The lower pleat of lace hangs over the satin pleat and it’s extending beyond the seam line for the drape. Unsightly!
Realizing that pinning the pleats wasn’t enough, I drew chalk lines where the pleat lines would be, then pinned copiously. Each of those lines was then basted, as well.
Much better! Dying to see what the drapes will look like together, I folded the excess seaming under the upper drape and pinned the two together. I love it! I also like the detail of the lace drape extending over the waistband. It’ll be really striking with the beaded trim. Now it’s starting to look like a dress!
Before moving on, I checked the dimensions of the shoulder and side seam: Exactly where they should be! So far, so good! Now we can permanently sew the pleats down. The good thing about using a lacy overlay is that we don’t have to be terribly picky about stitching because the lace hides a lot of sin. I fell stitched each pleat down (I’d show a picture, but you thankfully can’t see them from the right side), then used wide catch-stitches to hold the pleats on the wrong side. Remove the pins and basting stitches on the pleats. Onward!