Friday, 27 August 2010

Corset classes 1 and 2

Today I'll show you what I have been working on in my corset making class.

I have a little corset making experience, having made a Victorian style corset as a class project at WAAPA. I have also made a fair few structured bodices using various methods of boning, but I am by no means an expert so I was thrilled when the opportunity arose to develop my skills further. I signed up for a 6-week course, one evening a week at a local technical college.

At first I wasn't sure how I would like it, many of the other students seemed quite inexperienced but I really had nothing to worry about as the teacher is very experienced and generous with her knowledge (not all teachers are like that unfortunately). There will be a class project for those who want to work along step-by-step or we can do our own thing. I have chosen to use a different design but using the same techniques as the class project, my design is slightly more complicated as I wanted to work with gussets. The other techniques I haven't tried before but will be incorporating into my corset are cording, flossing and hand-worked eyelets.

By way of background here is the corset I made while at WAAPA.
(obviously dummies can't 'suck in' - mind you it doesn't fit me either these days!)
It is a pretty simple shape and I added decoration to the centre front panel by winding silk ribbon on to the bobbin and stitching the diamond grid (from the wrong side) with a zig zag stitch.  I then made a hand-worked bullion rose in the centre of each diamond.

Essentially I sewed together the outer shell and the lining individually, placed them wrong sides together and stitched the boning channels on each panel. The only actual seam that is boned is the side seam and that is formed with a flat felled seam. There is a busk in the front, metal eyelets in the back and the top and bottom edges are simply bound with bias strips. It requires a degree of accuracy but isn't complicated.

For this course I will be using a B4254 View D which I have had lying around for years (I was intending to make the Tudor/Elizabethan style corset, but like so many projects it fell by the wayside). I'll also be using the fabric and boning I got for that project. On the upside this will be a very economical project for me!

So far I have made and fitted a toille. Essentially I am making a size 12 with a little room in the hips, a 1cm increase to each side of the gusset/cup (by way of an fba) and nipped in a little at the top edge. Pretty easy really.  Fortunately I kept the practice eyelet strips I made for my other corset and was able to use them for fitting.  This ensures a nice even gap down the centre back.
Next I moved on to sampling some of the techniques.
Here is my first attempt at cording - sorry it's a bit blurry but I think you get the idea. I stitched 3mm channels and threaded through two lengths of machine knitting yarn, probably about 5ply I would say. It needs to be something quite hard - like acrylic but this is a little thin. For my second sample I stuck with 3mm channels and I used some 8ply acrylic leftover from my swiffer socks, again using two lengths. This gives a nice firm result. Boy is it boring sewing all those channels though - no more samples for me I think!
The method of boning I will be using for this project is quite different to any I have used before. The outer and lining fabric are placed together, like underlining, then the seams are stitched. Bias strips are then sewn along the stitching line, the seam allowances are trimmed and the raw edge of the bias is turned in and stitched down to the main body to form the boning channel. The channels can be placed on the inside or the outside of the corset depending on whether or not you want it to be a design feature, but both sides are fully finished and neat looking. Mine will be on the outside. I have made up one half of the corset to test out these techniques (I need to perfect the measurements to cut the bias the right width for my boning).  Note the centre front and centre back panels are not joined on as I have to insert the busk and make the eyelets before those panels are joined on.
This week I think we will be inserting the busks (which I have done before but it will be interesting to see if there is a different way to do it) and making hand-worked eyelets (which is great for me as I hate putting in those silly metal eyelets - all that work to be ruined by one wonky grommet!). After that (possibly this weekend) I will start on the real thing.

This weekend I must get on to blocking my featherweight cardigan.  It's been waiting for over a week now!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Jess's Wedding Dress Part One

I mentioned previously that I am making a wedding dress for my friend Jess at the moment. We had a preliminary try-on this past weekend and I am relieved to say it went very well!

Jess has given her blessing for me to blog about the project. Her family and friends are mostly in the UK and she would love them to be a part of the experience so this is a good way to share the journey with them as well as with my regular readers. So welcome along Jess's friends and family, I hope you like what you see and drop me a line anytime if you have anything you want to share!

First a bit of background. I met Jess a few years ago when she started dating Wade, who my fella and I studied with at WAAPA. Wade is an absolutely top bloke and I am pleased to report that Jess is a perfect match for him. When she rang me to tell me that Wade had proposed I could not have been happier! Then when she asked me to make the dress I didn't hesitate to say yes.

I haven't made any wedding dresses since I stopped working at a bridal design studio about three years ago, mainly because of the stress involved. I have done a couple of private contracts before and my brides have always been lovely, but I did have one very difficult sister-of-the-bride which soured the whole experience for me. That coupled with some of the bride- and maid-zillas I came across at the design studio really put me off, although making wedding dresses generally is still something I very much enjoy. I was happier drafting patterns and making samples for the shop rather than for actual brides. Call me crazy but I am sort-of thinking about going back to it again - the corporate world really doesn't agree with me and I'd love to work from home again!

I know for sure I won't have any problems with Jess. We are able to communicate well and understand each other and Jess is very realistic too. Also it doesn't hurt that she is absolutely gorgeous!

The wedding will be a barefoot affair, on a beach in the beautiful south-west with the reception at Wade's parents' bush block near Dunsborough. It's not until April next year, so I probably won't start the actual dress until November, but we just wanted to get our ideas together to see if we had nailed it yet or need to keep looking.

We have been snoop-shopping a couple of times (with one of Jess's bridesmaids) and Jess has tried on dresses that are both very high-end and off-the-rack. We were conscious of not wasting too much of people's time, and it was never the intention to knock-off someone else's hard work but it was important that Jess be able to see how she looked in a variety of shapes and styles before committing. That's the problem with custom-made, it's hard to know what you like and don't like until you actually put it on. There were some that looked good and some that looked great - lucky Jess has the sort of figure that doesn't look bad in anything - and I was able to get a feel for what she was looking for. The key points were:

• A sheer layer over satin
• A dramatic back
• Not too low cut in the front
• Some kind of draping to give movement

I decided to go with a fitted and lightly boned bodice with chiffon draped free-form over the top. I had a photographic reference of a dress with wide chiffon straps and a tied bow at the back so I incorporated those too.

This is what I mocked up with some poplin and polyester chiffon. You will need to use your powers of visualisation as it's very rough!

For the under bodice I used a pattern I drafted ages ago but never used, and I used my trusty Vogue 8494 as a guide for the skirt.

The good news is that Jess loves it! It was a little big so I have fitted the bodice to her which, having many vertical seams, is easy to do. I will also lower the back substantially, it can go a lot lower and still be appropriate and the romantic style of the straps will make sure it doesn't get trashy. Generally though it has turned out a winner, which is great because I am very happy with it too!

I will put up a post on the bodice soon, to show how the under layer works and in the next few weeks we are hoping to go fabric shopping. We are thinking a silk satin with a bit of body, but not stiff, for the under layer, with silk chiffon over the top. We will most likely go for ivory although Jess is open to other colours, but given it's an outdoor event we will probably stay away from the whiter end of things.

I also have two weeks of corset class to catch you up on and I have finally finished the Featherweight Cardigan (although I haven't blocked it yet!).

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

M5929 - Version three

As I mentioned previously I will eventually have four versions of this shirt.  This is version three.  I have previously in a floral with the ruffle, and the long sleeved version without the ruffle.  This version also skips the ruffle and has a different sleeve.

I was inspired by this image from the August 2010 Madison magazine.  You can barely see it but this shirt is by Boss Black and it retails for $329 Australian.  I reckon my version came in under $25 so you have to be happy with that!

Here is the front view.  I like the open neck a lot better than the traditional shirt neckline on me.  I find there is too much fabric in the upper chest and it never lies flat.  The stripe with white collar and cuffs reminds me of rich bankers (I said bankers).

Either side of the front band I added a 1cm strip of striped fabric cut on the bias.  I love how this turned out!  The only tricky bit is that you need to cut your bias bands perpendicular (at right angles) to each other not parallel (alongside), or you won't be able have both sets of stripes running up (or down).  Ask me how I know.  Fortunately my fabric was kinda reversible so I think I got away with it.

What I didn't get away with was working all the buttonholes on the wrong side - dammit!  I checked  twice and STILL did it wrong!  Now I can't wear this shirt with pants (I like everything to overlap the same way - call me crazy).  I can however wear it with skirts, and jeans if I was the type to wear a shirt like this with jeans!

I morphed the sleeve into an oop vogue sleeve with a traditional placket and french cuff.  I cut down the cuff so it doesn't fold back though.  I made the cuff links from a pair of shank buttons.  The purple dot is my disappearing marker that hasn't quite disappeared yet (it will).

I did a pretty good job on the cuffs if I do say so.  I used the David Coffin DVD for the first time and they came out great.

I also think the collar looks pretty good - collars with a stand are always a challenge for me.  Again I used the David Coffin DVD and am much happier than normal.
Just to round things out, here's the back.
You know I am thinking I am going to have to re-visit some of my fitting alterations.  I am just not getting the nice smooth finish I used to.  Any suggestions (other than 'get to the gym')?

So I have one more version of this shirt planned but I am going put it on hold to work on a coat and a jacket before the cold weather is gone for the year.  I am also starting a corset making class this week (I have done some corset making before but this is apparently a 'master class' so I will let you know how it goes) and I will be working on a toille for my friend Jess's wedding dress - which you will be pleased to know she is happy for me to blog about.  Not likely I'll be bored any time soon!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Spiral scarf - another knitting project

Today I am 'sick as a dog'!  It's just a head cold but it has knocked me flat on my back.  Unfortunately it decided to hit me right before I had to give a pretty important presentation yesterday - it was not my finest performance I'm afraid!

So I am home sick today and maybe tomorrow too if I don't improve significantly.  As vital as I am to the running of the State Government  (joke) I like my co-workers too much to share my germs with them.  It's opening night for my fella's first production in his new job tomorrow night so I hope I am well enough to go and support him.

But this is not a health blog, it's a sewing blog - although there has been a lot of knitting/crochet going on around here.  Of course that's mainly due to the fact I could not access my sewing room and/or most of my stash for the best part of three months after the house flooded.  Mercifully that's all fixed now but here's another knitting project if you can stand it.

I bought this pattern and yarn as a kit at the Craft and Quilt Fair, which I went to on my birthday this year. 
I have to say it was a bit disappointing this year and this was all I bought.  I started it the same day so therefore it has taken me more than two months to knit this in around other projects.  The pattern is the Spiral Scarf and the yarn is Quartet, both by Morris and Sons.

The ruffles are formed entirely by short rows, essentially the scarf is formed of many, many little wedges.  The yarn has soy in it and feels lovely and soft but the twist is a bit irregular with some very thick bits and very thin bits amongst a mainly even yarn  It's fine as long as you don't mind a few lumps.

It was an easy knit but boring, due to it being essentially garter stitch with 8ply yarn on 4.5mm needles.

I like how it came out and I got some compliments when I wore it to work the other day.  A success all around and another completed project to add to the tally.