Saturday 20 June 2015

Wedding Dress Progress Part III: Constructing the bodice

Disclaimer: This post is a pure construction post with no pretty pictures. I've tried to put some more detail into the construction of the bodice in the hope that it might help somebody else when making a structured dress. At least I struggled a lot with deciding what to do.

Another month has passed since my last Wedding Dress Progress Update! Two more month to go before everything has to be ready. I'm making good progress with the dress:

The bodice is assembled, voila!
It consists of 5(!) layers:
1. Pleated chiffon shell
2. Silk dupion underlining for the chiffon shell.
3. Cotton batting with sewn-in bra cups.
4. Old bed sheet with boning to which the cotton batting is attached.
5. Silk lining.

It took me a while to decide in which order and which way around to stack layer 3 and 4. So here are a few more details on the bodice assembly.

I hand basted the pleated chiffon to the silk dupion bodice pieces with silk thread and then sewed the bodice pieces together (layer 1 and 2). 

Right side of silk lining (top) and chiffon pleats basted to silk dupion (bottom)

Wrong side of silk lining (top) and chiffon pleats basted to silk dupion (bottom)

Following the tutorial from sewaholic, I made a cotton batting layer just for the three front pieces (the ones connected by the princess seams). To avoid fabric bulk at the princess seams, you have to cut off the seam allowances and then stitch the side and front panel together on top of twill tape. I bought simple sew-in bra cups from amazon and after a bit of trial and error managed to get a good placement of the cups on the batting. I sewed all the way around the cups with a zig zag stitch to secure them.

Right side of cotton batting with bra cups (top) and bed sheet with boning (bottom)

Wrong side of cotton batting with bra cups (top) and bed sheet with boning (bottom)

Then I constructed the "old bed sheet" bodice which I wanted to use to underline my silk lining. I added the boning to this layer because it was the most stable one. I had to make the princess seams for this (and the silk lining) a bit smaller, because they are on the inside of the bra cups. Next I stitched the cotton batting to the bed sheet layer.

Boning attached to the bed sheet layer.

Close up on bra cups sewn onto cotton batting
I then sewed the bodice a fifth time - this time from silk to make the lining. The assembled silk bodice got attached to the bed sheet layer as well. Now the bed sheet layer was sandwiched between cotton batting and silk. I hand stitched the cup of the silk lining to the bed sheet bodice by stitching in the seam line of the princess seams.

Stitches in the seam line of princess seams to secure lining to bra cups.

Close-up of all layers sewn together.

Construction wise the most challenging part for me was to attach and position the bra cups. The boning was very easy to put in. I was contemplating for a while to add some horse hair braid to stabilise the neckline but decided against it. Because there were already 5 fabric layers at the neck seam line and I didn't want to add more bulk.

I first trimmed the batting.
Finally I stitched all bodice layers at the neckline together. To make sure I had a nice crisp and flat neckline seam, I graded the different layers at the seam during trimming before understitching. And voila here we have a really structured bodice. Despite being stable I do not trust it to not slip down thus I've added ribbon straps to have some security :)

Trimmed and graded seams at neckline seam.

Neatly understitched and trimmed neckline seam.

Understitches on the right side of the neckline seam. Pretty ribbon straps have been attached as well.

Are you still with me? Well done! Then let me tell you what to expect in the next progress post: the assembly of the dress and lining and first hand stitching :)

One question, please: Does the train have to be lined? My lining has a train :O And do you have any experiences with bustles? Any tutorial you can recommend? Thank you.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Two Ms: Mimi and Mabel.

I think I’ve given you enough time to forget about my last version of the Mimi Blouse :) The pattern is from Tilly and the Buttons book “Love at first stitch”.

Fabric: My first version was made from a drapy and soft fabric - it was actually a fabric used by the Oasis retailer to make a blouse. I found out about it on twitter because JessB had the blouse, haha. I always try to get my hands on shop fabric and I actually succeeded without knowing! For my second version I used a liberty copy print cotton lawn. It is a lightweight fabric, but much stiffer than the fabric from version one. I’ve used this fabric before to make a dress at a sewing class and was happy to finally use up these leftovers!

For the collar I used some leftover cotton lawn also from my stash. The buttons come from my button jar as well. So you can say, this blouse cost me almost nothing :) I love it when this happens.

Fitting: The fit was quite good in my first version but I was not 100% happy with it, because the collar was laying not flat. It wasn't that obvious because of the drapy fabric. But you know how it is: when you know it’s there, it bothers you. So back to collar drafting I went and a thorough measuring of the neck curve revealed that my collar curve was longer than the one on the yoke. I can’t remember the exact measurement, but it was something around half an inch. I removed the fullness and after some more fiddling on my dress form was happy with the fit.

I hand stitched the hem on the sleeves.

Construction: Having sewn the blouse before, sewing this one was really fast. I mostly followed Tilly’s instructions. The only change I made was to sew the collar in flat. That means I sewed the collar to the yoke before sewing the side seams. I think it results in a nicer collar because you can press it much better :) and it is easier to pin and sew.

By the way, the skirt I'm wearing is the Colette Mabel Skirt. It is made from a Romaknit Jersey that I bought in Goldhawk Road. It is a bit see through and I can wear it only with similar colored tights or underwear.

Here is the reason why I'm not showing you the skirt in its total glory - I had a big afternoon tea before taking the pictures.

I made the pencil skirt version 3 in size M. The pencil skirt has side seam details and a kick pleat. I'm not sure if I cut the wrong size or if it was because of my fabric, but I had to take out 8 inch from the waistband and then from the top of the side and back seams to make the skirt fit. The skirt is sitting now on my natural waist - I'm not sure if that is the right position because the pattern says mid-rise. But anyhow the skirt felt very loose before and I was afraid it would slide down when stretching over the day.

The skirt was easy to sew otherwise and I sewed it mostly on my overlocker. It was a race against time. I have to stop sewing at 9 pm because the walls in our new flat are so thin. I started cutting the fabric at around 7 pm and then participating in my own little sewing bee. And lost. But would have won, if I wouldn't have fitted the skirt :P

I'm a bit disappointed with the kick pleat because it is only a mock kick pleat. My mum asked me actually if I had forgotten to open the pleat. Nope it is closed - unless I misunderstood the instructions? Any thoughts from your experience with the pattern?

Despite it little quirks the skirt is a favorite of mine and I wear it at least twice during the week. Yeah for basics again :)

Monday 1 June 2015

A cropped Renfrew Cardigan

I have a lot of high-waist dresses and skirts, but only a handful of knitted cardigans that I can wear with them. I just can't knit that fast, pity. Thus I thought I would sew a cropped cardigan. But I couldn't find a pattern that I liked. I wanted a cropped and tight fitting cardigan. Something that goes with the style of my dresses and skirts.

I then accidentally found a post by Andrea from FourSquareWalls. A post where she showed her newest Renfrew mod - a cardigan. An idea was born! I had that pattern but never came around to make it. So I made a normal test Renfrew first (which you will see soon) to asses the fit. The shirt was a bit big on me in my back. Thus I decided to combine the Renfrew and Ladyskater pattern.

The Ladyskater is super fitted on the waist - the style I was opting for. Thus I traced the Ladyskater pattern from waist to under armhole and the part above the armhole is the Renfrew. Sleeves are Renfrew as well. I the shortened the Renfrew waistband a bit - I made it 1" shorter than my waist seam would be and then followed Andreas constructions.

To make the button band I just added 5/8" to the seam allowance of the front bodice paper pattern and on the actual cardigan I just folded it back and topstitched it down. I then attached the neck and waist band. To get neat corners at the waistband and neckband, I sewed the corners together first (right sides together). Then turned the right side out and topstitched the seam allowances down.

What do you guess was the most difficult part? The button holes! I really dreaded them because I knew they would either make my cardigan beautiful or super ugly. I guess I hit the middle. I can only recommend to stabilise the button band and parts of the neck and waist band where the buttons go. I didn't and my fabric was stretching. I would also recommend to sew the buttonholes before you sew the neck and waist band to the bodice. Because my sewing machine just didn't want to sew over that seam. It was a really messy job that you luckily can't see because of my big buttons and dark fabric.

I love how the cardigan turned out! He is not perfect yet. I think the sleeves are a bit big and I will make them a bit slimmer for my next version. The length I like :) I like to pull up sleeves so that they cover my nuckles - I always have cold hands.

I've bought already some jersey snaps to try on my next version :) hope they will be easier to put in than the button holes!

I'm almost at the end and I haven't told you about the fabric yet! It is a romaknit fabric that I bought from It does not have much stretch and is a bit thicker. And just perfect for a tight cardigan. I'm a bit disappointed though because it has started to pile already at my shoulders. At the spot where the strap of a handbag runs over the shoulder. I have worn the cardigan maybe 10 times and would have expected it to last a bit longer. Nonetheless, the piling will not stop me to make another one from the same fabric but in dark grey. I need more basics in my wardrobe.

I'm the proud owner of a cropped cardigan :)

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