Thursday, July 2, 2015

Prominent chest - pattern changes

While browsing through a sewing forum, I noticed over and over the plight of adjusting a pattern for a full bust. There are many solutions offered both online and in many of the sewing books, yet many people still struggle with making sense of it all.
Here's a little sample of what I did to deal with a garment that needed more room in the chest, but fit well in the front length, armhole, neck and waist.
Whereas in women's wear, darts are an accepted way of dealing with shape, the challenge with men's costuming is often how to hide the shaping in a garment, in order to keep the traditional construction format.

I recently fit a doublet and while pinning it up the centre front, I found that it closed on the line at the neck and at the waist, but at mid chest, it would not.
It went off the line there by 1.8 cm.
The person I was fitting had a prominent pec area, and that was the cause of the gap. What often happens with a full chest is that there is a lack of length and width.
I had enough length in my pattern for the full chest so I am only correcting for width.

You can see that the pattern CF line is not straight, but it is curved already from the mid chest to the neck. This is basically a dart, which is masquerading as the CF seam. I did not wish to increase this CF "dart" by just adding the extra at the CF line and tapering it off to the waist and neck. 
Now, I split the pattern vertically through the mid chest, and separate the pieces half the amount of the gap. I need this much more at the mid chest level but in splitting the pattern I have made the neckline  larger and have increased the length of the side front seam. I don't want that, and so I need to modify the pattern further. I need to close the gap!
So, here you can see that I have made two cuts in order to further modify the pattern. One is at the chest level, and the other one is cut diagonally from the side front seam to the mid chest. 
I can now bring the neck back to the way it was and also close the gap in the seam. What happens though is the CF opens up and gains some length, and the side front seam also had a small increase.
Depending on your fabric and method of construction, you may be able to ease in those small increases. 
Here is another option. This time only the horizontal cut at the chest level is allowed to open up as the neckline and seam line openings are closed. The increase in width at the chest is maintained, the neck and waist are kept as they were. 
I am making doublets backed on cotton duck so easing is not easily accomplished, so I opted for this method in the under structure of duck, and used the previous method for the fashion fabric layer. 
The horizontal dart is cut out completely and the raw edges are butted edge to edge and zigged closed with a strip of fusible tape to reinforce the join. The outer fashion fabric is applied over the shaped duck, carefully maintaining the shape you have created as you do so.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trunk hose: the outer fabric layer

It is very difficult to stop and get photos of the process!
I have a lot of cutting to do and it is beginning to feel like not enough time to get it all done!
This is a very familiar and unwelcome bit of stress. Sigh.

Well, the under structure for the large trunk hose was discussed in the last post, and, to recap, I am building an under trouser base, onto which is attached the structure that will give the finished garment some shape. Then we will construct the outer fabric which will go over the structure and then marry the layers together.

These trunk hose need to be very large, and one of the challenges is to reduce a large amount of fabric to fit the leg, just above the knee. My pattern is approximately 100 inches from front to back fork.
I need to reduce it down to 18 1/2 inches or so. One way to reduce volumes of fabric is to cartridge pleat it. This technique is very similar to how we make our figure eight neck ruffs.

I calculated 3/4 inch pleats to be stitched at every 1/4 inch so that means every inch of finished pleating uses up 6 inches of fabric. If I made it 1inch pleats, stitched at every 1/4 inch then that would use up 8 inches of fabric.

I set up the pattern to have 84 inches of fabric to be pleated into 14 inches, and the remaining fabric to be gathered to fit the leg.

Here is the pattern being laid out.

You can see a dart here that marks a transition point between the cartridge pleated area which must be a straight line, and the area that will be just gathered.

I am using double faced silk satin here, and it will also be "pinked" or cut full of holes to show another colour of silk through the cuts.

I will leave a 3 1/2 inch fold over for cartridge pleating. The fold will be stabilized with a bit of lightweight bias wigan. This fills out the silk and also gives a sturdy edge when stitching the pleats down.
This 3 1/2 inch fold over also gives us a seam allowance to attach the coloured silk to.

I can't fit the whole leg into the picture frame!
In this photo you can see the silk attached and the 2 parallel rows of stitches for the cartridge pleats.

You must use strong thread here, and mark your stitching points accurately. you stitch down on one point and then come up through the fabric at the depth of your pleating, so ours is spaced at 3/4 inch.
We got this far in preparation before we were able to get an answer regarding the pinked cuts to be made in the black outer layer. Once we had our answer, we peeled back the yellow silk and marked out the grid of cuts to be made.
Here you can see the leg from the right side, with the pinked cuts (cuts on the bias), as well as the effect of the dart which helps the fabric turn the corner toward the inside of the leg.

After this the two fabrics are joined together as one in along the seam lines. we then serged them together to keep everything from fraying.

Next up is the pleating, and making them into a wearable garment.

Just a note of thanks to Shona for her hard work and willingness to think through the process with me!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Trunkhose: thinking it through

There are a lot of things to consider when making Trunk hose.

How to get the shape or silhouette you desire is first and foremost, and how you are going to put them together is another. Bulky seam allowances and overall weight come into consideration as well. How are they going to close? How do you marry the support structure and the outer fashion layers successfully?
Remember there is no one official way to achieve this- experimentation is key!

In the distant past, I remember seeing cutters constructing the trunk-hose shape by stitching rows of gathered tulle onto a fitted trouser base much like one would when constructing a tutu, then shaping the silhouette by trimming the tulle.
Quite a lot of work to prepare, but a very sculptural approach as you cut away the tulle into the shape you desire. It is like giving the tulle a haircut to get the shape!
If the tulle is stitched densely the shape is firm and stays firm for many years.
Once the shape is achieved the cut edges of the tulle can be a problem with abrading the covering fabric  so either the tulle usually needs to be covered or the pouf fabric needs a backing.
I think that approach works well for a pair of the very short Elizabethan trunk hose, the amount of area to be covered is small and the density and weight of layers of tulle is minimal.

If I am making a larger volume trunk hose or slop style I usually start with a fitted base pair of breeches.  How fitted they are depends on the look you are trying to achieve, particularly in the placement and fit of the canion area.

Here is the base front for the really large comedy breeches. I have marked in a line below the waist where the top hip roll may sit, and also lines mid leg for the crin ruffle. Closer to the finished length, I mark the area where the grosgrain (we are cartridge pleating the lower leg to grosgrain) will come to and where the lower edge of the crin will come to. I offset the crin from the waist and lower leg seam to eliminate bulk in those seams.

Here is the crin sewn to the mid leg lines. I think we decided to move them closer together than where I had originally marked after seeing how it looked on the stand.
The base will be made with a zip front closure and you can see a waistband has been sewn on with the finished side to the inside.

We tried a gathered single layer of heavier crin at the waist here, but it didn't give much of a "shelf" so we gathered up that loose edge and made a "hip roll"

You can create "hip rolls" by cutting a rectangle or oblong shape of crin to start. Cut the crin double the finished width  you need. Serge the cut edges of the crin. Sew gathering stitches along each long edge of the crin. Use a heavy thread like Bell thread in the bobbin to reduce thread breakage and frustration!
Gather the long edges of the shape down to the size you wish and sew each gathered edge to a piece of twill tape. You can then sew one twill tape edge to the base, and sew the other edge below it in a parallel line. If you sew them close together you get more horizontal distance and rigidity and further apart will give a more gentle shape and support. Crin comes in different weight, so that can be used to your advantage if you use the heavier for the area that needs more support, and the lighter for less.

We have found that sewing the crin into modular forms is easier to move around to create shapes.
I think that sewing the crin directly to the fitted under base can be a nightmare to modify or alter, so we are trying to attach it first to twill tape, then sew the twill tape to the base. if you want to move a layer up or down, it is a simple matter to unpick it and sew it elsewhere.

I also like to use the light crin as an overall under layer/pouf to both give shape and to protect the outer fabric. You can see that it has been sewn on so that it rolls up and over  for a bit more lift. you can see that there is still an inch of space there below the waistband as I want to leave space for the seam allowance of the fashion fabric once we get to that layer.

At this point, we draped the mock up leg over the shape to see if this was heading in the right direction.
I darted (horizontally) the large piece of crin at the front and back edges at the level of the mid leg to reinforce the shape and to reduce excess length in those areas.
We will tack the mid leg riffle to the out bag so it doesn't fall down. I think if this needed even more support I could sew in a horizontal piece of nylon boning to support the circumference, but I will wait and see what the designer thinks first.
It is a good idea as you are going along to think of what you can do to make changes if required. Not everything works as well as you might hope the first time so have a strategy!

Once one side is good, we do the same to the other side and then sew the two legs together. This pair is going to get big fast! Sideways through the door big.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Trunkhose part 1

I think I am bored with the weekly pictures of my table, are you?
We will just continue on with some other items then shall we?

 I leave it to you to look through the Internet to your heart's content for images. 
a disclaimer: I am not in the business of pedantic historical reproduction. I am interpreting a designers vision in modern fabrics for a specific theatrical purpose.

Not my favourite garment to make.
You may think it is strange for someone who works in this milieu but there you have it- I confess to not enjoying making them. I think it is because I have never had the luxury of time to dissect what I am doing and why. They have turned out well enough in the past, but now I have to make some more and I am determined to document what I am doing and why, and maybe learn to love accept them.

First thing first- there are many ways of approaching and constructing them and I have made them in a number of different ways over the years. Luckily for me, I also have access to the past. I mean a costume warehouse of 60 years of costumes, so I can and sometimes have a critical look at what cutters did in the near and not so near past at work.

So the first thing I have been doing is to draft up a pair of breeches that will provide the base of support to build the trunkhose on.
Trunkhose for the theatre need support structures (most of the time) to maintain their shape and silhouette. The shape varies from shorty short Elizabethan trunkhose to round "pumpkin pants" to teardrop shaped fully padded versions, or just enormous unpaned slop styles.
The support they need is both vertical and horizontal. Vertical control keep the length of the outer layer in place. If you just made longer breeches and pushed them higher on the leg, you create a shape but what keeps it from slipping down to its former position?
Horizontal control of the silhouette is often needed to maintain the shape after the vertical length is controlled. What will help them hold their shape over the long term? If there is no support, over time and wearing and dry cleaning they tend to collapse and droop, and that may not be what you want to happen.

This is a rough start to the process in these photos. 
In a perfect world, I would have a separate fitting for the under breech, but time is precious, so I generally mock up only one leg of the truck hose, allowing me to fit the under breech and give the designer a look at a rough silhouette of the trunkhose on the other leg. 

I have a very large "comedy" pair of breeches to make as well as this paned version, so I will try to be diligent and document the process for each of them over the next few weeks. 
Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

week 19 and 20, so far so good.

I think all my "get up and go",  got up and went!

Here we are at the end of week 20 and I have fallen behind in my posting.

Well the table still looks tidy in week 19. The sample modern suit is still hanging around, and I have someone working on the one I cut, getting ready for a fitting. We were just finishing up our understudy costumes, so many fittings were still happening. Sometimes another actor is just the right size to wear someone else's costume, and that saves us time and money when that happens. Occasionally the understudy is no where near the same size as the original actor, but luckily we have 60 + years of stock costumes to find something appropriate. On the rare occasion that nothing fits and nothing is found to be appropriate, we build an understudy costume.  I have been lucky so far this season and nothing has to be built from scratch for the understudy.

That being said, we were still working on the Naval uniform which is the actual costume that will be worn in the show. The actor has a stand in uniform that will do for pre-views until we can sub in the new one.
Here it is in process.

I don't think I got a final photo of this one, so I will have it sent back next week to do so. I was trying to take some pictures of the patterns as well, so in the fall I may have a bit of a pattern show and tell.

I have also started on one of my next shows which is set in the mid 1600's, and here is my table in week 20.

I confess I feel a bit battered by bouncing back and forth between the centuries sometimes. 
I had the 19 century going on with the Naval coat, still doing fittings and notes on the 18th century show, plus I have a modern mid 20th century suit to make and now the mid 17th century plus an Elizabethan show to start next week.

Enough for now, it has been an intense few months of work and a few more months are coming before I will be taking a well deserved break- of course that means I will be unemployed! 
such is the life I lead.
Take care, and  enjoy your days off when you get them.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

week 18 begin again

This is the time of the season where you find youself dazed after pushing through with that last show only to find that the pressure suddenly ceases and you wonder what happened. It can feel like racing towards a brick wall and then hitting it in full stride! Hey you made it!
This is also the time when we try to get the understudies fit and start on another show or three.
Here's what is on the table this week-
Slightly tidier! 
I haven't really sorted my patterns out completely as I needed to make a suit mock-up for a fititng this week. I rarely have to make really modern present day suits and when I look at a modern rtw suit jacket just to check out details, I am often astounded by things. Armhole size for instance. I am accustomed to cutting a small and high armhole. I don't think it is excessively small, but in comparison to modern rtw it is. Of course I am cutting one offs to fit an individual -not the masses- but the modern Brioni jacket that I got to look at after the fitting had an armhole that measured 60cm for a 40R size. That was 7cm bigger than the armscye measurement on my pattern. It was also very broad across the back maybe almost 18 inches if I recall correctly and the shoulder point to shoulder point measured 18 1/2 inches, yet the fronts measured a scant 15 inches across. Very interesting.

Most of the fabrics have been returned to the cage, the dresser bags- which consist of repair kits of fabric, buttons and trims have been made up and delivered to the heads of the maintenance crew. I also had meetings for the two other shows that I need to start right away, and while doing that I will be dealing with 7 outstanding understudy fittings and building a Naval frock coat. 

Speaking of the Naval frock coat, I cut directly into fabric for this, and the whole team took part in getting it basted together for a fitting. I have never built anything for this actor, so I was a bit apprehensive about cutting right into fabric but I did it anyway. 
Here it is after the fitting.
He is a rather portly gentleman, and the stand isn't padded out for his belly, so this photo isn't a great indication of fit. 
I had to lift the skirt at the waist where you can see the pins, (it was falling in towards the body slightly) and I took in the side back area about a full 1/2 inch on each side of the body, and 3/4 inch at the waist. It needs to fit tighter than you might imagine because he will wear a belt (and sword) and as soon as a belt goes on and is fastened tight enough, you almost always need to snug up the fit at the waist. 
I need to flare the skirt a bit more, and adjust for the CB skirt overlapping slightly at the hem. I also need to adjust the run of the waist seam slightly to hide the seam underneath the belt he will be wearing. We debated about leaving the waist seam at the bottom of the belt which is where it lay in the fitting, indeed in some references there is a visible button beneath the belt, but that was a bit later in period.
What else?....Oh I misinterpreted the lapel shape so I will change that and the sleeve flashes are a bit big, so a slight reduction there too.
Now to rip it down, mark the alterations and get it trimmed and finished.

We are all a bit tired at this point in the season, but we have a long week-end to rest and gather our wits about us as we head into the build period for the later openers.

Today, I was hoping to go to the lake and do a bit of beachcombing and wandering about, but it is raining! nevermind, sometimes that is the best weather for it, so off I go....

Sunday, May 10, 2015

week 17 = relative calm?

Well that was a crazy couple of weeks! Those coats that were lined up in front of the table have finally  gone to their place in the dressing rooms. Even the cape that was standing sentinel for weeks made it to the dress rehearsal. It had a bit of basting left in it and needs some finishing, but it was wearable. I even had time to clear up some of the mess and I have found my table top again!
Friday was particularly hectic as I had three fittings, a quick change rehearsal at another location, and a tech dress in the afternoon. After the rehearsal we went out for a well deserved beer and some food, then home where I immediately sat down and fell asleep.
I think everything went well apart from a pair of breeches in a horrible ultra/fake suede. I don't know if you have ever fought with a fabric but I sure did with that one. I think we will be making a replacement pair  this week!
in case you were wondering, this ultra/fake suede is likely upholstery quality- it has absolutely no give, it is extremely bouncy and resistant along the weft, so much that you cannot gather it- it just fights you- yet along the warp it will fold completely flat. If it is cut as you normally would, it looks like you are wearing a barrel, and cut the other way, well, lets just say that the seat of the breeches was odd looking! It also has horrible static cling, so the legs kind of clung to the actor in odd ways. Not good.
Note to self- just plead for real leather or suede!

Here was my table on Thursday- I was trying to organize some paperwork and also to draft up a pattern for that Naval frock coat you can see in the sketch.
It is a tale of woe, and a mistaken belief in Internet purchasing to solve budget crunches that leads me to be drafting again for our 19th century show.

Beware you who think that you can order quality costumes off the Internet to save money.
Give your head a shake too if you think that anyone will even look at the measurements you send even though you think you are getting a "custom-made" product.
The "thing" that arrived (on the day we were onstage) was so bizarre that I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It wasn't just the fact that it did not fit the actor, nor had any proper shaping, or proportions that related to the human body, and it was not a full skirted frock coat but a weird tailcoat like thing.  The skirt was a strange one piece apron of fabric, bagged out with coarse cotton duck as a lining with no centre back vent opening, no relation to anything that it should be.
We dubbed it the "manatee" perhaps because it reminded me somewhat of Tenniel's drawing of the walrus from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

Suffice to say that I am making one now.

That is for tomorrow though.