Sunday, April 6, 2014

a very large cape

Once upon a time I had occasion to make quite a few large garments and one of the things that makes handing large patterns and garments time consuming is that they do not fit on the cutting table.

My cutting table is four feet wide by eight feet long, and most of the time it is perfectly adequate for laying out fabrics that are folded in half lengthwise as most are. Sometimes though, it makes more sense to lay fabric out its full width, so if I have 60 inch/150 cm wide fabric, it is wider than the table and hangs over the edge. This is irritating because I cannot draw out the full pattern at once, and it takes much more time to align the fabric properly, draw out a portion of a pattern, then shift the whole piece of fabric over, so the other side hangs off, and then realign it all and draw out the remaining pattern.

I solved this problem first in my personal space by having a 12 inch wide extension made that hinges to the full length of my table, so when I need it, I prop it up and go to town. At work, I requested an extension and they made me a removable 12" x 8 foot long extension that sits on clever slide out supports.
So far so good. I have used them over and over and it is quite helpful.
This year though I have a pattern that doesn't fit even on the extended table.
I am making a very large cape.
The centre panels are 3.9 metres long.
It is floor length and has a modest train of only 24 inches or so, but it is 7/8 of a circle and I had to find another place to work on it, from drawing out the paper pattern, to cutting a half muslin for the designer to look at and for decoration to be placed,  to laying out the pieced panels of velvet and the silk lining.

It doesn't even look big at this angle!
The lobby turned out to be the best place for the task, so this past week I have been up and down between the basement at one end of the building to the third floor level at the other end of the building more times than I care to think about.
 Laying out the lining.

I think it is coming along now that the panels are sewn.
A heap of velvet, soon to be a cape!
Cotton basted into the front edge and around the neck to provide support.
Next step: cut away everything that isn't a cape!

Now we just have to baste the lining in, and the hem up for a fitting. I am hoping this will be able to be done on the spare tables in the wardrobe proper or else we are all going to be paid by the mile until it is finished! Thanks to Chris and Laurie for helping me on Saturday!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I'm glad you are making that

As a tailor, there are fabrics that are difficult to work with, (silk velvet) ones that I would prefer not to work with (silk velvet), but as I was walking around the wardobe, I was  looking at some of the dresses being made, and all I can say is I am glad it is you making that and not me. There is a reason I am a tailor after all! I don't like fabric that is disturbed by someone sneezing in the next room.
Dresses like this

or this

or this.

So how did I end up with this on my kitchen table? 
Must be some kind of cosmic revenge, or motherly insanity, but this will become a prom dress sometime before June. Thankfully Johanna will make the pattern, which will be quicker than if I do it, but I am going to sew it.
Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Velvet and fusible thread

Oh, well it has been really crazy around the cutting table for the past few weeks and the next month promises more of the same. I don't know about your work place and work flow but mine is like getting on a ride at the fair, blindfolded!  You kind of know what to expect, but how the work unfolds is always different. Since I am working on three shows at the same time, you might think that if I couldn't get ahead on one, then I could on another and generally that is true, but sometimes, it just happens that you hit a roadblock of perhaps lack of information, or actor availability. Then sometimes actors show up a different size, or the designer is not available, or the fabric is stuck in customs. Can you guess that all of these things have happened to me this season? So, I feel that I am currently suffering from being spun around on some kind of carnival ride and now I am trying to catch my balance and move forward to the next ride in line.

So, now that you know how I am feeling, I thought I would show you a very interesting technique that I have borrowed from my colleague Evan.
A few years ago he had to make a purple velvet suit, out of that kind of velvet that is like a cat's tongue, very napped, very shiny and very hard to work with.
He controlled the fabric by stitching a grid onto a backing fabric using fusible thread. The velvet was then placed onto this backing, and gently pressed which melts the filament and fuses the two fabrics together.

We had to make a waistcoat out of silk/rayon velvet as well as use it for a facing for an evening dress cape. I don't know if you have ever worked with this fabric but I can tell you that it is not something easy to use. It shifts and wiggles around on the table, it is all drape and no substance! It would make a great bias cut 1930's style dress (as long as I didn't have to sew it). A waistcoat? Well, that is what was asked for and we complied.
This type of fabric doesn't always respond well to being flat mounted just around the perimeter, but it needed some support just to work with it, so we thought we should try out Evan's technique.

We used YLI fusible thread in the bobbin, regular Gutermann thread in the needle. This fusible thread is quite fine, you can break it by hand, so we bypassed running it through the bobbin tension slot, just feeding it through the open space beside the slot.

I cut out rectangles of a very lightweight poly cotton, marked a 2" grid and Denise stitched it.  I cut the velvet in a rectangle as well and the two fabrics were basted together along the perimeter to keep the grains aligned. At the ironing table, they were laid out on the large needle board, and carefully pressed. Once the filament melts, the needle thread can be pulled away if you choose. I recommend doing that so you don't have loose threads floating around that can mark the velvet at subsequent pressings.

Once the fabric was stable, I marked the pattern on it and it was line basted in preparation for sewing.
Sewing this kind of velvet still presents a challenge, so if you find yourself in this situation, do a sample. Putting a welt pocket into this was painful, and finally it was sewn in by hand, rather than fight with it at a machine.
If I was going to do this again, which I hope I don't have to any time soon, I would choose a backing with a bit more substance than what I used. I would also try to figure out a way to pre-fuse behind the welt pocket- not sure how but it would make cutting into the corners of the welt pocket less tedious.
Sorry Denise! she sewed the waistcoat and it did try her patience to the utmost!! In retrospect I would have changed the darting too. I needed the waist dart shaping but I should have reverted to just a single vertical dart. Sorry Denise! Can I apologise enough?
Well, if we have to do it again in the future, I hope I will have more thinking time and will improve the process!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ruff details

Just a few more thoughts and pictures of a couple of ruffs we are working on.
As I mentioned, these ruffs are simpler than the circular kind, but there are a few things we think makes a difference in the finished item.

The edge! It help to have an extra bit of something on the outside edge. The ruff starts as a layer of fabric with a layer of marquisette laid on top and stitched down the centre.  Karen then inserted a heavy fishing line in the folded edge of the fabric. Once this step is complete, the inner edge needs to be stitched
together. Both of these ruffs were stitched once with a straight stitch to hold the layers then zigged closely and trimmed.

Silvia's ruff has an edge finished with a close serge in black using woolly nylon thread. As well, we finally found a use for those decorative stitches that seem to be included on many domestic sewing machines! A nice floral stitch pattern added along the edge of the fabric gives the impression of the ever popular blackwork look.
You can see the ruff being gathered up here, mark the spacing you want, then stitch by hand through the dots and gather up the resulting pleats. You need to allow for the turn of cloth when calculating the spacing. For instance, these are pleated up at 1 1/2 inches to be stitched to a 1 1/4 inch band.

Both top and bottom of the pleats are stitched to the band. The outside edge of the ruff also needs to be stitched together by hand. These are stitched about 1/4 of the way up from the folded edge to hold the figure eight shape.

The last picture is the ruff almost complete. We are not sure of the exact size required yet, as it will be attached to a doublet collar, which is still under construction. We have allowed some extra fabric to pleat and extra neck band length, so it can be adjusted to fit, then finished.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

more ruffs!

Was it only just last year that we made some big circular figure eight ruffs?
Well, this year I think we will make more and just to keep things interesting, we are also making some straight grained ruffs.
Now, figuring these out is a lot easier as they are literally straight grain lengths of fabric, drawn up and sewn to a neck band.
One thing we did differently this year was the neckband. The change to our approach came out of not being able to find the right width of grosgrain! We wanted 1 1/4 inch wide but couldn't find any at the time, so what we did was zig together two 5/8 inch pieces, and mount them onto a 1 1/2 inch band. That meant there was a 1/4 inch left that we stitched another piece of grosgrain to, forming a flange that would tuck down inside the collar of the doublet.
Now we can attach the snaps to the flange piece...duh! why didn't we think of doing this last year? Oh well, live and learn! I love it when this kind of thing happens.

Here you can see the clever flange/band technique!

More descriptions and details to come........

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dart manipulation and doublets

 I am making a few doublets this year and this one  happens to have horizontal lines of trim which means I will want to move my dart shaping to accommodate the design.

I started with an understructure that is seamed vertically and you can see the shaping that is built into it.
These doublets fit the body quite closely and I often opt for a more modern approach in the understructure, accommodating the body with darts or seaming. It is easier to fit this way and allows us to manipulate the outer fabric over the shape more akin to the period.

Once I have fit the understructure, I correct the pattern and in this case, manipulate the darts into horizontal lines which is where the trim will be featured. You can see that the front dart turns into very minimal darts into the side seam, and this will be easy to ease in. The back shoulder dart and the blade dart/seam reveal the greater amount of shaping required to fit the back of the body. This results in two seams horizontally in the upper back area as they are too large to ease in nicely. The centre back here is on the fold which is how the over layer will also be cut.
After I drew in my lines and double checked that I liked the placement, I then had to mark in the positions of the slashing, and get some samples of the slashing made to see whether the  slashes could just be straight cuts, or should be shaped cuts allowing more of the under colour to show through. The original concept had a flat red silk under the slashes, but it looked a little uninspired, so the designer asked for something with a bit more oomph, so we are experimenting with it here.

As I was getting this prepared for waiting hands, I was reminded about how much time it takes to prepare all the elements of the patterning as well as decoration and to cut all the pieces out. The sleeves also have this treatment of lines of trim with slashing in between and the silk underneath!  
Luckily I have very experienced team members who love the challenge of sampling and trying out ways to get the result we are after and it lets me focus on drawing out all the details.
Maybe a bit too much of the under silk here but it is headed in the right direction.

Monday, February 3, 2014

vintage shirt donation

I was walking by the office the other day and noticed a number of shirts, freshly laundered and just hanging on the back of the door.
It turns out that they were a donation.
These are old shirts.
I don't want to quite hazard a guess, without doing a bit of research, but I took some photos to show you. I want to say WWI era to 1920's but I am leaning towards earlier.
They are in very good to fair condition, the fabrics are still bright and crisp, and have been well taken care of.
They are French, as in from Paris, not Quebec.
The labels read David, 32 Ave de l'OPera, Paris. Each shirt has some kind of number hand embroidered in the side seam gusset, which I assume is for laundry services.
They are made with a combination of hand and machine stitching. The buttonholes are all hand made, the machine stitching is tiny tiny tiny- I bet more than 24 stitches per inch. I will have to get closer and count.
A variety of details:
Some of the shirts, such as this one, pull on over the head, some button up the front. One has a contrast bib front in a striped fabric. All have the small band collar made for wearing a detachable collar. This one has fullness gathered into the back yoke, and a small pieced section on the back of the sleeves. The cuffs are interfaced with something very stiff, I had to wet it and press with a hot iron to uncrumple them. I haven't taken any measurements but they are ample in the body, longer in the back and have small hand inserted gussets in the side seams. The seams in general are about .5mm wide, as is the hem.
The armholes are felled with quite a wide finish- 1.5cm or so by guessing.

Maybe someone out there has better sleuthing skills or more time to spend looking for information. I wonder when this business was  operating in this location?

More to come as I have them pressed up and measured.