Friday, November 6, 2015

tuxedos and tails

Ahh, this post will be a bit rambling! I feel quite tired!

What have I been up to lately?

Well it seems formal wear has figured prominently this fall. I had a call from a friend who was working on a tv show, and they needed a tailsuit in about two weeks, could I do it?

I already had commited to making some skating costumes but I did not have designs or fabrics yet  and you know what happens once you say yes to one thing, then all the other things suddenly start to happen!

So I said yes and the fabric arrived two days later. I started patternmaking, then cutting and then we made up a period tailsuit - waistcoat, trousers and coat, using very inadequate measurements, no fitting and crossed fingers.
Rush job number one!
Of course part way into the process, I received designs and fabric and the deadline info for the skating costumes. Yikes!
These had to have a fitting- just time for one fitting mind you- and the only time that everyone was able to be together- skaters, myself, and the designer, only left us a window of 5 days to finish and deliver.
That was rush job number two.

It had its share of challenges stretch fabrics for a tuxedo, non stretch for a sweater like garment....which I hope to get time and inclination to organize my thoughts so I can post about it!

A big sigh of relief when I received messages that everything was great and off they went to compete, and they won! Hurray!
Three days later I get an SOS message, and it turns out they needed to change their program completely and they had two weeks to pick new music, do new choreography and have new costumes made. Could I do it?
What can you say?  How terrible for them to be put in such a position!  I said yes.
So the change was to a tailsuit, with a nod to the Edwardian era, and with a bit of ambassadorial splendor.
So trousers, waistcoat, bow tie, order and medal, sash and a tailcoat. The fabric arrived Friday morning. I cut all day Friday, we sewed Saturday, fit it on Sunday and finished it on the Friday.  They tried it on ice on Sunday, and flew to their next competition Tuesday.
Rush job number three.
Oh, they won by the way! yay!

Then I got sick. Of course- too much stress and your body kicks you when you are down.

I leave tomorrow to work for a month in Montreal.
Four weeks to cut and make a show- which compared to what I have been doing, seems like "bloody luxury" as we say -but I am sure it will have it moments of being a rush job too.

Here's a photo or two for good measure. They were taken from their tumbler site. No photos of the tails for the tv show- I don't know if it has aired yet....

These two - Andrew Poje and Kaitlyn Weaver are just wonderful - as athletes and as people- they are as lovely as they look.

 That's all for now, I have to go and pack.

Monday, September 28, 2015

reducing bulk in seams

This is a bit of a long post!

One thing I find challenging in building period costumes is how to deal with multiple layers and the resulting bulk in seams.

In this mock up of a doublet I had to figure out how to deal with the bulk of seam allowances that could end up in the armhole.
How much bulk is too much- when does it get difficult to sew and more important irritating to wear? Lets talk about the armholes first.
We have the body of the doublet which is a sturdy cotton duck with velvet flat mounted over it. The doublet will also have a lining in it. Three layers in the body armhole.

There is a long under sleeve that will be in velvet. It needs to be flat mounted on a lightweight cotton to keep it stable, as it will get trim. There will be a lining in the sleeve as well. Three layers in the under sleeve.

The small puff sleeve goes over top of the long sleeve and it will remain unattached on its bottom edge-
This puff consists of a base shape in cotton, onto which we sewed a few rows of gathered netting to create the rounded shape. Over the netting, there is a gathered layer of fabric- lets call that the pouf.
Then, over the pouf are panes, each of which consist of a base layer of cotton silesia, then a piece of fusible cut to the finished size of the pane. The velvet will get flat mounted on top of this. Each pane will have a trim applied to the long edges, and then each pane will be lined.

So that is two layers for the base and pouf, then panes have silesia, velvet, and lining, plus trim.

So that is a lot of fabric into an armhole.

I went on a bit of a search at work and saw a number of different techniques dealing with this issue. On some ladies garments with paned sleeves, the panes were bound off with one continuous binding, and the binding was hand sewn to the outside of the armhole. This kept quite a flat profile to the top of the sleeve as the panes do not have to curve up and over.

I liked that but thought it might be not strong enough for this costume, but it did give me an idea!

Here is my idea sample:

What I did was cut a piece of bias and sew the panes to it by machine. I then wrapped the bias around the seam allowance of the panes and stitched it down.

Turn this around and lay it over the sleeve and you get this:

So, now I have eliminated all the bulk inherent in the panes from going into the armhole. Yay! 

The bias was cut from the same material as the pouf, so the binding will just disappear. The bias is stitched to the sleeve base along the sewing line. This does not mean that sewing this sleeve in will be made any easier, because it must be carefully stitched right up against the edge of the binding, but it does eliminate bulk.

The view from the bottom- all the component layers are caught together and bound off in matching velvet.
Just a look at the sleeve from the side. 

and lastly, a fitting photo before all this was figured out! 

Monday, August 31, 2015

coming up for air, and more ruffs

The season at work ended in much the same way as it progressed all year- at full speed and intensity!

I went away for a week, but once I was back home, I felt that I should just remain horizontal for as long as possible in order to replenish my mind, and get rid of the tension in my neck. I needed some time to reconnect with my husband and daughter, and do something with my garden before the neighbours complained.
I have been diligently looking for work as well, so I may have two upcoming projects. For now though, I want to make a few notes and posts about some other things I worked on this season while it is still somewhat fresh in my mind.

Before I get to that I wanted to show you the ruff that we made for the black doublet/large trunkhose costume.
This ruff was quite large (71/2" neck edge to outer edge) as the character was supposed to look like his head was on a plate. The designer wanted to support the ruff with a wire frame or supportasse. This became a project between myself and the millinery and bijoux departments.

My part of it was not only to make the ruff, but to give my co-workers a neck shape to work from.
I have seen examples of these supportasses with circular spaces for the neck, but the neck is not  circular, so we needed to start with a proper shape.
We also needed to figure out how the ruff and supportasse worked with the doublet. As well, how does the actor get into it?

Since we were using a wire frame, we determined that the ruff will sit along the top edge of the doublet collar. We have to attach the ruff to the supportasse and the whole unit to the doublet collar. It needs to be removable for both cleaning and storage as well as just to functionally put it on.

I have seen examples of wire supportasses that had "prongs" of wire that extended downwards and were inserted in channels on the collar, but we decided against that.
In the end we decided to make the grosgrain neckband of the ruff extra deep.
I believe we made it 1 3/4" deep in the end. The depth of the ruff at the neck edge was only 1 1/8" which left us with a good 1/2" of grosgrain "flange" that would tuck inside the doublet collar. We sewed snaps onto the flange and matched them to snaps that were sewn to the inside of the doublet collar.

Once the ruff was prepared, we had a fitting to confirm the fit of the doublet collar. At this stage the ruff is not completely finished- we always leave extra length in the grosgrain and of the ruff fabric to make any further adjustments.
We had prepared a flat template in light cardboard of the ruff  size with the shape of the neck cut out. Then we confirmed the angle that the designer wanted the ruff to sit at. Once the neck shape in cardboard was correct, the supportasse was made. An important note- the supportasse does not meet at the CF. It has a gap of approx 2 inches to facilitate putting it on.

We then laid the ruff on the supportasse and basted them together aligning the inside neck edges.
At this point we had a final fitting. We then removed the supportasse and finished off the ends of the grosgrain and the ruff itself, then added closures to the front of the ruff and reattached the ruff to the supportasse by hand.

The ruff was the last piece of costume that the actor puts on. Once his doublet is fastened, the ruff is put on by twisting the front edges in opposite directions just enough to get his neck through it. Then it is aligned and snapped to the doublet collar. This takes a bit of dexterity by the dresser who has to reach over the ruff and get their fingers of one hand in between the actors neck and the ruff grosgrain, to locate the snaps by feel, while with the other hand is under the ruff, supporting and pressing the snaps together from the outside. The ruff opening at centre front is snapped together last.

I think it turned out well, but I did wonder a bit about the amount of fabric needed for ruffs this large in diameter. I wondered if we should have sewn the inner neck pleats closer together, forcing more fabric into the neck circumference thereby using more fabric overall which would translate into more fabric to arrange on the outer circumference.

Just something to contemplate for the next time, but I think in the end it turned out rather well. I will have to keep my eye on it and see how it fares over a season of wear and tear. Hopefully we can get more than a few years out of a ruff as they are time consuming (expensive) to make.

Next week I hope to get some thoughts on paned and puffed sleeves onto "paper"

Sunday, August 2, 2015

catching up - Trunkhose

Well, time just seems to be in short supply these days.
We have had such an intense couple of weeks trying to get these two shows up and running. It required a few more people than expected and luckily management was able to bring in some extra hands to assist us. I am just coming up for air now!
We also have had an unusual situation in requiring a rebuild of a doublet, so we will be whipping together a new doublet at top speed, because we are scheduled to be finished our work by Friday.

Where did we leave off?
ahhh... trunkhose. I was really trying to get a pair fully documented but due to the intensity of the many aspects of my job, I cannot seem to get time to get a photo at every stage, no matter how I try!

So here is what I do have.

The breeches are gathered in at the waist and checked before the excess fabric above the waistline is cut away. We started with a large pleat at the centre front and centre back then ran gathering stitches by machine, using a heavy nylon thread in the bobbin. The two layers of silk here just managed to be gathered to size. If we couldn't gather it by machine, (the machine stitch length is limited to 5 or 6mm) our only other option was to hand stitch the gathering lines. 

Once everything is deemed to be okay, the waistband fabric is stitched to the silk. The inner trouser is put in place- you can see its seam allowances sticking out of the leg in this picture.

After that we attach the two layers together.
In this method of having an inner and outer layer, we are making the inner layer the most functional- in that the CF fly has a zipper and a structured waistband. The outer shell of silk therefore floats over top, attached at the top of the inside kneeband and at the waistline. 
The seam allowances of the gathered silk layers at the waistband are turned downwards, and live in between the inner and outer layers. this makes the waistband smooth and flat. If those seam allowances were left upwards as one would normally do with a pair of trousers, the waistline would become thicker and bulky and then the doublet would not fit over it all. 

This does take a bit of wrangling, marrying the two layers together at the waist. 

We get it all in place, basted by hand, then using a zipper foot, stitch by machine through the waistline catching all the layers together. The top edge of the silk waistband is then hand felled to the inner structured waistband to finish them. The centre front of the silk layer can either have its own closures or it can be slipped down to the CF of the inner breeches. You have a few choices in how you want them to close.

I think one of the advantages of making them like this, is that the top layer could easily be removed from the inner if you wanted to reconfigure them for someone else in the future. The inner structure is smooth against the person wearing them, the profile of the outer silk can be changed by adjusting the inner leg length, so they can be altered for a different design or taller or shorter person fairly easily.

I did get some photos of the almost finished outfit on a hanging stand, but the stand is much longer in the body than the actor wearing these so please imagine if you will, the waistlines meeting!

I hope my verbal descriptions make sense to you. Perhaps next time we make a pair of these I will get a chance to take the missing photos!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Trunkhose continued

Sorry for the delay in the trunkhose saga- it is getting to that time of the work season where any extraneous activity (other than a glass of wine and putting your feet up) seems impossible.

So, continuing where I left off, the bottom edge of the trunk hose was prepared with the cartridge pleating stitching in place. This is done with heavy thread (to prevent breakage!) and consists of a running stitch of the length you want the pleats to be, in and out at 3/4 inch for this project. this is not the same as "picking up the dots" method in which you take a tiny stitch every 3/4".

We need something to attach the pleating to, and in this case we need a knee band. In the toile, the band was a straight band of grosgrain, but I wanted to try to form a shaped band. I also wanted the band to extend below the attachment level so we had a visual "knee band" without adding a separate piece.
To create this we shaped a wide piece of grosgrain, and covered it with a piece of the silk cut on the bias. it is sewn on from the inside, wrapped around the lower edge to the right side, and attached at the top edge by serging the pieces together.

A stitch was made in the middle to mark the line where the pleats will attach and then the pleats are marked out at .5mm spacing.

Once the band was ready the cartridge pleats are drawn up and sewn by hand with strong thread to the marks on the band.
I didn't get a picture of the actual stitching- sorry- but it is the same method as seen in the ruff posts here.

Here is a shot of the inside of the leg and another picture showing the outside of the leg.

Next step will be joining the two legs together, then  installing the inner trouser and arranging all that fabric at the waist.
Then a fitting!

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!