Thursday, November 20, 2014

Diderot stays FINALLY (almost)

I finally made these (almost). By almost I mean that I haven't put the grommets in or made the shoulder straps yet, but they are almost functional.

These stays were hell for me to do. It's because of having to mark the boning channels on the pattern pieces. That always gives me terrible anxiety.

Are these even the Diderot stays? I actually just remembered that I made them from Ralph Pink's free pattern. Did he base that on the Diderot stays?

As per my usual approach to these kinds of things, I didn't do anything to size these to fit me. Well I made one muslin about two years ago, which was just from the printed pattern. It was slightly too big, so for these I just traced the pattern pieces out without the included seam allowance and hoped for the best. I actually think they're going to work out well.

I boned them with narrow cable ties. I like the way it looks, but I'm not sure how much shaping it's going to provide. I actually finished binding this a couple of months ago, but then started thinking it was too flimsy, and that the hopsack fabric I used was just going to fray to little bits when I started poking holes for the grommets and the grommets were going to tear out like they did on my first Victorian corset, and then I thought I would make a stomacher and have these front lacing as well as back lacing, but then realized I had accidentally used up the rest of my hopsack fabric on my dog's Halloween costume and I'd totally forgotten that I was also going to need to make shoulder straps and OH GOD WHYYYYY.

So I had a meltdown.

But I recently started working on my friend Melissa's stays from Costume Close-Up, and then started stressing out about how to connect the panels together because I'm trying to make them using historically correct techniques (except for machine sewing the boning channels). So I decided to use my hopsack stays to practice.

Costume Close-Up says the panels of the stays in the book were butted together and whip-stitched. I read somewhere else online regarding some other extant stays that they were butted together and sewn together using a joining stitch.

So I did this, and it wasn't difficult at all!

I also decided to line it with this sturdy cotton fabric I found at Saver's. I don't know what you'd call it.

See, how the writing says "81.5 m"? I don't think it's ever been cut. My conversion calculator says 81.5 m = 89 yds. I haven't been able to unfold it all the way to measure it out because it's a huge heavy pile of fabric and if I try to lay it out on the sewing table, my cat will sit on it and will keep trying to sit on it every time I move her, and if I lay it out on the floor the dog will want to play with it.

It was only $7.99! Did I really need 90 yards of Japanese (or is it Chinese?) sailcloth (or whatever it is)? No. But it was a hell of a deal.

So being that I'm impatient to get this damn thing done so I can order my Anglaise pattern from Larkin and Smith, I decided to just lay the stays out on a length of this fabric and trace the outline rather than cut out and sew up the pattern again.

Will this work? I don't know. I'm not going to line the tabs.

I clipped the curves, pinned it to the inside, and started to slip-stitch it to the edges of the stays while watching The Paradise.

I think this lining is going to make the stays a lot more sturdy.

I'm hoping I can get it done by this weekend so I can set the grommets. My dad has an awesome work table in his garage and the weather should be warm enough that my hands won't go numb while working on it. Mayhaps I can also set the grommets in my Victorian corset so that I can model both next week.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Semi-annual blog post: Simplicity 7541, the most perfect dress pattern EVER

I logged into Blogger last week to check my favorite blogs and was appalled to see that my last post was at the end of July. Not that anyone has noticed, but I still felt bad about it. I need to do some more "Old Letters" because I've got some really juicy ones, I need to do some dress pattern write-ups, and I need to talk about the stays I've been working on. Oh, and my Victorian corset.

But for right now, I give to you the most perfect dress pattern in the world: Simplicity 7541, a vintage 1997 pattern for a pullover a-line dress. It had been in my stash for about a year before I finally made it up, and since then, I've made FOUR of these in different fabrics. I only have pics of one of the dresses--no wait, I made one for my Galveston beach weekend with my sister and she snapped a pic when I wasn't looking.

Let's take a look:

Front, obviously. That little buckle in the neckline isn't a sewing mishap. The dress just got hung up on m'lady and I didn't notice while I was taking the pictures.
Side front.

Can't really see the dress but isn't the beach GORGEOUS in the morning? My sister and I have decided to buy condos next door to each other on the beach when we retire and wear muumuus and drink cocktails on our porches every evening while watching the sun set over the ocean. We will be known as "you mean those old ladies that are always outside drinking?"

These pictures may not show the awesomeness of this pattern, but I assure you, it is the best for the following reasons:

1. It's only two pattern pieces.
2. No darts, no gathers, no zippers.
3. It's loose yet skims the figure for a most flattering look.
4. The a-line style would look good on ANYone, any size, any figure type.
5. Cool and comfy in summer. Could make it in wool or flannel and wear it with a cute blouse and tights for winter.
6. It's a perfect "eatin' dress." Meaning, you can pig out and your food baby won't show. That's why I made several for the beach, because my sister and I planned on eating fancy cheeses, salty meats, tiny pickles, crackers, and desserts all weekend, washed down with plenty of whisky, wine, and vodka.***

The pattern comes in two lengths. I made the shorter one and I made it without the pockets. I don't have time for pockets.

The neckline and armholes are supposed to be finished with facings. I didn't use facings.

In my first version of this dress, I used a very lightweight cotton lawn and did a self-fabric lining.

In the yellow version, I lined it with a cotton gauze but I think that was overkill. I just didn't want to do facings.

On the black dress above, I used bias binding for the neck and armholes, which ended up taking longer than putting the dress together.

In retrospect, I think that facings are best if you are using a heavier fabric for this dress. If you're using a lightweight fabric, lining it works best.

The only change I made to the pattern was to shorten the waist by about an inch and a half, because I'm very short-waisted. The pattern does have a slightly fitted bodice in that there's a waist indentation on the pattern, so I felt it would have looked "off" if I hadn't shortened the waist.

I love styles like this because as someone who has tummy issues and frequently has to deal with sudden bouts of bloating (more like inflating, to be honest), I appreciate being able to wear comfortable clothing that's still cute and flattering. A dress doesn't have to hug the body or emphasize any particular part of it to still be cute.

***that lasted about 18 hours and then all we wanted to eat was salad and boiled shrimp.