Monday, March 14, 2011

Procrastination - Burda dress 110

What have I been sewing in the last few weeks? Muslin fitting shells and collars. My sewing buddy T. and I arranged private classes with a favorite instructor on the G Street Fabrics education staff. In the most recent classes we drafted princess line patterns, both armhole and shoulder type, from our darted sloper and fine tuned the fit on multiple muslin shells. We also drafted and draped various styles of collars. The collar activity was a lot of fun and I finally understand the relationship between the shape of collar pattern pieces and the form of the sewn collar. Every drafting and fitting classes I take has resulted in self discovery about my shape and silhouette. Not all of it pleasant or encouraging. For me the alterations I have to make to deal with my asymmetry really bother me. Sometimes it takes me a couple of days and multiple phone calls to T. to come to terms with my discoveries and get the end goal in focus again: well fitted, flattering, custom sewn garments. Our next class assignment is straight from Project Runway. We are to create a design from an inspiration in nature and execute it into a finished garment. On hearing the assignment, I felt panicked, and procrastination mode kicked in. Since we are to be the ultimate model and wearer of the final garment, the instructor recommended a custom croquis for our design sketches. Croquis is French and means simply "sketch". In fashion, the term refers to a quick sketch of a figure with a loose drawing of the clothes that are being designed. This figure is typically 9 heads tall as this is the accepted proportions for fashion illustration. Here is an example.
Real people are typically 7.5 to 8 heads tall. So a custom croquis, made from my own body, would give me a better idea of how a design would look on me. The article "Discover the Best Proportions and Styles for You" in Threads Magazine June/July 2006 (#125) issue has easy to understand instructions on how to make your own croquis. Sorry, I could not find the article online. So one day, when the boys were out of the house, I followed the article's directions. I took pictures of myself in my underwear standing against a white wall, camera set up about 8 feet away on a table at waist height. I took photos of various poses, including the frontal zombie pose, which is good for evaluating your proportions against standard proportions, as well as other poses that were more “fashiony”. I cropped the excess background out of the photos, enlarged them so that my body was about 8 inches high and printed them in portrait mode on regular printer paper; I put tracing paper over the photo and traced the outlines of my body with a fine tip black marker.
Then to test my croquis, I sketched five dress styles I was considering for my next sewing project. Some looked nice, some just okay and some were no way. I’ll let you judge for yourself

I chose one of the more flattering styles to sew. I wanted to see if it would look anything like my croquis sketch. It was the gathered front dress, 110, from the March 2011 issue of Burda Style,
I really wanted to make this dress in light weight stretch linen. Of course I did not have any of that fabric in my stash. The recommended fabric is stretch silk satin. All of the stretch satins I have ever seen are fairly substantial. The fabric in the picture looks like stretch charmeuse to me. This dress really does need to be made from a very thin, soft, stretch fabric because each pattern piece is cut twice from a double layer of fashion fabric, and one set of pieces is used as the lining. And the lining is gathered at the center front and shoulders just as the garment is. The only soft, thin, woven stretch fabric I could find was a mystery fabric from the $2.97/yard table at G Street Fabrics. It was not just stretchy, it was super stretchy. I can run and do high kicks in this dress. Although it was thin, I decided to use the fashion fabric only for the lining in the armhole/neckline area. I added a horizontal seam about 3 inches below the armholes, and made the lining below the seam from nylon tricot. If I had a do over of this dress I would eliminate the gathering at the lining shoulder seam. It makes the shoulders are a bit thick.
This dress has some instructions for less common techniques. The gathering has to be pulled up to specific lengths on the individual garment pieces before sewing the seams on the center front and shoulders . The gathering on the front seam has one section over the bust that has to be gathered tightly to one finished length, but the adjoining section in the waist hip area is loosely gathered to a different length. I was having difficulty fixing the gathering threads so that the gathers stayed at the proper length. I improvised and used what I call "gathering guides". I marked the finished length of the gathers on thin strips of silk organza which I sewed to the gathered sections to hold them in place until I sewed the center front and shoulder seams.
There is a slit in the top of the center front seam that the tie goes through. There are no markings for the slit on the pattern pieces because it is marked after the gathering is done. I searched for marks indicating the location of the slit, thinking I had made a tracing error, before I figured this out.

The directions include a common Burda method for sewing the lining to the arm holes and neck opening of a sleeveless top/dress. It is often illustrated with a picture of a shoulder seam over the handle of a wooden spoon. This method can be hard to figure out from written instructions and can trigger binges of Burda bashing, even from experienced sewists. The method works great, as does a wooden spoon or wooden dowel rod as a pressing aid, if you know how to do it. An alternate method is this one shown in a great tutorial called Lining a sleeveless dress at Stichywitch's blog.

Here is the finished dress. I am in the same pose I used for the croquis. It does look remarkably similar.
That means I probably won’t be making the Vogue dress shown above, even though it uses a neat technique with wired ribbon on the front neckline that I really want to try. If my sketch is accurate, the dress will make me look like a human bowling pin. Sigh. Enough procrastination. I am off to pick a nature inspiration and come up with a garment design before Friday's class.