Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sky Blue Venetian Gown

Ever since I first saw the portrait of 'La Bella Nani' several years ago, I have been wanting to make a Venetian style gown like the one in the painting. Up until now, I have not dared to try. So, here goes. Several hours of perusing other dress diaries of the same style, and lots of googling, here I am. A few weeks ago I was at the pub where I work and saw a package of fabric laying on a shelf. Upon closer inspection I found a pair of ivory cotton blend curtains with a simple scroll design on them. My boss said I could have them, since they'd been lying around for over a year and no one had claimed them, so naturally, I did! (Incidentally I also got a nice piece of red cotton velveteen from this same pub, it had been stuffed in a dusty hole under the benches next to the gas pipes along with scraps of newspapers from 40 years ago). A couple of boxes of Dylon Fabric Dye in China Blue and a rented washing machine later, I had this lovely shade of baby blue. The scroll pattern shows up a LOT more when it's this colour, and I'm still deciding if I like it or not, but it is pretty....just, maybe not too period (although I didn't think polka dots were period and then they found a polka dotted damask child's burial gown from the same time period). So given that, I'm going to ignore the pattern for now. I'm sewing the entire gown with white thread, so if I ever change my mind and decide to remove the colour, I'll be ok.. I am going to make this gown with a slightly less pointy front and
with a split skirt, using a white damask fabric as a completely separate petticoat. I'll only be using the damask for the front half, since I don't have enough for a full skirt. I found some lovely handmade looking lace with pointy bits that looks a lot like the laces I've seen in some other Venetian gowns, and that will be going around the neckline, cuffs, and possibly the shoulders as well, depending on what I'm going to do with the sleeves. I'm not going to have cutwork sleeves, as I don't want to go out and buy a matching velvet or another fabric for them, (the blue fabric frays like heck). I think I might have paned sleeves, fitting tightly, with slashes running down them like the Red Pisa Gown, but due to me having limited fabric (and wanting a full skirt) I may jazz it up with some thick white velvet ribbon on the edges of each blue panel, and to imitate slashes, join the ribbon/fabric panels together at regular intervals with pearls. For the gown I am going to try the doppia technique as shown here, and I am going to make a corded hem on the petticoat to make it stand out a bit. I hate hoopskirts. Mine always get bees and wasps stuck up them. I am terrified of wasps. For the corded hem, I'm thinking of buying some of the horrid, but semi thick orange rope they always use for construction projects. It's 100%plastic, so washing won't be a problem. It holds it's shape, and it's the right mix of firm/flexible to work..I think. We'll see. For the bodice I have used the corset pattern for Simplicity 2621 without the tabs, and modified a little. For starters, I made the opening at the front, and cut the back in one piece. I also made the shoulder straps wider, and longer. The picture below you can see that when I cut out the pieces, I made sure the blue polarfleece was cut about 1cm skinnier than the other layers for seam allowance, so I was only sewing the thin fabrics together.

 I rarely go out and buy fabric for a specific project, unless
it's a customer's order. For me, I tend to make do with what
I have around the house. For instance, 1 white cotton drill
type fabric in the form of a bedsheet (no longer! mwahaha)
white iron on interfacing, and the remnants of blue polarfleece
which I was going to use for a coat for my daughter.

Cutting the fleece just inside the seam lines allowed me to
sew only the thinner layers together and resulted in nice flat
seams. To stiffen the whole shebang, I stitched rows of zigzag
stitches along just the inside unseen layers then starched the heck
out of the whole thing.In the process I discovered that if you let
starch dry on you while sitting on the floor doing all this,
you will be glued to the carpet.

First attempt was a resounding success. Please ignore
my sad quickie attempt at linen breastbinding, but I
had to cover with something. Next time I will stitch
the rows of zigzag in the direction I want the front
to go (not straight up and down, unless the front is
flat and not a V-opening like here, and I will cut
only 2 layers or less of fabric at a time.
My poor scissors. My poor fingers!


Hor those who have said 'Venetian gowns had only closed skirts!' Here is my proof otherwise. Ha!
AND it has paned sleeves....

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Gown Photoshoots!

I found this lovely photographer named Az, the genius behind LemonTree Photography ( One cold spring morning earlier this year he and I wnet out to the hill behind the town I'm in and took these photos (and a lot more).

This photo made me want to put fur (faux) on one of my next gowns....

Italian Renaissance gown, Ophelia style

The first proper gown I made, I made this during my
16th year, mostly on the school bus, and during
classes, choir (while singing), maths, English, and
occasional science classes :-)

My 'Mary of Scots' gown, amazing what fabric does for the
overall look of a gown

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Life, Divorce, Drama, School, and Work. Not to mention children.

Yep, I have been occupied offline with 'other things'. See title of post. I may or may not be going to school in the UK, and I will be moving in the next few months. Which means, all my sewing kit is in boxes, and my usual fall/winter flurry of dressmaking activity has been suspended. BUT, I do have some snapshots of finished gowns sent in from customers taken 'right out of the box'.

I sold my first ever Elizabethan gown to this girl for her first faire,
I must say, her hat is much cooler than mine was!
She's wearing it off the shoulder and with the ruff loose,
but hey, it still looks cool!

This is Di's gown, she just took it out of the box and popped it on,
no underlayers or ironing so it's a bit loose (as requested) and sadly, wrinkly...
I really wish I'd gotten time to take more pics of the detail..

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

WHEE! Nearly there!

Di's gown is almost done! I have cartridge pleated the skirt, finished the bodice etc. All that remains to be done is to put the boning along the zipper in the bodice, hem it, put the hooks and eyes on the forepart and skirt, and add the trim, most of which will be done today. Muriel's gown has the lining done, boning put in, underskirt finished, all I have to do is piece together the outside of the gown, attach it to the lining, put on the zipper and trim, and voila! HOI's gown is cut out, minus the bodice as I still have to wait for her to get the mockup, and is one of the simplest so far due to really easy fabric to work with. At this rate the first two gowns should be shipped out by early next week, and the third by the middle of the month! Photos will come later, I am too busy to upload now!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Yargh, January is not my month.

I am going to simply re-do the slashed sleeves, with some beads on the ends, but with smaller slashes, and no ribbon trim for Di's gown. It will look a LOT better. For Muriel's gown, I am going to use the current polyester habotai skirt I have as a removeable (maybe) underskirt only. I have purchased 100% real silk habotai, and will be using that for her gown instead. One good thing though, for the third and final gown order I've had so far, I managed to make a mint green fabric, look like a lovely sage colour! It did take 2 baths of Dylon Olive green, but, SUCCESS!! It is a shade darker than her original colour sample, but VERY close to her final choice of fabric (which was sold out. I should be the only person allowed to sop at my local fabric store. such hassle of finding replacements!). I finally found a childminder, now I just need a little more time on my own, WHE I'm awake, and I'll be able to FINALLY finish them! Having a toddler who won't watch TV on her wn nstead wnting to ''help'' mama, is an adorable, but nearly impossible to work around distraction. Tonight, I crack down on the gowns. Coffeepot, here I come!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Spanish Style Slashed sleeves

As you probably may know from my earlier posts, Di wants to have Spanish style sleeves with her gown, with slashes, and a hanging oversleeve. I have never done this before. Annnd...the fabric we have for the undersleeve isn't exactly goes...

As the sleeves in the photo are made of 2 fabrics, I laid my 2 fabrics out like this under the pattern,
leaving about 1/2 inch for seams, and pinning everything well in place.

I then ironed on my extremely period-accurate fusible interfacing
(ok, they used other stuff, but this is easier, and won't be visible!)
then went a little slash-happy with my x-acto blade. I made the cuts slashes
 rather than 'pinks' like Isabel's portrait due to the frayable nature of this fabric.

I cut rectangles of my second type of silk (the silk haj) and gathered
them at the ends and basted them in place all the way around the slash

I hand sewed the white trim, and then added tiny baby blue seed
beads just for an aditional effect if anyone looks up close.

The inspiration....

Friday, 14 January 2011

Third gown order!

Whee! So, I am just about done with Muriel's skirt (as in, I'm taking  coffee break then it'll be done!), am cutting out Di's as well which will be together by tomorrow, both bodice mockups fit pretty well, adjustments noted and are on their way back, which means..THE FUN PART STARTS NOW!!! Oh I SO want a tailor's dummy....
Also, I have one new gown order in! She also wants the Queen Mary style gown (as I've taken to calling it) and she's chosen a lovely sage green fabric (middle), with a lining in a berry red satin (left), with berry red trim as well. GORGEOUS! Happy days, now, back to work!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Just a note.......

I am NEVER working with synthetic silk/habutae again. EVER. Muriel's gown is going to be gorgeous, and the skirt will flow beautifully, but it took me THREE hours to piece together her skirt, measure and pin the hem, and sew 2 feet of it. And that's only the first seam. As I'm doing French seams, after I stitch the hem up, I have to go back and sew each of the panels again. Normally, not a problem. But with lightweight slippery fabric that wants to do it's own thing? It's a pain in the butt. And some of the seams aren't straight so I'll be going over those again. I am NOT looking forward to the bodice, but perhaps due to it being lined and stiffened with several layers of fabric, it will be easier than working with the habutae on it's own. Anyways, After I managed to piece together the skirt, trim the seams, measure and pin the hem (using Di's measurements accidentally), then measure it again (this time using the correct ones) then starch and iron it on the lowest possible setting, then pin some more, then trim said hem, then FINALLY begin to sew it, a tiny piece of thread got stuck in the bobbin of my machine and jammed it so I had to open it up, and used this as an excuse to take it apart, clean and oil it, put it back together, and then broke my needle. LOL. I have more needles. Somewhere. I have organized and can no longer find anything! Anyways, Muriel, if you're reading this, I blame me for offering false silk habutae as a fabric option. PLEASE don't ask for it agan if you order anything else from me? I'm begging you!! Other fabrics (aside from acetate satin and polyester organdi/organza) are sooo much easier to work with!) Linen perhaps? Cotton velvet? Duchess satin? Brocade? Wool? SO much more preferable haha. Anyways, I WILL win. End of story. Once I am finally done fighting with the skirt, and have won the battle (and oh I will dammit), have hemmed it and finished the seams, then I'll be making Di's skirt, which should go a little quicker due to the cotton vevet having a tendency NOT to slip everywhere.
Acres and acres of skirt! And that's not all of it folks...

Silk Haj partlet and other things

I bought some 100% silk haj to use with Di's gown in the sleeves and also to use to make an Italian Renaissance style partlet out of. I have never worked with silk haj before. I have never worked with any fabric that is thinner and about at flimsy feeling as toilet paper either. 2 hours of VERY careful hand-stitching later (I love it when the pub-my work- is empty, so much spare time!) and I have sewn up ONE side of the front and carefully stiched on clear faceted seed beads over the pale yellow/gold thread. I was going to have it beaded and embroidered, similar to the portrait on the left, but then decided to make it easier on myself and I bought a bronze large dress net to sew over the top to be a little more similar to Eleanora's portrait above. My plan was to fix it to the silk at each cross-section with a small bead. Except that the bronze doesn't really go with the yellow thread and clear seed beads. Now I'm thinking I'll stick to my original plan of embroidering it, and adding a collar with a thin lace trim and making it an Elizabethan style partlet instead or perhaps one with a short standing collar trimmed in lace like many of the Medici women's portraits. Except, I am going to not only use an embroidery hoop, but I will be tacking paper, with a pattern drawn on (in light pencil) or printed on to the back and sewing the design on with the paper to give the fabric more substance. I can then just dampen the fabric and peel the wet paper off later. This stuff is as light as spiderwebs, floaty and a pain in my bum. But SO soft, and so gorgeous! For embroidery patterns I found a book called Tudor Treasures to Embroider at the library and I will be printing out a few patterns from there.

2 hours, for this?? Really? Ok I was working too, but still...
not incredibly proud of this, but, once starched and
embroidered, it can be redeemed....

My other idea, to stitch on this net. I think I'll make
2 on one and one netless

Thursday, 6 January 2011

What a week.......

The red stuff, the gold stuff, and the pink stuff. None of it is incredibly period. 
So my personal life is undergoing some MAJOR issues and changes, and I have either been working or exhausted in the last week and sadly haven't gotten as much done as I'd like. Luckily, there is tomorrow morning, and Saturday and Sunday evenings to work on the gowns. I did get both bodice mockups basted together and shipped out and both ladies should have them in the next day or so, and I am eagerly anticipating the results, and hoping desperately there is little to be done. In the meantime I am cutting out the skirts, and piecing them together, and I want to get work started on the sleeves, but I think it would be prudent to wait to see how much alteration the bodices need first. I'll cut out the shoulder rolls instead. I have also discovered that I despise habutae 'silk'. It's slippery and disobedient and a pain in the arse to keep placed properly with the pattern. Luckily, I have had no mishaps so far, and I have plenty of fabric to work with. The cotton velvet is my friend right now. Much easier to work with. I am also going to go find some extra trim for Muriel's gown. She is playing Queen Mary, yet her green gown is bit austere, even for Mary with only one type and colour of 'layce' (braid trim). I may get some velvet ribbon in black or a darker green and put it underneath the braid just to give it a more opulent feel. If she lets me I'll add some tiny false pearl beads to the trim as well. No extra cost, I'm just bored! Di's gown is easier as far as sizing, she is nearly my exact size. I have grown a bit bigger it seems, I am no longer 32, 23, 33, my bust I was going off bra size but in reality I am a 29, 26, 35. My butt got bigger after baby, well, not my butt, my hips widened. The mystery of why my jeans feel weird is now solved. I have hips!
I am also making myself another gown for the faires this year, 3 actually, and boy oh boy am I going to have fun! An Italian Renaissance style gown in the style of Empress something or other from Portugal and Eleanora de Toledo, an Italian ''courtesan'' gown, most likely with cutout sleeve detail as in the photo on the left, and another Elizabethan gown, when  find enough money to buy the jaqquard I want! I have a red damask to use but I'm not sure if I have enough, and an antique gold one with a checkered-weave to it and a more modern looking pattern, I think I may actually dye the fabric an emerald green so that it is a slightly shimmery silk damask look and the pattern will dissapear a bit. I have an emerald green 'silk' and pure gauzy white silk as well. I have also fallen in love with a robin's egg blue jaqquard with red, pink, green and gold floral motifs, which is kinda period. I might be stretching it a little, but it's GORGEOUS! I am going to be buying oodles more of the silk to dye it as well and make myself a fairy gown for Faerieworlds music festival this year as well. It is so light, gauzy and floaty, I'll line it with a sheer cotton muslin and dye the whole piece together...sooo excited! I never have actually done that before...