Monday, April 19, 2010

Better Photos

The Scoop on the Prom Dresses

Although I started these a good 3 weeks ago, I did have some serious problems. For those of you who know the constraints of a deadline, let me just share those problems with you.

First off, let me just say that my hat is off to those who've competed on Project Runway. Having had a slight taste of that -- and I do mean slight, scant, as small a one as you can have -- with deadlines, designing, and fabric choices, I have a huge appreciation for what they do and just how difficult it is.

With JB's dress (blue), I had less problems than I thought. We designed as we went. After an initial muslin, I went to an entirely new set of patterns and accomplished infinitely better results. Once the bodice fit, the only real adjustments were to the chiffon wrap. Once I got that right, the tiny details set in. And those were the major problems. I couldn't get the chiffon to wrap in correctly in the back. I sewed it in and tore it out about 8 times before I finally just gave up and safety-pinned it in. I ended up using 2 bracelets (yes, jewelry bracelets!) for the back ring, and used iron-on rhinestones to accent the back straps. So all in all, short of that back chiffon nightmare, it went together easily and looked gorgeous. Of course, there was the fact that she's a gorgeous girl and a feed sack would have looked amazing on her --

Then there was Barbie's dress. WHAT A NIGHTMARE.

As you may know, I was copying a dress from Cache.

First, getting the bodice to fit. This bodice had a basic underlining that was relatively easy. But the actual front bodice was several strips that were pieced together and then topstitched. So I did about 3 muslins, none of them right. I was using various patterns that looked somewhat like the dress.

The prom was Saturday night, and as of Thursday, I still didn't have a bodice that fit. So I scrapped them all and laid out the Cache dress and started tracing. This worked much better!

So I got that together, and the side seams didn't line up. The chiffon, which I'd tried to cut according to the Cache bodice, didn't hang correctly. I added a couple of triangular pieces to the side seams (scrap pieces of the satin) to get it to fit.

Still it looked horrendous and fit -- well, it didn't fit at all.

So again, I went back to the actual Cache dress. I couldn't understand why the bodice was off when I had copied it exactly! Also I realized I had FORGOTTEN TO BUY AN INVISIBLE ZIP! So on Friday morning, ran around my small town looking for any kind of a zipper or any kind of cheap dress which had a zipper in the right color.

Desperate times call for desperate measures! I called on Babydoll to find something in the closets at home that had a lengthy invisible zip. I thought that amid five daughters, surely we'd find something.

And she came through! She brought down an Isaac Mizrahi black dress that she never wears, and really just isn't her style. I had gotten it on sale at Target. But it had an 18" invisible zipper! I tore it out and used it --it was black, but invisible. One crisis averted.

Also on Friday, I worked again on the fit. I laid out the Cache dress and laid the satin bodice on top, recut the bottom (already sewn) part of the bodice, shortened the top of the chiffon and the underskirt, and voila! It fit!

Also on Friday, I was stressing about the back straps. The Cache dress had essentially square belt buckles into which the straps connected. I found two pendants in the beading section of Wal-Mart, which were silver peace symbols. I also got a package of glass crystals.

So I ended up using a pair of pliers and cutting off the bottom bar sections of the peace symbols. This left me with a circle that had a center bar down the middle. I glued the crystals onto that center bar, and amazingly had two belt-buckle thingys that worked beautifully. Another semi-crisis averted.

The final blow came at 4:00PM on Saturday. The back chiffon just wouldn't lay correctly. I should have just cut it lower -- in hindsight, I realised that would have fixed the problem. But I decided at first to just try and press it. This chiffon was relatively stiff for what it was -- somewhat like soft organza.

But the iron was too hot. I didn't realise. And yes -- you guessed it. I melted a 6" hole in the top of the back of the skirt.

4:01PM: I cried.
4:03PM: I prayed.
4:05PM: I layed out the dress and tried to figure out what to do. I had bought an extra yard of the chiffon, but had odd pieces left.

I ended up tearing out the top of the skirt. Thankfully it was slightly gathered with soft pleats. I pulled the pleats out of the chiffon, and cut out the melted hole. I then put a seam in and reattached it.

But now I had an odd seam going down the skirt about 3" from the side seam. It looked horrendous.

So then I tried cutting 3 square panels and seaming them together. I hemmed 3 sides, gathered the top, and attached it as a train over top of the seamed skirt.

And it worked. At 4:45 I was sewing it in, trying to get it to lay right, scrambling to get it done by 5:00PM.

About 5:15, they walked out the door. I laid down and died. I was so upset. I spent the entire evening trying to rethink the back of that dress.

What I wish I had done was cut the back skirt lower and added a more narrow train. The train I did add took up most of the back of the skirt. While it looked fine, a more narrow top would have been much prettier and still accomplished the job. And it wouldn't have come up higher than I'd liked, and would have fit more nicely.

Honestly, if the Cache dress hadn't cost $278, I would have just told her to wear that. I probably should have!

But she got loads of compliments on her dress, and absolutely nobody had the same one.

I'd like to make her a dress for graduation in June. I'm hoping to start on it next Monday. We'll see (I'm moving tomorrow -- but into a big house where I can have an actual studio in which to sew).

So for those of us who try and try and try, sometimes you just can't win. But in the end, something that is still quite beautiful emerges at the last second. All I can say is this:


Happy sewing--



Better photos to follow, but here's the general idea -- I know, I know, the girls are gorgeous -- not that I'm biased or anything : )

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ongoing Prom Dresses

You know, in my late 20's I actually had a bridal business. I made custom gowns and formal wear, and I did pretty well. That is, until I met enough Bridezillas to drive me completely crazy -- anyway, I'm not exactly a newcomer to this whole big dress thing.

That said, I was making that stuff about 20 years ago! It's still fun but I've lost my familiarity with it. Thank God for muslins!

So it's been slow going, but here's the first real progress on JB's dress. I scrapped the patterns that I began with and started over completely. Now we're on track.

This was made with some green broadcloth that I got on a bolt at a garage sale, plus some blue tulle that had been used for decorating a room -- it's a good start!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Another Quick Tip

I was gathering some fabric today, and I did what I always do. Suddenly I wondered if anyone else does it -- so I thought I'd pass this tip along:

When gathering, oftentimes I have pulled the threads and ended up pulling them completely through, having to stitch the gathering again. The way I avoid that is to take both the bobbin and needle threads at one end and gently pull them at the same time. This "locks" the stitching on one end, and prevents pulling the threads completely out.

Hope this little tidbit helps you. Happy sewing!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easy Fix

Some of you may do this, but I thought I'd offer this tip anyway.

I have a work table, but I haven't had the room to use it. It's an old oak door that weighs about a bazillion tons. I've covered it with blue checked gingham, because it makes it easier to see a straight line.

It sits on sawhorses that a friend made for me, specifically to the height I wanted. So the table sits at just the right height for me. It saves my back.

HOWEVER . . . I'm currently working on the dining room table. I've had to stage my house to sell (it sold before it actually even went on the market -- a God thing), so I had to take the sewing room apart and make it a dining room again.

So today I was cutting the muslins for the prom dresses, and my back was starting to kill me from leaning over the table. It's just a regular dining height table.

Then I remembered.

So I went to the closet where everything is stored, and I got out the bed risers I bought awhile ago.

Problem solved! The table is now at a height that's perfect for me. No more aching back.

If you're working on a table that is just too low, this is a great fix. You can find bed risers just about anywhere. I've seen them at the linen stores and online, and I think I may have even gotten these at Wal-Mart.

Easy fix!