It’s All About the Skirt: a guest post from Studio Faro

Option 21 drapeFor the skirt part of the challenge, I’ve been experimenting with folding, pleating and pinning squares and rectangles of fabric to the bodice on the dummy stand.

But the result hasn’t really captured the essence of the Six Napoleon dress.  

So it is time I hand over to the expert!  Welcome to Anita of Studio Faro as she suggests some ideas on how to recreate the skirt….

#FirstSample Skirt, the Six Napoleon Challenge

Firstly I’d like to say huge thanks to Sew2Pro for inviting me to contribute to this fabulous challenge.  And it’s so fortunate that dogstar is one of my favourite local brands producing what is most likely the most interesting designs in Australia.  So many local designers are enslaved to overseas trends and fail to develop a distinct design aesthetic.  Not so dogstar!

I’m late to the party so I won’t be covering the bodice development but offering some ideas for the development of the skirt pattern.  Initially I came up with at least three different ways to get at this pattern and I’ve decided to share the most interesting with you here on the Sew2Pro blog.

1 NAP6_draft_1

The first thing that caught my eye in the fabulous dress was the dipped hem in the front and the beautiful and generous hem allowance all so obvious in the transparent silk organza. My challenge was to find a way to cut this skirt so that the front dip was in fact a right angle. Very similar to drafting a circle skirt and leaving the corners on! 

The draft above is how I decided to use 2 metres of polyester organza to replicate the skirt of the Six Napoleon Dress. The cut is based on the width of the fabric (140cm), halved to determine the length of the skirt (70cm), of which 11cm will be the hem turning (to finish at 10cm) and the remaining 59cm are the skirt length. This also presents an opportunity to produce a zero-waste pattern.

Where the skirt has a dip in the hem I’ll be using the corner sections of the cut with a mitre in the very deep hem. There will be one dip in the front and one in the back.

1 NAP6_cut_1

 

The preparation of the skirt for draping goes like this:

  1. Cut the cloth into two pieces along the cut lines and trim the excess from the mitre seams.
  2. Press under the 1cm turning on the deep hem edges and sew the mitre seams.
  3. Join the two side seams using a French seam or equivalent to avoid the use of overlocking.
  4. Press the 10cm deep hem and pin in place and sew.

1 nap6 skirt

Mark the bottom edge of your bodice on your workroom dummy as a guideline for the draping of the skirt.  Please note where I have indicated for you to pin the longest part of the skirt in the front and back.1 nap6 bodice seam

Begin by pinning the corner of the waist seam to the front right and back left as indicated.  Then space the pleating out for each section of the skirt.

1 6nap top skirt

You can manage the direction and fall of each pleat by shifting it above the bodice seam to get the best drape.  The excess above the seamline will be trimmed back to the seam line plus seam allowance (1cm).

As you can see below, the #FirstSample is a reasonable success.  The high/low in the hemline is there and the effect of the deep hem is maintained.  However I do think this would work a lot better with 3 metres of organza for this layer.  That way there’d be a lot more in the pleating around the waist.

1 final sampleFor the lining of this skirt I’d recommend you use a lining cloth of 150cm width and follow the exact same process giving you an underskirt or lining that’ll be 5cm longer than the organza layer.

And of course we must not forget the opening for the dress!  I intend to slash through on the left side of the skirt for a side seam and mark a notch at 15-18cm where the zip is most likely to end.

There are other methods of working on this skirt pattern and I’m looking forward to seeing them in your own workings.  I’ll be sharing my other methods on my blog well-suited in the coming weeks.  I’m so looking forward to seeing all your wonderful dresses when they’re finished.

Thank you so much Anita!  I’m much indebted.  And I look forward to reading more on well-suited (readers, please do subscribe so as to receive Anita’s updates).  

Here’s a round-up of everyone’s progress.  If I’ve left you out, please leave a comment and a link so I can add you.

Mary, a professional couturier, has explained her bodice-making process in this post.

You can ake the bodice only as my friend Jo is doing.

Fabrickated is under strict supervision of her pattern-cutting tutor Vanda who will not let her settle for second-best.  But isn’t the end of term nigh?  Won’t Kate be saved by the bell?!

Of all the bloggers here, Stephanie in Ottawa has the least drafting experience.  Yet her bodice is perfect.  Will she complete the conundrum that is the skirt with the same high standards and attention to detail?

Stephanie on the other side (Ernie K Designs in Seattle) has written a great analysis of pleats evident in the skirt which helped me visualise where I was going wrong with my rectangles.

Demented Fairy is still marking papers but is steaming with enthusiasm to get stuck in.  She also has the expertise, experience and great fabric.

Ruth who is also a teacher gave most of us a massive head start but is back in the sewing room and has now outlined her splendid plan here.  She’s also found a literary connection to the name for this dress.  It turns out it’s just as much about Sherlock Holmes as it is about the French general.

Pella of Pattern Pandemonium has been intrigued enough to experiment with both the bodice and the skirt but hasn’t got the incentive to make the final article.  Will somebody please invite her daughter to a summer ball!  Maybe Anita’s instructions will inspire her to get back to the stand and make is for herself.

As for me, I’m going away.  I’ll be following your progress eagerly and I’ll hopefully be able to leave comments on your posts but no sewing machine anywhere for me.  Which will be hard.

Anyone else tempted to join us?  The deadline for your images and/or posts is the weekend of 6-7 August.

Phantom of the School Ball

1 phantom of the school dance

Yes, it’s meant to be scary…

If I was a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee, my filmable speciality would be a tendency towards snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by sewing a seam the wrong way around, or cutting into the garment while trimming the final seam, or some such last-minute act of stupidity.

1 the dressBut I learnt a valuable lesson when I met Lesley last year, when in the course of conversation she said she doesn’t generally use small stitches!  I received this heresy with a pretence of calm, afterwards beginning to ask myself why I insist on using the 2.2 straight stitch length which is there by default whenever I switch on the machine. Do I really imagine my garment would fall apart if I stray towards slightly longer?  Ever since, I’ve been gradually forcing myself to go up to 2.6 or even 2.8 (wey hey!!) with no obvious compromise in quality.

This way, unpicking mistakes is much, much quicker!

There were several instances of unpicking in the making of daughter’s speed dress! It’s hard to concentrate in a busy home. Mum popped over on Saturday afternoon so there was chat – not to mention distracting, horrific cries coming from the TV as the ladies Wimbledon final was broadcast!

1 conichiBut I’m dead pleased with how this turned out. I had to think on my feet in designing it, adding to a basic idea of a bodice and a long, rectangle skirt. Daughter was away at a sleepover on Friday night so in her absence I made the bodice and lining based on a pattern made from the cling-film wrap but decided to put some gathering stitches at the neckline, just below the chin, so I had the option of gathering them to make the centre front fit better if it was gaping (it was). I ended up liking this as a feature.

The other feature – the sash – I copied from a dress with a pleated yoke I made for her three years ago which was dug out for reference.  The new yoke is 1.5cm taller to be more in proportion with her now longer torso. I had no time to make pleats and no time for sleeves.  1 Waistband

And I had a bit of serendipity!  Mid-week I was asked to alter a dress for a very lovely client who came half a year ago to be measured for a bridesmaid’s dress which she ordered online (from China) for a now imminent wedding. Instead of having a skirt that’s fully gathered (too girlish?), the client’s dress has gathering around the middle part only. This I decided to copy for daughter’s dress. It has a nice elegance to it and mimics the gathering at the neckline. It was extremely quick to fit: I cut the rectangle twice the width of the bodice and just gathered tightly in the centre, leaving the half sides even.

1 bodice front

The finish isn’t too bad: I pressed the bodice seams open but didn’t do anything else except hide them inside lining. The skirt (i.e. the rectangle) has French seams, even at CB below the zip, because I wanted the inside to look nice as she kicks around!

The hardest bit was getting the back yoke seams to level up across the zip. I spent ages fiddling and unpicking and sewing again then remembered to look at the clock.  I also remembered the sash will largely cover this part!   🙄

1 maskaDaughter was due at the Masquerade Ball at 6:30pm. I finished the dress at 4 o’clock then gave it a long soak to get rid of the gelatine with which I’d stabilised the fabric. I washed it and it dried in the breeze in only 20 minutes – that’s polyester for you!

1 kosa

But see this cascade of hair? Alas, she is going to have almost all of it cut off and sent to the Little Princess Trust to be used in making a wig for a child who has lost theirs. She’s also fundraising to help the Trust pay the wig weavers (in China) who make the wigs.  If you can, please help her by making a small donation via her “fundraising page”; any amount would be most welcome (but is not, of course, expected.)

This is quite a bold move, I think, as her friends all have long hair.  I would advise her against the short cut but I love that she’s been moved to support the charity … and quietly admire her desire to differentiate.

1 fantom i maca-horz

 

Mummy Dearest

1t jean bodiceThe Six Napoleon Challenge: I am officially postponing the deadline, for two reasons. Firstly, to enable Ruth and Demented Fairy, our teachers/lecturers one of whom is still marking papers, to join us and to add their esteemed grey matter and wealth of sewing experience into the mix.

And, because I have enlisted the help of Anita from Studio Faro.  Anita is a pattern-drafting expert and teacher who demystifies mind-boggling designs in the Pattern Puzzle section of her blog.  She will write a guest post here once she has cleared her current commitments.  This will be followed by something on the Studio Faro blog.

Guys, we’re in good hands!  🙂

Thank you Anita, I’m very grateful.

Challengers: could I ask you to submit something by the first weekend of August (6-7), which is a few days after I come back from my holiday?  I will aim to put everything together on the 8 August.   Apologies to those who feel like you’ve had to rush it, but I trust this will help you.  Or maybe you’re cursing my name because of the inevitability of Parkinson’ Law kicking in, by which I mean that work will drag out to fill the time available!

I’ve got an exciting little deadline to fill the first part of the weekend.  On Wednesday, my daughter announced we should go to a charity fundraising ball at her school on Saturday night because at the beginning of the event she will be doing a dance she has choreographed with a friend, previously scheduled for the Summer Fair but cancelled.  I’d known about the event for some time but was quite keen not to go, not because the tickets are expensive (the aren’t) but because it’s a ‘formal attire’ evening.  It now turns out it’s the only chance I’ll have to see the dance performed on stage.   Daughter will need a dress to wear once her performance is over and she can join us.  In her innocence she planned on wearing her now very tight and slightly stained Tudor Tyrant costume but I suspect a satin fancy dress isn’t the look the organisers are aiming for!  So I reached again for the cling-film, wrapped her up and made this…

1 connie's cling film form

She is a bigger girl than when I last sewed for her exactly a year ago.  There might even be a bust dart in there somewhere!  I now have just over a day to produce a formal dress, using my petroleum-smelling cheap polyester which happens to be in a colour she loves (it’s still stiffened with gelatine).  She’d like me to make something like the beautiful green Greek Goddess dress you can just about see in the top picture which a friend would like fixed after another dressmaker bodged it (no pressure there then…).  But I can only make something very simple in the time.  If I fail (there are 4 errands requiring car trips between now and then), there is always a chance the charity shops will have something lovely in her size.

1 maskeDid I mention it was a masked ball?  We’re making masks too!  If only it wasn’t so windy today and the spray paint didn’t end up on my toes!!  I bought a pack of paper masks and covered two in glue and strips of gauze before painting.  I like the rough texture this has created.

Did I mention I love an adrenaline rush?  And that I’ve replaced my meals with tea so the time I save on preparing and eating food I spend instead …  on the loo 😯   ?

And oh, look: I’ve rescued the black bodice.  I took the advice of reader Sridevi and levelled the tail-like back.  The zip is an open-ended one used for jackets which makes it easy to get in and out of.  But it’s too long.  I don’t know whether to look for a shorter one – what are the odds of finding a 23.5cm open-ended zip? – or to snip this one and tuck the ends inside.   Available zip lengths  is definitely something to consider when drafting this as a bodice alone.  Bonne chance, mes amis. 1 bodice-horz

Frankenstein

1 bodice sideAfter more monstrous activity, the 6 Nap bodice is done.  Well, the first attempt anyway. Actually this is the second.  The first, which included boning, is lying on the floor somewhere.

I’ve had something of a bad week – two disappointments, a minor followed by a major, though neither sewing related.  Certainly the mood is low and the Gothic references will be heavy!

1 the monsterI began as last week when drafting with Jo by sewing a close-fitting bodice with princess seams.  Instead of fabric I used blackout lining left over from the curtains in the old flat (the kids’ bedroom was east-facing and would be light at 5am this time of year!).  I’ve used this for toiles before so didn’t have much left.  Some pieces are the wrong side up and therefore a different colour.  You can see where I patched up the centre–front neckline after I originally cut it too low – hence ‘Frankenstein’.

1 bodiceI love using this PVC-like material as it’s quick to sew and if you use the longest stitch, it unpicks in an instant with no ripping.  No need to staystitch.  It doesn’t distort in spite of all the stretching and pinning over the ironing board (see below), not to mention from getting it on and off countless times.

I pinned and pinched and made it as close-fitting as I could, especially under the bust and from neck line to bustpoint. When I felt sufficiently contained, I put it on the dummy and drew the new style lines, using my tracing of the original dress as a reference and copying the curved lines (lines of longitude) in relation to the asymmetric hem which was the first reference I drew.

 Then, instead of slicing up the bodice as with Jo, I pinned each section to the ironing board, lying it as flat as possible, with a piece of paper underneath.  I pinned along the style lines, so the pins stuck up vertically from the ironing board.

1 pinning

 Laying out Back 1 pattern piece and pin-tracing

I removed the ‘skin job’ from the board, drew from pin to pin, and used my Shoben Fashion Curve to add seam allowances.

Before I forget: if you’re going to do this, start by marking the grainline.  In the above picture it’s the arrow in the middle of the pattern piece.  Just two pins, one at each end, then you can extend the line on the paper.

Here it is, made up in a fabric.

1 fron bodiceIt’s a black poly blend, very firm, nicely textured and slightly glossy.  It feels more expensive than it was (£5 a metre).  I took a shine to it ages ago and now I’ve finally found a project for it, I go back to Goldhawk Road and find it’s the end of the roll.  The first version was made from the better end of the remnant.  I used the fabric for the lining too but ruined it when I attached the bodice to the lining and – all rushing optimism – made an infinity loop.

Don’t be fools like me, my friends: use the second method in this Threads video recommended by Ruth which shows a clean-finish method.  Pretend ‘facing’ is ‘lining’ and all will be fine!  As it frays easily, the fabric didn’t survive the seam ripper so  what you see above it made from the flawed end of the roll with creases that don’t come out (especially noticeable around the shoulder).  Also the lining is cotton lawn which isn’t firm enough.

One challenge in making this to fit me is that I haven’t got the long body of the imaginary model wearing the original dress.  My pieces are really quite small and I’m wondering how to squeeze into the eventual dress.  The top of the side seam with the zipper will have to be open I think.

But the upside of all this is that it’s quick to cut and sew.  I didn’t need to staystich or clip the vertical seams, just finger-pressed them open and steamed over a ham.

I will make this once more but need to go back shopping (or else cut up another curtain!).  There are a few mistakes in drafting to improve, e.g. the asymmetric hem point should be higher and more central.

Whereas the back needs the exact opposite: it should be lower and less central. Right now that is a duck’s arse!1 back of bodice one

I hope those of you who have taken up the challenge are enjoying the karma of my being challenged!  To think that in my younger years I used to believe if it isn’t possible to achieve perfection at first go, it wasn’t worth doing.  Please feel free to criticise or suggest: I won’t mind: I’m really thick skinned!

1 t how am I supposed to sleep on all these pins

Prepping

1 drawing

Masayo Yasuki

Masayo Yasuki of dogstar (click for source interview)

I left a message on the dogstar Clothing Facebook page to promote our challenging task of recreating the Six Napoleon dress, and Masayo Yasuki, dogstar designer, very nicely got in touch saying:

The biggest hurdle I would have to say is the 8 meters of silk organza that makes up the skirt… not to mention the 6 meters of lining!

Fourteen metres in the skirt!  😯

Option 2-horzThis gave food for thought.  Firstly, if it took so much fabric to make the skirt, then that dress was a bargain.  Second: that amount in anything other than the lightest fabrics is going to be heavy (when in my ill-advised moment I bought  8 metres of polyester recently, I soon got tired dragging the bag about town with me.)  So either reduce the volume of folds in the skirt or pick something that won’t cause your back to collapse if you intend to wear the dress for dancing or standing about.

I wonder if gauze – available in widths of about 90cm/36″ –  could work?  My grandma used gauze for everything from straining mozzarella to making a camomile tea compress to put on my itchy eyes during hayfever but I have no experience of sewing it and I wonder if there’s a drawback to doing so.  It’s cheap to buy online – so long as you don’t opt for the sterilised strips used for bandages!  – and being cotton it should dye well though there’d be some shrinkage.

Despite a very busy schedule, Kate is also taking part in the challenge (yay! 🙂 ).  In a discussion on her Corseted Dress Challenge post,  the option of making the skirt as a separate was discussed.  1 pleated trimThe skirt could fit under the bodice like a petticoat or it could go on top: I’d prefer the latter.  I would attach it to the edge of the bodice with a trim on the top of the skirt hiding the basting stitches.  I like the idea of a narrow pleated ribbon, like a finer version of the trim made by one of the contestants in the current series of the Great British Sewing Bee (an interesting technique of tucking fabric into folds of card and pressing: see 46 minutes into Episode 1)?  In the picture below, you can see a similar trim separating the lowered bodice from the skirt on the dress worn by Peggy of Made Men, though this has a ruffled/ruched appearance whereas what I imagine is more like the surround on a rosette.

Mad Men Challenge

Below are other ideas that have harangued me and which I’ve tried to sort in an attempt at organization before I begin to draft, as well as links to other posts which may help you in this or other projects.  It’s still not too late to join us brave muskateers who are going to give this a try: let me know if the timing of the deadline is putting you off.

1 measuring angles

Part One: Bodice

1 ribbon on bodiceI’ve been trying to pin ribbons to my dummy to replicate the dipped edge of the bodice.  I was underwhelmed with the results so to get more accurate angles, I made a tracing of the original photo of the dress by putting paper on my computer with the brightness up.  I measured the angles with a protractor using an imaginary horizontal hem as a baseline (see big picture above).  My measurements (approximate) are: left angle is 25°; the larger angle on the right is 55°.

1 measuring angle

Bodice back

Pella, an experienced pattern drafter who has already made a great start on this challenge, pointed out that we don’t know what is going on at the back.  It could be straight but I think not.  I’ll keep the bodice dips but make them slightly higher than at the front to avoid the skirt bulging out in the same place as does my pear-shaped bottom (ha!).

This weekend I am going to try a little experiment to hopefully help me with the close-fitting bodice design.  Below is a hint: can you guess what I’ll do!?  (um, I don’t know Marianna.  Dance around like weirdo?)

Princess seams

Before sewing princess seams, I like to staystitch all the curved areas to 1-2mm of the stitching line and then clip right up to the staystitch.  As for the rest, here’s one of my much visited posts on sewing princess seams.

Boning

I have found an endless number of posts relating to boning on Gertie’s website.  Interestingly, those folksy German dresses have boning on either side of the front-laced opening so that the bodice doesn’t crumple during dressing/undressing.  For the Six Nap dress, boning isn’t necessary but if like me you’re desperate to give it a try, this tip from Iconic Patterns should ensure the strips don’t dig into your leg: sit down in front of a mirror with a tape around your waist and measure the distance from the waist to the top of thigh: do not exceed this measurement.

Part Two: Draping

I’m sensing the limitations of Anne, my cheap display dummy.  How much easier it would be to wield yardage of fabric on a half-scale model such as Pella has.  Even just a heavy metal base would improve Anne: she wouldn’t threaten to topple as I turn her while winding lots of fabric around.

Improvisation

1 improvised draping

This image is from the Improvisational Draping chapter of Draping: the Complete Course Book, where the author picks a V Westwood dress as the inspiration and suggests you begin by drawing grainlines where they can be ascertained.  This sounds like good advice though I’m not sure I understand the bottom right arrow.  It will make sense when I give it a go.

Mille feuille  💡

You know those cream cakes made of many layers of thin pastry?  Certain other design on the dogstar FB page with similar multi-layered skirt effect reminds me of cakes so I’m wondering if instead of pleating large swathes of fabric to mimic 6 Nap, I could get squares of say 80cm x 80cm,  some folded along the straightgrain and pinned to the bodice and some on the bias creating a handkerchief hem.  I think that will be my first experiment.  Luckily, our laundry cupboard is full of worn duvets covers that I can sacrifice.

Lastly, if you’re new to drafting and don’t know how to add seam allowances to your design, here’s a post from before.

Enough!  I sleep now.  You sleep already!?

But…. Except…  During my last excursion to Goldhawk Road I spotted some black, tightly woven, shiny fabric I think might be ideal for the bodice.  I’m going back either on 17th or 18th June (Friday – Saturday) to buy it and check the prices of organza too.  If anyone would like to join me (and curb my spending enthusiasm ) email me with your preferred day.

Thanks for reading!  Hope it helps.

The Wedding

1 kisobran

1 rain

I wish these pictures could properly show you my dress, but Tuesday morning was the coldest, wettest day that you could imagine for May and the colourless sky stripped all the green out it so that in these photographs it’s decidedly blue.  The shade Lesley called ‘Windows default’!

1 dress 6So you’ll have to take my word for it: that I’d brought to  grey Woolwich, where the ceremony took place, some turquoise.  The colour of the Dalmatian sea near the shore where the pine trees and the summer sky reflect in the shallows.

Right now, the dress is hanging off the picture rail in the living room.  In the calm after the storm, I glance at it occasionally.  The colour is so intense and the crepe texture makes it look almost velvety. It was definitely the right idea to go back for the silk. … To think I was almost a polyester bride!

Yes reader, it was my wedding dress!

1 dress 31 getting away