After a weekend of frantic sewing, I made it up to Sharon-my-sewing-coach’s place this afternoon, and we tried the muslins on me and made alterations. I hadn’t had time to sew the sleeves into the coat muslin, so we settled for trying on the coat body only over the dress muslin, to see how it would look.
It looks great! although, I didn’t remember to get photos of myself in them, so you’ll have to wait until later to see it. We decided there was too much flare in the side front seams of the dress, so Sharon altered the pattern to add a little flare to the front of the skirt, and take out a LOT of flare in the side front. This should make the front a little curvier and take out some of the long folds in the side front. We made one or two alterations to the back, but that was mostly it. The coat was nearly perfect, so we left it alone.
So my “assignment” for next week is to redo the dress muslin, add the sleeves to the coat muslin, and finish weaving up the 2-yard “sample” for the coat fabric. (I’m doing a large sample so I can hold it up against myself and make sure that the spacing, etc. looks good on me.) I think there will be at least 1-2 more weeks of fiddling with muslins, and then we’ll start constructing the dress!
It has been really interesting working with Sharon and starting to get an understanding of how she thinks. I’ve been thinking about sewing all wrong for the last twenty-odd years…I had assumed that there was a set algorithm (recipe) with which to approach sewing, and that one became a better seamstress by learning and more rigorously adhering to that formula. But it turns out that this approach doesn’t work at all! There are so many things that can change between your muslin, your test garment, and your final piece that you can’t just do step A, step B, and step C and expect to get perfect results. Instead, you have to figure out what is going on, how the different variables are going to affect the hang of your garment, and what can be improvised/altered and what must be gotten right the first time. The instructions in sewing texts and in the pattern envelopes are just an attempt to give you enough guidelines that you won’t cut your fingers off in frustration while trying to get a decent garment.
So, for example: I had always assumed one perfected the fit in a muslin, and then replicated that muslin as closely as possible for sewing the actual garment, and that would yield perfection. Not so! It is important to get the fit right in the muslin, but that’s just the beginning. The actual garment will need tweaking again because the “real” fabric won’t hang the way muslin would, and construction details may change the fit.
For example, the dress muslin only has one layer, but the real dress will have a lining, a “mini-corset” that contains all the boning, a layer of flannel to hide the boning, then the handwoven fabric, and finally the lace. Each of these layers takes up some space, so they can’t all be cut the same size as the dress muslin. And, hand-sewing the lace will tighten up the bodice of the dress, so even if it were cut to the correct size, it would still need tweaking after putting on the lace!
The good news in all of this is that things are more tweak-able than I thought they were. For example, if the final coat fabric turns out to have too much body, we can remove some of the flare to make a more streamlined garment, instead of something that hangs in awkward folds. And so on. So it’s nice to know we’ll be able to fiddle with it later! I had always assumed that one either got it right or didn’t, but fabric is far more malleable than I thought it was.
And that’s all I’m writing for tonight. Off to bed!