I went over to Sharon’s for a marathon sewing session yesterday. The first thing we did was put the foundation and dress on me. We promptly discovered that the dress was a full 2″ too loose! I was horrified, thinking I had sewn something drastically wrong, but Sharon assured me that most of my seams looked just fine and that it was simply the fabric stretching and settling. I had had no idea that different fabrics could behave so differently, so this was a learning experience!
Then we settled in for the marathon. Sharon worked on the outer shell of the dress, painstakingly picking apart the seams and restitching them with 1/8″ more seam allowance. Over the eight seams of the dress, that would take out two inches. This, believe it or not, took her nearly five hours! as the stitching was difficult to see and she didn’t want to take any chances on nicking the fabric.
Meanwhile, I set to work cutting the coat material. I had three pieces: one two-yard, one three-yard, and one nine-yard piece. Total, 14 yards. (I actually wove about 16 yards, but there was substantial shrinkage in the finishing.) We started by pressing the fabric, then laying it out – minimally folded, with rolls of paper in the folds to prevent fold lines from developing.
Then we went for lunch. 🙂 Sharon told me that she likes to let the fabric “rest”, flat, for a minimum of half an hour before cutting it, to remove any stresses that might have developed in storage.
When we got back, I started cutting. I had marked off all the flaws with safety pins – in the selvages, so they wouldn’t leave marks – and carefully laid out the pattern pieces, avoiding the flawed sections. I started by cutting the front pieces of the coat, cutting the first piece and very, very carefully aligning it so the grain was perfectly straight. I pinned the pattern to it as Sharon had shown me – in the seam allowance, pin tips pointing towards the seam allowance – and cut very carefully. (Note to self: must buy a pair of Kai scissors, the ones Sharon had. They cut amazingly better than my cheap shears – I had no idea that scissors could be so good!)
After I cut the first front piece (in a single layer, please!), I flipped the cut piece over and matched it ever-so-carefully against the first one, making sure that the motifs aligned with each other and the front edge was perfectly straight. This was harder than it looked since the motifs were not perfectly spaced – sometimes shorter, sometimes longer depending on how the beat had gone. (Who WAS the idiot who wove this??? 🙂 ) In places, I had to coax the fabric into position, using the backs of my fingertips to gently shift the fabric. (Sharon said she prefers to use the backs of her fingertips rather than the fingers/palms, as it is gentler and less disturbing to the fabric.)
After cutting the second front piece, I set up the side fronts, and matched them to the fronts. I quickly discovered that I could match either the grainline, or the cross-grain, but not both (see previous notes about the idiot who wove this)! After some discussion with Sharon, we decided to match the cross-grain, as the motifs jiggling about would be more visible in the horizontal plane than the vertical one. I matched at the waist – the top, because of the curves, wouldn’t match anyway, and the eye would spend more time at the waist than at the hem.
Then I set up the side backs, matched, and cut. At this point, I started running out of fabric in the nine-yard piece, and it was getting late, so we agreed that I’d take the center back home to cut it out. The sleeves we’d leave for a later day.
Meanwhile, Sharon had finished modifying the shell. We put it on me again, and I went to look in the mirror. I nearly gasped – it was gorgeous! So we took a few photos:
I love it, and the pattern shows quite clearly. (It still doesn’t quite fit at the bust, but Sharon said that once we put in the foundation, it should fit a lot better.)
Sharon also showed me how to give seams a hard press. She said that the hard press isn’t made by pressing down on the iron – that just leaves marks. Instead, it’s made with steam, as the heat + moisture breaks hydrogen bonds in the (protein) fabric and causes them to re-form (when dried) in a flatter position. So she put a towel over the ironing board, and slipped pieces of brown paper under the seam allowances, to prevent the seam allowances from creating indentations in the fabric, and gently moved the iron onto the seam, steaming all the way. Then she flipped over the fabric and “pressed” (really just steaming, with the iron held close to, but not on, the fabric) on the right side. This produced a beautifully flat seam. (I was busily taking notes all the while.)
So what next?
Well, Sharon is going to finish up the foundation, attach the dress and lining to the foundation, and put in the zipper. I, meanwhile, am going to finish cutting the coat, put seam binding on all the edges, and hand-baste the coat together. Sharon had initially suggested that I just sew it together, but I was terrified of making a mistake. The dress fabric can be coaxed and manipulated, but with the coat fabric, you get one chance: needle marks show and don’t come out, as on satin, so it has to be put together right the first time.
We’re hoping to finish all this by mid-week, at which time we’ll reconvene and work out the next steps. But it depends on what Sharon and I can get done – I’ll keep you updated.
Meanwhile, I do intend to keep weaving the coat fabric – not because I think we’ll need more, but because it’s so beautiful and I still have 7-8 yards of warp left. In my copious free time from sewing, of course. 🙂
@Daryl – I’m using 5/8″ Seams Great. Probably wouldn’t work too well on most handwovens, but with fabric this fine, it’s working out quite well.