I went up to see Sharon yesterday, bringing a stack of designs. We went through them, made some revisions, and eventually came up with this design to work with:
It is, as they say, “an artist’s conception”, and since my sketching skills are rudimentary, I thought I’d elaborate.
Structure: The bodice is pieces of handwoven fabric appliqued to a foundation that is probably silk broadcloth. The foundation will be fitted through the bodice with some flare in the skirt, with organza or tulle in the bottom to make a built-in crinoline, fluffing out the skirt. However, the dress will likely be less bell-shaped than the photo, maybe about 20% less floofy.
Appearance: The top will be solid colors of handwoven fabric in the first three tiers (yellow, orange, red). I will probably cut each color in a number of separate pieces, flame-shaped, both to eliminate the darts and to “punch up” the fire theme. I may embellish the seamlines to make the flame shapes more obvious. I may also change the grainlines around so they point in different directions, making the shapes more visible. (I can do this since the shapes are appliqued to a foundation, which stabilizes things.) There will be beading on the bodice, not super heavy but enough to add some sparkle and define the edges.
The skirt will be handwoven fabric in the phoenix pattern, three tiers in different colors: orange, red, and darkish red. (The darkish red may be hand-dyed on the very bottom with a bit of dark purplish red, as indicated in the photo at bottom left. I’m not sure about this part and will decide once I see it in a muslin.) Phoenixes will be bright yellow in all three layers.
Each tier of the skirt is separated from the one underneath it with a bit of tulle, letting it float freely (like fire). The edges won’t be quite as triangular – instead, they’ll be curved, like flames, and maybe a bit more wispy on the edges. Edges will have a light beaded fringe to help add definition and add some swing to each layer.
The back is still to be determined, but will probably have a very deep “V”, down to mid-back, to give the back more drama.
As you can see, this is a pretty complex garment and a lot of very fine handwoven fabric to weave, plus beading etc. Unlikely I’ll finish in time for next Convergence (especially with the book going at the same time), though Sharon has offered to help with some of the sewing. But the finished product will definitely be “Wow!”
The next step will be to drape the foundation garment so I have something to work with. Sharon showed me how to drape a simple shift (it was easier than I thought!); after that, I’ll add a flared skirt on the bottom and maybe a few layers of tulle to create the overall silhouette. Then I’ll start with the bodice, creating and pinning the flame-shaped pieces from dyed muslin. (Which means I need to dye the muslin, too!) Once that’s done, I’ll start building the tiered skirt from the bottom up.
If I’m feeling really motivated, I’ll dye the muslin for the skirt and screen print the phoenix pattern onto it, to give a better idea of what it will look like. I will probably also do large flame motifs in the skirts, partly to keep to the theme, partly because my fabric is only going to be 22″ wide after wet-finishing, and I want pretty seams. It will require more fabric, but one is supposed to suffer for one’s art, no?
Once I have the muslin draped, I’ll have a better idea of the colors and yardage needed, and can start weaving. Whew! What a tremendous amount of work to do. But doesn’t it sound like fun?