Custom Style

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Tag Archives: Downton Abbey

Scale Miniature of Titanic Proportions

I have officially started my vintage pattern testing for The 1912 Project that I mentioned previously. We are only required to make a mock-up of one garment a month, but I told myself that I would make a finished garment of the patterns I like… as long as I don’t have to buy many supplies.

I tackled the February Challenge Pattern mainly because I like it but also because I have yet to receive the pattern for my group – I’m in Group 4. 

(Feel free to click pictures to enlarge for detail.)

The instruction sheet for the vintage slip with princess seams had a list of 3 types of lace for a total of 16 yards of trim!

My color coded pattern key.

I had never tried to sew insertion lace so I really wanted to make the real thing (not just a mock-up sans trim like I usually do when testing a pattern), so I printed my pattern in half-scale to fit my miniature dressform with the proportions of a woman with a 36-inch bust. (Making something in half-scale means half the amount of trim – woohoo!)

I went digging through my box of lace. I didn’t really have anything that had the two straight sides that qualifies as insertion lace. However, I did have some pieces of 3½-inch wide lace that was horribly scratchy (good thing no one will ever be wearing this lace!) and would work for all three types of trim I needed – if I cut it apart.

The original strip of lace and how I cut it apart to get what I needed. I used rows 2, 3, & 5 in the picture on right.

In my fabric stash, I found the perfect piece of pale sky-blue cotton voile. It is the thinnest semi-sheer fabric with a soft drape – I knew it would be perfect. (When I can, I like to make my mock-ups in scrap fabric similar to the final garment fabric in hopes that the mock-up itself can be usable – every so often I get lucky, like I did when making my Forties style dress.) I also had enough fabric if I needed to re-cut anything that needed major adjustments.

But the lace was bright white, and I hated it paired with the fabric.

So I tea-dyed the lace. It dyed a lovely light peachy color that was a beautiful compliment to the pale blue. Easy fix. =)

Thin cotton fabric with white lace & tea-dyed lace comparison.

The first thing I did after printing my tiny pattern was cut off all the seam allowances so that I could truly test it.

I pencil-traced the stitch-lines directly onto the fabric.

Next, I cut out my pieces, adding an unmeasured seam allowance around all the lines.

Then I pinned directly through my lines (ignoring all the uneven seam allowances), matching points and the notch marks I made for myself, and stitched right on the line.

There was only one major alteration needed for this pattern: the princess seams were majorly far apart. According to a standard measurement chart in one of my books, the bust point to bust point measurement for a 36-inch bust is 7½ inches, and the pattern was measuring at the equivalent of a 42½-inch bust. I just lined the seams up to the proper spot on my little dressform (like I would do for any garment I was fitting on the person I was making it for) and put a seam down the center front. I took out the equivalent of 2 inches from the pattern.

Luckily, I knew a center front seam would disappear once I added the trim. I made some minor tweaks to the rest of the pattern, but nothing out of the ordinary required for a custom fit.

I did a lot of pin fitting to test the mock-up.

When I was convinced that the pattern lines were good, I decided to trim out the mock-up and make a finished miniature model.

I tried a sample finish for the inset lace with my thin cotton voile fabric. I straight-stitched the edges of the lace to the right side of the fabric, zig-zagged over the previous stitch, and trimmed the fabric under the lace trim close to the stitching.

Insertion lace test.

On a full-scale slip-dress, I would hand-sew a tiny rolled-hem instead of trimming next to the stitching, but my half-scale seam allowance was a bit small & awkward to roll (and besides, it isn’t going to get the wear-and-tear that a real dress would).

I planned the order of my lace application and joined the shoulder seams so that I could trim the neckline all at once.

When I was finished sewing all the insertion lace, my little dress was happily just as pretty on the inside. =) I enjoyed trying my hand at insertion lace.

Then it was time for fun with pleats! I had the fortunate idea to use sizing on my fabric before I started pleating it – if only I had thought of using it sooner! (It would have really given the rest of the dress a more polished look.) I knew sizing would keep the drapey fabric from shifting too much when I was folding straight lines for pleats.

I ironed the sizing into the fabric before cutting it for pleats.

Sizing gives fabric a little bit of body but isn’t stiff like starch. I can find it at any of my local grocery stores but you can also find sizing on amazon if you need to order some.

Comparison of my fabric without (left) and with (right) sizing.

I cut my strip of fabric for pleats then pre-hemmed one long edge and added a stripe of inset lace. Then I machine basted (longest stitch with no backstitching) all my pleats. I did a TON of math to make sure I had enough lace required to make the adequate amount of pleats and cheated my pleats accordingly. (I barely eked out the lace I needed – I had to piece it with scraps in two places.)

I basted one pleat, then measured to the crest of the next one and basted the size of that pleat. I repeated until whole strip of fabric was pleated.

Once I had a row of pleats, I ironed them all in one direction (the direction that best hid the couple of fabric flaws I couldn’t cut around) and serged the top edge. Then I attached one edge of the insertion lace that joins the pleated flounce to the bottom of the slip-dress.  I made the strip of pleating as long as possible so that I could cut off the extra couple inches after matching the pleats at the center back seam. (The basting stays in until the dress is finished, which keeps the pleats from shifting during construction.)

Row of basted pleats with lace edge that attaches to slip-dress.

I test-pinned my pleats to the dress and adjusted for a level hem. I had a bigger seam allowance because I attached the lace to the seams separately, so I was able to hand-stitch a rolled-hem like a true vintage slip-dress would be finished behind all the insertion lace.

Inside of slip-dress where pleated flounce is joined.

After the flounce of pleats was attached and a little ruffle of lace was hand-sewn around the neck & armholes, I had fun removing all the pleat basting.

I haven’t yet decided on the details of the center back row of buttons. I have some small standard buttons but I may want shank buttons that close with loops.

And now for the (nearly) finished dress! Aside from the pins down the center back, everything else is complete.

Front detail with ribbon threaded through eyelet lace.

Can’t you just imagine one of the Crawley girls of Downton Abbey wearing something like this?

Slip back neck detail. (Let’s just pretend the pins are buttons.)

I think I may sew myself a camisole top by making an adaption of this pattern – without buttons all the way down the back.

Side, Front, and Back views

The pattern would make a sweet retro wedding dress with a plain under-slip for a lining. It would even be a fun modern dress with maybe appliqué trim instead of inset lace – I have some thin cotton shirting in a bright floral print that that would be perfect for summer.

Oh, the ideas inspired by a vintage pattern from the Titanic era!

A Gift, a Group Project, & Goals for 2012

Well, it’s a new year and I can’t say I’m sad to see 2011 go. 2012 is looking brighter. =)

My in-laws surprised me with a wonderful Christmas present that will add to my arsenal of sewing tools: a set of 3 miniature dressforms that were on my wish list! I thought I would eventually buy them for myself when I had the extra money, but now I don’t have to! The set includes three to-scale forms: a half-scale, a third-scale, & a quarter-scale.

My newest dressforms

You may remember that I already have a half-size dressform, but Minnie is a different dress size than the set is – so now I can drape & make patterns in 2 different sizes. Of course this also means that my new dressforms need names…

Being 3 different scales, I didn’t want to name them as if they were triplets – they are more like sisters of various ages. So I tried to think of any movie or classic literature that was about 3 sisters. It seemed like everything I was remembering was about 2, 4 or 5 sisters.

But then after a couple of days of tossing some ideas around in the back of my mind, it just came to me: My new dressforms are Mary, Edith, and Sybil – the Crawley sisters from the British series “Downton Abbey”!

Sybil played by Jessica Brown-Findlay (L), Mary played by Michelle Dockery (seated), & Edith played by Laura Carmichael (R)

They are the perfect names for my little dressforms because I’ve been eagerly awaiting Season 2 of “Downton Abbey”, which starts airing here in the States this coming Sunday. It is a period drama that begins in 1912 with the news of the RMS Titanic’s sinking, and Season 2 picks up with Britain entering World War I. It is also very fitting because I have been planning to make some dresses from the 1910’s time period, and I’ll be able to use my new little dressforms for draping them.

Coincidentally, in some completely unrelated websurfing yesterday, I happened upon an interesting endeavor on The Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s blog called The 1912 Project – which is in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy. (I hadn’t even thought about 2012 being the hundredth anniversary!)

The project is a group effort to recreate & test all the clothing patterns (men’s, women’s & children’s) from a French magazine published in 1912 in order to digitize & preserve a piece of sewing & fashion history. The only requirements to join the undertaking are the ability to sew a mock-up of whatever pattern you are sent each month (which have little to no assembly instructions), and the promise of at least one blog entry (including some photos) about your experiences with the patterns every month.

Seemed simple enough. So I’m going to join the effort and make few mock-ups and document my accomplishments here on my blog.

I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions, but I am at least setting a few business goals for Custom Style this year. One being to continue with a minimum of two blog entries every month. (That shouldn’t be too hard and now I will have at least one regularly featured topic with The 1912 Project.)

Another goal (and probably the biggest one I have) is to get my Etsy shop up and running. I know a few of you readers have been asking about it, and I’m still working on all the details and building some items for inventory. I plan to offer a variety of things from dresses to accessories to collectibles. I promise to write a blog post all about the “Grand Opening” of my shop – so bookmark or subscribe to my blog (button above in the right-hand column of this page) to make sure you don’t miss it.

Besides a couple of other small goals, I also plan to redo my banner & avatar, which requires me to find some time to sew something for myself. Ever heard it said that the cobbler’s kids have no shoes? Yeah, well, same goes for the seamstress – always sewing for everyone but herself. I have a retro dress design and the fabric all ready to go… I just need to start.

Here’s hoping for motivation and persistence in 2012!

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Scale Miniature of Titanic Proportions

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