Hello, all!

We’ve been asked for a how-it-was-done post. This one will have you DIY’ers all happy because I show you little niggly details where most people probably wouldn’t bother. But details make a difference. They totally do.

So, how does one of our dresses get born? As mentioned elsewhere, I use reclaimed bedsheets. They are cheap and plentiful and are making use of something that might have otherwise been thrown away. WIN.

I knew that this design was going to need lots of fabric for the pattern, so I brought out the Big Guns. I’d gotten two flat king-sized bed sheets from a bargain rack at the local store. They were still in the box and no one wanted them, poor things. Probably because yellow linens aren’t the rage these days. Whatever. They were great for my purposes:

Bedsheets ready for repurposing

Bedsheets ready for repurposing

I started this dress with a commercial pattern and played around with it until it no longer resembled its parent. I do that sometimes. You can see what I did below: I cut the pattern piece into two and pinned them far apart on the fabric so what I cut would be much longer than the original piece. It might be hard to figure out in the photo; sorry about that. It was difficult to get the whole thing in the shot:

Tissue pattern pieces laid on the bedsheet before cutting

Tissue pattern pieces laid on the bedsheet before cutting

And here’s what the elongated pieces looked like when assembled:

Toile (mock-up) pieces on the dressform

Toile (mock-up) pieces on the dressform

A back view

Back view of the mock-up

Back view of the mock-up

I’d cut the pieces oh so long because I really didn’t know how long they would actually need to be. There was ruching to be done first. Oh, brave ruching!

all ruched now

All ruched now

Once the ruching was done, I started to cut the extra length from the skirt. I knew that this would be a poofy ball gown and so I tried to guestimate what a crinoline would take up; skirts look shorter when a crinoline is under them.

Somewhere along this point it occurred to me that it would make a helluvalot more sense to already *have* a crinoline on the dressform rather than just trying to guestimate how long the skirt should be to accommodate one. ::modified facepalm:: The facepalm was modified because I got this clue about halfway through the hem-cutting, when there was still a chance of doing it right before I’d cut all the way around.

Here’s the newly created dress pattern, complete with crinoline underneath and trimmed with full approval:

Ruched mock-up with length adjusted

Ruched mock-up with length adjusted

A back view:

Back view of length adjusted

Back view of length adjusted

With the new pattern created, now it was time to create the actual prototypes. Since this season I’m all about the Reclaiming and Re-using all the fabric that’s been sitting around (read: running out of storage space and need to not add more stuff), I went and found a dress that is no longer on the website and so could be made into something else. Astute and venerable fans will remember Serafina from a much earlier collection:

original black dress to be repurposed

Original black dress to be repurposed

 

Yep, that’s me modeling in the picture. I got to play dress-up. 😉

I took dear Serafina apart and pressed the pieces. Here we have the front half laid over the back, seen from the inside out:

Reclaimed hempsilk laid out for cutting

Reclaimed hempsilk laid out for cutting

 

And now we lay the new pattern piece on top of it:

Pattern pieces laid on top of the fabric

The fabric wasn’t quite as long as the pattern piece, but one could always make up the difference in the ruching. Ruching isn’t just forgiving for the wearer, it’s forgiving for the creator!

I would be making this design in white as well, of course. So I found another one of those 1980’s raw silk monsters with the butt-bow. No shortage of *those* to be had. I swear I’m doing the world a favor by re-creating them into something else. ;-/

Here is a photo of the back, again turned inside out like the black dress because that’s how one usually cuts pattern pieces from fabric:

Skirt of reclaimed silk vintage dress

Skirt of reclaimed silk vintage dress

And now the pattern pieces are laid on top. We’re playing FIT THE PATTERN. It’s like a puzzle; one just needs to be aware of the grain. (Beware of the Grain! It will get you!) Are the pieces below an exact fit? No. That way lies Madness. The trick is to know when an exact fit really matters and when it doesn’t. The dress will usually find its exact proportions when it’s fit to the wearer.

Mock-up pieces laid gently on the fabric

Mock-up pieces laid gently on the fabric

Here the extra is cut away:

Extra fabric is cut away

Extra is cut away

And here comes the Clever part: one can use the extra bit to lengthen the fabric to make it long enough:

Incorporating the cut-away pieces

This was an awesome hack

This is Zero Waste at its best, y’all. I was so PROUD.

The two parts were sewn together right at the narrow neck; I suspect you can picture what that looked like. I can show more details about that process in a later entry, if you’re curious.

And here’s where I show you a dirty little secret:

Mock-up piece doesn't fit

Dirty little secret

See how the skirt in this dress was not symmetrical, even when it  theoretically should have been? The waist edges are matched up  but the hems don’t; the skirt front would have been longer on one side than the other. You think that factory-machine-made dresses are perfect? think again. Often they aren’t constructed any better than handmade-made. And usually they’re worse. Now you know.

Of course we also needed to create a bodice. I laid out the pattern pieces on the 1980’s dress bodice and it all fit just fine. I had to make sure that the pieces were facing in the right direction (going with the grain of the fabric)

Mock-up bodice pieces laid onto fabric

Mock-up bodice pieces

But this new design was going to have an ultra-cool textured bodice. I had an Idea for doing it that would use up lots of extra fabric and make it all gorgeous. Reclaiming FTW.

This is the way we use our scraps, use our scraps, use our scraps…

Scrap fabric ready for re-purposing

Scrap fabric ready for re-purposing

 

I laid the layers artfully to vary the differing textures and colors. Here (from the top) we have the original reclaimed raw silk, unbleached organic cotton voile, unbleached hemp/silk and unbleached organic cotton sateen.

Laying the scraps in order

Laying the scraps in order

The fabric didn’t look textured enough for me, so I textured it using a highly refined and intricate process:

Texturing the fabric

 

And here’s how the bodice looks attached to the dress. Yes, we’re back in black:

Dress on the dress form

 

The side seam wasn’t sewn together yet because there was still the ruching to finish. Here we go:

Detail of ruching

Detail of ruching

 

And she’s all done and gorgeous in front of the camera!! Welcome, Carmen!! You’ll be back on the website some day!

The finished Carmen Dress

Carmen unveiled!

That’s it for now…see you on the catwalk…

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