Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Update on the Muslin (it did fit)

Many thanks to those of you who offered your help with my fitting woes.  It was great to know I had friends who wanted to help!

The good news is that I have been very busy sewing over the last week.  I did take the muslin to my daughter's dorm and it fit.  Yippee!  The princess seams needed a nip and tuck near the sleeves. My gusset hypothesis was incorrect -- the stranger shaped gusset resulted in a much nicer fit.  Note that I did my best to crop out as much of the dorm room background as possible!
Left side just didn't hang right.  Right side was
fine with a tuck at the top of the princess seam.

She scowled when I asked her to "play the violin".
"Seriously?  M-O-O-O-O-M, it fits!"
So the next seven days were spent madly cutting out the silk organza, the crepe de chine, the lace, hand basting and thread tracing, then piecing it together.  I had no idea how hard it is to successfully sew with a heavy corded lace.  Most seams had to be lapped and appliqued, which I would have enjoyed if time were on my side.   However, I had a lot going on over the last week, and I almost didn't make it.  Scheduled medical tests, unscheduled tornado warnings and a political rally all drained my time.  Luckily, my husband picked up the slack by doing the grocery shopping and more than his fair share of help around the house, and the dress is now "wearable" for this evening's concert.
The artificial light makes the taffeta look purple, but it's really black.
At 9 PM yesterday, I finished sewing the skirt lining to the zipper and declared it ready to go.  The crepe de chine bodice lining is not yet sewn in, and I would like to re-align the upper part of the zipper before I do that.  I was also a bit leery of trimming all the sleeve seams before we had even a single fitting of the dress.  

From my grandmother's sewing basket.
I did make sure there were bra carriers in place at the shoulder seams.  They will be easy to move when I put the lining in.

My husband thinks I'm crazy for re-doing the zipper, but after all the work that went into this, I consider it a bit of a masterpiece, and I do want the finished product to be perfect.  He thinks I'm quite mad, actually, after seeing me over the last week.  I got a lecture on project planning and deadlines.  Trust me, I know this pushed the limits of my capacity.

I really love the midriff details!

I draped four separate pieces of lace over the bodice and lapped at the center front, shoulders and side seams.  It took me several hours of trying different layouts before I had the nerve to cut into the lace.  It really wasn't that hard to align it all nicely, just time consuming since it had to be tacked down by hand.  I could have zig-zagged on the machine, but felt I had better control with hand-stitching.

The sleeves are underlined with black silk organza -- no crepe de chine -- so they're slightly transparent.  The lace was probably heavy enough to use without the organza, but I felt the visual transition from all black on the bodice, to mostly transparent on the sleeve was too stark.  The gussets are crepe de chine with lace, no organza, as I didn't want them too stiff.

More details and final pictures later!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

High Anxiety

I've always been an "anxious" person, but sewing is one of those things that usually calms me.  Until I start digging myself a hole that starts spiraling to hell.

Well, the changes to the muslin were not completely successful.  In fact, the phrase "epic fail" comes to mind.  Stephanie tried to tell me "everything is fine".  So I took a picture for her.  "THIS is fine?  You want to wear THIS?"  I admit my voice was raised.  A perfect storm of disappointment in my sewing skills, the realization that we were really close to a deadline (and she wouldn't be home next weekend for another fitting), as well as the fact that I'm remodeling a bathroom, pushed me over the edge.  As my son watched from the couch, he calmly suggested buying a dress for her.  Why didn't I think of that?!

I thought I got rid of all that extra gaping.  

Once we calmed down a bit, I took an assessment of what changes were needed:
 - more room in the shoulder cap
 - increase width at shoulder seam
 - add height to side back armscye
 - add a sleeve gusset or add a lot of height to the sleeve and armscye
 - there appears to be too much fabric above the bust, but that is partially caused by the sleeve pulling the bodice off her body, pinched out some anyway.
 - the neckline still gaped a tiny bit, but I think I can ease that out with ease-stitching the seam allowance and some stay tape.

My husband offered to take our son to a movie, and I sat down and tried to figure out where I went wrong and how to correct it.   Having a cup of coffee, was probably a mistake.  I panicked.  I pulled out the inspiration dress and started doing a knockoff of the bodice (it's two pieces with a few darts, how bad could it be?).  10 minutes into that exercise, I realized I was crazy and abandoned it.  I briefly considered recutting the bodice with the original pattern, which had no problems other than a slightly tight armscye.  But we didn't really like the neckline.  Do I have another TNT bodice that I could substitute?  I was pretty wound up.  So I shelved it for 24 hours.

After finishing the work I get paid for on Monday, I pulled it out again and gave it a fresh look.  The gusset was really my first choice for increasing her range of motion.  I probably could redraft the sleeve with little wings to build in the gusset, but it's a bit late in the game to experiment.  A gusset worked during the fitting, keep it.  Latest changes include:
 - Redrafted sleeve with more room in the cap
 - Redrafted the front/back bodice pieces with a tad more room in the shoulder
 - Extended the armscye of the side back piece about 3/8"
 - Created a gusset
How can we be missing that much room in the armpit?

Since I doubted my skills so much more than usual, I spent way too much time researching gussets. Should it be square/angled or "football" shaped?  In the end, I just went with the shape that I pinned in to cover the gap in the muslin.  As you can see, it is roughly a russet potato.  A russet gusset.

I did a terrible job marking my gusset, so I had another little meltdown trying to sew it to the new sleeve and bodice. ("Is this the top or the bottom?  Does this attach at the notch or a random location? Wahhhhhhh!)  Pin, unpin, pin again, unpin again.  Hand baste.  It's a very fiddly spot to try to sew with a machine.

Also, there's an odd little curve to the gusset piece on one side.  I left the weird curve in on the right sleeve, and smoothed it out on the left just to test if I needed it, or if it was a mistake.  My hypothesis is that the weird curve adds problems.  I know I said no more experimentation, but I can't help myself.
Gusset with smoothed curve from below. 
from side

Muslin #4?  Who's counting, anyway. The left sleeve
seems to hang nicer than the right.  Probably that odd curve!
I felt a lot better doing something, rather than worrying about what I needed to do.  It gives me a little bit of control to think I'm making progress.  I know it's just the illusion of control, but sometimes a placebo is all I need.

Now I need a fitting on the real body.  I'm working that out.  This weekend she has a "leadership retreat" and won't be able to come home. The concert is one week from today.  Okay.  More panic. Can I come down there?  No answer.  I'm sure her dorm room is a mess and she doesn't want me near it.  I offered to meet her at Walmart and try it on in the ladies room. The handicapped stalls have plenty of room, and the light is pretty good.  Fitting a muslin is probably one of the least weird things that has happened in a Walmart bathroom.