Saturday, 26 September 2009

Corset Crazy!

Whilst ambling past a charity shop the other day, I spied some treasure in the window and nearly broke my neck rushing inside to claim it for my own!

A Corset Chamber Pot!! What a find. On enquiring as to why the price tag was so hefty - £20 - the Brucey Bonus was revealed. Port Meirion!! I paid up and upon arriving home immediately checked ebay to see if it was really a bargain. I found one the same for £35.00 .. not bad, but what else did I find?

A matching pot which I won for £3.49! Now they are mine all mine! And they do a good job of holding all my sewing bits and bobs which I need at hand.

Talking of corsets, I have had some orders from my website!! Including one from a nice lady all the way from Sweden!

In between projects I am trying to develop a little waspie kit to go on the site. This will include instructions on how to make your own pattern - that's the best way to get a good fit. I've discovered a new site in America which is selling 1 pattern corset kits at over $100 a kit!! It does included your fabric ready cut, but even so, I think it's a bit on the pricey side.

Friday, 25 September 2009

A pretty cocktail dress with petticoat

I have finished Mrs P's party dress!

From the pattern which I drew myself from Mrs P's exact measurements ..

To the toile - an old duvet cover - doesn't look very promising does it!!

I decided half way through that the because of the heavy fabric we used, the shape of the dress would benefit from a little bit of net underneath it to give a 50's retro feel.

I gathered a double width of stiff dress net, sewed it onto some stay tape, and then zigzagged it to the lining of the dress - on the inside so that it sits between the outer fabric and the lining, at the point where the dress flares - the lower hip in this case.

The trouble with dressmaking - when you are doing it for someone other than yourself, is that you find yourself being more 'honest' than you may be otherwise!! Diplomatic ways of saying things about fitting have to be thought of, like "if we ruche it here, we can give you a bit of cleavage" or "if we flare it at the hip, it won't make you feel like a house" or "the good thing about having a full skirt is that nobody knows what's underneath" ... I'll leave you to read between the lines on those!

I had just finished the last bit of hand sewing on the dress - where you stitch the lining to the back of the zip for a neat finish and was rather pleased with the way it all turned out when, upon zipping it up, the lining caught under the zip! ARGGHHH!!!!... it was a bad catch. Don't you just hate it when instead of having a perfect finish like .....

you get this ....


Cue the bondaweb ..

I discovered that it is enormously helpful - especially if a concealed zipper is planned, if the last seam to be sewn is marked at the seam allowance with a line of stitching like this:

It makes the final finish easier - ie: when sewing the lining over the zip - you just fold over where the stitching is, and sew into place.

I put some bra strap retainers into the dress straps

You can buy these ready made but they are expensive, uncomfortable and innefective. When they are sewn into the strap like this, and fastened with miniscule poppers, they are very comfortable and very effective.

Here is the finished article ..

The thing about a dress like this is that you can't help 'swishing' your hips like a little girl pretending to be a princess in her party dress! Such fun!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

On the Make

It's been a hive of the usual sewing activity here in The House of Marmalade this weekend (what do you mean it's nearly Wednesday?!), and here are two of the things i've been making.

Firstly, a birthday present for a little boy. He will be 5. I really wanted to make some bunting for his bedroom, but how do you decorate bunting for a little boy at this stage where he's growing out of babyhood and into boyhood - I want him to like it for at least a couple of years.

The answer is (I think) cool and earth friendly - 'Rock Star' bunting is the thing, and it's made from a heap of Jimmy's old jeans and an old sheet - plus a few scraps of fabric for the pictures and letters. I'm very pleased with the result - suitably 'boyish' don't you think?

The other thing I am exceptionally pleased with having made, is a proper tailors ham. Yes a proper one. Not a 'pretend' one like the one I made a while ago which is stuffed with old rags and scraps and made of cotton.

The new one, named "Shamu" (teehee) after the killer whales at Sea World .. because every time I look at 'her', I think of those lovely creatures. Luckily, this one isn't endangered. Here you can see the difference between the two hams. "Shamu" is lovely and firm, and very smooth. She is made from wool on one side, and cotton on the other, and she is stuffed to the consistency of a brick, with sawdust. The sawdust draws the moisture from the iron, through the wool apparently, and thus helps with shaping your curves. It's a must for any dressmaking pursuit and I really don't know how I coped without one for so long! The difference between the two, although they look the same, is phenomenal. I got the instructions HERE.

The third thing I've been making is Mrs P's dress which I will post about soon as it is very nearly finished!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Simplicity corset with gores and gussets

I have finished another corset! This is really only a 'pretend' corset - a test piece made from 'scrap' fabric which I used to test a new pattern and for photographing different parts of the corset making process in order to make tutorials for the website.

However, despite the fact that it's not a proper corset in terms of the fabric used, I'm really pleased with it. It's made up from a new Simplicity pattern which I was a bit dubious about as the picture on the front of the pattern envelope isn't half as nice as the finished product in real life. There are some lovely lovely lines on it and it is a very simple corset to make up once you've got the hang of the gussets. (I'm writing some additional pattern instructions to go with my kit).

The reason this corset is easy is because there are only 4 main pieces - 2 each side - when you consider that some have as many as 20 pieces you see why it's 'easy'! The simplicity of the design means that this corset could easily be made up in a lovley patterned fabric because the minimal number of seams would not detract or distort the fabric design as much as one which has 20 or so seams. It also means that the corset is not as 'restrictive' as other corsets as there are not so many bones in it.

I now have 5 tutorials on my website. Do pop over and have a look if you have time, and let me know if they look easy to follow and inspirational.

I have received a few positive responses to the seed swap post and will post further details tomorrow.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

All about dress darts

I should have taken my mother's advice all those years ago and made my way to art school. Not for painting and drawing because that frustrates me, but to design, because of all my sewing and crafting pursuits, it's the conundrums and solutions that please me the most. The working out of the workings. I find it absolutely fascinating!

So ... I printed out my free V&A pattern for the gorgeous dress in the last post, pasted it all together, and cut it out...

Then pinned it to a finely adjusted Madge

Looks good doesn't it?
Now Madge, give us a twirl!

.... Houston, we have a problem! .... can you see?

Not only is the armhole far too big, but the back sections of the pattern are a) back to front, b) too big by a long way (I mean a very very long way, not just the usual discrepancy between dress form and body) and c) the instructions don't make much sense...

So.. back to the drawing board, and this is the bit I really really like.

First thing to work out after drawing a new block, is where exactly the darts are? The front bodice is made up of only 3 sections with only 2 miniscule bust darts in the top middle section, under the bust. The rest - and there must be more to acheive the perfectly contoured shape, are hidden. I knew that there must be closed darts involved, but in order for darts to be closed, other darts must be made - and then either closed again or hidden in seams. Think of shuffling orange segments when one is missing - another always takes it's place. Where are they?

I won't bore you with the details of the very circuitous cutting and pasting (think Blue Peter) route which led me to the conclusion that what we have here, is infact, a French Dart.

A French dart combines shoulder and waist darts and I could have avoided hours of snipping and sellotaping by following three simple steps 1) Close the shoulder dart of the block forming a wide dart under the bust 2) cut the sleeve, neck and waist portions along the chosen lines of the pattern 3) close the waist dart and trace each piece with the darts closed (except the two bust darts which must be left). The darts then become integrated within the cut, and all you will see in the finished dress, are beautiful smooth pieces of fabric.

Having taken the long route round, I understand the shortcuts much better than I would have done. Which is nice.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Free Couture

I suddenly remembered that I have a pattern for this dress in my "free patterns" folder. I downloaded it ages ago from HERE.

The pattern - adapted for modern sizes 10-14, was created especially for the V&A Golden Age of Couture Exhibition Website, and is based on this 1953 ready to wear dress by Horrockses Fashion. It has a close fitting lined bodice with waist seam and flared skirt with pockets.

Because these ready to wear couture styles were relatively expensive and favoured by members of the Royal Family, 'working women' would save up to buy them for special occassions, like going away on honeymoon.

I think i'm going to have to give it a try.