One of those days

As I sat down to finish cutting and marking my pinned pieces, I realized it had been more than 24 hours since I had touched this project. Twenty-four hours and I wasn’t flipping out. This gave me pause. I thought for a moment and came to the realization that this was the first project that I was doing just for fun. I wasn’t on a time table. No one was lurking over my shoulder wanting to know how it was going. The learning curve was the reason for this project not an obstacle to push through in order to meet a dead line. When lunchtime loomed and my stomach said “Hey, how ’bout it?”, my brain did not scream “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” instead my stomach was greeted with “Sure, let’s have a little something.”

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A little something.

Thus fortified, I began the assembly process. It did not go well. It’s a good thing I had that fortification.

“Stitch center back neck and panel seam edges of back and side back sections.”

That was my first line of instructions. (Is it just me, or does that look like algebra? If Johnny has 3 watermelons how tall is his shadow at noon? Purple.) It sounds worse than it is. I knew what they were talking about and so I began. About 45 minutes later my pieces were beginning to look like something and that something was a hot mess.

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Something is rotten in Denmark.

I was all proud of myself at this point. The curve of the waist is showing nicely. The edges are lining up well, in spite of all the redrawing of the pattern. Woohoo, right? No. Not so much. I’ve done so many things wrong by this point it’s absurd. (Only a couple of which I knew about when I took this picture.) It would seem I had never sewed in my life. I was not drinking. I almost wish I had been, at least then I would have had an excuse.

All of the seams in the above photo had to be ripped out. The side seams were done on the wrong side. They should be visible, as is the center seam shown above. Yeah, about that center seam … isn’t it pretty? Beautifully matched, evenly stitched, and absolutely, unequivocally wrong. That seam is where the back zipper goes. I was supposed to sew below the tailor tack. Instead, I sewed above the tailor tack. Essentially, I wasted the entire morning.

I ripped out everything I had done and sewed it the way I should have done the first time. That’s okay this is why I do mock-ups, so I can make all (we hope) of my mistakes on cheap-ish canvas. Unfortunately, when I get to rippin’, I get to rippin‘. I ran my seam ripper right through the fabric and then had to repair it. Not a big deal and it was in keeping with the Let’s Do Everything Twice theme of the day.

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After I fixed my many blunders, I worked out the exposed zipper for the back. I like the look of it except for the very bottom. I decided that if this ever makes it to leather I’m going to special order a two-way, full length zipper that will run from neck to ankle and will be sexy as all get out.

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Oh, the yumminess of the exposed zipper!

Because I was so intimidated by the learning curve of adapting the multi sized pattern, I seriously considered cutting and assembling a single size and then altering the finished garment. I’m very glad that I made alterations on the pattern instead of during fittings. It’s pretty clear, even at this stage, that I’m going to have to do something about the waist. The material already seems stressed and there’s no body in it yet. I’m considering installing a waist tape, though I haven’t the first clue how to do so. I’m going to see how it performs when it’s complete. I may retrofit the waste tape.

There’s no hurry. I have plenty of time to decide. Isn’t that wonderful?

 

Size matters

Recently, I asserted that most yard goods come in 45″ and 60″ widths, and they do. The key word here is most.

Today, I set up to begin pinning/cutting/marking the 6 bajillion pattern pieces for my dress mock up. I carefully ironed the patterns and the canvas. This is an important step that I used to skip. When I started working in leather I realized how teeny discrepancies, from wrinkled patterns, can add up to huge issues. I now do everything I can to minimize anomalies. I make enough mistakes without handicapping myself.20160206_161126

I take a hard look at the pattern layout. Hmm, I think, that doesn’t look like it’s going to fit. Okay, I know I have a horrible time with manipulating shapes and spacial concepts, so it’ll probably fit just fine. And with that, I got to work.

After mucking about for a bit, to no avail, I sat and thought. Something was seriously wonky. After some time and some additional examination of the layout, I realized that I was trying to do the layout for dress A, while having the pattern pieces for dress B because, well, I’m an idiot and I am in fact making dress B. (heavy sigh) This is why I try to mark everything in red pencil before I start. That red pencil you see above? Yeah, that was done after I tried to make the wrong dress from the right pattern.

I spent some more time mucking about with pattern pieces, still to no avail. They still did not fit. After exhausting the possibilities, because I was truly convinced I had to be reading/doing something wrong, I finally (I know. You would have thought I had done this ages ago, right?) get out my measuring tape. The fabric is not 45 inches wide. It’s 40. Leave it to me to find the exception to the 45″ rule.

Fortunately, I know I make a lot of mistakes, so I always buy extra fabric. It’s funny I almost didn’t for this project. I was buying a different weight canvas than I normally do because it was 1/3 the cost of my normal stuff. I didn’t want any leftovers of an odd weight hanging around in my scrap bin. What can I say, old habits die hard. I bought an extra half yard. That combined with some rearranging of the pattern layout (and flagrant disregard of grain lines) I had enough fabric for all of the pieces.

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Now, before all of you sewists come down on me for (mostly) ignoring grain lines, remember, this is a mock up. How the fabric hangs/performs when I’m finished makes absolutely no difference. Neither will it matter if the light catches the grain differently on individual pieces. I’ll be disassembling the dress almost as soon as I’m finished.

Little known fact about leather, though it does not have woven grain like cloth, it does have grain. Since I work with cow hide (for now) I don’t need to worry about it. When sewing, cow leather stretches for the most part, in one direction. Not a big deal. When I start working in deer hide, I’ll need to be more attentive as deer hide stretches in multiple directions.

While I have a pair of deer hide shorts on my to-do list, I have a feeling this dress is going to cure me of any new projects for a while.

 

 

 

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What’s in a size?

After some mental gymnastics, I sat down ready to figure out the execution for the whole Let’s-Fit-This-Thing-To-My-Corsetted-Figure deal. I cut out the pieces I would need to make the dress.

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That’s a whole lot of pieces, yo! (That’s not even all of them. Hold me, I’m scared.)

After I had a few drinks recovered from the shear multitude of pieces (there are just about double what I normally work with), I downloaded a measurement sheet and, while wearing my corset, wrote down the numbers that were applicable to my pattern.

pattern measurements

I can assure you, I do not have freakishly huge feet, as does this chick, nor do I wear pasties when measuring. Sorry to spoil the fantasy.

This is where it gets tricky. According to my corsetted measurements, with the bulk of the corset being included because I’ll be wearing it under the dress, I need three different pattern sizes. Can you say “Oy”? I knew that you could.

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Commercial patterns are not corset friendly.

I know that multi-size patterns allow for multi-sized people but I had no idea how to draw that into the pattern. To the Tube of You! I found a video that showed the very thing I needed in terrific detail. Then I went about altering all of the pattern pieces to conform to my measurements. Say it with me now, “Oy.”

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Altered to fit three sizes.

I’m pretty sure the spacing on the waist adjustment (at the number 2) isn’t quite right. I’m thinking I’ll need to smooth the transitions a bit during the alteration phase, from bust to waist and waist to hip, but for now, it’ll work.

To the cutting table!

To the sewing machines!

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See view B, that stunning dress in the borderline hideous gold fabric? Won’t it be positively dee-lish in leather? We’re going to find out.

Since I have a bunch of time on my hands right now, I’ve decided to tackle a pattern that’s been hanging out in my Some-Day-When-I’m-Feeling-Absurdly-Brave-I’m-Going-To-Make-This bin.

“Why do your patterns require bravery?”, you might ask. Well, because I work in leather. “And?”, you might further inquire. Allow me to explain. You cannot use pins. When one removes a pin from leather, the hole does not heal as if the pin had never existed, the way it would with fabric. This also holds true for that seam you sewed that was “a little off”. You cannot just rip it out and re-sew it, again, as if it were never there. Once you sew leather the holes are always there for everyone to see, whether this happens on the first insignificant seam, or the very last row of top stitching, smack dab in the middle of the front of the item.

If the unforgiving, never healing nature of leather were not enough to scare you off, let’s consider the cost shall we? Yes, lets. The vast majority of yard goods are sold by the yard, hence the name, and the width is either 45 inches or 60 inches depending on the bolt you select. Let’s assume you buy some really snazzy fabric and you’re constructing a full length garment. You’re going to need 4 yards of a 45″ fabric. You’ll likely spend about $50 bucks for your fabric.

Now, let’s talk leather. To make a dress from leather you don’t buy yardage. You buy a side, as in, the side of a cow. If you purchase it on sale, and have had the foresight to buy a membership in the Dear-God-I-Spend-Way-Too-Much-In-This-Shop club, you will typically spend $80 bucks per side. I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, so a thirty dollar difference and I get to wear leather. That’s not so bad.” Well, no, it wouldn’t be, if it were only thirty bucks. Alas, one side of leather is only going to craft you a knee-length skirt, with some scraps left over. A couple of years back, I made a full length mermaid skirt, of my own design. Two sides x $80 = $160.  At $160 bucks just for the yardage, attempting a new project, where you’re just kind of winging it, requires significant cojones.

Now, for my current project: I’ve been dying to make this dress for a couple of years. The cojones this calls for are so large I’m surprised I can walk. There are many firsts for this garment. Let’s count them, shall we?

  • I’ve never made a dress. (Six bajillion types of skirts. One or two bodice type things. One velvet blouse-ish top. Never a dress. That fact alone is almost enough to have me putting it back in the Bin of Terror.)
  • I’m incorporating functional, exposed zippers on the front slit and the back closure. (I do not posses the standard horror most sewists express for zippers but this will be my first project with exposed.)
  • It’s a vintage pattern. (If I royally screw up, I cannot just flit out and buy a replacement.)
  • I’m fitting this to my corsetted form, as I plan on wearing it with a corset beneath. (There isn’t a commercial pattern on the planet that will accommodate my figure when corsetted.)
  • There will be 50 million pattern adjustments because of said corset. (I know only the most basic adjustments on only extremely basic patterns.)
  • The design calls for shoulder pads. (I know, I know. I detest them, too. If there is any way I can make this thing look decent without them, that’s what I’ll be doing.)
  • I’m (probably) going to have to figure out how the divide the pattern panels into smaller pieces.(The side of leather is not going to accommodate multiple 4 foot lengths. I know, I said “probably”. I’m delusional. It’s almost guaranteed, unless I encounter some freakishly large sides.)
  • This garment will likely require 3 sides of leather, even if I don’t cut full panels of dreamy, buttery leather. Yikes. (I may never have the disposable cash to make it in leather. You know those concept cars that never come out? Yeah, this may forever be a concept dress. Unless … Can I crowd fund a dress? #joking)

I will begin this item, as I do all of my leather work, with a canvas mock-up. When finished, I’ll rip it apart and use the canvas pieces as patterns for my leather. I’m trying to get better at documenting my work, and so I shall here. You, dear readers, will bear witness to my struggles. Buckle up. It’s going to be a long, long ride.