Sunday, April 26, 2009

When Lightning Strikes

All I needed was a big hit of inspiration. At this point I've sewn as much as I can, the remaining steps are:
  1. flat stone the bodice
  2. sew the bodice back and side seams
  3. draft the sleeves
  4. flat stone the sleeves
  5. set the sleeves into the bodice
  6. sew the bodice to the bottom half of the bodysuit/dress
  7. sew the skirts to the bodice
  8. finish stoning the dress
  9. hem the chiffon skirts with poly braid
  10. finish the legs of the bodysuit
  11. make the float

Then there's the issue of figuring out what I'm going to do for "support." I wear a 34F dresses made with just those little sew-in bra cups are problematic. I'll worry about this later, at worst case I can replace all the straps on one of my regular bras with nude elastic and just wear it under the dress.

This sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but it is manageable if I just keep working diligently.


I've started again from Burda 7879, with a bunch of modifications:
  • made the back have a V shape
  • added the "salsa" skirt layer to the "ballroom" skirt so as to get an interesting layered effect
  • increased the layers of chiffon in the "ballroom" skirt from two to three
  • am adding sleeves

I've got everything cut out, and have constructed the three chiffon layers in the skirt. Those are now hanging up on my fitting dummy so that the bias will stretch out.

I've also constructed the "salsa" layer, which itself is a modification because rather than having it be straight in the front and pointy in the back, I have it pointy in both front and back. I've finished the edges in poly hem braid, and have stoned the hem. Usually I complete the entire dress before I start stoning, but I realized that it's easier to stone things like sleeves and hems flat rather. So, even though I haven't attached the "salsa" layer to the rest of the garment, I stoned the hem while it was laying flat on the table. I plan to do something similar when I make the sleeves: I'm going to do most of the stone work with the fabric flat, before I sew up the sleeve seams and set them into the armhole. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

Uhh, yeah.

So you know that dress I was working on? Junked it. I just can't get with the light pink right now. I woke up this morning with a new idea and have the new dress cut out, except for the underskirts. Must run to the fabric store and buy some black and red chiffon or georgette!

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I really hate dealing with sleeves. But, being a woman of a certain size and shape, I really should have them on my ballgowns. I made and attached the under-leotard, and then made the left sleeve. The sleeve looks horrible. I feel like my arm is a pale pink sausage. I will have to ponder this sleeve issue some more.

Shell Game

I now have the basic shell of the dress completed. It's just a basic 8-panel princess seamed style right now. The next step is to make the under-leotard, and once that is done I can work out the neckline and sleeve option(s). Then I will sew the dress and leotard together, and start with the "finishing" work, such a putting elastic in the openings and figuring out if I'm going to try to insert a silver godet in the back center seam or not.

Sewing gives me lots of time to think, while actually getting something done. Today I listened to The Police's Message in a Box and remembered the crush I had on Sting when I was 17.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cut & Sew

Whew, the dress is now cut out, time to clean up the great room (I cut out on my dining table). Then I can move on to actually sewing the garment together. Right now I'm entirely avoiding the whole issue of the under-leotard.

When in Doubt, Stick to the Basics

Actually, when in doubt, go make the dress that you made years ago for a client and always wanted for yourself. We'll see how this works out, I'm cutting out now.

I'm starting, as I often do, from Kwik Sew 2514, with minor modifications:
  • split the front center panel so the dress has eight panels rather than seven
  • make the skirt floor-length

  • flare the skirt out from just below the waist so that it will sufficiently full for ballroom

  • add a sleeve
  • add a float
  • change the neckline

It sounds like a lot but I'm back in familiar territory so I'm no longer panicking.

I Just Can't Do It

I am so daunted by this project that I am paralyzed. Making a high-quality ballgown is a complex and time-consuming process, and I haven't sewn anything in a year. I know what I want to do, but I'm just not up to cutting out and sewing together all the different shapes and pieces. I want something nearly instant. People ask why good dresses are so expensive -- well, there's the time spent thinking out the design, the costs of quality materials, the time spent cutting and sewing and fitting, all the finish work, and then the stoning. It takes time, a lot of time.

I think I need to ease back into sewing by doing something smaller first, as badly as I want a new ballgown -- and as badly as I am going to need one come June.

Sorry for anyone expecting to see an interesting project, I'm just crumbling here.


As far as people who make dresses go, I'm probably weird. I can't sketch, I don't drape, instead I look at existing patterns and figure out how to graft them together. Sometimes while I'm working I'll completely change my mind. It's like doing a weird flat puzzle that becomes this cool 3-d thing.

I like to work with Kwik Sew brand patterns, and usually start from one of their swimsuits, ice skating dresses, or leotards. Today I'm using view B of Kiwk Sew 3272, and grafting it on to either an 8-panel skirt (that's a skirt made of eight pieces that flare out) or a layered skirt (to get my take on the ruffly "cupcake" look that is in fashion right now). If I do the layered skirt, it will be loosely based on Burda 7879.

So anyway, I've picked my base pattern, taken my measurements, and used tracing paper to trace my size off the printed pattern. I do this to save the printed pattern in case I want to go back and make a different size or variant later. Then I cut out the traced pieces and play with them to see how things fit together so I can create my Frankenpattern. Sometimes I cut up and re-shape the pattern pieces, for instance taking something that was meant to be one piece and splitting it into two. One of the things I'm going to do for sure this time is combine the panties and top part of the Kiwk Sew patterns together into one piece -- I don't need a waist seam on that leotard because the skirt is going to be attached to the outermost layer of the dress.

At this stage it's important to make sure you have enough fabric for what it is you think you might want to do. I'm going to go measure things and think for a while.

Making a Ballgown in ??? Easy Steps

I am suffering from fashion fatigue and have decided that I want a new dress for Emerald Ball next week. How does one make a ballgown you might ask? Well, basically it goes like this:

Step One: Inspiration

Some people sketch. Some people drape. I just tend to roll around on the floor with some fabric and see what happens.

Step Two: Fabric Preparation

I like to start by washing the fabric. It pre-shrinks it, gets off any surface dirt or cat hair, and if any color is going to fade it will happen now. I usually only wash the main stretchy fabrics that the dress is going to be made out of. Chiffon, metallics, and other delicate things can just be used as is.

Oh Yeah, I Have a Blog!

Q: Where have you been for the past month and a half?
A: Around.
Q: What have you been doing?
A: Stuff.
Q: With whom?
A: Just people. Jeeze, are you my Mom or something?