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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Flowers everywhere

This is the dress that took me I cannot begin to count the hours. I have recorded hours, but the application of flowers was actually a vision. I think anyone who wants to be a dress maker should attempt a beauty like this. When you are through, the smile on your face is deep.


When I unpacked the box and laid out the fabrics my first reaction was that this tulle was so stiff. I was sent these notes explaining the ideas for the dress. There are two layers to the skirt. Should this be an inner interfacing to the lower layer or could it be a part of both layers? Was it too stiff? Would it look like a costume or a party dress. I am always worried about the carnival-costume look.

The more I touched it, the more skeptical I was that it would work. It kept crying to me "What are they thinking?"

But as a single layer, it didn't seems so bad. So I began. All the outer layers of the dress had come already cut and the pattern pieces attached. So I laid out the skirt pieces, ironed the paper patterns, and worked on placing them onto this tulle so that it would lay properly inside each skirt. My experience has been that if it is not cut correctly, it could twist and send the garment in a different direction than it should be going.

So I cut and then stitched each piece to the lower lining or the skirt. Then sewing the three layers together was easier. The problem was, once right side out, it was necessary to stitch on the lining side close to the seam. A stay stitch. I clipped the seam of course. But the stay stitching was not coming out well. I was constantly tearing it out and re-stitching. So, I used a technique that I have used for decades on small curves. I took my pinking shears and pinked close to the seam. Of course, I should have done this in the first place, but my thinking was that it is such a gradual curve, perhaps it did not require the pinking. You have to be very careful when pinking

This is the seam trimmed.

Then it is pinked close leaving 3/16th of an inch to the seamThen you turn the skirt right side out and understitch. I am using white thread to show it up. It comes out very smooth, and there is no undoing of stitching to straighten out any folds.

This then is the outside of the skirt, very smooth, a beautiful curve.

Then the question was, do I repeat this for the upper skirt? So I worked the concept on scraps of the fabric. First putting the stiff tulle only into the lower layer, then making another with tulle in both layers. If it were possible, I would have tried this to the actual skirts, but once the seams are trimmed, change is just about impossible. The first sample with the tulle only in the lower layer felt rather lifeless. Almost the whole effect of the tulle was lost. But in the second sample, with the tulle in both layers, there was a wonderful lightness. If I were wearing this, I would be in the mood for a great wine and dancing. So, I went for the two layers. And just look at the dress. You can see it. The dress breathes.

The bra cups to the boustier were already made and in pieces. Make a decision. Frankly, when I placed the red which covered the black taffeta, the basic fabric of the dress, underneath the flower tulle, the red looked like a costume again. It did absolutely nothing for the bodice. I did talk to Julie at Fabric Depot, for whom I am making this dress, and she said to trust my instincts.
So I re-cut the bra pieces. I would have had to do this anyway to stitch in the flower tulle.

I love this insulation. It is a knit-covered foam. Where has it been all of my life! I have taken apart so many purchased bra cups and shoulder pads to build a bust in garments. This fabric, and I promise to find out what it is, just molds itself to whatever you want it to. I installed this cup liner at the very end of constructing the bodice. It needed to be cut down and hand stitched into the bra. The whole bodice was originally meant to be boned so that the boning stitching would show on the outside. But with this flowered tulle, that would not be possible. So I completely boned the lining which was made of the same taffeta as the dress itself. Before closing up the dress is when I stitched in my hand made cups. I have to find out what this fabric is so I can order some to have in my stock.

These are some of the markers I used in the next step. When it comes to marking soft tulle, not just anything works. Do you see the grey one? At the very end of marking and cutting the bodice and yoke pieces, is when I dug that one up and it worked the best. I need to get that style in all the colors. It is put out by Clover, a company from Japan that excels in notions.

Then I spent a week pulling out the stiff pages in magazines to use them for the placement of each pattern piece onto the flowered tulle, marking and cutting. A very lengthy process, But this is exactly the type of thing I love to do. Fussy cutting.

I put the flower tulle flowers to the board so that I could mark the tulle. I had to make sure that each piece was mirror cut, all the markings included. Then I used very fine scissors also from Clover, and carefully cut each piece. Then all the flowers had to be removed from the seams for stitching. The markers did have a tendency to distort the tulle while dragging it alongside the magazine pattern pieces. But I cut them anyway and fit them onto the taffeta when it came to that step.

This is a lot of flowers. I did have some left over. My first attempt was in matching the lines of the flowers. The original flowers are stitched on in rows. You can see it here. And I love matching stripes, plaids, patterns. So, that is what I did. And it was awful. I wish I had taken a picture. You would have laughed. So, again, here I am, taking - carefully - taking the pieces of the bodice apart and re-cutting the flowers so that they are random all in trying to maintain the grain of the fabric. Again, cutting off flowers to be re-positioned.

First I stitched the bodice and hand-stitched the flowers so that it looked like a field of flowers rather than a flower pot here and a flower pot there. Then the yoke was constructed and attached to the bodice. Sitting, arranging, re-arranging. It is lovely work.

The final part was attaching the skirts. They didn't really marry well. I think it was either a flaw in the pattern or there was no instruction on how to reduce the difficulty matching the yoke to the skirts. More arranging of flowers. I love that the straps are adjustable. Then the lining was all hand stitched from the top of the zipper across the skirt seam and around. So the whole dress is completely enclosed. I just love that. Most of the time, I will put in a lining if a pattern comes unlined. To me, to put in so much work and not have it lined is atrocious. It is amazing how many patterns today are unlined. This dress is worth all the time it took to make it.


  1. Was this the one you were making for the store? Is it a display item? Wow!! I can't see myself personally wearing it, but it's very young and holiday gala leaning, no?

  2. all i can say is WOW. Hilary would look divine in this creation. Once again, you eclipse yourself!

  3. I have not heard from "The Core" at the store. I am hoping they like it. Yes, it is for Fabric Depot. Red carpet I believe. Great high heels.

  4. Gorgeous!!! And Happy Thanksgiving,roasting coffee right now and it made me think of you. Have dried tomatoes well and Thank You *hugs*

  5. Alanna, I miss your coffee beans. Every time I make a pot of coffee I think of you. I loved that connection between us and the feathers and fabrics. Do you have my email so you can write? We should.