A warning: this is going to be a looooong post.
As I noted in my last post, I successfully defended my dissertation, which was awesome. Sometime that weekend I lost my camera, which is less awesome. I lost some of the pictures I had taken about the sewing project, so you'll just have to read a bit about what I did.
1) adjusting the pattern (pics lost w/ camera)
I adjusted the shoulder slope and took out the two pleats in the front panel. I hemmed and hawed about making the shoulders slightly narrower, but in the end I decided to wait until I had the muslin to see how it looked. The pleats are supposed to hang well past the shoulder point, so I left it alone. I took out the two front pleats because the standard regalia does not have them.
Since I took out the pleats, I should be able to cut the front panel and the front piece as one, which is nice. Ditto for the yoke, once all the adjustments are made.
I had many, many swatches to look at. I was quite in love with my silks, but my mom and I had a long talk about it and she swayed me towards the idea of a loose weave wool. The day after she got back to California, she visited Britex Fabrics in San Francisco and found a 4-ply silk that was a dead on color match and an amazingly light weight wool crepe that was also a perfect color match. She sent them overnight back to me, so I had them right away. (My mom's pretty great, no?)
The crepe was beautiful and I fell in love with it, even though it was $79.99/yard. I justified the cost based on the cost of buying the garment from the dealer, which would still be more expensive. I needed to make the purchase over the phone from the salesperson who had set the fabric aside for my mom. There were only 6 yards of it left, so I needed to act fast. I called right at the end of her work day and she asked me to call back on Friday, when she was working again.
This gave me enough time to consider all my other possible options before shelling out the mad cash. I went to Exquisite Fabrics in downtown DC where the had a beautiful Armani silk/wool crepe for $59.99/yard. This was a betterprice, but the fabric was not really much different than the 4-ply silk crepe that I could get for $24.99/yard from eBay. So I moved on.
I then went to Gus Wollens in Baltimore, MD. They don't have a web site, but I can not recommend them highly enough if you are interested in low priced, high quality wool, linen, or silk suiting. They specialize in remnants of very usable sizes (3+ yards a cut) at very reasonable prices. I got a very nice loose weave 60" wool twill for $7.50/yard in a very close color match. It's not a gorgeous as the wool from Britex, but I couldn't pass up 1/10th the price.
I rounded out my day by going to G Street in Rockville and signing up for an open studio class so I could get some help with the project.
3) cartridge pleating
As I was preparing for the class, I made some samples of the cartridge pleating. I needed to know was the width compression was going to be so that i could make any necessary adjustments to the back and sleeves. I also borrowed my boyfriend's camera so that I could continue taking photos.
I first tried backing the fabric with cotton table cloth padding fabric and spacing the running stitches 5/8" apart.
I started with a 12" wide strip and this pleating took it down to 3". This is a 4:1 ratio. I did a few calculations and realized that I couldn't use this pleating without running a seam up the back of the robe. I really, really wanted to avoid that, so I needed another pleating method.
After a few other false starts, I came up with the idea of uneven pleating. That is to say, I spaced the running stitches unevenly. The stitches that show on the right side of the fabric are the ones that make a trough in the fabric and the stitches that run behind the right side of the fabric create the crests. The trick I discovered is to keep the trough stitches (right side stitches) as sort as possible (1/4") and the the crest stitches longer (1/2"). This leaves a very good looking cartridge pleat and sets the ratio at 3:1, which I could fit on the pattern.
Here is the stitching guide:
Here is a picture of the sample:
I also found that the running stitches could pull out as I was tightening. I solved this problem by using snap halves behind the first stitch on one end of the row. This has worked very well so far and I think I'm going to continue with this technique in the final garment:
4) redrafting pattern to accommodate pleats
After decide which pleating method I was going to use, I realized that the original patterns pleats were a 2:1 ratio. I needed to expand that pattern to a 3:1 on the back and sleeve. Since this pattern is basically large squares, it was easy to split the sleeves up the center, add another with and redraw the slight curve of the sleeve cap:
Likewise, it was easy to add another width along the center back:
The hardest and most time consuming part of the process was marking and sewing the running stitches for the pleats. I found that a total of 4 rows was needed to pleat the 2 1/2" I thought was a good starting depth. I ripped out more than a few rows before I discovered the snap trick (sometimes, you just need a lunch break). After that, there's a standard zipper to insert. I did not do this gracefully, but it's good enough for the muslin.
6) completed muslin & proposed changes
Here are pictures of the whole thing put together.
Full front view
The bottom hem can be shortened 5" and still have enough for the 2" hem that is called for. The final garment should be 8"-9" off the ground (lower mid-calf). By cutting the 5", the final length should be 8" off the floor in heels. This gives me room to go a little shorter if I decide I want to do that.
The front of the robe is also a little bit tight. There are no stress lines, but it just skims the surface. Since I plan to wear another outfit underneath this, I'm thinking about adding one of the pleats that is hidden by the front facing back in. This will give is more ease and I should be able to wear a suit jacket underneath the robe, if necessary.
I was thinking about straightening out the bottom curve along the back yoke, but I think it really does add a graceful line.
Here is a close up of the back:
Here is a side view:
Looks pretty sweet, no?
The shoulders are set a little too wide. I will have to adjust the width. Here is a picture of the pinned adjustment:
adjustment view from the back:
You can see how that squares the shoulders up and puts the seam on my shoulder point instead of hanging off the shoulder. It's a small adjustment that really cleaned up the lines of the robe.
7) Still to do
* design and test facing options for the velvet trim (that's what the pink line on the yoke are about.
* design and test sleeve lining. I need to create the bubble hem. I will do this by creating the sleeve lining and gathering the sleeve to the lining. It should look like a bubble skirt. I will probably also want to shorten the outer sleeve to get the right amount of poof.
* redraft the pattern with the changes before my next class on Saturday. I would like to be able to go into class with a completed muslin and pattern so that I can get an opinion on the muslin and then get started on the garment construction.
* pleat back and sleeves before class. It would be very helpful if I had these done ahead of time. It's what I spent most of my class time doing last Saturday. While this was not a waste of time, I would do well to get the advice I am paying for. The only changes I anticipate making to the back and sleeves are length changes and those can be done after the pleating is in place.
* make sure to mark stitching lines on the outer yoke piece. This piece is attached by hand and I'm not sure my seam is really straight here, which may account for some of the shoulder adjustments.