Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hot Pattern Coat update

So the deco vibe coat came sooooo close to success and then just fell short. I think it was a fault of the fabric I chose. The hem facing stretched considerably when I attached it to the hem and the threw the facing off and the coat just didn't hang right.

So very sad.

I might try it again some time with guidance, but I think I'm ready to move on to a new project.

Friday, May 23, 2008

what's next?

Watch this space for other non-academic sewing projects. I've got lots in the queue.

Next up: adjusting the Hot Patterns Deco Vibe Cocoon Coat for heavy coat weight wool and liner.


And here's what the finished product looks like:

finshing touches

After graduation was done and my parents went home, I finished up the gown so that I can wear it again next year.

1) I finished covering the shoulder and back padding and sewed in the lining. This helped stabilize things a lot.

2) hem

I marked the hem with my mom, so it was easy to do. I cut the hem so that I had a 2.5" excess. I sewed seam binding to the raw edge of the hem and turned up the hem. I then sewed then carefully picked the hem to the wrong side of the garment with an invisible stitch.

3) back cord (part 1)
The cord that extends down the back of the yoke and ends in a button is usually attached through the collar seam, but I wasn't thinking faqr enough ahead for this. I attached my cord on the inside of the garment to the back padding:

I decided to use a different, less slippery cord, but the rattail was good for testing out the design.

4) fixing the collar roll
I tried a few different ways of pinning out the excess from the undercollar to get the velvet collar to lay more smoothly, but in the end I found that the best solution was just to tack it into place. I collar will almost always be under the hood and even if it's not, there's no big design need for it to be visible free-moving.

Look, Ma! No more rolls!

Once I was happy with the pinned location, I used the weft threads that had shed off the gold silk to pick-stitch the collar into place along the stitching line of the piping.

5) back cord (part 2)
Once the collar was firmly tacked down, I was able to sew down the back cord with some back silk top stitch thread and finish it off with a beautiful ceramic shank button from my grandmother's stash.

6) swing tacks
I put swing tacks in at the hem line to keep the front collar pieces from moving around too much. They really help the movement of the hemline.

7)hook and eye
I added a hook and eye (coat weight) just above the zipper stop. This helps stabilize the neckline.

8) shoulder hooks and hood pins
I'm still trying to work out the perfect system for balancing the weight of the gown. for now I will rely on the "bra trick". In order for the bra trick to work, the hood must also carry the weight of the gown. to reduce overall wear and tear, I sewed coat weight eyes onto the front shoulder and pinned a large pin through the eye and hood lining and front. I'm not really sure that the eyes are necessary, but they seemed like a good idea.

Future work:
I think I'm going to put this project away, but I still have a few things I might work on later:

* perfecting the weighting issue. I have tried constructing some weights for the front of the gown using steel BB bullets, but this has not really worked out. Lead fishing weights do not seem to come in convenient shapes.

* adding pockets. I think I will wait to see what I will need to carry in a graduation ceremony before doing this, because that will determing the size of pockets that I insert.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

was it worth it?

Nacho's Mama asked if I thought it was worth it to make my own regalia. She said she was able to find regalia on the interwebs for $300.

It's an interesting question.

I probably spent as much money on the project as I would have spent just buying the robes. You have to include all the costs: pattern, fabric, fabric samples, muslin, classes, notions, gas for fabric hunting trips & classes, trim, etc.

I think I got 3 main benefits from making my own regalia. Hopefully, these will help other decide if they want to attempt this project.

1) robes made of natural fiber. This is a real, long term advantage for anyone that anticipates wearing these robes once a semester at sunny, outdoor events or stuffy indoor ones.

2) expanded sewing skills. I'm more or less teaching myself how to sew and I really feel that I gained confidence and skill as I worked on this project.

3) helpful diversion while completing the dissertation. I really needed a secondary project to help me unwind and let me do that "back burner" processing that is often necessary when one gets stuck. It helped keep me motivated while I was slogging through sections of writing that I was less interested in.

I'm very glad that I did this project, but I must admit that I'm not sure that I would have been as motivated to start it if the fancy robes had been $300. I probably would have just purchased them and suffered with everyone else in their polyester, but it's really nice not to have to do so. And, I get great bragging rights. Most computer science grad students don't sew, so it was really neat to show off my crafty skills.

Nacho's Mama, I hope this helps you make a decision!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

wearing the regalia

I am extremely pleased with myself for choosing a natural fiber. Even though I am working with wool, it is a light weave and it really does breathe. I sat next to my friends who had the fancy polyester robes and they were almost ready to pass out -- and this was an indoor ceremony. I was quite comfortable.

Once the robe is on, the weight of the back of the garment, combined with the weight of the hood pulls the garment back so very quickly the garment is supported by the front of your throat, and not the shoulders. I did not have time to had the hooks and loops and buttons the support the hood onto the gown, but I don't think that would have helped much.

I ended up pinning the hood to the front shoulder of the gown. Then I rant the loop that came off the front of the hood down the front of my dress and ran my front fastening bra through it. This works like a charm. I understand that men often attach the same loop to a shirt button, but women don't always have that option.

My mom and I have spent a considerable amount of time considering other counterweighting measures and harnesses that could be sewn inside the robe. There will be more posted on this subject to be sure.

hooding ceremony post mortem

It turned put to be a very good thing that I had not completed my gown by the hooding ceremony because it gave me an opportunity to take a close look at the gowns that other people had purchased for the event. It turns out that the actual gowns that were purchased for $800 were slightly different than the one that I took pictures of.

The piping color was actually a light champagne, almost silver bias braid piping. This drove me nuts. My local fabric store had tons of this stuff and it would have saved me hours if I had just been able to buy it. I think I could have made the appliques look very neat and tidy with this option. oh well.

The sleeves for my university's robes were almost identical to the Butterick pattern. They had a long cuff and the sleeve billowed down over it almost to the cuff.

The fabric was much shinier and looked more like the 4-ply silk crepe that I had fallen in love with, but decided not to use.

The front closing was very different. The zipper was hidden by a 1/2" flap and self fabric on each side instead of the velvet trim.

The pleating did not extend down the sleeve as far as I had remembered. I knew that I had over-pleated the back and sleeves, but I did it on purpose because it is much easier to remove a row of stitches that it is to add one later.

Now this doesn't mean that I didn't get lots and lots of compliments. And really, I didn't look very out of place on stage under all those lights. So it was fine, but a word to anyone who really wants to replicate their schools gowns: the sample gown is not always the same as the one you're buying. It woudl be very helpful to borrow a gown from someone who had purchased theirs very recently to get as close a match as possible.

The school's graduation ceremony was held Saturday night, so my mom and I had "plenty of time" to finish up the gown.

I started by removing rows of stitching in the pleats. I removed one from each side. and trimmed back to padding. In the end I decided to take two rows out from each side, but I definitely did is in increments.

I decided that I liked the length of the pleats in the back even though they were about an inch longer that the "store bought" gowns. I trimmed the shoulder pleats because they extended too far beyond my shoulder point and they made the gown feel unstable on my shoulders. I didn't shorten the back pleats because, well, they didn't look ridiculous and they were hard to do, so I didn't want to waste my efforts.

Once I had trimmed down the padding, we covered the padding sections with the lining silk. The padding material was made out of cotton and it was started to shed and shred. The covering should reduce the wear and tear and make this a garment that can be pulled out of the closet once or twice a year for a good long time.

Getting the padding covered took longer then we expected, so in the end, I went to my graduation with my hem still taped, but the sleeves were properly sewn.

down to the wire

The family had arrived in town and Mom had come over to help me finish up. The hooding ceremony was at 1:30pm. It quickly became obvious that there was no way the gown would be finished completely for the ceremony, but we were willing to tack it together enough to make it through.

I basted in the yoke lining and left the collar sections unclipped because I could see that they were going to need some more attention. We threw the robe on and marked to sleeve length and hem line. Mom turned up the sleeves while I sewed in the front zipper. I managed to get the zipper sandwiched between the lining and the front so that it was fully enclosed.

We were working as fast as we could:

I basted the lining to the front and front collar down to the section of the front opening that was not involved in the zipper (very sloppily).

Then, we broke out the packing tape. I had to get changed and my mom threw on her dress and started taping up the hem:

My mom tacked down the yoke lining and finished taping pu the hem while we were in the car on the way to the hooding ceremony. It was pretty excellent. The cosmetic underpinnings held for the few hours of the ceremony and soon we were at the reception, showing off our new hoods:

Monday, May 19, 2008

first look

Now that garment was almost all in one piece, I could put it on the dress form and see how things were looking:

The collar was just pinned into place, but I could already spot a few minor trouble spots.

1) major collar roll:

I was kicking myself for not drafting a proper undercollar pattern that could help roll the collar under instead of just cutting two collar patterns. I briefly considered redrafting another pattern, but I decided that since I needed to wear the robe in less than 36 hours, I should probably just suck it up and hope that once it was actually attached to the gown and covered by a hood, it would not be so noticeable. To those who might be attempting this, I strongly recommend drafting a separate undercollar pattern.

2) the front undercollar was on the bias and had stretched out quite a bit. I had to ease this back in because I could not recut the collar without scrapping the whole thing and I had already nixed that plan. So I just pinned in the ease and hoped that this would work out:

In my pinning madness, I got a little obsessed with having all my pins "organized"

time was running out before the gown needed to be worn to the hooding ceremony...

construction -- front

The front was fairly easy to put together. I noticed that I wanted to move the front pleat as close to the armscye as I could get it without catching it in the seam. I did the by leaving 5/8" seam allowance and then measuring the depth of the pleat against the front yoke, making sure that the center fronts matched:

Then it was time to sew the front to the yoke, sew the side seams, and sew the sleaves to the front and back. Once I was happy with the seams, I trimmed them down to 3/8" and zigzagged over the edge (not to self: next purchase should be a serger).

construction -- attaching back and sleeves

I mentioned before that the sleeve pleating worked like a dream. The back also pleated together easily; however, I forgot the check to pleated size against the yoke before I tied it off. I actually over-tightened the back pleats, so I had the fun of re-pleating the back a second time you'd better believe that I checked it the second time.

I attached the sleeve and back to the yoke using one backstitich through each of the crests in the pleating. I made sure that my needle passed through the pleat padding which kept everything very well anchored and did not put too much pressure on the wool.

construction -- collar

The saga of the collar beings with the piping.

Once I realized that the braid I had bought was not going to work, I committed myself to making the piping for the collar from the gold silk. I cut many bias strips and inserted the cording by using the zipper foot. This is not difficult, just time consuming.

Attaching the piping to the collar was a bit tricking because I was back to working with the velvet. I basted the piping to the right side of the velvet:

Then I pinned the lining (made from the wool) right sides together with the velvet and hand backstitched the three layers together:

I thought that this was going to be enough to hold the collar together, but I decided to machine stitch it as well after testing it out. Because the velvet was now stabilized by the silk piping and the wool lining, it was much easier to work with and I just sewed over my backstitching:

Things were looking good:

I put the collar on my dress form to get an idea of how it was shaping up and let's hear it for incremental testing! I had accidentally cut the fabric 5" too short:

I was so confused! What could have possibly gone wrong? I went back to my pattern piece and found a little note on it saying "shorten by 5 inches". The only thing that I can figure is that I shortened it twice. *sigh*

I did not have any more velvet, so I had to go back to the fabric store. I got some more velvet, but I also picked up a few more choice pieces:
a silk/rayon brocade remnant

and a ombre dyed silk crepe:

My new problem was that my collar pattern piece was now longer than width of my velvet:

I had wanted to only have one seam on the collar, but I was forced to cut the collar in two pieces. I tried to cut the pattern and the same level that the yoke joined the front and this gave my plenty of fabric to work with.

In the meantime, I picked up this roller foot:

This $2 investment made my life so MUCH better by allowing me to work with the velvet on the machine. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I had to make more gold piping, but then I was able to machine baste the piping onto the velvet and machine sew the velvet to the wool lining. The process took about a third of the time on the second try.

I now had a collar piece that was the right length. And there was much rejoicing.

construction -- sleeve appliques

After I had the sleeves pleated, I figured that it would be easiest to apply the sleeve stripes before I sewed the sleeve into a tube.

I implemented my first plan:

1) interface appliques with silk organza

2) hand sew gold braid onto right side of velvet (I quickly learned that I should avoid machine sewing the velvet as much as possible)
3) clip braid
4) turn and -- ta da! one applique ready

Unfortunately, this resulted in very messy looking appliques:

Frustrated, I took myself back to the fabric store to look for inspiration for a new plan of attack. I found some gold silk duiponi and I decided that what I needed to do was create two appliques and sew the velvet applique onto a gold, piped background. I increased the original trim template by 5/8" on all sides and cut that out of the gold silk.

I placed some cording at the seam allowance and folded the silk over the cording to create the piping effect on the background applique:

I then turned the edged of the velvet appliques under by hand and whip-stitched them onto the gold. This made for a much better looking trim:

I remade all of the trim appliques and pinned them into place on the sleeves:

I was able to sew these to the sleeves by simply topstitching in the "ditch" right next to the piping:

I then sewed up the sleeve seams and they were ready to attach to the yoke!

construction -- yoke prep & pleating

Once I had my fabric cut, I interfaced the yoke with black silk organza by basting the two layers together.

I then pleated both sleeves and checked the gathered sized before tying off the running stitches. All went well.

notes from the class

When we last left our heroine, she was waiting for the second half of her sewing class to get some help with the final pattern adjustments.

I went to class on May 11th can got some feedback about the adjustments I was thinking about making to the yoke and some advice about how to deal with the extreme angle of the sleeve cuffs.

I ended up making the yoke pattern 5/8" wider at the shoulder point:

That also meant that I had to return the sleeve cap to its original height:

In order to counteract the angle of the sleeve, my instructor suggested that I curve the cuff edge of the sleeve down 4" (we measured first to decide exactly how much to adjust it).

I spent the rest of the class redrawing the pattern and cutting out the actual fabric I intended to use for the project. It took about 4 hours to get everything cut out.