serinde: (ze fiber arts)
serinde ([personal profile] serinde) wrote2013-03-24 11:34 am
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The Three-Week Dress Project

In which I had a Moment of "I simply cannot wear any of these old things again"; which is ridiculous, really, but I know enough to get out of my own way if there's something actually motivating me, however illogical it may be.

So, there is an SCA event hight Mudthaw, and it's pretty big locally, and more so this year because our dear Baron Dave was stepping down and various & sundry of our peeps were getting significant awards. Therefore, of course, one wants to look one's best and hold up our side and all that good stuff. Combining this with the ever-present elephant in my mental room of "OMG do I not have enough clothes for two weeks of Pennsic", I determined at the beginning of this month that I should make a new dress.

Now the Swamp's colors being green and white, and the theme of the day being mud and all, my green wool dress is exactly right; I purposed to make a dress to wear under it (for those Gentle Readers who are not familiar with the 14th c., know that it is usual to wear a long-sleeved dress under a short-sleeved one, so you will see the sleeves contrasting in color). I had both wool and linen in a chocolate-brown color, and although I still think linen isn't right for women's fashion fabric of the time, I decided to use the linen for these reasons:

1) I wanted more data on the linen stretchiness question. My first dress was linen and it stretched infinitely; Tasha contends that she's made several dresses of linen and has not experienced this problem, though she is of reasonably generous endowment. So, who's the outlier?
2) I knew I didn't have time to Do It Right--there would be a lot of machine stitching--and I wanted to save the wool for a well and carefully-done project.
3) If I made a pig's ear of it, I'd care a lot less.
4) The hall at the event site is usually ungodly hot, unless someone has the wit to prop a few doors open. Though honestly, the wool is fine enough that it probably wouldn't have actually been worse, wool being magic.

I cut out the dress on Sunday 3rd, and perceived that I have mostly got over my fear (a common one) of actually setting scissors to fabric. Once I had it laid out, I was all SNIP SNIP BAM. I am using the pattern Beth & Greta fit to me three years ago, which fits well, except that the armscye is a little small (mem.: I want to fix that in the pattern instead of having to keep adjusting it in post-production). It is a four-panel garment, front laced, with the center front mostly a straight line (there is a very very slight curve, but it is not The Curved Front Design) (though I want to try one of those just for comparison; Tasha swears by it). I added gores in the skirt at each cardinal point for fullness, though these are not particularly full ones. The sleeves are long, and sewn shut (as opposed to buttoned, which is an option).

As noted I was doing the long seams by machine, and because of this--and because it is unlined--I did French seams. What I did not take into account is that a French seam takes up a small amount of additional seam allowance on each seam; and when you multiply that by four seams on a very closely-fitting garment, you have an actual significant difference, such that we couldn't actually pin it closed around me for a final fit check. However, after my initial gibbering, I comforted myself with the knowledge that, if it was too tight, I could open-lace it--that is, not lace it so tightly that the two edges touch--and since it was an underdress, no one would know. And, said I, it would be much easier to tell if the linen did indeed stretch after a day of wearing. So I forged onward from that stumbling block.

Another issue had to do with the gore placement. I had not really a clear idea of how high up they needed to go, and they ended up being about an inch or two below the widest curve of the hips, so there's a weird kind of saddle-bag pooching going on. [ profile] nedlnthred urged me to redo them, because as she pointed out I'd be wearing this for years and it would piss me off, and she is entirely right; but laboring under time constraints, and since it was an underdress for this time at least, I put that aside to address later. Also: French seams at the top of a gore, where you have either two or three seams all running into each other, is a Goddamn pain. I think I don't want to do French seams any more on this kind of thing.

I used grosgrain ribbon to face the center front, and some narrow silk ribbon to face the neckline. That was of course all done by hand, as was the sleeve insets. But I forgot to do a clean finish on the latter, so it's still a raw edge. Derp.

I did one thing that was completely and utterly new: along the center front, instead of the usual kind of finishing I have done (binding, or tucking the linen under the edge of the ribbon, or etc.), I attempted the tablet-woven edge. This is a definite period technique; several of the London finds have it along a buttonhole edge to add strength and support. Most of the info you see about tablet-weaving is to make trim or woven bands, though. I did talk to a very nice lady camping up the road from us last Pennsic who showed me how to go about it, and sent me home with a couple of inches that I'd done under her tutelage, but of course after six months I'd completely forgotten what the hell I'd done. So I got one of the standard works for the basic techniques and just kinda forged ahead with a straight two-card, no-funky-pattern weave. Much to my shock and surprise, it worked famously. The first side took me about two hours; the second, about 45 minutes. The worst of it is just trying to get some kind of reasonably comfortable working position. It's ergonomically awful. But it was actually kinda fun, and I look forward to doing more of it (and maybe making some trim later on, too). The only issue is that, since linen frays like whoa, there are a lot of little fuzzy fringy bits along the edge, so it looks sloppy. T&C says that it was just the raw edges running into the tablet weaving, so this would seem to be correct, but again those finds were silk or wool, not linen. I'll see how it goes on a wool dress.

The lacing cord Daria agletted so neatly for me years ago finally broke, and I couldn't find the green fingerlooped one anywhere, so I made another. I bollixed the tension of part of it, so it's really loose in the middle bit, but it sufficed. Gave up on aglets and just brought a tapestry needle. I should make more so I don't have to keep switching 'em from dress to dress.

So yesterday morning I put it on, with [ profile] sweh's able help--he makes an excellent tirewoman (tireman? valet?), by the way. It worked! I could lace it nearly closed, too (you can get a lot more force on it with a strong lacing cord than muscling pins in). There's something curious about the fit such that when I put the green dress on over it, there was a little bit of odd gaping behind my right shoulder, but not enough to fret me. When we have leisure, I will show it to Beth or Mathew to figure out why it's doing that.

Other notes:
1) The sleeves are also super-tight on account of the French seams, which is annoying 'cause I wanted this to be something I could work in.
2) The garment has my usual GFD problem of I Cannot Raise My Arms Above My Head, also annoying for the above reason, but it is not different from my other dresses in this regard. I want to know whether the grande assiette sleeve fixes this.
3) I should've had the center front opening continue a few inches further down. I have to do a little shimmying to get it over my hips. (YES YES SHUT UP)

I feel a little discombobulated this morning, because I have been so monomaniacal about this project, and now I have a certain amount of " what?" I feel some urge to start working on another dress, being on a roll and striking while the iron is hot and other such figurative language, but I also don't know if I should do something else like, I dunno, laundry or vacuuming or sensibly planning out other obligations coming upon me. I seem to have two possible methods of working: "all in" and "avoidance". I'd like to even that out a little bit. Still, it feels really positive to have completed a project in a question of weeks rather than months or years, which are the usual units of measure.