Saturday, October 24, 2009

Landsknecht Dress Diary; “Hanne v.1” Part 3

Read Part 1, Read Part 2,

Bodice Construction
The tricky thing about the bodice of a landsknecht dress is that you don’t necessarily wear a bra underneath it. The bodice itself is supposed to provide support. There is no boning in this bodice, all of the support comes by fitting the fabric really well. Back in the patterning stage I made a duct tape version of the bodice and drew out the seam lines based on the “Period Patterns” pattern. I cut up the duct tape bodice along the seam lines, and lay it underneath my pattern trace in order to modify the pattern piece to my size while still maintaining things like arm holes, and seam placement, seam allowance etc.

To start the bodice I first cut the lining material out. I made my lining out of a rather stiff cotton canvas. I had some left over from another project, and was hoping it would give me the right shape while not being visible. I cut out the two front and two back bodice pieces. I like to put a seam up the middle of the back to get a closer fit. I stitched them together up the back, at the shoulders and the sides, so the bodice lining resembled an unfinished vest. I put it on inside out, and pinned up the front. Stephen then helped me pin and draw out where the seams actually should be. It turns out my shoulders are also slightly uneven! After that I had left and right pieces that were slightly different, but closer to my measurements. Stephen also pinned the pieces in such a way that the cloth formed a natural shelf for bust support.

Once I had all the pin lines chalked out, I ripped out all the stitches and used my lining pieces to cut out my bodice pieces and bodice guards. I stitched up the back seam, the shoulders and the sides on the wool bodice fabric, ironed those seams flat, then set it aside.

Bodice Guards
Using the bodice lining I patterned out the guards. I was planning for a strip of the green wool to go around the neck opening in the bodice and down the front closure, slashed with black underneath it, just like on the skirt part.

Using tracing paper I drew out the bodice lining edges, then measured two inches in towards the rest of the lining, and a half inch beyond that for seam allowance. I did not need to worry about seam allowance on the other side since it was still figured into the lining and not finished yet. When I had the pattern I drew various slash patterns on it until I found one that I liked, then cut out both the green wool of the guard and the black cotton I had used underneath the skirt guards. I used tailor’s chalk and an exacto knife to cut them, just like I had on the skirt. Once I had all the pieces cut and slashed I began the painstaking process of assembling all these various parts.

I used light basting stitched and stitched the black under guard to the green slashed guard. Then I used a much tighter stitch to sew the guard that went around the back of my neck to the guards that went down the front, and ironed the seams flat. I then pinned the guards in place around the pink wool bodice, right sides out. I pinned and re-pinned because this part was tough to get right. Some of the time I used the old dressmaker’s dummy that belongs to Stephen, but most of the time I just lay the dress on the edge of the ironing board to pin around the arms etc. Once I had the guards pinned to the bodice I lightly stitched that in place along the outside edge, mostly outside my seam allowance. I did not bother stitching the inside edge in place, since that would all have to be hand-done later. The final step was to sew the lining in, this one I did right sides together, so the right side of the lining covered the guards, and the pink wool. This seam was the actually real outside edge seam so I did nice tight machine stitch on this one, up one front side, around the neck line across the back around the other side and down the other side of the front. Since there were so many layers I cut the seam allowances fairly close, snipped all my corners very tight, and did a thorough ironing job while the thing was still inside out, and again when it was right side front.

After quite a break to recover from all that excitement I loosely zig-zagged the armholes, more to keep the lining and front together while I did my hand work, and for eventually fitting the sleeves, though all that stitching will have to come out eventually. Then I tackled the inside edges of the guards. The cool part about stitching the black to the green first was that I now had lines of stitching at exactly where I wanted the fold to go, so I cut the black fabric very close to that stitching line, and ironed under what I could of the seam fold before blind stitching the guard down along the inside edge by hand. Since I did this after attaching the lining, my hand stitches show on the inside of the bodice. If I was to do it again I might stitch the inside of the guards first before sewing in the lining.

To get the length of the bodice just right, I put on the skirt and the bodice and had Stephen chalk the line where the two met. Then I folded the excess to the inside, ironed it flat and hand stitched the bottom edge. If I had not sewn the guards down through the lining I probably could have flipped the bodice inside out and machine stitched the bottom seam. I’ll know for next time.

The sleeves ended up being the most complicated part of the entire process. I relied heavily on the pattern, plus a little advice from Stephen. The sleeves are actually three layers thick: the outer pink wool layer that is puff and slashed, an inner yellow silk layer that is puffed and shows through the pink slashes, and a black cotton that is the actual lining. The black cotton is the layer that is actually the size of my arm so I cut that one out first and stitched it up to make sure the fitting was correct. It was a little short so I cut a new one a bit longer, and based all the rest of the cutting on that one.

Next I cut out the pink wool layer, I cut it 7 inches longer than my black lining layer to get the multiple puff effect that I was going for. I wanted to have two puffs each at the wrist, elbow and shoulder. I chalked out where I wanted those puffs on the black lining, then pinned the pink layer on to it. I eyeballed the amount I wanted each section to puff, and moved the pins around until I felt I had it right, then chalked those lines on to the pink. I needed the chalk lines on the pink in order to cut the slashes in the right locations (i.e. only on the puffed parts.) I spent quite a bit of time chalking in the slashes for each puff. Since the sleeve tapers, it was awkward to have the same number of slashes for each puff, and almost impossible to have them evenly spaced. In the end I measured the width of each puff section separately and determined the slash pattern based on each puff. When I cut the slashes, I cut both sleeves, as this was the part that would most determine if the sleeves would look symmetrical.

Once I had that all figured out I tackled the yellow silk “lining”. The silk got cut at the same length as the pink so that it would also puff, but I cut it 7 inches wider than the pink to provide the actual bulk for the puffs and so it would show through the slashes. I put gathering stitches along the top and bottom of each puff, and gathered the yellow so it was the same width as the pink. If I had to do it over again, I would probably do only half the rows of gather stitching. Once the yellow was gathered to the same width as the pink I put zig zag basting stitches along the edges of the sleeves and along the top and bottom of each puff.

Then I stitched up the pink and yellow so I had a tube, and did the same for the black lining. I ironed the seams flat, turned the black inside out and stuffed the pink and yellow inside the black. This meant that I had right sides together. I sewed up the wrist seam, turned the lining to the inside, and ironed it flat, so that the bottom of the sleeve was finished. I then pulled the black lining material up so that the shoulder of the black was lined up with the shoulder of the pink and yellow. Since the black is significantly shorter the pink wool puffed up, since it was slashed, it puffed in all the places that I wanted it to. I did a quick basting stitch around the shoulder to hold it in place.

To get the puffs to look right -- the wrist puffs smaller and the shoulder puffs bigger—I put the sleeve on and slid the pink up and down my arm to get the puffs to the right shapes. I then asked Stephen to safety pin around each puff so I could take the thing off and sew the puffs in place. I did this by hand, with little stitches to catch the fabric just above and below each puff. I’m not sure there is a way to do it by machine. I actually thought about putting some nice trim in between each puff, but changed my mind when the hand stitching just to keep the puffs in place took so much time. Besides, the yellow silk underlayer was fancy enough when matched with the wool guards on the rest of the dress.

Once the hand sewing on the sleeves was done, I machine stitched the sleeves to the bodice. Since the linings were structural to both the bodice and the sleeves I could not hide the shoulder seam under a lining, instead I whip-stitched the rough edge just to keep it from fraying. I am so glad the inside will never be seen, ’cause while the outside looks good, the inside sure ain’t pretty!

Read Part 4

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