More Indian fabrics

Oops, I’ve done it again. I was doing so well resisting mindless feeding of the Stash. But since discovering pretty & partly sewn Indian outfits during my wedding dress research, I’ve succumbed to their siren calls.

This time I tried the Salwar Kameez suits. These came as partly stitched tunic + fabric for trousers + RTW shawl. I’m still a bit confused about the names for the different types of suits, so pardon me if I called them by the wrong names. I think the ones I bought are called Anarkali Suits which have tunics that are fitted in the bodice & sleeves, & flared in the skirt. The trousers to go with these tunics seem to be the slimmer type called Churidar. I bought 3 brand name suits from Haya Creations in India. It’s the same place where I bought the two back-up lehenga choli outfits for my wedding which are still waiting to be sewn. Mea culpa.

One thing I noticed is that the part-stitched tunics for all three are HUGE. Like the lehenga choli outfits, you’re suppose to have your tailor alter the part-stitched item to fit & make up the unstitched item for you. Some shops offer this tailoring service. Haya Creations doesn’t. That suits me fine as I want to do the sewing. But it is a bit of a pain though to have to unpick stitching in the part-stitched items to alter them.

Nakkashi Euphoria 11042
fabric for Churidar trousers +
part-stitched Anarkali tunic + RTW Dupatta shawl

available at Haya Creations

Unlike other tunics I’ve seen, this one is all sewn up except the sleeve seams. It’s obviously too big on me. Thankfully the bodice of the tunic is panelled. So I think all I have to do is to remove one panel per quadrant at the side seams. The sleeves are kimono shaped – ie no sleeve cap, so can be easily shortened at the armscyes. The bodice length is more troublesome. As the neckline is embellished & all finished, I guess I’ll have to do it at the hem. That means removing the borders, shortening the bodice, then reattaching the borders. While the fit at the moment is no where like on the model, I do kind of like the loose robe-like silhouette. I might keep that instead of making it more fitted like on the model.

The dupatta shawl is lovely, but the embellishment is a bit scratchy. So I might have to find a matching chiffon to line it.

The Jacquard trousers fabric is a bit stiff & would probably look best in a more fitted styles. But to be honest, I’m not sure if I will obey the original design & make this into a trousers. There’s 2-2/3 yds of the 45″ wide fabric, certainly enough for a dress or even a jacket. We shall see. I rather like the golden wrong side of the fabric. But unfortunately the floating threads would snag too easily. So the black right side it is then. Even then I might have to line this to prevent snagging.

Jinaam Floral Tulip 7365
fabric for Churidar trousers +
part-stitched Anarkali tunic + RTW Dupatta shawl

available at Haya Creations

The tunic for this is less constructed than what I’ve seen in the shops. Originally I thought only the side & sleeve seams are left unstitched. But actually the bodice is just rectangular pieces of fabric, with button loops basted to the front & loose buttons in a plastic bag. No neckline, no bodice shaping, etc. The skirt panels are sewn except for the side seams. I will have to dissect these into component parts & make up the bodice & sleeves with my Blocks. The skirt I guess I’ll have to shorten from the waist. Haven’t decided yet whether to keep this as a dress or to make this into separates. What would you do?

 

Jinaam Floral Tulip 7363
fabric for Churidar trousers +
part-stitched Anarkali tunic + RTW Dupatta shawl

available at Haya Creations

This one is slightly more made up than the Jinaam one above, only because the front bodice embellishment requires bust shaping to be pre-determined. Otherwise it’s like the other Jinaam suit – pieces of fabric with no back shaping, no neckline cut out, side & sleeve seams unstitched. Shame I didn’t notice in the photo that the back is less embellished than the front. This looks a bit weird in real life, thought the modelled photos looked OK. Again I’m tempted to separate this into a top + skirt to keep it more wearable.

The dupatta shawls for both Jinaam suits are quite similar & plain, with mostly a border to bling it up. I’m tempted to turn one into a kaftan. I mean, how many shawls would I actually wear?

The trousers fabrics for both suits are drapy rayon the weight of lining. This might be my chance to experiment with baggier trousers. Maybe not MC Hammer baggy. Maybe at most this baggy…

 

Hopefully these type of trousers won’t require accurate pattern-making, because Trousers Blocks are sorely missing from my collection. I may just have to rope MR into wrapping me some legs soon!

Using a Cling Film (& Tape!) Moulage

So now that you have your 0-ease Moulage Block, let’s talk about what you can use it for.

Usage Overview

  1. Designing your own patterns: You will still need Flat Pattern Design books for instruction on how to turn your 2D body map into different styles of Blocks (TNT/tried & trued master patterns/templates) & individual derivative designs. If you’re not very ambitious, you might be able to get away with just basic pattern-making knowledge like pivoting darts & making sure your seam lines matches.
  2. Checking the fit of commercial patterns: You may still need some pattern-making knowledge to know how to compare your Blocks to the patterns.
  3. Help making a custom dress form: Unlike Duct-Tape or Paper-Tape Doubles, your cling film + clear tape wrap will not produce a warp that’s stable enough to use as a dress form. But you may be able to make a custom dress form with the help of your Moulage Blocks.

For 1 & 2, depending on the fabric you’re going to use or the type of garment you’re making, you may have to create derivative Blocks first before you can create your own designs or check the fit of commercial patterns:

  • For most garments in non-stretch woven fabrics, you will have to add at least some wearing ease to create your Basic Blocks, then design or check the fit using your Basic Blocks.
  • For corsets, or garments in stretch woven or stretch knits, you may be able to use the skin-tight 0-ease Moulage Blocks directly.
  • Note that your Moulage Block probably cannot be used to derive well-fitting Dartless Stretch Fabric Blocks. This is because the wrap flattening process adds darts. If you’re not perfectionist about fit (or you’re quite flat all over!), you can try taping the darts/seams close, squash the bumps like breasts, shoulder blades, hips, tummies, then trace the outlines. But because stretch fabrics have limits to their stretch & physics also dictates how they’ll naturally stretch, you may still get wrinkles & draglines. So proceed at your own risk!

Deriving a Basic Block

You will need to add breathing & wearing ease to get your standard Basic Block / Sloper for woven fabrics. There are different ways to add ease.

8_block_fitted-wrap

I used the method taught by  Simmin Sethna and her disciples Kenneth King (“Moulage” CD book – what I used) & Suzy Furrer (“Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper” Craftsy Class) … because that’s how I made my current Moulage Block. It’s a more involved method with different amounts added at strategic places, so may not be suitable for those looking for a quick/easy solution. If you’re interested, you can read about…

A different & simpler approach is to grade up one size as suggested by Kathleen of Fashion Incubator.

For those of you who’ve been “grading” commercial patterns by transitioning from one size to another – eg size 10 top to size 12 bottom, this obviously won’t work as you don’t have pre-printed sizes to work from. (I’m not even sure this is a correct usage of the word “grading” as all the professional books seem to refer grading as deriving new/different sizes from a base size – exact what we need to do here.)

I haven’t bothered to learn grading as I have no ambition of designing patterns for sale. But there seems to be one easy method that’s used in the home sewing industry: the Cut & Spread Method. If you have Fit for Real People (fitting book), Palmer & Alto explained it in Chapter 5, p28. If you don’t have that book, try this “Quick Reference for Cut-and-Spread Pattern Grading” article in Threads magazine.

I have not tested this method, so don’t know how well the result will work & whether there are any pitfalls. But another advantage I can see, apart from this being easier to understand, is that once you learn this slash & spread grading method, you can try it on commercial patterns as well, as suggested by Palmer & Alto. So you’ll have a solution to patterns that isn’t available in your size!

But for best fit, obviously you start with your new Moulage Block & grade up one size. Don’t forget to test your Basic Block to see if the ease you added is enough for you to breathe, move, & feel comfortable in. (You can use the same instruction as for testing the Mouage Block.)

Again, at this point, don’t start making design changes like lowering the neckline or moving the darts. Your Basic Block is another fundamental building block & not a final garment design. Once you have your TNT Basic Block, you can start deriving other styles of Block/TNT Patterns by introducing design elements – eg moving the darts, converting into different types of princess seam, grading up again for a Jacket Block & a Coat Block, adding extra ease for a loose-fitting garment like a tunic.

Designing Your Own Patterns

Let’s start with those of you too impatient to put in the effort to learn properly, shall we? 😉

If you’re not willing to put much effort in…

But you are willing to limit your design ambition & not be too fussy about a perfect fit, you can probably get away with just the basic pattern-making knowledge that you find free online. You may have to stick to a fitted bodice with simple variations in skirt silhouette – which still gives you a lot a of variations. Some examples of principles you need to learn:

Moldes e Dicas ModaAnd for the really fearless novice, Moldes e Dicas Moda, a website in Portuguese, has lots of inspiration & instruction for using Basic Blocks to create fashionable garment patterns. I have not tried any myself, so can’t say whether the instructions & results are any good. They get pinned a lot on Pinterest, great for browsing through designs that they provide instructions for. Use Chrome to view their site so the pages will automatically be translated by Google Translate.

Now those of you wanting to do it properly…

I do recommend getting at least one Flat Pattern-making/design book to help you learn the basic principles & increase your creative freedom.Which you choose will depend on how you learn & what you hope to achieve. Different books have different teaching styles (eg principles explained vs step-by-step instructions) & varies in the number of design details they cover.

So it’s best to flip through a few & see which speaks to you – especially as these specialised books are not cheap. This is of course easier when you live close to a big fashion capital like New York, Los Angeles, London, etc. where there are specialised bookshops and/or big bookshops with fashion design section. Unfortunately Amazon doesn’t offer the “Look Inside” feature for most of the flat pattern design books they carry. If you’re lucky your local library may also have one or two.

FYI, these are the books I currently have that cover designs for non-stretch woven fabrics. They were chosen to cover a range of approaches. So they are not necessarily the best books. And no, I still haven’t patiently studied them close enough. Shame on me.

  • Pattern Cutting (by Lo): This covers principles & is by far the most fashion forward of the bunch, with illustrations that aren’t dated yet & explanations shedding light on why a designer garment might fit differently than a similar high street garment. While it does cover some design details, it’s not comprehensive since Lo is trying to teach you principles & expects you to be able to figure out other variations yourself. The book does also cover drafting slopers from scratch, but of course these won’t be as personalised as your spanking new Moulage & Basic Blocks!
  • Fundamentals of Garment Design (by Bunka Fashion College): This is part of a series of textbooks for the leading Japanese fashion college. I only got this first one which covers basic principles. The rest of the series cover specific types of garments like skirts & pants, blouses & dresses, jackets & vests, coats & capes. I didn’t get the rest because (a) I’ve moved on from the looser fitting Japanese styles, (b) they may cover duplicate info, & (c) they are expensive! This one I got only because it covers info not available elsewhere, like how anatomy affects fit, how us East Asian bodies differ from the Western garment design standards. I got mine at Kinokuniya, a chain of Japanese bookstores that have branches outside Japan.
  • How Patterns Work (by Assembil Books): This also covers principles, but the style is very abstract – eg “increase volume around a point”, “Volume increase with darts”, frequently illustrated with close up drawings of a detail rather than a whole pattern piece, so can be hard to understand. While it probably pays to study closely, it’s a bit too much mental effort for me.
  • Pattermaking Made Easy (by Crawford): I got this based on Fashion Incubator’s review. This covers both principles & step-by-step instructions. It takes the industry approach of creating blocks for different silhouettes, then deriving variations from these blocks with design details. The styles it cover aren’t comprehensive, but enough to get you started & hopefully confident enough to experiment on your own.
  • Designing Apparel Through The Flat Pattern (by Kopp/Rolfo/Zelin/Gross): This is like a big recipe book. While there are a few pages covering basic principles, they’re not in-depth. But there are like gazillion step-by-step design detail instructions, all derived from Basic Blocks. Granted a lot of the styles & illustrations seem a bit dated, but this may be perfect for vintage fashion lovers.
  • Kenneth King CD books (MoulageNecklines & Draping, Basic Sleeve, Trouser Draft, Skirts, there are others that I didn’t get): I have these because it’s how I created my current Moulage & Basic Blocks. So the instructions work with the Blocks I have. It’s mostly step-by-step with some principles explained along the way.
  • Waisted Efforts (by Dolye): This specialise in historical corset patterns. It’s written for theatrical costume designers & uses the Moulage (“French Block”) as the starting point.

Keep in mind a lot of these books work with industry standard body shapes. So sometimes it will be hard to follow the instruction if your body shape differs from this standard. I don’t have a neat answer for how to deal with that. There’s just a lot of experimentation. Sometimes fit alteration books can be helpful.

One thing for sure, it’s not easy creating good quality patterns, especially when you start getting creative with the designs. There’s a lot of add-ons you have to think about, eg:

  • facing, interfacing & lining patterns that you may need, how they differ from the main patterns, how they affect the amount of ease you may need – I always forget this bit & end up with garments that are slightly tighter than expected
  • seam & hem options & how that affect seam/hem allowance & construction order
  • how to construct the garment!

Trying to create my own patterns has certainly made me more appreciative of professional pattern-makers, & a bit more understanding when mistakes happen in commercial patterns. Very few people are perfect. As consumers of cheap fashion – even when you’re making the “cheap fashion” –  we take a lot for granted.

Examples of patterns derived from my Blocks:

(Sorry, the older makes don’t have diagrams comparing the patterns to the Blocks.)

Checking the Fit of Commercial Patterns

I’ll ‘fess up that I haven’t cracked this nut yet. The dilemma when you have personal Blocks is do you:

  1. Alter commercial patterns to match your personal Blocks OR
  2. Start with your own Blocks & copy their design lines, using their pattern sheets & instructions as a guide to what pieces you’d need to create with your personal Blocks & how to construct the garment.

So far I’ve done mostly B…if there is a simple enough design I want to sew. I’ve done A occasionally, but there’s a lot of guesswork. And as mentioned before, you will need to understand some basics of pattern-making to be able to do either, because the pattern’s design may have darts, shaping seams, pleats/gatherings, & design seams in places different from your Moulage & Basic Block. So you may need to pivot your Moulage/Basic Block darts into the same locations to be able to compare.

As we’re all in the same boats, here are some references I’ve found so far:

  1. The Merits of a Basic Fitting Pattern (by Howland): an article on Threads Magazine website that covers the basic of moving darts, then comparing your Blocks to the commercial pattern.
  2. De-mystifying Fit (by Maynard): a CD book on using the Moulage/Basic/Jacket Blocks (created using Kenneth King’s method) to adjust commercial patterns. There’s a chapter on the process & principles, then 9 case studies showing step-by-step examples of adjustments to specific patterns on ladies of various sizes & shapes.
  3. Fit for Real People (by Palmer & Alto) + Pattern Company Fitting Shells: Although this is a fitting book, Chapter 9 “Making A Body Map” (p74-88) suggests adjusting pattern companies’ fitting shell patterns to find out how your body differs from the standard & what adjustments you may need to consider when working with patterns from those same companies. So in our case, we’d buy one of these fitting shells, working off copies we’d adjust the fitting shell using standard alteration techniques to make the fitting shells look like our Basic Block. The steps we took to achieve this would be our list of potential adjustments we need to make to fashion patterns – eg full-bust adjustment, sloping shoulder, etc.
    Unfortunately not all pattern companies offer fitting shell pattern any more (eg Simplicity, Burda, New Look). And even when they do, it’s not entirely clear if they actually use their fitting shells as their design Blocks. But the book mentions that the big pattern companies (Vogue, McCall, Butterick, Simplicity, Burda) all use fairly standarised sizing. So once you figure out how you differ from one company’s fitting shell pattern, the same changes will probably apply when using the other companies’ patterns. If you use independent pattern companies’ patterns, then good luck! Maybe see if they offer a very basic dress design that’s similar to the Basic Block & use that as the fitting shell pattern.
    I have the Vogue Fitting Shell & McCall Fitting Shell. Vogue’s instruction include some basics on adjusting fashion patterns with simple design features. McCall’s is meant to work the FFRP way, so no specific instruction on adjusting fashion patterns. Butterick offers separate fitting shells for Misses sizing & Women sizing (larger, more fully-fashioned mature adult female figure), but I’d go with the sizing that your fashion patterns come in. Otherwise you may figure out how to alter a Women’s size 16W, but not know how to alter a pattern that doesn’t come in 16W. Someone mentioned on Pattern Review that Butterick one includes a semi-fitted shell as well, so you can compare the fitted shell (Basic Block) with the semi-fitted one to understand how Butterick add design ease for semi-fitted styles.
    Please note these fitting shell pattern comes in one size per envelope. So it can be tricky figuring out which size to buy, especially if you’re not a B-cup. FFRP advise using the high-bust/chest measurement as if it were your full bust measurement when selecting a size, and if you’re between sizes, to go with the smaller size (unless the pattern is a “close-fitting” design).  Base on these two advice I would be a size 8 for these “fitted” fitting shells (high-bust 32″ used as bust measurement is between size 8 bust of 31.5″ & size 10 bust of 32.5″). And indeed size 8 D-cup came closest to my Basic Block’s bust dart shaping. These fitting shell do come with different cup sizing, but you need to keep in mind that fashion patterns will generally be designed with B-cup. So when you alter fashion patterns you may need to do Full/Small Bust Adjustments if your Basic Block is closer to the other cup sizes in this fitting shell.

Now, when it comes to origami designs like those OOP Donna Karan Vogue Patterns, well, good luck! I don’t think our Blocks will be of much help, unless you can at least figure out where the bust, waist, & hip lines are on the fashion pattern!

Examples of Blocks used to adjust Commercial Patterns:

Making a Custom Dress Form

Although your cling film + clear tape wrap won’t be sturdy enough to use as a dress form, you can use your Moulage to make a  cover you put over a smaller dress form & pad out to duplicate your shape. Supposedly this is how the haute couture houses create custom dress forms for their regular clients. Suzanne Stern, who worked in the Parisian haute couture houses, demonstrated the process in “Padding a Dress Form” in Threads magazine (subscription needed to read the article; it’s also on Threads Archive DVD, issues 44, 45, 48). I used my Kenneth King Moulage this way to create a cover for my padded & pinnable paper-tape dress form.

The main differences between this method & what you might normally do are:

  • Sturdy non-stretch fabric used for the cover. You don’t want the padding/stuffing to stretch your cover out of shape. That would defeat the purpose.
  • Smoother, tearable batting (eg upholstery padding) + fusible interfacing are used instead of just cushion/toy stuffing to pad the form. This avoid lumpiness that again distort your cover’s shape.
  • Padding is not done haphazardly after you put the cover on. Instead you’d visually approximate the shape of your body with the padding, check key measurements as you go along, use the fusible interfacing to keep padding in place, and only use the cover to squash the thing into precisely the shape you are.

It’s more work, but might be less likely to distort your cover’s shape. If you’ve stuffed a Duct-Tape Double before you’d know that even with such a precise wrap, it’s possible to distort the shape during stuffing, eg by turning an oval circumference into a circlar one. The fabric cover simply won’t stop you doing this sort of distortion. While you’ll still get a better fitting form than uncustomised dress forms, it may cause some fitting problems & unintended “design features” later on!

However you do it – haphazardly or precisely – keep in mind that:

  • The base dress form needs to be smaller than all of your widths & circumferences: eg neck, shoulders, high-bust, bust, under-bust, waist, high hip, hip, under bum.
  • If your proportion lengthwise is significantly different from the dress form: You need to check the circumferences at the right height. Eg if your waist is lower than the dress form’s, you need to check the dress form at where your waist would be, not the dress form’s own waist.
  • If you decide not to use a ready-made dress form as the base: Make sure you choose a stand that can support the weight of your stuffed form. My first stuffed Duct-Tape Double broke its leg because it was too heavy for its leg! You can try lightening the load by using hollow boxes – eg shoe boxes – around the stand & pad around these boxes. You’ll have less to pad & the resulting form would weigh less. This is what I sort of did with my current Paper-Tape Dress Form.
  • 11_form-checkCheck the widths & depths at key circumferences if you can: This is to make sure you haven’t turned your ovals into circles! Do this visually at least – eg does the bust line look too deep front-to-back & too narrow side-to-side. Or if you want to be more precise you can try using a couple of L-shaped rulers to box you in at these key circumferences & find the depths & widths. Do the same with the you padded form & make sure the depths & widths match.

And that’s all folks! Hope this is helpful. Again, keep in mind I’m no expert & these are just my own observations & hypothesis.

Have fun using your Moulage & Basic Blocks, whatever you end up using them for!

Making a Cling Film (& Tape!) Moulage

I first read about the cling film method of creating Fitting Shell Blocks/Slopers on Fashion Incubator’s website.

By that point I had already made my latest Blocks the long-winded way with lots of measurements, drafting, & a few rounds of fitting muslins/toiles. I used the ‘French Moulage’ method taught by Simmin Sethna and her students Kenneth King (“Moulage” CD book – what I used) & Suzy Furrer (“Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper” Craftsy Class – I haven’t tried, but assume it’s the same method.) So I haven’t been cling-film wrapped yet. But I thought that it would be useful when my body morph again with age & my existing Blocks no longer fit well.

Then recently I was invited to two wrapping parties where I got to practice wrapping and/or marking on 9 ladies. It’s all a bit of a haze as I worked frantically to avoid ladies fainting in their non-breathable sausage casings! But I want to jut down a few observations, learnings, & ideas for next time.

The Wrapping Parties

Photo from fabrickated.com

Photo from fabrickated.com

The first was hosted by Kate of Fabrickated & was my first bodice wrapping experience. I had been wrapped by Hubby for Duct-Tape & Paper-Tape Dress Forms, but I haven’t actually wrapped anyone myself. OK, I did cling-film wrap my Duct-Tape Arm Form, but that’s not quite the same as wrapping a live person. I fully wrapped & marked Kate’s bodice & helped out with the other two wrappings & markings (Elizabeth of Fab Dr. E’s Fab Blog & Megan of Pigeon Wishes). Kate has wrote a post about the wrapping experience & how her test muslin/toile of this 0-ease wrap came out. Marijana of Sew2Pro also didn’t get wrapped, but had tried this method with her Hubby wrapping her & wrote a post about her wrappee experience.

The second wrapping party was organised by Barbara of The London Dressmakers Club Meetup group. There were 10 guinea pigs, including one who wanted a pants/leg wrap. I think Barbara & I were the only ones who didn’t get wrapped, though again Barbara got her Other Half to wrap her at home. I wasn’t brave enough to do the leg wrap, so Barbara took up the challenge. But as the most experienced wrapper there (just!) I was in demand for the bodice wraps.

Learnings & Ideas

First my thoughts & suggestions for wrapping, then turning your wrap into a Moulage Block. I’ll share my thoughts & suggestions for using your Moulage Block in another post soon.

Goal

The wrap is meant to be a means to create a 2D map of your body, which you can then derive garment patterns from. If you’ve taken pattern-making classes you know that this is not meant to be your garment patterns, which can have all sorts of design details – like lowered neck, bust shaping with armhole princess seam or just darts, etc.

So the 2D map needs to capture some basic info about your body. Like where the base of your neck is, even if you don’t think you’ll ever wear a neckline that high. Then again you might decide to make a turtle neck or halter neck where this info comes in handy in preventing fitting issues or unintended “design features”! 😉

I like to capture as much info as possible because it’s easier to ignore unnecessary info for a particular design than to guess missing info or having to resort to generic recommended amounts. But if you’re scared of pattern-making, you can certainly get away with only those that you’d find in a basic fitting shell pattern & even ignore the cleavage when wrapping.

BTW, even if you don’t intend to design your own patterns & only to use this to check the fit of commercial patterns, the same guidelines will help you evaluate what’s going on with the commercial pattern – eg is that neckline going to be too low!

What should wrapee wear

Wear your normal underwear & supportive bra. Don’t wear old unsupportive or compression ones if that’s not what you normally wear. Otherwise the result might not accurately reflect your body & create fitting problems when you try to design or alter other patterns with your moulage. With care by the wrapper – eg no marking on your nice bra, use bandage scissor for cutting out s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y – your underwear won’t be destroyed!

If you really must wear a t-shirt & legging – or leotard – make sure they’re thin enough not to add bulk, nor so tight & restrictive that they compress your body into a different shape than your everyday shape!

Avoid black as it can be hard to see & trace black guideline markings against black underwear & bra.

Wrappee comfort

It gets really hot & restrictive in the wrap. Every single wrappees was sweating profusely, even with the less ambitious wrap (bodice to waist only). So to prevent fainting…

  • Do it in a cool & ventilated room.
  • Don’t be too ambitious on your first go. Try wrapping bodice (up to waist), bottom (waist down), sleeves (from armscye) separately. Just make sure you mark the boundaries (waistline, armscyes) clearly so you know where to pick up where you left off.
  • Guidelines: If you are unfamiliar with pattern-making and/or cannot easily eye-ball where guidelines should be, try marking the guidelines on the body first before you start wrapping. As long as you don’t wrap too many layers you should still be able to see the guidelines through the wrap & quickly trace them onto the wrap with a marker. This allows you to take your time to get the guidelines right without wrappee discomfort. It also really helps with knowing how far up/out to wrap the neck & shoulder. For these pre-wrap guidelines you can try marking them with:
    • Marker lines on masking tape. We tried this at Party 2. Unfortunately the tape didn’t stick well, so got moved in places during the wrap as the wrappee moves. So for the last few wraps I only taped the neckline & armscye, then eye-balled everything else.
    • Eyeliner drawn straight on the skin. An idea I haven’t tried yet. On the plus side it shouldn’t move or restrict breathing. On the down side, you’d want to avoid marking any nice bra the wrappee is wearing. Maybe liquid liner would be less smudgy.
    • Any very narrow tape that you can find – ideally no more than 1/8″ (3mm) wide.  You can use draping tapes like the 3mm B&W fashion tape Marijana brought to Party 1. Old school graphic designers also use narrow tapes, so you might be able to find some in well-stocked art stores.
  • A layer of strong clear packing tape is better than many layers of cling film. I’m not convinced that cling film by itself is stable enough to prevent us less experienced wrappers/wrappees from squashing & distorting the wrap once it’s off the body. So I treat the cling film like a less bulky version of the trash bag you’d wear for a Duct-Tape or Paper-Tape Double – ie protect your skin from the clear packing tape & enable you to get the wrap off. By wrapping only enough cling film to cover the body – 1-2 layers rather than many many layers – you can quickly move on to the stabilising with clear packing tape, marking the guidelines, & cutting out.

Supplies

The essential ones are:

  • cling film: Kitchen cling films are ok, though not as stable & nor stick as well as industrial cling films. You may need to cut narrow strips to be able to mould to smaller prominent bumps (like breasts) more easily. Industrial cling films come in both narrow & wide widths if you’re feeling lazy! But it can be hard to pull off strips of the wide industrial cling films while avoid it clinging to itself before you’re ready. It can also be harder to cut out of as it clings more strongly to the Wrappee skin. Film dispenser will be quite handy!
  • heavy-duty clear packing/parcel tape: Not the soft sellotape used for gift-wrapping, but the one you’d get from good stationery stores for closing parcels & moving boxes (at least 1.6 mils/41 microns, preferably 3 mils/76 microns). Make sure it’s not too thin & flimsy. It may be useful to have two sizes – wide ones for smoother areas of the body (so you can cover more area quickly) & narrower ones for the bumps and any narrow valleys like the cleavage (so you don’t have to trim or cut slashes to make the tape conform to your bumps). Tape dispenser will be quite handy.
  • permanent marker: The one I use is staedtler lumocolor permanent marker. Other permanent markers may also work. Just test them on the clear packing tape first to make sure once dried they don’t fade or rub off.
  • bandage scissor: Has smooth rounded tips that won’t stab your wrappee.
  • tracing supplies:
    • scissor to cut the seams & darts/slashes – can be the same bandage scissor if you’re cheap like me!
    • large pieces of paper to trace onto – this will become your master moulage, so use some decent paper!
    • pencil, & eraser if you must!

Other useful supplies, which were mentioned in above sections:

  • pre-wrap guideline markers: masking tape OR eye liner OR very narrow tape
  • guideline rulers: narrow 1/4″ elastic for the circumferences, plumb line / retractable tape measure for the verticals

Marking Guidelines

1_wrap-guidelines

Minimum guidelines you need mark on your wrap:

  1. Neckline: You can use a choker chain necklace as a ruler. Make sure at the CB this is just above the bone that sticks out at the base of the wrappee’s neck & that doesn’t move when she bend her head forward.
  2. Armscyes (armholes): At underarm find how high the armhole can go without causing discomfort. Place masking tape horizontally under the arm. Have wrappee arms down to check if the tape’s top edge is cutting into her arms. Reposition if necessary. Then find arm joint at shoulder (ie end of standard shoulder seam – see #8 below). Mark from this point down, connecting it to the arm creases, then around the underarm – going no higher than the top of the masking tape at the side seam.
  3. Bust Points: You can also mark the whole Bust line. A narrow 1/4″ elastic that goes around the body can be used as a ruler. Try to keep the line level / horizontal.
  4. Waist: Again the narrow elastic can help & keep this line level too. If the wrappee normally wear her waist slanted – eg because of rounded tummy, you can mark this as a second reference waistline. Just make sure it’s easy to distinguish the two!
  5. Hip: Ditto with the elastic & keeping the line level.
  6. Center Front & Back: You can use a plumb line or retractable tape measure as a ruler.
  7. Side Seams: Aim to have these start at the middle of the armpit so it will be easier to match the side seam to the sleeve’s seam. This point may not be exactly halfway between the front & back. From this point down it’s your choice how you want to the line to go – straight down or divide the torso evenly in half (this may slant towards the front at the waist, then slant back towards the back at the hip).
  8. Shoulder Seams: 1_wrap-guideline_shoulderTipAim to have these start at the centre of the neck base between Front & Back, and end at the dimple at the arm joint when the wrappee raises the arm. If you can’t see any dimple here, then aim for top & centre of the bone bulge that’s usually closer to the Front than Back of the arm joint.

Additional guidelines I use:

Some of these are useful for standard pattern alterations/designs, eg Princess Seams, Shoulder Blade Apex. Others are useful for checking specific designs – eg Belly Button & High Hip useful for low-rise skirts; High-Bust & Breast Shape useful for strapless, sweetheart neckline, bustier, wrap front; Under-Bust useful for empire waist.

  1. Cross-Front & Cross-Back: I eyeball this at approximately half-way up the arm joint – ie visually dividing the F/B armscyes height in half.
  2. High-Bust/Chest
  3. Under-Bust
  4. High Hip
  5. Bum Bottom: Absolute minimum bottom length!!! 😉 Just under your bum cheeks.
  6. Front & Back Shoulder Princess Seams: I start midway on shoulder seams (between neck & shoulder tip), slope down to the bust/shoulder blade apices, straight down to the waist, then slightly curve lines down towards the middle of each thigh on the Front & Back.
  7. Breast Shape: This does require you to wrap the cleavage. You can use the underwires of the bra as guides for the bottom edges of the breast shapes. For the top edge, you may or may not get a clear boundary between the flat bit of the chest & the mounds of the breast. If yes, great, trace that as guide. If no, just trace as far up as there are clear boundary.
  8. Shoulder Blade Area: This can be hard to pin-point as some backs are fairly flat & the blades are weirder shape than breasts. I circle the most prominent region in the blade area. If you can’t locate this, leave it out. You may be able to determine this later when you flatten your wrap with slashes from the shoulder & the waist. It’ll be where these darts point toward.
  9. Belly Button/Navel

Wrapping process

Don’t wrap too tightly! The wrap should be a second skin, but should not compress the body. Otherwise, even after adding ease, your Block may be too small for standard woven fabric. Remember, we’re aiming to record your body in 2D, not making you shapewear!

The wrap doesn’t have to be even number of layers all over. It’s OK that some bits have more film layers than others. Just follow the curve of the body & work quickly. If you’re using a narrow film & wrapping continuously around the body, cut off & start a new strip wherever it becomes too difficult to continue with the same strip.

If wrapping dress length, for Wrappee comfort it’s probably best to wrap from bottom up so they can breath unrestricted for longer. It’s also easier to wrap the bottom up until the breasts start causing your wrap to go in all different direction!

If you can wrap quickly, wrapping to the bottom of the bum helps keep the wrap in place. I noticed that the wraps that only went down to the hip sometimes rode up because the Wrappee moved – they’re only human! When the wrap goes below the bum curve the opening is smaller, so can’t ride up.

For bust you can choose to capture the cleavage or not. If yes, criss-cross narrow strips of films (& later tapes) between the boobs (ie from Left Back Shoulder Blade to Right Front Waist & Right Back Shoulder Blade to Left Front Waist). The wrap might not stick well & conform to the boobs until you put tapes on them. If you don’t want cleavage, then just continue wrapping as you do the lower part of the body until you hit the armpits.

Armpits & up: If there’s not much curve here, just use larger film strips to cover the area quickly & move on to tape to keep the films in place. Because the film won’t go around the body it can be hard to keep them in place otherwise (unless your film has super sticky power).  Make sure you go up & out far enough at neck & arm joint to reach the neckline & armscyes.

If your Wrappee feels constricted by cling film at the CF neckline, quickly stabilise the front neckline with clear packing tape, mark front neckline & top of CF line, then cut the top of the CF line apart with the bandage scissor (from neckline down). Continue with rest of the wrap.

As long as the body is covered, you can move on to the clear packing tape. Be careful of gaps in the film – patch these as necessary so the clear packaging tape won’t stick to the skin/undergarment, making it hard to take the wrap off later on.

It may be useful to have many strips of tapes pre-cut & one end stuck to edge of a table. Shorter pieces are useful for necklines, armscyes, boobs. One layer may be enough if your tape is stiff. Otherwise add another layer. Make sure all the guidelines – if you pre-marked these – are taped. This is especially important for cut (seam) edges like CF, CB, side seams, shoulder seams, neckline, armscyes.

You must either wrap enough layers of film if you don’t want the whole wrap covered by the packing tape, or wrap the whole thing with a layer of packing tape if you only wrapped a layer or two of film.

Next mark the guidelines on the wrap. If you have pre-marked these before wrapping you can just trace the guidelines. Otherwise figure them out now.

Cutting out is easiest at the CB, from bottom up – less risk of poking the Wrappee with the scissor! It may be necessary to cut the shoulder seams as well (from arm towards neck) for ease of getting out of the wrap. The film may stick to the skin, so peel off carefully. If bits of film won’t stick to the inside of the wrap, don’t worry, the important part is preserved by the outer layer of clear packing tape.

From Wrap to 2D Moulage Block

Once off, be careful NOT to squash your wrap. If your whole wrap has a layer of clear packing tape it should be harder to squash. But if there are areas that are just cling-film, it may be easily squashed.

You need to flatten the wrap by cutting apart (seams) & slashing (darts), not by squashing the wrap.

Before you cut, label the Right Front, Left Front, Right Back, Left Back so you don’t get them confused once the wrap is cut into pieces. I’d label to bodice & bottom part separately – in case you end up cutting apart at the waistline as well.

If you’re not familiar with pattern-making guidelines, you may also want to label the other guidelines.

Where you cut initially doesn’t matter as much – just make sure you don’t cut off & discard any bits between the neckline to your hem/bottom line, and between the armscyes.

If you make a mistake or change your mind about where to cut, just put the pieces back together & tape over the cut.

Aim to cut & slash your warp so your 2D map looks similar to the standard fitting shell patterns used in pattern-making or fitting alteration books you have. Because then it’ll be easier to follow the book instructions to create other designs, or to add ease / grade up / compare your 2D body map with commercial patterns.

1_Block_Moulage-Wrap

First the cuts, which will give you seams. A quick survey of the books & the commercial fitting shell patterns I have show that this is generally:

  • Separate top & bottom pieces: so cut at the waistline
  • Separate front & back pieces: cut at the side seams & shoulder seams
  • Normally half a body: cut at the CF & CB seams. Most books will assume you have or are aiming for a symmetrical body. But your body may be asymmetrical, and there will be times when you won’t be able to disguise that asymmetry – eg very close fitting clothing or at openings (neckline, etc). So do keep both your Left & Right pieces if they are asymmetrical.

This should give you 8 separate pieces: 4 bodices (LF, LB, RF, RB) & 4 bottoms (LF, LB, RF, RB)

Next you need to flatten each piece with slashes that spread apart to form darts. Below are the standard darts used by books & commercial fitting shell patterns. But you’ll probably find that you have to slash in more places to be able to flatten the wrap without crushing it in places like the boobs. When you slash, only slash as far as needed to flatten the wrap, don’t cut all the way to the apex points (bust points, shoulder blades).

  • Back Bodices generally have a Waist Dart & a Shoulder Dart:
    • Slash from waistline straight up towards the bottom of the shoulder blade
    • Slash from shoulder (say midway between neck & shoulder tip) towards the top of shoulder blade
  • Front Bodices generally have a Waist Dart + either a Shoulder Dart OR a Side Bust Dart: The commercial patterns & alteration books generally uses the Side Bust Dart. Patter-making books varies in which one they use as the base pattern, but they generally will teach you how to pivot / rotate the dart to derive the other dart location.
    • Slash from waistline straight up towards the bust points
    • Shoulder Dart: Slash from shoulder (same position as the back) towards bust points
    • Side Bust Dart: There seems to be no standard where this starts at the side seams. Commercial patterns seem to start about 1″ below the bust line, Mr King’s Moulage book suggest 1/3 way up from the waist line. Whichever you choose, slash from side seam across towards the bust points.
  • Front & Back Bottoms generally have 1-2 Waist Darts each: The commercial patterns & alteration books generally uses 2 darts per piece (8 darts total). Patter-making books again varies, but 2 darts seem to be the more popular starting point. However, if you have small waist compared to hip, more darts may be needed to fully flatten your wrap with just slashes.
    • Dart 1: Slash from waistline down towards the bulges – eg hip, bum, tummy. Start at the same position as the bodice waist dart if possible. Avoid slanting towards CF/CB. If this seems necessary – eg tummy at CF – start the slash closer to the CF at the waistline. If it’s visually more pleasing you can angle slightly towards the side seam – eg to echo your hip curve! On my wrappees I did mark the princess lines to guide this & I angled these lines so they end at the horizontal centre of each legs.
    • Additional Darts: These are added on the side of Dart 1 that is closer to the side seam. Space these 3/4″ – 1″ apart depending on how many darts you need to flatten your wrap with just slashes.

If the standard slashes aren’t enough to flatten your wrap without squashing, slash where you need to. Normally these would start at an existing cut edge – eg the seams or outer edges like armscye or neckline – and point towards the peak of the area you’re trying to flatten – eg the boobs, rounded tummy,  rounded upper back. I don’t had enough experience slashing wraps of other body shapes to know if you’d ever need to start from the leg of another dart. But slash where you need to to get the wrap flat without squashing the wrap.

All these extra slashes & any non-straight dart legs are like your personal Contour Guide Pattern. Personally I’d like to record these details in my Moulage in case they come in handy for particular designs. For example, for a very low neckline or a wrap front, the extra slashes/darts may tell you there may be gaps in the neckline if you don’t pivot / rotate the darts that crosses the neckline to somewhere else.

Trace the outline of your flattened wrap pieces to create your 0-ease Moulage. At this point you can test the fit if you like, or make a copy & add wearing ease before you test the fit.

Testing the fit of your Moulage

7_wrap-fit-testBecause your Moulage has 0 ease, if you’re going to test the fit you’ll need sturdy fabric & seams. You won’t be able to tissue-fit nor pin-fit. Use non-stretch fabric, say a mid-weight muslin/calico & machine basting stitches.

You’ll also need a long zipper for the CF. I recommend putting the zipper on the CF because it’s easier to zip up in this restrictive 0-ease fitting muslin/toile. If you have a helper you can of course put the zipper on the CB instead. It can be a separating zipper or an extra long one that goes from base of your neck to few inches below your hip.

Trace your Moulage onto your sturdy fabric. The outlines will be your seam & dart lines. For accuracy you do need these lines drawn on the fabric – don’t use fabric cut edges as your sewing guide. Up to you whether you also want to trace the other guidelines like bust line etc. I like them traced so I can check their positioning is right.

Where you have darts ending in the seams, bring the dart legs together & fold the dart allowances downward (horizontal darts) or towards the CF/CB (vertical darts), copy the seam line overlapping the dart allowances onto both sides of the dart allowance fold. When you unfold the dart you should have the familiar “dart extension” you see on commercial patterns.

Cut with wide seam allowances – say 1″ for shoulder, side, CF, CB, waist seams & the hems. For neckline & armscyes, use maybe 1/2″ hem allowances.

Stay-stitch the neckline & armscye with normal size stitches. Clip the neckline & armscye hems to the stay stitching.

Stitch rest of the standard darts & seams with a long basting stitch. Up to you whether you want to also stitch up the extra contour darts. Personally I would, just to test if they’re accurate. If you have any fisheye darts, you may need to clip the dart allowance for the dart to lie flat.

Baste the zipper into the CF or CB.

Try on your Moulage muslin/toile & check for fitting issues. You may feel unable to breathe & as constricted as when you were wrapped, but as long as there aren’t any clearly visible wrinkles & draglines, and no edges cutting into your flesh or joints, your Moulage should be OK.

If you do get wrinkles & draglines, consult a fitting alteration book for help with tweaks.

If you can’t even zip up the muslin/toile, then there might have been mistakes made during the wrapping (eg too tightly) or the flattening process (eg wrap squashed). You may be able to sort it out with fitting alterations, or you may have to try the whole process again.


OK, I’m exhausted. Some suggestions & ideas about using your Moulage next time! Hope this is helpful. Do keep in mind though I’m no expert – these are just my own observations & hypothesis.

Bridezilla Odyssey – part 4 – Choli Blouse

Now on to the me-made bit in the outfit – the Choli Blouse… This is actually quite a simple top. Many choli blouses are. The most labour-intensive bit is in the embellishment. So after finishing the custom embroidery, I kind of lost interest, which made the simple blouse construction excruciatingly slow.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

4-style1-1

WORN WITH: 1-2 Altered Samyakk/Gajiwala Sarees lehenga skirt & RTW dupatta shawl; 3 Self-drafted chemise top, Miss Selfridge jeans; 4 Self-drafted chemise top, Self-drafted princess pencil skirt;

Inspirations & Design

To recap, the outfit I bought was a copy. So while the blouse fabrics & trim supplied do match the skirt, they don’t look like the original design I wanted. I decided to make a blouse from scratch so I can incorporate as much of the original embellishment design as possible.

  • I kept the front pretty simple & scale back the amount of embroidery because I wasn’t sure I can manage even just the hem & neckline borders.
  • 4021-2There wasn’t any photo of the back, so I took inspiration from other designs I liked & went for a basic U-neck that’s as open & deep as the bra I was going to wear would allow, with tasselled cord ties at upper back.
  • I debated whether to keep the sleeves see-through like in the original design or use the same opaque fabric as the bodice. I went with opaque because I thought I might want to wear the top as a vest over something like La Chemise, in keeping with the cooler London climate. It sort of half worked: On the plus side, it hid the messy underbelly of my embroidery. On the down side, my top turned out a bit on the tight side, so I’m not sure how practical – or visually pleasing – it would be to wear this as a vest over something else.

The Pattern

There are quite a few YouTube video tutorials on drafting Choli Blouse patterns from key measurements. But I thought I’d get better fitting patterns if I design from my own Blocks.

1-pat1

  • BLOCK: Top/Dress Block + Fitted Sleeve Block.
  • Pivoted front darts to create Front Armhole Princess Seams. (I really should sort out my Princess Seam Blocks.)
  • Picked a fight with gravity by moving the Bust Points up a bit & closer together for a fuller look.
  • Pivoted back darts to create smaller Back Waist Darts that won’t disrupt the embroidery design much.
  • Shortened bodice & sleeves for a cropped top with short sleeve.
  • Lowered neckline per design & pivoted out about 3/16″ per side (3/4″ total) from the neckline to pre-empt any gaps opening up on drastic lowering of the neckline.
  • Made the sleeve cap more shallow & wider at the top for better arm movement.
  • Added 3-sets of bra strap/band retainers – at the shoulder, further down the back straps, & near the CB opening.
  • Added placket beneath the butted CB opening which fasten with bra hooks & eyes.
  • Added detachable underarm sweat guard to help prevent sweat stains on the diva silk fashion fabric.

Well, it wasn’t a great success, despite a fitting muslin being made for a change.

1-muslin

  • The raised bust line didn’t fit very well. Gravity won this round. My bra was no match for it. It also didn’t help that I had to wash the fabric after I finished the embroidery (I had some hay fever sneezing fits while doing the embroidery). The washing or the pressing afterwards shrunk the embroidered neckline, which then pull the whole top up a bit further. Slight draglines above the bust was the result. Thankfully the blingy necklaces & shawl hid these draglines on The Day!
  • The whole thing is a bit tighter than planned. I always forget the extra ease needed to accommodate the innards – eg lining, interfacing, bumpy underbelly of couched embroidery. A fitting muslin is no help in this case – unless you include the extra layers in your muslin as well. The shrunken embroidery mentioned above no doubt made it worse. So I’m glad I didn’t aim for Bridezilla Second Skin Look in the first place!
  • And finally & most importantly, my draft failed the only test that matters when it comes to a Choli Blouse: I can’t bust out any ‘Screw In The Lightbulb’ Bollywood dance moves in this! The sleeves are still veering towards restrictive tailored fit. Me bad for not checking this in the fitting muslin – I only checked for standing still fit & lounging around comfort. Good thing no dance off was planned for the post-ceremony luncheon!

So the hunt for a TNT Choli Blouse pattern continues.

Fabric & Notions Used

There were a lot more bought than used. It was impossible to find supplies that come close to the inspiration photo & match the skirt. I never knew there were so many different shades of gold & types of metallic threads! So the Stash got a feast in the process…

And here’s the list of what I ended up using…

Construction Notes

The Embroidery Design

1-pat2

  1. Stabilise the neckline & hemline edges with fusible interfacing. This also supports the embroidery & minimise puckering.
  2. Traced the embroidery design from the Skirt scrap. As the material couldn’t be the same as the coordinating Skirt, I tried to at least match the embroidery design as much as possible.
  3. Worked out the embroidery design on a copy of the Blouse pattern, tracing from the Skirt embroidery design wherever possible. Because my left & right sides are not symmetrical, the differences are worked into the spacing between the flowers and vines to keep the design itself more symmetrical.
  4. The embroidery design is traced onto the right sides of the fabric with a pen & a white waxy dressmaking carbon paper. Using a different colour pen allowed me to easily see which bit of the design has already been traced. The pen is easier to control & the ball-point tip produced clear fine lines without shredding the pattern paper. My waxy carbon paper lines don’t wash out, but I think it’s acceptable as they will mostly be hidden by the embroidery. Plus the sheen of the Silk Dupion masks the white line in certain light. In fact it can be damn hard to see the design when I needed to! I had to experiment with the positioning of the lighting a fair bit.

Framing up:

2-emb-2-Frame

I chose the mix-n-match Siesta No-Sew Embroidery Roller Frames because of its flexibility & availability of sizes large enough to accommodate my sewing pattern pieces (they’re available in 6″-30″ widths & 7″-15″ lengths). Most frames are designed for dainty picture embroidery, so it can be hard to find ones big enough to keep the whole embroidery area flat. I didn’t want the embroidered areas to be crushed by the frame (as would happen with a hoop frame). Even rolling them up didn’t appeal. So I went for 30” roller bars (width) & 15” side bars (length) – just about large enough to keep the embroidery areas flat. I did still have to split the pattern pieces into 3 groups to make this work.

The other reason for choosing this frame was the Siesta No-Sew Table/Lap Stand Legs add-on that turn the frame into a table top / lap frame. This makes it possible to work comfortably at the table or on the sofa with the embroidery frame at the right height & with easy access to the front & back of the fabric. I did buy the optional cross-support bar, but ended up not using it.

Although the frame is designed to be “no-sew” – ie you can tape or staple your fabric to the soft wood roller bars – I prefer the sturdier looking sew-on method of traditional roller frames. So I stapled & taped strips of sturdy cotton ticking to the roller bars. (Twill tapes would have been the traditional choice, but I didn’t have any in the Stash.)

When it came to mounting the fabric onto the frame, I checked out this great YouTube tutorial…

…then did my variation of course! 🙂

  1. Reinforced the fabric on the sides with ticking strips.
  2. Baste the top & bottom to the roller bar ticking strips & rolled outward to keep the fabric taut lengthwise.
  3. To keep the fabric taut crosswise, sew the buttonhole twist threads through the reinforced sides & looped around the side bars. Keep top end of the thread in place by looping it around the top end of the side bar & sandwich between the bar & the wing nut. Pull the thread tighter around the side bar, working the slack loop by loop towards the bottom end of the side bar. Tighten the thread through multiple passes & alternate between the right & left side bars to keep the fabric centred. Once the loops are tight, keep the bottom end of the thread in place by looping around the bottom end of the side bar & sandwich between the side bar & the wing nut.

The Embroidery Sweat Shop

Flower centres & leaves at the neckline are satin stitches done in two passes: First with Krenik #8 Braid in 5005 Gold Coin, then with  Krenik Blending Filament in 202HL Aztec Gold for extra sparkle. The Blending Filament worked better when wetted & used in single strand. The white strengthening filaments did still fray a bit. When this happens I just remove them before using the Blending Filament.

Flower petals are Krenik #16 Braid in 202HL Aztec Gold couched with Guttermann Sulky in 7004 Gold. The flowers petals are double loops to match the flowers on the Skirt. To do this with a continuous Braid, I did the outer petal loops first, then flower centre outline, then inner petal loops.

Neckline vines & leaf outlines are Krenik #16 Braid in 002HL Gold Hi Lustre . The line borders are Metallic Mesh Ribbon outlined with Krenik #16 Braid in 202HL Aztec Gold Hi Lustre & 002HL Gold Hi Lustre. All of these were couched/sewn with Guttermann Sulky in 7004 Gold.

As the Braids are not cheap, I tried to keep it continuous to minimize amount wasted by knotting the ends. I pulled the Braid to the right side at the end point, then back to the wrong side at the starting point & knot this starting end. This way I can pull just the amount of Braid I need to the right side, & at the end any extra can be pulled back to the wrong side, knotted & cut with very little waste.

The two Back pieces were done while I was away visiting relatives. So I stitched the Metallic Mesh Ribbon border by machine first. The fabric & the frame were transported disassembled & the framing up done on location.

The Back Darts end in the neckline design area. To avoid bulk in the dart allowance, I stitched the dart points first before framing up.  It does make the fabric less tautly stretched, but it’s not too bad as I only stitch as much of the dart points as needed for the flowers that span across them.

I reckon the embroidery stitching process took me about 18 long days. I was at best managing 12 flowers a day & there were 111 of those, plus vines & leaves! I barely made it what with all the travelling. And it can be rather back-braking. I had to take regular breaks. So hats off to all the Embroidery Masters all over the world!

Sewing up

I didn’t do much research on how Choli Blouse are typically constructed beforehand. But I did notice a few blouses were sewn with wide side seams that are sewn last so that they can easily be let out when the Middle Age Spread hits! In other words, armscye seams & hems are done before the side seams, and if there’s any lining, they seem to be treated more like underlining – ie sewn as one with the fabric pieces.

Of course I went ahead & did this my bog standard Western way. For one thing, practical as they may be I still feel funny about those wide side seam allowance possibly peeking out at the hems.

  • Back darts, front princess seams, shoulder seams, armscye seams, side seams. Repeat with lining.
  • Join fabric & lining at neckline – sandwiching the back neck tasselled cords between the layers, understitch, then join fabric & lining at CB opening.
  • Hem fabric & lining. I did a jacket-style jump hem in case the two fabric shrink at different rate when cleaned. (I had a previous silk choli blouse develop an unsightly pull at the hem because the cotton lining shrank more. Not keen to repeat the mistake!)
  • Make the placket (fabric & lining), bra bits retainers (lining), sweat guards (lining) – all sewn right sides together with a gap for turning right side out.
  • Sew hooks to CB opening, then placket. Sew bra bits retainers to lining. Sew snaps to these retainers, sweat guards, & corresponding lining areas. Tack fabric & lining at shoulder-armscye points & underarm to help keep lining from peeking out.

2-final-Inside

The Verdict

I’m still feeling exhausted from my stint in the embroidery sweat shop. But I’m proud that I managed it. I don’t think I would have had the patience if it were for home decor projects like cushions or wall decorations. But once in a blue moon for a garment I can just about manage. There’s certainly a lot of leftover supplies for many more. And I’m impressed by how the simple embroidery design elements like these straight borders & nothing-special flowers can add up to something that looks fancier.

It’s a shame that the fit was off. Got to respect the Bod innit! And must, MUST remember to add extra allowance for each layer of innards added. I hope I’ll get a few more wear out of this top before I get too plump or it gets shrunken in the wash!

BTW all that effort with the bra bits retainers was a bit wasted. On the day I was too hot & flustered to do up all three sets, especially as the neckline was too snug to get one’s hand in. I only managed the bra band retainers near the CB. I ruled out attaching the bra first before putting the whole thing on because the too snug neckline wouldn’t have allowed me to cajole the girls into position. I kind of wished I had gone traditional bridal dress shopping so I can study how bridal wear designers manage to make so many women look so fabulous on their big day.

A couple of things for sure, I’m definitely up for making more of these embellished choli blouses, and the search for TNT choli blouse pattern continues. Now I just need some proper Summer days in London to make these worthwhile making!

Bridezilla Odyssey – part 3 – Lehenga Skirt

Moving swiftly along to the outfit itself…This spans the full spectrum from purely RTW (shawl) to partly pre-stitched (skirt) to purely me-made (top).

The skirt completion / alteration turned out to be more involved than I anticipated… Partly because I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to customise & do some unnecessarily tidying of the invisible innards!

Fit Alterations

2-skirtPanelLehenga skirts seem to be mostly panel / umbrella skirts. So originally I thought I just need to remove panels to reduce the circumference & shorten the length to fit, then sew up that last side seam & I’ll be done.

Well it turned out the top lace layer of this skirt is made from 34 panels which are each quite narrow from the top to the thigh, then spread out below that. Even if I remove some panels to fit my hip, this would still leave the top too wide for my waist (actually high hip, since many are worn lower down than the natural waist). Many lehenga designs simply use the tasselled cord to tighten the waistband to fit. But I didn’t like this haphazardly pleated waistline look, especially as the waistband can be quite stiff & bulky.

I ended up removing one panel, then pleated the extra width into 4 pleats at the front & back princess lines. This is then sewn to the smooth & more fitted waistband. The weight of the skirt actually pulls the pleats apart & along with the textured embroidery you can hardly see the pleating in the end. But I got the more fitted waistband I wanted. Well, almost.

The weight of the skirt still pulled the waistline down too much. To keep the skirt from sweeping the floor I had to tie the waist cord tighter, which brought back the dreaded bulky pleated waistband look. I tried to fix this by adding waistband elastic, which kind of spoils the neat waistline finish I took ages to make. Boo.

The inner layers were simpler to alter width-wise, though again I ended up doing this differently than planned. Because the hems of the inner layer weren’t as wide as my free spirit would like, I decided not remove any panel. Instead I resew each panel side seams & tapered more at the waist. Thankfully there are only 6 panels for each inner layer.

Length alteration was done at the top for a more A-line / circle skirt result. Considering that I basically resewn the hem border, I could have shortened from the hem. But I wanted more swish, so it made sense to cut off the more fitted length at the top rather than the flared length at the bottom.

Mug Shots vs Original Design vs Pre-altered Skirt

Customisation

2-skirtHem-nettingOut of the box the skirt weighs a ton & could stand on its own! In addition to the lace, the shiny underlay, and the lining, there was stiff netting attached to the hem of the lining. The lining itself also has wide hem that’s stiffened with the sort of heavy fusible interfacing that you might find in men’s formal shirt collars. It felt formal, ceremonial, claustrophobic, which I suppose is what a wedding ceremony calls for. Most of the other bridal lehenga outfit I saw also look really formal & restrictive.

lehenga_gold-red_1-3But it wasn’t what I attracted me to this outfit. The original design photos look bohemian. The model looked like she’s free to dance & twirl. I wanted a bit more of that romance. So off came the netting (fed to the Stash for some future petticoat of course!). The stiff lining hem interfacing had to go as well. The skirt still weighs just a touch under a ton, but at least I can twirl a bit better.

4-style1-2b

The more streamlined waistband, princess line pleats, & A-line silhouette I already mentioned above.

2-tasslesThe only other change I made was to replace the tasselled waist cord so that I can have a matching one for the Choli Blouse. I did like the original cord & tassels design, so tried to look for similar material. But it’s amazingly difficult to find the exact same type of material. Part of the problem is not knowing what the bits are called – eg the type of cord that was used. I did eventually find the same type of cord at jewellerymaker.com which they called “zari ropes”. No luck with the beads, so I ended up getting my beads from firemountaingems.com & also had to get some Montana Gold spray paint in Gold Chrome colour to ‘correct’ the brassy colours of the filigree beads. I followed the threading pattern of the original tassels, but replace some beads with red acrylic ones to tie in the red from the shawl. And paranoid about washability, I made the tassels detachable – hooked on to the cord with carabiner catches.

Unnecessary tidying

What can I say, I have sewing OCD }:-)

  • All 33 panel seams on the lace top layer had the seam allowances re-overlocked to an even & narrower width so that the shiny underlay show through more.
  • All 8+ yds of the hem border interfacing were replaced & tidied up (with Pro-Sheer Elegance Light Fusible Interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply that I had in the Stash), and the border facing darted uniformly to match the 33 panel side seams. Before this fix there were some excess folds in the interfacing & the facing dart shaping were done more haphazardly. Although neither problem really affected the look, I. Just. Could. Not. Help. It!
  • Added plackets to the waist opening / waistband with hook & bar closures for extra security against gapnosis.
  • But there one thing that I didn’t bother to fix which perhaps I should have, and that is to replace the plastic bead trim at the hem with metallic beads. It’s all too easy to crush these beads when you’re a klutz like me. My sewing room / photo studio is now strewn with bead carcasses. I predict by the end of the wedding day I’ll have 5 beads left. So why didn’t my OCD extend to this fix? Because the skirt already weigh too much. And there’s 8+ yds of zig-zag beads. And they would all have to be replaced one by one as there is of course no ready-made trim that fits the bill. I think I’ve done my time with the blouse embroidery.

All this for much less than one day

WORN WITH: 1 & 3 Self-drafted top/jacket; 2 Self-drafted choli blouse;

Love the skirt, missing beads notwithstanding.

But my lifestyle just doesn’t support wearing this again. So I must swish as much as possible on the day. And afterwards, steel my heart & refashion this into something more wearable.

Am I buddhist enough to let go I wonder. How about you? Have you hung on to your wedding dress? Do you have any plans for it?