Monday, December 3, 2012

Themed Weddings are just the [worst] best! aka Making an Elven Gown (without a pattern!)

     So my friends are getting married on the 15th of December. Which, you may know, is the release of The Hobbit movie. And they are geektastic too. So, what does that equal? Lord of the Rings Wedding! Complete with hobbit groomsmen and women, and costumed guests. Not mandatory, of course, but HIGHLY encouraged. Nobody wants to be the only muggle in the 'Verse. Oh, did i mix my metaphors? My bad. So I found myself in need of a costume. And I somehow missed out on this fact UNTIL LAST WEEKEND. . . D'OH! Renting one is out as the nearest company to do so worth a darn is down in Colorado,, and really, if I'm gonna blow 50-100 bucks, I want something I can keep. Or sell. Not sure yet which route I'll take, but either way, I have the option. Tack on my oh-so-basic sewing skills and this becomes one heck of a trick pony. I chose this pin: Guinevere's Dress as my starting point. (After tracking it down all over again- I should really make sure I pin things I might need months and months later!)

     This is a VERY basic pattern (and after looking at the costume patterns available at the fabric store, I'm very very happy about this- those things cost upwards of $30 just for some of the patterns! And call for crazy yardage!) Add in a 50% off one item coupon and the lining fabric being 50% off, and this started to look like a thing. Oh? Did I not mention I decided to line it? Yeah, that happened. Because the fabric used in the film and for that person's demo dress was considerably thicker than the crepe satin I liked. Three days of polling other (geeks) guests about what color I should use while I waited for my coupon to become valid (I was waffling between Hunter Green, Wine, and Royal Purple-none of which I ended up with ya know) and I settled on Hunter Green with a contrast lining. Which was not available at Joann's. Sigh. But when I was about to give up and head to Hobby Lobby to try their generic (aka cheapo costume type) satin, I noticed a bolt of really deep blue lurking on the wrong shelf. WEWT! Then I decided, on the spot, yes, that niggling thought about lining it WAS the way to I found a bolt of super-soft posh lining in a powder blue. Sitting right next to the dark blue satin. Some signs are difficult to ignore. After all, you'll see the insides of the sleeves, and it's December, and it just CAN'T be all that hard to make a lined dress, right? RIGHT??! Oh, please, be right...

     Which led me to a few hours of lying-in-bed-but-not-sleeping-yet pondering the process of getting this thing to come together, lined and with pretty seams. I think I have it worked out pretty well in my head. I don't think I can articulate it at this point, but it's up there, stewing. And tonight, after a second trip to Joann's after I got my fabric laid out across the whole computer room floor and realizing they had cut the wrong amount and getting it exchanged for the right, I dove in. So far, I seem to at least be keeping my head above water. Tomorrow, we find out if I can actually swim. That's right, two part-er. Because I am out of straight pins and really tired.

Steps so far:

1. Lay out both fabrics, right sides out. At 5'7", I needed at least 3 1/2 yards to get from the top of my foot over, with a nice trailing edge. 4 yards would have been lovely and dramatic, but not-so-great for dancing. The tutorial says 3 yards. She must be tiny. Fold over like in the tutorial  for lack of floor space. I really need an actual craft room is my conclusion. This is a 10 x 11 room, with mostly open floor space. And yet there is not enough room. And having just swept, I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you(!), at how much dog hair still managed to find its way to cling to my fabric. (*&%*^#$)

2. Since my lining was 2" wider than my outer fabric, line up one side, pin all long the side to keep fabrics aligned, and trim off excess. Finish up by pinning the second side. Notice how the front bottom edge is higher than the back. That's on purpose, I promise. I don't have a measurement for that, it was eyeballed. (Which is my favorite measurement, by the way).

3. Then, fold vertically (or match up sides for those not familiar with photo references) and trim the corners of the BACK into pleasing rounded shapes.  I then trimmed the bottom edges fairly evenly as the fabric was cut rather wonky, and pinned the back all the way across. The front of the dress is that shorter bit you can see peeking out under the folded-back part for the photo.

4. Leaving it in the folded over vertically way, I laid down on top to get the spacing for the neck opening and where the dress would strike my shoulder and elbow. It is difficult to see here, but I stuck pins at the shoulder and elbow points. Then I stuck my hand on my shoulder, discovered that the length of my hand was pretty much right for edge of shoulder to just outside my neck, and used that as a guide to mark my neck hole. Snip, snip- boy, these scissors really are not sharp enough for fabric... pin the neck opening all around. Lay back down, confirm spotting of the neck (maybe that should have come BEFORE cutting?) and stick a pin where I want the armpit to be.

5. Starting from the FRONT bottom edge (you will need to flip the back bottom edge out of the way to see your starting point) and using a straight edge to guide you to the pin where the armpit should go, cut your sleeves from the body of the dress. You can choose to use the points, or trim them off level at your desired length. i still haven't decided. Probably going to level them off a bit, as that seems easier to sew. Did I mention I want to use french seams on the sleeves to make it look nice? Yeah. Totally a beginner seam. Riiiiiggghhhhttt.....

6. Pin, pin, pin your little heart out. Now I know why the little old lady I talked to way back before I even got my sewing machine said I would need two of those big packs of pins. I didn't listen. I'm out, and the front bottom edge is not pinned. But I didn't forget her warning that silky fabrics need lots and LOTS of pins. Even for skilled sewers. And my heart goes out to Medieval ladies, that had to hand sew all this nonsense, without the use of straight pins.
     So it's been, what, a week?, of me working on this thing. I haven't (completely) lost my mind (yet). (I said completely! AND I SAID YET!! Quit LAUGHING!)
Even though I thought I had this all planned out in my head, it turns out that bouts of barely sleeping coupled with sleeping-like-the-dead can erase those carefully thought-out plans from this head. No surprise, really. Working without a pattern, and then changing up the base idea can prove challenging. I've only had to unpick two seams (so far) in this project. Because while I had it planned (only in my head, and not on paper, when I know I forget anything that isn't written down) I got turned around by the gobs and gobs of fabric...holy moley, there is just plain A FREAKING LOT OF FABRIC HERE! 3.5 yards doesn't sound like much... until you see it, or think out the full thought of this is 10 1/2 feet long and 5 feet wide. Yeesh!

     And once you begin sewing, and you have bits unpinned here and going this way , and pinned bits going that way. Well. It felt kinda overwhelming. Add to that, the trim I was looking at getting over the weekend down in Ft Collins Colorado (that I had been assured they had two full rolls of, and it was pricey, but pretty) turned out to be NOT in stock (except for a half yard) least they let me know this BEFORE I drove an hour down there. And then a Google later I happened upon Calontir Trims. Buried on the second page of my search results for medieval trims was this gem. And the owner, Steve, is currently making the miracle of last-minute trim purchase and add-on-as-quick-as-you-can happen. For under $20. For 6 yards of very pretty silver scroll-work ribbon trim. That would have cost me way more (what I'm paying $2 a yard for with Steve, I would have gotten smaller ribbon of the same pattern for $6.99 a yard at the big craft store in Ft Collins)
     The one big benefit to this dress is the seam allowances are pretty much whatever you want, and are forgiving enough to hide my less-than-straight sewing. And I learned, a bit too late for the first seam, that you need to cut little divots out of even slightly rounded hemlines to keep them from bunching up. If I have time towards the end of the week, I'll be unpicking one last seam (which happens to be the front bottom edge, darn it!) and fixing that. Luckily, the dress drapes well enough that no one that isn't absolutely STARING at my feet will notice this. And people had best not be staring at my feet as that is just plain creepy.
     Just in case, today I stopped at the fabric store and got a yard of ultra-fine gauzy ...something... not sure what this is actually, I just ran my hand down the aisle until I felt something wispy. So if the mail decides to run in Wyoming time and my trim doesn't make it here by Friday, I'll at least be able to drape a gauzy headscarf around my shoulders to cover over the not what I expected to make but somehow better than originally intended neckline. (I was going for a circular neckline, and ended up with more of a shallow boat neck collar line.) 

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