Friday, October 29, 2010

Brussels lace

It's time now to think about the lace. Last week in Ottawa the Fabric Flea market was held. If I can get out of there without buying something, I am lucky. It's a great place to find my sewing and fiber friends. I went to see Margaret Ruhland, a lace collector and expert.

The lace on the dress is rather gray, so I was thinking I wouldn't be able to use it. However, after talking to Margaret, I have changed my mind. There is a debate in costuming circles about using old lace again, taking it off the original dress. One school of thought says that it should be left with the dress. The other camp says since the dress is in such bad shape, the silk being in shreds in many places, why not save the lace? I was in the first camp, but now, after talking to some colleagues I met at the sale, I have changed my mind. After all, the dress will be de-accessioned from the collection because of its condition. The lace, the unique medallions and buttons are in good condition.

Using them solves another problem: finding duplicates of these. If I use the originals, one search is over. I still have to find lace and buttons for the bridal reproduction. using the original lace on the museum copy will tie it to the original dress rather nicely. The other issue I was struggling with was that new laces are so stiff compared to the 1885 lace.

In the box with the original dress is a section of lace that is loose. it may have been used to fill in the neckline, as it has a hook on one tapered end. I took this to show Margaret. She identified it as Brussels lace, with needle lace additions. I am no specialist with lace, so this was news indeed! The lace is also made with linen thread. It is very fine. In the picture, you may observe the lace has been joined down the middle.

Margaret had brought along another piece of Brussels lace, also from the 1880's. It was pretty close in width and style. Naturally, I bought it. Margaret told me to soak it in Oxy Clean and set it out in the sun to dry. this I have done and it is whiter now. The lace has a few brownish spots which may be rust, so I will have a go at these with lemon juice and salt on the next sunny day. Not so many of those lately!

Another costume expert I know pointed out that this much hand made lace on a gown must have cost a pretty penny. I came away from the sale with much to ponder and do. If I get the rust spots out, I will use this on the bridal gown.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Double piping for Mrs Abbott

The costume is now cut in silk. I love making piping and this gown has double piping. I had to think through the application, as one layer is both piping and facing. The back has a very deep point, which is rounded slightly at the tip, to enable the piping to be turned to the wrong side with less bulk.

I'm very pleased with how it turned out. The bodice is now boned, the skirt is hemmed. I have re-cut the sleeves, to lower the sleeve heads.

I bought some lace from a collector. It's a Brussels lace from 1885, made with linen thread. She identified the lace on the original dress also as Brussels, with needle lace embellishing. It is exquisite, but rather gray. I am considering using the original lace, if it cleans up well.

I was told to soak it in Oxy Wash and then set it out to dry in the sun. I shall block it out with pins, rather than iron it. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

History in the making

Back to my journal on the dress from the Musee Argenteuil.

I am now working on the pattern for the modern reproduction of Mrs Abbott's dress. This one will fit a person with a 36" bust. Here you can see the bodice cut out in cotton sateen and pinned together. This will become the underlining of the bodice.

There are certain considerations to be made when adapting an 1885 dress to the modern figure. Firstly, the modern bride will probably not be wearing a corset, so the high bust line of the original must be brought down about 1". The darts will need to be shaped right to the bust point, unlike a modern dart, which ends about 1" away from the bust point. This will help give the illusion of the corset underneath and keep the period silhouette.

Secondly, the waistline of the original bodice cuts quite high at the sides. Again, fine if you are wearing a corset, but the bodice will rise above the skirt waistband on the un-corseted figure. Therefore, I made the decision to lower the waist at the sides somewhat. I had to keep the sharp points at front and back waist.

The three quarter sleeves may need further length adjustments, depending on what lace I find. I hope the wearer of this likes the sleeve gathers, which will be mostly at the back of the armhole, again, for accuracy to the era. the width of the lace will also determine if I will lower the neckline further. The original dress has a drawstring at the neckline. I like this touch, as it allows the bride to keep the neckline close to the chest if she wants.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Silk jersey wedding dress

This beautiful dress was created with a Vogue pattern. My client was going to make it herself, with her mother's help. the silk jersey, however, proved too tricky for them to work with, so they brought it to me.
Silk jersey needs careful handling. My table is covered with cotton fabric, so the silk sticks to it, which makes layout easier. It is very slippery! Then the pins need to be sharp, so you don't get any snags. I cut it out with a rotary cutter, after inserting a new blade. Silk is my favourite fabric, but it sure does blunt a blade! By the time I had done the cutting, the blade was dull. Who'd have thought?
Lots of pins helped with the sewing, plus a fine size 10 needle. new, of course. The first fitting showed the draping wasn't working well. The weight of the jersey had it falling to one side, so I shifted the gathers toward the center, which helped. I used a serged roll hem on the skirt, as I didn't want to add too much weight. The dress is surprisingly heavy.
Meghaan was pleased with her dress and gave me some of her beautiful jewellery as a gift. Please check out her web site and her etsy store:
and Little Studio on Etsy.
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