Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Two Trimmed Edwardian "Beatrix" Skirts Dress Diary, Part 2: Designing a Graduated, Shaped Flounce

Polly desires her Beatrix skirt to have a tall flounce. Skirts of this era often were flounced, although as 1909 turned into 1910 and then the 19-teens, flounces appear to receded in popularity in favor of bands of flat embroidered, lace, or pleated decoration.

Some of the prettiest flounces I've seen are graduated in height. A graduated flounce might start at, say, seven inches in height at the skirt's front panel, but incrementally become taller until it might reach some fifteen inches at the back of the skirt. Combined with a short train, the effect is of two curving lines receding from one another.

Another characteristic of Edwardian tall flounces is that they were frequently cut shaped and on the bias, so that the top of the flounce would be sewn on flat, while the bottom, being wider and on the bias, fluttered out. Such flounces are softer and more clingy than a flounce made of fabric cut straight of grain and then gathered.

Emma Ruth of the Sense and Sensibility described how to make a shaped flounce, and I followed her directions in making Polly's flounce, photographing as I went. Here is how it went:

First, I laid the skirt pattern pieces out on the floor, one right next to the other and matching the seam marks, as if they were making up the shape of half of the skirt.

Then I taped several pieces of waxed paper together and laid the resulting piece of paper on top of the pattern pieces.

In the first image you can see the pattern pieces laid edge to edge, and the waxed paper placed atop.

Next, I traced the line of the bottom and sides of the skirt pattern pieces onto the wax paper.

After this I drew the flounce line. Starting at front of the front panel pattern piece I marked a spot at 7 inches or so from the skirt bottom. Then I drew a curving line that increased in height as it went to the pattern pieces for the sides and then back of the skirt, ending at a position about 15 inches from the bottom of the final, back skirt pattern piece. I cut out the result. Now I had the basic pattern for the flounce, but...I needed to make it flare.

In the second image I have drawn and cut the basic flounce pattern. The front of the skirt is to the left; that's where the flounce is most narrow. The back of the skirt is at the right, where the flounce is widest. Like most pattern pieces, the pattern is for one half of the flounce.

So, on the base pattern I drew long vertical lines several inches apart, from the flounce bottom almost to the top. Then I cut each line with scissors, slashing the pattern pieces and spreading them at the bottom. The more I spread each slash, the wider the fabric would be at the bottom of the flounce and the more the resulting fabric would flutter and flare.

In the third image, a closeup, you can see the vertical lines drawn across the pattern, ready to be cut and slashed.

Finally, I laid another piece of wax paper over the slashed and spread pattern, drew a fresh pattern, and cut that out. Voila, shaped flounce pattern!

In the final image, I have cut and slashed the pattern to create the shaped flounce pattern, and have laid a layer of waxed paper atop, ready to draw the final pattern. Because slashing causes the pattern to curve, I had to add several little pieces of wax paper to fit the curve.

(Emma Ruth noted that if I wanted a gathered flounce I would have slashed each line from top to bottom to break the pattern into separate strips, and then would have spaced them out. Then I would have cut a new pattern from the resulting shape.)

Emma Ruth had another note about preparing the flounce: hem it before applying it to the skirt. Otherwise you're in for a lot of work.

Warm thanks to Emma Ruth for her kind direction. It all worked so well.

Sewing Mornings Continue

A few days later, Polly and I met to work on her skirt. We seamed the main skirt up, and Polly had her first experience using a treadle. She took to it immediately, even getting the hang of working the W&G wheel, which turns in the opposite direction of most sewing machine wheels.

Then I used the flounce pattern to cut out Polly's flounce from her navy and white stripe seersucker, and laid it on the plain skirt. What a nice effect! The stripes on the bias contrast nicely with the stripes on the straight part of the skirt. Can't wait until it's applied to the skirt.

That day's work was attended with a few technical difficulties, shall we say? I hoped to use my Singer handcrank's gathering attachment to make the small ruffle to attach to the main flounce, but it kept jamming, and then the Singer's tension went wonky, a condition from which it has yet to recover. Yargghh. So Polly gamely worked on a trimming ruche by hand...

A few days later we met again, and I demonstrated applying a period placket, using an original garment as a design guide, and we set the waistband, too.

Working on that fabric has been most interesting: did you know that working with narrow striped fabrics can make you dizzy, and ditzy? After several hours of cutting, sewing and ruching, both of us felt a little woozy.

And Rebecca's skirt? It's seamed up and has its waistband, and is ready for the lace insertion. I even found some true period torchon lace to use to trim it with!


Eva said...

The flounce sounds lovely. I'll look forward to seeing how the whole skirt turns out. :)

The slash and spread technique works on many other pattern pieces, such as cuffs and sleeves, as well. I've used it to do puffy regency sleeves and bell shaped cuffs (starting with the sleeve end pattern) among other things.

If you're planning to do a lot of pattern alteration work like this I'd highly recommend something easier than waxed paper though. I generally use the sort of paper that is used to cover exam room tables in doctor's offices. It's disgustingly cheap when you buy a box of 12 rolls and each roll lasts me 2 to 4 years. I believe any form of light tracing paper will also work, or if you're dedicated and patient with the initial drafting, butcher paper is sturdier and especially suited to pattern pieces you'll be reusing often. :)

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Eva,

Thanks! Can't wait until the skirts are done myself :}

Thanks also for the exam room table paper tip! Where might you look for such a thing? It sounds great, not just to use for tracing paper, but for drawing paper for the twins. (Not that they can use even a crayon yet...they'd just nibble on it and perhaps eat the edges of the paper, too...)


Natalie in Kentucky

Eva said...

Hi Natalie,

I started out just searching for "exam table paper smooth" (you don't want "crepe") and ended up buying from this place:


They were reputable and the paper is lovely. :)


Rebecca said...

Natalie, these posts are spectacular...I love watching this process and yes,I'm still determined to eventually tackle sewing very soon...Mother and I examined my White Rotary machine and I really must get you to a have a look at it. I have early 1920's fashion on the brain and have been searching patterns...OOH...there are some great ones....

We're off to South Carolina early Sat morning...so I'll try to get a fitting when we get back and before you leave, if possible...

For now...I want to tell you that I have nominated you for one of the 5 blogs that makes my day...Congratulations!..Visit the Tea Society Blog to get more information....

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Eva,

Thank you SO much for the paper tip. I'll be ordering some pronto. So many uses...

Happy Friday,

Natalie in Kentucky

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Rebecca,

Hooray! Am so glad that this blog is one that you enjoy. It has become not only something I enjoy, but a way to document how tos, so that I don't forget them :}

Yes, let's set a time to meet to get your skirt fited for its hem. I am really looking forward to inserting the lace and think it will add a great deal to the garment.

Happy traveling. Just hours now, just hours, until you all are beach bound.


Natalie in Kentucky