Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Tutorial: Sense and Sensibility Bodiced Petticoat - Part 4

This is the fourth part of a multi-part tutorial about making a bodiced petticoat using the bodice portion of the basic Sense and Sensibility Regency dress pattern. The tips are designed to supplement Jennie Chancey's online directions for a bodiced petticoat. If you missed the first sections, you can read parts 1, 2, and 3 here.

As always, please click on each image for a larger version.

In this post, we assemble the bodice. Please refer to Jennie's directions for this portion of the project, under the header "Making the Final Bodice".

Photo: My sewing corner in the guest room. These days little Christopher has my old sewing room for his bedroom, so I do my work mostly here. It may be hard on the knees after awhile, but it works :}

Adding the Neckline Drawstring Casing and Drawstrings

Our next task was to add the drawstring casing and drawstrings to the neckline of the bodice lining. It is sewn to the right side of the fabric, the side that will be next to the body. If we sewed it to the side with the bones in it, when finished the casing would be inside the garment where we couldn't use it :} We used the same Wright's single-fold bias tape for the casing that Jennie Chancey recommended.

We constructed it as Jennie recommended. Her directions are quite clear, so I will not repeat them here. (Again, these directions are a supplement to hers, not a replacement for them.)

The only tip I offer is to baste the drawstring casing to the bodice before stitching it down. Since it will be against your skin, you want to apply it very flat, without creases or bumps.

Here is a photo of the casing of drawstring casing after being applied and sewn:

Then we threaded the drawstrings through the casing. We cut two pieces of poly ribbon, one for each side of the front of the bodice, making each ribbon long enough to not only thread through its portion of casing, but to tie at center front, and to stick out a wee bit at the shoulder edge so it can be sewn into the shoulder seam.

We used poly ribbon for the drawstring simply because that is what we had. I have often thought that it would make good sense to use 1/8" wide linen twill tape, since that is not slippery and will hold better when the garment is gathered.

Also, Fitting and Proper (Sharon Burnston) has documented a shift (dating anywhere from 1790 to 1810) that closes with a very narrow 3/16" hem instead of a casing, and that is threaded not with ribbon, but with heavy linen thread. (pp. 44-46). Next time I would be tempted to do the same, because the hem and string would be far less bulky than what we have here.

Let us forge on.
Assembling the Bodice Pieces: Lining

At last we were ready to assemble the pieces of the bodice together. Remember that we have pieces for both lining and for the exterior, "fashion fabric" side that shows when the petticoat is worn. Each side will be constructed separately. We started by constructing the lining.

First, we sewed one back piece to its side back piece, and then the other back piece to its back piece. Remember how tricky it was to work with this curved seam when we fit the toile? Well, here we go again. Please refer to part 1 of this tutorial if you need a refresher.

Here is a photo of the pinning in process:

Next, here is where I freely admit I goofed. I sewed the side back pieces next to the fronts...so that I had all the pieces of the lining sewn together. Bad idea. If you do this it becomes very hard to deal with the shoulder straps.

At this point, this is what I had, below. You are viewing it from the right side of the lining...the side that will be next to your skin. Please click on the image to read my warning notes again in blue text :}

The step we should have taken next was to sew the shoulder pieces together. Here are the seams for one shoulder of the bodice below, pinned.

Then sewn (on my handcrank Singer machine). Notice the end of the drawstring sticking out from the allowances. When sewing the shoulder seams, we wanted to make sure that each drawstring was securely sewn into each seam.

Now we had the bodice lining pieces assembled, and we set them aside to await a later step.

Assembling the Bodice Pieces: the Outer Bodice

Now it was time to follow the same process for the outer bodice pieces...the fashion fabric pieces that would show when the bodice is worn.

Completing the Bodice Assemblage

It was late in the evening when I put together the bodice for Polly, and I rather felt like I had been working on this project forever, which was, with a stretch of imagination, true. We had begun back in the fall, but holidays intervened, and then research. Perhaps at this point you're feeling a little bodice-bored yourself. Persevere, I say!

Affixing Lining to Outer Bodice

It was now time to affix the lining to the outer bodice.

Per Jennie's directions, I laid the bodice lining down flat, right side facing up. Then I laid the outer bodice atop it, right side down. Now the right sides were together.

I commenced to pinning the lining to the outer bodice at the neckline, all the way from the center back one side to center front, then again on the other side, from center back to center front.

In the photo below you see once side pinned.

Notice how there are more pins at the curves than there are on the straight stretches. These extra pins will help hold the pieces in the proper position, with less likelihood of puckering, when they are sewn together. Sewing machines are more apt to have this issue than handsewn pieces, but it's best to be safe, unless you are an accomplished seamstress.

Jennie's directions require you to sew a 5/8-inch seam at the center back edge, narrowing down to 1/8 inch at the beginning of the front neckline, that is, at the shoulder seams. Or that's at least how I understood it.

In order to create a nice, smooth transition from 5/8" to 1/8", I used the principle of halving:
  • At the center back edge I marked, in pencil, 5/8 inch from the raw neckline edge.
  • At the shoulder seam I made a second mark, 1/8 inch away from the raw neckline edge.
  • Then I found the center of the space in between the two marks, and measured a little more than 3/8 in from the edge.
  • Now I had two sections.
  • I found the center of the section closest to the center back, and measured approximately a quarter inch (2/8") from the edge. Then I eyeballed further marks, to create a smooth transition.
  • I did the same for the other side.
  • I made plenty of marks. Unless you're really sure of yourself, it's really easy to let your line of stitching wander...it's good to have marks to sew by. This is especially true of handstitching, because you cannot see as far ahead of you as you can on a machine. Trust me on this. 
The photos below capture the process.

Then I sewed the neckline edge, being careful not to sew over that drawstring ribbon at any point. You can sew in one operation like Jennie did, or sew from center back to center front, then stop and sew from center back to center front on the other side. Because I do not like to have so many pins sitting around, I did the latter.

Jennie writes: "When you reach the "neckline,"just stich a scant 1/8" away from the top edge. When you get to the bodice front, you'll be stitching right on top of the stitches you made when you sewed the drawstring casing on."

Sewing the Armscyes

Remember how, like a dork, I had sewn up the side seams under the armscyes? Well, now that's where that mistake began to show itself. That is because the next step is to sew around the armsyce. If the side seam is sewn, as in the leftmost portion of the image below, how do you easily turn the shoulder straps right side out?  Jennie explains that her method is a simple way to deal with shoulder straps and sleeveless garments, and she's right. Once I figured out how it worked, I realized how nice a method it is.

So, as you can see in the rightmost portion of the image below, I have ripped out the side seam. Now that side of the bodice is only attached at the shoulder seams.

So, our step is to stitch all the way around the armscye...around the U shape, if you will.

Here is the seam, sewn.

You will want to clip the seam allowances at the curves a little bit so that the resulting shoulder strap, when turned right side out, will lay well.

Turning the Shoulder Straps Right Side Out

Now for a bit of work I never enjoy much: turning the shoulder straps right side out. Because the space is so narrow, and the enter bodice must go through that narrow channel (!), it's helpful to have a bodkin or the end of a wooden spoon to help pull and push the fabric through.

In the image below, I have started to pull back the fabric on one side of the bodice. I will keep going, turning the fabric right side out.

As here:

And here, where we are at the narrowest part of the process.

Here is what we ended up with, below, when both armscyes were sewn and turned right side out. As you can see, both side seams beneath the armscyes are open. It's these seams that we will close up next.

Sewing Up the Side Seams

Lay the bodice out flat, right side out. Under one armscye, where the seam is open, turn the fabric that's lying on top inside out, per the below.

In the image below I am turning up one side again for the camera, while the other side is already turned up.

Here below both sides are pulled out. What we could have done was to match the top halves of the side seams, and sew them, then match the bottom halves of the side seams and sew them.

However, it is easier to match both top and bottom, making sure that the seam you see in the middle (image below) matches at the horizontal seam at the center.

Here below I am pulled the fabric together to form a seam.

Then I pinned the seam together. I started at that middle seam, pinned the fabric together there, set another pin at the left outer edge, and then, using the principle of halves again, pinned in the middle to make two sections, pinned in the middle of those to make now four sections, and so on. This method of pinning ensured that if one side was a wee longer than the other, that the extra length would get eased gently in, without puckers or skewing the final seam.

Below you see the pinning process started.

Then I used the same pinning process for the right half of the seam, from the middle seam out to the right edge.
Voila: completed seam! See Jennie's photo for an example.

Next Steps

Now the bodice was all sewn up, except for the back seam. Next steps are to have Polly try the bodice on one last time, and to make up the skirt and waistband and complete the petticoat at last.

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