Monday, May 09, 2016

Vernet: Embroidery Done and Bodice Mocked Up and Cut Out

Completed Vernet embroidery. Upside down, I've noticed. Pray it doesn't end up that way on the dress.
It could, you know. I'm the sort to do that, thinking all the while I have it right.

Well, well. Done. Is it as smooth as the work of experienced hands? Why no. Will it look better when washed and pressed? Yes.

A Few Embroidery Tips

A few tips for cleaner embroidering:

  • Don't knot the floss threads when starting a new thread. It's knotty and messy. Instead, run end through previous work to anchor it.
  • Cut floss that you will embroider with no longer than about 15 inches. This reduces the chance that the floss twists and knots on you while you embroider.
  • Make the floss lie flatter and cover more fabric at each stitch:
    • Floss typically comes in threads of six strands lightly twisted together, and has done so for many years. After cutting it, divide the floss into two pieces of three strands each. 
    • Then pinch the floss between your thumbnail and first finger and run your nail the length of the thread, watching the end of the floss as it flies about. It's losing the twist among the three strands. You will have to do this several times until you have almost untwisted floss. 
    • After every few stitches, repeat the process, because with each stitch the action of your hands as well as of the floss running through the fabric generally introduces twist back into the floss. Remember: floss is like any thread: it's created by twisting fibers together. When you get down to individual strands, there is a little energy stored in the fiber as twist, and it wants to be active and to untwist. When the floss strands are twisted together, the energy among the strands is distributed and balanced. When they are pulled apart, there's a little energy there...not much, because cotton floss is pretty loosely spun, but it does exist. 
    • When embroidered into place, this flattened floss will lie with the three strands next to one another, making them appear to be been sewn separately, and filling space very neatly and smoothly.
Mocking Up the Bodice

Where does the embroidery go? Not at the hem, where it was so common to embroider. On the bodice. More than half hidden by boufy drapery. Peeking through the gauze will soften the edges.

Jenni of Living with Jane and I mocked up the bodice. I took a dress from the book Die Kostümsammlung der Familie Bassermann-Jordan, an excellent book of 18th and 19th century extant clothing and patterns from an upper-class German family. (Sabine, it has been invaluable).  The dress design dates to 1804-07, but bodice designs changed slowly, and the smooth front and overlong sleeves were just what I was looking for. Thanks too to Diary of a Mantua Maker, who showed how a cotton Regency dress can be made mostly out of oblongs.

Then we did what is now natural to us, as it has been to women for centuries. I pulled out an old draw-string dress that fits well, put pattern paper atop, marked the bodice lines, and cut out a base pattern.

From there it was looking at the Basserman-Jordan dress and its pattern pieces and making cuts to the pattern. I cut the back in half and ignored the old seam lines, making the common center-back opening with gathers.

In front I substituted a straight front, flanked by straight straps that go up over the shoulders and meet at the back, as so many 18th century gowns and Regency dresses do (this observation from Diary of a Mantua Maker). Separate side pieces went away after Jenni reminded me that I had excess.

All that was left of the old pattern was the sizing and a few helpful curves at key seam spots.

I basted it up, and Jenni fitted it: the dress is more snug than a regular scoop-front drawstring dress, so there was a good bit to remove.

The fabric is now cut and awaits sewing up.

Next time I'll introduce you to the details of the Bassermann-Jordan dress and its writeup in the Sammlung. We'll do a quick comparison to the dresses worn by the French greeting contingent as they met their returning King Louis...there is much in common in the silhouette.

Then it's on to cutting the skirt and sleeves. The skirt is austere, an attractive, crisp A-line I am familiar with from the 1960s. The sleeves are bohemian! Sleeves and overskirt are in silk gauze. We'll save the war on the gauze with starch and needle for another time.

Today I leave you with peace. May it pervade your day, even if, as for me, it started out rocky. May we learn to breathe and rest like cats do.

Ladybug napping and ignoring my artistic draping to see how the embroidery looks in black and white.