Sew with us – and swan into your December in a brand-new me-made frock!
Beeps and I are about to cross from Hoquiam to Aberdeen when we hear a strange beeping. We slow up on pedaling and coast; moments later a tall, silver-bearded white man slowly crosses a block ahead of us on a segway. Slowwllly he crosses as his siren sententiously announces his passage.
A beat, and then I say to my oldest: “Being on the bike, you are thrown into humanity a bit more,” and halfway through the sentence they are nodding already. We’ve come across a rude cashier, teens cutting eyes at us as they walk home from school, and two young men who pulled over and asked us to buy them beer. And then there’s the distraction of people just doing their thing: mowing lawns or taking out the glass bottles. These few days on the bikes have been incredible for my mood; the sunny days are ecstatic, and the rain and the cold – well, those days I’m glad to get home to the heat and my pantry and my kettle.
My grandmother would be proud of me. I made this lovely maxi dress on her old Singer 15-91 and I love to think of honoring her every time I sew in that machine. But I also like to think she’d be proud of the brass-bottomed bitch I am today! The fabric is from @stylemakerfabrics and I recommend them unreservedly. This frock is for my friend @abicree – a gift I will be mailing to her. And may she wear it well! Sinclair vegan boots by @nicorashoes; third generation female shoemaker. #sewing #vegantailor #dressmaking #bespoke #bespokehogaboom #customclothing #vegan
I finished two dresses today, and washed and dried a gorgeous two-tone linen for a pair of trousers. My stockpile of fabrics for upcoming projects is, incredibly, slowly dwindling. Another great thing about the bike is it forces me to stop working, and to an extent stop thinking about work. I’ll take what I can get!
The Beyoncé “Hold Up” dress (here’s the original: yes, it’s amazing!) was my biggest project this Halloween. A friend saved up and went big – she not only requisitioned the dress, she acquired the hair, shoes (which were then hand-painted), and jewerly. There is nothing I like more than someone going all-out, and it was wonderful to be a part of that.
Let me get right to the knitty-gritty of how (I think) the dress was originally constructed (it’s from a collection, so there is more than one version out there – which is confusing for a reconstruction effort), and how I duped it.
So, he dress appears to be made with tiered chiffon flounces, and lace appliqué on a mesh and spandex underdress. The flounces were also roughly pleated and lettuce-edged; the bottom two flounces were trimmed with lace. The dress is hardly structured at all, a lot of bare skin shows as well as the actual push-up bra. My client found the black bra herself and hand-stitched an interlining to emulate the double-strap look on the bra. I wish I’d paid more attention to that particular bra detail, as I could have done that job for her by machine; her handstitching failed at the party she was at (bras need to be very sturdy, especially for the large-busted)!
Because the dress is mostly a monochromatic garment, I had to figure out how to get four matching colors in the absolutely gorgeous yellow of the dress, and this affected my choice of fabrics. Notice in the photo at upper left a version of the dress looks warm and poppy-colored, at left – and greenish at right; you will also notice the dress appears several different colors in this post depending on the lighting I am working with. I ended up deciding to buy my 25 yards of chiffon, and dye the other fabrics to match using a local dye artist. Note that dyeing different fabrics (including fabrics with differing fiber content) is a bit of a technical challenge, and will likely involve lots of testing and different types of dye processes.
It took trial and error to get the fabrics dyed the correct color; one nylon lace, for instance, simply didn’t take dye. My dye artist friend (Val from FiberPlay) had to do two washes to get the colors deep enough – but they were lovely and all matched, by the time she was done. Below, you see (from left, clockwise) the chiffon, spandex, mesh, and lace I used.
One other major technical component was the pleating. I believe the flounces on the original garment were cut circular, not straight – which meant the pleats were formed that way as well (I think of this as sunray pleating although I’m sure it has other names). After lots of pleating research and a few phone conversations with the *amazing* Rusty at SF Pleating (415.608.1983), I opted to send Rusty labeled strips, and he pleated them all. The pleats arrived in these fabulous crepe paper bundles. Rusty was beyond amazing and I hope to work with him again!
Now that I had the pleated chiffon and all properly-hued fabrics, it was time to assemble! I build the mesh and spandex underdress, using carbon paper to trace my flounce positions. I then fussy-cut the lace motifs, and applied the lace to locations on the mesh underdress:
The mesh needed a stabilizer to form a nice strong zig-zag stitch.
All of the chiffon flounces had to be finished by serge, as chiffon likes to fray into these teeny tiny fibers. These flounces were then either edged by serge or edged by fishing line. The latter process is so fun! You wrap your fishing line around a form, use heat (boiling water or heat gun) to seal the shape of the circular culry-q’s, let cool, and feed this line into the chiffon while hemming. This process required a lot of trial and error; you have to find the right weight of fishing line – but was super fun. I’ll have to create a tutorial someday!|
After the flounces were hemmed, I applied them to the mesh in the locations I’d traced:
One regret I had was not acquiring a twist-cord blank to dye. Instead I created cord from the spandex fabric, and used it for the dresses’ back-tie, as well as the three straps in the bodice.
The original dress likely does not fasten by tie, but this is the most adjustable and comfortable way to go for a costume:
So, obviously my friend K. stole the show at her event. It was both an honor and a privilege to get to make her something so special! And I can’t wait for my next pleated project!