Sunday, 10 April 2011

1852 – 56 Toile Development Evaluation

The process of production of this toile got off to an easier start than I had anticipated, the bodice lining I found quite easy to produce as I had already developed my skills on the first toile. I marked the neckline and muslin stitching lines in black tape so they could be seen through the top layer of muslin. The muslin was quite a challenging fabric to work with because of its loose weave and tendency to fray, move and slip a lot. I overcame this by taking my time when sewing but with the small time frame in which to produce my toile it was not as neat as I would have liked.

The cartridge pleats were a technique I had not tried before but was pleased with the end result. I put time into getting them spaced evenly and thought a lot about the process and the amount of fabric required before starting and this ended in only having to do one draft of the skirt which I was pleased with. The flounces however I had misjudged, making the muslin the same length as the skirt. This mistake meant I couldn't gather the fabric so I had to create another length of each to gather onto the cord which was a costly mistake and took extra time to complete. The technique of gathering the flounce on the cord was specified by the pattern so I stuck to this and it worked well over the very long length of fabric and normal gathering may not have, it also didn't have the added risk of the thread snapping which was useful. My only concern was the volume of the flounce, at first I though it may not have been enough, although once complete I think the skirt is quite an accurate representation of the design, the overall volume of the fabric creating quite a stunning effect. The flounces of the skirt have a very small overlap of each other, this is because I kept to the historical pattern, which probably had this small overlap to save on fabric. If I was making the piece for theatre I would have made this overlap much larger to allow for movement in the costume and to make sure the supporting calico was not seen.
This is my first cartridge pleating sample. I produced this with 1.5cm gaps between  stitches and without wading. I realised the length of the stitch did not really effect the size of the gather but made the pleat deeper in width. The sample was made just with washed calico to see how the pleats would form.I found the pleats on this sample a bit too thin compared to that of the design so decided to try backing the stitching with wadding. 
This is my cartridge pleat sample backed on wadding. I reduced the depth of the pleat to 1cm between stitches to reduce the bulk that would be created where the skirt is button hole stitched onto the bodice. On my skirt I applied a layer of muslin over the top, incorporating it into the stitching. I was pleased with this sample and used this process to create the cartridge pleats on my skirt.

The front of the bodice was another challenging area. The pleats from the shoulder took along time to get looking right as they were unevenly paced on the pattern and with the gathering at the bottom of the bodice the line of the pleats was quite important. The nature of muslin is quite unforgiving so I had to work carefully and managed to achieve the right shape. This was aided by the interesting sewing lines that connected the muslin to the calico lining underneath. Although it was a slight challenge to make sure it was hidden the seam did more than I thought it would in aiding the shape of the pleats to stay in place. A useful technique that I may use again in future pleating of delicate fabric.

The sleeves I found to be the most challenging part of this toile. This was mainly due to getting the different layers to work together and working out how to adapt the pattern to fit my specifications. Scaling up the pagoda sleeve was a bit of a mathematical nightmare but I overcame it with patience and perseverance! Getting this to sit well with the engagante sleeve underneath, which I had to find a pattern for, involved lengthening and reshaping the under sleeve, and then getting them all to work as one piece. This technical element I found stressful at the time but once complete I realised how much it had progressed my thinking and confidence in my problem solving.
This is the engagante sleeve and under sleeve. I had to extend the length of the under sleeve to ft my purpose and also extended the length and width of engagante from the pattern to introduce more volume to try and match that of the design.

I had also experimented with creating the over-sleeve in a light cotton, (unfortunately no photos) as the muslin I could not get to work initially, it was looking too messy and uncontrolled.. I found this looked too heavy and strong against the rest of the dress which will all be muslin. This made me try the muslin again and I managed to get it looking good with some tweaking so I was very pleased with that as it kept the piece looking delicate.

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