The dress in progress - mostly pinned together here!
I know it's been a few weeks since I last posted and I can hardly believe I let so much time go by. My excuse is extreme busyness and many nights of falling into bed exhausted. You see summer finally arrived up here and there were so many outside jobs to tackle, although Bob does most of the really hard stuff:-) But, also, I realized time was slipping by very fast and I needed to get started on making my Mother-of-the-Groom outfit. I had planned something similar to a design I liked a lot by Ivonne Dome, a designer for Mon Cheri. I ordered Peace Silk (they don't have to kill the silk moth!) and began a long, tedious process of relearning how to dye silk and how to make it into something to wear other than a scarf or shawl.
I started with many drawings and little watercolours. Then I had to find a pattern that was reasonably close to what I had in mind and then alter it to meet my requirements. That is a long story in itself...long and boring. Anyway I then moved on to figuring out how to stretch such large sections of silk and getting the pattern onto the fabric without having it move all around, mark the area with a special pen that has fade-away ink, draw Gutta resist around those lines, let it dry, then apply the dyes. That meant experimenting with dyes on fabric samples first since I wanted this to be fairly subtle. The dyes are quite strong and intense so I ended up adding a lot of distilled water to them and only had to mix the colours a bit - the turquoise had a bit of royal blue added and the leaf green had a bit yellow added.
I decided to go with a seaweed theme since there are so many beautiful specimens of these plants and you can play with the shapes. The above photo shows how the colour looked when first applied, and it was just what I wanted; soft and subtle.
This, however, is what it turned into when dry. All the green migrated to the edges of the gutta and left the yellow showing. You see, I had painted the blue first and didn't steam it, I just let it dry and then painted on the green seaweed shapes. That made the dye mix in with the underlying blue, and thus the migrating green occurred. At this point I was days into the project and very tired. I decided to go with it. I just didn't want to be dying and steaming the same pieces of fabric twice. I just use a big canning pot and cook up the silk on a hot plate sitting on my studio floor. (Silk isn't just crammed in...it is carefully wrapped and placed on many, many, many layers of round cut newspaper and a shield of foil). Steaming for wearables is approximately four hours. Check that water level every half hour or you could end up with ashes to wear...
French Seams are Good! When you turn them over they disappear!
The next phase required some sewing tutorials. I have sewn a lot over the years but don't have a lot of experience with such delicate, slippery, fussy fabric as this. I was getting very frustrated with puckering and snags and general this-is-so-home-made looking I could die syndrome. Finally found an article that discussed my problem and voila! French seams and other techniques that allow you to sew delicate fabrics beautifully. All the puckering went away and I felt rejuvenated, because, you see, I had almost decided to GIVE UP this effort and go with another option - namely, to wear an outfit loaned to me by a friend.
Ok, I'm not there yet, there is still a ways to go but I stand a good chance of actually coming up with a decent result, something I, and more importantly, my son, won't be ashamed of. As I progress I will post the further efforts. And that picture at the top is not the finished product...that is still just a partial finish. Most of it is just pinned together so I can see what is happening.
At least I have a backup outfit and I strongly believe in backups.