Now, as promised, The Fun Stuff.

The trims and decoration are what takes a well fitted jacket and a six gore skirt and transforms them into something that gets salivated over & repinned.

But trims *usually* also take a lot of planning. For example, most of the decoration on my outfit (that I’ll be referencing today) needs to be applied by hand and includes 2 different sizes of handmade silk piping.

What decoration techniques I’ll be using:

  • Beading- The shining star of my decoration will be the beaded and pearled perfection of a repurposed vintage shirt.  I cannot tell you the work and expense that recycling vintage finds has saved me… and it cuts down on waste.  The color of this shirt is really the inspiration for the outfit- this pale, gentle yellow paired with a deep, nearly navy, blue.  It says “French”, without screaming “FRENCH!!” If you know what I mean.
    I’m using the fabric as the center panel of the bodice and as an accent at the bottom of the flounce in back. The lines will echo the stripes and inverted V’s in the primary pleating and in yellow velvet ribbon accents on the sleeves.

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    Once the shirt was disassembled I could really see the size of the pieces I would have to work with.

    decoration (8)

    After reinforcing all the pearls because they were chain stitched 😦 I backed everything with two layers of silk.

  • More Beading- I’m harvesting the beads and pearls from castoff bits of shirt and working it into the decoration on the lapels, cuffs, hem…. and purse and shoes.  To make a guide for beading the lapels and sleeves, I marked 3 evenly spaced right angles with chalk, and stitched on a bead every 1/3″ for a decorative look that echoes the lines of the dress without being too time intensive.

    The beading I did on the turned down cuff.

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    The beading on the collar.

  • Even More Beading– So, after I had the box pleated hem made, I decided I needed to cover up the line of stitching that held the pleats down (and eventually the stitching that will attach it to the dress). I had allll these extra beads and pearls, so naturally I decided to hand bead the hem. (Oy) I found that a backstitch worked best, and feels pretty stable. Once the beading is done, the hem will be attached with stitches hidden along the beaded area.

    Box pleated hem (1/16" hem on the strips) starched and getting beaded. the pearl cluster is sewn in a circle beforehand, then the circle of beads attached at the intersection of each pleat.

    Box pleated hem (1/16″ hem on the strips) starched and getting beaded. The pearl cluster is sewn in a circle beforehand, then the circle of beads attached at the intersection of each pleat.

  • Pleating– The primary pleating, that I farmed out to my marvelously talented and patient friend Michelle, of Envy Rae Designs, is a 45 degree angle pleating running along the hem and up the back of the skirt on either side of the silk train. I knew what I wanted, I just really didn’t want to do it. And it turned out beautifully! I attached the larger piping to the edges and then stitched it onto the skirt.
    Large piping sewn at corner of angle pleats.

    Large piping sewn at corners of angle pleats.

    Corner of angle pleats.

    Corner of angle pleats.

    45 degree angled pleats, backed with yellow cotton.

    45 degree angled pleats, backed with yellow cotton.

    Large piping sewn to the angle pleats

    Large piping sewn to the angle pleats

    A view of the skirt pleating attached... and the attached beaded bits at the cuffs and jacket back.

    A view of the skirt pleating attached… and the attached beaded bits at the cuffs and jacket back.

  • More pleating– I also made a yellow silk box pleated hem which is undergoing surgery with beads and pearls. I had a knife pleat hem all ready to go and I was just…. whelmed…. by it.  So for all my groaning about last year’s box pleated hem, off I go again. (See picture under “Even more beading”)
  • Piping– I made 2 sizes of piping because I decided that a larger size would be too bulky round the neckline and cuffs, but a smaller size would get lost amid the larger skirt features.
    To make piping, I would suggest cutting a number of strips, maybe 2″ wide, of your fabric *at a 45 degree angle*. Then, you place the ends crosswise and pin them together, matching the grain-line, at a 45 angle to get the connected pieces to lay together correctly. (Hopefully the pictures will help with that description)

    Cutting out many bias strips at once (4 layers here)

    Cutting out many bias strips at once (4 layers here)

    Strips of bias cut silk, sewn together on a bias to make one long strip

    Strips of bias cut silk, sewn together on a bias to make one long strip

    Then when you have a very long strip of bias cut fabric, wrap it around the piping cord and use a zipper foot or something similar to sew as close to the cord as you can.

    Sewing the silk and cording together via zipper foot

    Sewing the silk and cording together via zipper foot

    Small piping when complete

    Small piping when complete

    *The bias cut is important, it allows your piping to move around corners and curves with ease, without distorting your fabric.To attach the piping to your outfit, it needs to be sandwiched between the lining and the fashion fabric. You’ll want to line it up pretty carefully- wavering lines will show here when you turn it all right-side out!
    I suggest using a thread color that matches your piping, and again you’ll want to get the needle as close to the edge of the cord as possible. Now, you could try sewing through the three layers, but what I usually do is to lay the piping on the right side of the fabric- with the cut edge of the piping facing the cut edge of the fabric- and stitch them together, adding the lining on top afterwards for another round of pinning and stitching. It takes a little more time, but it’s less stressful than trying to manipulate three layers at once, wondering if the piping is moving around in there where you can’t see it.

    Placement of piping for stitching before adding the lining.

    Placement of piping- the lining will be placed on top of this, sandwiching the piping in between, with the cord always toward the inside.

  • Self covered buttons– Buttons covered in the same fabric you’re using look professional and are useful if you want a subtle look on your closures or decorative bits. I put together a multi-step pictorial:

    Process for making self-covered buttons

    Process for making self-covered buttons

  • Turned down tabs-These are relatively easy, I planned to take the squared corners of the jacket and cuffs and turn them out at 45 degrees to show off the lining and to echo that chevron shape again. The only extra consideration I had (after I had the collar all put together!) was that the silk lining would have to be doubled because you could see through a single thickness.  So I cut 4 lining pieces for the cuffs, lapels and a couple of 5″x 5″ squares for the lower corners of the jacket. I placed a covered button at the center of the flap, and it makes for a nice, period look! I echoed the turned down tabs at a few points on the outfit.

    The tabs on the skirt (not shown) and at the bottom of the jacket are "held down" by covered buttons.

    The tabs on the skirt (not shown) and at the bottom of the jacket are “held down” by covered buttons.

  • Chevron velvet ribbon accents on the upper sleeves:
    Challenge 1: I want the Vs placed on the outside of the arms, but that isn’t centered on the two sleeve pattern pieces.  What I did was pin the ribbon where I wanted it on the mock-up (another bonus to making one) and mark the lines of ribbon in chalk.  Then I took the sleeve off, took out one seam and cut slits along the marked lines. Then, placing the mock-up over the actual sleeve- with only one seam stitched- I used a chalk pencil to mark on the good fabric along the slits in the mock-up.  Then I had exact placement for the ribbon.

    1. Mark the top of the shoulder on the sleeve, then remove the sleeve from the mock-up. 2. Leave the outer seam in place, seam-rip the inside seam and lay it flat. 3. Mark the desired line placement in chalk. 4. Make some slits along your lines. 5. Lay the mockup on top of your sleeves (cut out in good fabric and sewn up the outer seam). Mark through the slits to get exact placement of your lines. Lay your trim along the marked lines and pin. 6. Attach. I tested machine stitching on a scrap and liked it... good to go.

    1. Mark the top of the shoulder on the sleeve, then remove the sleeve from the mock-up. 2. Leave the outer seam in place, seam-rip the inside seam and lay it flat. 3. Mark the desired line placement in chalk. 4. Make some slits along your lines. 5. Lay the mock-up on top of your sleeves (cut out in good fabric and sewn up the outer seam). Mark through the slits to get exact placement of your lines. Lay your trim along the marked lines and pin. 6. Attach. I tested machine stitching on a scrap and liked it… good to go.

    Challenge 2: How to attach the 3/8″ ribbon to the fabric. Fabric glue, in the past, sometimes can leave dark spots if you don’t get the amount precisely right, so gluing was out.  I considered 2-sided interfacing & ironing, but cutting strips that narrow and keeping the interfacing from getting all over would be a mess, and the velvet would have to be ironed from the opposite side, making the task nearly impossible.  I – briefly- considered doing tiny little baby hand-stitching up and down each side of each ribbon, but decided I’d rather stick something sharp in my eye.  So I did a test sample to see what machine stitching along the 1/16 edges would look like.  It was a success, but I’ll point out here that a machine with an adjustable stitch speed was very helpful here!

The very last aspect of decoration I did- the waterfall pleated train- is really more of an overall design choice, so it will be covered in the next post, where I’ll talk about the style choices, and who would be wearing this dress, and where, in the Victorian Era.

I swear I will write it before Teslacon!

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