This last April, Rachel and I wore the green Renaissance dresses that she made - you can read about that project starting from this post.
But! If you remember back in January, Rachel mentioned that she was taking part of her inspiration for the green dresses from a design that I had started. Here is the sketch and fabric samples from my sketchbook to refresh your memory:
Between the two of us, Rachel is the one to take an idea and run with it - and I'm the one to fully develop and sit on a plan until the time is right, then devote all my creative energy to it. Both tendencies can get us into trouble. In my case, you'll see below.
So, with the above design, I'd planned on a smocked hemd for the top-half undergarment. I was taking my inspiration and instruction from the Dorthea Hemd, except in cotton. I carefully marked and hand-sewed the smocking pleats. (By the way, these Frixion Colors markers are a God-send for sewing. They completely disappear with the light touch of a warm iron)
I taught myself the modified stem stitch used to secure the pleats. The method really does tightly pleat an amazing amount of fabric! I even twisted a couple strands of gold lame embroidery floss in with the plain white I was using.
Plus, the stitch is invisible on the other side. You can choose to leave the stitches on the front for decoration, or stitch on the back if you want an "invisible" look.
I was really proud of my work! It took me almost a month to get to putting the binding on the top/neckline edge on the first hemd. It was also about this point that I realized this garment would not be practical at all for the fair. All those lovely pleats meant this was a very voluminous garment. Great for a chilly 14th c. German climate, not so much for a Kansas September. Plus, doing two of these would probably take more time than I really had before the fair to finish everything.
This was a tough blow to my pride, and to my creative energy. And it probably took me another month to pick myself up and re-direct the project. This is the part that a lot of "creative types" don't show you; their almost-masterpieces. I still think the hemd I started is an amazing garment, even if I do look like an adult version of an angel in a Christmas play or the angel at the top of a Christmas tree in the thing. I'm sure I'll find another life for it - it's too good to just completely abandon.
On the bright side, this stumble in the project gave me a chance make some other changes. Rachel and I had been discussing the design, mostly through posts to a Pinterest board, and this was a chance to make some changes.
With those in mind, I came up with a new sketch to give me fresh motivation.
By this point I'd taken long enough that Rachel had made two coordinating silk underskirts for the dresses. Although the design doesn't have the skirts bustled up like the green dresses, if we ever want them to, now we'll have pretty underskirts to show off.
I started the hemds over, and this time I chose the same poly-cotton voile that was used for the green dresses' shirts. I used the same pattern ideas that I found for the Dorothea Hemd, but I halved the width of the back - no need for fullness there if it's just going under the dress bodice. To re-create the idea of smocking, I ran two lines of gathering around the neck, about an inch apart, and then I used cotton lace to hint at the embroidery that's sometimes found in the smocking of fancier hemds. Here it is on the dress dummy (that I have borrowed from Rachel, for this project), along with the peach silk underskirt.
It's finally at this point that I feel like I've "caught up" to where I was before I decided to not use the first hemd I'd made. The next step was drafting a pattern of my dress design. Original design = original pattern. I took a little shortcut and started with the bodice pattern we'd made for our Italian dresses. After tweaking things here and there and making a muslin mock-up to test the fit and that lines of the mock-up looked like the sketch's design, I took that scary step of slicing into the fancy, expensive dress fabric.
With all the pieces cut out of the fancy fabric, I had to lay the bodice front pieces out with the trim, so I could see a preview of my vision for the dress. Above, you can see the fabric and trim for the golden yellow version of the dress.
Cutting things out is only the first step, though! Stay tuned for the next post about this project, where I'll talk about trying a new closure method for this dress, and I revive my love/hate relationship with eyelets and grommets.
Twins each with half a brain in reality; the other half displayed here!