Sunday, 4 May 2014

Gaulle is done, with some bad photos

So one week ago I thought I was almost finished with the gaulle for my revolutionary costume. It was just the bib and the sleeves left. Well famous last thoughs of a costume, I've struggled for a week now to get those things done, but now I'm satisfied enough. There are plenty of things I will do differently next time, so it has definitely been a learning process.

The first step of the learning process has been handsewing. The sleeves, the shoulders, and all the visible seams have been done by hand. This is my first project where I can say that more than half of the gown is handsewn. I've kept to the basic running stitch, with a few backstiches, regular backstitches and then I had to do whipstitching on some places.

I started out last Sunday with cutting out the shape that I wanted for the bib/drop front. Since the cotton voile is so flimsy I wanted to attach it to a layer with a bit more structure, that would also help me in keeping the outer fabric gathered evenly by sewing the gathers to it.

The basic shape is actually a scrap piece from when I made my linen cap. The rounded edge was the left over from the cap. I added two small darts to make it follow the bust better. I then just gathered a length of fabric and pinned it on to the foundation. That looked bulky and really ugly, exactly the look that I didn't want to have. I took away the gathering stitches and started to box pleat the cotton. I panicked a bit when I reallized how much boxpleating I would had to do, but then I took a look at the portrait I'm using as inspiration, and the bib there is gathered quite irregularly. I then made irregular boxpleat, without measuring, just folding the fabric between my fingers. That was a lot easier and went pretty fast. In order to get a nice finishing edge at the top I sewed a narrow cotton tape to the top and folded it over, like half a bias tape. This meant that I now had quite a sturdy top edge of the bib, which was also good for when I had to decided how I should attach it to the bodice.
Here I have finished the top edge, pressed the pleats in the middle, but I've left a lot of fabric at the sides, so that I would have more fabric to work with when it was time to place it.

I stopped there and started to working on the sleeves. I had my 18th century sleeve pattern, and a bodice that felt comfortable over the upper sleeves. I handsewd the sleeves, felled the seams added them to the sleeve openings, only to find out that something was severly wrong. I couldn't move, I couldn't close the bodice at the front. It was a total disaster. After some advice I tried to turn the sleeve for a better placement, and it got better when I shifted the placement downwards, but it was still something that I couldn't wear. The only thing to do was to start over. I ripped off the sleeves and tried the bodice on again. I now realised that there was a crease of 1,5-2 cm all around the arm openings. As long as now sleeves were attached the fabric had folded there and made the opening big enough, with the sleeves on the opening was too small. I cut a long the crease to make the opening bigger.

The problem of course now were the sleeves. I ripped them up and sewed them together with the smallest possible seam allowance. The problem was that the seam allowance was now so small that I couldn't fell the seams. I whipped stitched the seam allowance and hoped that it would be enough to keep them from unravelling. Unfortunately I have already discovered a place where it has burst, so I've had to do some mending there, I don't think it's very visible though. And after all clothes back then were worn and mended as well

I attached the sleeves and now I could both move my arms, not a lot but enough, and I could close the bodice. The altered arm opening had some consequences though. The smallest one was that the sleeves lost around 2 cm in length, and they are now a touch too short for my liking. Worse was that the neckline had changed considerable. The piece of fabric over the shoulders was not wide enough to cover the straps of my stays, and it was gaping and not lieing flat against the skin. My first idea was to make a loose strap to go from the shoulder seam until it met the bib front. Since I hadn't planned that from the start, and sicne I had been working with several layers of fabric that looked quite bulky though. Thankfully I discovered that if I can push the straps of the stays down over the shoulders that problem got solved in that way.

The gaping meant that I had to make a little dart and crease at the shoulder. I thought that i would be able to hide it under the bib. Well the big didn't fit as well now either, since I had changed the neckline.

Another problem was how I would attach the bib to the front. My first thought was pins, but I'd like to avoid that if possible. Instead I decided to go for buttons. I made two self covered buttons and added them at the crease. I then practiced and managed to make two decent button holes by hand. When I tried to attach the bib through the buttons it didn't look that good though. There was gaping between the bib and bodice, and the bodice neckline kept crawling up and be visible. So I finished with ripping away the fabric with the button holes that I had struggled with, and now I'm going for pins instead. Sometimes it's better to stick to the original idea.

Here is a bad shot of the finished gaulle. It ended up being a bit too short, so I think I'm going to buy some more fabric and make a ruffle to lengthen it a bit. The big is also a bit too bulky over the stomach. It looked better when I just tied a scarf around the waist, so I don't think I will mind that when I've made a sash to go with it.

Things I would do differently next time:
1. Change the arm opening on the pattern pieces
2. Construct a new sleeve pattern from scratch
3. Do not cut or finish the neckline until the sleeves are attached
4. Make sure that you and the dressform have the same height (that's where the issue with the length comes from)

I'm hoping to take better pictures when the whole ensemble is finished, but now I can go with the hat for the revolutionary costume.

Bonus pictures.

My first ever try with making a buttonhole by hand.

A finished buttonhole on the bib, that was later cut away.

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