Sunday, 27 January 2013

1920s dress - skirt patterns

I’ve been unwell this week, and amid all the generally feeling under par, I had to admit that the project I was working on just wasn’t going to come off. So I sulked for a bit, then put it away and set about concentrating on my 1920s dress.

A quick sketch of would-be pattern pieces convinced me that a single tier of long panels, like those on the Met’s Poiret dress, was not what I wanted.

Paul Poiret dress with long panels over the skirt

Instead I’m going for two tiers of shorter panels. The effect should be rather like the Philadelphia Museum’s dress, except that both tiers of panels will hang loose from the dress, whereas on this dress the top ‘panels’ are part of the dress.

Dress with two rows of panels

Having decided on the panel dimensions, I needed something to fill them with. As I don’t have the time or inclination for a lot of beading, this will involve painting the designs onto the panels with fabric paints. My first idea was to use Dover Publications’ “Ancient Egyptian Cut and Use Stencils”, but although I found some suitable images, the detail was too fine for what I wanted.

Then I remembered two books I have by the quilter Barbara Chainey; “Egyptian Treasure” and “Inspired by Egypt“. These contain patterns based on examples from the Tentmakers of Cairo, and turned out to be perfect for what I wanted.

I drew out some designs, and then coloured them in to get a better idea of the effect.

My original designs

Then I tried arranging them in the pattern I had in mind for the skirt.

The proposed layout on the skirt

I was reasonably happy with this, but the stems on centre panel at the top looked too straight compared to the more sinuous designs of the other panels, so I added a couple of buds on curved stems.

The first panel redrawn with more curly bits

Then I drew out the designs again, making a few tweaks where I felt that lines were too close together, and went over the lines in black pen to make them clearer.

Outlines only

Next it was time to start a trial piece. I’m using a fine ivory satin crepe for the dress and the panels, crepe side out. I cut a piece and pinned it over a wood frame, holding it in place with three-pronged drawing pins. The fabric has a slight stretch in it, so I will have to bear this in mind when I come to do the real pieces, to ensure that they are not distorted.

I laid the frame over the black line drawing, face down, and traced the designs onto the wrong side of the fabric. Fortunately all of the motifs are symmetrical, so tracing onto the wrong side doesn’t matter. Then I turned the frame right side up, and went over the faint pencil lines with outliner.

Outliner, also called gutta, is a gel-like substance. It soaks into the fabric and forms a barrier which the fabric paint can’t cross, so you get a clearly defined shape. Outliner can be clear or coloured (usually gold or black), and is applied through a nozzle, like icing a cake. Whereas coloured outliners remain part of the finished design, clear outliner washes out. I used clear outliner to mark the shapes in the design. Although it looks reasonably neat in the picture, my lines vary in width quite a lot, with blobs at the ends of lines. Just what effect this will have will only become obvious when I add the fabric paint.

Outliner drying on the fabric

But that's the next stage.

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