Sunday, 17 February 2013

Of flat chests, fringe and fabric paint (again)

It’s a rare day at Tulip Mansions when I find myself wishing that my chest was even flatter than it already is, but that's the effect that 1920s fashions have on you. The 1923-5 evening dress on which I’m basing my dress really is a straight- up-and-down shift with absolutely no darts or shaping. In fact in the notes accompanying the pattern, Janet Arnold mentions that inside there is a small label with the word “devant”, as without this it would be very hard to tell the front from the back.

Really such a dress should be worn over a long corselet such as this one.

1920s corselet

There is a pattern for just such a garment in “Corsets and Crinolines”, and it has been made up to great effect by Jo, of Bridges on the Body. I tried various other options for flattening things out a bit, but wasn’t really happy with any of them. So, it will just have to be worn over normal, twenty-first century underclothes.

I made the first toile of the top part of the dress only, as I suspected (rightly) that the shoulder straps would be too far apart. A pleat down the centre front and back fixed the problem, and I used the new dimensions to make a second, full length toile.

The final toile

I eventually decided to make the dress with the satin crepe fabric satin side out, and when I was checking some of the details in “Patterns of Fashion”, I noticed that the original dress is made from crepe-backed satin. Sticking with the period theme, I constructed the dress with French seams, rather than using my overlocker.

As well as making up the basic dress, I’ve been working on the beaded fringe for the sides. I’m making the fringe on lengths of closely woven cotton tape rather than directly onto the dress, both to give it more stability and for ease of working. The first few strands took forever, particularly as I struggled to get the strands the same length, but I’ve got a lot faster now.

Mid gold and dark gold fringe

The top, pale gold, row of fringe will be trickier, as it will have a curved top edge but a straight bottom edge. I haven’t quite decided how to do this, but I’ve got a few ideas.

One thing which I have decided upon (finally) is which fabric paints to use. The first ones I tried were Pebeo Setasilk paints. In silk painting you flood colour into an area marked off with outliner. Therefore the paints are very thin and runny, so don’t stiffen the fabric, but you do need a good outliner technique (which I clearly didn’t have).

Next I tried Pebeo Setacolour and Textil L&B paints. Both of these were much thicker, and could be painted directly onto the fabric following an outline drawn in pencil. The colours didn’t spread, but the Textil paint in particular left the fabric very stiff.

I wasn’t sure what to do, but when I was in my local fabric shop I noticed that they sold yet another brand, Dylon. Initially I just bought one colour, to try it out, and soon realised that I’d found the perfect paint. It spreads very little (more on that later) and doesn’t stiffen the fabric much. Best of all, it needs very little ironing to set the colour, so I don’t have to worry about damaging my fabric.

I decided to go for my original, Egyptian-inspired palette, stretched my fabric over a large frame, and drew out eight of the dress panels. Because I’m painting on satin, the horizontal edges of shapes can end up a tiny bit fuzzy; the paint travels up the long floated warp threads. Most of this will be covered by the beading. However on the turquoise bars on the two panels at the bottom left I decided to play safe, and use outliner. Rather than pipe it from a bottle I painted it on using a fine brush, taking care to keep on or just outside the pencil line. The end result was perfect, crisp shapes.

Six panels completed, two just started

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