Sunday, 23 March 2014

The best laid plans

It's all gone a bit awry this week.

I made my rouleau straps, pinned them in place, and tried the camisole on. Sure enough, it was extremely baggy around the top, and needed to be taken in. The back fitted fine, and the side seams were in the right place, it was just the front which needed attention.

Even allowing for completing the French seams, it's very baggy indeed

Then, when I laid the top out flat on my worktable (it had gone straight from sewing machine to dressform for photographing last week, I was running so late), I discovered that the front was indeed a good 6cm / 2⅜"wider than the back, but only at the top. I undid the offending part of the seam, trimmed off the excess, sewed it up again, and completed the French seams.

And then. . .

Friday morning I was expecting to get a phone call from the hospital to say that Mr Tulip was being discharged, and please could I come and collect him. Instead I got a phone call from the hospital to say that Mr Tulip was not at all well, and please could I come and see the consultant. Overnight he had developed a severe chest infection. Most of my time since then has been spent at the hospital, including Friday night sleeping (or rather, trying to sleep) in an armchair by his bed. I'm happy, and immensely relieved, to say that he's now on the mend.

Even (or possibly, especially) at times of stress, I'm really not good at sitting doing nothing, so into the top of my hastily-packed overnight bag I threw my hand sewing. As Laurie of Teacups Among the Fabric rightly guessed last week, the mystery diamond on the pattern mock-up is a design feature, which I am making as a separate piece so that the camisole isn't marked by being in an embroidery hoop..

Decorating lingerie was clearly a big thing in the 1930s; the Good Needlework Gift Book has a whole section on the subject. I decided to have a go at cutwork with a net background, described as; "the very daintiest decoration for lingerie."

I started by machine stitching a piece of satin onto a larger piece of calico, and then cutting away the calico behind the satin.

The satin attached to the calico, right side

Calico cut away behind the satin, wrong side

So far, just the technique I'd use for embroidering on any fabric which was too delicate to be put directly into an embroidery hoop, and/or too expensive to waste. Then however, I sewed a piece of pink net onto the underside of the calico and satin piece.

Net applied and just visible, wrong side

This was then placed in an embroidery hoop.

Next, I traced the motif I wanted to use onto a piece of Stitch n Tear,and tacked this onto satin. In the book, the design is applied via an iron-on transfer.

The first stage of the embroidery is to outline each part of the motif in tiny running stitches.

Next, each part of the design is outlined in buttonhole stitch.

Finally, the fabric is cut away from some sections, leaving just the net beneath.

When I got the call from the hospital, the running stitch was complete, and I had experimented with buttonhole stitch with different thicknesses of embroidery floss. I'd reluctantly decided that although working with a single strand took longer, it gave a neater, and indeed daintier, finish.

The outlined design, and sample buttonhole stitching

One thing to bear in mind with this technique is that both the running stitch and the buttonhole stitch have to be done with a vertical, stabbing motion rather than with the needle more or less parallel to the fabric. This is because you must make sure that the net is held in place with each stitch. Easy enough if you have the embroidery frame clamped in a sitting stand like this one, rather harder if you are sitting in a hospital armchair and trying to work under a bed lamp, especially a lamp which has been angled to avoid disturbing the person in the bed!

This was the state of affairs when I got home last night.


I looked at it this morning, and realised that I'd done the outer ring the wrong way round: the buttonhole edge should be on the inside of the circle, not the outside. Gah! This was where the Stitch n Tear came in very handy indeed; I was able to snip away the stitches without worrying about accidentally snipping the fabric. I've now completed the outer circle, correctly, and am ready to start on the flowers.

So not only is the Bodice challenge going to be very late, it's not looking good for Fairytale either!


  1. Oh, I'm sorry your husband took a downturn in health but I'm glad he's now on the mend. Praying for you both!

    I may have guessed the design aspect but I never dreamed of the embroidery project. What fascinating detail! I'm looking forward to seeing the final product!

  2. Ack! Don't you just hate it when you get so far on a project, look at it and see that something is not right? You want to just least I do. But! Your camisole color is gorgeous and will look fabulous when completed and your embroidery is going to be so worth the picking out of the wrong sided button hole stitch! You have inspired me to embroider this way! Love it!


    1. Thank you Gina! Discovering my mistake while sitting in a hospital ward did make for a far more restrained reaction than would have happened if I'd discovered it at home! I think that this may become my entry for the upcoming UFO and PHD challenge, rather than a very late entry for the Bodice challenge.