Monday, September 18, 2017

Applied Arts: Faux (Beaded) Embroidery

I'm sorry. This post was supposed to be about how to sew beaded fabric. But after MUCH thought and even more preparation, I ended up reverting to an exercise I did four years ago in a post entitled, "Applied Arts: Faux Embroidery."

Sadly, one of my favorite fabric stores is closing. So I ceased the opportunity to buy something special. For me, edge to edge beads aren't all that interesting. The fabric with the beaded/sequined motif is what you want to buy. But then, I started doing a lot of soul searching. I figured that few are really going to go out and purchase such expensive beaded fabric (which costs upwards of $75 USD and more) unless you're making a dress for someone else, in which case, you probably already know what you're doing. It is a pretty straight forward. 1) Trace the pattern in chalk on the fabric. 2) Make an interlining out of sheer fabric. (All markings go on this, a second layer. 3) Trace the seam allowance with painter's tape. 4) Smash the beads with a hammer to flatten the seam allowance. 5) Remove the painter's tape. (It keeps the broken beads together for disposal.) 6) Sew as usual. And while I had another sheath dress pattern ready to go, I stopped and thought..... If you do have the opportunity to get a bit of such a precious piece of fabric, what is the most efficient way to use it so there is no waste?

When Haute Couture houses create these red carpet dresses, they don't use beaded fabric. The atelier cuts out the pattern pieces in silk, marks all seam lines in thread and sends that to the embroiderer who mounts it on a loom and hand embroiders a pre-approved pattern. With that thought in mind, I decided not to cut my pattern pieces out of the beaded fabric, but rather, make an under dress and "embroider" it with pieces of my luxury material.
I wanted a "typical" red carpet dress, so I started out with a strapless sheath cut from 2 layers of tulle. You can use the standard strapless sheath pattern or make a tube dress. Above, I have stretched a double layer of (diamond cut) tulle around the doll's body, forming a single seam in the back.Tulle has a good horizontal stretch. But there was a bulge around the midriff, so I pinched out the excess on both sides of the body by forming diagonal bust darts. At the back, I left the area above the waist free and stitched the rest down the back. Check to see to where the doll can come out of the dress and that's where the back seam will start.

1. After you have your foundation, pick up the beaded fabric and stretch it over the body, pinning at the back.
2. Note the pattern of the beads as it relates to the foundation. I used pins to mark the areas where I want to attach the fabric to the foundation and where it will be joined in the back. The idea is that you will cut around the areas you want for the dress using the pins to help guide you.
3. With a small pair of scissors, very carefully cut close to the motifs without cutting the beads and be careful not to cut the foundation beneath.

4. Cut a few of the motifs from the main piece of fabric. You are going to use these motifs as well as the loose beads to fill in "empty" spots or hide "discreet" areas of dolly's body as well as to camouflage seam or darts.
5. Here, I've cut away a small motif which I then add to the top of the dress. If there is excess netting, cut it away, again, without clipping the stitches holding the beads.

6. Turn the dress to the back and continue until you are happy with the look.
7. I used a single hook and eye to close the back of the dress at the top. Go on and sew it on without worrying about it showing through because..... On the outside of the dress, sew a small cluster of beads or another motif to cover the hook.
8. The idea is for it to look like it is part of the design while disguising the closure!
As is the case of our velvet and sequined dresses, the important thing is to KEEP IT SIMPLE! The drama of the look lies in the beauty of the beads.
Think beads on the bodice of a dress. 
And, you don't have to do an all over dress (unless, of course dolly is planning on crashing the Oscars). You can confine it to one area of the dress or as an accent.
Add a beaded motif to an existing dress for a touch of added glamour.
If you can't afford to buy the fabric, take a look at beaded trim. This can also be taken apart and used as "embroidery."
You can buy beaded trim. Applied around the neckline and around the sleeve hems, it gives a touch of class and elegance to Richard's wedding suit.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

In Sequins

Sequins (n) A small, disk-shaped spangle used to ornament garments. In this the second of three tutorials on handling luxury fabrics, we examine sequined fabric. The first thing we must examine is the fabric itself. By now you know how important scale is in terms of doll fashions. This means there is really only one type of sequined fabric suitable for the doll which is the mesh fabric dotted with tiny, 1/8" (3mm) plastic circles. In this, part two of our dealing with luxury fabrics series, we examine how to work with sequined fabrics as they pertain to doll fashions.

Am I sure you can't use any other kind? Judge for yourself.
I had these two sequined fabrics already on hand when I decided to reinterpret the St. Laurent jumpsuit on the left and the Amish dress on the right. And while I am more or less happy with the result, I did notice how out of scale the sequins were when I placed them next to the full scale counterparts. Notice the human models to the left of each doll and notice the difference in the sequins of the corresponding garments. The fabric I used is essentially the same as used in the human version. Imagine a regular sized sequin and then multiply that by 6. Then imagine a dress scaled for you covered with  1-1/2" (4cm) disks! It's not to say it would be impossible. Your dress would be covered with, what we call...paillettes. Paillettes (n) Over-sized spangles used in ornamenting garments.

Now, take a look at the dresses in this image. The sequins both read as nearly the same scale in relation to the models wearing them. Here's another way of looking at scale. I've covered the doll body with three different scales of sequined fabric. Note the difference. 
If you don't yet have fabric, look for the one on the left. You could still use the one in the middle which is 1/16" (1mm) bigger. But ideally, you should avoid the one on the right unless you have something special in mind. And even then, it is best used for anything except for tops, dress bodices, pants and leggings
For this project, I chose the basic sheath dress with sleeves. Her "boots" by the way, are actually spats. Cover your work space with paper because while not as messy as glitter, cut sequins have a way of scattering over a large area. Again, choose a very simple pattern with few pieces. The mini sequin fabric has a mesh backing with a bit of stretch, which means you should be able to use a dart-less pattern (one suitable for jersey, for example). Pin your pattern in one layer (do not cut on fold) against the wrong side of the fabric all facing the same direction. To make it easy, you could trace the pattern using chalk first, then cut. For sequined fabric do not use your good fabric scissors, as this fabric will dull them quickly. I my paper shears. Cut slowly to keep cut sequins from flying. And, once again, it is best to hand sew this fabric. Sewing over sequins is murder on the sewing machine!

 Note: If you have using this blog for making full size adult garments, you should NOT heed the the following tutorial as I have modified the usual techniques to best suit 1/6 fashions.

1. Line the front to back of the pattern at the shoulders as usual EXCEPT..lay the dress right side facing up. Fold the ends of the front under and lay them over the shoulder of the dress back. We are doing this because, a good part of the dress is plastic and you cannot iron the seams flat (otherwise the sequins will melt!)

2. Use a fine needle and thread (be sure to knot the end) sew the front to the back with a back stitch. Take your time and work around the sequins.

3. The dress is assembled as usual.

4. Hem the sleeves by sewing a strip of tulle the same width as the sleeve by about 3/4" (2cm).

5. Tip: If you don't have any tulle on hand, you can always cut a strip from the selvage of the sequined fabric.

6. Stitch the tulle to the edge on the right side of the fabric. Turn and tack to the inside of the sleeve. Now pin the sleeve to the dress. Starting at the sleeve's hem, sew up to about one inch (2.5cm) down from armhole on the side.

7. If you are going to line your dress, now is the time to attach it to the neckline. Otherwise, use another strip of tulle to the neckline. Stitch, turn under and tack in place.
 8. Lay the uncut edge of the front over the dress back. Pin.

9. Carefully slip stitch the front over the back.

10. Repeat on the other side.

11. Hold the fabric in place as you sew and make small stitches as close to the edge as possible. The idea here is to get the fabric absolutely flat so as not to show the seam line.
 12. Take your time then pin the dress down the back. I prefer to do this on the doll to ensure a good fit. Again I lay one (raw) edge directly over the other. Stitch to within 1-1/2" from the neckline and secure your stitch.

13. Spread open the neckline and stitch another strip of tulle from the top of one edge to the top of the other. Fold the strip inward and tack in place.

14. Use hook and eyes to close the dress. From front to back here is my finished dress.

For her "boots," I used the pattern for Spats. As with the dress, lay one edge over the other down the back of the leg and stitch directly on the doll. The fabric has enough stretch to allow for removal of the leg afterwards.

The Tube

Of course, you can always make tube dresses or tops. After all, it only involves one seam. But the fact they are so simple doesn't mean they have to be boring. The above dress was my interpretation of an Armani Prive gown. Here's how I made it:

1. Take the fabric and stretch it directly over the doll's body. Smooth it over her curves.
2. Catch the fabric along the back and pin.
3. Cut, allowing for about an 3/8" seam.
4. Again, lay one edge over the other and stitch in place. This is something I like to build directly on the doll. When you are finished you should not be able to see the back seam.
 Of course the top and bottom of the dress has raw edges. I had a bit of embroidered tulle. I cut out a few of the motifs and stitched it on the top of the dress. This gives the illusion of a bra top. Even though the dress doesn't require any closure (Grace simply slips in her dress), I added straps to keep it from slipping down.
I also added bits of black lace near the hem of the dress to which I sewed on a few beads. The rest of the embroidered tulle is used for a stole. can just make a simple tube skirt but pair it with a sweater, tunic or jacket! Nothing like sequins to add spark to an otherwise casual look.

Okay, so now what do you do with that OTHER sequined fabric I said was too big to use? If you MUST use it, choose a super simple pattern with as few pieces as possible like this kimono that Morgan is wearing. Allow for slightly bigger seams than usual (maybe 1/4" (7mm) than 1/8 so that you have wiggle room.
This particular fabric has 1/4" sequins sewn on a sheer (woven) fabric. Using exactly the technique we used for the sheath dress, fold the front seam allowance and lay over the back piece. Pin and slip stitch. Take your time and work your stitches around the sequins.

Sew the kimono up from the hem of the sleeve to about 1" (2.5cm) down from the underarm. Fold the front side edge of the kimono over the back kimono edge and stitch. You can either line this with a layer of tulle or turn down the edges with tulle and tack in place.

Have fun with sequins and don't hesitate to pair it with other fabrics. Inspired by an ad I saw for Juicy Couture's Viva La Juicy Perfume, I made this little dress for Kimora from a sequined collar.
1. Again, stick to simple patterns. Here I've made an A-line skirt (with the darts folded out in the draft of the pattern).
2. The top is a one piece corset that closes on the same side as Kimora's skirt. I admit, I did have to keep the side bust darts in order to fit it over the bust.
The dress is worn over a petticoat of ruffled tulle. To balance the look, I stitched another layer of ruffled tulle to the top of this dress.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Velvet Underground

While I lament summer coming to an end, my dolls are all rejoicing at the thought of events to come...a month long fashion week and the return of red carpet spectacles. All things considered, I thought it was time to do a few posts showing how to deal with specialty fabrics: velvet, sequins and beads. In this, the first of this series, I explore velvet, a fabric that, over the past few seasons, has staged a comeback. While I love the look and feel of this material, fact is a beast to sew...especially on the scale of doll-scaled garments!

Let's Talk Velvet
Many years ago, my mother bought a boat load of panne (pressed) velvet) which I found and was anxious to use. So when I saw velvet gowns in the collections of Dior, Armani and others, I immediately headed to the closet. But as I started to sew this lofty fabric, all of the memories of struggling with this beast from my high school days surfaced. The fabric was way too thick for the doll, especially on the shoulder seams and around the neckline where I had turned down the edges. And then there was the problem of the seams fraying! Now, how did I iron this?
On the left, stretch velvet; regular velvet on the right. Note the difference in thicknesses on the shoulder seam.
Cotton velvet (a.k.a velveteen) would have been a bit better since it isn't as plush as its rayon or silk equivalent. But these days it is not so easy to find and has become quite expensive. And so that leaves us with...stretch velvet. At first I thought "ugh." But as I worked with it to create last season's YSL dress for Estelle, I discovered that it is the perfect choice for 1/6. The pile isn't as long and it doesn't fray! But here's what you need to know before you cut that first front bodice.

One Direction
Plush fabrics like velvet, velveteen and corduroy are "pile" fabrics. They woven in such a way where the cut ends of threads produce a furry or hairy surface. This "pile" runs in one direction and can be felt with your hands: downwards it  is smooth to the touch and has a sheen while when stroked upwards, it feels rough and absorbs light. With all but panne (a shiny velvet), you should place the pattern pieces with the nap running upwards.

Lay out your pattern over a single, flat layer of fabric, never on the fold.
All pattern pieces must be placed on the fabric facing the same direction. Stretch velvet is a bit tricky in that it can stretch as you pin the pattern to the fabric, as you cut and as you sew. You may have to repin a few times, but check to make sure your pattern is flat against the fabric throughout all phases. Place your hand down on the piece as you are cutting it to keep everything from shifting.

Most importantly...use a good, sharp pair of scissors!

Keep It Simple!

Yes, you could always do tube dresses, but I think many of you will want to do a little more. Take a tip. Choose simple patterns with as few seams as possible. That doesn't rule out darts like the ones in my strapless sheath dress (which you can find HERE). Even though we are focused on stretch velvet, darts help you achieve a more custom fit. Pictured here, I've pinned my pattern to the right side of the fabric. The tracing paper is underneath. I transfer the dart marking using a tracing wheel. Then I pin baste my darts.

If you are using any other type of velvet instead of the stretch variety, you will need to seal the edges with a fray block. There are plenty of products on the market OR, you can improvise by mixing a bit of water in a bit of ModgePodge (or craft glue). It should be a runny consistency. Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut away the loose threads. Then apply your fray block to the edges of the fabric with a toothpick and allow to dry.
A simple cape with faux fur trim, panne velvet was used for this garment. The front edges treated with ModgePodge.
The tutorial for Veronique's cape is found HERE. The important thing is to choose a simple pattern with as few seams as possible.

Sew What!
Strapless black sheath. Opera length gloves are simply two small tubes of stretch velvet.
Personally I prefer to hand sew luxury fabrics because it helps me through a number of challenges. I use a small backstitch which is as strong as a machine stitch. Let the markings from the tracing wheel help guide you as to the size of stitch along the dart lines.

However, if you are tempted to use your sewing machine (particularly for the long seams), baste your garment together using a long, running stitch. This will help keep the fabric from shifting as you sew. And there's another advantage. You can try the basted garment on the doll to check for fit and make adjustments BEFORE you stitch it together. When sewing velvet with a sewing machine.
1. Use a ballpoint needle.
2. Set the machine for a longer stitch than you normally use.
3. Lighten the pressure foot so that you don't leave tracks along the seams.
4. If you use regular velvet, push the pile away from the seam line as you sew. Try to sew on the backing.

Ironing Things Out

The next biggest challenge in working with this fabric is ironing. For human scale garments, a "needle board" is usually employed in ironing a velvet garment. This is a board with lots of little needles that keep the pile from crushing down while you iron. You can also use a piece of the same fabric. Those pressing sticks I created to use for ironing dolly sleeves (you can find instructions by clicking HERE), can be covered in velvet or you can cover your ironing board with velvet. Here I've simply taken my existing ironing stick and wrapped it with a rectangle of velvet, pinning it in place along one side. Now place the fabric right side to right side (going in the same direction) of the velvet ironing surface. This works for all types of velvet.

The Finish Line
So the question always in the back of my mind do I finish this garment. The beauty of stretch velvet is that it doesn't ravel. So you really can leave the raw cut edges as is. However, you still may be tempted to finish the edges around the neckline. Remember, we want to avoid bulk. You can always line the garment edge to edge, however you will lose the stretch properties of the stretch velvet. So, here's how I finished this dress.
1. Sew up the back but leave a 3/4 inch (23mm) opening off the top of the back. Cut a piece of tulle the width of the neckline and about 1 inch long (27mm).
2. Pin the tulle to the right side of the dress.
3. Stitch about 1/8 inch (3mm) away from the top edge.
4. Turn the tulle to the inside. Tack onto the side seams and the tips of the bust darts. Then carefully press the top edge using your velvet board.

And yes, you can always line your dress, provided you have factored in enough ease. Here's a tip. Use a contrasting color for your lining especially if the style calls for a slit.
I've lined Nadja's black dress in purple silk so that when she walks there is a sliver of color that shows around her legs.

Velvet isn't an all or nothing project. Consider using velvet in touches. Maybe it's just a bodice, a yoke or part of a dress. Here Lindsey's Dior dress started out as a sheath dress with deep V cuts over the thighs and wedges of sheer chiffon stitched in. Again, there are very few pattern pieces *front and back) used for the velvet parts. Same thing with the cape, pictured above. Veronique's faux fur trimmed cape is super simple and only consists of 2 pattern pieces. In the last photo of this post...our dolly version of the Patrick Kelly Cocoon jacket made from a single piece of material. (The tutorial is found by clicking HERE.)

The jacket is unlined, so I stitched satin ribbon around the edges of this coat to finish it.

Coming soon. Tutorials on sewing with sequined fabric and sewing with beaded fabric.

All text and photos property of Fashion Doll Stylist. 2017. Please do not reproduce without prior permission. Thank you.

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