Thursday, April 28, 2016

Part 1: Hamilton Dress (#Hamildress)

I'm so in LOVE with this musical!

One day my sweetheart of a husband sprung the biggest surprise on me: He said “Let’s go” see Hamilton in New York for our 10-year anniversary and... my heart... stopped. My mind was utterly blown at the magnitude of such an amazing opportunity and I immediately knew I needed to sew a dress to commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime event in my life. I envisioned my dress mimicking the poster art from Hamilton so I planned to print out the poster’s background across a yard of fabric (and then mirror the image across 5 yards of fabric) using a website like Spoonflower.

Planning the fabric:
It was a long road for me to come to the realization that I should just DYE the fabric instead of SCREENPRINT it. Here’s the details of my long journey:

First, I “inspected” the html code on to grab the 1400 x 842 background image but I knew I really needed something larger. I did some research to discover the marketing company in charge of promoting Hamilton (SpotCo) and I sent them and email asking if they could send me a hi-res image of the orangish-textured background. Then I sent them some more emails and realized they weren’t going to reply to me.

I then found some generous folks on Reddit who helped me resize the existing image from the official website. I went ahead and ordered 3 swatches of different fabrics from Spoonflower using that enlarged file, but when I finally received them I was not happy with the pixels resulting from the image being stretched across a YARD of fabric!
The dark bottom left corner of the Hamilton Poster Art

Then I thought I would try to find a similar (but larger resolution) image that gave the look and feel of the poster art, and stumbled across a stock photo website. I bought one image and was not happy with it and so I purchased another. Then I mirrored that second image and painstakingly edited every pixel to eliminate errors and ugly spots. This took FOREVER and in the end, after I uploaded my final YARD-SIZED image to Spoonflower… I chickened out. I had been doing some research about the lack of fidelity of their black dye and I was worried the whole print would really lack the rich beauty I was hoping for. I found a few other websites that were purported to have better blank ink fidelity but their prices were over $30 a yard and since I’d be buying 5 yards, I couldn’t justify the cost without feeling confident it would turn out the way I envisioned it.

So, I started to think about the more cost-effecting option of dyeing the fabric myself with Dharma Trading Co. dyes. I did some research about mixing colors and realized I probably wouldn’t be able to achieve the look I was going for without some assistance. At that point I decided I would fish around on Etsy for some skilled hand-dyers. Luckily I found Vicki Welsh who is a professional at this and assured me she could do this ombre effect! We discussed at length which seven dyes to use on the fabric. See the photo on the left for the five middle colors out of the seven. We later decided on adding one lighter shade at the top and one darker shade at the bottom to total the seven colors.

Hamilton Musical poster art fabric
Vicki's preview before mailing!
I bought Cotton Lawn fabric from Dharma Trading Co. and shipped it to Vicki and let the professional work her magic!  She sent me the preview on the right (of 1/4th of the fabric) before she mailed out my package! It looks so awesome!

Whoohoo! Now I’m waiting for my dyed fabric to arrive so I can get sewing!

Update: The Eagle has LANDED! And it's FANTASTIC!

Hamilton Musical poster art fabric

On the left is the pattern I am using for my #Hamildress. It's a Vintage 1957 reissue and I'll be making the V-neck (View A).

My Work Plan to sew this dress:
Thurs:              Iron fabric, Pin Bodice & Flatlining
Friday:             Cut Skirt, Bodice pieces
Saturday:         Flatline Bodice pieces, Cut Arm Facing
Sunday:           Watch Game of Thrones (and then mark pattern pieces with an air soluble pen)
Monday:          Go shopping for thread and notions
Tuesday:          Sew & Iron Bodice together
Wednesday:    Sew Skirt together & Gather top edge.
Thursday:        Add Zipper
Friday:             Sew skirt to bodice
All the other days up to today where I'm still working on it:         Sew belt, finish inner belt, hem, press, etc.

UPDATE: Gratuitous pic of the amazing variance in ombre gradient of my fabric!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Yellow Sheer Civil War Dress

I am finally getting around to posting some photos from my most recent project: My cotton sheer Civil War dress!

Layers 1, 2 and 3:
I made a new chemise from the Simplicity Fashion Historian 9769 Pattern and reused my corset and drawers (from the same pattern) that I originally made for my Victorian 1840s dress.

All the glorious LAYERS!
5 layers in the photo... add in 3+ more for chemise, drawers and corset (and stockings of course)!

Layer 4:
I can finally say I started a project the right way (from the ground up) as I constructed my very own Cage Crinoline using the KayFig 7-tier 108" hoop kit! That was loads of fun hammering and awl-ing the thing together; It felt like using heavy machinery compared to what I'm used to. I completed this while I was 9 months pregnant, so it was the perfect project for me while lying in wait!

Layer 5:
I already had my "Wedding Cake" Petticoat made from the free Truly Victorian Pattern but I made another one for good measure to ensure my hoop rings would not show through. Oddly enough, I have never bought fabric for my petticoats, I just use a combination of bedskirts and sheets from thrift stores. I just LOVE ruffled bedskirts for undergarments!

Layer 6:
I had made another simple flat petticoat (with a cute bedskirt yellow eyelet ruffle) but this still didn't smooth thing over enough for my liking.

Layer 7:
To completely smooth things over I made a very flat simple petticoat. This helped immensely since my starched bedskirt ruffles get a little crazy.

Layer 8 (Top):
My dress pattern is Peachtree Mercantile Day Dress, ca.1860 which I have to say, was completely worth the crazy price $35+!!. I have never paid so much for a pattern before, but the photos and history and in-depth sewing instructions (with variations!) was almost overwhelming and taught me so much about the construction of this garment.

The fabric:
I bought 10 yards of this yellow windowpane fabric at a thrift store in Modesto for $8!!! (Please don't hate me... I had no idea it was quite so much fabric when I bought it, but could tell the unmarked quantity was a steal anyways! I didn't know I'd be making it into a Civil War dress at the time, but I soon started to question my ability to pull this dress off and didn't want to invest a huge amount of money into buying fabric. Then I got the idea to use my thrift store find (even tough I can tell it probably has a small percentage of synthetic fibers in it). I'm happy I went the "cheap" route because the final fit is not what I'd like it to be. Too blousy! At least I know that... I'm slowly but sure understanding that I cannot skip the multiple toile fittings. :-(

My glorious hand-stitched cartridge pleats!

The trim:
I bought some cotton eyelet trim and replaced all the white ribbon with yellow. It was a bit of a pain, but worth it... I think.

The Details:
Look at that hand gathered shoulder!

Ah.. and all the prettiness of the sleeves!

The shoes:
I finally splurged and got some American Duchess "Renoir" $190 shoes! They were so fun to put on with the victorian button hook! I FINALLY didn't have to hide my ballet flat feet!

Fun! Fun! Fun! I hope to make a better bodice one day so I can solve the blousy fit problems *I created* when I decided to add more gathers to the Peachtree Bodice. Ugh. I promise I'll check to see if I like it first next time.  :-)