Waxed Paper!!!!

So there I was, working on some shawl patches for a client.  Beautiful silk velvet…I would be happy in silk velvet sheets.  I was using the sticky back stabilizer in my hoop because these are patches, so everything was prepped the way I always do, the topper was doubled, all was basted into place…and 20 stitches in, the thread breaks.  I re-thread the machine, rub the needle with some silicon to help things along, and re-start.

15 seconds later, the thread breaks again.  I fix it, re-start…10 seconds later it breaks again.  My ears are starting to steam mainly because every time a thread breaks, my machine BEEPS & BEEPS & BEEPS in a high pitched tone that drives me insane.  Just so this blog does not become x-rated, suffice it to say that my frustration hit dangerous levels and I almost knocked that machine through the wall.

Why was this happening?  Well, because I was embroidering on SILK velvet on top of sticky back.  The silk shed more fibers than anything I have ever used and it also picked up huge amounts of the gummy stuff so that every few seconds, I had a ball of stuff at the top of a thoroughly coated needle and the machine would have a fit.  I cleaned it out top to bottom to no avail.

I resigned myself to standing there, in front of my machine, taking deep, cleansing breaths, swearing up a blue streak as these little patches that should have taken 30 minutes tops, including fabric trimming, took me 2 1/2 hours.

That same day, I get an email from Colleen Murphy.  I had just sent her some designs for her daughter’s dress, and because she was having to re-hoop for a big bodice design, she was using sticky back…and her thread was not only breaking, it was shredding!  The dressmaking gods were in a really bad mood.

I called Susan.  I am thinking there has to be a way around this, that there has to be a way to coat the needle with something that will repel the gummy silk lint and help Colleen.  Susan and I start tossing it around, and suddenly, Susan says, “Waxed paper.”  Ooo.  Was this another genius moment?

She and I talk a bit about whether or not to use it on top or the under the sticky back, but I do not remember now if we came to a conclusion.

I write Colleen back with several suggestions, including the waxed paper idea.

She writes back to say it worked beautifully.  Her thread stopped breaking and shredding.  I was psyched because I was prepping a big skirt job using what looked, felt and behaved like more silk velvet.  Colleen used it on top of her solvy topper, so I asked her if it left any tiny pieces.  She said no, that she was happy with the way it looked.

First thing I have to do is make two long appliques for a belt for this dress which meant I had to trim this velvet which was going to leave all sorts of silk fibers everywhere which was really going to test this waxed paper theory.  I took a breath, put the waxed paper over the solvy topper, and began.

The first applique, after trimming, stitched out without a single break.  15 inches of dense stitching with metallic thread…45 minutes of non-stop embroidering.  I was stunned.  There is always a break or two, sometimes more with metallic threads.

The next applique only stopped once.

Here they are:

11 by you.

And Colleen was right, the paper just came right off, no bits.

So, I do a test for the skirt design using a different velvet, but I use the waxed paper anyway, just to see what happens with this design.  Here are pics of the process:

Waxed paper over the solvy, basted in place – 6 by you.

Stitching out beautifully…not a single break – 7 by you.

Finished design, paper beautifully perforated – 8 by you.

Tearing it off first – 9 by you.

But this time, there are little bits that I cannot overlook – 10 by you.

See the “rough” edges?  I start to pick all of those off, but I know that if I have to do this on 13 separate pieces of embroidery on this skirt, I might lose my mind.  This will make me very cranky.

I contemplate putting the waxed paper under the sticky back, but something tells me that might be a moot point.  So, what if I put it on top of the sticky back?  But then why use sticky back at all since it won’t be serving its purpose of anchoring the fabric in place so I can hoop it according to the placement lines on the skirt?

So I try it this way:

(See the end of this post for simpler instructions if the thought of being this ANAL makes you twitch!)  Around the design area, I added extra placement lines that were then stitched out onto the sticky back –   5 by you.

Using half the design template, I cut pieces of waxed paper – 7 by you.

I laid a piece on one side of the central placement line – 8 by you.

…and the second half on the other side – 9 by you.

I left an open area of sticky between the 2 pieces – 10 by you.

Why?  Because I did not want my center line to slip around as I was placing the fabric on the sticky back.  I also had the sticky exposed around the design area to hold the fabric as well.

So, I stitched out the design…with no breaks, no huge lint and gum build up – 3 by you.

And I am doing a little jig around my embroidery room –4 by you.

I ripped off the solvy fast to get this pic, so there are a couple of pieces, but it looks great!  Much better!

Is it more work?  Yep, but sitting there pulling all the ittybittyteenytiny pieces of waxed paper off would take me WAAAYYYY longer.

Yeah, genius moment, Susan.

UPDATE:  I could not continue to be this anal, so now I just hoop a length of waxed paper under the sticky back, and off I go.  In fact, because I have now found the best sticky back ever (strong and thicker) I do not always use a tearaway as long as the fabric is fused with a good woven cotton.  Works beautifully!

Re-hooping for Large Bodice Designs

(This was first posted several years ago, obviously before the drop-waisted dresses we make now, but the info still applies.)

I routinely field questions from dressmakers with home embroidery machines about whether or not they can do large bodice designs that require one or more re-hoopings.  The answer is always, “Of course you can!!”

I have yet to find a design I can’t re-hoop, but I am honest with dressmakers about the complexity of re-hooping some designs.   In most cases, the dressmakers are game, so along with the split files I send detailed instructions written for their files complete with pictures.  Sometimes, when the design is big enough to need 4 re-hoopings or the design requires extreme precision to line up contiguous lines, then the dressmaker may send the fabric to me so I can do it in a big hoop on my commercial machine, but there have been brave, adventurous souls who still want to do it themselves…my kind of dressmakers!!

Do you need big hoops?  I have always assumed so since I have always had the mega-hoop for my Bernina and learned to use the Hoop-it-alls to expand my range, but I have had dressmakers use only their 4 x 4 inch hoops…that blew my mind, but they were determined!  And I do understand that determination…never occurred to me NOT do something because it did not fit into my hoop.  These were all done using my Bernina 200E:

Yes, each entire panel, edges and all, were done in the hoop with 1 re-hooping.

And my favorite of all time, my first, the one that was made all the more blissful by my ignorance!!!

molly by you.molly cape by you.

I re-hooped all  of these parts in the most convoluted, complicated way possible!  In fact, I had started on this (I learn by jumping in with both feet…or headfirst) before I went to take some lessons for my Bernina machine and software.  I was having trouble with the logic of the sleeve design, so I brought the file (as well as the front skirt panel) with me so the teacher could look at it.  She took one look at the size of the file and told me it could not be done…every time I tried to get her to focus on my question, she simply said what I wanted to do could NOT be done on my machine.  I finally whipped out the finished front panel (5 re-hoopings) to show her I could do it, I just had a question!!!  She had no answer.  Instead she asked me how I managed that front panel, but at that point my process was so twisted that I really could not articulate clearly.  It was a big sigh day.

My friend Kris is working on this dress:

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Kristine Baker
Designer & Digitizer: Me (AD 6)

IMG_1693 by krispy_b2000.

 The beginning of the directions that I send begin with a little pictorial about using sticky back stabilizer…

(The following information is for the home sewer using a home machine.)

There are online tutorials that show how to use the water-soluble stuff called Badgemaster. I love the stuff for patches that can be washed.  Patches for Irish dance dress very often are made with fabrics that cannot be washed, so this is another approach.  The result is the same.

I use a LOT of this stuff –
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If you look online for tutorials involving this sticky stabilizer, you are told to cut your length of the stabilizer and then put it, paper back and all, into the outside hoop as below.
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Then you are told to score an area…
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…and pull off the paper.
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I dislike this because ultimately the hoop loses tension on the stabilizer (that paper is slippery!), and the fabric being embroidered can, and usually does, start to pucker and shift, especially when doing the complicated overs and unders of a celtic knot. I hate puckering and will do all I can to avoid it. I have yet to have a perfect embroidery sample, but I am working on it.

I pull the paper backing off the entire piece of sticky back stabilizer…
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…and attach it to my inner hoop.
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This next pic shows the sticky back attached tightly…when I thwack it with my finger it sounds like a drum. (Please excuse my “dirty” hoop…that is fabric dust, thread, sequins, etc, embedded in spray adhesive from my attempts to use the stuff years ago. It never goes away, but it is not bothering me or my fabrics!)
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Then I cut a piece of tear away stabilizer…
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…and then hoop the whole shebang.
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(There is more info here: Pursuing the Perfect Embroidery Stitch-out! )

(Note: There is one thing that I do for myself when stitching out designs using the sticky back stabilizer – I add a basting box around the design. In the pic below, you can see the faint line of the basting box.

finished 005 by you.

Once the placement stitches are sewn onto the hooped stabilizers and the fabric is then lined up on the sticky stabilizer, the next thing to get stitched out is a long basting stitch around the design area.  This ensures that the fabric will not move or pull or come away from the sticky stabilizer.  I have also found that it helps eliminate any puckering. Some machines will add a basting outline with a push of a button. For others, this can be added to the embroidery files.

However, some velvet will very often be permanently marked by these stitches. Test a scrap by sewing and removing some basting stitches onto a scrap.I have found that crushed velvet can take it, but the shorter pile of regular velvet cannot always.

If your velvet cannot take a basting stitch, it is best to find ways to keep the fabric from shifting as it still can once the stitching starts even on the sticky back. I have a little stash of pins that I bent into curves to secure my fabric to the sticky back when I can’t use the basting stitches.)

I highly recommend you do a test stitch-out first.

Now, let’s understand your digitized files.

Bodice: This bodice design has been split into 4 sections. The black lines are the basting stitch reference lines in the stitch files.

kris curl bodice

Here are the 4 separate files:

bodice 1kris bodice 1 center bottom kris bodice bottom

right shoulderkris bodice right side left shoulder kris bodice left side

You will start with “bodice 1.” Below are the pics of the file and the placement lines in the file.

kris bodice 1  kris bodice 1 placement lines (This is not a separate file.)

Now, if this were me, I would have my fabric prepped and marked (not cut out to size yet) as I explain here: Pursuing the Perfect Embroidery Stitch-out!  

I would have the center line of the bodice marked as well as the line I wanted the top of the middle of the desing to begin at.  The lines on the bodice would look like this:

judy curl bodice 1 placement lines center lineThis will correspond to the same lines in the file.

Now, once the hoop is ready, the placement lines in the first color (black in the file, but this could just be the first embroidery color you will be using) get stitched out onto the sticky stabilizer NOT on the fabric. You can stitch them onto your fabric if the fabric will not retain the needle marks, but as long as the interfacing is not removed, the lines will stay on the back for placing for the next file (the center line itself will be mostly covered by the stitching anyway). (For your test run, I would stitch all placement lines on the fabric.)

So, once the placement lines are stitched, place your fabric in the hoop, lining up your drawn line with the placement line as shown in Pursuing the Perfect Embroidery Stitch-out!
Stitch out “bodice 1.”

Remove from the hoop and remove excess stabilizer. Be careful not to remove or pull on the first set of placement lines.

Re-hoop the sticky back and the tear away for the next part.

You will continue with “bodice left side.” Below is the pic of the file.

kris bodice left side   judy curl bodice 2 left shoulder placement lines(This is not a separate file.)

Stitch out the black placement lines.

Line up the placement lines from Part #1 on the fabric piece with the new black lines. Use the points where the lines cross as your center points for each placement. Finish stitching part 2.

Remove from the hoop and remove excess stabilizer. Be careful not to remove or pull on the first set of placement lines. Re-hoop the sticky back and the tear away for the next part.

Part #3: You will continue with “bodice right side.” Below is the pic of the file.

kris bodice right side  judy curl bodice 3 right shoulder placement lines(This is not a separate file.)

Stitch out the black placement lines.

Line up the placement lines from Part #2 on the fabric piece with the new black lines. Use the points where the lines cross as your center points for each placement.

Finish stitching part 3.

Part #3 is finished. Remove from the hoop and remove excess stabilizer. Be careful not to remove or pull on the first set of placement lines.

Part #4: You will continue with “bodice bottom.” Below is the pic of the file.
kris bodice bottom  bottom bodice 1 placement lines

Stitch out the black placement lines.

Line up the placement lines from Part #3 on the fabric piece with the new black lines. Use the points where the lines cross as your center points for each placement.

Finish stitching part 4.

Part #4 is finished.

Remove from the hoop and remove excess stabilizer. Remove placement line threads.

Et, voila!
IMG_1693 by krispy_b2000.

As I stated above, I highly recommend doing a test stitch out.  Perhaps there are superwomen dressmakers who can do this right the first time, but weirdness happens!

Many thanks to the dressmakers who send me pics of their re-hooped confections!

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Molly Lafayette
Designer & Digitizer: Me (AD 12 )

Molly Lafayette 1, AD 12 by you.

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Judy Poole
Designer, Digitizer: Me  ( AD 11)

Judy Poole AD 11 by you.

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Judy Poole
Designer, Digitizer: Me  ( AD 4)

Judy Poole front by you.

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Lisa Horn
Designer, Digitizer: Me  (Revised AD 6: Curls)

DSCF4530 by you.

Dressmaker & Embroiderer: Mary Reilly
Designer, Digitizer: Me  (Scrollwork Neckline 5)

Mary Reilly finished bodice 1 by you.

You can see these dresses and more in the Taoknitter Arts Customer Creations gallery.

Newest Endeavor

A while back, dressmaker Colleen Murphy contacted me about collaborating on a very cool project: an ID dress reproduction of a full sized, hand embroidered velvet dress…for an American Girl doll!  I was intrigued so, of course, said yes.

The original dress is unbelievable!  Black velvet, orange crocheted collar, and some of the most interesting & beautiful Celtic/Irish hand embroidery I have ever seen.  I will admit to being intimidated on SOOO many levels, but the challenge could not be ignored.

Colleen is game for me to write about this, and I will include pics of my work, but I will not post pics of the original dress until I am sure it is ok with the owners.

Photos arrive…and I sit there and stare…and stare…and stare some more.  So many things are going through my head about  colors, stitches, faithful reproduction, artistic license… have I bit off more than I can chew?  I dreamed about this dress and how the gryphons and lions chased me while I was trying to thread a needle! 

My biggest obstacle was dealing with my “feelings,” my philosophy on faithful reproduction.  Besides the fact that neither my embroidery software nor machine can manage a chain stitch, there is the integrity of someone else’s artwork to consider.  As you may know, I am a retired dance professor/dancer/choreographer/artistic director…the issues of artistic integrity are part and parcel of who I am on so many levels.  My master’s degree encompassed directing and Labanotation/movement analysis, and it is this training in Labanotation in particular that honed my focus on/obsession with faithful reproduction. 

Labanotation is dance notation, a logical though complex system of symbols and rules used to first record dance and then to reconstruct it again on new people, sometimes decades later.  If you are interested, you can learn more here: Labanotation.

Not long after I got to grad school at Ohio State, I changed my concentration to include Labanotation.  I was fascinated by and drawn to this extremely logical approach to dance.  Now, I am sure my professors would tell you they shook their heads many, many times at my emo approach to dance in general, but I will never forget the day I let the logic take over…Vera Maletic gave me a very rare smile and nodded her head before turning away to bark at me to do it again!  Not only did my symbols need to precisely record illogical movement, but when I read notated scores and performed them, it better look the way Doris Humphrey demanded decades before!  It was a very intense LOVE/HATE relationship.

So, here I was 24 years later, looking at someone else’s beautiful art with the intention of reproducing it.  I swear I felt Vera thwack the back of my skull.

The animals were glaring at me, so I chose a knotwork braid to start with.  That I could handle easily.

vertical braids by you.

Now, I have not ever done anything as small as was going to be required here, but I knew that I could not do this the way I would if it were going to remain full size.  So, even though I did the original digitizing in a decent size, instead of outlining all of this with a satin stitch, I chose a backstitch to approximate both the look of the chain stitch outlines and to accommodate what I knew would end up being very narrow lines.  But, after doing this design, I knew I was going to have to do a test dress to get a real feel for the size and to get a sense of stitch density for something as small as the designs on an AG dress.

Colleen sent me pics of her pattern pieces & dimensions so I could digitize the outlines to use as templates.  I then used one of my designs.  Even though I have not done mini-designs, I have enough experience by now to know that if I used the same stitch density that I use for the ID designs, I was going to be tunneling to China!!  Too many stitches in such a small area was only going to pull in, and perhaps make holes in the fabric no matter the pull compensation, so I lightened the density a lot.  Here’s the result:

dolltestdress 011 by colmurph2000.

And here is it finished…I am so tempted to buy an AG doll for the youngest Diva!

AG test dress by you.

(I feel the need to say here that I so admire that Colleen likes doing these little dresses, and she does them so well!  I have this psychotic aversion to sewing things with small pieces which is why I am not a quilter…these dresses qualify as beautiful small things that make me twitch!  I know I do applique with small pieces, but like every other psycho, it is the context…it goes on a BIG dress.)

So, I learned I was right about stitch density.  The test turned out well…and everyone in my family got a big kick out of this tiny little dress.  Even the macho hubby talked to it like it was a gerbil…

The next design I tackled was what I call the Nessies:

nessies by you.

This design took me days.  Why?  Because I kept finding myself mired in choices…colors (decided Colleen can match colors since she has the dress, but still wanted to match as closely as possible so the client could have a visual); stitches (leave plain or play with texture?); overs and unders (fix them so that they make sense or keep them as they were originally stitched?); symmetry (make things perfectly symmetrical as I imagine they were intended and as I can with the computer or stay true to the actual pics keeping in mind that over the years the fabric changes and hangs differently now?); handmade look versus computerized perfection…haven’t there been more than a few artists driven insane by the demands of their art?!?  Ya know Van Gogh and that ear…???

I cannot count the number of times I would find myself just sitting in front of the computer contemplating the photos…I imagined how much of it was done in the company of other women doing exactly the same thing.  I wondered how many mistakes occurred and were then simply incorporated because the embroiderer got caught up in a conversation with her fellow stitchers.  I wondered how often the zen of the repetitive needlework sent the embroiderer on a quiet journey of her own…and then I would start.

I decided that if this were me doing the hand stitching, I would work for symmetry.  I would work for the logical progression of the overs and unders, but I would get over myself when the logic failed.  I decided I would follow the handmade lines but clean things up when unique moments took on the aura of a mistake.  I decided I would try to keep the look of its handmade beauty while using my technology to enhance it where applicable.  I decided less was more…and that was hard!!

And this is what I have so far:

vertical braids by you.birds by you.

nessies by you.

winged lion by you.

serpent braid by you.

eagle by you.

braid by you.

waist braid by you.

griffins by you.

And here are the dress pieces:

reproduction front skirt by you.

reproduction skirt back by you.

reproduction bodice by you.

This weekend, I will do another test.  I will post pics of it, succeed or fail.

Camouflage

(Ya know when you suddenly feel as if you have never spelled a word before, so you look it up, are surprised by the spelling, and are sure you have been spelling it wrong all your life?!  Having issues with “camouflage” this morning…now singing “kamooflayge” as a mantra…I know, now I am saying it wrong, but I will know how to spell it for the rest of my life.)

A mom wrote to me as she begins working on her young dancing daughter’s first solo dress.  The little one is thicker around the middle.  Since I have some experience with that because of my oldest diva, I told her I would write about how I dealt with it…and since I have been digitizing ’til I am dreaming about creating food out of embroidery stitches in my sleep, I figured a little writing break was in order.  I am by no means an expert in dealing with this figure (I just slap a shapeless shirt on my own [say that 10 times fast: slap a shapeless shirt, shlap a slapesesh shirt, shap a shapish sh…]), but I have a couple of dresses under my belt and perhaps some readers will offer their own experiences and suggestions as well.

We all know that there are certain silhouettes that look good on different body types.  There are certain silhouettes that certain body shapes shy away from.  Some people wear whatever they want, whenever they want, whether they should or not, and I say more power to ’em!  But Irish dance, not unlike other dance forms, does dictate a certain dress “look.”  I was glad when the teeny-tiny bodice on top of the gigantoid skirt became a thing of the past as it was a rare child of any shape who looked good in that.  Don’t really know why, but the wide skirts always reminded me of the Flying Nun… and I always felt I was looking at a costume that would fit right in with this group below –

Am I right? Ever hear of “The Triadic Ballet,” Bauhaus, or Oscar Schlemmer?  More info here if you are curious: Bauhaus

That overwhelmingly wide, stiff triangle look was particularly unforgiving when it was under a thicker torso.  It was a good thing when the waists started to drop, and even better when the skirts began to narrow.  Now we are seeing some extreme dropped waistlines…nothing better for making all but the skinniest minnies look like sausage tubes (brings back horrid anorexia-inducing memories of college and gray unitards and clanging gongs and a hippie choreographer who never came to rehearsal with her feet on the ground, if you get my drift…)……..deep sigh.

There is a freaking point here somewhere…

…yes, kamooflayging thicker torsos to create an attractive balanced look for the incredibly logical creation that is an Irish dance dress. Tongue Out

There is always the usual use of dark colors over all, as well as using darker colors strategically so that brighter colors can pull focus.  There was a time when it was de riguer for ID dresses to have a bright color down the center of the dress while the bodice and skirt sides were darker.  Those were passing when I started with my girls in ID.  You do see some of that still but it is not as stark a use of contrasting colors as it used to be.

So, off to the fabric store you go.  You want a color that complements your dancer’s coloring, obviously, but make life a bit simpler for yourself by letting the dancer loose to be drawn to the colors she likes.  It is rare that a dancer (or anybody, for that matter) will claim as their favorite a color that looks bad on them.  You may not like it, but hold it up under your dancer’s face to see what happens.  It will probably work beautifully. 

A few years ago, I brought a whole box of fabric to begin working with a 10 year-old.  Susan had given me all sorts of things that I loved as well as some that made me cringe.  This red-cheeked, slightly sallow little dancer went straight for this bright coral metallic silk that set my teeth on edge.  I knew she had to be wrong, but when we held it up, her complexion brightened, her red cheeks turned pink, and her eyes sparkled!  This is the dress:

I have since always trusted the dancer.

In my diva’s case she chose plum.  She was young yet, but we both wanted something a bit more understated than the bright flourescent colors that were still the rage at the time, so no dramatic color shifts for us.  This is her first dress (I just realized that we were a bit ahead of out time!  Applique was still what everyone was doing, but we did just embroidery!):

Now, it is rather subtle, but you can see that the center of the bodice and the center front skirt are lighter than the sides and the sleeves.  There is a black sparkly overlay over the darker parts.  In the sunlight in that pic it is not as pronounced a difference as it really was.  The design also worked to draw the eye in…you can’t see the top of the cfp but the design comes to a point like the bodice design.

The diva’s next dress was a bit more dramatic.

This time we made more of an effort to draw the eye in by using black on the bodice & skirt sides and by making the bodice point down the center along with the long tapering design.  In fact the black was so successful that it looks as if the bodice is standing away from the offset skirt waist.  It is a 2 piece, but the bodice fit snugly so there was no space at the waist between the bodice hem and the skirt.  The long straight lines of crystals also help draw the eye in.

I did make this skirt very offset which means the “sides” of the dress were more than 2 inches forward of the diva’s actual side.  This again tricks the eye into interpreting the front waist into a narrower width.

The longer, dropped, pointed bodice look is another tried and true device for altering the look of a thicker torso.  I wrote about making the pointed bodice here: Bodice/Jacket for 2-piece.  At the time that I made the dresses in that post, those were drop-waisted jackets…compared to now, they are high waisted, but I would make the same pattern alterations with a longer waist.  I know many people feel that the 2-piece dress makes dancers look thick.  I do not agree, because, in fact, there is no difference in the bulk of fabric that is in the waist area or at the point of bodice & skirt overlap.  There may be even less because there is no bodice/jacket fabric in the waist seam at all (just a single layer of cotton for the under-bodice).  The problem in the look comes when the bodice is poorly fitted so that it looks too big on the dancer or it cannot sit down far enough over the skirt.  I have never been a fan of the faux bodice point that is appliqued onto the skirt as I find the actual waist seam to be very obvious, which is why I like the 2 piece plus the fact the jacket can be removed in between dances to alleviate the sweat factor.  (That being said, I am working on an OTR with Susan and she wants to incorporate that faux point…I have to learn to never say never because it always comes back to bite me in the…)

Another trick is to direct the eye upward to the face by creating interest above the bust line.  You can do this with a collar design and/or a corset bodice look.  I wrote about my approach to the corset bodice here: corset-style bodice .

And that brings me to the design itself.  As I just wrote above, you can keep the eye away from the torso by keeping your embellishments above the bust line.  Another technique is to make sure that any design that comes down below the bust is thin or tapered…anything wide will just accent the dancer’s width.

Ultimately, I am a big believer in making the dress that the dancer wants, making the dress that makes the dancer feel like a spectacular princess.  When she feels beautiful, she dances beautifully.  Over the course of my life as a performer, I had to wear some pretty awful & humiliating things because someone (choreographer, director, costume designer) forgot that embarrassing the dancers meant they would not dance their best…we tried, but when you feel like a stuffed gray sausage you tend to dance like one!

Stealing Designs and the “IDEA” of Custom

There is a new thread on Celtic Flame about stealing designs.  A dressmaking mom writes that another mom in her school told her she was wasting her time coming up with her own designs because there was so much to COPY on the internet.  When she first wrote, she alluded to a website that sells embroidery, so I wondered if she might be talking about Taoknitter Arts.

An answer that she just posted to another reply makes me think she is talking about my website.

Big sigh. 

Susan and I have hashed out the pitfalls of posting clear pics of the designs since I started.  She has dealt with this issue far longer than I have, and I respect her viewpoint, her advice and her experience.  I will not bore you, or myself, by re-visiting  the mental gymnastics (complete with teeth gnashing) that helped me arrive at the current presentation of the designs on my website.  If you look at it, I think you get it.

But, I do want to say that I know I take the risk of people copying things.  I have this tendency to believe that all folks are inherently honest and honorable.  I do, routinely, get blind-sided by self-serving idiots with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, and I sometimes finally get really irked by stupidity and mean-spiritedness, but I have yet to see a change in my basic trust.  I now know what it sounds like when Susan shakes her head at me over the phone.

It would make me crazy to try to police things or try to find a more complicated way of managing the designs.  But let me be clear, copying a design is stealing and I am not shy about approaching the thief and making it public if I have to.  I did, by accident, see an exact copy of a dress I made for my daughter.  Susan designed it for us.  The design was never made available, but there it was, perfectly copied on someone else’s dress.  When I contacted the overseas dressmaker, she was great about it, very sorry, and told me that the design had been given to her by the dancer. 

I get contacted rather often by dancers who send me pics of designs from other dresses, even BN dresses, wanting THAT design digitized.  Sometimes I get a design “created by the dancer” only to be led by the dressmaking gods to pics of the EXACT design on a finished dress…that blows my mind.  Once I explain that I will not copy because it is both unethical and illegal, they usually calmly explain that they did not know that and we go forward.  Only once did I not hear back after my refusal…I think that was embarrassment.

I do think most folks either do not know or really do not think about it.  One poster on CF wrote: ” I think the problem is that most people don’t equate “appropriating” someone’s design as stealing because they don’t physically take something.  It isn’t like shoplifting where you actually take something in your hand.

It’s more like cheating on a test.

Ask your friend if she encourages her dd to copy her neighbor’s answers on exams in school. Why not? It is just what she did. She used someone else’s work and passed it off as her own.

Ask her if she’s going to brag about how she aquired her designs – Wow look what I copied off of the internet and I didn’t have to pay for it! If someone asks her where the design came from, is she going to say “Oh I digitized it myself” or something equally evasive. If she’s so proud of her cleverness, why not tell all?

Ask her if she thinks the TC will be happy if she finds out the design was lifted. Is she OK with her school being known as the one where it is OK to rip off other people’s dresses?”

Interesting viewpoint.

Susan made me laugh when she pointed out that truly, the only thing I should worry about is if someone else’s poorly digitized “copy” was thought to be mine!  Now that would be a drag!

There was also a point made by someone about using designs from a site on the internet.  She wrote: “While there are a couple of sites out there that have drawn up several dress designs specifically for irish dancing use, you have to remember then, that your dress won’t be an original. Chances of running into another dancer with the same pattern are slim but just something to keep in mind.

That mind set has never occurred to me!!  Yes, yes, I know that the conversation about whether or not a BN dress is really custom when they re-use designs in part or in whole pops up routinely.  But, it has always been my assumption that each dressmaker brings a totally different perspective to making a dress and so it will be rare that 2 dressmakers will use the same design the same way let alone the same fabrics.  In fact, what I love about my clients is that they always do something I did not envision.  Very often, they ask me to modify the designs by taking something out, putting something else in, taking it apart or trying something new with a piece of something else!  I love it.

Still, I guess that is a concern for some people.  I appreciate that.  And I also thoroughly appreciate my creative dressmaking clients.  Thank you for spurring me on!

I thought that the above might have been a rant…I guess it was just a bit of mental popcorn…

There are a couple of links in this brief post about Copyright Law: Substantial Similarity

Edge Binding Instead of Satin Stitching

IMG_3044  IMG_3046

Written by Mary Hackenberg, first posted on IDD:

I couldn’t find an embroidery thread that matched right for satin stitching the edges of my five petals.  I chose to try to wrap the edges with velvet instead.  Many dresses in this style use the same velvet as the bodice to flash under the petals in a solid support panel across the front. I was using a sequin fabric underneath, so I had no connection of the velvet from the bodice into the skirt.  I was hoping that binding the edges of my petals in the velvet would help pull the look of it all together, and I think it worked out pretty well.

After some experimentation, this is what I came up with:

I cut a strip of velvet about 1.25 inches wide along the lengthwise grain of the fabric. I wanted to get the most stretch from it so that I could form it around the edges without wrinkling.

My petals were prepared with all the layers basted together near the edge and cut to the exact shape.  Then I applied a strip of Wonder Tape all the way around the top of the petal right at the edge. I stuck my velvet right side down lining up the edge of the cut strip with the outer edge of the petal. Then I straight stitched about 3/8″ in from the edge.

Next I applied Wonder Tape all around the edge on the back, but a little bit in from the edge.  I folded my velvet strip in on itself like a bias tape and stuck it down so that I had about a half inch strip showing in back with the raw edge folded in.  I made the most of the velvet’s stretch to shape it around the edges.  I used pins in the two tricky corners to make sure the velvet was pulled all the way into the corner, and would still be caught in my seam.  I turned the piece over and straight-stitched from the top carefully along the edge of the binding where the stitch wouldn’t show.
I got in a good groove after a couple practice pieces and was able to get through the work pretty quickly. It came out looking smooth and really works with my dress design, I think.

I felt a bit like I was breaking new ground, although I am sure others have come up with this too.  I can say for sure that the small investment in the Wonder Tape made all the difference in getting a professionally finished look. Pins just didn’t cut it by themselves.

I hope this helps someone else 🙂

Happy Sewing,
Mary Hackenberg

Feisdress FSP: Stiffener, boning & wrapping the seam

Cindy in ON wrote:

My first question is about the boning in the FSP. The instructions
say “the boning runs across the bottom of the skirt like it does on
the FSP and into the back side of the knife pleat.” I get about
running it into the knife pleat, but I’m thinking that boning going
two far into the FSP is going to cause a problem with my skirt
sticking way out or not bending unless I stop it somewhere. I also
wasn’t sure if I was going to use stiffener in the side panels. So
my questions are:

– if I put boning horizontally in the FSP, what guideline should I
use for where to stop it?

– Has anybody used a vertical piece of boning in the back edge of the
knife pleat and avoided having the horizontal boning in the side
panels and if so, how did that work?

– with the traditional skirt pattern, is stiffener recommended for
the front side panel, and if so, at what weight? The stiffener I
have seems quite stiff (almost as thick as felt and creases where
folded). Should I look for a softer stiffener for the side panels or
is this what I should be using?

The second part of my questions revolves around cutting the lining
for the FSP. The pattern shows an extra inch and a half or so to be
cut for the lining that folds around something. I just can’t picture
this or what it folds around and how it’s going to work.

– Can somebody explain this so I have an idea what I’m doing with
that extra bit when I prepare my lining?

Thanks all! I appreciate the help because the only dress I have
available to look at for construction questions is my DD school
dress, and it doesn’t feel that there is stiffener in the side
panels, or any boning, and clearly there are somethings that are done
differently than I will be doing for a solo dress.

I am assuming here that we are talking about a 3 panel dress, so my answers are in that vein.

Yes, you are correct that most solo 3 panel dresses are different than a lot of school dresses when it comes to stiffener in the FSP.  Solos dresses are usually much stiffer so that the side panels extend further out to the sides.  And, it is usually preferable that the FSP does not bend but instead is as flat in relation to the CFP as possible which is why the same stiffener is used in all 3 panels in the front skirt and why the boning extends from the knife pleat out to the edge of the FSP. 

Now, this is not a hard and fast rule.  Depending on the dancer’s ideas of stiffness and width, I did not always use the boning.  I found also that the thinner a dancer was (flatter torso) made it easier to achieve the flat front look so boning was not necessary.  The rounder girls did require boning to keep the panels flat because the waist line curved around their bodies more.  (You can read read Susan’s explanation of this here: Skirt Question.)

Be aware that if you do not use the same stiffener in the FSP, the side panels will collapse down and in.

A vertical piece of boning behind the knife pleat will not really accomplish anything except add weight.

Now for the seam wrap:  here are a couple of pics of the wrap.

seam wrap by you.

seam wrap by you.

basting & seam wrap by you.

(You can slso see my basting in the above pic.)

Let’s see if I can explain what I do.

First, I cut the seam wrap longer than the skirt hem.  The cut piece looks like this:

wrap info by you.

This allows me to wrap the bottom of the seam also.  Once the seam is sewn, I iron the vertical edge of the wrap to create a straight fold, fold the bottom of the fabric up over the bottom of the seam, fold the vertical edge, and then sew.  All seams are now hidden.

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