Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion: Florentine gown

The Gown.

Tackling the Gown

Yesterday I spread the damask out on the floor, a mere 4-1/3 yards by 54", and took a serious look at what the necessary pattern-matching was going to do to the layout. Throw a real spanner in the works, is the answer!

Of course, the first issue is what happens when you cut gores in patterned fabric. Basically, the pattern goes a bit wonky on the bias edges where the gores meet: it appears to droop and gets cut off at the hem. However, in period everyone seems to have just lived with this; the layout books of the time show drawings of patterned gowns accompanied by gored-skirt layouts. Plus, I think my pattern is busy enough, without any single large, noticeable element, that it won't really hit you in the eye. And finally, I just don't have enough fabric to cut this without gores, so too bad!

However, the fact that this is a moderately large-scale, patterned, non-reversible fabric is putting three major kinks in the layout...

1) The bodies pieces have to be carefully placed so that the design is not just symmetrical but pleasingly showcased. This does not lead to efficient layouts.

2) The skirt gores all have to be right-side-up, which means the use-the-offcuts-from-the-back-as-your-back-gores layout is out. Those offcuts become, essentially, waste.

3) The skirt pieces have to be laid out such that the hem falls in a tidy place in the design (i.e. at the bottom of a repeat), and in a reasonable relationship to the bodies. In other words, if element A is showcased on the front of the bodies, I don't want that element to repeat on the skirt until a reasonable distance down.

Unfortunately, the repeat on the fabric does not work out efficiently with the length of my skirt pieces, or with the way the yardage happened to be cut from the bolt. So, in order to lay out the skirt pieces such that they all have the same finished-looking element at the hemline, I have to start about six inches from my cut edges and leave about six inches between the pieces. This means that I lose four six-inch bands of fabric over the length of the fabric, and that adds up to 2/3 yard!

So. I have to make a decision, and I'm not really happy about any of the options. I could make the sleeves from a contrasting fabric - but as I said at the beginning of this project, that's correct for a 1540s Florentine gown but not a 1550s one. I could redesign the sleeves to a design that's chopped up horizontally rather than vertically, like this, to take advantage of those six-inch strips between the skirt pieces - although I'm afraid that would be awfully busy with the damask, and I'd rather avoid all that slashing. I could make the skirt smaller, either by skipping some gores altogether or by cutting the front and back pieces narrower - I could shave off a good 40" from the hem circumference and still be period-correct - but I'm worried about how it would then fit over the larger kirtle petticoat.

And no, I can't buy more fabric. There isn't any more to be had.

If you'll excuse me, I'm off to bang my head against the wall a bit more!

February 29, 2004: Cutting Up

I actually started tackling this last weekend, but I ran out of steam on writing things up on the last update and I've been really sick this week (flu).

First of all, I had to create my bodies pattern before I could do any cutting. I used the kirtle bodies pattern I'd come up with as a base, although I had to take it in at the center front to make up for the fact that the boning took up a good bit of material. I also adjusted the side-back seams so that they more closely resembled the Eleanora bodies pattern in Patterns of Fashion, which slope steeply in at the waist. I raised the front and back necklines in a slight curve, and made sure there was enough fabric to cover the kirtle there and at the shoulders. And finally, I added some material at the outside of the shoulder straps, because I want to achieve that slightly drop-shouldered look you see in the portraits. Be aware that in the picture at left, there is still some weirdness in the shoulder straps - they're too long and wouldn't meet up properly - I was still experimenting.

When it came to the fabric management, I managed to make some decisions that compromised between the ideal and the do-able. Below is my layout before I began cutting; I moved a few of the small pieces slightly, but this is basically the idea. The area at the far right between the two white strips is the front, unchanged from the kirtle pattern.

There were two things I'd been forgetting that helped slightly. One was that when the gores are in place you wind up cutting a large curved piece off the bottom, so I used my offcuts from the kirtle petticoat to take that amount off the pattern, rather than wasting the fabric (and limiting the layout). You can see in the layout above that some of the sleeve pieces are sticking up into what would have been the bottom of the front gore, if I hadn't curved the bottom.

Also, I remembered that I wanted to change the bias angle of the gores so that rather than diagonally dividing the fabric evenly from one edge to the other, I diagonally split the repeat of the design. There's no way to make the bias seam of the gores disappear - it will always have that drooping-at-the-side look - but I could minimize it by making sure that where the two side gores met their pattern mirrored perfectly. I'll be illustrating this later. Anyway, the angle adjustment required to make this work out on the front gores was minimal, and only took a couple of inches off the hem width.

The back gores, on the other hand, wound up losing about 6" apiece - so between the front and back gores I lost a total of 16" off the hem circumference. Actually, it's probably more like 14", because in this version I added seam allowances to the gores. I don't think that 14" will be enough to screw up the hang of the gown over the kirtle, especially since this fabric is lighter and has more body (and therefore will stand out more) than the kirtle. However, this not only saved room on the back piece itself but reduced its gore piece to a tiny little thing.

Another trick that saved me some room was flipping the back piece so that it wasn't cut on the fold, but on the selvage. This way I had to create a center-back seam, but it moved the unused offcut area to the center fold, where it joined other unused areas and created a large enough section from which to cut some sleeve pieces.

Finally, regretfully, I decided that I had to cut the shoulder straps separately from the front and back bodies pieces. This allowed me to cram the front and back up against the top edge of my fabric (where the pattern I wanted centered on those pieces happened to fall), and leave the larger area further inland, so to speak, for the rest of the sleeve pieces. In the image above I have the bodies back stacked on top of the bodies front, but of course when I got the skirt pieces cut out I opened out the remaining fabric and cut everything singly, even the sleeves.

Ah, the sleeves. I just roughly drafted up a pair of men's ca.-1560 Italian doublet sleeves from Patterns of Fashion, ran them up in muslin (well, okay, an old sheet actually) and then took them in along the back seam until they were a not-too-tight fit. Then, to create the sleeve panes, I divided them up the middle.

Aside from the layout, the trickiest thing about cutting this fabric was that it was slightly racked - in other words, it was woven a bit tighter at one selvage than the other. When I folded it in half, the top side pattern kept getting "ahead" of the bottom side. I had to really pull and pin the bottom selvage, and carefully smooth everything out, before cutting each of the skirt pieces. Once I got those cut out, as I said before, I just opened the fabric out and cut everything separately. This allowed me to be really meticulous about getting the upper sleeve pieces and skirt back gores cut from exactly the right part of the pattern. A nuisance, but worth the final result.

After all that, the sum total of scraps remaining is shown at right. Not much, when you consider the requisite pattern-matching - and the fact that I still have to cut the sleeve puffs out of one of the horizontal strips. Phew! I'm glad that's over.

Sewing the Skirt

There are some good and bad qualities about this fabric. It's a silk/poly blend, but fortunately the face of the fabric is all silk - the poly is buried in the middle and back. It's quite tightly woven and hardly ravels at all, which is great, and it has tiny little selvages that don't need to be removed. Good thing too, since the pattern runs right to the edge, so in order to get good pattern-matching I have to sew tiny, tiny seams where selvage edges meet. They're so small I can't press them open, only to one side.

It worked beautifully, though. At left (if you click on it) you can see that the gores almost disappear into the front piece.

The bad thing about this fabric is that it has an enormous amount of bias stretch. That's great if you're trying to ease a sleeve into an armhole, but it really sucks when you're trying to sew a perfectly pattern-matched bias seam. The front and the back just wander all over the place in relation to each other.

I quickly discovered that the only way I was going to get that matched seam (where the front gores meet the back) was by basting it by hand, and each time I stuck the needle in from the front I had to move the back fabric around until the needle came out in the right spot. This is really slow and I've only done one side. But it creates a beautiful seam after you go back over it by machine. I'll try to have a photo of that for you very soon.

March 8, 2004: Stitching Up a Storm

My, what a week. I had a dress to get out for a client, and I had the flu, but I also had a dress rehearsal on the March 6, so I had to have something wearable.

First, at left is the photo I promised above, of the finished "mirror image" bias gore seam. You can see if you click through to the closeup that even though the pattern is cut at an angle, the mirroring makes it vastly less obnoxious. In fact it looks much better in person than in the photo. And when hanging on the body in pleats, you really don't notice the change in the pattern at all.

I had no particular trouble cutting the lining pieces and stitching them up. I think I forgot to mention last week that in my flu-induced haze I decided to dye my lining material (I used a box and a half of Rit in "wine"). I was afraid the natural white would be too bright, if glimpsed around the edges. Unfortunately, my front-loading washer won't work for this. So I did it in a pot on the stove. However, my pot wasn't really big enough, so I wound up with a slightly patchy effect in some areas. I decided that it was perfectly adequate for a lining, so rather than redying it I just went with it.

When I moved on to the damask bodies, on the other hand, they started giving me conniptions.

I started by basting the damask to a moderately heavy cotton twill interlining. Then I stitched the lining to the back, right sides together, going all the way around except the bottom. I turned it, and pressed it, and then decided I needed boning on either side to stabilize the lacing. I backstitched a boning channel by hand through all thicknesses except the front, slipped the boning in, and then turned in and stitched the bottom edge. (There is temporary topstitching parallel to the lacing edges on the image at right. It will be picked out later.)

At this point I pinned the finshed back and the basted-together front on the mannequin, and discovered that A) my mockup fabric had had some stretch to it, and B) basting the damask to the twill kept it from stretching at all. My edges were not even close to meeting!

Fortunately, I had left plenty of seam allowance, and the back looked fine as it was, so I just rebasted the side edges of the bodies front 5/8" further over.

Before I put the front together I had to resolve the shoulder straps. If you recall, I had to cut the straps separately because of the way the damask pattern fell. I used the same method as for the bias seams to line up the pattern: stick the needle into an element of the pattern on the strap, find that element on the bodice top and stick the needle through that, then draw the needle through. Repeat a lot. Then go back over the stitching by machine, to strengthen and straighten the line.

Once I got the straps on and tried it all on the mannequin again, I suddenly realized that I needed to make another minor modification to the Eleanora pattern. In the extant gown, the shoulder straps are seamed just an inch or so above the back neckline. But with my patterned damask, that meant that there would be a few inches of strap coming down from the shoulder with the pattern upside-down. So I added a top-of-shoulder seam. This meant that now I had shoulder-strap seams at the front, back, and shoulder of the bodies! Oh, well. It still looks better to have multiple well-matched seams than one really wanky one.

However, I was really glad I'd kept all those funky little scraps of damask, because I had to find the right pieces to match the top of the back. It was close! In fact, I had to open up the stubby strap bits at the top of the back and redo them slightly narrower at the outside edges to get them to meet up with my shoulder-strap scraps. I was trying desperately to retain enough width to have that sloping-off-the-shoulder look that's a subtle but important part of the Italian aesthetic of this time. Fortunately, it worked. I have less shoulder than the mannequin, so in fact it looks better on me.

With the interlined strap pieces attached, I pinned the lining to the front and sewed it all the way around except for a gap on the side (for turning) and the tops of the straps. I pressed it, and then I sewed the front straps to the back straps, and finally I turned the lining bits under on the straps and stitched them down by hand.

Attaching the Skirt

Attaching the skirt went pretty smoothly, I'm happy to report. I just slipped the skirt over the kirtled mannequin and pinned the pleats into place by eye. I then slipped the bodice down over the skirt and made a few adjustments. I had to make the pleats come out tidily with the side-back seams, with plenty of material in the pleats at the edges so that the slits to be made in the skirt would provide enough give to be able to pull the gown on. I then just stitched the bodice onto the skirt in situ.

At this point, I had to set aside other considerations and make the thing wearable for a dress rehearsal. I didn't have time to hem the skirt properly, but the damask curled upward so I decided it would be okay. I did need to be able to fasten the bodice, however, so I quickly topstitched some temporary lacing strips into the inside edges of the bodies front and back. I also cut the slits into the side backs of the skirt, and stitched facing strips to them so they wouldn't ravel, but was able to do little more than roll them inward and tack them at the top.

Lessons from the Dress Rehearsal

It was very interesting wearing this incomplete outfit for a dress rehearsal. One useful piece of information was that the kirtle was definitely too long to dance in (see more about this on the kirtle page), so I was glad I hadn't had time to hem the gown yet!

I also discovered that there's something about the way the skirt fabric lies that's pulling the skirt slits open. I'm going to have to put in some hooks or something to keep them from gapping hugely.

The lacing strips were not very satisfactory, but aside from that the gown fit well and stayed in place, with no shifting or drooping. From that standpoint, I'm quite pleased with it.

Unfortunately, the wine-colored Rit dye has proved to be fugitive when sweated on. I wound up with slight rims of wine-color at the lower armscyes of the kirtle, and small blotches of wine-color on the outer armpit area of the camicia. If Oxy-Clean or bleach don't clean the camicia I'm sure dye remover will do it, but I'm not sure what to do about the kirtle, which isn't terribly washable. And to prevent further incidents, I think I need to cover or even replace the lining in that area of the gown - it's just the lower armscye of the bodies front. I have some mauve-ish silk left over from a recent client project that I think will be fine. But for this reason, I don't think I'd dye a lining again - at least not a dark color.

Back to the Trenches

Since levelling the hem on the mannequin was so successful for the kirtle (in other words, level on the mannequin = level on me), I used that method for the gown. Rather than trying to measure a distance off the floor, I like to use one or two fingers, or part of my hand. It's so much simpler. In this case, I cut the skirt such that I could slip my flattened hand, palm down, under it and it just brushed my knuckles. I cut it very slightly longer (like, 3/8") around the back, because when I wore it at the dress rehearsal it curled up more in the front than the back, producing a very subtle trained effect that was quite pretty. The extra bulk of fabric to the back emphasizes the effect.

At this point I slipped the skirt lining over the gown and pinned it level with the back waistline, then trimmed the bottom to match the gown skirt. I pinned the two layers together, took the whole thing off the mannequin, and sewed the skirt to the lining on the machine with a narrow seam. I turned it and pressed it with the damask turned slightly to the inside so the lining wouldn't show. However, when I tacked the lining at the top and tried it on again, I realized that the damask is still inclined to roll outward, bringing the lining to the front slightly, so I need to run a subtle line of handstitching about an inch from the hem to keep those layers behaving nicely.

Please keep in mind that in the photo at right, the kirtle is not on the mannequin, so the gown does not fit smoothly. The skirt also appears much fuller over the kirtle.

March 14, 2004: Sleeve Scramble

I really had trouble finding enough time to work on this gown before the two performances on the 13th! My first priority was getting rid of the crummy temporary lacing strips. I put in proper eyelet holes on the right side, which of course took hours, and then decided to whipstitch the left side closed for the time being. I won't leave it like that, but it made the gown work for the performance.

I also had some fix-it work to do on the kirtle. Then I turned to the sleeves. I didn't absolutely have to have sleeves for the performance - it looked fine without them at the dress rehearsal, if you didn't know a fine lady wouldn't go out in her shirtsleeves - but the dress is rather plain without them, except for the fabric. (By the way, you can get a feel for the nice swing there is to the skirt with the gored volume in the back in that photo I've linked to.)

Each sleeve consists of four panes, each bent at the elbow and each a slightly different shape. To put them together, first I basted the damask to the interlining. Next I smoothed and pinned the lining to the damask/interlining along the sides, stitched, turned the resulting tube right-side out, and pressed it. Theoretically I could have stitched across the bottom as well, but I've had problems with the damask stretching lengthwise and the interlining not, and indeed, after I'd pressed it the damask had expanded a bit past the interlining at either end. So I just tucked the ends in and whipstitched them together by hand.

Next came the gold trim. I'd found this nice metallic cord that is slightly flattened, so it doesn't stick up too far from the fabric and doesn't roll around. I couched it down one side, across the end, and up the other side with the same old-gold silk I used on my coverciere. It disappears amazingly on the cord.

I'd gotten this far on Saturday morning, when it was time to go. No time to finish the top edges nor stitch the panes together at all those pinch points, much less attach any "jewels." So I packed up a herd of safety pins and spent a frantic 15 minutes in the dressing room safety-pinning the panes together from the inside in six places per pane, turning the sleeves right-side-out, and then pinning them into the armhole of the gown.

Putting the dress on became very awkward. Now I understand something that was unclear to me: Why were the sleeves always buttoned or laced on, when in 1550s and '60s Florence they always matched the gown? It's not as if they wanted to be able to wear different sleeves.

The answer is, because it's almost impossible to get into a side-back-lacing gown with attached, fitted sleeves. I am definitely looking forward to putting the gown on and then pulling up the sleeves and having them buttoned into place in a calm, ladylike way! I have to have help to get into this outfit anyway, so what's one more thing?

I had to skip the puffs at the top of the sleeves, too, for time reasons, but they looked fine without. In fact, I was amazed at how well these sleeves came out, even in their half-finished state. I was worried that the panes wouldn't stay open for the camicia to come through, but in fact the interlining seemed to provide just the right soft firmness to buckle attractively. Also, I discovered that the camicia sleeve's linen, when pulled through in puffs, benefitted from linen's tendency to set into creases. In this case it set into the puffs, and then they weren't going anywhere. It was great.

The picture at right is rather unsatisfactory because for some reason the fellow dancer who laced me in did the kirtle up tight but didn't pull up the laces on the gown all the way, so the bodice is wrinkling (this was fixed later). Also, the sleeves were pinned higher into the armhole than they're meant to go - I had to hide the raw edges, whereas in their finished state there will be a gap between the armholes and the top of the sleeves, filled by a puff of camicia - and this kept pulling the shoulder straps down. Still, you can get a feel for the sleeves.

March 21, 2004: Sleeves Unscrambled

So now I'm working to get the sleeves right, as opposed to bodged together.

The inspiration sleeves in the painting of Eleanora have eight pinch points per sleeve pane, plus two per pane on the sleeve puffs. If she has four panes per sleeve like I do, and it looks like seven(?) panes per puff, that's 46 buttons per sleeve, or 92 total for the gown. That's pretty mind-boggling when you consider that hers were real gold!

I decided that six pinch points per pane were plenty for my gown. But when I add a bare minimum of eight per puff, that's still a total of 64 buttons. Yipes! All this helped me decide on going ahead with the gold cabochon settings (seen at right) and vintage glass cabs I mentioned earlier on the accessories page. They're a bit more work than buttons, but provide a better cost-to-not-looking-cheap ratio than any of the alternatives I can find, and I like them with the gold braid.

First I have to glue the stones in. I'm using a one-part epoxy-type glue, which was recommended on the web. Apparently epoxies are best because they stay slightly springy when dry, which means the bond won't be likely to crack and fail if the stone gets knocked against something. And it won't yellow, like a lot of glues. However, it's very slow: you have to glue both surfaces, wait ten minutes, press them together, then wait two to three days for full adhesion! Still, I think they'll probably be handleable (i.e., sew-onable) after a day.

After I glue the stones in, I have to bend the little loops on either side to the back, so they won't show. This is easy with needlenose pliers, fortunately. Then I'll need to stitch these loops to the sleeve. I think I'll sew all the pinch points shut first, to take the strain, and then stitch the cabochons on - I hope this will keep them from popping off. And if I do catch a cab on something and lose it, at least the sleeve will keep its shape.

At left is what one of them looks like set on the sleeve. (Click on the image for a blowup.) By the way, the color is unusually true in this image. I wasn't too sure about the shiny gold braid before I put it on, but I really like it with the damask - and it makes a huge difference in helping the edges of the sleeve panes look finished, as well as highlighting their form.

The only trouble with these settings is that at the top of the sleeve I'll need them to act like real buttons, since I'm planning to attach the sleeve to the bodies by buttons and loops. If you look carefully at Eleanora's right shoulder you can see that her sleeves are laced in, with the buttons being purely decorative, but I think I'm going to have mine button on, as in the portrait detail at right. It would be vastly more convenient. I don't think I'm going to make the puffs in separate panes, either, but I may decorate them with cord to sort of look that way. I'm running out of cord, so it will depend on whether they've gotten more in (I bought out the whole 12 yards the store had, and after edging the panes I only have just enough left to edge the neckline).

The only thing about having the sleeves button on is that I'll have to turn some of my cab settings into working buttons. I think I'll have to make a sort of thread bridge across the back between the two loops, and then make a thread shank off the middle of that. Wish me luck.

May 2, 2004: Sleeve Status

I keep shoving the completion of this outfit to the bottom of my list, because in addition to needing to get my husband something wearable before the Faire on May 15, I also have two clients with the same deadline. Theirs are more costumey, but still! There's a lot on my plate...

However, I did get all 64 glass cabs glued up into their settings. It does indeed take about three days for the glue to really, really set up. After that, I discovered, I can still pull a cab away from its setting by getting a fingernail under it and prying, but it turns out that the epoxy doesn't give - the foil backing delaminates from the cab! However, I really was prying at that point, testing for failure, so I think they'll be just fine in use. If I'm undergoing that kind of force, the rest of the costume is in trouble anyway.

I also used a pair of needlenose pliers to carefully bend back the attachment loops on either end of the settings - carefully, because if I pinched them in the wrong place, or bent them too quickly, the gold plating had a tendency to flake off. So here they are in all their glory:

Now I just need to attach all the darned things.

May 10, 2004: Duly Bejeweled

Well, I've stitched all the pinch points and applied all the jewels. It got pretty interesting on the last pane of each sleeve, because I really needed to be sewing from both the front and back of the panes, and as I sewed up the pinch points on the last panes the flat object I'd been able to turn over became a tube, and really hard to get to the inside of. However, I have prevailed!

The first picture shows the sleeves flat, the way they lie naturally on a surface; the second picture shows them poofed out into something of an arm shape, which the fabric is stiff enough to maintain (at least temporarily) without stuffing them. Of course, they'll look much better with the camicia puffing through the gaps. But, I'm pretty pleased with the way they've turned out. The jewels are much prettier in person - they look very washed out here.

Next, I have to make the puffs for the top and enclose all those raw edges, as well as sort out how they'll attach to the gown. I really would like to get this done before Faire on Saturday, but I have to finish up client projects first...and then there's David's garb! Yikes!

May 17, 2004: Puffing Up

I'll just start off by saying that client projects and rehearsals made it impossible to get enough time in on sewing for myself, and the weather was so hot, I decided I didn't really want to wear these sleeves anyway, so why stay up all night finishing them? (The local Ren Faire is not very serious about costumes being period at all, so it's not as if I'd be conspicuous in my camicia sleeves. In fact, at the end of the first day my gown hem got stepped on and the stitches holding it to the waist gave, so since the Faire garb was such a mishmash, and it was so hot, I decided I would just wear my kirtle as a gown the second day...I got numerous comments from both fellow workers and patrons of the "Oh, what a lovely gown!" type, which was nice, but kind of funny, since I felt rather undressed!)

I did, however, make some progress.

You may recall that I don't have very many scraps of damask left to work with. Besides a handful of oddly-shaped small pieces, I have two strips roughly 4 1/2 inches wide by the width of the fabric, 54 inches. Obviously, the sleeve puffs had to come out of these.

I initially tried using half of one strip per puff.

This resulted in a puff that wasn't quite full enough. After looking at a number of these portraits, I suspect that they are indeed all made from simple strips of fabric, but the Eleanora puffs seem to be made from significantly deeper strips than mine. Not much I can do about that, so I decided to create a puff more like these, on Titian's daughter Lavinia, or these in a fresco, particularly those of the cello player. (Well, it's some kind of transitional instrument, but I don't think it's a gamba. Anyway.)

So I used the whole width of a strip and gathered it up. So far I've fitted it to the top of the sleeve and pinned the raw edges together. After debating various means of finishing the edges, I think I've decided to sew it with all the raw edges facing out, then bind them in a bias strip of damask, and then turn the strip under and catch-stitch it to the inside of the sleeve.

I'm sorry for the poor photos, a result of taking these pics at night. I think you can see that I've also cut some of the gold braid loops that will catch the puffs down at intervals. I'll machine-stitch them to the raw edge at the top, and catch them down by hand at the lower edge of the puff. Meanwhile, they look kind of funny hanging loose at the bottom.

April 3, 2005: Heading for the Finish Line

Hey, I bet you thought I was never going to finish this thing! It's just been languishing at the bottom of my to-do list. But now I'm on a let's-get-things-done-and-out-of-the-sewing-room roll, so back to work.

I have a bunch of odds and ends of work to finish on this gown. Firstly, I had never repaired the skirt where the stitching had torn away from the waistline when someone stomped on the hem at Faire. So I fixed that.

Secondly, I never dealt with my temporary fix of whipstitching closed the left-hand back opening rather than having it lace shut. So I ripped that seam open, marked the eyelets, and started putting them in. I've got all but one in on the back piece; the side back eyelets await. Click the pic at right.

Thirdly, those darned sleeves. I stitched the sleeve puffs and gold cord loops to the sleeves, with the raw edges of the puffs, the top of the sleeves, and of the gold cord all exposed at the top. Then I trimmed the seam allowance back to about 3/8".

I pieced together remaining scraps to create two binding strips (I'm really down to small remnants when I have to piece a 12" binding strip!) and stitched it, right sides together, on top of the puff. Then I turned the strip over the raw edge, tucked its remaining raw edge under, and whipped it down to the inside of the sleeve. The last step was tacking the gold cord to the underside of the puff and attaching the final cabochons to the top of the sleeves to act as buttons.

I created a thread shank on each one in order for them to function this way. Assuming it works, the sleeves are done! Yay!

What's left? Of course I still need to finish the eyelets in the bodice's side back. And I need to stitch gold cord to the neckline. I also need to neaten up the way the lining is sewn to the waist, and add some hooks or something so the side-back slits in the skirt don't gap. And last but not least, I need to figure out what I'm going to stitch to the bodice straps that will hook over the sleeve buttons.

But ooh, I'm so close I can taste it!

April 13, 2005: Baby Steps.

Okay, so it's not a giant leap, but I did get the gold trim handstitched to the neckline of the gown. The hardest part was getting the frantically ravelling edges nailed under where the two ends met. I think it adds that little something to the neckline:

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Copyright 2004-05 by David and Jessamyn Reeves-Brown. All rights reserved.