This past weekend, I spent a good chunk of my day working on the bodice. I’d been putting this off because I knew it wasn’t just picking up where I left off; it meant having to make boning channels (bleh). I can’t really explain my dislike of making boning channels except that they’re one of he most boring parts of making a dress and I was especially annoyed that my cleverness at buying them in advance had gone wrong.

For the back pieces,I took a length of canvas and just folded it in half, sewing a channel a teensy bit over 1/4″ away from the fold. At the time, I don’t think it had registered that this would mean I’d only have one edge to sew it to the canvas, but that actually worked in my favor. After sliding the bone in and securing it at the top and bottom, I pinned it to the canvas at the top and bottom 1/2″ away from the center back, and tried to on top of the line I’d just made for the channel. I debated whether or not to keep the extra fabric on the left side, and in the end decided that between my very shreddable dupioni and only a single layer of canvas, I could use all of the extra support while setting the eyelets that I could get.

This one might not look terribly different from the one above, except that I’ve now attached the canvas to the silk at the top and bottom. I didn’t do the center back yet because I’ve found if you sew up all three sides, it’s nearly impossible to understitch the top and bottom with the bones in.

Woo, understitching! Patience, keeping the fabric taut, and a steady speed on the machine are the keys to not screwing up.

Now I could sew the center backs together. Because the boning channel wasn’t secured on this side, I just tried to go slowly and get the seam as close as possible without moving the channel around. The last thing I wanted as a buckling bone.

Voila! This is the closest I’ve ever (semi-intentionally) come to having the right amount of distance between the center back and where the eyelets will go (that is, only 1/4″). Do everything for the other side and move on!
I think I normally sew the back and center back pieces together before sewing the tops and bottoms, but this time I experimented with treating them as two separate pieces. Learning from past mistakes, I only connected the side canvas and silk pieces at the bottom, not at the sides or at the top, and then understitched at the bottom as well. If I connected them at the top, I’d actually be sewing the armhole up, which might not be too bad if I’d put extra fabric there in the pattern or if I’d done it to the center back piece at the armhole as well.
Again, do it to the other side.
Well, I could no longer avoid it. It was time to unpick all of the boning channels from the front piece. I used the same metal boning for the side diagonals in front because I already had them and they were the correct length, but I decided to experiment with something new for the center front bone. Unfortunately, we were unable to track down any rigiline at Joann’s (though that’s a fun post all on its own), so instead I chose to experiment with a different materials – zip ties (the heavy duty ones, that is). I’d tried them once before in the past, but I found they were still very thick and not wide enough, but these seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
I had to cut and melt the edges and it’s not quite as straightforward as I thought. It melts pretty well, but also sets very quickly so you have to make sure it melts in the right way to not just bubble over onto one side and make a sharp point there. It did the job, but I wish I’d thought to bring a file with me to help with some of the post-melting sharp bits.
I remade the front boning channels by cutting some extra wide canvas strips, folding them in half, and sewing along both sides. For these, it was necessary that I had an edge to sew along on either side. I’d cut the center front “bone” another 1″ shorter than the steel one I’d previously bought since I always buy that one too long and it worked out pretty well.
After pinning and sewing down the bones, I sewed the silk and canvas pieces together at the top and bottom, understitching as best I could between the bones and sharp point at the bottom of the bodice.
Woo! I was finally where I left on last time. Both heartening and frustrating.
Over the next couple of days, Joe helped me set my eyelets in. I have a nifty hand awl that normally goes right through whatever I stick it in, but the three layers of canvas proved a bit too much for my feeble hands and Joe had to help me. The hand press continues to be an awesome investment, but now I need to find some tips on how to keep it from wrinkling. It doesn’t seem to matter how slowly or evenly we go, I still get snags. Luckily, most of that is hidden beneath the laces once it’s on.
Before I moved on to the shoulder straps, I wanted to get a chunk of the skirt done. That meant planting myself in my seat for 5 hours to sew the silk and lining swag pieces together, connect each tier, and pin it to the skirt. Although I took pictures in the order I did everything tier by tier (sew swags, iron each one, sew tiers, then pin to skirt base), I’ll post all of the pictures for each step rather than each tier.
First, the base skirt pinned on my dress form. My poor poor dress form. After just the hoop and three petticoats, it started to creak under the weight. Keep your eyes peeled for the bright purple waist line I drew on it. You’ll notice things start sliding further and further below it as I go….
Next, sew all the swags!
Tier 1
Tier 2
Tier 3
Tier 4
After sewing each swag and turning it, I actually iron every one. Much like sewing boning channels, I’m really not a fan of ironing, but it made a really big difference. Whereas the pre-ironed swags are a little puffy, the post-ironed swags were very flat and made them easier to work with. Then, I sewed each tier together, 5 swags per tier, leaving them open in the back for easy pinning.
Tier 1 attached at the waistband and 7″ long.
Tier 2, also attached at the waistband, but 14″ long.
Tier 3, attached 7″ below the waistband, 14″ long. Right now, it sweeps just about where the bottom of the skirt base is.
Tier 4, attached 14″ below the waistband and 14″ long.
Whew. That took foreeeever. The tiers look a little droops the further down you go because I only pinned them to the skirt base at the seams, and there’s more space between the seams in the lower tiers. They don’t quite dip as much between the seams as I’d liked, but I can adjust that pretty easily by gathering at the seams.
Next step is to fully pin each tier to the skirt base and sew them down. Then, I’ll attach a proper waistband and start working on the bottom ruffle. Once it’s fully assembled, I just fiddle with the gathering of the swags. I’m debating some decorative gold buttons at the seam of each swag where it’s gathered and also plan to do a nice decorative trim of gold china silk on the third tier (similar to the Disney version).
For now, it sits in our hallway, scaring the crap out of me each morning.