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Let There Be Light! And embroidery!

A woman stands side on to the camera, wearing a dark green wool sleeveless hip length jacket.  The partially constructed jacket is being worn to check fit.  A bustle pad is worn underneath (not seen) to emphasise the lower back and hip curves.

Having assembled the fronts and back panels of the jacket, and joined them together at the shoulder and side seams, I now have a sort-of sleeveless jacket.

In the last post, the sleeves were stitched down the front side to join the upper and lower sleeves together for each arm, and that is how they will stay until I have done the necessary embroidery on silk to appliqué to the sleeve heads and cuffs, so that I can then stitch the second sleeve seam and the sleeve as a whole can be attached onto the jacket.

This week, work began with tracing out the bodice front and collar of the Cuirass Bodice, TV460 .

Once that was done, I could mark out the facings from the jacket and the bodice fronts on the silk noil. I had ordered 2 metres - I figured that 1 metre probably wasn't quite enough to do facings, bodice fronts for the vest portion and the little decorative panels on the sleeve heads and skirt of the jacket, so I got 2 metres, just to be on the safe side. There is, in dressmaking, little worse than locating the perfect fabric for a project, only to discover, part way through that you haven't got enough and finding out that, when you go back to get more, it is sold out with no more likely to be coming into stock.

Ain't nobody got time for that...

I duly marked out the outlines of my vest collar, jacket collar, jacket facing panels and the vest fronts, on the silk in pink chalk and then marked a line 1/2" inside that all the way around to note my seam allowance - I don't want to waste precious silks by stitching fabric that will end up inside the seam!

I did not cut out my panels exactly, I simply cut a wide allowance around each shape - they are just too awkwardly shaped for using in an embroidery hoop, with edges that are cut on the bias. I do not want the tension that I will need once on the embroidery hoop to pull them out of shape, or make them fray. However, I did overlock the raw edges of the fabric to stop them from fraying as I work and handle the fabric (this will be discarded once I cut the panels to the proper size).

My husband is a stained glass artist, and one of the newly super handy (to me, at least) gadgets he has, is a lightbox. So, lightbox duly requisitioned, my next step was to get a design onto the shape of each piece. This was made much easier with the assistance of the lightbox.

front facing pattern piece showing a leaf embroidery design outlined in black pen, with a 1/2" border around the edge indicating seam lines.

Once I was happy with the design, I then went over the design with a black ink OHP pen so that I could then move on to transferring it onto the silk using an HB pencil* onto the panels of the left hand side facing and bodice. I then flipped the paper to transfer a mirror image of the design onto the right hand side facing and bodice.

Placing the silk on top of more of the same cotton interlining I used for the jacket body, I then hand basted the cutting lines of each pattern piece in pink thread (it isn't a colour that is I will be using on the project so won't get inadvertently confused with any other stitching when I remove the basting.

silk noil fabric basted to cotton interlining, showing the pencil drawn embroidery design of three leaves, with stitch lines and cut lines basted in pink thread.

On the larger pieces, I then hand basted a second line 1/2" inside that will eventually be my stitch line, and 2" square gridlines on all of the pattern pieces.

Basting the cut lines, stitch lines and the grid will serve to hold the cotton to the silk so that it doesn't move whilst being stitched or when moved in the embroidery hoop. The interlining cotton will also act as a support to the relatively loosely woven lightweight silk and will help mask any thread carrying from one design to the next from showing through.

I bought two sets of silk embroidery threads from Mulberry Silks on Etsy - one in the Gourd colour set, one in the Autumn colour set.

The leaf designs will be embroidered in this thread. My inspiration for this design was the family walks we used to take in the woods when I was a kid. I adored the autumn, and taking our dog for a walk in the crisp October air, when leaves were falling is a treasured memory of those times. I wanted the design to remind me of the joy of kicking up a thick carpet of leaves as you walk along in the woods, and of standing still whilst leaves fall down all around you.

This is the "slow moving traffic" part of the jacket project, so whilst I am slowly plodding my way through this over the coming weeks and months, there will be other blog posts of shorter term projects, including fixing the hood on my husband's 1944 US Army Airforce B11 jacket (it was agreed as payment for him putting up my swanky new shelves by my sewing machine!), a red crepe dress (I have a few candidates for "the perfect pattern"), kicking off a grey wool late 1940's slack set (likely to be 2 or 3 post project) and starting a silk velvet 1930s evening dress for a wedding in August... tune back in as we jump 50 years forwards in time!

If there are any projects you would like to see me do or, or "how-to" tutorial type posts and videos that you think would be useful, drop me a message on my Instagram, leave a comment on here or on my Facebook!

*I used a HB pencil for this - it is dark enough to be seen on the pale coloured fabric, doesn't fade like all of the pens I have tried so far, won't rub off or smudge like chalk, but is pale enough that it (hopefully!) won't be seen through the finished embroidery.

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