Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ballgown: Day 13 (Or, Sleeves!)




The last two days or so have been all about the sleeves - and they are, hands down, the most technically difficult part of the gown so far. The fabric is a whisper-thin chiffon-weight georgette, so it's incredibly slippery and sheer with just a little bit of texture: it snags pretty easily, falls apart at the cut edges if handled too roughly, and as far as sewing goes, it's a mess. The feed dogs of my machine refuse to catch it, so it just wiggles around haplessly underneath the presser foot. I've resorted to sewing it on drafting paper and tearing the paper away when I'm done, because I've played this game before and it always ends in yelling and tears - that, and I'm a dirty, shameless cheater when it comes to sewing.

Despite being a total pain in my ass to work with, it also gives the most wonderfully soft, floaty silhouette. Where the crepe back satin is liquid color, the georgette is mist; the two together are a wonderful balance of sweetness and depth.

ballgown13.4 ballgown13.3ballgown13.6 ballgown13.2

Working on the final garment has made me think more about my skills and enjoyment of the design process as a whole. Among my realizations: I have a tepid and mostly tolerant relationship with sewing, but I'm in mad, passionate love with construction.

To me, the experience of sewing is haphazard and somewhat mundane, and usually on the machine: straight seams, fiddly curves, stitching blind. I hold my breath every time I sit down to sew opposing curves together, praying that the machine doesn't pull a gather where it shouldn't, cursing every time I flip my seam over and realize I have to rip out inches of work and do it again. I like my machine for how easy it makes things for me (it's a Pfaff, and I do love the crap out of it) and I admire anyone who can wrangle a machine to do what they want. But in the end, there are limitations to what the machine can do in terms of detail and control, and it can never totally satisfy my pickiness.

On the other hand, construction is careful and slow - usually by hand - in preparation and execution; construction is tailoring and grading seams and hand-sewing miles of bias binding. Construction is seven hours of appliqué. Sewing is about the big picture; construction is about the minute details that build a greater whole - and I'm a detail-oriented kinda person.

I think that's why I'm not totally comfortable calling myself a sewist, because the sewing isn't the part that makes my heart sing with joy - it's waxing the thread, it's tying tailor's knots, it's balancing halfway on my heels on the rungs of my stool, craning my neck to pick tiny stitches in a long, wonderfully not-quite-perfect row. I get lost in it in the best way, only emerging hours later in the frozen section of the grocery store, wondering what the hell I even went there to buy, dreaming about the flash of my needle and all those little stitches.

Soon, I'll be moving on from the sleeves, and I can't say I'm sorry - I just hope there will be lots and lots more hand-sewing yet to do.

Happy Wednesday.


Nicole of all trades said...

It's funny how you distinguish sewing from construction. I actually think of them in exactly the opposite way you do. Sewing is all the details, and can be done by hand or machine. Construction is the big picture of "constructing" the basic outline of the garment that awaits all your details.

Cory Ellen Boberg said...

Interesting! I love how we all practice the same techniques, but our experience of the process can be so different. :)