Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Singing and Bustle

About a week ago, I started a lobster-tail bustle that I thought I would have finished in a day or two.  How very wrong I was.  I certainly could have finished it in a day or two if I had chosen to actually work on it.  However, I chose to read instead, because after all, summer vacation + books = happy bibliophile.

When I did finally get back to working on the bustle, I decided to add ruffles.  It's fairly common for most lobster tails or similar bustles to have a ruffle or flounce on the bottom, but I for some reason decided to add a ruffle above every boning channel, presumably to help hide any lines from the bones, but really because I had a lot of the fabric I was using and I felt like practicing hemming.  No, seriously!

I should mention that this is entirely a stash project.  The fabric, a synthetic weave of bright yellow and an ugly dark green that comes together to make a very pretty green, is left over from the 1920s dress from the fashion show.  The boning channels are made from bias tape left over from the purple corset.  The bones are super-long 36" zip ties that, according to my dad, can be found right next to the air duct stuff at Lowes.  For ties, I used plain ole string that we had in the kitchen.

It happened one night as I stayed up late to put all the ruffles on that a little song came into my head.  It was a strange experience made even stranger by the fact that I was listening to Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities on tape.  I hereby present the song that got positively stuck in my head, to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad."

I've been working on this bustle
All the way into the night.
I've been adding lots of ruffles
Just to pass the time away.

Can't you hear my machine whirring
Right up so early in the morn...

And then at that point the song would start again.

But now onto the important things: the construction of said bustle.  I used a combination of American Duchess's pattern and the Dreamstress's tutorial to draft and construct it, with only slight changes.  Rather than cutting out two back pieces and then stitching them together at CB, I cut out one large back piece.  Also, Am. Duch.'s pattern, the picture for the Truly Victorian 1887 Imperial Tournure (tournure is "bustle" in french), and various images of extant bustles all point towards the top bone or two being placed at an angle, rather than a perfect horizontal.  I couldn't quite wrap my head around this in my math, so I placed all the bones horizontally.

My bustle is 27 inches at center back, with the first bone placed six inches down from the top.  Every bone after the first is placed 4 inches down from the previous one.  Since I wanted a huge (and by huge I mean immense) bustle, the first bone is 30 inches long and the last is 45.

Skip the next part if mathematical talk bores you.  To get a relatively rounded shape towards the top, the higher bones increase in length more than the lower bones do.  The first four bones are each 4 inches longer than the previous (an = an-1+ 4, where a1 = 30), and then the penultimate and last bones are an inch longer and half an inch longer, respectively, from the previous (a5 = an-1+ 1, a6 = an-1+ 0.5).  Yes, this is actually how I think of it.  The fabric for the ruffles were cut in a 2:1 ratio of ruffle to bone length, which is pretty standard.

Pinning bone casing/bias tape to back piece. 
The picture below hardly shows it because of the shiny-ness of the fabric coupled with the flash, but I sewed the ruffles on upside-down above the boning channels, so that when the bustle is upright, the ruffles flip down to cover the ugly, unfinished gathered ends of the ruffles, and any bone marks that might show through.  Hopefully, the ruffles will allow me to cut down on the number of petticoat needed to erase bone marks.

Pinning and sewing on ruffles.

Before I put the ruffles on, I tested the shape of the bustle by putting in a few small zip ties in the top boning channel and pinning the bustle to Louisa around where I wanted it.  I had to put a couple pins on each side to simulate the location where the ends of the boning channels would be with ties.  The shape was extremely disappointing, I suspect because I was not using the right kind of zip ties (numerous thin, short ones rather than the super-long ones), though anything from the way I pinned the top to the fact that I didn't put zip ties in any other channels could be affecting the shape as well.

Ugh!

The disappointment of my first test of the shape led me to strengthen the super-long zip ties with duct tape.  I cut off strips of tape and then carefully wrapped them tightly around the top and bottom two bones.  Though the shape of the finished bustle came out better than the first test, it still drooped a bit, so I stuck the pillow-bustle I made for my Steampunk Irene Adler underneath the lobster tail to support the top.  It takes a bit of finicking to get the pillow-bustle to sit between the ties and the boning of the lobster tail, but it looks great when in place.

Taping the zip tie.

Immense bustle from the side 

Immense bustle from the back
Though the bustle is technically "done," I need to trim the ties so I don't step on them whenever I walk.  You can see the ties hanging in the picture below.  I didn't have any spare ribbon so I grabbed some string from the kitchen and used it.  A word of advice to all who ever plan on sewing string in any way: set your machine to tiny stitches or else the string will come loose in just a few gentle tugs.

Immense bustle from the front.
Of course, then my sister came home and insisted on trying it on.  I believe she is demonstrating "The Chicken Dance" in the picture below. *Sigh.*


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