February 14, 2015

The Trimming of a Wrapper

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart."  ~Helen Keller  

Happy Valentine's Day, readers!  

Today, I finished putting together my college portfolio.  Tuesday, I will be interviewing at Point Park University, which offers a fantastic B.F.A program for theater production!  Nervous?  Yes.  Excited?  An even stronger YES.  I just know that costume construction & design is my calling and, every day, my eagerness to jump right into the field and into my future becomes greater.  I am just so, so wanting to make the designs of my imagination and daydreams real, tangible and wearable.  Yes, yes, yes.  Good thing we leave for Pittsburgh tomorrow morning, wish me luck!

Which brings me to the subject of tonight's post...I think an update on The Sophia Project is overdue!  She is, after all, the highlight of my portfolio and graces the entire first two pages!

When I left off last, right before the new year (here), I wrote about how the 1870s wrapper itself was finished and in need of trimming...well, a month and a half later, Sophia's well on her way to competition.  Keeping in mind that I only spend two days in the shop working on the project (on and off as I've been placed in charge of a new, exciting project - which is a secret for the time being), I am surprised at how far I've come & how much I have truly learned. 

My cherished, 9th grade English teacher bestowed on us the secret to life: "break big things into little things."  And that is the wisdom I am following with the Sophia Project.  The first thing I tackled was the wrapper's bows:

The original wrapper's bows.
Step one:  Cut bias strips for all of those bows!  (150+ inches of printed cotton, 150+ inches of polished cotton to use for backing, and 300+ inches of black silk)

Step two: Prepare those 300+ inches of black silk (and don't forget to burn your fingers multiple times with a hot iron - wear your battle scars proudly :) to bind the edge of each bow with 1/8" bias tape.  

First, baste the printed and polished cotton together; then, hand-stitch the bias tape to the edge and finish with a whip stitch.   

Step three: Ask your mentor to figure out how to construct said bows as all of your attempts have only succeed in further confusion.  (Bevin always will know how to figure it out; she is such a wealth of knowledge!)  Fold in, out and over the appropriate amount of times, secure with three gathering stitches.  Then, fold tail over and around again.  Tada, you have a bow!

Step four: Make another bow, and then another.  Make all of the bows!

Step five: Step back and take a moment to celebrate (maybe even cupcake break if you're lucky).  Build a tower of bows and take some more pictures for fun.  

An original bow next to its reproduction.

Then, move on to conquer the next challenge...trimming Sophia’s sleeves!  Easy peasy as all I had to do was follow the original sleeve.  After carefully measuring, I fiddled with the silk bias strips to get them to lie properly and securely tacked both sides.  Then, I stitched the two smallest bows on top to cover the unfinished edge.

Finally, time to trim the body of the wrapper!  When Sophia became my project, her silk trim was shattered and cut off at the bottom of the fronts; however, as indicated by the discoloration above her hem facing, the silk trim originally went all the way around.  For the reproduction, I asked if the trim should go all the way around...yep.  Then, I asked if I should stitch the trim by hand or machine like the original...by hand, as machine stitching will stand out unfavorably.  Oh boy, that's 325+ inches of silk bias trim, double that number for the stitching!

The whole shebang!

Step one: Measure carefully and then cut 325+ inches of silk bias strips.  Stitch ends together for one, long, continuous strip.  

Step two: Pin and iron a 1/4" turned under edge on both sides of the strip.  (Burn your fingers again to add more battle scars to match the ones from the bows ;)

Step three:  Stitch two rows & overcast the top of the watteau pleat to make sure it's secure before adding the silk trim over top.  Then, measure and constantly remeasure and rearrange the silk as you pin all of the 325+ inches of trim in place.  
Step four: Stitch.  Rip.  Stitch.  Redo.  Stitch.  Repeat.  Stitch.  Stitch away until the job is done!  Which, surprisingly, only took two straight days thanks to all of the practice and some brand new #8 sharps. 

Step five: SMILE & take pictures!

And that, my friends, is how Sophia came to be trimmed!  Stay tuned for next and last installment of the Sophia Project which will feature the completed 1870s wrapper reproduction!  Thanks for reading :)


  1. OH how lovely your bows are on the finished wrapper! You have done an incredible job on this project! I join you in your excitment for your interview and pray that you get accepted! I know you will...they would be crazy to not let you in! Let us know how it goes!!

    1. Thank you so much, Gina! Receiving a comment from you always brightens my day! Those bows were probably the hardest part, and, from here on out, it's all downhill to the finish. And, thanks for the support; I'm back from Pittsburgh with...GREAT news! (Once I get past the shock, I'll be able to tell that news in full) Anneliese :)