Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Showtime for Sally Bowles' Robe

Do I bitch and moan about the fabric? Do I wonder if the tension was a little too tight on my Singer? Is my memory playing tricks with me as I thought I did a seam just fine, only to see it again a day later and wonder if it's crooked? One of my personal work rules is that I know I'm done when I think I've done about as much as I can to get it right and I'm sick of looking at it. I have crossed that boundary with this fully lined robe.

I finished the bottom hem. About three times I think. It depends on whether one counts basting and pinning as a valid attempt. I did stitch the hem once. Despite the baste stitches, when the machine stitch was done I somehow lost 1/2" somewhere along the 5' length of the hem. I ripped out the seam (actually I use a curved Olfa razor, which I highly recommend now but was skeptical about when I first got it as a present from my dearest), and did it over. The third attempt was better. The actress who will wear it is human. No doubt her body is not mannequin perfect. If one shoulder slumps even slightly, intentionally or not, and if I'm off 1/4", the audience should not notice from 25' away. I hope.

Learnings from this particular robe: rotary cutters are much more precise than hand scissors, fabric that frays like mad after its cut is a tip off that one will have big trouble at high stitch rates, and poly-nylon blends absolutely do not play well with steam irons.

Since I've started to sew, I've always used an Olfa cutter. I do have a pair of Kai scissors that are so sharp I have wounded myself on several occasions but I only use them where it's impossible to use the rotary. Fran cut the fabric for this robe, which was a wonderful time-saving gift to me. Unfortunately, I am so used to the non-ragged edges that I tend to average the seam allowance as I'm stitching. Evil things happen to the stitch line! I like having a precise continuous cut that I can guide along my tape line on the machine bed. Cranky old guy? Guilty as charged.

For my own sewing, I stick to natural fiber fabric, mostly cotton and a little wool. I know what it's going to do under the needle. Generally, my iron is a magic wand to working out imperfections. Polyester-Nylon .. forget about it! It has a mind of its own under the needle and argues with the iron even about taking simple creases. The edges frayed almost as fast as I could stitch up the seams. The fuzz would actually wrap itself around the presser foot and attempt to snag the fabric. I had to crank my machine down to its slowest speed to avoid havoc on the table.

I hope the lights aren't too hot for my actress. This robe doesn't breathe at all. Well, at least it's colorful and has a brilliant shine. The thing will absolutely dazzle under the high beams. I just want her to look good.

What do you think?



  1. Absolutely beautiful. The pain of the experience and any tiny imperfections have probably already been forgotten. I think it's divine!

  2. I delivered the robe last night. The director approved it immediately for the part and the scene he had in mind. The costume desiger said she doesn't need me anymore. I'll do more robes like this one. I am fascinated by how the garment needs some thought with a full lining to keep all the seams inside. The robe is totally reversible; kind of a puzzle.