Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Gold Galleon Gown - Pinning and Pleating and Pressing, Oh My!

The robe a la Francaise has intimidated me for a long time.  I've wanted to make one for years (well, a full-sized version - I've made doll sized ones before) but I've never attempted it before now.  But I'm glad I finally did, because it's coming together really well, and it's going to be so much fun to wear on Saturday!

Is it going to be done on time?  :p  Actually, I do feel like I'm in pretty good shape, which is why I'm pausing from my marathon sewing to write a quick (HA!) post.

When we left off with my dress diary, I had the lining constructed and the main body of the gown cut out.  I had not yet cut out the petticoat, but I had two of the curtain panels set aside for it.  Since this is my first Francaise, I am following the pattern very closely.  It goes together very well, but the instructions are not always crystal clear.  I'm making notes as I go along, for instance when it is not clear if I'm doing something on the right or wrong side of the fabric.  That messed me up a couple times, like with the robings.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The back pleats are the part that have always scared me, so I appreciated that the instructions told me "Do not panic."  Of course, I would have appreciated it even more if it had said "Don't panic" in big friendly letters on the cover, but I digress.  Turns out, the pleats are not as formidable as they seemed!  Of course, I had a secret weapon.  I had recently found this awesome mini-tutorial on Did You Make That? and it worked like a charm!  That is, I took the basic concept of thread-marking the pleat lines and adapted it slightly to my needs.

I started marking the pleats by punching holes in the paper pattern where the dots are located on the pleat lines, and marking these with a wash-away fabric marker.  Then I marked each set of dots with a pin corresponding to the order in which each pleat was to be made.  I have always associated certain numbers with specific colors, so this made remembering the steps very easy.  One = white, two = yellow, three = red, four = dark green, five = blue, six = light green.

(Seven = purple, eight = orange, and nine = black, but I only needed to go up to six.)
Now I went to my machine and stitched straight lines connecting the dots, changing my top thread color to match the color of each pin:

This gave me twelve color-coded lines for the six pleats:

At this point I decided that I needed to overlock the edges of my fabric, as it was beginning to fray quite a bit, especially at the upper and lower edges:

Much better!
Now on the right side (although the pattern never specifies this!) I began my pleating.  But first I pulled the colored thread ends through to the right side, as I had kept the same white bobbin thread for all the lines.  This way I could still tell which was which:

The first two pleats lined up:

I continued to use color-coded pins, just for fun.
These pleats got stitched by machine, as they would later be covered with one large pleat.  The pattern instructions indicated this.

Then I pulled out my basting stitches:

Whew!  Two down, four to go!  (Then start all over on the other side.)

I marked 5" down from the top, as the pattern suggested, so I would know where to stop stitching:

I pinned all the remaining pleats on the right side, then went through the same steps for the left.

I assumed that these pleats would be stitched through all layers (the instructions do not explicitly say this), so I carefully pinned the pleats down smoothly on the back side, even making sure the hidden inside ones were controlled:

I was taking no chances with these pleats!  They kind of make the gown, after all.

Finally all pinned!  I had to substitute some pin colors, as I was running out of the original ones:

I did a quick check that the pinned pleats would fit the top neck piece:

(Too quick, as it turns out, but I'll come back to that.)
And I tried it on Elsa to see how it looked on a body:

*gasp*  It's looking like the real thing!  :D  
Very exciting moment for me.

I also pinned the front pieces in place, to see how they interacted:

And it looked good, so I went ahead and started hand-stitching the pleats.  I used a spaced backstitch, as the pattern suggested:

Then once again I got to pull out the basting threads.

It's way more fun than it should be.

 Of course, it was only after I had hand-stitched the remaining eight pleats that I realized I had messed up.  The back sides of the pleats were not laying flat properly.  I'm not sure if this makes sense, but I tried to get a picture of it:

This led to my back neck piece not fitting properly:

(Told you my quick check was too quick.)
It was a bigger problem on the left side than the right, and fortunately I only ended up unpicking one pleat and re-stitching it.  The result still wasn't perfect, but it was close enough that I could live with it.  I would simply take a slightly smaller seam allowance at the armscye in the back.

Around this time, I needed a break from the gown itself.  I pressed the remaining two curtain panels and began making the petticoat.  The instructions had good pointers on making a petticoat to fit over pocket hoops.  I measured down from the center front and back and marked a curve to allow a "scoop" at the front and back of the waistband, so the petticoat doesn't droop in the centers.  You can barely see the line I marked in wash-away marker:

I haven't put the petticoat together yet, so I'm hoping it works!

Back to the gown.  I was never quite convinced that I had pressed the robings properly:

So I re-did one side, pressing the opposite way than what I had interpreted the instructions to mean initially, and tried out the result.  It may be hard to tell, but the right side is the original way I had done it, and the left side is fixed:

That definitely made more sense, as it kept the raw edge turned to the inside.  Relieved, I made notes in the instructions and fixed the other side, too.  Then I could attach the fronts to the back (with the back neck piece now attached).

It's starting to look like a gown!  Of course I couldn't resist trying it on at this point, but I have no pictures of this.

Next came sleeves!  I was confident that these would pose no challenge, as I had already done them twice - once for the mockup and once for the lining.  I really like this method of setting sleeves, and the instructions are very easy to understand (for this part, at least!).

Then I just needed to attach the side skirt extensions and pleat the skirt sides.  This proved to be another challenge of interpreting the instructions.  I pinned it the wrong way, decided it couldn't possibly be right, and tried it the opposite way on the other side.  It made much more sense the second way, so I re-pinned the first one and stitched across the tops of the pleats inside the skirt.  The result:

And finally I tried it on over my pocket hoops and underpetticoat:

Brian the Engineer kindly took these photos for me.
It's looking like the real thing!  

I'm so excited!  :D :D :D

Now all I have to do is:
  • attach the bodice lining
  • finish constructing the petticoat (it's currently pinned to the waistbands)
  • add the sleeve flounces
  • make the stomacher
  • hem gown and petticoat
  • ALL of the trim!  
I have a feeling that I will attend the Francaise Dinner with minimal trim on my gown, and that I will add more elaborate decorations later.  Which will give me an excuse to wear it again, of course!  Do a photoshoot for a "Look!  It's finished!" blog post.  :p  

(Oh, and I still need to finish binding my stays.)  


  1. Squeeee! It's looking so good!! Can't wait to see the final version!! (and it's making me want to make a francaise finally too!)

    1. Thanks! You should make one - it's easier than it looks!