The most important part of the suit embellishment was the appliqué. To create the design, I eyeballed the dimensions of the suit and started cutting some grass shapes out of paper and placing them on the suit.
I traced the shapes onto tissue paper and numbered the pieces from left to right, assigning them each a color so I could get an idea of how to distribute the four shades of green– I had a light spring green, a medium spring green, an olive green, and a teal, and I wanted to use all of them pretty much equally.
I realized that the organza was too sheer to allow the color to show through when laid over my base fabric in a single layer– I’d have to double it up to make it work, but that was seemingly impossible given the slickness of the fabric. Taking inspiration from my success with starching cotton voile to make my Edwardian hat, I decided to stiffen the organza up a bit to make it easier to work with, basically making it up as I went along. I took a few spoonfuls of Mod Podge and diluted it with about 2 cups of water, then soaked my organza in the mixture, squeezed out the excess, and folded it over a plastic hanger before hitting it with a hair dryer to remove most of the moisture. Then I unfolded it, ironed it with a press cloth, folded it in half, and ironed it again so I had a double layer of fabric. It seemed to work well, but just to be sure I sprayed both sides of the folded organza liberally with hairspray– a trick that I’ve seen others use to stiffen up ribbon for bows. I honestly don’t know which part(s) of this process worked to make my organza easy to handle, but something did!
I pinned my tissue paper stencils to my stiffened, doubled organza and cut them out with a generous border, then hand-basted the organza to the suit just inside the edge of the tissue before snipping the border off to match the paper edges exactly. Then I carefully ripped the tissue away, leaving just the basted organza behind.
To get the layered effect, I had to carefully plan which grasses would be sewn down first. Taking a picture of my whole setup before stitching anything down helped a lot, since I could always refer back to the photo if I forgot the arrangement.
Finally, I threaded my machine with metallic thread (on top only– the bobbin was regular thread in turquoise) and satin-stitched over the edges of the organza. I had to fiddle with the tension to get the metallic thread to show properly, but it turned out really nicely in the end. I alternated between using gold and silver thread, depending on where the grass was placed. I will note that if I were going to do this again I’d leave the organza slightly wider than the finished design so I could stitch along the line and be sure that both ends of the zig-zag were catching the organza, then trim the edges. As it was, I occasionally had to go over a section again because I’d missed the edge of the fabric.
To finish the ends of the organza grass pieces at the hems, I zig-zag stitched a length of seam binding just below the bottom edge of the suit, covering all of those raw ends. Then I folded the seam binding to the inside, catching the loose ends between the binding and the suit, and hand-stitched it to the lining.
Of course, once I finished the grass and the cattails (which were just pieces of brown organza with satin-stitch stems) I decided that the suit needed more color, so I tried the effect of some pink lily flowers here and there. I wanted them to be behind the grass so they weren’t too prominent, which was difficult because I couldn’t just unpick the satin-stitching holding the grass blades in place. Instead I laid the flower pieces over the grass and stitched over the existing satin-stitching where necessary, cutting away the excess pink fabric. It was kind of a pain, but it turned out well.
I really like the effect of the layers of organza and the metallic thread– it’s almost reminiscent of Tiffany glass, and the gold and silver sparkle just a tiny bit in the light. I know I say this a lot, but I just love it so much when things turn out exactly the way I envisioned them!
Next up, accessories!