Welcome to part 4 of my series on my winning look for the Her Universe Fashion 2023, totally Minnie. Wanting to start at the beginning of this construction journey? Check out this post first.
Today I’m talking all about those dots on my bodice which you can see pinned on above as I was figuring out where they should go. There are 70 dots on the dress including the 2 mesh ones and the hidden Mickey. I didn’t plan to have a nice round 70 dots. As I cut out circles I placed them on the skirt, and when I finally liked the distribution, that’s when I stopped. And, honestly, they stayed as pinned on dots for quite a few weeks. I had to make sure the skirt fit and had the appropriate fullness since the folds of the skirt could hide dots, so the dots were the last thing to get sewn on.
Each one is white machine-made Arctic silk dupioni from Silk Baron bound with black polyester satin. The satin was purchased in rolls of 50 yds from Amazon. I bought 2 rolls since I didn’t know how much I’d need and couldn’t afford to wait in case I ran out, but ultimately I ended up using approximately 27 yards.
The white silk was interfaced and I tried a variety of fusible interfaces to find one that would still give it movement with the silk and organza, but also provide structure. I tried almost all of Pellon’s lightweight fashion interfaces and two weights from Fashion Sewing Supply, but I ended up going with the tried and true SF101 (third from the left above). It was the right combination of thickness with softness.
There were 2 methods I tried for cutting out the circles. Olfa on the left and Fiskars on the right. The Fiskars tool above uses the little orange thing to cut in the grooves and you are limited by the groove diameters for the sizes of circle you can cut though it’s a pretty good range. You fold your fabric in half and line it up so that it’s actually only cutting a semi-circle. This is nice because you don’t need to contort your arm into weird positions to cut a full circle. It wasn’t bad. I used it for cutting many of the test circles.
However I found the Olfa one much easier and more intuitive to use. It works like a compass and you can make any diameter. You set the radius, place the point in the middle of where you want the circle and then just swing it around. Like a rotary cutter, you do have to apply a bit of pressure and I found it worked best if you held down the fabric you were cutting with the other hand. But both the motion and the ability to be precise were better than the Fiskars one in my experience.
For the hidden Mickey, I printed out the design on paper to figure out what size I wanted. Then, I used my Silhouette to cut out the Mickey. I tried 2 different styles. The “real” Mickey using files from Disney that have kinda squished circle ears and one with full circle ears. The full circle ears read better so that’s what I ended up using.
For the black outline, I tried soooo many things. I believe I have 40 test dots. One of the reasons I had such a hard time finding the right method was that I wanted the dots to look clean from the back since the back could potentially be visible through the organza.
Here’s what I tried:
- Plain satin stitch at various widths
- Double outline
- Outline with a wavy line on top
- Hand cut/pressed dupioni binding
- Satin bias binding at 1/8”, 1/4” and 3/8” widths
For a while I genuinely though the embroidery was the way to go. I thought it would allow me to get the most consistent circles and I could let the machine do the work while I worked on other parts. And hypothetically if I did the bobbin thread as black, it would look the same on both sides. Unfortunately, I could not get it to play nice with the silk. There would be fraying ends or rippling or simply a separating of the black from the white.
For similar fraying issues, I wasn’t a fan of the dupioni binding. I also couldn’t get it narrow. About 3/8” was the best I could do. I really liked how the satin binding looked and it would tie into the large satin bow I was planning. Plus, the fact that I could get premade binding was a bonus.
With all the bindings, I had a very hard time getting a consistent width. Above are my trials with the satin binding trying to get it a consistent width. However, through trial and error, I finally figured out the way to make them consistent and look good on the back.
The width of the binding would be whatever the seam allowance was so I figured out that I need to make that stitch consistent. I wasn’t able to do it just with my presser foot, but if I drew a line, I could easily follow that.
There were 4 different sizes of circles — 3”, 4”, 5” and 7”. I used my 3D printer to print a template that would allow me to easily mark the circles at 1/8” from the edge.
Then I pinned bias binding and stitched it down. At the connection point, I stitched it together and pressed it open before going over the seam.
While it took a while, this ended up working well and giving me mostly consistent results. I eventually got pretty good at it and got much better at having it look good on the back as well. So most of the dots that are on the organza are later dots that I did and the janky ones ended up on the silk. The bigger circles were also much easier given that they didn’t have as tight a radius.
Once all the circles were done, it was time to embellish. I’ll talk more about how I did the rhinestones in the rhinestone part of the series, but applying those was the next thing I did.
At this point the dots were still pinned on. I hadn’t attached them to the skirt yet. They stayed pinned until a week before. When I was testing out borders, I also tested embellishments and my favorite look was rhinestones with black seed beads between them (centered in the image above, minus the seed beads underneath which were just another test). As one of my friends said, it gave it almost a marcasite look. It gave the sparkle more depth.
However, I wasn’t sure I was going to have enough time to embellish 70 dots before I had to leave. I timed myself beading a dot and did the math based on the 27 yards of beading I would need to do. But it wasn’t just the beading. I also had to allow for sewing the dots to the dress which was even more time.
It was going to be tight. But I knew that if I didn’t do the beading and I didn’t win, I’d always wonder, what if . . . ? I needed to feel that I had done everything in my power to make my look as good as possible.
So I sucked it up and beaded the dots. Basically that week, if I wasn’t working, sleeping or eating, I was beading dots. And I got it done.
Then the entire weekend before I left, I was sewing on dots. Again, if I was awake that weekend, I was probably sewing dots to the dress. I used teeny tiny stitches to apply the dots because I wanted them to look seamless. On the silk, you can’t see the stitches from the back. On the organza, the stitches are super tiny and in matching red thread so they blend in. I’m really pleased with how nice they turned out.
And I can’t tell you how much of a relief it was to sew that last dot on there. Phew.