Thursday, June 30, 2016

return to costuming!

Hello costuming world! Long time no contact! I'm afraid I've made very little since my last post (IN AUGUST OF LAST YEAR!) and attended very few events because.....


My husband and I welcomed our first child in March. I had plans for several costumes while pregnant, but the fates conspired against me.

Several twists of costuming fate:
  • I had made a Regency ball gown from a Nehelenia pattern, but early pregnancy symptoms made it difficult to track my time/opinion of the final outfit. Not to mention making me feel ill while at the event itself. I often forget I even made it.
  • I had planned on making the Mockingbird dress worn by Sansa Stark for a Game of Thrones themed event I co-hosted in October. Turns out I did not have enough black silk to correctly fit that gown to my then size. I was able to make one of Daenerys' more flowing gowns from Season 1, but it was a sort of quick and dirty never plan to wear this again sort of dress and I'm not particularly proud of it.
    • However, I did manage to make full costumes for two friends (a Sansa and a Littlefinger) and parts of costumes for my husband and one sister (Tywin and another Daenerys).
    • If I can get the chance and round up some photos I'll post about the event itself. It was good fun and I'd love to do it again sometime (with a costume I like)
  • I made my husband a Regency suit for an outing in Baltimore. At this point I was running low on sewing energy (and energy in general) so I didn't track my time, and I wasn't that happy with the final product. I'm just not sure I like Regency enough to keep making it. I have one more outfit I plan to try and if that doesn't win me over, I'll call it quits on making Regency.
    • I did make myself a new wool spencer which turned out fairly nice, but it needs a button
  • Finally, my last plan was to make a Victorian maternity dress for two events I was attending. And then I came down with a massive upper respiratory infection that knocked me out for all but 3 days in December. So that was a huge no go. I couldn't attend the one event and the second (which allowed for any era) I ended up wearing my summer 1920s outfit to. It was the only think I had that I could fit in. 
Recently I was able to get a Victorian gown (mostly) done for a friend's annual Victorian party. I say mostly done because it lacks the finishing like buttons and trim, but it was wearable for the event, and is still on my dress form so I remember to finish it up. I did, however, totally fail at keeping track of my time. I will post about the dress soon!

Because we're still adjusting to life with the bean, we've planned to attend fewer events this year (which means less sewing in general). That doesn't mean there's nothing on my to do list though!

Some hopefully to be done projects include:
  •  a new 1920s summer outfit for the Jazz Age Lawn Party. Creating a look inspired by Miss Fisher, I've found a vintage 1920s skirt pattern and the right fabric. Now I just have to get to work.
  • an early Victorian riding habit and evening dress (not to mention the required undergarments) for an event in early October. A friend suggested I make one skirt and two bodices to help save time. GENIUS!
  • a Halloween ensemble for myself and the baby (I asked my husband if he wanted to do a group costume thing. He declined saying he'll wait to embarrass the child when he's older)
  • my last ditch attempt at a Regency dress that speaks to me
  • a Victorian dress for a Christmas event (the same annual event I missed last year, so I'd love to make something really nice to make up for my missing it)
Maybe too ambitious? I'm not sure. We'll find out!

A few other things related to costuming are going on:
  • Firstly, GET MY SEWING ROOM IN ORDER! This is an official command from me to me. It had been in order at one time. Then it became the dumping grounds for everything when we cleared out a bedroom to make space for the spawn. I'm not productive in a messy environment, so this has to change.
  • Secondly, I'm stash only sewing this year. This doesn't include things like notions, or linings. It only includes fashion fabrics. I gave myself two fabric passes, of which I've already used one (1920s inspired fabric). My most recent Victorian dress was made entirely out of stash, and a roll holding 25 yards of black taffeta I found in a corner of my sewing room can easily cover those three Victorian gowns I have planned. And probably a few other things.
  • Finally, learn to use my embroidery machine. I bought a embroidery machine over the winter from a friend for a super steal. And it's been sitting there, giving me the sad puppy eyes, wondering why I've yet to try it out let alone have it make something cool.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Laughing Moon Mercantile: Pattern #115

I finally did it! I conquered my absolute fear of making stays and made this pair. Is it the greatest pair of stays ever? No, but for a first timer I think I did myself proud.

I had decided to make these stays when I realized one of the issues I always have when wearing Regency is that I never feel comfortable in it. Sort of weird considering how very physically comfortable it is (and how easy it is to drive in!). I'm certain my discomfort rises from the fact that I'm far more used to styles where I'm corseted, and I expect that hugged feeling from my underwear. I don't mind wearing a corset at all, and when I wore Regency short stays I felt like I have left the house with no underwear on at all. Quite awkward.

SO! On to the stays themselves. This set was made using the Laughing Moon Mercantile Pattern 115. I love Laughing Moon patterns. The instructions are always very detailed and if there is something I don't understand, they're always glad to help me via email.

(Sorry about my poorly painted door. It leads to the garage and I just haven't retouched it yet)

TIME: Close to 20 hours. I wanted to be as precise as I could be with the cording, so I spent a decent amount of time making sure my marking were where they belonged. Also, this set of stays has bust and hip gussets, two for the each hip, two for each boob, and then double that with the lining and you have 16 gussets in all. I find gussets annoying and time consuming. I used metal eyelets instead of making my own thread ones because that's the sort of detail I'm always read y to take a short cut on. Not to mention that is perfectly accurate for the later period that these stays can be worn for. 

ALTERATIONS: I made up the corded corset. The pattern had advised that with the cording, there was going to be some shrinkage with my fabric. Following the directions, I added an inch to the areas that they indicated. At the stage when I tried them on for fit, I was able to determine where I should remove the extra I had added and where I should leave it. In retrospect, I should have removed more since my stays almost completely close at the back. From what I've seen this type of stays always has about an inch gap. This is the only alteration I made, and it was on advise of the pattern itself. 

EASE OF INSTRUCTIONS: The instructions for this pattern were very good. There aren't that many (there are few pieces and the bulk of the work is the cording itself), but they were clear. I would suggest this pattern for the intermediate sewer looking to push their boundaries. There are a ton of markings that need to be transferred, if you're uncomfortable with that practice a bit before taking this one on. 

So in the end did I feel better about Regency when I wore my stays? I couldn't tell you because I got sick the night I wore them! Cursed stomach bugs!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail

The mailman recently delivered this book, and I LOVE IT. This book was clearly written with the DIY/self taught sewer in mind, and shares a lot of great instructions on how to do period details on Victorian garments. The directions are clear, concise, and come with illustrations that are easy to understand.

The topics covered are ruching, pleating, piping, ribbon work, cording and braids, and appliqu├ęs. Measurements are including with some of the pleating examples if you want to recreate what is shown on the extant dress.

My current project doesn't require any of these techniques, but I look forward to some downtime to try them out. I highly recommend this book!

Friday, May 8, 2015

1920s Day at the Races

The other weekend I attended the Point to Point Races at Winterthur in Delaware. OODLES of fun! Everyone was super friendly, the grounds are beautiful, and there was something to entertain you every time you turned around.

I decided to make a 1920s ensemble for this event for no other reason than I really wanted to use the bonsai bridge fabric from Joann's for something. ANYTHING. I had been stalking this fabric at the store for some time, certain that sooner or later I'd think of a project for it. Then about a year ago I ordered Decades of Style 1920s Tulip Kimono, the 1925 Zig Zag dress and the Foxtrot bag (which I ended up not making). So fabic I loved + patterns + event = finally doing it.

Normally I find cloches in every store at every time of the year, but because I was on the hunt for a simple black one, there were none to be had. A quick etsy search lead me to Elsewhenmillinery where I ordered the Madeline cloche pattern.

I channeled my inner Miss Fisher and was really pleased with the results. It ended up being quite warm that day (cotton and linen for the win!), and I could have gotten away with not wearing the coat. But I loved it so much I wanted to have it on anyway.

Here I am with Madame Modiste 
(who allowed me to call her Aunty Prudence all day) 

Parasols were a MUST!
TIME: My entire project (the coat, dress and hat) took a total of 14 hours.
1920s Tulip Kimono: When I tell you the coat just fell together I mean it. It's an amazing pattern and I'm looking forward to making another when the right inspiration hits. Seriously, I have nothing but pure love for this coat.
1925 Zig Zag Dress: Deceptively simple looking. I decided to pipe the gores and the zig zag detail around the waistline. It was tricky going. Attaching the goes to the upper portion of the dress took lots and lots of pining. The pattern calls for the lower portion to be attached to the top by hand. I found that since I did the piping I could machine sew it on using the piping as a cover for the stitches. Otherwise they would have been visible. Had I not done piping I would have sewn it on by hand. Another great pattern by Decades of Style. I really look forward to using more of their stuff.
Madeline hat: A pleasant surprise! The pattern requires you to add the seam allowance, which normally sends all sort of red flags off for me (I couldn't tell you why!). The pattern also come with 53 steps which at first was terrifying. The instructions are EXTREMELY detailed. I found that the pattern maker included a lot of steps that most leave off. To some it may seem unnecessary, but others might appreciate all the insider hints and tips. I was very happy with how my hat turned out and will gladly buy from this seller again.
ALTERATIONS: Absolutely none. The Decades of Style patterns are just.frigging.perfect.

EASE OF INSTRUCTIONS: Instructions for the Decades of Style patterns were wonderful. I didn't come across anything that confused me or didn't make sense. The hat pattern was extremely detailed, but still easy to follow.
Strolling about was so easy in 20s wear.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Nehelenia Patterns: 1790s Redingote Pattern

This outfit was made using Nehelenia Patterns 1790s Redingote pattern, Wingeo #126 for hip and butt additions and a modified cloak pattern (I only had enough excess fabric after making the redingote to sort of cobble together a cloak; so I don't feel comfortable enough to review the cloak pattern itself).

A few friends and I got together for a spa weekend at Colonial Williamsburg and I needed something warm to wear to a Saturday night dinner at a tavern in town. I didn't own any winter 18th century outfits prior to making this, and I get cold. Easily. And given the sort of winter we've been having I wanted to be prepared for the cold. Many people recommended just wearing a wool cloak over a pre existing outfit but I didn't think that would be sufficient for me. I cannot stress this enough: I get really really REALLY cold. So if you reel in horror at the weight of the fabric I used to line my redingote just know: I get really really REALLY cold. The weight of my fabric might be all wrong for the style/era but I apologize for nothing.

My good friend Kat was kind enough to lend me her hat.
It later tried to eat me.

TIME: 15 hours. On the whole, this took me a lot less time than I had expected it too. I think a major part of this is I now have a dedicated workspace for sewing. I don't have to put one thing away to work on something else. Nor do I have to pack everything up when the time comes to have dinner (it was that, or eat dinner on a sewing project at the apartment. Never seemed worth the risk). And with years and consistent projects I am getting just a wee bit faster at this.

Things that added time to this project were having to go back and trim down the seams on the lining wool (to eliminate the huge bumps and bulges it caused in certain areas) and making my own fringe (I made fringe!). I really liked the idea of having some black fringe detail, and what I saw in the store just didn't look right. The wool has a wooly(?) look to it, and premade stuff just looked too crisp and modern to me for this project. It was very easy to make the fringe, and if anyone needs I can explain it.

Here's the thickness of the wool I used as fashion fabric and the wool I used to line the bodice. The fashion fabric is "suiting" wool and the lining "coating" wool.

The coating wool made huge lumps near the seams.

I have to go back and make my petticoat smaller. I did a major screw up when calculating my pleats for the petticoat, and it was far too big on me. I had to safety pin it to my stays to keep it frolm falling off. OPPS!

ALTERATIONS: The sleeves were very tight, so I had to add to the side of them to accommodate the thicker fabric I was using. Something that I did not realize when beginning is the pattern does not start out to be a double breasted coat. I was fine with a single row of buttons, but it's something to keep in mind when making it. The illustration on the pattern shows it as double, so I either made it up wrong and it somehow worked or they assume you know how to do this, or I missed instructions on how to.

EASE OF INSTRUCTIONS: I would not suggest this pattern for a beginner. It would have overwhelmed me. Some things were not  marked on the pattern pieces itself, and there are no illustrations with the pattern. I always prefer some drawings in the event that I just cannot figure out what the pattern is telling me to do.

I have to say that even though I had to add to the sleeves so they fit, those puppies went in INSANELY well. It took only one try with each sleeve (both with the lining and fashion fabric). I'll usually get one right and it takes ten thousand attempts on the other. But these sleeves are golden, which is even more amazing when you realize they aren't gathered at all (gathered sleeves always being the easier type of sleeve for me to handle).

WINGEO #216 - The three support items that make up this pattern are both fast and easy. I have made all three, and with machine sewing they all go together in less than an hour each. The Nehelenia Pattern called for "hip pads also known as a bum roll". Since the pattern shows a bum roll, hip pads and a rump all as separate items, I made up all three. The bum roll did not work at all. It added volume in the front where the bodice and petticoat need to lay flat. I think that piece would work better for a chemise a la reine. The false rump didn't give me enough voulme on the side. By process of elimination I went with the hip pads.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Simplicity 2589

Yet another project made from out of print patterns. These just very recently went out of print, and you can still snag them for about $5 each. I *highly* encourage anyone that even thinks they might one day remotely consider making this dress to get them.

I'll start with the outer layer of the costume (it's part I like best). It was a fun gown to wear, and I can see the allure of making more after spending a day in one.


TIME: Roughly 35 hours for all outer layer items. My arch nemesis, hand sewing, was required for certain parts of this costume. The hems and fore sleeves required the most hand sewing, and it was necessary for all that cartridge pleating on the green portion of the dress. I hand sewed the hems because machine stitching would have been EXTREMELY visible on this fabric, and while I am not a purist by any means, I was trying to obtain a certain level of correct with my appearance.

This time also includes the hundreds of pearls, "jewels" and gold trim detail attached to to the dress and French hood. Those things were also hand sewn down. In retrospect I should have done the pearls before I added the felt backing to the forepart, but I wanted to make sure I had something finished I could wear vs. an embellished portion of a costume with nothing else attached to it. There is a small but growing benefit of the mass amounts of hand sewing I've been doing: getting better and ever so slightly faster.

Look at those tidy, tiny stitches!

ALTERATIONS: I did make a few.

The forepart directions called for a ribbon waistband. It just didn't seem like a substantial enough way to secure so much fabric to me. So I made the skirt with a normal waist band.

I had to change the shoulder straps to this gown. If I had followed the pattern markings, the gown would have slipped off my shoulders. Seriously. I had to remove about two inches off the straps to get the gown to sit where it wouldn't fall off. I'm not the most busty of ladies, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. Also, since this is a pattern made for a large commercial company, I'm sure they go by the "easier to take in than let out" motto. This changed how the sleeves were attached. I have to gather the fabric to get them to fit the opening. I have no idea if gathered sleeves are period correct or not, but I am not skilled enough to fool around with pattern scaling.

After some advice and research, I change the placement of the veil on the hood. The pattern called for it to be attached at the bottom part of the hood. It didn't seem right. It would have looked deflated. So it was moved to the top of the hood and flowed much better.
I did not use the gingham for the cartridge pleating. I marked my fabric with a chalk pencil and made the pleats that way. I didn't have any gingham on hand and I didn't feel like buying any.
The length of this dress had to be shortened. I'm 5'3" and I would have been tripping all over.

EASE OF INSTRUCTIONS: Very good instructions are included in this pattern. I had a bit of trouble with the steps involving how to turn under the fabric to create the pleating in the front. I'm not sure if how I did it was actually what I was supposed to do, or it just worked out for me.

FUN FACT: it is entirely possible to ride an elephant while wearing this dress.

My "sewing room" is in a fair state of chaos right now, but I'm hoping that once trim is down and the closet installed, I can unpack this costume and share more detailed photos of it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

a sewing room of my very own

In very exciting news, my husband and I recently purchased our very first home (yay!). We had outgrown our one bedroom apartment a while ago, and had started the official house hunt last spring.

The house needed to have space enough to accommodate both of our hobbies. My husband is actually a professional model maker, and that has spilled over into his home life of building hundreds of little things that for some reason need lots of big things to make them. Which is sort of funny because I make life sized things, and the machines to do that are quite small.

We made an agreement that he would take over the basement as his work space of any house we did buy, and lucky for him (and me) the basement of our new home is the full length and width of the house. So he has plenty of room.

Which means I get to have an ENTIRE ROOM just for me! Very very very excited about this! My old craft area was a corner and a dining room table. The prior owners of our home had enclosed the carport between the main house and the garage and used it as a dining room. Since the kitchen is an eat in, and there's only the two of us, we don't need to dedicate that much space to food.

The room is a little narrow (11 feet across) but very deep.


What? A window for natural light?
Enjoying that they just put up some plywood over
 the old window and painted it.
Of course, since it's just an old carport there's no closet to speak of, and the walls are brick. I think that's kind of fun, giving it a warehouse/industrial feel to it. The carpets are gross (they don't look that bad in photos, but they are). The plan is to put down some faux wood flooring. I had thought about finishing the walls, but I think I'll loose too much space. The back wall in the second photo has an outlet about every foot or so; I'm thinking a L shaped desk for the sewing machine and serger.
Along a side wall I think something like this Stolmen system from Ikea would be great for costumes.

Plus an additional full length bar for more dresses.
I admit I am slightly hesitant about the everything exposed to everyone look, but some curtains would easily solve that problem. Storage would be needed for stuff like books, hats, and patterns. Again Ikea would come to the rescue with those cube shelves they sell.
The husband has promised to put together a cutting table for me (more Ikea shelves with a butchers block secured on top). I usually like dark wood and colors, but for sewing/crafting, I really think white and light is the way to go.

Odds are my space will look like a show room until the first project. Then it'll look like a nightmare. But a roomy, all mine nightmare. That I don't have to put away or clean up to eat dinner.