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Since November

Alright, I can’t put it off any longer, it’s time to get back to blogging. After a 5 month absence, quite a lot has happened! Here’s a quick update on the most exciting things going on (in no particular order):
  • Not at all craft related, but I got a promotion at work! Which means more work! Yay! Wait… But honestly, I’m super pleased to no longer be an Admin Assistant. It was an awesome gig and I was/am damn good at it, but it’s time to move on and up and I’m looking forward to learning new things and challenging myself over the next year.
  • I made a new dress for last year’s Dickens Fair! Things had been so busy around that time that I hadn’t made anything new and, unsurprisingly, a number of my dresses from past years had become a little…snug. So, rather than go dancing in modern clothes (like any other normal person would), I took a day off and banged out a new dress in 13 hours. 

It’s colorful, spins fantastically, and, most importantly, fits. The dress fabric is just basic quilting cotton and the sleeve inserts are made from some really adorable aqua polka dot cotton. The lace is a little hard to see, but it’s a gold venice lace and I have another 8 or so yards to trim the bottom of the skirt in the future. Next time (if there is one), it should take even less time since a few hours went to redrafting the bodice pattern.

  • I came up with a new organization system for my sewing projects, which isn’t so mindblowing, but is very handy. Assuming the project is small enough, I’ve now taken to putting all of the materials and patterns in a single gallon ziplock with the project on the outside. 

Now, next time I complain that I have nothing to work on, I can just reach into the bin for a project bag and start sewing because everything I need is right there!

  • I’ve finally started getting around to more modern sewing. Specifically, I did a test of the Sorbetto top by Colette Patterns, which I absolutely love and have plans for a few more. The first version was made of leftover cotton from the Dickens dress and the second version used some absolutely gorgeous Liberty of London cotton (and I used just about every inch of it, too!). Pics of those hopefully to come with a larger post on Colette Patterns.
  • And while making the Sorbetto tops, I also learned to make my own continuous bias tape. I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to buying bias tape again. I have both the 1″ and the 1/2″ bias tape makers, but I’m really hoping to find a 3/4″ as it seems like a nice middle ground.
  • Wedding planning continues on! Now that just about everything else has been handled (I think the only things remaining are the cake, which we’re hopefully handling later this month, and the favors), it’s finally time to start making my wedding dress. The plan is to recreate this amazing dress along with all of the period-appropriate undergarments. My brain (and my friends) keep warning me from going too crazy, but there’s a little piece of me that keeps wondering just how hard it is to paint silk… But first, I needed the right fabric…
  • Which led to a trip to the LA Fabric District in January! I came back with so much amazing fabric and trim, but sadly I can’t go into terribly much detail because…
  • I’ll be writing all about the process in a series of articles for Foundations Revealed and Your Wardrobe Unlock’d! The first article on making the corset was just released on Foundations Revealed and I’m super excited! Naturally, after I started reading the article on the website, I noticed so many things I would have written differently or expanded on. Isn’t that always how it goes? But, for a first real publication, I’m super thrilled and I can’t wait for the second article to go live next week!
  • And as if wedding planning and dress making weren’t time consuming enough, Joe and I will be moving to a house at the end of the month! Not our own house, but one that we’ll be renting from friends of ours and it’s absolutely gorgeous. They let us paint the walls and the past couple of weeks have been spent preparing, shopping, and painting just about every room. It’s significantly smaller than our current apartment (going from 1500 sq ft to less than half that size), but I think we’ll actually be much happier and comfortable here (walls really make all the difference). And we’ll have a yard! I’m already daydreaming about a small dye garden. And herbs. And fruit. And and and…


So TL;DR, my life is going really well right now and I’m looking forward to finally getting back into the swing of things and posting more regularly again.

 

The problem with fittings…

The problem with fittings is that at some point they become less about figuring out how to let out a seam here and there in your favorite bodice to fit a slightly fuller figured you and more about weighing the pros and cons of ripping the whole thing apart and starting over (or even passing the dress over altogether for something completely different).

Case in point – my aqua and orange plaid.

(Pic courtesy Imran. Who is awesome.)

It’s pretty clear that I have an unhealthy love for the combination of aqua and orange. When I saw this plaid fabric sitting on the shelf at Joanns back in 2010, it was pretty much a no-brainer that I was going to be walking out of the store with the entire bolt (which sadly was only 8 yards, so I wound up ordering a few extra yards from another store). It was the first dress I’d ever made that I was truly happy with – it fit, the skirt was fantastic for dancing, and it was in my favorite colors.

So when I tell you how on the first day of Dickens last year I started getting dressed and was ready to run out the door right after I put my bodice on and then couldn’t get my arms all the way through without them being uncomfortably tight, you’ll understand that “panicked” is an understatement for how I felt.

This week, I picked the sleeves out of the dress, thinking about the various ways I could remake the arm bands. I carefully look apart each piece, picking out all of the various loose threads, separating everything into piles so I wouldn’t mix the pieces up, and then tried the rest of the bodice on to find out the damage there (couldn’t do this before because I couldn’t get my arms entirely through the sleeves). Well, unsurprisingly the answer is: not at all.

There’s about a 4″ gap in the front of the bodice, which, while flattering to know that certain areas are not nearly as nonexistent as they were 2 years ago, is going to take more fabric than I have hidden in the seams to fix. The question now is do I remake the bodice (or certain panels of it) as is, or do I go for something completely different?

I made an everyday skirt with the extra fabric shortly after I finished the day dress, so I do have some wiggle room with regards to fabric. Sadly (or perhaps conveniently), this skirt no longer fits very well either so I have no problems ripping it apart (which I did the other night) and cannibalizing the fabric for something else.

The pattern on the fabric runs in the same direction as the day dress, the waistband of this skirt would be sufficient to remake the armbands on the sleeves, and I could probably get away with replacing a couple of panels in the bodice from this. But the real questions is – do I want to?

On the one hand, this is one of my favorite dresses and I can probably with not too much work get the bodice up to scratch. On the other hand, it seems like a good opportunity to let go of something old and remake it into something completely different (I certainly don’t have any shortage of inspiration).

So, what do you think?

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Costuming

 

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And then it was November

Note: Somehow this post didn’t actually get posted last week, so… this one’s a little out of order.

I’m not entirely certain where October went, but it’s suddenly November and  have a long list of things to do and not as much time as I’d like to do it all in.

Here are some highlights for the next couple of months:

  • Nov 3 – Disneyland! Monte Cristos at the Blue Bayou, the Haunted Mansion, Star Tours…
  • Nov 11 – San Mateo Harvest Festival (I must buy more Hennessey maple syrup!)
  • Nov 20 – My birthday! Woohoo!
  • Nov 22 – Thanksgiving! Probably my favorite holiday and I might event get snow this year! Unfortunately, this means I’ll be missing the opening weekend of Dickens. :(
  • Dec 1/2 – My first weekend back at Dickens! I am already humming Bangers & Mash songs everywhere I go and thinking of tea and shopping and feathers.
  • Dec 8 – Final site visits for the wedding venue. After this, planning begins in earnest. More on this later.
  • Dec 9+ – Back to Dickens every weekend up to Christmas. It hasn’t even started yet, but I’m sure just like every year I’ll be wondering where the time went and how it all passed so quickly.

Pretty much every year I find myself faced with a closet full of dresses and there’s always the suspense of getting dressed that first weekend and desperately hoping everything still fits. Sometimes it does…. and sometimes it doesn’t; the doesn’t generally leading to a not-so-minor morning meltdown where I cry a while and swear I’m throwing everything in the trash and never doing this again because it all just sucks.

But this year I will *not* go through that! The plan is to pull everything out of the closet, try everything on, and then start making alterations. I’ll decide in advance which dresses I’ll wear my first weekend so I can make sure there are no first weekend meltdowns and possibly start culling some dresses to (hopefully) sell online so I can start making new ones.

I’m also putting together a handy checklist of things to look out for while I try things on and am debating printing labels to keep with each dress describing what types of alterations need to be made.

Fingers crossed everything gets done in time!

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2012 in Costuming

 

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Costuming Clean-Up

November is well under way by now, which means Dickens is quickly approaching. Rather than face the same last-minute panic as last year, Roo and I have gone through everything in my closet and determined that absolutely none of my costumes are 100% good to go (some fixes are as simple as needing to move the skirt hooks, other pieces may be better off remade entirely).

Below is my slightly terrifying list of things to do. As are what I need for my first weekend, Bs are getting the rest of my costumes up to snuff for the rest of the season, Cs are the nice to haves, and Ds are the things I’ll get to once everything else is done. Take pity on me.

Priority    Dress                           Description                                   
A             Aqua/Orange Paisley     Bodice closures (~1″)
A             Aqua/Orange Paisley     Skirt placket
A             Aqua/Orange Paisley     Let out side seams (~1″ total)
A             Aqua/Orange Plaid        Remake sleeve bands with elastic
A             Aqua/Orange Plaid        Tack down bodice snaps
A             Aqua/Orange Plaid        Skirthooks
A             Aqua/Orange Plaid        Skirt placket
A             Burgundy/Gold Plaid     Make underskirt (gold)
A             Underskirt                    Make orange underskirt
A             Yellow Petticoat            New laces
B             Red/Green Plaid           Bodice closures (~1″)
B             Red/Green Plaid           Hem underskirt
B             Burgundy/Gold Plaid     Sew new back seams
B             Red/Green Plaid           Grommets in underskirt
B             Red/Green Plaid           Grommets in overskirt
B             Red/Green Plaid           Underskirt placket
B             Red/Green Plaid           Overskirt placket
C             Aqua/Orange Paisley    More bows!
C             Aqua/Orange Paisley    Bleach bottom
C             Aqua/Orange Plaid        D-ring in bodice
C             Aqua/Orange Stripe       Remake sleeve cuffs (with elastic)
C             Aqua/Orange Stripe       Grommets in underskirt
C             Aqua/Orange Stripe       Grommets in overskirt
C             Aqua/Orange Stripe       Overskirt placket
C             Aqua/Orange Stripe       Underskirt placket
C             Red/Green Plaid            Attach ruffles to overskirt
D             Blue Petticoat               Bleach ruffle
D             Belle                            Move skirt hooks to edge
D             Blue Satin                    Grommets in skirt
D             Blue Satin                    Bodice placket
D             Blue Satin                    Bertha
D             Plain Petticoat              Add third ruffle
D             Purple Plaid                  Undersleeves
D             Purple Plaid                  Remake vest in cotton
D             Purple Plaid                  Remake underskirt in cotton
D             Purple Plaid                  Move skirthooks

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2012 in Costuming

 

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Circular needle case

Every now and then I’ll come across some fabric that just needs to come home with me. I won’t have a project for it, but that doesn’t always keep me from buying it anyway. A couple of years ago I bought a yard of fabric with deep purple pansies on a cream background and despite having no project for it and going through multiple fabric destashes since, it’s always stuck around because I thought it was so pretty. So when I decided I to make a carrier for my circular needles, I knew exactly which fabric to use.

There are 16 pockets total, each 4″x6″, and just what I needed! The only changes I’d make to a future version would be to create flaps for each row of pockets so they don’t possibly fall out and a ribbon to tie the whole thing closed. The only real downside to the project is that I *still* have more of this fabric left… So who wants a circular needle holder?

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Things that aren't clothes

 

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Project Seam Allowance

Project Seam Allowance is easy enough to define – it’s the pledge to make at least 25% of your clothing over the course of the next year. They can be knit or sewn, made by machine or hand, be as basic as a scarf or as intricate as a suit. It’s not quite as easy to determine what it means to each person.

It began with Kristine of A Verb for Keeping Warm, but has grown to touch so many more people. I’m still in the process of wrapping my mind around the project and what it means to me, but here are my goals so far:

  1. Commit to making 25% of my clothing. This initially seemed a bit like madness, but after The Great Closet Purge of 2012, I have considerably fewer clothes, which means 25% is a lot less now. The hope is that by needing to make fewer clothes, I can spend more money on nicer fabrics and getting to handle nice things means I’m more likely to keep sewing.
  2. Have a better understanding of what goes into making a garment that both fits and lasts. I’ve made clothes before – basic skirts and dresses, the occasional shirt – but there’s always the feeling in the end that it looks flimsy and homemade. Part of this is time. If you hammer out a skirt at 3 in the morning, it’s going to reflect that in the final garment. Also, I’m getting tired of things not lasting through the year. So there will be a lot of learning about finishing techniques and small touches to give a garment a finished look.
  3. Increase awareness of local manufacturing and encourage a greater sense of personal responsibility. This one’s probably going to be the toughest. The quality of the clothes I buy is noticeably worse than they used to be – a sports bra from Gap used to be double layered and medium weight 100% cotton jersey, now it’s a single layer of thin modal for the same price. My jeans used to be thicker with more cotton; now they wear out quicker and have more elastic in them. We can’t afford to rebuy everything we own to support local manufacturers that provide fair working conditions and a living wage to workers all at once, but I can increase my knowledge of these local manufacturers and find ways to support them over time whether it’s a handmade dish, a few yards of organic, US-made cotton jersey, or a piece of furniture not churned out of Ikea (I know, that one hurts the most).
  4. Clothing should be adjustable, customizable, and personal. I dislike single-use kitchen tools; they take up drawer space I don’t have and tend to be a bit useless unless you use them all the time (I’m not going to go buy a cherry pitter if I only eat cherries once a month). The same should be true of my clothing. I’d like my clothes to be multi-purpose – a basic collared shirt should serve as a tank and detachable sleeves allow it to become short-sleeved or long-sleeved. I don’t know how easy this will be (probably not very), but it will make a smaller wardrobe become much larger without taking up as much closet space if I can pull it off.

So how am I doing so far?

  • I’ve started off by starting small. Making a basic cowl or wrap in colors and patterns that make me want to wear them everyday rather than just stuffing them in the closet where I’ll never see them again because I liked them that one day.
  • I’m picking a basic set of colors for my wardrobe. Everything in my new wardrobe needs to go with everything else so I no longer have that one shirt that only goes with those specific pants. Currently I’m going for browns and creams with rich, earthy tones. Eventually I’ll get to the hardware store and will start picking out paint samples that I can use as a reference when shopping or buying fabric and yarn.
  • I’m still buying clothes. Just because I want to make 25% of my clothes doesn’t mean it needs to happen right this second and it doesn’t mean I should stop buying things for myself. If I need new work pants now, I will buy them now.
  • I’m focusing on what I know how to do and expanding on that. I am not stressing about the hundreds of things I don’t yet know how to do. This entire project is a learning process and just because I can’t make a pair of slacks yet, doesn’t mean I won’t learn how later and definitely doesn’t mean I should just give up on the whole idea.
  • I’m making (and buying) clothes that fit. Over the past year or so I’ve put on a bit of weight and it’s sort’ve snuck up on me (possibly because I’ve been subscribing to the Paula Deen & Pioneer Woman School of Cooking). I’d go to put on a pair of pants that I swore fit perfectly only to find them snug in the hips or leaving a nasty indent on my stomach from being too tight. Rather than exercise like crazy to fit back into them, I need to get new clothes that fit who I am now. If I lose weight down the road, awesome; but I can’t keep wearing clothes that don’t fit my current body in hopes that they will some day fit an “ideal” body. And no, I am not losing weight for my wedding. Screw that.

So there we go. It’s on paper (well, sorta) and it’s public. If you’re in the Bay Area, there are monthly meetings where people who have all taken the pledge can come together and share their progress, their goals, and their knowledge. If you’re not local, you can still keep up with the group on their Ravelry page (sure, the site is primarily for knitters and crocheters, but nothing says you can’t join for the sewing).

Onward!

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Seam Allowance

 

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Catching up on life

After a few months of life going pear-shaped, things seem to be back in order. Quite a bit has happened since my last post (though none of it seemed to do with costuming):
  • Our car broke down, was towed, and needed the alternator replaced.
  • Our car was towed after we missed a repaving notice.
  • Our car was *stolen*, though later found, towed, and had some very expensive repairs done to get it driveable again.
  • I made some really excellent fabric curlers and figured out how to French braid my hair before cutting all my hair off a month later. (Alright, I got a little sewing in.)

Hurrah fabric curlers! Surprisingly simple to make and used up some stash fabric and buttons.
Very effective at curling hair. I was impatient and didn’t quite wait for my hair to dry completely or I expect the curls would be even more fantastic.
Before haircut. Dy, dry hair with excessive splitting.
Fantastic new hair (also gone back to brown). Of course it never looked this good again.

  • I bought a new tiara from an antique mall in Monterey (that counts as costuming, right??)

I need to get rid of the crappy side combs, but it fits perfectly otherwise.

  • I was a part of the fabulous wedding of Roo and Nate (and made a fun 50s cocktail dress for the occasion (Okay, that does count as sewing).

That’s right. Aqua and orange!

Good spin!
A better shot of the jewelry that went with it.

  • Holy crap I got engaged. Commence Pinterest board and drama.
    He beat me to it by 2 months.His great-grandmother’s ring from the 1920s.
  • I went to the hospital for chest pains and a possible blood clot only to emerge out the other end of it all with stress pains, a bottle of Aleve, and a $2,800 bill.
  • I discovered Alabama Chanin and my life is better for it.

That’s all for now in the brief time I have. I’ll post again soon with some new sewing goals for the next year and costumes in the queue!

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Life and other things that aren't sewing

 
 
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