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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

November ACC update

I'm late updating, but I did make progress on my chemise during November, though I didn't finish. I actually decided not to make it my completely hand-sewn piece because my underskirt will have fewer seams and, therefore, be somewhat easier to make that way. I am, however, hand-felling the seams instead of using a more modern finish because my chemise is made of a very lightweight cotton voile, and I thought hand-felled seams would look the best. I'll post pictures when I have actually finished it, as any current pictures wouldn't be very illuminating.

Believe it or not, I still do not intend to drop out, and I think I have a fair chance of finishing the first two layers and at least one accessory. I don't have high hopes for finishing my outer layer in time for the contest, but I do still intend to make it just for my own benefit.

I'll write some more very soon about some of my other projects, like my Victorian corset, my husband's Inverness, and some other odds and ends.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Actual Pogress!

Well, I suppose I’m not going to be one of those bloggers that you can count on to post regularly and frequently. I actually have made progress on my ACC project, though. My Spanish farthingale is done! I may decide at some point to replace it because it may not be wide enough at the bottom, and I ended up having to cut away part of the top, so the waist is a bit large. But I’m certainly happy with it for my first try.

Last time I blogged about it, I had cut out and mostly sewed together the “skirt” of my farthingale. It took me some time to decide how I wanted to stiffen it–what to use, whether to make hoops or a spiral, etc. For some arbitrary reason I prefer the spiral, so I sewed the final seam, leaving enough of an opening that I would still be able to get it on.

I had a few spools of fish tape (something electricians use) on hand because I planned to use it for my Victorian cage crinoline, but I decided I could spare one for my farthingale. Good thing because I can’t afford to spend much money to finish either project.

Then when Grandma passed, I acquired a lot of the odds and ends of her sewing stash, about a zillion spools of thread, a lot of pins, and–more significantly to this project–several packages of single fold bias tape in assorted colors. I decided to use them for my boning channels because it would save me the time of cutting my own strips (let’s face it, I’m rather behind) and possibly the money to buy fabric for it.

So I picked a spot down the skirt that seemed reasonable for the first hoop and pinned one of the bias tapes in a circle at that level. Then at the point where the ends of that circle overlapped, I angled the bias tape down until it seemed like there was an appropriate gap between the first two levels of the spiral (pinning as I went) and kept the spiral with that amount of gap going down the skirt.

As I ran out of each bias tape, I simply overlapped another one–it took three. When I got close to the bottom of the skirt, I eased the gap, so that the bottom was another level circle. I sewed the bias tapes on so that the ends of the fish tape would be able to double back into the spiral.

Since I had already decided to use un-matching bias tape, I thought I would embrace the quirkiness of my farthingale. I sewed the channels on with various un-matching threads, then used some really bright yellow muslin I happened to have for the waistband. It’s a little silly, but it makes me giggle. And no one will ever see it under my gown, so there was no reason to avoid the craziness.

So, yay! I have one piece of my ACC project done. I wish I had more completed, but I’m still pleased with any progress, really. I’ve begun my chemise, but that is going to be my handsewn piece, so I won’t be done with that any time soon. But with my farthingale done, I can begin work on my skirts, so I will be working on those as well.

I’ve also made some good progress on my Victorian corset, so that will be my next blog post.

Since I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek (Next Gen and Voyager) as I sew like mad, live long and prosper! ;)

Friday, September 30, 2011


Well, I have not posted any progress on my Elizabethan gown for the ACC this month. That's because I haven't made any. It has been a very busy month, but I thought I'd be able to at least make some progress during this last week. Not enough to really "catch up," but something to post about. No such luck.

Last Saturday, Jon's grandmother--who I have been taking care of for a couple of years--was diagnosed with a staph infection in her leg. We spent around five hours in InstaCare and at the pharmacy, etc, but we thought it would clear up, and it looked like it was, if slowly. She was in a lot of pain, so she and Grandpa needed some extra time from me and my husband for a few days. Then Wednesday, she wouldn't wake up, although she was breathing. We don't know if the staph infection caused it or not. She's been in poor health for a long time. Whatever the cause, she was in septic shock. At about 4:50pm, she passed on. I have a lot of peace about that. She's not in pain anymore. I only worry about Grandpa because he's very lonely now.

All this has meant there's been a lot of work for the whole family, so I definitely haven't been sewing. I do still hope to finish my ACC outfit on time, though. I don't anticipate coming anywhere close to winning, but I believe I am fully stubborn enough to finish. Unfortunately, I can't conscript my husband to be slave labor like I sometimes do because I have to do all the work on this myself, but maybe I can make him cook and do dishes and such instead.

One thing I did manage to do earlier in the week, before I realized we were losing Grandma, was make a pair of pantalettes to go under my 1860s ballgown. The pleats on the legs haven't been pressed out yet, but I like them. I think these pantalettes are rather pretty, and I'm kind of hoping they can do double duty under my Elizabethan. They may be too long, though.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cute Hats

Jenn and Erik's wedding was really beautiful, and it was very fun to help with that. Kimi posted pictures on Facebook, so hopefully everyone who actually reads this has seen them. I forgot my camera.

I also made a super cute hat for one of my nieces for her birthday last month. It was kind of a silly, modern take on a bycocket. I made my own templates for the flowers on the side of the hat and hand-sewed them on. I didn't bother with buttonholes or anything to lace the green strip through because felt doesn't require edge finishing; I just cut slits. I did tack down the point with a few stitches so it wouldn't shift around. I'm rather pleased with how it turned out, and Emily loved it, so that's the important thing.

Eventually I will be able to share photos of the baby hats and things I've been making as photo props, but first I have to pay Kimi for promo photos. Until then, I can't share any because I need signed releases from the parents of the children photographed with my crafts.

Later this week, I will post again about some more underwear.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Made You Say Underwear!

This past week, I've been hard at work on adorable fairy dresses, but I don't have pictures of those yet. But I will say that I have pretty, sparkly tulle skirts in the works as well as taffeta bodices with a velvet design on them. The underdresses are lovely white cotton voile. I may not post pictures until they're on the girls, though.

I have also done most of the work on a petticoat for my Civil War gown. I made it of not entirely matching white fabrics from my stash, and I may have to add some length once I actually make my cage crinoline to go under it, but I'm quite happy with it. It's nice and fluffy, so it should do its job nicely, which is to keep the boning of the cage crinoline from showing through the skirt.

Even though it's realistically underwear and won't really be seen, I want to add lace to the hem.

I have also begun my Spanish farthingale using Marguerite's class handout based on Alcega's pattern. I had to alter the instructions somewhat because the 22 inch fabric widths didn't suit the size of my waist.

I did the math to figure out the width for the panels and cut the front and back rectangles out of that. But I figured out that the hem width was going to end up rather narrow, so I drew wider panels to cut out the gores. Since I didn't have fabric woven to the exact right width, I added seam allowances to all of my pieces.

I did not cut the corners off the top of the front panel until after pinning the pieces together because that seemed like the easiest way to get the angles right. I also didn't round off them hem yet for the same reason. I may have to let some of the seams out because my math did not take into account the loss of width at the top of the front panel, so it's a little tight around my hips at the moment. Or it may force me to add in some fabric. I could just redo the whole thing, but I don't really want to. Replacing just the rectangular panels may be the answer.

One seam is still open because I need to sew on boning channels and may do that while the skirt is still flat. Although I'm considering having the boning spiral up the farthingale instead of having completely separate rings, and if I do that, I will have to close the last seam before putting in the one long casing. I probably won't decide which style of casing to put on until I decide what type of boning to use, and I have not determined that yet. I need to figure out what will best give me what I want, but that is difficult to test when I cannot simply buy all the possible materials and try them. If I keep it more historically accurate, I'm leaning toward rope because I'm not keen on dealing with storing a cane/reed-stiffened farthingale, but I'm not sure if rope will give me quite the fullness I'm hoping for. The completely non-historical option in the running is nylon-coated steel cable. But for all I know at this point, I may end up using something else entirely.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Oh That I Didn't Have ADD

Sorry for my sporadic posting. That isn't likely to change. I don't have pictures to post this time, but I've made progress on the super cute fairy dresses I'm making for the wedding I mentioned. It's one of those projects that just can't help but be fun because the fabric I've been given to work with is all very pretty (and non-obnoxious to work with), the pattern is simple but also very pretty, and I've been given enough creative license to have a little fun as I go along. I have been known to get bored if I'm supposed to only do what I'm told, but that will not be a problem here.

The title refers to the fact that I can never stick to working on just one project at a time. There's a skirt I need to make for someone, and of course my Civil War gown and ACC project. And in the middle of all this, I took a day to make a super adorable bycocket (Robin Hood hat) for one of my nieces. I didn't have time to take pictures of it (at least not if I wanted any sleep at all) before sending it with my parents to Nebraska and the niece in question. Hopefully, I will get pictures from my sister to post.

I made the hat out of felt--synthetic, not wool because I just can't afford the good stuff. It wasn't intended to be very historically accurate, anyway; it was intended to be fun, and I think I achieved that. The inside layer that shows where it folds up is pink, and the outer layer is kind of a dark turquoise color, but it's the decoration on the hat that's really fun. I cut slits in the blue layer and threaded a lime green stripe through them, then I sewed on pink and purple flowers, also cut out of felt. It's adorable. I probably would have gone even more overboard in the cuteness department, sewing pearls in the centers of the flowers, etc. if I had had time, but as I already hinted, I ran out of that. However, I'm still very happy with it. I actually want to make more of them, but I'm not sure who would want crazy, girly bycockets. Maybe I'll just use the decoration ideas (and colors) for a more modern style of hat. We'll see.

Next up (as I continue working on wedding stuff) will be Elizabethan and Victorian underwear! And (again with the ADD!) somewhere I will squeeze in time to crochet and loom-knit some more baby hats for friends. Fia, if you are reading this, yes, I am still planning to make the Cthulu one. It just had to get pushed to the back burner for a while.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fairy Princesses!!!

I'm helping my friend Jen with the sewing for her wedding because it's coming up pretty quickly, and she is a very busy woman. The original plan was that I would make the bride's skirt and a Nehru jacket and vest for the groom, but plans have changed some. I'm still making the skirt, but the jacket and vest need to be pretty well fitted, and I live a bit too far from the happy couple for fittings to be particularly convenient. So we swapped which parts of the whole project I will be taking off her hands.

Instead, I get to make dresses for their beautiful daughters! I am so excited about that because I love little girl dresses beyond all reason, but I am so far incapable of having any daughters for whom to make them. Sometimes, nieces provide outlets for this, but mainly only when special occasions come up because that's when people can/will spend the money on such things. If I ever do have daughters of my own, I think it's going to be bad for my budget.

Anyway, as I was retrieving fabric and patterns from the bride so I could get started, she told me she doesn't actually have all of the fabric yet--she had most of it, but not the fabric for certain components. She asked if I wanted her to give me money so that I could buy the remaining supplies or if I wanted her to get them and give them to me. At first, I didn't think it mattered much, but then she mentioned that I could take some creative license. That was music to my ears. Then it got better--I could make them as girly and froofy (my word, not hers) as I want!

Needless to say, I have plans to do exactly that. The fabric I have been given is already wonderful, and then I get to add anything fancy I want! Oh, I'll keep it within reason, financially, but these girls are going to sparkle! And there will most likely be fairy wings! (The bride approves of this plan.)

I am definitely excited about this project. I have limited my use of exclamation points because Terry Pratchett says they're a sign of madness, but...well, maybe I should have left them in. It would probably be accurate.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Okay, I'm going to start with this because it makes me laugh. Not my best work ever, but I think Jon looks pretty good considering I made the tunic-thing in one night. I also made the hat. Again, not amazing, but it is the first bycocket I ever made, so I'm pleased. And I think he looked pretty good in facial hair, although I generally prefer him without it. It's already gone again.

This is my sketch for my Civil War ballgown. My drawing skills aren't that great, but you can at least see the general idea. Dark purple satin gown with a light purple overskirt, puffed sleeves, and neck ruffle. There will also be a shorter silver satin ruffle over the dark purple one at the bottom of the skirt, with black lace (which I have picked, but not yet ordered) over that. I may or may not make a black velveteen half cape.

Where the overskirt is pleated up (that's not drawn very well, but I intend to lift it with large pleats, rather than gathers), there will be small bouquets of purple and white tea roses with 1/8" black ribbons hanging down. Similar bouquets will also decorate the neck and sleeves.

Here's my fan, cameo necklace, and embroidered handkerchief. The fan is actually quite sensible, not just for show. I've discovered that you get awfully hot doing Victorian dances. And I love the smell of sandalwood.

Here are the two pairs of gloves and cameo ring I have acquired (very cheaply, I might add). The top one is an Italian kid glove. These are my favorite, although the others seem more decorative.

Now for my plan for my Elizabethan gown for the ACC. I completely tanked at trying to draw a black and gold brocade pattern, so I just colored the gown black. The chevrons, however, will actually be solid black.

Here's the right side of the gold jacquard that will make the underskirt and undersleeves.

This lace and ribbon will create the ruffle that stands up on the partlet. Pearls will probably also be added, and I may do some whitework on the body of the partlet unless I decide it clashes with the lace.

My outer layer will be a doublet gown similar to this, but in the purple velvet shown above. This is an Italian portrait, but Elizabethan women wore doublet gowns too, as far as I can tell. My plans may change if someone shows me that I'm wrong, but I like doublet gowns a lot more than loose gowns.

I have yet to figure out trims and such. There's a $100 spending limit for this challenge that is a bit limiting, and my budget is rather limited anyway. My husband has some fox furs that may get used somewhere in this costume, most likely to line the puffed sleeves of the doublet gown, I think. I plan to make a pearl necklace and girdle belt to be worn with this if I can afford all the beads I need. I really hope I can because my love of those pearl belts is a large part of the reason I wanted to make an Elizabethan gown--well, 1560s anyway; picking English was just because it suits me.

So now you all know that although I am normally a fairly simple dresser when it comes to modern clothing, I turn extremely girly and frilly when I go back in time. Well, at least when I'm dressing up as people who would have liked frills. :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I have finally entered the wonderful world of blogging

So, I've been a costumer and dressmaker for about 5 years. I don't claim particular expertise in either field, but I do tend to believe that I can make just about anything out of cloth given enough time--for both figuring it out (and/or learning new skills) and actually doing it. I have worked on a few different weddings, both themed and regular, and I have made all kinds of different costumes. One of my favorite costumes that I've made was a steampunk one for my sister. I'll be mainly posting about sewing, but I also expect to write about other things from time to how much infertility sucks.

My current projects are parts of both the bride's and groom's outfits for a friend's wedding, a Civil War era ballgown complete with corset and cage crinoline (aka hoop skirt), and the Artemisian Costuming Challenge.

A friend of mine talked me into joining the ACC. The challenge is, loosely, to create a complete, historically accurate (in my case, from about 1560s England, although others are recreating other places and times) costume by December 31st. It has to have three layers--appropriate underclothing, main clothing layer, and outer ceremonial or warmth layer--plus at least one accessory. There are more rules than that--like the fact that at least one item of underclothing has to be completely hand-stitched--but that's the general gist.

I'm feeling a little crazy for agreeing to this, but the same great friend has helped me get the fabric I need, and she and others are helping me figure out how to make the gown I have planned since this is a new time period for me. How could I refuse?

The Civil War ballgown is entirely my own insanity. My husband has gotten me into vintage dancing, and while his mom also does such things and is willing to loan out her costumes, her waist is 2-3 inches smaller than mine, and she's shorter than I. There is exactly one of her costumes I can wear, but let's just say it takes some creativity to make it work. So naturally, I want my own, and there will be no going halfway. My plans for the gown are a little over the top (but then the 1860s were a rather over the top time in women's fashion), and I'm working on collecting all the right accessories to go with it. I can't be a Victorian woman of fashion without all the proper accessories.

As soon as I take pictures and figure out how to post them, you can see my sketches and the materials and accessories I've acquired so far.