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Friday, October 23, 2015

First Birthday Outfit

My good friend's adorable baby is about to turn a year old, and I got to make a special outfit for her. There will be professional photos later, but for now, here are some candids.

This is from the day we tried the outfit on her.

Isn't she a cutie?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Color Guard and Ballet

Well, sorry I disappeared again for a few weeks. Sometimes life gets in the way of writing. I haven't finished the ballet costume yet because I paused to work on some other projects, but I have made progress on the bodice.

The spiral steel boning came by the yard, so I had to cut it into the lengths I needed. I thought I would be able to cut it with wire cutters, but that was a bust. I just ruined a pair of wire cutters. So I used my husband's Dremel with cutting wheels--it took three because they  periodically broke. I didn't have a setting tool for the end caps, either, so there was a complicated system of me holding them in place with pliers while Jon pounded them with a hammer. They didn't end up pretty, but they did hold, and let's be honest--no one is ever supposed to see them. Spiral steel boning is ideal for ballet bodices because it has lots of strength, while still being extremely flexible in all directions, so the ballerina can bend any way she needs to.

 I made the boning casing by sewing twill tape to the seam allowances rather than sewing all the way through the bodice because I like the outside of a bodice to be smooth. I sewed the ends and the edge closest to the seam first, inserted the boning, then sewed the outer edge shut.

The center front got two pieces of boning because I couldn't put one in the very center without it showing, and it needed to be balanced. The side front and side seams each just got one piece in the seam allowance closer to the front.

I hand-stitched all of the seam allowances, with or without boning, to the bodice lining so everything would lay flat, but no stitches showed to the outside.
And here's what the outside  of the bodice looks like after all of the seam allowances for the piping were also stitched down. I made the piping myself out of bias strips of the bengaline and elastic cord.

Close-up of the piping.

Side view. Notice how you can't see the boning

I have not completed the back closures yet.
I also made new flags for a local high school's color guard recently. They were intended to look like the Aurora Borealis, and the choreographer drew a sketch of what she wanted and provided me with materials. Due to budget constraints, we used old flags that were just solid iridescent fabric as the base flags (instead of buying the same material new). They were too large, so I had to cut them down and re-hem them, but I left the pole pockets intact. There were wavy stripes of white and two shades of green, and she gave me new fabric for the greens, but I had to cut up old flags for the white as well.

I was given a sketch, but no true pattern, so I had to draw that out myself. My initial design for the white piece didn't quite fit the way it was supposed to. Luckily, I checked the fit by laying out the pattern pieces on one of the re-sized flags and caught the problem before wasting any fabric. Good thing, too, because I had barely enough of the dark green and the white.

This shows where I added to the top of this curve so I could cut away from the bottom of it because it was too shallow.
I sewed the lighter green pieces on first because they are the lowest layer of the design. Then I sewed the white pieces on part way, stopping before they curved back upward. The dark green pieces went on next, followed by sewing the white pieces the rest of the way on. This allowed the white pieces to go over the light green then under the dark green on their way down the flags, then over the dark green on the way back up. Luckily, the two greens never touch each other, or I might have gone crazy. I did a little anyway because I got behind and ended up having to caffeinate myself to stay awake for about 53 hours straight in order to deliver these on time. Yikes! I think I was having mild hallucinations by the end of it. I really don't recommend keeping yourself awake that long.

But however unpleasant staying awake that long may have been, it was worth it to not let down those girls, and I think the finished product looks nice. I didn't get to see their show (because I needed to sleep for a ridiculous amount of time), but I'm told the girls performed well, and the flags looked great on the field.

Bonus: By day I am a dental assistant, and my office is currently being judged in a pumpkin decorating contest sponsored by a nearby orthodontist office. As one of the more creative employees of my office, I ended up doing the actual decorating with a lot of input from my coworkers and some help from my wonderful husband.

A little extra detail on top. There's glitter, but that doesn't show up too well in the photos.

Do yourself a favor and enlarge this photo so you can see the beautiful wire work Jon did to make the undercarriage.

"C" for Cinderella

A friend loaned me a toy horse from her kids to complete the look.

If you want to go vote for us, visit Zaytoun Orthodontics' Facebook page, find the picture they posted that shows all of the entries, and comment, "#11." Thanks!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

It Was Not a Good Day to Dye

Any Star Trek geeks out there? That title was going to be better, but my experiments didn't go well yesterday. I tried to dye the fabric and boots for my Batgirl costume, and it didn't work out as planned. We'll start with the fabric.

As I said after I first bought it, it is a poly/rayon/spandex blend, which I thought required a poly dye, but I had also been told that spandex takes dye for natural fabrics well, and I had received mixed accounts of which kind of dye is appropriate for rayon. I admit my own experience with dying fabrics is limited so far, and my most successful times were with the help of an expert. I really should have talked to him before doing this. I bought only poly dye.

But first, I learned that an 11 gallon pot isn't big enough. How is that possible? Look at this thing!

Okay, this picture doesn't give a full idea of the scale, but it's really big.
But my fabric is really bulky, so I could only fit about 2/3 of the fabric in the pot. I'm not risking dye lots not matching because at least half of the costume is black, so it doesn't all need to be dyed, so the pot works. And now, at least I can dye some things.

I put the fabric I was going to dye into the pot, then filled it with water using a pitcher because it was going to be very heavy once it was full. I then pulled the fabric back out so that I could dissolve the dye in the water. I did it in this order because I didn't want to risk putting in too much water for the amount of fabric and making a terrible mess, and the dye packet said to pre-wet the fabric anyway.

I bought this at JoAnn
This shows the dye packet beginning to dissolve
This dye comes as two parts, a dye packet, and a color enhancer. The dye packet is water soluble, which I think is a wonderful thing because I didn't have to open it, potentially causing a disastrous mess if I was clumsy. The color enhancer doesn't have that same potential, so it comes in a little pouch that you tear open to pour it in.

Once the dye was fully dissolved, I added the fabric, and began to stir. We waited over 45 minutes for it to come to a boil, then Jon shifted it to be on two burners, and it finally got going.

You can't tell, but that's a tent pole I'm using to stir. I didn't have anything else long enough.
Jon did most of the stirring while I worked on my boots. It was a lot of stirring. Because it had taken so long to come to a boil, we only left it boiling just over 30 minutes. It looked very dark, so it seemed like it was ready. Jon used a small pot that we could stand to lose (because you're not supposed to use anything you've used for dying on food ever again) to bail the dye water into the sink without making to much of a mess. Then he carried the fabric to the washing machine in the pot and washed it using Woolite.

And here it is just before going into the dryer...mocking me.

I'm sure you can tell, but just in case anyone was wondering, this is not purple. It's still grey. So the plan is to follow the instructions the dye packet had for blends--poly dye and natural fiber dye in the same dye bath. We'll see how that goes. The jury's out on this brand and type of dye because I know I didn't know what I was doing. I'll give my verdict after I try again.

After the fabric was dry: the top is the fabric I didn't even try to dye, and the bottom I did. They are technically slightly different colors, but it's only noticeable in person with the two side by side.
Now onto the shoe fail. I opened my box of TRG The One Color Dye, and it contained the preparer, dye, and sponge, but no brush. That was its first failing. Jon bought some small paint brushes, and we got to work. I taped off the sole and the padded suede part at the ankle on one shoe while Jon worked on the other one with the preparer and a scrubbing pad, then we traded.

Then I opened the jar of yellow dye. Initially, I just started to paint some on without really stirring because I had shaken it up, and it looked well-mixed. Then I decided to stir it anyway, and that did not feel the way it should have.

Tarrago sent me dye that had been stored improperly or something and had solidified in the bottom of its bottle. I pulled this glob out of my dye. Needless to say, I am not impressed with this brand of leather dye. Even if the end results turn out well (which is still not certain), I am unlikely to buy this brand again.

Following to the Dreamstress's directions, I used one of my paint brushes to dye the edges of my boot, then used the sponge to spread dye over the larger areas. I had to use the brush more than I expected due to the number of seams and little details on these boots. It took a lot of dye to get it to really show, and this is the result:

This is a truly hideous color at the moment, and it's still streaky, but the yellow is showing up. Jon thinks if I give it another coat, the color will look more of a decent yellow and not this putrid color as well as evening out the color. It took me half the bottle to get this result, and I only did one boot so far because it took forever, so I will definitely have to buy more dye to attempt another coat. I'm considering buying a different brand of yellow leather dye for the second coat, but I will use the remainder of the bottle on the other boot because they have a much better chance of matching each other if they receive the same treatment. That means they both have to have this dye for the first coat and then the same dye, whether that is more TRG or a different brand, for the second coat. Even if they are going to turn out poorly, they have to be the same bad because not matching just makes the whole awful mess so much worse.

I have mentioned in the past that I don't react well to failure, so there may have been a bit of a meltdown, but my husband was remarkably understanding about that, and a couple of episodes of anime later, I was doing much better. I even think these projects may still be salvageable, but as the title says, it was really NOT a good day to dye!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

DHgate Review

Sorry I didn't post last week. I have no good excuse for that, and I am trying hard to actually post weekly now, but at least this time I didn't just fall completely off the posting bandwagon again. I have made some progress on my projects this week, including a very successful try-on of the mock-up of the tutu panty and bodice. They fit on the first try, so I don't even have to make any adjustments to the pattern. That's always a win.

But today, I really want to share my experience with the website DHgate. DHgate is a website based out of China that is a little bit similar to Etsy in that it allows consumers to buy from many different merchants from a single website. Unlike Etsy, it doesn't focus on vintage and handmade goods. They sell manufactured items. This is the website where I found these boots that I wanted for my Batgirl costume:

I was a little nervous to buy them when I realized it was a Chinese website because I was afraid they might be poor quality and that the sizing might be wrong, but I decided to go for it anyway. The one problem I ran into was that the yellow boots were out of stock, but that was communicated to me very quickly, and the seller asked if I would like a substitution of another color. I really didn't want another color since this is for a costume, but I didn't notice their email and respond to it quickly enough, so the boots were shipped in tan.

And this leads me to one of the things that impressed me most about the website: DHgate holds onto your payment until you verify that you received your item AND that you're satisfied with it before they release the payment to the seller, and if necessary, they facilitate returns.

When my boots came, I chose to give them a chance rather than immediately send them back for being the wrong color because I could also use a good pair of hiking boots. The fit isn't perfect, but that isn't really the sizing being off--these were men's boots, so I had to estimate my size in the first place. They are slightly big, but not by much, so thick socks should fix the problem.

But fit obviously wasn't the only concern. If these were going to be serious hiking boots and not just a costume piece, they also needed to be good quality. They are made of good leather, probably Veg tanned and oil hardened. I don't know the exact thickness, but it is nice and sturdy. The stitching both on the upper and connecting the upper to the sole is good quality, and the sole is both stitched and glued on--also a good thing. The sole itself is strong and has deep tread. So it passed the quality inspection too.

Now for the color. The boots that came were tan instead of yellow. If I were just getting them as hiking boots, I would probably have ordered that in the first place because it's a more normal shoe color, but as already stated, they're for my Batgirl costume. The specific design of Batgirl that I'm trying to recreate wears yellow boots, not tan, so they seemingly fail that criterion.

That's where the Dreamstress will hopefully save my butt. I found this tutorial on re-dying leather shoes on her site, and I have ordered the dye she recommended. I kind of expect the shoes to end up a darker yellow than I originally wanted, but still acceptable. I'll let you know the verdict on that after I actually use the dye. I'm a little nervous about it, but at least they're hiking boots, so if the color ends up weird, I won't mind as much as I would with something more fashion-oriented.

Summary: I was very pleased with the customer service at DHgate and from the specific seller I used. DHgate offers pretty good protection against getting ripped off by the individual sellers (not that I had that problem, but I have only purchased from one). The quality of the boots is very good. They were not the color I ordered, but that was not a mistake; it was a substitution for an out-of-stock item, and they communicated the situation to me clearly. I am happy with my experience. If they have something I'm looking for at the best price, I would use them again.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Love Free Stuff!

So I have this really amazing friend named Sheila Cox. She is also a costumer, and we've worked on a couple of high school shows together--she as the designer, and I as a stitcher. That's actually how we first got to know each other, but we also go to church together, and we're good friends now. Anyway, a few days ago, she let me come over and plunder her stash of fabric and other supplies, as well as the dresses in her costume stash--some actual vintage, some vintage inspired. I came away with eight new (to me) dresses and lots of fabric and trims. Some of it is things I actually specifically need for the projects I'm working on/planning, and some of it is just stuff I really liked and she had no specific plans for.

I also finished my white skirt last night. It needed a lining, as white things usually do, so I used the lining fabric from that wedding dress I've been taking apart. It just keeps on giving!

Without further ado, pictures! (With bad lighting because Jon and I are often only together at night, and our apartment has terrible lighting.)

The outfit I wore to church today. Of course, I had shoes on at church.

My friend Holly of SableGreyhound Gifts made this necklace with earrings to match, and I love them!

This dress reminds me of Jackie Kennedy. It needs a shoulder seam repaired, but that's easy.

This should have three buttons, so I will need to replace all three. Again, easy.

I'm making a weird face in this picture.

I LOVE this one. I might shorten the sleeves because they are tight at the elbows, but I'm not sure.

Close-up of the embroidery

I also completely love this one. It needs work, too, including new buttons.

It also has this big rip in the skirt. I'm thinking of adding a band of black velvet to cover it.

My dog is very cute.

I will probably lengthen this skirt a little, likely with eyelet lace, and I think the stems should have flowers at the top, so I might add that as well.

I was feeling a little silly by this point because I never know how to pose for pictures.

I got motion sickness getting this picture because I did way too much twirling, but it was totally worth it to show the skirt off like that. ;)

So I really love all of my new dresses. I also got great fabric and trims, but I'll probably show those off as I actually use them.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

So Many Projects!

I've mentioned before that I have trouble focusing on one thing at a time. I have a lot of projects going or at least in the planning phase right now. It can be a problem, but usually it works out.

I thought my felt nativity was going to be a quick and simple project that would only get mentioned in one post, but it keeps not turning out quite to my liking. I bought some more felt and remade one Wise Man, but he still ended up just looking more like a tanned white man and making everyone else look very pale--like Irish pale--so now I want to buy a darker brown felt and change the hands and face on another of the Wise Men to make him black. I'm even considering changing everyone's hands and faces to the tan color so they won't look so pale. I know I'm overthinking this, but that's who I am. I do like how the new Wise Man turned out in general, though.

And sticking with projects I've already posted about for a moment, I found some fabric at JoAnn that should work for Batgirl. It is a poly/rayon/spandex blend and a very thick sport knit. It is black on one side and grey on the other, and we intend to dye it to make the grey side bluish or purplish-grey.

This is not true to color. The grey is darker than this, and the other side really is black.
I also got my order, and two of the items were for the Mary Poppins ballet costume. I bought beading lace, and I will thread red ribbon through it to go at the neck and wrists, and I will probably cut it in half for the top edge of the collar and the edges of the jabot. I know I was planning to use the lace from the wedding dress for the collar and jabot, but I have 200 yards of this beading lace now, so the different spots that need lace might as well match. I can use that other lace on another project in the future.

I bought sew-on Venice lace butterfly appliques to scatter on the chiffon of the blouse and the top of the tutu. I believe the embroidery or appliques on the original dress were flowers, but to get quality appliques of an appropriate size, butterflies were what I could get enough of for a good price, and they are still very much in keeping with the look of the original.

And I bought pink shank buttons for gaiters that will go over the pink point shoes.
This is not quite true to color, but it is close.

One of the other items that came from Cheeptrims this week was a beaded trim I was planning to use on a new Civil War ballgown, but Cheeptrims has finally disappointed me. I like the trim overall, but the teardrop beads have obvious seams and flat spots--I could live with the fact that they are plastic if it weren't for that--so the only way I'm using this trim on anything other than a kid's costume is if I replace those beads with something of higher quality. And I have not decided if I'm that crazy yet.

This Civil War ballgown is not in the works yet. I will be making it down the road, but I already have the fabric, and I will also be using the wide lace from the wedding dress for it. I intend to use the lace on the skirt and as the bertha (the decoration on the neckline).

This is actually pretty true to color, and the lace is about 6" wide.
My plan for the design is a mix of the two blue dresses in this picture, although mainly the one in the foreground. I do want the ruffle on the skirt to follow a scalloped pattern, but not such an exaggerated one.

I apologize for not knowing the origin of this photo.
Another future project is the pepakura sci-fi armor my husband is making for me. It's from Halo, which I don't play, but I do love sci-fi armor, and this particular armor looks both cool and believable. Jon is currently working on cutting out and gluing together the many tiny pieces of paper. This costume will be for next year at the soonest because it is going to take a really long time.

The bottom half of the helmet.

I think it's a little too big for Sal.
And finally, a more current (and more simple) project. I'm working on a new skirt for myself out of leftover fabric from a dress I made for one of my nieces several years ago and lace from one of my past Cheeptrims orders...and the zipper out of the wedding dress. It's a simple six-panel flared skirt.

I'm not sure whether to place the lace like this...

...or like this.
I'm using this pattern that my mother gave me a few years ago. I'm making the shorter version and shortening it a bit more to bring it closer to the knee. I think it will be a really awkward length with the lace if the skirt itself is much below the knee.
Hopefully, this week I'll finish the skirt and make some progress on the Mary Poppins costume.