Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Upcoming sewing plans

My students started blogging as part of their English Language Arts class, so I decided to share my existing (albeit sorely neglected) blog with them. So now I have to write more often than... Um... Every two to three years, I guess. I make no promises for any sort of regular posting on my part- I'm well aware of my flightiness when it comes to doing regular tasks. But I will try to post more of my projects, cause I do make quite a lot of things. I'm thinking about maybe writing up some non-sewing projects from time to time as well. Hope that doesn't enrage anyone to the point of rage-quitting the internet.

So! Upcoming stuff!

My school is putting on a medieval Faire, so of course, my crazy reenactor co-worker and I have gone insane with plans for costuming. He's making stuff that I can't remember, pronounce, or spell, so I'm not even going to bother talking about all of his gear. I know it's going to be awesome though and I'll link to his blog later. Whatever.

I'm going to be making a cotehardie!!! Last year I was reading Koshka the Cat's blog and saw her amazing cotehardie and decided that I needed to make one too. Koshka the Cat's cotehardie pictures I'm using her post about its construction to do it and I'm hoping to get started any day now. (Cotehardie Construction post )I'm going to handsew the whole thing because I'm an idiot. And insane. I don't care though, because it's going to be EPIC AND AMAZING and I will be the envy of all cotehardie wearers. All 12 of them. (Kidding.... I know there are more out there!) I will need to get this done by the end of May which is a lot sooner than I realized...


I need to outdo myself this year. Last year's Gala dress was pretty epic. I did end up bead the crap out of it and was working on it through a pretty insane simultaneous sinus/kidney infection that knocked me on my butt for about 2 weeks last summer. Beading while having a fever of 103 degrees is not a recommended activity.

So.... How can I outdo hand beading a dress with about 300 beads? I know! Hand crocheted lace trim! Ooh! How about 66 feet of hand crocheted trim? Yeah. I have problems.... I know. So I've started that already. I'm mainly crocheting in meetings right now, since I have a metric ton of them. Thank goodness my co-workers are cool with me doing that while I listen!

The plan for the Gala dress is a fairly plain white dress with a four tiered ruffled skirt with lace trim on each ruffle. This was supposed to be my April Gaskells dress, but I slacked off and started it too late to finish it on time. I did make a Snow White dress instead though, so that was cool!

I still need to make a Victorian bathing suit, something for the Ice Cream Social at Costume College, and I would really love to make a corset for Sunday Undies (where everyone wears period undergarments... Unlike modern undergarments, period undergarments covered most of the body.) Also, there is another ball in July that I'm planning on going to, so I should probably make something for that as well.

I'm having some issues posting pictures from my ipad, but I will fix that as soon as I can, so you can see some of the stuff I've got planned and have done.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hopeless Romantics Dress Challenge

If you live in the Bay Area and are a dancer, you probably know about Gaskells. In 2012, a group of costumers decided to see how many people would be interested in making a 1910s dress for the April Gaskells, since there was a PEERS Titanic Ball earlier in the month for the 100 year anniversary of the sinking. I made this dress.

Worn originally in 2012, but this photo is from 2014.
Photo credit: Christopher Erickson

The next years' challenge was a Gibson Girl dress, which I had planned to participate in, but was unable to due to my cat passing away during the time I had set aside to work on it. I was too sad to sew. 

This years' challenge was an 1830's dress, based on the Truly Victorian pattern TV455 (1830s Romantic Era Dress). I planned to make this dress during my Spring Break, since I'm a teacher and don't have a lot of free time otherwise.

I'm not going to go into too much detail on the initial construction of the dress, as that part went pretty much according to the pattern instructions. I wanted to do something different for this dress; something really complicated and unique. I thought back to something I had seen on my friend Emily's dress at the December Gaskells. 

Emily's skirt with amazing triangle-y things, AKA my inspiration.
I decided to do this pattern on the sleeves. Originally, I planned to do it across the entire sleeve, but my first attempt showed me that I needed to do some more planning before I blindly dove into things.

Sleeve mockup: 1st attempt at triangle-y bits
 One of the things that I was noticing was that the triangle-y bits (Which are more diamond shaped, I suppose, but I like typing "triangle-y" better than diamond.) were in straight lines and weren't really following the curve of the sleeve. Furthermore, the sleeve's size was being greatly reduced by this method, and the 1830s were ALL about ginormous sleeves. I took a poll online and my friend, Jennifer suggested that I do some smocking on the fabric first and then cut out the smocked fabric. For those that, like I did, have no idea what she was referring to, here's an explanation: smocking means that you do some sort of gathering pattern on the fabric before you do the construction. I looked it up on Wikipedia to get a better understanding: Jennifer suggested that I start with a 10 x 10 piece of fabric, smock it, and then see by how much it shrunk down. I laid out a grid first.

Straight grid that I didn't end up using.

But then realized that the pattern was actually circular, so I redesigned the grid to be radial instead.

Radial grid for practicing smocking

The plan was to sew together every other junction along a circle. The next outer circle would be the same, but shifted over so that the junctions that had been skipped over would be sewn together instead. (I have no idea if that makes sense, but you can see a visual of this on my actual sleeve design.)

Side view of the radial grid all smocked up

Front view of the radial grid all smocked up.
 It seemed to work pretty well, so I decided to go for it. I decided to only do three rows of stitches on the arm cuff and at the shoulder. When I re-cut out the pattern, I realized that I was going to have to make some changes to my radial grid because the point where all of the lines needed to radiate out from was not in the center of the circle. I began by dividing the center circle into 16ths in red pen. I measured these out by dividing the center circle into inch long intervals and then drawing the lines out from those marks. (This works if your arm is 16" around.) Then I divided each red pen section in half with green pen, then each green pen section in half by turquoise pen, then each turquoise pen section in half by blue pen. (Can you tell that I like color coding things?) The colors made it easier to see where I was on the pattern when I was sewing and made it easier to fit the sleeve into the armscye.

So. Many. Lines.
 Next I needed to draw the circles. I thought really hard about this and decided that the first circle at the shoulder and at the cuff should be 1/2" from the edge of the fabric. Then I decided that the other tow should actually be ellipses and go from 1/2" to 1" away from the previous circle. I did this so that the pattern would be longer at the biggest part of the sleeve and so it would be more visible. The red lines really helped with this, since I had 16 of them. I started at the mid point under the arm and then measured each red line, adding 1/32 of an inch each time until I got to the opposite side (the shoulder), where it then measured 1". Then I sketched in the circle. I probably could have done more measuring on the other lines, but I'm pretty good at drafting curves, so I didn't bother.  I did this for all of the circles.
Then I sorta felt like calling up each of my math students who complained about fractions and wondered where they would ever use this stuff in real life and telling them about this project, but I resisted.

Circles, ellipses, and lines- Oh my!

With the arm hole cut out. Plus bonus kitty toes!
I marked on the circles and ellipses where I would be putting in my stitches. If you were confused by my earlier explanation, check out the photo below and look for the black marks on the grid. Those were my stitch markers. I did every other line close to the parts that would go under my arm and then switched to every line about 3/16s away from the midpoint under the arm. I honestly eyeballed this part so that the triangle-y bits wouldn't look weirdly far apart or too close.
Up close view of the lines. This part eventually would go under the arm.

More up close view of the lines. This part eventually would go on the outside of the arm.
 I decided that in the interest of time, I would not do a mockup of this sleeve pattern and I would just run with what I had in my head. So I flatlined the silk onto the muslin (with the lines, circles, and ellipses facing up so I could still see them) and started smocking away. Each pinched together spot needed to be hand sewed and there were probably a kajillion of them on each sleeve. The first circle went great. When I started on the second circle, I began to see some problems. The triangle-y things weren't looking so triangle-y, but more like slanted lines. It was a cool look, but not what I was going for, so I abandoned my black marks (mostly) and did my pinches by eyeballing them. I continued to use the circles and the ellipses to keep the stitches in line with each other and to get that gradual increase in triangle-y shaped size.

Detail of the triangle-y bits.

The sleeve after the 2nd row of stitches. Bonus picture of me marathoning House.
I made it through all 8 seasons while making this dress.
 After I did the shoulder part of the sleeve, I did the cuff. The cuff was trickier, because the gathers were closer together. I wasn't sure that I liked it as much and I worried (unnecessarily) that it would be too small for my arm.

Finished sleeve before cartridge pleating it.
With the sleeve all smocked, what was I to do next with it? Put it on my kitten, of course!

Calliope wearing her new fashionable cat cozy. She's very tolerant of my weirdness.
 And this project wouldn't be complete without me getting to wear my sleeve as a hat.
This will be all the rage next year, trust me.
 After being silly, I started cartridge pleating the shoulder part of the sleeve. I ran the thread through the center of the pinched together part about 1/4th of an inch above the outer circle. Then I pinched the part in-between each stitch together and ran the thread through that part too. I wish I had taken a picture of that, since it's super difficult to say in words, and in concept is extremely easy. For the cuff, I simply pressed the gathers flat and sewed on a thin armband around them. I put some beaded trim on as well that I had laying about.

Up close view of the shoulder.

Up close view of the cuff.

Both sleeves on.
I later stuffed them full of poly-fil to help them maintain their shape.
 Once I had my sleeves on, I started thinking about the skirt. I wanted to showcase the triangle-y bits and in a fit of insanity, decided that I should do the same pattern on the skirt.  I drew in straight lines for this on the lining, which I neglected to photograph and made each junction 2" apart. Then I went along the first horizontal line and sewed together every other junction, making each triangle-y bit 2" deep. Then I cartridge pleated the skirt and handsewed it into the bodice. Then I put the dress onto my dress form and started pinching out the triangle-y bits by hand. I wanted them to drape a certain way, so I ignored my drawn lines. I pinned each place that I would later sew together.

Detail of the skirt triangle-bits.

I decided to have three rows below the edge of the bodice.
Because of the first row that was hidden by the edge of the bodice,
there are actually four rows of stitches on the skirt.

I was a bit concerned that the triangle-y bits would look sloppy,
but they sorted themselves out as I sewed them in place.
 I finished up the dress *just* in time for the dance! I had started it on Saturday, April 19th and finished it Saturday, April 26th. I was really pleased with how it came out.

Photo credit: Monica Lenk
The next morning, I made a few minor changes to the dress: I hemmed it up about 4 more inches and added some proper back closures. I have to say that I am more proud of this dress than any other I have made so far. I feel like I proved to myself that I am up to the challenge of doing intricate, hand-sewn decorations. I'm thinking of later beading each stitch that I did (except under the arm) because I'm a glutton for punishment and prettiness. I also would like to do some sort of triangle-y trim on the skirt to cover where I sewed the hem.

View of the back

Finished dress!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Turkish Pants, Attempt #2

So even though I screwed up on my Turkish Pants, I still really liked them.  I wore them around my apartment for a little bit and decided that they were pretty awesome.  There was only one problem: They were made of polyester, which is not ideal for million degree heat.  (That is what I estimate Burning Man will be.  I might be off a bit.)  I was unsure of what to do about this, because these pants were meant to be day-wear, or at least were meant to be capable of being day-wear, should I wish to wear them at that time.  I let that thought roll around in the back of my head for a few days.

After a few days of thought, I went to the South Bay to pick up my classroom key and my work laptop.  I work less than a mile away from Fabrics R Us, so I paid them a little visit.  I got some really neat stuff.

The green flowers didn't come with the hat attached.  I put them there.  

I decided to use the loosely woven black and white material to make some new Turkish pants. (no idea what it is... Fabrics R Us labels nothing, including many prices.  It was in the back of the store near the suiting materials.)   I had other plans for the weird pink material and the flowers.  

This time, I sat down and really looked at my original pants (the ones that I didn't make).  

I noticed that the stripes changed directions, which made drafting out the swoop pattern that I wanted to make (the part I would cut out of the rectangle) a lot easier.  I also noticed that the back (the seat) of the pants was longer than the front by about 4 inches.  So, I counted out the stripes that didn't go all the way down the pants and measured that out onto a piece of paper.  Then I checked to see where the curve first started and where the curve got more dramatic.  I drafted this onto a piece of paper (with notes to myself about what it was when I found it in my pattern box a few months from now.  Did I mention my terrible memory?)

The next part was pretty easy.  I cut out the same amount of fabric that I did before, in big rectangle shapes, which I folded in half.  (You can read the measurements in the above picture, if you'd like to give it a shot yourself.  Bear in mind that I am 5'4" tall and have rather long legs.)  This time, I measured 4 inches down on the half of the rectangle that I designated as the front of the pant leg.  Then I drew out the swoop shape, starting 4 inches down from the top of the fabric.  Then I cut out the swoop.  Next I needed to angle the front of the pants (the waistline) down from the side, to that 4 inch mark.  I kinda did that by ear, folding it at an angle to the center of the pant leg, then cutting it.  (This is where I *wish* I had taken pictures!)  Anyways, I finished up the french seams and got elastic into the waistband and the ankles and voila!  They totally fit!  AND they feel exactly the same as my original pair!  

Yay pants done right this time!

Turkish Pretties

I'm going to Burning Man.  I'm totally freaking out about going to Burning Man:
1. Because it's my first time
2. Because I'm a teacher and I will be missing my first week of school (Ok, first 3 days, whatever!  It's still time away from my classroom and I'm a control freak in my classroom.)
3. Because I don't have anything to wear!

There's nothing to be done about the first problem, except go to Burning Man.  The second thing I'm sorta dealing with.  Ok, I'm actually procrastinating by solving the third problem.  I'm making all sorts of Things.

It all started with me going through my somewhat extensive costume closet.  For those of you who don't know me, I do vintage ballroom dancing and have quite a few ball gowns.  I also work at Dickens Faire, so I have some more Victorian things.  I also worked at Ren Faire, so I have all that stuff too.  Then... well, I have a lot of other stuff, cause I get excited about things pretty easily and NEED to have things like a Punjubi outfit.  And some saris... And some weird ex-costumes from various theater sales. And opera sales.  Ok.  I have a problem.  I'll admit it.  (But I'm not admitting to having a sock problem, Boyfriend.)

So right.  Going through my costume closet.... So I found my beautiful Turkish costume from Ren Faire.  I love this costume.  Mostly the bottom part.  The pants are the most comfortable pants I think I own.  The skirt is fantastic.  The two of them together are super cozy and gorgeous.  I totally wanted to take them, but I totally don't want to destroy them.  Huh.  What to do?  I know!  Venture into the glamourous world of pants-making!  How little I knew then.

So I go off to Joann's.  Alone.  This is a very dangerous thing for me to do.  Actually, I wasn't even there to buy fabric at all.  I went to buy my sister and her husband their first wedding anniversary present.  (The theme is paper, so I made them paper cutouts of themselves at their wedding and framed it.  It was pretty fun to make.)  I was getting ready to head up to the front when I saw It.  Linen and rayon mix.  Spring green.  I love linen.  I love 100% linen most, but I'm a teacher and that shit's expensive.  Anyways, I had to have it.  I decided to make a turkish skirt out the linen.  I looked around for some sort of stripy material, cause turkish pants should be stripy, in my opinion.  I found a pale green, stripy suiting material (100% polyester. Boo.)  I then looked around for some sort of fancy material that I could use as a thick hem for the skirt.  I found this beautiful brocade on sale that was red on one side and pale green on the other.  I decided to use the backside of the brocade and maybe roll up the red at the very bottom.  I was super excited to have all green clothes, since green is my favorite color.

I started with the pants.  I took out my turkish pants and somewhat carefully measured them.  I noted that there seemed to be something going on in the front of the pants, but I was being silly and ADD so I paid it very little mind.  I cut out two big rectangular pieces and sewed them together to make some pant-like things.  I even did french seams like my friend, Jessica taught me, so in case the fabric started to fray, nothing would fall onto the playa.  I felt that was in the spirit of things.  Then I put elastic into the waistband and the hems around the ankles.  Then I tried them on.  They fit.... like crap.  Absolute crap.  They were bunching up all weird and were super uncozy. They looked horrible!  Where had I gone wrong?!?  I got out my original pair of pants and looked more carefully at them and saw... damn.  There was something important going on in the front of the pants, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was.  I bitched about pants on the internet and one of my friends mentioned something about a "swoop" in the pants and how easy that was to mess up.  A swoop?  Oh. Oops.  That's what that was.  I improvised a "swoop" in the front of my new turkish pants and... it kinda worked.  The front looks a bit sloppy, but... not bad!  Anyways, who cares!  It's Burning Man!  Whatever!  Yeah... (The perfectionist inside me died a little, but I decided to let it be overdramatic and ignored it.)

So, onto the skirt!  This time I measured very carefully.  I had absolutely no problems with the skirt, but I did make a last minute decision and changed the direction that the brocade was facing.  I do wish that the linen was a little less stiff, but I think that's what happens when you are impatient and don't bother to wash your material before sewing it.  (Don't do what I do kids.  Do it right.)

Anyways, here are pictures.  I didn't think to take any pictures as I was working, because I'm forgetful. Please ignore the plastic bag on my dress form (Jane).  I'm working on another project which I will try to post about soon.

 Weird pants fix.  I decided not to undo the waistband and just sewed it in a weird, ugly sort of manner.

 The pants look super awkward on Jane.  They look much better on me.  Promise.

 Here's the pretty skirt!  It's wrinkly, because it's been in a pile of stuff that I've been making for about a week.

Pretty brocade!  The bottom hem is a bit more green than it appears.

Anyways, I'll try to post more stuff soon.  It's more fun than writing lesson plans!