Monday, March 12, 2012

Baby Cthulu

So after I did some collar extenders for the Children's Choir, I decided to do something for a friend of mine. She got married a few years ago, and she and her husband had a son this past summer. This is generally a Good Thing. I made a little sailor outfit for him at the time, which is about all I could think of making for him (I can think of tons of ideas for little girl outfits). This past December, a different friend of mine had a daughter. She and her husband are gamers, so I figured I'd try making a little Cthulu outfit in pink fleece. I figure that babies are generally mind-alteringly cute, tend to ooze slime, and make lots of noise and mess. Kinda like Cthulu, only Cthulu's not terribly cute. So I thought, hey, I could do another one of those in green fleece for a boy...
I used two different patterns, modifying them a little as I went along.
I made the bonnet without a brim, but I made a ruched overlay in sparkle organza for the top of the head, and sewed it down in a sort of ribbed pattern with trim. I painted red catseyes on the brim with some shiny fabric paint.
The bodysuit is pretty much to the pattern, but the cuffs, collar, tab and soles of the feet are in a slightly lighter color green than the body. I made little claws out of a slinky gold knit fabric. I cut a long narrow strip, turned down one edge, then folded it in thirds lengthwise. I then folded little triangles out of this and basted them to the soles of the feet before I sewed them in. I did the claws on the mittens in the same manner.
I made the wing form out of heavy craft-weight interfacing, stiffened at the top with sew-thru plastic boning, with a bit of the same for ribs. I covered it with the fleece and attached it to the back of the bodysuit with velcro, to keep it a bit more manageable. I put the loop side on the body and the hook side on the wings.
I wanted tentacles, but again, wanted them manageable. So, I sewed fleece tubes to a bib. Hopefully, this will help them clean the individual components when they get slimey. :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

1912 Project Challenge Pattern: Princess Slip

I was so excited to get my first pattern for the 1912 project. I had been waiting a month for the first one to come, so when I got word that we could do the challenge pattern, I jumped at the chance. I printed out the instructions, read them, and then promptly skipped the part where it says to print out the scale box page first and make sure the printer is printing it at the right size. I got right down to printing out the whole pattern and then spent upwards of 2 hours taping and cutting out pattern pieces. Then I measured the scale box:
It was 5 5/8 inches on a side. If it's supposed to be 6 inches on a side, this is not good. The printer had rescaled the pattern so that I lost 1/16 " for every inch shown. While this may not sound like much by itself, it adds up. I calculated that I was missing about 2 3/4 inches in height and almost 3 inches from the girth, measured at the bottom of the hem. So, I spent another 2 hours trying to split out the pattern and add to it without having to reprint the whole thing. Lesson: do the practice thing first. Yes, I could have simply reprinted the entire thing after checking to see if it was the right scale, but since I had already used so much paper, I figured that I should just suck it up and do the split-and-tape thing. And I know that the scale won't be quite right after I've finished, but I'd have had to scale it up to fit me anyway.
I'll need some time to make the actual one, which I don't have. I do want to do this in the future, and I have a little over 3 yards of 100% cotton Italian batiste that was quite expensive but will make a lovely slip, and I still have some lovely Thai silk for the ruffle, and I don't want to mess them up. So, I will content myself with making a mockup of the main body and focus on finishing the neck and armholes nicely, and figure out how I want to pleat the ruffle. I bought some white muslin for $.99/yd the other day, which will do nicely. I also want some time to find a nice insertion lace I like, preferably vintage, but it could be simply vintage-looking.
Sew the front panel to the side front panels, and the back panels to the side back panels. Sew the side seams together. The shoulder seams will need to be clean finished on the inside: this means sewing some sort of french or flat-fell seam, or otherwise binding over the raw edges. Not going to bother with that now.
Stay stitch corner 34 on both back pieces I had been thinking of how to work the back closure. I cut the placket off the body right side, leaving a 3/8 inch seam allowance. I then traced out facings for each side, a total of 2 inches wide (which includes seam allowance). Fold under the seam allowance that will point toward the side seams, stitch the facings onto the back pieces (right sides together), then edgestitch the other edge of the plackets down.
Stitch the back seam from point 34 to point 35, then lap the right side over the left side and topstitch the bottom edge of the placket to the underside of the body. Not sure whether to use hooks-and-eyes or buttons on the placket. Buttonholes can be done on the machine at the moment, so I will do that, about every 2.5 inches. Buttons are also slightly more secure in my book.
I used commercial bias binding in a hideous color that came from an estate sale to bind the neck and armhole edges, before sewing the side seams. For the actual garment I will cut bias from the body material and stretch-and-press before I apply it.
I've tried it on for a picture. I'm wearing an old sports bra under the chemise, then some bloomers I made for a civil war era dress. Over that I have the corset I made for use in the project. My wonderful husband has laced me in and buttoned up the back, and took some pictures.
I'm sure I made it too big, as it gapes at the neck and falls off my shoulders. I'll probably end up taking 1.5 inches out of the front, and the same out of the center back. I'm not sure I like the idea of the side-front seams moving so far out, though. I think I want the seams to fall over the points of my hip bones, so I have marked them on the slip. I may just want to live with it for a few weeks and see how I feel. I may end up doing nothing at all.
The size of the armscye was a little close, but not uncomfortable, therefore I don't want to take the shoulders up. When I'm wearing the slip, it is about 14 inches from the stitch line at the bottom to 1" above the floor, where I would want the hem of the pleats to sit, depending on the intended finished length of the dress over it. If I take out the proposed amount from the width of the slip, it should take up enough of the excess ease in the body to keep the slip from being bulky. Let's face it: the corset keeps you from moving naturally anyway, so having lots of ease in the slip is not necessary, and could look very bulky under the finished dress, depending on what it is. The slip would still have some ease, just less than it has now. The instructions call for making the accordian-pleated ruffle out of strips of fabric, and specifies size the strips should be. When I make the actual slip I will measure the hem and then put in an accordian pleat (or maybe a box pleat?) in something like a 3:1 ratio. I don't like the idea of simply cutting strips without measuring my hemline first. I might end up short, and then where would I be?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pre-1912 project corset

Well, I've signed up for the 1912 project. Read about it here if you don't know what I'm talking about. We're still in the process of digitizing patterns and assigning groups, so I don't have a pattern to work on yet, but since it's me and I'm just like that, I figured that if a pattern does come my way that particularly interests me and needs to be turned into something for my regular wardrobe, I should have the proper undergarments to go with, especially since the proper shoes are on order ( This is all hypothetical at this point, but apparently some little part of my brain wants me to make another corset because it wants to get me into trouble. Ok.
So, several people in the 1912 project group are working on making this corset: which is based on an existing garment from around that time, and downloading a pdf of the pattern is free. Thank you to the kind soul who did such a wonderful job transcribing it and writing clear directions. Also, free is excellent. When I made my last corset, I ordered an extra yard of coutil and cut carefully, so I had plenty leftover for another project. I also had some 1/4" steel boning leftover from when I thought it would be great for boning the farthingale and wasn't. I went down to the local fabric store for some cotton twill tape and some pretty lace, and ordered a busk, four 1/2" bones and a 00 grommet setting kit as listed in the corset instructions' site. I also had some extra-wide double fold bias tape on hand to bind the top and bottom edges of the corset, and I have hooks-and-eyes and thread.
I printed out the pdf and enlarged it as advised, and then reduced the waist size by 1.5" for lacing in. I figured I was going to be a bit short on twill tape, which I was, but used what I had to make the waist stay and channels for the wider bones before I ran out. For the rest of the boning channels I used the covering that comes with plastic boning, since I had several long pieces of that laying around. Then it was time to cut bones.
There was pain. And blood.
I couldn't find my bolt cutters. The best I could do was score a line on the bone, snap it off, and then nip around the corners with another tool. As you can imagine, when I snapped one of the bones to length it got away from me and bit my finger. Not too bad, but it makes me wish I had worn gloves. Also, trying to squeeze the nippers really hard hurt my hand after a while. Again, not too bad, but let that be a lesson to us all: use the right tools, and wear protective equipment. To add insult to injury, I didn't have enough bone. After I was done measuring and marking twice, I figured out I was going to end up with two leftover pieces about 4 inches each and short one 10.5" bone. And, of course, the other bones and busk had already shown up. Had I figured this out beforehand, I would of course have simply ordered the missing bone and been done with it. Ah well.
I had run out of Plasti-dip after my last boning project and had to find some more. My husband had a spray-on version of the same stuff in the garage, but I found it unsuitable for this project. I needed a fairly thick, not too drippy substance that would leave a good coating on the end of the bones to protect the raw edge from moisture, and protect me from the raw edge. The spray-on version has to be very thin to be able to come out of the can. It probably needs at least 4 coats to get to the thickness I need, and the thinners make it unnervingly smelly. Since it's cold and I can't spray this outside without wondering if it will freeze before it sets, I decided a trip to the hardware store was in order. The hardware store only had Plasti-dip in black (I wanted white), but they did have a small bottle of white vinyl coating used to repair cracks on the finish of dishwasher racks. It comes in a bottle about the size of a bottle of white-out, costs about $7, has a brush on tip, comes in white and stinks like crazy, but if it's good enough for the inside of a dishwasher it's probably good enough for corset bones. I dipped the ends of the bones strait into the open bottle and went back the next morning to touch up any rough ends. Overall, this seemed to work well.
A friend from my summer job at the local theater had some spare corset bones. She says she orders them in long lengths a gross at a time and cuts them as needed. Anyway, I traded her a chocolate covered strawberry for a pair of bones, cut one down and retipped it, then stuck it in the corset.
I bound the top and bottom edges of the corset with wide double fold bias tape, since I had a lot of it hanging around. I then sewed some lace trim to the top (got a yard at the local fabric store--nothing particularly special about it).
I need a longer pair of laces; I had a pair of 63" laces in white, and a pair of shorter ones in black. I had to use one pair on top, and one on bottom. I need to scope out the local sports stores for skate laces. In the mean time, this solution seems to work, though the black ones might look funny under a white dress.
I have two pairs of garters that were in my great aunt's sewing basket. They should do the trick, except the ball tab on one pair is very fragile. Trying to decide what to do about that. I have not attached them, nor have I put on the hooks and eyes as specified in the instructions, but these are not huge details, and I do not even have an event or a dress in mind yet. Overall I'm happy with how it turned out, though if I made myself another one, I might consider taking out a bit more, as I can almost get the laces to touch in the back, as well as the possibility of putting a lacing next to the busk so I can get in and out of it more easily.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Another halter dress...

Well, it's finished. Just waiting on an address to send it to...
I think it came out quite well. The waist measurement I was given was on the short side, and I was hesitant about shortening the bodice, but I think in the end it will fit her better, and it looks good. I also shortened the skirt about 2 inches from the original pattern to keep it proportional.
I took these photos at about 2 in the afternoon, so the colors are much better than the other pics I got.
Great, now I want to do the wedding version of this I've had stuck in my head for years. Well, at least I've got fabric for that lying around. One of these days...
1/18/12 update: Well, she's gotten it and apparently likes it. It's always such a relief to get a good comment after making something for someone, sight unseen. I learned while working at the high school to trust the tape measure, but there's always an uncertain element when someone else is handling it. Kinda like buying clothes online... you've got the pics, the numbers, the factual data, but there's nothing like seeing the item in person. Or the person in the item. :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Stuff so far this year.

Ok, so I haven't been working solely on Leslie's dress since Christmas. I had a couple of things in my head since the summer, and some new ones, and I just had to get them out.
This one is actually a Etsy order. Not quite finished yet; I'm not happy with how low the waist sits, I need to put in the hem and the zipper, I need to remake the belt, and then make the jacket. The color is off in these pics. I took them at night, in my dining room, which tends to make things look yellow-ish. Be assured, the dress is a medium dusty blue with a white cherry blossom print:
This is a shirt for Froggi, if I can ever get it to her. I found two little remnants from a dress I made her a while back, and decided it would make a nice little shirt.
This little dress was made from a $2 remnant I found in the fabric store. I sewed it in a fit of pink for a friend who just had a baby. Now if I can get in contact with her I can get it to her. Also, this badly positioned retro apron out of the same remnant:
I also knitted a pair of socks this past week for a different friend who gave me 6 balls of sock yarn, and made myself a blue-with-white-polka-dot skirt I had meant to make myself this summer. These are all fairly quick little projects, and I felt I had to get them out of my system. Especially that pink dress. Honestly, I'm not sure what came over me there.
Upcoming: Leslie's dress. I want it wearable by the time she comes back in early April, maybe to the point where I can just sew up the side seams and put the zipper in. She also wants a jacket to go with it. She likes the one Elizabeth wears toward the end of Pride and Predjudice (with Colin Firth), when Elizabeth and Lady Catherine are having a heated row in the garden. It's a lovely simple green velvet thing with a little stand-up collar. Go watch it. Now.
I have recently gotten involved with The 1912 Project with the Vintage Pattern Library Sounds like fun; I can only hope I will have the time every month to dedicate to at least making a mockup of the patterns I get.
Depending if they send me a nifty dress pattern I'd like to make up for myself, I may also have to make an appropriate corset. There's a pdf here that some kind, generous and industrious soul has taken a lot of time to prepare:
And if my husband reads my blog, if he buys himself the wide-angle camera lense, he might consider getting me the Astoria shoes from to go with everything, when they become available. Size 8 dear.
And yes, I ordered his kilt fabric, so I will make him his kilt, using the kilt instructions in The Art of Kiltmaking, Tewksbury/Stuemeyer, put out by Celtic Dragon Press.
Steph also mentioned that one or two of the girls in her Highland dance class need kilts, jackets, vests or other bits, so I may have my work cut out for me.
I have wool enough for 3 or 4 Kinsale cloaks and enough lining for 2 or 3, so I'd like to make a few more of those this year.
Then there's Ren Faire to think about. I have my big green dress, of course, but it's Elizabethan rather than Tudor, so if I wanted to be a noble I'd have to at least remake the bodice. I may be able to get away with the same skirt if I end up doing it, as well as the French hood, but I'd leave the ruffs at home and redo the partelette.
I need to come up with a solution for the skinny shirt collars for St. Louis Children's Choir (I've been sewing vests for them for the past two years: ) We've tried the metal extender buttons available at local fabric shops, but the kids tell us the springs are too hard and unforgiving on them. It must be simple and quick, so the parents and choir directors can put them in when needed. The solution probably involves a wide poplin covered elastic and several buttons. Also, as children seem to keep growing, I'm probably going to make them some more vests. Vests are easy, as long as I don't run out of interfacing.
In the back of my head I think about making a Dr. Who costume of some sort, but I can never settle on just one, so that's not a likelyhood.
Right. So that's the bucket list for this year, subject to change at any time for no apparent reason.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Leslie's dress, continued...

I have seen Leslie twice now, and have a pretty good idea of what I need to do. There were several problems with the mockup that were evident the first time she tried it on; The bodice front as draped may have looked good on the padded dummy, but not so good in person. On person. Whatever. Also, she has been going to the gym; in general this is good (less fabric needed to go around a smaller person, better lines, etc), but it does mean that the old measurements and the padding on the dressform are moot. I had put in side bust darts, as well as two underbust darts at each side, which had worked on the dressform, but looked very strange indeed when we put the mockup on her. The mock was longer-waisted than it needed to be, and I had added so much for hem allowance that it was weighing the dress down and being generally distracting. So, I took the muslin home, pulled the zipper and side seams out, pulled the bodice off and picked out the bust darts. I interfaced one layer of the bodice front to help keep it from stretching. I put one of the underbust darts in on each side, and then reattached the bodice to the skirt along the appropriate lines, front and back. I pinned in the other underbust dart and carried it along into the skirt. I left the side seams open to help with fitting. I also cut off about 3 extra inches of hem allowance.

In general I was able to move the pins around enough to make the mock fit. The only other thing I need to do is raise the back neckline about 1 inch; I thought when I made the muslin that it would hit just at the base of the back of the neck, but it seems to ride low. The front of the skirt is also a bit wide, so I need to narrow it to make it look a bit sleeker. We're not going to do the apron, or the pleated waistline trim; she suggested a line of piping there instead. I also need to take a look at the 6 hour Pride and Predjudice so I can drape a spencer. I think the waist on this dress is lower than the ones in the movie, but I think it might be adaptable with a little finagling.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A dress for Leslie

Hope Leslie's friend doesn't mind me showing these pics; they are the only shots I have of the original dress in detail. Wherever you are, thanks!
My friend Leslie is getting married. This is generally a good thing. I like to see people happy, especially friends. She wants me to make her wedding dress. I am generally ok with this. She's got one picked out that she likes, modeled after a traditional German dirndl (hope I'm spelling that right). The lines are good, a basic simple design. The bodice is fitted with straps over the shoulders that go up to a high neckline in back. The skirt is a fairly simple A-line, with a long godet inserted into the back seam. The thing that makes it especially charming is all the trim on the bodice, straps and around the back of the neck. It kinda looks like frosting at first glance. When you take a good look at it, it seems to be several lines of pleated or manipulated china silk, or possibly organza, with a few other pieces interspersed.
Good points: the dress is a simple design, only requiring a simply draped skirt and some strategicly placed darts in the bodice.
We don't have to replicate the original in every perfect detail; I want it to be clean and elegant like the original, but I have some leeway.
Challenges: Leslie is in Germany, which makes fittings difficult. I have taken measurements and altered my dress form appropriately. I hope that's enough.
The chosen fabric is a silk dupioni with only a little texture, in a slight winter-white color. It should look lovely on her, but it is proving slightly difficult to obtain in this area. She brought me a swatch from one local store that looked good, but she was told that if she wanted to purchase any of the plain silk fabric, she would have to purchase at least half a yard of an embellished dupioni which retails at about $100/ yard. We both though this a bit silly, since neither of us would have use for it, and I don't want to purchase something that expensive on speculation.
Some of the trims look easy to fabricate, some of them I can't figure out just yet. I have some ideas and some leftover scraps of poly-organza to practice with. Let's hope I get it right.
I have constructed a muslin mock-up of the basic dress. The bodice is fully lined in muslin, the back has piping inserted in the fiddle-back seams, the straps are attached at the front with safety pins, the hem is pinned up, and I even put a zipper in so it will be easy to try on. I'm mostly looking to see if I got the size right, and that the style is basically what she wants. I know there are a few things I want to change: I made the straps a little too wide; I want to reposition the bust darts toward the center so they run in more or less a strait line down to the waist seam, making the darts slightly more separated at their bases; I want to reposition the front skirt darts so they start where the outside bust darts end, but the end of the dart will be in the same place; I want to respace the back darts so they are centered in the back panels; and I want to remove some of the back fullness, probably out of the godet side of the back panels. I had originally draped that seam at an angle, but I cut the mockup on the strait, so it ended up a bit full. I think it would make the back a little cleaner.
The original dress fabric is a bridal dupioni silk. From the picture, I can see it is mostly smooth with just a few little slubs that give it a slight texture. It is almost as smooth as a taffeta, but not quite. This texture is harder to come by in this area. I found some dupioni silk at Joann fabrics, originally priced at almost $25/yard. Fortunately, I had a coupon. I got 5.875 yards, and it is 60" wide, so I'll have plenty. The mockup only took 5 yards of 45" wide muslin, but I'd like some extra just in case. The only drawback is that it is paler white than the swatch Leslie found. The texture is right, though. I bought it anyway, and have kept it in its plastic bag. If I don't mess the fabric up and she doesn't end up liking it, I can take it back.
The trims have been the latest challenge. The bodice has 8 lines of trim, 5 of which are created from pleated or manipulated tubes of fabric. I have figured out the first one, I think. I made a china silk tube, flattened out to one inch wide, and marked its length with one inch intervals. I drew the line of application on the bodice, marking it with .25 inch intervals. I then stiched the tube down to the bodice, inch by inch, forming soft knife pleats at a 4:1 pleat ratio. To stitch the pleats together, sew the center points of 4 adjacent pleats together. Then circle-sew the corners of pleats 4 and 1 together to form the clover shape.
The third trim from the bottom is a 1" wide tube that has been box pleated and tacked down to the bodice, then the centers of the box pleats are tacked together. I saw this done in a Vogue pattern I have, so this was easy to figure out.
We will not be using the traditional apron with this dress, so the waistline trim that hides its attachment will not be necessary.
More updates after I talk with Leslie...