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Costume College – Day 4 and the Fabric District

13 Jan

Sunday brought the last day of classes for Costume College. I got up rather early in the morning and made it down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast before they were open. I did not dress up for Sunday Undies as I deemed my morning as too busy to don a bustle and corset thru classes. I was joined for breakfast by a Seattle costumer I had met last year, Denise and had a very relaxing breakfast ogling everyone elses undergarments. After breakfast I rushed off to check out the Bargain Basement and claimed a few trinkets and fabric for future projects.

My first class of the day was Tasteful Tints and Textures presented by the ladies of Truly Victorian Patterns. I have come to love their patterns and was excited to hear what they had to say. The class was very informative about the “rules” of Victorian clothing and had a lot of detail(they should write a book!). My costumes are always a little bit to the left of historical accuracy so I didn’t go into it with any expectations. In some ways that can be the best way to learn. And boy did I! The history is fascinating. These ladies really know their stuff! I will definitely sit in on any future classes they teach.

After that I sat in on History of Corsets. Obviously I already have a pretty good understanding of corset history but I wanted to see if I could add anything to my prep for my Geek Girl Con corsetry panel (more on that in a future post). I actually learned a lot especially about pre-victorian corsetry. I haven’t done a lot of renaissance costuming so I got a lot of great info about that era and the beginnings of boned bodices.

The purple puff is the start of my chatelaine and the black flower is a kanzashi flower.

The purple puff is the start of my chatelaine and the black flower is a kanzashi flower.

The afternoon had two of my limited classes – Kanzashi Flowers and Ribbon Chatelaines. The Kanzashi flowers class was very fun, easy and a great way to spend a few hours and socialize with other people. I will certainly make more flowers in the future and they are easy enough that I dont think I will forget how. The Chatelaines class was less social but very interesting. I have always wanted a chateliane and was excited about having one without spending hundreds of dollars on a sterling one. Unfortunately I ended up leaving early because I started feeling terrible. I think it was a lack of sleep because I went back to my room and passed out for several hours. I figured staying in my room and resting was a good idea given the fabric district tour was the next day.


Vendor room gloves, trim, buttons and paint.

Now the fun part! Pictures of my treasures from the vendor room, bargain basement and the fabric district. The trip to and around the fabric district was fairly uneventful. I spend most of the day with Rebecca and occasionally with a few others I had met on the way. Its really nice to have a few people to follow around who know the area better. I went down with a little bit of a list and of course got a bunch of unexpected things.

In the Vendor room I got more fabulous metal buttons, a few bunches of random ribbon and trim, a nice pair of gloves suitable for Victorian and 20th century day wear and some shoe paint. I am excited to try the paint but of course need to find the right project.


Bargain basement trim, trinkets and buttons.

From the bargain basement I found a few trinkets, buttons, beads and ribbon as well two bundles of fabric. For the blue checks I have a 1940’s simple day dress in mind. The floral (I think its chintz but I am not very good with fabrics) I saw as a mid to late 18th century polonaise dress. I couldn’t pass it up. I think there are 8 yards of it and I ended up paying about $1 a yard. I need to do more research since 18th century is not my era.


Bargain basement fabrics. Is that chintz?more research on that one. Its not generally my era but I have definitely been inspired recently by other costumers.


My fabric district haul.


The silk haul

This year I had the fore thought to bring half loaded suitcases down to LA with me knowing a I would need the room after I hit up the fabric district. And I was right. I went with a short list including more black and chartreuse silk. They were out of the taffeta of the chartreuse but had the dupioni, so another 10 yards of silk came home. I also brought home a yard each of purple silk velvet and purple charmeuse.


Pewter and white cotton

I did come home with a few practical pieces. I found a yard of pewter cotton satin for lining whatever I make out of that pewter silk I got earlier in the year. I bought I think 10 yards of a light weight white cotton for $1 a yard to use for mock ups. I also found the quilting fabric I used for my tree skirt and Christmas stockings (the skulls and roses). I can find it locally but way more expensive.


Green and black wool. Its much darker in person


Umbridge silk

My impulse buys are a little more random. I had a vague idea for a German renaissance costume and founds some light weight hunter green wool for a decent price and bought 5 yards (hopefully its enough). I also fell in love with some pink silk suiting. Rebecca came up with an idea to do bustle gowns for the Harry Potter teachers and I quickly claimed Umbridge. The silk suiting really says Umbridge to me. Sadly there are less than 3 yards. Not sure how I am going to make it work yet. I also found the pink plaid as a back up for Umbridge in case I cant find something better. It might also become a 40’s dress.


The cottons: Umbridge plaid, Christmas quilting fabric and swiss dot for a regency dress.

I also found some black Swiss dot which I absolutely love. I have been wanting to make another Regency dress but not white. It seemed the Swiss dot would be perfect and not scream mourning dress. Very excited for this project.


The fabric district trim. Its amazing how cheep trim is down there.

I bought some beautiful black trim that I just couldn’t resist. I ended up getting 23 yards for $20 cash which was a way better deal than getting the 10 yards I wanted. Ah well. The pink trim I bought with the intention for using it for Umbridge but I am not sure its quite right. The smaller black is just plain upholstery trim that in Seattle is $4-5 a yard but I got for under $1 a yard. Its always good to have some basic trim on hand.

That evening I had dinner with a few ladies I had talked to on the bus ride back. Then spent an uneventful night in my room packing up.

I think that covers it. I flew home on Tuesday morning with bags stuffed to the gills. I am so looking forward to next year and all the projects in between.


The Countdown to Costume College

3 Jul

When I was a kid I always loved advent calendars. Each December my grandma would give my brother and I those little cardboard ones with the chocolates inside. I loved hunting for the correct date, the sound of the cardboard and plastic as I opened it and the shaped chocolate hidden inside. Each day that went by came with a treat. The passing of time, as we eagerly awaited Christmas, was exciting, something to look forward to. Oh how things change when you reach adulthood.

Time is ticking away. The count down to Costume College is flying by. Much like Christmas, as a child, I am very eager to get to the end. But oi vay do I have so much to do. I have been working diligently whenever I can. I’m actually pretty proud of my focus and dedication. No (ok almost no) procrastination in this camp! However my main issue has been not enough time. Life events, big and small, keep getting in the way.

Slytherian bustle back

Slytherian bustle back

Each week I get 2 days to myself to sew, clean house and do anything else I can’t do with my toddler around. 16 hours a week of badly needed quiet and solitude. It’s amazing how desperate you become for silence when you have a little kid around all the time. I end up with about 12 -14 hours of actual sewing time. Some days I get so much done in those precious hours. Other days I have just started when it’s time to stop. Over the past month I have also lost a few days to other projects. We are new home owners and predictably have a long list of house projects. One week it was new floors. The next new bookcases and deep cleaning away the dust from the floors. The next week a no school day for my son.  I’ve lost 5 days of sewing time in the past month. No wonder I feel so behind.

Slytherian side bustle

Slytherian side bustle

I have managed a lot of progress however. At night I have been hand sewing my Regency era stays. On sewing room days I have been working on my Slytherian bustle dress. Its coming along beautifully. Underskirt and over skirt need hand sewing only. The bodice is together save sleeves and I am currently working on trim (a mix of machine and hand sewing). I did make a goal this year of hand sewing as much as I could and I stuck to it however if has greatly increased the time needed for finishing work.

For the underskirt I used my grand bustle skirt pattern I developed last year and altered it to fit tightly over the bustle frame. I dont have enough fabric for a flowing skirt and wanted a more tailored look all around. Attached to that are 2 rows of box pleated ruffles. The over skirt is based on the Truly Victorian 1886 Asymmetrical Drape (TV382) with some alterations. I put a cut in the center back and pulled up edges to create a mini butterfly look.


Slytherian Bodice Front

For the bodice I used my bodice pattern from the Frolicking costume with some additions. I found an image of the Ageless Patterns 1887 Corsage Vest and loved the lines. I try not to copy peoples work as much as possible but I knew if I bought the pattern it would not help me more than if I just made it myself. So after a quick mock up I moved on to the bodice. To my frustration I discovered I do not have enough fabric for the bodice and the sleeves. So right now the sleeves are on hold while I brainstorm some alternatives.

Slytherian Bodice Back

Slytherian Bodice Back

Shortly I will need to make some other decisions. The Slytherian bustle has a number of hours left but I believe I will have enough time to complete another ensemble before Costume College. Not a huge one but something. I would like to do a non Victorian project but what?!? On my list of goals is a full Regency ensemble but do I have enough time? I still have a lot of work on the stays and would need to do the chemise, petticoats and gown plus accessories. I had intended to do an open robe so that is a 2 part gown. What to do? Whatever the decision I know I have to use stash fabric. I do have that pewter silk which I am thinking is right for a Georgian gown but would need to research and design it. I have also recently been lured by Renaissance designs especially German. Something about the bright wool dresses and bust line is interesting. But I have NO experience in that era. I also love Elizabethan but that is a lot of details. What to do?!? I have to make the decision soon.

An Overdue Progress Report

2 May

When I look at what I have accomplished in the past few weeks it seems like a lot and nothing at the same time.  This is often how sewing feels for me.

My Frolicking Suit is finished but has another few weeks before its first frolic (hopefully on a train!).  I have worn it for an hour or so as a test run.  Everything worked great except a few of the fabric covered buttons popped off.  I have since fixed them and need to reattach them.  Its pretty comfortable and easy to maneuver due to a lack of bustle cage.  Perfect for a train outing.  Hopefully I will get some good pics then or if we get a sunny weekend day maybe a few in the back yard.  Again getting photos is a huge issue for me.

20140501_150856I also completed a black and a white chemise, which was on goals my list.  I chose a linen/cotton blend for the black which I like better than the white cotton but boy it wrinkles.  both are entirely machine sewn and very comfy.  They might become summer night gowns or at least the pattern will be. The original pattern was taken from Period Costume for Stage and Screen ( ) with a few minor alterations. I tested the pattern in the white cotton and tweaked the neckline before making the black. The white one is totally wearable but not as comfortable.  I also managed the prettiest rolled hem I have ever done.  Machine rolled hems can be a challenge. So finicky but I got the hang of it this time around. I will try and get some photos of me in it soon.


Bust detail: There is a little bit of gathering over the bust for some added room.


Black Chemise


Shoulder Detail


The black and green corset is moving forward slowly.  The lining is in and needs bones, binding and flossing.  So much hand work. My goal is to have it done by the end of the month so I can wear it to SEAF.  Over all I am in love with the fit. As always there are things that could be a wee bit better but I’m not stressing over them.

Corset3 Corset2 Corset1


Beginnings of hand sewn stays

Speaking of hand work I have undertaken an entirely hand sewn project – Regency Stays! I thought I would challenge myself a little and see if I could make it thru the project.  It goes slowly but well.  I am surprised my stitching is actually pretty decent.  Considering my hand bound button holes on the Frolicking Suit I was dubious, however a back stitch is far easier.  My stitches certainly could be more even but by the end of the project they will likely be.

Costume College is quickly approaching.  Only 3 months and so much to do.  I am hoping to get my Slytherian dress done but it is a LOT of work.  Other than that I am just not sure.  I would like to get the regency stuff done but I think that will depend on how long it takes to do the stays.


Pac Fab Score! Colors is a little lighter in the photo.

I also picked up a small handful of things from an amazing sale at Pacific Fabrics. 10 yards of Pewter machine dupioni, 4 yards of pink and red striped heavy cotton, 4 yards of crazy striped silk, 2 yards of black shirting and 15 yards of gold gimp trim.  And the price? Wait for it…..$118 including tax.  The pewter silk was only $5 a yard.  I do love a deal! I have no idea what to do with any of it yet but I am sure it will not sit too long.  I might have to put other projects aside to dig into that silk.

Next time, hopefully, more work on the stays and a start to Slytherian.

Anatomy of a Frolick

7 Apr

I have been hard at work on my Frolicking Suit over the past few weeks.  As soon as I feel I have made a big leap forward the list of things left to do grows a bit.  But I think I am in the home stretch.  The skirt still needs closures and the bodice needs a little bit of finishing on the facings and button holes.  Ugh button holes.  I decided with this project to try a new skill: hand sewing button holes.  To be clear I am not a strong hand sewer.  I am decent but I prefer my hand stitching not to be visible.  Unfortunately that is the whole point of button holes.  Obviously I could have done them by machine but I wanted to challenge myself and machine ones always look, well, cheep.  But to the meat of the project…

For most of my costumes I draft my patterns from scratch or alter a pattern I have already created.  For this costume I started with my basic 4 panel bustle skirt as described in the last post.  The apron was a very slightly altered version of the skirt pattern.  Over all the hardest part of the skirt was the pleating which turned out beautifully.  Something I am even more proud of it the placket and waist band.  In some ways a placket is stupidly simple but I have always had a blind spot there.  Until I read this and like magic I have conquered the placket! 


Look at that beauty!

The bodice has been a bit more difficult than the skirt.  I started with the basic bodice pattern I had created for my plaid evening gown but knew there were some problems.  The sleeve was a sausage casing plus the length and pleating in the back needed to change.  So I did a mock up and altered it the fit the Queen Mum (my dress form).  Then I fit it on me.  I have to say having a dress form is revolutionary.  This is the first project I have done with the Queen Mum and it cut down on how much fitting and fitting assistance I needed.  By the time I got it to a fitting on my almost all the kinks were worked out. 



Again, look at that beauty!  This is the first fitting of the first mock up and as you can see the length, armseye and neck line needed adjustments.  The neck and armseye adjustments were issues lingering from the previous incarnation of the pattern. Hopefully next time I will have even less issues.  This mock up also needed a little help in the bust area but that worked itself out in the final version and didn’t require a pattern alteration. 

To digress a little… You will notice a couple things from these photos about my body and shape.  One boob is different than the other.  This is true with most women but as you go up in size the difference can be more dramatic.  Easy fix: Fake boobs!  Some people shy way from them maybe because of pride or expense or they just don’t know about them.  If you have a cup size or more difference bite the bullet and get a set.  I used a 50% off coupon at Joannes and it made a huge difference.  If you want to be true to period and materials, remember padding and falsies have been around for CENTURIES! So just do it! Sew up a little pad of linen stuffed with cotton or whatever and make that beautiful silhouette you want. 

Second thing you will notice is the shape of my upper back, rib cage, waist and hips.  A lot of people prefer a smoother line and I would agree with regards to the upper back.  In the photo I laced myself in and I have less control over the upper line of the corset.  When my husband does it it looks a lot better.  As for the ribcage, waist and hip line, that is an intentional choice.  I lace my corset very tight.  I get about an 8-10 inch reduction easy.  This is a choice and how I like my silhouette to look.  Some could argue it is not historically correct but there is evidence of tight lacing all thru the Victorian era. It may not be common but I’m not a common lady. Some would argue it is dangerous.  Maybe but I have a lot of squish and can do this easily.  If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. I am very conscience of when I need to loosen it and don’t hesitate to do so.  Point is, its a personal choice, I don’t recommend it but if you want to go there educate yourself then have at it. Remember, don’t be a slave to fashion regardless of the fashion era. 

Now back to the sewing…


ImageAfter this mock up I did one more including a sleeve (I forgot pictures) and headed in to the final product. In the photos you can see the skirt sans ruffle but otherwise completed.  I think I might starch the trim to keep the wrinkles at bay.  We also see improved armseyes and length on the bodice.  Unfortunately when I lengthened it I ended up adding to much to width and had to take some out of the waist and abdomen area. 

Sadly that’s all the pictures I took (or my husband did rather).  I am getting better about it tho!  Next post will hopefully be a finished costume including a little hat I found at the thrift store (score!).

Now back to the buttonholes I go…


Here We Go a Frolicking…

24 Mar


 I have been working on a project I have dubbed the Frolicking Suit.  Last fall my dear friend Sharon made a steampunk suit using this fabric:


(Its actually powder blue.)

After she was done I decided I needed a suit to match.  I have a HUGE roll of this fabric and after 3 different costumes, the end is no where in site.  Anyway, I also decided this would be a great project to see if I could make an entire outfit from my stash.  I dug around and found a nice synthetic powder pink satin that complimented well and an old bamboo sheet for the bodice lining. Ooohhh fancy!

Sharon’s outfit gave me a starting point for my research. I knew I wanted a bottom ruffle, ankle length hem and a high neckline.  Pretty modest for me.  Pinterest provided some great images as usual. I fell in love with the square apron front and silhouette shape on the lavender and light blue dresses.  The third image is of course much later but there is something alluring about the high contrast and elegant curve of the bodice detail.  I love the idea of pairing the square apron and straight trim with graphic curves over the bust.  purple victotian  blue victorianblue edwardian

I decided on a few major differences from my research.  First I wanted a pleated underskirt.  I knew it would add a lot of work but a gathered ruffle is too soft for the fabric ( pretty stiff upholstery material).  I love the clean tailored look of the 1890’s dress and it seems to work better with this upholstery fabric. I decided on a collar closer to the 1890’s piece.  I also wanted to not have to wear a bustle cage.  The whole idea of “frolicking” implies easy movement.  I love my lobster bustle but it is work to wear. A few years ago I started reading the blog Historical Sewing and read her tutorial for a basic bustle skirt ( ).  Its pretty straight forward if you have never made a bustle skirt before.  For this project its the prefect method because it doesn’t require a bustle cage to support the draping (just a firm bum pad).

Frolicking Suit

After I complete a costume sketch I spend a good amount of time planing and sketching construction methods.  Because I pattern most of my costumes from scratch spending the extra time to sketch out the construction process really makes drafting easier.  In some ways its like writing the pattern instructions before drafting the pattern.  Being plus sized and drafting patterns from scratch has the potential to make a seemingly small mistake turn into a big mistake.  Taking the extra time to do construction drawings has saved me countless hours over the years.  Obviously these instructions are in no way neat or readable to anyone but me but normally who sees them but me?

frolicking detail

At this point I am about 75% done with the project.  Mostly I have hand sewing and final tweaking left.  Next time I will share some progress photos, pattern drafting info and hopefully the completed costume.

My Ambitious Plans

2 Mar

I decided to post my sewing projects and events separately from goals tho they are related.  Just to prevent a painfully long post.

Most of the time I wear my costumes to conventions but this year I am hoping to branch out a little bit and attend some “real life” events or make my own.  I have so many costumes that I never bring out except once a year.  And considering the need to have a whole new wardrobe for the big conventions, a lot of costumes are only ever worn once.  It’s just plain silly. So far I have the following events on the schedule:

  • Port Townsand Victorian Festival (3/21-3/23)
  • Emerald City Comic Con (3/28-3/30) – sans costume.
  • Seattle Erotic Arts Festival (June)
  • Costume College (7/31-8/3)*
  • Steamcon (10/3-10/5)*
  • Geek Girl Con (10/11-10/12)*
  • An art exhibit
  • A tea lunch
  • A picnic or out-door festival.

ECCC will be a learning experience.  I have never been and feel a mite nervous about showing up to an unknown event in costume.  I am daring at times but not that daring. Costume College, GGC and Steamcon are the only events I have new costumes planned for.  All the others I intend to dig out something from the closet.  Its possible I will make something for SEAF but it wont be a huge project.  SEAF isn’t really a costume event but I always use it as an excuse to dress up.  Plus it’s not historically based so I can do whatever I want. Costume College is the one I am super excited about.  I went last year and it completely changed how I view my skills, costumes and goals.  But more about that as it approaches.

If the list of events seems long the list of projects is even longer:

  • Regency Round Gown
  • Regency Open Robe
  • Regency Corset
  • Regency Chemise
  • Rococo Stays
  • Green over bust corset
  • Victorian chemise – 1 black, 1 white
  • Slytherian bustle dress
  • Ursula
  • Divine
  • Victorian riding habit
  • 1920’s Dress
  • 1910 Wool suit
  • Victorian Frolicking dress

Obviously some are easier projects than others.  As the year progresses I will likely postpone some projects and add others. I have already started the green corset, chemise and frolicking costume and sketched up the slytherian and Regency ensembles.  Ursula and Divine are both in my head still and will remain so until I am ready to start them.  I have a strange need to keep my more cosplay costumes secret.  It might have to do with the hateful backlash a lot of cosplayers experience when they or their costumes are not up to other people’s expectations.  But lets save that tirade for another day.

I feel pretty comfortable with my construction skills for all the Victorian and 20th century costumes.  The regency ones however are totally new territory.  I am a little terrified about the regency stays because they are so different from Victorian corsets.  The silhouette is SO different.  After a good deal of research, I did a quick draft and toile of a set of stays.  It was an utter disaster!  The shape was right, the body fit well but the boobs had NO support. I tried both the pocket style bust support and the gussets and both failed.  So I decided to bite the bullet and ordered the Laughing Moon Regency Stay Pattern. Right now it’s sitting and waiting for me to have the courage to attempt them again.  I know I will prevail but sometimes tackling a project requires the right moment of determination and courage.


1 Mar

I’m a list person. I sometimes think the world is made of list people and non-list people.  One tends not to understand the other type very well.  Since having the Fuss Monster I am finding lists even more important.  Daily lists, weekly lists, monthly lists and now I have added YEARLY lists.  I might have a little obsession.   So a number of weeks ago (ok 2 months) I made my list of sewing for the upcoming year.  I have a list of projects, a list of events and a list of goals.  The list of goals is new this year and I included it to help me focus on improving my skills as a seamstress and designer.  I have always been a goal setter but this year I decided to set some specific long-term goals instead my typical project specific ones.


  • Maintain a sewing blog with regular updates.  Kind of an obvious one.
  • Take photos.  I am TERRIBLE at documenting my work.  There are entire costumes that I have no pictures of.
  • Hand sew hems and closures.  I do this most of the time but if I run short of time it’s where I skimp.  However its a detail that can really up the beauty of a costume and should be prioritized.
  • Don’t forget the accessories, trim and details. I always leave these things to the last-minute and I need to start thinking about them from the beginning.
  • Finish projects!  I think everyone makes this goal.

Personal goals seem simple enough when they are an abstract idea scribbled in a notebook.  Much harder of course is to actually follow thru.  The key for me has been to make sure my goals are supported by my sewing projects and vise versa.  All the lists have to work together and become a large matrix.  Or at least that’s what it looks like in my head.

When I face a project the things I struggle with the most is time.  I’m not as much of a procrastinator as I once was thankfully.  However now my problem is more a lack of time.  The lists help me manage the time I do have and so far the goals are helping me remember what is actually important to me.  When I do have time for my sewing life I now have a bit more direction.  If I continue on this path I might not end up in a mad rush to just finish a project which has always been the case in the past.  However a zebra can’t change its strips as they say.  I’m just hoping the year will be less frantic.