Sewing room tour

16 Jun

First off this is a test to see how bad the formatting is when I use the mobile app. Bear with me.

I LOVE  seeing pictures of people’s studios. It has always fascinated me how people work and the materials they use. All the trinkets, supplies, inspiration images and yes mess. So many artist I speak to are embarrassed by their messy studios but really those are the best ones.

On the flip side I am also a surprisingly organized person. I like to call my style organized chaos. Everything has a place but it’s not always in its place. I am always looking for creative organization ideas and how to cram as much stuff as possible into a small space.

Givin that I love to peek at other people’s studios I thought it only fair I share mine. Let the photo tour begin!

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This is the print that greets you as you walk in. I got it a couple years ago at SEAF. I couldn’t pass it up!

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Next we have my pattern storage. Up top are hand drafted or highly altered patterns. Below we have commercial patterns. There are vintage ones mixed in. Some day (after CoCo) I will organize these a little better.

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Next up we have the ironing area. For Christmas I got a gravity feed semi – industrial iron. Behind the iron is the costume closet. Its full and messy and thus not part of the tour.

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To the left of the iron is the ironing acessories. Not very exciting. Above that however is a nice fashion plate I picked up a few months ago.

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This is my sewing table. Organized chaos. It is surprisingly functional and big.

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This is my primary machine, Mary Ann. I name my machines after their previous owners. I absolutely LOVE my machine! It’s consistant, heavy and easy to use. Some day I will cut the table so the machine sits flush. Right now that is my only complaint – it’s too high.

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This is the over flow messy corner. It’s a pile of fabric to sort, papers to sort and the only place my grand bustle can live when I need it handy but not on my dress form. So there is a bit of necessary chaos.

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No sewing room is complete without a media center of sorts. I watch a lot of Star Trek and Harry Potter here. Under the computer is a treedle machine. I have yet to use it due to a broken belt but I am sure I will need to in the next year. You also can see my project boards. I just got them so they are under used at the moment. The idea is to have my sketches, research and to do lists easily visable.

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Next we have my main work space – the cutting table. This corner is where I sit to draw, draft, cut and do some hand sewing. This area also houses a lot of trim, notions and tools.

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I love my little wooden drawers! Here you can see my rulers, manuals and empty pattern envelopes next the main tool drawer.

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Big cutting table!

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An interesting completely useless piece – a silver bowl given to my great aunt from her local Gilbert and Sullivan Society. She was their costumer for many years.

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My favorite part of the sewing room – half decoration, half storage. Sometimes i just stand in front of it staring.

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It’s amazing how much stuff I’ve crammed on here.

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Lastly behind the door is a little hanging storage for projects in process or mending.

So that’s it. It’s a good sized room but of course like most sewing rooms completely over flowing.

A Frolick on a Train

20 May

I finally went to an event! Its only been what 5 months?!?

Sunday we went on an outing to the Northwest Railway Museum with the local steampunk group.  I tend to fit in better with the steampunk crowd because tho I love historical costuming of all sorts, I tend to prioritize flamboyant design over historical accuracy. Being absolutely historically correct would drive me mad. My hat is off to those who can do it. But I digrese… Over all we had a grand time.  It threatened to rain but really only spit on us. Most of the time we were in a covered train car so it wouldn’t have mattered much.  My husband and son went along for the ride.  I managed to get a little bit of costume for the little monster and he had a grand time! With a fit thrown in now and again (he did not want to leave the train!).

I finally wore my Frolicking Suit. It was exceedingly practical for a train outing and very comfortable. Good length, easy on and off and not too cumbersome. I certainly would have been warm had the temperature been higher. It also had been many months since I had worn a corset so that was a bit uncomfortable. I vow to wear one routinely in prep for Costume College. I opted for some very comfortable brown Dr Martins. Over the years I have given up on fancy shoes and go for practical. Beautiful shoes are forbidden candy for this fat lady. Its just not worth the twisted ankles and blisters. The Docs served me well and were not too distracting. On reflection I think tan leather would be more appropriate. I am also debating my glove choice. Tan? Pink? Cream or white? I also think I need a hat. Strike that. I NEED a hat! Maybe I can get to that before costume college. As far as sewing notes I think I need to raise the back of the bustle hem because you cant see the pleating underneath.  Other than that the only mishap was a button that got caught on something and popped off.  Over all I call that a success.

Now to the pictures…

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The finished Frolicking Suit! My husband did not notice the branch…

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My son and I. As you can see, raising the bustle would be a good idea.

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On the train. I actually like this picture of me – chins and all. It really looks like me and I am smiling. Couldn’t ask for more.

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The monster does not want to leave the train.

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 (http://www.amazon.com/Period-Costume-Stage-Screen-1800-1909/dp/088734609X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y ) 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.

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

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Black Chemise

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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.

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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.

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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.

ECCC, Superman and Shame.

7 Apr

Last weekend I went to Emerald City Comic Con.  I saw some amazing cosplay but being me I didn’t take any pictures.  I just didn’t think about it.  I had never been before and it was all a bit overwhelming. There are SO MANY PEOPLE! You could hardly get thru some places. Even Friday was packed. I started the day Friday by myself so I decided to take things slow and sit in on a couple panels. That was not the best of introductions to ECCC…

I attended a panel entitled Women Comically Portrayed.  I am one of those people who love panels and it sounded promising.  Now these are good panels and there are crappy panels. The quality is often determined by the This particular panel had potential – 2 comic book artists, 3 comic book fans and 3 psychologists/counselors (there was over lap so a total of 5 panelists).  Sadly the potential was utterly destroyed.

Now lets back up to a bit earlier in the week when this image crossed my Facebook feed:

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In my world this is flat out body/slut shaming. Making a value judgement based on the way a person is dressed is body shaming.  Some peoples justification for their criticism of her was that her clothing choices are not respectable.

Respectable.

“Respect: esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personally quality or ability”

Now fast forward to ECCC.

The bulk of the panel addressed how comic book artists commonly portray women scantily clad, in impossible costumes and poses.  This is a well know objection to comic book art.  But why are these costumes objectionable? The common argument are they are impractical, unrealistic and objectify women’s bodies.  This was the view the panelists put forth.

Panelist #2 was a counselor who works with at risk youth and victims of sex trafficking. Her main concern with comic book art is that it needlessly objectifies women’s bodies which leads to low self esteem and thus vulnerability to predators.  Pretty much well established observations.  Now came the major misstep. She asserted that women in comic books should be clothed respectfully. To quote “its about respect”. She further emphasized her point by using a male comparison saying “I don’t want to see a man in a Speedo” to which a fellow panelist snickered and agreed.

Lets break this down.

“I don’t want to see…”  So, if Superman wears a Speedo, she doesn’t want to see it. So should Superman go home and change? Should he take his costume back to the designer and say “Some women don’t like my costume!”? NO! Her desire to not see him does not take precedence over his right to wear his Speedo. He is not wearing it for her. He made the choice of how to cloth himself and its no one’s choice but his.

Now to the Speedo. So, if Superman wears a Speedo does this mean he is less respectable? He is still Superman. He still saves lives, flies around and is the alien hero we all know. He is still respectable by all accounts. Say its not the red Speedo but a plain black one and he is walking around a beach. Still Superman. Say its a little too snug and a bit revealing. Still Superman. Say Superman took a break, had a few beers and missed his waxing appointment. Still Superman. He still did all those things, regardless of what he is wearing or how he looks.

Now lets imagine this is Wonderwoman. Does anything change? No.

Respect should not be based on a persons clothing choices. Clothing comes off but the person you are stays the same. This panelist, of all people, should know this. The costume of a prostitute and a superhero are no different.  Its just cloths. The only thing you can tell is possibly their profession. But you can’t tell why they are in that profession and without knowing the whys and hows you have no right to make a value judgement. (To be clear I don’t believe its a good idea to make a value judgement regardless of a persons profession but that is a stickier matter). A basic level of respect is something all people deserve regardless of clothing or any other external quality.

Sadly the experience of this panel soured my day and I had to leave the panel. It didn’t seem to be getting better and I couldn’t listen to more shaming. I understand people make missteps or are misunderstood ESPECIALLY where issues of gender and discrimination are concerned. The lesson here for me is sexism goes both ways. Its not effective to boost one gender up by shaming the another gender.

All in all I had a great time, bought some beautiful art and left excited for next year. One bad experience will never dissuade me from attending the event. Will I wear a costume next year? Hmm… Getting around is so hard that I hesitate but who knows. My love of costumes may prevail.

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 http://historicalsewing.com/victorian-skirts-with-placket-opening and like magic I have conquered the placket! 

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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. 

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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…

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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…

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Here We Go a Frolicking…

24 Mar

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 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:

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(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 (http://historicalsewing.com/tutorials/how-to-make-an-1870s-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?

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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.

A Note of Mourning

11 Mar

It is with great sadness that I must say good-bye to my favorite event of the year, Steamcon. Unfortunately another great convention has met an early demise due to financial woes. Of the 5 years Steamcon ran, I volunteered 4 of them (one in the middle I missed due to my son’s birth). I was there at the beginning and now I must witness it’s end.

So now what? What does one do when a major costuming event is unexpectedly cancelled?

Here in Seattle we don’t have a lot of costumed events. Seattle is a dressed down kind of town. I suppose if you went to every costume event you could fill a year but it would require an amazingly diverse wardrobe.

I could infiltrate other events. Norwescon is a big con here in the Seattle area. I’ve been before and never really liked it. A little too cliquish and I’m not really into Sci Fi lit. Same with Sakurai Con. Plus not sure how a fat girl in neo Victorian costume would fit in.

I know there is always the option of making my own event. I have a few ideas percolating. But having been an event organizer for both Steamcon and the Steampunk Exhibition Ball I can tell you it a lot of work with little reward.

I could travel to other cities. This is the most viable option in my eyes. Likely I will check out GEARCon in Portland. Possibly up to Vancouver or out to Port Townsand. Maybe someday I will venture further. I do love to travel but am TERRIBLE at meeting new people.

What to do? I suppose I will trudge on, mourn my beloved convention and attend some smaller local events. Becoming better acquainted with local costumers is my best course of action.