Saturday, March 29, 2014

HSF #6: Fairy Tales (or Put on Your Dancing Shoes)

After much wracking of my brain (it's a good thing I started planning the whole year's worth of challenges in January, because I was stumped for over a month), I had no ideas.  This frustrated me to no end.  I loved retellings of fairy tales and Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow have been two of my favorite authors/editors for years!

Then I was reading Genevieve Valentine's blog and she featured an excerpt of her upcoming new book: The Girls of the Kingfisher Club.  It was a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses set in the 1920s.  And inspiration suddenly sizzled. I would make a pair of 1920s dancing shoes!

One of my recent obsessions has been the glorious rhinestone encrusted heels of 1920s shoes. So gorgeous, so glittery, so completely not anything I had the slightest use for. 

Possibly from the Bata Shoe Museum collection or Museum of Modern Art Tokyo..  I've seen this picture several places on the internet with conflicting sources 

But boy, they would make a fun entry for the Fairy Tale Challenge!

Step One was to stop by Vintage Dancer to see if I could find a pair of shoes to bling up. I have wide feet and a high arch, so shoes are always a bit of a challenge.  Serendpitiously, I found a pair that not only had a nice 1920's vibe, didn't have too high a heel and came in a extra wide but were also only $24.99.  What color?  Hello, this is me we're talking about...  Black velvet...  of course!


While most of the examples of heels with rhinestones were celluloid, there was an example or two of self fabric heels that I found  so I didn't feel too bad.  (And pragmatically, I was lucky to find a pair of suitable shoes in the first place.. asking for celluoid heels too was pushing it.)

That looks like a fabric heel to me!  (from Shoe Icons)

The only experience I've ever had with adhering rhinestones to anything was using a pressing machine to heat transfer appliques and that was clearly not going to be feasible on shoe heels.  So I ordered a variety of glues and other supplies from the web and hoped one would work.

While I was in my favorite local fabric store buying buttons for Jay's vest, I struck up a conversation with one of the women in line for the cashier and she suggested hot fix crystals.  It sounded like a tidier method than glue, so I braved Joann's and got a hotfix setter and some hotfix stones.

I did a test on a cast off pair of ballroom shoes I had in the garage and I was pleased at finding this was a low learning curve sort of skill.

 So far so good!

 I did however, realize from the test that I was definitely going to need more stones for any sort of respectable level of bling.  So it was back to Joann's (ugh) for more stones.  I still would have been fine if there hadn't been a woman with a baby carriage blocking the aisle and forcing me to the other end of the aisle to get to the cash register.  Because on that end were the swarovski crystals that I'd missed the previous visit.

When I was shopping for my ballroom dress for comp, my teacher was very, very specific.  Do NOT buy a dress with Korean stones.  If it doesn't specify swarovski crystals on it, it is not an option.  While I heeded his requirements,  he is in general, a very exacting sort of person. At the time,  I had just put it down to his personality.  It wasn't until I put the package of Korean stones next to the swarovski crystals that I fully understood the difference between the two.  I was hooked and thankfully, they were 30% off because cheap swarovski crystals are not!  *sigh*

This picture doesn't do them justice but Jay immediately commented how much more sparkle the swarovski had

The swarovski crystals (of course) needed a different hot fix setter but I was finally settled in with some CSI:NY reruns on Netflix and set to affixing stones.  I don't have a lot of flat workspace in my sewing room, so I spread things out on my desk in my office so I could stream netflix on my monitor.  What I didn't account for was a pretty much non-stop stream of kitty traffic across the desk. "Whatcha doin', Mom?   Hmmm..  this is new.  And it smells funny.  Ooooh  and it sounds like a cat toy!"  The different sizes of stones got jumbled quickly by kitty paws but no serious damage was done. (Although the black velvet was a magnet for cat hair)

Per the directions, each stone took 15-30 seconds to affix and had to be placed manually.  It's not difficult but it is a bit tedious and unforgiving work.  Once that stone is in place,  it's there for good. There is no brief grace period to woodge it a millimeter or two in one direction or another.  After two and a half hours, I realized that I was going to need more of the Silver Night colored stones and that I desperately needed a break before my eyes started crossing.

2 and a half hours worth of work

As I worked on the shoes over the next week, my technique improved and I realized that there is a little woodge room to move a stone, if I'm careful.  If I applied the hot fix setter for 5 or so seconds and then pulled it off, I could nudge the hot stone a little with my fingernail if it wasn't exactly where I wanted it and then apply the setter again to lock it into place.

My original plan had been to highlight the sunburst folds on the toes once I got the heels done, but when I looked at how many packages of crystals I'd used on the heels (and how many I was going to need for the toes) I decided to forgo the toes other than the large stones on each button. Especially since the packages had 3 sizes of stones in them but I was only running out of one size.  If I ever have an occasion to wear these shoes (and a dress to go with them) I might rethink this, but for now, the extra expense just didn't seem justified.

All in all I am pretty pleased with how they came out.  And I have the added bonus of knowing how to use the hotfix setter if I ever need to replace stones on my ballroom dress.

Challenge:  #6 Fairy Tales
Fairy Tale: 1920s dancing shoes for one of the Twelve Dancing Princesses to Charleston the night away in
Fabric:  Black Velvet shoes 
Pattern: I based the pattern for the stones off of a pair of extant heels I saw on Augusta Auctions
Year:  Later 1927-1928
Notions: Swarovski crystals and lots of them
How historically accurate is it? 60%?   The look is right, but there was no realistic way to do this and be purely historically accurate. They are modern shoes, but in a 1920s style and while the hot fix method is certainly modern, Swarovski patented his electric crystal cutting machine in 1892 and the Swarovski company itself has been around since 1895.
Hours to complete  10ish
First Worn:  Not yet
Total Cost: $24.99 for the shoes themselves, $15 for the hot fix setter and then $30 or so in stones (not counting the leftovers of some sizes & colours that will be going in the stash or the materials I got but didn't end up using)

Friday, March 21, 2014

1890s petticoat (or ruffles and laces and pleats.. oh my!)

Now that the waistcoat was done, my next project to complete was the petticoat for my Victorian Undergarments class.  I'd made the pattern (TV 170) before, but it was on the class syllabus and a girl cannot have too many petticoats.  Some people find undergarments boring, but I rather like making lacy detailed underthings even knowing they'll be hidden under everything else.

It was actually a nice restful project (much needed after all the drama of the waistcoat) and I spent my evenings this week making tucks, and ruffles...  and ruffles and a few more ruffles....

I'd been planning to make it out of a pretty black and white pinstripe that I'd gotten from Denver Fabrics in January, but when I was out picking up fabric for my 1880s hat class, I ran across this delicious pink and white striped seersucker.  Normally, I am an anti-pink sort of girl, but this was too fun not to buy.

Since this already screamed "Girly" I decided to keep the girly-girl feel with lots of trim.  I'd been meaning to experiment with ribbon flowers since last fall, just hadn't found a project where they were suitable until now.

They were easier than I expected:  each flower I did was 12" of ribbon with a machine gathering stitch down one side. I rolled one end a bit to start the center and then gathered the ribbon and started wrapping it in a circle around the center and tacking the gathered end down with thread.  I like this technique because it produces a very three dimensional flower, but I can see that the uses for this style would be somewhat limited.  Still it's awfully pretty.


I am pretty sure that these sort of flowers probably aren't historically accurate, but it was a good excuse to make a few.

It was a nice interlude project before I delve into my hat and my fairy tale project for HSF #6.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

HSF #5: Bodice Challenge: Men's 1830s-40s Roll Collar Waistcoat (from hell)

Warning, gentle readers, the story that follows is not for the faint of heart. Blood will be shed. Ladies of delicate sensibilities should cover their ears lest they hear words only suitable for a gathering of uncouth gentlemen.

It started with Reconstructing History pattern RH 927.  Jay needed a waistcoat for 221BCon in  the beginning of April and it was about time I sewed something for him again.  Plus, fitting would be easier and faster on him than on myself.  (Plus there is the corset problem that I still need to solve) And a trimly fitted waistcoat is sort of like the equivalent of a bodice for a gentleman, so it's not stretching the parameters of the challenge too too much...

We found some fun silk with a bee pattern that Jay really liked.

It was dupioni, but it didn't have a lot of slubs and while I can't document any extant examples of bees patterning fabric for the 1840s, the bees do call to mind the passion for Natural History of the era and I like to think that the fabric is, at the least, not wildly inappropriate.

Jay's measurements put him at a 38 for the pattern, but being paranoid from my own experiences with patterns, I cut the mockup in the 40 just in case.

Sure enough he was a 38 but the mockup was rolling oddly at the base of his neck.  My men's fitting experience is minimal and rusty and I was at a loss how to adjust for that. It took the hive mind of the helpful Sewing Sisters to tell me I needed to actually let out the seam a bit and lower the neck curve a little.  Doing that, taking in the sides and shoulders from the 40 to the 38 and adding 3 inches to the length gave me a second mockup I was pleased with, so I cut the fashion fabric.

 Samuel L Catson  "helping" me cut out the fabric.  
I swear this cat was a tailor in another life.

The first few steps went together well enough, but reading through the directions, I really felt like I wanted a full lining rather than a half, just for a tidier finish on the armholes.  In retrospect, I think I should have chosen a slightly lighter fabric for the lining, especially for a full lining.  The cotton I was using added some thickness that was nice for the body of the front, but a little too much bulk for my taste.  I also think that I would choose a fabric much closer to the fashion fabric next time.  The black lining against the gold brought any imperfection in rolled edges into sharp relief.  

Trying it on Jay at this point made me realize that perhaps I had fitted it just a little too well since it was definitely snug.  (and he said he'd lost 4 lbs since the mockup)

But I still thought there was enough allowance for buttons and I was pretty pleased with how it was turning out.  (Insert vaguely ominous music here)

Then  came  the welt pockets.  My advisor in college hated welt pockets and I have to admit I kept hearing him in my head cussing about them and I was pretty paranoid. But the instructions seemed like they made sense and I was feeling really good about things...

 So far so good

Except that after making the incision and folding the welt up, there was a definite gap on one side.

 Eek.  Houston, we have a problem

Still, after some steam and adjustment while it was on a dummy rather than flat, it came out adequately.

Not the best welt pocket in the world,  but acceptable for a first attempt and I think I learned enough to make the next set better.

OK, I am cooking with gas now, all I have is the collar and the finish work.  I will even manage to be EARLY on completing the challenge. (Insert music suitable for the serial killer is sneaking up right behind the unsuspecting heroine)  And here is where it All. Fell. Apart.

I'd read through the directions for the collar at least half a dozen times during the course of the previous steps and they made no sense whatsoever to me. Still, I'd managed the welt pockets using the RH directions, and I could see where the lapels should lay from the front of the waistcoat, so I would just follow the directions and trust that they would give me the end result of the rolled collar. After having to cut a second set of collar pieces (totally my fault.) and pinning it about 4 different ways to try and figure out what the directions were trying to get across, I ended up with this.

Houston, we have an even bigger problem

At some point I even called the RH help line, but despite it being within the hours on their website, no one answered.  So I sent an email to their info address but wasn't holding my breath.  I'd sent several emails with other questions to that address previously and never got an answer.  I seriously thought about posting my question their facebook page, but decided that if I was completely missing an obvious solution I didn't really want to look quite THAT foolish on facebook.

But I was not going to let this @#$#%ing pattern defeat me.   Draping is not in my skillset, but, looking at the waistcoat in progress on the dummy, I noticed that if I folded the collar pattern piece on the grain marking and placed that up to the front edge of where the collar hit, it pretty much filled up the missing space.  (Note the words "pretty much" here.  They will become important later)

So I drafted a new and significantly longer collar and was once again off and running.

Collar pattern v2

I was running a little TOO fast, I guess,  because this is about the time I managed to run the sewing machine needle into my finger and break it off, inciting some colorful profanity and a brief stop for peroxide, neosporin and a Hello Kitty bandaid.  (and for the record, no, we don't have kids)

On the upside, having bled onto it, the waistcoat will be lucky for Jay.  (It was an old superstition from my costume shop days in college that blood in a seam during the construction process was lucky for the actor and if someone pricked a finger sewing there was always a bit of a rush to figure out which costumes were already lucky and which ones still needed a bit of luck)

This new collar was working much better for me and I was so ecstatic at vanquishing the @##$%ing pattern that I got all the handwork on the collar done and managed 6 perfect eyelets for the back lacing.  I hurried down to get a fitting on Jay so I could mark where the buttonholes needed to go.

He tried it on obligingly and went to look in a mirror.  "Uh..." he says  "Is the front supposed to be uneven?"   I don't know where my head was when I was putting collar v2 on, but sure enough, there was about 2" of curve from what was originally supposed to be the collar, right where the first button or two would go.  The new collar had "pretty much" matched to the front.  For whatever brain-dead reason, I hadn't taken the front into account when I woodged the collar into place. Now Jay has many sterling qualities,  but being amazingly perceptive is not one of them.  (it's kind of an affectionate, long standing joke with us)  Once he pointed it out, it was the only thing I could see looking at the waistcoat.  But I admit to being hyper critical, especially about my own work.  Most importantly, if the first thing he notices about the waistcoat is this irregularity, then it must be pretty freaking obvious.

I have no pictures of this disaster.  I think I was too busy trying not to be sick to remember to document it.

So it was the night before HSF#5 is due, and I have 1 waistcoat, finished except for buttonholes and pretty nice work (if I may say so myself)..other than the fatal flaw of needing either to: 1) take  at least part of the collar and  roll the top of the waistcoat center front in an inch or 2) let the bottom 11" of the waistcoat center front out an inch.

With 1/2" seam allowances (that had been graded and clipped) there was no way #2 would work.  So I gathered my courage and took the seam ripper to the beautifully finished collar.  What was my plan, you ask?  It was simple:

Right about the time I was doing all this, my husband was watching a short on Game of Thrones he found on the web and this part (which is actually Martin's wife's edict to the producers) seemed particularly apt.

After a tense hour with a seam ripper, there was a lot of handwork involved in moving the collar and putting everything back together, ideally so it didn't look like it had been reworked.  It was a success, mostly.  There is a small section under the left side collar where there wasn't quite enough lining to completely cover the new curve of the collar.  I could have forced it, but the lining would have pulled funny and the lining was one of the few parts of this whole project that had been playing nicely. Since it's underneath the end of the collar that was going to be tacked down anyway,  this little bit would not only not be seen, but would also not be open to wear and tear.  I ended up giving in and let the lining lay the way it wanted.

After all that, putting in the buttonholes barely registered on the stress-o-meter.  (see previous posts on my buttonhole phobia)  I'd thought I would do buttonholes by hand as a learning experience, but at this point it was already late afternoon the day after the challenge was due and honestly, I just wanted this whole waistcoat done and out of my hair.  I had a frothy pink and white  1890s petticoat in progress on my other dummy and it had been taunting me mercilessly all week as I cursed at the waistcoat.  I was honestly just hoping the whole experience didn't scar me sufficiently that I would hate the sight of it when my husband actually wore it.  So I ended up doing machine buttonholes that came out pretty well..  mostly due to the little buttonhole chisel thing that I bought after my last rodeo with buttonholes.

In the end, it came out pretty well.  It fits him nicely and unless you are really looking closely, all of the reworking of the front isn't very noticable.  And (against my better judgement) I am toying about making him a second waistcoat in another fabric while I remember all the changes I made to this pattern and can document them for posterity...  because I fully intend to toss the direction sheet straight in the circular file at the earliest opportunity.

 I am rather fond of the back lacing detail

Ironically, having him try the waistcoat on was a good idea, because the frockcoat (which we bought) is now a little large on him and will need some alteration before 221BCon in April.

The Challenge:  #5  Bodice
Fabric: silk dupioni, cotton lining/interlining
Pattern: Reconstructing History RH927 with some serious reworking of the collar
Year: 1830s-40s
Notions: thread, 8 metal buttons
How historically accurate is it:  70%?  I started off knowing that I wasn't going to do the chest padding and the wool on the underside of the collar.   Fabric and buttons are best attempt at accurate within my budget. Additional points off for doing much of it (including buttonholes) by machine.
Time to complete:  I lost track at some point 
First worn:  221BCon in April
Total cost: $23.50    $15 for a yard and a half of silk, $6 for cotton lining/interlining $2.50 for 8 buttons.  Being done with this beast:  PRICELESS

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spring Fever

Spring..  when a (still sort of heart anyway) young costumer's thoughts run in a variety of directions completely in contradiction to all her current projects.

I've been watching the Borgias on Netflix recently and it's renewed my interest in Italian Renaissance fashion. Oh, those gorgeous gowns! And the detailing!



And I've wanted to make the gown from this painting since I had an Italian Renaissance persona in the SCA years ago.

Pontormo's Portrait of a Lady in Red 1530s  

And the theme for next year's AnachroCon is something 18th century related, so I've been starting to think about that.   I have mixed feelings about the 18th century but this picture sparked my interest and Jay likes coordinating costumes, so this is my current front runner:

Revolutionary ensembles 1789-1794  Kyoto Costume Institute

So, despite having 4 separate projects already on my plate in the next month (and one queued up to start), I couldn't resist and ordered patterns for an Italian Ren gown and a set of patterns for a full 18th century outfit, from stays and panniers out.

More on current projects in progress next time!

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Mockups and bustles and hats.. oh my!

Had a weekend full of sewing...  bless Jay for being content to stay in most of the weekend to give me lots of time to sew and try and catch up on my backlog of projects with deadlines!  I got his size of the vest pattern traced out onto butcher paper and a mock up cut for that.  This vest for him is planned to be my HSF #5 submission.  (Clearly my plans to only do the half marathon have failed spectacularly  *wry chuckle*)  Maddeningly, a size 40 fits him with next to no alterations needed.  If only I were so lucky!

My bustle for my Victorian Undergarments class got done with a certain amount of self induced extra work.  The center back seam is significantly curved and being smart, I clipped the very edge of the center back edges so I would know which side was center back.  Foolishly, I was so sure I knew which side was center back that I didn't look for my clip.  It wasn't until I had 2 channels of bone casing stitched on that I realized my error.  At that point, re-cutting and remarking the boning channels on a new pair of back pieces seemed like less work than picking out all the stitching on the boning channels.  On the upside, I'd been thinking I liked the contrast of the boning channels on the fabric and wished they were on the right side of the fabric to be a bit decorative, so I got to do that on v2.   I do think the precut hoop wire I bought might have been a trifle short though.  There's about an inch of space in each channel not filled with hoop wire and it makes the sides pucker a little oddly.  There will be skirts over it anyway, so it won't be noticeable.

I got an idea of the direction I wanted to proceed in as well as my fabric and core trims chosen for my hat for my 1880s Bustle hat class.   My inspirations are these 3 later 1880s hats:

From the Met.  c 1885  
I love the tilt of the brim and the huge bow

Found on Pintrest and I can't seem to track down the original source
I love the big  what appears to be rhinestone  buckle on the hat in the top right corner

From  Love the huge bow!

I've been in love with striped ribbon lately and serendipitously, when I was in Hancock Fabrics looking for pale blue 1/4" grosgrain for my chemise,  I found some lovely 2"  black and white striped grosgrain having no idea at that moment what I would use it for.

A focus for this hat was kind of difficult initially because I don't actually have an 1880s dress with which to coordinate the hat. (All in good time!) After thinking I would play it safe and go with basic black which goes with everything, I remembered some gorgeous dark teal silk that I'd seen fabric shopping the previous weekend so I went back and bought a yard of it to cover the hat...  as well as the other 7 yards left on the bolt for when I get around to actually making a dress.

Fabric and basic trimmings for hat

Most importantly, I came up with what I think is an absolutely wonderful idea for HSF #6 Fairy Tales. I'd been struggling on this challenge for a project that was manageable within the time frame and with everything else I had going on.  Then I read an excerpt of an new book, which is essentially a classic fairy tale updated to a modern (but still suitable for HSF) period and something totally FUN hit me as an idea.  I don't want to spoil the surprise until I submit the actual challenge but I am squirming like a little kid on Christmas eve right now.  If I can do my idea justice, I will have a (hopefully) pretty unique submission.