Monday, December 30, 2013

A Year in Costuming Review

A number of blogs I follow are doing a list of projects the ladies had completed during the year, and I thought what a great idea! I feel bad that I didn't make so many things this year, so I am inspired to do better next year! (Especially since I found a list of projects I wanted to complete a couple of years and I did do most of them.) I have set myself a very lofty goal of actually finishing the HSF on time, as well as all of my missed challenges from this year, AND at least one, hopefully two, new cosplay(s).

Here's what I completed this year:

Mei-rin cosplay
Photo by B.M.
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Gothic Lolita petticoat
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Two Regency gowns (the green one had its first outing as a belly-dance cover-up lol)
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Six cosplay (commission)
Photo by Unknown
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Pin-striped early 1880s riding habit
Photo by H.S.
Photo by H. Schroeder photo 1081851_10200686181975433_568424258_n_zps34822181.jpg

Timeless-inspired gown
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Jedi outfit / Melisandre cosplay / Snow White costume (commission) (No photos)

1750s stays

Toothless amigurumi

Crocodile stitch hood

And that's it... Kind of disappointed in myself. I know I was shuffling a lot of blame onto my retail job, with the variation in hours not giving me as much free time as I thought I needed to make things, but I really think I just wasn't dedicated enough to spend that precious free time working on things.

Next year :) Things WILL be accomplished. Oh yes.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

HSF #3: Under It All: A 1750-ish Stay

The Challenge: HSF #3: Under It All
Fabric: quilting cotton, cotton twill
Pattern: Reconstructing History 833 1740s-90s Stays, "red" view.
Year: 1750ish
Notions: vintage poly bias tape (from stash, given to me by my gramma), 11 heavy duty cable ties, ribbon
How historically accurate is it?: Perhaps 40% or so. Modern materials and machine stitching abound, but the bias tape is entirely hand-applied and the eyelets were all done by hand.
Hours to complete: I lost count. If I had to guess, around 20 hours?
First worn: For pictures only.
Total cost: Perhaps $30, max. Most of the items came from my stash, and the cable ties were purchased specifically to try out as alternative boning.

Shown here over an Elizabethan shift, I'm quite pleased that it's finished, even 10 months late :D Insert all the excuses not to work on it, up to and including moving and writing a novel in November. Then I debated for a time on whether or not I wanted to do hand eyelets or use two-part grommets, and finally decided that while grommets would undoubtedly be easier, it wouldn't be "correct" and darn it, if I was already putting all this effort into it, I might as well go the extra steps and do them by hand.

I initally started out with 5 eyelets on each side of the back and was thrilled that I even got to try it on properly for the first time. I decided it needed more eyelets in the back, but to work with the holes I'd already made, I needed to add 7 more per side. I sat down Saturday evening with a good show (Spartacus) and before I knew it, I'd done 10 eyelets in three hours.

Sunday afternoon I was fighting the urge to start a new project when all I had left to do was reinforce the straps, shorten and narrow them, finish the top binding and put eyelets on the straps and it would be done. So I watched a few more movies and made myself do it and I'm so glad I did, since I can now check this off my to-do list :) And start on the garments that go with it! It's been a year since I decided to finally venture into the 18th century, and now with a proper stay, I can start to build a wardrobe.

I'm not wholly sure on the fit, as this era is totally new to me. I'm reluctant to opine on how it fits around my back as I took a bad fall on the ice the other day (I bite my thumb at you, winter and freezing rain!) and really need to see my chiropractor. It's rather conical in shape, giving me a three-inch difference between bust and waist. My tummy resists shaping in any shaper I try to put it in, so it sticks out underneath the stomacher and pushes the bottom of it forward. I'm hoping this will even out visually in the full kit.

Since I've spent nearly half of the day hand-sewing and I finished a project, time to celebrate with a cup of tea :3

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The HSF: Planning for the Future

This year was a total write-off for me in terms of the Historical Sew Fortnightly. I failed miserably at completing each challenge on time. I still intend to finish each challenge in the spirit of it, if not the law. I probably will not complete another challenge this year. When I started writing this post in October, I was becoming rather overwhelmingly busy. I needed to move at the end of the month (I ended up moving on November 2), NaNoWriMo starts on November 1st of which I am one of the people that coordinates events for my region, and then, when I started writing the post, I was working in a retail store. I usually go straight from the craziness of novel-writing straight into holiday shopping. But I decided mid-October to search for a new job. I do not recommend moving, novel-writing, AND job-hunting all at the same time. It does not make for a happy frame of mind.

But I persevered :) My move went very well even though it made me realize that I have too much stuff. Novel writing eventually came together, though it was just past midway when I decided I hated my novel and I wasn't going to write it anymore and then had to switch to a new novel and write 37k words in under 2 weeks. My new job involves covering the reception desk for a couple hours a day, and while I have a project to work on when not there, I can't do it at the front. So I've been spending a lot of time looking at costume blogs and planning future projects :)

I've decided to participate in the Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014! And at the same time finish all of the 2013 challenges too! Hooray!

Since I am still trying to organize my apartment (I moved from a 3-floor, 2-bed townhouse into a 450 sq ft apartment), it's mostly all in the planning stages right now. I've been taking Leimomi's advice and trying to plan ahead so I can be better prepared for actually finishing this year :)

I am thinking about what I want to do for all of the challenges. So, here is a run-down.

#2: UFO
#6: Stripes
#10: Literature

#1: 'Centennial: 1913ish Stays (based on Festive Attyre's pattern)
#3: Under It All: Finish the 1770s stays I started in January.
#4: Embellish: Blackwork embroidery on an Elizabethan shift.
#5: Peasants & Pioneers: Hadn't totally decided yet. Either a Flemish ensemble or a dress inspired by Sienna Guillory's in Gunless.
#7: Accessorize: Finish the Victorian Bonnet I started in July.
#8: By The Sea: I was gonna do a cute Victorian seaside outfit, then I was going to make a Hogwarts-themed Victorian bathing costume, or perhaps a SWEET nautical-themed dress from Voice of Fashion.
#9: Flora & Fauna:
#11: Squares, Rectangles & Triangles: Probably a petticoat, unsure on century.
#12: Pretty Pretty Princess: I haven't quite decided yet. This one was due a day after the one-year anniversary of a beloved friend's death, and we had a "princess boot camp" with some other friends for the express purpose of dressing up. I need a bit more time to think on it and get the inspiration right.
#13: Lace and Lacing:
#14: Eastern Influence:
#15: White: A Regency gown made from the Folkwear pattern.
#16: Separates: A Victorian bodice to go with one of my many skirts.
#17: Robes and Robings: There is a lovely early 1900s "kimono" pattern I have that I'd like to try.
#18: Re-make, Re-use & Re-fashion: Turning an old 1980s costume Victorian gown into something lovely, likely an Edwardian gown.
#19: Wood, Metal, Bone:
#20: Outerwear: I think I will do a Victorian coat..? I don't wear most of my outfits in winter cuz it's just too cold without a coat, and I do not have a coat that will fit. I should start this soon, it's full-on winter here!
#21: Green: Linen 1770s gown.
#22: Masquerade:
#23: Generosity & Gratitude: A 1770s gown with major props to Katherine C.G.
#24: Re-do: A chance to re-do a challenge! Maybe "Under it All" with panniers or a bum pad.
#25: One-yard:
#26: Celebrate:


#1: Make do and Mend:
#2: Innovation: a new corset for myself.
#3: Under it All:
#4: Pink!:
#5: Bodice: A cream-coloured Victorian ballgown bodice to go with skirts I already have.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

HSF: #10: Literature

Now that my dress is finally finished, over 3 months late, and I have pictures, I shan't keep the juicy details from you any longer ;)

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The Challenge: 10: Literature
Fabric: 5m? (I lost count) of bronze faux-silk, 3m of mushroom? maybe real silk?, 1/2m of brown cotton velveteen
Pattern: Truly Victorian's Vest Basque, 1870s Underskirt, and Side-Draped Overskirt
Year: 1875-ish
Notions: plastic boning, thread, buttons
How historically accurate is it?: All machine-stitched, hand-hemmed, largely modern materials. Patterns and overall look, like 70%?
Hours to complete: Too many... around 30.
First worn: WorldCon San Antonio (August 31, 2013)
Total cost: The bodice materials were all given to me as gifts, so for buttons and skirt materials, around $20 CDN.

As mentioned in the inspiration post, I'd had the skirt languishing in my to-do pile for over a year when I read Gail Carriger's Timeless. On page 43, Alexia's dress is described as an "ecru [dress] over a bronze skirt with brown velvet detailing." I laughed quite hard as it was the second time she'd managed to write about my wardrobe, and I thanked her (publically) for giving me an idea on what to wear with the skirt, whenever it was finally finished (turns out I just need to remove and reattach the waistband; I made it too small). I'd been on the lookout for a material that would go with faux-silk ever since.

My aunt gave me some possibly-real silk for my birthday earlier this year and I was VERY excited to see it was a neutral-enough colour to match bronze and brown velvet quite nicely. Then I procrastinated forever, as I always do (man oh man, did I regret it though), and my mum gave me enough of the brown cotton velveteen to finish the bodice off. Add some funky buttons, and I was set.

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What's missing is the hours I spent at work, worrying about how I would get everything done, making myself physically ill when I was at home and not working on my costumes for WorldCon (yes, even when I was making supper. You can't sew when you're fainting from hunger!), and sewing until late in the night. It didn't help that I caught a sinus cold 2 weeks before I left and needed several days to recover my brains. THEN I decided to make a new skirt, since the one I already had was a "late" bustle and the outfit was, generally, "early". And I still had to get up early Saturday morning to hem my new skirt (I'm glad I made it, it swished nicely) and attach the rest of the buttons. I ended up being ready for the day exactly when I said I needed to be.

I got some lovely compliments on it :3 San Antonio was very warm and humid, especially for this Canadian girl! The AC worked very well inside, however, and I was quite comfortable for most of the day. The times when I felt overheated was when a room was very crowded and I was surrounded by people. These photos were taken at the end of the day, with the timer function on my camera.

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Friday, August 2, 2013

HSF: Challenge #2 - UFO: A Pair of Regency Gowns

I'd missed the deadline for the first challenge, so on January 15th, I was SUPER GUNG-HO EXCITED to start #2. I have a box in my sewing room JUST for UFOs (UnFinished Objects). Most of them are in the same general state of unfinished-ness, which is largely hemming. I headed downstairs and picked out a dress, and hemmed it. Yes! But it seemed like such a cop-out, since it was all done except for the hem, so I pulled out a couple more dresses to finish.

And then... I got the plague. I got two plagues, actually. I got over one (I think a stomach flu), felt OK for a day, and then promptly got another one (tonsilitis).

And THEN I discovered how adorable Korean boybands are, and I lost all of my free time to Youtube, but that's a post for a different blog ;)

Fast forward to the end of May. I saw my heterosexual life partner/historical costuming partner-in-crime and realized that we only had about 6 weeks to plan the Second Annual Canada Day Regency Picnic (which, in the end, didn't happen). I thought about what I was going to wear. I had recently received some lovely hanky-weight linens in greens as a birthday gift. Oh, I thought, I would make a long-sleeved Regency gown out of that. Then I remembered how I'd gone to my aforementioned partner-in-crime's house sometime last year and mostly-constructed a long-sleeved gathered-front Regency dress out of embroidered pink linen that was completely done except for the gathering ties, so I went and got it out of the pile and finally managed to get the ties threaded through the channels. I figured I can still submit it, since I'm super-late on all of the challenges so far, I'm submitting in the spirit of the challenge, and I'm not submitting it for more than one entry. Right?

The Challenge(s): Challenge #2 - UFO

Fabric: mint-and-green striped cotton; embroidered (poly) pink linen

Pattern: Mint: Sense and Sensibility's Elegant Lady's Closet cross-front gown; Pink: Simplicity 4055

Year: Mint: early-1800s; Pink: 1810-ish

Notions: pins, ribbon

How historically accurate is it are they? maybe 75%. All seams are machine-sewn, the fabrics are not strictly correct (linen, probably. The poly embroidering on it? Not so much).

Hours to complete: I don't even know at this point. Both of them languished for 6 months minimum before finishing, but given the general ease with which the patterns make up, not more than 12 hours each.

First worn: Neither has been worn yet.

Total cost: The mint fabric was about $25, and the pink linen was about the same. All the other materials needed came from my stash, so including thread and the like, $60 for both :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

HSF #10: Literary (An Inspiration Post)

The tenth challenge was due on May 20 (my birthday!) and, like all the previous challenges, I had plans that never got off the ground in time.

Story time! Since 2009, a local group and I have descended upon the Alberta Prairie Railway excursion out of Stettler, AB, Canada. The first year, it was just my mum and I in costume, and every year since, more and more members have dressed up as well. Our biggest year was 19 costumes! (Pictured below.)

In July 2011, I was frantically sewing a costume. I had picked up a large quantity of faux silk for dirt cheap - $2/m! YES. Of course I can't be seen in the same outfit two years in a row, so I set about making a new dress. I'd first made a skirt out of the bronze colour, and then I couldn't decide what I wanted to make for the bodice, so I switched to the cream colour. I ended up making a skirt, overskirt, and bodice out of the cream, and I really liked the monochrome look of it. But when I had time, I would add colour accents, since my costumes so far have been very devoid of any trimming, which is just so not Victorian. It was the first time I put a pleated ruffle on the skirt, and I adored the look of it.

Shortly after I'd decided on a colour - raspberry - my dear friend Mew sent me a message telling me to check out Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. I'd like it, she said, knowing full-well my penchant for Victorian things and the occasional dabble into vampire literature. So I bought a copy for my eReader and set to reading.

And I loved it. I loved the world she built with vampires and werewolves having always been around, and I loved the main character, Alexia, and I LOVED the Victorian-ness of it. There was some steampunk elements, and while I don't particularly like steampunk, it was nicely done. But what I loved, almost more than anything else, was a scene in which Alexia goes out for the evening dressed in a cream-coloured evening gown, with raspberry trimming.

I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. This was a series for me, all right. I still have yet to make the evening bodice to go with my skirts, or trim any of it in the appropriate colour, but it remains one of my favourite gowns. It's been to Worldcon in Reno, Fort Edmonton Park, and another convention, and it won't be retired any time soon.

Fast forward a year, to when Timeless came out. Just 43 pages in, and I nearly fell out of my chair laughing again. Alexia's dress is described as an "ecru [dress] over a bronze skirt with brown velvet detailing." I'd had the bronze skirt languishing in my to-do pile since I'd made it, requiring only a hem and possibly some trimming of some kind. Thanks to this novel, I now knew what to make to go with it. I've been keeping an eye out for ecru-coloured fabric ever since, though finding something to go with a faux silk has proven difficult (granted, I have not been looking overly hard). Then, earlier this year, I received some plain fabrics as a gift, and one them I was told was silk. Even if it isn't, the slubby texture will match the skirt nicely. Better than that - it's close enough to ecru that I'm going to call it a win.

Now the hard part is deciding what pattern I want to use, and how to trim it! Does the brown velvet go on the skirt or on the dress? I had assumed the dress itself, but the wording somewhat indicates the skirt. More than that, the following line says that the dress is a little plain for visiting vampiric royalty, but more than suitable for being seen in public. Once again using Fashions of the Gilded Age as inspiration, I think I have a good idea of what I want to make. Fashions is, I think, too "late" for the Parasol Protectorate, but social mores would not have changed so radically that the information is entirely useless.

This post is already two months late for the challenge, but my goal will be to have the dress ready for Worldcon in San Antonio at the end of August.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

HSF #6: Stripes

Even though the deadline has long passed, I'd always intended to make this outfit for this challenge. I've missed every challenge but one so far... and even that one, I "cheated", since it was UFO and the only thing I had to do was hem the gown (that post is written, just awaiting pictures! As soon as my hollyhocks bloom...)

The dress is still missing buttons, but I'm calling it done. Woohoo!

The Challenge: #6 Stripes
Fabric: 100% Wool suiting, linen
Pattern: modified TV261 - 4 gore underskirt with inspiration from Fashions of the Gilded Age Vol. 1, TV464 1883 Riding Habit Bodice
Year: 1880-ish
Notions: Thread, hook and eye, buttons (eventually)
How historically accurate is it?: Maybe 75%? I used poly thread and machine stitched everything.
Hours to complete: 25-ish hours. I always forget to keep track.
First worn: First outing will be on August 5, so expect a picture post shortly after!
Total cost: $65 for the wool, maybe $10 for the linen.

I'm in looooove with the drape of this skirt. I used TV261 for the overall shape, shortened to guidelines from Fashions of the Gilded Age. I'd been wanting to try this out for awhile, and it seemed like it would work. I thought I made it a little too short, however, and was faced with a dilemma. Fashions indicated that a walking-length skirt should touch "the instep [in front], [and] the back just clears the ground" (pg 144). I cut it about 2" too short; the unhemmed pieces touch the instep in front and just clear the ground in back. But when I hemmed it and put it on, it was the perfect length. We shall see how it turns out when I wear it :D

Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Review: Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volumes 1 and 2

I bought these books after perusing another book in Frances Grimbles' bibliography, with the understanding that they weren't going to be "easy" to use. I am not an experienced tailor by any means; with only three years of high school fashion studies class under my belt, I am largely self-taught. (I hated sewing until I discovered Gothic Lolita fashion. Why pay $300 for a dress that I could make myself? But that's a story for another day.)

They are less easy than I even guessed at. Some of the patterns are presented with an apportioning scale similar to those in Edwardian Modiste and Voice of Fashion, but otherwise, they are largely scaled drawings that you will have to enlarge and modify. These are going to be a challenge for me, albeit an exciting one.

I would say that these books are valuable to have in your collection regardless of sewing skill, if you have any interest in Victorian fashion and recreating it. There is a section on undergarments, including corsets (what does the "hideous" French corset look like?? I must know!), chemises and drawers. Volume 2 contains an extensive selection of accessories, hair pieces, jewelry, shoes, and outerwear. There is one pattern for a slipper, three for aprons, and various dresses and outfits though not as many as vol. 1. There is a HUGE section at the back on fitting and sewing techniques. It is worth it for this section alone. Volume 1 contains three corsets, several petticoats, and skirts and bodices galore! Volume 2 also contains a large section on sewing techniques and TONS of information on modifying patterns, and both volumes also have lengthy introductions to each section on mores that modern costumers may never have picked up on (for example, a white petticoat while travelling "[displays] vulgarity and want of breeding so completely". [Fashions of the Gilded Age Volume 1, page 347, originally quoted from Ladies and Gentlemen's Etiquette, 1877]).

I've had the books for just over a week and I flip through them nearly every day. I'm quite enjoying the information presented and really looking forward to attempting to make up some patterns.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Adventures in Apportioning Scales

My dear friend Mew was so very sweet and thinking of me when she was shopping one day. She found a book of Victorian patterns, would I like a copy? Sure! I love Victorian patterns and adding to my collection of Things I Will Sew One Day (tm). Thank you for thinking of me <3

The book came, and it wasn't precisely what I was expecting -- not that it is not dearly appreciated anyway! I really had no idea what to expect in the first place, and I was really excited to see what it had to offer. The book was 59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Patterns by Kristina Harris. It's a little out-of-era for me - most of my costuming focus is the bustle years of 1869-1889 (with the bustle-less years in-between as well; they're still aesthetically pleasing to me), but some of the earliest patterns in the book were still quite lovely to my eye. It's also useful for people looking for children's patterns; there's a very small selection of girls' patterns, one boys' pattern, and 2 or 3 mens' patterns as well. I was really excited to sit down and start planning the patterns out.

But I didn't quite understand them. The sewing directions are sparse (not really a concern, I should be able to figure that out), but the drafting instructions just made no sense. You are directed to draft blouses (aka waists) by bust measurement, and skirts by waist measurement, and to regulate the length by tape measure. OK, I got the tape measure part. What does the rest of it mean?

A trawl of Google revealed that you cannot make up the patterns by the numbers given. They are not in inches, and the enlarging instructions given are partial at best. What you really need is a set of apportioning scales.

What the heck are apportioning scales? Another Google trawl led me to a blog that linked to Festyve Attire's videos on how to use Edwardian apportioning scales as given in Edwardian Modiste by Frances Grimble. The notes at the bottom also indicated that the same scales given in this book can be used for Kristina Harris' books, as they are from the same fashion magazine. Sweet, I thought. I just need to find myself a copy of a Grimble book and I should be golden.

As I am a poor working stiff in retail, buying an appropriate book was not an immediate option. The library had only one book, an early 1900s book of patterns The Voice of Fashion (Grimble). I figured I could take it out, copy the rulers I (thought I) needed, see if anything caught my attention. I know myself well enough to know that I only need enough time and opportunity looking through any given era and I will most likely develop a level of passion for it.

There's several dresses that look utterly charming. I made up the test pattern with relative ease, though I haven't had a chance to test it fully. All of my fabric and sewing supplies are currently packed up and inaccessible, but the paper part seems to be OK so far. I will have to get on making a corset for the era to be totally sure. I was impressed enough with the way the patterns are drafted to pick up copies of Modiste, and 2 mid-bustle era books also by Grimble (Fashions of the Gilded Age One and Two; funnily enough, from the bustle-less mid-era years. LOL.) I can't wait for them to arrive and get started on expanding my wardrobe.

I will hopefully remember to take detailed photos of both the drafting and construction process to post here, as these books are wonderfully fascinating! I highly recommend them to anyone looking for these eras, with the caveat that they will take some skill to prepare to an easily sew-able state.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Adventures in: Sewing Challenges!

I've decided to participate in the Historical Sew Fortnightly, a themed challenge every two weeks for historical sewing :3 I probably won't be able to participate in every challenge, especially during November, but it's nice to have a tangible target and goals and peer pressure to keep one accountable. Plus I get some pretty things out of the bargain too! :D Now to decide what to make for the first challenge.

Road to Costume College 2018

Gosh, where did the first half of the year go? (I know where, winter was unusually long and dark and cold, and it's effect lasted longer...