Sunday, July 15, 2012


It's funny, because I haven't felt like I've gotten a lot of sewing done recently. Really, it's just that I haven't *finished* much, and what I have hasn't been full outfits. I have a stack of alterations and fixing to do that's about half a couch-worth. I believe I might bring some of it with me on my normal Monday date... maybe.

And so of course I then start in on a 1930s dress. It's going shockingly fast - but then by "shockingly fast" I really mean "I didn't make (more) underwear and so the one layer is going quickly". I should be able to wear the 1930's teddy from last year over the 30's style hip corset I have, and be all set.

So then there's the really cool Victorian bifurcated bicycling skirt that I finally figured out, and I should alter that and finish it. And the Hawaii playsuit that I got mostly done while on the plane. And the gorgeous red 1930s wrap top that I need to hem (how do you hem 4-way stretch material? yikes), and the purchased stripey 18th century gown that I need to add hooks to. If it wasn't for the fact that this is going to be in LA, I'd just wear the Kentwell kit allll weekend....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Sometimes, the cure for a multi-month, multi-layer, high-stress, nitpicky-detailed historic sewing project...

Is a 1960's "Jiffy" wrap dress.

I mean, it wasn't literally a three hour project like it said it would be - but I had to take the pattern up from a size XS to (using my handy sloper!) the far end of the Large size. And then I altered it because hook and eyes? Please. It's got a long buttonhole in the right side body, and the ties are extra long to wrap around and through.  Pictures later. 

I may make a few of these... it's pretty nice really.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Armadillo Neck: Nightmares in Fitting

It's been a few (BUSY) weeks, and I've just now finished my soooper seeecret article for Your Wardrobe Unlock'd, so I'm trying to get back to the other "just for me" writing that I've wanted to do. (Because onboarding interns and working three pyrotechnics shows and organizing a county fair trip and oh *work* isn't enough on top of writing an article?)

In my last post I mentioned the Armadillo Neck Issue. I'm sure you're all wondering what that is, right?

Entertainingly, almost all of my clothes for Kentwell were made from patterns derived in some form or another from my Venetian gown for the Realm of Venus Italian Showcase. I'd first taken the pattern for the Venetian and altered it to make a bodice for Much Ado About Sebastapol - probably the last "history" Renaissance Faire in California. I then took the bodice for MAAS and cut it down to 1556 shape to make the petticoat bodice, then enlarged it (woo ease!) enough to make the kirtle's bodice as well. I then added yet more ease and made a mockup, intending to make the English Fitted Gown bodice from the same thing but...

No go.  It was about six inches too small, so the front didn't meet at all. Lamely, I forgot to even look at the back fit. The sleeve was, thankfully, okay.

Que pasa gaposis?

So I started again!  This time I took the pattern piece for the too-small part, and laid it out against a manilla sloper that I'd paid a fashion-student friend to make for me. Unfortunately, I also hemmed and hawed a bit about the shoulders - the pattern for the mockup didn't match at all.  So I traced the shoulders and armhole from the sloper into the new pattern. Like an idiot.  And then I had to wait three days to get back to working on it, so I then promptly forgot.

It looked okay from the front, and it looked okay from the side (though ye gods I don't know how I thought I was going to move my arms in that), but then....

What the heck?  I had rolls going from the shoulder points and up into the line where my neck met the raised collar.  What?  WHAT?  I spent a good half hour trying to explain what was wrong to my boyfriend so he could take a picture for me to send gaspingly to the Costume Elves while begging for advice.  I made many strange and undignified faces. I finally gave up and tried to take the picture myself in the mirror.

 The next day, word came back from the Elves that "the shoulders are too high". They said they'd get back to me with a line drawn across my photo to help me figure out where to cut, but by this time I was about a week out from getting on a plane, and beginning to panic about not having everything done.  I spent an evening futilely trying to repin the mockup on myself in the bathroom mirror, which with petticoat and kirtle on, was pretty much impossible. Attempts to get assistance from my boyfriend in this were... pretty futile also, though he did try really hard to understand what I was trying to get him to do, bless him for a team player.

So finally, I threw myself upon the mercy of my amazing friend and ex-housemate, Laurie Tavan of Daze of Laur. We puzzled over the drawings in the Tudor Tailor, cut some muslin, and she went to work draping a new bodice pattern for me.  It came out amazingly, though neither of us were entirely sure about the front open collar part.

(Also, it was really sunny, which is why I look both sweaty and washed out. Oh, and stressed.)

Laurie patterned two different versions of the collar, and I then took the muslin home to true on paper. Costume Elves approved, and without actually doing any more try-ons, I rushed to make the gown.
Trued patterns are a thing of beauty.

...Which I didn't actually finish enough to wear at Kentwell, but hey. I got there and had clothes enough. I'm going to count it as a net win.

 The first thing I did, of course, when I got home, was to lay out the trued draped pattern against the armadillo neck version, just so I could wrap my visio-spatial, geometry-loving brain around what exactly had gone wrong.  So I give to you, dear readers, images to help you learn from my folly. The front and back are pictured, with items from my sewing table holding them down. I put a post-it note beneath the collar of one pattern piece so you can actually see the edge.

Bodice Front
Bodice Back

 Wow.  So yes, somewhere in there I added about three inches to my back length. I'm not sure exactly how that happened, but there you have it: The Armadillo Neck Explained!