Monday, August 12, 2013

Costume College 2013

I debated which of the two blogs this should go on, since it's got both costuming and intensely personal things. But it's Costume College, so... on the Costuming blog it goes. :D

Costume College and I go back a long ways, though I don't always attend and I don't always write about it. I took a year off when it moved to the Warner Center Marriott, because first years are often really difficult. But I've taken off other years too, especially in those dark years between graduation and having some semblance of a steady career.

I'm always fascinated to see what changes, and what stays the same. New events are invented and discarded, new traditions, old traditions.  And what my gripe was last year, was the same-y-ness of the classes offered. This is not a criticism of the CoCo board, but instead one of those realizations of adulthood: If I was grumpy at the lack of classes, I should find something I knew and teach it.

So what do I know?  How procrastination screws over your ability to complete large projects? Right, no, not that one. Umm, fabrics and burn testing...? I'm still not great at burn testing. Recycling thrift store things into historic costume? Yes, sure, because nobody else knows how to spot useful bedsheets, curtains, duvet covers...  So... Sewing machines it was.

Naturally, I procrastinated on actually writing the presentation until the last minute, and I was up until 2am the day we left getting it ready. In the end I had to distil it into Powerpoint at the last minute, fix up the animations, and make a few last changes before teaching.  BUT! With all the machines I brought, a helpful dose of lolspeak, and a bare sprinkling of profanity... It went well.

I would hazard to say even that it went REALLY well.  When I looked up from my nerves and presentation-clicking, I noticed people standing against the back wall. I took up the remaining 15 minutes between classes fielding questions and showing people my 112-4 video. Every-other time I got into the elevator the rest of the weekend, I got complimented on the class.

I also taught a short class on making lacing strips, which went well even if we ended up running over with the students bottlenecking at the grommet setter.

So let me back up now a bit and tell you what a FABULOUS time it was, hanging out with Michelle and Cherylynn and Marion and Claudia and Cathy and Tonda and all the rest. Holy crap, I think I've found My Peoples!   We made a food run Thursday night, and did dinner after the meet and greet party. The rest sort of blurs into a wave of awesome: the huge group dinner at Maggiano's, dressing in our Super Secret Group Costume ("The Collected Works of Alphonse Mucha"), going to PF Chang's in said costume and getting alllllll sorts of people daring each other to come up and ask us who/what we were. And Sunday Undies with three of us in peignoir sets.  And this is to say nothing of the late night drinking.

Between teaching and partying, I didn't have a lot of time for costumes, surprisingly.  I didn't bother dressing up Thursday. I wore my favorite black-and-white polkadot dress-from-Ross to teach in on Friday. I put on the Blue Hawaii Jiffy dress for the Ice Cream Social Friday night, then changed into a doric chiton made out of a bedsheet, and a giant drapey pink dupatta as a palla for the pink princess toga party-or-whatever-that-was. Saturday I got dressed up in what I call "The Tackiest Pirate Ever" costume. Saturday night was the aforementioned Mucha-ing, Sunday Morning was again the aforesaid peignoir sets. Sunday day I put on the newly-finished red Butterfly Blouse (I LOVE THAT PATTERN SO MUCH) over a pair of jeans because I Simply Couldn't Be Bothered.

There are not many pictures of any of these ensembles, sadly.

The last class I took on Sunday was actually about how programming works. And between what I gleaned from that and Michelle's curiosity about Limited classes, we have Plans to help bring CoCo into the 21st century. Oooh, but we do!

Monday, I somehow managed to be the Tour Leader for an independent trip to the Garment District. We got there early-ish, or at least before the bus, and hit up Em-Bee. He's got some reallllly nice fine linen right now, so I snagged two yards to make headcoverings out of. We then remembered ourselves and dashed to Home Fabrics before the bus got there. I found lots of interesting stuff for other people, but nothing sadly, for myself.  Much Shopping ensued. Some of us who will go unnamed nearly bought out Fabrics and Fabrics. ;) When we took a break to head over to Maple Grill for lunch we found that they'd closed down! Sadness. So I asked the shopgirl at the Epic Trim Place for a recommendation, which she gave. We walked the three long blocks to find possibly THE best koobideh kabob and falafel ever.  And on the way there (and consequently on the way BACK!) we passed the Fashion Bookstore. They're in a nice building with nice bathrooms, so double-bonus.

At that point we started wrapping up and trickling off, since it was a long way home.
The drive home was, well, the long drive that it always is, except this time lengthened a bit by someone overheating in the "bypass" lane on the grapevine. I think we lost about an hour there, sadly. But stopping early for dinner at Tejon Ranch meant we saved ourselves the extra stop at Kettleman City, so it worked out in the end. I got home and frantically unpacked so that Chris (who'd been in Las Vegas at a hacker event all weekend) could come home and crash out with the con-crud.

A+++ event, would do again. :D

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I know, I know

Things have... not been going.
I got home from CoCo last night, and it was a GREAT event, but there was a moment when I was packing when I was so desperately unhappy about the amount of sewing I have not done that I was in tears. I managed to put together a bunch of good costumes despite this, but I still feel awful - I made one outfit for our awesome group costume (and I'll post more about that later) but I honest-to-God haven't had time to really SEW anything.

I've finished a bunch of unfinished things (and boy-howdy do I have a lot of unfinished things), but nothing new. (Butterfly blouse, two aprons, the old 1950's kit, the Kentwell English Fitted Gown.) I've even got a pile of things that will never be completely done (pre-making aiglets, making stuffed-fabric buttons, lucet cord) and it's just... unsatisfying. 

I'm posting this because I feel like I need to get this out, that I'm about to start unfollowing some people because I find myself actively resenting the amount of time and motivation you find to sew. (I probably won't, but it's just a sort of cry-for-help, I-need-you-to-understand-where-I'm-coming-from statement. When your reaction to some of your friends is "oh geeze, another gorgeous gown, and I still can't even figure out if I'm the same size as when I started this one, oh crap..." it's maybe time to step back and reconsider.

It's the social aspect. It really is. I suck at holing up in my cramped, dark apartment by myself to sew. I can force myself to do it, but what I really want to do is hang out with other people... which means I hang out on the internet.  Which means I get no sewing done. I get no exercise. I feel like crap.

And then I feel guilty about it and go months between posts. :(

Saturday, June 8, 2013

It goes around again

I've been having a slow period for costuming, and I apologize. The grey silk 18th c corset has stalled out in favor of other, fancy interesting projects.  But I had to share this.

Last year for CoCo I made an "antidote dress", which is to say a quick, easy, fast-to-make, zero fancy undergarment dose of "ha-HA, it is DONE".  It's a therapy dress. It's an emotional uplift dress.  Anyway, it's a one-piece wrap dress (three if you count the two ties I added) from a 1960s pattern, made from a piece of fabric I found at a thrift store.

This morning as I woke late, I realized that I had to get a load of laundry in the washer *today* or face dire consequences. The laundry room in our building was quiet, so I had approximately fifteen minutes to get this together.  Normally I would reach for the bare minimum to make myself decent outstide - yoga pants and a pajama top - but they were all in the wash. (I did say *dire* right?)

And then I saw the Jiffy dress, hanging on the peg where I'd left it to try to let the last wrinkles hang out. I threw it on.  I ran outside and put the first load in. (Whew!)  My neighbor stopped me and asked me what brand the dress was.

And when I looked down, I realized that the color and pattern combination of my 1960's mod-take-on-barkcloth print rayon dress... is back in.  Maybe a modern version would have a brighter set of blues, but super bright crazy patterns with a black element are *in*.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Little Things

I haven't touched the next iteration of the corset yet. Maybe I'll do that in the remaining hour I should be awake.  Instead, I made straps for a bridesmaid dress.  Yup!

So, yeah, straps. Which is to say, a tube of black polyester chiffon, gathered, and stitched to the back of the dress where the optional ($70) straps used to go. I haven't yet sewn down the fronts, because who knows how I'll feel day of?  But at least that's one less naggy thing on my mind.

Travel tomorrow. I wish I had a better handsewing project to work on.  I did make some pattens today though, but this isn't a *woodworking* blog now is it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Doin' It Wrong

So, the point of a mockup is to make mistakes. Okay, yeah, I got that. The Barono fabric was a mistake, albeit a calculated one. Racing through all the boning channels? Also a mistake. About half of them were too narrow for my 1/4" reed, so I spent a lot of time trimming bits down and now as ever my floor is covered with cuttings. And yes, I am frustrated enough with this corset that I don't think I'm going to finish it.

In the ugliness, there is some epiphany.  You see, I've always hated this style of corset, because I always get huge ugly bias-pulls in between the boned sections.

Like that trench that runs up over my hip.  Yeah, like that.

 And then it hit me. They're pulling on the bias, because... they're on the bias.  You see, the first 18th century corset I ever made was from a pattern so sparse and so low on instructions that even now I look at it and wonder how I ended up with something so good.  The second was, as I mentioned, another mockup, and thus I'd blamed the fabric.

But it turns out, I've been cutting the panels on the wrong grain tilt all this time, and would never have known except that there's been another book out recently which actually, wonder of wonders, MARKS THE GRAIN LINES. When I did the first one, all I had was the sparse diagrams in Corsets and Crinolines to go on. And while there are pattern pieces in those line drawings, it's unclear where the grain lines are. So really, this is new information to me - the CF is not on the straight of grain, and the grain is ALSO not supposed to go vertically from hip to armpit as in my Victorian bodices.

Nope, the grain is supposed to match the main line of boning - so the angle of navel-to-nipple for the wide front panel, and from navel to armpit on the super-tilted side panel.

(For those of you at home wondering, this is what I imagine any time I hear or say "wellp!")
Other than the major fail of lack of infoz, I feel like the thing fits fairly well.
It's a little big. and I think it needs to come in at the side and side front a bit - we're talking like half an inch from the bottom of the center point-armhole seam, and maybe a bit more tuck at the waist. Oh, and I'll probably narrow the back panels, since I had it laced 100% completely closed in this picture, and wasn't feeling any real "squish":

(Also, this fabric totally matches my bathroom tile. <3 )

Soooo... Onward! The next version will have slight pattern alterations, and be made of much more biddable material. Also, cut on the correct grain. And with more even boning channels.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Okay, literally a month later...

I can't be too hard on myself really.  Because I've been a busy bee this month, and it's amazing that I've had time for any sewing of any sort at all. And in fact, a lot of the sewing I've been doing is "fill time" mending and hemming and eyelets and endless linen ball-buttons for unspecified Renaissance undergarments... in cars and airports and taxis and airplanes and hotel rooms.

Yeah, it's been a traveling month (ski trip, backpacking, ski trip, work travel), capped with a weekend celebrating turning a decade older. Yow!

So today I whipped myself into a froth sewing all the remaining bone cases, measuring and marking grommet placement, and just consoling myself to the fact that as pretty as it is, this Waverly Barono stuff is *crap* to sew with, and I am perfectly justified in never wanting to work with it ever again.

I am not kidding. It takes a lot to get to my (as one ex put it) "fuckit horizon", but this one got me there early. I'm not finishing the edges. I'm not making hand bound eyelets. I'm not even doing anything special for the thread ends, and I'm honestly debating *not* binding it at all.
Right, so... We'll see how this goes.  Laid flat it looks blocky and ugly. But let me tell you, readers, do not attempt to put on a completely unboned corset mockup. Man, it's the most frustrating thing ever. :P  And now I need to run off to the weekend's activities.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Inch by inch

So the winner of the "What Next?" contest is... apparently.... the 18th century stays.

Awhile back I put on my circa 2009 Costume College stay mockup, then worked some alterations into a second version of the pattern. Then I sat on it.

Tonight I pulled it out, because new, better stays is step 1.  And yet, and yet... I haven't tested this pattern yet, so I'm loathe to cut the nice silk fashion fabric and linen canvas until I know how this fits. So I turned around, and dug through the stacks. 

Half a yard of heavyweight cotton canvas, from the end of my sewing board covering activities? That'll do for a nice firm lining.  And then that random Waverly Barono print that turned out to be a weird loose duck canvas? Yeah, that'll work for a fashion layer - $DIETY knows I'm not going to have much else to use it for, it's such a weird wiggly stretchy sateen-y and yet still too heavy weave.

First I had to press all of this from the folds it'd all sat in. And let me tell you, it's been long enough since I used the steamer on my iron that I had to unhook the takeup cord from the ceiling and bleed the stupid thing. Turns out if you don't use the steamer often enough, air bubbles get trapped in it and then you don't get any steam whatsoever.

Whipped out my cutting mat, some pins, and went to town. 

It's a pretty fabric, just weird and not very symmetrical. No way to do anything fancy with the pattern across the bust - but hey, I keep telling myself, this is mockup #2.

I am determined to crawl out of this seamstress' block.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Just called to say...

Hawaii dress #1 is done.

There are definitely things I'd do differently next time, but trying to accommodate my bust *and* have cute sleeves in a kimono-cut sleeve like this is going to require darts or gathering or pleats or SOMETHING.  Also, I'd like a do-over on the neckline. And I'd grade the adorable hip drape slightly fuller at my size.

Cropped because it as like THE most face-unflattering photo evar.
STILL!  It is done. Not just wearable, but hemmed, because I'm planning on wearing this to the final "dance party" class in our Lindy Hop series tomorrow night. I probably won't get around to doing Victory Rolls, but hey.  At some point I will, and then I just need to find an appropriately tropical or tiki-themed place for a photo shoot.  (There is always Forbidden Island.... Right?)

Oh, and the Regency stays are gettin' there. I confused the hell out of my optometrist today in the waiting room. I may try to make the hawking pouch I have planned, though that'll have to be all hand stitching with glover's needles, bleh.  The important part is that I'm getting down to the bottom of the pile, and then comes...

The choice.  Which do I start on next?  I'm thinking 18th century stays.  Something nice and transitional, right before the Chemise de la Reigne, but something that I could dress down and wear a caraco and petticoat with. I should probably whip up a Regency gown or two. Oh, and I think I've got 10 yards of white cotton voile, so I'm debating... well, there's always the aforesaid nightgown, though this stuff was ostensibly bought for an 1860s sheer dress.  We'll see.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Slowly Digging Out

(Random note: I resolve to try to put at least one photo in each post from now on. Otherwise, nobody reads.)

I was at a women-in-tech conference today, and I brought along a bag of handsewing. At some point I had to describe what I was doing, and describe my workshop/sewing nook environment, and the most apropos thing I could think of was that I had physically DDOSsed (Distributed Denial of Service attacked) my workspace. It was literally flooded with unfinished projects.

So! Today, while also talking about The Imposter Syndrome, Digital Art and Philosophy, personal data crunching, and better women in tech mentorship, I also worked on putting buttons and buttonholes in the back of my bodiced Regency petticoat that I abandoned a few years ago, and on whipping down the edges of the red jersey 1930s butterfly wrap top. I then started basting down the edge binding on the Regency short stays (not the transitional ones, but the narrow-back short ones) and then ran out of the right kind of thread and realized I'd left the spool at home. So I finished basting on the scallop edge facings for my 1946 dress.

When I got home, I sewed the scallops and notched and trimmed them, then turned the facings and started the laborious process of finger pressing them before I actually iron them flat. I can kinda see now why this was such a short-lived fad.  Also, I realized that the sewing machine that I just gave to Laurie has a specific stitch *just* for doing this sort of edging on hems and lingerie.  Whoops!

Next up: finish the other stuff. Hem the English Fitted Gown and give it some sort of closure. Ponder trimming options. Finish the edges of the butterfly wrap top. Bind the Regency stays. Re-tuck the Regency petticoat. Finish the cycling skirt/trousers.

The good news is that leaves me with only a few projects left half-finished on the sewing table: The leather pouch I'd started working on for Kentwell, some similarly neglected Tudor apron kits, a half-finished bonnet I will probably never decide to work on again, and then a pile of repairs.

Then I just have to choose what comes next.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Clearing Out

(NB: I seem to be stuck on gerund headings. I blame work.)

I feel like I've cleaned out a lot of *stuff* this weekend. I took three boxes of books to the used bookstore (two came back with me, siiiiigh), took the remaining sewing ones and a bunch of old fabric to the GBACG Open House, and re-homed Cricket, the beautiful (and absolutely underutilized) Singer 319w that I got over at Thrift Center in Santa Cruz, years and years ago when it was a huge purchase.

Tinkerer's aside: It's amazing to me how much I've learned about sewing machines from taking them apart. Specifically, it's amazing to me how much more I could figure out while messing with Cricket in Laurie's workshop. Because I took apart Lethe down to the component level, I figured out the tension release on foot up thing, which means that I figured out what that asshole sewing machine tech super-glued in place when I took Cricket in for service.  Right. I can probably fix this now, I just need tools and time (and maybe some industrial solvents).

Now I get to play with the shiny Singer 201 and all the lovely attachments... Ooooo, ahhhh.

I submitted two classes for Costume College 2013, which means I've now committed to going. I'll be teaching a basic sewing machine troubleshooting and repair course, and then a workshop on making lacing strips. This is partly because they're bite-sized topics that I can talk about for at least an hour, and partly because I think they're super useful things to know about. Also, because the class offerings last year were seriously stale. I mean we're talking classes I took the first year I came to Costume College, being offered again.  Yipes.  Time to step up, I suppose.

I'm still undecided about which sewing project I want to tackle next. I'm at this sort of stuck point because I know that I need to make a bunch of various styles of corsets, but that I run out of motivation after the corset is done.  So I've been procrastinating by working on finishing other projects. The lining is finally whipped securely into my English fitted gown!  Next, I just need to hem it and guard it.  Oh, hahahah, guards.  Dangit. I never do end up budgeting time for trimmings.

Am I doing the Sew Forthnightly thing?  No, because I have a job. (And because I need to go to the gym. And otherwise get my temple in order. Sewing takes a back seat this year.) 

I *do* want to do a German gown, though if I can work from my Kentwell Tudor bodies pattern I should be able to jet through it pretty fast. I *do* want to do more Regency stuff, because, well, it's fast and pretty, and after having so many projects linger in slow death, it's a tremendous confidence booster to have something finished. And maybe once I have a Regency kit, I can do cute spencer jackets and a riding habit. Hmm, hmmm... I also want to do some 18th century stuff, because I love those jaunty little jackets with the pleated peplums, and I have a set of the Felicite curtains that I bought just because they were cute and cheap.  So we'll see where this goes - that's one set of stiffened bodies and two corsets before I can even start.

Oh, and this is not even counting the fact that I have changed alignment enough that I need a new Victorian corset to do Victorian things...

Too many places to go, nothing goading me to go any one direction!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

CADD, or something else?

I spent part of today fulfilling a few promises to folks by posting about some of my favorite period books for Victorian reenactment. (There might be another post later if I dig up the ones on Renaissance stuff in the coming year.)  But then after much procrastination, I realized I needed to tackle the Dreaded Sewing Nook.

You see, it's been through a lot. The failed Titanic experiment, the Kentwell sprint, a huge pile of mending, then the 1940s dress, the partially-deconstructed cycling trousers, and a bunch of other stuff.  Technically, none of it is completed, right down to the fitted English gown that's been draped over my dressform since I got back from England. I even got *most* of the way done with my 1940s dress, and then stopped.  There are a bunch of unfinished partlets that are mostly even wearable. And a 1799/1801 transitional stay that I never finished. 

Why?  At some point I stopped feeling like I looked good in all of this stuff. (But that's a post for another day, and probably the other blog, in all reality.)  But honestly, while I'm making a resolution to become a content producer (unlike the previous year spent mostly in consumption-mode) I also need to get over myself and Just Get On With It.  No (wearable) project I've ever done has turned out exactly the way I wanted it on the first go-round, and whether that's poor fitting, or procrastination-related size change, or unexpected fabric complications, it's irrelevant. I just need to push through some of this, and get it done, and get it put away.

So tonight, I moved some things around, and took down the English gown, and started where I left off: stitching the black linen lining in.  Next up: hemming the sleeves, hemming the skirting.  Maybe putting on guards. Then figuring out a fastening.

And then I can move on.