Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book review: DIY Couture by Rosie Martin

This was an impulse purchase and I am pleasantly surprised.


There are a lot of books of this nature out lately because making your own clothes has caught on with the younger crowd, but I find some of these books rather boring. NOT this one. It definitely takes a unique approach and offers a lot of cool, interesting designs.

It covers 10 basic wardrobe pieces, and eight different variations on each one, so that's 80 different styles to play with. The pieces include:

A straight skirt
The Grecian dress
The skater skirt
A waistcoat
A cape
A slouch top
The goddess dress
A hoody/jacket
and a romper

The variations follow eight different themes:

The Acid Candy collection: bright and modern
The Monochrome Art collection: black and white and classic
The American Road trip collection: a little boho, country, hippy
The Rude Disco collection: glam and flashy
The Coffee Classic collection: stylish neutrals
The Jungle Punk collection: fun and funky
The Safari Prep collection: earth-tone classics
The Tea Picnic collection: girly and flirty

The beauty part is, there are no patterns. The instructions for constructing each piece describe how to use your own measurements and clothes to draft a pattern, and you don't need anything fancier than a t-shirt or pair of jeans that fit you well.

If you have never sewn anything before, this is not the place to start, but if you have a few finished projects under your belt, most of the looks in this book are within your grasp. The instructions for pattern drafting and constructing each piece are well illustrated and easy to follow. This collection also leaves lots of room for your own ideas and customization. This is a great, inspiring springboard.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Queens Servants: Rusty gown with W neckline

Yes I have gone a bit crazy with The Tudor Tailor. I just couldn't wait to get the new book - The Queens Servants - at Pennsic, so I ended up paying for shipping from the UK. It was well worth it. They do an excellent job of researching and illustrating the clothing, and the patterns are working out pretty well. 

New pattern from The Tudor Tailor
They have this new full-size pattern for the gown I made, but once again I just drafted the pattern out of the book and scaled it up to my size.

I am fascinated by this W neckline, but it was a bit tricky to pull off. It is trimmed in black velvet. I also stiffened the bodice with reed boning. I'm hoping that with the back lacing, it will be supportive enough. Ideally, I should have made a kirtle to go underneath this gown, and that would provide the support, but I want to be able to wear this alone over a chemise/smock.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Late Elizabethan flounced skirt

So this is the next look that I'm going for, from The Tudor Tailor:

I was hesitant about doing a flounced skirt, which would require a bumroll - it seems odd to modern eyes - but it turned out ok:



That's the doublet bodice that I made earlier; drafted that pattern from scratch, but it's very close to the one in the book, and I did use the pattern from the book for the medium bumroll.

However, I totally guessed on how to do the skirt. I measured down from the waist, over the bumroll, about 8 inches, made a tuck about 1 inch wide, and ran two rows of loose stitching to gather it. The fabric is a teal-colored wool gabardine that was left over from another project from a long time ago.

Since it's an open front skirt, I might make some sort of forepart to go under it, to hide my corded petticoat. I wish I had the time and fortitude to do something in blackwork, but that's definitely not my strong suit.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Tudor Tailor comes to life

Progress continues on the late Tudor wardrobe, inspired by this look from The Tudor Tailor:
They have published a pattern for it, but I had already started drafting the pattern from the grids in the book - which worked out really well. 


I made the kirtle/petticoat out of some red linen that I sat on for a long time. I was glad to liberate it from my stash. The fitted, open front gown is made of a burnout velvet with a fine print that has also been sitting around for a while. 


The paned sleeves were the trickiest part, but I like how they look. The tartan bodice looks good on the red kirtle, too. I probably won't ever make sleeves because it's always too hot at Pennsic to wear them. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Busy as a little bee: Pennsic sewing frenzy

I am definitely leaning to Europe for my new garb. I think I was inspired by watching The Tudors and The Borgias series. I dug into that pile of plaid again and came up with this:
Lady's Elizabethan Doublet
I just draped onto my toile and drafted the pattern from scratch.

I also made a leather version of the Elizabethan pouch:

So the wardrobe is coming together. I just thumbed through my copy of The Tudor Tailor and got some more ideas. I'll keep sewing until I run out of fabric and time.

I don't think I'm going to make anything new Middle Eastern or Japanese, because I have tons of that stuff. I will go through all of that to make repairs as necessary.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Elizabethan costume stuff

I ended up just making an open-front bodice out of the the tartan I had. There wasn't really enough to attach a full skirt.

I drafted the pattern using the finished corset as a guide.

While I was at it, I also cranked out this Elizabethan pouch, using Margo Anderson's Elizabethan accessories pattern:
I was one of the people lined up to pre-order this pattern, and I finally used it! I want to make a leather version of this bag, too.

Friday, June 08, 2012

New corset: the time traveler

Made from a piece of linen with an interesting pattern of globes and clocks on it. I thought it looked "steampunky". This time, I did include the wooden busk that I purchased a couple Pennsics ago from ReconstructingHistory.com, and I also used reed/cane boning, which is so light and easy to work with, I might never go back to steel for this kind of corset. 

Still using this pattern from Simplicity:
So far, the best one I've used for this style of corset that is both historically accurate and easy to follow. 

I am working on an open-front gown that is more SCA-period to go over it. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

And so it begins...the pre-Pennsic sewing frenzy

When I can squeeze it into my busy schedule, that is. I sorted through a big bag of wool tartan scraps that a dear friend donated to me and picked out the biggest pieces to do something with. After a long contemplation over my historical pattern collection, I decided that I'm going to bodge together something late- period. I'm going for something a bit like this:

From Drea Leed's web site - http://www.elizabethancostume.net
I have some lightweight wool gabardine in a solid color to do the kirtle (underdress) and I'm hoping to piece together enough of the tartan to make the gown. Many years ago, I attended a class that Drea Leed gave at Pennsic on constructing a 16th c. Flemish womans garb, and then she published her notes from that class as a book, which I have: The Well-Dress'd Peasant: 16th Century Workingwoman's Dress - out of print. It provides detailed instructions on drafting the patterns. However, there are lots of other resources available on her web site here - http://www.elizabethancostume.net/lowerclass/makeflem.html.

ReconstructingHistory.com also sells a full-scale pattern that would work nicely.
I'm not too concerned about mashing up a tartan fabric with a Flemish design. Wool is wool. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Books on Audio: At Home

I recently listened to Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life on audio, read by the author, and I really enjoyed it. It's something I could probably listen to multiple times. In At Home, he provides a rich perspective on things we take for granted today, like why we live in houses, why we have flush toilets, furniture, electric lighting, gardens, and so on, by taking a deep look into the history of his home - a rectory built in 1851 in England. He talks about the architects and inventors that made all the comforts of home that we enjoy today possible. Prior to the 19th c., most people scratched out a living and had very few comforts to speak of.

Things to add to the bucket list:

Visit Skara Brae
In At Home, Bryson talks about some of the earliest known homes - Skara Brae being one of them.

Visit Catalhoyuk
This is another curious site of early homes found in Turkey - Catalhoyuk - Bryson referred to.

Catalhoyuk dates back to 7500 BCE - 5700 BCE, and Skara Brae dates back to 3180 BCE–2500 BCE. Both predate the Pyramids, and Stonehenge.

Monday, May 07, 2012

BurdaStyle bag: finished

And here is the finished bag:

Made from an old coat that my mom gave me (to recycle). It looks surprisingly expensive, and it was practically free! I used the bag pattern from the new BurdaStyle book, and I had the other materials on hand.

I love the new Singer Heavy Duty machine, which made possible completion of this project.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What I'm working on: the BurdaStyle Bag

The bag pattern from The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook:

Continuing to feed my bag obsession. I found an old leather coat that was very worn, with the intention of cutting it up and making something out of it, and this bag came to mind. I had cut the pieces out before I left on the trip to San Francisco, and started assembling them when I came back. Not quite finished yet, but I'm liking how it's turning out. 

In other news, my primary sewing machine (Janome My Excel) continues to fail me on heavy fabrics (and leather). It was made for home deco work, but it's 10-15? years old now and I've done all I can. I bought some time by taking it apart and thoroughly cleaning it, but the needle plate on it is warped and I think that is contributing to the problem of skipped stitches. So...

I went for the very affordable Singer Heavy Duty 4423. I seriously don't need a lot of bells and whistles. I just need something to get the job done, and it's doing it. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Travelog: San Francisco

You sometimes find the darndest things in airports. Like, for example, this week at SFO (San Francisco International airport), I spotted this lovely exhibit of sewing machines and other sewing stuff: link opens the whole Google+ photo album. They had an impressive collection of early sewing machines, most of the major brands represented, an array of vintage accessories like thimbles, needlecases, patterns, and such. Here are just a few photos that I snapped with my phone camera.

Beautiful Singer

A pattern drafting system

19th century gown

Lovely sewing kit

Toy sewing machines



Another 19th c. gown
That's not actually why I'm in San Francisco this week, but it was an unexpected bonus.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Making stuff out of other stuff: upcycling mens shirts

Taking my inspiration from the Cut-Up Couture book, I completed a couple projects over the weekend that took a few very ordinary mens shirts and transformed them into interesting clothes for me.

This long coat was made from two plain black sweat shirts that I got at Kmart, on clearance, for $2 each. It's really cuddly, too. The deviated quite a bit from the version that is described in the book. I kept the long sleeves, added the lapels, and did not include the patch pockets. 

This top is made from two different mens shirts, also $2 each from Kmart, and it's a little more obvious how they went together. Once again, I used an idea from the book as inspiration, but added my own touches. I had to add the buttoned panel on the front to make it fit around the bosom, and I added the ruffles on the sleeves to make it look more girly. 

Note: I draped the shirts onto my toile before cutting into them, because the measurements given in the book were definitely for a smaller person than I. I made adjustments accordingly.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Bug-building and book-buying continues...

My multi-part series on working with foam floor tiles to make an alien costume is coming along over at the d-Infinity blog. This project is quite a departure from my usual skill set, but I'm enjoying it. I'm pretty much making it up as I go along, but the results are pretty cool-looking. 

In other news, I splurged on a few new sewing books.

Cut-Up Couture, Yamase
Do you have a lot of large-to-XL men's shirts lying around that you would like to recycle into wearable clothes? Well this is the manual for that. This book takes more than just a cut-apart-and-piece-together approach. It deconstructs the garments in clever ways to remake them into modern couture-looking dresses, skirts, and tops. I already dove in and made up one of the projects using a couple of t-shirts. The only criticism I have is that all the projects are one size, and need to be adjusted to fit real people. It inspires and challenges me to look at recycling old clothing in new and different ways.

The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook, Abousteit
I have been wanting a copy of this since it came out, just to have it. I follow the BurdaStyle blog and have downloaded and used many patterns from the web site. There are at least a few styles in here that I would like to make for myself, and it includes the pattern sheets and lots of ideas for variations. 

Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders, Yaker
This was an indulgence. There's something in here for everyone, from fashion accessories, to stuffed toys. There are a lot of patterns for children's clothing, which I don't have much use for, but plenty of other useful patterns, and it comes with the pattern sheets. I think I like this volume more than the first iteration of One-Yard Wonders because it has more things in it that I might use. 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Building a Better "Bug" Costume, Part 1: Inspiration

Reposted from d-Infinity blog.

Being a seamstress for many years, I typically address all of my costuming needs with a sewing machine. I can transform fabric into just about anything I need. However, as I become more deeply involved in sci-fi and fantasy costuming, I find that mere fabric is not quite enough to create the effects that I'm going for. Specifically, I want to build a better "bug" costume - an alien with insect-like exoskeleton or armor - without spending a fortune on new tools and materials. It also needs to fit a range of human sizes: Medium to 2XL.

As I set about my task, I will share what I learn with you here, in this multi-part series. Suggestions and comments are welcome! Now let's begin.

So What Does it Look Like?
I want my design to suggest something that my audience will be familiar with, but still be original. So I am mining the Interwebs for photos for inspiration.
Our old friend

Our other old friend
Check out this collection. I will be adding more photos to it as the project rolls along. I have found that Pinterest is a great way to save and organize photos like this for your projects.

What would you use for inspiration? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here.

I am now working on some rough sketches for what I want my "bug" to look like. When I figure out how to scan these sketches into the computer, that will be the subject of Part 2 in this series! Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Recent adventures in Orlando, FL

Even though I was in Orlando all week, I wouldn't call it a vacation. It's more like a job that I love.

MegaCon had it's moments. I rocked the "Mad Men"-inspired dress that I made, and got lots of compliments. I like being recognized for my mad sewing skillz.

Me with Space Marine from Warhammer 40k, I think?

Otherwise, I helped run registration for the USMSC event, and on Saturday, I put on a monster suit and played "alien" for a few rounds, to give some of the other NPCs break. Playing "monster" is a physically demanding job, maybe more so than playing marine. I really enjoyed doing it at my first MegaCon, and that's kinda what got me hooked into playing this game, but after I got banged up pretty I good, I went back to the registration table. I didn't get to see much else of the con. I walked around the exhibit hall for maybe 20 mins., ogled the Star Wars stuff, and that was it. I saw lots of very young Doctor Who's, a few good-looking super heroes, and TONS of kids in bad wigs and mediocre anime costumes.

So MegaCon, was MegaCon. It was a good team-building experience for our crew, if not a great success for Mindgame Productions.

The following week in Orlando was like any old work week, except that I was sitting on someone else's couch, and I had a really bad cold. It seemed that lots of people had gotten sick that week. "Patient Zero" was probably at MegaCon. I am still hacking up the remnants of said virus. The only marginally interesting thing that I did was go to Skycraft - a candy store for tech nerds. This is the place where junk from old data centers and Radio Shack stores goes to die. This is the place where you go to find parts for building your robot, props for filming a science fiction movie, etc.

We picked up what Stefan calls a missile case, for $40. This is a big plastic "Pelican"-style shipping case that was probably used to ship servers or large electronic equipment. I can't imagine what it would cost to buy new. They had stacks of these cases there.

Last Saturday was the Amerika airsoft milsim event at Wayne's World of Paintball in Ocala. Now that was hella fun times. After helping out with registration in the early morning,

Check-in at Wayne's World. Photo by Brian Gilbert.

I actually got to go out and play!!! It had been a long time since I had that kind of fun. My gear performed well. I managed to stay in the game a lot longer than I thought I could. The nice weather was an extra added bonus.

Here, I am holding another player's rifle while he is "interrogated," while my own M177 dangles from it's sling. Photo by Chantal Jost. I'm wearing black, because I was playing a "bad guy," LOL.

...and then it was a long drive back home.
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