Monday, 22 July 2013

Planning for Cosplaying

I said in one of my first posts that my goals for the year included making a cosplay costume. (There's a few things on that list that I probably won't get done, but lets not talk about that.)

I've finally decided which one I want to do first.

I'm a big fan of the Teen Titans cartoon series. It came out when I was in the right age demographic, they showed episodes at the right time so I could watch them at my grandparents, (we didn't have cable or satellite) and it turned into a gateway drug for the DC universe.

This costume has a couple of advantages that draw me to it. Firstly, as far as superhero outfits go it's pretty simple. There aren't any complicated emblems or insignia to trip me up. I might try them later but not on my first try.

Secondly, I finally feel like I have the figure to make it work. I know I shouldn't talk like that, a bigger cosplayer having loads of fun will almost always look better than someone the right shape who doesn't put the effort in and enjoy it, but confidence wasn't always my strong suit.

Thirdly, I probably have the supplies for the main clothes, belt, and broach already. That's an important thing at the moment because I'm completely skint.

Lastly, It's been done before and done well. It's always nice to be able to see what can be achieved and how it's been done by other people.

I'm going to try and get this together by the end of the year and then break it out at conventions in the spring, but I still don't know where I'm going to find the shoes...

Sunday, 21 July 2013


I got so little done on my dress since the 16th I feel ashamed. I cut out the bodice but nothing else and I still haven't started sewing yet.

I do have sort of a good excuse though. Those of you in England will know we've been having a bit of a heat wave lately, and I don't do well with heat. I've gotten used to getting all my liquids via having tea at home and just going without when I leave the house so I thought nothing of wandering into town for a slice of cake and wandering home (an hour each way) without a bottle of water. On one of the hottest days of the year.

To compound the problem I went to a party with my boyfriend that night and subsisted on rum and coke, i.e. alcohol and caffeine. I ended up seriously dehydrated and I'm only now getting over it.

I cut out the bodice for my Hawthorne dress and marked all the buttons and button holes. I did it by sticking a pin through the marks and drawing them on in pencil.

This fabric is slowly driving me nuts. Not only is the weave really loose, but it's taken a battering from being bedding for years. If it was on grain to begin with it certainly isn't now.

I promise I'll get more done for next time. Take care of yourselves and drink loads of water!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Moths: Prevention is better than cure

A couple of months ago my parents had a huge infestation of moths. They caused a lot of annoyance and destroyed almost all of my dads wooly jumpers but we aren't really the kind of family to have a tone of cashmere and expensive vintage so the financial tole could have been a whole lot worse.

The lost item that got to me the most and got me thinking was just another wooly jumper, or it would have been if it hadn't been knitted by my grandmother for my dad over 30 years ago.

The simple fact that the clothes we make take a lot more time, a lot more thought and effort, makes them more painful to loose. That, plus a tendency to hord large amounts of fabric can be a recipe for disaster.

You might have read about it in the news over the last couple of years, but apparently the population of Tineola bisselliella, the cloth eating moth, is on the increase. The combination of warmer weather throughout the year, central heating in winter, and fast fashion leaving us all with piles and piles of clothes that we rarely wear and don't take proper care of has given them the perfect breeding ground.

The first step, don't panic. There are a few things you can do to protect your precious hand made wardrobe and your stash.

Second, don't worry about the moth that's circling your lampshade. Of all the thousands moth species only two actually eat clothing. Those beautifully patterned moths you get on your curtains at night mostly eat foliage and dust. I have to admit, I didn't know that until recently.

The next step might seem a bit drastic, but consider giving away or donating some of your clothes. If you have a wardrobe full of items that you don't wear you're not only making a perfect home for moths, you're also not getting the most from your clothes. It might be better to have fewer items that you truely love, rather than hundreds of 'blegh' items.

Make sure you keep everything reasonably clean. Leaving sweat and dirt on cloths is like putting icing on the cake, and you have to be especially thorough when you put things away in storage till they're in season again. Storing them in plastic or vacuum packing clothing bags is a really good idea.

Air out whatever you want to keep every month or so. Light and movement are your best defense against moth larvae, so bring out your clothes that don't get as much wear and give them a good shake. This disturbs the little buggers.

It can also help to have things stored on shelves rather than shut away in the dark.

Don't forget the good old moth balls! They're made out of naphthalene, or more commonly 1,4-dichlorobenzene (also known as para-dichlorobenzene, p-dichlorobenzene, pDCB or PDB) since it's less flammable. Both work fine, but make sure you don't use them together! They turn into fabric destroying slime when they react.

If you want a more natural alternative then you can always go for ceder balls. They smell much better and if you have pets or small children around they're a lot safer.

The last thing you can do to keep your clothes and fabric safe is to vacuum your house thoroughly (or get someone else to do it) and keep on top of it. Remember to move furniture so you can clean underneath!

If you do get moths, the best thing to do is wash everything in the machine at 50 degrees or higher. If you have anything that won't survive that you need to freeze it for a week to get rid of the bugs, but it's much better then loosing much loved quality clothing.

If you can't avoid it then there's always the choice to call in the exterminators, but they're expensive. If you want to try the cheep way first then you can buy a couple of bug bombs, but make sure you read the instructions! If you use too many it's seriously dangerous!

If you'll excuse me, I'm off to vacuum my house.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Start Of My Hawthorn

That's right, I've finally cut into the "fashion fabric" for my dress. I'm putting fashion fabric in quotes because I'm making it out of an old duvet cover that I had back when I slept in a single bed at my parents house.

I decided to use it because not only can I not afford to go fabric shopping right now, I have far to much stash fabric that I bought when price mattered a lot more in comparison to quality.

Helps that it's pre-washed as well.

I only got the skirt portion cut out because I was down for a little while with heat stroke and the bedroom, the room where I sew, is literally the hottest room in the house. Fingers crossed The spare room will be usable soon, but the heat makes me much less excited about cleaning.

On a side note, any strong opinions about which side I should have on the outside? I'm leaning towards the one on the left that was on the outside on the duvet.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Ten Questions To Ask When Sewing For Other People

Many sewers and bloggers will tell you that sewing for other people is a slippery slope. You start sewing on a button and then the next thing you know you never have time to sew anything for yourself.

I'm not such a believer in that. Yes, if you say okay to every request for clothing from people who don't understand how much work you'll either end up putting it off, hating them for stealing all your sewing time, or garroting someone with a yard of printed ribbon, but you just have to set your boundaries before you begin.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Can they do it themselves? If someone who has the skills to sew something but asks you for help they may have a good reason. If they need to get a petticoat sewn but they're making the wedding dress to go over it and darn, where did all the time go? then that's more understandable than if they just got DVDs for the new series of [insert program you don't watch here] and they just have to watch it RIGHT NOW!

2. Could they and would they learn? If it's something really simple, could they just learn how to do it themselves? If they come to you every time they loose a button then it'll probably be a lot quicker to teach them how but if it's something like complicated embroidery that you enjoy doing it might take longer to teach them the skills they need to get it right than to just do it. 

3. How much do you really like this person? Are they your brother's colleague's cousin once removed or are they your favorite child? There's a reason they call it a labor of love, and it's not because you just adore patching holes in trousers.

4. How long will it take? It makes sense that you need to be very invested in someone to make them a huge beaded ball gown but you might be happy to sew a button on for a friend every now and again. Either way, it's a good idea to make them aware of how long it'll take before you start. If you're going to spend an hour sewing buttons on then make sure they know it's not a ten minute job.

5. How much difference will it make to them? Will this have a big enough impact on their mood or standard of living to make it worth the effort? Fixing a cherished childhood toy will be remembered a lot longer than fixing the zip on a cheap, rarely warn dress. If someone is depressed or having a terrible day or week or even month then one act of kindness can mean a whole lot more than what you put into it.

6. Is it important to you to have a say in how they dress/present themselves? If you want to sew for someone so you can change their style then you're probably heading for disappointment, but if you just want them to stop looking homeless then it might be worth a try. I'd quite happily put the hours in making my boyfriend new trousers if it meant the general public wasn't exposed to his boxers every time we went out.

7. Will you enjoy the project? Is it something that you'd do just for the fun and the experience or will it be a hard slog with very few rewards? If you'd be happy to sew something just for the practice and the artistry that goes into it, like an embroidery sampler, then why not make it to fit someone who'll love it?

8. Is it something you need to practice? You can always use sewing for others as practice for something you want to get better at. If you always wear stretch fabric skirts but you want to add fly zippers to your skill set then make something for someone who'll actually use it.

9. Are they easy to work with? Simply put, if you're going to spend most of the project wanting to strangle them for changing their mind or never being happy with the results then it's probably safer for everyone if you stop before you begin.

10. Are they willing to do or give something in exchange and will it be worth it? This goes back to making sure they know how long it will take. Are they happy to do something that requires a similar commitment of time and energy for you (after taking into account your answers to the last nine questions) or pay enough to make it worth it? If you make a complicated evening jacket in exchange for a hug or a fiver and the cost of the materials you're probably going to feel ripped off.

The reason I'm talking about this is because I spent about an hour this morning making a pair of my boyfriends shorts wearable for the day ahead. The button had been pulled off, ripping the fabric when it went, and in the heat of mid-July a pair of shorts are almost a necessity.

If I hadn't had a huge button purchase to feel less guilty about then it probably wouldn't have gotten done, but I'm also in the process of building up good karma at the moment anyway. I've mentioned before that my boyfriend is good with video editing and the like, and I have ideas for making and including videos and graphics in my blog and I'm going to need his help.

If you want to know how I fixed the rip, just have a look at the picture below!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Fabric Patterns And A New Posting Schedule

The blog needs a bit of a revamp. I'm not changing the template or the layout that much because I'm pretty happy with them but you can expect to see some changes in the content.

Firstly, I'm planning on putting up a tutorial or two. I'll probably only do them when things come up organically but as I explore the world of sewing and fashion more and more things should come to the surface.

Secondly, as much as I love writing every day and it helps me keep motivated, I think I can produce better posts if I have a longer run up time. I'm just changing to posting on even days at the moment, and I'll have two days to work on things at the end of 31 day months instead of switching or doing two in a row. I hope it works out.

On to my other subject!

Have you heard of fabric printing services like Spoonflower? I love the idea! Just imagine, a pretty dress or shirt made of fabric you designed yourself! Or you can browse the ones that are already there by popularity or a colour you like. You can even buy a printed pillow that you sew together yourself like the one below, available here.

I've always liked scribbling patterns and playing with colours in my notebooks and it would be cool to upload them. They might sell if I do them with Paint Shop Pro and it would be cool if someone liked them enough to pay for them but I mostly just want to put a personal spin on my own clothes

On a random note, it's apparently 'Different Colored Eyes Day'. The combination of that and meeting someone at work who had one blue, one hazel eye sort of inspired me to doodle a pattern. It's not as creepy as it could have been.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Procrastination And Shoes!

If you look around on craft blogs and pinterest, sometimes it seems like you can make pretty much anything. You want a bright orange trench coat with polka dots? It's not that hard. You need a 32G bra? There's a pattern out there somewhere. Need a historically accurate dress for your live action role play group? Just need to put the hours in!

The one thing I thought was beyond my reach was making my own shoes. They're complicated, require a load of specialist equipment and they're made of one of the harder materials to work with.

That was until I saw on another blog (I can't remeber which right now but when I do I'll put it up) that you could take shoe making courses. I think they did it in New York, which is a bit far for me to travel, so I set out on Google.

Most of the places that do it seem to work from London, to be expected, and there seems to be a wide range of things to do. You can do everything from expensive three week courses to a hen party and all types of shoes from simple sandals to high heals!

I love the idea of it but I'm definitely not shelling out £2000 or heading down to London for my first experience so I managed to track down someone closer to home. Samantha Gillan is a woman based in Wolverhampton, sorta' near me, and offers one or two day courses. The pictures aren't great and I'd need more details. What do you think?

Some more places to try:

I CAN make shoes
University of the Arts, London
Prescott and Mackay
Paul Thomas Shoes

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Is There Such A Thing As Crafters Block?

I can't help but wonder if crafters get their own equivalent of writer block. Dread when you look down at a blank piece of felt or just a terrible frustration at the fact that nothing turns out how it looked in your head. Maybe you've felt this before?

I don't have crafters block, I just have a stupid amount of work to do and nowhere to cut my fabric. The person who I think has contracted this terrible affliction is my boyfriend. He's given me permission to talk about the problem here.

The first time I met my boyfriend we talked about our crafty habits and dreams. He was a Concept Design and Special Effects student at the local uni and enjoyed editing videos, drawing, making sculptures and lodes of other fun things. We commiserated about his course not going that well and a lack of support from tutors and I told him about my dress making.

Since he finally dropped out of uni though he hasn't had any creative energy, or much excitement for anything really. When he draws he scribbles over them or rips them up afterwards and hasn't completed a piece of digital art in months, which isn't helped by his rather unsuccessful attempts at getting commissions.

When he's in a mood it saps my urge to draw or sew or create, especially when he's in such a funk he just curls up in bed for hours. When he has to go to his job in an off-licence and I'm staying at home to sew he'll make snide comments, and I know it's because his job is soul destroying but mine isn't much better.

I don't want you to get the wrong idea. He's a lovely guy when he's not in a funk and it doesn't happen all the time, but I know he's not happy and when he's not happy I'm sadder.

I even went to the extent of drawing to try and remind him how much fun it is (plus it quelled my guilt about buying expensive pens then not using them). He just told me he couldn't draw a feather that good (nonsense).

What do you guys think? Have you ever dealt with someone else loosing their energy? I'm tempted to talk him into going to the doctor to talk about depression. I'm just worried, that's all.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

I Am The Wife Of King Lud

It seems yesterday the very helpful ista, who writes Costumes From A Shoebox, pointed out that I had made a mistake when talking about the Lady Macbeth dress. I referred to the actress Ellen Terry as Elizabethan rather than Victorian and I feel a bit silly for not checking my facts.

I thought I should probably try and make it up to the Victorian era, especially because one of the many things it brought us was the lockstitch sewing machine. Before then all clothing were sewn by hand.

The rich would pay working class women to make their clothes and the poor would have to make their own. A shirt would take a competent seamstress between ten and fourteen hours, which kind of renews my love for my slightly crummy Brother machine.

The sewing machine was pretty much the death knell for home sewing. Clothing could be manufactured cheaply in the factories and even though the woman who worked there were able to produce more clothing the price had also gone down and unscrupulous middlemen would often take advantage.

Even at the top end, personal seamstresses were asked to create more elaborate, ruffled clothing and were often offered less in compensation because women rarely knew how much hand finishing was still required as well as what could be done with a straight stitch machine.

It's worth remembering that fast fashion has always been around, and the infusion of technology into the process has only sped it up and made it more accessible to the masses.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Cross Stitch In Progress

I've been beavering away at my embroidery over the last few days and because work is picking up again I won't be able to do as much sewing as I have over the last few days.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with it once I've finished but I'm probably going to get to work on a proper sampler on fabric with a straight grain.

The colours are so different from the front of the packet, and it looks quite cartoony and strange, but all the work I've put in makes me feel attached to it.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sew, Sew, Sew!

I spent at least a couple of hours sewing together my toile for the Hawthorn dress. When I first tried it on, stressed from sewing in the sleeve and hot from the July weather, I saw that it was all weirdly bunched up on one side and started crying my eyes out.

Then I realized that I'd managed to twist the right front panel before sewing it. I had to unpick the shoulder seam and do it again and, what do you know, all the wrinkles went away.

It's not a perfect fit but it's good enough for what it is. I might make ones that fit slightly better in the future but I'm not too fussy.

On the other hand, I just finished the blue top and I am too fussy to wear that. It makes me look pregnant but the colour's okay. Chalk this on up to experience.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

New Life For An Old Curtain

I cut out the pieces for my Hawthorn toile while my boyfriend was at work yesterday and I've got them laid out ready to sew together. The combination of attached and detached facings for the front confused me a bit but at least I know it'll be easier when I come to do the real thing.

The fabric is a curtain that used to hang in my bedroom at my parents house. The curtain rail broke before I even moved out so it worked it's way into my stash.

In tangentially related news, I finished reading The Handmade Marketplace and it's taught me a thing or two. I'm not at the point where I want to start selling but it's always going to be a dream to quit my current job and do this for a living.

I have learned a thing or two I want to put into practice right away. Firstly, expect to see the quality of the pictures on here slowly increase as I start taking all my pics during daylight hours (a bit easier in the summer), don't just make a little pile on the floor, and try to put more effort in when modelling.

Secondly, I'm hoping to put out more useful content including written and video tutorials when I have something to share and possibly some pattern reviews when I can.

I'm also going to work a bit harder at telling people about my blog. I can't just expect you all to come to me!

I hope you see an improvement! Do you have any other tips?

Friday, 5 July 2013

The Hawthorn Toile And A Question About Trousers

I finally got all the pieces cut out and drew over the pencil lines in pen so that they were easier to see but they still don't look like much. I am starting to feel intimidated by the amount of buttons though. I'm doing version two which has the most, clocking in at a whopping 15! Add to that the fact that I don't know how well my machine copes with doing button holes and we may be heading for a disaster.

At least I'll be able to say I tried, if nothing else.

As a side note, this is what I had to do so you didn't get a flash of my undies in the picture above. These trousers have a whole 5 extra inches of fabric which means I can't go outside in them without tying them up and that just makes me look like a slob.

The problem is, I'm still a bit nervous about getting rid of them. Not only do I not have a whole lot of money at the moment for buying more, I'm terrified I'm going to put all the weight back on and feel even worse. Over the last six months I've lost about two and a half stone (35 pounds), and most of my trousers don't fit. I'm in a bit of a bind really.

How long would you guys wait before getting rid of clothes that no longer fit? Do you hang on to them just in case or are you an out with the old, in with the new kind of person?

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Return To Sewing, i.e. The Hawthorn Sewalong!

That's right, I'm finally getting back to my own sewing and yet another new sewing project. At least this one is going a bit faster. Yesterday I got the whole thing traced off in a size 6 and cut and went over three in pen before it was time to go to bed.

It may not look like much, but there are 9 pattern pieces on that folded up piece of paper.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Muff Love

I'm pretty sure everyone's worked out by now that I'm a bit of a slow sewer. I also have an odd, sometimes old fashioned and sometimes out there style. Those two facts combined mean that a fur muff is the perfect project for me.

Muffs are basically just a cylinder of fabric or fur, sometimes hung on a chain or string around the neck, that keeps your hands nice and toasty warm in the winter. I think they look quite gorgeous and fun, plus a lot more practical than gloves in some ways.

They were popular from the 16th century right through to the 20th, but for some of that only for women, and I think they deserve a revival for more than just little girls and wedding ensembles.

Hand warmers might be a weird thing to be thinking about at the beginning of July, but if I stick to my sewing schedule then it's just the right time for it.

Now for some gratuitous photos!

(brown muff on sewing dummy) (black and white muff illustration) (black cape and muff) (white rabbit fur muff) (glam beaded muff)

Monday, 1 July 2013

Looking Less Like A Theater Goer And More Like The Cast?

I've started trying to design clothes instead of just throw myself into them lately, and decide what kind of thing I want to wear with the help of Pinterest. I've come up against a hitch.

It seems like many amateur seamstresses, who's blogs I read for far to long each day, have an aversion to hand made clothes that look 'home made', 'home-ecy' or like some kind of costume, but I don't seem to have the same problem.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to wear poorly made or poorly fitting clothes, but looking a bit like I've just come from a street carnival doesn't set off the alarm bells that maybe it should.

The people I hang out with probably contributed to this. I've talked about my goal to make a cosplay costume, now even more important for going to video gaming conventions with my boyfriend, I've talked about going to goth festivals with my family, and I regularly go to parties where the dress below would be greeted with joy, complements, but not one weird look.

I love ridiculous embellishments, frills, useless buttons and stylish embroidery and I went through a phase when I was a teen where I wore pink feather fake eyelashes and borrowed the glue from them to stick plastic gems to my face. I see feathers and gold and silly hats and I start thinking about how I could make one for myself.
Maybe I have a not so deeply buried dream of being a costume designer. Maybe I just want to be an art instillation. Do you think it would be possible for a woman to make a bit of cash posing for pictures in ridiculous dresses like drag queens or people who impersonate superheros and celebrities?

Maybe I should have been born a drag queen. I'd have come out bright pink feathers and all.

I've mostly decided just to live with my nutty side. Any friends I want to keep won't treat me any worse for it, it brings me incredible joy to dress up and hey, even if I get made fun of on the street I can just take a taxi.