Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic
September 25, 2014Posted by on
I have so many things to share! This is going to be a bit of a hodgepodge post.
Some of you may already know from talking to me directly or seeing it on Twitter, I no longer work part-time at Fabrique Fabrics. It was fun for the year and a half it lasted and I’ll miss my coworkers, but since it was never really my “career” I’m not really upset about it. (I think everyone who knows the details is more upset about it than I am.) The short explanation is my boss decided to reduce my hours to “none” to save some money, so I’m moving on to other things instead of waiting around.
On to more exciting things (and LOTS of links)…
- Something I worked on last summer will finally be on display at the Dallas Arboretum for the holidays! The 12 Days of Christmas exhibit is “an elaborate collection of life-size Victorian gazebos filled with the charming costumed characters made famous by the beloved Christmas carol.”** You can see it for yourself from November 16, 2014–January 4, 2015. Since the opening was delayed a year, I’m looking forward to remembering what I did. I can’t wait to see it installed and share some photos (and possibly video) once it opens!
- I helped make some youth circus costumes back in May. Lots and lots of tiny appliqué (spandex on spandex) and ruffles… and thread! I really blew through the thread on this project:
And here’s a teaser video of this year’s show, in which you can see some of the costumes in motion:
- If you will be in San Antonio this weekend (September 26-28), you can see some of the fun costumes I helped build this summer in the opera The Fantastic Mr. Fox put on by the new Opera San Antonio.
- More of my summer sewing work will be in a Christmas parade at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri this year.
Hopefully, I will have more photos of both the opera and the parade to share later. (I’m crossing my fingers that someone will post a video of the parade on YouTube at some point!)
- If you will be in Dallas, TX anytime now until October 5, go see the Oscar de la Renta exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. It’s fashion inspiration! I went and took a ton of photos a few weeks ago, so if you aren’t able to see it yourself, I promise a detailed blog post about it soon. Here’s a teaser:
- I also intend to go see the American Brides exhibit at the Texas Fashion Collection museum of the University of North Texas, in Denton. The exhibit is running through October 24 of this year, so I still have a few more weeks to get there.
Recent freelancing has suddenly gone from “absolutely nothing” to “I’m booked into the beginning of next year!” Such is my career.
- I’m currently working on some dresses à la White Christmas for a couple of mannequins that are part of the annual Fantasy of Lights in Wichita Falls, TX. That will make three Christmas displays that I’ve worked on opening this holiday season!
- Then it looks like I’ll be finishing out the year working at The Dallas Opera. They have a few new costumes to build. =)
And just because I’ve been looking for a place to share a couple of great costuming videos, I’m going to include them here.
I found the first video because of the second one. It is a really nice overview of what it’s like in any professional costume shop – whether it’s opera, theatre, dance, or film – when there are costumes to construct and fit. “Recreating a Tutu” at the New York City Ballet:
And if you have the time to watch (it’s over 26 minutes long), the following is a truly fascinating video on how a ballet pointe shoe is made (teaser-not-quite-spoiler: inside out!). If you don’t have time to watch it now, come back and watch it later when you do! I promise you will enjoy it.
They use some cool sewing machines and do an amazing amount of the work by hand. And to think that all shoes used to be made this well! “What’s in a Ballet Shoe”:
** What my husband/editor read at first glance: “An elaborate collection of life-size Vulcan gizmos filled with charred costumed characters made famous by the beloved Christmas carrots” ??
September 17, 2014Posted by on
Did I leave you hanging in suspense about which was the lie in the list from my previous post? From the people who decided to guess, the results were pretty evenly distributed across the three choices.
The logic some of you used to make your choice was really quite good! I had fun reading your guesses.
So without further ado (and in no particular order), here are the rest of the stories:
I once won a three-legged race – without falling down!
Yes, I did in fact win a three-legged race. And yes, my partner and I did it without falling down… while running!
I was in 4th grade and we had a school track & field day, Olympic-type games & events, and competed as classes. We knew ahead of time which events we would be competing in, so my friend and I decided we would practice for the race during recess. I remember classmates being amused as they watched us casually walk around the schoolyard with our legs tied together.
The training really paid off because we could move together without thinking about it by the time we had to race. We got so good at it, the day of the race, we sprinted to the finish line only to turn around and realize everyone else was still at least half the field behind – and most of them were stumbling or already lying in awkward 3-legged heaps along the way.
I have no photographic evidence of that day (I can’t remember if we were even awarded actual ribbons) so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Batgirl is my cousin.
I’ve never actually met her, but there have been a few emails back and forth between my mom/mom’s sister and some of the family on the other branches of the tree. I remember watching reruns of the Batman TV show as a kid and thinking she was so cool. Now when I watch the show, I wish I had all of Barbara Gordon’s clothes in my closet!
I love country music.
When asked what kind of music I would like to listen to, I always answer “anything but country or rap.”
I have very eclectic taste in music. I grew up listening mostly to classical and ‘50s & ‘60s Oldies. My music collection contains a little of everything – Big Band, The Beatles, The Monkees, ABBA, The Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, Broadway musicals, movie soundtracks, techno, synthpop, and mp3s of miscellaneous songs from almost every decade up to the current year just because I like them or have memories associated with them. (Some of the songs in my collection aren’t even in English.)
I can listen to pretty much anything, however, if you make me listen to more than a couple of country songs in a row, I will become more and more irritated. The general whiny sound of modern country music and the style of singing that accompanies it just plain annoys me. There are exceptions, but very few of them.
The one artist I never, EVER get tired of listening to is Owl City. I can go for weeks playing those CDs and nothing else without tiring of them – Adam’s songs just sound happy and have such clever, poetic lyrics full of puns and double entendres that I’m surprised I can sometimes still hear something “new” when I’ve practically worn those discs out.
There’s even an Owl City song that mentions a sewing machine and sewing “miles and miles of thread… in navy and red” :
Hope you enjoyed this bit of blogging fun & games!
“It’s been fun, but now I’ve got to go”:
September 12, 2014Posted by on
For many days I have been pondering my Two Truths & A Lie. (Gillian of Crafting A Rainbow started it at the end of this post and MaLora of Bird and Bicycle dared me to join the fun.) I find it hard enough to choose random facts about myself and then trying to come up with a convincing lie made it even more difficult!
So here you go. Can you spot the lie?
- I love country music.
- I once won a three-legged race – without falling down!
- Batgirl is my cousin.
I’ll let you know if you guessed correctly in the next post. And now…
I’ve been nominated to join in another blogging “game” or blog hop by Karen of Fifty Dresses about sewing and why we blog about it.
What am I working on?
I’m currently trying to find the motivation to leisure sew (as opposed to hired sewing). I made the mistake of actually starting a written To-Sew list, and it has become a little overwhelming because it’s so long! I’ve been slowly trying to produce practical garments to put in my closet so I’ll have more than just church clothes from my portfolio to wear.
Why do I write?
I guess I write because I feel like more people listen to what I have to say when it’s in print. That way, they have the option of ignoring/skimming a text without feeling like they have to be polite to my face, and those who really want to absorb my meaning can. I find small talk awkward, and when I do join group conversations, I’m often ignored or drowned out by those who are louder and more charismatic.
I started my blog mainly because I was tired of answering the same questions about sewing/costuming over and over in real life. I feel like I’ve been able to write a handful of posts with really useful information that couldn’t easily be found elsewhere online. Google often seems to think so too. =)
Now I find my own blog useful because it’s a bit like a portfolio/diary that I can refer back to when I need to remember when or how I did something.
How does my blog differ from others of its genre?
Well, I suppose my blog is different because I am one of the few sewing bloggers who actually sews professionally during the day. It’s the actual blogging part of the sewing that is my hobby.
How does my writing process work?
I usually start with the photos.
I take a lot of photos during and after a build. (Many teasers end up on Instagram.) I weed through the overabundance of pictures and choose the best ones to edit. Then I try to connect the photos with words.
Once I have my thoughts down in a somewhat logical order, my wonderful editor (aka ever-patient, non-sewing-husband) plods through my droning about things he’s mostly not interested in reading, and makes me sound so much better than I normally would. My readers have no idea how much to thank him! He is also the best blog post title composer – you know all those clever titles? Yeah, all him. My blog would read like a dry history book without him. (I’m actually really worried when he doesn’t fix more than a couple of commas in a post.)
Most of my posts end up being longer than I plan for them to be, but I think because I’m not posting daily, it sort of balances out. At least I hope it does!
I always feel a little guilty about passing these things on, but I would like to know what Catja of Gjeometry and Melanie of The Seeds of 3 would have to say about their process (including a lie!) if they are inclined to play along. I don’t think either of you have been asked, have you? =)
And Karen of Fifty Dresses, do you have Two Truths & A Lie? Thanks for giving me the push to crank out a blog post – I’ve been trying to find the incentive to write for days!
So who wants to guess my lie? Leave your guesses in the comments of this post! (And no, Dad, you can’t play.)
August 21, 2014Posted by on
Since social media moves fast and things often get completely missed or quickly buried in the constant flow, I’ve decided to assemble some of the miscellaneous sewing tips I’ve shared on Instagram and publish them together in a single blog post. That way it’s a little easier for you to link, find, and reference later.
So whether you missed them before or just forgot about them (some of these are over a year old!), I hope you savor these quick tidbits! Enjoy! =)
You might recall that I like to trace sewing patterns (especially the vintage ones) to preserve the original. But I also like to use my printer to copy the pieces that are small enough to fit on a page or two.
Spray-n-Bond is my new favorite thing! It was the only way I could appliqué stretch crushed velvet on top of another layer of stretch crushed velvet without it shifting all over the place. It even made using a walking foot unnecessary!
Remove beads from the seam allowance by smashing them with a hammer. This will keep all the beading threads intact so the beads you leave on the outside don’t become loose and fall off as easily. (Protect your eyes! Wear safety glasses when pounding beads!)
Ease with pins. (You don’t need to use gathering stitches to help with easing!) I do this all the time and with all ungathered sleeve caps. Pin both ends, then pin the midpoint, and keep pinning the “middles” until you have the ease distributed evenly.
When you need to gather tightly or are using a thick fabric and you’re afraid of breaking a thread when you pull the gather, zig-zag over nylon or upholstery thread (or even dental floss!). You can then pull the stronger thread without fear of it snapping off mid-gather. Just be sure to secure the other end to the fabric or knot it to another row of gathering stitches.
If you have a presser foot with a hole for stitching over cord or trim as pictured above, it’s even easier.
Sew a stitchline to follow when seam allowances are different widths or uneven. This is especially helpful when attaching bias tape without pins. (Larger stitchline at far right was for basting two layers of fabric together.)
Create a topstitching guide with painters tape for things like a fly-front zipper. (It took me until the third pair of pants to remember this trick!)
This is particularly helpful when sewing on net or loosely woven fabric when a knot won’t catch and stay.
Do you have any favorite quick sewing tips to add? Share and/or link to them in the comments!
August 8, 2014Posted by on
So over the course of a week, I made myself three pairs of skinny pants.
Way back in… APRIL!
(I am so far behind in blogging!)
I needed some more work pants for my part-time job at the fabric store and I decided I’d make some because 1) I hate pants shopping and 2) pants are easy to sew once you have a well-fitting pattern.
I’ve never really bothered to draft myself a custom pants sloper because I’ve always been able to find jeans that fit me if I search long enough in stores.
My biggest problem with ready-to-wear (RTW) trousers is the fit of the waistband. Most waistbands seem to be cut like funnels – hips and crotch curve might be perfect but the back waistband majorly gaps on me. (I have, however, found a couple of brands and specific style numbers in those brands that actually fit well, even in the waistband.)
So I pulled out Butterick pattern 5682, traced it in my size according to the size chart, and then compared it to two pairs (different brands) of store-bought skinny jeans that fit me really well.
I don’t remember all the exact changes I made, but the main differences between the RTW and paper pattern were the leg width, the height of the waistband (especially in the front), the back pocket size, and the crotch curve.
I needed to trim down the crotch curve – more noticeably at center back than front. If you can get the crotch curve right, that’s half the battle for fitting a pair of trousers!
The pattern only included one pocket size, which meant that it was proportionally wrong for most of the sizes in the envelope. Proper pocket proportion and placement is important! (Afterall, you don’t want “gateway mom jeans” because of “dinosauric pockets”.)
So I reduced the pocket size to match my RTW skinnies and referred to the factory placement when making my own.
With my pattern corrected well enough on paper, I pulled out some black metallic stretch denim I had. There was enough yardage to re-cut if I needed any major alterations, but I was fairly certain the fit would be close enough to the RTW jeans I like.
I decided to use some fun cotton fabric to line the front pockets. No one will ever see it but I know it’s there! =)
After a quick assembly and matching the details on my RTW pairs, I had a pretty good first pair.
I ended up adding half an inch to the hem length on the pattern but the black pair is just long enough. I also curved the waistband a little more to prevent my next pairs from having the slight gap at center back that the black pair has.
Knowing that I never tuck my shirts in, especially when wearing skinny pants, I called the metallic black pair “good enough”…
…and moved on to a second pair – this time in a floral print stretch jacquard:
I carefully cut the fabric so the stripey-ness of the floral print would match across the legs and then broke up the print on my tush with intentionally unmatched pockets – something that will hardly ever be seen because of that untucked shirt thing, but still.
I still had one 3-inch metal fly zipper left, so I decided to make a third pair of skinny pants out of some textured stretch jacquard. (I love love love this fabric! You will be seeing it again because I bought it in 4 different colors.)
I didn’t do anything fun for the pockets on my floral print pants because the pants themselves where fun enough. I decided the teal pants needed interesting pockets though.
I had three good options in my cotton print stash – Tube map, tiny turtles, and bigger happy turtles. So I turned to Instagram/Twitter for a vote.
My first try-on and I think I finally got the waistband curve exactly right! Third time’s a charm and all that. This pair of pants is definitely the most comfortable.
I did more topstitching detail on my teal pants than I did on the other two pairs. I also cut them out one layer of fabric at a time in order to keep the textured design evenly horizontal across each piece – typical making-things-overly-complicated-just-because-I-can mode of operation.
Here’s a back view of the finished teal pants. (After all the picture sorting and editing, I’m reeeally tired of looking at my butt!)
Pair number four will be perfect – if I ever decide I need to make myself another! I went ahead and corrected the pattern just in case.
I chose to mimic the look of the buttonholes on my RTW jeans. I made the loop by tracing around the shank of the jeans tack button and bringing it to a point. I used some embroidery/cross-stitch thread and just zig-zag stitched over it following the line I drew.
I’ve been wearing all three pairs of skinny pants a lot for my retail job at the fabric store. The metallic black pair is a little too warm in the summer (all that metal retains body-heat and reflects it back) but it’s a nice basic without being boring because of the sparkle. The floral pair is just plain fun & trendy. And the teal pair is super comfortable and probably my favorite.
So anyway, I made some pants. Trousers. Whatever.
And it took me so long to blog them, that it seems everyone else in the online sewing community has now made and blogged their own in the meantime! Ahead, but behind all at the same time.
May 30, 2014Posted by on
Over on Instagram, lots of us who sew have tons of fun sharing what we’re currently working on and cheering each other on. Sometimes, I get comments asking for more details and photo examples.
Recently, I was asked how I mark and sew darts.
Since I had a mockup with a lot of darts in line for my next project, I posted the step-by-step as I built the mockup. It seemed popular, so I thought some of you who may have missed it on IG would like to see it as a blog post tutorial. =)
First, cut-notch each leg at edge of fabric. (Obviously, you can’t do this with darts that aren’t at the edge of a seam.)
Put a pin through each dart point before unpinning the pattern piece. Unpin pattern, open to fabric wrong side & mark dot with pencil, chalk or whatever works on the fabric you are using.
For straight darts, line a ruler up with marked dot & notch at edge and use Clover Chaco Liner or a pencil to draw legs.
For curved darts, you can put pins thru at intervals down each leg and dot mark same as points.
Use a french curve to connect the dots. (You can line up french curve on paper pattern & then place on fabric to make sure curve matches.)
Start pinning at dart point (about a mm from dot). Weave pins through 4x, and make sure to go through the lines on both sides. Second, pin at notched edge to help fold dart evenly. Then continue weaving pins through from point to notched edge (right to left).
I like assembly-line dart sewing. Do you think this vintage pattern from 1959 has enough darts??
Hand crank needle into end of dart right through marked line and remove first pin.
Stitch directly on marked line. Guide fabric with left hand and hold next pin head with right hand, allowing the machine to pull each pin out as you go.
Reduce stitch length when close to end point of dart.
I like to stitch off the edge of fabric at point and usually backstitch inside of previous stitchline. Sometimes I just stitch off and hand knot thread ends – it depends on project & fabric.
Pull out a tailor’s ham and start pressing all those stitched darts. Yay done! Time to start actual construction…
And in case you’re curious, this is the pattern (pencil skirt version) I was using for my mockup:
May 25, 2014Posted by on
And Happy Geek Pride Day!
Today I’m spending the afternoon working at the little local fabric store and wearing my newly made Star Trek comic print skirt.
I didn’t use a pattern for my skirt. It’s just a basic petticoat-style skirt with an elastic waistband, which I made with rectangles of fabric. (More details in a minute.)
I still have plans to remake a better fitting knit Dandelion top a la TOS style, but I haven’t gotten to that point in my sewing queue.
So I’m just wearing an old store-bought polo I’ve had in my closet for years with my new skirt. The polo’s a bit too long for the skirt, but it’ll do for now.
I’ve had this fabric for months knowing I wanted a geeky skirt out of it. I was even able to print-match across the seams without losing too many inches!
Here’s a simplified how-to diagram to explain making the elastic-waistband skirt (detailed instructions following):
Mine finished about 19½-inches long (knee-length worn a couple inches below waist) using the following measurements & steps:
- Cut one 6½-inch tall strip for yoke and three 17-inch tall strips all the width of fabric (mine was 44 inches wide).
- Sew shorter yoke strip together for center back seam, creating a loop with the fabric.
- Sew three longer strips together end-to-end (match print if desired and able), creating a loop about 3-times the diameter of the yoke.
- Hem longer loop with a double-fold – ⅜-inch fold then another ⅜-inch.
- Fold top of yoke down ¼-inch then another 1¾-inch for 1½ -inch elastic casing. Stitch down leaving opening at center back for elastic.
- Mark the four quarter points of each loop of fabric on unfinished edges (top of larger and bottom of smaller yoke loop).
- Gather larger loop and attach to yoke bottom edge with ½-inch seam allowance, matching 4 previously marked points.
- Insert elastic cut at comfortable length to fit just below waist. Overlap and stitch ends of elastic and stitch casing closed. Evenly distribute fullness around waistband.
- Stitch in the ditch through elastic at center back and through the elastic in 2 or 3 other places on the waistband to hold it in place.
Here are a couple of sewing tricks I like to use:
This skirt works really well with a petticoat underneath so I pulled out my ‘50s style petticoat (it’s an XL kid’s size so it’s shorter than the period appropriate length).
My husband hates the petticoat look but I love it!
It required spinning.
We will see how many fabric store customers notice my geekiness at work today or even know what today is. By the way, I always keep a towel in my car – but my dog gets more use out of it than I do.
Speaking of the dog, you might be wondering “where’s Wensley?” because he usually likes to photo bomb. Believe me, he tried but there was a door in his way this time:
And I leave you with this silly picture, because I still like the skirt best with the petticoat underneath:
One to beam out. So long, and thanks for all the fish!