Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic
January 9, 2014Posted by on
So, you may have noticed my previous post was a bit long. But did you stay with me till the end? Did you see there was a giveaway? You did? Well, it’s time to announce the WINNER!
And thank you for all the nice comments! It means a lot to me when I get some even from those who aren’t wanting to enter a giveaway!
As with my past giveaways, names were placed in the hat:
My husband drew the winning name, and the lucky winner of the Spearmint coat pattern is:
Congratulations, Fwaire! Please email me your mailing address and I’ll put your pattern in the mail. =)
So I’ll be drafting a new collar and adding some other details. I think I’m going to make this version unlined, with bias finished seams on the inside. It will be an olive-y cotton corduroy:
Of course I wish I had copies of the pattern to send to everyone else who entered, but you can buy a copy from Lolita Patterns in downloadable pdf or already printed on pattern paper. A sewalong will be coming soon on the Lolita Patterns blog.
January 1, 2014Posted by on
I’m not sure I would have originally chosen to make myself a coat in this style, had I only seen the pattern for sale. After all, I already have 4 (store-bought) fancy coats to wear when I’m dressed up and I wasn’t sure I could justify a fifth.
But the collar was interesting, and the more I considered it, the more I could see myself finding a way to make it my own. Plus, pattern testing for a designer is always a fun challenge because it forces me to try styles I may have passed over otherwise. (How can you grow if you won’t step outside your comfort zone?)
I’m intrigued by Lolita Patterns for two basic reasons:
One, they are based on the Japanese style of dress called Lolita fashion that is both girly and conservative, meaning you get the cute anime look without the sleazy, Halloween-costume vibe. (Lolita fashion. Now I finally have a term for that style!)
And two, the pattern sizing is based on two separate blocks and has very little design ease. Technically, my measurements were not on the chart, so I was hoping that the “very little ease” part would work in my favor.
Disclaimer: My version of the Spearmint coat is based on the test pattern I was given. The test pattern needed more work than Amity originally anticipated, and the final pattern being sold has been corrected, but I’m not sure exactly how my end results compare to the finalized pattern.
Also keep in mind that this is being labeled as a “top coat” for a “California winter,” or a “transitional coat” for more extreme climates, and some of my alterations were done to allow me the option of wearing thicker layers with mine. (I plan to wear mine most during Spring and Autumn.)
I chose to make the shorter version of the coat, which is actually 6 inches shorter than the final pattern – it’s now drafted to hit more at the knee.
I went digging through my fabric stash and came up with 2 yards of heavy weight 100% cotton blue denim (I bought it 5 or 6 years ago because it was only $2/yard). I also had 2 yards of an amazing dress form print quilting cotton that I thought would make a fun lining.
The pattern called for 3 yards of each, but I am “The Queen of Eking” and I was determined to eke it out of something I had.
No matter how much I wanted to like the shade of the denim’s blue, I just wasn’t feeling it. It was a bit mom-jean blue or something. It might have worked well if I distressed it after making the coat, but since I couldn’t be sure, I didn’t want to take the chance.
So I pondered my options while I made my two mockups and preshrunk my fabric a total of 3 times (washed in hot and heat dried). I didn’t have any fabric to spare, so there was no room for error.
Ultimately, I deliberately decided to use the wrong-side of the denim as the right-side. It has a slightly heathered grey-blue look from a distance but it’s definitely a twill weave up close.
I simply liked the wrong-side color more, and it even coordinated better with the lining print. And, as you would expect, no two pairs of jeans in my closet are the same shade of blue, so I knew a coat this more neutral color would go with all of them. Besides, the head-to-toe matching denim look is a total fashion no-no for me anyway. My personal rule of thumb is: make whatever you wear look intentionally styled. If someone has to wonder if you meant to do something, you didn’t make the contrast obvious enough.
As I mentioned before, two mockups were made, and this was so I could be sure my alterations were satisfactory. I only tested the outer layer, and didn’t bother with the pockets for my mockups (Not bothering with things like lining or under collar saves time and muslin too, but I did make corrections to all the paper pattern pieces for the lining as I went.)
Main changes made to the pattern, based on my first mockup:
- Reduced the width of the collar – mainly at the shoulder and back – so it wasn’t so overwhelming on my small frame. I anticipated the need for this because I often have to shrink large scale design elements. (Photos of the first mockup show the collar at a stage where I had taken it too far in my experimenting.)
- Narrowed the center front opening so it wouldn’t try to spread open to the sides of my bust in an unflattering way (the princess seams were in the correct place, but the neckline wanted to shift everything out to the sides).
- Added just a slight bit of room to the center back.
- Increased the armseye and sleeve ease so I could comfortably wear layers.
The second mockup turned out to be unnecessary because my alterations were good, but I’m glad I took the time to be sure and didn’t jump right to the real fabric.
These are perfect examples of why mockups are necessary! And don’t feel like you have to make a completed item! I didn’t do a lining, pockets, buttonhole, or true hems (I just folded edges once and basted down to check finished length).
So it was finally on to the real fabric!
Sure enough, I managed to eke everything out of the 2 yards of fabric. It helped that I had reduced some of the collar width and that the pattern has only 3/8 inch seam allowance. (Note: you may want to add to the seam allowance if you make a Spearmint with fabric that frays easily.) Astonishingly, I only had to piece two pieces!
I put a seam in the center back of the neck facing, which I then topstitched and mostly covered with a tag.
And I creatively pieced one side of the under collar, which no one will ever see unless I lift the back of the collar to show them.
For the most part, I followed the written instructions just as they were. I did, however, make a few exceptions based on personal preferences:
- I did not use the horsehair canvas in the ruffle collar. My denim was plenty thick and I knew the two layers of the collar would be more than stiff enough to hold its shape on its own.
- Nor did I use necktie lining to ease in the sleeve caps because I didn’t want to add thickness to the denim. (The pattern did fit really well together so there wasn’t much need for ease assistance.)
- I chose not to turn the coat through the sleeve lining for two reasons. 1. Thick denim. 2. I like to construct collars completely separate before attaching them to a garment. There is more control, thus, the end result looks better. I turned my coat through an opening at the center back hem that was about 8 inches wide and slipstitched the lining to the coat hem to close it by hand.
- For easier on and off, I used antistatic lining fabric for the sleeve lining instead of the same fabric I used for the rest of the lining.
- I added tons of decorative topstitching.
- I added a coat hook loop.
After joining the coat to the lining and adding one large button, I had a completed Spearmint!
And here are a few more photos of some of the details:
Overall, this is a great pattern! The pieces fit together very nicely and I love the separately drafted lining and finishing details. The instructions may be a little brief for a beginner, but with the extra tutorials and sewalongs on the Lolita Patterns blog, most sewists of any level should have no trouble making this lovely coat for themselves.
As payment for being a pattern tester, I was given one copy of the paper pattern.
Obviously, I do not need another copy since I have already altered and adjusted the test pattern to my liking. So it’s Giveaway time!
If you would like a chance to win a copy of this pattern in its beautiful packaging, just follow these simple rules:
- Leave me a comment on this post and be clear that you want to enter. (Any comments are welcome, even if you don’t want to be entered in the drawing, but you have to let me know if you are entering!)
- In your comment, include your plans for your version – fabric, color, etc. How do you intend to make it your own?
Giveaway is open to all locations. Winner will be chosen at random.
Deadline for entry is closed
at 11:59pm on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 United States Central Time (GMT -6). I’ll announce the winner in a post on the following day. Winner announced in this post.
Good luck and Happy New Year!
And now if you’ll excuse me, Wensley sees that I am wearing a coat and thinks we’re going for a walk…
December 24, 2013Posted by on
It’s Christmas Eve… so how about one more post for 2013!
Wensley makes a cute Christmas card. It’s the Jack Russell in him. =)
You may remember last year’s card, which was his first. We didn’t try any dress up then because we didn’t know how he would take it.
This year we pulled out the Santa hat we had for our last dog and I shortened the elastic a bit to fit Wensley.
We only pulled out the front window tree with its plastic ornaments this year (I’ll do battle to protect the special glass ornaments on the bigger den tree from the dog next year).
Coming up in future posts (in no particular order): the details of the Wonder Woman cape build, some handmade Christmas gifts I stitched up, pattern testing results, and a giveaway.
Merry Christmas, everyone! May you all have wonderful holidays with good friends & family!
See you next year!
December 21, 2013Posted by on
I am a “costumer” according to my resume, but not a “designer”. I seem to be explaining this to someone at least once a week right now. (Granted, I have done a couple of shows in the past as the designer, but I do not like designing.)
The confusion probably stems from the fact that “costume designers” get top billing in the credits in film and theatre, and people who are not in the business don’t realize there are so many different classifications of costumers within the “costume department”.
Let’s face it, “designer” simply sounds more impressive to outsiders.
Allow me to clarify (and introduce you to) some of the lesser known titles within the costume world (there are a lot of parallels within the fashion world but I am less familiar with the specifics in that industry).
A costume designer is the “idea” person. Most designers work closely with the director and actors to create costumes that coincide with the director’s artistic vision for the look of a production.
Just as a director usually gets overall credit for a movie or theatre production, despite having a crew of behind-the-scenes artisans, a costume designer is often assumed to be capable of doing everything from sketching the ideas to actually constructing a physical garment to match.
While some designers work their way up through the costume construction ranks, many do not.
Simply put, some designers are artists who can draw and paint beautifully, making it easy for the other costumers under them to understand what they want to create. Others are very good with verbally explaining their ideas either to a hired sketch artist or the costumers who actually build (or shop for) the costumes.
Some designers don’t know how to sew a single stitch. Others know the basics (but may not be very good at construction) and are able to communicate well with those who are hired to sew. Occasionally, a designer will have started out constructing for other designers (but this is rare, as most of us who love to build enjoy the actual building process too much to give it up). Designers deal more with concepts, meetings, and paperwork (including budgets).
A good designer is opinionated enough to decide what every individual character should wear and the general look of the costumes in a production. This is the main reason I do not consider myself a designer – I don’t care enough about what everyone is wearing. But I do care that they are wearing their clothing well. I have a need to tweak and adjust costumes on actors but I do not feel compelled to tell them what they should be wearing. I tend to focus more on the details.
The term costumer is a very broad title. It can include everyone from the person who sews to the person who does the laundry for a show. It’s often used because those who work in a costume department/shop frequently do more than one thing, depending on skills and how the team is organized to work together. (Part of the fun is the variety!)
Some productions have as few as two people doing all of the costume work, while others employ multiple costumers who divide the work into very specific tasks.
And not all costumers can sew.
Finally, “wardrobe” is used interchangeably with “costume” – wardrobe department is the same as costume department on productions. You may hear one director calling for “wardrobe” while another calls for “costumes”. (I answer to either.)
The costume supervisor ranks below the costume designer on a film crew. Duties include scheduling & being there for fittings, dealing with producers and actors directly, and generally overseeing anything that may come up during the shoot when the designer is not present. Supervisors tend to bounce back and forth between set and basecamp during filming. They also help with paperwork.
A set costumer goes to the film set when there are actors filming and keeps an eye on costume continuity during the shoot. The Key Set Costumer usually works with the leading actors and manages any other set costumers that might be there to help during the larger scenes.
In stage theatre, the term dresser is used for costumers who help actors backstage with costume changes during a live performance.
Wardrobe Trailer Costumer
I’ve only ever seen this title on a call sheet (the daily shoot schedule & times that crew is called in to work), but the costumer who is working on the wardrobe trailer at basecamp makes sure that actors’ wardrobe is laid out in their dressing rooms/trailers throughout the day. When they’re not doing this, they may do some laundry and prep for the next day of shooting by pulling & steaming/ironing anything scheduled to be worn.
The entire costume department reports to the wardrobe trailer and may take turns working there during the day, but one designated costumer is usually assigned to work there full time. They generally keep the wardrobe trailer organized as well.
Costume Shop Supervisor/Manager
A costume shop supervisor or manager is similar to costume supervisor but oversees a costume shop, whether it is for film or theatre. A costume shop is usually set up during pre-production and may shut down once a show has reached the filming or performance stage. A costume shop manager makes phone calls, does paperwork, and supervises the work being done in the shop.
The cutter/draper is the costume shop patternmaker and the highest level of actual construction. They usually use a combination of flat-patterning and draping to create the patterns to match the designer’s sketches. A cutter/draper frequently builds the muslin mockups to test their patterns before using the fancy fabrics. They often calculate the amount of materials needed and cut the fabric.
After the pieces have been patterned and cut, the cutter/draper explains the methods and order of construction to the stitchers working under them. The cutter/draper does the actual fitting on the actor and makes any necessary corrections to the patterns.
A cutter/draper will often help sew when everything for a production has been patterned and cut.
A first hand is the cutter/draper’s assistant. They help with cutting and may do some of the patterning and sewing. Not all costume shops have a designated first hand.
Stitchers (aka seamstresses and sometimes “costume technicians”) are the builders in the costume shop.
They take the pile of pieces from the cutter/draper and assemble them according to the cutter/draper’s direction. Construction is usually completed to a point for a fitting with the actor and then finished after the fitting.
A stitcher is not the same as a tailor although there is some overlap.
A craftsperson may be a milliner or someone who paints or dyes fabric. Often the duties of a craftsperson overlap with those of a props person in that they create the accessories that go with an actor’s costume.
Glue & paint are used more often than a needle & thread by a craftsperson.
A shopper is the person who buys whatever supplies or clothing can be purchased for a production. They are also responsible for receipt paperwork and returning unused items to the store from which they were bought.
Costume Intern/Production Assistant (PA)
A costume intern (or PA in film) is usually someone still in school or just recently graduated who helps in a costume shop or production office with anything from paperwork to overnight laundry.
So that’s the basic breakdown – the bigger the costume department/shop, the more specific titles and positions there are beyond those I’ve listed.
Even though I’ve done various amounts of all the above positions, I consider myself to be mostly a Costumer and a Stitcher. I’m happiest as a builder because it’s my favorite part of the costuming process. I just wish I could do it full time.
For those of you who love to sew, which costuming position sounds the most appealing to you? Do you consider yourself more of a stitcher like I do?
November 30, 2013Posted by on
I’ve been super busy bouncing from job to job in the last couple of months (where did November go??). I can’t believe that today is my blog’s 3rd birthday!
(Sadly, the detailed posts about the Wonder Woman cape and boots will not be happening exactly as I’d planned because my cell phone was stolen & I lost all the detailed process shots I was going to use. I’ll still be doing a post about the construction, but not nearly as detailed as I was hoping to write.)
In my time off from work, I’ve been doing some “secret sewing” (aka pattern-testing) and I can finally share one of those hush-hush projects with you now – the Disparate Disciplines Honeycrisp Mittens!
I had just enough of some chartreuse polar fleece in my stash to eke out a pair of the wrist-length mittens.
I really love the longer, elbow-length version of the pattern because it has really interesting seams, but since I didn’t have enough fabric, I decided to appliqué my own interesting details with contrasting polar fleece.
Yeah, so I went a little literal with it and put apples on my mittens. I blame the name of the pattern because all I wanted was a Honeycrisp apple every time I thought about them.
The pattern is a really quick and easy make (especially if you don’t have to plan for eking like I did) and only took me about an hour, even with my self-inflicted complications. It would be a great beginner project, but sewists of all experience levels can have fun with it.
This pattern was good at reminding me of my freakishly large hands. Everything about me is usually a small or even extra-small, except my hands. (I have skinny fingers, but BIG hands.)
I cut the main mitten body at a size medium and the thumb in XL! No wonder I have trouble finding gloves with long enough fingers!
So anyway, here are a bunch of photos of the finished mittens. With a Honeycrisp apple prop, of course!
The best part of the pattern was a feature I couldn’t even test. There is the option to make the fingertips conductive! Meaning, you can use your smart phone or any touch screen without having to take them off!
As payment for being a pattern tester, Mari is sending me some conductive fabric made with real silver in it. I look forward to trying it and plan to make an elbow-length conductive pair for myself.
If you are interested in buying your own copy of the pattern, here’s the link to the PDF pattern in the Disparate Disciplines shop. (Also available as a limited-time paper pattern.)
As it is, my non-conductive wrist-length pair of Honeycrisp Mittens is perfect for walking the dog. =)
Thanks, Mari, for another fun & practical pattern!
See some other people’s Honeycrisp Mittens:
October 31, 2013Posted by on
Remember the Wonder Woman cape I had fun modeling? It looks so much better on AnnaMay, its intended wearer!
Jen posted some wonderful photos of AnnaMay wearing her Wonder Woman costume on EPBOT recently, and said I could share them on my blog as well. You can also see the boots I made to go with the cape in the pictures. =)
Here are two of my favorites (read Jen’s post to see a few more pictures including a group shot of superheroes!):
I got the best email from AnnaMay’s mom earlier this week:
We went to camp this weekend in the mountains. All of the families that go have at least one child with autism or sensory disorders like AnnaMay. We shared our cabin with another family who had 2 children. One of them was a 5 year old little girl. We were getting ready for the Halloween carnival and I was helping AnnaMay with her costume. We went to put the cape on and the girl came over with huge eyes and asked AnnaMay if she could fly. AnnaMay told her no. The girl leaned in and very earnestly said, “I bet you could with that cape if we got you up high enough.” I thought you might enjoy knowing you made a cape so awesome it made a 5 year old believe AnnaMay could fly…
And here’s a great shot taken by AnnaMay’s mom of the whole costume:
So the job I’ve been working for the past few of months for a holiday display has been postponed for a year. (Bummer – I have eleventy-million pictures I want to share!) This week, I’m helping finish some costumes at the University of Dallas for a friend who wasn’t able to complete the job due to health issues. And in a couple more weeks I’ll be helping in the Southern Methodist University costume shop for 2 weeks. So I’m keeping surprisingly busy this season!
The detailed posts on how I made the Wonder Woman cape & boots will be coming as soon as I have time to sit down and go through my photos.
And Happy Reformation Day!
October 17, 2013Posted by on
I finished building a Wonder Woman cape!
As much as I wanted to keep it, I didn’t make it for myself (which is why it’s so short on me). I made it for a special little girl named AnnaMay.
I first heard about AnnaMay on Jen’s EPBOT blog and was inspired to help make her geeky dreams come true – she wanted to be Wonder Woman for Halloween. (Thanks, Jen, for being the instigator and letting me be a part of the fun!)
I was given the task of building the cape and the boots (both of which will have their own posts about how I made them later) while someone else made the top & skirt, and Jen
made bought the accessories (original plan was her making them).
Before I mailed it off to its intended owner, I had fun wearing the cape for some blog photos taken by my mom (Thanks, Mom!). I think we should all wear capes – just because!
I was trying to get a good shot of the back as I spun for the camera, but there was such a shutter delay, my mom and I had trouble timing it. We kept getting the same angle over and over!
So I kept spinning. And spinning. And I got really dizzy. Which gave me the giggles. Which made the whole thing just spiral into silliness.
I don’t think I’ve been that dizzy since grade school when I would turn in circles until I collapsed to watch the ceiling keep turning above me.
There are two ways to tie a cape.
One way is the standard bow in front:
The other is a way to avoid the bow riding up to choke the wearer by wrapping the ties over the shoulders & under the arms (like a backpack) and tying it behind the wearer’s back but under the cape:
It makes me happy that AnnaMay will never outgrow her cape, which is part of the reason I spent so much time on the details.
She will be wearing it tonight at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. I can’t wait to see (and share) pictures!
(UPDATE: See pictures of AnnaMay in this post!)
Enjoy your cape, AnnaMay! I hope you proudly wear it to shreds! I certainly had fun test-driving it! =)
* “No capes!” (on YouTube)