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Twenty-Twenty: The Year of the Face Mask and New Things

Hi there! Remember me?

Since this year is strange and shocking in so many ways, I figured I would just add to the unexpected by actually sitting down at my computer to write a blog post! I hope all is well with you and you’ve found ways to make the most of life while everything seems to be stuck in limbo.

(If you’re curious what I’ve been up to for the past 5 years, you can surf my Instagram account. Teaser: I had my hands inside Dior dresses at a museum install last year!)

My seasonal full-time Opera Costume Shop work started back up as usual in February (after a two-month hiatus), and then a month later, a virus had shut the world down. It was a really good thing the shipment of locked costume hampers was late to arrive for the last big rented show of the season – since we never opened them, we didn’t have to do a complete inventory before sending it all back! As it was, we were able to walk away after doing a few weeks of in-house stock reorganizing & cleaning when the rest of the season was officially canceled.

As weird as life is for a lot of people this year, I’ve found that not much has changed for me personally. I’m used to long undefined breaks between jobs, and I was an expert in social distancing before it was cool. (My husband, thankfully, is able to work from home and he’s been busier than ever.) I found a few sewing projects to keep myself occupied with, and I can’t express how happy I am that I invested in a brand-new industrial straight-stitch Juki last summer! It has been soooo nice to have my “work” machine at home this year!

industrial sewing machine

I named it Thor.

I made a few rainbow color-spectrum swirl skirts – one for myself, 2 have sold, and 3 have yet to sell. I also made 3 other swirl skirts (I’m calling them “color swipe swirl skirts”). I’ve claimed one for myself, but I still have 2 more for sale. Using up lots of fabric I already had for these!

If I ever get around to it, I’ll put them in my Etsy shop (I set it up years ago and have yet to list anything!) unless someone claims them before I list them. Email me if you’re interested in details.

Then I ended up drafting my own multi-sized face mask pattern because I had non-sewing friends who needed masks for work, and were having difficulty finding any that fit well:

You can’t go wrong with Star Wars or a solid color mask.

Masks for my friend who works at a cinema

Soon after that, I was making masks for family in Michigan:

And then I had a flash of brilliance to make my 5 year-old nephew a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask (of course, I wanted one for myself too):

And then it morphed into a few commissioned TMNT masks – mostly for adults:

This was the first batch that was half Mikeys. I made a couple more batches after this that evened up the numbers a bit.

Some people sent me photos:

Fast forward to the end of summer when there doesn’t appear to be an end to the mask requirements, and I was inspired when I saw Jen’s craft foam mask frame on Epbot.

A mask that keeps everything away from your nose and month so you don’t feel like you’re eating it when you talk – yes, please! Being able to wear chapstick underneath is the cherry on top.

Face mask with craft foam frame underneath.

Ear-loops with Kam snap-attached cover.

Ear-loops with velcro-attached cover.

Here’s Jen’s full video tutorial:

I printed out her template, made a few modifications, slightly adjusted my self-drafted mask pattern to be the perfect fabric cover for it. I also graded the frame pattern to fit all my other mask sizes.

Mockups of original template on the left and my modified version on the right.

Stacks of prepped and cut mask frames.

Click the link below to download the pdf of my modified version of Jen’s frame and patterns for all sizes with fabric covers:

FaceMasks&FramesPattern_CustomStylebyBrooke

Print it out and mask some of your own!

I’ve been sewing my craft foam. It’s faster and less messy than gluing. Jen wrote a second post about sewing the frames after I told her how I did it.

Here’s how I sew craft foam face masks:

  • Use polyester thread (cotton-covered poly tends to cause problems and skip stitches)
  • Use a new needle – thinner is better (I used a 70/10 universal needle)
  • Set your zigzag stitch as wide as your machine goes and use a length of 2 or a tick bigger
  • Push the sides of the foam together and straddle the seam with the zigzag as you go
  • Start at the bottom of the V and sew out towards the edge, back-stitching at beginning & end

I stitch mine from the outside (side where the metal nose wire is stuck) and let it cup up around the back of the machine as I sew the seam. Then I carefully turn it right side out starting at the bottom edge. That way, the feed-dog tracks end up on the inside.

Stick-on nose wire added to the mask frame and velcro stitched before sewing center front seam. (Snaps can be put on before or after stitching.)

Stitching the center front seam of the craft foam frame.

The metal nose wire can then be carefully curved over your finger (don’t just bend it in half without a curve). I use stick-on nose wires instead of a paperclip sandwiched between two layers of craft foam.

Flat unbent nose wire.

Curved and bent nose wire.

If the bottom edge is a little bit off after stitching, you can trim the foam with paper scissors to even it up.

Some colors of craft foam stick to a regular metal presser foot more than other colors do. If you find that the foam isn’t feeding though your machine very well and at the right speed (stitches are really close together), use a Teflon/non-stick foot or put a piece of Scotch tape (the invisible “magic” kind) on the bottom of your regular foot. If your machine has the ability to reduce the presser foot pressure, that can also help.

I’ve been using either Kam snaps (this is the off-brand snap kit I have) or Velcro to attach the frames to the fabric mask covers. That way I can make mine with ear loops or around-the-head elastic. (See Jen’s video above for another style option using eyelets and removable around-the-head elastic.)

Kit of plastic Kam-style snaps.

Snaps and velcro on completed craft foam mask frames.

If you order packs of craft foam, you’ll need to air them out for a couple days by spreading them out. My living room smelled like a shoe store for a few days, but that goes away once the foam has been unwrapped for a while.

You will also need to test each color of craft foam to see if it bleeds! I found that only hot pink, royal blue, and dark purple (the worst!) bleed when soaked in hot water. If your foam bleeds in hot water, it will also bleed color onto your face when you wear it.

Soak a scrap of each color in hot water for at least 15 minutes.

Results of color bleed test after soaking.

I sealed the craft foam with an iron set to “cotton blend” like Jen’s video shows. It gets a little stiffer and shinier when you seal it:

Heat sealed (shiny) on the bottom, untouched craft foam on the top.

For my fabric covers, I sew the center front seams of both the outer fabric and lining fabric, Then I stitch the seam allowances down on both sides of the seam. No need to press the seam open with an iron because the machine will do that as you stitch.

If you want a nose wire pocket on the fabric cover, here’s the photo step-by-step of how I do that:

Fold bias rectangle in half, stitch both short ends, press, and turn.

Baste to the right side of the top edge of either the outside or lining fabric.

Then sew the outside to the lining (right sides together) at the top and bottom. Leave the sides open and turn through one of them. After turning, edge-stitch the top and bottom.

Sew outer mask to lining with the pocket sandwiched between the layers. After turning and pressing, the result will look like the photo.

Another view after lining is sewn to outer fabric.

Top-stitch edge of mask with pocket folded down to the inside (on the lining).

Stitch bottom edge and one side of the pocket through all the layers of the mask.

Fold and press ¼” to ⅜” to the inside on both sides. Then fold in another 1” and press. This will be the casings for elastic. Attach snaps or Velcro before sewing the casings down.

Sides pressed and snaps attached.

To save time, pre-make ear loop elastics (cut them around 9½” or so) and put them on before stitching the last seams. If the elastic ends up being too long, you can just re-knot it to fit the person wearing the mask. And the knot can be rotated to hide in the casing.

Inside of completed face masks with nose wire pockets.

You can even make the mask frames to wear loose under disposable masks or others you already have.

Craft foam mask frame under disposable mask.

Craft foam mask frames.

Craft foam frames can be hand-washed with soap & water as needed. Fabric covers can be washed & dried as normal laundry (just make sure you preshrink any fabric before making the covers).

__________

And now on to new things besides face masks…

A few months ago, I started a new social media community on Locals.com called The Sewing Sphere. I even hired one of my online artist friends to help me design a great logo.

The Sewing Sphere is the place to go if you’re looking to escape the frustrating algorithms and hang out with others who sew. It’s not all sewing, and it feels so much more connected in real-time than other social media platforms. It’s free to join – you can see posts and give “thumbs up” to posts you like. If you’d like to participate in comments and posting, you have to subscribe (help support what I do!) for a minimum of $2/month. I’ll be coming up with new things and sharing special content there. Come help me grow it into a great community – free from trolls & spam!

This summer, I’ve also been learning to tambour bead from my friend and fellow costumer Janet Gershenfeld, who was trained by the ladies who beaded Michael Jackson’s iconic glove! We have plans to offer couture beading services in the near future. I just need to finish building our website and we need to take care of a few boring business-y things.

This crazy year has given me the time to consider multiple career directions, and I’m looking forward to what the future brings!

I hope we don’t need masks much longer, but if we do, maybe my pattern and photos will help you build some you don’t mind wearing all day! And if you don’t sew and would like to commission some craft foam frames and/or fabric covers, email me.

Now that I’ve dusted off my blog a little, we’ll see if I can manage to post a little more regularly again. I really need to give it an overall freshening up!

Unintentionally Going Underground

Umm…hi!

I honestly did not mean to take such a long break (a full year!) from blogging – where did 2015 go??

For the first few months of the year, I was finishing up the second half of the season at The Dallas Opera and the long commute across town eats about 3 hours each day. So, needless to say, blogging at the end of a day didn’t hold much appeal.

When the opera season wrapped up at the end of April, I unexpectedly found the motivation to do a bunch of sewing for myself – I was whipping up a lot of things I had been wanting to make myself and didn’t want to risk losing enthusiasm by stopping to blog. (I did Instagram most of it though so I have a few crummy selfies & construction shots.)

2015-Makes

(as usual, click to enlarge)

My husband and I were also slowly working our way through a home office makeover on the weekends from the middle of February to the end of May. So the computer wasn’t properly set up at times during the DIY mess.

Home-Office-Makeover

We now have a large standing desk instead of two separate desks on opposite sides of the room.

And then the phone rang with a job offer and I was driving over to Louisiana on Memorial Day to work on a TV series filming in Baton Rouge.

Louisiana

I was promised a week of work. I packed for a month.

Television shooting schedules are a bit insane. I worked at least 12 hours a day and even worked one 18-hour day in the costume shop at the production office. (So glad I wasn’t working on set in the humid Louisiana summer heat!)

It was the middle of week 5 before I found myself driving home. I’ve worked in the film world long enough to know that once someone puts you to work and you don’t fail spectacularly, they will try to keep you as long as possible.

The day after I got home, a collarless pug showed up at my door. Luckily, I was able to track down the owner by the next afternoon thanks to DFW Pug Rescue. (If she had been chipped, it would have been easier – please have your pets micro-chipped!)

Wensley&VisitingPug

Wensley wasn’t pleased to have a visitor but he tolerated her.

I think I spent about a week just staring at the wall after everything got back to normal.

And a couple weeks later, I found myself going back to Baton Rouge. Good thing I hadn’t bothered to unpack my sewing machine from the first trip!

I only let them have me 2 weeks, and then I came home again.

I had about a month before the new opera season started, so I tried to finish up a bedroom makeover I had started between Louisiana trips.

Bedroom-Makeover

I recently made myself a new wool coat during daily breaks at the opera. And I even managed to get photos! I’ve been working on a blog post about the coat, but I decided to briefly put it aside because I found a TV promo of the show I worked on in Louisiana.

So here’s the first tiny (and I mean tiny) peek at a ball gown I miraculously cranked out in only 6 days, at about the 0:27 mark. You mostly just see the petticoat someone else made.

UPDATE 6/4/16: The original teaser I linked to disappeared, but I found a full length trailer instead. The ball gown is now at about the 1:48 mark:

Underground premieres March 9, 2016 on WGN for those of you who are interested in watching it.

Aside from a couple other projects that I’ll be able to talk more about in the coming months, that pretty much sums up my 2015.

I promise my next blog post will not be a year away!

Happy New Year, everyone!

And My Resume Gets More Convoluted

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:
Circus-Costume-Appliques

Circus costumes with detailed appliqué designs and what the trashcan next to my machine looked like halfway through.

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!) Update: Post about the parade.

  • 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:
Oscar-de-la-Renta_5-Decades-of-Style

Oscar de la Renta – Five Decades of Style exhibit

Recent freelancing has suddenly gone from “absolutely nothing” to “I’m booked into the beginning of next year!” Such is my career.

Keira-the-Mannequin

Meet Keira, one of the mannequins I’ll be making a custom dress for. She’s had a hard life and it’s time for new hair and better clothes.

  • 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”  ??

Spearmint Pattern Winner

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. =)

I have plans for a second version of the coat thanks to Leila because she posted a photo of this:

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:

Cotton corduroy for another Spearmint.
Measuring tape fabric will be a fun skirt and possible lining if I decide to line the coat after all.

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.

Just One More Sleep ’til Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve… so how about one more post for 2013!

What kind of costumer would I be if I didn’t dress my dog up for Christmas?

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.

My good little Santa dog sits well on command this year. =)

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).

The front window tree is an iridescent white tree with colored lights.

I love how it glows like a beacon at night!

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!

How ‘bout Them App-…er…Mittens!

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!

Honeycrisp Mittens

I had just enough of some chartreuse polar fleece in my stash to eke out a pair of the wrist-length mittens.

Because of the puffy nature of the fleece, I found it easiest to trace the pattern onto the fleece with a Sharpie and then pin the two fabric layers together before cutting.

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.

Apple appliqué detail.

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.

I had to piece one cuff in order to eke out matching cuffs.

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.

I used the same stretch stitch for the mittens that I used for the Avocado Hoodies.

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!

I used the lightbox that comes free with every building to trace the larger thumb onto the correctly sized mitten palm. (I forgot I wasn’t the small when I took the picture and retraced it onto the medium.)

So anyway, here are a bunch of photos of the finished mittens. With a Honeycrisp apple prop, of course!

Wensley wanted a bite of apple so badly! He kept circling my hands while we took photos trying to figure out how to get some without getting in trouble. *Lick*

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.)

And you can even buy the conductive fabric in heathered grey or black directly from Mari! No need to go searching everywhere for the special fabric (and just in time for Christmas).

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:

Wristlet Pattern Winner

Thank you, everyone, for all the wonderful comments on my last post! I’m glad you liked the wristlet bags I made (it seems the shoes print was the most popular).

I had tons of fun making them and using some of the novelty fabrics I’ve had in my stash for a while! I have plans to make many more. =)

I promise anyone can make great little bags like mine using Erin’s amazing instructions!

I’m currently in the middle of building a special Halloween costume during my time off from work-sewing, so please excuse the fact that I skipped the actual hat drawing for this giveaway. Afterall, there were 75 comments! That’s a lot of writing and folding to put names in the hat!

So I used a random number generator and it gave me the number 46.

I counted twice and my husband counted once. (I skipped my couple of reply comments in the count.)

The lucky winner…

with comment number 46 is…

Oh, here’s a photo of that costume I currently have under the needle of my machine:

I’m stitching the stars on a Wonder Woman cape!

Oh, sorry!

You wanted to know the winner!

Commenter number 46 is…

Chuleenan of C Sews!

Congratulations, Chuleenan! I will make sure that Erin has your email to send you your PDF pattern!

And for those of you who didn’t win, I strongly encourage you to buy a copy of the Dog Under My Desk Essential Wristlet pattern! You will not be wasting your money! I promise. =)

Thanks again to Erin for having such a fun blog hop (there are still more pattern giveaways happening elsewhere!) and for letting me give a copy of your wonderful pattern away!

Now, I’m off to sew more stars on that cape…

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