Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic
Tag Archives: sewing
December 31, 2015Posted by on
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.)
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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!
December 30, 2014Posted by on
It had been years since I had helped make true mascot type costumes, so it was a fun break from the norm and a good reminder of why I don’t want to do this kind of sewing all the time. Foam, fur, curved needles, and seriously wacky pattern pieces – give me real clothing any day!
We constructed 2 moose heads that perched high (as in 12 feet high!) atop giant Santa hats, 2 big candy canes, and 2 elves that looked like Christmas tree ornaments. All were based on the designer’s sketches and completed with hundreds of LEDs.
There was lots of stretch crushed velvet and glittery stretch velvet for me to create striped yardage from.
All those stripes are why I met Spray n Bond and we became good friends.
I stitched faces.
I made eyeballs.
And I shoved large amounts of foam fabric through a small domestic sewing machine. I was really wishing I had a long arm machine to use for this!
The moose ears made nice bunny ears too. I kind of want some!
It’s a little weird to have your work stare back at you while you hand-stitch its ear on.
I have tons more photos, but it’s more interesting to watch video because you can see all of the lights and get a better sense of the size. I was actually one of the test models for the elf costumes in order to help work out some of the awkwardness of wearing them – glad to see that no one was tripping and falling during the parade!
Happily, there were plenty of YouTube videos posted of the parade for me to choose from. (Ironically, the official Silver Dollar City one was not the best and was filmed on a night when not all the lights were working.) So I’ve chosen two of the best videos.
(See timestamps below each if you want to fast forward through them.)
This first one is nice for closeups:
- 1:14–1:32 Moose heads on giant Santa Hats
- 2:22–2:38 Big Candy Canes
- 3:00–3:33 Elves that look like huge Christmas ornaments
And this video is a view of the parade from a little farther back, giving you a better look at the whole 12-foot moose on Santa hats costumes:
- 0:48–0:59 Moose
- 2:33–2:52 Candy Canes
- 3:19–3:42 Elves
This year has been full of Christmas projects for me! And I still have one more to post about next time!
Happy New Year, everyone!
December 24, 2014Posted by on
There was a little blood (on the white fur, of course! but easy to fix), a lot of sweat (heavy upholstery fabric is hard to wrangle!), but thankfully, no tears for this build!
I ended up having to sort through 415 photos for this post! Needless to say, I have reduced that number down a little bit. (Click photos to enlarge.)
Back at the end of September, I was hired to build dresses for two identical mannequins for a revamped outdoor Christmas display in Wichita Falls. The request was for something that resembled the red satin dresses with white fur trim seen at the end of the 1954 movie White Christmas.
One of the mannequins was brought to my house.
I called her Keira. She was about the same dress size as I am – but 6 feet tall! A GIANT Barbie.
Her old outfit was sad and her wig was scraggly. So I threw away her clothes and let her borrow some of mine after a bit of a spa day.
I ordered a swatch of the Sunbrella brand red outdoor upholstery velvet. It ended up being the perfect color and had a decent drape, so I ordered 16 yards (but it seems to be sold out at the moment – not sure if they will restock it, but I hope they do!).
I bought some rip-stop nylon for lining and some white acrylic fur with an olefin backing at my local Hancock Fabrics. I also purchased outdoor upholstery thread, acrylic rhinestones (JoAnn Fabrics), and fabric glitter glue (Hobby Lobby).
I ordered hoop skirt petticoats from Petticoat Junction and the client ordered ice skates for shoes. I bought some red “parade gloves” at a Halloween store (perfect timing of a project!).
My really good friend Marlene, who is a professional film & television makeup artist, was tasked with finding and styling some appropriate wigs that could stand up to the elements.
Wensley did not like Keira and hated it when I touched her or moved her around. I think she bothered him because she wouldn’t look at him, hehe. (My dress forms don’t have faces so he just ignores them.)
There was growling and barking for many days after she arrived. Just when he had gotten a little used to Keira visiting, the big roll of velvet fabric arrived and he greeted that with the same suspicious “intruder alert!” and I caught it on video:
My husband and our brother-in-law helped me rig a stand for her, and then I was able to start working on a mockup.
My starting point for both bodices was Vogue 2979 that looks like a reproduction of Grace Kelly’s wedding dress (pictured in this old post). But the sleeve caps as drafted were too short and caused all kinds of fit issues until I popped the seam open at the shoulder. (I tried the bodice on myself and had similar problems with the fit, so beware if you are trying to use this pattern straight from the envelope.) I also lowered the underarm curve a slightly like I usually need to do for myself.
Therefore, I drafted my own sleeve from scratch and made it a two-piece sleeve while I was at it. This allowed me to include better elbow ease for Keira’s perpetually bent arms. It also made it so much easier to dress her.
My friend used glossy red model paint to repaint Keira’s outdated ‘80s lips (check out that unbelievably sharp line!) and Keira got her lovely new hair. So much better!
The skirts were just basic full circles (but huge! because she’s so tall!) and I draped & drew the cape pattern on Keira. I was really surprised that the upholstery velvet cooperated and did what I wanted it to do for the most part.
I didn’t have enough fur (I bought all there was at the store) to double fold it like I wanted to on the capelet and skirts, so I lined it with some white polyester utility fabric and did a lot of picking to pull the fur out of the seams.
If you have questions or would like to know about specific details, ask me in the comments. =)
Overall, I probably spent about 3 weeks total on this project but the work was spread out over about 6 weeks. It was a huge build to complete on my own and I was so glad when it was finished! So was Wensley.
Merry Christmas to all, and my all your Christmases be white!
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!) 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:
- 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! Update: See the finished dresses in this post.
- 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 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.