Saturday, January 31, 2015

Asian Steampunk - Edwardian Ball 101

Procrastinator is one of the labels used to describe me by my brother-in-law when I was 13 years old. Back then, I didn't know what the word meant, and after he explained it to me for about 20 minutes, I felt insulted. I was a misunderstood teenager. (Who isn't?) Having raised four of my own's probably not realistic to accuse a budding adult of procrastination in the middle of their transition years. I think it's only fair to criticize after one has reached at least 50 years old.

I procrastinated until the final week before the Edwardian Ball to sew partial outfits for me and my hubby. I was left with only seven days, which included the hours before the Ball. If nothing else, it was a test of my sewing skills, and whether or not my machines had the chutzpa to get me through the crisis (I mean fun). There's no better time than being under pressure to make cuts from the sewing list. If nothing else, forced clarity happens quickly.

I wanted an Asian Steampunk theme, and roughly knew which direction to go. But I was thwarted by many things...but TIME was my main nemesis. I began with a kimono pattern, that I painstakingly cut out of a velvety peach silk charmeuse. Once the lining was cut, I ditched the idea due to creative indecision.  (As of this blog, the cut kimono top has yet to be sewn.) What I really wanted was a Mandarin collar blouse closer to the classic Chinese style. I had a pattern from the authentic, and "not-so-fast-to-sew" Folkwear...nope...I was slow sewing if I went that route. Luckily, I only had to go as far as my closet to retrieve the black silk one I bought in Thailand. First piece done, and I didn't have to even lift a presser foot.

The striped heavy cotton I bought for my husband's vest and pants arrived on the exact day I started sewing. BUT the background was Summer-white rather than beige. I wanted it to look rustic...not like resort wear, which would look really weird on a man attending the Edwardian Ball. Crisis alert.

Fast forward to this...

Beautifully done and ruined first vest.
I tried removing the stitches, but it kept snagging.
My husband ended up with two vests. The first was ruined by one, the waxed chalk marker (which was my stupidity), and two, my Bernina 1130's malfunctioning automatic buttonhole foot.

Slight segue about this Bernina repair issue...

This was supposed to have been fixed last year, but of course it wasn't. I was charged $140 for a maintenance which included $40 in parts, but in reality, there weren't any parts replaced at all...just extended repair time. But there was nothing broken except for the foot sensor...which required a replacement, and if I had just done that, I would have saved the $140 and applied it to the $200 foot sensor. It was a sewing repair shakedown from my local dealer. Hatred and resentment set in pretty quickly after that. And when a perfectly sewn brocade vest gets ruined by the final buttonhole really, really burns. Then I begin to hate everything-including my 1130...but my Bernina dealer more.

Deep breath. I decided against making any buttonholes...not by machine or by hand. (Besides I didn't have time to order any buttonhole twist.) Blah...blah...blah.

I sewed a second vest...which was understated but elegant. I got around the buttonhole problem by changing the front to utilize snaps, and adding a frog closure at the top. (I discovered that I can hand sew extra large snaps.) The vest ended up being very wearable outside of the Edwardian Ball, and I was pleased as punch. Because I had to make the vest twice, I sacrificed the time I needed to make him a pair of pants and shirt. So he had to utilize RTW pieces from his closet. No resort wear for hubby.

Second vest without buttonholes with more Asian look.
Selfie was taken at the Edwardian Ball, so the lighting
was not very good.

This is the back of the vest. It was made with a lovely gold, embroidered silk dupioni.
My husband is also a jazz pianist, so a nicer back on the vest is great for gig-wearing.
My outfit went through a couple of transitions too. The first skirt was made with curtain fabric, and it was heavy and bulky. The faux bustle felt like 10 pounds by itself. My daughter's description was: "It looks like a diaper on you Mom." Enough said, and back to Joann's Fabrics for affordable brocade with my 50 percent-off coupon. Rewind..this soon-to-be-purchased brocade was also used to make my hubby's FIRST vest. That's right, I started on my skirt before his vest. I'm just a bit too disorganized to rewrite this post chronologically...

This was the first "heavy" curtain skirt.  I don't have a
picture of the skirt with the bustle attached. But you don't
need it to see how big and bulky it is already.
It doesn't look so bad in the photo. 
I really liked the new skirt fabric. But wanted something different for the bustle. I told my husband that there might be a chance that my friend sewed the same skirt, so I should consider redesigning it a bit. I decided to use a synthetic organza for the bustle instead of the brocade, which gave it a better puff and nearly eliminated all the weight issues. I used four yards of 45-inch wide organza, and created the bustle without using the original pattern. My pattern, which was the fabric folded in half at the grain line (no cutting at all). The only real fancy thing I did was narrow hem it, and it's really easy to do on organza! Whew!

I had to hand stitch the side pleats so it could drape nicer in the front.

The original pattern did not include securing the side pleats,
which would have ended up being very poofy in the front.
This is the skirt after the pleats were sewn in. 
The corset was more challenging because I ran out of time to get the proper eyelet tools to create a lace up in the back. I also did not have a separating zipper (I thought I did), and then decided just to use a regular one I had. Bad idea on both parts. I knew it would be difficult to put on, but that was not the real problem. As the evening went on, having a lace-up, would have allowed for "loosening" options, none of which I had in a zip up. Eh...I live and learn. I did discover that using plastic bar locks from Home Depot were great in lieu of metal boning. I made a muslin corset last year, and even without the steel boning, I felt like I was suffocating. Corsets aren't for me...but using the bar locks gave me good form without feeling completely tied up. If I had added the lace-up feature...all would have been perfect. Excuse the wrinkly corset dressform is not as wide as me.

My outfit was complete with some lace-up boots, fishnet stockings, and an Amazon purchased mini-top hat.

In case you're wondering what pattern I it is. I really liked this pattern, and found that all the instructions were well explained, and the pattern pieces excellently drafted. Be warned though, it takes about five-plus yards of fabric to complete the shirt skirt with the bustle. And only friend who showed up to the Ball also made this skirt. I thought it was really cute.

Negative ending alert...

How was the Edwardian Ball? There were many creative costumes, a handful of truly authentic historical pieces, and some really crazy stuff. I don't know if I would ever go back. The organizers crammed too many people in the space. Getting from one location to another was like moving cattle. I felt claustrophobic for most of the night. It was a lot of money and effort for very little entertainment. There was also no place to sit and rest for the entire evening, except the floor. And depending upon what floor we were on, it could have been covered with spilled drinks. It was nearly impossible to have a good time unless one was passed out drunk.

After all the sewing, I ended up with stains on my brocade skirt and silk blouse from a woman who had not finish her sugary citrus drink before being squished with us into a box-sized room to watch a weird live performance. She rendered no apology or acknowledgement...nada...even after I reached across her body for my husband's handkerchief to wipe myself down. This costume ruiner also cut my friends in line. She was immediately added to the same list alongside my Bernina dealer .

Happy sewing!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Forward to 2015

I knitted everyone a modified slouchy hat for the holidays. It took me about three to four days to finish each hat. The last one was completed on Christmas Eve. Here's a picture of my family wearing them on Christmas day. I have yet to knit mine...sigh. That's it for 2014 knitting folks!

I decided that this new year will not be filled with a long list of resolutions. I am tired of pointing out the obvious over and over again. Let's be done with all that silliness shall we?

But a bit of early Spring cleaning is in order. I'm going to make room in my closet and get rid of everything that is ill-fitting and uncomfortable. This includes donating those handmade pieces that I never liked but held onto because I made them. I'm also done with fancy dresses, unless I'm making them for educational purposes. They just don't get worn enough. I go to maybe two fancy parties or less a year, and I don't expect that number to grow anytime soon.

So what's in store for 2015? I'm getting ready for the Edwardian Ball. I have two weeks to measure, cut, and sew two outfits (me and hubby) for this event. I'm leaning toward an Asian Steampunk mash-up. But there's got to be a corset somewhere! Yes...but...I decided that I don't like wearing them, so I may make a comfy "fake" corset to keep me from feeling claustrophobic. Stay tuned...

I'll be going back to the tried-and-true sewing of 2014. Smocks, smocks, and more smocks! I freaking love them. It's like wearing cute scrubs to work, but not. It's a good substitute for a lab coat, because lab coats are too warm (even though they make me look all doctorey...doctorey is not a real word...I stole it from one of my patients who commented on how "doctorey" I looked one day at work).

Fourth quarter SMOCKPALOOZA sewing...

Kokka cotton smock from one of my Japanese pattern books. This is a remake.
Instead of seam binding the neckline, I just added elastic, and it's SUPAH comfy!

Another remake also using Kokka cotton fabric. This one turned out really big, and looks maternity.
I have not worn it yet, because I'm still debating if I want to look preggers or not at work.

Rayon Challis Smock Dress. I lengthened the smock top into a dress. This is the most
comfortable dress ever...and according to my daughter, looks a bit like a hospital gown.
Eh...what does she know about smocks anyway.

Too big again...but I cut the right size for my bust. It was technically a muslin...using some fabric
I got from FABMO. So there's always the possibility of a second, smaller version.
I might be moving at the end of 2015 so clearing out clutter is not going to end after Spring. It's going to be stressful working down my stash. But I have some incentive now to cut into all those beautiful silk pieces I bought from Hong Kong. I picked up a bunch of polyester charmeuse to serve as muslin pieces for the silk-intended projects. My family will be getting some handmade pieces in 2015. I'm cutting back on selfish sewing because my closet can't take it anymore.

Remember how proud I was at having six sewing machines? Here's a question...if I only had room for one sewing machine, and one serger, which one would I choose? What are your machines of choice if there was a fire, and you could only save two?

Happy 2015 sewing everyone!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Trying Out Style Arc

I have a new crush on Style Arc patterns. I picked up four (one was free) over the Summer, and finally dug into them the past couple of weeks. In my pursuit for more comfortable work clothes, I cut into the Peta pants pattern first, and made two pairs. The first was a wearable muslin in a stretch navy jersey, and then a second pair in black ponte. Both sewed up really well, but the pockets were too shallow in the muslin, so I sewed them up, and skipped it on the ponte. (I have a master pocket pattern I downloaded for free from one of the BurdaStyle patterns, and use it for whenever I want a an inserted pocket.) This basic elastic pant pattern can be made into sweats, dressy-casual, and even pajama pants. I didn't take any photos, but here is the pattern. I made mine without the drawstring ankles. There's not a lot of ease, so keep that in mind if you want something loose. I recommend stretch fabrics always. Hips are narrow, which I love, but maybe not so good comfy for others.

After getting my fill of the Peta pants, I started on the muslin for the Carly Jumpsuit. This would be my second jumpsuit. (The first was made from a McCall's pattern out of bright striped terry cloth, and turned into shorts for a swimsuit cover-up. It ended up being too big all over and unflattering. I'm looking for someone to gift that jumpsuit to.)

Crazy me...but I decided to use some crushed velvet I picked up on sale at Harts Fabrics. Crazy because I've never sewn with velvet before. I decided that it wasn't that bad...BUT...I really needed to adjust the ease in the pattern, meaning, I needed to make it slightly bigger to allow for thicker fabric. Notice the welt pockets? I skipped those in velvet, but might attempt it on the next version which will be in rayon. I might get really ambitious and draft up some sleeves too.

Here is my muslin pinned to my dressform. I can't fit pants on the form. I could not get a really good photo, and no matter what angle, the velvet looks like colors from dachshund. But it's really a nice dark chocolate. Without the added ease, it feels and looks a bit small. Sigh. But wearable I guess. Someone a size smaller than me would love this jumpsuit. The suggested fabric for this pattern is a light, drapey rayon or the like.

My favorite thing about Style Arc Patterns is the paper. No weak tissue! Instead, sturdy white paper that's easy to read and stable for cutting. What makes the patterns really unique is how they are designed for industrial sewing like ready-to-wear and not necessarily home sewing. I got one size and not multiple sizes into one pattern. I was disappointed at first, but given that cutting and sewing is now more precise, I really don't mind the trade off. All the elastic casing, bias binding strips, and other little pieces just fit. No frills, no stress. Love it. 

Digging into a complex designer pattern requires some long Zen hours. My brain can't wrap itself around those projects often (my last being that linen bubble dress which caused me lots of undue stress). When I was in school, the design philosophy was "keep it simple." The simpler the design, the simpler the pattern, the simpler the pattern the faster the cutting and sewing, and more profits. Style Arc patterns (so far) seem well-executed for my sewing personality.  

With Christmas in less than a week, things are getting pretty nuts around my house. I have the week off (YAH!), but only to give me more time to knit and sew...but my big cut off is this Sunday afternoon when I pick up my eldest son from the airport.  

Until we sew again...Happy Holidays everyone!