Thursday, September 14, 2017

Making a Ghawazee for the Renaissance Faire

Every September, our local Renaissance Faires open their doors for a several weekends. Looking through my wardrobe, I decided that it was time to make myself a new outfit. It had been several years since I made one. The Ghawazee is probably one of the easier ones to make. 

This pattern from AlterYears is one I had made previously, so it was an easy enough pattern to "whip" up as I didn't have to make a mockup. However, I did make the muslin lining first, just case I had to make any modifications to it. My sister-in-law had scored some striped fabric from a garage sale, and she was kind enough to give me about 3 yards, which was more than enough to make this pattern. She'll probably be making one for herself, so we'll end up matching at one point. :-)

The pattern is easy and straightforward in its instruction. There are only about 5 pattern pieces, which all involve straight seams. The "hardest" part is adding grommets and hemming.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take some before shots, but these are the finished shots on my dress mannequin.

What's nice about this outfit is that I can wear it with a skirt, harem pants, and any sort of ren faire blouse I might have. The look of the outfit changes with whatever color I choose for the skirt, pants, or blouse. So I can still use this with my existing skirts without a fuss.

It's also very light weight and a lot more comfortable to wear in heat, as there are some weekends during the faire season, which are unbearably hot.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Re-organizing our Sewing Closet

Every now and then, I have to re-organize our sewing stuff because it's gotten too disorganized as things are shuffled around, put into the wrong place, or we start piling things instead of putting them away.

I was looking for something in particular that I knew I had, but couldn't not find, so I started on a massive re-organization binge. Of course, I didn't take BEFORE photos, but I'll just amaze with the AFTER photos.

This is our sewing closet -- otherwise known as a linen closet for any normal household. It contains a lot of the supplies and tools that we use on a fairly regular basis in our costuming efforts, such as the ironing board, ironing hams, stabilizers, bias tape, etc.

Along the side of the closet, I hung up all our large yard sticks and other large measuring sticks.

The top shelf has all our embroidery accessories.

The second shelf has other much used supplies, such as zippers, bias tape, boning, elastic, buckles, and other findings. It also stores our various hams and pressing clappers. My Viking got these plastic shelves on clearance at Target.

The last shelf contains bigger boxes, like our button boxes, ribbon crafting supplies, etc. (I'l be able to also put my serger back onto this shelf!

The last part of the closet contains some other shelving (also from target). It includes my hoop boning, all the grosgrain ribbon, various forms of stabilizer (tear-away, wash-away, etc), spools of serger thread, and other supplies that are too big to store elsewhere.

I'm really happy with the re-organization, even if it took me some time to re-organize. It meant that I got rid of things that we didn't need or couldn't use anymore. It feels a lot more cleaner and organized, as well as looking the part! Hopefully, we can keep it as organized as we start new projects!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Making Cockade Ribbons

This past weekend we had a killer heatwave come through the Bay Area that broke record temperatures.  Our normally mild climate town was seeing temperatures of 106, and we don't have air conditioning in this house.

It was so hot, I didn't want to sew or knit, but I wanted to be crafty, so I thought to pull out some grosgrain ribbon and do some ribbon crafting.

A few years ago, my Viking took a cockade making class with Candace King who wrote a wonderful book called, The Artful Ribbon. I've used her book to make flowered ribbons as trim for various costumes, but I'd never really tried my hand at making ribbon cockades. It was a good a time as any to learn.

My VIking gave me a few basics. I grabbed a compass and rule to draw out a sectioned circle, started folding ribbon to the lines, pinning them into place, and eventually sewing all of it down onto a piece of buckrum. My first attempt looked pretty and I was emboldened by my success.


However, my second and third attempts didn't end so well. I had a bit of a problem getting the folds to look correct and it fell apart as I was trying to sew it together.

Eventually, I managed to make one that looked half-way decent.

I layered these two pieces together onto the buckrum (the black backing fabric) and took a random pendant I had in my beading box to finish off the project. I'm probably going to turn this piece into a hair fastener.  

I felt pretty good about this piece, so I decided to try my hand at a different type of cockade. Unfortunately, I couldn't find much instruction on how to make this particular one, so I spent some time playing origami with ribbon until I "un-invented" the technique.

This particular cockade looks pretty good in either direction. It reminded me of a sea star or anenome.

I had this really cute button that matched the ribbon color and was marine-life themed, so I decided to turn this into a wearable pin.

I really enjoyed making them.  It was a bit of effort to fold and pin them in place, but the process was satisfying in general. I have a lot of grosgrain ribbon from knitting, and will most likely be making more in the near future for a variety of purposes.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Kilt Making

My Viking and I were going to be attending the Pleasanton Scottish Highland Games in our area. It's a pretty big event, so I decided to make myself a nice woman's kilt to wear.

I have several women's kilts, but they are made out of wool, and traditionally, this event is warm (around 80 deg F), so I wanted something lighter.

I took my nice Scottish kilt, measured every inch of it, and took copious notes about sizing, the type of pleats (one box pleat and the rest were knife pleats), the size of the pleats, etc.
What's nice about this type of skirt is that it's a big swath of fabric that's pleated into a simple skirt shape. There's not a lot of sewing pieces together, except for 4 small darts on either end to help give it shape, adding a waistband, and the final closures.

However, there is a lot of pleating to be done. I found some cotton/poly fabric (2.1 yards = ~75" wide) that I liked and started pleating. I couldn't find my "perfect pleater" so I had to pleat by hand, which isn't that hard, especially when the plaid acts as a nice repeating pattern to create said pleats. It took quite a bit of time to complete all of the pleating.

For my particular skirt, my pleats weren't perfectly straight, with my original skirt, the pleats curved slightly up towards the top of the skirt forming pleated "darts" that help shaped the skirt for my waist. It's hard to see in the photo.

Once I had all the pleats in place, I used a combination of a water/vinegar solution (1 cup vinegar/2 cups of water) in a spray bottle to help permanently set the pleats during pressing. I spray the solution over the pleats and carefully press the pleats down.

The vinegar solution helps to chemically set the pleats permanently.

It's hard to see the pleats in a photograph, so I stuck a ruler in between said pleats.

Once the pleats were set, I carefully sewed down the pleats from the waist to the top of my hips. (This was done in the original skirt as well.)

I added the waistband to the skirt and the final closures. Because this skirt was so light, I opted to use a hook & eye skirt closures that I picked up at Joann's.

While I was making the skirt, I added quite a bit more notes for future use...just in case I want to make more kilted skirts.

Overall, it took me about 3-4 hours to make the skirt -- and most of that time was spent pleating and re-pleating when I wasn't happy with the pleats. If I can find my perfect pleater, I'm sure it would have taken far less time.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to wear this kilt at the Highland Games. We had a record-breaking heat of 104-114 deg F at the Games all weekend, and it was much too hot to wear that much fabric, so I opted to simply wear a sarong instead!

However, once the weather cools down, I now have a new skirt to wear for work, so I definitely call it a win!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Corset in 6 hours

It's been a while since I made myself a corset, but I really needed a new one to be able to wear a few new costumes that I have planned. Most people find a corset intimidating to make, but honestly, it's a fairly simplistic pattern -- mostly straight seams, but it is fiddly and time consuming. I took a full 8-hour day workshop to make my very first corset, and it still took me 2 hours AFTER the class to finish (total of 10 hours).

Now that I've made several of these, I've streamlined it down to about 6 hours to create a corset (not including the time it takes to wash and iron fabric for it.

First, I made a mockup. Because I hadn't made myself a corset in a while, I thought it best to double check the measurements and fit. I did have to adjust the pattern to fit, but the modifications were relatively minor. I used a simple muslin mockup to check the fit.

Originally, I was going to make a boring white corset, but realized that I have a lot of fun, geeky fabric to choose from in my Stash, especially since a corset only takes about 1-1.5 yards of fabric to make. For this one, I chose a wonderful TARDIS pattern from my collection. (I already have an outfit planned for this very corset. :-)

The TARDIS a simple printed cotton and the lining is a glazed red cotton.
Not pictured is the coutil I used for the interlining.

Cutting the Fabric: 1.5 hours
It took about 1.5 hours to cut the fabric mostly because I was pattern matching the TARDI(s) to meet along the front of the corset and to be symmetrical on all sides. I was pleased with how well the pattern matched up so it was well worth the effort.

Assembly & First fitting: 1.5 hour
The initial assembly of the fashion fabric went by fairly quickly. As mentioned previously, a corset is primarily a lot of straight seams. Adding the busk (the front part of the corset) took a bit as I had to carefully measure out the openings for it. It was during this time, I had my Viking check for fit. I had to take in some of the back seams to get a proper fit on the fashion fabric. Once the fashion shell fit well, I made modifications to the lining and sewed together the lining shell.

Hand-sewing Waist band: 30 minutes
Once the fabric shell fitted, I attached a twill ribbon to the waist band for reinforcement. This piece had to be sewn into both halves of the fabric shell. It took about 15 minutes for me to sew each 16" length of twill.

Attaching the Lining: 40 minutes
Once the waist reinforcement was in place, I attached the lining to the fabric, pressed all of the seams and made sure that the outside fabric shell and the lining fabric lined up correctly. I had to rip out a couple of seams, because I didn't give a proper seam allowance so that the lining was slightly larger than the fabric shell. Once everything aligned correctly, I stitched down the lining to the fabric at the top & bottom, then hand-stitched each of the seams so that the lining wouldn't shift for the next part of the process --- boning!

Boning: 30minutes

Boning is a fairly simple process. You stitch an appropriate number of boning channels along each seam. For myself, I used 1/4" flat and spiral boning. As I'm fairly petite, I only needed to create 6 channels for each panel (12 in total). These channels were right next to each seam, so I used each seam as a guide to create said channels.

Grommets: 30 minutes

Adding grommets is an annoying process as it has to be done with an awl and a grommet setter. First, you poke a hole through your fabric using an awl, then place your grommet in the hole, and use the grommet setter to put it into place. I timed myself for fun, and it took an average of 52 seconds to add a single grommet, which I rounded up to 60 seconds. I had to place 12 grommets in each half (24 in total). It took about 24 minutes to add all 24 grommets. I rounded up to 30 minutes.

Hand-sewing binding: 60 minutes

The bindings at the top and bottom needed to be hand-sewn. It generally takes me a long time to hand-sew, so I turned on Netflix and watched an episode or two of mindless t.v. so I could complete the sewing.

Final Corset: 6 hours later

Here's the final corset about 6 hours later. I'm happy with the overall project, but I forgot to take a few things into account during the fitting. Oops.

The corset is just a "tiny" bit too big for me, even after all that fitting. It fits well enough as an "outer" corset (meaning if I wear a long sleeve blouse under the corset, it fits fine). However, as "underwear" for a Victorian outfit, it's not suitable.

I'm slightly disappointed in myself for not getting the fit exactly right. However, I shall be making another one with the correct fit. I have more than enough of this particular fabric to make a secondary corset. :-)

You'll hear more on that soon enough. But insofar as this one, I already have plans to make a full matching outfit for that. I've sketched out what I want to do, and now it's a matter of finding the time to make all of the pieces.


And, here's my cat, Pharaoh, who was kind enough to supervise in the making.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Wig Maintenance for Shego

While I was working on my Lazarus wig, I decided that I needed to do some wig maintenance on my Shego wig. It was starting to frizz and get a bit tangled at the ends.  I take care of my wigs, but just wearing it can cause general frizziness and tangling as it rubs against your clothes or skin, or from being handled one too many times.

Shego's hair is long and has a slight curl to it.

I grabbed my basic tools for wig maintenance --- a oil based spray to help with frizz, a steel brush, a hair straightener, and some curling rollers. (The Shego wig is from Arda, and is heat resistant and can be styled using a hair straightener.)

After carefully detangling the hair (using my fingers and a comb) and using the oil spray to tame the frizz parts, I used the hair straightener to warm up a section of hair then used the roller.

I used several different sizes at various heights, then let the wig cool down.

I got a nice curl from the curlers, and using various sizes gave me both and tight loose curls.

Overall, I was pretty happy with how the finished wig came out. I got a chance to show off my costume to Stephen Silver, who is the character designer for the show, Kim Possible (and Shego). He saw me from his booth and came out to greet me. It was a good feeling when he said, "Look, there's a well done, Shego!"

Monday, July 31, 2017

SDCC Masquerade Evening

From previous posts, you already know that our group did a tribute to David Bowie at the SDCC Masquerade. We had a total of 18 (!!) people in our group -- 16 Bowies and 2 Ninjas, who helped get our backdrop set in place. We were the last act of the night (#39) and we got a rousing reaction from the crowd.

Unfortunately, we didn't win any of the awards this year (we can't win every single year). It wasn't quite comic book related nor was it really "media" related (such as the Game of Thrones presentation or any of the Star Wars skits), so we didn't quite fit into the general theme of the convention.

However, we got a lot of compliments from members of the Motion Picture Costumer's Association, John Landis (the director), and many from the crowd, including our MC host, Kaja Folio, said that it really touched them and made them cry for David Bowie, who passed in 2016.

And as a cosplayer and performer, that's the best prize we can ask for.

Here are a few photos from the various Bowie. (courtesy of: The OCR)

Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Southern California News Group

Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG

In this one, you can see the whole of the skit.

This video is a bit better in terms of getting a good look at our costumes.

For a complete list of elements for this outfit:

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Building a Suit for SDCC: Lazarus

Now that SDCC is over, I can finally reveal the cosplay that I had been working on two months leading up to SDCC.

Our group was doing a tribute to David Bowie at the SDCC masquerade, and I was going to be his final incarnation, Lazarus, from the Black Star album.

It's not your typical cosplay outfit, but one that I enjoyed making. I'm a big fan of David Bowie and making this outfit was somewhat cathartic.

Insofar as costumes, it's not the most difficult one I've ever made, but it was time three-piece suits generally have quite a bit of tailoring. An added benefit is that I'll be able to wear this outfit outside of any convention.

In addition to his suit, there were a few other things that I needed to create --- his hair as well as the blindfold.

The hair was a bit of a challenge since Bowie's hair is shaved along the sides. I thought some of that could at least be mitigated using the blindfold. I purchased a lace-front wig from Arda Wigs and did a bit of styling -- mostly to have the hair standup along the crown.

The blindfold was a bit trickier only because I needed to be able to SEE well enough on stage to walk around and perform without falling over. I found some light weight gauze at the fabric store that I cut into a long strip.

After wrapping my head while wearing the wig, I marked out where the "eyes" should go that would look about "right" but still allow me to see well enough on stage.

The last thing I needed was the Black Star "bible" that Lazarus carries around.

It looked to be about the size of a trade paperback. So, I took one of the books on my "To Read" stack and drew out a paper template, and traced it on some leather that was in my Leather Stash. My intent was to make a book "cover" that I could use for any book the size of a trade paperback.

I used some matte board to stiffen the sides, and used BARGE glue to attach it to the leather.

After making the book cover. I drew a perfect 5-pointed star, transferred it to suede leather, and attached it to the front of the book.

I'll have a few more posts on our group, video, and other photos.