Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Beatles Dress

This dress was made for me to wear on one of the most important days of my life - the day I met the single hottest man on earth, and got my picture taken with him.

Anyway this blog is about the sewing/fashion type stuff not to gush over Karl Urban.  Unfortunately I am too big to fit this dress at the moment - though it is close so hopefully this year will see it back on my back (and can you believe I thought I was "fat" when I made it)

Anyway jokes aside this dress is made using a simplicity reprint 1960's shift.  Some (ok all) of the seam detailing is lost in the super psychedelic pattern I chose to use.  The material was part of a quilting series for the Beatles and is called Yellow Submarine.  It was my first time working with Quilting cotton and I loved how it it sewed.  Quilting, however is a heavier cotton than some so works better on dresses with structure.

I chose the short version of the dress, because I have always loved mini's.  Age and wisdom has told me that sometimes the heart has a love the legs can't carry off, were I to make this again I would use the longer version.  The mini is super dooper mini, even at the time I ended up wearing it more like a tunic over jeans.  Don't judge me it was the style of the time.

I lined the dress in some navy polyester lining.  The lining was sewn like a bubble into the hem to avoid any visible hem seems on the front of the dress.  Basically, I cut the dress a few cm longer than the lining and sewed the two together.  Then I ironed it so that the extra dress hem folded up into the lining.  Not something I would recommend to others as ironing is a nightmare but the concept of a hem stitch was years away at this point.  The other change that I made was to move the zip down, mostly because it meant I would not have to finish the zip top.

Things that I like about this dress, the finishes are all well done.  The fabric is amazing and stands out and the dress when it did fit, fit really well.  I was initially; concerned that with my bust it wouldn't sit well but I was pleasantly surprised.  There is just enough shape in the dress to define waist and hips.

I do recommend this pattern
I also recommend the Beatles - still the best band of all history.

Lindy Charm School

So this post is a plug for someone who’s services I have previously partaken in and recommend very highly.

The Lindy Charm School for Girls

Often taking place at various vintage fairs around this country,  Lindy's specialises in teaching you the tips and tricks to really completing that vintage look.  Hair styles, make up techniques and accessories were all covered when I did it.  It has admittedly been years but I would be happy to return and take a workshop again.  There is something in this for everyone, even my mother who is a hairdresser trained in many vintage techniques learnt new tricks.

Miss Chrissy, the charm school headmistress is friendly and insightful.  She lives the vintage look every day and knows what works and what doesn’t.  She is a vision of elegance from a bygone era.

One small thing about this – when I went I had short hair (a 60’s twiggy style) and I have short hair again.  As such I didn’t get as much out of the hair portion as I couldn’t really take it home and do it myself – though humorously my mother did place a barrel roll in my hair on the long fringe side which looked as silly as you imagine.  If you do have short hair I would suggest just asking for tips and tricks to achieve finger rolls as it’s a classically vintage look that doesn’t require long tresses.  You do  not however, need long hair to enjoy the day or to learn loads of information about accessories and make up styles.

Their website also sells some great vintage items so even if you can’t make it to the workshops it can be worth checking out their shop.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Look back at my Victorian Past Part 3 – Debbie’s Dress

This costume uses the same polonaise pattern as I intend to use for the most epic project.  I do however want to point out how absolutely annoying it is that Debbie was so fantastic at fabric picking and trims that this one really was the standout in many ways and most of those ways had nothing to do with me.  Everything about this just matched.  Nothing was overdone, nothing looked cheap (even though like all of these it in many ways was, fabric would have cost $4-6/m at most).

Polinaise – TV
The original plan was to poofie up the back as per the pattern but I found once it was hanging on Mavis it just looked so good without it so the early bustle pattern ended up creating a late bustle look.  The hardest bit on this was matching the pattern down the back panels, an effort that was definitely worth it as it would not have been nearly as amazing had we not taken the extra time.

I want to take a moment here to talk about the Truly Victorian size system and just how awesome it is.  Without it I never would have been able to complete the costumes in time.  All bodice patterns have a system for working out what pieces you need to use.  You measure about 10 different dimensions, do some tricky math (take measurement a from measurement b) or in my case force your husband to do said tricky math (not actually tricky if you don’t suck at math like me), and it will tell you what you need.  For example when you take the across back away from the bust measurement and look up the remaining in the table it tells you your size for the front bodice is F but the measurements for the back piece equate to D.  In this way you build your pattern pieces to fit your form.  And 3 out of 4 fit perfectly first time.  In fact on all of them I ended up using the trial as a lining. (the other two are myself and Ange who both had ageless pattern bodices and the one that didn’t work didn’t use the system correctly – more on that later).  Anyway my advise if you have a TV pattern is to use their sizing system, yes it is more time consuming then just selecting all pieces the same “size” based on bust measurement but it is less time consuming than refitting pieces because your not perfectly in proportion.  The fit is beautiful and worth the effort and icky “mathsing”.

Underskirt – Simplicity 5457

 So the underskirt and “bustle” were taken from a butterick pattern, I just didn’t have the time to create proper cage bustles.  The bustle effect on this is made by a shaped pillow that gets tied to the waist.  It’s a good cheat if your just after a quick fix to get the right silhouette.  The pillow pattern is included with the skirt and a bodice that we didn’t use (two bodices and an overskirt pattern to be exact).

There isn’t much to be said about the pattern, it was very simple gored skirt with added fullness in the back.  Debbie chose a steel grey duchess satin and trimmed with black lace and ribbon.

All in all this was a very simple pattern, that yielded quite outstanding results.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Not all sewing projects are created equal.

Sometimes despite the best of intentions and efforts sewing projects just don’t work out the way you want.  It is ok to admit that the reality of a garment does not always measure up to the soring expectations of the dream.  My family and I moved a few months ago from my mothers place to a place of our own.  All our stuff came out of storage and is currently sitting in the back room.  Sufficed to say that the new place does not have nearly as much space as the old place and we need to cut down our crap and as a result I have been going through a lot of sewing stuff.

This is why I have re-evaluated my stash, which is quite sizable and why I am having to reconsider my wardrobe, including handmade items and eventually when I get to those boxes my costume collection too.  I can’t keep everything and in having to make tough choices I am also having to face the reality that there is projects I should never have kept, they just weren’t good.

Some of these cock ups never made it to finished product because I realised part way through that it just wasn’t working – but at the same time for some insane reason I have kept it part finished, collecting dust and taking up space.  The perfect dress is a good example of this.  It sits there hem not done and in no way on earth that it will ever fit me.

Others I did get to the end of, possibly I was even delusional and proud of at the time.  Take for example this 1960’s shift dress.  

I remember that I really liked the bust shaping in the pattern and the back belt.  But the material, a cotton sateen, is all wrong for the dress.  The shaping that I loved in theory in practice was nigh on impossible with my skill level at the time to get even and neat.  The fit is just all wrong and whether that is my body shape or my sewing skill or the fabric weight or a combination of any or all of these things is still a bit of a mystery.  I do remember that as the pattern is for a 32.5 inch bust I had to add 3.5-4 inches and used the slash and spread method, which always has varying degrees of success.

Thing is we often share our success with pride but rarely do we share our failures with each other – which in some ways seems backwards as you learn far more with failure.  When we do find a shared failure  it is often masked behind a don’t recommend pattern, as if somehow all the issues are someone else’s fault.  So this post I dedicate to owning my own shit and my own failings, accepting that I can do better and I will do better and clearing out all the rubbish that just didn’t work.

The unsalvageable will be going in the bin and the unwearable either following suit or facing major modification to be wearable.  Like the boxy dress.  I used a good cotton for the spotted skirt but  mixed that up with a cheap crappy cotton for the top – what a rookie error.  I intend to remove the bodice re-gather the skirt on a waistband and turn the unflattering dress into a very flattering skirt.

For so long I have been far to passive about my work, it really isn’t good enough.  Not because it is bad but because I could do better, with a little more patience and planning.  Its often small things, the finishes where I am lacking.  Failing to clip in or iron fell as I go.  Failing to clip off the excess strings at the time I finish each one rather than trying to find them all at the end.  Rushing a zip in rather than taking the time to iron them open and get the seam right in that line.  Like this 60’s tunic style dress, which is made entirely out of cheap shit polyester suiting.  This is the back of the neck where I have never dealt properly with the zip, and the bottom of the zip that isn’t correctly fitted into the dress, and the pockets being poorly placed, and, it can’t be ignored, completely overlocked in white thread. (Sorry I can't for hte life of me remember which pattern I used)

Near enough I have always treated as good enough, but after a year where I could not wear much of my handmade clothes I am looking back at them with a different eye.  I don’t want to be seen in a lot of them – how embarrassing that I did wear them in public.  Its not all bad news though, some of them I still love, many I just can’t bear to part with even though they don’t currently fit me.  In better news I am shrinking post having my son – and by shrinking I mean I am 10kg down from my pre pregnancy weight so maybe someday soon These beauties will once again see the light of day. 

Until then I promise to be more honest with myself in assessment of my work.  With any Luck the next time I fail to meet my expectations it will not be because I didn’t try my best.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Look back at my Victorian Past Part 2 – Angela’s Dress

I love this dress, so much so that I am considering making one myself – I do have a plethora of emerald/forest green velveteen to use.  The one thing that holds me back is that it wasn’t the easiest pattern I have ever worked with.  Having said that I learnt a lot.

You may be asking why Ange didn’t make her own damn dress.  Well you must remember that this was some years ago and Ange was still my young apprentice at that time.  She certainly helped a lot, and probably could have managed a Truly Victorian pattern without to much issue but this is Ageless Patterns (#1478) and even for me who never really follows pattern instructions it was really hard.  We had much resizing, reshaping, and Ange even suffered a 7 day lemon detox and super tight laced corset in order to get into it.  It was a team effort because truly one person could not have suffered the frustration alone – no matter how beautiful the final product is.

I should explain that people did not have much choice in their Victorian costumes.  I did all the research bought all the patterns and assigned to each person based on what I thought would suit them best.  What they did have a say in was materials because they bought and paid for all of that.  However from the moment I saw this dress in black and white line drawing I just felt it was a deep green dress with cream inserts.  Lucky for me Ange agreed and that was what we went looking for.

She ended up with some sort of man made fabric, like a taffeta but a really cheap one.  From memory it cost about $4/m which was lucky cause that train required a lot of fabric.  The underskirt and front bodice were a cream fabric, something like a crepe I think with a stretch lace overlay.  A stretch lace that still sometime haunts the corners of my worst sewing nightmares.  The bodice was finished off with some hanging beads for some added bling.

Like I said in Part 1 – Ageless patterns are not made to be easy, they have not been resized to adhere to modern figure standards and the instructions are close to non existent.  This dress being simple, at least came with everything I needed to achieve a close to image look without to much sewing training.  In the end we not only resized pieces but also added in another two panels in the centre front.  To give you an idea of how out of modern proportion this pattern is the bust after resizing down/up would fit 36-38 inches whist the waist was 26 inches.  Yes this pattern is made to fit the proportions of a barbie doll.

As I mentioned the stretch lace was a nightmare but did add a certain bling to the final product so it was probably worthwhile in the end though “stretch lace” as a general term was added to the ever growing list of banned material.  At least the scalloped edge meant that I did not have to hem it.  All other material was fine to work with and the bodice pieces were also flatlined with the denim, again this was lucky because it meant that even if Ange didn’t technically fill out the bodice once corseted to the level needed for the waist – she at least looked like she did, since the denim held its shape.

Like I said once complete this was one of my most favourite of the Victorian costumes and I really should give it another go sometime and see if my  resizing ability has improved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A look back at my Victorian past Part 1 - Hef's Costume

I realise that this blog has exclusively featured my fashion projects.  This isn't so much by design as that the blog started after I had moved out of costume making and into vintage fashion sewing.  See I used to make costumes for role playing LARP and so when I stopped doing so much LARP I also stopped making costumes.  There is actually a wealth of costumes and fashion projects that haven't made their way onto this blog for one reason or another and I intend to catch up on some of them in the coming months, starting with the Victorian stuff that I mentioned in my epic project post.

So why does one be so bat shit insane as to agree to make 6 full Victorian female outfits, 3 Victorian coats and 6 full pirate outfits all in the same few months - the answer is Role playing convention.  You have already seen details of Girlsquad's Marvel Costumes well the Victorian costumes were also for girlsquad.  Though we had already agreed to be pirates as the Con Costume, one of our favourite GM's was running a Victorian cthulu LARP and we had a reputation to uphold.

So With only about 2 months to get it all done I escorted my lovely ladies to Cabramatta in search of the right materials, ordered a bunch of patterns from Truly Victorian and Ageless Patterns.  Arranged sewing days and worked tirelessly to complete everything.

In this post I will cover the creation of the costume I wore

Bodice - Ageless Patterns #1442

This was the most challenging part of this project.  Ageless Patterns are truly vintage with little to no updating for modern terminology or fit.  I had to completely reshape several pattern pieces to make it fit my shape - the patterns original shape was that of full waist training.  I obviously altered a lot to work with what I had and the look I wanted, however many reviews will tell you Ageless Patterns do tend to leave the decorating up to you - that is the pattern included is only the base garment.  They certainly are not a pattern company for the novice or unadventurous.

Material used was some sort of polyester with a velvet burnout on it.  I had originally wanted a stripe but I saw this and thought that is exactly what I want.  I still remember it was $10/m a BIG spend for me in the days when I didn't ever spend more than $5/m.  The trim is a silk duponi that I got on MASSIVE sale because spotlight was moving to new premises.  I love the feel of the duponi and really wish I could afford to get more as it sewed like a dream and feels so luxurious.

The entire bodice is flat-lined in denim to give it enough body for the look - though there is a corset on underneath as well.  I decorating it with some hanging beads and there is a cameo on the front (photos to come once I find this in my storage clean out)

Skirt - Truly Victorian Fantail Skirt TV225

I love this skirt.  The pattern is so simple yet so effective.  Very few Pieces and came together like a dream.  It basically has a front panel, and side panels and inserted back panels that get pulled together with a drawstring to create the fantail shape.  I added horsehair braid around the hem and also added a dust cover to the train to try and protect the silk.

I can't recommend this skirt enough

Overskirt - Truly Victorian Split Pannier Overskirt TV328

I both like and don't like this pattern.  Firstly like the fantail it came together very easily and gave a good line to the natural form shape but on the other hand some of the gathering in the front seams were difficult to get sitting straight, though it may just have been the material I was using.  The Burnout didn't always drape perfectly.  I still think the final outcome looked good.

The last pattern listed is for the petticoat in which you will have to wait to hear - as I will document that as I finish the UFO that has been sitting around all this time.

I will probably add to this post once I have found the actual outfit and can take more detail photos.  But for now that's it.

The Most Epic of Major Project for 2017

So as I mentioned before I am going to be working on a major project this year.  A friend of mine joined an historical picnic society and has been working on a gown with pocket panniers – You know the ones where you turn sideways to fit through a door.  Anyway she has been posting pictures of her work in progress and working very hard on getting all the trims right and making it look fantastic and doing an amazing job given she is pretty much learning as she goes on a lot of the techniques.  Well Mel has inspired me to go back to my roots in sewing and make an epic costume.  Inspired also by a new friend who works in costume design and some of her amazingly professional work I have decided to revisit the Victorian era and create a costume from what I call skin up.

So what do I mean by “skin up”.  This costume is going to include, underwear, corset, bustle, petticoat, underskirt, Polonaise and hat.  The entire ensemble from the skin to what you see.  Some of this will be able to be made using stuff I have, the patterns are all taken care of, either I own them or in the case of the corset my costuming friend is going to lend a hand and help me draft up to my exact measurements.   So below is the epic nature of the vision I have with a deadline of July as I want to have a historical picnic for my birthday.


Underwear – Truly Victorian Combination Underwear TV105
Owing to the hot Australian climate (even our cold is not really that cold by comparison to many other places) I have decided to make these in a lighter fabric.  Perhaps a lawn or a voile.  I will need to reinforce the button holes though, and I am undecided on whether I use the machines one step button holer or make bound button holes.  I will trim the bottom of the legs and the neckline with some cotton lace just to add a little bit of pretty.  Technically this is the first piece I need to create, realistically there is a UFO that may be finished first.  I bought this pattern when I made a whole bunch of Victorian stuff years ago but never got round to making it.

Corset – Pattern By friend.

As I mentioned a friend is going to help me with a personalised pattern for this.  For me this is important as every Victorian corset pattern I can find goes up to a DD bust at best and I am currently an F.  I am not entirely certain what fabric will be required but I assume I should be able to make it with a homespun backing, canvas internals with metal boning and taffeta as the outer layer of fabric.  I am hoping since I already have the canvas and taffeta.  As a side note the taffeta is literally the oldest piece in stash mountain dating from I believe 2004/5.  The canvas I bought when I made the Elizabethan ball gown.

Bustle – Truly Victorian Petticoat with Wire Bustle TV101

Again this is a pattern I have had for a while, I even bought the wires precut that TV sell to make this project easier.  I never did add all the ruffles at the back but for a while there I had a bustle.  My original plan was to dig it out and finish the ruffle bit but when I took it out the thing had gone a bit mouldy.  Deciding that this was actually pretty gross I harvested my boning and threw the rest in the bin.  In the remake I plan on using homespun as it has a good weight to support the wire cage but won’t be too heavy.  From memory the cage section may need to be reinforced and if this is the case I will use an inner layer of canvas and back that again with homespun.  I am going to do all the ruffles on it (bring on the ruffle foot that I will need to buy but I really don’t want to hand gather all of the stuff that will need to be gathered in this project).

Petticoat – Truly Victorian Petticoat TV170

So remember that petticoat that I had in the post about my UFO’s.  Yeah I am going to make use of it.  I bought all the stuff to make it for my friend when I made a bunch of Victorian stuff back in I think 2008/9.  I saw the dolphin lace that is on the bottom and as she loves dolphins I thought yeah I will make her that.  But in true Hef style I bit of a lot and had to chew fast (6 female Victorian costumes and 3 male).  This Petticoat along with one of the male coats and the combination underwear  got shelved in preference of having the externals finalised.  Well Now its time to bring it all back out.  Whilst as I said above the underwear should be first this is probably going to be the first finished because well its very much done, over half way I would say.  So the petticoat won’t fit in with the all white unmentionables but what is life without whimsy.

The Outerwear

Bodice and Overskirt – Truly Victorian Polonaise TV410

I have made this pattern before for a friend in the great Victorian sewing extravaganza.  It is a very pretty pattern that is surprisingly easy to do.  I will poof it better for this one than in the picture provided as I am after a more early bustle look where as my friends was more late bustle.  I am thinking it will be a royal to navy blue though the exact type of material is still being considered, a lot will have  to do with costs.  Depending on the shade of blue I will trim with either red or maroon and white.  I want to have a double sided pleat around the base and neckline all the way around the bottom in white and a red strip running up the centre of that trim.  Whether I can get that done or not is another question.  I am going to also include a pleated undersleeve on the cuffs and I will use a silver button to finish it all off.

Underskirt – Truly Victorian Trained Skirt Ensemble TV208

I have made this skirt before too, but I did so in a cheap satin and even though it worked well it didn’t last long (it fell apart).  I know I will need to make some modifications to the pattern like I don’t want the skirt to be that long at the back or that full.  It may end up that I need to purchase the 4 gore pattern but if I can get away with this pattern I think why not.  The plan however is to have the dress a walking length, or at worst a s mall sweep train.  I am going to make the skirt in white and Homespun is likely, that way I can use the same material to trim the polonaise and the skirt so the white matches.  I will also do a double run of full pleated flounces at the bottom (hence to walking length) which will also have a red trim that matches the polonaise.



So the final crowning glory on this outfit (pun intended) is to decorate a boater hat in floral and lace/ribbon.  This is going to be something new for me because I am not a milliner but also because I don’t normally finish outfits to that final detail and I guess I really want to see if I can do it.

Anyway that’s the plan, it is going to take a lot of work and attention to detail, I won’t be able to rush this the way I normally do and to be honest I don’t want to.  Wish me luck.

Where have you been???

So its been a while right.  Well in the time I have been gone I have had a baby (he is now 1) and well not much else of note.  In any case I want to get back into this blog and into sewing in general so here goes the plans for the future.

I have been cleaning out my sewing stuff, including a cull of stash mountain which since last documented has grown even bigger (I think there was somewhere near 400litres of fabric).  I have sorted it into various categories – fabric I am going to give away, fabric I am going to store, fabric that has projects assigned to it and UFO’s.  Quite embarrassingly there are UFO’s that require nothing more than a hem done and have still been sitting around forever (and that is almost literal).

Like a 1960’s tunic/Dress in black velveteen (not a cheap choice) <> which requires me to hem both the dress and lining and that is it.  

Or a 1940’s Skanties which need a waistband

Or (the oldest of my UFO’s at about 8 years) which is all the pieces cut out and overlocked and ready to put together as a petticoat.

My plan is to work on my Major project which is a costume, and I will explain in further detail in my next post.  At the same time I will be working on clearing UFO’s one at a time and interspersing some wearable fashion projects into the mix.  I hope to have the UFO box and assigned project box cleared by the end of the year.  Though it is possible the assigned project box may grow as I realise things that I may like to make with material I already have.  Outside of the Major Project I am calling it – NO MORE FABRIC PURCHASES.  I just don’t have the space.

Anyway this post is really just a boring one to check in and advise you (which at this stage is me) of what is happening in my sewing world and moving forward.  Now onto the big reveal post what is this major project and how major is it.