Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween Costume making fun!

Well its that time of year again, the time when I take on more than I can chew in the way of ambitious costume making and then succeed by the skin of my teeth mainly through blind luck. Having said that, I was far more prepared this year and started well in advance, but it still took slightly longer than I anticipated! I am very pleased with the outcomes however, even though the finish is pretty sloppy all round (hey-they're only costumes right?).

So first off, the main event, Lindsey's Corpse Bride costume. Always a popular costume choice, it is made more tricky as you need a battered looking strapless wedding dress. Lindsey was toying with adapting something she already had but I thought it would a fun challenge (which it was) to try and make a strapless dress. Luckily, I already had the perfect pattern. Gertie, lovely talented seamstress and super blogger, has done a really detailed on line sewing master-class on a strapless 50s style dress for Craftsy, which I had already bought. It uses a lot of cool techniques and finishing that I have never tried, and I intend at some point to make one for myself. This seemed an excellent opportunity, both to make a kick-ass costume, but also to try out the pattern.

As it was only a costume, and Lindsey obviously wasn't going to be up for spending masses of money on special features like boning, a lot of the luxury finishing details were not going to be included, particularly as the Corpse Bride's dress is ragged and old, and therefore I didn't have to do any hemming (yay!). Rather than wasting fabric on a muslin, as I was using very cheap sheeting, I took the plunge and made most of the bodice straight off the pattern, (the class uses a modified Burdastyle pattern), extending it at the bottom by eye to make the bodice longer. I have to say I was very pleased with this as it came out absolutely perfect and fit Lindsey like a glove.

I then had to make the bra cups; as the pattern is drafted for a b cup, and Lindsey is far bustier, I had to redraft the pieces, luckily Gertie covers this very clearly in the class, so I had no problem, you just allow a massive seam allowance on the pieces and then shape the pieces on the body, and draw your pattern on drafting style. I then made up the proper cups and sewed them on (the only tip I would say at this point if you are adjusting for larger boobs is that while the bodice pieces fit perfectly, the under bust seam where the cups connect had to be altered). As an exciting new technique, I made inner bust cups out of thin cotton wadding - this is definitely one of those great techniques which is totally satisfying, you just cut out the same size pieces and sew them together along the seams with a zigzag and it all curves around and makes a cup automatically, -so easy!. As the sheeting was pretty see through, I underlined the cup pieces (and had the wadding) and made a lining for the rest using some scraps of thicker cotton sheeting. I confess I did not sew all this is properly, Gertie has a load of lovely hand stitching details for finishing the inside, but as this was a costume I sewed it in paper bag style along the top of the back, and then along the zip, and left the rest alone! I was going to finish the neckline properly, but as we were going to end up pinning it to here bra anyway for support, and she was concerned about getting blue body paint all over the bra, we decided to just fold the top seam over the bra and pin on the inside.

I made the skirt very simply, out of 2.5m of material, taking in big tucks at three points, the largest at the back, and then wrapping it over at the front and sewing the whole lot onto an elastic waistband.

Lindsey and I were very pleased with the dress, it came together really easily, especially for something with an FBA, and the final effect was really impressive. The dress was very flattering and Lindsey said it was really comfortable, particularly for a strapless dress. She was excited by having something fit her so perfectly! Gertie's video instructions were so useful, and I will definitely be trying this (with straps) for myself at some point. Lindsey made her headdress (which included handmaking flowers -beautiful!) and her makeup was awesome!

For a smaller effort on my part, for Charlie's Sookie costume I only had to make the apron/money belt, and it went together super easy. You cant really tell from the picture, which I photoshopped to make it more True Bloody, but its a standard sort of pocketed apron. I used a dark green twill and just folded a hemmed rectangle in half with pockets sewn to divide up the folded bit, and then made some straps. I did all the seams quite well and it looks quite professional and sturdy, should she ever need to do any waitressing it should hold up well! She looked very cute in her blonde wig!

For my costume, as Valeria from Carry On Screaming, I had to make a very fitted, vampy red gown. I chose a stretch velvet fabric, so that I could get the figure hugging curves more easily. As I didn't have a pattern even remotely suitable, and I would have had to alter anything extensively anyway, I decided to cut out the middle man and draft it myself on my dress form Agnetha. The skirt was pretty easy, I just cut out two pieces and sewed them together, leaving a slit at the front and sewing in a third triangular piece in the back for a flare and train.

For the bodice, I draped pieces of fabric over the form and just folded and cut it until it was the look I wanted. I sewed quickly along the seams with a contrasting thread and then took it off and sewed it up. As you may have gathered from my previous post, it then looked like a sack. My theory that I had done the shoulder seams wrong proved correct and once I had taken them up a bit and pulled the side seams, it fit very well. I has a slight hiccup with the sleeves, as I cut them off an existing top, but they turned out WAY to small so I had to do them agian, which were still absolutely skin tight, but wearable! I am ashamed to say that I did not attach them well, they turned out rather pleaty and poofed at the shoulders, which as this dress is practically off the shoulder wasn't ideal, but by that point I didn't really care so they stayed! I also didbnt bother hemming the neckline, as it might have been a bit low otherwise, and I wasn't sure that without proper facings it would look any better.

The dress proved somewhat difficult to get on, as it is extremely fitted, but it looked fabulous on and was really comfy and fun to wear! I put huge amounts of product in my hair (it may take a while to get it all out, it's still pretty sticky today!) and sprayed it black and wore an awful lot of make-up, it was really fun to be that vampy!

Thursday, 27 October 2011


Sometimes when cruising through the blog world, you see an item that makes you think "I could make something similar to that maybe with a different fabric, maybe different sleeves", and then sometimes you see something and think "I WANT THAT! I WANT EXACTLY THAT!".

Tilly's new maple leaf skirt is the second option, I WANT IT! I will have to go out and find all the bits very very soon.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

How little it takes to dent enthusiasm..

I hit a slight wall last night. With my costume. I have the classic problem of knowing that something is a remarkably close fit for you, then trying it on and it looking horrendously misshapen. Now I drafted this on my dress form, which is my shape. and then tacked along the seam lines, and then sewed it up. So I know it is close. but it really doesn't look that way. I have clearly just got one or two seams a bit wonky, and it's throwing the whole thing off. But which seams? gah. I shall have to have another look at it later. Given that it all looks very low and the darts seem about waist height, I am assuming the shoulder seams may be heavily involved. Also  the bodice isn't attached to the skirt, so that might make quite a lot of difference. And I haven't put the sleeves on yet. And I definitely need to take it in a bit at the sides. I am hoping that these tweaks will make it perfect. But currently I have to admit it doesn't look very promising.. well we shall see.

On the plus side, I made Charlotte an apron. And that went very well (it wasn't very complicated but still, given yesterdays hit rate it could still have gone very wrong!)

Here is my new ham. It also doubles well as a massive pincushion I have discovered.

Monday, 24 October 2011


Well, whilst it may seem as if my promises of sewing are not coming true, they are! I have sewn some stuff! I am currently working on the costume part of my brief (as it has a deadline-I do love a deadline) and it’s actually going fairly well so far. Me and Lindsey hopped along to the Edinburgh fabrics (along with half of Edinburgh, was slightly busier than normal!) and picked up some goodies. Now I am not going to tell you much of the results so far as about half the people who read this blog will probably be at the party we are going to, and it would be a shame to spoil the surprise. However, I can say that I amused the flatmates a fair bit last night doing some draping on my dress form in the kitchen watching Die Hard, if only as bits kept falling off/out of the dress form (I really need to fix her stand a bit, she keeps falling over).

I have to say that especially when working on things for myself, I am a bit of a lover of draping. Patterns tend to fit so badly that I end up changing every single line anyway. Of course you often need somewhere to start, and they have fun details that I wouldn’t think of, but I do find them somewhat infuriating! My general approach to things currently is to mash 3 or so different patterns together, on the dress form. I’m not entirely sure this is the best way! My costume however is perfect for draping as it doesn’t need to be perfect, and is made out of stretchy material, so I can just pull it around until it looks nice. Lindsey’s is going to be more tricky, as it is more fitted and has some new techniques to try out. It has however inspired me (due to lots of curved seams) to stop oohing over Sunni's gorgeous tailor's hams, which are too expensive for me sadly due to overseas postage, and just make one myself. Yay! I now own a tailor's ham, and I can see it being very useful in pretty much every project I do. Well worth the time and effort stuffing it (by far the hardest bit-they are very simple to make).

In other news, I am slightly sad that my recent enjoyment of the classic period drama the House of Elliot has finished its repeat on ITV3. I do love a sewing drama (its about 2 sisters that set up a dressmaking business), even though I kept thanking my lucky stars I didn’t grow up in that time as those clothes would have looked awful on me!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Pattern swap plans

I a mentioned in my previous post, I am taking part in an international pattern swap with the Sew Weekly's community site. I sent off some bits to a lovely blogger, and another lovely blogger sent me some things!

My sendee, Tracy, sent me a fun jacket and skirt pattern Maudella 5603 that reminded her of Bonnie and Clyde (and I can see why!), a copy of Threads magazine (which I have never read before-its fun!), and a beautiful Liberty needle book. Thanks Tracy!

So now I have to work out what to do with the pattern. The temptation with vintage patterns is to remake the cover image, as they always look really cool and fun, plus they are always drawn to flatter the drawn people. In this sense they are the complete opposite of modern patterns, where they seem to try and make things look as hideous and sack like as possible on the illustrations. Despite how much the idea of a blue striped Bonnie and Clyde jacket appeals, in reality it would probably not be fantastically useful. sigh. I should totally go shoot up some places and be a robber, then I would be able to make much more interesting choices! So, probably a better idea to go with something more like view 2, the shorter green one.

So, the variations I must make.
Obviously whatever I do it is going to need an FBA. Luckily it's princess seamed so that should be reasonably straight-forward.
As the jacket is double breasted, it could look a little bulky on me, but the double breasted bit is only on the lower half, so as long as I adjust the FBA/neckline so that it crosses in the correct place, the buttons should be below the bust, and hence fine (plus they might do up-a bit of a novelty on jackets for me!)
I am going to make version 2, which is shorter and has a belt. I'm not sure about the belt yet, I will consider when I get that far.
I have never made a proper jacket/coat before.. scary! so it involves a lot of things I theoretically know how to do but have never really tried properly, like full lining, bound buttonholes and welt pockets (the pockets are only on version 1, but I fancy popping some in anyway for practice).
I am unsure whether to make it a coat or a jacket.. not sure which would be more useful. The coat probably, but I haven't worked much with thick fabrics, and there is rather a lot of new in this project already..Plus there is the danger that it is going to be a disaster, so pricey wool might be an error..hmm, I may have a think on that one for a bit. I may compromise with a slightly coaty jacket!

My return to sewing after a (not so) short break!

Well I have been seriously missing from the blog world for some time. I have been busily working away revising for some exams, which I had earlier this week. So now I am free! FREE! Free to do all the stuff I have been avoiding doing for the last month or so, including, of course, Sewing!

And just in time frankly, as I have a number of time pressured projects coming up, and a ridiculous number of seriously overdue items, mainly owed to other people -Ooops!

So here is a quick recap of the things I am meant to be doing (not in any particular order) ..

SSS11 photos - I actually took half of these, but didn’t get round to finishing it, or putting them up. Not that I imagine anyone really cares, but it would be useful to remind myself of all the options-it seems a really long time ago!

Un-blogged projects – I have a few of these that should be put up at some point! I have done (very) slightly more sewing than it appears!

Un-finished projects – ah the UFOs, many of the usual subjects, but some are getting really ridiculous and are so close! The main victim is the Glee dress, it is getting for a year that this has been 90% done and my flatmate waiting for it and I am putting my foot down (possibly!) Also I half made a colourful dress that has been on Agnetha for weeks now and I should move it on a bit (though I may have to reconsider how to wear it now it’s no longer summer!).

Halloween! – I have a number of costumes to make various bits of for myself and the flatmates, some of which will be more time and drama intensive than others!). I am going to start earlier (than 5 hours before I needed 2 dresses) than last year so it will be less stressful!

Present for Lindsey  - I promised my flatmate I would make her something as a birthday present, and I haven’t had time yet.  She says she has something in mind so we will have to work out exactly what she wants and get it made.

Pattern swap – I signed up to be part of an international pattern swap on the Sew Weekly communitysite. We all sent each other patterns and other bits and pieces, and then we are going to make something from the patterns. More on that in a bit.

Other projects - (because that doesn’t sound like enough does it!) I really need some more wintery clothes in my hand made wardrobe, as the temperature has plummeted. I am considering a dark purple Ginger skirt, using some fabric my mum gave me last year, and a long purple cardigan (sewing not knitting) that I bought some double knit for last year but was too scared of knits to use. I am sad to say that the pattern swap has reignited my pattern buying addiction, and I picked up a few extras from Ebay, that could make some nice things. I am particularly keen on a soft knit version of this: