Sunday, 12 November 2017

"Fancy a kiss?" The Dementor costume

This costume has been 2 years coming. The halloween before last I had big plans to be a dementor. It was me and my girlfriend's first halloween together and we had spent a lot of time discussing costumes. Cut to the night of the party and due to bad teaching times I am exhausted, antisocial and have made about 5% of the costume. Eventually we go out late with me wearing an old red riding hood cape and a serious case of costume anticlimax.

But... the dementor costume was still haunting me. Just too creepy to forget.

So this year I started slightly earlier and actually planned some stuff. I was still making it up to the wire, but I was cheerful and finished it (part due to planning and perhaps part no longer being a teacher!)

It's actually a pretty simple costume. I made a series of layers and ragged the edges. They just have a hole in the middle and the longer ones have holes for my hands to go through. To make it creepier I made a hat from cardboard with a dome of pillow in the middle. This extended my head height by about 5 inches, and I then added another 2 layers of thin material. Which looked extremely creepy and I could just about still see.

To complete the effect, I made some finger extensions using those costume witch fingers, long bits of wire and some electrical tape. These proved quite uncomfortable (I think the costume fingers were for kids) and I could only manage one hand at a time, but they looked great!

Overall the costume was a great success and I won second prize at the party!

Monday, 18 September 2017

The "Baby I'm a firework" Upton hack

Well yesterday my littlest brother got married, in a lovely wedding where I danced until my feet were sore. Despite having already made a wedding attending dress a month ago, I had an urge to make another (not anything to do with me know wanting to try and fix the button band fiasco from the other dress!).

Now I am trying to be thrifty and I have a stash that fills 8 large drawers, so I was determined to work with something I already had. As I had had some slippage issues with my wiggly viscose in the last dress, I decided to use a more stable fabric. This significantly cut down my options, as most of my stable fabric selection is 1-1.5m lengths intended for pencil skirts. The fabric that therefore jumped out at me is one of my oldest stash pieces, 3m of thin cotton with a crazy flower/firework print. I must have bought this a good 4-5 years ago in Edinburgh. I had intended it for a fitted dress, but then learned more about fabric and realised that it was a bit flimsy and creasy. It then sat in the stash... waiting..

Until now! (Pardon the wrinkles, I had already been to the ceremony and meal.)

(Being photobombed by my other brother and cousin!)

(The fabric photographs fantastically - even when nothing else is on focus!)

Now, as I mentioned in a recent Instagram, I always sew in a bit of a rush, but can spend hours planning, so I originally had something very complicated planned. I have always loved tiki sarong dresses, and had a whole boned and pleated top, wrap skirt thing planned. As is typical with my planning however, I planned so long that I had no time to make it, so I scaled my plan right back.

I had always intended to use the Cashmerette Upton bodice as the basis for the dress, though I found it funny that I was planning an elaborate hack before I had even made a normal version. For the scaled back plan, I simply decided to just use the top as is, and combine it with a simple fitted pencil skirt (which I rubbed off an existing skirt that I knew fit me).

Now previously, I have only made the Cashmerette Appleton wrap dress (which I have still not blogged despite LOVING!) and I was a little concerned that a woven top would be harder to fit, even when designed by the talented Jenny. This assumption meant that when the pattern piece slipped slightly when cutting out the bodice that I didn't fix it, I figured I would need to make adjustments anyway. I WAS WRONG - I SHOULD HAVE TRUSTED JENNY! Once it was all sewn up, the fit was perfect, except very slightly too wide across the centre front, where it had slipped. Sigh.

To reinforce the bodice given the thin material, I underlined the bodice with white cotton from a second hand sheet. This was really convenient, as I could draw straight onto it with my heat dissolving pens to make all the markings. (I love my those pens!) I should have also reinforced the skirt, but did not for time reasons. This wasn't a critical error, but meant that there was a slight rip later that could have been avoided.

I tried quite hard to make sure the print worked and wasn't odd. I carefully lined up one of the bright explosion areas onto the neckline which was very successful I also did some pattern matching up the centre back seams, but then had to let it out as it was too tight.. still, it still reads as one image, even if isn't perfect!

For the Upton bodice I made a 14 e/f and the only alterations I made were to lengthen the straps by 1.5 inches (I basically sewed along the cut line), take in the upper back by about half an inch along the zip, and to lengthen the bodice by about 3 inches to lower the waistline (the Upton sits at the high waist). I also had to add a short dart at the centre front to lose that pesky additional width.

(Oops - really should have remembered to sew on the hook and eye at the top of the zip!)

Overall - I love it! Even though it got very creased and I should have lined the skirt - I felt very glamorous in it and it is very comfortable. For next time I will have to fix the back tear (I caught the slit area on a chair arm), and find my pretty slip (I couldn't find it for this time, and my other one is a bit long, hence you can it in these pictures. When I make the Upton again, I will take an inch out of the back length, as the zip buckles a little when I stand up straight.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

This year's wedding attending dress

I hate finding fancy clothes to wear to weddings. It always seems more stressful than other types of shopping or sewing. Fancy fabrics and not quite fitting bodices.. Therefore once I make a more dressy dress, I tend to wear it to everything!

I have two weddings this year, one of which is my brother's so people might actually photograph me. Unfortunately, my previous wedding outfit, along with much of my usual wardrobe, is now a little snug. Also, I am wearing it in the pictures from my other brother's wedding a few years ago so that might look a little odd!

Clearly, some new fanciness is needed. As a warm up , for the other wedding this year (some lovely friends) I decided to make a new dress. As ever, I spent a long time planning it, and insufficient time making it (though better timed than the last wedding dress, where I sewed the facing down in a toilet when I got there).

I used some lovely viscose, which I probably got off ebay (I went through a significant ebay viscose buying frenzy at one point). It is a fantastic bright tomato red with white flowers and is very drapey.
The basic bodice shape is essentially a simple button up with spaghetti straps. There are then two drapey sleeve bits that go off the shoulder round from centre front to centre back. As I didn't have a remotely similar pattern I drafted it myself on Agnetha. This was reasonably successful though I ended up with some rather odd dart ends.. luckily once i extended them a bit and ironed it they looked ok. I was very pleased with the straps. I normally leave those kind of things until the last minute, when I am then too bored and rush it. This time I did them first, turning them through properly and everything! The sleeves are just long hemmed rectangles that are pleated at the centre front and back.

Viscose is a bit of a beast to work with. It hangs beautifully, and you can press it any way you want to fix the sloppiest dart installation. It also however shifts continually, misshapes itself at any moment,  stretches unexpectedly and twists randomly when you (inevitably) lose the grainline. 

I love almost everything about the dress, but let's not overlook the elephant in the room. The front button band is horrible. It's crooked, uneven, a bit too tight and the fabric ripped around the poppers so half of them don't do up and the other half are barely attached to the dress. Luckily, many safety pins corrected the structural problems, but I am going to have to make a whole new band and sew it on straighter!

Other slight issues - the straps stretched a bit and the the back neckline is therefore a bit too low. I just wore a slip under it.

The skirt is just a longer version of Colette patterns Ginger. I found the cutting of it more stressful than it should have been as to make straps I ripped off a bit of fabric at the top, only to realise it was actually the side. This made it all a bit narrow, but I worked it out. I was worried about hemming it, but that part went beautifully.

Overall I love the dress, but I will have to do some serious work at the front. I may wear it to the next wedding, or maybe something else new- I feel like I'm getting my sewjo back a bit!

In other news, I am super thrilled that Mena and the Sew Weekly is back on instagram. I have been missing that regular entertainment and inspiration basically since it went away! To find it look for #sewweekly and add your own posts! Mena has set monthly and weekly challenges to get involved with.