Wednesday, January 29, 2014

HSF'14 #1: Make Do & Mend

I'm running a bit behind on the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenges, due to last minute sewing for Arisia.  I'd have just skipped challenge #1 all together, but it's just too relevant.  I tend to come home from Big Events with a sort of settled feeling.  The deadline is over and anything I couldn't get done doesn't really matter any more.  It's a great time for me to clean the sewing room and bang out some of those terribly uninteresting little things that seem to crowd up the place.  I was able to tackle three mendings from the historical wardrobe and use them to fulfill the challenge.

Mend the first: mend Honey's pants
The khaki cotton twill trousers that I made to serve as kind of a catch all basic for late 18th or early 19th century were a trial run for a new pattern.  I made them fairly snug through the thigh and, for some reason, seemed to think that they needed a super narrow seam allowance so as not to add bulk.  Well, that seam failed when they were worn to the Steampunk Tea and Honey ended up with a 3" gap on the outer thigh.  So I sorted that out.

Not a lot of room to work, so I just made three rows of back stitches right next to each other.  We'll see if it holds.

And while I had them out, I went ahead and re-did the button holes on the fly.  They were a hack job done on the machine under a  time crunch and I was not please with the look.  I had learned to do the snazzy button holes for another project, so I pulled out the cotton embroidery floss and fixed those up as well.  I had some trouble keeping the stitches at an even width and length.  I'm thinking it's because they've been worn and the fabric stretched in odd directions.  I tried drawing a few guidelines on it water-soluble pen, and that helped, but the machine stitching made my lines end up too far apart and the stitches consequently too long.  Ah well.  They're mostly going to be hidden under the buttons and fly, anyhow.  It's something to remember when making the next pair.

I suppose that I'm the only one who will be looking at them from a foot away.  So neat enough is close enough.

Mend the second: fix the Monte Carlo dress
My entry for HSF2013 green challenge was this frankly obnoxious chartreuce leopard print dress.

I hated it.  It was horrifically unflattering and never felt like it fit right.  Well, that's because it didn't fit right.  I was in such a hurry to get it done in time to 'count' for the challenge, that I didn't take the time to go back and figure out where I went wrong.  Going back after a break from the project, it was obvious: when I sized up the pattern to fit me, I didn't get the inner curve on the skirt pieces quite right.  When I thought I was gathering too wide a skirt into the bodice, it was really the other way around.  So I swore quite a lot and unpicked sections of the skirt at the side seam, about 8" or so on each side.  I cut into the skirt a bit more, so that there'd be more raw edge to meet the bodice portion.  And this time, it worked!

I also replaced the velvet straps, as I never really liked the way the straps were supposed to be done.  I found a funky black chain/braid thing at the craft store and substitued that for the straps.  I also made the straps about an inch longer.  These feel much better and I think fit the spirit of the outfit.  Bonus if they provide enough texture to keep the velvet poncho I want to make from sliding off.

Mend the third: shorten the sleeves on my 18th century chemise
I knew that the sleeves on this thing seemed kinda long, but I had no idea how long until I started working on a gown to go over it.  I'd spent a lot of time doing the decorative hem on the sleeves, so I didn't want to just hack off the ends and start over.  What I did instead (which actually resulted in just as much work in the end, go figure), was to put a 1/2" tuck into each sleeve, and do the same decorative stitching there.  I kinda like the resulting look, and it cut an inch off of the sleeve length.

Excess fabric was tucked to the inside, then backstitched to keep it flat (Right).
On the Left is the sleeve from the outside.

So all-in-all, a touch late, but a terribly productive challenge.  I'm trying to make myself not stress so much about HSF deadlines this year.  Yeah, deadlines are good because they keep me working, but rushing and not doing something right, or wasting my time on an unnecessary project, doesn't really do me any good in the long run.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Almost Got 'Im: 1920s Batman Villains

So, Arisia (a Boston regional sci-fi/fantasy/et al convention) was last weekend.  The spousal unit and myself go every year, even though it's halfway across the country.  I've been a panelist for several years, and was on Registration staff before that.  But this was my first year as a track manager.  I shared that title for the costuming track with one other person.  I absolutely loved it.  Planning out the programming offerings really played into my compulsion for planning and details.  While I went into it thinking that being a track manager meant I could put myself on whatever panel I wanted, it turned out that my sense of civic responsibility won out.  I ended up sitting out on the panels I'm really passionate about (historical costuming, costuming to body type), and instead took one for the team and sat on panels that were short on willing participants, yet I still thought were important to be on the schedule (references & sources, OMG!shoes and documentation).  Although a bit boring, documentation is one of those things that I feel that I do really well.  So I was probably well matched for that one.  And I think I brought a lot of good ideas for the sources and references panel beyond the 'my favorite books' and 'where to buy fabric in Boston' topics.

The other big thing that happened this weekend was that I headed a group entry for the masquerade.  Now, the Arisia masquerade doesn't usually get my full attention going into it.  Following so closely after the winter holidays where I'm preoccupied making costumes for the Yule ball and gifts for family and friends, I just usually don't have a lot of time left over for a stage-worthy costume.  I was determined to change that this year, and was lucky enough to have recruited a whole slew of my locals and convention buddies into giving Arisia a try.  I'm a big fan of costume mashups that take a familiar comic book character and re-do it in historical dress.  I'm also quite partial to the Batman movies that came out in the late 80s and into the 90s.  While the movies themselves left much to be desired, I've always loved the iconic look of the villains.  And thus a cracktastical idea was born: 1920s Batman Villains.

We took these villains and reimagined them in otherwise historically accurate clothing from the 1920s.  Each of our villains took on a different style of dress, and all of them looked freaking amazing.  I got to loose myself in months of research and a frankly ridiculous amount of detail work.  As with all big groups, the major accomplishment seems to be getting everyone there and dressed at the same time.  Whereas my personal strength lies in documentation and workmanship, my weakness is in stage presentation.  Mostly, I just keep it short and simple; kind of a chance to say "Look, I made a shiny!" and then tottle off.  Luckily, I had help.  Our Two Face and Poison Ivy were remarkably helpful at brainstorming presentation ideas.  And Catwoman was stellar at setting us all up.  Have a look:

I'm writing up individual posts for each of the costumes that I was responsible for (The Joker, Poison Ivy and Mr Freeze), but until then, I'd like to share a few of my favorite shots of the group:

photo courtesy snarkyman

photo courtesy snarkyman

Oh, and since it is a competition, I suppose it's worth mentioning how we did.  I took home a ribbon for excellence in tailoring for the Joker's suit, and our group overall took Best in Show.  Not too shabby, that.  :)

And some other, more candid shots:

photo courtesy snarkyman

photo courtesy snarkyman

photo courtesy snarkyman

photo courtesy snarkyman

Monday, January 6, 2014

Steampunk Tea

Had a lovely time at a tea put on by L and members of the Lawrence Steampunk Society.  I was surprised to run into a handful of people I knew, and please to meet lots  interesting people that were new to me.  The greater geeky community in the Kansas City area has a lot of overlap among the various forms of geekery.

Several weeks late, but I thought the members of my household did themselves up quite nicely and I wanted to share.

M rocking out the top hat from my purple/black/chartreuce stempunk outfit.

My honey looking quite dashing in the trousers, waistcoat and cravat that I made for him.

And I finally got the opportunity to wear my recently completed polonaise and walking skirt.

Yay for bustles, except for the part where I had to try to fit into the car in this.
Not my most graceful moment, for certain. 

And because I just cannot pass up the opportunity to share some adorable...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

HSF 2013 Wrap Up

#0 (the bonus challenge): Starting Simple - due 31 December. Finish a project, make a very simple garment, or something you have made before.
Reworked an Elizabethan smock to work under the Regency ball gown.

#1: Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona/Centennial – due 14 Jan. Sew something from __13, whether it be 1913, 1613, or 13BC
Regency ball gown (1813-ish)

#2: UFO - due Jan 28. Let’s get something off our UFO pile! Use this opportunity to finish off something that’s never quite gotten done, or stalled halfway through.
Overskirt and trims for the 1860s steampunk mistress.

#3: Under it all – due Feb 11. Every great historical outfit starts with the right undergarments, and, just in time for Valentines day, here’s you’re excuse to make them. Chemises, corsets, corded petticoats, drawers, garters, stockings…if it goes under your garments, it qualifies.
1770s panniers & pockets.

Hearts & lace bloomers for Queen of Hearts.

#4: Embellish - due Feb 25. Decorations make the historical garment glorious. Whether you use embroidery, trim, pleating, lace, buttons, bows, applique, quilting, jewels, fringe, or any other form of embellishment, this challenge is all about decorative detail.
Decked out the Regency ball gown with deconstructed lace and pearls.

Also added the eyelet lace and cording to the QoH petticoat.

#5: Peasants & Pioneers – due March 11. As wonderful as making pretty, pretty princess dresses is, the vast majority of people have always been poor commoners, whether they were peasants working the land, servants in big houses, or (later), pioneers carving their own space in new lands. This fortnight let’s make something that celebrates the common man.
18th century linen cap w/ cotton lace trim

#6: Stripes - due March 25. The stripe is one of the oldest patterns, appearing in the earliest textile fragments and visual records of garments, and its never gone out of style since. Celebrate stripes with a striped garment. Will you go for grand baroque stripes, pastel rococo stripes, severe neoclassical stripes, elaborately pleated and bustled Victorian stripes, or something else entirely?
Striped yellow silk Regency waistcoat (submitted 4/28)

#7: Accessorize - due April 8. Accessories add polish to your outfits, helping to create the perfect historical look. This week is all about bringing an outfit together. Trim a bonnet, paint a fan, crochet an evening bag, sew a shawl, or dye and decorate a pair of shoes to create the perfect period accessory for yourself.
Blue silk cravat.

#8: By the Sea - due April 22. The sea has inspired and influenced fashion for millennia. This challenge is all about nautical fashions, whether you make something to wear on the sea, by the sea, or in the sea (or lake or river).
15th century captain's tunic for Asha Greyjoy (submitted 7/12)

#9: Flora and Fauna – due May 6. Textiles and the natural world are inextricably linked. Until very recently, all textiles were made from flora (linen, raime, hemp) or fauna (wool, silk, fur), and dyed with flora and fauna. Flora and fauna also influenced the decoration of textiles, from Elizabethan floral embroidery, to Regency beetle-wing dresses, to Edwardian bird-trimmed hats. Celebrate the natural world (hopefully without killing any birds) with a flora and/or fauna inspired garment.
Regency turban (silk/linen, ostrich feather, "pearls")

#10: Literature - due May 20. The written word has commemorated and immortalised fashions for centuries, from the ‘gleaming’ clothes that Trojans wore before the war, to Desdemona’s handkerchief, ‘spotted with strawberries’, to Meg in Belle Moffat’s borrowed ballgown, and Anne’s longed for puffed sleeves.In this challenge make something inspired by literature: whether you recreate a garment or accessory mentioned in a book, poem or play, or dress your favourite historical literary character as you imagine them.

18th century Linen petticoat

#11: Squares, Rectangles & Triangles - due June 3. Many historical garments, and the costumes of many people around the world, use basic geometric shapes as their basis. In this challenge make a garment made entirely of squares, rectangles and triangles (with one curve allowed), whether it is an 18th century kimono, a flounced 1850s skirt, or a medieval shift.
18th Century Chemise, pieced. (submitted 7/21)

#12: Pretty Pretty Princesses - due June 17. Channel your inner princess and her royal wardrobe. Pick a princess, queen, empress, arch-duchess, or a de-facto queen as inspiration for a fabulously royal frock (or other garment). The occasional prince is also most welcome.

1770s Engageantes

#13: Lace and Lacing - due July 1. Lacing is one of the simplest and oldest forms of fastening a garment, eminently practical, and occasionally decorative. Lace has been one of the most valuable and desirable textiles for centuries, legislated, coveted, at times worth more than its weight in gold, passed down from one garment to the next over centuries. Elaborate and delicate it is eminently decorative, and rarely practical. Celebrate the practicality of lacing, and the decorative frivolity of lace, with a garment that laces or has lace trim, or both.
Linen fichu w/ handkerchief hem and lace trim.

#14: Eastern Influence – due July 15. The East has had a profound influence on Western fashions for millenia, from the Chinese silks that were worn in Ancient Rome, through the trade in Indian chintzes from the 17th century onward, 18th century chinoiserie, Kashmiri shawls and paisley, 19th century Japonisme, and early 20th century Orientalism and Egyptian revival. In this challenge make an item that shows the Eastern influence on Western fashion.
Dyed silk paisley Regency shawl w/ green glass beaded ends.

#15: Colour Challenge White - due July 29. White has carried many connotations as a colour, from defining culture and social boundaries, to denoting status, to implying purity, or simply cleanliness. For this challenge ‘white’ is defined as anything in the white family – from brightest white, through to ivory and cream and all the shades between. Whether you make a simple chemise or an elaborate ballgown, your item should be predominantly white, though it may have touches of other colours.
White cotton muslin 18th century bum roll.

#16: Separates - due August 12. Make a non-matching garment which can be paired with other items in your historical wardrobe to extend your outfit choices.
1770s quilted petticoat (incomplete quilting)

#17: Robes & Robings - due August 26. Make a robe-shaped garment, from a biblical robe, through a medieval robe, an 18th century banyan, a Regency evening robe, a 19th century wrapper, or an early 20th century kimono. Or, make one of the frocks called robes by modern English speaking fashion historians, such as a robe volante, robe battante, robe à la coer, robe à la française, robe à l’anglaise (+ turques, polonaises, & circassienne), and the 1920s robe de style. Or, make something with robings (read the event page for a description).

#18: Re-make, Re-use & Re-fashion – due September 9. Sew something that pays homage to the historical idea of re-using, re-making and re-fashioning. Turn one thing into another. Re-fit or re-fashion an old gown into something you would wear again. Re-trim a hat for a new outfit, or re-shape a modern hat to be a historical hat. Re-purpose the fabric from an old garment (your own or a commercial one) into a new garment.

Black silk mourning hat with rescued feathers.

#19: Wood, Metal, Bone – due September 23. Cloth may be the most obvious material in historic costuming, but wood, metal, and bone are just as important to creating the right look and silhouette. For this challenge, make anything that incorporates wood, metal, or bone. Antler buttons

#20: Outerwear – due October 7th. Make one of the layers that get added on to your basic outfit to protect you, and it, from inclement weather.

#21: Colour Challenge Green – due October 21. Make a historical garment or accessory in any shade of green from palest spring green through to darkest pine green, and from barely-there eu de nil, to vibrant chartreuse.

1920s Monte Carlo Dress

#22: Masquerade - due November 4th. Create something inspired by historical fancy dress and masquerade that takes you out of reality, in to another world (purely historical, fantasy, steampunk etc are all allowed).

1860s style Queen of Hearts

#23: Generosity & Gratitude – due November 18. Celebrate the generosity of spirit and willingness to help others that makes the historical sewing community great, and give credit and thanks to those who have contributed to our collective knowledge without expecting payment in return. Make anything that fits the general HSF guidelines, and utilizes research, patterns, and tutorials that have been made available for free. Be sure to acknowledge all the sources that have helped you to create your item.

18th Century Stays

#24: Re-Do – due December 2. This one is super easy. Pick any previous challenge and re-do it (or do it for the first time). It could be one that you didn’t finish, one that you wish you’d had more time for, or any time for, or one where you loved the theme so much you want to do it again.

18th c Linen Apron, redo of Challenge #15: White

#25: One Metre - due Dec 16. make an item that takes one metre or less fabric (I went with one metre, rather than one yard/or metre to be consistent).

Cotton Regency Bib Apron

#26: Celebrate! - due Dec 30. Make something that is celebration worthy, make something that celebrates the new skills you have learned this year, or just make something simple that celebrates the fact that you survived HSF ’13!


1920s Party Dress

That's all 26 challenges!  Holy crap, what a year!  Looking back, I've had projects from as early as the 15th century, running up through the 1920s (and both of those costumes for my bff, go figure).  I've completed nearly all of the basic components of an  18th century wardrobe, which was completely new to me and it's likely I only started it because I thought "Hey, those panniers look like fun."  Having regular challenges really kept me busy, but on the down side, I often found myself working on projects simply because they'd fit a challenge, not necessarily because it was what I wanted to do next.  I'm still a bit undecided about how committed I'll want to be to the challenges in 2014.  I love having the new challenges available for inspiration, but I really want to try to be better about making sure that I'm focusing on projects that I really want to do.  If I can make them fit an upcoming challenge, then great.  I will think I'll give myself permission to skip a challenge from time to time, though.  I loved that the challenge got me into blogging about the costumes that I'm working on and I'll certainly continue to do so.  But for now, it's back to work getting ready for Arisia in *GASP!* just twelve days.  I've a big costume project to finish up for that, in addition to some frankly stellar programming to prep for.  And in just a few weeks, I can go back to having the leisure time to tell the internets all about it.