I’m Not Dead, Honest!

Though I’d forgive you for thinking I was. What it means though, is I’ve got a whole backlog of creativity that I should have posted about ages ago, but didn’t get around to doing it. Usually because the minute I had a second (… or the second I had a minute? Wibbly wobbly timey wimey…) that’s either when I’d get a text from a friend going “Tea?” or remember urgent washing that needed doing, or be so tired that it was all I could do to put on Outlaw Star/Fullmetal Alchemist/Chobits/Hellsing (stop judging me) and then zone out over a full pot of tea.

Today is the watershed. Most notably because I am sick, and so have forced myself to stay home, desperately trying to recover before my awesome teacher arrives tomorrow (hahahaha, even I laugh at this vain optimism. I’ve used about a hundred tissues in the past 24 hours, and sustained a burn when I sneezed in front of a friend’s log stove).
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The Girl Who Sneezed at Fire.

Secondly, although the weather is balmy and sunny, I don’t have enough dirty clothes to make it worth taking out whoever’s washing was left abandoned in the machine this morning. If they want to waste this glorious drying weather, that’s their problem.

Thirdly, and most distressingly, THE KETTLE IS BROKEN! My beloved kettle! Boiler of water, genesis of tea-based beverages! On account of my self-imposed housebound-ness, I refuse to go and purchase a new one until tomorrow, so I’m boiling water in a saucepan in the meantime. I’ve only had one pot of tea today. I know, I can’t believe I’m surviving either. Only by the powers of distraction – also known as writing a blog post – will I get through this, until the time when I can go to Big W and purchase a new kettle without snotting all over the sales assistants.

So down to business.  As usual, I have started more things than I have finished, so I’ll chronicle things in this order: Finished things, Paused things and Started things.

As far as finished things go, the list is short but awesome.  I made a shirt!  

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ACHIEVEMENT!

I salvaged the fabric from a manky, rather yellowed dress the Adorable Folkey fished out of the Theatre garage sale last year, which I suspect is a poly-cotton, given its dislike of high iron heat. I also used – dun dun duuuuunnnnnn!!!! – a commercial pattern!

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Ok, so it’s a bit like attack of the frump, but the essential bits are there.

The pattern came from an op shop where I also found the most magnificent old dresser, which should have been in an antique shop, but it had a big ding on the front of it (nothing a bit of oil couldn’t fix) and also needs a screw to reattach one of the drawer handles.  Just proof that if you sift through enough suburban op shops you really do find gloriously under-priced gems.

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Ten points if you can spot the ding.

 But back to the shirt.  Since it was only ever meant to be a toile, seeing I haven’t used a commercial pattern since about 2009,I hadn’t thought about how yellow the fabric was in places.  But it was really rather noticeable, and it looked like what it was: gross.

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Nasty.

Once it was finished I gave it a tea bath (oh how I lament the loss of my kettle!) in an attempt to counteract the unevenness of the yellowing and some big blue stains which I only found afterwards.  It worked a treat on the blue stains, and it’s got it to the point where the faded colour is more peach than yellow (you can’t really see it in photos, but in real life it was a huge difference), and it looks nice enough under a jumper.  Being my first attempt at a shirt I was terrified of how it would turn out, and whether I’d encounter issues with the collar stand, but I guess reading lots of Male Pattern Boldness has sunk in, because it went together calmly and with no swearing.  Thanks, Peter!  I now feel emboldened (hur hur) to make shirts for my friend Brave Sir Robin, who has the classic problem of Veuve Cliquot taste on a Toohey’s budget.  I’m thinking of finding some vintage shirt patterns and then grading them to fit.

I also starched some lace to my window, so that I can have natural sunlight without feeling like a zoo exhibit.  I got the recipe for the starch mix from Manhattan Nest, after having used other, weaker recipes that resulted in much, much swearing.  I cut the lace to size, dipped it in the goop, ensuring it was all soaked, and then squeezed out the excess goop and applied it to the window.  It was like being midwife to Cthulu, and I was pretty glad I had elected to protect whatever dignity remains in the ancient sharehouse carpet with a large flattened cardboard box. Then I let it dry, and when I one day break my lease and move on, it’ll come off a treat with some warm water, and the window will probably be cleaner than how I found it.

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Behold the offspring of Cthulu.

As far as the Paused/In Progress things go, I started adding some pinked pleated trim to my robe a l’Anglaise just for funsies, I keep meaning to fix/finish the cuirass dress but keep not getting around to it (I did end up wearing it at Liederfest, probably looking a right mess with pins holding it together.  Damn my stubbornness), and I gleefully butchered the green soprano gown with the intention of making something else out of it. My last sketch stands thusly:

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Whoops, I accidentally drew a giraffe.

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The unfinished cuirass dress and the trim on the Anglaise.

In the Started corner, we have ‘teaching my workmates how to sew’, and gowns for Death.  My workmates are fast learners and picked a nice easy first project, even though it’s a dress, so they’re rocking along well.  I’ll need to pick up the pace once I’m better though.  It’s good for me to lug the sewing machine to work and back, and combined with the serious attempt I’ve been making at building some upper body strength, I am proud to announce that I can no longer do the zipper the whole way up on the zodiac dress.  Seriously, watch out Arnie, I’m taking you down in our next arm-wrestling match.  

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Though I’ll probably be too busy using my guns to smash the patriarchy to arm wrestle Arnie.

I’ve been jogging too, and steadily.  I know.  Me?  Jogging?  You better believe it.  Nothing has ever motivated me to keep at exercise before, I guess because I’ve got genes that conform to the modern ideal of stupidly-skinny without any effort, and fitness wasn’t enough of an end in itself.  But a while back I invented a character in one of the dumb little stories I write as a sidekick to the main character, and I’ve come to realise that she’s pretty much me.  Hell, even my hair has started copying her, doing the side-fringe-one-side-with-a-weird-sticky-outy-flyaway-on-the-other thing.  I didn’t make it, it did it by itself.  However, the biceps I need to work for.

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If I was allowed to have violet hair and a sword.

The gowns for Death are a little easier seeing I can work on them whenever, and seeing she’s more of an hourglass than I am, her dress block looks more like a dress block and not like bacon the way mine does.  Her preference for circle skirts also means that the skirt drafting is just going to be all maths and none of that stupid faffing around with skirt blocks.  The first design is a sci-fi influenced, colourblocked number, to be done in a beautiful ivory duchess satin and a lovely heavy rayon-nylon.  I’m thinking of cording the shoulders for added oomph, especially seeing Death loves Star Trek and Blake’s 7, and the more sci-fi references we can cram into a gown the better.  And what says sci-fi like strong angular shoulders?

2014-07-16 14.47.44And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love an overt Star Trek influence?

I’ve started patterning, and just need a heap of cheap stuff to make some toiles.  Unfortunately Lincraft is closed for renovations, so my usual 10+ metres of disgusting $2.00/m polypop is out of the question.  Oh well, Sydney Rd it is.

So I have a very very busy month of sewing planned.  I seriously doubt I’ll get through it all, but I’ll give it a shot.  I’m getting better at drawing up my patterns meticulously, and I’ve started adding on the seam allowances and notches.  They look a lot better now and the garments go together more quickly and accurately, so who knows, I might actually save some time.

Now I have to go eat some toast before OQ rehearsal.  That’s the opera quartet a few friends put together a few months back to do corporate gigs and shamelessly make money.  We’re called Operation Quartet. Check us out. I know, I know, I said I was housebound, but I won’t be singing.  Promise.

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Trying to Eradicate the UFOs

As in Un-Finished Objects, so not so much BAM! ZAP! POW! as uuugh I can’t find half the pattern pieces/remember what I was doing.

I decided since it’s ramping up to summer I’d better finish the Bootleg Bottega Veneta dress.  Last time I worked on it I got as far as 90% of the lining (and then I ran out of white thread and never remembered to get more) and had just cut out the shell of the bodice.  This round, I finished the bodice structure and the front panel of the skirt, but unfortunately two of my pattern pieces have gone walkabout and I can’t find them.  I could always re-draft them.   I should.  But here I am on the computer procrastinating.  Hell, finishing this dress is technically procrastinating too, but seeing I’m on antibiotics at the moment for an infection, I figure it’s a good idea to spend a day in and not wear myself out by either a) practicing the crap out of my recital rep, b) cycling all over the city on my wretchedly heavy bike, c) working, or d) gardening.  It was not a fun infection and I’d like it banished properly and for good.

Mind you, my sewing machine and the silk are still having hissies at each other.  It’s the best I can do to minimise the puckering, using every bloody trick in the book (small sharp new needle, small stitch length, carefully calibrated tension, slowly-wound bobbin, basting like crazy, holding the fabric taut, pressing every which-way afterwards… you name it, I’m doing it).  It’s not as bad as it could be.  It’s just not as nice as it could be either.

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I know, what am I complaining about?  But it’s SLIGHTLY PUCKERY!!!

However,I’ll soldier on, because I want it done.  I want more room in my stash and a bit of recent machine-wrangling behind me so I can progress with confidence onto my next project: the urgently-needed Bombshells dresses.  I’ve finally decided on a design, and now I just need fabric and my housemate so I can measure her.  Sadly, I appear to have lost the design picture.  WILL IT NEVER END???

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Bonus picture of Rupert with his evil eyes sitting on a bin.  Just because.

 

Like knitting.  I’m knitting a jumper.  I have the back and about a third of the front.

Or the late 1920’s style dress I’m making for my Flutey Kayaking Friend who has the PERFECT 1920s haircut and she’s going to make everyone think Louise Brooks has come back to life and turned up at their college party.

Or possibly what the hell I’ve finally decided to do with that measly 1.2m of chartreuse silk seersucker that’s been sitting in my stash for nigh on 9 months (can I call it my baby now?)

Now I’m going to go into a particular peevy peeve of mine.  THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING TO TURN BACK. HERE BE RANTING.  IF YOU JUST WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE FLAPPER DRESS, OR IF YOU RESENT SKINNY AND/OR FAT PEOPLE SINGING STUFF AND/OR HAVING OPINIONS, MOVE ALONG AND FIND THYSELF OTHER INTERWEB-PASTURES NOW.  

I’ve been researching for my postgrad presentation, and it‘s made me angry and ranty.   Mostly, people are very caught up in how big/small opera singers are rather than how they sound.  I just want to get something straight: FAT LADIES AND SKINNY LADIES AND IN-BETWEENY LADIES ARE ALL ALLOWED TO SING OPERA. THEY ARE ALLOWED TO BE WHATEVER FACH THEY HAPPEN TO BE.  JUDGING PEOPLE ON WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE WHILE IGNORING WHAT THEY CAN DO IS SO FREAKING PRE-FEMINIST AND DOUCHEY.

Sometimes large lyrics come in little packages, and sometimes light cols come in big ones.  I’m not saying it happens all the time, but I wish people wouldn’t get so freaked out when it does.

Said as a decent-sized lyric who’s frequently accused of being too skinny (no, it is in no way deliberate), with many dear friends who get accused of the opposite.  It’s horrible either way.  Some people can have personal trainers and nutrition and weights and still be big, just as I will still be small no matter what I eat or how much exercise I do. If I didn’t have the scrawny genes, I would probably have already died of several heart attacks with the sheer amount of fromage I consume.  It’s horrible to hear of my friends getting fat-shamed or concern-trolled when they’re either way fitter and healthier than me, or they’ve been trying to lose weight and it’s really hard, or they honestly don’t care what size they are, they know the risks, they’re grown-ups.  It’s like sometimes people actually think someone’s going to turn around and go ‘REALLY??? OMG I NEVER NOTICED I WAS 130kg BEFORE YOU POINTED IT OUT, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!  I’LL JUST WAVE MY MAGIC WAND AND BECOME A SIZE 12, SHALL I???  JUST SO YOU CAN HAVE THE GLOWING HOLY SENSATION OF KNOWING YOU WERE THE ONE WHO HELPED ME FIND THE GLORIOUS LIGHT.’  Conversely, it’s also horrible to hear people walking behind you on the street saying to each other ‘omg she’s way too skinny!  That’s so unhealthy!  She’s probably got, like, an eating disorder.  Skinny people are so freaky, amiright?’  Come on.  I know there’s a particular summer dress that makes me look like a hat-stand with a little natty table-cloth draped over it, but SOMETIMES IT’S 37 DEGREES AND AN UNDERWEIGHT GIRL JUST WANTS TO WEAR A DAMN DRESS THAT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE IT JUST FOUND ITS WAY HERE FROM 1835 WITH ALL ITS FREAKING PETTICOATS, JUST SO THE GENERAL PUBLIC WILL BE SPARED THE HEINOUS VIEW OF HER STANDY-OUTY RIBS.  

Just like sometimes a girl is a size whatever and has the goods to be an opera singer.

Body policing is such a bitch.

And I was going to post something happy…

Poltergeist Stole my Icecream (well, cableties really…)

The stupid Poltergeist is at it again.

I might have had my stays finished by now, but oh the trail of destruction wrought by that bloody poltergeist!  Firstly, he’s gone and nicked one of the back-panels.  Secondly, BOTH the Officeworkses (plural of Officeworks?  Like pocketses?) were out of jumbo cable-ties, and I need like another 30 or so to finish them.  The awkward be-acned attendant at the second Officeworks I visited looked like he was going to die of altitude sickness in search of where the re-stock box was on top of the shelf.  I just gave up and went home.

So I put the stays aside and completed the Badass Ass instead.  Not much to relate, really.  I stuffed it with scraps (which makes it a bit heavy, but that’s what I had to hand), closed it up and added tapes.  From what I can tell, on a scale of one to bootylicious, it’s about a 5.  As in it makes Dido look vaguely female.  At least, here it is pinned on her, with the done half of my stays and some of the assorted fabrics I’m using.  Pins and dressforms and bits of fabric are mighty addictive.  I’ve halved and flipped some of the pictures to get an impression of what the finished thing might (one day…) look like.  Yay inspiration!

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Such a badass ass.  Blurry, but badass.

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Needs to be higher though…

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The Completed Embroidery

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Rorschach-test dress!

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And as it really looked.

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More Rorschach-dress, this time with a ribbon.

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And the money-shot.

Because it’s so heavy and solid, the weight of the fabric didn’t appear to compress it at all, but it (unfortunately) migrated south and started looking a bit more 19th-century saggy bustle than 18th-century perk-tastic.  Tying it on a bit more firmly will fix that.  Also because Dido’s just hanging from the curtain rail, the extra weight at the back caused her to tip a bit.  On a real person that can hold themselves up against the call of gravity better, it won’t do that either.

The stays thing is frustrating though because if they’d been done I could’ve been making petticoats already.   But instead I guess I ought to finish the Circus sailor costume seeing I’ve teed up a fitting for Friday.  I only have to hem the shirt and make some britches now, and the britches are going to be completely and utterly inaccurate because of the demands of ropes-acts.  Oh well.  Knowing me it’s going to take me all week, so I’d better get started now.  Grumble grumble, grouch, grumble.

Does My Bum Look Big in these Alligators?

Please excuse me if this post is effusive and/or ebullient.  I just had chocolate and then dumplings with my dear friends Death and Brave Sir R-. I am full of chocolate and good-quality dumplings and pleasant company.  I AM EBULLIENCE ITSELF.

I finished my geeky 18th Century garters on the 3rd.  What a massive coincidence that the day after was May the 4th.  As in May the 4th be with you, as in May the FORCE be with you, as in International Star Wars Day.  I had to explain that multiple times to various perplexed people down at my opera company yesterday.  Verdict: geeky opera singers are not as common as I might have bet, or I have spent way too much time hanging around with composers.  Oh well.  I guess this is an opportunity to remind myself how blessed I was to have an adolescence saturated in the glory of multiple forms of geekery, Star Wars being prominent amongst them.  Here, by the way, are my finished garters:

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If Obi-Wan was into Georgian period cross-dressing, these are what he would wear.

So in a continued vein of geekery meets Georgian-ery, I’ve started another accessory that will be essential in achieving a plausibly Georgian shape when I *finally* get around to finishing my stays and making this fabled robe a l’Anglaise.   Everybody who’s anybody references this amusing cartoon:

Lewis Walpole Library Bum ShoppeThe Bum Shop, from the Lewis Walpole Library.  (On their website you can zoom)

Yes, when a lady of the 1780’s asks you ‘does my bum look big in this’, the right answer is ‘does it ever.’  In the cartoon, they’re selling ‘rumps’, ‘bum-rolls’, ‘false bums’, or whatever you want to call them (‘posterior petticoat-plumping pillows?’, ‘arse-augmenters?’, ‘decoy derrieres?’) in order to give their patrons the fashionable bootylicious shape.  I saw a couple of other funny cartoons about the fashionable shape on my travels through the blogosphere…

Lewis Walpole Library Back BitersThose are small, Paris-Hiltony dogs sitting on the ladies’ bums.  Back when it was the magnitude of your bum that mattered, not your tote bag.

Lewis Walpole Library Bum BailiffThe caption reads: ‘The Bum Bailiff outwitted, or, the convenience of fashion.’  Notice the lady making her escape.

Again, the zoomable versions of both of those are in the Lewis Walpole Library.  Type ‘bum’ into the search box and you’ll find them.  It’s very satisfying to use a Yale library search engine to search for ‘bum’.  Try it, and tell me it’s not titillating.  Great word that.  Titillating.  Oh God I had way too much chocolate today…

Back to the bum.  There appear to be many varieties of bum in the shop picture, so I went with a crescent-y shape, like you can see at the bottom (HA) left hanging on the wall.  I didn’t have a lot of calico left (what do we make of a seamstress who routinely uses up her stash?  Sacrilege!), so I had to piece it, but I tried to piece it in the sort of segmenty-pumpkin way that they appear to have quilted their bums, so that I’d have a good guide to sew down later if I needed to.

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My one remaining piece of calico.  Cue Mulan music: “This is what you give me to work with?  Well honey, I’ve seen worse!  We are going to turn this sow’s ear, into a-“.

A bum.  That’s what we’re turning it into.

I also made the top bigger around the outside edge than the bottom, so it’ll puff more and sit more like a bum than a plate.  I have no idea if this is period or not, but hey, I’m embroidering it with alligators, and I’m pretty sure that’s not period.  That whole thing about enjoying being an amateur again.

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Exhibit A: gator.  His eye is a teeny tiny sequin.  (Also, wow, I matched the grain lines at the seam!  TOTAL FLUKE FOR THE WIN!!!)

The gator is part of a larger pattern that references the decadently violent Anita Blake series.   When Anita has multiple preternatural nasties out to kill her, she likes to say that she’s ‘ass deep in alligators’.  Seeing as this is a fake ass I’m making, I figured it was a priceless opportunity to use that gem of a quote (well, I’m normally arse deep in scores, not alligators, but gators are more fun to embroider and I still have oodles of yummy emerald green silk thread left over from my green soprano gown (which I’m thinking of putting through a refashion… but more on that another time)).

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It’s not done yet.  It’ll have two knives crossing at the front and another gator, and possibly some skulls for good measure.

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I’m particularly proud of the roses.

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Illustrating the probably-not-period pattern.  The upper layer will get pleated into this smaller layer.

I’m happy to say the whole thing is hand-sewn so far, and I’ll keep going like that.  It’s very nearly as quick, and it’ll be easier in the awkward curvy bits.  I’m getting pretty fast at hand-sewing.  Well. Fast for me at any rate.

I’ll stuff it with scraps (because I have a massive bag of scraps) and attach it to some twill tape.  I went to Clegs (ooh Clegs) and got loads of it.  I never realised how cheap it was, but despite its cheapness they don’t seem to sell it at Lincraft (grrr, Lincraft).  The problem is that I like the staff at my Lincraft; they’re all friendly and pleasant and the Clegs staff are all snooty and have the temerity to ask you whether you’ve made a toile yet when you’re buying fabric.  DO YOU MEAN THERE’S A COMPULSORY ORDER I HAVE TO DO THINGS IN???  Are you going to sneak round to my house and check that yes, there’s a toile pinned to my crappy home-made dressform before you’ll sell anything to me?  Hell, they should be glad they’ve never met my Gran.  To her, toile only means Toile du Juoy.  Rant over.  Then once I’m finished my bum all I have to do is finish my stays, whip up some petticoats and Bob’s your Uncle, I can (cue drum-roll) pattern a robe!  FUN.

Geeky Garters

I just had my costume fitting for Nixon in China.  Verdict:  I look darn-tootin’ adorable in a Mao suit.  The dude in the van who tried to kill me on my bike afterwards is clearly jealous.

In the meantime not having my wallet means I don’t have my swipecard to get into the practice rooms, so I can’t practice.  Sad panda. So all that creative energy has gone into the 18th Century garters to hold up the stockings of which I posted earlier.  Well, most of the creative energy.  The rest of it is slowly losing the will to live as the Snatchy Poltergeist continues to snatch my stuff, and randoms continue to badger me in the street, brazenly ignoring my maximum-strength FOF (F*** Off Face). One garter is now done.  Nothing is more indicative of the creatively-frustrated soprano than the sudden ability to embroider at speed.  Except perhaps the ability to fry the brains of paintball spruikers with my fiery fiery laser-glare.

Enough wallowing.  One of the best things about being an amateur seamstress is I get to decide exactly how historically accurate/inaccurate I’m going to be.  When you work in an industry where you’ve got to be good at taking criticism for everthing you do without taking it personally, it’s sort of refreshing to have a hobby where you can do what you like and nobody can pull your socks up.  I want to hand-sew everything?  Fine.  I want to use a mix of accurate, semi-accurate and inaccurate materials?  Fair enough.  I want to include quirky modern details in my otherwise relatively historically passable garments?  Sure, why not.

All that sounds pretty reasonable right?  So bear with me… I have made one and a bit hand-sewn, mostly cotton (but I’ll fess up to using polyester ribbon), hand-embroidered garters in the spirit of the 18th Century, with an obviously modern twist.   Often the garters of the 18th Century bore mottoes.  Here are some examples:

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These are from the Met, c 1790.  Quite a sparse, neoclassical statement.

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These ones from the MFA in Boston are more what I’m aiming for.

Now, bearing in mind that the mottoes often went across both garters (with half the words on each garter), no points for guessing what I’m putting on mine.

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The finished product.  …….. be with you.  Ringing any bells?

Yes, I am a dork.

Now I just want to make tons of garters with little geeky things on them.  I want a blue pair that say ‘made in Gallifrey’ with little TARDISes on.  I want a black pair that say ‘ass deep in alligators’.  My dear friend Death will get the reference there.  

Anyway.  Here are some construction pics.  I was using a pretty sturdy calico so I didn’t feel like it needed too much reinforcing.  There are also teeny tiny random spangles that I found in my sewing box.  I think they came with a skirt years ago… The skirt’s long since moved on, but I’ve still got the small number of emergency spangles.

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Step one, drawing up the design.

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Step two, manic embroidery.  I used a mix of stem and satin stitch. (Them’s all I know)

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Step three.  Woo yeah!  Gratuitous action shot!  (Just like Indiana Jones, only not)

???????????????????????????????Another gratuitous action shot to show scale. See why I’m so damn proud? 

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Ready to go on the ribbon.

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I turned the edges under and backstitched it down with white thread

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My favourite flower.  Thar be subtle colour differences.

I apologise profusely for the close-up shots of the carpet.  When the estate agent says our house is heritage listed, they only mean the carpet.  I swear it’s the original carpet from 1880-whatever.

Did I Say Soprano? I Meant Zombie.

Ah, weekends.  I remember when I used to have them.  Regular meals too.  Those were halcyon days…  And then I had that real clever idea that I wanted to be an opera singer.

I can handle the whole exhausting schedule thing, and I’m getting better at the whole work/uni/opera balance.  But then my wallet got stolen at work on Friday.  That really chucks a spanner in anyone’s works, but I still had to head off to a gig after and sing like nothing had happened, and get up the next morning to put in a 6 hour long production call.  Boy was I happy that the guy behind the counter at King and Godfree’s didn’t ask for ID when I hauled my zombified arse in there after production call to pick up wine (that I still haven’t drunk thank you very much.  But it’s nice to know it’s on standby). Well.  I guess that zombies don’t really need ID.  Surely alcohol works like a preservative once you’re dead?  Such has been the glory of my life recently.

Sewing-wise there’ve been bits and pieces, but no wonderful triumphant finished products.  I’d been steadily beavering away at sewing boning channels for my late 18th Century stays (and feeling jolly proud of myself) when I ran out of the pale aqua thread I was using.  Seeing I still haven’t decided whether I’ll cover them or not at the end, I didn’t want to risk changing colours in case I wanted to leave them uncovered.  Naturally, I haven’t had the time or the energy to scamper down to Lincraft to get more matching thread.  The couple of panels that I’ve finished make me so happy to look at though.  I’ve got the hang of the whole stitching-in-a-straight-line thing.

Behold!

Before:

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It’s not linear.  It’s more of a wibbly-wobbly-stitchy-witchy thing.

*unsubtle Doctor Who reference*

Whereas after…

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Look at them purdy straight lines!  Who says practice doesn’t make perfect?

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Bella, as always, likes to help.  These are a friend’s stays though, not mine.

Seeing the stay making had hit a brick wall, I decided to continue with my Bottega Veneta inspired summer dress (yeah, I know it’s heading in to winter.  I figure that far away deadlines leave less room for stress and/or disappointment.  That and it’s Melbourne.  I’m sure a freak heat-wave can be expected some time in August.).  I sewed the oodles of darts into the lining.  Why oh why would I draft my own pattern to be full of accursed darts?  Well I did.  And they turned out lovely (for a change).  I moved on to my delicious silk ikat, and then realised I’d just blunted my last fine silk needle.  There’s no way I’m risking a larger or blunt needle on this stuff.  It was disgustingly pricey.  Plus, what’s the point of making a high-end-designer-inspired frock if you’re going to cut corners? I already cut enough corners for three seamstresses.  More trips to Lincraft ahoy.

Sunday being my one and only day off, I decided not to go out.  But without going and picking up new machine needles and thread, I couldn’t progress on either the stays or the summer dress.  So I decided to start a third, smaller project instead.  Stockings.  Of the how-can-I-best-approximate-18th-Century-stockings-with-only-things-that-I-have-in-my-immediate-environment variety.  It was like Bear Grylls, only with sewing.  Though there was that episode where he found a dead seal and made a seal-blubber vest in order not to freeze to death in the sea…

I had a pair of lemon-yellow stockings that had seemed like a great idea when I bought them, but that I never wear, so I earmarked them for adventures into costume, seeing whenever I put them on I feel like I should maybe have a pink polonaise gown and a massive puffy chapeau to go with them.  (Speaking of, I think I’ve found the fabric I want to make my anglaise out of…  it’s a pale pink satin-weave cotton with a subtle floral embroidery.  Jumping the gun much?)

So I cut them off at well-above the knee height (figuring that once they were cut and hemmed they’d be shorter.  I was right, and I think I should have left even more length, stumpy legs notwithstanding), did a rolled hem, and planned some embroidery.  My adventures on the interwebs , mostly over at the Dreamstress, American Duchess and the Pragmatic Costumer, tell me that the stockings of the 18th Century were ‘clocked’, that is, beautifully embroidered at the ankles, like these lovelies:

Met stockings Other Met Stockings

These are both from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Now there’s one glaringly large difference between these beauties and my Jon Astons.  Mine are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay stretchier, being modern and mostly synthetic.  Now, back in the day, knit stockings did exist, but they weren’t anywhere as near as stretchy as modern stockings, and were still seamed and shaped like the ones from the Met.  This means that I’m not a hundred percent certain that it’s possible to embroider my stockings and have it work purely because of the enormous stretch factor.  But I’m going to give it my best shot.  My idea is to put the stocking over a big mug which will stretch it out while I’m sewing, and then hopefully they won’t rip when I put them on.

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The rolled hem.  I had to leave it pretty loose to allow for stretch factor, even for me.  I’m thinking a more sophisticated hemming system with more give would be required for someone with more curvaceous pins.

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A large Bach-print mug to stand in for my ankle.

My embroidery won’t be a patch on the examples from the Met, but I think a simple, fresh design will work better with the yellow anyway.

And what happened to the pants part of the pantyhose?  Well.  A medical friend of mine put this link up on the book of face recently, and as a person who goes through stockings at the rate hipsters go through coffees, I think it’s a marvellous idea and will start putting together a box:

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia

PANTYHOSE FOR AFRICA! We use the ‘panty’ part to keep post-operative pads in place and we cut the legs off and patients plait them into bath mats. If you would like to contribute, please post clean pantyhose (second hand is OK but they must be spotless!) to PO Box 5066 Turramurra NSW 2074 or drop them into the shop at 1396 Pacific Highway Turramurra. They must arrive no later than 13 May to go to the hospital as luggage. Such an easy way to help. Thank you!
Photo: PANTYHOSE FOR AFRICA! We use the 'panty' part to keep post-operative pads in place and we cut the legs off and patients plait them into bath mats. If you would like to contribute, please post clean pantyhose (second hand is OK but they must be spotless!) to PO Box 5066 Turramurra NSW 2074 or drop them into the shop at 1396 Pacific Highway Turramurra. They must arrive no later than 13 May to go to the hospital as luggage. Such an easy way to help. Thank you!

Fabric Joy

Ah the Fabric Store… if I wasn’t a poor student I’d probably be there all the time, buying all of the delicious fabric.  As it is I have to content myself with occasional *small* splurges, carefully whittled down after frolicking madly around the shop fondling all of the fabric like a crazy lady patting other people’s cats and then making the excruciating decision as to what one I’m going to permit myself to take home. (I don’t do that with other people’s cats, for the record.  I mean, yes I pat them, but no I don’t take them home.)

Yesterday’s frolics yielded:

Yummy silk!  For a pretty summer dress, the likes of which I stopped wearing years ago:

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It’s all soft and drapey and has a beautiful ikat-like print in a mixture of soft shades.  The dress I’ve been drooling over (which belongs to a friend of mine), is all floral and pink, but I look supremely stupid in floral and/or pink, so this is my substitute to still look vaguely feminine without looking like a hat-stand with a manky curtain draped over it.  Unfortunately it was pricey.  But there was no other pattern that was so perfect, and I knew if I got a floral I wouldn’t end up wearing the end result.

The next win was a remnant-bin find:

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The photo doesn’t do it any justice.  It’s a lovely granny smith apple-green linen, light and crisp at the same time (geddit, crisp?).  I’ve got some Anthropologie-based skirt inspiration going on, namely, a take on a peplum skirt that doesn’t go LOOK AT ME I’M A FREAKING PEPLUM ERMEHGERD AREN’T I JUST SO FASHIONABLE.  I never liked the trend when it started, and I have the strongest feeling that it is to be Over very soon.  All ye who continue down the path of peplum consider yourselves warned.  However, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of irony, except when you’re a Hipster and nothing you do say or wear can be taken seriously.  So perhaps the two evils of Peplum and Hipster Irony can be combined in token amounts and some kind of good Ironic Peplum will come of their union?  Or am I sounding a bit much like Dr Frankenstein?

The last bit of joy is this:

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WOW!  Foil covered linen?  THE FUTURE IS HERE!  Space-age and breathable!  Fished from the remnant bin, my first thought was ‘Shiny Awesome Stays of Non-Historically-Accurate-Shininess yet Vaguely-Historically-Accurate-Fibre?  That is so far up my alley it’s practically about to get mugged by my alley-thug!’  Then I remembered a post from the Dreamstress with a sinking heart…  Apparently this stuff can be warpy and isn’t particularly iron-friendly, and I’ll take the professional’s word for it and proceed with extreme caution!  I’ll do a quick test iron on a corner and some experimental pulling to see what happens.  How do you tell if fabric is warpy or not anyway?  I thought it was kind of eerie because I wanted mine to be front-and-back lacing too…  though my pattern is more 1780s/90s than 1750s and I’m one of those weirdos who likes binding eyelets (phew?).

Anyway.  No sewing will happen until this heatwave ends.  Apparently it’s been the longest consecutive number of days over 30°C in Melbourne since 1911 or something.  I don’t care how long it’s been, I would just like it to stop please so I can stop dribbling on my fabric and actually make something.

The Sewprano Sings Too? Never Would Have Guessed.

Which is mostly to what my lack of bloggery lately has been due.  Also partially to it being very hot again.  The sewing machine and the iron just don’t go on when it’s over 32°C as a matter of principle.

But a lot of singing is being done because it’s that time of year when you’ve got to start thinking in competition mode, and I intend a sort of merry sweep through as many of them as I have the time/energy to do properly.  I have some absolutely scrummy Wolf lined up for the first cab off the rank, then it’s going to be aria central for a while; if I actually learn any arias that is.  I’m not renowned for being the most aria-obsessed soprano who ever lived, so I begged some suggestions from my effin’ awesome teacher this afternoon, who started with: it’s better not to leap into the big warhorses, it’s best at your age to start off with smaller simpler stuff; and then promptly rattled off some suggestions including some Lucia di Lammermoor and Peter Grimes.  Did I hear someone say simple?

Chamber’s still my happy place, so I have some stuff in a concert tomorrow – Shepherd on the Rock (the appropriate response is to chuck out some horns and bang your head around – it is unassailably awesome), some Spohr, some Roussel, and some Michael Head.

Now, don’t let me get started on Michael Head. Oh whoops, I am started, and now I’m probably going to offend somebody, but hey, this is my blog. His parents should have named him Richard.  His writing is so twee and sugary and pointless that it makes Dulcie Holland look like the next J.S. Bach. IF YOU’RE GOING TO PUT SO MANY GRATUITOUS RALLENTANDI AND AD LIBATUM-I (ad labotomy more like, in this case) INTO YOUR MUSIC, THEN WHY BE SO DARN NITPICKY ABOUT NOTATING EVERY INANE LITTLE RHYTHM? By default anything he writes is So Not My Fach.  So why am I bashing my larynx against this fluffy, poorly-constructed brick wall?  Because societally-conditioned-nice-girl brain was first to the consent buzzer. Now we see how feminism and singing intersect… But that’s another story.  Now I’m doing this damned piece and my [admittedly lovely] instrumentalist mates get to be on the receiving end of what happens when sopranos step outside their fach, and it ain’t pretty.  Once I’m done with it tomorrow I am no kidding going to take the sheet music out to the backyard and burn it.  Probably involving some kind of feather-waving, goat-sacrificing ritual so that it can never come back and make me sing it again.

…Unless I keep it to use for sewing patterns, that is.  Despite having the sewing machine off I’ve still been doing a lot of sewing, just mostly by hand while watching Buffy downstairs because I think it’s still below 30°C downstairs and my favourite housemate and I went halfsies on a box set of Buffy for Christmas.  So far I’m about a third done with an acetate pleated tulip skirt made from some acetate I picked up at the UMSU Theatre garage sale, and it’s going to be very poufy at the top but sort of nipped in at the bottom like an upside-down ’80s bubble skirt (I know it sounds ugly, but this is just like when the girl behind the counter at the deli at Vic Market questioned me buying 150g of goat cheese for a cheesecake,  TRUST ME. It’ll work, and it’ll be gloriously A/W 2013.  The cheesecake was great too, if you’re wondering.  I can’t find where the original recipe I used went, but this one’s fairly close, the base of mine was mostly butter and digestive biscuits… or what was left by the time I made it. They’re too moreish for their own good.  Damn it, now I want some, but it’s too hot/I’m too lazy to ride to the supermarket).

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What is the top doesn’t look like it in the pattern… and a bad photo of the pleats and the waistband.

Also I’ve been working on a toile for a pair of 18th Century stays as a totally gratuitous romp to refresh my mind after too long staring at my Nixon in China score.  Also to improve my hand sewing.  I look at amazing blogs by incredible people like Before the Automobile and Diary of a Mantua Maker and I get all inspired and then my hand sewing is more crooked than a medieval Pom’s teeth.  But the shape is generally looking on track and the fit (as much as I can extrapolate at present) is good, and also I guess there aren’t many people who memorise Nixon and make stays.  Even super wonky stays.

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For your viewing delectation, my abominable hand-sewing.

Once again, check out my illustrations in the next edition of Farrago, available from A Fair Few Places on the UoM campus, and COME TO CLASSICAL REVOLUTION AT OPEN STUDIO IN NORTHCOTE TOMORROW AT 5!