Something Fishy About Them Florals

It should be a familiar story at this point.  I see a garment online/in a store/on Man Repeller.  It’s beautiful.  I want to be the sort of person who wears whatever that is.  But HOLY FUDGING SKIT-BALLS BATMAN IS THAT THE PRICE??!!  HAHAHAHAHA!  NOPE.  Cannot afford.  Nooooooo.

This time, the garment in question was a little sun-dress from The Reformation.  Now I am usually vehemently Not A Dress Person.  I often have places to be via foot or bus or train with multiple bags of bricks to carry (you know how heavy bags sneakily make your dress ride up at the back until everyone on the train platform gets some accidental fan-service?).   I also hate being the person clutching their skirt with grim determination in a 24 knot gust, wishing they had more hands to hold the damn thing down.  The rest of the time I hate how I suddenly look 12, or I associate dresses with auditions and get jumpy, or they just feel… unfinished.  But this time…. ?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the slightly grungy insouciance with which they’ve styled their models?  Maybe it’s the fact that they were wearing white Converses and I too (I know, surprising!) own a (very scuffed) pair of (used to be) white Converses.  Maybe it’s how El Niño took so long to bugger off that Sydney was still 20+ degrees in the middle of freaking May. Maybe I’ve been watching too much anime and have been coming to terms with the fact that looking cute is, well, cute.  Whatever it was, a cute little mini-sundress suddenly looked a lot more appealing than its ilk has in years.

Sadly I can’t say my take on it is as environmentally sound as The Reformation’s.  My fabric is a synthetic (viscose/rayon, I think?) from Darn Cheap Fabrics which created God-knows-how-much carbon dioxide and waste water (and also I’ve heard rayon’s very bad for you long-term), but they let you order online now and they often have a good range of unusual prints.  I know.  Synthetic.  I hate it.  But it’s the only way I’m not going to be precious about it and actually wear it in casual situations. The best thing about it is the print.  It looks like a floral from a distance, but get up close and:

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THEY AREN’T FLOWERS AT ALL! (APART FROM THE BITS THAT ARE)  THEY’RE GOLDFISH!

So down to the nitty.  While I wanted my dress to look close to the original, there were also a few things I wanted to change.

  1. I wanted a slightly more flared skirt because a true quarter circle skirt (as I suspect theirs is close to, just cut in panels) ends up needing shaping to fit both my hips and my waist, and I’d rather flare the skirt more than have to shape it at the top.  I ended up taking the pattern from the horsey mini and adding flare.
  2.  Pockets.  One of the things I hate about dresses is automatically going to hook your hand into a pocket and then realising with great sadness, after pawing in at the side of your hip for five minutes, that there are no pockets.  And then where do you put your hands?  Because it’s awkward now. You fold your arms.  You unfold them.  You put your hands on your hips, but that’s wrong too. Pretty soon you’d give your kingdom for a pocket.

Mostly it was trouble-free to pattern and put together.  Apart from the bit where I need to re-do the back of my bodice block because it’s always a bit tight across the shoulders, and in my attempt to correct this on the fly I introduced about 2cm too much excess fullness across the bust which needed to be taken out at the end.  Fortunately I’d included a CF seam, and strangely enough my shape likes a bit of CF seam shaping.  The sleeves were a total fluke, patterned from my French sleeve block, but again with extra fullness added into the top on the fly.  The innards are all finished with pinking shears, because this stuff doesn’t seem to fray easily (win!).

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I apologise for the blurriness of that photo.  I dropped my phone shortly after I took the other photos and the camera is no longer what it was.  But you can see all the adjustments I ended up making to the basic pattern in all the taped-in bits of tissue paper, as well as the tiny fold I ended up taking out of the back because I still can’t seem to get the fit right. Damn my prominent shoulder-blades.

And next up in What Strange Hemming Method Will She Try Now? is tying 18th Century costume garters around your legs and pinning your hem to match them.  I didn’t take a photo because I was too frustrated at the time.  The manga-stack method I used for my PANTS gets a bit unwieldily once you get above the knee.

Then it was just stick-an-invisible-zip-in-the-back time, and done!

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And behold!  It pairs well with gold Supergas and over-the-knee socks in my opinion.  And stupid poses.Photo on 26-05-2016 at 2.37 PM

The setting of the zip could be better, but I only have a normal zipper foot, so all things considered it’s pretty good.  You can’t tell in a blurry photo anyway so why am I even telling you?  Geez Belinda, shut up!

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And tbh who even cares about zip setting when there are pockets and goldfish, and the fit is good.  Honestly I put on a RTW skirt this morning and almost died at how appallingly it fit, so I think next up will be making some more skirts.  Maybe.  You know how scatty I am.

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PANTS

Sure, I’ve been doing a bit of sewing over the summer and never got around to blogging about any of it.  So what’s dragged me out of the non-blogging stupor?

PANTS.  In capital letters because they’re not just pants, they’re PANTS.  HUGE PANTS.

Long story short, I finally got around to drafting a pants pattern just before I moved out of the share house in Melbourne, and I tested it by making a pair of shorts for me (which are ok but not mind-blowing), and a pair of pyjama shorts for my sister, which have the best stripe matching since the beginning of time.  Which sadly I can’t show you, because I can’t for the life of me find the photo.  You’ll just have to believe me.  The stripe-matching was mind-blowing.  EVERY SEAM.  EVERY STRIPE.

Photo on 9-04-2016 at 1.27 PMForgive these shorts for they are not ironed. 

The main flaw in the more boring, less stripy test-pants was that the proportions are off by a smidge.  So they’re kind of tight in the hips but saggy in the butt.  I think this is because the standard figure for which the block is meant to be is more of a usual shape with a more pronounced butt and less pronounced hips, whereas I don’t really have a butt, but I’ve got hips for days.

Then I moved up to my parent’s for a month, and I made another pair of shorts (or short culottes really), which again aren’t mind-blowing, but I was working with remnant fabric so I didn’t exactly have room to play around a lot.  I also sewed my first fly-front, using mostly this tutorial, and it was vastly easier than I expected.

Photo on 9-04-2016 at 1.26 PMSlightly disappointed by those shorts (though now I have no idea why because they’re actually super cute), I then made a shirt out of super-gauzy grey checked cotton with a pussy-bow instead of a collar, because by this point I’m just enjoying farting around with the shirt pattern and seeing how far I can push it.

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How much bow is too much?  Am I bowverdoing it? Geddit? … ?

After that I started working at OA for the schools company, and I’ve pretty much lived in activewear for the past two or three months, and had very little reason to sew anything.

But then I saw a pair of pants in COS, and they were green wool, high-waisted and super wide-leg, like palazzo pants and flares went and had a baby together.  These weren’t pants, they were PANTS.  And even though I didn’t think I needed giant pants before, suddenly there was a gaping hole in my wardrobe that only PANTS could fill.  They’d be Going Out PANTS, Family Occasion PANTS, even maybe Audition PANTS in the right circumstances.  They’d magically look put-together and insouciant at the same time.   They’d trick people into thinking they were a skirt and then BAM I’d take a stride and they would shockingly reveal that they are actually PANTS.  They’d be massively comfy and make up for the fact that I’d probably only want to wear them with stilettos.

But they didn’t have them in my size anywhere.

So I got my pants block, went through the motions of adjusting it for extra fullness as suggested in the Fashion Supplement at the back of More Dress Pattern Designing, and then slashed up to the darts, closed them off and taped in a heap of extra fullness at the bottom.  I won’t deny that looking at the pattern freaked me out a bit.  They could so easily turn into Circus PANTS, which I didn’t want.  Especially seeing the soft wool twill I got was a bit expensive, and they were going to use A LOT of it.

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As in really A LOT of it.

But they went together really easily.  I just used pinking shears so I didn’t have to finish anything, I popped in a side zip and then I hemmed them using a method called Stack Two Books on the Floor and Try and Pin the Hem Up So It Sits Level With the Top of the Books While Checking in the Mirror and Then Swear A Lot When It’s Fiddly and Time Consuming and I Wish Emily Was Here to Help Me But Now We Live Interstate and URGH.

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Manga isn’t just entertaining, it’s useful.

The hem itself was originally going to be a micro-hem, but then I decided a folded-up-twice hem would make it sit better.

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Surprisingly neat, all things considered.

And now I have PANTS.

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They’re stealthy.  You think they’re a skirt, but no!

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They are in fact PANTS!

Photo on 9-04-2016 at 1.24 PMWhat’s huge and dark green and coming to get you?  PANTS

I highly recommend them.  Make yourself some PANTS.

 

Back in the (Shirt/Cosplay) Game

I think I’m finally getting the hang of this whole sewing by machine thing (I know, it’s taken me long enough, right?). In all seriousness though, the past month and a bit has seen me get the hang of shirts.  Shirts!  That staple of my wardrobe that I never thought I’d master.  Now I see shirts in shop windows/on the internet/on actual people and, given I have the right fabric, buttons to hand and about 5 hours, I can make them mine for half or a third of the price.  It’s scarily addictive.

It’s also fun toying with the pattern I’m using (which is pretty frumpy), to see what different results I can get and what makes a shirt look fresh.

Stage one of the pattern-fernangling produced this:

DSC_1093Ignore the wrinkles.

Ie: a navy cotton voile shirt (leftovers from the Bombshells dresses) with contrast cuffs and under collar.  I followed the pattern pretty closely.  I just removed the waist darts and shaved an edge off the cuffs so they weren’t all pointy.  All in all it’s not bad, but I still feel vaguely like a basic soccer mum when I wear it, which isn’t how I want to feel.  In retrospect the recommended distance between the buttons is too far, the collar shape’s still a bit off, curved side seams are stupid and the cuff slits shouldn’t be faced in a heavy fabric.  I’ve learned my lesson.

DSC_1094Not that you can really tell.  But I know.

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Business on top, party underneath.

Using a heavier fabric for the undercollar and outer collar stand was a good plan though, because screw interfacing.

The next experiment was conducted in leftovers from the zodiac dress (which btw I never wear).  I added a 4cm box pleat to the back for added squareness, shaved a bit of the pointiness off the collar, and put the buttons closer together.  I didn’t have enough fabric for full sleeves, so I did half sleeves, rejoicing at how it also meant that I didn’t have to wrangle cuff slits again.

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The angle of the collar is slightly wider and less ’70s.

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Shell buttons are what I had.  Forgive the wrinkles, I wore it yesterday.

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Trust me the sleeves look slim-cut on.

I couldn’t be bothered putting it on to take a photo, it’s freezing here.

Emboldened, I have embarked upon the foolish venture of cosplay once again.  Not 18th Century this time though.  because when do I ever do the same thing twice? I had to go to the completely opposite end of the spectrum:

satsuki

The only character with resting bitch face better than mine and eyebrows better than Cara Delevigne, Satsuki Kiryuin from the decadently OTT anime Kill la Kill.  I really love the design of Junketsu, her uniform.  It’s got a great balance of elements and influences, and just enough patterning challenges without requiring too much engineering or working with awful stretch fabrics (which as I have mentioned before are the spawn of Bealzebub).  Because it’s got a very stiff military aesthetic, I got a mid weight cotton twill, which has got a similar hand to the fabric used in naval dress uniforms, even though it’s a little thicker.  I didn’t want to fiddle around too much with lining, so it had to be thick enough that it’s opaque.

Pattern wise I started off with a plain ol’ princess bodice and worked from there.  Behold my illegible plan:

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Most of the vertical seams will be hidden by the gold detailing, which is important because this fabric shows its seams no matter how crisp it’s pressed.  Bearing this in mind, I wanted to keep that really smooth effect at the front where it appears as though there isn’t a waist seam and the pleats flow directly out of the front panel.  Solution: godets.  Only, I pressed mine into pleats.

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I think we should call them pizza-pleats.

The little square pieces added at the sides are because I overestimated my bodice length.  Of course I didn’t test it with a toile, this is seat-of-the-pants stuff as usual.  Then I added on the side and back panels.  (The skirt side panels will be pleated and pieced in separately, so yeah they’ll have a waist seam. Shh.)    Fitting it, I’ve realised that I need to take it in a bit under the arms and cut the armscyes out more at the back because I have what Natalie Bray refers to in Dress Pattern Designing as ‘especially erect posture’, as well as square, prominent shoulders. The sleeves will be from my shirt pattern, because they work and have enough ease for the elbow-crinkle she’s got going on, and the collar will be a separate piece and I’ll snap it on or something.  This is the stage it’s at now:

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Excuse the pyjamas.

Should have mentioned as well, an extra bra with some socks in it is lending me some aid.  Satsuki-sama (like the rest of woman-kind, let’s face it) is a couple of sizes up from me.

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I think I keep up in the resting bitch face department though.

Dang, you can see the wrinkles that my posture causes though.  Should have twigged ages ago when the pattern book said its recommended armscye shaping was for the ‘slightly rounded posture of today’ (by which they mean, like, the ’60s).  My back’s more like a board.

Next step, skirt side-panel wrangling, sleeves, collars and cuffs.  And then I can get to do the detailing, order an enormous wig and a fake katana, and work out how the hell I’m going to do those boots.  Other cosplayers before me have used stretch PVC over a boot or shoe, and held the resulting boot-stocking/leg-glove up with Hollywood tape.  The thought of my cantankerous Janome encountering stretch PVC makes me shudder.  It’s bound to be exciting.

Ok, I Admit It, I’m Dead

Struggling, at any rate. I can’t actually remember when I last posted.  I’d need to look at it and check and I don’t think I actually want to know.  Wait, yes I do.

LAST YEAR. OH DEAR GOD.

dontwanttogoonthecartBUT I DON’T WANT TO GO ON THE CART!

You know what I’m blaming?  Opera.  So far this year I’ve made two role debuts (Mabel in Pirates of Penzance and Woodsprite 1 in Rusalka), and studied Czech diction because we did the Dvořák in Czech.  And for that one I also helped out with costume alterations.  Between that and working full time I have been one busy little sausage.  At one point I worked out that I was putting in 50+ hour weeks.  And my costume for the G&S was effectively a large lemon meringue pie (as is customary).

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This is how I looked.

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This is how I felt about it.

Understandably sewing’s taken a backseat while I’ve been putting in production calls and learning what sound a ‘ř’ makes.  I had one mad rush when we did a Czech art song concert and the director told us she wanted brightly coloured cocktail dresses as a dress code.  (FYI my concert wardrobe is the picture in the dictionary beside ‘funeralcore’)  I had a grand total of 10 hours to either a) find something in the shops that fit the bill, fit me and didn’t break the bank (I actually had a breakdown in Emporium and had to go home.  I was very stressed out at that point) or b) make something with the 4m of fuchsia silk a friend had made me buy on the offchance.  Turns out that friend is pre-sentient.  I went for hurriedly making something, whilst having an actual panic attack, and because I am completely incapable of doing anything the easy way, I went with the muslin that had been sitting on my dressform for the last 6 months that I’d pinned on there in a daze of admiration for tight pleats.  You can see where this is going, can’t you.

I didn’t bother to hem it, and had only just finished the zip when my friends swung by to pick me up.  This is what I ended up with:

fuchsia dress

WHY THE HELL DID I EVEN?  WHEN ARE PLEATS SENSIBLE FOR THE TIME-POOR?

fuchsia dress back

Again, why?  And that’s not even the half of it, because look at the inside:

fuchsia dress innards

Yes, that bodice is fully boned.  I still have no idea how I did this in 5 hours whilst hyperventilating.

Looking at it now I am completely amazed at what an idiot I am, and simultaneously thinking that my skills must be improving if I can turn out something like that under massive pressure.

Fortunately the other two/three things don’t have such dramatic backstories.

Thing the first: I finally used that chartreuse silk satin seersucker for something.  A boxy cami with a creative strap arrangement and a by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants triangular panel detail.

chartreuse cami

By the seat of the pants as in, I only looked up a tutorial on setting in triangular panels AFTER I’d sewn it.

Thing the second: a ruffle-bottom racer-back cami in silk ikat with cotton lining, based on a Tibi one that I saw online that would have cost me $400 if I hadn’t had a metre of this still sitting in my stash from 2013.  I made it yesterday, and because I was calm and everything stressful is finished, it’s all neat and pressed properly and symmetrical and stuff.  This is the standard to which I could hold myself if I wasn’t so bloody minded under pressure.

ikat cami

I still haven’t figured out why I’m making all this summer stuff.  It’s like 10 degrees in Melbourne right now.

And here they are all together with a skirt that I altered from a dress a few months back in order to be less 1980s French maid and more 1990s sailor scout.  It hasn’t been ironed.  I give no craps because you can’t see it properly in this photo anyway.

all three

And you’d think the ’90s were back judging by the number of spaghetti straps in this photo.

Next up, as many button-down shirts as I can possibly make.  They are my uniform, so I may as well make a ton while I have the time.

Still Not Dead

Wow… July.  My last post was July.  How many months ago is that, even?  I’m not sure I want to know.

The good news is that I’ve still been sewing in that time, to the point where I’ve actually finished a few things, including ripping an op-shop dress apart and turning it into a miniskirt that any Sailor senshi would be proud to fight evil in, and finally finding something to do with that chartreuse silk satin seersucker (try saying that three times fast), which was make that sucker (ha) into a cool-as-a-cucumber summer cami pretending to be that elusive beast the going-out-top.  Not that I get out much in summer.  I’m just fooling myself into thinking I need something in case I did, and then wearing it around in non-going-out contexts with sneakers because I’m desperate to look like I don’t take myself seriously.  Seriously.

I haven’t managed photos in either of them because I’m lazy, and because I got sidetracked with other creative interests.  Insert shameless plug for new Tumblr!  Check out my geek art!

So I wouldn’t have anything to report, but then I joined the Melbourne Opera chorus on a whim, and they did a thing on Saturday involving the O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, which is fun, and I enjoyed breaking out the misheard lyrics video on Youtube and having a merry chortle.  The dress code was gowns for ladies.  As usual.  The forecast was cold and rainy.  Most of my gowns are backless.  Bad combo?  Wrong.  Excellent combo.  Why?  Excuse to make new gown.  With sleeves.  And maybe even a back.  But perhaps not a front.

The inspiration was mostly Gucci…

Gucci

With a dash of Ralph Lauren…

Ralph Lauren

…And a whole heap of dressing gown.

First step, I ripped apart the Green Soprano Gown, salvaging roughly 5m of relatively undamaged silk satin.  Then I had a play:

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I liked this idea a lot.  So then I had a think.  I wanted a really relaxed, draped look, so my normal method of mathsing out a pattern and then testing with a billion toiles wasn’t going to really work.  I’d enjoyed draping on the form so much that I thought I’d give moulage a go.

DSC_0684First I made a fitted back lining, then started draping the other parts onto it.  Kind of in a robe a l’anglaise-y sort of way… shh.

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I backstitched the back panel on over the gathered front, then turned in the neckline and point a rabbatre-d it.  Then came a long debate over what to do with the side skirt seams, which was resolved by putting it on, pinning them where they looked right and sewing them down.  It was liberating after having been pretty strict with myself about sticking to patterns for the past couple of years.

The only sad thing was cutting the back hem.  I loved the look of a big long train, but past experiences of people stepping on them have taught me they’re not a good thing.  Cue anecdote about having the back of the Atonement dress stepped on just before the bows at a Mozart Requiem in 2012. All the snaps at the back came undone and I had to hold it together to preserve the innocence of the first violins.  Not good.  (That link will also show you the gown that I ripped apart to get the fabric for this one)

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It was still sad to cut away that swathe of silk though.  So very sad.

The sleeves I wasn’t game to drape, so I just patterned them like usual.  They’re a straight-up French sleeve, with tucks on the inner elbow for bendage. Finishing involved three rolled hems, a twill waist tape, one hook and eye and a discreet tack to keep the split in the skirt from flapping too far open.  I still need to make a proper sash for it, but for all intents and purposes it’s pretty much done.  It goes on like a dressing gown.  Funnily enough.  It sure looks like one.  So I struck some vaguely film noir poses and had a little fun:

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You can’t think little old me responsible for that grisly murder, can you?

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Dammit, Johnny, fix me a scotch already.

 It’s got me addicted to moulage now (seriously, the whole process was so organic and fun, and a helluva lot quicker then draft, toile, redraft, toile).  I’m thinking of doing more while I have the time, and filling in some of the gaps in my audition/day-performance wardrobe… Stay tuned.  But not too tuned.  In case I don’t post for another six months again, you know?

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.

Any Excuse Will Do…

As in pretty much any excuse is good enough for me to make a dress.  And a very, very long post, so schedule loo breaks now, ladies and gentlemen.  This is an actual transcript of the conversation that happened between Logic Brain and Soprano Brain:

Logic Brain: Liederfest is coming up.

Soprano Brain: So it is!  QUICK!  TO THE SEWING MACHINE!

Logic Brain: Errr……. shouldn’t that be ‘to the practice room?’

Soprano Brain: Oh poor foolish Logic Brain.  Surely you realise that there’s no point in practicing for a competition if I have nothing to wear.

Logic Brain: But you do have things to wear.  Why not wear that dress you wore last year?

Soprano Brain: Because I wore it LAST YEAR, duh.  How passé!  The reek of bad technique clings to it like the stench of burning rubber to a smoke-tainted wine.

Logic Brain: Stop it.  You’re getting carried away.

Soprano Brain: This year’s dress shall be bold!

Logic Brain: Are you even listening to me?

Soprano Brain:  It will necessitate an extravagant trip to the Fabric Store!

Logic Brain: You can’t really aff-

Soprano Brain: IT WILL BE LIKE THE ARMOUR OF A VICTORIOUS KNIGHT AND SHINE AS A TESTAMENT TO MY AWESOMENESS!

Logic Brain: Fine, whatever, I’m not talking to you when you’re like this.

Now really, I’m sort of on Logic Brain’s side here. I only have nine days to whip this thing up in, and I will not be sacrificing practice time to do it (seeing it’s Liederfest, not Seamstressfest).  I have other dresses I could wear.  The main problem is that I made a massive rookie error on my break at work the other day and spent most of it drooling over the Christopher Esber website, oogling masterfully-cut, ridiculously beautiful garments I will never be able to afford.  I also rummaged through my wardrobe with a friend deciding on clothes for photoshoots the other day, and was palpably disappointed at the lack of badassness therein.  Everything’s a bit frumpy, or a bit dainty, or a bit vintage, or just too… safe.  Which I know is what adjudicators-of-a-certain-age/the Opera Police* tend to go for, but it’s not how I want to represent myself, and I want to have the sort of stage wardrobe where I feel like I can grab anything that’s weather-appropriate and just feel right in it, Opera Police be damned.  If you don’t feel like you’re offering up yourself on stage, you can’t expect the audience to feel a genuine connection with you.

So I had a think.

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Le Fou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking…

I examined my current daytime performance dresses with a critical eye. There’s a grey cuoprene/silk Alpha 60 dress for summer, a black Viktoria Maine for winter and a rust-coloured Victoria Maine for in-between.  The rust one’s pretty stained and gaps badly at the CB neckline (also I feel about 40 in it, which isn’t how 24 year olds generally want to feel), the black one is nice to wear but a bit underwhelming, and the Alpha 60 one requires tape (which isn’t great when you go to put it on and then realise you can’t find the tape, and then have to rush around madly in the 40 minutes before your Masters recital trying to find something else that you can wear to perform in 35 degree heat without flashing anybody.  True story).

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Classic case of party at the back. Super-deep-cut armscyes, ergo tape.  With a slip it looks suspiciously like some kind of dressing gown.

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This is the one I wore last year.  It’s inoffensive enough.

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I used to like this one.  Now I think it’s boring.

What I gathered from this sartorial navel-gazing were these lessons:

-No boob-tape-dependency.

-No more frumpy/underwhelming.

-Fit is paramount.

When proper designers design things (I imagine, at least…) they think things through carefully.  In each collection, there’s almost a character in their mind; their girl; their muse.  Who are my muses?  What qualities and features and traits do I like?  Who is my girl these days?  I had a look back through my sketch folder at my recent fan sketches, looked at my bookshelf, at my favourite movies and shows – in short: what I’m interested in because I actually like it, not because I feel like I should, or to prove a point – and I noticed a trend.

Basically it boils down to this: my muses are almost invariably Fierce Armed Ladies (and gentlemen).  Buffy.  Anita Blake.   Katniss Everdeen. Shaun Mason from Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy (fights zombies, busts conspiracies) Sabriel, from the eponymous book by Garth Nix (has magic bells). Nimona, from the eponymous web comic by Noelle Stevenson (turns into things, including a SHARK.).  Mr Virgil Tibbs, from the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night (not just a fearsome dude, but also possibly the biggest crush I’ve ever had).  Pretty much every character from Norihiro Yagi’s manga Claymore (the basic plot is: genetically-altered ladies hit monsters with swords whilst questioning their humanity).  Even the characters I invented in highschool to indulge the rather niche combo of rococo fashion and dragons now help to fuel my love of rococo fashion… and zombies.  The dragons got dropped at about year 10.

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Princess Sharianne slays zombies now.  My boss thought I was a tad disturbed for drawing this on my break.  And now, dear internet friends, you have the opportunity to find me disturbing too!

Hell, even the singers I like best have an element of steel to them: Billie Holiday is still my favourite singer ever, and she was one fierce lady.  There’s no amount of Edda Mosers singing die Hölle rache that will ever replace Billie for me.

So the dress must reflect these influences whilst still being appropriate stagewear and not tremendously offensive to the Opera Police.  So the list of direct influences had to be narrowed down a bit, and mixed in with some proper fashion.  The final cut was:

– Christopher Esber, for this shape:  It’s like a rococo waistcoat and yet somehow armour-like.

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From his AW13 collection.

-Dion Lee for the futurism, and how his designs remind me a lot of the wetsuits from Catching Fire; there’s a sort of action/functional look to them (even though body-con dresses are never really very functional).

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Also via the website. Watch out, the homepage makes noises.

-The suits from Claymore.  I’m nicking the CF and CB seams, because they’re quite distinctive and not often used in these sorts of dresses, and also the colour scheme.  I want my dress in grey/white/silver.  Plus a bit of emphasis on my gigantic man-shoulders probably wouldn’t go astray.

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From my very own copy of Vol. 4.

This is the design I arrived at:

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After a bit of sleeve editing and fiddling, I got the toile to the following stage, over a RTW pencil skirt (the skirt’s going to be the easy part, I say flippantly now, probably to my later regret).  It looks very wrinkly and wonky mostly because I had to pin myself into it with great difficulty.  In the real deal there’ll be a CB invisible zipper, which I can do now because I FOUND MY ZIPPER FOOT!!! HOORAH!!! As far as actual flaws go, the collar needs more building up, the ‘shoulder protectors’ need reshaping (it’s my first attempt at a raglan sleeve; once again I’m trying to run before I can walk), and so do the front and back waistcoat tails, and the bust darts need moving.  But hey, it’s a toile.  Corrections are what they’re for, right?

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I’m also very proud of my new shoes.  They’re pointy.  And taxi-coloured.

*Opera Police: a friend of a friend recently used this term to refer to the stuffy, usually middle-aged and older self-appointed gatekeepers of operatic validity, taste and propriety.

Skirting the Issue (geddit? Skirting?)

Eighteen days since the last post; two new skirts.  Plus a shirt toile, but it’s nowhere near ready to be seen by the good folk of the internet yet.

The first is a mini with pockets, made from a cotton twill (so essentially denim) fabric that I found in the Nowra Spotlight of all places, which was surprising because it has an unusual and quirky horse print on it:

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Construction was pretty basic, just the standard  mini pattern I made when I altered the lace Jigsaw skirt, only plus pockets and flat-felled seams, and minus lining and a fair bit off the bottom.  The pattern matching is… passable.  I tried for perfect but I was a bit too impatient to achieve it.

It’s not one I’ll be riding a bike or climbing a tree in, but at the same time it’s definitely not the awful nearly-a-mini-but-not-trying-hard-enough frumpster length that I was complaining about many moons ago on another post.

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Frump it hath not.

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But pockets it hath in spades.

The other skirt is, to put it bluntly, a knockoff.  I saw a vintage organza Chanel skirt in a book and remembered the 6m of black (sadly polyester) georgette that’s been languishing in my stash since a friend gave it to me after a de-clutter at her gran’s.  I also had various scraps of black opaque silk left over from sundry projects, and one very short metal zip.  Because the polyester frays like a son of a bitch, construction was more of an issue, so I went with what’s basically an 18th-century petticoat construction: i.e. rectangles sewn together at the selvedges (woohoo!  No fraying and no finishing?  I think we can call that a win.) and then gathered into a waistband.  Only, I added a zip-side fastening and to kill frayage at the hem, I added a black silk facing that I turned to the outside and whipstitched down by hand.

It doesn’t look much like the original inspiration garment, in retrospect (I couldn’t find a photo on the internet), but it still looks pretty interesting, and offers up various opportunities for layering.  Or not, if one feels daring.  Transparent skirts have been floating around a number of designers for quite a while now, and aren’t unheard of in RTW either (although, I must offer up a prayer of thanks that I no longer see those impossibly vile mullet-cut ones from Supré around anymore.  WHY WERE THEY A THING???).  One of my favourite ever Vogue covers featured Bella Heathcote in a translucent-skirted Christian Dior dress, there was plenty of inspo floating around – Dries van Noten, Nonoo, a particularly risqué Jean-Paul Gaultier – and of course there was Jennifer Lawrence (on whom, along with the rest of the universe, I have a gigantic lady-crush.  Can’t you tell?) in that transparent dress last November.

Here’s my version styled with a black pencil skirt and, alternately, a blazer and heels, and a scarf and clogs.  Also, unlike all of the inspiration garments mentioned above, mine was effectively free!  All pre-loved stash materials, scraps and leftovers!

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Oh consarn it, the damn thing’s dipping at the front.  Even hemming’s never been a strong point of mine.  Also, I look like my face is made of plastic.  What’s up with that?

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Feelin’ sorta vaguely maybe even a tiny bit French.  Hence wolfishly triumphant grin.

Now for some construction pictures:

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It’s a bit uneven where the zip’s gone in, but that’s my own carelessness at play, combined with the warpy, uncooperative nature of the polyester.  This is why I always splurge on natural fibre.

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From the inside, the whipstitches holding the exterior facing up.

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The one seam in the exterior facing was flat felled.

Finally, some slightly more daring styling: the JLaw-sanctioned bodysuit combo.  Now’s your warning to mosey on outa here if it’s going to be too weird for y’all, though to be honest, I have shorts that are worse than this that I wear in public, it’s just once you reference that a skirt *should* be there, it seems kind of strange.  JLaw’s just too badass for us mere plebs.  I have attempted my most angry badass face to complement the style.

DSC_0293 Sadly I think the badassness would be better complimented by large boots.  Or maybe brogues.  

Now that I’ve fed my inner high-fashion-monster for the moment, time to skulk off and make some t-shirts.

Woah Holiday!

Sorry I’ve been gone so long.  I was visiting my parents, who now have wi-fi, so I could have posted, but to be honest I haven’t been doing all that much sewing.  I tried, honestly I did, but barely anything got finished, and then I got bitten by the drawing bug again, which sealed the fate of the small herd of UFOs that’d been generated the week prior.  But anyway.  The full story:

The night before I left to go home, I stayed up stupidly late trying to get a dress off the ground for Mum’s birthday party. (Probably her first.  She’s not big into parties.)  That was a dumb idea for two reasons: firstly I’d only just as in literally that day moved all my stuff downstairs into a new room – one of my housemates had just moved out and we play musical rooms when this happens. Secondly, I had to get up at 5:30 the next morning to catch a flight.  Long story short I managed to finish the dress just in time for Mum’s party, but not before I also (stupidly stupidly) started two skirts and two tops, only one of which is actually completed.  The casual assumption that in the holidays there is this magical thing called ‘time’ is so very very wrong.DSC_0281

Ignore my grumpy frown.  Camera was being frustrating.  This was the first not-massively blurry photo of the lot.

It’s nothing special, just a basic fitted-bodice+pleated-quarter-circle-skirt thing with a back zip and a bit of trim.

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With a bow instead of a hook and eye because there weren’t any hooks and eyes at home and I was not bothered to buy any.

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Such tired.  So grump.  Wowe.

The fabric is a crisp, mid-weight cotton with a cute zodiac print. Drumroll for close-up:

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Also, the edges are bound with some sheer stuff from the stash that’s just been pinked at the edges:

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It looks a bit hairy, unfortunately, and requires occasional trimming.  But it’s interesting, and that’s what counts.

I’ll resist the urge to post further about the UFOs until they’re actually in a state to be posted about.  I’ll also resist the urge to post too much about the elf costume I bodged together for my sister for a Hobbit-themed party, apart from saying that is was a simple matter of adding sleeves to an old formal dress from an op shop, and whipping up a cloak up out of a sheet a la Cation Designs.  I don’t have any pictures of it anyway.

What I do have pictures of though are some of the drawings I did in the hols, which I’ll save for another post.  For now, there are pictures of Rupert being his usual insolent self and sitting in strange places.  Enjoy!

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On Such a Roll.

I keep finishing things.  WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME???

This morning I finished the Bootleg Bottega Veneta dress, which I then wore to Oaks Day (ie: Ladies Day at the races) with friends.  I don’t really like the races, and this is the first time I’ve been to a Spring Racing Carnival thing at Flemington.  Probably due to the slicey wind, it was actually pretty tame, though some of the hats and outfits were pretty funny.  Now I’m not against crazy fashions, but it’s when people are deadly serious about their hat – or turquoise pea shrub gone bonkers,  or Loki’s helmet from the Avengers, or giant beehive made of nylon foliage, or scarlet basket starfish, etc – that I, in my manky old straw sunhat, couldn’t quite contain the gigglies.  Fashions on the Field takes itself way too seriously.   Also, ladies who know they’ll be walking on grass and still wear stilettos.  Try maintaining your dignity while hobbling along stiltedly like a praying mantis through a bowl of molasses.   Never was a better argument made in favour of chunky heels.

Now back to the dress.  Hooray I didn’t cut loads of corners! Well, the zip set-in could be better, but everything’s hemmed or finished or tucked away so that there can be no frayage, and it’s not ugly as sin on the inside for a change.

Instead of the original back with long straps that I’d envisaged, I went with a big floppy 70s-style tie which looked more balanced.  Knee length is a funny length on me because I’m such a pear, and especially with the cut-away neck it needed something up top to even out the froof.

I even have a metre left over of that ikat fabric, which is quite lovely apart from the tendency to pucker, and I think I want to use it to make some kind of summer top that I can wear more often.

So without further ado, here are some photos of the finished thing:

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I don’t know why these always turn out so blurry.

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And one of the back. 

Oh, and I finally got some pictures of my sexy flute friend in her new 1920s dress…

                                       naomi dress back           naomi dress front

I can guarantee it’s at least six times hotter in real life even.  The train just flows as she walks.  Slinky.