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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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.

 

Fancy Pants (but a dress. So, not pants really)

Flutey friend’s 1920s dress is pretty much done, bar some hemming.  That’ll happen tonight, depending on what offerings are on the telly.  Hooray!  It’s ended up very late ’20s, almost early ’30s-y, with that big drapey bias-cut back.  But I know what you’re all after, so here are some pictures.  None on Flutey-friend yet.  That’ll happen when we’re in the same state again.

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Helping

There’s my sister’s cat Rupert helping with the patterning. It was nice being at my parents’ place because of the amount of floorspace for laying out fabric (as opposed to the square metre of dingy carpet at my place), but the orange horror was always keen to inspect proceedings, and the other horror – Dudley the doddery old cavalier king charles spaniel – dribbled on a corner of the silk before I realised he was standing there, wagging his tail and looking pathetic at me.  Lucky it was just a corner.

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Behold!

This is the magnificence of which I speak.  The teal-green silk, with Dudley-slobbered corner removed.  It’s slightly bluer in real life, I think the orangey wood floor makes it look a bit on the green side in this photo.

DSC_0032Patterning.

In fact, it’s almost an exact match colour-wise for the jade hippo thing that was one of my makeshift fabric weights.  The others include two small decorative plates, two mini foreign language dictionaries (French and German), a candle and a padlock.  Now look away and see how many you remember.  You will be tested.

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Bonus picture of Ruppie overseeing the process from his throne, which is broken, so he’s the only one who gets to sit on it.  He’s a smug little bastard.

And now what you’ve all been waiting for.  The (almost) finished product:

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Front and back views respectively. 

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And with the sash.  Look!  Fringey goodness!

I love fringing as a finishing method.  Beats hand-rolling hems, and there have been more than enough of those here already.  The front of the bodice and skirt are both fully lined because the silk was a little… flimsy.  Makes for excellent drape on the bias though.  Pretty simple to put together as well really.  Let’s hear it for the ’20s!  Not a dart in sight!  And pretty reasonable too.  3.5m of silk, and that includes lining (I lined it in self-fabric because it’d be less conspicuous that way), and that’s for a tall person, and with extra fullness in the back of the skirt than I’d planned for too.  Basically all it was was a plain, straight-cut bodice front, same for the back with some cowl-neck slashing, then a straight skirt front with a semi-circle set in the back.  HOORAY.

The Faux and the Furrious

Oh har-di-har.

I cut into that decadent swathe of Lisa Ho faux fur the other night.  It pained me, but it needed to be done.  In the process I have learned the following things:

1) Sticky tape is good.  It keeps the fluffies at bay.  Don’t inhale the fluffies.

2) I can’t remember whose blog I saw it on now, but some very clever lady advised using a silver sharpie on the back side of the fur to mark your cutting lines.  I had one but it ran out after about three cat-paw outlines.  I went to four different stores in search of another, but success was not forthcoming, so I’ve taken to using white eyeshadow and an angled brush.  It’s not as quick, but the effect is much the same.

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4) A stanley knife would be useful.  Embroidery snips make cutting out slow.

5) Bella the cat doesn’t like it; she sees it as a usurper and expressed her displeasure by attempting to upchuck on my sheet music this morning.

Other than that it’s gone together rather quickly.  Because it’s really low-pile fur it doesn’t seem to catch in the seams, so the curved seam across the face looks fine.  Because Sissy-poo’s cat Rupert is an exotic shorthair, I thought she’d appreciate it if her hot water bottle looks somewhat Rupert-esque, so I’ve squashed up the nose and sewn it down.  Means I don’t have to stuff the face either.

??????????????????????Ruppie in an old suitcase.  Pity the faux fur didn’t come in orange.

All in all it looks a tad creepy, but in a hipsterish sort of way.  Or maybe it was a bad idea to watch the Blair Witch Project and sew at the same time…  At any rate I need to buy new velcro before I can finish it.  I didn’t realise the stuff I’d got was self-adhesive velcro.  Not great in a furry water bottle context.  Perhaps I’ll go with buttons and loops instead.  I never liked velcro.

I’m pretty proud though, so just in case anyone’s crazy enough to want to make their own shonky hot water bottle cover in the shape of the world’s creepiest cat, here’s how I did mine:

You need about a third of a metre/yard of low-pile faux fur, and the same of (I’ve now discovered that I should’ve used 100% polyester for the lining rather than the cotton I had, but I’m going to test it and see how well it deals with hot water bottle heat.  Logically it should be fine.  It gets exposed to much higher temperatures when ironed, so a comparatively low temperature over a period of time shouldn’t be too bad.)

For the pattern, you basically just trace around the hot water bottle at a decent distance like so:

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You add ears, of course.

For the face, I just cut it in half and added the same curve to the centre of each half.  I kept it pretty shallow.  Feet and tail at your discretion.

Pattern Pieces Front

Here are the front pattern pieces (not to scale or anything)

Pattern Pieces Back

And here’s the back.  Overlap for the flap, green lines where the tail and legs will go.

Then I cut out and put together the feet and the tail.  I stuffed them a little to make them less boring. Then I did the lining, (sans curved face and CB seam). Then I cut out the front pieces, sewing them together at the curved seam.

On the back you need a horizontal, overlapping flap  to get the bottle in and out, and a vertical CB seam on the bottom half so you can put the tail in.  I did the CB seam first, putting the tail in as I went, then attached it and the back of the head to the front pieces with the legs sandwiched in between.  Then I got jiggy with making the face cuter, put in the lining to finish the raw edges on the back flap (which sort of worked.  I was flying very much by the seat of my pants here) and would’ve added the velcro if it hadn’t been the wrong kind.

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Et voila!  A super creepy/hipster cat hot water bottle.  The eyes are mesmerising…

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I’m trying very hard to like it…

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…But the creep factor.  Oh the creep factor… it’s like a witches’ familiar.

Speaking of witches, the other night was also the premiere of a new work called Weird by a friend of mine, the Suave Composer, which was basically a massive chamber song cycle about witches.  The Suave Composer always had this grand vision that it would be very theatrical, almost like some kind of operatic monologue, so some kind of crazy get-up was required.  I spent a few hours watching all the Pixiwoo costume/creative makeup tutorials on Youtube.  They’re hilarious and awesome.  She says things along the lines of ‘you’re probably watching this thinking woah that’s crazy, I’d never wear that’ or ‘bear in mind this isn’t meant to be a wearable look, I’m just having fun experimenting’, while she’s busy putting eyeliner on her lips or blusher as eyeshadow or using a stencil to achieve a Spock-like eyebrow, but I was sitting there going ‘YES.  THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE LOOKING LIKE.’  Cutting loose and going completely crazy with stage makeup is oddly fun. I went as far as to copy the eyeliner-as-lippy and blush-as-eyeshadow tricks.  The light is terrible in this photo, but the effect is probably about the same as people would’ve got in the audience:

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*sleazy eyebrow waggle*

And the hair ended up way bigger and more spherical, like mad scientist frizz and a Georgian hedgehog do went and had a terrible baby together.  My hair’s good like that.  It teases up into an absolute haystack but brushes out quite easily in about 5 minutes.  It’s about the only respect in which my hair is good.

Anyway.  I’m off home for a couple weeks sabbatical.  (constant access to a piano only steps from my bedroom door… excellent…) Expect blog silence.

Clothes for the Recital that I’m So Glad is Over.

Do excuse my recent lack of postage.

I FINALLY did my first Masters recital; the evil one; the one that got postponed last year because I had a month’s worth of the flu and pharyngitis; the one that I’m so so so glad is finally over, despite the fact that I had a cold and had to keep dashing off stage to blow my nose, much in the manner that more normal sopranos might dash off to swig from glasses of water.  I thought putting the tissues on the piano would be a bad idea, though it was mighty tempting.  Then maybe my level of professionalism would be on par with the con’s; they managed to bugger up my program notes, which I had given to them formatted to a tee after adhering to all their pernickety editing suggestions.  Fancy that… a red squiggle.  Wordpress doesn’t think pernickety is a word.  It keeps suggesting ‘pumpernickel’. Which is a great word too, don’t get me wrong, but not so relevant in the context.

And I actually managed to finish my skirt and top ensemble.  At 12:15am the night before, admittedly, but yes.  Finished.  Now I have things to wear when performing in winter.

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Ta-daaaa! A blurry photo.  Excuse the general mess.

The skirt took about a week, partially because I was working around loads of practice and trying to maintain some semblance of contact with other humans, but mostly because my Janome is to the lovely Fabric Store silk as hot wax strips are to Wolverine: not exactly as Kryptonite to Superman, but it’s still not a fun combination, and the result doesn’t look very attractive.  I should’ve known, because I’ve used this particular kind of silk before when I made my lace crop-top back in the mists of time (*cough* last year *cough*) and my machine has horrible memories of needle-breakage associated with it.  But in the lead-up to my recital, soprano-brain was a bit of an issue and I figured that last time I’d been trying to flat-fell chunky seams and use bias binding (ie: more layers), so if I used a brand-new, sharp-as-a-psycho’s-scalpel, small-as-I-could-get needle and set the thread tension very very carefully, what problem could a mere two layers possibly pose?  (OH THE STUPIDITY)

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Exhibit A: Nasty buckly seam.  In centre-front of all places.  😡

Doesn’t seem to matter how fine a needle I use or how few layers I have or what my thread tension’s set as, I end up with a buckly seam.  So I thought, stuff you Janome, and hand-stitched the rest of it.  What can I say?  I’m a control freak who likes to watch things while I sew.  Many, many episodes of Buffy later, I have a rather nice skirt.  The buckly seam thankfully hangs in a fold, hiding its shameful buckly nature from the eyes of good citizens.  Then I just stitched the silk over the top of the foundation layer of the waistband with backstitch so you have these little lines of topstitching, which the silk will eventually fade around so it’ll look a bit interesting.

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Pinned and ready to go.

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Little backstitches are prettier than buckly machine mess, anyway.

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Then it was slipstitched over the pleats.  Hot-damn I’m proud of that neat curve.

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Okay, so the inside’s all messy.  But it’s secure and there’s no chance of fray-age and I could not give fewer damns.

The skirt ended up being a circle skirt cut to twice the length of the waistband and then pleated on (haphazardly).  The zipper was set in with a pick-stitch, because I HATE sewing zips on the machine.  Hate hate hate, like stompy eye-pokey-outy hate.  Only on the morning did I notice that on me the lining hung more crooked than it did on the dressform, and so I had to emergency-tack it up a bit, but it’ll be an easy fix for The Weekend That Never Comes.

The top was my first foray into jersey-land (aka Mordor.  Stretch fabric is clearly the work of Sauron), negotiating the perils of Twin Needles and Clear Elastic Stay Tape of Doom.

MordorHere dwell the dreaded jersey fabrics.

via lotr.wikia.com

I cut the pattern off a skivvy I had that fitted nicely (though I ought to have gone a little roomier because my jersey didn’t stretch quite as much as I thought), and it sewed up relatively quickly.  I couldn’t figure out how to do a drapey bit at the front, so I improvised one on after and covered the joins with some bows cut from the remnants of my silk.  With a singlet under it, it was *just* warm enough in Melba Hall.  A friend of mine the Best Baritone I Know nearly froze to death in his exam the other week, so I thought it’d pay to be cautious.  Boy did it ever.  My poor accompanists… it seriously looked like a scene out of Dickens backstage with them huddled there in their coats with their hands under their arms.

Now, Clegs doesn’t normally hold much fascination for me with the Fabric Store to compare it to, but when I went down there the other day to pick up the twin needle and the elastic, they were having a remnant sale.  Remnant sales are very dangerous.  I had to be prudent, but when they’re getting rid of just enough of just what you’re after for about 1/4 of the normal price per metre, you must strike, strike like the bargain-cobra.   Now I have enough silk crepe satin to cover my stays when I finish them (I would use it for something else it’s so nice, but that colour really doesn’t suit me unless I’m fancy dressing as a zombie.  My skin cells wouldn’t know what melanin was if some came along and bit them on the endoplasmic reticulum), and half a metre of the most airy and delicious silk georgette which is going to be a nasty beast to sew, but I’m not intending to make anything super fancy from it… maybe just a fichu for my as yet hypothetical georgian costume…???????????????????????????????

So pretty!  It’s like if soufflé could be a fabric.

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Guaranteed to make me look about 5 days dead.

And then there’s sissy-poo’s kitty-shaped hot water bottle cover.  The toile (do you call it a toile when it’s clothes for a hot water bottle?) is assembled, but I’m still trying to work out if the vaguely 3D face is going to work in practice when darts aren’t meant to be a thing you do with faux fur.  I guess the pile’s not too deep, I figure I’m going to treat it pretty much like velvet and see how it goes, unless somebody warns me off it in the next 24 hours.  There’s enough faux fur that I could probably make two or three attempts before I throw in the towel.???????????????????????????????

There will also be legs and a tail but I didn’t bother to pattern them.  I’m not sure how I’ll do the nose and eyes yet, but at any rate, this is the look I’m going for:

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Via au.catsadoptions.com.  KITTY WITH NO FACE NAWWWWWWWW!!!!

It beats doing tax.

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!

Botherpower, Irony, Peplums and… Lieutenant Hornblower?

Because my apple-green linen is so very very nice (and was so very pushing my frugal nature cost-wise) I decided to make a working toile yesterday of the Peplum of Irony skirt.

Ironically enough, the fabric I decided to use is a completely different weight.  I don’t remember what it is or from whence it came, but for the last three years (at least) it’s been sitting in my stash as two metres of this black and white strangely-woven, strongly-suspect-it’s-upholstery-fabric stripy stuff.  In fact, it’s spent a lot of time pinned/draped over various bits of furniture in pretty much all of my student flats, slowly absorbing all sorts of nasty grime and stains.

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The fabric.  It’s sorta stripy and lumpy and nasty.

But it was what I had, and I couldn’t be bothered actually getting other fabric,  and I was up for a bit of a stripe matching challenge, seeing I’m about at good at stripe-matching as most dogs are at making soufflè.

My pattern-drafting is mostly ok these days, so I used the basic skirt pattern from my Jigsaw skirt-refashion, and drafted some pleated peplums, two parts-per side.  I thought about cutting them in one, but the stripes gave me too much capacity for epic screwups.  Unfortunately I didn’t think the bulk thing through, and now I have these fat peplums.

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My pleaty peplum draft.  And the bum end of my cello case.

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Front with pleated peplums basted on.

Strangely, I was suddenly bothered to do the whole thing PROPERLY.   Properly as in baste EVERYTHING, bias bind the seam allowances, and bag out the peplums with Lincraft’s infamous $1.99/m ‘polypop’, which for those who aren’t familiar with this beastly stuff, is nowhere near as fun as it sounds.  Also, I am one of those rare people who detests making bias binding.  It’s one of my absolute least favourite things to do, and I’ll go to great lengths to avoid it.  But lo!  The whole thing is nothing but bias binding on the inside, and  (yucky acetate lining so I can wear the damn thing with stockings and not have it do the annoying ridy-uppy thingy that happens otherwise.)

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Carefully matched and basted stripes.

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LOOK!  BIAS BOUND SEAM ALLOWANCES!

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Bagged-out pleats.

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Almost matched stripes on the back.  To quote Kryten: ‘Smug Mode’.

The other reason why I don’t normally do things properly is that it takes me literally forever to do anything.  I start doing something and I suddenly end up outside the space-time continuum for what feels like a few minutes to me, but in actual space-time is more like seven and a half hours.  It’s a special skill I’ve inherited from my Ronnie: my dear grandad, who can take up to a week to eat breakfast, and entire seasons to vacate the bathroom.  So what I do to make sure I don’t suddenly look up and find it’s 3:30am and I haven’t eaten anything for 18 hours, is I watch things while I sew, and when something ends, it pulls me back into normal space-time and I can see that x amount of time has elapsed.  It started as a productive sing-along with Nixon in China (SQUEE!   My very first professional opera is going to be Nixon in Freaking China!  So unimaginably excited!), then the most recent episode of 24 Hours in A & E, then a doco about the links between private security and the diamond trade in Liberia (I’m not kidding, and it was actually very interesting, thankyou very much), and then it finished up with Horatio Hornblower.  Which is fine for watching, but not so fine for sewing.  It’s all, oh no, French warships!  and woah, plague!  and look out, fireships! and I’m like, WHERE?  QUICK!  FIRE THE CANONS!  LOOK OUT MISTER HORNBLOWER!!! OH CRAP I JUST SEWED THAT UPSIDE-DOWN.  And of course there’s the very best uniforms that ever existed in the entire history of the world.  Oh the crisp stocks and neckties…  The bicorn hats…  And I sit there thinking, why am I making this stupid skirt?  I should totally be making one of those uniforms instead.  And then I can go to fancy dress parties as Horatio.  Fan-girl?  Who, me?

funny hornblower face

Keep dreaming, daggy fan-girl, you’ll never make a uniform as smart as mine!

Picture via Entertainment Trivia: UK Edition | Knight

I digress.  The skirt is so close to done.  Here it is modelled by my curvaceous 19th Century mahogany dining chair (the best find ever, after the battered Danish Deluxe I found on the side of the road).

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Yeah, I know, that fabric’s a bit thick for pleating, and it looks very huge and wonky on my chair!

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It just needs hemming, some of the basting taken out, and a hook and eye for the back.  The stripe is what makes it ironic, I think, and the fabric.  The fabric is way too thick for pleating, but somehow it sort of works.  The stripe-matching still isn’t perfect, but I guess that’s practice. The other weird thing, it’s slightly too big at the waist.  I don’t get it.  I draft a pattern with no ease in it, baste right at the edge, sew inside the basting, using a bulky, non-stretch fabric, without even including any fabric allowance, and it STILL ends up sort of loose-ish.  Maybe my darts were a little conservative? Who knows.  It’s a mystery.  Hopefully it won’t happen again when I make my green linen version.  Now I’m thinking of tweaking the pattern though, because pleats would work better on someone who doesn’t have the insane waist-to-hip-ratio that I have.   Seriously, Horatio doesn’t know how lucky he is to have that straight-up-and-down guy-figure of his.  Fitting clothes would be so much easier.

Now the cool weather’s back, Bella the cat has re-discovered her frisk.  She thinks rightly that all fabrics from Lincraft  – polypop particularly – are hostile incursions into my stash and need to be dealt with using a strategy code-named Operation Pounce.  I managed a couple of blurry action shots.

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Attack!!!!!!!

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Once subdued, the polypop is carried a safe distance into the hallway.

Also, I have more illustrations in this month’s Farrago!  Pick it up from Union House!

Erg, Fine, I’ll Start a Blog Then…

To be fair I’ve tried to blog once before.  But that poor little tumblr had the life expectancy of a sea cucumber abandoned in the Gobi Desert, bless its boots.  So here I go with Attempt the Second.  May it be better equipped to survive in the arid wilderness that is my sense of commitment. 

My general aim:  To bestow upon all ye who sit around wondering how I do the stuff that I do the chance to see the seamy (…geddit?… sorry.) underbelly of creativity, and perhaps work out how to do it yourself (and occasionally to make classical music in-jokes).  Sewing, cartooning, writing, and the like; well, they’re fantastic.  You can be a cheap-arse and have boasting rights over your creations.  If you’ve never had someone do the slow jaw-drop followed by the disbelieving and searingly envious “Oh my God, did you MAKE THAT???”, let me tell you it’s a damn good way to counteract your self-esteem issues, even if you know that the darting is lopsided and your hemming’s got puckers in it.

Which brings me to my first sewing walkthrough… 

1) The Little Lace Rib-Hider

The Background:

I got an email from my opera company about the dress code for our upcoming Gala Concert: Chorus Ladies: long black dress, no plunging necklines. I already had a long black dress, which came from an op-shop in Parkdale ( My terribly un-PC grandmother likes to say of it: “you always get a good fit”, because it supports Epilepsy Australia.   Cringe-worthy on so, so many levels…) and it was $6 (win!).  The only problem is that because I come up as “malnourished” on the BMI test, the dress looks much plungier than it would on a normal person, and instead of cleavage all you see is the ribs-like-corrugated-tin effect.  Which, let’s face it, isn’t what the opera punters like to see.

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Stuff Annoying Old Ladies Like to Say

The Solution:

Stashbusting.  Tip #1: if stashbusting can come to the rescue, that’s always a good thing. Any respected sewing blogger will tell you that (and I have found their advice to be true!). I had in my stash about 1.2m of good black nylon lace, and thought: small lace crop top + plungey-dress = not so much rib-cleavage, therefore, win. And ultimately, it meant I didn’t have to spend money on another dress which could be spent on rent or delicious food, and I didn’t have to waste time running up and down Bourke St or Sydney Rd engaged in a desperate search for a long black dress in my elusive size.  Here is Stash-Buster (geddit?  Buster? I make myself cringe sometimes…) is a lovely little Scottie dog to represent the noble act of stashbusting:

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Naw!

So on with the tee! Earlier in the year (i.e. January…) I made a little crop kimono-sleeve tee out of the most horribly Satanic polyester that I have ever had the misfortune to work with (but that nevertheless I enjoy wearing because the pattern and print are both awesome).  This was the Tee of Death.  Please for the love of God don’t look too closely.  It slipped everywhere and it frayed like a beast and it stretched to hell on the bias and it damn near broke my sanity.   The lace one will be similar, just better, and wider at the neck, and shorter at the sleeves and waist:

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Yuck yuck yuck so wonky!!! Yet so comfy…

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They’re a bit hard to see, and yes that’s a crack in the wall of my studentine abode. 

Shock horror, I draft my own patterns.  Commercial ones always require so much adjustment to fit my strange long-waisted-super-pear shape that it’s not worth the effort, so I forked out for “Dress Pattern Designing” and its imaginatively-named sequel: “More Dress Pattern Designing” by Natalie Bray, and I haven’t regretted it for a moment.  They’re a little old-fashioned, but the principles are all sound and adapt easily to modern designs.  

The Sewing:

Because this top is lace, I went with French Seams. Ooh la la!  It’s a bit tedious because feel like you’re sewing every seam twice, but your raw edges are safely encased where they can’t hurt anybody by going all feral and fray-tastic.  There are numerous good tutorials on youtube for French seams.

Then I folded a black ribbon over the raw neckline and arm-hole edges and hand-sewed it down like a bias-binding (which is a good thing to google if you don’t know what it is).  I like hand-sewing.  It’s boring in the best possible way, i.e. you can still watch Buffy or Red Dwarf while you’re at it

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My progress so far (not well pressed in this shot), and teeny hand stitches.  I didn’t trust my temperamental machine.

 

More photos when the hand-finishing is done.  I’m thinking of sticking a bow on the back of the neckline.  Or would that be too frou-frou?

Total cost: c. $15. Total Hours: about 2 so far, might be 3 at the end. Yardage: 0.5m black nylon lace, 2.5m 18mm black poly satin ribbon,  Notions: none. Pattern: moi 

To finish, a frequently-butchered Jane Austen quote:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a blogging girl in possession of a sewing machine must be in want of a cat”

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This is Bella, my housemate’s cat.  She’s helping in her own quiet way.

 

 

Also, look out for my illustrations in the upcoming edition of Farrago, which will be available from stands in Union House and around the Uni in general very soon!