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!