Attack on Cosplay Part Two – The Thousand and One Infuriating Straps

I’m not gonna lie, I would seriously rather hand-sew another set of 18th Century stays than make another Attack on Titan harness.  True, the stays took me like 8 months longer, but they didn’t involve trying to make my craptacular Janome come to terms with pleather.

Internet research confirmed that pleather is a special snowflake, and because it’s both stretchy and sticky, it needs extra help to go under the presser-foot without bunching and puckering.   Some recommended a roller foot (sounds awesome but couldn’t get one), or the ol’ paper trick, where you pin paper over the fabric and rip it off after.  Others recommended a teflon foot, which I got, as my local Janome dealer didn’t have a roller foot.  The poor shop lady looked at me with plain distress on her face when I said ‘cosplay’ and ‘pleather’ in the same sentence.  Sadly, when I got the foot home it only kind of vaguely worked, more on that later. Pleather’s other extra-special attribute is that it doesn’t like pins, because it’s not woven and pins will leave holes.

But this is me we’re talking about, and I like leaping in at the deep end without checking for pointy rocks/stingrays/Cthulu first.  I already felt I’d done enough planning by drawing up a ton of notes on what attaches where.  Bear in mind there are much MUCH better diagrams in google images, and even though I’d drawn these out, there was no guarantee I’d follow them perfectly in the moment.

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Haha, even just reading those back now there are so many places where I deviated from the plan.  Because I am Captain By-The-Seat-of-My-Pants.

So first I just made oodles and oodles of strapping from the pleather, with the non-stretch direction lengthways. Turning a tube was too hard because the right sides stick to each other, so I folded an 8cm-wide strip in half, wrong side to wrong side, topstitched the fold, then folded in the other edge a cm or so and topstitched it too.  Because by that stage I hadn’t had a chance to haul my butt to Maribyrnong to get a teflon foot, I used the paper method, and because pleather dislikes pins, I used bobby pins.  It helps that because I have stubborn hair, I have extra-strong bobby pins.  BOBBY PINS ARE THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING.  Also, if you are someone with Hermione-levels of hair like me, you probably already have loads of them lying around.  If you have short hair/love office products, I hear paperclips work too.

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Yes, that’s La Traviata.  It was in an old subject reader from my undergrad so it was an excerpt anyway.  I wasn’t sacrificing actual sheet music.  The paper rips very cleanly off in this instance because the pleather doesn’t try to come with it the way a knit fabric does.

After I’d made metres and metres of the stuff, I started with the back pad and made my way down from there, sometimes using Dido the dressform, but trying it on me every now and again because sometimes she goes a funny round-shouldered shape that’s not helpful.

The back pad (and both the scabbard pads, for that matter) were a cheap grey poplin underlined with felt leftover from a dragon plushie I made for a friend’s five-year-old a while back and forgot to blog about.  Problem is, this is the colour of the felt:

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Naw, how cute was it before it got loved to death?  Anyway, back to AoT.  Turns out when you underline grey poplin with green felt and then expect to cut what are effectively large buttonholes for straps to pass through, you inevitably see the green felt on the inside of the slash, like your harness is secretly Bruce Banner or something.  Not a massive problem, but weird up close.  And cartoon-prompting.

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Have a very dark photo of the pattern, because I can’t be bothered lightening it.

Then it was a matter of trimming straps to size and adding them one at a time.  The upper back first, then the sternum buckle, then from there.  Somewhere along the line I realised it’d be easier to make the whole thing in one rather than trying to keep the top and bottom separate.  I’m sorry I didn’t take better notes as I went, but it was pretty damn confusing, the whole process lasted a couple of weeks and I’m not entirely sure I knew what I was doing at the time.  There was wine was involved at several points.  Also some pretending to be Levi, some pretending to be Veronica Lake, and some wearing the flower crown from when I was Woodsprite 1 in Rusalka earlier this year. Pro-tip, don’t drink and sew, and definitely don’t let a soprano have access to wine, cosplay and a camera at the same time.  Do have a montage though.

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By the end it was crazy trying to get the whole thing under the needle…

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And sometimes I resorted to some dumb tactics…

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Most of it was sewn together using a variant on this criss-cross pattern:

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Right up the top in that photo you can see what I mean about the green felt too.

Some of the details ended up being pretty crucial.  For example, I realised early on that it’d be silly to permanently attach any of the straps to the scabbard pads in a way that they couldn’t move.  So this is the arrangement I came up with on the back, using fabric loops.  The thigh straps just feed through enormous buttonholes the way the shoulder straps do in the shoulder pad:

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The buckles were just sewn on and the holes for the latchets were made with a stitch ripper because my awl (and by awl, I mean very sharp pencil) didn’t work.

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I didn’t end up attaching the straps at the front with buckles to the belt because I couldn’t really think of a way to do it, I ran out of buckles, and really I was just looping them around the belt loops of my jeans and using the belt (which is totally separate) to hold them down.

Here it is in its completed (if slightly dodgy) glory:

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I tried taking a couple of videos of putting the whole catastrophe on to see if I could document it clearly, but it didn’t make it any clearer and it takes roughly ten minutes (I can see why humanity is dying out if it takes their strongest members that long to get their kit on and off, you know what I mean?), so make do with a talkthrough:

  1. Lay the catastrophe on the floor, front side up.  Make sure nothing is tangled (HA)
  2. Sit yourself down smack-bang in the middle.  Shimmy thy legs under the bit that will cross over just below your stomach in the end.
  3. Then get each leg down into the leg loops until your feet are at the bottom.  Make sure nothing’s twisted again.  If something is twisted, swear at it for a while until it goes away.
  4. Do up the thigh straps.  Adjust the crap out of all leg bits so that everything sits where it should.
  5. AWESOME FUN TIP: Put on some socks now!  It’ll keep the foot loops from leaping off your feet when you stand up, and stop them squeaking like you’re walking through a rubber ducky warehouse in stilettos when you put your boots on.  My socks have cats on them.
  6. Grab hold of the back pad over your shoulder and stand up.
  7. Squiggle all the straps up over your bum at the back.
  8. Pop your arms through the arm-holes at the top and shimmy the top half on without throwing your neck out.  If you can’t turn your head after, time to swear some more and then call the physio.  Make sure those straps aren’t twisted first though.  See earlier swearing comment.
  9. Do up the sternum strap.  If you are a boob-owner and need to move yours out of the way, do that now too.  If you just have massive pecs like Captain America I can offer you little advice except good on you for having them, and can you do that thing where they pop individually?  That’s hilarious.
  10. The ends of the straps that come from the back button on around the front ones (because I found if I sewed them down I couldn’t get my hips through it.  Your mileage may vary if yours don’t prompt strange older women to compliment you creepily on your physiological suitability for childbirth.)
  11. Now’s when I add the belt over the top.  I’m about to tell you about the skirt too. If you’re still reading that is. If you’re not then I guess I can call you a spleeny bat-fowling scut and you’ll be none the wiser. Thankyou Shakespearean Insult Generator…

The skirt thing was a lightly shaped arc thing with holes for the belt loops so I could still put the belt through them.  It tied on to the belt loops with little ribbons (aww).  It goes on after stage 10, and there are slits for the belt loops of the jeans to go through so that the belt can still be threaded through them.  Then the ribbons are tied on to whichever strap is closest.

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It’s pretty hard to see in these photos.  Sorry.  The areas of shaping and the edges were folded over and topstitched, and this is where the teflon foot came (vaguely) in handy.  Vaguely because it was only a bit better than the metal foot, but on seams in the middle of a piece of pleather the paper method gets a whole lot harder.

The bit that really made sticking hot forks in one’s eyes sound like fun was the boot covers.  I loosely followed this boot cover tutorial, mostly because I didn’t want to have to destroy any of my shoes and I didn’t want to buy any new ones to cover.  First I was going to cover a set of riding boots that I can be seen wearing in most of the above photos, but the problem is I have scrawny wee calves, so the boots aren’t fitted.  So the first one looked completely wrong and the top flaps were more flops.  So I re-drafted them to go over a pair of ankle boots and then fit directly to the leg.  Much better from a fit perspective, but such a nightmare from a topstitching perspective.  And the teflon foot did a very half-arsed job. Then when I thought I was out of the woods, the top flaps were still disappointingly floppy (yes, I’m being dirty, you love it) because the pleather was quite soft, even after being interfaced with heavy linen.  So I went with my usual sewing panacea of using twill tape to create a bone casing and putting a cable tie in it.  That appeared to help.

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The other inaccuracy was that the cords on the AoT boots are brown.  But I had green rat tail left from when I butchered the green soprano gown (the gown as it was, and as it is now and ever shall be).  So I have green cords on my boots.  Shh.

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You can’t really tell, right?

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So that’s a wrap really!  I’ll make a cloak at some point to add to it, but I’ll wait for the perfect green wool so that it’ll be warm and rain-repellent and heavy and gorgeous. In the meantime, have some more pictures of me and my friend having fun outside the movies in our costumes!  I may have taken to photoshop and done a Who Framed Roger Rabbit on two of them… couldn’t resist.

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Two Hanges are better than one.

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Levi’s kicking himself he picked the berry paddle-pop when he could have had dulce de leche but didn’t want to look like he was copying Hange 2.

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Eren’s wondering if the Hanges would catch him if he tried to escape.

OH!  And if you haven’t already done so, check out the Society 6 store I just got!  I do way more art than just photoshop characters into silly photos, and you can get it on a mug or a phone case.  It’s pretty awesome. 🙂

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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.

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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:

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Trying to Eradicate the UFOs

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Body policing is such a bitch.

And I was going to post something happy…

Poltergeist Stole my Icecream (well, cableties really…)

The stupid Poltergeist is at it again.

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

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

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Such a badass ass.  Blurry, but badass.

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Needs to be higher though…

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The Completed Embroidery

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Rorschach-test dress!

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And as it really looked.

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More Rorschach-dress, this time with a ribbon.

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And the money-shot.

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

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

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:

kittynoface

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!

Robe a l’Anglaise Envy and Other Envies

Envy is probably my go-to sin.  Apart from posting on Good Friday.  That’s probably a sin too.

Anyway.  I have a roaring case of robe a l’Anglaise envy.  I’ve just had two days of a delightful virus (pretty much all of Lent crammed into two days of dizzy, nauseous, achey-painy starvation, with my Dad helpfully informing me on the phone that I wouldn’t actually starve to death for another six days.), so I fed my eyes instead with lots of piccies of robes a l’Anglaise.  I want an excuse and or occasion that is both solid enough to withstand Catholic guilt and yet doesn’t cause me to hyperventilate over a silly self-imposed deadline.  My handsewing is like a French bulldog: sturdy, but not fast or pretty. (Though having said that, I rather like French bulldogs.  They have cute scrunchy faces.)

Sizzle-reel time:

LACMA RalA 1785-90

Mmm…. stripy goodness…  Loving the crisp silk twill!  Feeling it wants a sash.

LACMA RalA 1785-90 back

Love the back point and the puffiliciousness… also the not-quite-perfect stripe-matching. It’s like some ancestor of mine was at work!

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Always always ALWAYS love a contrast petticoat!

All above images from LACMA.  SO GOOD.

I also particularly love American Duchess’s Revolution Dress.

I have a feeling this is going to be a terrible addiction.

Now, if I can justify stays I can sort of justify a robe, and I can justify stays because Mozart.  Mozart is the cornerstone of just about everybody’s repertoire, and most houses still like to go with period costume for Mozart (because people like it, so money), so I feel like it’s a safe bet that one day, somewhere, I will be singing Zerlina or Despina or Susanna or Blonde or the Countess or (fingers crossed!) Fiordiligi dressed a la late 18th Century (SQUEE), and so I would like to have my own comfy stays to sing in.  Having worn other people’s corsets before I can safely say that off-the-rack really doesn’t work out with my odd measurements in a comfy way, and I know that in the great cableties vs spring steel debate I prefer cableties.  Spring steel is great if you have some assets there to squish, but yeah.  Total lack of squishability.

I finished the toile last week, and, like everything else I’ve ever made, they are Mysteriously Too Big.  WHERE DOES THE EXTRA WIDTH APPEAR?  I took a good two inches off a tight bust measurement and a good inch and a half off the waist before I even patterned, and somehow they still manage to close easily and I can feel oodles of room in the damn things.  I followed all the rules!  I basted on the seam lines!  I whipped and butted them closed like a good seamstress (only messier)!  I need to curve the side seams more, but there’s so much to take off the bust that it’s going to mean some interesting adjustments.  I took a good 2cm out of the CB seam last night and it fixed the waist but not the bust. So I think this means taking it apart, adjusting everything and re-seaming.  Whoopee.  At least I didn’t run into armscye issues.  I never seem to have armscye issues. Thank the Lord.

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Stay toile ahoy.

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Arg stay toile fitteth not.  I know it looks like it does, but that’s just my ass going for contrast. 

Hopefully the acquisition of some kind of dressform will help with draping the robe.  I looked into it last year when my mother offered to get me one for my birthday, and found that, like everything else, they don’t exist in my size.  I could probably get a child’s one and pad the hips out, but it wouldn’t be long enough in the waist, which is one of my main fitting issues anyway, so purpose defeated.  I’m starting to think that if I sew up a very sturdy version of my tried-n-true princess seam block in upholstery fabric and stuffed it very tightly that it might approximate well enough?  Should be just like re-stuffing a chair.  I have some upholstery fabric lying around from the UMSU Theatre garage sale…  Maybe today.  I’m feeling I need it for my second load of envy:

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Here are my sketches.  Ignore the hand-shadow.

The Bottega Veneta dress envy.  Tucked in a secluded corner of this month’s Vogue is the inspiration for my Fabric Store silk-cotton ikat dress.  The colour and the detailing aren’t what got me (peach silk with what looks like the reflector tape on my cycling vest, only with studs…) but the cut is perfect.  It’s a good big picture, nice and uncluttered; just four of the models hanging out backstage and thankfully the one in my dress isn’t holding a bag and is towards the front so I can see the details of the dress.  Thanks, anonymous model!  So helpful! The print of my fabric will provide some visual interest to make up for the lack of studs and applied contrast… it’s the skirt patterning that’s bugging me though.  I think they’re crisp knife-pleats that’ve been tacked under the contrast strips, but how I pattern that sleek but relaxed shape for someone of my distinctly un-runway-model-like waist-to-hip ratio boggles my tiny soprano mind.  I’m not sure how to proceed.  Here’s my pattern so far, but the skirt is a bit too mega-flare:

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It’s like the ’70s.  Oh dear.

Bleugh! Too Hot to Sew

As you might’ve guessed from the title, it’s been over 30° for at least three days now, and it’s not going to cool down in the foreseeable future.  The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting MINIMUMS of 24°.  Yuck.  I’m going slowly batty and getting mighty tempted to pull a Caligula and try and battle the sky into submission.  Only, Caligula tried it with the sea.

Not a lot of sewing’s been done, partially because it’s too hot to think about turning the iron on, and largely because there have been plenty of rehearsals and opportunities to go and fry my poor unsuspecting Irish hide with friends at the MSO in the Bowl.  And I’m sure my intonation would’ve been just as unpalatable if I’d been the one on the stage in a suit in 34°. (Yowch!  Surely an unfair assessment, I hear you cry.  Nonsense.)

So I guess this is the ideal opportunity to get all show-and-tell with some of my previous successes/blunders.  Let me just get my teeth-whistly old-person voice on.  I’ve been sewing since year 7, when I joined the Sewing Club at my (then American) middle-school (I know, let’s hear it for the ol’ U S of A, right?), and demonstrated an absolute lack of affinity for it, in much the same way that jellyfish lack an affinity for carpentry.  I persisted in dribs and drabs through high-school, making a grand total of three draw-string costume skirts for Fiddler on the Roof, one hideous crushed-velvet elf-dress that I don’t think I ever took off between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, and one appallingly historically-inaccurate *aghem* “Tudor” gown.

Come university I renewed my interest, only to find my Grandma tried to do everything for me.  To be fair, I did actually make some clothes that saw public wear, including a rather charming little rough cotton babydoll dress that I wore to my 18th, a black cotton version of the much-maligned “Infinity” dress that I wore to my graduation, and a black linen sheath dress that I had to alter the pattern so much for it to fit me that I almost ran out of fabric.  And it still wasn’t a great fit.  Thanks a bunch, Burda.  Realising that as an ultra-petite-long-waisted-pear the commercial pattern industry wasn’t going to offer me much, I turned my back on them and went to the dark side.

…only to find that the first draft of my dress block (which, as the book advised, wasn’t completely unrelated to the Table of Average Measurements) had about 4″ extra room in the bust.  But now that it’s been corrected (and now that my dress block looks more like a group of bacon rashers than a dress pattern), I can do the whole draft-my-own-dress thing.  To be fair I’m still not a crash-hot seamstress.  It’s not a skill that’s come easily to me.  You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

The Misses:

Most of them have been relegated to the salvage yard to be cut up for zips and spare fabric, but some of these relics yet survive…

The Mothball Tablecloth Dress:

I picked up the yellow fabric at an op-shop in Newstead in the form of a round tablecloth.  It STINKS of mothballs once ironed, and as a result of some very sloppy adjustment on the fly due to the small-ish nature of the tablecloth, it’s quite obviously wonky.  Doesn’t look so bad with a black belt, but I’d be embarrassed to be seen out in it by anyone who knows anything about sewing.

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Oh the shame of the wonkiness…

The Frumpy Dinosaur Dress:

Don’t get me wrong here, the print is awesome and it’s a super-comfy dress with pockets that work, and I’m rather proud of my even topstitching.  But the pattern is frump-tastic and doesn’t flatter me.  My über short legs make many skirt lengths look strange and frumpy, but don’t agree with my brain, which likes the whole sensible-can-ride-a-bike-without-flashing-too-many-people-in length.  Unfortunately I think I just need to bite the bullet and alter it.

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And the pattern-match at the sides is atrocious.

The Unexpected Wins:

The Velvet Going-Out Dress:

 There was only 1.2m of 90cm wide blue velvet that I fished out of Grandma’s stash, and some madness possessed me to make a dress.   Due to a rather substantial measurement error, I had to re-make the whole front of the bodice and I thought I was going to die, because there was no fabric to do a re-cut, and it meant that all of my beautifully-matched darts got pulled all skew-whiff. 😡 GRRR.  But yet it still works.  It could still be improved on (a lot), but I’m not too ashamed to wear it out in public as it is, my strange-looking figure notwithstanding.

Bear in mind it looks much better with fancy stockings, red lippy and an elaborate ’50s/’60s updo.

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Look at them matched bands!  Win Win Win!

The Nasty Polyester Crop Kimono Tee:

It’s wonky.  It’s badly-finished.  It’s badly-drafted.  BUT YET IT WORKS???  It’s comfy AND relatively stylish in a grungy uni-student sort of way?  Whatsmore, I wear it all the time? I still can’t believe it myself.

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I think the print distracts from the wonkiness…

The Faux Atonement Gown:

Like every other girl who saw Atonement, I wanted that dress.  But I’d never made a gown before, and I didn’t know what working with silk would be like.  So I researched the hell out of it, made a toile and then did a test run in just under 4m of apallingly stained and narrow-bolted bargain-bin silk satin from *shudder* Lincraft.  It was only ever meant to be a working toile, (and if I made it again I know what I’d fix), but it looks good from on stage (which is all you need for a performance gown), and the experience was great.  Cutting one’s own pattern on the bias on not enough fabric while trying to avoid the stains and then being able to wear the result?  Hell yeah!

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Ignore my anaemic-looking face.  I’d had the flu for about 3 weeks at that point.

And yes, I know it’s orange.  Turns out I like it in orange, as I like most things in orange.  But next time I’d get a silk-cotton blend from Cleggs and avoid the whole stains saga.

The Actual Wins:

The Lace Panel Crop Top:

I am so pleased with this thing in so many ways.  It’s a good pattern, the finishing is all nice (French seams on the sides, flat-felled at the panel edges, self-bias-binding everywhere else), and I love wearing it.  The only problem is the black silk was so tightly-woven that my machine didn’t like it much and there was a lot of hand-wheel action to avoid snapping another needle.  So worth it though.  I’m wearing it now.  It’s wrinkly in the photo because I wear it so much.

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It’s not the top that’s wonky there, it’s me.

The “Anachrogasm” Gown:

Earlier this year, I decided to make a gown that was a combination of all my favourite ideas and shapes from history, and at the same time fulfil the requirement for the bog-standard soprano-gown (ie: a strapless poofy thing, usually tasteless and unflattering, beloved of old-lady-eisteddfod-adjudicators everywhere).  Taking most of my cues from the phenomenally-inspiring Dreamstress, I somehow managed to pull together a bodice-foundation complete with boning channels (filled with no less that 38 cable-ties, what else?) and hand-bound eyelets, to the effect of an 18th Century silhouette.  I was hoping for the “two-apples on a plate” look, but unfortunately I ain’t got much in the fruit department.  Then I covered it in emerald green silk satin, and made a half-knife-pleated-half-cartridge-pleated skirt, with a little ruching on the sides and a ruffled underskirt to get a little late 19th Century bustle-esque action going on.  This was the result:

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Excuse my camera.  It likes to change exposures without telling me.

Due to the flexy nature of the cableties, it’s still quite comfy to sing in, though it doesn’t change my shape much.  Mind you, being made of solid bone, I’m not sure I could expect anything to have changed my shape much.  I still have some issues with the back closures that I need to fix (mostly that the skirt waistband ended up too big.  Maybe I should just have sewn it straight to the bodice?  But I didn’t like the idea of the extra strain on it. Now I’m thinking waist-ties.)  So far it’s the best I’ve done.

Maybe I’ll get down to some hand-sewing to fix it this evening.  Beats turning on the sewing machine.