Thursday, October 11, 2012

Get to know your iron!

Learn to love your iron, and it will love you back

Seriously.  Iron EVERYTHING.  Iron pattern pieces so they're not all wrinkly and wonky.  Iron fabric before cutting it out.  Steam seams after sewing.  Press open/over every seam.  Seriously.  Do it.

I know it sounds like a ton of overkill, (Especially to a beginner.  I know, I resisted too!) but when I finally learned to give in and use my iron at every step, my sewing pretty much instantly looked better, with no new skill other than taking the time to use the iron.  Don't fall into the trap of "oh, I'll press that seam open later" will never be as easy to press it now, before it's sewn into other seams.  I promise!  And that underarm gusset??  The best time to give it a good pressing is before it becomes an underarm.

Along with making friends with an iron, here are a few tips I've collected over the years:  DISCLAIMER: This is what I have found to work well with my iron.  I've never owned a teflon iron, so I do not know if any of the below will work.  (obvs. the abrasive stuff is right out).  So, proceed with caution. 
  • Keep your iron cleaned (inside).  Nothing sucks worse than a big 'ole rust or hard water deposit spitting demon.  
    • Empty out the water reservoir at the end of the day.  Don't let it sit!
    • Use distilled water!  A gallon jug in the corner of the sewing room doesn't take up that much room....
    • If hard water deposits have built up, your iron won't steam properly, and can make a total mess.  To remove deposits, fill up the reservoir most of the way (I do about 3/4) with white vinegar, and the rest with hot water.  Heat up the iron and just steam into a folded towel for a while until all the deposits are gone.  Repeat as necessary.  If its really bad, you can use a wooden skewer/toothpick/chopstick to break up some of the stalagmites.  An old toothbrush/sewing machine lint brush (mine is actually an automatic razor cleaner thingy I stole from Hubs!) help too.
    • (Extra bonus: white vinegar also works to descale teakettles...I do this about 3 or 4 times a year on mine!)
  • Keep your iron cleaned (outside).  It happens - a yucky poly blend something melts to the footplate, a years' worth of scraping plastic pin heads, starch and all manner of sticky gluey gunk gets built up on the footplate.  (That's the bit that is hot)  There are commercial iron cleaners out there, but my package I bought years back has never been opened!  
    • The best way to deal with yucky gunk is to wipe it off immediately with a damp cloth - before it becomes a major problem.  But if you're like me, you'll leave it 'until tomorrow'....until it just gets too bad to deal with any more! 
    • Really crusty gunk can be scrubbed off with salt.  Dampen a rag, and liberally sprinkle salt over it, and run the iron back and forth over the damp, salty rag.  For really yucky stuff, you (and by 'you', I mean 'I') may need to turn the iron over and really get in there with the rag-and-salt.  
    • A magic eraser can help for stubborn spots.  For really REALLY bad spots, I have been known to use a very fine steel wool....but I would use this option sparingly, and with great caution!
Coming soon:  Ironing and Ironing Accessories

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Melia's Victorian 'Steampunk' Gown - Update

As of last night, Melia's gown only needs a waistband, sleeves, buttons, and the last bits of trim, and it is done!  We busted out a bodice in short order - for which I'm grateful...that gives me hope that if mine goes as quickly, I have a bit of hope that I can get my bodice done in time!

Since we had her all trussed up in a corset for the bodice fitting, I wanted to throw on the skirts and get a sense of what it's going to look like on a 'real' body....

The black overskirt is only pinned in place, and is a bit saggy in the back due to a collapsed bustle piece (will be fixed before the day!), and everything needs to be hit with an iron, but all in all, I'm really happy about how everything turned out!

I'm really kind of enamored of the scallops on the over skirt - they were kind of a pain, but completely worth it in the end.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Much-belated post RE: Loose Gown

I spent the vast majority of  the summer of 2010 doing appliqué and couching on HRMs loose gown, somewhat loosely based on an extant piece.  At the time, I was requested not to blog about it, and in the intervening years, have managed to lose track of the few pictures I did take.

However, thanks to the power of social media and Crystal prompting me to are some pics of the Gown of Doom.  I have never, ever spent that much time on any one piece, and I honestly hope to never do so again!  (Although, I do have to say, I am kind of chuffed that I actually did it!)

(It's the red velvet gown worn by HRM on the left)

Each of those black strips is applique, and 3 rows of gold couching - the middle section being looped - the texture is pretty cool, if I do say so myself!  Her sleeves are also pinked.
It's a bit easier to see the loopy texture in this pic....
There are 3 (or 4?? I forget now...) large-scale applique and-couching patterns around the hem of the skirt

All pictures courtesy of Jason Connor.

Steampunk Masked Ball - some small progress made

I seem to be continuously misplacing my mojo - and I think my sewing machines are in on it.  (Hang in there little buddies...I'll take you in for a service as soon as this project is over!!)

It took all evening yesterday to finish up the last little bits of the skirts - I honestly thought I only had an hour - maybe two, tops to get the skirts completely done, but oh how wrong I was! 

I spent the vast majority of the evening finishing up what Melia calls her 'saddlebags' - an extra bit of flouncy stuff on top of her black overskirt.  Here's Melias skirts without the 'saddlebags' - I'll post an update after Bertha has changed back into Melia's clothes!

My skirts are finally, finally truly to the point where all I need to do is a smidgeon of handsewing at the waistband, and I can call it good:  (I opted to put the ruffle on the waterfall skirt - a large portion of what took so dang long!  The first attempt was ripped off, and the second batch of ruffles didn't turn out like the first set, so needed a lot of fiddling to get them looking similar.  Many thanks to Melia for persevering through all that unpicking, on something that's not even her gown!!

I've more or less settled on coat sleeves (not too tight, but not loose like bishop or pagoda), probably either a wrist length with turned back cuff, or a 3/4 sleeve with a small bell or turnback.  Still kind of TBD.

I'm pretty set on doing a lower square neckline (which I suppose I could fill in if occasion demands, or heck, even make a new bodice) - but what I am completely stumped as to how I ought to do the bottom of the bodice.  Of the extant gowns I've been using for inspiration, it seems to be pretty split right down the middle as to whether the bodice is straight across the front, or various types of pointy*.  The exception to is this one, that has a nifty flared gore thing going on.  I know how to handle a pointy-type bodice (the skirts just go under the bodice, right?!), but what about the flat-across-the-front kind?  Same deal?  What about gap-page at the waist??

*Gah!  One of the gowns I'm using for reference is no longer online!!

Monday, October 8, 2012


I had forgotten I drew the “Blood, Sweat & Tears” and set it to post about a year ago, but I think it never did!  But how very appropriate!  I’ve pricked my finger and bled on more things than I care to count.

When I first heard of the ‘saliva solution’ to get blood out, I scoffed; but then I eventually pricked my finger and bled on a white piece.  I panicked for a moment, but the my analytical mind took over and I thought to myself “why, what a perfect opportunity to test out this whole old wives tale about saliva taking out blood stains’ thing.”  And wouldn’t you know, it worked!  Really well!

Getting blood out
-The sooner, the better!
-Only your OWN saliva works.  Something about enzymes or something biologically technical like that.
-Use just enough to wet the stain….don’t spit all over the fabric.  Unless you really want to……
-Make sure you didn’t just drink a big glass of soda or punch, or just ate a piece of chocolate – this will defeat the whole purpose of taking stains out.  (Ask me how I know about this one……)  If you’re unsure, give your mouth a quick rinse with plain water.
-You can spit on a small wad of thread clippings and rub into the stain.
-Saturate a threaded needle; pass the saturated thread through the center of the stain a few times, re-wetting as needed.  (This is my favorite method for smaller spots!)

One must bleed for a project before it is considered “complete”

blood sweat tears

Some thoughts RE: Body & Costuming

1) Sewing can be physically demanding - bending, sitting, then standing repeatedly, folding, crouching....I had forgotten how hard it can sometimes be. (Especially after a year-long sabbatical -- I am positively aching right now.  But that also could be due to the fact that my body has decided that I have ridden the 20's train for far too long, and it is high time for me to start to feel my age.)

2) I almost always feel better about my body when I am in garb/costume - it makes a world of difference wearing things that are tailored.  This is a lesson I ought to bring into my every day wardrobe, but thus far, have been too afraid to do.

3) Conversely, most of my body issues are wrapped up in costuming, rather than every-day clothing.  Yeah, I hate my arms, but with my daily standbys of stretchy cotton wraps and cardigans and hoodies, who cares?  Fitted, non-stretch silk sleeves.....another matter altogether.  Flabby tummy and fitted cotehardie?  Only  when desperately cold/muddy/lazy.

4)Yet all the while, most of my (sporadic) weight loss*  has been at least indirectly related to wanting to look better in costume or being thin enough to be able to 'pull off' a particular thing without looking hideous and/or laughable.

*and eventual re-gain, plus more

Steampunk Masked Ball: Noelle's Gown


It's less than a week away!

The good news is, both Melia and I both have underpinnings completely done (save for the odd button/hook), and both of our skirt ensembles are within a hairs breadth of being completed.  (leaving bodices & hats left to do...)

I originally was going to base my gown on an extant Victorian gown that was made to resemble an 18th c riding outfit.  It was perfect - I was going to do a 'quail' themed hunting outfit (I even had the perfect accessory for it courtesy of the ever-amazing Holly of Sable Greyhound), cute, right??  I even had the fabric in my stash......or so I thought.  After figuring out the concept, and getting really really excited about it, I found out I was short about 2 yards of brown velvet.  I went to EVERY fabric store within 30 miles, and not a single shred of brown velvet to be seen!

I hemmed and hawed and finally decided to use up the plummy purple silk that has been swimming around in my fabric stash for ages.  The problem is, I couldn't settle on exactly what I was going to do, so this gown is kind of a mish-mash of different gowns I have seen and liked, but oh boy, it's been a struggle!

Unlike Melia's gown, I didn't have a specific extant gown or period illustration we were (at least loosely) inspired by, which usually feels like I have more creative licence.  However, I just could not make up my mind about pretty much anything!

To make matters worse, my sewing machine has had some pretty epic tension/bobbin art issues - making everything more aggravating than it ought to be.

Yet again, my costume closet has come in quite handy, and a corset and bustle were available for my gown.  (Hurrah!)  Out of the bustle options I had available, I had an elliptical (so more proto-bustle, than actual bustle-bustle), and a much later lobster tail bustle.  I decided to go with the elliptical, because, yanno....bigger is better?

Between being extremely undecided, fighting with my sewing machine, and trying to figure out the brave new(ish) world of Victorian era clothing, the whole project is taking a bit longer than I would have anticipated, but all in all, I am pretty dang stoked.  

I used TV202 for the petticoat, and it went fairly smoothly, although  I struggled with the hem mightily - so I hope it works out in the end!  

Were I to do it again, I would make the gathers much less full....but I was not about to re-do them after the 6th time messing around with the hem!

I used the same skirt pattern,  TV202 for the skirt.  Which would have been ok, except the back panel was about 6" or so too wide for my fabric, and I made the unfortunate decision to not piece the back.  I really ought to have pieced the back....lesson learned - don't make big decisions late at night after a long day of sewing!

I'm also not entirely sure I am enamored of the hemline.  It seems to dip up in the front too dramatically, instead of being flat across the front, and then gracefully curve 'round to the back....but as I have not actually put it on yet, that remains to be seen.  If I really, really hate it, I can unpick the ruffle, and mask the skirt hemline by moving the ruffle down a smidge in the front.

I really wish I had make some tucks in the back like this extant gown (which may have made up for some of the loss of width!) - but I guess that is something to keep in mind if I ever do another one!

Which leads me to the trim for this gown....Melia found an extant gown that had some lovely ruched fabric trim that I just kind of fell in love with.  The bad news is, to do exactly the treatment that gown had would take far too long (it's all box pleated and frayed to a beautiful fringe finish) - but it got me thinking of using a fabric trim, rather than selling off one of my kidneys to go to the fabric store and rustle up some trim options.  The good news for me is, I had some black silk taffeta left over from a previous project that would go smashingly with what was turning into a half-mourning gown.  (Purple was a popular color for half mourning, so black trim is incredibly appropriate!)

Right now, I am trying to decide if I am going to put trim of the waterfall portion of the overskirt - if I leave it, it looks like I forgot to put trim on it, if I put it on, there would be stitching showing on the black side so....decisions, decisions!

I've spent the vast majority (ok, ALL) of my budget on hat fripperies and some insanely-priced buttons that were far too perfect to pass up.  (seriously, by far the most expensive buttons I've used, ever - and the most pricey item not from the stash!)

 And speaking of the hat.....I have (what I think) is a pretty cool trick up my sleeve to make the hat extra-special.  I am actually kind of ridiculously excited about moving on to the hat so I can see if my super seekrit idea will actually work or not!

I'm really struggling with how to work all the bodice/skirt pieces together, and I'm desperately trying to decide what kind of sleeves to do.  (Suggestions so welcome, btw.....)  I guess I have until this afternoon to come up with some sort of a plan......