21st Century

Dragon con 2017 Wrap Up

Wow. It’s November. How did that happen?

I haven’t made a new post in a while because, well, I’ve been busy in the world! But here I am trying to catch you up on my goings on.

Dragoncon 2017 was once again the giant party known as “Nerdy Gras”. Since I have been so crazy busy with real life stuff I set my sewing goals sort of low by only committing to two new outfits. In a strange turn of events, they both ended up being 1920s style. While I still don’t think this is the proper era for me, I’m not as scared of it as I used to be. I’ve learned to “embrace the frump” as it were and just go for it.

My first outfit was based on this Retro Hogwarts fan art by Savannah Alexandra Art:17973657_1305274152919865_4067429283595783083_o

I once again used my trusty 1980s 2276 McCalls for this dress. The pattern already had the collar style I needed.

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I accessorized with a Slytherin head girl pin from Universal Studios, an Automatic Honey brooch, my trust Broomrider hat from Blonde Swan hats and a black wig. I generally hate wearing wigs, especially with hats, but I figured that the wig would really help me look closer to the original art. I also now have a perfect wig if I even want to cosplay a vulcan. The green tones are a little bit shifted from the original drawing but I got lucky finding that green stripe and the purple both on sale from Fashion Fabrics Club.

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My cohort Megan’s Gryffindor outfit was also based on Savannah’s art. We wore these house outfits to run the tea dueling tournament. What is tea dueling? Well, to fully explain that would take another whole post but the short answer is that it is a silly parlor sport originally invented by a couple of British Steampunk gentlemen. I am the founder of the American Tea Dueling Society and we have been running a very popular tournament at DragonCon for the last four years.

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In this year’s final we had the 2016 tournament winner pitted against a complete newcomer to the sport.

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In the end though, newcomer Buttercup from the Power Puff Girls was the tournament winner.

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As for the rest of my DragonCon silliness, I went all out in my other cosplay, Birdperson from Rick and Morty.

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Once again I went for a 1920s spin on the character. I had kind of crazy socialite in mind when I was thinking about this cosplay. I bought all of my feathers from Motherplucker when I was in LA for Costume College. I used McCalls 2276 yet again.DSC_1734

All the feather elements except for the trim on the cape are made as separate pieces so I can wear them with different outfits. Sadly, my puppy ate those boots I was wearing right after Dragoncon. Good thing I thought they were kind of uncomfortable. While I see the 1920s in this outfit I don’t think the vibe is a strong as it could be. But still, who cares, I’m Birdperson!

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Bow Tie Bonanza

815r7ax5JnL._SY550_I’ve been playing around with another 70s patterns. This time it’s Kwik Sew 352, Tie Variations. I’ve been been making bow ties. I wanted to make my husband a bow tie or two, specifically for him to wear to an upcoming Gatsby picnic. Due to the vintage of this pattern I was wondering what the finished look of the bow tie would be. Would it be like a 70s prom tie or something a bit more timeless?

IMG_4063My initial tie was a bit too wide so I’ve taken a greater seam allowance. Opting to top stitch was really a mistake. I was also kind of stumped on what stiffener to use. On the first attempt I used sew-in interfacing that ended up being too heavy and stiff. My second with no interfacing and starch was not stiff enough. I did a little googling around and found this helpful blog post which suggested lining with muslin. That seemed too do the trick! The third time was the charm.

Despite having sewn a bow tie, I didn’t know how to tie one. I looked around at several tutorials but they all seemed kind of confusing. I found one that after an extensive step by step how to rounded out the tutorial by declaring that if anything was confusing just to remember that the most common knot used for bow ties is the same as the one you use to tie a shoe. Really? So I went through all of that when all I needed to know was “tie in bow”? Fucking hell people. No wonder the clip on ones became popular.

18235921_10154532898787337_567025972_oWhen I posted my first attempt photo on Facebook, a friend from my Chicago days declared that he would be proud to wear said tie. So I sent him my 3rd, perfecting attempt. Looking dapper, Alan!

Patriotic Protest Pantsuit

Ever since I got into sewing with vintage patterns I’ve been fascinated with the tunic pantsuits that seemed to be a part of every casual wear pattern in the 70s. I was born in 1973 and while I don’t exactly remember these garments from my childhood, they can be found all over my family photos and media from my toddler years. img_6576I’ve had a plan to sew my own version just for kicks for at least a year and a half. I decided to use Simplicity 5556, also from 1973, after making two versions of the dress from that pattern. Somewhere along the line I acquired a huge and cheap piece of blue and white double knit perfect for this project. I just needed to get around to sewing it.

In the run up to the election I was tentatively swept up in “pantsuit fever”. Despited my dearest hopes, I had my misgivings on how the election would really go. I considered trying to sew the pantsuit in time for Election Day. It would have been a crush but I could have done it. A friend suggested that I could wait and have it ready for The Inauguration. Since I was worried how I would feel if I burned the oil and it all went pear shaped, I took her suggestion.

And, as we know all now, it most certainly went pear shaped.

As soon as the Women’s March was announced, I considered going to Washington DC. In the end, I stayed and marched in Atlanta with old and dear friends who happened to be in town for the American Library Association convention. This was the time to make my pantsuit.

Since I had used part of the pattern before I felt like I had a decent chance of success without a mockup. I was a little concerned about the fit of the pants though. I measured my rise versus that of the pattern. It seemed like it would work and the tunic would come to the tops of my thighs anyway.img_2159It went together pretty quickly but it was looking pretty blah. I decided it needed a little jazz so I used my newly learned double needle trick to topstitch the neckline, all the hems and the tie belt with red thread. img_2160The pattern suggested that you could add a crease to the pants. I thought this would help tailor my look. To really accentuate the crease, and make life easier after washing, I sewed the pleat in, also in red. The only real problem was that somehow I managed to get one leg an inch shorter than the other! I’m not really sure how that happened. Maybe I am out of alignment these days? I’ve never noticed this on any other garments though. How odd. I had to make do since I didn’t quite have the extra inch to spare on the shorter leg. See if you can guess which one it was!img_2163In the end I wore my pantsuit with my 1976 bicentennial liberty bell pimp chain and a button I received with an Etsy purchase the day before the march. It was tucked in with a vintage pattern purchase. The button had clearly seen better days and its original pinback had been replaced with a safety pin. It reads “I Support America”. When I found it in my package, I really did not know what spirit the button was sent in but I took at as an omen and wore it.img_2208The day of the march it poured. We had scary storms and thunder so intense it knocked pictures off my neighbors’ walls. The start of the march was pushed back by 30 minutes. I debated on wearing my pantsuit in the pouring rain. I certainly gave up on any effort with my hair. I pushed the meetup time with my friends back and somehow, we managed to avoid the worst of the rain. Then the rain stopped. It was gray but we were ready. The estimate was 60,000 people marching, many of whom had come in the worst of the weather to get there. I certainly don’t blame people for not being sure. The storms that morning were downright frightening. I can only image how many people we might have had on a bright sunny day.img_2162I think in some ways my bling, button and pantsuit kind of confused my fellow marchers. I didn’t have a pink pussy hat or a protest sign. I could see how my oddly aggressive groovy patriotic garb might not “read”. Even if it didn’t resonate for others, it reminded me of everything that was a new step forward in 1973, everyone who had fought before and how we have to keep fighting. It was also really comfortable. Never hurts to have a comfy outfit for a protest!

As great as the Women’s March was, it was only one event. The hard work of fighting for and keeping rights was and is on going and is done generally without regard to glamour. But if you can make it a little glamorous by marching with friends in a handmade double knit pantsuit, it’s just that much better.

Setsubun Festival in Kyoto

On our current trip to Japan (we are in Tokyo for a few more days) we were in Kyoto for Setsubun, the day before the beginning of Spring in Japan. This holiday is always celebrated on February 3rd and is related to the Lunar New Year although Japan generally celebrates the New Year on the western calendar.

Setsubun is all about getting rid of the evils of the previous year and loading up on new luck for the coming year. Events are held at Shinto shrines all over Japan. The spot to be in Kyoto seemed to be at Yasaka Shrine (also a big tourist spot) so we headed there.

The throwing and eating of roasted soybeans is a central feature of Setsubun. At appointed times, priests, local maiko from Gion and probably some special civic guests get on the shrine’s stage and throw envelopes of beans into the assembled crowd. You eat one bean for each year of your age plus one in order to assure good luck for the year. img_2340

img_2334When we got to the shrine were was a good crowd. People were buying good luck amulets and other offerings. We thought you could only get beans buy catching them but it also turns out you could make a donation and buy yourself some luck for 300 yen ($3ish). In addition to the beans you got a kind of raffle ticket. img_2333You took the raffle ticket to another station and pulled out a number that corresponded to prizes that were being given out at yet another tent. Everyone won something.

img_2335Brownlee and I each bought two envelopes of beans so we got two prizes. I was the big winner with my small bottle of Cap Ace sake and insulated lunch bag. Brownlee won a can of Cocktail Friend (some of juice mixer) and a small box of plastic wrap! They even put your prizes in cute carrier bags featuring an illustration of a maiko tossing the beans.img_2338After receiving our prizes we queued up for the bean throwing. Three maiko did a lovely set of dances while accompanied by three geisha on shamisen before the tossing began. Once the beans were in the air, things got pretty rough (for Japan). I almost had my glasses knocked off. Older Japanese are pretty serious about grabbing their luck! We both managed to catch an envelope of beans. Mine literally hit me in the face.img_2347After all beans were thrown, we found a spot to sit down. We made ourselves little cocktails from our prizes and consumed our luck. Hoping for the best in the Year of the Rooster.

 

Last Sew, First Sew

While it’s kind of hard for me to believe, we’re almost done with the first month of 2017. I’ve already completed a couple of simple projects so here they are.

My last sew of 2016 was another Simplicity 2154. I cut this out before Christmas but didn’t manage to get it sewn. I finished it and also wore it on New Year’s Eve. The fabric is a cute cotton lawn type from Joann.

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In 2017, I’m continuing my work on understanding knits. I decided to take a private lesson with Mary Abreu of Confessions of a Craft Addict. Mary came over and together we worked on the Montlake Tee from Straight Stitch Designs.

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Here’s my first attempt. It looks kind of frumpy and that is not helped by the fact that I am braless in this photo. I can’t say I was super excited abut how this pattern fits. That was supposed to be an elbow length sleeve for example. But I learned a lot of things! For example, Mary taught me about reinforcing the shoulder seams with fusible interfacing or clear elastic. This keeps your shoulder seams from pulling and drooping as you wear the shirt.

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We also talked about neckline finishes. This one got a little wonky but it still looks pretty decent.

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Finally we talked and sewed with the magic double needle. Double needle topstitching is just the best thing. It works very easily on my Bernina 710 and gives a great finish. I just need to be sure that I have two spools of whatever color thread I want to use. My machine can also accommodate triple needle stitching and using the multiple needles for decorative stitches. I want to experiment more with these sometime.

Later that evening, I decided to go ahead and knock out another Montlake tee while the new techniques were fresh in my mind. I used a small knit remnant that I had. Since my piece of fabric was small, it dictated the length of the shirt. I also went down a size in the shoulders and bust.

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I managed to improve my neckline finish on the 2nd go.

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This version has a cleaner look although I’m still not sure the fit is where I’d ideally want it. I made both shirts from knits that were heavier than what I would normally prefer if I bought a tee shirt. I prefer my knits quite thin. This could have an effect on my perceptions also.

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I wore the tee the next day with my dress slacks from Talbots and my new flats from B.A.I.T.

In addition to these tee shirts, I made my Uncle’s Christmas present, another “Hawaiian” shirt from Simplicity 3852. This is my 3rd time making him this shirt. It’s kind of a tradition now.

img_2154img_2155The fabric is a premium quilting cotton from Joann. It reminds me of illustrations by Ernst Haeckel. img_2156

I also finished a flannel robe from vintage Simplicity 8510 but I don’t have a photo of it. I really like that robe pattern. I am thinking of doing a version in Liberty lawn for the summertime.

 

 

2016 Sewing Roundup, Part 2: Modern, Historical and Costuming

NOTE — I just found this post languishing in drafts! I wonder what it was doing there or if I missed something? Either way, it’s beyond time to post it!

I’ve already detailed all of my vintage sewing in Part 1 so now here is the rest of what came off the stitch plate.

All of my sewing with vintage half sized patterns has continued to disenchant me with modern patterns. But I did use a few in 2016. One was a Burda for the kid’s jacket from vintage fabric that I already mentioned in Part 1. The others were….

Weekend Doris Dress by The Lazy Seamstress (coincidently I’m wearing the tunic and the same leggings from Walmart right now. I was mixed on this pattern but it is comfy.weekend doris selfie        Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline StudiosIMG_9547 A matching shirt for Uno from a tutorial by Mimi and TaraFullSizeRenderI also finished this UFO from 2015, another dress from New Look 6889 (a personal favorite pattern.cowgirl dress and fabric detailsOn the historical front, I didn’t get anywhere close to the 11+ dresses and garments on my 2016 to do wish list. That’s not really a surprise but I thought I might make at least one new Victorian gown. I finally made a chemise from Truly Victorian 102 to give me a complete set of Victorian underwear.chemise 2I also made a new TV 101 to replace my original. FullSizeRenderAfter that I switched gears and started sewing a Regency wardrobe. This was a new era for me and I felt really daunted by it.

First I made a day dress from Laughing Moon 126 and beretIMG_0494An evening dress from the same pattern using a vintage sari.IMG_0704And a bonnet hackimg_1200I played with making a new Victorian bodice but it didn’t come together. At least one new Victorian gown is on the decks for 2017. I’m over due to update that era in my wardrobe!

On the pure costuming front, I made wizard robes for my niece and nephew. That was a Christmas surprise!img_2051

A pretty good year I would say!

 

 

Christmas Sneaking! aka Wizard Robes

In the run up to Christmas, when we were all exchanging wish lists and making inquiries, I found out that my sister-in-law had begun reading Harry Potter to my niece, age 8. My nephew, age 5, while a little young for the series, had heard some of the tales and demanded to hear more. We were told that both were thrilled with all things Hogwarts and that a little magic under the tree would be very appreciated. Since, I’m sort of known for my Wizard Robes, I decided that it was only logical that I sew wizard robes for my niece and nephew for Christmas.

I was able to make both robes from two different colors of very similar poly satin from my stash. It’s not really kid friendly fabric but I figured that by the time the robes are totally destroyed they will either have outgrown them and need new ones, or perhaps ceased to care about Hogwarts (unlikely). I also used some metallic trim that I think I got at a yard sale? Who knows, but again, stuff that was perfect for this project and nothing else.

I used the kid sized version of the Simplicity pattern I used for my robes. This pattern sews very fast but is fabric intensive. img_1992Somewhere along the line, I decided that if was making wizard robes, then I was going all the way and having them delivered via Owl Post. I wrapped the robes in cut up brown paper grocery bags and tied them with string. I was very careful to make sure that the bags had no logos or any printing on them anywhere in order not to break the illusion. I actually argued with my mom on the necessity of this!img_2038After Christmas dinner, I slipped outside and left the two packages on the walk. I made a bunch of random noises on my phone from the kitchen. At that point, my husband, who was in on the ploy, said he thought he heard something at the door. My sister-in-law, who was not fully clued in, brushed him off but he convinced her and the kids to go check. They brought in the packages and immediately opened them while vibrating with glee and delight. img_2040They were all completely surprised! I played along and never said anything about making the robes, although all the adults knew. I think that my niece might have figured part of it out because later I was handed a “letter” via owl post from the headmaster saying that I would be going to Hogwarts. After that, I was handed another letter with my shopping list, which was copied directly from the book. img_2051My husband got a letter saying that he was only a muggle! img_2069Even a few days later my nephew was still talking about how mysterious it all was and the robes were still being worn all day. +10 to Slytherin (that’s where I’m always sorted)!img_2045