21st Century

Secret Cinema and Sewing Experiments

On my latest trip to London I attended my first Secret Cinema, an immersive film experience. While it isn’t so secret anymore (they used to not tell you the movie until you arrived), it’s still a very fun, very detailed evening out. Essentially Secret Cinema creates an environment based on a film, gives its attendees “characters” and provides a sort of LARP lite immersion before you watch the event’s film. When I found out they would be screening Blade Runner, well, I was there.

I received my character brief and set to figuring out what exactly it meant and what I should wear.

 

Upon reading more about the Job Title: Professional Friend, it became clear to me that I was a “basic pleasure model” similar to the replicant Pris. So what would an overweight, middle aged sexbot wear, I wondered?

Originally, I was going to wear my black lace fetish dress but then I thought, “Why aren’t I making a new outfit like I do for every event? Don’t be cheap and lazy!” So I set out to figure something that would be kind of spacey and future but still wearable by me.

I decided to experiment and try something I’d never done, sew with scuba. I really stay away from unusual fabrics but my idea seemed simple enough and I had a backup plan (the fetish dress). I went out looking at my retail options but ultimately found my fabric online from Fashion Fabrics Club. I found a neoprene that is black on one side and white on the other. So I decided to do a kind of 60s space take by sewing a color blocked mini dress.

I chose the trusty New Look 6889 as my pattern. It has the lines I needed and it is very fast and easy. I read up on sewing scuba / neoprene, which seemed pretty straightforward and similar to sewing most knits (use a new ball point needle). What I did not realize is that scuba fabric and neoprene, while similar in look, are not the same. Scuba is a polyester double knit fashion fabric. Neoprene has a foam core between the layers of double knit. The fabric I bought had a very thin core but it was there. That core also can make neoprene more hot to wear.

The neoprene was very easy to sew but not forgiving. It shows stitch marks but they do basically come out. Like all knits you need to make sure that you don’t stretch while you sew. I was also concerned the neoprene might snag on my feed dogs but I didn’t have an issue.

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The dress on top of other things that hang out on my dress form.

Originally I was going to leave all my edges raw but I am bad at cutting a straight line so I turned everything over and did a narrow hem. I also originally planned on making the dress more like a checkerboard so the back was the reverse of the front. I cut out my pieces incorrectly so the left side was black and the right side was white — not what I intended but it worked just fine.

To accessorize, I purchased a pink holographic harness from Apatico. I got a ton of compliments on the harness at the event and one of the immersion actors even tried to barter it off me. I turned her down.

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Zhora and her raincoat

As part of the immersion we were are told repeatedly to bring umbrellas, raincoats and to wear flat shoes due to “LA’s persistent acid rain”. This is because they actually made it rain, repeatedly, inside the immersion. I really wanted a clear raincoat like Zhora’s but I couldn’t find one in my size. I figured I’d try to make that too.

Not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I decided to make a cape to avoid setting sleeves made out of vinyl. I already had a teflon presser foot. I bought heavy duty needles and set to work.

I was shocked how easy it was to sew the vinyl together. It did not get torn up by the feed dogs. I did have to be a little careful that the vinyl did not stick to the metal plate though. It started off really great! Then I started trying to topstitch my seams and it started going wrong. I put it on. The cape flared out in a really weird way. It could have been a cool effect but I wasn’t buying it. Between the topstitch issues, the weird fit and the fact that I was trying to do this at the 11th hour, I gave up. I bought a super cute white vinyl raincoat on Amazon (it’s in the 1st photo on the dress form) instead.

IMG_8983As it turned out, London had some freaky weather while I was visiting. The day of Secret Cinema it was almost 80 degrees! Londoners were dying and it definitely was not a day for a vinyl raincoat. I was both glad I didn’t suffer through trying to make the clear one and annoyed that it was too hot to wear my white one. One of my friends was cast as a private detective and bought a super cute trench coat to wear. It was too hot for that as well.

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I bought a light up clear umbrella when I arrived on the site and boy did I need it. They were not kidding about the acid rain! It “rained” about every 15 minutes and it was not a light sprinkling. There were food stalls surrounding the rainy area and you could eat noodles barely shaded from the rain just like Deckard did in the film. A couple of times I was caught without my umbrella up and my neoprene dress turned out to be the right choice because rather than being soaked the rain just rolled off! We also had drinks in The Snake Pit after being let in the backdoor by Zhora herself.

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I had a great time during my trip to 2019 Los Angeles. That’s next year! Wow.

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2017 in Review

It’s the last day of the year so that means it’s time to recap my sewing adventures from 2017. I probably should have split this into more than one post. I didn’t realize exactly how much I actually managed to sew until I was well into compiling this recap. Some items don’t have photos nor did some end up getting a blog post (until this one).

All in all, 2017 was ok but I didn’t get as much done was I had hoped in terms of historical sewing. I had planned on making at least one new Victorian gown. Still, I had some great makes and I also now have a whole weekend’s worth of Regency. My 2018 to sew list is very long. We’ll just have to see how it goes!

Without further ado….2017….

I tried to get better at knits and made three shirts from the Montlake Tee from Straight Stitch Designs.img_2139img_2121

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The 3rd tee was a present for my mom

I made two shirts from Simplicity 3852 as Christmas presents for my uncle. I have a photo from the one I made as a late 2016 present (I sewed it in January 2017) but I don’t have a picture of the one I made on time for 2017. Even worse, my uncle was at my house on Christmas morning! How missed getting a photo I’ll never know!img_2154

A patriotic pantsuit from Simplicity 5556 circa 1973.img_2162

Two more versions of Simplicity 1577 from 1956.

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a UFO of black lace and pleather

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a Poison themed Housewitch dress

A groovy maxi dress from 70s era McCalls 5337.IMG_3928

A couple of bowties from a 1970s Kwik Sew patternIMG_725218235921_10154532898787337_567025972_o

Three different dresses / cosplays from McCalls 2276, an 80s does 20s pattern.

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A day dress for the jazz age lawn party

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A 20s themed Slytherin dress based on fan art

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A jazz age take on Birdperson from Rick and Morty

 

I made, but did not blog about, a titanic era day time outfit made from TVE 45 – 1911 Narrow Panel BlouseTVE 30 – Narrow Panel Skirt and a remade church lady hat. While I successfully wore this outfit to a Titanic themed escape room, and while we successfully escaped the sinking ship before the time was up, this outfit has issues. I need to revisit and potentially remake it. I didn’t have enough time to let the fabric settle before hemming so fixing that would be a big improvement at the very least.IMG_3999IMG_4004IMG_4005

A Flamingo dress from Simplicity 4478 from 1962.IMG_5488

New daytime sleeves to take my purple Regency dress to half mourning.IMG_5474

A brand new Regency dress ensemble, including dress, shawl, reticule and fixed turban.IMG_5915IMG_5522IMG_5536

A Regency / 18th Century chemise and 18th Century petticoat. My stays were made by the very talented Anthony Canney / House of Canney.IMG_5762

A music dress from Simplicity 1427, View 2 from 1955.IMG_7197

This year’s robe from Simplicity 8510 from 1969.IMG_2227IMG_2228

A “science” housedress from a 1960s nightgown pattern — I don’t have the pattern number handy!IMG_6400IMG_6401

Wizard Robes for my mom!IMG_7536IMG_7535

Skirts for friendsIMG_4557IMG_4559

I finally finished putting the finishing stitches on my Edwardian safari outfit. The majority of it was sewn and worn a few years ago but I never finished the jacket. I also wore another House of Canney creation — a proper S Curve Corset — for the 1st time.IMG_7044

I also remade my Mod Christmas Dress from 2016 into a mod Disney dress from Costume College.IMG_5774

Finally I made Christmas stockings for our new pup Ollivander and our first time Christmas visitor, my Uncle Ronnie. We had seven stockings on the rail this year! A Santa record!IMG_7789And that brings us to the end of 2017!

I wish you all the best and all the luck in 2018!

 

It’s not easy knitting green

2017 was quite a year, mostly due to the terrible things going on in American politics. But  one (kinda sorta) momentous thing occurred, I finally finished a sweater that I started in 2013!

I give you my completed Owl Sweater by Kate Davies!IMG_7673

I also give you my husband, sneaking in on my project selfies!

In preparation for doing this blog post I looked up exactly when I bought the yarn for this project. I purchased the original skeins of Brava Bulky in the color way Dublin in 2013. I ran out of yarn at some point and had to buy more in 2015 (sadly causing a somewhat noticeable dye lot shift). After finishing the actual knitting, it took me 2016 and most of 2017 to sew on all the button owl eyes. This is probably the longest it has taken me to knit a sweater so far. I have several UFOs in my yarn closet though that could potentially break that record.

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I don’t understand why this sweater took so long. It is knit bottom up, in the round. The only “complicated” part is the cables that make the owls. The cables aren’t really that hard either but they are a bit time consuming. I guess it was because I only worked on this when it was cold in Atlanta, which is often a very short amount of time.

I finally finished sewing on all the button eyes while visiting my mom over Thanksgiving. I wore the sweater for the 1st time when I joined her at her knitting group at the yarn shop Three Bags Full. Since I don’t knit that much anymore — and still have quite a yarn stash from when I was always knitting — I’ve stayed away from yarn shops. Three Bags Full is a lovely place though! So many tempting yarns.

Sitting and chatting and watching everyone knitting really made me want to get a new project on. I wanted a new knit hat to go with one of my winter coats so I was convinced to buy some yarn to make the Dustland Hat by Stephen West. Normally I don’t really go for these elongated watch cap type hats. I am more a beret person. There was a sample of this hat in the shop so I tried it on. It looked cute and I was told it was a fast knit so I gave it a go. I don’t remember what yarn I bought — but it is really nice. I need to ask my mom to find out what it was!

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I knit this thing in about a week. I made some major mistakes when I stopped paying attention to the pattern and starting actually watching the remake of The A-Team. I’ve been wearing this hat pretty much non-stop since the beginning of December. We keep our house pretty cold and this hat is nice and warm. It also really covers up a bad or unwashed hair day. I call it my dirty hippie hat. I already have 2 friends who want one.

After finishing both the hat and the sweater we had a crazy experience in Atlanta, snow in December! We got maybe 4 or 5 inches but some areas got even more. Most of it melted pretty quickly and was gone by the time we left the house the next day but our neighbors made a snowman and I got a much better photo op!

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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.