Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Silicon Valley Comic Con!

Let's just wrap up all unfinished, lingering costumes and their respective blog entries, shall we? SVCC was two months ago, and I never got around to blogging my costumes from that, either.

[pc: Edwin Fabian]

I pretty much decided right from the start that I absolutely HAD to go to the first ever Silicon Valley Comic Con. The only other big convention I've ever been to was the San Diego Comic Con, and that was where the cosplay bug first bit me, so I was pretty thrilled that there was finally going to be a big con up in the Bay Area. And then I found out that Nathan Fillion was going to be there, and that was that, because I seriously love Firefly like no other. So the obvious thing to do was to make the Browncoat that I've been wanting ever since I first saw the show.

I started with my bodice sloper from Lynda Maynard's class at Canada College and added in a yoke, then Frankensteined it together with the collar and front of Simplicity 2895. It turned out pretty well, considering there's no tailoring to speak of in the collar and lapels, but it's definitely a costume coat. It's too flimsy-feeling to be real outerwear, but that was a good thing since it was ridiculously warm in the San Jose Convention Center. Mr. Cation and I made the questionable decision to bring SHB along (baby's first con! And wearing the Blue Sun shirt I made for him, except that it was more of a 3/4-sleeve crop top since he's grown a lot in the last half-year) so that he could be exposed to the germs of 30,000 other, I mean the wonders of geeky fandom early in his life.

I had grand plans to make or thrift Captain Malcolm Reynolds' classic burgundy button-down shirt, too, but that never happened. Instead, I settled for wearing my hand-painted Serenity shirt with khaki tightpants.

I found a Kaylee at the con! Also, this is the only picture I have of me wearing the coat, since shortly thereafter it became way too warm. 

Not a bad likeness, considering that I didn't pay hundreds for a leather hide, right? 

It was so fun being at a big con with all sorts of excited geeks and cool art and merchandise in the exhibit hall, and of course getting to see Nathan Fillion in his panel. He was funny and self-deprecating and had fantastic quips, and was wonderfully patient with people who were nervous and overly excited to ask questions. We didn't feel like paying almost $200 for a photo op/autograph, though, so that's as close as we got to him.

Fabric: A thrifted JC Penney faux-suede curtain panel as my fashion fabric, pieces of a thrifted leather skirt (leftover from my aviator hat) for the cuffs, and part of a thrifted cat-print bed sheet for the underlining. I think Malcolm Reynolds would totally have been on board with thrifting, and cats would definitely be Browncoats and not Alliance, right?

Inside-out: SHB is slightly obsessed with cats so he had to find and point out to me all the cats on the underlining.

Facing tacked to the underlining, with frolicking cats.

I almost forgot to put in a side seam slit like the original coat. 

I used grosgrain ribbon as my hem tape. I'm considering threading a chain or something into the bottom hem to help it hang better, since the faux-suede is so lightweight. But given that the event is over, I'm unlikely to anytime soon. 

Notions: Interfacing for the collar and facing pieces, brass cloak clasps for the closures.
Hours: Probably 15-20? There was a lot of stitching seams multiple times, what with all the basting of the underlining, Hong Kong seam finishes, and topstitching. I also hand-sewed the facing to the underlining.
Total cost: $5.99 for the curtain panel, maybe a couple dollars' worth of sheet and skirt. The clasps were the priciest part at $14, bringing the total up to about $25.
Final thoughts: I've been wanting to make a browncoat ever since I first saw Firefly back in 2008? 2009? And I finally did it! It's not as perfect as I would like, but it was cheap, green, and fun to wear. Also, I could not for the life of my find my Teflon foot while making this, so all the suede and leather was not happy. Of course, as soon as I finished I found the dang foot. Because of course.

On the second day of the con, Mr. Cation stayed home with SHB and I got to cosplay my heart out with my good friend Alice, who wore my Galadriel costume, and Elaine, who went as the Winter Soldier Lite. She had a black leather jacket that I added a silver sleeve to, in order to suggest Bucky's mechanical arm. It was perfect because she actually does speak Russian! I decided that, in the vein of finishing up incomplete costumes, I would finally make the trident and crown for my Ursula costume. I spray-painted PVC pipe for the former, then added gold duct-taped foam tips, and used more gold tape on foam to make a crown shape, which was then attached to a headband. Since I didn't want to deal with contacts all day (ever since pregnancy, my eyes have randomly decided they hate contacts), I just wore my glasses and dubbed my outfit Hipster Ursula. At the last minute, I decided to add some googly eyes to a piece of gray fleece and crammed my "poor unfortunate soul" into a Mason jar to make a hipster potion to complete the hipster look.

[pc: Edwin Fabian]

And here's proof that hipster Disney characters is actually a thing. 

We had such a good time attending panels (including a fantastic one on cosplaying when over 30, and another very useful one on types of materials one could use for building armor and props), wandering the exhibit hall, and both stopping people for pictures and being stopped for our pictures! It was Alice's first time cosplaying and I think it was a generally positive experience. Unfortunately, there was one really creepy guy at the end of the day who spoiled an almost perfect run on non-creepy interactions (why is there always one???). Sigh.

Thinking about being creepy? Just STOP. #cosplayisnotconsent
(We found "Do Not Pass" Gandalf!!!)

The nicest part of the day was when little kids stopped me for pictures. I loved cosplaying Dr. Blitzmeyer at my last con, and LOTR characters at all the movies and the symphony, but those were either not well-known or mostly adult audiences. There's just something about dressing as a Disney character, even if it's not screen-accurate, that makes it so much easier to engage with people. Which, of course, is why I love cosplay: it's a chance for shy, introverted me to pretend to be someone I'm not!

I heard a little girl walking by with her mom say, "Mommy, look, it's the sea witch!"
[pc: Edwin Fabian]

There are still so many Disney characters I still want to cosplay -- Maleficent, Cruella, Jasmine, Mulan, Captain Hook, The Queen of Hearts, and Queen Elinor...there's just not enough time! Also, can you tell I like villains, the color red, and strong female characters?

Monday, May 9, 2016

HSM #1: Procrastination

It's only fitting that my entry for the Historical Sew Monthly's Procrastination Challenge should be almost five months late, right? I had the garment finished and pictures taken back in February, but just procrastinated in getting them edited and the blog post written (although to be fair, I did have a bazillion drama costumes to make too). At this point, I've sewn so many things in the interim, I've more or less forgotten everything about the making of. Oops.

Three years, three moves, and one baby ago, I started making a historically-inspired well-to-do lady pirate ensemble. It began with a justaucorps coat, then I made the shirt and waistcoat, and then I got pregnant (I feel like everything I've made/done recently has had this ending: "I started to do ___, then I got pregnant." That excuse is getting worn a little thin, I think). When I saw that the first challenge for this year was to finish a project that had been abandoned, I figured this was the time to get my butt in gear and finally make the breeches for my pirate outfit. I also had the added incentive of the PEERs Casanova Carnevale Ball, which was a masquerade event set in the 18th century, specifically during Casanova's lifetime. My outfit is mostly 1730s-1740s, so I barely squeaked in, not that there were an HA police at the event, thankfully! The organizers were actually pretty specific about it being a non-HA event where fantasy costumes were welcome, too.

Still, my modus operandi when it comes to these things is to research, research, research, so that when I improvise with my time and materials, I know exactly how I deviated from historical accuracy. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking at breeches and sketched the most noteworthy characteristics of the chronologically relevant pieces.

I decided on fall-front breeches, but instead of the smaller flap of the Regency era, I made the entire front into the flap, like this pair. Well, technically the entire front doesn't flap down; the side seams should be sewn as usual and then slits are cut very close to the side seams and then the majority of the front is faced. I went for simplicity, though, and just made mine approximate the look. I also cut corners by using the Simplicity 4923 pattern instead of drafting my own. However, comparison of the pattern pieces with the diagrams from Norah Waugh and other similar sources reveal that the designer, Andrea Schewe, did a remarkable job of keeping HA shapes in the front and back pieces. I drafted a new waistband to better match the HA ones, though, since the pattern just had a rectangular strip. Unfortunately, in the end all my efforts were for naught, as my breeches looked absolutely ridiculous when I sewed them up. Look, I know that saggy baggy butts were the norm back then, but I could seriously have stashed a small ham in back. The waistband also ended up too big in the back for the more HA grommets and lacing that I had planned, so with less than a week until ball-time, I said screw it and sewed the waistband shut in the back and put in huge horizontal darts to take up some of the excess fabric in the back. Not the prettiest fix, but I figured that it would all be hidden under my coat anyway.

Here it is, all pretty and buttoned up. I'm just glad I got the nap direction more or less right across the front!

The back looks pretty normal until you see the inside...

Here's the front flap folded down. You can see the linen facing and the pocket bags attached to the waistband. 

The pockets were made in a totally non-HA way, but they were very functional and very welcome as a place to stash my phone and keys. 

And here you can see where I tacked the waistband together and took up several inches of fabric with my fat horizontal darts.

Since historical accuracy was already thrown out, I didn't bother with making functional closures at the knees of my breeches; I just sewed it all shut and added a decorative button. Additionally, because I had to squeeze my pattern pieces onto the last remnants of my velvet tablecloth, I couldn't really get the grain right. I settled for making the velvet nap direction as acceptable as possible, but that meant that the grain was so off that the finished breeches twist in a really weird way around my knees. I had to let out the side seams until there was all of 1/4" seam allowance on both sides in order to somewhat resolve the problem. It's still not great, but at least the outer side seam isn't sitting smack in the middle of my kneecap?

Because it was a masquerade ball, I made a mask trimmed with some of the leftover gold lace from the coat and a bunch of rhinestones. I also bought shoes that approximated the look of early 1700s mens' heels and then added ribbon and buckles to shoe clips so as to disguise their Aerosole-ness. The finishing touch was white knee-high socks from Target.

And somehow, despite all my corner-cutting, somehow it all came together fabulously! Usually when I go to these kinds of events, I feel slightly embarrassed about my outfit and envious of others', but this time I was absolutely brimming with excitement at how very real I looked. Maybe not historically accurate, but fabulous all the same. I love it when a costume just comes together like that! It's like a weird costumer's high that I just can't get enough of.

Elaine was my date and she was smashing as well in the corset I made for her wedding. We had so much fun while dancing, people watching, costume ogling, and being silly together. I am so unspeakably glad that we finally live in the same area again! After spending all of high school living a block and a half apart, and then in college sharing a room, eight years was just too long to be living in totally different areas (also, has it really been that long, nay longer, since we were in college?!). I also remembered how much I enjoy dancing. I really do need to get out more.

Pattern: Simplicity 4923, modified for historical accuracy, then modified for more flattering fit
Year: early-mid 1700s...ish.
Fabric: The last bits of a thrifted velvet tablecloth, plus scraps of black linen for the facings.
Notions: Seven "gold" buttons, with the plastic rhinestone centers Sharpied magenta to match the rest of the outfit
Hours: I really don't remember, but I'll hazard a guess that it was about 15 hours. The actual sewing was pretty easy, but I spent a long time messing around with pattern piece layout on my limited fabric, and then trying to make it look better after it was sewn up.
Will you make it again? Nope. I am not a fan of baggy butts.
How historically accurate is it? In intention, very, in practicality, not very. I'll give it maybe a 30% since the fabric and shortcuts and mods really take away from it.
Total cost: But I will pat myself on the back that it really cost nothing since everything was from stash.
Final thoughts: I seriously love this outfit, but the breeches are definitely the weakest part of the ensemble. *shrug* They're a necessary part of the outfit and I'll appreciate them for that. I'm just glad that I finally finished them and got to wear it all to a ball!

I know the ball was in February, but we only just took down our Christmas wreath a week's that for procrastination?

At some point I'd like to retrim my tricorne and take up the sleeves of the shirt (they're about half a foot too long!) and then take non-dim non-iPhone photos of the outfit with the cane I made to go with it. In the meantime, though, here's the one "real" photo I have, with the coat off because it was too warm for a polyester velvet coat while dancing!


Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 Top Fives

Thanks to Gillian's #sewingtop5, or else I would never get around to summarizing and reflecting on my creative year! Sometimes having assignments (even if they're purely self-assigned) is really helpful. First, let's look at my selfish sewing:

Row 1: Batman Beyond jacket applique, Galadriel, red lace dress (unblogged), and undies.
Row 2: Tunics, lounging clothes, and a cat blouse.
Row 3: Black sweatshirt and leopard pants refashion, cat tunic, striped dress and cardigan.
Row 4: Old-timey jodhpurs, two Walkley dresses, and a bomber jacket.

Not as much as in years past, thanks to SHB. Speaking of SHB, though, look how adorable he is in his mommy-made wardrobe!

Left column: Blue cat suit and hobbit costume.
Middle column: Terry McGinnis jacket, Blue Sun and biohazard shirts.
Right column: Kumamon, The Cheat, and scientist shirts.
Not pictured: Warriors pajamas.

I didn't make anything for him in the latter half of the year until Christmas, so it's kind of weird to see all these pictures of him from so "long" ago! I can't even remember what it's like to have a non-mobile baby. Besides garment sewing, there was also a lot of crafting, most of it geeky:

Pyrography: Hobbit-themed cutting boards, The One (Teething) Ring, Map of Thorin and Totoro boxes, Tolkien ornaments (not pictured).
Geeky sewing: Adult and baby versions of the Palantir/Eye of Sauron, Firefly-themed playset, hammerhead sharks, Smaug and Bilbo pillows, drool guards, aviator hat, toy bin, and Christmas decorations (not pictured).
Miscellaneous: Eye of Sauron headpiece, baby quilt (not pictured), Eye of Sauron ornament (not pictured).

Not bad, all things considered! And because I always like a nice chart...

I love that there are enough Eyes of Sauron to warrant its own category. I mean, I made more Eyes of Sauron than pants this year! Also, now that I look at the legend again, it looks like I made 10 SHBs this year, not ten garments for SHB. Oops.

And now, on to the reflection portion!

Top Five Sewing Hits:
  1. My bomber jacket: looks so real, relatively easy, goes with everything, and is just warm enough for most NorCal days. 
  2. SHB's The Cheat shirt: it fit when he was five months old, and it still fits now at 15 months, albeit as a 3/4 length sleeve shirt. But it's a good barometer for who was in college at around the same time I was, because those people recognize The Cheat and love it. 
  3. The adult Eye of Sauron, Smaug, and Bilbo: people who come over to our house love the former two, SHB loves the latter. 
  4. The So Zo undies: I made three pairs, and they're always the ones I reach for first. Every time I realize that all three are in the wash, I become sad and dissatisfied with my RTW ones, and swear I will make more. Unfortunately, sewing undies is not nearly as fun as new things that people can actually see.
  5. Baby quilt: I made a personalized quilt for the daughter of one of my dearest friends in San Diego. Her baby was a long-awaited answer to prayer and while I'm sad I can't see her as often as I would like, I wanted use my skills to wrap her (literally) in love. I'm kicking myself that I never took a picture of it, though! This is what happens when I cram in my sewing in the three days before getting on the plane. 

Top Five Sewing Misses:
  1. Birthday shirt for my brother: never finished because I realized that I had cut the sleeves wrong, and then I messed up the tower plackets because I was trying to finish it in a hurry. Stuffed it all into a bag and put it in the closet to stew. 
  2. SHB's blue cat outfit: too big when I made them, and when they fit again it was summer and there was no way he was going to wear a fleece outfit. 
  3. The tighter Walkley dress: I used a much less stretchy fabric than my first iteration, so it ended up too tight when I applied the same alterations. 
  4. Drool guards: right after I made them, SHB stopped wanting to be carried in the Ergo. 
  5. Jodhpurs: they were really a wearable muslin, but I'm still disappointed. Since it's based off of a 1910s draft, they are ridiculous in the crotch/butt region. Also the fabric is kind of hideous. 

Top Five Non-Sewing Highlights:
  1. SHB turned one! He is now ridiculously fun and a wriggling handful, especially since he can inevitably run faster, reach farther, eat more, and sleep less than I expect. He is generally a really happy guy, though, so I can't complain.
  2. Mr. Cation and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in June. Things keep changing fairly drastically every year (a lay-off, living in four different cities, business school, buying a house, having a baby) but we're still very happy and love and appreciate each other more. 
  3. Okay, I know this is actually sewing related, but I costumed my first show! It was an amazing, intense, stressful, and wonderful experience, and it really deserves a whole blog post. At some point. 
  4. The LOTR Symphony Extravaganza: it was lovely to revisit Middle Earth and wear fun costumes again!
  5. This is a little silly, but seeing Episode VII: Mr. Cation said to me as we sat down in our seats that we had been waiting our whole lives for this movie to come out (Episodes I-III didn't count), and I realized that it was kind of true. I've loved the original trilogy since I first saw it in elementary school, then loved all the novels in middle and high school, and after the disappointment of Episodes I-III, I had kind of given up hope in the whole Star Wars franchise. Episode VII brought back all the giddy excitement for me, and even more so because of the oh, I don't know, actual fleshed out character and storyline of a strong heroine? I am so excited for 2017!

Top Five Reflections:
  1. Rest is so important. When I was waking up five or six times a night and then carrying SHB for all his naps, I was an awful person. I snapped at Mr. Cation, couldn't be arsed to care about anything, and couldn't figure out why I hated my life. Scratch that, I knew why I hated my life, but couldn't see any way around it. Thankfully, SHB now sleeps through the night most of the time (and has for about half a year now!) and can nap in his crib (even if that's only once a day for 60 minutes), so I'm feeling much better about life. 
  2. Creating is so important. Even when I was sleep deprived and grumpy, I would occasionally give up sleep to sew (although this was pretty rare), craft (less rare -- all the pyrography is evidence that it takes less brainpower than sewing), or at least research/dream about future projects. That excitement kept me going. 
  3. Community is so important. Because I work part-time, I kind of get the worst of both worlds: I feel stressed about the work I need to get done, but because I have to rush home for nap time I have no time to actually connect with co-workers who get what I'm struggling with; I'm always teaching during prime mommy-and-me class hours so it's hard to connect with moms who can commiserate. (I also get the best of both worlds, in that I get to spend a lot of time with SHB, but not so much time that I'm bored out of my mind; I get to work with students without having to do the extra, unrelated stuff like lunch duty or staff meetings). In the last year, some of the most encouraging people in my life have been people I've never actually met. Mikhaela and Clio, who co-hosted the SHB Sew-Along with me, were my moms-in-the-trenches friends who could empathize about the lack of sleep and time to sew; at least as many emails were exchanged about parenting as were about the sew-along, and once the month was over I missed that comaraderie. Gillian, Brooke, Becky, and countless other IG sewcialists helped me feel like I could make meaningful connections even when I hadn't talked to another adult all day. All of you more experienced moms with older kids kept me going with your reminders that this, too, shall pass, and one day I'll have a teenager who doesn't need to constant attention (although they may still need feeding every two hours). 
  4. Stash is so important. Hah! No but really, when I was costuming the play, I was so glad to have a stash of fabrics and patterns that I could use. It saved me so much time and money to have a stash to pull from. And whenever I was feeling blah and uninspired, fondling fabrics helped me dream again. 
  5. Letting go is so important. I know we're all supposed to be KonMari-ing everything, but it's still hard to let go of me-mades that don't fit right or fabrics that you no longer love. I've donated a lot of stuff to make room for SHB's stuff, and you know what? I can't even remember what I donated anymore, so I obviously don't miss it! Besides letting go of physical things, I'm also letting go of any self-imposed obligation to sew a certain amount of stash or percentage of my/SHB's wardrobe. I know I already said this last year, but I need to remember that just because I can, doesn't mean I have to. 

Top Five Sewing Goals:
  1. Costume another show, but without stressing out myself and my family this time: I've learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, so hopefully the next one goes better! (I know I keep alluding to this theater costuming thing, and I promise a blog post is coming.)
  2. Get back into the Historical Sew Monthly. I pretty much dropped it while growing, hatching, and raising SHB, but I really miss it. My modern wardrobe doesn't really need any more items (even though I'm sure I'll continue sewing for it), and historical sewing lets me spend lots of time researching and planning, which I love. 
  3. Make more outerwear and/or menswear. See above re: my wardrobe not needing more items. Except underwear, because I really need more pairs I like. No bras, though. I am not going down that rabbit hole!
  4. Find more opportunities to wear the costumes I've sewn: because they're really too nice to stay hidden in my closet. Okay, that's not really a sewing goal, per se. 
  5. Take more classes! Figure out corsetry! Research historical fashion! Learn ALL the things! This is the same as last year, but I love learning. It needs to continue. 

Whew! That's it! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

This Year's Christmas Projects

I knew the holidays would be busy this year, so I started my Christmas crafting early. As is tradition, there was LOTR-related crafting, this time in the form of painted and wood-burned ornaments:

The Eye of Sauron, painted on a papier mache blank sphere from Michael's (this makes three eyes now in my living room, all ominously watching everything), and JRR Tolkien's monogram and the White Tree of Gondor. 

Things got kitschy and punny real fast when I used the free Sewaholic Stanley Tree pattern to make a chemis-tree out of leftover science-y fabric:

SHB really enjoys hitting it because all the bells jangle madly.

I also made little felt ornaments for my brother and sister:

For my sister, a paramedic in training: a Gumbulance (ambulance on one side, her crazy orange cat Gummy on the other). For my brother, a car enthusiast: a Fenxibaru (the Subaru logo on one side, and his sleeping cat Fenxi on the other). There were many hours of meticulous cutting and blanket stitching. 

And then my mother-in-law unexpectedly passed away and all plans got thrown out the window. While I had the fabric purchased for several weeks, I didn't get around to making Mr. Cation's and SHB's matching Warriors jammies until a few days after Christmas. Thankfully, elastic waist pants are just about the easiest thing to sew, so I was done with both pairs in an afternoon. I'll wager it took longer to actually get a decent picture of them together, because SHB was having a hyper morning. Oh wait, that's every morning. And afternoon. And evening. And unfortunately, sometimes night. 

"Could you stop running around for just two minutes?" 
"Maybe it's easier if we just get Walnut into position first."
"No, this is not easier, because I can't chase him down with a cat in my lap."
I place toddler in Dad's lap. He chooses that moment to imitate a fish flipping out on the line, fighting for its life.
Let's try this again. "Look, I've got a basketball! Don't you want to come get it?"
(Also, check out my not-thought-through pattern placement on SHB's butt. The two Warriors logos slightly overlapped make...a butt. Good thing he's a toddler and nobody will care.)
Toddler tries to ram his head into Daddy's armpit, cat leaves. 
"Okay, sit in Daddy's lap. Walnut, come here."
"Try to look happy, everyone! Dangit, Walnut, I can't see your face."
Toddler seizes the ball, cat decides he's done.
Thankfully, he settles down not too far away. I think this is as good as it's going to get.
Attempts at a brothers' photo work slightly better because Daddy can help wrangle both boys. 

I had plans to make more LOTR-themed gifts for SHB, but those will have to wait until I have time. Let's just hope that I get to make them before he gets too old to enjoy what I have in mind! 

In the meantime, SHB continues trying to bug his older brother into playing ball with him. Typical little brother.