Tuesday, March 25, 2014

And Now, the Construction Post

Now that I've finished Lynda's bustier class, I alternate between thinking 1) my goodness, it's a small miracle that Elaine's wedding dress turned out as well as it did, because I didn't know what the heck I was doing, and 2) go me, because I actually made up something that wasn't too far off from what it was supposed to be! I learned so much from taking an "official" class, which makes me wonder what else I'm missing as a self-taught seamstress. Anyway, I thought some of you might be interested in seeing more of what went on to make this deceptively simple-looking little black top.

I left off with fitting the coutil/lining inside in my last (and only) construction post. This inner layer was just the pattern pieces cut in both coutil and a cotton quilting fabric for underlining, and then sewn together. I decided to keep things simple and just do boning channels over the seams. These channels were made from bias strips of coutil, 1.25" wide, which is enough to accommodate two 3/8" wide channels for 1/4" bones. I got my bones pre-tipped at Lacis in Berkeley, where they cost anywhere from $0.40-$1.00 each, depending on length. I've got a whole roll of spiral steel leftover from making Elaine's corset, but frankly, I didn't feel like dealing with cutting and tipping all twenty-plus bones myself. I really need to get me some steel cable cutters to make the process easier on my hands!

Lynda had us sew the inner layer with 1" seam allowances, so when I sewed my boning channels on, there was no awkward flapping of seam allowances underneath to get caught up in the boning. 
Zoomed out a bit, so that you can see how densely this thing is boned! According to Lynda no more than 3" should go by without there being bones. Because mine was a fairly small size with narrow panels, I could get away with only boning over the seams, and then one more set in the widest back panel. 

After sewing on the boning channels, I added the grosgrain waist stay, stitching it on only at strategic points. This waist stay is sewn to the inside and remains hidden, and only exits close to the zipper through two buttonholes. Lynda recommended a 1.5" wide ribbon, which is larger than my buttonhole foot can handle, so I had to improvise with a tiny zigzag stitch. To secure the waist stay, I went with my usual swimsuit bra hook instead of hooks and eyes. Whenever I have hooks and eyes at my back, they dig in uncomfortably and make me itchy. At this point, I also sewed in my zipper. It's a heavier duty 12" separating zipper, but still plastic.

Pretty good free-hand buttonhole, right? Except that the two sides don't quite match up...shhh!

Since the largest swimsuit hook I had was 5/8", it wouldn't quite fit on the 1.5" waist stay, so I had to add a tinier piece of petersham ribbon at the ends to make it work. 

After all the hardware that went into the inner layer, it was almost a relief to make the outer fashion fabric layer. Like the inner layer, it's two pieces of fabric: my black silk dupioni, underlined with flannel. The flannel provides some cushioning for the thin silk, so that all the boning channels and such don't show through. Lynda wouldn't allow us to clip the coutil seam allowances at all since it would create weak points, but with the outer layer, since it's not taking any of the strain, I notched away. Unfortunately, I had never learned that one should never notch at the same point on either side of the seam (it creates a hinge point), but now I know and I will never do it again! The most time-consuming step was then hand-stitching down all the seam allowances so that they would stay nice inside the garment.

You can see at the top of the picture the start of my shameful clipping :(

The final step was to put the two layers together. I don't know why, but I found this seriously nerve-wracking! With previous corsets, I've always sewn them wrong sides together and then bound the top, but this time I decided to go with a new-to-me method and sew the top and bottom right sides together, then flip it all right side out (this was tricky with all the bones in...good thing spiral steel is flexible!). This method creates a clean edge without having to fuss with binding, but it does create a lot of thickness due to the four layers of seam allowance + four layers of fabric! My machine was a trooper, though, and I only had to hand-wheel through some parts. The real last step was to topstitch all the way around, being especially careful at the zipper since there was a bone right next to the stitch line.

The only thing worse than trying to photograph black or red is trying to photograph black and red. You all know what topstitching looks like though, so I think you get the picture. 
All done! Much red! So cats! Very polka dot! Wow!

Pattern: Simplicity 5006
Fabric: 1 yard black silk dupioni, 1 yard purple houndstooth print flannel, 1 yard coutil, 1 yard quilting cotton
Notions: black plastic 12" separating zipper meant for jackets, less than 1 yard 1.5" wide black grosgrain ribbon, one 5/8" swimsuit bra hook, lots of spiral steel boning
Hours: At least sixty, spread out over a month and half. That includes fitting, multiple muslins, cutting and sewing four layers, lots of hand sewing, and lots of wibbling.
Will you make it again? Elaine went to Thailand and brought back lots of yummy silk in both her colors and my colors, so I think that means yes. I think new makes will take much less time, though, now that I know what I'm doing and have patterns already fitted.
Total cost: The fabrics listed above were $15, $8, $30, and free, respectively, the spiral steel was $13, and the rest of the notions were about $5. So we're looking at a $70 garment here, and that's just for the materials. No wonder why custom corsetry is so expensive!
Final thoughts: Um, I love it? It looks and feels amazing, if I do say so myself, and in black silk, it feels very versatile. If I pair it with a nice (normal) skirt, it makes for lovely formalwear, and black is a good base for many villain/superhero costumes. I want to do a Maleficent costume with this, even if I'm dubious about the upcoming movie. Mr. Cation was pretty thrilled about the Ursula costume too, so that was a plus!

Because nothing says Ursula like a satellite dish in the background, amirite?

So that brings me to my big question: would anyone be down for a bustier sewalong? I learned so much from this class, and while I had some idea of what I was getting into because of Elaine's corset, I have to say that a bustier/corset top is one of those things where it looks impressively scary, but is actually not that hard to sew when you break it down. Obviously, I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as Lynda, but I think it'd be fun to share the process in more detail with other seamstresses who might have always wanted to make one, but thought it was too intimidating. If people are interested, I'm thinking of running the sewalong during the summer, when I've got more bandwidth than the during school year. Let me know in the comments if you'd be interested!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Spur of the Moment" Ursula Costume

*taps mic* So...ummm, anyone out there tonight?

I know, I know it's been a shamefully long time since I last updated to say that I was in the middle of making my bustier. I guess I was being a little optimistic in that assessment, since there turned out to be a lot of "finishing" steps. What with school busyness and only having an hour here and there to sew, I ended up not being able to finish it before class ended. Thankfully, Lynda gave everyone an extension. And then even after I finished it on the ides of March, I decided that before I could write up a blog post about it, I had to make something to wear it with. If you give a mouse a cookie costume geek a plain black bustier, she's going to want to make a matching skirt. And once she makes a matching skirt, she'll realize that she needs a necklace as well. Necklace in hand, she'll finally get around to a blog post only after a sufficiently sunny day where Mr. Cation is also around to take pictures of the whole get-up. I think it was worth it, though...

I had to really play around with the lighting on these shots in order to be able to show any detail at all on the bustier. Black is so danged hard to photograph! And of course I would be wearing a white wig. 
It's not perfect by any means, but I'm still pretty pleased with how it turned out!
"Don't even underestimate the power of body language!"
Back view. It was ridiculously hard to find a 12-inch separating zipper that would be sturdy enough.

I mean, I guess I could've just taken pictures wearing the bustier with jeans or something, but that just wouldn't seem right, you know? Besides, I had nine yards of black and purple stretch mesh that was burning a hole in my stash. I've had it set aside for an Ursula costume since April of last year, but it just didn't happen until now. I guess it doesn't really fit the "wardrobe building" March theme, although it definitely fits February's "make something that represents something you love" theme -- I love dressing up! -- so it still counts.

I used Simplicity 9172, a vintage half-circle skirt pattern, to make three layers of skirt -- black, purple, and then black again -- and since it was stretchy material, I just went with the easiest method and attached it all to a piece of wide black elastic for a no fuss, closure-less pull-on skirt. Then I went to town on the top black layer, snipping it away to make a nod to Ursula's tentacles. At that point, the skirt was nicely full, but still missing a certain je ne sais quoi, so after some brainstorming and remembering how floofy standard ballroom dance skirts are, I used Julia Bobbin's helpful fishing line tutorial to hem the skirts. It was really remarkably easy (but tedious to do for two layers of full-length half-circle skirt), and my 50-lb. fishing line more than adequately swirled up the hem of the skirts. It helps hold out the skirts so that they look fuller and make walking without tripping easier, which is a definite plus!

Now, it's the little things that pull a costume like this together, so besides making the skirt (which took a whole day -- thank goodness for Spring Break!), I had to make the iconic golden shell necklace that Ursula uses to hold Ariel's voice:

In my stash of craft supplies, I managed to unearth this seashell that I've been holding onto for eight(!) years...I just painted it gold and hot-glued a loop of wire to the back so that I could thread a ribbon through. 

And of course the finishing touch was the short white wig, which I already had from my Dr. Blitzmeyer costume. Even though I just wore this to our apartment complex's pool for pictures, it was so fun to put this outfit together. Sometimes you just have to make things that make you happy, even if there's nowhere to wear it! Maybe one day I'll get to cosplay Ursula at a con, but until then I'll settle for twirling around the pool.

I still intend to write about all the steps that had to happen to make the bustier, but I'll save that for a separate construction post, since this one is already glutted with pictures.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's My Turn Now

Last year, my biggest accomplishment was sewing a wedding dress for my best friend Elaine. To do so, I used Simplicity 5006, a lingerie pattern that included a corset and a petticoat. It was a long process and I learned a lot, and out of it came a beautiful outfit. I must confess, though, that at the end of it I wished ever so slightly that I had put all that work into something for me. Now before you get all up in arms and call me selfish, let me say that I don't begrudge a single bit of the time I spent on her wedding dress -- after all, it's my favorite make of 2013 -- but I did wish I had an excuse to make an equally elaborate thing for myself. Well, now I have that chance!

One of my classes this semester at Canada College is Bustier Construction with Lynda Maynard, and the pattern we base our garment off of is...Simplicity 5006! So now I have the excuse I need to make myself a piece of gorgeous formalwear: oh, it's for class. That pricey coutil? Oh, it's for class. All the time spent perfecting the fit? Oh, it's for class. All the trips to Lacis in Berkeley? Oh, it's for class. You guys, I'm super excited to have this opportunity! And like the pants-making class last semester, I'm already learning tons. For example, the final garment has four layers of fabric: each piece of coutil is underlined with an actual lining fabric, and each fashion fabric piece is underlined in flannel; the pieces are then sewn together to make two "complete" garments, then sewn right sides together and flipped.

This is my lining+coutil piece. You can kind of see where Lynda drew in boning channel markings. 
It's a little wrinkly without any boning. I also need to take it in more in the chestal area. Of course. I really do like the sweetheart neckline though!
I extended the height of the back by a couple of inches to prevent the hideous back muffin top. 

Class has been in session for a few weeks now, so we've made muslins, fit them, made second muslins, corrected our patterns, and now we've made up the inner lining+coutil part of the garment. In the spirit of stashbusting, I've chosen to line my bustier with this adorable cat-print quilting cotton that I got two summers ago in an exchange with Handmade Jane. It was a scant half meter of fabric, so I'd been saving it for a small but special project...I think this counts! Even so, I didn't have quite enough fabric so the last panel is cut from another small quilting cotton remnant that I actually inherited from another friend's stash. Although I'm posting this in February, I did sew it up while it was still January, so that totally counts for the Itty Bits theme, right?

Tiny polka dots and cats! Does it get any better than that?

I'm pretty sure that I'll end up choosing a black fashion fabric for the outside shell. I thought about making something more fancy or elaborate, but in the end decided that black would be the most versatile. Besides, then I can use it for the Ursula and Maleficent cosplays that I'd like to do eventually. Any suggestions for an actual fabric type though? I don't want it to be super-shiny, but I want it to still be dressy. Help!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Nimona Science Buddies!

Whew! Where to even start fangirling about getting to meet Noelle Stevenson, aka Gingerhaze, at this weekend's AOD con? Maybe let's start with proof:

Aaaah there she is right next to us! She was super nice and possibly just as excited to see us dressed up as we were to see her.

My sister Emily and I have been planning this cosplay ever since we found out Gingerhaze would be in our hood. We both love the webcomic Nimona, and we both love science, so it was only natural that we dress up as Dr. Meredith Blitzmeyer* and Ballister Blackheart as Gregor at the Science Expo.


How do you think we did? Close enough?

Why hello there! Come check out this Anomalous Energy Enhancer!
I say now, there's a science if there ever was one. 
The tubing on the side had escaped its hot glue by this point. 

As I mentioned before, I started out by making the red cat Nimona to go around Emily's shoulders, and the last couple weeks have been a scramble to make the lab coat, goggles, beard, and cape. The lab coat was fairly easy as costumes go -- I used the back piece from Simplicity 2365 and the front piece and sleeves from Simplicity 2246, then modified them for length and design features -- and of course, I wouldn't be me if I didn't make it from a thrifted sheet. Yay for stashbusting while making fun costumes! It's actually very functional and has good mobility, so I guess there's nothing keeping it from being a "real" lab coat. The red cloak of disguise was another thrifted sheet, but I went out and bought it specifically for this costume. So sue me. It was a bit trickier to design since most of the times we see Ballister wearing it, it 1) manages to still show most of what he's wearing, and 2) has these swathes of fabric that cover the top part of his chest.  The final cape ended up not being totally screen-accurate (panel-accurate?), but I guess it doesn't really matter since the yarn beard hid most of the front...also Emily loved it, so that's always good. The final touch to it all was making the business cards that Dr. Blitzmeyer hands out.

I managed to obscure the goggle lenses by ironing a couple sheets of iridescent cellophane together and then cutting out circles to fit. Visibility was only somewhat obscured; the real challenge, though, was that the goggles kept fogging up. 
I'm pretty pleased with how the yarn beard turned out! I used about half a skein of fairly bulky yarn and loosely followed this tutorial; the main difference was that I secured the beard to a headband.
Is there anything so fun as an excellently swooshy cape? It was so fun walking behind Emily and getting to see it billow dramatically behind her.
I only ended up passing out a few :(

After the initial giddiness of meeting Gingerhaze, we spent another couple hours wandering around looking at all the wares, art, and of course, other cosplayers:

BBC Sherlock! He likes science, right?
And Ms. Frizzle -- she definitely likes science.
Not science-related, but check out this ridiculously awesome Magikarp. I may have screamed a little bit and then went running through the hotel trying to track it down.
Seriously, best use of a sleeping bag ever...

We wrapped up the day by going back to Gingerhaze's booth to pick up the sketch we commissioned:

Science buddies! I was so tempted to ask for Party King Thranduil, but in the end decided there needed to be more Nimona art.
Oops, we're standing in the wrong positions.

It was a very good day for all. Oh, except for the family cats, because when you have a yarn beard, the natural thing to do is to make them try it on:

Poor Gummy. 
Poor Fenxi. Don't worry, they got lots of treats afterward.
*Not a witch.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Manatee Plushie Sewing Pattern

My best friend from college had a baby shower this past weekend, and while I opted for stocking the baby's bookshelf, I still wanted to be able to give her something handmade. I mean, what's the point of knowing how to sew if you can't sew love into every stitch, or some such nonsense, right? Anyway, since manatees are one of her favorite animals, I decided to make her one. Only problem is, I couldn't find any patterns I liked. Obvious solution? Make my own!

Dawww, that face. 

He's quite plump, as befits a manatee. 

I chose to make him in this "pose" because it looks a little bit more like Barbara Manatee.

Want to make your own manatee? I've put my pattern up for download here. Please note that it is meant for personal use only, and not for commercial purposes (i.e. don't make them to sell!), and it goes without saying that you should not put up the pattern on your own site and/or claim it as your own. 

I've added an alternate snout option on the pattern, which is more biologically correct but 1) more difficult, and 2) IMHO, less cute. Then again, that might just be the fact that I sewed it on off-center...

So sad and derpy. 

Anyway, if you've never sewed a plushie before, I actually remembered to take pictures of the process!

Sew the flippers and tail pieces together, right sides together. 
Flip them right side out, then fill the tail with beans or poly beads.
I used a leftover PVC fitting from my Loki staff as a funnel.  
If you use rice or beans, it'll be cheaper, but the poly beads are waterproof.
Sew the center back seam. You should leave a gap in the middle for turning it all right side out at the end, but I forgot to do so here. I had to go back and use my seam ripper. 
I used a narrow zigzag stitch with a very short stitch length to embroider the eyes on the front piece, then I cut a hole for the snout. 
The alternative snout piece was a little tricky to join since it was so small.
After it's stitched, turned, and nostrils are embroidered.
Hand-stitch the snout piece to the front piece, right sides together. I started by just matching up one edge, and slowly bringing the sides together as I worked my way around. 
Here's what it looks like inside. 
At this point I may or may not have screamed a bit because it was off-center. 
Baste the tail and flippers onto the front piece. 
Sew the front to the back pieces, right sides together. 
Flip the manatee right side out! Laugh at how flat he is.
Stuff him up with poly-fil.
I also added some poly beads to the butt area so that he could sit up properly.
Stitch up his butt and you're done! I like using the ladder stitch.

I didn't use stash fabric for this manatee (it being for a friend and all), but I think this pattern would still work well for scrapbusting. I only used a 10"x24" piece of fabric to make each one. If you do use this pattern, let me know how it works for you!

Manatee and Sewasaurus are friends: sounds like a more interesting book than Frog and Toad Are Friends. I know, I was supposed to give away the dinosaur, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.