I just wanted to dress up as a fairy

In all honesty, dear readers, I must give you a fair warning: it’s very likely this blog will take a turn towards cosplay and creative sewing for the time being, rather than regular garment sewing. I understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But I hope you’ll still come by and visit from time to time!

That being said, let me tell you about the time I really just wanted to dress up as a fairy. There was this folk music festival happening nearby, and I knew from friends who attended in the past that people were dressing up Renaissance Faire style (with loads of gothic and steampunk costumes too). The setting is the grounds and the gardens of a beautiful castle. And I really wanted to go, just to wear a costume! The thing was, I didn’t have an appropriate costume — yet. I have a huge list of future costumes I want to make the coming months, but I’m still gathering the materials.

Cue Simplicity 1550, which I bought on a whim earlier this summer. I had a look at my fabric stash, found some fabric I could use, bought some metal wire at the hardware store for the wings, and I was ready to start! I was going to be a fairy!

I made view A, with the long skirt, but I used the corset of View B, with the front lacing.

I like how quick this pattern was to put together. A weekend of sewing, and that was it. It’s a whimsical fairy design, I like the pointy hem and edges. Using lightweight fabric, you get a nice effect when it’s windy!

I hated my fabric choice, however. I hate sewing chiffon, my serger was throwing a fit at me so I left the edges unhemmed (as recommended by the pattern instructions – either unhemmed, or finished with a serger). I used this chiffon because I ordered it for another project (where it would have been more suitable), but it was just not the color I wanted. I was stuck with this fabric in my stash and figured I might as well use it for something!

My only design change is regarding the wings. The pattern asks you to make 3 pairs of wings, and to mount them on a set of purchased wings. I didn’t want to spend money on a pair of wings in order to add 3 other pairs of wings to it (WHY?), so I constructed a wire frame that would be inserted inside my costume to hold it in place. Basically, the back band of my bra is the device that held it all in place 😉 The wings were very light and they stayed put the whole time, without moving or coming out of my costume. And I thought 2 pairs of wings were enough.

Oh the things you can do with duct tape!

And a tip regarding the wings: before inserting the metal wire to shape the wings, I wrapped the ends with a bit of tape to make it less sharp and less likely to pierce the organza.

For the flower crown, I first made a circle out of metal wire, and I wrapped ivy around it. I glued flowers at random. My wand is a curtain rod (!), I wrapped a ribbon around it, and glued ivy/flowers at the end.

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I was definitely standing out of the crowd with my light blue costume, compared to the more humble peasant-like costumes, or the darker gothic or steampunk outfits I saw. I haven’t been cosplaying for a long time, but I can say this costume is my most ‘popular’, with several photo requests from strangers. Always a nice boost for my ego! But what made my day is a little girl looking at me with large eyes and saying “Ohhhhh!! Nice costume!!!”

You can see more pictures on my FB page Couturlututu, and my full pattern review can be found here.

I’m currently busy with 3 other cosplays, they are advancing quite smoothly. My deadline is in less than 3 weeks now, and I’m confident I’ll finish everything on time! (*knock on wood…*)

Time for some “me sewing”

I’m still working on my gazillions of cosplay projects. But with the London Film & Comic Con date approaching faster and faster, where I wanted to wear some of my projects, I started to get overwhelmed by the sheer size of them. And I kinda panicked. I started to drag my feet, procrastinated a lot, fell behind on my schedule… On the other hand, I also admitted to myself that my projects were really ‘winter costumes’, with several layers, and they didn’t seem ideal for a crowded and busy summer comic con. So I put them aside, and then fell off the sewing wagon altogether. Not good.

To kick-start my sewing mojo again, I chased instant gratification projects. The kind you can whip up in an afternoon. My first victim was Simplicity 1365, with their cute vintage 70’s style halter tops.

I made View A, but without the lace trim. The print on my fabric was busy enough, I thought it didn’t need the extra fluff of a trim. I puzzled a lot to make the pieces as symmetrical as possible, and I think I did a fairly good job!

I love the 70’s vibe. Love the peplum. Love the sexy open back. I’m sincerely in love with this top. If only it would look good on me… *sigh* As you know, I’ve lost a lot of weight, I went from a J cup to a DD… I’ll leave it to your imagination, but I really can’t go walk around without a bra. And this top is cut very low (it ties at the small of my back, not the middle) so that leaves me without the possibility of wearing a bra. I can still wear it, mind you, but it makes me very self-conscious!

I cut a size smaller than my usual size (I cut a 14) because I read there was some side gaping. I tissue-fitted and it looked fine, but of course I did the fitting with a bra, and the bra-less thing is changing everything about the fit, duh! I discovered the gaping situation very late in the game, basically when my top was 95% complete. How to solve it? Well, I pinched the excess, and made a dart, top stitching it on the outside. The print is so busy, you barely notice it. However, now my top fits perfectly!


My next project was a simple t-shirt dress in a very bold print with flowers & butterflies. I dug deep in my dash for this one, and used Hot Patterns HP102, which is now out-of-print (and has been for a while now).

I like it’s simplicity. Straight lines, easy elasticized waist. My dislike, as others commented online: facings. Ugh. I used them anyway, but I should have known better. It just wouldn’t stay inside, despite understitching and even tacking it at the shoulder seams. While I was hemming my sleeves and skirt with my twin needles, I ran a stitch around the neckline to keep the facing from rolling to the outside, once and for all. I should have just used fold-over elastic or my own neckline binding instead of the facing — I’ll know for next time. If there’s a next time.

I did my utmost best to match the stripes at the side seams, but it was impossible to match the print itself (I didn’t have enough fabric for that). And the sleeves were even more trickier because I didn’t have much fabric left. I tried to match the stripes when setting the sleeves in, but meh. It didn’t quite work. Oh well. It looks much worse in RTW sometimes, so I’m not going to beat myself up for it.

I used the classic round neckline with the A-line skirt, but left the ruffle out. The dress is maybe a tad shorter than I would have liked, but I’m wearing it with the elasticized waist sitting low, almost at the hip line, and I can get away with it. I know some commented that the bodice is really long: it is indeed long, but since I’m wearing it low, it’s actually the perfect length for me.


And finally, another old pattern from stash, now out-of-print, Simplicity 2956.

I made the halter bodice with the bubble skirt. This is an easy dress, the notches were matching, and it came together fairly quickly. I just completely missed the step about creating a casing in the seam allowance when joining the bodice to the skirt and I was wondering why the dress was so wide when I tried it on. However, it was too late to create a casing, since I had trimmed the seam allowance with my serger. I ended up stitching an elastic under the tiny seam allowance I had left using a zig zag stitch, and it seemed to work. The inside of the dress lost it’s neatness, but no one will see it anyway!

It’s a cute design, I was skeptical about the braided tie, but it works well. It’s very comfortable to wear, great for the summer. My fabric is a poly/rayon/lycra knit with a gold flowery print. I didn’t have a lot of that fabric, so the bodice facing and underskirt are made of a plain poly/rayon/lycra knit in black.

I have an office summer party coming up soon, I thought the gold print matched the occasion 😉

I have several other quick projects all cut and ready to sew, this should keep me busy the coming weekends! Until I pick up my cosplay projects again 🙂

Vintage Pattern Contest – muslin progress

I officially dislike vintage pattern magazines for their lack of instructions, markings and, well, clarity. Hats off to the seamstresses of the time — they obviously knew what they were doing! I mean, look at this sheet:

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Seriously? I’m dizzy just looking at it!

I took the bull by the horns and attacked tracing my pattern pieces. Lucky for me, there are only 5 pieces, 6 if you include the back facing. Pleats and darts are somewhat clearly indicated, however you’d expect a bit more markings, like notches to know where to attach the pleated front bodice pieces to the lower piece? I can only rely on the sketch and the picture in the magazine to imagine what goes where. Again, hats off to the seamstresses of the 50’s!

Here are my pattern pieces, ready to cut my muslin fabric. As you can see, I got confused around the back dart/pleat, hence the extra lines.

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After this was all done and my muslin fabric was cut and marked (so. many. pleats. to. mark. ugh.), the first challenge: how the heck to assemble this? Where do I start? What comes next? And better yet: how are you even supposed to get in and out of this dress? They don’t mention a zipper or buttons in the list of notions, and the pictures don’t help at all. I studied the pattern and figured out I had to put a zipper at the side seam — both back and front pieces are cut on the fold, and the skirt is composed of side panels, also cut on the fold. That leaves only tiny side seams, about 20 cm, where to put a zipper.

Below is my (almost) finished muslin, with only one side skirt panel attached. Seeing the width of the skirt, I’m not worried about not inserting the 2nd one to check the fit, I was more concerned about the waist and the bust to be honest!

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The front/side pleat hangs funny because I didn’t press it at all and I’m still wearing my sweatpants under the dress 😛 Interesting construction though, basically the joining seam of the front and side skirt panels form a pleat that merges into the front darts. Brilliant. Same happens on the back.

I’m absolutely ecstatic about how the muslin turned out, I think I won’t need many alterations. The lower bodice is snug but not uncomfortable, I can bend, breathe and sit without a problem. And the fabric I’ll be using is a gorgeous stretch sateen, so I’m not worried about the final dress being too tight. I might give myself a bit more room under the sleeves though, I guess ladies of the 50’s didn’t have big muscular biceps and triceps with extra loose skin hanging after losing a lot of weight 😆

Talking about fabric, here’s what I want to use:

stretch satin blue

Isn’t it amazingly beautiful? And only 4.50 EUR/meter! I should receive my package today or tomorrow. Can’t wait to start on the real dress! 🙂

It’s been so long… where do I start?

I haven’t touched my sewing machine in MONTHS, and only to shorten a couple of trousers and sew up a small present for a friend. All in all, I haven’t touched my sewing machine for any kind of significant sewing project for more than a year!

My fingers are getting itchy.

I’m starting to feel butterflies in my stomach again when I look at new patterns.

I’m building this fantastic imaginary wardrobe in my head.

After this year-long semi-forced hiatus, I have an overflow of creative juices ready to flood my sewing room!

But many things have changed over the past year. The first and obvious change – I’m more than 50kg lighter than last year at the same date, and there’s this totally new body I have to get used to. I’m now a size 40/42-M/L, not really a plus-size anymore! This opens up so many possibilities I never thought would ever be available to me!

My style has changed a bit too. I still love dresses and skirts, but I now prefer a casual style jeans skirt with sneakers and not a tailored skirt with high heels. It might have something to do with my lifestyle change. I train almost every day either at the gym or outdoors (running, biking), and I prefer to wear comfortable, casual clothes, that are easy to change from and into. Mad Men style wiggle dresses, however gorgeous, don’t really work well with a quick change at the gym straight after work, especially if I have to put it back on after a workout to drive back home. (Yeah, I prefer to shower at home than at the gym. Sue me.)

My previous autumn/winter wardrobe is in shambles, as I kept on losing weight and getting leaner and thinner in the course of spring and summer. I’m not sure I’ll be able to salvage many pieces that still fit. Perhaps a couple of tops. Or maybe that one pair of trousers that was still a bit tight back in May. In other words, I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR FOR THE COMING AUTUMN/WINTER SEASON. And believe me, I’m not the only one who shrank – my budget has gotten quite thin too. Sports gear costs a lot of money, ya know 😉

My weight loss is not as spectacular now as it was the first months, and I don’t think I’ll lose more than 10-15 kg until the end of 2013.

Time to start sewing again. I have kilometers of fabric in my stash. I have boxes full of patterns.

But where to start? Here’s my plan:

  1. Dig in my patterns stash and purge it from what is now too big. Put these (mostly unused) patterns in my Etsy shop, and hopefully make a bit of money 🙂
  2.  Go back to basics: build a capsule wardrobe to get me started. I’m thinking: 5 tops, 4 bottoms, 1 dress, 1 jacket.
  3.  Book the month of October for sewing! I basically have to wait until the last minute before I start, otherwise I run the risk my new clothes will be too big before I can even wear them… Until the end of October, I think I can manage with what I now have in my closet.

I haven’t looked at my patterns yet, I don’t know which ones I’ll pick. I want to use my stash as much as possible and avoid making new purchases. Small budget, remember?

But everyone needs a treat from time to time, right? So I bought (gasp!) a pattern. I found it last summer online and fell in love head-over-heels! I think it’s been one of my first pins on Pinterest. I (heart) the Watson jack of Paper Cut Patterns:

The capelet! The Peter Pan collar! It’s just gorgeous!

I ordered it today, can’t wait for it to arrive.

I’ll report back once I purged my pattern stash. Maybe I’ll organize a giveaway too, who knows? 🙂

Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing: available for pre-order!

I don’t always do free advertisement, but this time I can’t let it pass because I’m so excited! One of my absolute favorite blogger, Gertie‘s New Blog for Better Sewing, will release her first sewing book in a few months. It’s now available for pre-order on Amazon.

This book will be a must for anyone who wants to take their sewing to the next level and incorporate classic couture techniques to their modern sewing. And the patterns (available up to 46″ bust!!) will have a vintage twist, so how can anyone resist?

Go show your support by pre-ording the book right now!

Mad Men Dress Challenge

You might have noticed a new badge on the left: the Mad Men dress challenge. The goal is simple: Find a dress on Mad Men that you love and create your own version. The idea comes from JuliaBobbin and being a Mad Men fan… I just couldn’t resist.

I ploughed through countless images and videos of the show, trying to find something to make. Then I found this article from Tom & Lorenzo, featuring a pretty purple dress worn by Joan. Ha! There you go! That’s what I’m going to make!

I have a purple double knit I’ve meant to use for ages, but could never find enough inspiration. I love the color. And I think the shade is pretty close to Joan’s dress, don’t you think?

To make the dress, as much as I would like to use my pattern sloper and draft everything on my own, because I’m short on time I decided to go for my trusted Simplicity 2648 Amazing Fit pattern, with the V-neck. I’ll make simple sleeves (probably borrowed from another Amazing Fit pattern I own – I love that collection!) and draft the collar and the ‘tie’ at the front.

Let’s see what I end up with 🙂

But no sewing for me today, it’s time for some pampering at the hairdresser!

BurdaStyle Sewing Club Leiden – our first group project

As mentioned previously, to get back in the swing of sewing, we started a group sew-along project. I drafted a simple skirt pattern with elastic casing pattern (I’m working on a PDF version of the skirt pattern, so watch the Downloads page!), wrote instructions on how to sew the skirt, sent a shopping list to the club members who wished to take part in the project and finally, last week Thursday, it was time to start cutting our fabric to make our skirts!

My cat Tijger, claiming his right to sleep on my pattern... tsk!

I made the pattern in 3 sizes. Perfect fit is not really an issue when it comes to a wide skirt with elastic waist band, but I still wanted to offer enough variation to give the girls a chance to have a skirt that is neither gigantically big, nor ridiculously small. It was nice to see each other’s fabric, comparing weight and thickness, discussing the impact these differences make on sewing. Let’s get those scissors out, shall we?

After all the cutting, I quickly went through the instructions, trying to iron out any difficult terms or techniques. It’s always difficult to put yourself in a beginner’s shoes when writing up instructions, as the most obvious things to a more experienced sewing addict are perhaps totally unknown to the beginner. It’s also a great exercise to go back to basics and rehearse basic techniques.

And when everything was all clear, we were off to sew our skirts!

Next chapter: the skirts parade!

 

The way to a man’s heart…

It’s been a while since I’ve done so much sewing in my free time, so much that I didn’t remember how it felt to finish something! Ha!

My employer’s Social Committee is organising a Valentine’s Day contest. We have to tell what love means to us and represent this in a creative way. After a bit of soul-searching, I chose to illustrate the saying “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” with a cute vintage apron with heart-shaped bib and pocket. I used Butterick 5726, view C. I used red polka dots fabric remnants, red satin remnants and a light pink seersucker I bought last spring. The reason why my final version only has 1 pocket is because I found my fabric (satin) to be so fiddly when attaching the ruffle, that I decided to save myself from a trip to the loony bin and I settled for just 1 pocket.

I submitted my entry to the contest, they will announce the winner (of a dinner for 2!) Monday afternoon. Wish me luck 🙂

The tale of the two x-mas elves

Or: “Making wacky party costumes – unleashing your creativity”

When a friend on FB asked if I could make elf costumes for a party, for him and his buddy, my first internal reaction was: “Oh! That could be fun!” And fun it was, despite some stressful moments related to getting the wrong pattern and the wrong fabric!

I made some sketchy sketches of what their costume could look like, I searched for patterns and tutorials on the Web, we exchanged fabric ideas and finally, we met for a quick chat so I could make my proposition. There wasn’t a lot of time to make the costumes, so I had to get off to a good solid start!

I ordered a pattern of a body suit and ordered some lamé fabric in red and green, along with some notions. When I got ready to start cutting my fabric, I examined my pattern more closely and realised that it was meant only for fabrics with a huge amount of stretch along the grain line… which is something my lamé definitely wasn’t! ARGH! That was the first setback. I quickly ordered a pyjama pattern that I purchased as downloadable via Sewingpatterns.com. It took me HOURS to stick all 200 A4 sheets together, but I finally got there!

        

(I felt bad for the trees…. but at least, I had my cat Tijger for moral support!)

However, this led to the second setback: the change of pattern meant I needed more fabric. So I placed another order, that I received promptly the day after (Thursday)… but the shop sent the wrong color of green (and I had ordered the correct one, so I wasn’t at fault here). ARGH! I sent them a very firm e-mail immediately, explaining that I need the correct shade of green no later than Saturday, or else I wasn’t going to be able to finish the work for my client, and I would like to hear how they are going to solve this problem. Friday morning, I received an e-mail from the shop owner, apologizing profusely for the error, and a promise I would receive my fabric the following day – a promise that was fulfilled!

Then there was just one thing to do: cut my fabric, and sew!

Below is a picture of one of the final costumes, with hat and pointy collar (that I drafted myself):

Of course, a costume is never complete without accessories!

Browsing the Web I found a few interesting tutorials, such as this one for a Robin Hood-esque hat on Crafty Staci’s blog, and this one for elf shoes. Here there are, in all their glory:

          

I also made some bling to go with it!

I used some old x-mas decorations and decorative bands to glitter ‘n glamour the costumes. Long live my glue gun! As I’ve said before: if the contestants on Project Runway use their glue gun more than their sewing machines and get praised for it, why shouldn’t I?

I’ll elaborate a bit more on the shoes in separate blog post, as I modified the pattern to fit the needs (and feet!) of my elves, and I believe they are totally worth a post of their own!

All in all, this party costumes project was a big creativity boost: I was more or less given ‘carte blanche’ on the construction and the final touches, so I got to make my vision a reality. It had to be fun, glitsy and totally crazy. And I think I totally achieved it!

Lost and found

Let’s go back in time, to August 2010. I fell in love with an awesomely pretty vintage apron pattern, but two months later, I still hadn’t received it.

Well, lo and behold, while sorting out drawers overflowing with papers and magazines, my husband found an unopened shipping envelope addressed to me. He had the presence of mind to not throw it away. When I went downstairs about 30 minutes ago, I saw the envelope on the table and I went 😯 An unopened shipping envelope? Addressed to me? From Your Pattern Shop? Nooooooooo… could it be…?

Yes, it was.

I RECEIVED MY PATTERN AFTER ALL!! It’s been sitting in its shipping envelope for more than 1 year, can you believe it?

It’s beautiful. It’s gorgeous. It’s so d*mn pretty! Must. Make. One. ASAP.

There you go, I just had to share my joy 🙂