Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Next project: Earl of Leicester

Jumping back on the project train for the winter with this suit for a friend who plays Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

The fabrics were found at S.R. Harris in Minneapolis by these beautiful people

photo by Ivan Phillips

and now it's my charge to give birth to their brain child!

Here are the fabrics:

 A mock up fitting is scheduled soon, after which work in earnest can begin. So far I've been making piping:

And starting the panes:

I'm definitely excited about this one! The colors are so striking I'm already in love.

More updates coming soon!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Caveats to being thrifty: Fabric/Thread rot!

So your grandma has a bunch of fabric you can have since she won't use it anymore? Or there's a bag full of spools of thread for a buck at that garage sale? A couple yards of something hanging there at your local goodwill for dirt cheap?

Buyer Beware!

Well, you're probably not going to be at a great loss at thrift store/relative give-away prices but Sew-er Beware! It only takes a couple years of sitting on a shelf in the basement or in the attic or even in a sewing room for dry rot to set in. You may not even notice the problem until your garment is completed and seams practically melt apart from thread that's disintegrated or fabric in high stress areas just pulls apart like a really tender slow-cooked pot roast.

My grandmother's house was being cleaned out and consolidated when she moved into an assisted living home and I 'inherited' a huge ziplock of thread and some other fabrics that had been sitting around unused in her upstairs un-air-conditioned sewing room in Pennsylvania. The threads I all tested and only a few were sound enough to use. 90% of that huge bag went right into the trash. The fabric appeared okay and I didn't think to test it further. Unfortunately what seemed like a great chunk of black cotton bottomweight turned out to be on the verge of rot and after being used as a doublet lining for a summer at Bristol it completely gave out at seems, under arms, around grommets, etc etc etc. Now, because I forgot where this fabric came from and didn't bother to do some basic tug tests on it, I'm replacing the entire lining for this garment. When I pulled out the existing lining made from said fabric it looked like I was holding an extant piece from the period. All those pictures in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion? Yeah, it looks just like that.

So learn my lesson the easy way. When you acquire fabric and thread from unknown storage backgrounds make sure the integrity is sound BEFORE you use in your projects. Give thread a firm tug, try breaking the thread from a spool you just bought to compare. Does it snap after a hard pull that probably leaves lines on your hand? Or does it pop apart easily, pulling apart with a moderate or light tug? Cut a medium swatch of the fabric and try pulling it apart (not trying to rip it with a started notch). When it rips what do the threads look like? Rotted thread will be very loose, fuzzy, or frayed and the fabric will tear with very little force.

Prevent your own stash from suffering this fate by making sure fabrics are stored in cool dry places, sealed in containers or zip locks if possible. Use dehumidifiers in basements and store fabrics in an air-conditioned area if you live in a humid environment.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fully Finished and In Action!

So as promised here are some action shots of the Gresham Suit.

Photo by Ivan Philips 
(with more of my work in the background!)

Photo by Nicole

And a distance group shot:
Photo by Jim Farris

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

If You Ever Find Yourself In: CHICAGO EDITION!

..and the greater chicago area!

So I've been putting this one off for a while because there's so much I want to cover! Those who live in the area probably know of these already but for those of you who don't live in the area let this be your impetus to PLAN A VISIT! The places I will be reviewing are all ones I have been to and love. In light of that I issue this challenge: introduce me to a NEW favorite Chicago/Chicago area fabric store that I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO BEFORE! A Prize will be given for the person who can :D

Ok, enough of that blah blah blah.

I'll start with the downtown area stores first, starting with the absolute if-you-get-nothing-else-from-this-go-to-this-place-as-soon-as-possible-move-over-disney-this-is-the-happiest-place-on-earth: Textile Discount Outlet aka LZ's Products aka Sol's. If you don't believe me watch this VIDEO! I really can't explain it any better. HUGE selection. I DARE YOU to show me a bigger selection in one place. Go ahead. Do it. I bet you $20 of fabric you can't do it. Anyway, great selection and seriously dirt cheap prices.
The parking is extremely limited. It's located in a mostly residential neighborhood where there's street parking that's almost always packed car to car. Their parking lot holds about 8 cars MAX. If you're taking the El to get there, it's off the Pink Line at 2121 W 21st St. (Damen & Cermak stop).
They are always closed on Saturdays however so plan accordingly.

Seriously. Just go there.

The next rant-able place is Fishman's Fabrics. Located at 1101 S. Desplaines St. They have a lot of beautiful fabrics. The place isn't large as some others but it's packed with quality silks, wools, velvets, designer fabrics, upholstery-weights, and drapery-weights. As well as some stunning trims! Prices are pretty reasonable as well. There's a parking lot and I think the closest El stop is off the Blue line at Clinton (10 min walk from Clinton stop).

While you're there, head across the street to Vogue Fabrics. It's basically what I wish every Joann's was actually like. Well organized, good selection, reasonable prices, includes a remnant room. They don't have very much in the way of upholstery weights but they do carry a large selection of trims and notions.

And before you leave that block, go right across the street from Vogue, around the corner from Fishman's and just pop into New Rainbow Fabrics. It's a very small Indian-family owned store with a bunch of sari and special occasion glittery fabrics. Sometimes you can just find that one oddly perfect thing there and it doesn't take long to look around so always worth a stop in.

Ok, now I'm going to branch out to my two favorites north of the city. The first is just the Vogue Fabrics-Evanston location. They often have a better selection than the downtown location, otherwise it's all the same.

The second is Loomcraft. In Vernon Hills, it's a good bit north of the city but they have a big selection of upholstery and drapery weights, for reasonable prices, always discounted. There's a remnant section and a shelf with silk and silk-blend remnants for dirt cheap. Most of Gresham came from that shelf. So go there if you can.

So get fabric hunting, my friends!

Liking It

So I decided I like it. Got mostly positive feedback and there are some who totally LOVE it. Some like it despite being somewhat confused and I've had one comparison to the Milwaukee Art Museum.
photo by Hector Stewart

photo by Nicole (patron of the favoritest kind)

Also by Nicole

The Milwaukee Art Museum

So there's that update. Otherwise July flying has been kicking my ass and I've done absolutely nothing. I finally have a few days off so I might start working on something again.. no guarantees. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sundry Radclyffe projects in time for Bristol

So I had this chemise... got it from a friend who had made it and it was beautiful with really long full sleeves and it was this light soft silk with a gathered neckline that I took to wearing Italian squarneck style. I wore it all last season at Bristol, through the sweat and the dirt and the dust and the rain.

RPFS killed it in one day.

I'm not sure if it was the super fine dust that played sandpaper anywhere the chemise came into contact with ANYTHING, or something else entirely, but by day two of my SoCal Romp it had gaping holes in the back, the front, the sleeves, the drawstring casing, the hem, the seams... well you get the idea. Unfortunately it was the only chemise I could wear my open ruffs with because of the neckline so I had to throw together a square-neck camicia if I wanted to wear my pretty pretty ruff.

I didn't have enough fabric to make the sleeves long enough in one piece so I had to add a chunk but since the sleeves will be under other sleeves 99.9% of the time (the .1% taking place while dressing/undressing) I don't care! And once I find beautiful light soft silk again I'm going to remake the original chemise and use that one probably.

Then, thinking about my open ruff, this one here,

I always wanted to make a set of cuffs to match but just never got around to it. So I threw together the start on the machine and took them with me on a couple flights and got all the tedious hand stitching the serpentines together done on trips. So now I have these too:

Then I decided to make a hat!
I wanted something I could wear with my current rig and also with my next dress. There's the same burgundy in both so I went with that. And kind of made schtuff up as I went. Played with the attifet shape combined with a fancy biggins cap. I also had bought this scrapbooking paper that was all cutout prettyness and I wanted to use it as a stencil so I experimented with different materials and different colors and made my own silver leaf painted silk in the end!

Gold leaf on white organza

Gold leaf on burgundy organza

Gold leaf on burgundy silk

And finally the winner, silver on burgundy silk

The painted pieces of the the big gins cap. I cut away the front of a simple biggins pattern so it shapes around my rats and behind my ears. 

side views showing painted cap

Front and top view sans rats.

I'm not 100% sure I like it yet. I think I have to see it with full rats and ruffs and makeup and jewelry... If I wear it this weekend I will try to post pictures of it so you can decide for yourself. If I hate it on then you won't see it again >:^(

That is all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gresham: Alterations edition

Wow. So going by the feedback, I should make more sexy elf stuff! Unfortunately I don't have any more such projects on the docket for now.

After delivering the Gresham suit via proxy, I got a final fitting via proxy and had to do some small fit fixes.

Had to cut the neckline a little deeper in the back and take the shoulder seam in a tad at the neck.
Have to take the piping off, open up and resew the shoulder seams, restitch the piping on the shoulders, cut down the neck, resew the collar on, restitch the piping, and restitch the collar lining closed.

Had to take in the doublet at those side-back curve seams by a couple inches at the top tapering down to the original waistline.
Again, must peel off the piping and redo the seams, redo the same seams on the lining, restore the armhole that got a little mucked up from that, and restitch the piping.

Replaced and repositioned the store-bought grosgrain lacing ribbon with more stable grommeted lacing strips (this is to help get the fitted well supported look of the garment as well as aid in ease of buttoning.).

Had to shorten the doublet in the back tapering around to the front.
Remove the piping, take off the skirting pieces in the affected zones, cut down the back tapering the new line around to the front, replace the skirting pieces, restitch the piping down, trim down and restore the lining.

To ensure everything fits and sits where it should I'm adding points at the waist for the slops to tie into the doublet.
Cut silk strips, sew, turn, press

Finish ends and decorate with little ends. Punch grommets into waistband of slops and along corresponding points on doublet (have to put slops and doublet on client to mark appropriate spots first).

Hopefully the next Gresham pics I put up are action shots! Opening weekend is just over a week away!

Mystery Project Revealed: Sexy LOTR Elf Goddess!

So what happens when you combine me being inspired by someone else's character/costume, coming across a fabric while organizing that you think "hey this is so LOTR elven fabric", just completing a project with no other pressing project at hand, a few days off of work, and the silly desire to pretend to be a contestant on project runway??

(please excuse the poor photography and the vapid lifeless expressions on my face as I try to work the self-photo/timer function/ pose in frame aspects of my camera)

So what brought this all on? Well. First I saw this picture of my good friend Jane the Phoole with a friend/phooligan I have yet to meet:
(Photo by Lady Ann Beck)

I highly suspect that this gentleman broke into my old high school LOTR induced wet-dreams to get his look. You're laughing, but I'm serious. Well seeing that brought back memories of day-dreaming of being an elven princess and looking like this:

And then it hit me! All these years later I finally have the ability to make myself an elf after all! I've spent all these years on the futsy period stuff and forgot about that fantasy all together. Then as I was organizing my fabrics I found some remnants of a silky green velvet that struck me as totally elf-goddess worthy. Then in Sacramento I found these fabrics: 

I had just finished the Gresham Suit and didn't really have a project that needed attending to urgently. I had 3 days off upcoming and didn't want to spend weeks on a project that was really just a fantastical whim. Then I thought "Hey, Self! What if we did a project-runway style challenge and gave yourself a super tight deadline and worked all the way through the day throwing this together?" I liked it. I always wanted to get a sense of what that kind of project runway day would be like and here was a great opportunity to challenge myself. 

And so I began! Now, the best part of this was that I had no constraints, no judges, no periodness, and no style restrictions at all! I didn't even care if it followed the LOTR movie style much. It was just a starting point and I let myself do whatever I wanted! I think I needed that kind of creative free-for-all after working on such specific projects for so long. 

Initially my design was much more contemporary to the LOTR style:

Then I let this fashion ad inspire me:

Which brought to mind the looks of Elven armor such as this:

And then the design became this: 
(also played with hair-styles since my hair is currently too short for flowing elven locks)

Then the rest just swept into a whole day from 10am-12am of working non-stop. I didn't get it all done in that "project runway" day. But it was a good shot at it. I finished it between the next morning and the following evening and I still technically have to hem the red organza shoulder flares. 

That's pretty much the story, so here are some more (bad) photos!

Now if only I could find my old Elvish-English dictionary...