Friday, August 4, 2017

Cthulhu for President, making of some cultists robes and masks

I am sorry I have been so neglectful of this blog, I got a new job in January and the adjustment has been slow.  The new job is taking almost all of my free time, although I do love it!  I have only managed one costume set and one costume event since starting the new job and that was a set of cultist robes, masks, tentacle fingers and campaign signs.  You see the theme for Wild Wild West Con was Cthulhu for President 2017. I figured if Cthulhu was running for President there would need to be some cultists running around. 

Applique on the hood
The robes are really very simple shapes basically just long sleeved robes with hoods.  I did not use a pattern for these but Meiljolie of All Things Crafty has a very good pattern on her site.  The robes are made of red linen and appliqued with tentacles in black linen.  To the left is one of the hoods.  The tentacles were designed free-form to ensure that the robes would each be unique. There are tentacles around the hem, the cuffs and the face opening in both my robe and my husband's robe.

Leather mask pieces
Next we needed some masks with tentacles.  I modified the plague doctor leather mask pattern I used for the Poison Doctor and Sugar Skull masks to create two different looks. For the first one, I shorted the beak and added 2 circular vents.  I also cut tentacles along the bottom edge of both face pieces and added a tentacle to the bottom the nose ridge.  You can see the cut piece to the left.

shaping the tentacles with warm water
I used very light weight leather, 3 oz, so I could shape the tentacles.  The tentacles were shaped with warm water by hand. Below you can see one face piece without shaping and one with the tentacles shaped.

adding vents
After shaping, the mask was dyed green, the vents were riveted on as seen to the left.  The vents are cut from brass screen. The mask was sewn together with heavy duty thread and the eyes and straps riveted on after sewing the mask together.  The eyes were made by doming copper screen

First mask
First mask

I wanted the two masks to look completely different, so I spent more time playing with the pattern for the second mask.  Unfortunately, I got so distracted making the mask, I did not take any pictures of the construction.  Basically I cut off the nose from the first cultist pattern and added a triangle shaped piece to the front to fill the created hole.  I then added tentacles to this piece and a triangle shaped vent.  The shaping, dyeing and construction were done the same way as the previous mask.

Second mask

Second Mask

Here is a picture of the robe and mask one together and my husband's giant wooden hand he was working on.

Next I designed some campaign signs.  Since we though we might want to use these costumes beyond 2017, I omitted the year.  The signs were designed in illustrator and printed at FedEx as yard signs. Once printed we stapled them to square wooden posts so we could carry them around all day.

The slogans of "Why Vote for a Lesser Evil" were printed on both signs.  However, my husband wanted "Make America Green Again" and I wanted "Answer the Call." So the signs are slightly different.

Next, I wanted tentacle fingers.  I used some plastic finger puppets and some scrap leather to make over gloves to hold the finger puppets onto my fingers while letting me retain motion. Finally, I wanted some harnesses that would allow me to carry around some Tentacle Kitty Little Ones for more tentacle goodness.

Here are a couple of pictures from the event. 

We had so much fun as cultists we wore the outfits 2 days out 3 of the event.  The other day we pulled out the Dia de Muertos and the Plague Doctor outfits.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

HSM December: Special Occasion

Birth of the Virgin 1365
Now that it is December, I regret how few of the Historical Sew Monthly Challenges I managed to do. They always help me push my boundaries and get something actually done!  This December challenge was no different.  Our local SCA Barony was having a Midwinter feast set in 14th century Italy.  I had originally planned to just wear something 16th century that I already had.  Then a friend challenged me to join him wearing 14th century and I remembered that I could use this for HSM December!  So this was a perfect fit! 

cutting the gown front with leaf detail
First I did some research and decided I loved the gown on the lady on the right in this image.  This image is a detail shot of a fresco by Giovanni da Milano in the Rinuccini Chapel in Santa Croce, Florence.  This fresco depicts the Life of the Virgin  and this detail is from the birth of the Virgin panel.  Giovanni da Milano was active from 1345-1369 and this fresco is dated 1365.  I absolutely love the leaf detail down the front of the gown!  However, I quickly decided I needed to use fabric I already owned as I already have a sizable stash.  So this eliminated a true copy as I have no white wool.  I did have some tropical weight blue/gray wool gabardine however, so I threw it in the washer and the dryer to felt it up a bit.  While the wool was washing and felting, I drafted a quick kirtle pattern and a quick leaf pattern.  I then cut the gown and sleeves from the wool and used the leaf pattern La Cotte Simple and was fairly happy with how they came out!  The then used the remaining silk for straight cut binding for the cuffs and collar of the gown.  I did this for 2 reasons, one there appears to be some binding at these points in the fresco and two, I have a skin reaction to wool so I wanted to bind the places that might touch around my underdress and shift.  The straight binding does not behave nicely on the neckline however, so I will need to fix this in the future!

hand sewing the wool to silk
silk bound buttonholes
Cutting the leaves was a bit tedious, but the effect was worth it!  I then searched the stash for a color of silk or wool that would contrast nicely with the blue/gray wool and found some cream colored silk satin left over from an old project.  There was not enough to cut the front panels in a single piece so I had to piece the front.  Due to the detail of the leaves, I had to hand sew the wool to the silk.  I was not sure if the leaves would have been sewn down or left free, so I decided to leave them free.  I also decided to add a front closure, as I am usually dressing myself! I used small round metal buttons and hand made buttonholes.  Hand done buttonholes make me really nervous, but I felt machine buttonholes would look terrible down the front of a dress like this.  Since I had never hand sewn buttonholes from this time period before, I used the tutorial from

For headwear, I wanted something more than what the lady in the fresco was wearing so I spent some time looking and some favorite blogs of mine for ideas. I decided I wanted a St. Brigitta's cap with embroidery and a D-shaped veil after looking a Katafalk. I am not going to post any in progress picks on these two since they basically followed tutorials from Katafalk, Cathrin has a wonderful guide toveil shapes and instructions for both a plain and a fancy St. Brigitta's cap.  I did simplify the insertion stitch since my thread turned out to be too thick for the fancy stitch Cathrin did. I also altered the band embroidery just because I felt like it.
St. Brigitta's cap
insertion stitch and embroidery

Here are some images of the full outfit and one event picture!  I really enjoyed this style and will likely make more in the future.  I also really want a frilled veil!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Alexia Maccon Cosplay Part V: The cape

Alexia wears this very cute little shoulder cape with her floating dress.  Looking at the cover, it appears to have a fancy closure at the neck, either applique or embroidery down the front, some sort of fluffy trim around the bottom and a standing collar.  The cape is also a fairly dark shade of blue.  Searching many fabric stores I could not find any silk that matched this color, so I settled on a blue poly satin. 

The pattern for this is basically a full circle with a neck hole and a simple standing collar.  I cut a slit into the circle to form the opening and then rounded the bottom front edges the give a more gentle curve.  If you look at the image to the left you can see the gentle curve to the bottom front.  The trim is a gathered lace with pleated satin over it.  Thankfully this trim was bought this way and did not need to gather the lace or pleat the satin!
 The design on Alexia's cape looked almost like velvet to me, but I was dreading doing the velvet applique and running out of time!  So I used heat set flocking material.  The idea for this did not come from me, but rather from a blogger I love, Fresh Frippery and her Lady Tremaine dress. She used this same flocking to add the lovely accents to her Lady Temaine gown (seriously this gown is amazing)! She used a Silhouette machine to cut out her appliques, I don't own one of these but found this stuff just as easy to work with without the machine.  I designed the appliques then drew them onto the plastic backing of the flocking material.  The designs were then cut out and the backing material removed by hand.  The designs were then ironed on (using a cloth to cover the designs).  Once attached the front covering was removed and I was left velvet like appliques!  The only down side I have found is that the flocking picks up sooo much cat hair and fuzz!  I am forever cleaning them up!

The closure is a false closure made of a fancy button bought at the fabric store and stitched to a straight piece of the satin (lined and interlined for strength).  The cape actually closes with hidden hook and eyes.

 I also added and applique to the back, I dont see one in the reference images but I wanted to add something here.  You can also see that the satin stretched and I added 2 small pleats to the back to allow it to fit the collar.  The collar is a simple standing collar, cut to fit my neck measurement.

Here is the front of the finished cape, forgive my messing sewing room backdrop!  The only thing I have left for this costume is the parasol.  While I did get the parasol to usable before the event, there are still some details I would like to add to really make it match the cover.  I hope to finish this up shortly and will post about it when I do!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Alexia Maccon cosplay Part IV: The bodice

Sorry about the really long gap between the bodice and skirt postings, I swear I did not forget, I just got really busy!

Looking at the cover image, the bodice has embroidery on the front panel, and black detail between the front panel and the side front panels.  In the case of the cover image, there is embroidery both at the top and the bottom of the front panel (not always true inside the book).  The sleeves are split open, with lace showing from underneath and with black bows facing up the arm and away from the cuff.

Looking at various black and white images in the book itself,  the bodice is often shown with the side front matching the odd drapes on the skirt and different from the front panel.  Since I was low on the blue silk from the skirts, I decided to use the silk Dupioni for the main parts of the bodice (sleeves, bodice back and sides) and the remainder of the blue smooth silk for the bodice front. 


Truly Victorian TV 462
I then had to decide what pattern to use for the bodice.  Looking at the length of the bodice and basic lines, I decided to alter one of my favorite Truly Victorian patterns, the tail bodice pattern.  I love the way the back looks in this pattern and felt it would compliment the skirt well.  I was also very easy, due to the dart placement, to make the bodice front into a separate piece.  I did decide to remove the collar entirely, due to the presence of the cape.  I did a quick mock up and made the pattern alterations and was ready to go.  The sleeves I made much tighter. I usually have to tighten the sleeves on Truly Victorian patterns anyway, but I wanted these to be so tight that the sleeve would want to open up at that split and show the lace underneath.

I then very carefully, and with much squinting at the front cover, designed embroidery that I felt replicated the pattern on the front of Alexia's bodice close enough.  Here is the embroidery I decided on.  I then flat-lined the silk as it was so thin, I was worried it would not lay flat for the embroidery. Once flat lined, I embroidered the front of the bodice with black silk floss.

The images below show the embroidery detail on the finished bodice.  

Bodice top embroidery detail

Bodice bottom embroidery detail

I was now ready to put the bodice together, other than adding the front panel, with black silk piping and altering the sleeves, I followed the instructions from the Truly Victorian Pattern.  The sleeves were lined in blue cotton and the bottom 6 inches (until just above the slit) was lined in more blue dupioni. A false cuff of lace was then added to the inside of the sleeve.  The white lace was gathered onto a cotton false cuff.  Only the bottom row of lace goes all the way around the false cuff, the rest of the lace is gathered only into the area that would be shown by the slit.  Here is a close up of the sleeve to give you and idea of the lace placement. 

sleeve cuff close up
sleeve from the back

Finally, here are some images of the finished bodice!  Sorry for the slightly wonky photos, the bodice does not fit on the larger dress dummy at the bust (no squish......) and it hangs on my smaller dummy.  Oh, and I learned something I truly detest doing, self fabric covered buttons!  The buttons are all covered in the thin silk fabric.  This fabric shredded easily and made making self covered buttons a true pain, however I think the look nice and am glad a persevered and finished them.  Thank you all for reading and let me know if you have any questions! 
bodice back
bodice side
bodice front

Monday, October 24, 2016

Alexia Maccon cosplay Part III: The skirt

In the Manga, Alexia Maccon typically wears Victorian style outfits and, although some Lolita style bits have been added, the overall style is Victorian with a bustle. Thankfully, I already have a bustle and a corset that I had made previously, so I just needed to focus on the skirts and bodice.  The skirts appear to have either 2 layers or a ruffled white petticoat that is slightly longer than the skirt.  The overskirt is teal with black strapping around the front and teal and black ruffles down the back.  There are little hip poufs edged in lace either on the skirt or on the bodice.  The skirt also appears to be roughly walking length rather than trained, which is amazingly nice for wearing at Conventions! 
I decided to make a 2 layer skirt, with the petticoat layer in white cotton and the overskirt in teal silk. Making these things one skirt reduced the number of waistbands I needed to wear and since the petticoat is longer than the skirt, I would never wear this petticoat with any other Victorian since usually I dont have my petticoats showing!
Now I had to pick a pattern and here I had a conundrum.  The Parasol Protectorate is set in the 1870s, but the bodice length and style on the Manga cover appears more 1880s to me.  I decided to go 1880s for this outfit, since I felt it fit the image on the cover more even though author sets the books in the 1870s.  I based my underskirt/petticoat layer on the Truly Victorian TV261-R.  Since this simple base would be easily altered to fit the image on the cover and still full enough in the back to give that satisfying bustle skirt swish!

I used to completely plain view (no ruffle and no bustling) and made it out of white cotton.  I then added 2 layers of really narrow ruffles.  To keep the ruffles simple, cut the ruffles from the selvage of the cotton so there are no seams and no hems!  I used the pattern with no alterations for this layer, including all the darts to make this layer smooth over the waist of the corset.

Once the white underskirt was done, I needed to make the overskirt.  I again used the plain TV261-R pattern, but with a bunch of alterations.  The back panel is cut exactly like the pattern.  Ruffles for the back were made with 3 times the width of the back panel, hemmed both top and bottom and then gathered onto the back piece before assembling the skirt.  The ruffles start a few inches down from the top, since I knew the top of the skirt would be covered by the bodice. The ruffles are are the same size, except for the bottom most one which is the same width in the center, but tapered to the sides as the center back of the skirt is longer to accommodate the bustle.
It was in the middle of cutting the skirt ruffles that I realized I had a problem.  I had bought 2 yards more silk than I though I needed, but had not realized how narrow the thai silk is!  I ran out of silk before I cut the main parts of the bodice or the side poufs!  I ordered more silk from my Bangkok Silks, but found that there is a lot of batch to batch variability in the color and I could not use any of the other silk that came in for this project! This silk was wonderful to work with, but in the future I will order way more than I need so I dont have this problem again!  I really did not want to have any of the ruffles a different color, so the bottom ruffle is really heavily pieced but I did manage to get the full skirt out of the teal silk.

The side panels and the front panels greatly expanded versions of the panel pieces from the TV261-R.  Since the image shows the skirt being strapped down and falling in gentle pleats down the front, the base pattern would not work.  This pattern is designed to give a very smooth look and so would be insufficient for the puffiness under the strapping.  Basically, I split both the side and front pattern pieces from top to bottom and widened the pattern pieces as much as a could while not piecing the panels (since piecing would be really obvious in the main skirt panels).  I then pleated the skirt rather than darting the skirt.  To keep the pleats flat under the bodice, I stitched down the top several inches of each pleat. You can see the sewn pleats to the left.

I decided I wanted to attach the odd lace edged hip poufs to the skirt, but I had a problem, I knew I was going to have to use a different fabric for the hip poufs  (and the main part of the bodice) but I was having no luck getting really closely matching Thai silk.  In scanning through the manga I noticed that Alexia was often drawn with the hip poufs and the main bodice a different shade (see the image to the left). However the front cover shows the same, or very close color.  I decided to go for a very close color but a totally different texture in silk.  I picked a very close color match dupioni but of course the dupioni has slubs and the Thai silk is much more smooth.  The hip poufs were drape drafted using scrap fabric until I liked the shape.  I then cut them out of the dupioni, gathered lace to the edge and lined them in the cotton.  At this point I attached the waist band, sewed the openings of the underskirt to the over skirt and added hook closures.


I then put the skirt on with the bustle and marked where the bodice would likely hit.  At this point I put the bustle and the skirt on a dress
dummy and played with the velvet ribbon to make the strapping until I was happy with it.  The crossovers and the strap ends are covered with small bows of the same velvet ribbon.

Overall I really love this skirt, it is so swishy and big!