Monday, February 16, 2015

A turban for the steampunk caterpillar

On his first wearing of the steampunk caterpillar my husband lacked a hat.  We simply ran out of time to get a hat completed as well as everything else, but it completely made me nuts.  I love hats and his outfit needed one!  We are planning on wearing the Alice in wonderland outfits again to Wild Wild West Con in Tuscon in a few weeks and I am determined to fix up the few things I hated about our outfits.  First up is the lack of hat on my husband.  The original plan was for an Asian inspired hat to go with the coat, which is Asian inspired.  However, my husband flat refused and said it had to be a turban, so turban it is.  I also felt the hat need antennae, since it is a caterpillar and I wanted the antennae to light up.  The event has night concerts and lighted props are so much fun at the concerts. 

First problem, my husband wanted ridiculously long antennae! So the antennae had to be sturdy and stabilized to his head.  I decided the easiest solution was to buy a baseball cap from a local craft store (they are super cheap, less than $3).  Most baseball caps have interfacing in the front to stabilize them, so it should provide enough support for the antennae.  I then unpicked the seams that held in the brim in place.  Once the brim was removed, I stitched the sweat band back in place.  The baseball cap was adjustable, so we adjusted it to my husband's head size.  I built the antennae out of a coathanger and then stitched them to the hat. 

To make the antennae look less like a hanger, I stitched tubes out of bias tape that were 1.5 times the length of the wire.  After I slipped the tube over the wire, I added the lights to the end of the wire.  The light is the clearish thing at the end of the blue tube to the left.  These lights flash multiple colors and had a loop at the back for wearing them on a string.  I ran the wire through the loop and bent the wire back to lock the lights in place.  The lights hang down a bit and can move slightly since I did not want the wire too tight or I feared I would break the plastic loop on the light.  I wanted to add some dimension to the fabric tubes, since the looked like thin fabric over wire.  I did this by hand beading the bias tube and using the stitches between beaded areas to gather the tube a bit.  To hide the ugly end if the bias tube and the loop of wire, I made fringe out of a scrap of fabric, wrapped the fringe around the end and hand stitched it into place.  You can see the fringe in the picture to the left. 

Once the antennae were ready, I covered the ball cap base with blue brocade to make a turban.  Basically, I cut a yard of fabric in half.  Serged the edges to one half and used that the cover between the antennae and make the upper part of the turban.  I then made a tube out of the remaining half yard of fabric.  I ran a strip about 12 inches wide of cotton fabric through the center of the tube to give it a bit more body.  I then twisted the tube and wrapped it around the bottom of the hat.  I basically just played with the fabric until I was happy with it.  After I was happy with it, I stitched all of the fabric to the ball cap by hand.  The decoration at the front is made from a broken earring I had lying around and a feather plume I got from the floral department of the local craft store.  Anyway, here is the finished turban!  I think my husband will like it, since he wont actually have to tie a turban each time he wears it and the antennae really are rather big.  He is likely going to have to get used to ducking for doorways in this. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Steampunk Lounge Wear

After the struggles with the corset I made for the the January HSM challenge, I really needed an easy project.  An alternate title to this post could be, I desperately needed something easy and completely not challenging to sew to boost my confidence (I thought this title might have been too long). 

Since my husband and I often attend Steampunk events with friends, I have always wanted some steampunkish lounge wear to wear when we are just hanging out and playing games in the hotel room.  Also something besides jeans to wear down to breakfast.  I live in mortal fear of getting breakfast on my outfit before I can even get to the convention.  I figured my lounge wear will basically be similar to pyjamas  and therefore should be super easy to make. I dug around in my stash and came up with the following stuff. I figure the grey flannel will make elastic waist PJ pants for my husband to go with his T shirts.  The brown skull flannel will make PJ pants for me and the brown cotton gauze will make a nice top.  The brown lace is for edging my pants and top. 

The pants went together really quickly and are basically calf length elastic waist pants.  I made them wide in the leg, since that is the way I like PJ pants and edged them with the brown lace.  I do my elastic slightly odd (or so I have been told) so I am adding a bit more detail here. I stitched a channel at the top for the elastic and then threaded the elastic through. After that I closed the channel and then I stitched through the center of the elastic while stretching the elastic to prevent the elastic from twisting in the channel.  If you look closely at the elastic, there is a seam running through the middle.  I do this trick with all my elastic waist bands, since I really hate it when the elastic twists. My husband's pants are basically the same except floor length and without lace. 

The top was patterned off of a favorite regular wear top.  I love this shirt, but I have completely worn out the fabric.  I took the top apart and figured using top as a pattern for the lounge wear would be a good way to test out the pattern.   The original top was a stretchy knit, but I figure the gauze is slightly stretchy as well and would work.  I modified the pattern slightly as the regular wear top had little puff sleeves gathered into bands at the bottom.  I thought this might annoy me if I ever sleep in the top.  So I made the sleeves slightly longer and edged them in lace rather than with a gathering band. 

One of the things I love about this pattern is that there is a seam down the center back.  The center back is slightly flared below the waist, which prevents the top from riding up in the back.   I am pretty pleased with how the top came out.  It is very comfy and I think will be a nice thing to wear in the mornings and when hanging out at conventions.  Now I just need to make a version for regular wear as well!

Friday, February 6, 2015

HSM February: thinking about the color blue

The challenge for February is the color Azure. Blue is my favorite color and I am so excited by this challenge and immediately wanted to make a new dress in my favorite color.  However, when I was going through my stuff to decide what to make, I found an old dress that has been relegated to the back of the closet due to some fairly minor issues, and this dress is blue.  This dress was made after one of my favorite paintings of all time.

I found this painting while wandering around on the amazing Realm of Venus site.  I actually used this painting as my inspiration for my 2011 entry in the Italian Renaissance Costume Challenge (now in it's 5th year).  However there were a few things I really disliked about my dress and these have prevented me from wearing it.  In fact, I have only worn this dress once for only a few hours and  about an hour for pictures. Here are my original images of the dress.  I feel this dress looks reasonably nice from 5 feet away, but some of the details make me unhappy. 

Problem number 1, the bodice:  I tried a new method of lacing this dress. I had previously used Jen Thompson's of Festive Attyre ladder lacing method (which I dont think is currently available on her site). Jen's method worked wonderfully, but there was some discussion at the time if rings or some other method might be more historically correct.  So I tried rings.  There are rings on each side of the bodice and the lacing is ladder lacing in 2 directions.  I hate that the rings caused buckling and I hate that the ribbon shows running vertically between the rings.  I am not sure what I will do to fix this but I need to fix it or I will never be happy wearing this dress.

Problem number 2, the sleeves:  This is actually a set of problems.  First, I love the sleeves but my guess at construction leaves something to be desired.  I have done cut outs like the sleeves only 2 times.  The first time was on a attempt at a replica of the costume worn by the evil stepmother in Sleepy Hallow. This dress was made with modern synthetic velvet.  To make the cut outs in the velvet, I drew the design in fray check on the back of the fabric and then carefully cut the design out.  This worked beautifully and the design was easy to stitch to the base fabric on the bodice.  The fray check left the edges sealed enough that the stitching did not need to be super close together and could be very close to the edge since the fray check sealed the edges of the cut so well.

However, the fabric for the Venetian gown is 100% cotton velveteen. The fray check stained the heck out of this fabric and I needed a different method to stabilize the designs.  I decided to use wonderunder since it would let me iron the design on to the sleeves and then hand stitch to stabilize.  I tried to take tiny stitches close to the edge of the design to keep the stitching invisible and spaced the stitching out similar to the Sleepy Hallow bodice.  Unfortunately, the wonderunder is far less stabilizing and the velvet started fraying on my first wearing.  I need to go back and hand stitch with larger stitches and much closer together.  Also, I don't like the lace at the cuffs.  This was the best lace I could find at the time, but I think it looks terrible and I want to replace it.  Finally, I don't like the sleeve head treatment.  Since you cannot see the sleeve head treatment on the inspiration portrait, I wandered around the Realm of Venus site to look at other treatments.  The white puffs with buttons seems fairly common, but my execution leaves much to be desired.  The white puffs are made of too heavy of fabric and the ribbon was not substantial enough to stabilize the heavy metal buttons.  I think the final sleeve head treatment just looks floppy.  I hope to redo the handstitching to better stabilize the velveteen, add new lace and fix up the sleeve heads to better fit my vision.

I am still waffling on making something completely new, but I would really love to get this dress to the point where I could actually enjoy wearing it.