Monday, January 23, 2012

Pirate Wedding - Skirt 1

Okay! Yesterday I made the first skirt of the pirate wedding costume ensemble using the homespun-like dark blue-grey sari fabric. It looks fabulous with my Elizabethan corset, which is NOT the corset I'm wearing to the wedding, but I wanted my outfit to be wearable to Renaissance fests too, so I'm happy with it.

I'm actually wearing a Victorian corset underneath the Elizabethan bodice, haha. You can see it poking out of the top. The petticoat + blue-grey skirt are so BULKY, and I still have another skirt to go on top, so I felt like I needed an under-corset over my over-corset! I am bullet-proof wearing this outfit. I love the Elizabethan bodice so much, but I think in this case it would be better on top, rather than a foundation garment. I want to see if the lady who made it will make it in the gold tapestry fabric I bought.

The skirt fabric is actually more like a gauze. It's very sheer. I'm wearing it over my 18th-century style petticoat and you can tell. And the fabric sticks to itself making it difficult to work with. I wanted to attach my bed skirt ruffle but if I attached it at the hem of the skirt, the skirt would be too long. As it was, the skirt was just the right length. The ruffle is about 15" deep, but I couldn't just iron & hem the skirt fabric across at 15" because it stuck to itself. And I couldn't attach the ruffle to it 15" above the hem for the same reason. It looks so good with the ruffle attached (just pinned as a mockup), I would hate to not be able to use it.

I haven't attached the waistband to the blue-grey skirt yet. It's too big for my waist, because I'm not experienced enough to figure out how deep the pleats should be for a fitted waistband. I tried to gather it using the sewing machine with my stitch setting on 5 and using a very strong thread, but... No. It is actually much easier to do knife pleats than to gather that much fabric along a thread. I made it like the petticoat, but I just sewed one seam up the center back and left an opening to get into. If I fold both sides over each other, it gives a bustle effect. I think I'll need to use hooks & eyes on the waistband for it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pirate Wedding

Yay! My sister is getting married at the end of April and she is having a pirate wedding! Needless to say, my parents aren't thrilled but I am because I love dressing up.

I looked at several costume blogs for inspiration. My sister's wedding colors are royal blue and maroon/burgundy (I don't know if there's a difference, to be honest). So I went to the Saver's thrift store and headed straight for their bedding department, because curtains & bedding are way cheaper than buying new fabric by the yard. And the hems are finished on most things, so that helps make things easy.

I think I'm going to have a layered skirt. It could go several ways.

Option 1: This will be completely fabulous
Dark blue-grey homespun-looking cotton underskirt made from a sari ($4.99)
With maroon, blue, and tan/gold ruffle on the bottom made from a Ralph Lauren king-size bed skirt ($3.99)
Maroon quilted fabric overskirt made from interior decorating fabric ($4.99)
Tasseled gold brocade (I think?) bustle-like thingy from a window valance ($4.99)
Shiny, silky gold I-don't-know-what-this-fabric-is-called chemise from a curtain ($5.99)
Bodice fabric/maker TBD

Option 2: Gorgeous & elegant
Light-blue nubby fabric underskirt from a bolt labeled 100% cotton royal duck which I think is wrong ($9.99)
Maroon quilted fabric overskirt made from interior decorating fabric ($4.99)
Rose-colored floral-embroidered tapestry bodice made from upholstery fabric sewn as a curtain ($6.99)
Shiny, silky gold I-don't-know-what-this-fabric-is-called chemise from a curtain ($5.99)

Why is my camera such a POS? Using the flash in low-lighting or as filler actually makes the picture DARKER. I can take three pictures in a row, not changing anything, and they will all turn out different. You can't tell how pretty the bodice material is from the first picture, so I took a close-up.

Looking at the picture, the blue doesn't go with the bodice fabric. But I could always have a bodice made with a different fabric. But I do love how the embroidered fabric looks with the maroon & gold fabrics.

I'm going to go with Option 1 for now.

1911 Corset - On hold(ish)

I finally got all the grommets set in my second lacing strip. Except that I didn't have enough grommets and couldn't find any at the local craft or hardware stores that were 1/4" diameter. So I had to use eyelets, which suck because they snag the lacing ribbon.

Then I fitted the corset and had a meltdown because I looked so... plump. Not flattering. I am not a plump person so I should have just gotten a grip, but I didn't. So that set me back a few days until I could face it again. Then I fitted it the best I could--had to take it in a bit at the underbust and hips. I think I did it okay.

But I haven't gotten around to altering the pattern pieces and making the second mockup. The reason is because I need to make my costume for my sister's pirate wedding at the end of April. I know there should be plenty of time to see the corset project through and still do my costume because it will just be skirts and a chemise, and I've proven that I can make a skirt without a pattern and that it's easy, and a chemise SHOULD be easy but I haven't ever made one, and I'll get someone else to make the bodice...


I am getting married on April 7 so I want to make sure I have plenty of time to make my costume as well as prep for my own wedding.

So I'm going to work on my costume, and fit the corset stuff in a bit at a time instead of on-schedule. I hope I don't regret it!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

1911 Corset - Lacing strips

I made the lacing strips today. The instructions were to cut an 18" x 5" piece of fabric.

I discovered that the bottom of a 12-pack of soda makes the perfect template for the lacing strips. It's exactly 5" wide and 16" long. After I traced and cut out the lacing strip fabric, I remembered that it was supposed to be 18" long and decided that 16" would have to be good enough.

Setting the grommets... Setting the grommets was a bitch and I'm only halfway through. I got one lacing strip done. It is really, really hard to cut through 3 layers of denim. The punch that came with my grommet kit was not up to the task. So I had to poke a hole with an awl (after making a trip to the hardware store to buy one), then force a phillips-head screwdriver through it to enlarge it, then cut the hole bigger with a pair of small scissors and trim the ragged edges so they wouldn't completely cover the grommet post.

My grommets were not lined up evenly at all, even though I marked the holes evenly. I spent the entire time vehemently swearing. My hands are incredibly sore and I know they will feel worse tomorrow, when I have to finish the other strip. I tried using a drill to drill the grommet holes, but after one hole realized that was a big mistake, because the drill bit just twisted the fabric fibers and distorted the seam.

Here's a picture of the shittiest grommet setting I could have possibly achieved. I don't think it could be worse if I tried. Whatever, I don't care as long as they will work for fitting the mockup. I hope I can do better on the final product.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

1911 Corset - Mockup resized

I followed Jo's instructions to correct the size of my mockup with a couple of exceptions:

A) She pointed out that I had added seam allowance to the edge of the lacing strips in the center back, which I didn't think I had done, so I took that out and that saved me 2 inches right there. The mockup now had a 30-inch waist.

B) I did the 1/4-inch seam in the middle of each panel except for the center front panels. So four panels per side, 1/4" off each one, gave me two inches on each side. So, I took a total of 4" off the rest of the mockup. Total of 6" eliminated.

I hope that it won't mess things up since I left the center front panels the same size as before. It probably will mess things up.

Here's the re-sized mockup:

Tomorrow I'll work on the lacing strips. 

1911 Corset: Mockup

I made my mockup. I decided not to document the steps between resizing the corset pattern pieces (slashing & spreading) and making the mockup because it's just a matter of tracing the pieces onto your mockup fabric and cutting the fabric out.

So... The mockup. I was originally going for a 26" waist, which is two inches smaller than my actual waist measurement. Somehow, I ended up with a 32" waist. I'm really bad at math. Basic arithmetic I'm fine with, but fractions, percentages, etc., I'm lost. I really do think I'm math disabled.

 I also think my mock-up doesn't look quite right. I sent a picture of it to Jo and she said it looked fine.

Next mock-up I'm definitely using a patterned fabric. I got confused on how to sew the pieces together, even though they were notched, and I think if I had a fabric that had a clear "right" side and "wrong" side, it would be easier to figure out.

Here's what Jo suggested to fix the mock-up so I don't have to start over:

So it's 32 and you need 26 inches, that's 6 inches that needs to be removed. This is what I'd do, I'd take 1/2 inch out of each panel by folding each panel piece in half on the grain line and sewing a seam 1/4 inch from the fold. Boom, 5 inches gone. Then I'd fold the corset at the center front seam and sew another seam 1/4 from the original. There's another 1/2 inch gone. And finally, I'd bump the center back edge in 1/4. That should take care of the last 1/2 inch. Remove those those 1/2 inches in each panel, and the 1/4 on the center front and back. You can reconnect the top and bottom edges after fitting because you may need to add or subtract at the underbust or hips anyway and will have to check those edges anyway.

You're right, once you take a section out of the center of each panel top and bottom edges will no longer match perfectly, but this mock-up is about getting the fit right and uneven edges won't really affect that. You will still be able to adjust the fit by either pinning or letting out the seam allowances, and you'll still be able to gauge if the length works for you.

I'm going to use a colored thread to take in the panel pieces so I don't get confused and think the seam allowances are the trimmed pieces and vice versa.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

1911 Corset - Transferring your measurements to the pattern pieces

First step in the process: Transfer your measurements to the pattern pieces using the "slash & spread" technique.

I am using Jo's pattern, which she adapted from a pattern in Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines. My friend Jana, who is a graphic designer, enlarged it for me so it was true to scale.

The background came out dark, so I decided to retrace it using our glass door as a light table. Because I didn't read the step one instructions clearly, and thought I needed to add the extra measurements around the pattern pieces. It was only after I was done laboriously retracing the pattern onto white paper that I realized we are adding the extra measurements into the middle of each pattern piece. Oh well.

Step 1: Subtract 2-3 inches from your waist measurement. I took away 3 inches. I had to enlarge the pattern to accomodate my waist, so I then subtracted the pattern's waist measurement from mine. Divide the difference by five because you will have to enlarge the five pattern pieces. In my case I have to add 5/8" to each piece.

Step 2: Number each pattern piece from left to right.

Now to add the extra inches to the pattern pieces... Draw a line up the center of each pattern piece using a ruler. Cut (the "slash" part of the process) along the line.

Step 3: Tape a piece of paper underneath the left half of the pattern piece. Measure and mark 5/8" from the cut edge in several spots from the bottom to the top of the pattern piece.

Step 4: Attach the right half of the pattern piece along the marks you've made. I found it easiest to tape it at the top mark, then align it at the bottom mark, double-check that the space measured 5/8" at both top and bottom, and then tape it in a few places along the pattern piece to secure it.

Make sure the lines on the waist match between both pieces!

Step 5: Do Steps 2-4 for each pattern piece. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be! Maybe partly because I retraced each piece, which ended up being a really good study of how each piece is constructed (with boning channels drawn in, etc.).

Each piece has been slashed, spread, and reassembled with 5/8" added to each piece.

My second project

I've just started my next project: the 1911 corset featured in the sew-along on the amazing blog, Bridges on the Body. The list of supplies and the schedule are in the December 2011 posts.

The inspiration for the sew-along is Jo's Titanic Corset, pictured here:

Since I've never made a corset, or sewn a garment before until my 18th-century style petticoat, I didn't want to buy the expensive coutil fabric that corsets are supposed to be made from. I found a yard of sturdy cotton canvas outdoor fabric at Jo-Ann which came to about $3.60 and found seam binding and satin ribbon (for the lacing) to match.

Now I'm worried about it. I'm afraid that even if the corset turns out good, it will look like a mess because I know nothing about pattern matching on printed fabrics and I'm not sure how easily I can learn.

Next post will be documenting, step by step, the first task in the sew-along schedule: transferring my measurements to the pattern.

Monday, January 2, 2012

18th-Century Petticoat

The photos are crummy but they get the point across. I took them with my iPhone because my "real" camera is a POS.

Step 1: Wash and dry fabric and iron it. Then hem along the selvedge. You don't have to trim the selvedge off.

I hemmed it initially and then had to hem it again when I was finished with it so that it would be floor length. I didn't want to hem it to floor length until I was finished because I wanted to measure the length while I was wearing it with a crinoline.

Step 2: Fold fabric in half and pin together along hemline to make sure it's even on both sides. Then make a cut through the hem and tear to make the rest of the cut. Check out the blogs I linked in my previous post for instructions on making the pocket slits.

Step 3: Take one half of the fabric. Fold it in half again and mark the center point with a safety pin. Make the knife pleats. You'll want to have the pleats face the center of the fabric (where the safety pin is) on each side of the safety pin. You have to pin each pleat and when you've got the whole piece of fabric pleated, sew along the top to secure the pleats.

I had to redo my pleats 3 or 4 times because I couldn't get the spacing right. Then I remembered Google is my friend. The standard knife pleat formula is 3-inches of fabric = 1 inch of pleat. I used a credit card as a template and measured my pleats that way.

It should look like this:

 Step 4 & 5: Attach the waistband and ties, then assemble skirt. I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of this process! I bought a piece of unbleached muslin for the waistband. A quarter yard will do. Cut a 2" to 3" piece, fold in half lenthwise, iron to set crease. Then fold each half in towards center and iron to set creases. Now you've made something like double-fold bias tape, except it's not cut on the bias.

I sewed on the two waistbands and their ties before assembling the skirt because I thought that would be easier than wrestling 4.5 yds of fabric. After you've done the waistband and ties, pin the two skirt halves together right faces together, sew up the sides to the pocket slits. The fabric will be heavy, so put extra stitches in across the bottom of the pocket slits to reinforce them so the seams don't rip out.

Here's what the waistband and ties look like assembled:

And here's the finished petticoat! You can see where I re-hemmed the skirt. I like the look of that wide hem. The skirt is heavy and full and has a wonderful swing to it. I'll take a picture of it on when I get my corset!

My first project

I decided to start this blog to chronicle my projects so I can easily refer back to them in the future if I want to try any of them again. Or use what I learned to try something new. After going to my first Renaissance fest since I was a child, I became obsessed with trying to make my own costumes.

My first project was an 18th century-style petticoat, which I think would look awesome as a peasant-type of skirt. I wanted this, which I saw on etsy. It was listed for $60 + $18 shipping.

I didn't want to pay $78 for it because there's a lot of stuff I want, so I decided to try and make it myself. I bought 4.5 yards of unbleached osnaburg fabric at Jo-Ann Fabric for $4.99/yd and followed the excellent instructions on this website and this website.

It was really easy! The hardest part was figuring out how big the knife pleats should be and how closely spaced to fit the waistband. But since it ties in the front and back, it's pretty adjustable so I didn't have to worry about being extremely precise.

Next post will be how I made the petticoat.