Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Vampire Seamstress Returns (and some reviews)

I only get any sewing done when the sun (and son) is down.

Summer's officially here and it definitely feels like it. It's so bright and skin meltingly hot that doing anything, even moving, is difficult. These days, I limit my sewing when it gets dark and a little cooler. It's also a little more quiet with both boys (my little brother and my son) asleep and not curiously rifling through my scissors and pins (!!!) I'm so glad my dad gave me a nice lighting set up so I don't have any trouble seeing tiny details and mishandling sharp objects. Thanks, Dad!

The wedding gown is progressing slowly but surely. Cutting the silk and tulle was the hard part but sandwiching the fabric between pattern paper was the solution that worked perfectly. I pinned the heck out of each selvage on the bottom paper and pinned the pattern pieces (uncut) on top. I also used very fine glass-headed pins to minimize those scary looking puckers that look a bit like stocking runs. I still can't believe my pieces aren't distorted. I stay-stitched every single piece just in case.

I also got a lot of help from the classes I took at Craftsy.

Sewing With Silk with Linda Lee
Sewing with Silks with Linda Lee tackled things like types of thread, stitch width, the best way to cut fabric, stitch lengths and seam finishes for silk. If you've ever doubted yourself while working with slippery fabric (not just silk) this is the perfect class to guide you and hold your hand while you go through the process step by step. The instructor is so pleasant and has a soothing voice and demeanor. I can listen to her all day. There is a paper pattern that comes with the class and it's a lovely bonus.

Sew Retro: The Perfect Bombshell Dress with Gretchen Hirsch

Sew Retro: The Perfect Bombshell Dress with Gretchen Hirsch was the first Craftsy class I ever took and it was the start of my Craftsy online class addiction. Gertie's teaching style is so easy and friendly, it's like you're having a craft date with a close friend. She has so many sewing tips gained from her own experience in making dresses. I love the little tricks she has like reinforcing the vee of a sweetheart neckline and adding a waist-stay. Those techniques alone make the class worth taking.  There's a downloadable pattern included and it's definitely a dress I'd wear.

The Couture Dress with Susan Khalje

The Couture Dress with Susan Khalje is the ultimate class to take if you're serious about construction techniques. This class will teach you how to be meticulous with your garments. Shortcuts are all well and good but she taught me joy in your own handiwork and that silk organza is something that you should never do without.  This class comes with a paper pattern of a very wearable and customizable dress. 

I cannot recommend these classes enough! The information you will get from each class is invaluable.   I'm only naming the three classes I had to watch and re-watch to help me with the wedding dress that I'm working on, but I also signed up for other sewing classes that are just as informative as well as entertaining.  They have free classes so you can try those and see if you like it. 

So while the sun is out, I will stay away from the light and take my long skirts and long sleeved blouses and put them in storage. Later at dusk, the real work begins.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Just keep hemming, just keep hemming...

Hemming on the dining table.

The silk dress is going well and coming along quite nicely. I was mercifully given an extension bu my friend due to my current childcare situation. Connor's nanny left, quite suddenly, to get married. I am now taking of Connor FULL FULL time without any of the assistance I'm accustomed to, including bringing Connor to school and being his shadow aide. I work at night, after he falls asleep. I just finished hemming the lining and I have already drafted the outer shell and the overdress. It's getting there and I'm so glad.

In other news: TEA! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Happy Late New Year!

It's January 13, 2013 and I'm pretty excited about everything that's going on in my life. For this entry: GOALS!

01) I am making a wedding dress for a good friend of mine, inspired by BHLDN's Lita Gown. This is the first time I've ever worked with silk charmeuse and it's really a learning experience. It's difficult, oh so DIFFICULT, but fun. The sweetheart bodice took me three tries. First, silk charmeuse with silk organza (too flimsy) Second, silk charmeuse with cotton twill (the twill shrank lengthwise when I pressed it. THE HORROR) Third time's the charm when I did silk charmeuse with cotton muslin (BINGO). I am almost DONE. This pile of beautiful silk and tulle has to be a dress by the end of this month.

02) I fell in love with a dress on Pinterest. A brief image search on Google informed me that the dress is from the Fall 2011 collection of Paul Smith. What gorgeous embroidery. I want to make it! (Or at least something like it) I'm already drawing up the plans for this dress. Construction will start as soon as I'm done with the wedding dress. (Is it sad that I already have the materials waiting in a project bag?)

03) How CUTE is this dress designed by Gertie of Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing? I recently bought the digital pattern and it's currently fourth on my to-do list. I would love to make this in a DEEP DEEP Purple or Black Silk Dupioni. 

04) Finish all my UFO's. I get anxiety attacks just thinking about those unfinished projects languishing in project bags in my sewing nook and my closet. 

05) I know it sounds cliche, but I would really like to use the New Year as an opportunity to better myself or, in this case, my fabric and notion stash. I have too much fabric, I have too many little oohsits and whatsits (zippers, rivets, spikes, hooks and eyes, pins, elastics, thread... you name it), too much yarn, too many patterns... just TOO MUCH. So I promised myself that I will be using up whatever's in my fabric closets and bins, my whatsits pile and my yarn box. I also think this exercise in using up stash will also improve my speed  and skill in making things. Oh, and watch more of this inspirational show:

05) THEN, after my fabric stash and everything else have been reduced to manageable levels, I am now going to implement a new policy of buying ONLY fabric with natural content (silk, wool, cotton, linen) Blends are fine as long as more than half of the fabric content is natural. It's not because I'm a granola eating hippie or some kind of deluded tree-hugger. I just LIKE natural fabrics more. They're easier to work with and they are more expensive, so I think twice before buying. Synthetics are SO cheap and we are so close to China, it's so easy to buy fifteen yards of gold lamé without batting an eyelash in this country.  What the heck am I going to do with fifteen yards of lamé? It seemed like a good idea at the time. (This is ALWAYS my excuse, this is WHY I have piles of yardage scattered and shoved in different places around the house) So yeah, that's absolutely ending now. My Hoarders marathon will help kick my butt into action as well.

06) Sew more historical costumes in the coming months! I'm addicted, but I must take care of all this unfinished business first. For peace of mind, doncha know.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Melissa's Blue Dress

I made this dress for my favorite then-nine-year-old niece (incidentally, my ONLY niece) last July. She needed a dress to wear to a wedding and an exhaustive search for the right one in the right color and in the appropriate style yielded nothing. Melissa is too large for regular kid's sizes and too young for teen styles. They also couldn't find the blue that was the color theme of the wedding. The wedding was days away and her parents were getting worried, so I volunteered to make the dress.

I used something called Italian Taffeta in a beautiful iridescent blue, some cotton lace I had in my stash to edge the neck line and sleeve hems and two packs of white bias tape for the hem. The taffeta was thin so I underlined the bodice with flour sack cotton (I know, it sounds like it's rough and scratchy like burlap. My friends were kinda horrified when I told them, but the cotton was soft and absorbent. I love it and I want to make a blouse out of what's left of my stash someday)  

The pattern I used for this dress was the Girl's 1780 Portrait Dress Pattern by Sense and Sensibility Patterns. I thought it was the perfect style for her and really appropriate for the wedding. It's age appropriate, it's modest, it's versatile and most of all, it's historical! I love that e-patterns are now available for people like me who don't have access to paper patterns that seem to be so ubiquitous in the States. Printing them out and putting them together is fun and hardly takes any time (but your mileage may vary. I ENJOY putting e-patterns together. I have a system and everything. Derp.)

Miss Juliana Willoughby by George Romney 1781-1783
Sewing this dress was easy but it had its challenges. I had a little difficulty with the sleeves because I'm not used to the way the sleeves were drafted. The shape was strange to me because I'm used to modern sleeves, but I was able to figure it out. Other than that, it was a pleasant and easy pattern to work with. The instructions were clear and straightforward. 

Melissa had a lot of input while I was making this dress. She approved of the fabric, picked the fabric color and had the idea of putting that particular style of cotton lace on the neckline and sleeves. She asked me a lot of questions about sewing and construction and was as patient as a saint while I was doing her fitting. She also decided to omit the white sash we planned to tie around her waist.

My Melissa looked lovely wearing it. 

She's on her way here from Manila as I type. I cannot wait to see her and work on another dress!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Blackest Black Bustle Dress

I have always been curious about Truly Victorian Patterns, so I made the Halloween party I was attending in Manila an excuse to buy the patterns I wanted. I was apprehensive, of course. There are so many horror stories about packages being lost and stolen in our postal system. Some packages are even held hostage by greedy post office workers, they won't give it to you unless you give them money. Fortunately, the gamble paid off. I got the patterns after one month of worrying and one panicked email to the owner of Truly Victorian, Heather. I was so excited about getting a notice from the post office that I threw up (Yes, I'm neurotic) The postal worker was very nice and gave it to me with no drama. I guess the horror stories depend which post office your package ends up in?

I used these patterns:
The Grand Bustle (TV108) This pattern is SO clever with the hoop wire placement. I made this first and not only was it super duper easy to do, it was true to the illustration and I REALLY felt like I was wearing something from history even though my own hands made it. I skipped the ruffles because I was ran out of time, it worked well without so it's all good.

1800 Late Victorian Corset (TV110) This corset has a beautiful shape and it's very easy to do. I used an industrial strength metal separating zipper and cotton twill. I made it one layer and put boning channels on the outside. This was quick to sew and very gratifying.

1875 Parisian Trained Skirt (TV216) Clever clever and so beautiful. Do not let the illustration fool you, this is a very easy skirt to make. The only difficulty you will encounter is in the embellishment and how complicated you want it. You can embellish it or leave as is, it will still look beautiful. 

1875 Ball Gown Basque (TV416) This was a little more difficult because I wasn't used to making the kind of pleats at the back. I had to out it down for a while and think about it. After I had my "AHA!" moment, finishing this was pretty fast. I skipped the sleeves and used fringe instead. It worked! Phew!

So I got to work. I bought 20 meters of black duchess satin (shiny!), 2 meters of netting for bustle support, 2 meters of cotton twill for bodice underlining, 10 meters of quilting cotton for the Grand Bustle, two large cones of black thread (because I always need black thread), an entire pack of lovely 4-inch long black fringe (40 meters, I think), over 50 feet of steel for boning, duct tape, a whole roll of black velvet ribbon and a LARGE box of pins (just because)

This was my peg: 

Edith Wharton, apparently.
So I went to work. My sewing area was a MESS for the next two weeks. As much as I would like to tell you that I used Victorian sewing techniques and remained true to the period, I didn't. I serged the crap out of all the edges, used masking tape and a white gel pen to label and mark each piece and winged most of the construction (Directions? What directions?) I can already hear the purists shrieking in the distance.

What can I say about those Truly Victorian Patterns? They were a DREAM to work with (and a dream to wing it too). They are so simple and easy to sew but the finished garment looks so complicated. As luck would have it, I am a perfect Truly Victorian size 14, so I did not have to alter anything. To think I was bracing myself for loads of fiddly and fussy work. It also helped that I spent months and months stalking studying Pinterest boards and loading my hard drive with bustle pictures so I had a basic understanding of what bustle and bodice patterns looked like. 

Of course, my work wasn't perfect (and in my opinion, it never is) I have to admit, I really rushed this project. I was very pressed for time and could only sew at night when Connor was asleep. I was also doing a skirt and a corset for my best friend who was attending the party (that's another journal entry) No matter, I made it work. (Thanks, Tim Gunn)

Wrinkly, un-ironed mess.

I wouldn't have picked that black rose print for my cotton fabric but it was such good quality and so cheap that I convinced myself having a solid black cage bustle wasn't important.

Talulah the Dressform modelling the great black blob of shininess. 

This skirt's got SWAG.

After two or so weeks of working about 1-2 hours a night, I got most of the machine sewing done. We were packed and ready to fly to Manila from Cebu for Halloween, my little's brother's birthday, All Saints' and All Souls' day and I was STILL tethered to my sewing machine, doing last minute details. (I didn't have a working sewing machine in Manila) I made it. Most of it got done. The embellishing was going to be done in Manila. By hand. (GULP)

Four days and several sewing calluses later, the fringe and other details were sewn and the dress was DONE!

I added a curly wig, bumper bangs, black flowers ala Frida Kahlo, fishnet sleeves, black gloves, a lace choker (made that too!) and gigantic cow lashes.

With my good good friend Paolo waiting for our German sandwiches. No amount of steel boning will ruin our appetite! The bruise-like thing on my shoulder is the event stamp. They stamped on my shoulder because my wrists were covered. 

Posing infront of entrance of the bathroom. Yay! Fringey bustle! 
The dress was a gigantic success! The party was fun, I got to catch up with friends and got my picture taken a lot by total strangers. I even got to dance to Sisters of Mercy! That was the highlight of my night. No kidding. I CANNOT wait til next Halloween! (Knowing me, I probably won't wait that long to make another bustle dress)

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Gah, July!

Gah. where do I begin? I promised myself to blog at least TWICE a month and where did that get me? I have no other excuse other than I have been, as Americans would call it, "crazy busy." 

Let's see, I made more of those striped Maxi dresses for friends: 

Then I attempted to make a skirt with a bunch of cotton scarves that I got on sale:

I kinda wasn't feeling it, so I shelved the project for another day. Do you know why? Because my wonderful  mother distracted me with this:

She got me 4.5 meters of this staggeringly beautiful blue grey embroidered Indian silk. I want to do a tunic with it, nothing complicated with so many darts and tucks that I have to distort the beautiful embroidery on this fabric. I am, however, doing some more beading on it and it's so much fun. I'm using gold metal beads (not metallic beads, real metal beads. I'm so happy I found some.)

While I was beading, I also decided to make a wearable muslin of the tunic I want to make out of the Indian silk. I made it and my mother loved it so much, she claimed it. >D I will take in the sides a little bit and maybe add darts (maybe) at the back for the next version. My mom was happy with the first one, I'm not complaining. 

Self-drafted, 100% cotton.
Most of all, my time has been taken up by this little boy: 

I wake up to this everyday and I love it.