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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Blood Vessel Dress at the PEERS Vampire Ball

Last month I attended the annual PEERS Vampire Ball. I wore a dress embroidered with blood vessels, a heart, and lungs. In a sea of black dresses I think I was pretty easy to spot! I’ve worn the dress before, and you can read about the details in a previous post.

John Carey Photographic took some photos of me at the ball (thanks John!) that he’s kindly permitted me to post here.John Carey 3from John CareyJohn Carey 2John Carey 4

If you are curious, here are some pictures that show the whole costume. (Clearly, these were not taken by John). I think for the future I would like to dye my shoes red. (These are the Tissots from American Duchess).

I am looking forward to next year’s ball, and being spooky again!John Carey 3

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It’s Not Necessary to Be Mean: Snark in the Costuming and Cosplay Community 

I have been sewing for 15 years, and the vast majority of people I’ve met in the costuming and cosplay community have been kind, enthusiastic, and helpful, so for the most part I may be “preaching to the choir.” This post is directed at the small minority of people who might need a little help recognizing that some of their behaviors may have been unintentionally unkind, and to offer suggestions to people who want ideas on how to be more welcoming. This post is also directed at newcomers; I hope you will not be too intimidated to join us and have fun!

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCED:

You can always find something nice to say:
Even if it’s not an outfit you’d wear yourself, you can say “What beautiful fabric!” or “That’s a lovely color on you!” If you can’t think of a compliment, ask a question, such as “Did you use a pattern?” or “Have you been here before?” Show an interest in someone you don’t know because . . .

We need fresh blood:
Communities and hobbies die without new members. Don’t scare anyone away; it will ultimately hurt you in the end. Socializing exclusively with a small elite group might sound appealing, but it’s hard to rent an event hall or host a convention on your own.

Authenticity goals vary:
You may only hand-sew everything in period-correct fabrics such as silk and wool. That is great! I am genuinely impressed! However, some people may machine-sew in natural fibers or synthetic ones due to time, budget, or personal preference. Someone might have hot-glued an outfit together because they heard about a Halloween party last-minute. None of this is “wrong.” Everyone has a different goal, and don’t assume theirs is the same as yours.

Recognize the difference between individuals and entities:
Costuming snark for educational reasons, directed at movies put out by big-budget studios, such as that done by the hilarious ladies at Frock Flicks, is fine! Snarking at an individual person just to be exclusive is not fine; it’s snobbery.

Don’t offer unsolicited advice:
Would you approach a stranger on the street and tell them their shoes don’t go with their outfit, or that their jewelry is wrong? Hopefully not. So, why would you do that at a convention? (Telling someone nicely that their skirt is flipped up and their petticoat is showing is a different matter; that should be welcomed because it is something that can be fixed right away).

IF YOU ARE NEW:

Nitpicking is not about you:
Some people like to nitpick, and it reflects more on themselves than your work. Don’t take it personally. Turn a negative into a positive! For example, I once had someone criticize a 1 cm-wide area on the back of an elaborate outfit, and I took it as a compliment. If that person had to dig that deeply to find something negative to say, I must have done a good job.

Shyness is not snubbing:
There are a lot of introverts in the community. Someone may be aloof because they are shy, or experiencing sensory overload. They may also be “famous” and overwhelmed by the number of people they’ve had to meet and greet that day. Just because someone doesn’t engage you in conversation does not mean that they’re trying to be rude. If people aren’t being obviously mean, don’t take it personally.

Photos are not real life:
Just remember, most people don’t post bad pictures of themselves. Photos are carefully curated to show the best angles and flattering light, with nothing out of place, or even photoshopped. Don’t feel down if you have wrinkles in your sewing because everyone else looks “perfect.” In real life, fabric wrinkles because we have to be able to move.

Photos are not always representative of an event:
I’ve seen comments along the lines of “I can’t go to (random event)! Every single person there is dressed incredibly well!” It’s normal for flashy costumes to be photographed and posted more. An “epic” costume going viral doesn’t mean the rest of the crowd is dressed on the same level. Most wedding pictures feature the bride. Does that mean all the guests were wearing big white dresses?

Not everything has to be silk:
Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed for using polyester. Even though I make and love silk dresses, some of my best-received costumes have been made from dead dinosaur. Sometimes it’s just the right fabric for what you’re trying to make. Fit and styling are just as important as materials.

FOR EVERYONE:

Cosplay is not consent!
Don’t touch anyone or their stuff without permission. It’s a violation of personal space, and props and fabrics may be delicate. Many people will be obliging and let you pet their pretty fabric if you ask first! Costumers are makers and many are happy to discuss their project with you. Also remember, just because someone is willing to pose for a photo with you does not mean they have agreed to let you put your arm around them, or touch another part of their body. Always ask!

The bottom line is don’t be a jerk! We all had to start somewhere.image1-3.jpeg

2017 Costuming Plans

I have three large projects planned for 2017, although I’m sure little projects will pop up in between if I get invited to events or get distracted by shiny things. I’m happy to report that I already have most of the materials on hand for my three projects, much of it acquired through some lucky bargains!

Regency court dress

I am not planning to reproduce this exact outfit, but this picture is to give you an idea of what I have in mind. I will be making a beaded Regency evening dress, for which I already have the materials (courtesy of Fabric Wholesale Direct). I’ve started on the dress so that will be the focus of my next series of posts. The color and type of fabric I will be using for the train has not been decided and will depend on what I can get for a reasonable price.

1660s Cavalier gown

I’ve never made a 1660s outfit before, so this is an era that is new to me. Although I think satin might be a little more appropriate, I will be making this out of black silk taffeta because I happen to have it in my stash (from the wonderful $5/yard sale from Fabric Mart!) Although I had already picked out this dress to make for the gala at Costume College this year before the theme was announced, it ended up being the perfect choice. The theme will be “Dinner at Tiffany’s” so a black dress with pearls is quite appropriate!

Crimson Peak picnic outfit

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I already have the right color silk for the skirt due to a serendipitous find from a friend’s garage sale! I won’t be able to find the exact lace for the blouse but I have something with a similar feel. The biggest challenge will be sculpting the hand belt. This outfit is being planned for a spooky Victorian tea in October.

I hope your sewing adventures in 2017 are fun and fabulous!

An Evening at the Moulin Rouge

Recently I went to a Moulin Rouge-themed event hosted by the GBACG. It took place at Michaan’s Theater in Alameda, a gorgeous Art Deco-style venue. There were talented performers, a chef making crepes, absinthe-tasting, dancing, beautiful decorations, and a lot of fun in a festive atmosphere.

I originally planned to wear my Gibson Girl dress, but it needed some alterations, and the weather was rainy, so I wore a traditional Indian salwar kameez and shawl with golden embroidery and matching jewelry. (Just like my last post I am wearing black and gold in front of a red curtain, plus the same shoes!)

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I bought the outfit several years ago to wear to an Indian wedding that took place in a temple with a strict dress code. I was a little nervous about wearing it out of context, but after a discussion with a Desi friend and her mom who assured me that it would not be offensive for me to wear the ensemble as formal wear in a respectful way, I went ahead and I’m glad I did! I purchased golden bangles and a jewelry set from Amazon.

There was a live band (Lee Presson and the Nails) that was full of energy!image

There were cancan dancers!image

Les Ballets Russe, a comedic dance troupe, performed as well.image

Artists drew portraits of attendees.image

There was also a fan dance and some singing, but I didn’t get pictures of all the performances because the venue had multiple areas to explore.

At the event there were some amazing decorations, like this heavily bejeweled elephant, which the organizer decorated by hand!image

I didn’t get a good picture because it was dark outside but there was also a lighted windmill standing in for the famous red windmill of the Moulin Rouge. I am looking forward to the next GBACG event. Lynne, the event coordinator, always thinks of every detail!

Lady Tremaine’s Hat

Today I finished my Lady Tremaine hat!

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The hat is made of two layers of sinamay with one layer of organza sandwiched inside. My friend Lynne, who made my beautiful 1840s bonnet, helped greatly with the patterning of the brim and loaned me a wooden hat block.

Behold, awkward bathroom selfies!imageimage

The hat brim is bound with bias trim I made from velveteen. The same fabric is used for a band around the bottom of the crown. I upcycled the crown from a wool felt hat I no longer wanted.image

I took some liberties when it came to the exact placement of the flowers and birds, and the type of flowers. The flowers are made from heat-transfer flocking, like the flowers on my skirt.image

The only black birds I could find in the craft store were large Halloween ravens, so I bought smaller birds and spray-painted them black using Krylon Hobby/Craft paint in gloss black.

I don’t have pictures of the process, but the general steps were:

  1. Make a cardboard pattern for the brim.
  2. Cut out 2 layers of sinamay and 1 layer organza according to the brim and pin together.
  3. Sew rayon-covered millinery wire to the edge of the brim.
  4. Bind the edge of the brim with velveteen bias.
  5. Cut and apply floral appliques.
  6. Cut out center head opening and make tabs.
  7. Sew the crown to the tabs.
  8. Add grosgrain hat band to inside crown.
  9. Add velvet band outside crown.
  10. Trim with birds and feathers.

Supply costs (including Amazon affiliate links):

Total: $77.56

It’s not exactly an inexpensive hat, but much nicer than the plain black straw hats I was considering at first, and much cheaper than the $300 Kentucky Derby hats I kept seeing when searching for large sinamay hats!

I look forward to wearing this hat with the rest of my Lady Tremaine ensemble at Costume College this year.

Mustard and Black 1940s Dress

I have not been sewing or blogging much because I am in the middle of a kitchen renovation, and we are doing what work we can ourselves. However, I’m taking a break while waiting for a coat of paint to dry to give you a sneak peek of my next project, a 1940s dress.

Is the color scheme familiar?IMG_7514

How about now?IMG_7517

I and some fellow nerdy costumer friends have taken inspiration from the film noir episode of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation to make uniforms in 1940s style. Our goal to to make them from historically accurate fabrics and patterns, but using the color schemes of characters from the show. I am Data!

We were also inspired by this awesome art deco blouse found on Etsy:

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Photo by Guermantes Vintage

I am modifying the Dahlia blouse pattern from Wearing History. There is no yoke and I needed color blocking so I added extra seams in the front and back to piece together the rayon challis I am using.

The bodice will be flat-lined. I cut out all the pieces twice and serged them together before sewing. Right now I have some seams sewn together and the rest are pinned.

I  fitted my mockup at a friend’s house and started picking it apart while I was there, so I don’t have a dress form photo, but here it is lying flat on her floor. (I happened to have some scraps of gold and black fabric to use for my patterning!)

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The dress will have long fitted sleeves with a slight gather at the shoulders and elbows. I haven’t decided yet whether to make the dress a one or two-piece, but the skirt will be black, possibly with a yellow lining.

Making a Denim Whale Toy from Old Jeans

A while back I saw this great tutorial on a Finnish blog for upcycling an old pair of denim jeans into a stuffed whale toy. Then later another blog put up a printable pattern for the whale.

I had some old jeans of mine that were getting too worn to wear, so I made them into a whale for my son. (This project is actually a few months old, but I’ve had so many other sewing projects to blog about this one was overlooked).IMG_5624IMG_5630

The top of the whale uses the outside of the jeans, while the belly uses the inside for contrast.IMG_5628

It was a fun and easy project and we’ve nicknamed the whale Mr. Pants.IMG_5626

I made him after my son had gone to bed and put the whale on my son’s chair as a surprise for the next morning.IMG_5631