Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Countdown Begins!

Today marks four months until Halloween! Decorations should start appearing in stores, new fabrics will be released, and delicious candy treats will beg to be eaten. I start prepping for the holiday now because it always involves a ton of sewing for me. I only had three costumes to do last year, but some years it can be as high as six. I'm probably going to have my party earlier in October this year, so I need my costume (which tends to get more elaborate every year) done sooner. I'm not sure what I'm going to be yet, but I need to make the decision soon. Some ideas include:
  • Evil Lyn from He-Man: a little risque for work, I think
  • Lizzie Borden: pretty easy, perhaps a little boring, and likely too obscure
  • Isis or Nefertiti: fun, but a bit too much like what I was last year
  • The Headless Horse(wo)man: I could probably steal a few pieces from my privateer costume for this
  • A valkyrie
  • Morrigan
  • Mina Harker
None of these scream "make me!"  I'm sure I'll come up with something - I always do - but it will be all I think about for the next few weeks.

Any suggestions from my dear readers?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

His & Hearse

This is another It Came from My Closet! post, as I am attending a wedding this weekend and working on a project for someone else.

It is no surprise that I, like most spooky types, dig hearses.  I love them, quite frankly, and they hold a special place in my dark little heart.  Ya see, when I met the now Mr Not Pixie, he drove a purple hearse.  (I wish I could say it was love at first sight, but it wasn't.  Not even close.  But he grew on me.)  Ever since I started sewing, I have been on the look out for hearse fabric.  I had even pondered doing something like Spoonflower, but always shied away at the cost.

Then two summers ago, Robert Kaufman released Eerie Alley.  Not just purple hearses, but lime green and orange ones too!  On white and black!  (And another with pink hearses on black, which I, of course, made into a different blouse.)  "It must be mine!  Immediately!"  It was a designer release, and a new one at that, so this didn't come cheap, but I didn't care.  For purple hearses, I would pay, and pay gladly!  And so I did.  (Even a designer fabric is cheaper than Spoonflower.)

New Look 6515 is so long out of print that it doesn't even appear on the Simplicity web site.  (This link will take you Pattern Review's, um, pattern reviews for the, um, pattern.)  I made view B, though my finished blouse doesn't really resemble theirs.  It's a testament to how much I love this fabric that I was willing t put in so much work to get a wearable garment.

First up: blouses like these, that lap one side over the other, rarely (in my experience) instruct you to stitch the bust pieces to each other somehow.  I suppose that would work out just fine if you're the busty variety, but I most certainly am not; consequently, these always gap in the front.  Though I am flat-chested, I am also broad-backed, which tends to even out, usually, in terms of ease.  However, the amount of ease in both the front and back was ridiculous.  I kept pulling the bust pieces closer and closer together, and omitting more and more gathering (so the cup itself would be smaller), but it finally got to the point where I had no gathering left and the pieces were lapped straight over one another.  It fixed the gapping, but because there was no gathering, it ceased to be an empire-waist blouse.  So I grabbed a piece of elastic and hand sewed it into the white band that you see at the front.

Even after all of that, the ease was still so extreme that I look off a few inches of the back of the blouse too.  Originally, this actually called for a zipper, but even now, I can still pull it on over my head with no problems.  I can't imagine why you'd need a zipper with as much ease as the pattern originally called for.

So, in conclusion, this pattern didn't really work for my body type. It might work for someone who has a full bust (but not too full, or you'll spill over the top). It wasn't difficult to sew, but it did require a lot of adjustments to get it me-sized. I did see a lot of other people complaining about the same problems I did, so maybe it wasn't just me

Sorry, once again, for my wet hair.

Please admire my floormat in the background. I usually move it out of the way for pictures, but forgot to this time. It decorates my foyer year-round (I have another at the back door as well). They were gifts from my sister-in-law, who seems to live out her spooky dreams vicariously through me.

Lydia update: the day I write this marks four weeks of having this little grey terror live with us.  She's put on 18 ounces (~.5 kg) in that time.  The vet said she's doing well, though said with her feral start to life, she will probably have some delayed growth.

Skirt: Wet Seal, free at a clothing swap
Shoes: Famous Footwear, $70 (featured on Green with Envy)
Socks: from the same pack of vibrant colors featured on Green with Envy
Earrings: Hearses and coffins were charms I bought on Etsy and attached to fishhooks; skull earrings from eBay (featured on Skull Skirt)

I have a coffin necklace (made from the same charms as the earrings) that I usually wear with this, but couldn't find it this morning. I was so distraught that I forgot my awesome purple hearse barrettes too. :(  Not all bad though - at work, a guy in a suit that I'd never seen before, told me he liked how my purple socks, hair, and hearses coordinated together. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Good News & Bad News

Well, folks, it looks like I have finally arrived in the blogging world, because I got my first spam comment last night.  I have comments pretty open, but I will disable anonymous commenting and turn on verification if it continues.

Also, I haven't gotten any feedback on what kind of prize readers would like for the giveaway.  I don't want to pick something that no one wants.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

McCall's Fall 2012

The McCall's 2012 fall collection is out.  Um, what the heck were they thinking when they put out this?  I can honestly say that is the ugliest pattern I have seen in quite some time.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Green with Envy

Due to Red & Black week and being out of town this weekend, I don't have any new sewing to show you. Instead, I raided my closet to show you this dress that I made just before I started the blog.

I've mentioned previously that I am frequently get on kicks for a particular style (usually vintage-inspired) or color combination.  In this case, it was both.  New Look 6776 wanted desperately to be sewed, but I hadn't yet found a fabric that tickled my fancy.  I woke up one morning wanting to wear green, which isn't too prominent in my wardrobe (despite being my favorite color).

To remedy this, I went on a fabric search.  Unfortunately, black and green isn't too common a color combination.  Although I love this fabric (Boo to You! by Riley Blake, which also comes in purple and grey), I wasn't too happy about making another vintage-inspired dress in polka dots, because I had just made one the previous summer (in orange, which I will feature at some later date).  Obviously, my reluctance was overcome in the end.

The fabric for the sash is nothing special.  It's just a quilting cotton from JoAnn's.  They did have an exact match for the dots, but it was just too stark against the dress.  I thought this one, with its own dots, looked better.

If the bolero looks familiar to you, I direct you to my second pattern review, featuring Simplicity 2183.  I am getting more use of out of this more than I thought I would, because the bolero is frequently waiting to be washed when I want to wear it.  This means, of course, that I must make another and/or more in a different pattern.

Finally, onto the pattern review.  The dress isn't as simple to make as it looks.  There's gathering under the bust, which I expected, but it also has pleats in the front and back (which are covered by the sash).  It is also lined.  It isn't difficult at all, just it's more complicated than it seems.  The sash, however, is ridiculously simple.  I would recommend this for an advanced beginner.

Modifications made: I shortened the straps (as always) and lengthened the skirt (as always).  I made the sash in the largest size in the envelope because I like having lots of dangly ends.

One final word of caution here: take care when choosing a fabric for this dress because some of it is cut on the bias.

Barrettes: Etsy, ~$2
Earrings: Etsy, ~$5
Socks: Target, $7 for a package of six vibrant colors
Shoes: Famous Footwear, $70 (more expensive than what I usually go for, but so comfy and so worth it)

Yeah, my hair is wet again.  Sorry.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gimme! NOW!

Three things, in order of decreasing importance.
  • Mr Macabre has informed me of the existence of Disney's Haunted Mansion wallpaper fabric. Expensive, but so worth it. Buy it now, before Disney slaps them with a cease and desist order!

    Kind of makes me upset that I already started making this fabric using paint and a stencil, but I'm sure this would turn out better than I could ever do it.

  • The blog reached 1000 hits today! I know, some blogs get that many hits in a day, but for something as niche as spooky-nerdy sewing, I am pretty impressed with myself. I would like to do some kind of contest or giveaway to show my appreciation to my readers, but you'll have to tell me what you'd like as a prize. I know not everyone who reads the blog sews, so something like fabric or a pattern wouldn't appeal to all. So, please let me know what you'd like to see as a prize, or any suggestions on how to run the contest (as I have never done this before).

  • It is quite difficult to blog with Lydia in my lap.

Monday, June 11, 2012's Daily Deal

For those of you who don't know, has a different category of fabric or notions on sale every day. If you're nuts about sewing, you should sign up. Today it is Food & Beverages, which includes the fabric I used to make the watermelon dress. If you want it, act quickly, because the sale ends at midnight EST!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Watermelon Dress

Welcome to my final post for Sophisique Noir's Red & Black week.  Today's post is New Look 6900, view A.  The fabric here came from, of course.  I acquired it on my last fabric binge.  The name is Metro Market Watermelon Slices.  Okay, okay, so it's red and black and pink - pink is pastel red!  It counts!

Regular readers know of my love-hate relationship with pockets in dresses (tl;dr: I love having pockets, but hate that they bulge and look like crap).  This pattern's pockets are external, so I decided to take the plunge and include them for once.

You'll also notice a ruffle on the pocket.  The pattern did not call for this; I had a sudden urge to use up some of the pink fabric in my stash.  (It came from the much-mentioned Daisy-Head Mayzie costume.)

The facing details for both the pocket and the bodice (to the right) are attached in an atypical matter; you can see here that the right side of the facing is facing the wrong side of the bodice.  Because it is such an unusual method, I had to reread the instructions several times to ensure I was doing the right thing.  After these are sewn together, the facing is flipped over to the other side.

I learned my lesson from the coffee dress: do not straight stitch on elastic, even if the pattern calls for it!  You can see that I made a casing here and threaded the elastic through, catching it at the ends. 

I added a ruffle to the bottom too, using the same fabric.  Unlike yesterday, when I stole pieces from another pattern, here I just cut a piece that was twice as long as the edge of the skirt, gathered it, and sewed it on.

The dress is cute, but I fear it looks a bit like an apron, and would even more so if I hadn't extended the length by three inches.

I wanted to add another ruffle to the straps as well.  I cut and gathered the fabric, and was about to pin it on when I changed my mind.  I'm not sure why I 180ed.  Maybe I didn't want it to look too much like the cherry dress?  Anyone out there with any thoughts on adding ruffles to the straps?

Thanks for reading my R & B week posts.  Looking forward to seeing you again next year!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Last night, as I was writing my final two posts for Sophistique Noir's Red & Black week, I messed  up the scheduling.  Today's post, which I intended to go up this morning at 6 AM, went up at 6 AM yesterday (I guess it has a Tardis?), and Friday's went up last night.  My only excuse is that I'm not used to scheduling my posts.   So, sorry if this was confusing or weird.  Please enjoy my dresses covered with fruit, regardless of whenever you get a chance to read them.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry Bomb

We're in the home stretch of Sophisitque Noir's Red & Black week, and I have a final blast from the past for you (today's) and a new outfit (tomorrow).  I apologize for the quality of pictures for today and tomorrow: the batteries in the camera were dying and I had to take them as quickly as possible.

The pattern here is McCall's 5094 in view F; if that sounds familiar to you, it might be because I used the straps from this in the Space Invaders dress.

I believe that I made this last spring, and I wanted to make it out of just one fabric (view D, basically).  However, when I went shopping for fabric, nothing really struck my fancy.  (Must have been before JoAnn's releases their Halloween fabrics for the year. :D)  This cherry and dot print I finally picked was cute, but I thought an entire dress would have been overwhelming. I couldn't resist its cute rockabilly/gothabilly charm though, so I went with view F.

Though a dress entirely out of that print would have been too much, I thought just the band and straps weren't enough, hence the ruffles in the polka dots.  They came from Simplicity 2325, an Alice in Wonderland costume that I adapted into Daisy-Head Mayzie for a friend of mine.

As for the pattern itself, it wasn't too bad at all.  I would recommend this for an advanced beginner.  The technical challenges were:
  • inserting a zipper
  • a lining
  • a bit of gathering under the bust
  • a lot of gathering if you go my route and add ruffles
I wish I could have taken pictures of the full outfit, but the husband wasn't at home and my self-photography skills are quite lacking.  The pictures don't show how fun this dress really is.  I get a lot of flattering comments whenever I wear it, which I inevitably follow with "...and it's fun for twirling!" and then promptly spin around in a few circles.  And then I get some weird looks (which, to be honest, is not a rare occurrence for me).

And for good measure (not the original, sorry):

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Harley Quinn Romance

Today's Red and Black entry is another blast from the past.  This one comes from Halloween 2006.  My husband and I, for the first any only time, opted for a couple's costume for Halloween: The Joker and Harley Quinn.
I didn't use a pattern here because spandex is pretty forgiving (in terms of getting a fit, at least).  I wrapped the fabric around myself, safety pinned it in place, and then cut it accordingly.  The diamonds were a little difficult to sew on because the fabric needed to be stretched for that, which basically meant that I had to be wearing it.  It was easy enough to put them on the left side (using my right hand), but not so much on the right.  I am ridiculously right handed.

The gloves were easy: I traced my hand, cut it out, and sewed it together.

The headpiece was a little difficult.  It's a separate piece from the costume, and I had a terrible time getting it to lay flat.  In the end, I think I made three of them before one worked.  The points on the headpiece (dunno what else to call them; does anyone know the technical term?) are just curved pieces of spandex and stuffed with polyfill.  If I did this again, I would line them, because little pieces of the stuffing kept creeping out through the fabric.  I attached two jingle bells at the end of the points and added elastic around the face opening for a tight fit.  

Hubby's costume was created out of thrift store finds.  For the jacket, I cropped it to the waist, flipped the pieces around, and sewed them on as tails.  The fabric went against the grain for that, but for a thrift store costume, it wasn't too bad.  The flower was just some yellow satin I had in the stash.  I cut out a few flower shapes, layered them in a staggered fashion, and sewed them together.  The vest is just a satin blouse.  I cut off the sleeves and altered the neckline.  From those pieces I cut, I made the tie and pocket square.  His shirt and pants, thankfully, I didn't need to alter.

His costume is great because it shows how you can make a fabulous costume without spending a lot of money or time, or having a lot of talent.

We won first prize at the Halloween party we went to!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Revenge of the Coffee Dress

Regulars readers may recall when I sewed the coffee dress, I was disappointed in the sleeves, and was only intensified when I wore it to work one day.  Basically, they are supposed to neatly hug the sides of the shoulders; instead, even hiked onto the top of my shoulders, the slightest movement sent them cascading down my arms.  I knew it wasn't going to work when I was sewing it, but I followed the pattern anyway.  This is what I get for following the directions exactly for once.
The proper way to fix this would have been to rip out: the hand-stitching on the lining on the bodice, the understitching at the top, the stitching at the top between the bodice and its lining, the sleeves from the bodice, and then the sleeves themselves.  Then fix the sleeves and redo all of the stitching that I had just ripped out.  That would have been the right way to fix it; instead, I ripped out the stitching at the top of the sleeve. 
I then ripped out the elastic.  I should have known better than following the pattern's instructions to use a straight stitch on elastic!
Before I started ripping the dress apart, I measured the slack in the sleeve: a whopping 2.5 inches!  Utterly ridiculous.  And I'm pretty broad-shouldered, so it isn't as if this doesn't fit because I am particularly petite or something.  Anyway, not wanted the sleeves to be too tight, I took off 1.5 inches.
I prefer to use a casing or a zig-zag stitch on elastic.  I went with the casing here because I thought I could hide it a little better.  I just folded the top of the sleeve down (along where the original stitching line) and then sewed it close to the edge.  It's a good thing I didn't trim the seam allowance here (and I remember thinking at the time that it was odd that the pattern didn't call for that).
The original elastic length was nearly as long as the sleeve (another reason their darn instructions wouldn't have worked).  Since I took 1.5 inches off the sleeve, I took off 2.5 inches from the elastic.  I inserted it into the casing and then top-stitched the sleeves shut.  Much fast than ripping out almost everything.
I apologize for the blurriness here; I had to turn off the flash so it wouldn't reflect in the mirror.  The sleeves still aren't perfect, but they're much better.  I wore this to a bridal shower and a bunch of people told me I looked fabulous!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Pirate's Life for Me!

This post is going to be a blast from the past.  I was a privateer for Halloween 2009 (for those of you that don't know, a privateer is basically a government-sanctioned pirate).  This costume was a bit of a rush job because I had to sew six costumes over the course of two months.  I apologize for the poor resolution of these images - I can't seem to locate the original high-res pictures.

First up here is the blouse.  It's Simplicity 4914, and if you want it,  I suggest you buy it as soon as possible.  It's been out of print for several years and I imagine that supplies are quite limited.  I actually didn't make the blouse to wear with the costume, I made it much earlier to as an everyday wear item.  It's a beautiful black-on-black brocade featuring phoenixes (phoenices?) and dragons.  I wish I had bought more of it, because it would make a fantastic vest or dress.

The blouse appears as though it would lace up the front, but it actually has a zipper in the back.  Unfortunately (though you can't really tell in this picture, but you can in the pattern link), the blouse starts to end at the actual waist.  I usually have to wear something under this, which is unfortunate, because the brocade is both quite heavy and lined.  The sleeves are also ridiculously short, so I lengthened them, but that only adds to the weight of the garment.  For those reasons, I don't get to wear this as often as I would like to.  Don't get me wrong, I love the blouse and get a ton of compliments on it, but it isn't as convenient to wear as I would have wanted.

Anyway, onto the pattern review.  The construction of the blouse itself wasn't too bad.  Some pretty precise marking is necessary here for the sleeve's grommet tape, and the front was a little finicky, but this could be tackled by an intermediate, I think.

I think the only pattern I hated more than this coat pattern (Simplicity 3677) was the tuxedo I made for my sister's wedding, and the only reason I hated that more was because a good chunk of the instructions weren't translated from German to English.  This pattern wasn't really difficult, but it was quite lengthy.  Nothing wrong with a lengthy pattern, as long as it produces a nice garment in the end, but this most certainly did not.  I know that I frequently bemoan Simplicity for calling for more fabric than the garment actually needs, but this had nearly two yards left over.

That was the least of this pattern's sins; if you look at the pattern picture, it doesn't have the best shot of the front.  I made this coat two sizes larger than what I normally wear because the blouse was so bulky.  Even two sizes too large, this coat would not close over the blouse.  I tried it over something with a slimmer silhouette, and it still didn't close.  It isn't actually meant to close - despite calling for twenty-eight buttons (which I had to special order), this coat contains no buttonholes.

And again, the sleeves here are just too short.  Do people think that pirates loved walking around with exposed wrists?

The facing here looked stupid and the instructions for the godets were crap.  There is nothing redeeming to this pattern and I would recommend it under no circumstances.

The breeches/bloomers are from the first pattern.  They're made out of crepe-backed satin.  They were so easy that I think I completed them in about an hour.   Basically, it was just cutting out the two pieces; sewing them together; folding down the waistband and inserting the elastic; and sewing on the bias tape into the legs and inserting the elastic.  Very simple.  They probably are not historically accurate for any era, but these would make a great start to a beginning sewer's steampunk costume.
There are two things I made here that I didn't have a pattern for: the wrap and the bandanna.  Both were super easy: the bandanna was just a square of satin (made from the excess from the failed coat) and the wrap is just a triangle of costume satin from Joann's.

A breakdown of my accessories:
Rose choker: $7, Hot Topic
Striped knee socks: $5 - $10, Hot Topic
Shoes: $20, Journey's
Hoop earrings: Claire's

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Skull Skirt

Hello everyone and welcome to visitors from Sophistique Noir!  I wanted to kick off Red & Black week with something fun and spooky, so I decided I must sew something out of this fabric:

Allow me to present Midnight Madness by Northcott.  I'm not really sure why I bought this fabric (other than, ya know, it's super cool).  I didn't have any particular garment in mind, and I really do have plenty of skull fabric already, but I guess I just couldn't resist.  For those curious, it came from my favorite fabric site,, but they no longer carry it.

I only bought two yards, so I was a bit limited in what I could make.  I don't have all that many long, full skirts, so I figured that would be good.  It would be simple enough to halve two yards of fabric, sew them together, make a casing, and insert elastic, but I'm not all that fond of elastic waists (except in PJs).  Rather than try to find a pattern for something so simple, I just grabbed the waistband from a different skirt.  Readers may recognize Simplicity 9825 from my first pattern review.

That pattern actually zips up the back, and since I wanted to gather the fabric, I moved the zipper to the left side.  Readers may also remember that I almost did that, quite by accident, the first time through.

The next step was gathering the fabric.  I halved the fabric after I cut the waistband and then sewed it together.  To gather, I just used a long stitch and pulled the ends.  A gathering foot would also have worked here, but I don't have one.

The pattern calls for the facing to be hand-sewn in place after sewing the skirt to the waistband.  I just didn't feel like it at the time, so I top-stitched it.  I figured since the stitching would show anyway, I might as well do it in a contrasting color, and in spirit of the theme, I chose red.  And since I'd done the bottom, I figured I'd do the top too.
And I might as well do the hem!
This only took about two hours.  I knocked it off on a weekend in between breakfast and my morning run.  And that time includes several doctor-prescribed kitty-petting breaks.
I'm not sure if I prefer this with the shirt tucked or untucked.  I really balk at tucking in my shirts most of the time.  I know it tends to look sloppy, but they never stay tucked and sometimes look silly.  I think the untucked version gives more shape to the outfit.
 From the back, tucked, and the side, untucked.  My hair is wet, sorry.

And with my favorite new accessory, Lydia.  She was feral, and abandoned by her mother when she was only two weeks old.  A cat rescue found her and took care of her until she was old enough to be adopted.  The poor girl has some serious abandonment issues, but despite her rough start to life, she's sweet and cuddly.  This one wasn't too pleased at first, but seems to have accepted Lydia as a minion in her evil kitty army.

What I'm wearing:
Plain black girly-fit t-shirt: JoAnn's, ~$5
Sandals: Famous Footwear, ~$30
Metal skull bracelet: Spencer's, $7 (probably the first spooky accessory I ever purchased)
Plastic skull bracelet: Some gas station in the Outer Banks, ~$2
Skull earrings: the top and bottom pair are probably from Hot Topic, ~$5; the middle pair is from eBay, ~$2 (I bought them so long ago that the archives don't go back that far)
Skull barrettes: pretty sure these came from Claire's, ~$5

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!  I have posts planned for every day of this event!