Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jareth III: Vest

The last component I made for the costume was the vest.  This was the hardest pattern to select.  Since Jareth never takes off his coat in the scene, I am not even sure that it is a vest.  In fact, it looks like some kind of waist-cincher.  I looked at several under- and over-bust bustiers/corsets.  I decided against them because I thought it would make my figure look too feminine and even cross-dressing as David Bowie is still cross-dressing.  Plus, I was going to be wearing this to work and that it might be construed as too sexual (though since I no longer work in an office full of pervs, it probably would not be a problem, but I didn't want to take that chance).  I then started looking at vests, and thought Simplicity 3629 would be nice because it covers the hips.

I picked a beautiful brocade and lined it with the same satin I used for the blouse.

The coat ended up taking me longer than I thought it would, which left me with one weekend in which to make this garment.  My thoughts were "It's just a vest, so how hard can it be?"  When will I learn not to open my big mouth?

I made the mistake of not reading the instructions before I set out on this travail.  First off, this isn't really a vest: this isn't open in the front and the buttons are just for show.  It actually zips up the back, which I think would make this qualify as a sleeveless top or a bodice.  Anyway, I was strongly considering transforming it so that it was split up the front, but being pressed for time, I decided against that.  I figured I might as well omit the buttons and the pocket flaps too.  (I desist faux pockets.  Do it right or don't do it at all.)

Let me note here that this pattern is meant for beginning sewists: seams are not trimmed or clipped, there is no call for under-stitching, and the way the straps are attached calls for the seam to be exposed. Pressed for time or not, I was going to have none of that.  It made more work for me, but I felt that would look better in the end.  I nearly finished the garment that Saturday, leaving me to just under-stitch and insert the zipper on Sunday.

The under-stitching only took fifteen minutes.  The zipper is a little weird here: it zips from the top down, but it actually runs the whole length of the garment.  A separating zipper would have made more sense, and should have been going bottom up.  But as I said, I was not going to deviate because I just wanted to get the damn thing finished.

After inserting the zipper, I tried it on an...  It got a couple of inches and stuck.  This is quite unusual because I am bottom-heavy; it is far more likely for something to be tight on my tips and loose on the upper body.  I ripped out the zipper and tried again, stitching just on the edge of the zipper tape.  No go.  So I tried again, doing the zipper as a bottom up.  Still didn't work.

It had become obvious that I was going to need more fabric in the back.  The vest was ludicrously loose on the hips, so I didn't need more fabric there, and was fine through the shoulders.  It was just the ribs that needed help.  I played around with inserting fabric just into the small area that needed more room, but I couldn't get the zipper to lay flat through it.  I bifurcated the piece because I figured it would only lay nicely if it was exactly in the middle.  I was right, but now the back was too small again.

At this point, I was just about ready to give up.  I had been working on this stupid vest all day and was frustrated beyond belief, as well as tired and hungry.  It seemed the only was I was going to get this to work was splitting the vest up the front and making it faux double-breasted.  I didn't want to do that because I liked how the lines laid, but it didn't seem like I had any other choice.

I had the scissors ready to split it up the front when something occurred to me: Jareth never takes off his coat, so this wasn't necessarily a waist-cincher or a vest.  It could be a cummerbund, a big fancy belt, or even part of his shirt.  I had already deviated by bringing it down to my hips, so being perfectly accurate was already out.  Jareth wears a corset vest earlier in the movie, so why not just do that?

Running on adrenaline, I dug through my notions stash to see what I had.  The proper way to do this would have been with boning and the grommet gun.  I wasn't planning on tight-lacing, so I could skip the boning, and I had already had enough frustration for the day that the thought of facing the grommet gun nearly brought me to tears.  However, I found a large amount of grommet tape nestled among my ribbons and trims.  I honestly have no idea where this came from or why I had it.  I have used grommet tape before, but it was always on faux leather and this was on grosgrain ribbon.  I can only surmise that I saw this on sale and figured it would a nice addition to my stash.  Regardless of the reason, I am grateful I had it, because it truly saved the day here.

Bleary-eyed, I grabbed the longest ribbon in the stash (a metallic silver which would have been quite nice if I hadn't been wearing a silver-grey blouse under this) and laced it up.  Well, wearing it backwards, I laced it up.  I just had to make sure it would close over my ribs and look okay.  I got to the waist, said it was good enough, and threw it in the wash.  I bought some contrasting blue (to match the coat), but never had a chance to lace it up entirely until the day of the party, wherein I discovered the ease on the hips was even more ridiculous than I remembered.  I grabbed some safety pins, taking EIGHT INCHES off the hips; you can see this in the pictures where the side seam looks a bit lumpy.  Even so, it is still laced right to grommets there.  I can only surmise it is because this is to be worn over a skirt, but it still seems excessive.

After the party, I took a bunch of that ease out, as well as edge-stitching the vest (like the coat, it did not want to lay flat).

So, would I recommend this?  If you even think that your rib cage might be wider than is typical, or you have a broad back, I would say no.  If you do, make a muslin first.

After wearing this to work on Halloween, a co-worker asked me to make her one too, so I will be facing this crappy pattern again.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fleece Navidad

The theme of this month's This Is CorpGoth status report is What Do You Wear to Work in the Winter?   Every place I have worked, less one, has always been freezing cold.  So I'm going to cheat a little bit here, because this is something I wear year-round in the office.

McCall's 5538, view C, is the guilty party.  I chose this version because it had the full-length separating zipper, which made it easier to remove during work.  The only alteration I made was omitting the arm pocket.  The fleece I got on clearance from JoAnn's for ridiculously cheap - something like $1.50/yd.  It's snuggly and soft.

If you haven't sewn fleece before, it's a bit tricky.  Unlike cotton or satin, you don't need to finish the seams, but it is much thicker and sheds fuzz.  These lead to wearing out needles faster and clogging up the machine.  I've had cheap machines that could not get through multiple layers of fleece.  It's not a difficult fabric to work with, such as velvet is and always will be, but it can have a bit of a learning curve.  If this is your first experience with fleece, it might be wise to do some stitching tests on swatches first.

Because this pattern has options for contrast, there are more pieces to this pattern than you'd expect.  I don't think the yoke front adds too much if you don't use the contrast, especially if you have patterned fabric like I did.  I suppose it wouldn't be too much work to alter the pattern so the yoke is omitted, if you chose, but it didn't bother me enough to put forth that sort of effort.

The other feature that I like so much about this pattern (other than the full-length separating zipper) is the pockets.  My old office was so cold that I used to carry gloves around with me in one pocket and hankies in the other.  I sometimes carried around my MP3 player and snacks too.  Never underestimate the power of functional pockets.

Because this is a jacket and is meant to be worn over other clothing, this is pretty loose.  I did go up a size, in case I wore a bulky sweatshirt or something or the sort, and if I made this again, I would still do the same.  Another alteration I would make is adding elastic to the cuffs, and perhaps the bottom hem.

The zipper this pattern calls for is 30 inches, which is several inches too long for the size I made.  I found that quite odd, so you might want to sew the majority of the jacket, measure, and then purchase a zipper accordingly.  I imagine the length difference would matter less in one of the larger sizes.

Overall rating: though I have several fleece jackets I rotate though at work, this one is my favorite.  I have some pumpkin fleece sitting in my stash that is waiting to be sewn into another version of this.  So if you don't have any problems sewing fleece, this pattern can be tackled by a beginner.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jareth II: Coat

There were more choices when it came for me to select a coat pattern.  I couldn't quite find one that had all the elements I needed, so I pulled a Dr Frankenstein and combined two to get what I needed.  The bulk of the pattern came from Simplicity 2172.

The first problem was that this pattern did not have tails.  This is an easy fix: just don't sew the back seam up all the way.  The second problem was the chiffon cuffs and collar.  It was easy enough to replace the chiffon at the cuffs with satin ones, but for the collar, I used Simplicity 3685 (view A).  This was also my source for the lapels.  And I lengthened the sleeves again.

This coat pattern actually has a corset-type lacing in the back which I quite fancied, but omitted.

I don't care for shoulder pads (which Jareth's coat obviously has), so I left in the flounces to give some additional width.

Finding a fabric for this pattern was tough.  Jareth's coat is covered with rhinestones which probably number into the hundreds.  Sewing on that many rhinestones was not something I wanted to tackle.  I was hoping I could find a pre-sequined fabric and go from there, but most of them were either sheer, stretchy, too expensive, or some combination thereof.  I went with glitter satin from the Casa Collection.  It photographs quite poorly; really, you can only see the glitter well in the close-up on the black satin.  This blue wasn't really as dark as I would have liked, but it was the best I was going to get.  I sewed on the sequins by hand.  I actually intended to sew on more than I did, but I got tired of the whole endeavor.  The lining was the same satin I used for the blouse.

There isn't anything too quirky about the construction of this coat except that it is quite lengthy, though the instructions are pretty good.  The amount of fabric is nearly overwhelming, so take care when cutting that the fabric doesn't pull and distort the grain.  This satin did not press well, so I ended up edge-stitching it to keep flat.  Due to the lengthiness of construction, I would recommend this for an intermediate or advanced beginner.

This coat is fitted around the waist, so double-check your measurements.

NB: if you are not using a heavy fabric, you might want to interface the coat.  The only interfaced part is the facings.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Orange You Glad I Didn't Say Banana? II

As I mentioned before, I did a photoshoot in a cemetery with a friend of mine the weekend before last. She has posted about 20% of the pictures to her Flickr account.  If you would like to see them, please send me email at spookyseamstress AT gmail DOT com and I will give you the URL.  I ask that you be kind; we are both software engineers by trade.  She is not a professional photographer and I am certainly not a professional model.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Jareth I: Blouse

After I had decided to be Jareth for Halloween, the time came to chose patterns and fabrics for the costume.  The blouse seemed the easiest place to start, as I already had Simplicity 4077 in my embarrassingly large pattern stash.  It looks like this shirt in this outfit is silk or a thin satin; I went with satin.

To get in the Halloween mood, I put on a classic horror movie and set out to cut the pattern, only to discover I had purchased the wrong size.  (For those that don't know: patterns are usually sold in groups of sizes, usually sewing sizes 4 or 6 - 12 and 14+.  Also, sewing sizes are not the same as RTW sizes.)  My immediate response was to kick myself for my stupidity for a couple of minutes, but then I needed to do something about it.  The intelligent thing to do would to exchange the pattern for one in the correct size.   The problem with that was I couldn't tell you where or when I had bought the pattern, and I certainly had no receipt.  Well, okay, then I could just buy a new one.  Except that the fabric store had already closed for the night and the pattern was out of print, so they might not even have it in stock.  Plan C would have been to educate myself about pattern grading, a technique that allows you to scale a pattern up or down in size and something I had been meaning to do anyway.  Yes, this would have been the smart thing to do.  This was not what I did.

Featuring half-assed new markings
Readers, don't try this at home: I made up my own half-assed method.  It ended up working for me, but what a dumb idea.  Cut and spread, and other techniques, are all excellent ways of scaling the pattern.  Reading that information after the fact makes a lot of sense, actually.  Instead, what I did was take excess off at the seam.  This is really hard to explain in words, but I'll try.  I generally wear a sewing size ten, and the smallest in the envelope was fourteen (two sizes up).  I figured that the difference in bust-waist-hip measurements between the ten and the fourteen would be the same as the difference between the fourteen and the eighteen.  For example, the waist measurement of a ten is 25 inches and a fourteen's is 28, which is three inches; I figured that an eighteen's would be 31 inches, but it is actually 32.  Meh.  Again, it would have been smart to educate myself with some size charts, but I did not.

So I cut out an eighteen and then cut the fourteen out of that.  The little bits between the sizes I then cut out of the fourteen.  I told you this was hard to explain in words.

Anyway, after such a radical move (which I still kick myself over, even though the blouse turned out nicely), I wasn't going to take a gamble on the real satin, so I made a muslin, which is something I rarely do.  It actually ended up fitting rather well, with the exception of the armscye being too small.  I increased it and that was that for the muslin.

While view A has the jabot, it wasn't quite what I needed for the costume.  Jareth's jabot is made of satin with a lace trim (easy swap), has four ruffles (the pattern only has three), and the collar isn't fold-down; in fact, it is more like view D.  This ended up with me having to change how the jabot was attached.  The method the pattern uses is to sew it to ribbon and then tie it on under the collar.  My method was to sew in buttonholes under the ruffles for the first two buttons.  The last alteration I made was to increase the length of the sleeves by an inch and a half, which was still a bit too short.  (An aside, people are frequently envious of those with long legs, but long arms usually is part of the package deal there.  The sleeves of RTW clothes are nearly always too short.  And of course, pants usually aren't long enough either.  This is one of the things that led me to take up sewing.)

So despite making this project much harder than it needed to be, the sewing was pretty simple.  This could probably be tackled by a beginning sewist, but I wouldn't recommend satin to them.

Despite my inauspicious beginnings to this project, I am pretty pleased with how the blouse ended up turning out.  I think if I made this again, I would have made the ruffles on the jabot an inch or so longer so they would drape better.  This blouse will probably be entering my everyday-wear wardrobe.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Orange You Glad I Didn't Say Banana?

Happy Guy Fawkes Day to those of you who like to burn things.

I'm late to the party.  I intended to post for the Sophistique Noir theme of hosiery.  After all, I have a rather large collection of it.  My first outfit was soaked by Hurricane Sandy and photography problems plagued the second.  The third fit the bill nicely, but one thing led to another...  Anyway, I'm still posting this, even though it is late.

A friend of mine has taken up photography as a hobby and thought it would be fun to do a cemetery photoshoot.  I am certainly the spookiest person she knows, so I was the first she asked.  Though graveyard pictures are something of a rite of passage in the goth community, I had never done it.  I'm all for being pretentious and dressing up, so of course I said yes.

I can't remember where I bought these tights.  Maybe Target?  They're thick fuzzy winter tights, which mostly seem to come in solid colors, and boring ones at that.  When I saw the orange and black striped pair, I knew they had to be mine.

The shirt I made.  It's Butterick 4609.  I made view C, the French cuffs version, because my husband gave me garnet coffin cufflinks one year for our anniversary.   (He got them from Pushin Daisies.  There is no image of the garnet links currently, but here is the onyx pair.)  The fabric is from JoAnn's Halloween collection.  It seems to be a perennial favorite and is currently on sale.

This pattern features princess seams (darts), buttonholes, and interfaced collar and cuffs.  It's a good beginner pattern, and was actually one of the first patterns I ever used, way back in the day.  I would recommend this as a first garment to a beginner.

Cape: a gift from my sister-in-law, who was cleaning out her closet
Skirt: thrift store
Shoes: Famous Footwear
Earrings: Claire's for the danglies and Etsy for the studs
Hair flower: JoAnn's and I hot glued a barrette on the back
Parasol: a black umbrella I hand-sewed some lace onto

UPDATE (11/11/2012): If you would like to see the rest of the pictures from this photoshoot, please send me an email at spookyseamstress AT gmail DOT com.  She is not a professional photographer and I am not a professional model, so please be gentle on us.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Contest Update

As I stated yesterday, because the turnout was high, I selected another winner using a random number generator.  And that winner is... Melody Brown.  Melody, please contact me at spookyseamstress AT gmail DOT com regarding your prize.