Saturday, September 29, 2012

Letting the Cat out of the Bag

Today's Halloween costume is from seven years ago.  I apologize for these photographs, as I took them myself with the timer, and my crappy grad school apartment isn't exactly the right sort of backdrop for this costume.

Anyway, this year I was the Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman.  (The previous year, I had been the Lee Meriwether Catwoman.)  In the movie, her costume was made out of PVC, leather, and latex.  It also featured a corset.  Latex was out for me (allergies), leather was out (vegetarian), and I didn't have the skills at the time to attempt a corset (seven years later, I still haven't tried).   So it was a PVC jumpsuit for me.

Like the Harley Quinn costume, I did not use a pattern.  While it worked for Harley, that was not the case here.  I did not have enough experience to work without a pattern, and this ended up chafing my armpits all night and being too loose in the waist.

To create the bottom half of this, I held the fabric at hip level and pinned it together along the crotch and butt.  From there, I tapered he legs and sewed hem together.  Not the best way to make pants, even with a stretchy fabric.  My bottom-heaviness makes pants difficult.  From there, I did the top piece in four parts, with a zipper in the front middle.  The zipper was under a lot of stress due to the poor fit, so I had to replace it once and very nearly a second time, but the second zipper valiantly persevered though the night.

The headpiece was quite difficult.  I think this was my fourth attempt at it.  If this one hadn't worked, I probably would have just given up.  The key here was to add a middle piece, which you can probably see most clearly in the second picture.  To get the ears to stand up (which should have been a bit larger), I used electrical cable ties which I cut into pieces several inches long.  I hand stitched the ears on.

Onto the stitching.  I wasn't going to attempt to replicate the stitching in the movie costume, so I just haphazardly did a narrow zigzag all over the place.  If I had more foresight, I would have did the stitching before sewing the seams.  It was quite arduous attempting to get the machine into little nooks and crannies.  This is why there isn't much stitching on the sleeves.

I am my own worst critic, I know, but it embarrasses me to look back upon this, seven years later, and see the vast improvements that could be made.  I did learn from my mistakes here, and hopefully others can benefit from my experience.  I did receive a lot of praise for this costume, but the best thing to come out of the party that I went to is that my now husband proposed to me that night. :)

Remember, I'm running a Guess My Costume contest to celebrate Halloween.  I think it will start October 23 and feature seven days worth of hints, with the grand reveal coming on Halloween itself.  I will be posting rules as we get closer to the start.  Would readers like the prizes revealed before or after?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cut Me Some Slacks!

The Slapdash Sewist shares my disdain of sewing pants.  I'm a software engineer by trade, and our basic uniform is jeans and a t-shirt.  While that's not exclusively how I dress (this would be a really low-traffic blog, if that was the case), it's still my go-to outfit when I'm too tired, stressed, or ill to care.  I have tried to sew jeans for myself, with no success.  All the patterns I have tried for for the flat-ass club, and I am most definitely not a member.  I'm curvy in places where others are flat, and vice versa.  This is why dresses and skirts have been occupying a larger portion of my wardrobe in the last few years.

Anyway, join me rooting on the Slapdash Sewist in her quest for the perfect pair of pants.  She has inspired me to try again (once I work my way through my copious fabric stash - so in ten years or so).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Misgivings Day with Medusa

Today marks the annual tradition of Misgivings Day, started by the Queen of Halloween herself, Ghoul Friday.  It's a day to start getting into the Halloween spirit (if you haven't already - I started in July) by decorating, making costumes, or whatever strikes your spooky fancy.  Personally, I am spending the day working on my costume for this year.  To mark the occasion, I wanted to present you with the costume I made last year: Medusa.

The pattern I used was Simplicity 3647, view D (cape omitted).  The dress is black Kona cotton (the pattern called for linen, but I didn't want to spend that kind of money on what was already going to be an expensive costume) and the waist-piece is a stretchy snake-like print with chiffon drapes.  The trim, which the pattern did not all for, was a Greek key design similar to this.  In the first picture, I am wearing a shirt and tights under the dress because it was freezing the day of my party.  We actually got three inches of snow that day!

Sewing this dress was super simple.  That is, easy except for the sleeve hems.  The had a narrow hem, which usually isn't a problem, but this fabric kept fraying and rolling.  It might be more prudent to just finish the edges, fold up a 5/8 seam, and stitch that in place.  That is probably what I would do if I made this again.  However, if you go my route and add trim, I would suggest doing that before you've sewn most of the costume together.  I didn't plan to add trim at all, but it happened to catch my eye when I was looking for something else.  Overall, I am pleased with how the dress turned out.  It has actually made its way into my everyday wear clothing.

The waist-piece, or whatever you would like to call it, is another story.  I really did not like this piece.  In fact, I almost didn't wear it.  I took it off shortly after the party began because it was just too annoying.  It kept falling down and twisting.  Frankly, I think it made me look like I had no waist and huge hips.  The greens don't match either, but it was really the best I could find.  If it came down to making another Medusa costume, I would omit this piece entirely and come up with something different.

The headpiece was the trickiest part here.  It's fifteen rubber snakes hot-glued to a headband.  The glue came undone periodically over the course of the night and snakes flopped in my face, which I suppose made for some appropriate serpentine action for observers, but it freaked me out a little.  I would use a stronger adhesive if I did this again.  I would also try to find hollow snakes, because this was heavy.  You can't tell from these pictures, but the front of my hair was green at the time, so it went well with the snakes.

Onto the rest of the costume.  Just wearing cosmetics is enough to make something qualify as a costume for me.  I tried to show off the fantastic colors a little in the first picture.  Both the lipstick and eye shadow come from Sobe Botanicals.  The anklet and arm cuff come from 88 Links.

Thanks for reading!  I will be doing more posts on previous costumes as the season progresses, and the Guess My Costume contest should start in late October (there will be prizes!), so stay tuned.  Enjoy your Misgivings Day and be spooky!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lace Shrug

I mentioned once before how I was unimpressed with Butterick's then-new releases, with one exception.  The pattern in question is Butterick 5797: a lace shrug and several variations on a Hot Topic-esque corset.  The fabulous Victorian Kitty of Sophistique Noir contacted me asked me to make the shrug for her.  (Most of my readers, if not all, are familiar with her blog.  And if you aren't, do yourself a favor and educate yourself.  You're welcome.)  I'm love to do custom work, so i said sure and the sewing commenced.

She selected a fantastic Chantilly lace, but because we're in different, we decided it would be best if I made a muslin before I cut in the fancy fabric.  The fabric you see here in the embarrassingly ugly muslin was a chiffon left over from my Halloween costume last year (which I will be posting at some point prior to this year's, I hope), and pink satin that was from the princess dress I made for my niece's costume last year.  It's a good thing I made the muslin, because the sizing here was a little wonky.  Use caution for this pattern.

After the sizing problems were sorted out, I proceeded to the actual shrug.  One thing to note here is that some lace has a pattern that runs parallel to the selvedge  and sometimes its perpendicular.  Double, triple, and quadruple check before you start cutting.  Also, use care when cutting lace because even if it doesn't have elastic, the open design leads itself to stretching.  Use weights if at all possible.  (Fabric weights are available in any number of stores, but I use paperweights, my cell phone, a glass of water, one of the kitties, etc.  Whatever is heavy will do just fine.)

Another oddity about the pattern is that it called for the seams to be straight-stitched and then zig-zagged to finish them.  Generally, with sheer fabrics, one uses French seams.  We discussed it and concluded that was the better way to go.  I'm glad we did; I think the regular seams in the muslin look sloppy.

The sewing of the garment, after the seam and layout irregularities, is pretty straightforward.  There are fewer pieces here than you would expect, which cuts sewing time down drastically.  The collar, which is satin (I had it in my stash; I am sure it is a great shock to all that I have black satin laying about in my stash), does not call for the internal seams to be finished.  I am always antsy about satin fraying, so I finish my seams most of the time.  The inside of the collar does need to be hand-sewn so that the stitches don't show through on the right side.

The trim was also hand-sewn on.  It's a velvet ribbon wrapped in black braid.  I got it at my local JoAnn's and I can't seem to find a picture on their site.  Honestly, this was the most time-consuming part of the whole thing, though even that didn't take too long.  I knocked off most of the actual sewing in an afternoon.

Level-wise, I would recommend this for a sewist who has tackled tricky fabrics like lace, satins, and sheers before.  Once you're comfortable with that, this isn't too complicated to sew, though it will take patience with hand-sewing.  I would say even a beginner could handle this, assuming they have the aforementioned skills with lace down.

I am happy to do custom work, repairs, or alterations.  If you're interested, contact me at spookyseamstress AT gmail DOT com.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Someone Special II

Last time, my entry for the Sophistique Noir September theme of Someone Special featured the lion costume I made for my husband.  Victorian Kitty herself requested more pictures, and who am I to turn down such a request?

The husband wasn't home for this, so I used Azzurra for the model.  He wears a larger size than me (he's three inches taller and quite a bit broader), so though this costume is too big for Azzurra, you can still see how a female figure could get lost in it.  Conversely, if you were really busty or hippy, then that could also present a problem with the fit.
The tail is stuffed with poly-fill.  It was supposed to have an odd bit of fur on the end, which I didn't like.  Instead, I used the fabric from the tummy portion and made a couple layers of fringe with it.  Hubby liked to sneak up behind me and whack me with it.

As I was attempting to take pictures, I accidentally set it swinging, which Lydia took as an invitation to start batting at it.  Sadly, I didn't get any good action shots of that.

Here we see one of the spats, a glove, and the headpiece.  The gloves were super simple - just two pieces sewn together and then hemmed.  The spats were a bit more complicated, as they involved elastic, but weren't too complicated.  The headpiece, as I mentioned before is just elastic encased in fleece.  The ears were actually a bit finicky to make because the pieces were so small.

Completely on a different subject, has anyone else in blogland been having issues with captcha on Blogger?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Someone Special

The Sophistique Noir theme for September (how is it possible that it is September already?!) is Someone Special.  Cliché as it is, I chose my hubby.  And with Halloween fast approaching, what better item to feature than a costume I made him a few years ago?

The husband has ridiculously curly hair.  At one point, he decided he wanted to grow it out.  For a long time, it just got bigger instead of longer.  As Halloween approached that year, I was trying to think up costumes for us.  I had already decided to be a privateer (and was leaning towards the same for him), when he came downstairs one morning with a serious case of bedhead.  The leonine nature of his coiffure lead to me announcing he was going to be a lion that year.  He just yawned and asked if there was any coffee, which I took as consent.

The pattern in question here is Simplicity 2853 (which includes a gorilla, bear, and cat in addition to the lion; if you want to make a leonine, simian, ursine, or feline family, the children's version is 2855).  The costume is unisex, but is based on chest and hip measurements.  It isn't abundantly fitted, but I think a particularly hourglassy lady might have some trouble with the fit.

I did not make the hood for the lion costume (since hubby had a mane already) and just made the ears.  I measured his head and cut a piece of elastic accordingly, which I covered with the same fabric as the costume.  The ears were hand-sewn onto that.  I imagine attaching the ears to barrettes or clips would also work well.  You could probably could use a plain old headband too.

The suggested fabrics listed here are fur, long-haired fur, fleece, faux leather, sherpa, and suede.  I used basic polar fleece.  The party I hosted that year was entirely inside and he got hot pretty quickly.  If you're in a cooler clime than we are, this would probably work if you're going trick-or-treating or partying outside and don't want to wear a coat.  Otherwise, I would suggest a lighter fabric - while it won't look as good, it won't matter how nice the costume is if it's too hot to wear.  Flannel would probably work, but still might be too hot for some.

As for the sewing itself, I think I knocked the main body of this off in the evening and finished the gloves, spats, and ears the next night.  Though tackling heavier fabrics (especially fur, ugh) can be a challenge, I think an amateur could tackle this costume.  The really tricky part was aligning the front belly part (because it needed to be symmetrical).

I will be posting more past Halloween costumes this season, with the big reveal of this year's coming on Halloween itself.  Stick around for the pumpkiny goodness!