Thursday, September 29, 2011

Steampunked Chem Lab Goggles

What do you get when you add this
Sellstrom Vented Chemical Splash Goggles with UV-absorbing polycarbonate lens, meets ANSI Z87.1-2003 standards.

plus these

plus paint and random bits of chain and buttons and leather that I had lying around the house?

My fedora in the background.

The chains serve no function other than look cool.

I used leather leftover from the leather pants for the straps, but I'm still trying to figure out how to attach them at the back. I need a very, very tiny belt buckle.

This is all from painting (multiple coats, again, plus "glazing"), gluing, and a little bit of jewelry working to attach the chain. The inside is kinda ghetto-tastic, though, since you can see where I glued everything on.
The visibility when wearing the goggles is still remarkably good, though.

Yesterday's steampunked Nerf gun cost me about thirty cents in new materials (why are brass cap nuts so expensive? Oh wait, it's because they're real brass), thanks to paint that I've been saving forever. Since my husband's a grad student now, I'm trying to keep the costume cost low. For today's goggles, I ended up spending a little more for all the brass nuts and the plastic pipe parts, but overall the cost was still a whopping $8.26. Yay for never throwing anything away!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Steampunked Nerf Gun

UPDATE: Instructable on making this here.

I caught a cold while I was in SF, so there hasn't been much sewing going on here. I know from past experience that if I try to sew while I'm stuffed up and drippy-nosed (at the same time! How is that even possible?!), I'll make some terrible mistake, like sewing the side back piece to the center front piece. So I've been working on another project from my list instead. That list is really so useful. It keeps me focused, otherwise I just think I want to try everything and anything and I never get anything done at all. I'm all about taking on other projects to give myself a break while I'm working on something else, so at least this way they're all projects I know I wanted to do. For example, I started working on the Little Prince quilt, but then took a break from it with fabric printing, then took a break from that with a halter dress I'm working on, and now I'm taking a break from that dress with this project. Oh, and somewhere in there, in a fit of creating, I also sewed my Art Nouveau Party Dress. Gosh, it's a wonder I ever accomplish anything.

Anyway. I wanted a gun to go with the steampunk-ish costume I'm working on, because, inspired by Zoe, Saffron, and even Inara from Firefly, I believe that every lady should be able to shoot. Kaylee is great and all, but she was kind of useless during the War Stories episode. So I started with the cheapy Nerf gun that my husband bought two years ago for a youth group game, originally $8.99 at Target.
Before, minus the red laser.

I started with cleaning off all the dust, then painting it with the 69¢ bottles of acrylic paint that I have leftover from oh, eight years ago. To cover all the bright orange and yellow took two coats of paint (I used Pure Gold, Raw Sienna, and Slate Grey coated with Metallic Silver). It wasn't too difficult; just time consuming getting into all those little nooks and crannies and using a really tiny paintbrush to get the lines perfect.
Walnut investigates.
Very nice. A little too nice.

It was starting to look pretty good, but not authentically used, you know, like it had been through gunfights and all. To give it some texture and character, and to mimic the look of actual wood and metal (not just plastic painted with acrylic), I "glazed" it. This was done very scientifically by mixing a little black paint and water, and using my fingers to rub the mixture all over the gun and then wipe it off quickly before it dried. That gave it the nice streaky look that highlighted my brush strokes, but also made it look more real at the same time.

Much better. This baby has been through some real tough times.

Look, those fake nails have dirt accumulated in them from years of shooting.

Then I decided that I needed to embellish it a little and cover up that very un-steampunky Nerf sign, so I raided my button stash for appropriate elements. I found these two large buttons that fit right over it, and proceeded to hammer at the back to break off the button-thing so that they would have flat backs.

I chose two other buttons for the front of the gun, a wing-looking one and a wood-ish one. I also painted the stick-part of one of those cheap plastic paintbrushes for kids and hot-glued it to the top, then added a brass cap nut to the end. After all this, I showed my masterpiece to my husband, who said "I thought it looked fine with the orange." I wanted to scream and laugh at the same time, but opted for trying to explain that steampunk is not about orange plastic.

This gun is still functional! Although I won't be shooting it anytime soon, since the part of the loading mechanism that's still hidden remains bright orange.

You can still see the original safety warning, because safety is very important.

Tomorrow: steampunk lab goggles!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chinese Food Plushies and 70s Fashion

During my super-short trip to SF this last weekend, I didn't get to do a whole lot other than attend my friend's wedding. No time for fabric shopping or anything like that, but that's okay, since I'll be going back again this weekend! My brother has a wedding to attend this time, and I'm tagging along for the ride since my husband will be up to his ears in business. He loves his MBA program, but there sure is a lot of reading, problem sets, study groups, and other official-sounding things.

While I was back home, though, I did get to do two things I've been meaning to do. I was able to snap pictures of the Chinese food plushies that I made my parents for the parental appreciation portion of our wedding. In most weddings I've been to, the newlyweds give flowers to their parents during the ceremony as a sign of respect and thanks. Well, considering that my parents were traveling back to the Bay Area the next day, I didn't want to give them something so perishable. Also, my dad's allergic to flowers. So instead, I made them plushies of the foods I most associate with them. Because, you know, Chinese people are all about food.
For my mom: a felt tray of dimsum (a 砵仔糕, which is a sticky red bean pudding, and a steamed BBQ pork bun), not to scale.
This is what the puddings look like in real life. Mmmmmmm. I think most people know what 叉燒包, the pork buns, look like.

For my dad: a steamed salmon steak with ginger and scallions. I was so excited to find the perfect color fleece, although the salesperson did look at me funny when I bought salmon-colored fleece, silver spandex, and green felt.

Back when I was in college (actually, she still does this now), every time I came home my mom would go out early on Saturday morning to get dim sum to go so that I could wake up at 11 and have my favorite Chinese foods for brunch. Aren't moms awesome? As for my dad, he has a very limited cooking repertoire, most of which is random things that sounded good to him at the time (let's stir fry every vegetable in the fridge together...with walnuts!). But one thing he does actually do well is steamed salmon. My dad and I both looooove ginger, which no one else in the family seems to do as much, so that means that I usually get all the leftovers to myself!

The second thing I got to do was talk to my mom about sewing! In the past, she's only seen me sew plushies (like the above, although she didn't actually see me sewing these) or other ridiculous things. Well, recently I told her about this blog, and she was surprised (pleasantly, I hope) to see all the dresses I've been making. She said she'd try to dig up her old sewing notes to see if I could make sense of them, so I'm super excited about that! She also looked over my dress and was actually pleased with its construction. She also showed me some old pictures of clothing that she made herself as a young woman in Hong Kong. Apparently, one of her friend's father was an amazing tailor, so her group of friends all learned from him. The funny thing is, she said she mostly made dress shirts and pants "because they're so easy." Um. I guess we have different opinions about easy, since the thought of collars and all those buttons and fitting pants scares me to death. Dresses are easy. Anyway, here are some of her pictures. I know, taking pictures of pictures is so gauche, but I didn't have a scanner.

My mom made the dress shirt. Isn't she gorgeous? I totally had a complex when I was in middle school and thought I was ugly. I totally identified with Laura Ingalls, Meg Murry, and every other heroine who's ever had a gorgeous mom.
She made this awesome 70s dress with cute trim and great neckline detail.
Pants! Also, we look incredibly alike in this picture. Err, I mean, I look like she did in the picture. You know what I mean.

More pants! Incredible 70s bell-bottoms.
Like I said, she made lots of pants. I got mad at her for not saving all her clothes. Then again, she would've had to move it all from Hong Kong.
Hopefully next weekend I'll be able to get her notes about sewing and get some fabric shopping in as well!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Art Nouveau Party Dress

Thank God, nothing horrible happened while I did the sixteen feet of hem on this dress! I was deathly afraid as I trimmed and hemmed and ironed, but I'm happy to report that I didn't manage to cut a hole in the skirt. Also, it's a good thing I let it hang overnight. I know you're supposed to, but honestly none of my dresses in the past have had any noticeable stretching. This one definitely did, though!
Look at how wonky that got!

I've already talked a lot about this dress and its undergarment, so here are all the pictures. The dress debut was quite successful; I felt so pretty and swishy all day! It held up surprisingly well all day, but I did notice a couple things. First, the petticoat waistband started digging in a little bit by the end of the night. Second, all the layers of skirt take up a surprising amount of space when I'm seated. I don't know how Southern belles did it with their eighteen yards of skirt.
Back view.

Top of the back.
Back of the cummerbund, with the bow slightly off-kilter.
Side view.
So twirly! Note that I had to switch shoes to twirl so vigorously.

I love that the whole outfit was super cheap (with the exception of the shoes, which are actually my wedding shoes!); the dress fabric was $3, the petticoat $5, the cummerbund all materials I already had, and my earrings were from the dollar store! Even the cardigan was $10 during an awesome AE sale. The pearls were a gift from my mom many years ago. And ummm, the shoes were more than everything else combined. But they make me four inches taller, so they're awesome. Even though after an hour I want to saw my feet off. I have no idea how I walked around all day in them for my wedding.

Requisite buddy pic with my husband.
After the lovely wedding, time catching up with friends and family, and a lot of driving, I am happy to be back in LA. Walnut was so happy to see us; he keeps trying to sit on my husband's textbook in order to get as close as possible. Unfortunately for him, I cheated on him with my first feline love, our family cat Fenxi.

He is gray and white and pink, just like my dress!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

House of Olivier, This Is Not

I don't remember how I came across the House of Olivier's website, but whenever it was that I did, I remember thinking, "This is what I'm going to spend my money on one day when my husband gets his MBA and lands a six-figure salary." They have the most amazing petticoats, and they're all cotton! I don't like the scratchiness of netting/tulle on crinolines, plus how can you argue with breathable material that looks beautiful as well? I don't know why, I've always thought netting just looks weird.

Anyway, since my husband still has 20 months to go before he gets his MBA, and there's no guarantee that he'll land an awesome job, and I don't think I could ever justify spending $100 on a petticoat, however beautiful, I decided that I needed to go a more DIY route. But honestly, the thought of that much gathering, plus having to find that much fabric by slowly combing thrift stores for immaculate white sheets, didn't really appeal to me. So I decided that I needed to go the lazy route.

I've been poking around the thrift stores for several months, looking for the right skirt, and it really depends on what kind of items your local thrift store has and how high the turnover is, but I think this is totally doable. I just looked for a larger-than-me white skirt that was fairly full. I've seen a lot of skirts that were more or less white, but they were always not quite full enough, or too bulky, or the wrong length. Well, last week I came across the perfect skirt -- a white, full-at-the-bottom-but-not-at-the-waist, all cotton (!!!), size 10, unstained and unripped Odille skirt. If you frequent Anthropologie, you know that Odille is a label that is usually 1) lovely, but 2) expensive. So it's pretty much a miracle that I found this skirt for $4.99!

Underneath the outer layer are three layers of ruffles.

Each layer is edged in its own unique lace! Way prettier than a mass of netting!

I threw it into the wash to get rid of the funky thrift store smell, then proceeded to turn it into a usable petticoat. I used my seam ripper to pick apart the waistband lining where it was attached to the invisible zipper. This opened up a convenient hole for me to insert a long piece of grosgrain ribbon (leftover from unwrapping wedding gifts a year ago -- hoarding for reuse FTW!). It was a little tricky getting it to go through the layers on the side seam, but eventually I got it all the way around and out the other side. After that, it was a simple matter of tying it tightly around my waist, adjusting the gathers (minimal, though, since it wasn't a gathered skirt to begin with), and then trying it on with all my full skirts and dresses.

Obviously if I were wearing this for real, I would tuck the ribbon in.
Not too much extra bulk around the waist!

I love how it makes my skirts look fluffier, but not too crazy. In the process of researching making my own petticoat, I came across this article about Alice Lon, who apparently had petticoats with 48 YARDS OF HEM. Just thinking about that much hemming gives me a mild case of the vapors. Since it's just three cotton layers though, my petticoat only gives my skirts a mild boost, just enough to make the silhouette a little more retro.
Ignore my crazy hair. I'd already pulled on at least seven other skirts/dresses by this time.
The only thing is, the petticoat is too long for a lot of my skirts and dresses. It tends to stick out from underneath by a couple inches, which could be a cute look, I guess, but not very authentic. Although I guess if I were truly concerned with being authentic, I wouldn't be cutting apart perfectly good Anthro skirts to make underclothes. So now the question is, do I shorten the petticoat by cutting off the waistband and making a new one (more work, but it will work with more of my current wardrobe), or do I just start making all my new dresses and skirts long enough to go over the petticoat as is (more authentically vintage, and I hate my knees anyway)?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sew Excited!

I know, it's terrible. But it's really just too easy to replace "so" with "sew." Well, after my frustrating start to the week, I think God knew that I needed a pick me up. I can honestly say that I have never loved a dress as much as I love this latest creation. I'm almost done with it; there's just the hem to finish (letting the dress hang overnight to let the bias stretch is so hard when you're on a roll!), but I'm almost afraid that it will somehow go horribly wrong at the last if God got angry that I love this dress so much. No, but really, I'm afraid that as I trim it I'll accidentally cut a hole in the skirt portion. Not that I've ever done that before...*shifty eyes*

Anyway, here are the reasons why I love this dress:

1) This is, hands-down, the best sheet I've ever thrifted! It was a queen-size, so there was plenty of fabric, no holes or questionable stains, and it had these lovely muted colors on it. But! My secret design love is all things Art Nouveau (every time I go to Barnes and Noble I lustfully eye the Alphonse Mucha coffee table book), and these flowers are perfectly reminiscent of that era. They remind me of our honeymoon trip to Paris and the beautiful Métro entrances.
Anything that reminds you of your honeymoon is a good thing.
 2) It's an actual full circle skirt! All the "circle" skirts I've done so far have been half-circles or 3/4 circles because I didn't have enough fabric; this one is a full circle, and good heavens, it is delightfully swishy! Also, I'm pleased with how the flowers and stripes ended up, despite what they say about not using striped fabric for circle skirts.
Circularity being demonstrated with the help of The Hunger Games boxed set and a lobster that my husband won in one of those claw games.

3) I used two new techniques: a center back lapped zipper, per Gertie's tutorial, and a grosgrain waist stay, per Tasia the Sewaholic's tutorial. Even though they didn't turn out perfectly, and they're not actually too challenging, I still feel so accomplished.

They only had black swimsuit hooks left at F&S Fabrics.

Check two techniques off of my Check the Technique list! I toyed with the idea of using horsehair braid on the hem as well, but decided against it since this dress is going to be worn with...

4) ...A petticoat! I found the perfect no-work way to get the fluffiness of a petticoat -- more on that tomorrow.
So nice and froofy!

5) Inspired by Colette Patterns' Peony Dress, I decided to make a cummerbund-esque belt for this dress. It's amazing how that extra detail at the waist really accentuates the middle in this dress. To make the cummerbund, I cut off the hem of a dress that a friend had given me to refashion, since it was stained and iron-melted. Well, it turns out the gray of the dress almost perfectly matched the gray of the errr, other dress, and I had a peach ribbon in my gift-wrapping discard I sewed up a rectangle, gathered it at the ends, and attached the ribbon so I can tie a bow in the back.

Unfortunately, in my excitement, I got carried away with Tim Gunn syndrome, aka "Time's up, designers! Just make it work!" Consequently, the back of where the ribbon attaches is a hot mess; this is exactly the kind of stuff that my mom used to sigh at back when I sewed at home.
Sorry, Mom...ummm, the polyester was slippery.
6) This is all self-drafted! It really wasn't planned that way, and after the Ondine's Curse Dress debacle I should've known better, but sketching a bodice, awkwardly pinning while wearing it, and checking for fit by holding it together with binder clips seems to have paid off. The skirt is, of course, just a quick math problem, but still! I'm going to temporarily step out of my Chinese-ness and say congratulations to myself.

It's too gray out now to take pictures, but I'm planning to wear the whole ensemble to a wedding this weekend, where I will badger my husband to take pictures of my amazing creation. That is, assuming I don't somehow manage to accidentally set fire to the dress while doing up the hem.