Sunday, March 31, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly: Accessorize

Actually, this should probably be called the Historical Glue Fortnightly, as there was almost no sewing involved in this tricorn; it's mostly hot glue holding the trims on! The only sewing I did was to attach the feathers.

Awkward selfies with the iPhone.

For this challenge, I wanted to embellish a tricorn to go with the pirate costume I want to make one day. I already had a cheap tricorn from a costume store (originally marketed as a Pirates of the Caribbean costume piece), so it was just a matter of looking up historical engravings of pirates to see what kind of trims would be period-appropriate.

A pirate scrimshaw, from the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine. [source]
Frideric Guillaumlii Roi de Prusse, c. 1744, by Joh. Martin Will, Augsburg. [source]
Electeur de Brandenbourg, c. 1714. [source]

I boiled this down to gold lacy-looking trim on the edge, ribbon with a button on the right side, and a large bunch of ostrich feathers on the back left side.

The Challenge: Accessorize! Granted, this is for a costume I haven't started yet, but it's still an accessory, right?
Fabric: None.
Notions: Gold metallic trim leftover from my Regency ball gown project, red-gold polyester ribbon from my stash, a large gold button that matches my steampunk gun, and four large red ostrich feathers.
Pattern: None, but I used the above engravings for reference.
Year: Early 18th century, the Golden Age of Piracy.
How historically accurate is it? My base tricorn (and the hot glue) is ridiculously anachronistic, and my trims aren't much better, but at least my placement of things is historically accurate!
Hours to complete: 1! Gosh, I love fast projects.
First worn: For pictures today, but I'm trying to figure out if I feel like making it out to the SoCal Ren Faire for Swashbuckling Day.
Total cost: $40...$10 for the tricorn, and the rest for the ostrich feathers. Those things are pricey! I'm counting the trims as free since they were all stash or leftover from other projects.

Serious pirate face. 
Oh, you wanted a look at my fake pirate costume?  
I wasn't sure we had enough light left to take pictures so I just threw everything on quickly, hence the improperly tightened corset. The dress is a thrift store find (only $15, and breathable rayon to boot! Possibly one of my favorite finds ever.), the belt is from Ross several years ago, and the thin belt/harness thing is from Cotton On. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March Stashbusting Link Party!

I've been stalled on my own sewing projects this week after a machine breakdown, but before that happened, my sister was able to squeeze in a stashbusting project of her own. In lieu of sharing anything I've sewn, take a gander at her potholder made from fabric she's had stashed for a while:

All museums should use cats as showroom aides. The fabric is Robert Kaufman's Metro Cafe Toasters, originally purchased from Peapod Fabrics in San Francisco. 

She only just started sewing with a machine last year, and this is only her third project (here's her first!). Way to go with tackling quilting with three super-tall layers of batting, Emily!

And now it's your turn to share! Once again, the link party is your chance to show off what you've made from your stash, and it doesn't need to fit the theme necessarily; as long as you used fabric you already own it counts. After all, potholders aren't necessarily spring-y...

Happy ending: I took my mom's machine in to the shop to get a tune-up (it hasn't been serviced since she got it years ago, I think), and now it's back to being functional. I don't know if I'll get the lobster dress finished before we go back down to TCOCC, but I'm going to try!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The best laid plans of Cations and cats go oft awry.

I had a whole list of things I wanted to accomplish during this week in SF -- finish the hem of Elaine's wedding skirt, make something out of my awesome Jurassic Park sheet, and make a dress for my sister. Alas, it is not to be, as my mom's dodgy old Kenmore decided to go on strike. I was already having issues with it last summer, and somehow in between getting up to cut out a facing and sitting back down (I'm totally serious -- nothing happened to it, nobody used it), the whole thing froze. When I try to turn the hand wheel, it just doesn't turn (not even the tiniest bit!), stepping the the foot pedal produces a hum but no motion, and a thorough inspection of the bobbin case area doesn't reveal any offending thread or lint. I'm totally flummoxed -- what could've happened to make it suddenly, randomly jam like that? It's not computerized, either, so fried motherboards aren't an option.

Just so this isn't an entirely picture-less post, here's the sheet that I'm using to make my sister's dress!

It's got lobsters on a navy and white pinstripe background, 100% cotton with a nice soft hand. Emily has a fondness for crustaceans, so I was pretty psyched when I found the twin flat sheet in excellent condition at a thrift store.

I'm using Simplicity 6926, a 70s sundress pattern, which should make for quite the nautical look when I'm done. If I ever get done, that is, thanks to the silly machine's silly temper tantrum. Time to look for a sewing machine repair shop!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Sewasaurus' Dream

I got back to SF from Hawaii yesterday to find the most amazing package waiting for me:

Caution! Danger! Warning! Keep Out! 

Seriously, you guys, could this sheet be any more perfect?? I love me some dinosaurs, and I was totally obsessed with Jurassic Park when I first saw the movie; throw all of that onto my yardage of choice and you get a squealing Cationess. Many, many, many thanks to Devra, Oona, Sonja, Christine, Wanett, and Lauren for thinking of me at your super-fun NYC sewing blogger meet-up! If only I could traipse around with you all and meet Kenneth the meantime, I'll be more than satisfied with trying to decide what to make from this. Any ideas, dear readers, about what silhouette/pattern would do this sheet justice?

My mom, upon seeing this picture: Why didn't you blow dry your hair
so that you wouldn't look so messy?
Oh and hey, did I mention that I got to go to Hawaii for spring break? Mr. Cation and I decided to take advantage of the fact that this is the last spring break we'll ever have together, because once he graduates, well, I hear they don't have spring break in the corporate world. I've been in school for so long (whether as a student or a teacher), I don't even know how to function without a week off in spring and two weeks at Christmas, never mind the two whole months of summer break! Anyway, since our last two trips were to the UK, Mr. Cation demanded suggested that we try a vacation someplace tropical, where there aren't fifty museums and castles to be seen. Normally, I wouldn't go for someplace with quite so much sun and outdoor activity, but I'll confess, Leimomi's posts about Hawaii singlehandedly changed my mind. I know, I must be the only person in the world not initially excited about going to Hawaii.

Please don't hate me for saying that I prefer the V&A to this. 

Well, somehow I managed to drag Mr. Cation to several historic locations/museums, so that more than made up for all the lying around on the beach. Actually, we spent very little time on the beach; mostly we just ate really good food.

Mission Houses in Downtown Honolulu. We couldn't take pictures inside, but I got really excited to see the Regency and Romantic era clothing and textiles that they had on display. 
Mr. Cation: I thought this was going to be a beach vacation. Why are we at a historic cemetery?  
The history lessons continue at the Pearl Harbor Memorial...  (can you believe how blue the water is??)
...and at the Bishop Museum
Kahili on display in the gorgeous Victorian building from the above photo, where all the Hawaiian historical artifacts are housed. Thanks to The Dreamstress, I knew what I was looking at, and the significance of it.  
Also at the Bishop Museum: a lava pouring demonstration! At 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, we could feel the heat from where we sat. If I had seen this earlier in my life, maybe I wouldn't have been so dismissive of earth science. 
I'm pretty sure that drinking from a coconut is a required activity for tourists.
Hey look, it's my pleurosis tee, with nautical linen pants -- hello, button overload!
Red velvet + milk tea + cherry cola shave ice as big as my head.
About five minutes after this picture was taken, the extremely top heavy ice tipped over. Mr. Cation and I tried to catch it with our hands (not our brightest moment), but alas, we were left with a sad mess on the sidewalk and hands that were covered in brownish-red drippy chunks, not unlike this picture of Sherlock. It looked like we had reached into someone's abdomen and tried to pull out chunks of intestine. 
Unrelated to anything: I saw this sign while walking around and totally thought it was a store called "Complex Ions." Got really excited until I realized that "Complexions" probably made more sense.

And to wrap up this miscellaneous assortment type post: congratulations to Emily Allred, winner of the Drape Drape book! Please contact me at cationdesignsblog [at] with your mailing address so that you, too, can start pointing at random objects!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wedding Dress Progress Post #2

Seeing as how I posted my first entry about Elaine's wedding dress a week ago, it sounds like it's going to be Wedding Dress Fridays here on the blog (Wedding Dress Wednesdays sounds like it would make more sense, but then I would have had to show more foresight as to the day I first started posting about this project, and we're not about foresight here at Cation Designs). Since my last post, I tried draping the gold lace overskirt, and even found time for a fitting during the twelve hours that Elaine and I both happened to be in San Francisco. I think it's safe to say that at this point, I'm feeling a lot better about having committed to this undertaking...check out the skirt(s) so far!

I was so incredibly relieved that it all fit! I measured five times and cut/sewed once, but I was still nervous. 
I rearranged the draping to be slightly more pleasing. 
Side view. Please ignore how messy the basement is. 
Side view with the purple layer gathered up quickly, just to see what it looks like. 
Back view. I haven't quite finished with the shape of the back drape tails yet, but you get the general idea. 

I'm still not entirely satisfied with the overskirt; somehow the two sides ended up not quite symmetrical, and the front half is too big at the waist. I'm trying to decide if I want to redo the whole thing, or just leave it for the corset to hold in place. Of course, the perfectionist part of me is insisting that a wedding dress deserves the best, and the lazy part of me is protesting that no one will be looking under the corset to see if everything is perfectly lined up. And then of course I still need to hem it all and add trim. Oh, and let's not forget the corset that still needs to be made!

Still, I'm pretty pleased with myself, considering that this is what the overskirt looked like at the beginning of the draping process:

As Elaine said when she saw these pictures, it looked like I just threw the wad of gold lace at Cecily and just started pinning haphazardly. Which is pretty much what happened, actually.

More or less unrelated: thank you all for your kind words about my Drape Drape dress! Mr. Cation is glad to hear that so many people are interested in Cape Cape and Grape Grape. We will let you know should those ever be published. And if you haven't entered the giveaway yet, you've still got a couple of hours to throw your name into the running for your own copy of the book!

Monday, March 18, 2013

March Stashbusting: The Empress' New Dress

I left you all yesterday with some silly pictures of my first experiments with Hisako Sato's Drape Drape book. I'll be honest, after I finished those pants I was seriously doubting myself and wondering if I was missing something. I even lamented to Mr. Cation, is there something wrong with me? Everyone seems to love Drape Drape and I feel like I'm the little boy staring at the naked emperor, wondering why everyone's convinced that he's wearing the most spectacular outfit ever! Only thing is, I truly wanted to be convinced that the emperor really had some great clothes on.

Look! Look at the emperor and his gorgeous new clothes! *awkward pointing poses*

Mr. Cation and I looked through the book together and decided that no, I hadn't lost my sense of style; it's just that most of the styles in the book aren't right for me. They're still cleverly drafted and *ahem*, artistically photographed, but I know I look best in garments that have a defined waist, and most of the garments in the book don't fall into that category. Still, while looking through the book, we did identify one dress that looked like it would work for me -- the V-neck dress, No. 5 -- with its slightly Grecian feel. I set about highlighting, tracing, and cutting the pattern pieces, and to my surprise it went pretty quickly! Although the pattern sheets look daunting, they're not bad once you get the hang of it. Same goes for interpreting the pleating diagrams in the book, although the number of pins required is still ridiculous. 

I am so fascinated by the shapes of these pattern pieces!

I sewed up a size small, and once again I'm glad I didn't go with my recommended size. I ended up having to take in the side seams a little bit and do a SBA on the gathered bodice pieces, and even then, the stretchiness of my fabric means that it's almost indecently low-cut in front. Since I was working with a stretch fabric, I also didn't bother with the back zipper, and I also modified the back bodice pieces to be higher and overlap so that my bra strap wouldn't show. 

More white wall pictures. 

Fabric: 2 yards of 54" wide mystery knit from the FIDM scholarship store, purchased last year. It's part of my stashbusting challenge pledge, so I'm pretty excited about using up so much of it. I think I have enough left to squeeze out a long-sleeved not-a-Renfrew. 
Notions: Elastic to stabilize the waist seam
Hours: Seven? I spent quite a bit of time fiddling with the bodice fit. 
Will you make it again? Probably not, as it's a pretty unique look. 
Total cost: $3
Final thoughts: I've seen some really gorgeous versions of this dress out there, but it wasn't until I saw Amy's paisley version that it occurred to me that this could be made up in a patterned fabric. I know I'm totally succumbing to the put-a-bird-on-it trend, but I love how there are birds swooping all over this dress! The drapes are definitely a great design element on what could otherwise be a pretty ho-hum V-neck dress. It's comfortable (I tested it by wearing it to a ten course Chinese wedding banquet) and elegant without taking itself too seriously. 

So, the verdict is, I'm so glad I gave Drape Drape another chance! I may not quite be a convert to the whole draping cult, but at least the emperor appears to be clothed now. Now, if you are of the opinion that these patterns are all that, or if you're like me and want to give them a try, here's your chance: Laurence King Publishing not only gave me a copy to review, they graciously provided another copy for one of you! Leave a comment saying you'd like to enter the giveaway by 11:59 pm PST on Friday, March 22, for a shot at your own copy of Drape Drape. 

And because I couldn't resist, I had to do a (loving) mocking imitation of the model's awkward pointing poses. 

My theory is that the models didn't know what to do with their hands. Obvious solution: hold a cat. 

Last little bit of randomness: we were at a B&N killing time before a birthday party, and I came across a similar-looking (but unrelated) Japanese sewing book called Shape Shape. When I showed it to Mr. Cation, he proposed that somebody put out Japanese sewing books called Tape Tape (garments all made entirely from duct tape), Cape Cape (all capes, obviously), and Grape Grape (clothes made from grapes, like Lady GaGa's meat dress). You see, that is why I love this man. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Accidental Aladdin Pants

Earlier this year, I was contacted by Laurence King Publishing about reviewing a copy of Drape Drape by Hisako Sato, which was translated into English just last year. I'd heard about this series before, and to be perfectly frank, I was pretty doubtful if the looks would work for me. I know a lot of sewing bloggers I love tend to love these patterns, though, so I figured I should be fair and give it a try. I mean, don't knock what you haven't tried, right? I went ahead and requested a copy. When it arrived, I was still dubious, but also intrigued by the unusual pattern pieces. This book doesn't actually teach draping, but it does give one an idea of the kinds of cuts that are required to give certain looks.

Pretty pretty intro pictures showing how to sew the drapes!
See what I mean about the style being a bit different from my usual?
I'm not sure when this would ever be socially acceptable to wear in public.  On the other hand, your whole dress is a pocket?
I highlighted my pattern pieces so that I would know what to trace.
It reminded me of those puzzles you do in kindergarten where you have to figure out which balloon belongs to which child, or which snake head goes with which tail, etc., and there's a big tangle where you need to find and follow the appropriate lines. 

Since I've been busy working on making Elaine's wedding dress, I wanted to sew an "easy" pattern from the book, preferably one that didn't involve too many pattern pieces. I mean, check out the line explosion on the pattern sheet! Now, those of you who have had the questionable good fortune of practicing tracing from BurdaStyle magazines are probably all pshhh that's nothing, but I come from the school of just-cut-out-the-pattern-even-if-it's-vintage, and I've never traced a pattern before (please don't lynch me, vintage pattern collectors), so I was pretty daunted by all the lines. They're all the same color and the same solid lines, with both the seam allowance and the stitching line shown, which made it all that much more difficult to figure out which line I wanted.* In the end, I selected the very first outfit as being the simplest to trace: the Loose Drape Top and the Tuck Drape Pants.

My initial consultation of the sizing chart puts me at a size L (the book provides patterns for bust sizes 30.5-35.5"), but after reading several reviews that all commented on the ease in these patterns, I decided to trace and cut the small. It's a good thing I did, too, since the top I cut out is -- I kid you not -- literally too large to stay on me. Photos would have been me standing in my unmentionables with a puddle of fabric at my feet. And I have really broad shoulders, too. I'm afraid of what it would've looked like had I cut out the recommended size! Even after taking in the side seams by four inches (!) on each side, it's still sack-like, which is more or less how it looks on the model, so I guess in answering the PR question "Did it look like the photo on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?" I would have to say that yes, unfortunately, it did. I threw the unfinished top into my UFO pile, where Walnut didn't even deign to sit on it. I'll harvest the fabric later for another, more fitted, top. In the meantime, I'm pretty discouraged about cowl-neck tops on me (especially after my previous fail in that department).

After my initial Drape Drape disappointment, I turned to the pants, hoping that they would work out better. I love a good pair of comfy knit pants, so I went about making them in a basic black jersey. Cutting, pleating, and sewing went pretty quickly, although figuring out the diagrams took some getting used to. The instructions are concise at best, which may or may not be your thing, depending on how experienced you are. I liked them as they were, but then I also rarely consult instructions when sewing with Big 4 patterns.

Here's all of two pages in the book dedicated to sewing up this pair of pants. Love the lovely simple line drawings.
I decided to imitate the photography of the book and take pictures in front of a white wall. Oh hey, look, I finally took down the Door to Moria! 
Back view: wrinkly mess because who irons jersey knit?

Since I don't have a serger, finishing the waistband seam was pretty difficult. I think mine looks like crap, and the thickness of the pleats (eight layers in some places!) means that once the elastic is inserted, it doesn't lie flat or gather properly, leaving these huge weird wavy ripples instead. Trying to topstitch the seam allowance to help hold it down didn't work, either. I'm not sure how to fix that issue, but in the meantime, I just won't be showing the waistband when I wear these pants, which is fine since almost all of my shirts are long enough to cover the waist and then some. Because of the amount of fabric gathered into the waistband, these pants have tons of ease in the hips, making them supremely comfortable. I was right, though, in my initial assessment that these aren't really my style. I don't think I'll ever wear them out of the house unless it's laundry day. I will say that they're perfect for sewing in, though, since the cropped length means it's easy to get down on the floor for cutting, and the elastic waistband makes it easy to slip on and off for fitting as I sew.

Really getting into imitating the book model's poses: standing stiffly, looking unamused.
Instead of bending over and fiddling with a chair, I bent over to pet Walnut. 
I mean, how could I not want to scritch this face? Irresistable, I tell you. 

Mr. Cation was equally confused by these pants, and when I pulled down the cuffs, he and I both agreed that they looked like Aladdin pants, and not in a good way. Things consequently got silly...

Yes, I do have a spare fez in my costume trunk. 
What's Aladdin without Abu? 
I can't believe you compared me to a monkey, Mom. That is seriously demeaning. 
Here's what I think of your comparison. 

All of this sounds like I'm not a fan of Drape Drape, but before LK Publishing comes to get me, just wait for tomorrow! I was so bummed that I decided to ignore the sewing queue and try another pattern from the book, and that one worked out much better. Stay tuned!

*This is why I totally appreciate that Mari is asking for sewists' opinions for her new pattern company, Disparate Disciplines. Go check out the Kickstarter if you haven't already!