Friday, March 30, 2012

Catching Up on Blog Awards

I've been remiss in housekeeping, both literal and bloggeral; sometimes, life just happens, you know? Anyway, I was given the Liebster Blog Award by both Su Sews So-So and Struggle Sews A Straight Seam back when I was still under 200 followers. I don't know if it's too late to follow up (do these nominations have an expiration date?), but thank you very much anyway! I would like to pass this along to Katja of Of Dreams and Seams, Violet of Steam Ingenious, Deborah of The Tropical Sewist, Bernie And I,  Molly of Toferet's Empty Bobbin. And if any of you have more than 200 followers, I'm sorry for assuming that you are less popular than you deserve to be.

Meigan of Get My Stitch On was also so kind to award me the Sunshine Award. Thank you, Meigan! I'm glad my excessively parenthetical blog posts and endless stream of sleeveless dresses bring you sunshine. Blogs that regularly bring me sunshine are The Dreamstress with her fantastic spotlights on historical clothing (I love her Rate the Dress series!), The Girl With the Star-Spangled Heart with her Downton Abbey goodness, Puu's Door of Time with her shocking love of every nerdy thing I ever secretly loved (Sailor Moon!!!), and Struggle Sews A Straight Seam because I can always count on her to make me laugh out loud.

And now for the questions to answer:
  1. Favorite color: Redandblack. It has to be those two together. I have a secret gothy heart. Also because it makes for an excellent song in Les Mis.
  2. Favorite animal: Let's take a wild guess here...could it be...the cat? I love cats because they are like me -- mercurial in their moodswings, bad with large social gatherings, but simultaneously desiring of intimacy and affection -- and I secretly think that they have the same Myers-Briggs letters as I do: INTJ. Wow, am I a crazy cat lady or what?
  3. Favorite number: 42, duh. How else will I know how many roads I must walk down?
  4. Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Coffee. I don't think I can ever go without it. 
  5. Facebook or Twitter: Definitely the former; I don't understand the latter.
  6. My passion: Making pretty things. That is why I suck at making everyday, non-costumey clothing.
  7. Getting or giving presents: Ummm, maybe this is selfish of me, but getting for sure.
  8. Favorite day of the week: Saturday for sure. Sleep in, spend time with the husband and cat, a whole day of nothing!
  9. Favorite flower: Daffodils, only because of their place of prominence in the movie Big Fish.
  10. Favorite celebrity role model: I don't think I have one. I mean, based on blog space devotion, I guess Jeremy Lin (I mentioned him twice, I think)? But that's not really real, since I know very little about what he actually does.
Lastly, thank you to those of you who voted for me in the Whimsic Alley costume contest. I really appreciate your doing so, and I'm still hoping I can win whatever the prize is. The contest ends at 11:59 tonight, so if you believe in fairies my costume, please clap your hands like the photo! Thank you ever so much!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Not Quite OWOP

I'm not participating in Tilly's One Week, One Pattern Challenge, mostly because I'm a wimp when it comes to cold. See, all the patterns that I've made multiples of are sleeveless sundresses, and despite living in SoCal, the weather here has been cold and stormy and rainy and gray. Oh, and I went to Big Bear over the weekend, where it started snowing on Sunday. I'll admit it, I'm spoiled when it comes to weather -- oh, what, it's 60 degrees out? Too cold!! Scarves! Gloves! Big capes! Tall boots! So yeah, no OWOP for me. But to get into the spirit of things, I thought I'd at least showcase my favorite TNT patterns, the ones that I've made enough versions of that I could do a summer OWOP if I wanted to.

First up: McCall's 5845. I am so glad that M5845 is getting the love it deserves from the fabulous Neeno of Sew Me Love; that girl has made more versions than I have, I think! Anyway, with its eight bodice darts (double if you line it!), this slightly cap-sleeved pattern is my basic bodice block of choice; it fits like a glove. It is so easy to hack up to suit whatever look I'm trying to get. Here are my incarnations of it:

Seamstress' Rendering (original pattern), Nothing But Blue Skies (modified back & skirt), Superman (modified neckline, back, and skirt), Qipao (modified neckline and closure), Shepherdress (modified bodice and skirt)

Second: New Look 6723. This one holds a special place in my heart as the first "real" dress pattern I ever sewed up; two years later I'm still using it as my princess seam sloper.

My very first woven, lined, unnamed dress (original pattern), The JChan Wedding Dress (original pattern, but finished with bias tape instead of lining and with a V-neck; pre-blog), Miss Lavender Goes to Hawaii (hacked to make a strapless sweetheart bustier and a pleated skirt), Hooray for Hippos (original pattern with pintucks), Alice in Wonderland (original pattern with the original sleeves, modified neckline and tiered skirt)

Honorable mention: my super easy DIY maxi dress! I've only made three versions of it, but those three are great examples of how a versatile pattern doesn't have to be complicated, and just by changing fabric or length you can get totally different looks.

My first incarnation (turquoise jersey, worn to a dimly lit wedding, please excuse the bad picture; with the addition of a beaded pin), the second incarnation (ankle-length, covered with bamboo), and the third and grandest incarnation (chiffon explosion!)

So there you have it: my fake OWOP! I have so much respect for people who are doing real OWOPs, especially if that pattern is pants! I am trying to work up the courage to make pants. Leah and Debi deserve all the claps in the world. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Asking for a Favor!

Sooooo...I feel a little silly asking this (you can tell how silly I feel by how many o's I just typed), but I entered my Girl on Fire dress in Whimsic Alley's costume contest (they're an awesome store in LA that specializes in Harry Potter fandom gear, and have been getting into Hunger Games fan stuff too). If you liked my dress and you do this whole Facebook thing, I would really appreciate it if you could "like" my photo. That is, if you actually like it better than the other costumes. Sometimes I feel bad when people ask me to vote for them in something, but then I like somebody else's entry more; I am stating officially that you should feel free to not just blindly vote for me, but for the best costume.

From Orange Turtle Photography's shoot.

And here's where I get even more sheepish: I'm not actually sure what this is a contest for, as in I don't know what the prize is. Maybe it will be a sad little $5 gift card to their store, maybe it will be bread from the Mellark Bakery for life -- who knows? But at any rate, I would be grateful if you took the time to vote. And I won't go so far as to say "May the odds be ever in my favor!" Oh wait, I just did.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Little Too Successful: My Take on Mad Men's Peggy

Peggy dreams of being the head of her own advertising agency with a huge office building.

Remember how I decided on Peggy's boring, drably-colored dresses, with little girl collars and bows at the neckline as my inspiration for the Mad Men challenge? Yeah, well, I think I succeeded; my finished dress is just a little too bland, gray, cutesy-but-not-cute for my taste. I thought I could transform all those elements into a workable working girl look, instead of Peggy's frumpy schoolgirl look, but I don't think it really worked. Only the fact that this dress is sleeveless saved it from being exactly like Peggy's all-covered-up-prudester work outfits. And I can't even pinpoint exactly what's wrong with it; I like all the individual parts, but the whole leaves me slightly dissatisfied.

Side view.
Front of the bodice. I am not actually that tan in real life; the sun was setting.

Back of the bodice. I went so far as to switch thread colors for the bodice and skirt when topstitching the zipper.

But let's rewind a bit. I knew I wanted drab neutral colors, and I also wanted to avoid buying any new fabric, so I pulled out this gray leaf-patterned IKEA fabric from a few years ago and paired it with a black thrifted bedsheet. I also wanted to finally try out a Peter Pan collar, as it is on my Check the Technique list. Also, I was inspired by Neeno of Sew Me Love's absolutely smashing red PP-collared dress. I doubt mine will be landing in any newspapers, though! The actual collar drafting process was pretty painless, although I had to modify Gertie's instructions a bit and use a manila folder over the carpet due to the lack of a cardboard cutting mat.

I used parchment paper instead of real tracing paper. *shrugs* It was what I had. Otherwise, I followed Gertie's directions.

Except that Gertie's directions never say when to pull the adorable sleeping cat off of your fabric.

There's not much else to say about this dress; the bodice is from McCall's 5927 and the skirt is just a normal A-line cut on the bias for better draping and movement, plus knife pleats in the back that line up (mostly) with the back darts. I added my standard pockets, did my standard baby hem, pinked the skirt seams, and followed my standard lining procedure. So standard...and boring. Just like my perception of Peggy's wardrobe! The saving graces of this dress are the collar (in a cute dotted white cotton), tiny bow (gotta have the neckline bow -- it's so classic Peggy!), and the fact that I took the time to slipstitch the lining to the dress to make the insides prettier. Still not as pretty as Neeno's insides, but better than my usual.

Love the tiny bias tape bow and the tiny dots on the collar!

Wrinkly muslin lining, but otherwise neat attachment to the zipper.

And now, let me raise my hand and make a solemn promise: NO MORE SLEEVELESS DRESSES. Especially not if they have a fitted bodice and flared/full skirt. Good golly, how many does a girl need?! I said at the beginning of the year I wouldn't make any more when even Shayna's mom noticed it was all I seemed to make, but what did I do? Turn around and make seven more of the same! I need to make something with sleeves. Or something fitted on the bottom. I do solemnly swear. And if I do not fulfill my oath, I will be doomed to haunt the path to my sewing machine, unable to rest forevermore. These are the Paths of the Sleeved Dresses. The Sleeved Dresses keep it and do not suffer the sleeveless to pass. The way of the sleeveless is shut. *shakes self out of prophetic mode* My apologies.

I see you thinking about more sleeveless dresses. You stop it. Stop. Right now.

Back view. I am so glad I added those pleats in the back.
Also, a something flew by right at this moment.
Fabric: 100% cotton for everything (gray IKEA leaf print from 2008 for bodice shell, thrifted black sheet for the skirt, muslin for the bodice lining, gifted white dotted fabric for the collar)
Notions: black 22" zipper, black narrow double-fold bias tape for the bow
Techniques: Drafting a Peter Pan collar, slip-stitching the lining to the zipper/waist-seam
Hours used: My standard five; the dressmaking went quickly, but drafting the collar and slipstitching by hand took at least an extra hour.
Will you make this again? I like the bodice of M5927 because it fits relatively well for having only two huge darts in front; not marking and pinning and sewing the extra four darts from M5845 really saves a lot of time, so I'm pretty sure I'll utilize this pattern again when I want a quickie project. I also really like the PP-collar look, and now that I have the collar drafted it will go much quicker next time. But next time I make this, I'm definitely using drapier fabric and a fuller or more fitted skirt; this A-line is too stiff and in-between for my taste.
Total cost: All of these fabrics have been in the stash so long, I count them as free. But for the sake of accuracy, I probably spent about $4 on them at the time, plus the $2 zipper, so let's say $6 total. Gosh, that might almost be a Mad Men-era price!
Final thoughts: I don't think I captured any aspect of the 1960s at all in this dress. And I captured all the right parts of Peggy's look in the wrong way. All in all, a decent summer dress that I can't complain much about, but totally redundant for my wardrobe and not my favorite.

I look a lot like the old pictures of my mom here. That's about the only retro thing going on here.

Mad Men Challenge: accepted. Mad Men Challenge: failed.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Blogging Bildungsroman*

{from this pin on Pinterest}

Dear readers, I have Arrived. With a capital A. Every blogger dreams of this day, when they become a full-fledged Real Blogger, the kind with the fur rubbed off the nose from being kissed too much. Or something. But if you think about it, wouldn't the story of the Velveteen Rabbit count as a coming of age story of sorts? But I digress. So what is the symbolic ritual that makes one a Real Blogger, you ask? How can you, too, become a Real Blogger? Ahh, but my child, the answer is simple. It is not something you can ask for. It is not something you can buy. It is something that Just Happens To You.

I came back from a lovely weekend in Big Bear with old friends to find that while I was AFK, I had been graced with that Thing Which Makes One Real: a pointless negative comment regarding my Girl on Fire dress, from an anonymous troll. How appropriate that it was intended for the GoF dress! It shows a certain poetic irony, just like how the gamemakers set Katniss on fire in the arena. I have kindly reproduced it here, so that you may gather 'round in admiration of my flame (see the irony?? see it? see it?):

Anonymous Mar 25, 2012 06:07 AM
"Oh god. You just made a failed attempt.
YOU CALL THIS A DRESS?!?? wow. your mature.

Note how perfect my badge of honour is: the misuse of your/you're, the all caps sentence, the totally not-a-normal-person's-waking-hours time of comment, and above all, the anonymity of the troll. I tell you, unless yours has the same hallmarks, you have not Arrived. If you are looking to Arrive, I would recommend that you spend a lot of time on a project, pour your heart into it, and above all, make sure that it is related to a big pop culture phenomenon, one that preferably has a large, vocal and even belligerent fan base. Maybe you could post your improved version of the Black Widow's armaments for the upcoming Avengers movie.

And just in case this anon was gravely inept in his or her efforts to leave a reasoned comment, I'll just throw this out there, in case you're reading this: you apparently wouldn't call my dress a what is your definition of a dress? Could you clarify what, exactly, about my piece makes it a failed attempt? If you would like to start a dialog about this subject, may I suggest that you make yourself known, instead of hiding behind the cloak of anonymity? I would also suggest learning some basic grammar, because I really have a hard time taking people seriously when they can't write properly, but I think I'm supposed to be trying for generosity here.

*This is all meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I do not believe, by any means, that I have Arrived as a Real Blogger, whatever that even means. I would hope that that came across in my tone, but this being Teh Interwebs and all, one can never be sure, since there are no facial expressions shown. Allow me to offer a humble, clarifying emoticon:

= ^__~ =

Friday, March 23, 2012

JuliaBobbin's Mad Men Dress Challenge!

Mad Men Challenge Blogger Button

I wasn't originally going to participate in the Mad Men dress challenge, mostly because I don't particularly like the show, and also because I couldn't think beyond my GoF dress. But now that the shoot is over and I've recovered from my chiffon nightmares, and I've found out that this week's Sew Weekly challenge is also Mad Men-inspired, I've decided to go ahead and participate. Even after browsing pages and pages of pictures (also, can I be really meta for a second and say how weird it is that the default meaning of "pages of pictures" is not a magazine full of pictures? I'm just browsing a bunch of 0's and 1's!), I don't actually have any favorite outfits. I am aware that such a statement in the sewing blogiverse is anathema. Thank goodness you all are just 0's and 1's, so I don't need to be afraid of getting egged.

Sooo...without a favorite outfit, how am I going to choose my inspiration? I like Betty Draper's style, but I'm pretty sure I have enough pastel, floral, fitted-bodice-full-skirted-dresses to last for a lifetime. Or at least until a baby ruins my waist. And I don't think I could ever pull off Joan's curve-hugging, intense jewel-toned sheaths, as that would require having curves to hug in the first place (also I hate sheaths and I don't have any Joan-colored fabrics in my stash).

Boring boring boring. Even her expression indicates she's bored with herself.  [picture]
Which leaves Peggy. And Peggy (at least from the pictures I've seen) always looks like a drab, frumpy schoolgirl. The colors she uses are so brown and gray and boring, and she always has these prissy little bows at the collar, and all of these overwhelmingly convincing reasons make her the obvious choice of inspiration. Logic is not my strong suit, clearly. Anyway, I tried to distill all her outfits down and remix them into something cuter and not quite so frumpy. Will I succeed? That remains to be seen.

Gray. Collar. Bow. {picture}
Brown this time. Still the frilly stuff at the collar. {picture}

At this point, I'm sure someone is going to jump in and say that Peggy is not like that at all, and grows and gets a better wardrobe or something...but honestly, I will probably never watch the show, so please excuse me if I don't really care. Gosh, now I feel bad for saying that, even it this is an imaginary person. But, as John Green says in his preface to The Fault in Our Stars, "Neither novels nor their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species." I know that's not quite the issue here, but I know that I, personally, have fallen in love with and agonized with and eagerly watched the growth in imaginary people (even on TV -- hello, Firefly!). So yeah. Not really sure where I was going with that last paragraph. Which, I suppose, is why I'm not an English teacher. 

Also, thank you for all of your lovely comments about my Girl on Fire dress! I just saw the movie last night (midnight premier, of course!) and without giving away any costuming spoilers, I'll just say that it's not as bad as that one movie photo I posted. Still like mine better, though.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Girl on Fire Dress from the Hunger Games

Jeanine wearing the girl on fire dress, inspired by Suzanne Collins' description of Katniss' interview dress in The Hunger Games
What you can't tell from this picture is that it's 40 degrees, raining about five feet away, and ultra windy (okay maybe you can tell it's windy). And poor Jeanine was freezing in this flimsy little chiffon confection. Photo from Orange Turtle.

As I mentioned yesterday, I got to play Cinna and do the styling for a recent Hunger Games-inspired photoshoot with Orange Turtle Photography. Although it was fun to decide on the looks for Reaping Day and the Arena, my real pièce de résistance was the Girl on Fire dress that our Katniss wore for The Capitol.

When I first read the books by Suzanne Collins, one thing that I immediately noticed was the importance of clothing/fashion in the world of Panem, especially in the Capitol. From Prim's ducktailed shirt to the historically awful District 12 chariot costumes, from Cinna's understated look compared to Effie Trinket's bright pink hair, and the fact that a tribute's stylists could make or break their whole look and even whether or not they got sponsored...everything about a character's appearance communicates something. [Note also that that this is the world presented in the book; these are NOT my views about the importance of fashion.] So when I got to the description of Katniss' interview dresses, of course the sewasaurus rex part of my brain started trying to imagine what it would look like in real life. Here's the original description:
The team works on me until late afternoon, turning my skin to glowing satin, stenciling patterns on my arms, painting flame designs on my twenty perfect nails. Then Venia goes to work on my hair, weaving strands of red into a pattern that begins at my left ear, wraps around my head, and then falls in one braid down my right shoulder. They erase my face with a layer of pale makeup and draw my features back out. Huge dark eyes, full red lips, lashes that throw off bits of light when I blink. Finally, they cover my entire body in a powder that makes me shimmer in gold dust.
The creature standing before me in the full-length mirror has come from another world. Where skin shimmers and eyes flash and apparently they make their clothes from jewels. Because my dress, oh, my dress is entirely covered in reflective precious gems, red and yellow and white with bits of blue that accent the tips of the flame design. The slightest movement gives the impression I am engulfed in tongues of fire. I am not pretty. I am not beautiful. I am as radiant as the sun. For a while, we all just stare at me. “Oh, Cinna,” I finally whisper. “Thank you.”  (The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins)
Now, obviously I didn't use precious gems all over my version, and I definitely didn't include the color blue, and Jeanine doesn't look to be in danger of burning up every time she moves. The aspects of this description that I chose to include were 1) flame colors, and 2) movement = fire.  And before anyone gets all up in arms about not staying true to the book, check out the hideous, stiff, cheap taffeta-looking spectacle that movie-Katniss is wearing:

Her expression = my thoughts exactly. She does not look radiant or twirly. She looks like she went to that cheap store at the mall right before prom and picked up the first dress she found. It's like they skimmed the description and thought, "Oh okay, just make it fire colored." 

Um. Don't people get paid lots of money to make fabulous clothing? And this is what they came up with? Anyway, I toyed with the idea of putting LEDs into the dress to get the glowing effect, but then decided that might be 1) a bit much, and 2) too complicated and expensive for my purposes. Although I would still like to do some combination of light+clothing sometime...

Anyway, keeping in mind my limited budget and the fact that I don't know anything about making evening gowns (hello, I usually work with somebody's old sheets that they didn't want anymore!), I decided that I needed to use chiffon cut on the bias to get the type of movement I wanted, and the more layers the better. But it also needed to be light enough that it would at least try to give the illusion of a flickering fire.

Close up of the fire part of the girl on fire dress
I ended up getting eight yards of black crinkly polyester chiffon (not my first choice; just what was available) at Michael Levine's discount store, The Loft (after my trip to the FIDM costume exhibit!). Since they sell fabric by the pound, and chiffon has an excellent weight:yardage ratio, my base fabric only cost about $4. And I still have two yards left. For the fiery fabric, I picked up a yard each of iridescent polyester chiffon at F&S in a darker orange and lighter orange ($9.98/yd). I *almost* just bought the $1.99/yd red costume chiffon at Joann's since it was so much cheaper, but at the time I was afraid it would 1) look cheap, because it was cheap, and 2) make it look like a flamenco dress, and while flamenco dresses are cool, that's not really the look I wanted. Anyway, the iridescent stuff turned out to be the right choice. The way it catches the light and changes definitely helps with the fire look. When the light hits it just right, it's lovely.

With my fabrics in hand, all I had to do was design and make the dress (ha!). Since I was making the dress here in The City of Culver City, and my Katniss was in San Diego, I knew it had to be somewhat adjustable. Also, I want to be able to wear it if I want to dress up like a girl (somewhat) on fire. I decided to stick with my Easy DIY Maxi Dress (is that the worst name for a dress or what?) pattern, since its fittedness is largely dependent on an awesome belt, and just modify the shape of the dress to flow better. Here's my design sketch (apologies, I haven't really drawn people since my manga-fan days in college; I had to go look at my pattern envelopes to get an idea of how fashion drawings are supposed to look).

My sketches and breakdown of parts for the girl on fire dress
If you look at my drawing carefully, you'll see that it's really the same idea as the maxi dress, but instead of two rectangles sewn together, it's two pie-shaped pieces (with the tips folded down for the strap, which was just a piece of narrow double-fold bias tape). Now you can make one too! And if you want a gold sequin belt to go with yours, check out this tutorial!

Close up of Jeanine wearing the girl on fire dress
Fiery wing-things! Photo from Orange Turtle.
Now, this looks like a nicely laid out plan, but here's the biggest secret that nobody knows (the root of the root and the sky of the sky and all): I drew this Saturday night, after the shoot. I had no plan going into the dress-making process; it was all "Uhhh...I guess I'll try cutting out a triangle here and replacing it with orange." For a while, it was super scary because it was NOT turning out like the picture I saw in my head. Also I hate working with chiffon. That stuff frays like mad and every time I tried to trim it I'd have to stop and vacuum up all the little bits. But then once I started adding the circular ruffles, it suddenly started coming together! Oh, the miracle of angles and draping! Anyway, once it started matching the dress in my head, things moved pretty quickly. I even used the scraps leftover from cutting out the ruffles for the little pieces of fire on the back shoulders. I won't talk about the hemming again, but it was definitely a mad rush and a late night trying to get it all done in time to drive down to SD. And let's not even talk about my last minute "oh crap, the arrows need a quiver, don't they!" moment in the middle of the night. Can we just say that those leather grandma pants never stop giving? They've already yielded a fake corset, a wand holster, flask wrappings, goggle straps, and now a quiver, and I still have several pieces left!

From here.
The perfect icing on the cake for this whole dress was our authentic mockingjay pin, which I got for free last summer at Comic-Con! I ended up giving the pin to Jeanine at the end of the day as a souvenir of the The Day She Was The Mockingjay. Also because I don't think I'll ever actually wear it and she seemed way more excited about it than I was. I mean really, my true fandom love is LOTR, not Hunger Games. Hmmm, I wonder if Orange Turtle will want to do a Middle Earth shoot before The Hobbit comes out in December...

Me wearing the girl on fire dress and spreading out the fire part
A better look at both the fullness of the skirt and all the chiffon ruffles. I really liked how hemming it make it extra ruffly.
Also, please excuse the bare feet.

Fabric: six yards of black, crinkly polyester chiffon (doubled up for the body of the dress, to prevent see-through-ness), 1 yard light orange/yellow iridescent poly chiffon, 0.5 yards dark orange/yellow poly-chiffon
Notions: 1 yard narrow black double-fold bias tape
Worn with: Mockingjay pin, that $2 thrifted gold belt
Techniques used: Roll-hemming chiffon with my rolled hem foot
Hours:  I'm going to say at least twenty, and that's not even counting all the design iterations going through my head at night
Netflix queue:  I tried watching a documentary about children during the Holocaust (it seemed kind of fitting while working on a dress for a teen sent to her death?), but it was too much mentally. I really needed my attention on the blasted chiffon, so I ended up listening to my most soothing albums on repeat: The Postal Service's Give Up, the Garden State soundtrack, and Mumford and Sons' Sigh No More.
Will you make this again? I highly doubt I will need more than one GoF dress, but despite my chiffon nightmares, I would like to work with it again. I love the way it flows and looks, especially when cut on the bias.
Total cost: Less than $30, which includes the fabric, thread, bias tape, and electricity for charging the hand-vac for all the little chiffon bits...but I still have about half a yard of the dark orange chiffon left. Can anyone think of a use for it?
Final thoughts: Sometimes I look at the pictures and can't believe I made this dress. It's so lovely and wispy and flowy and swirly and fiery, and even though I can't stand the color orange I love it. I love that Jeanine couldn't get enough of twirling in it and I love that Ryan loved it on her. I also love that it got me to finally break out my rolled-hem foot and overcome my fear of chiffon. I am so grateful to Orange Turtle Photography for giving me the chance to make something like this! Seriously, they are awesome. If you ever need awesome photographers for a wedding in the Bay Area or SoCal, think of them! Also, I am totally not biased just because they did our anniversary pictures...

And finally, here are some really bad pictures of me twirling in the dress (this was mid-hemming and without appropriate underthings, hence the neon pink bra straps...):

Me twirling in my girl on fire dress
Ooh look, I'm on fire!

More twirling in the girl on fire dress
So fiery!

Walnut investigates the girl on fire dress
I love that you can see Walnut coming over to investigate in this last picture.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Hunger Games Photoshoot with Orange Turtle Photography

You've been living under a rock
if you haven't heard of this movie.
I am very fortunate to know some Extremely Talented People. In fact, I even get to call these Extremely Talented People my friends. And when one of these ETPs, my dear friend Cindy of Orange Turtle Photography, announced on Facebook that she wanted to do a Hunger Games-inspired photoshoot and needed a team, I was all ready to jump in as stylist (it is my secret (okay, not so secret anymore; and yes, I just put a parenthetical statement inside another parenthetical statement, but I don't pretend to be an English teacher) dream to be a Cinna-esque, only not for kids about to die, and I would also prefer not to die a horrible tortured death myself, and oh dear I think I just gave away a plot point), especially since I loved the book. Other HG-loving friends quickly joined our prep team as the proverbial Octavia and Venia, and a massively long gmail thread was started. After weeks of shooting ideas back and forth, we finally got together on Saturday for our epic, multi-part shoot.

The prep team's tools!
We started at my dear friend (and bedsheet supplier) Shayna's place at 11 AM for hair and make-up. Shayna took a drastic departure from her usual kind, compassionate, and classically dressed self and became the obliviously callous and flashily dressed Effie Trinket. I promise we didn't choose her just because she's the only person we know in our circle of friends with non-black hair. Our friends Jeanine and Ryan (who are getting married in a month!) played the star-crossed lovers Katniss and Peeta. Ryan was such a trooper, getting mascara done for the first time without even flinching when Alice, our make-up person started waving bristly little sticks near his eyes. Jess did an amazing job transforming Shayna fine, stick-straight hair into pin curls, as well as putting in Katniss' characteristic side braid.

Alice starts turning Jeanine into Katniss. Excuse the bad iPhone pics.
Jess starts working her magic on Shayna's hair.

While everyone was getting transformed, I made my final costume selections. I'd already worked on my version of Katniss' Girl on Fire dress for about twenty intense hours prior to the shoot, so picking out clothes for the Reaping Day and Arena were super fun. Of course, it didn't hurt that all our models brought an excellent selection of clothes for me to choose from!

At 2:30, we packed up all of our outfits, accessories, props, and gear and headed out...into the pouring rain. After weeks of gorgeously non-wintry weather, San Diego decided to grace us with a storm on a day when we couldn't afford curls going flat and make-up smearing. Yay. Thankfully, it only rained on and off once we got going and many locations were inside or under awnings and such. We ended up shooting "District 12" at the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego, "The Capitol" at UCSD's Geisel Library, and "The Arena" in the eucalyptus grove behind RIMAC. When we finally wrapped up around 6:30, everyone was cold and tired, especially since none of the costumes were particularly warm. Jeanine in particular was such a trooper for wearing just two thin layers of chiffon for the Girl on Fire shots! By the end of the day, the conclusion was that models work dang hard for just standing around looking pretty.

Octavia and Effie look on as Katniss and Peeta get their promotional photos done. Does this picture convey how freezing cold and wet and muddy it was in the eucalyptus grove? Because it was.

Cinna & Katniss post-shooting.
I felt so privileged to be able to work with such ETP for a professional shoot like this! I felt like I got all the fun of doing the creative styling, but without the long, cold hours of standing in the cold or the actual work of shooting and editing. Because even making the GoF* dress, while filled with long hours of hemming, was nothing short of thrilling. It was exciting to see something that was only a grand idea in my head get fleshed out fantastically; Jeanine was such a beautiful model for my work. I'm not big on crying, but I got a little teary seeing her twirl in the Geisel lobby. I'll be posting my drawings and design process and more details about the GoF dress tomorrow, just in case you're wondering how to make your own...

Anyway, to see the real, professional pictures of the shoot, head on over to Orange Turtle's blog! Here's a little teaser picture:

Effie and the District 12 tributes! Photo courtesy of Orange Turtle Photography.

*The abbreviation "GoF" will always make me think of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Help! A Pair of Elizabethan Bodies or Georgian Stays?

On the off chance that someone knows the answer off the top of their head...

I've been wanting to make Georgian stays to go under my as-yet-imaginary The Duchess-inspired gown. I've also been thinking that I should try to make some more authentic Renaissance faire garb, for which I would need a pair of bodies (aka an Elizabethan "corset," lest you think I am planning a couple of murders). It seems to me, superficially at least, that there is not much difference between the two -- both feature a conical torso with a flat front and tabs to help hold up the skirts.

Elizabethan pair of bodies, from Janet Arnold's book, late sixteenth century

Georgian stays, 1720-1790, from The Mantua Maker

So my question is, if I am supremely lazy (and short on money), can I get away with making only one of the two, and have it work for both costumes? Can someone with more than a couple nights of research under their belt clue me in on the differences between the two?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chiffon Nightmares

I've been working on a super-secret project (probably the hugest I've ever tackled!) involving chiffon, and let me just say...I take back everything I ever said about interminable circle skirt hems. I will take sewing twice and ironing thrice any day over the what-feels-like-miles of rolled hem in this dress. I swear, last night I went to sleep and dreamed about doing rolled hems. And they were not good dreams.

I'm getting flashbacks just looking at this.
While I'm thrilled to have discovered that my machine came with a rolled hem foot (I can't even imagine trying this dress without one!), I've also discovered that (at least for me) the learning curve is pretty steep when it comes to using it successfully with chiffon. Of course, it probably doesn't help that for my first chiffon project, I chose (more like, I could afford) a cheap polyester crinkly chiffon in black. So let's just get this straight: I can't press it (can we start a petition to ban fabrics that can't hold a pressed crease, but can hold a wrinkle forever?), it's slippery as the dickens (are the dickens even slippery?), it's pre-crinkled so it's impossible to straighten out, and I can't see the thread I just sewed in it so that I can pick it out. Brilliant choice!

Anyway, for your amusement and scorn, have a look at my horrendous rolled hem. One day, future-Dreamstress-blogger is going to look at this and comment on how this sad home seamstress didn't know what she was doing. Please don't laugh too hard.

None of the tutorials I found say anything about how to hem a pointy bit in chiffon.

But in the grand scheme of things, it's not going to matter because the dress as a whole (when you're not staring up close at my hems!) is fantastic! I can't wait to show you!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


No, that's not a typo. I said before that wearing it made me feel like a shepherdess...and it's a my love for horrible portmanteaus demands that I name it the Shepherdress.

It was way too cold outside to take pictures in an unlined dress.
I know, I'm a wimp; it's only 60 degrees and not even snowing.
What can I say, I'm not as awesome as Liz of zilredloh.

Although it doesn't have a lot of green on the actual fabric to speak of, I'd still say this dress is perfect for the Sew Weekly Going Green challenge. See, it's using up stash fabric instead of going and buying new yardage, and that stash fabric is actually a thrifted bedsheet, so it's being repurposed/reused, and I can herd sheep in it (I don't actually know anything about sheep herding), and sheep eat grass, and grass is green, and I'm just going to stop now.

Fabric: 50/50 poly-cotton blend sheet
Notions: pale pink piping (picking a peck of pickled peppers!), lots of pale pink seam binding, pale pink 22" zipper
Techniques used: putting in piping, pattern hacking
Hours: 0.5 for the pattern hacking, four for the dressmaking
Will you make this again? I would like to continue refining my pattern hack, but I am definitely going for something that requires less matching!
Total cost: $2 for the zipper, $0.50 for the piping, say $0.50 for the binding, and I'm going to count the fabric as free since it was in stash already, leftover from another $3 total!
Final thoughts: Better than my original dress made from this fabric, but I'm still trying to get over the fact that I didn't realize that I could have put the underbust piping in all at once. Also, I didn't put in pockets since this was a wearable muslin dress, and of course I miss them sorely now. Still, it was a positive experience with pattern hacking!

And just for the fabulous Devra of puusdooroftime, here I am demonstrating that this dress is appropriate attire for herding...errr, wrangling animals (albeit a cat and not a sheep):



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You Know You're a Sewasaurus Rex* When...

  • When on vacation in another city, you make a list of fabric shops to check out, not just the standard museums and restaurants. 
  • Drawings that show a fitted, but obviously woven dress with no darts or shaping of any kind annoy you -- there's no way a fabric could just mold to a person's body like that unless it's a knit or some futuristic material!
  • Actually, any kind of intended-to-be-realistic professional drawing where the fabric behaves in impossible ways.
  • You appreciate it when historical fiction describes what people were wearing, and then get annoyed when it's not accurate. 
  • Even commercials are fascinating because you get to analyze fit on real people and try to figure out if they need FBAs or swayback adjustments. Also, you wait for them to lift their arms so you can see how the sleeve head behaves.
  • You have nightmares about sewing an entire dress with poorly adjusted tension, and the climax of the terror is turning it all over and discovering a mess of loopy thread. Or you have a nightmare that your husband's jeans suddenly exploded into rips and tears, and the entire thing needs to be darned together. 
  • The worst kind of dreams are when you dream you found some amazing fabric deal (ten yards of the perfect red and white striped linen for $1/yd! Yes, I actually dreamed that once), only to wake up and realize that it isn't sitting in your stash, waiting to be made up into some fabulosity.
  • You go to clothing stores just to examine the construction of the garments there. When you take items into the fitting room, you whip out your measuring tape (which you carry with you at all times, of course) and start measuring skirt lengths and widths in an attempt to analyze what styles look best with your shape, so that you can go home and recreate it for cheaper.
  • While doing your read-through of the Bible, that section in Exodus 28 describing the priests' garments is suddenly fascinating to you, as it's basically garment construction directions given by God! Also, according to verse 32, God is a fan of seam finishing. Darn, I guess that means I need to finish my insides now (I am well aware that that conclusion is terrible hermeneutics). 
  • When you overhear someone saying something about frogs, you assume they mean the buttons, not the animals. And when someone talks about scallops, it couldn't possibly be about the shellfish; obviously they're discussing the hem of the Meringue. Which is a skirt, not a food. While we're at it, Peony and Macaron are dresses, not a flower and a delightful French pastry.
  • You start doing posed shoots with your cat and your sewing equipment.
Walnut Gunn says to make it work, or else.
Walnut tries to learn about sewing machine parts.

Wait, you expect me to know what all these parts are called?
Humph. This is ridiculous.

Feel free to add more of your own! When did you realize that you had turned into a sewasaurus rex? 

*Thanks to Oona for the best term ever!