Springtime Goth Dress

Okay, it’s not anywhere near spring yet, but that title describes this dress pretty well! I had to snatch up this fabric when it went on sale over the holidays since it’s a cotton/spandex jersey with a fun print that you usually only see in quilting cottons. Then I was a little disappointed when it arrived since I’d thought the background was gray, but it’s actually a grayish pink/lavender (I even emailed Michael Levine to make sure I’d gotten the right fabric, and they’ve now updated the page to reflect the actual colors–very much appreciated!). However, on further reflection, I’ve become fond of it as kind of a “stealth goth” print: at first glance, you see the pink and the large sprays of flowers…but then at second glance, you notice it’s also full of bats and cobwebs. Perfect for spring! (It’s also very soft and cozy–I could definitely see making PJs out of it.)

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(Please disregard my so-so pattern matching on the center front bodice–it’s hard to do with fabric that doesn’t press well!)

The pattern is McCall’s 7160 (a Christmas present–thanks, Dad!), view C without the overlay. Note the pattern comes with pockets! And they’re the kind that are attached to the waistband–this makes them much more stable (great for knits), but means you can’t do up the side seams last, which is what I prefer to do to make fitting easy.

As a consequence, I see some fitting issues to fix, but honestly, they’re probably not enough to make me actually unpick that waistband (I serged 1/4-inch elastic directly into it–ugh, no way I’m unpicking that). The only changes I made to this pattern were to shorten the skirt a little, give it a slight high-low hem, and to not actually hem it, just serge the bottom of the skirt. (I hate hemming circle skirts, though I love the way they look.) I also put elastic into the shoulder seams like any knit top, but I don’t remember whether the instructions say to do that or not (admittedly, I didn’t really check).

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Still, I’m generally very pleased with this look and fit, and I could definitely see doing this with a lace overlay as a special-occasion dress. (I’m really into making ballgowns out of stretch fabric at the moment!)

Quilted, Princess-seamed Dress

Hello, 2017. I have been sewing in the last few months, but the shorter days mean it’s really difficult to get good photos. Luckily, I got my sister to snap a couple photos of this dress while we were visiting our parents in New Mexico over the holidays.

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(We were at Black Mesa Winery. I went home with some Santa Fest.)

The pattern is McCall’s 7349 and I looove it. I love that it’s a fit-and-flare shape with no waist seam, no closures, and princess seams on both the front and back. Raglan sleeves and no waist seam means fitting is super easy–though I actually did only minor adjustments (nipping in the waist a bit, letting out over the hips). Comfy, flattering, easy to make…what’s not to love? I did try to extend the sleeves to full length, but it wasn’t entirely successful since, um, I ran out of fabric. Oh well! (Is this what’s called “bracelet-length”? Let’s pretend that was what I was going for.)

I also left off the neckband and faced the neckline with some fun quilting cotton to finish it:

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Speaking of quilting, the main fabric is a quilted-look knit (rayon/poly/spandex). I picked it because it has a lot of body and structure, and it worked perfectly for this dress. It’s also quite cozy.

That said, I’m definitely considering making this pattern again–sleeveless, floor-length, lower neckline–in a shimmery spandex for a ball gown that can be easily packed for the two dance camps I’ll be attending this year. No more hauling around a bulky garment bag!

Spooky Branches Skirt

This skirt was not in my plans, but when I came across this amazing fabric (Wicked Eve – Dark Tree Branches from Timeless Treasures) I knew I had to do something with it! (This is the one with that skull selvage I posted to Instagram.) I didn’t use a pattern–just drafted a front and two back pieces with a total waist size about twice my waist measurement, flared it at the bottom as much as possible (not much with 45-in fabric, haha), and gathered it to a narrow waistband.

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Of course, it has pockets!

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(Isn’t Bailey so helpful in these pics??)

It closes with an invisible zip in the center back and the bottom is trimmed with some black eyelet trim from my stash. Fun thing I learned for this project: thread belt loops to hold my grosgrain ribbon belt in place (I followed this tutorial–super easy!).

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(Of course, my hand is covering the belt loop in this photo…sorry! It’s really dark in here and the belt loop probably wouldn’t have shown up anyway.)

Initially, I wanted to make this skirt shorter with a ruffle at the bottom, but I decided to stick to simplicity to showcase the print (plus, I was a bit worried about the stiffness of the fabric). Now that it’s made up, I think it would’ve worked perfectly well as a Hollyburn, too (though I would redraft it without the center front seam–the print is busy enough that I don’t think there’s any need for matching, but I just don’t like a center front seam if I can avoid it).

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(Cats: again, so helpful.)

I’d also originally planned to line the skirt with some poly lining material and decided not to since it’ll be more comfortable without it in the summer/spring (and I can still wear it with tights and a slip in the fall/winter). I felt very summer-goth for our unseasonably warm weather in my new skirt and cotton gauze peasant blouse. Plus, now I can use that lining fabric I bought for the tweed wool skirt that IS in my sewing plans….

Halloween Essential Wristlet

A tiny purse/wallet has been on my list for a while–something for traveling that will hold my phone, cards, and cash, but that doesn’t take up much space and will slip easily into my carryon. For a while I was looking at wallet patterns, but eventually I realized I really needed it to zip shut and, well, a simple zipper pouch just made the most sense to me. (I contemplated zip-around wallets, but it seemed like they would be awkward to open without possibly spilling cards everywhere….)

But, you may ask, you ended up just making a pouch with boxed corners, why did you buy a pattern? Aren’t there like a million free tutorials online?? Sure, but the Essential Wristlet pattern has a lot of great information and tips, especially if you’re relatively new to bag-making. And it turned out great!

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I made the small boxed-corner version with a card pocket and these additions:

  • a zip pocket on the outside
  • a zip pocket on the inside
  • a second D ring on the other side so I can attached a cross-body strap (the hardware matches a long strap I’d made for another bag–hurray for mix-and-match straps)

To make the zip pockets, I followed the instructions from the Dottie Vintage Bag (I’m sure one could find a tutorial for that online, though!).

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Here’s a look at the lining pieces with pockets before they were sewn up since you can’t really see them in the finished bag:

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And how much do I love this fabric?

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The outer is Riley Blake Lost & Found Halloween Newsprint Black and the lining is Timeless Treasures Gather Together Metallic Harvest Bias Plaid Orange Fabric (which doesn’t seem to be available anymore, alas).

The size is perfect–comfortably fits my iPhone 5 (in its case), keys, cards, cash, and maybe chapstick, but that’s it. I can’t wait to use it on my next trip!

Steampunk Denim Jacket

It’s a jacket made of denim…and that’s all the relationship this has to a traditional “jean jacket.” This has been on my to-do list for…maybe a year? And finally I did it!

For the pattern, I used Simplicity 8020, View A. Major changes from that pattern were to replace the buttons with a zipper and add a set of darts in the front since it was looking a bit boxy when I first tried it on. I made a lot of fitting adjustments to accommodate my narrow shoulders, but that isn’t a reflection of the pattern so much as it is how my body relates to the “standard” sizing. (With each project, I learn more about how to adjust the fitting and I’m pretty happy with my progress on this one.)

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I love that the jacket looks tailored, yet is actually quite loose in the torso (which means it’s comfortable and will hopefully fit over bulkier tops).

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The one thing I think I’d do differently if I made this again is to make the sleeves tapered or straight to the wrist. The ruffle is cute, but it leaves the forearms rather exposed–not so great if you’re wearing this for warmth. (Though this does mean I now have an excuse to get some of those scissors arm warmers from Sock Dreams….)

The jacked is unlined and all inside seams are finished with my serger, then pressed to one side and topstitched.

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But of course the really exciting touch is the patches on the back.

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Loki wants to know what the fuss is all about.

These are sold by MTthreadz on Etsy, and they have soooo many great patches! You can see from the photo above this one that I sewed these on–I did iron them on, but it didn’t seem like they would stay (especially since they’re so large and on an area that would see a lot of movement) so I stitched around the edges with my machine. I will definitely be picking up more patches for future projects.

On a related note, I’ve dived into fall/winter sewing. The main things I “need” for the next few months are:

  • Turtlenecks
  • Toiletries bag
  • Ballgown for November
  • Ren fair outfit

Other things I’m hoping to make:

  • Wool skirt
  • Long-sleeved knit dress
  • Clutch purse (I’m dying to make this one, but the instructions are awfully daunting)

Ah, so many plans!

Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend 2016

Hey, it’s my second dance getaway in one summer! This was three days in Nahant, MA, and costuming events included an evening party with informal dancing on Friday, a Belle Epoque ball on Saturday, and a concert/tea on Sunday. (That was followed by a promenade, but we had to scurry off early so I could catch a train back to New York that evening.)

Since we decided to go to this rather late, I concentrated on the two evening events and used some items I already had on hand…but since I’d been dying for an excuse to make late-Victorian evening dresses, I still couldn’t resist doing most of two new ensembles. (Fortunately, my Regency chemises worked fine under the gowns; when I have more time I’ll have to do up proper undergarments! And I just stuck with the same late-Victorian corset all three days.)

Friday evening I did 1880s bustle!

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(Why are my eyes closed in this otherwise lovely photo?!) The bodice is the TV464 Cuirass Bodice, with a hook-and-eye front closure instead of buttons. The overskirt is the Wash Overskirt, and everything else I fortunately already had (TV101 bustle, TV170 petticoat, TV261-R underskirt).

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Had to attempt the awkward corset lean:

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For the Belle Epoque ball, I moved forward in time to the 1890s.

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Sadly, this is the ONLY photo I have of me wearing the finished dress! I’m still hoping one of the many people taking photos at the ball posts them sometime….

For this ensemble, I made the 1890s petticoat from TV170, the Laughing Moon #103 1890s Waist (and stuffed those giant sleeves with tulle!), and Past Patterns #208 Circular Skirt. Here’s a photo of the back that I posted on Instagram while it was a work in progress, since that’s where all the action is in the skirt.

For both the bodices, I pretty much ignored the bodice construction instructions and instead followed all those tutorials at HistoricalSewing.com that I listed before. So the insides ended up looking like this.

Neat. Just for completeness, here’s Day 3’s outfit:

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The only things I made in this photo are the underpinnings. (I did swap out the grosgrain ribbon on the hat, but I don’t think that “counts.”) The skirt is an antique walking skirt that was given to me (yes, I’m very lucky!) and the shirt is just a modern button up.

I left the weekend inspired to get to work on even more Victorian costumes, but I’ve got a lot of other stuff on my plate before another Victorian event comes around!

Pinewoods 2016

A few weeks ago I attended Pinewoods Scottish Session II; it was my first time at Pinewoods and I had lots of fun! In addition to some practice clothes, I made two special-occasion outfits especially for camp. The first is this dress, which I wore to the Highland ball.

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(Please ignore the sneakers.) Okay, it’s not very ball-gown-y, but since it was made of embroidered cotton lawn it was very comfortable in the extremely humid weather. And it has a surprise on the back:

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What you can’t tell from these photos is that the skirt is also delightfully swirly (I’m wearing a ruffly petticoat underneath).

The dress began with the bodice block that was fitted to me during the Workroom Social Dressmaking Intensive, which I modified by moving the zipper to to the side, adding ribbon loops to the back side seams for lacing (there’s also a bit of elastic at the waist in the back panel to keep the skirt from sagging there), lowering the neckline, and replacing the sleeves with flutter sleeves. The skirt is a long half-circle skirt, gathered at the waist.

The second special-occasion outfit was for the themed ball–the theme this year was “Under the Big Top.” Naturally, I just shoehorned this into my interest in Victorian costuming and dressed as a steampunk circus performer (ring leader?).

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(Ugh, this is the best front photo I have, sorry!) I already had the mini top hat and shirt, so I made the bloomers (from this YouTube tutorial), bustle (just the back part, shortened, of Truly Victorian’s Wash Overskirt), and corset (the long view of TV’s Victorian Corselets, but constructed following regular corset methods, including adding a front busk).

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The hair falls are just yarn looped over hairbands (in what is apparently called a lark’s head knot), which are then slipped around buns.

So there you have it: two very different looks for Pinewoods 2016!