Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hand stitching: Practice tunic

Alas! I cannot knit and hand stitch at the same time, and there's been less knitting and more hand-stitching this last week. I'm working on a tunic, checking fit and refining my techniques.



The root of the idea


I have a generous bolt of natural-coloured cotton/hemp jersey. I've been thinking I'd like to make a princess-seamed dress out of it, preferably dip-dyed a gradient coffee brown.

I've had it stashed for a while; I made this dress in 2007.



I usually draft my own patterns, but I didn't think I was up to drafting a princess-seamed pattern. I'd searched several times for a pattern designed for jersey-knit fabrics, and while I'd found several princess-seamed dresses, nothing that was right for the target fabric. So this summer when I started reading Alabama Chanin books, I was pleased to find a princess-seamed pattern made for knit fabrics.

Dress specifics


I'm pretty good at tracing patterns, but I decided to take the pattern from the book to a copy shop and have it copied so I could cut it out. Turns out those oversized copies cost $5.00/page, so the pattern cost me ten bucks in copying fees! Which was more than I spent on the fabric. I picked up two large grey t-shirts for fifty cents each, and used them as my fabric.

I'm a little torn on the techniques. There's something elegant about the hand-stitched seams, but I'm not convinced it's that much better than seaming up the dress, lickety split, on the serger. I've hand-stitched this tunic to gain the practice I need, and I could see my seams improving as I progressed. The seams are stitched on the inside, and top-stitched to one side. In this picture, you can see the neckline with stay-stitching, the armhole lined, and the top-stitched princess seam.


Stretchy stitch


I learned a new stitch on this project. The book calls it "Rosebud", and I quite enjoyed it. It certainly takes a lot of time and a lot of thread. I had two days off this week, and although both days were filled with errands, I also got some stitching time at home. On the first day, I top-stitched all six seams on the dress. On the second day, I only stitched the facing on the armhole. The seams in the dress each took two to three lengths of thread to stitch and top-stitch. The armhole took ten lengths of thread to stitch. A needle threaded to the length of almost my arm only stitches a distance of two to three inches in rosebud stitch. The following two photos show my progress: my very first time doing the stitch, and how my technique had settled down by the end of the first armhole.


What's next


So the dress is coming together nicely. I still have to face the other armhole and neckline, and I want to do something along the hem. I wound up changing size from the pattern I used for the corset top, but I'm still unhappy with the fit. I will probably be adjusting the bodice fit a little more in the next project. And while I'm pretty pleased with the outcome, I'm not yet sure if I'll wear it. You see, there's a bit of a logo, right on the butt. My original intent was to decorate the dress with stitched dots, in order to cover it up, but I'm not sure I still like the dotty idea. I've also wondered about just wearing it with the logo, which strikes me as really funny, but of course my daughter thinks that's a terrible idea. I also have pondered the idea of putting a back pocket on the dress, which was again struck down by the progeny, but I haven't totally tossed the idea out.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Long and Twisted Story about The Chocolate

So I've made two trips to the homeland this summer. The first recreational, the second for an urgent family matter.

During the first, I was looking for gifts to take home for the family, and so I picked up some local chocolate.  For my husband, the exotic Raw Dragon Chili Chai, and for the kidlets, the guaranteed pleasers of a solid milk chocolate for her, and a raspberry dark for him.




While preparing to return, I tucked the chocolate into the freezer, and wrote myself a note so I wouldn't forget to grab it. The morning of departure, I wrapped it in some fabric for insulation, and put it deep into my backpack, so it would make the trip without melting.

But my mother worried, and she wanted me to put it in her cooler instead, so I acquiesced and did so. The theory was that when I grabbed my sandwich from the cooler, I'd grab the chocolate, but of course I didn't. The chocolate did not make it home.

I told my  mom to find some one who appreciates fine chocolate to give it to, but she offered to save it and mail it when the weather cooled down.

Last week I traveled to Canuckistan to support my family in a stressful time. I checked in with my dad, asking if he knew where the chocolate was, so he could bring it with him when we met up at my sister's house.  He thought he'd know where to find it.

The day before he departed, I asked my sister to remind him about it. She noted, "I was just there, and I didn't see any chocolate lying around."  Then, "Wait, how many bars were there? I saw some chocolate in mom's meat drawer, and ate this really yummy raspberry/dark." I told her she'd just stolen chocolate from her nephew. She averred that it was very tasty.

The message I got from my dad through my sister was that he'd eaten the rest of the chocolate. I tried not to be too bummed about it, although I'd really wanted to try that chili chai, and it didn't seem like my dad's kind of flavour. All that talk of chocolate got me wishing I had some. My niece was about to run to the store, so I was going to give her a shopping list.

But then her chipper little seven year old daughter ran to the pantry and came out with a bar of chili dark. Turns out, my sister had accidentally bought it while buying dark, and hadn't eaten it because to her it was YUCK. I was so happy to have that bar! Craving satisfied!


It turned out to have been a miscommunication. My dad hadn't eaten the rest of my chocolate and he brought it to me. I managed to get it into my suitcase and get it home. I gifted the two remaining bars, and both were appreciated.  I bought a raspberry/dark for my son, told him the story, and handed it to him. He's an equal opportunity fan. He doesn't care about his origins. He was just happy to get it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Oh yes, more costumes

ComicCon was three days, and I had a costume for every day. The first day was the aforementioned red monstrosity. The other two days were equally sincere, but more subtle in appearance. My brother even commented that I hadn't dressed up. (and before he objects, in fairness, I had by that point removed some key wardrobe pieces.)

Day two--Orphan Black

My choice of costume for Day Two was decided by the appearance of Matt Frewer. He plays Dr. Leekie in Orphan Black, and we're huge fans of that series here. We had cherished a hope that Tatiana Maslany would come--she did go to San Diego--but not this time around.



Now my daughter doesn't need any excuse to cosplay Orphan Black. She created a Cosima costume for ComicCon's FanX event in the spring. We spent some time looking at character photos online, and then went to a consignment store to see what we could find. We walked in, and there was the perfect dress, hanging alone on the returns rack in the centre of the store. Astonishingly, it fit her perfectly. Had that dress been squished into the racks elsewhere in the store, we might never have seen it.  She looks great in it, and can wear it to school, not just for cosplay events. This was her comparison shot from last spring, and she reprised that look for this event.


I decided to re-create the look of Allison, the soccer mom. I picked up the clothing while shopping at Costco, as we moms do. (To clarify, I'm not a soccer mom, I'm a ballet mom.)  I had a grey headband ready for the costume, but couldn't find it that day. Fortunately, I had t-shirt fabric in my sewing room as always, and made a brand new headband by cutting a wide band of fabric from the top of the sleeve of a child's shirt.



In the line for our photo op with Matt Frewer, we met another young lady also dressed as Cosima.  Both were pretty happy to meet another person cosplaying the same character.



We had somehow hoped that Mr. Frewer would recognize the costumes: if not mine which was subtle, at least hers. Instead, we got a lecherous comment about a threesome--THAT'S MY SIXTEEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER, SIR--and then a less offensive something like "This will be the album cover."


Day three--the Ninth Doctor

My next costume was chosen again by the guest, this time John Barrowman. JOHN BARROWMAN!  He is such a happy and uninhibited individual. I sat in his panel, and enjoyed his hour of hilarious chat, as well as a serenade.

I reprised my Ninth Doctor costume, and asked my daughterto wear her Rose outfit, re-creating the look of the episode where they first met Captain Jack.


My leather jacket was found at a thrift store, when my son and I were browsing. We snapped it up as a good jacket, and later saw how excellent it was as a Nine jacket. The sweater I wore is also his, bought at Old Navy, inspired by Nine.  My daughter's Union Jack shirt was procured after a long search. I was scouring the web for a good Union Jack shirt, and eventually found one in a store that I'd never heard of, but they had a branch in a local shopping centre. I was able to call and verify they had the shirt, and got them to hold it in her size.  After ballet, we cruised through the shopping centre, and my daughter and her carpool buddy ran up and bought it, posing as brother and sister for fun.

When we went in to our photo op, Mr. Barrowman took one look at us and said, "Nice! Rose and Nine!" Then wrapped us up in a huge hug and then we got our picture.  I already adored the man, but that very simple comment just totally endeared him to me, even more.




Sunday, September 21, 2014

Stitching

I haven't been blogging my knitting so much, because I make all my notes on Ravelry. But Ravelry hasn't completely killed The Knitting Blog, and I still have several knitters on my RSS feed. More than once I've gotten inspired for non-knitting crafts on a knitting blog, and it happened again. This time, I read about the Alabama Chanin style hand sewing. I started researching it, and became so very inspired. I got one book out of the library, and now all three are in my house.



I've got years of sewing experience, but hardly any motivation. All the inspiration from these books resparked my motivation. It's so exciting to find a new and attractive way to utilise my skills.  Plus, the author uses old t-shirts as her fabric source, something I"ve been doing for years. I love old t-shirts for fabric.

My first project was a tea-towel, using reverse applique.


My second project also used reverse applique. It's an over-the-arm pin cushion, and seemed like a really valuable thing to have around to keep my stitching tools centralised.


This weekend, I tried making a corset tank as described in the first book. Again, I started with a t-shirt as my fabric source.


The seams are hand-stitched, deliberately sewn to be visible. I'm not sure how I like that technique!


After first trying it on, I wasn't entirely happy with it. I made my daughter try it on to see if it fit her any better. It didn't. Though she wears it cuter. :)





Then I tried it with a long black skirt, and that transformed the shirt. Suddenly, I liked it.


Maybe I'll wear it after all.




Next time, I'll remember that I prefer my shirts long waisted.

Costuming bonus

To go with the costume in the previous post, I created a bag, so that I could carry stuff without the bag looking out of place.


I even gave it a water bottle pocket. The pocket looked great, but unbalanced the whole thing.


I've been using it a lot since. It is made out of two t-shirts, one inside the other for strength and lining, and it has three pockets inside. It's a very handy bag!

Costuming

Last spring, I bought myself  a pass for September's ComicCon. And me, being psychic or psycho, decided that Paul McGann would be one of the announced guests and that I should make a costume to wear to meet him. At first I pondered an Eighth Doctor costume. so I watched his minisode for inspiration.


That's when I decided I could create a costume of the Sisterhood of Karn, like this character Ohila.


Knowing that this wasn't the first appearance of the Sisterhood of Karn, I took some time to watch The Brain of Morbius.

There I discovered a lot of variation in the costumes. Each Sister had slightly different robes and a different breast plate.



Then I had to ponder--did I want to copy Ohila, the Head Sister in the video/picture above, and try for an exact duplicate, or be a more generic Sister, and allow myself some variation in the costume? I decided to allow myself some variation, and just started making a set of red robes.

For fabrics, I had two sources. One was a stack of red t-shirts, procured at a thrift store for $9. The other was a bolt of red crepe, procured at a ballet warehouse sale for $8. The fabric was a remnant from Carmina Burana costumes, and had about four yards remaining.


Using the crepe, I made a long red skirt, and some overrobes.



Then for the breastplate, I used a red velvet tank I'd bought with the t-shirts. I cut and hemmed the sides, and embellished it with gold beads and gold fabric, also from the warehouse sale. 




Midway through the summer, and midway through the creation process, ComicCon officially announced Paul McGann as a guest, so my efforts seemed definitely worthwhile!  As ComicCon approached, I was still in the process of embellishing the breastplate.  I had allowed myself a lot of time, but I was dealing with a family crisis during the final weeks, and I found myself engaging in distractive behaviour instead of being productive.  As the day approached, I realized I was going to have to accept what was currently finished.  I later learned I should have started from the bottom rather than the top. My hair hid the top, and left the unfinished bottom portions prominent.

I also needed a headdress. I had considered making a hood from one of the t-shirts, but as the time approached, I decided to try using a skirt I'd made earlier in the year, and with some hair clips, found that an excellent head dress.  

Additionally, I ordered blonde hair extensions to give me the same effect as the Sister pictured above. To my disappointment: the grey in my hair lowered the contrast and you couldn't really see the blonde. You can see--or not see--the blonde in this eyes-closed shot with my brother at the ComicCon. I had a difficult time hiding the blonde extensions, so I wound up putting braids and red strips into my hair to hide the attach-points. I kinda liked the batty-lady effect.


And here's the back, with the skirt as headdress.


So. After all that work, I was satisfied with the work done on the costume, but eventually, a little dissatisfied with the whole experience. I don't really feel good in red, and I felt red, blobby, and shapeless in the costume.


And then, I wore the costume into a photo op with both Paul McGann and Colin Baker, the Eighth and Sixth Doctors. Colin Baker was making cracks about the costume, and called me Red Riding Hood and inquired after the health of the wolf. They took the picture just as I was self-consciously laughing at his comments. I asked if my eyes were closed, and they said, "No, no, you're fine."  But then when I retrieved the picture, my eyes were barely visible. I looked round, double chinned, and kinda like a laughing Buddha.  I didn't know what to do and I went off to meet my brother for the photo shoot shown here, having a good cry along the way.


My unhappiness with the photoshoot might have influenced my happiness with the costume. After seeing the picture, I was pretty miserable about the whole thing, and I wasn't all too happy for my brother's photoshoot.

Afterwards, I gathered my courage and went back to the photo op area. I complained about the eyes-closed incident. The man said, "Well, technically your eyes ARE open." but he did give me a voucher for a new photoshoot, and I left that awful photo with him.

This meant that at the next photo op, I wouldn't be wearing my costume, but I'd decided I was at peace with that. I had fallen out of love with the costume and didn't want to ever see it again.

The reshoot was a resounding success. I love the results. I'm so glad I got a replacement.


I'm not quite so disenchanted with the costume anymore. But I don't know if I'll ever wear it again! If I do, I'll certainly finish the breastplate beforehand.

PS I showed my daughter a snap taken of the hated photo. She usually says, "MOOOOM, you look FINE" or "No, Mom, you don't look like a psycho-killer." But when she saw the pic, she cracked up and couldn't stop laughing. I felt validated. The photo really did suck.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Barfarama!

So one day I found a pattern for a self-barfing stripey monster. Yes. And of course I had to make it. Right away.

Now way back in 2007, I bought a heap of yarn on closeout, because the colours were so pretty and, well... YARN.


And some of that yarn is still kicking around my stash. So, fortunately, I was able to just start knitting that night. A few days later... viola! Stripey self-barfing monster!







I don't have any high-action hurling shots, and I can't take any, because this dude is now hanging out at the Utah State Fair.  Basically, you toss it around a little, get it really dizzy, and then it barfs itself out to a new colour.