Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Time For Change

I've noticed a couple of posts regarding the costuming community and some of the negative crap that goes on in it, and I can't help but chime in, because it's something that's been on my mind for a really long time. I don't know exactly what person(s)/event(s) has prompted each of these posts/conversations, but I have been experiencing and witnessing the crap that causes these sorts of posts for MANY YEARS in the costuming community. Every time somebody starts speaking up about it, I get hopeful that maybe this time, we'll see some real change.

Right off the bat, I know there are some really confused people who are reading posts like this and are shocked and confused, and have been responding to these posts with an incredulous sort of "I don't think this could be true" sort of sentiment. If you've never experienced or witnessed a costumer being sweet to someone to their face and then badmouthing them the minute they leave the room, or being hurtful right to someone's face, or lying about someone, or stealing from someone, or talking down to someone, or ganging up in a clique and excluding people they don't think are as good/cool/whatever as them, or being mad that somebody "beat them to it" as far as researching/publishing something and trying to destroy their reputation out of jealousy, or otherwise being terrible. . . Well, then you've been lucky, and congratulations, you are probably either a popular kid or at least accepted by them. (Or, people are being nice to you but then laughing at you and tearing apart you and your work behind your back!) I've also heard some folks try to dismiss things and chalk it up to the fallout due to differing political opinions, but I don't think that's the case. Or at least, I KNOW that's not the case with the many years in which I have personally both experienced and/or witnessed all of the things I've mentioned.

I really think that the easiest thing we can address is the way people are so judgmental about each other's work. We are all arriving at this costuming hobby from different skill levels, different levels of funding and time availability, and different goals - some of us striving for historical authenticity, others just wanting to play dress-up, and everything in between. I have MANY TIMES been in the company of a group of costumers, and listened to them dishing out sugary sweet compliments, and then once the recipient leaves the room, completely ranking on them and making fun of their imperfect hair, lack of accessories, period-incorrect fabric, or whatever other ridiculous thing they found offensive. Can this please just stop?!? I know I can't ask people to stop feeling judgmental and superior, because some people are just like that, but can we all at least make an effort to pause for a moment, try to be aware that maybe the other person couldn't afford silk, or spent so much time putting together a dress that they didn't have time for accessories, or maybe just doesn't care about spending the time it takes to learn to do period-perfect hair because they are really just interested in the history and making of garments! And if all else fails, at least try to have at least a little bit of class, and keep your negative comments to yourself.

Also, I have this dream that this high school-esque clique bullcrap will come to an end and all the costumers will just be kind and welcoming to each other, because being left out and feeling like your community doesn't want or accept you is a crappy feeling. This one is near and dear to my heart, because I've been greatly affected by it. I've been excluded by people who were once friends (or so I thought), been ignored or glared at in response to trying to say "hello," and even once had a group of "popular" costumers stop by to talk to somebody I was sitting with, and very intentionally refused to acknowledge my presence in any way because it was very clear that I was beneath them. It was really awkward and it made me feel terrible and rejected. I see these same sorts of things happening to other costumers, too, and it all just makes me so sad. It's so unnecessary. What is to be gained by making other people feel terrible, rejected, and outcast? I promise you, if you are the most popular, best costumer in the world, and you say "hi" to someone who is "beneath" you, nobody will think you are any less of a rock star. And you might just find that some of those people who are "beneath" you are actually awesome people too, and worthy of being treated cordially, at the least!

I realize that bothering to post this at all is kind of pointless. I think the costuming community is no different than humans in general, and humans tend to feel the need to rise above and dominate everyone around them, and derive their sense of self worth from that. It's just so unfortunate because with such a large group of costumers all over the world, who all share these similar interests, there is the potential to have a wonderful community and have a lot of fun! I think it's just such a missed opportunity.

In an attempt to end things on a positive note, I will note that I am so thankful for the small group of fellow costumers who have managed to rise above all this drama and clique crap. To those of you who comment on my posts, or invite me to events, or see me at events and include me, or send me a random text/message/whatever, or say "hello" back to me when I greet you, or do other sweet things that maybe aren't popping to mind at the moment: Thank you so much for being so awesome, so kind, and so welcoming. You are the true rock stars of the costuming community!

Monday, June 19, 2017


I graduated!!! And with High Honors, at that. So very exciting! I'm now in the middle of a couple of months break between careers, as I fill in what I feel were gaps in my education with online classes, as well as spend some time seeing friends and family I have not seen in a while due to putting full-time-work-plus-school on top for the past four years. I even have a costume adventure coming up: Jane Austen Fest in Louisville!

But first, I want to share this dress that I made for my graduation. I had stumbled onto this cool fabric that has a green and silver binary print on a black ground. My school colors are green and white, and my degree is programming/computer science, so how perfect is this?!? I also love that the print is very small, so it's not too tacky. Just the right amount of themed fun! (And, bonus puffy kitty tail!)

I decided I just wanted a very simple sleeveless dress, both because I was concerned about overheating, what with wearing a polyester robe in June, and because I want to be able to wear it in my everyday life post-graduation. I decided to go with Simplicity 1652, which is a princess-seamed dress from the "Amazing Fit" line, which means the pattern pieces are already adjusted for various cup sizes. Unfortunately, the cup sizes weren't quite large enough for me. Fortunately, I finally got over my fear of the dreaded FBA! In the end, I don't know why I was so afraid of it. It's ridiculously simple, and worked out right on the first try!

After that, making the dress was a piece of cake. Of course, I was down to the wire with it, doing most of the construction the day before, with some last minute touches (including remembering I had to have a pocket, so unpicking the skirt side seam and putting one in!) the morning of. But being me, I still managed to line it, of course! I chose a bright green, because colorful linings are fun!

After graduation, Glenn suggested we "go out to eat" but when I got home, I discovered that a big surprise party had been put together for me! It included a fabulous cake that looked like a circuit board!

Also, there were lots of funny, cute decorations that my Mom put together, like these little silverware pockets!

The award for best gift-wrap job goes to Sydney. She even got the tassel color right!

It was such a perfect day. Thank you to everyone who made it a special, memorable day for me!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tiny Marching Sheep

A belated Happy New Year to you! I've been quiet, but hard at work on my last semester at college (which has been so much fun, because I'm learning Python and Android Apps, and loving it!) I've also managed to steal some time to work on several historic costuming and doll projects, but nothing is really at a point where it would be interesting enough to blog about. I do, however, have a handful of things I made in 2016 that I haven't chattered about, so here is one of them. . .

A tiny cashmere blend (yet machine-washable, apparently) cardigan featuring two rows of sheep marching around the top! This was a gift for one of my very best friends, who had her first baby in November. I'd done a little bit of fair isle knitting before, but this was the largest amount of fair isle yet. I was so stressed out that I was going to get the tension wrong in the fair isle section, and have the sheep be puckered or too loose, but I think it turned out great!

The pattern I used is "Welcome to the Flock," by Julia Farwell-Clay, and I knit it up using Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Light Blue, Dark Grey, and White. (If you want to read more about the knitting process, you are welcome to visit my Ravelry page for it, which can be found here).

I decided that I also needed to make a pair of pants to wear with the cardigan, so I made up Butterick 5510, view C, in some 21 wale corduroy by Robert Kaufman, in the "Graphite" colorway. They turned out so cute, but along the way, I decided that I definitely do not enjoy sewing snap tape!

The finished ensemble included some onesies that I found which featured a gray and white sheep theme (so perfect!) and a pair of cute little gray shoes with a woolly lining, that I simply could not resist.

And finally, my husband contributed a little something to our gift:

Of course, it has nothing to do with sheep, but we feel you are never to young to start learning the ways of the force! ;)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Holiday Tea at Gore Place

I only seem to have attended two costume events this year, the 1830s picnic, and the holiday tea, which we again "held" at Gore Place. And by "held," I mean, we just sort of show up at their tea in period dress!

The only unfortunate thing was that we got a ton of snow over night and into the morning of the tea. Of course! This meant I couldn't wear my festive red canvas boots, but I'm just happy the snow ended and was cleared in time for the tea to still carry on! I'm also happy that I've lost enough weight to fit into some of my things so I didn't need to scramble around and make something new. In fact, I had options. I laid them out and of course, a cat happened!

In fact, I had so much time to spare, not having any last-minute sewing to do, that I actually curled my hair and tried to do something with it! I never have time to bother about hair! I ended up doing a curly, glorified ponytail with the ends pinned to hide the fact that it was a pony tail, and added some vintage millinery trimmings I had in my stash. Sorry for the lousy bathroom picture, but this was apparently the only picture I got in which you can come close to seeing the back of my hair.

I still haven't managed to get my husband pumped for dressing in historic costume, but I love that he's willing to go along to this event anyhow! So off we went. . .

How beautiful is this?!? I am seriously in love with Gore Place. If you've never been, it's totally worth it.

I braved the cold for a snowy picture outside. I have yet to make period-appropriate outerwear for this era, which is a fact I only recall once per year, on the day of the Gore Place tea! I really must make it one of my 2017 costume goals. . .

My handsome fella and I!

We were among the first to arrive, and waited in what was once the Gores' laundry area, but is now a little gift shop. It faces the driveway so was a good place to watch other guests arrive!

I took no pictures of the actual tea part of the day! You'll have to take my word for it that all the food was delicious and beautiful, and the setting, perfection!

Afterwards, we snapped a few pictures in front of the Christmas tree, which, while not something the Gores would have had, does add a festive feel!

Look how big a group we had this year! A few established friends, plus a few folks I'd not yet had the chance to meet. I think this is our largest group at a tea yet. Don't forget to add one, since Glenn was too busy taking the picture to be in it!

And then it was time to go and return to modern life! I am already looking forward to next year, and maybe by then, I'll be able to convince my husband that period clothing is the best. I think it helped that he got to see a gentleman in period dress at this tea, which backed up my promise to him that this era can be done without tights or lace. I think I'm just going to make an ensemble and see if the whole "if you build it. . ." philosophy applies to period costume!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

1830s and the Crazy Sleeve Day!

When I first started making historic costumes, I swore I'd never want to do 1830s. I just thought, who would ever want to make that? The crazy hair! The odd waist placement! The sleeves! But somewhere along the line, I just developed a huge fascination and love for it, and finally, there came along an event that gave me an excuse to make an 1830s something. As it turns out, this is probably one of my favorite things I've yet made! It's a very silly era, and it definitely brought out my silly side. . .

Popeye arms also known as crazy big 1830s gigot sleeves

I found a printed cotton fabric that I thought looked the part, with its serpentine and floral pattern, and a silk that brought out the pink flowers to use as a sash at the waist. I had a rake around in my stash and found this antique mother of pearl buckle/slide that was just the thing. For a pattern, I picked out Past Patterns 003 (the "Full High Gown") because I felt like it would pair nicely with my fabric.

Past Patterns 003 Full High Gown, serpentine and floral printed cotton and pink silk for 1830s dress

I agonized a bit over when to start this project. It seems like it would make sense to start as early as possible, but because I was actively losing weight, I was afraid to get the fitting done and then have it be baggy by the time the event rolled around. So I procrastinated until late August, when I decided I simply couldn't wait any longer. Unfortunately, I didn't quite fit into my old stays yet, so I had to squeeze in the making of new stays before moving on to the dress! (I used the Laughing Moon stays pattern, which is a fantastic pattern that I'll be posting about as soon as I finish binding them so they are presentable!) So that ate a chunk of my time, and then there was drama when it came around to fitting the PP003 bodice, which burned even more of my time.

Woody is stressed out about my bodice fitting issues

The really long story short is that the day was saved by my friend reminding me that there are 1830s bodices in Hunnisett's reliable Period Costume for Stage & Screen. Of course! I quickly scaled up the "B" bodice from the 1830s section, and made a test of it. With just a few pins, I had a fitted bodice lining! Hooray! However, I was still totally married to the idea of the PP003 design. So what I ended up doing is using my fitted Hunnisett bodice pattern for the lining, and then altering the very same pattern pieces to be just like PP003, using the PP003 pattern pieces as a guide. For the sleeves, I used the PP003 sleeves as is. By some miracle, I pulled this off!

mock up of the 1830s bodice combining Past Patterns 003 and Hunnisett's Period Costume for Stage and Screen

So this was all very good news, except for one thing: The above picture was taken the evening of 9/29, and the event was to be on 10/1. Oh yes, you read that right! And, I had to work on 9/30! Yikes! But after all, I'd once sewn an entire 18th century jacket - lined and everything - by hand - in only a day. So I thought, if I do this one by machine (except for any visible stitching), I should totally be able to do it in a day!

1830s dress cut out and ready to be sewn

I got everything cut out and marked between the evening of 9/29 and my lunch break on 9/30. Also, I worked from home on 9/30, which was great, not only because I was able to put the lunch break to good use, but also because it meant I didn't have to waste three hours of the day commuting as I usually do, so I was done with work and ready to start sewing at 4:00!

Sewing with cats, as per usual!

4:18 pm. Under the watchful eyes of two of my cats, the sewing begins. . . And carries on until my friend Taylor arrives (my houseguest for the weekend!) and we take a dinner break, which involved going out to one of our favorite restaurants because even when there are things needing sewing, there is sometimes also a need for good queso. Ha ha ha!!!

Woody watching Taylor work

11:19 pm. Taylor puts finishing touches on her dress. Of course, her kitties had to stay home, but Woody was all too happy to step in as kitty supervisor for her.

1830s bodice is nearly finished

11:58 pm. This was my stopping point, because I knew if I stayed up all night, I'd be too exhausted to enjoy the event. So I decided to roll the dice and get a good night's sleep and hope I could finish the bodice and add skirts/waistband in the morning!

Taffy is stressed about this overnight 1830s dress thing

7:12 am. The tea kettle is warming up, and I'm getting under way again. Taffy is unsure of my ability to pull this one off, and keeps a watchful eye. . .

Washing out the blue marker from the 1830s bodice

7:56 am. When I realized that you could see blue washable marker everywhere on the bodice! So into the sink it went, and then on to the dryer, while I switched gears and made the waistband and skirts. . .

Applying piping to the neckline of the 1830s bodice

10:08 am. The skirts are ready and set aside, the bodice is out of the dryer, and I'm sewing some piping on the neckline. Because a dress on this tight of a time crunch is the perfect time to do things like pipe the neckline and the armholes, right? HAHAHAHAHA. . .

Holding up my wearable 1830s dress

11:51 am. A wearable dress!!!!! After this picture, there was a lot of scrambling to climb into undergarments, deal with hair, and somehow I made the pink belt as well. Then it was into the car and on our way to the pre-dinner tea and hanging out part of the day, where I multi-tasked and hand-sewed the hem of the skirts and sleeves. While wearing the dress. It is no easy thing to hem sleeves while you are wearing them, but now I know I'm capable of that!

Finished 1830s dress and subsequent silliness!

And, I made it! This is actually the first of the Popeye-esque pictures I posed for, and I swiped it from Taylor (also known as Dames a la Mode, who incidentally made the necklace I am wearing with the dress!) I don't know. The dress is very silly, and also, I'd tippled a wee glass of champagne. ;)

I absolutely love this dress!!! The only thing that was disappointing was that I didn't have time to do big 1830s hair. Another time, I suppose! In attempt to not be completely boring, I pulled some pink flowers out of my stash of vintage millinery trims and arranged them in a fan shape sticking off my head. Because really, when else in life is it totally sensible to have all kinds of flowers sticking out of your head, right?

And now, here are a handful of pictures I took at the event, followed by a group shot that I swiped from Carrie (who organized this event and did an incredible job of it!)

And a bonus picture of Woody's new 1830s tent. . . ;)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sewing Room Makeover!

I have a new sewing room!!! Well, it's the same room, but recently had a transformation to turn it into a much nicer, more inspiring place to be!

For years, I've been living with chaos. Seriously, total chaos!

Along the largest (well, in that it isn't broken up by windows/doors) wall of the room, I had put up overhead cabinets a few years back. At the time, this seemed brilliant to me, because that way I wouldn't give up floor space. But seriously, what did I want with that floor space against the wall? I ended up struggling to find little bookcases to stick in there to hold my fabrics and notions.

On the opposite wall of the room, the vintage hutch that I bought because at the time I thought it was so pretty was busy being almost useless. The shape of it limited how many dolls could stand in it, the shelves were not adjustable, and the cabinets underneath were not a good size/shape for storing much of anything. Also, because I had too much fabric and not enough logical storage for it, things tended to heap up in front of the useless hutch cabinets!

I found that whenever I was in the room, I felt annoyed and uninspired. It had to change! I spent a ridiculously long time planning what I wanted, and trying to find the thing that I dreamed up. I knew I wanted white furniture, and I was hoping for floor to ceiling cabinets with glass fronts. How lucky was I that Ikea's Hemnes series is exactly what I was dreaming of?!? Even though it was perfect, I still agonized for a few more months before making the purchase, because it seemed so expensive, and what if I didn't like it in the end?!? I finally took the plunge and purchased the pieces.

The whole process of going from "old sewing room" to "new sewing room" was a bit insane. The rooms in my house are not huge, and there is not a lot of space to stick things, even temporarily. It was like a circus act, boxing things and moving them here and there to make room to take this down, build that, move those, etc. (Not to mention, in the midst of this, I was trying to find new homes for a lot of things, so I'd get these emails from people willing to take this or that, and then I'd have to go nuts figuring out where I'd shuffled whatever it was to! Total madness!) It started with clearing one half of my sewing room (which sounds so simple, but honestly, I thought I wasn't going to make it, ha ha ha!) and taking down the overhead cabinets. . .

Woody helping Glenn take down cabinets
Cat helpers are almost as good as husband helpers! ;)

Then, with a newly open space to put my new cabinets in, I was ready to start assembling. Thank goodness my husband was helping, because these pieces were large and needed some strength to make sure everything was in tightly. For example, we learned that I am not strong enough to set the screws in the drawers all the way in, and that if they aren't all the way, the drawer won't close! But at least, we achieved success!

Newly installed cabinetry

Then, it became time for me to start putting everything to rights in their new spaces. I was really determined to downsize things, so instead of rushing to stuff everything into a spot, I slowly went through things, one box at a time, only putting back the things I knew I still really wanted and would use. The cats loved this entire process. There was always some new box or bin that was the latest greatest nap spot!

Cats enjoying the chaos

One of the things I was most stressed out about when deciding to go for this makeover was that I was going to have to cut down my sewing table. My husband made me this sewing table a really long time ago, when we were living in our tiny, rented cottage, and I was sewing on the dining room table, and all my patterns fit in a plastic bin that rolled under the counter. (Can you imagine?!? I won't even admit to how many patterns I own now!) I had gone to Costume College, and while I was away, he surprised me by rearranging the bedroom so that I would have a nook to sew in, and made this table to perfectly fit the space. So naturally, I'm very sentimental about it! He kept trying to persuade me to get rid of it and get a desk that matched the rest of my fancy new room, but I just couldn't do it. It wouldn't fit against the smaller wall without first losing a few inches off it, so Glenn disassembled it, cut it down, and put it back together. (In the previous picture, Taffy is actually sitting in the top "drawer" of my sewing table, because the table top was in the basement being cut when I took that picture!)

In the end, it was all worth it! My new space is beautiful, peaceful, and inspiring. I'm so motivated to make all the things in it! And cutting down the table turned out to be a happy thing because, prior to cutting down, it used to jump a little when I ran the sewing machine on the fastest setting. Post-cutting down? Not even a tiny jump! Hooray for that!

Here are some additional pictures of my "new" sewing room. . .

My new cabinets! All the dolls fit, because this cabinet doesn't have a curved top, and I can control the shelf locations. The drawers in that unit hold doll clothes and accessories, with some overflow under the cabinets. The middle unit has my best costuming books, and all kinds of fabric! I am slowly working on neatly ironing and folding all the fabrics. You can see which shelves I've finished and which I have yet to get around to doing! And finally, the unit at the right has all my notions, most of my works in progress, dollmaking supplies, antique fashion magazines, and assorted other odds and ends that make me happy.

My shortened sewing table fits perfectly on the smaller wall now! I don't miss the extra length, as I feared I might. In fact, I tend to not let things pile up on it any more, since I haven't the extra space, so that's a good thing! (Don't mind my overflow of books! Buy all the costuming/craft books, right?!? Also, there's that hole in the wall which needs patching, that is the result of a rewiring project that involved getting rid of super old wires in favor of wires that won't burst into flame, which is a good thing!)

What have we here? Empty wall space!!!!! I can not tell you how excited I am to hang things up here. I have acquired quite a hoard of wonderful, inspiring things that have been needing a place to hang. My only problem now is making a choice as to which things get to go up! I'm trying to figure out how I can make it so I can switch things out now and then, and hopefully get to enjoy them all!

My lovely windows! I have some issues to address with that curtain rod and shade situation, but it's fine for now. That bench is a beloved spot for my cats, and I also often enjoy doing some hand sewing there, with a cup of tea on the little table beside.

What was once a stressful place of chaos is now a peaceful, pretty place for me to enjoy. It was so satisfying to downsize and clear out things I'd been hanging on to but knew in my heart I'd never use, and everything having a designated place has made it a piece of cake to keep things clean and organized. I still have a little more downsizing to do (patterns, doll things, fabric, and maybe even some of my beloved books), but on the whole, I'm feeling very good about this. Every time I walk into this room, I feel my mood lift, and I feel inspired to make all the things!