Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Progress Update: December 30th

I didn't get quite as much done this week as I wanted, but I did get stuff done:

Beatrice is almost complete.  I had to mail order a last spool of gold bias, but otherwise she's finished:

I also got started on my Morning Dress.  I made a pair of suspenders:

And a dress shirt is almost done.  I was especially proud of the topstitching on the patch pocket:

 And here's the shirt, with hand buttonholes on the french cuffs but no buttonholes on the center placket.  It also still needs a collar stand:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 In Review

In 2013 I finished:

My 1872 Bustle Day Dress for Arisia:

Maghda from Diablo III for Arisia:

Vanellope for Arisia:

Lady of Lanterns for Costume Con:

 Samwise Gamgee for Thing 2 for Costume Con:

Lil' Pyro for Thing 2 for Costume Con:

Aang the Last Airbender for Costume Con:

My curtain dress for Costume College:

Otilia for WorldCon:

Ayumi Hamsaki's Ladies Night for WorldCon: 

Twilight Sparkle Princess Dress for Thing 1 for Halloween:

 A dinosaur for Sir Ally Saur for Halloween:

Daniel Deronda Seaside Gown for PhilCon:

Friday, December 27, 2013

Morning Dress Pants

I started on my pants for the Morning Dress outfit today.  I thought pants were simple, but these suit pants have facings and welts and sticky outy bits everywhere!  There were 18 pattern pieces!

Here's the pattern I used, Vogue 2383:

I had to modify the pattern a bit because I only had 2 yards of fabric instead of the 2 1/2 yards required.  Turns out I just had to peg the legs by about 2 inches, which is pretty historical for the 20's anyway.  Yay crisis averted!

Not a lot of other progress to show you, but I did want to put up some links I found that are helpful in making my pants:
Information on mens' pants in the 1920's.
A vintage set of suspenders.
A great tutorial on how to make a modern zipper fly into a button fly.  Useful since the first zipper flies were in 1938.
An interesting look at extant pants.  They don't have a waistband!  They're called fishtail back trousers.
A tailor's blog showing some fishtail back trousers.
The mens' trouser page on the Morning Dress guide.

I'm trying to alter my pants to be fishtail, but I'm not too familiar with mens' patterns so it's an adventure.  We'll see how my idea pans out!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tutorial - Gem Centered Shoe Bows

 You will need:

Gemstones (I used red in 13 and15mm sizes)
pearls (I used 3mm)
heavy thread
glue (I used E6000)
beading or thin needles
thread that matches the ribbon
shoe clips (I got mine from American Duchess)


Glue the gems to the felt.


Cut the felt around the gem, leaving a small lip of felt around the gem.

Thread two needles with heavy thread.  Push the first through the felt and string a few pearls on it.

Work with two pearls at a time.  Hold them close to the gem in a row.  Push the second needle up between the two beads.

Then push the second needle through the second bead.  This bead will now have two strings through it.

Push the next two beads forward and hold them in line with the last two.  Push the second needle down between the second and the third pearls.

Repeat this sequence of tacking down every other pearl.

When you get to the last pearl tack it down, then push the first needle back through the first bead (this prevents a divot between the last and the first beads.


Push all the threads through to the back of the felt and knot them.  Because felt is so loosely woven I also glue the knots down so they don't pull through.

 The gem centers are complete!  Now let's make bows!

 Cut a piece of ribbon twice as long as you want your bow to be, plus a seam allowance.

Fold both ends to the center with a 1/4-1/2" overlap.  Thread a needle with matching thread, doubled over, and tie a big knot in the end.  Stitch a running stitch through all three layers of the bow.

 Gather your stitches tight, then secure the gather with a few whipstitches.

 Take a small stitch through the felt backing of a gem.

And stitch back through the bow center, securing the bow to the gem.


 Cut two lengths of ribbon for the tails.  Cut them as long as you want the tail to be plus 1/2".  Usually I would cut the ribbon at an angle or cut a notch into it, but I'm trying to copy a specific bow here so I'm doing it straight like the illustration.

Fold over the edge 1/2" and run a straight stitch through the top of the tail.  Pull the stitches tight to gather up the tail.  Take a few whipstitches to secure the gather.


Stitch the tail to the bow, right side of the tail to the back of the bow.

A completed tail bow.

Attaching the Shoe Clips:

 Open up the shoe clip like this.

 Using the two holes in the clip, stitch the clip to the back of the bow.  Make sure that the clip prongs are facing you as you are stitching, so the clip closes on itself and not on the bow.  Also, if you're sewing on a bow that has tails be sure that the tails come down opposite the clip prongs so that the bow hangs off your shoe and not up your ankle.  Tie off and you're done!

A completed clip!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday Progress Update: December 23rd

I lost a lot of time this week because of an unplanned trip to the ER, but I still hope to have this costume finished in time to wear it to the costume ball I'm going to for New Years'.

Lets start with the skirt.  I hemmed all of those scallops, then ironed on two layers of gold trim.  I still need to put a waistband on and tack down the underlayer.  On the bodice I assembled the sleeves and attached them.  The bodice got all of its own gold trim ironed on, and I put a separating zipper into the center back.  The right hand side sleeve got an engageante hemmed and attached, the left one is hemmed but not yet sewn on.  I also hemmed the bodice ruffle and tacked it halfway on.

(Still have horrid hoop show-through, I need to make a petticoat)

I took the underskirt apart to install the swagging.  Here is one piece all cut, gathered, and pinned ready to be sewn down.  I may re-do the center bit because I don't like how it's not centered all the way up.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stuff Day - Clover Quick Bias Fusible Bias Tape

I've been using this stuff all over Beatrice's dress, so I thought it would be the topic of today's Stuff Day.

This is Quick Bias tape.  It's 1/4" bias pre-folded with an iron-on backing.  When you want to use it you simply peel off the protective paper and iron it down.  Because it's bias it folds wonderfully around curves and corners.  It does really nice fine detail work like this:

I really like it because the bias is pre-folded to a standard width so it's really easy to use, you don't have to waste a lot of time measuring and cutting and ironing, just stick it on.  It comes in gold, silver, and black.  You can get it at larger JoAnn's in the quilting notions section, or you can get it on Amazon here:

How to tell a Costume Scam on EBay

 This Tumblr post going around today reminded me of this old tutorial that might still be of use.

Ebay can be incrediby cool. You can find amazing costumes and accessories at super low prices, and one of a kind pieces that you'd never get anywhere else. But it can also be incredibly risky, especially when you're talking about custom costumes. What you see is not always what you get, and sometimes you can get nothing at all. Here are some tips for buyers to prevent being taken for a ride when buying costumes on Ebay.

The first step is to look at the costume and read its description. Make sure you're 100% clear on what it is you are buying. Is it a one of a kind costume, or is it a commercial factory make? Are you bidding on a completed costume, or will one be made for you? What size/sizes are being offered? Are they just numbers, or are measurements included?

There are also some specific things that costumes should include when they are legit. The first is pictures. Pictures of the actual costume. Not pictures of the movie/tv/comic actor/actress/character in the costume. If the only pictures are from the media then you have no idea what you'll actually get. One person's idea of a perfect replica can be totally different from someone else's, and I've seen places where people say something is an 'exact copy' when in reality it's barely the same *color*. If the seller is legit you should be able to email/question them for pictures of the costume that they've made, or at least pictures of another costume they've made, and the closer to the costume you're bidding on the better. I would stay far away from anyone who can't show you pictures of at least *something* they've made themselves. They may not be scammers, just overenthusiastic newbies, but there is no way for you to judge their skill level, replication ability, or their ability to complete a project and mail it off on any kind of deadline.

Pictures can have another tip off. You should do a little research and make sure the picture displayed is actually of a costume made by the seller. There are many instances of people on ebay taking pictures of costumes from museum displays or from other sellers and trying to pass them off as their own. A few tip offs are white manequins (most museums use high-quality manequins with heads, sellers will usually have a headless dress dummy), blurry areas on pictures that may have been watermarks that have been removed, or few angles and details. There are a couple of ways to research this. First, find a costuming group, either on yahoo, a message board, forum, or other way to communicate, then ask them about the auction. These communities can be smaller than you think, and a lot of the people can recognize the real thing or one-another's work, especially if it's the same picture. Another way is to email the seller and ask them for more angles or a detail shot of something on the costume. If the seller really owns the costume, they should be able to get you shots of the back, embroidery detail, or inside lining.

While we're talking about contacting people, there are some other tip-offs you can use to signal warning. You should email the auctioneer and ask a question before bidding. Pay close attention to their response, because this is the seller at their best. If they are brusque, rude, or sparse in their contact it will only get worse when they've already got your money. Especially beware of a "How dare you question me!" attitude. Another thing to watch is a seller who waits until the last day of the auction to give you a reply. They're probably stalling time, waiting until you can't ask any more questions to answer you in order to force you into a bid.

Drama in the description can also be a 'bid-now' tactic. Stories about how someone got cancer, had their house burn down, must go visit someone before they die, etc. are usually just emotion tuggers, encouraging you to buy without causing the seller too much stress or pain. If the seller is a scammer they will continue sending you the heart-rending emails as they take you for a ride, using the excuse as a reason the costume won't be delivered on time, and playing on your emotions so you won't ask for a refund until it's too late. Look critically at what's described. If there are more words on the seller's pain than there are on the costume, then they're selling you a sob story, not a product.

Also, be just as cautious with sellers who have one costume, but will, off ebay, make you a copy in your size. Off ebay sales aren't covered by the buyer protection, and they may have not made the costume in the auction themselves. I would suggest you agree on a price, then have them set up an ebay auction with a buy-it-now option at that price for you to buy, just for your protection. Also, credit cards have more buyer protection than checks and money orders, and tons more than paypal's instant fund transfer from your bank account.

When you are talking about a custom-made costume you should also be super-aware of the time frame for delivery. No one can complete a screen-accurate replica in 24 hours, but a too long time frame is just as bad. Worse, actually, because they are probably delaying until it is too late for you to get a refund for non-delivery. Look up ebay's refund policy, paypal's refund policy, your credit card company's refund policy, and whatever else applies, and be sure things are in that time frame. As of writing this article paypal only gives a buyer 45 days to file a nonpayment report. That means that if a costume is to be delivered in two months by the time you know it's not there you won't be able to file a nonpayment.

Also, look up the buyer's other items, and feedback from just completed auctions. Have they put up 8 other auctions for costumes in the past week, all to be delivered in a month or two? Probably a scammer who has no intention of delivering anything, or, again, an optimistic maker with no reasonable idea of his/her own limitations. Another tipoff is a seller with little or no feedback. Someone with months or years of buying history may just be new to selling, but someone who created an account in the last few days is a big warning. If they have 10 or 20 sales check out their feedback. Note who bought from them, and who else they bought from. Scammers often create three or four selling accounts in different fandoms, this one selling Star Wars costumes, that one selling Harry Potter, a third selling Pirates of the Carribbean, etc. Then they create three or four buyers and a few auctions, using the buyers to buy the items for a buy-it-now price. Fake buyers always leave great feedback asap. My favorite was a buyer who got a custom costume in her size made and delivered from the east coast to her home in the west coast in 28 hours. Think logically about what you're seeing on the feedbacks, and read them, don't just note whether they're positive or negative. Also, if the person is an established ebay buyer but this is one of their first sales, check their buying feedback. If sellers say they're a little slow with payment or sparse on email contact and information they'll probably have problems shipping your costume out on time or keeping you informed in emails.

Other unreasonable expectations to look out for: tons of detail and expensive fabrics the seller could probably not afford for your price (i.e.-10 yards of silk in a dress for $50, or thousands of hand-sewed beads for that price). If you're confused as to what's reasonable, again, ask around. Go to a few costuming and sewing communities and ask what the going rate would be for the product. Go to a few fabric stores online and see how much the fabric being used costs in raw form. Asking around can get another benefit as well - some sellers use 'buzzwords' or technical language to throw you off, but they don't really understand what it means. An experienced sewer/costumer can tell you when the auction seems off because the seller is confusing in their terms. Again, just think about what you're seeing. If it seems like a good deal, take it, but if it seems way too good to be true it probably is.

I also have a personal policy to always get package tracking on anything I buy that seems like an investment. Any seller worth their salt should be more than happy to give you package tracking if you pay for it (and some for free). Package tracking does more than reassure the seller that you got your package. It also provides the seller, and you, with proof that the package was mailed, and a way to get your money back if it disappears in route. Without package tracking a scammer can claim they sent the item weeks ago and you can't prove different. Remember, Ebay and Paypal make their money on auctions completed and sellers pay the auction fees, so Ebay and Paypal will often err on the side of a scamming buyer in order to keep the seller around and paying their auction fees, so have proof of everything you say.

And finally, look out for my pet peeve. Any seller who says they make things out of "silk and/or satin" really doesn't know sewing, fabrics, or their craft well enough to produce a costume for sale. The phrase "silk and/or satin" is used only by novices who don't know fabrics well enough to know that what they're saying is like calling a pie "apple and/or baked". One describes what it's made of and the other describes how it's made. So let's not use that term anymore, ok?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Progress Update: December 16th

I've been plugging away at Beatrice and a secret project that I can't show you.  I will show off pictures of Beatrice, though!


I started out by drafting the bodice.  I started with New Look #6584:

 The sleeveless bodice had the lines I was looking for, so I made a base/lining out of cotton muslin and boned it on each seam with 1/4" spiral bones.  I then covered the chest area with burgundy Casa satin and the rest of the bodice with brown Casa.

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I left the bottom free-hanging and draped it on my dummy, since the pattern was close-fitting to the hips and I needed it to flare out over the hoop.

Next I draped out the skirt.  I used Simplicity 1910:

It had a lot of pleating I had to drape out, but I couldn't find my favorite McCalls pattern for gored skirts, so I made do.  After draping and sewing the underskirt I used the pattern to cut the overskirt and draped it on the dummy, cutting the scalloped hem.

Next I went for mocking up sleeves.  I used the sleeve from Simplicity 9891:

I was really lucky because it fit the bodice hole with little alteration needed.  I cut the base of the sleeve out of burgundy muslin, but I needed to create a pattern for those puffs, so I slashed and spread the base pattern of my mock-up to create the stacked puffs:

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 Next I ironed on the gold trim.  The sleeves are ready to be sewn together now:

 Here it is with the bodice over the skirt mockup.  Wow, this shows just how much I need to put netting on that hoop, the hoop show-through is horrible!