Up to the Challenge, A Pledge for the Historical Sew Monthly Challenges

Lat year I stumbled across The Historical Sew Fortnightly, feel in love with the idea and quickly signed up with hundreds of others, to sew a challenge assignment item every two weeks.

There were some obvious issues that I had not taken into account. First, the fifty hours a week that I spent on campus, followed by the twenty hours a week I spent working on house chores, and cooking, followed by another forty hours a week I spent doing work for my store. This doesn’t take into account commuting time, various and sundry errands, homework, or cram sessions.

So to start of with I had very little time to even contemplate the challenges, let alone make them.

And then, what should have been obvious to me, is the simple fact that I was not, at that point in time, in a mental or emotional space, where I could crank out one garment every other week.
So I fell further and further behind, and just gave up entirely, in a fit of frustration.

This year, The Historical Sew Fortnightly host made some changes, the most blessed of which is that now there is an entire month to complete each challenge!! Well, heck, I can do that!

January’s challenge is “Foundations”, and being obsessed with nether wear, I’m super stoked to get started! I have about ten ideas rattling around in my mind right now, and plan on going HAM, and writing a mini-research essay, and maybe doing more than one piece!!!!!!!!!!

I’m a little bit excited.

On that note, it’s pretty early, so I’m going to go get some coffee and begin my day. Orders to fill and fabric to buy, you know! 🙂

Sweet Betty Blue Kimono – Part 1

I made a lot of New Years resolutions. Like most people in the world, most of these resolutions fell through the cracks in the first five days.  However, one thing that I refuse to let fall apart is my new and improved sewing schedule. I’ve decided to start working with me archives. Between vintage patterns, vintage pattern magazines, and some really stunning (I think) vintage pieces I have salvaged from attics and thrift stores, I have a pretty good base to start from.

Most of the vintage dresses, coats, etc. in my archive are more involved than I would like to start off with, so I’ve decided to finally finish a project that I swore I would make- this awesome 1920’s kimono robe!!! (I bet you remember it! Don’t you?)

The Betty Blue KimonoWell, to refresh my memory, it’s this little number, from the 1925 Spring Fashion Services Magazine. Kimonos are fairly straight forward in their construction; they are just rectangles of fabric sewn together in a specific way. The instructions for this one say to use McCall pattern #3825. Given that this would have been in the 1920’s, and that it has long since been out of print, I have instead decided to use the kimono pattern in my go-to lingerie sewing seer: Sewing Lingerie, from the Singer Reference Library.

Sewing Lingerie

It’s should go together pretty quickly. And I even have the fabric for it! It’s just a polyester crepe that I picked up at Ye Olde Jo-Ann Fabrics, but I think it will work just fine. For the closures, I think I’ll see if I can pick up dome wooden or metal hoops at the craft store, and wrap them with ribbon. But we will see.

Betty Blue embroidery

I’m also finally going to be trying my hand at embroidery. This pattern is from “Pretty Pretties”, a wonderful little e-book available on Etsy, from MrsDepew. If you haven’t checked out her store, you should! She has an absolute treasure trove of vintage patterns, magazines and digital reproductions!  Anyway, it needs a special needle, which I have, and I even picked up two different shades of blue that will look lovely with the fabric. I think I might put it on the tails of the sleeves.

Well, check back next week to see if I have made any progress! 🙂

 

The Strawberries & Champagne Series is DONE!!!

So many things have happened in the past week! Classes started for the Spring Semester, just in time for a HUGE snow storm, which effectively cancelled classes for two days straight. So I got an extra two days of vacation. No complaints here, though.

Over my winter break, I tried to really knuckle down and do some dedicated work on my first collection. Of course, I did have to work around family commitments and parties, none of which I factored into my ludicrous sewing schedule. As a result, I’m a week behind schedule on getting the first part of the collection out.

But, hey. Better late than never, right?

And so, with no more ado, I give you “The Strawberries & Champagne” series!!

The series is one of four in the collection, and features two different vintage bra styles

Strawberries & Champagne bullet bra

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Tap pants

A camisole

A slip

And a garter belt corset, all crafted from luscious satins and vintage lace, following vintage style lines. The items are currently all sewn by me, in the little workshop that is sometimes known as my mother’s living room, and are sewn to fit the unique measurements of each of my customers. No need to battle it out with your clothing to make it fit.

The items will be going up for sale later in the day in my shop. I hope you like them! 🙂

Confessions of an Unapologetic Caffiene Freak

The facts were these-

Three months ago, I RSVP’ed to my cousins wedding. Of course, I had to come up with something stunning to wear, and any old clothing store wouldn’t work- I have an IMAGE to maintain; a standard of (neurotic) excellence to uphold in the eyes of my family. So I decided I was going to make a dress. I had three months. No problem.

I settled on a stunning 1930’s evening gown pattern (not one of my own, shockingly enough, although I did have to size it up from a size 6 to a size 18), and with two months left, I picked out my fabric. I had two months to get it done. No worries.

And then school came along like a rider of the Apocalypse, and gobbled up all my time. When I wasn’t desperately cramming in as much Japanese and Chinese vocab as I could before a test (a test every week??!! That’s pure sadism!!), or maniacally hammering away on my laptop to crank out ANOTHER anthropology essay, I was either folding origami for First Friday until my fingers were numb, or was flopped out in the house in a state very similar to that of a human vegetable. I was exhausted every day, and felt like I’d been run over by a truck. A big rig truck. Multiple times.

Well, my cousin’s wedding is tomorrow.

I started the dress on Tuesday.

For four hours, I sized out the pattern, sewed together a muslin sample, and with a quick prayer, cut into the fabric.

On Wednesday I had a nervous melt down.

On Thursday I worked on the dress for six hours, around a full day of classes and two tests.

On Saturday, I finished the dress, jumped into the car, and scampered off to the wedding.

Is it 100% perfect? Well, to me, no, it’s not. I always struggle with satin, because I don’t actually have a good workspace for laying it out and cutting it. And I skipped the very necessary French seams completely in deference to my limited time.

But that’s not really the point. The point is that with the assistance of seven energy drinks, I managed to put together a stunning evening gown in four days.

Working around five classes, three language exams, and two anthropology assignments.

The moral of the story is this: Caffeine makes the world go around. When you’re at the eleventh hour, line up a few cups of coffee, and get to work! 🙂

When Life Gives You Lemons….

It’s been a while since I’ve written. The good news is that my puppy, Beasley, despite Murphy’s Law, survived his ordeal and is doing wonderfully. Thank the goblins for small favors, because if I lost him or Jack the Parrot, I think I would be utterly lost.

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I have recently been working on a series of sample bras. They are very pretty vintage designs, and I bought beautiful, slinky, silky satins, and stunning kimono fabrics to make them. Being the genius that I am, I took my pattern, and cut out all the pieces in all of the fabrics I had, all in a 36B.

Right there was the first series of mistakes. I should have cut the damn thing out in muslin and sewn it up to make sure the pattern was okay. But I didn’t. My new fabrics filled me with excitement and perhaps more optimism than I should have had for such a daunting challenge.

And then I sat down to sewing… having NOT made a test muslin first, to make sure I knew exactly how to assemble these beautiful bras. And having not put a SINGLE MARK on the pieces to help me in the assembly.

At first I thought I was on a roll. I had a bit of trouble with my darts, but I forged ahead at reckless speed. Once the first one was done, and only needed to have some hand stitching down, I noticed that it just looked… well… it looked WRONG. Because I had sewn two pieces BACKWARDS, and had done the most beautiful, miniscule French seams the world had ever seen. There was no salvaging or fixing my mistake.

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So I surrendered that bra, and continued on like a run away train. I put together two new bras, still in the glorious (expensive) silks and satins. Another one suffered the upside down fiasco, but I was determined to fix that with the cunning use of lingerie elastic (on non-existant seam allowances, because I trimmed those off…). There were nightmares with trying to encase elastic with bias tape, which created horrendously bulky underarm seams (because both the bias tape AND the elastic were all wrong). There was my failed attempt a what could have been beautiful piping detail, because I had no idea what I was doing.

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There were seams and stitches that were picked out so many times that the fabric disintegrated, and then there with the horrible, ugly , visible seams that you could SEE, because I ran out of the appropriate colored thread.

I was like a zombie mindlessly hell bend on finishing. Or a lemming, DETERMINED to charge off that cliff if it was the last thing I did.

The first sensible thing I did, was take an enforced two week break from the projects, to get ready for two back to back events I was privileged enough to be a vendor at. For two weeks, my sewing area sat fallow, and dust covered, while I barreled through 200 lb.s of origami paper to make these stunning hair creations and more (not that I’m tooting my own horn, or anything…). And I was equally as maniacal about these pieces as I had been with the bras… the results were just better.

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After two weeks, I returned to my derelict sewing area, and picked up the bras. They looked wretched. So I did the second most sensible thing I could think of. I went online, to the wonderful vendor of vintage patterns, and found a tutorial for sewing a vintage bullet bra.

And there, before my eyes, in black and white print, and colored photographs, I saw EVERY SINGLE ONE  of my mistakes spread out before me.

Such as including seam allowances in my pattern pieces.

Such as using an iron to press seams before barreling ahead.

Such as understitching.

Such as matching seams before you sew them.

It was embarrassing. I know better. I’ve known better for years. But I was so excited with the gorgeous, dazzling fabrics I chose, that I was determined to skip all the appropriate steps, and convinced that the end result would be just as good.

The sewers, seamstresses, and designers out there will not be surprised to learn that I was disappointed.

Over 100$ of supplies were chucked into the garbage, the fabrics now too degraded from abuse to be salvaged for anything more than cleaning rags.

This week I sat down, resigned to the fact that I have not yet achieved Alexander McQueen perfection with my “sewing-by -eye”, and cut out a muslin that fit my fairly hefty 38DD torso. I figured that if I was going to drag myself through hell again, I was going to make something I could wear.

The muslin, including all of the tweaking and pattern redrafting, took me thirty minutes. Just thirty minutes.

Then I cut into my beautiful fabrics again, and spent an extra two minutes marking all of the pieces. Just two minutes.

And then, before I could do any damage, I called it a day, and spent the rest of my time drawing up an sewing order, so that the bra would go together nicely.

Had I bothered to take 32 minutes out, before I let myself loose on the project, I could have saved myself an ENTIRE MONTH of needless cursing, tantrums, and tears.

And 100$.

The moral of this story is that, yes, “Time is money”.

By which I mean that you will WASTE money if you do not take the time to go about things the proper way.

 

 

Impulse Control Issues

Sometimes, I just can’t help myself. I’m sure a lot of people have this problem. Maybe you see the perfect pair of jeans in a store and you buy them for 110$, ignoring the fact that they look EXACTLY like EVERY, SINGLE, OTHER pair of jeans in the WORLD. Or maybe every time cellphones go on sale, you buy five of them. Not because you need them, but, because, c’mon, they were on SALE!

Actually, maybe most of our problems with over buying would be solved if stores stopped offering “buy one, get X” sales… You can ponder this for today and get back to me!

As I was saying, this impulse control issue with spending is perfectly normal. I myself am known to spend almost beyond my means. And it always comes back to bite me in the tush.

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My most recent splurge was the result of my throwing a tantrum at the fabric store over the cutting counter gremlin. I happen to love Halloween, and this fabric is just so PERFECT. SO I bought ten yards of it, with absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it.

I did the same thing with a bolt of creepy haunted house fabric…

And a bolt of Dia de los Muertos fabric…

Always with no idea what I was going to do with it. I just knew that I wanted it.

But this time, I came up with a genius idea. I sketched out this dress idea-

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And that was when it hit me. I don’t really have the time to do a full scale, 500000000000 piece collection… but why not a Limited Edition Halloween collection?

I ran this idea by my Friend-Who-Remains-Anonymous.

“That’s a wonderful idea!” he said. “You should start creating a buzz about it now.”

And, yet again, I was stumped. How does one “create a buzz”, I wondered.

“Let me guess,” he said, blandly. “You forgot that you had a blog, and haven’t updated it in three months.”

Ha! that’s where he was wrong! I showed him my posts.

“Very good,” he said approvingly. “you told them that you hate the only fabric store in your area because the people are mean, you told them you are a starving artist, and you told them you are insane and think the DEVIL possessed your sewing machine.” Maybe “approving” was the wrong word…

“Now,” he informed me, “you are going to tell your readers all about you idea for this mini collection, and show them your adventure in the creative process.”

I think he was expecting a little too much from me. I think he was probably over estimating my abilities, too.

He sighed. “Mack, just do it. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee for each post you put up about this project.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, sealed the deal. This officially goes to my first cup of free coffee!! I win!!!!!

The Right to Bear Scissors

Sometimes you come across people who really drive you up a wall. I met one such person at the local fabric store.

The facts were these; I absolutely destroyed the bodice of the dress I’ve been working on, so I went to go pick up another yard of the fabric to redo it. There was a scrap of the fabric left on the bolt, maybe 3/4 yd if I squinted. But I needed the fabric. And it was all they had left in the store. So I took it up to the counter to measure.

I handed the fabric to the cutter, and she unfolded the fabric. And folded it so the two cut edges were together.

“A yard and a quarter,” she informed me

I stared.

“I’m really sorry but you miss measured,” I said. “You should be measuring the length of the fabric, not the width”

She looked at me like I was mentally handicapped.

“Along the selvedge,” I explained.

“Who taught you to measure fabric?” She snapped. “It’s a yard and a quarter.”

I argued with her for half an hour. There were a whole bunch of problems in the store that day, and no manager in sight. If I hadn’t needed the fabric so badly I would have just gone home. But I DID need it. So before my very eyes, she cut a quarter of a yard off the selvedge.

Okay. Maybe she was new, and sometimes people make mistakes.

But then I bought an entire bolt of fabric, and asked her to measure it for me. She was displeased. On e she was done, I asked if she could just roll it back on to the bolt.

“No,” she snarled.

I persisted in getting a bolt for the fabric to be rolled on to. So she grabbed an empty bolt from a fabric hat was 20$ a yard, and scanned that bolt end. So my ten yards of 6$/yd fabric was suddenly 20$/yd. I couldn’t take it.

“Excuse me, but you scanned the wrong bolt,” I said, maybe a little more hostile than I intended.

What followed was another half our argument over who was right.

I won. Because she was wrong.

The moral of this story is that some people shouldn’t be allowed to wield scissors. Or to reign over the cutting counter. Or even touch fabric. Ever.

Beware the fabric store gremlins!!!!