Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Breezy Little Post

This is simply a breezy little post to check in and say hello, written in snatched moments between my day-time job, and sleeping (really, time when I should be sewing).  

Our local steampunk community's Second Annual Brass in the Grass picnic in Queen Elizabeth Park is taking place on Saturday July 20 (open to all- we're a friendly, goofy, costume-crazy bunch - details are here if you're interested), and of course, true to form, I am frantically doing last minute sewing in preparation.  Of course I had to have a Gibson-styled blouse.  Of course I have no skills at setting collars, cuffs or sleeves.  Of course this process involves considerable swearing, lots of unpicking of stitches, and considerable longing glances at the bottles of wine in the rack.  

Am I the only one who does this last minute sewing?  I didn't used to be that person, back in my old Society for Creative Anachronism days.   And what is it with suddenly coming up with at least one other great "wow I should do this" idea, at the peak of the rushed insanity of last-minute sewing?  (Today's inspiration came while in Dressew buying ribbon, of "ooh I should make a cool picnic sheet for steampunk picnics" and resulted in me buying cheap cream & grey striped fabric and rug-binding.)  Truly.  I think I have a disease.  Some crazy-sewing-lady disease.

Ah well, it will go nicely with my crazy-organizer-lady disorder, jittery-jewelry-maker malady and compulsive-event-creator syndrome.

On that note, I'm off to consider doing just a touch more sewing before I go to bed.  Oh right.  I have to work in the morning.  Perhaps, not.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Attempting an Edwardian Summer Hat

Last summer, in my thrifting to find materials for my summer steampunk picnic ensemble, I stumbled across this attractive straw hat in Value Village.  And since all my existing hats were felted warm monstrosities, this looked perfect.
However, the straw brim edge was in rough shape, fraying and starting to fall apart in areas.  If I was going to do anything to this hat, I needed to reinforce that brim edge, or it would only last me a couple of wearings.

So off I trundled to find proper petersham ribbon, which is a tricky thing to find in these modern days of cheap imitation grosgrain.  Real petersham can be worked around a curve when steamed, because of how it is woven.  The fake stuff cannot.

I got my hands on some, beige rather than the cream I'd wanted, but it was all I could find.  I wasn't sure how to get petersham into a curve (I just knew it's what you're supposed to use).  So, I improvised.  Since the hat was so fragile, I couldn't work it into a curve directly onto the hat.  But I did have a large melamine plate.  So, I soaked the petersham briefly in very hot water, and then worked it around the diameter of the plate, folding it as evenly as I could over the two sides of the plate, so I would be able to envelop the edge of the hat in it.  As I went, I clipped it in place with bullclips, and overlapping it some, so I had enough to go all the way around the brim.
 I left it to dry thoroughly for a day.  Then I unclipped it, and voila, curved folded petersham.
And then it was a relatively simple matter of machine sewing it in place as evenly as I could.
I sewed it in a bit from the ribbon edge to secure it, then sewed another seam at the outermost edge of the petersham, so it wouldn't pop up. 

I removed the white cotton ribbon from around the crown (it was a bit stained in places) and voila ... a straw hat all ready to decorate!
So I pulled out all my potential hat-decorating stuff - and I do mean ALL - and started playing!
Here are an assortment of my ideas, as I mixed and matched:  
 I even grabbed a lace bridal hat I'd found in a thrift store, while looking for stuff for this outfit, and threw some stuff on that.  (it was a lot of fun just trying different stuff).
I decided against the lace hat for the time being, and opted for covering my straw hat in the gold gauzy stuff, so that it just dangled over the edge a bit, and pinned in the back with the pearl-circle brooch.  I added the tawny velvet roses, and voila.  An easy hat.  I'm not sure it will remain this way, but it worked for the entirety of Summer 2012.  Below is a photo of it, at the Steampunk Picnic in the Royal City of New Westminster in August 2012 (now the Gears on the Green Annual August Picnic).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Scorching Summertime Steampunk

Well ... more neo-Edwardian costuming than steampunk, but then, summertime heat & humidity is less conducive to lots of brass and sweaty goggles.

Last summer, with two summer steampunk picnics looming, I realized none of my usual clothes were remotely suitable to an outdoor picnic in July & August in Vancouver.  My stuff was more appropriate to air-conditioned hotel conventions, not for lounging on grass in the heat and sunshine.  You try to lounge in a corset - I challenge you!

I decided this was a great opportunity to make some neo-Edwardian picnic gear.  Sans pattern.  Despite my very basic sewing knowledge.

And today's post is to show you what I came up with.  It wasn't optimal (I'm neither young nor lissome, which this outfit would have suited better), but it was cheap, moderately easy, comfortable (although the day I wore it was scorching) and looked okay.  (More on where I went astray later!)

I didn't have a lot of money to spend on the endeavor, so I did some mad cost-effective thrifting.  Below are the finds I came up with.  Today I will deal with the skirt, and I will post about the hat separately.
Above is some eyelet lace found thrifting.  It and the other items in the wee baggie were $2.  Below is a net curtain (with an Ikea label!) and some cheap curtains I found in a thrift store.
When I bought the curtains above, I thought ... hey ... it's a ready made skirt - already with ruffle at the hem!  I just need to get rid of the ugly lace back panels, sew them up the side seams, and gather them!

Now, in reality, what happened was I had to unpick all the seams (ALL THE SEAMS) so I could make maximum use of the limited fabric width.  I also unpicked the top folding hem that would have gone on the rod, so I had room for the gathering, and to make the waistband.  Waste not, want not.  

The ruffle was on the plain side. 
So I added the pre-ruffled eyelet trim I'd bought at a thrift store - turned out there was just enough to do the job!
And, since that was looking a little plain, I added another shorter layer of lace on top.
Ruffles added, I then trimmed the skirt so it would be just above the floor (when waistband was added) and sewed the panels together all the way it up one side seam, then partway up the other side (leaving an opening to get in and out of).  Then I pinned it to my dress model, along with a 1970's neo-Edwardian blouse I'd scored in a vintage shop for $25, to see where I stood.  I only had enough width for a relatively loose, light gather.
Since Edwardian skirts tended to have gauzy layers for interest, I decided to add netting as an overlayer, so I cut it to size, short enough that it would show the ruffles at skirt hem.  I added yet more lace to the net hem, and then gathered it at the waist.
I wasn't 100% happy with the look, but I was committed to it at this point.  I started playing with ideas for the top / hip area, and the waistline.
I very much liked the look of the first option, to the left, with the sleek lace panel at the hips.  However, a bit of playing told me that arranging that flat panel of lace sleekly on a curve, so it would drape nicely over my hips when standing, and accommodate me when I sat, was easier said than done.  It looked great on the dummy, I couldn't figure out how to do it properly on me, with my limited sewing skills.  So irksome.  

So I opted for the right-hand version, though opting for a waistband rather than a sash.  It was easy to sew on top of all the gathered layers, and easy to close with sturdy hooks and eyes.  

And here is the final product, worn with another cotton blouse (courtesy Value Village), and the hat that will follow in a later post, at the First Annual Brass in the Grass picnic, in July 2012.  In future, I will not likely use this belt, but may design a sash for it.  I also may tear it down and remove the netting (which got a bit sapped in the tree-climbing).  
Picnic photo courtesy of Sam Quo Vadis: 
(my cropping on the second photo)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Simple Steampunk Leather Stitchery

Greetings, good folks.  I realize it has been a long time since I've posted.  Manfred, do fetch our good readers some lemonade.  

This is a brief little summertime show-and-tell sort of post, to show you my solution upon finding myself finally in possession of some lovely little brass doodads (at long last!), with no way of attaching them to my belt.

And one evening, sitting at home, I found myself staring at these little items, a brass magnifying glass, a pocket sundial and compass, and a boxwood & brass folding rule, and decided to fix it.  Right then.

After all, I had a bit of lightweight scrap leather matching what I used to made a key fob a couple of years ago.  And I had a sewing machine.  Righty then!

So ... here's what I made:

For the magnifying glass, I took a narrow strip of leather, doubled it over lengthwise, stitched it closed, and made a loop, doubled and stitched a second much narrower band to make a restraining strap.  Details are shown below:  left is taken partway through the process through, and right is it completed.
There is a loop to attach it to the belt (shown above left as the reinforced top joined portion, which was folded back and attached to the suspension loop when the narrow restraining band was stitched on.
Next was to create a pouch for the little sundial / compass dooflicky.  (That's the technical term, don't bandy it about too much!)  I simply took a long piece of leather, folded it into two equal pieces, which I stitched together to form the pouch, and one shorter piece I cut in a curve as a top.  Turned it rightside out after stitching, handsewed on a button and a loop of cord to close it, and voila. 
Before stitching the sides together, I machine stitched a loop on the back so I could run a belt through it.
The pouch for the folding ruler was made of two pieces of leather, folded over to make a belt loop at the top, and with a pocket added onto the front (since it was long, and narrow, I wanted the double layer of leather to give it some body and support.
So, short, sweet, and simple.  And no need for professional leather-working skills, or awls, or punches, of any of that sort of thing.  Just scissors, a small piece of leather, some imagination, and my trusty 50+ year-old Singer sewing machine.