Thursday, May 27, 2010

Velvet Galore!

I received my final four yards of red velvet from yesterday, so today I set about finishing laying out the pattern for the overdress. Because of the way that the pattern is laid out, even though I didn't have enough material left for the final piece due to length, I now have enough velvet to clothe an army of midgets. I've got it all cut out, and now I'm putting it together, but the big question is ... where are all the splits on Susan's dress? Because I'm sewing the seams that will be split with a large stitch right now. Later I'll figure out how high the splits are, then rip the seams and fold and sew the edges.

You can see the splits in the above photo.

I think it's probably split either just on the side front seams, or the side front and the side back seams. I doubt it's every seam, otherwise the dress would hang differently off of Anna Popplewell. But, I'm not sure. I think for now I'll go with the side front and side back seam theory so that I can test it out later without too much ripping.

So, now the main bits of the dress are assembled. The next step is to attach the yoke and the sleeves, and then to create the splits in the dress.

You can see, however, that there is a bit of puckering in the bodice due to the velvet being a bitch to work with. Normally, I'd rip that out and resew it, but the entire bodice is going to be covered with chainmaile and leather corset, so I didn't bother. It's actually not as bad as it looks in this picture, it's just the way that I pinned the back to keep the dress tight against the dummy. The only puckering is just on the seam right on the bustline. But still, it's killing me. Heck, I spent a half hour trying to line up the center back correctly. I can't stand having these small imperfections, but the truth is, no one is going to know. Well, except for you guys.

Also, I'd like to point out that I didn't white balance my camera before taking these pictures. The velvet is NOT that orange, I promise!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back from Vacation!

So, I'm back from vacation! I was planning on purchasing a chain maile shirt from The Ring Lord website, but I'm a moron and apparently cannot read prices. The shirt is $275, plus at least $50 for shipping (it's coming from Canada!) And then I'd have to add to it anyway, so that would be another who knows how many rings.

I figured, that's just the God of Costuming telling me that I shouldn't cheat, so I purchased 5 pounds of Aluminum rings, 14ga 7/16". Believe me, it took a while to figure out exactly what the gauge is, what the 7/16" size is. I wanted to get the bronze, but it would have been way more expensive. As it is, the rings only cost $70 with shipping, which is much more tailored to my budget. Listen to me talk - as if I ever have a budget when it comes to costuming. I'd rather starve than cut back on my costuming "budget!" The rings should be here in a week or so, and I can start putting together the maile.

I was thinking that maybe I could get away with somehow attaching it to the corset (and thus avoiding having a ton of rings hidden by the corset) but I'm not sure how realistic that is. Not sure how I'd attach it in the first place. And then I couldn't make adjustments to either piece.

I think I'll just stick with making the full shirt. I can always take that apart, after all.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

When do I tackle the chainmaile?

So I'm dying to keep working on my costume, but there are so many elements that I'm overwhelmed as to where to begin. I have to finish the dress and the chainmaile before I start the corset - I need to make sure that I make it the right size - not too small, not too big.

I was hoping I could do the chainmaile last, so that if I ran out of time I still had other elements that were important to the costume. But, it's definitely the best piece of the entire costume, and if I left it out it would detract from the costume.

But what to use? When we made Matt's chainmaile (darn, I really am going to have to make a whole post about that) we used thousands of key chains. It was SO heavy! And Susan's mail is very small, so we'd have to use slightly smaller rings, and they were difficult enough to work with when they were large.

My friend Amy sent me a link, and I think this seems much more doable than trying to use keychains:

But then my friend Samm sent me this link: I wouldn't have to glue those together, I think. I ordered a sample to see what the weight would be, what the size is like, and so I could see what it's like to put them together.

Or, I could buy this t-shirt for $50. It's got the right sleeve length. Except, every ring is welded shut and I'd need to mod the bottom. Also, am I really a cheater? (Stores this information in my brain for when I give up on the chainmaile.)

ETA:  Yeah, it wasn't a $50 shirt.  It was an extra $50 for the size I would have needed.  The shirt is actually about $300.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Underskirt completed

Last night I finished assembling the underskirt for the Susan dress. I got the fabric from, my FAVORITE online fabric store. I chose Ravissant Duchess Satin Ruby Red because it was the closest color to what I wanted. It is not lining fabric, so it is quite heavier than I'd like, except ... it is so luxurious! It just feels like a much higher quality than I would get at JoAnn, even though it cost the same. I have enough fabric left over (it was VERY wide) to make a shorter dress out of it.

I'm actually glad that it's so heavy because the overdress splits along the front two seams just about up to the waist, revealing the underskirt. The heaviness of the fabric should help the underskirt stay in place.

Tonight I started laying out the patterns for the overdress, which is the same pattern as the underdress (Simplicity 4940.) I am using Toscana Velveteen Red for that, and pardon my language, but it's in contention for the biggest bitch of a fabric that I've ever worked with. It bunches up, it is difficult to cut cleanly, and it's just a heavy, heavy fabric that is difficult to maneuver.

Thus, I made a very bad decision tonight: I decided to make the front panel on the fold and then cut it out so I could unfold the fabric and put the two ends together (so that there would be selvages on both sides.) I had to do this because the side panels are very wide at the bottom of the skirt, and wouldn't fit.

However, I didn't stop to think that it's velvet. Velvet crushes a certain way. It has to smooth down, so I can't lay out the fabric in the normal way, which would be to have the top of one panel at the top of the fabric, then turn the next panel around so that the skirt is at the top of the fabric, thus using as much as possible.

So, I cut out the front panel and then opened up the fabric, only to discover - I didn't have as much as I thought I did. I only have room to do the sleeves and two more panels, when there are three left.

Check it out - I just need a little more. So now I have to figure out exactly how many more yards I need to order from This puts a wrench in things, because I prefer to assemble things in one step, not do five panels and sit around waiting to put in the last two. I was hoping to have this assembled tonight. And we'll be busy preparing for vacation next week. Argh!

I've never before cut out pieces without checking to make sure that every single piece fit on there the way that I wanted. I wish I'd realized that this was velvet before I made that first cut, because if I'd thought it out better, I would have had enough left for all the pieces.

Oh well, maybe I can make some pillows out of the remaining velvet. That will get relegated to the "projects I'll finish someday" pile in the sewing room!

Queen Susan ... The Journey Begins

Here's the dress - I guess I should say "costume", because the dress is the least of my concerns - I'm in the process of making for Dragon*Con. I don't think that "ambitious" even begins to cover it. This includes chain mail, bow and arrows, quiver, wrist guard, and a leather corset. Hang on ... getting lightheaded ... deep breaths ... This is why I'm starting this in May when Dragon*Con is in September! Not only do I have to make the dress and corset, I have to figure out how to put all those leather straps on! Can you dye finished leather? Although, the back of the material I purchased is raw, so maybe I can dye that? Who knows ... And then I have to somehow make the quiver - I think I'll just mod a store bought bow and arrows - but let's take one thing at a time!!

I'm using a pattern that I purchased for the red Belle dress that I started making over the winter and had to abandon after deciding to make a new costume for Dragon*Con. It's Simplicity 4940.
The only mod I have to do to it is the sleeves - I'm using Simplicity 9891 for those, minus the ruffle. This is the pattern that I used for the Luthien dress, and the only reason I'm not using the full pattern is that I'm *cough* in the next size bracket and I'm too cheap to purchase a new pattern, even if they are only $.99 on sale. The arms are hidden under the mail, anyway, so even if they aren't as gorgeous as I'd like, no one will know.

I have the leather already and modified a corset pattern that I already had to be the right shape. I did a mock-up with some vinyl scraps that I used as a mock-up for the Padme corset. Yes, I'm a good Bohemian who doesn't throw anything away! In fact, now that I think about it, I think I have some scrap leather laying around somewhere that I might be able to use for the corset ...

A bit about me

My name is Lynette and I've been sewing my own costumes since 2001. My mother has always handmade my Halloween costumes - even a giant paper mache Mickey Mouse head that's still rolling around in the attic! I don't think I've ever purchased a store-bought costume! My husband Matt and I are huge geeks, and though we have attended both Star Wars Celebration II and III, this year we're going to Dragon*Con for the first time! Very excited!! I'm also hoping that we can go to Chicago TARDIS in November!

I'm a videographer and editor - I've never taken a sewing class outside of 8th grade home economics. Everything I know I either learned from my mom or figured out how to do on my own. Of course, Matt has helped with the non-sewing stuff. I measure my sewing ability these days by how long it takes me to put in a zipper: when I first started sewing, it would literally take me eight hours and four tries to put in a functional zipper. Now I can get a zipper right on the first try, and be done in close to half an hour.

The reason I make costumes is simple. I love movies. I love reading. I love pretty dresses. And I'm an artist, so I like creating!!

Here's a sample of the costumes I made over the last several years. Most of them were Halloween costumes, but some were event-specific. Matt and I usually go as a couple or a theme, so you can guess what his costume was for most of these. I may eventually post about each costume in more detail. As Maria would say, let's start at the very beginning.

2001: Queen Guenevere
This was the first costume I made myself. I know I have a photo of this somewhere, but I'm not sure where it is. Hopefully I'll find it soon and post it. I'd take a new picture, but I somehow lost the dress - I lent it to a friend, and I know she gave it back. What happened to it after that, I have no idea. I have a feeling I thought it was extra fabric and either threw it out or put it in the bottom of one of my MANY storage bins of spare fabric.

2002: Padme Amidala, Star Wars Episode I
My first attempt at a screen-accurate costume. Pretty successful, but this is not the original skirt. It took me years to find fabric that I liked, and so when I did, I remade the skirt for Celebration III.

2003: Luthien, The Silmarillion
Luthien Tinuviel is an elf from the book The Silmarillion, which is part of the history of Middle-Earth. Yes, I'm an even bigger geek than you thought I was five minutes ago. Matt and I were Luthien and Beren. Essentially, they were the first Arwen and Aragorn. The story of his costume is way more interesting than mine, but these are my costumes, not his.

2004: Hermione Granger, Harry Potter
My most-used costume. My husband and I played Hermione Granger and Oliver Wood at the park district's Hogwarts Express for two years. I've also dressed up for book releases. This costume has gone through about four different skirts! I also hand out buttons at events that read, "SPEW," "Weasley is our King," and "Potter Stinks." The kids absolutely love them!

2005: Padme Amidala, Star Wars Episode III
This blue georgette dress was the bane of my existence for a long time. It was, by far, the dress that I had to alter the most from the pattern, or merge patterns, or create patterns. I made it exclusively for Celebration III in Indianapolis. It is possibly my most famous dress, as the day I wore it a Japanese film crew followed us around for a good half an hour.

2005: Inara from Firefly
Yeah, so I wasn't super into Firefly when I made this. It was my first attempt to make an "inspired by" costume. Now I AM a HUGE fan, and I'm currently building a Firefly costuming site. While the robe could pass for an "inspired by", I now know that Inara would never wear the gypsy-looking costume. She's way too classy!

2006: Elizabeth Swan, POTC: The Dead Man's Chest
I mostly made this costume by assembling bits from the thrift store. But, I did make several modifications (um, I cut off the sleeves of a leather jacket), so that counts as "making it," right? By the way, that's Lake Michigan (Michigan side) in October. I think it passes quite nicely for the Caribbean (hint, hint, Johnny Depp.)

2007: Lorraine Baines, Back to the Future
By far my most versatile costume. I've worn it to Buddy Holly tribute concerts and to see White Christmas at the local old-school theater. I feel SO beautiful when I wear it! I wore it to meet the cast of Back to the Future at Hollywood Boulevard, but the cast didn't come out to sign after the film like they were supposed to. Because I think Hollywood Boulevard staff weren't treating them right. It was a very sad day for Lorraine Baines, but after calling and complaining, they sent us a poster autographed by all four actors. Not as good as a picture with Lea Thompson. Don't go to Hollywood Boulevard.

2008: Mary Poppins
I was asked to play Mary Poppins for a sing-a-long event at the park district where I worked. This is probably my most screen-accurate costume, although it's hard to tell on this shot. I couldn't find a yellow-striped shirt, so I purchased yellow ribbon and sewed it on. It actually turned out looking pretty good! I also have the hat and scarf, but I'll save those pictures for another time.

2009: Clockwork Droid, Doctor Who
Wow. This was my first deviation from beautiful dresses. In fact, it's not even a female character. This is by far the most expensive costume I've ever made (although Queen Susan is fast approaching and will most likely eclipse its cost), and this was also the costume where almost everything I did was a new experience. I made that mask myself ... my mom and I each hand-stitched part of the trim ... this is one of those "never again" costumes!!!

This year for Dragon*Con I'm making the Queen Susan red battle dress from Prince Caspian. It's sure to be a huge headache, but a lot of fun!!