Sewing an Angel

Or, A Completeley Impractical Diversion

The other week Scarlett of Corsettraining.net put her Angel Underbust corset pattern on for a ridiculously low price (even allowing the dollars tacked on for converting to CAD), and I jumped. And then, in the impulsive free-flow following my change of work priorities, I dug through some of the proto-corset stash and started making it up. 

That’s right, no mockup. Just straight to fashion fabric. Keeping in mind I’m pretty sure the brocade was a gift and the strength layer behind is from an old bedsheet I once bought to use as muslin fabric, which is some kind of rocklike poly blend that I think would make sleeping positively perilous, but it’s so sturdy and unforgiving it seemed destined for backing a more-or-less fashion corset. So, um, not a high investment in materials. 

This is supposed to be a low-fronted underbust corset with hip flare panels that give it quite a distinct look. Unfortunately, the low front requires only about a 9″ busk, which is rather shorter than anything I have in stock—so, since this was a MAKE IT NOW kind of impulse, I added height to the top on the front to fit my available busk. I think the straight look would have been fun, though. 

My busy brocade also pretty effectively hides the cool seaming, too. 

I followed the directions for sizing and cut a 12, and it’s basically perfect. Aside from the added height in front, I did a small swayback adjustment. (If I don’t do those I find the corset makes me slouch—I bend my upper body forward rather than tucking my butt under)—and that’s it. There’s a tiny bit of buckling around the back hip where my hips want to flare out sooner than the pattern does, and a bit of looseness in front where I added at the top, but those are the only quibbles I can come up with for fit, and the one is very specific to my body while the other one is my own doing. 

I have some minor complaints about the way the pattern/instructions are put together, but as Scarlett is apparently in the process of revising all her pattern formats I won’t go into it, as it’s not likely to be relevant. And I’m sufficiently thrilled with the fit that I’m not too bothered. 

The guts are not pretty; this is my first attempt at applying tape for bone covers and… Well, I think it will be functional. And I forgot the waist stay, despite it being clearly included from basically step one of the instructions. D’oh. (Oh, and I did not follow the construction instructions, either, so that’s all me, too.) 

Anyway, I had a lot of fun rooting through my tickle trunk for items to wear with this. The skirt I bought at a goth shop in London when I was there in 2009, and the top is a vest I made as part of a dance costume, based on the vest in the Folklore Turkish Dancer pattern—part of my first push, around 2008, to improve my sewing, but well before it occurred to me I could make everyday clothes. Neither has been worn more than once or twice, sigh. It was nice to pull them out and put them together!

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Rearrangements


So, on Sunday while I was safely ensconced “coordinating” the Victorian Sewing Circle at the Marr Residence, some poor lady lost control and drove her car into the Fabricland where I work. Then reversed out into someone’s parked car… Anyway, no one was hurt, but the store is now closed until further notice while they assess any possible structural damage. Which has me reeling a bit. I mean, Fabricland isn’t my main income source, but the holidays are not exactly the cheapest time of year, either. More important are the friends I all of a sudden won’t see. On the flip side, my actual family is pretty excited over the idea that I’ll be home three whole extra evenings this week.

But the biggest rearrangement to my life is actually my mental sewing queue. WTF. I had been juggling in my head how to accomplish the various work projects I have had in mind, plus things I just want to make and works in progress already, under the strict constraint that I had only one full weekend left between now and Christmas. Now there are no work projects, and free week, it’s like the whole world has opened up—or maybe the bottom dropped out. Possibilities are endless.

Well, really they aren’t—I should still finish the half-completed coat hanging on my dress form right now, and there’s that dress that I started for my niece’s birthday that I could totally finish for Xmas. Beyond that there are some things I’d like to make for Christmas if at all possible.

So instead I cut out the pieces for a version of the Angel underbust corset. It looks pretty fun. Nothing like some fantasy for when reality just isn’t really up to snuff.

What do you do when you get some unexpected time? Especially when that time comes at the expense of expected money?

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Pink Mystery Corset

A little while ago I took one of my besties from Cowtown, who was visiting, out for coffee and a little toodle through some of the local antique shops. She didn’t find anything, but one place that sells a charming, or possibly annoying, array of select antiques and hipstery artisanal doodads, had a shabby little antique pink corset on display. Naturally, I had to inquire as to the price. It was right (as it should be given that the condition is, well, let’s just say not museum quality.😉 ), so I came home with an authentic Victorian-ish little corset. 

It’s quite a short corset, no more than about 28 cm (11″) at the tallest surviving part. (That’s at the bust area.)

At the side: 22 cm (8 3/4″)

At the back: 25 cm (10″)

Half bust: 38 cm (15″)

Most sadly, it is missing the front busk entirely, so I don’t know how big most of it would have been. Only the very top edge is complete: about 15″ per side. I don’t think it would have reached up to the full bust, so it’s maybe not actually as tiny as that first appears: 15″x 2 + 2″ lacing gap is 32″, which would actually quite possibly have fit me. 

Surviving half waist is 23.5 cm (9 1/4″), but this is short at least 2.5 cm (1″) and probably more like 4-6 cm. If the original waist was 11″ per side, that would work out to about 24″ total for a 2″ lacing gap—too small for me but a very reasonable Victorian waist size. 

It’s made of two layers of rather shattered silk in a pale ivory/blush colour; the outer layer has a brocade pattern of scattered tiny flowers.  There is a wide (6cm, 2 1/4″) lace trim both top and bottom, stitched down along a narrow pink ribbon. 

It’s made strictly in panels (no gores or gussets), six to each side, and boned along each side of each seamline, with two bones at each side of the back lacing. The shaping appears to be fairly slight, though it’s hard to get a good sense of the shape without stuffing it on something. 

The bones are stitched into ribbon casings on the inside. The binding was machine stitched on the outside, and then hand-stitched down on the inside. 

I am assuming these are real whalebones. I’ve never actually seen the real thing to compare. 

They are flat, thin, very light, and still quite springy and flexible. 

The lacing runs through tiny handstitched eyelets, no metal grommets, so it wouldn’t have stood up to heavy tightening. 

The lacing appears to be original, and is a wide, flat woven tape that compresses very tiny to go through the tiny eyelets. It is tipped with long, dark metal tips at the bottom ends, but all the extra length is pulled out and tied at the waist. 

The pink ribbon anchoring the lace has teeny bows at both front and back ends. 

It’s quite exquisitely delicate. I only wish the busk, or whatever front closure was used, had survived.

I have some thoughts of my own about the age and kind of corset it may have been, but I’m so far from an expert I hesitate to throw them out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts. (Especially if you know a good method for taking a pattern from such a fragile item!)

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Lest We Forget

It’s Remembrance Day. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we’ll remember the end of the First World War, mourn for all the horrors and tragedies and useless pain of war and renew our commitment to avoiding future ones. And I gotta tell you, after the US election results on Tuesday, that seems like a very important thing to think about. I’m trying really hard to believe that the Americans who elected Donald Trump were just looking for a change, not trying to tell the world that racism, hatred, and nationalism are the wave of the future. But that certainly sounds like what they were trying to tell us (and I am emphatically NOT speaking about the many online American friends of mine who’ve been shocked, grief-stricken, and terrified this past week). 

Anyway, this is a day to remember the past, and also to learn from it. About tyrants and how they can rise up, even in democracies, riding on the worst of our impulses. About how othering and fear and protectionism can turn ordinary people into supporters of evil regimes, at least for a time. After Brexit and now the American election, it does kind of feel like this tide is rising in the west, and that saddens me deeply. I know those sentiments exist here in Canada as well, even if they’re not politically prominent right now. (They certainly have been in the past.) I hope I’m wrong—and if I’m right, I hope remembering the past will help us rescue the future. 

Be well. Be safe. Be strong. Be brave. Be loving. 

And now, because life doesn’t stop for history, it’s my Stylish sister-in-law’s birthday, we have not one but two sets of friends visiting from Cowtown, and it’s supposed to be a tropical 13C this afternoon, which in November means “Barbecue!!!” And if I don’t get to spend ALL DAY tomorrow sewing my new winter coat, I’m going to pitch a fit. But mostly, I’m going to spend this weekend living, and loving, and hoping we can all find the way to a better world. 

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A zombie fighting coat

Last winter sometime, the movie Pride & Prejudice & Zombies snuck through the theatres. I honestly don’t even remember hearing about it. But when we finally got around to watching it this summer, boy did we have a lot of fun! Fun frocks, ass kicking, undead, explosions… Syo, in particular, fell hard for the outfit Lizzie wears at the movie climax, which is quite excellent for dismembering zombies if I do say so myself.

Enter McCall’s 7493. Hello coat! While it’s not perfect, it’s a pretty good stab at the screen version. Up to and including that weird decorative dart on the upper front chest (See Instagram discussion here.)

I don’t think the collar is quite as long and drapy as it could be, nor is it attached in quite the same way. Whatevs.

14374376_716658838488861_2039534425313640448_nAlso, ah, if it’s my daughter who’s crazy for this outfit, why is it me I’m making the coat for?

Um, selfish. We’ll leave it at that. I can always make her one later. Also, she’s the same size as me right now other than height—all I’d have to do for hers would be make the skirt and sleeves shorter.

So there are some good things and some bad things to this pattern. I like the two piece sleeve, the shoulder seam that’s thrown to the back (an “authentic” touch that wouldn’t really matter since this is not a real historical costume, but makes me happy) and most of all that the amount of ease is minimal! So, um, make your actual size. I was actually fully prepared to cut a size 12 as per my bust measurement (or maybe just a 10 at the shoulders) until I remembered the outer fabric I was using is REALLY stretchy. So I did a 10 in everything, and it’s fine but only because of the stretch. After my usual fit alterations (petite, square shoulder, lengthen sleeve) I’m REALLY happy with the fit. Not something I have often said about costume patterns. If you’re looking to put together a historically accurate spencer or pelisse, this is probably not the right pattern, but if you just want something quick and fun, it’s fine.

The bad things are really the usual—costume grade construction. It’s designed to be lined, but just by cutting the same pattern pieces in lining, and while that might be period, the construction certainly isn’t. And, no facing pieces or anything. And the instructions for the lining would leave you with raw edges at the armscye sleeve. Not necessarily the end of the world, but definitely a bit costume-grade, IMO. Not that I ever follow McCalls coat instructions.

14482022_673990542777636_9100219467459198976_nMy fabric of choice is a dark blue piled stretch cotton the strange powers that be at Fabricland saw fit to call “stretch velvet.” It’s a terrible excuse for velvet, but a perfectly lovely no-wale stretch corduroy. It is definitely heavier and less drapey than the movie fabric, which from the poster at the top looks like maybe a faux-suede or some kind of suit-weight fabric. For a Canadian Hallowe’en, though, heavier is good.

I couldn’t find a nice shiny dark blue brocade ANYTHING for the drapey collar, so after some brainstorming with my shop mates, I decided to try to make my own with soutache appliquéd onto a satin. Duchesse satin, actually, the heavy matte stuff. Not the best choices for a waterfall collar, I agree. But I do like the look. In hindsight a bemberg rayon might have done as well.

I do like how it looks, though, even if it’s not the best materials/idea for what I am using it for.

My soutache embroidery was inspired by this cute little spencer. If I’d had more soutache (and time) it would’ve been fun to go to town like this on the bodice as well. Maybe for another project.

14310726_1782455938691036_755437739_nAll that soutache applique was both fun and terrifying to do. I’m kind of glad it was firmly in costume-land as it kept me from obsessing too much over perfection.

2016-11-06-17-32-58I did a lot of piping, although I wish I would’ve piped those back princess seams. I didn’t pipe the edge of the collar, in an attempt to preserve whatever nonexistent drape it might have, but since it still has no drape I kinda wish I’d done that too. It is currently pinned into place to secure the folds, and I’ll probably tack them down.

2016-11-06-17-31-30I bound my seams with bias binding, as well. When I could remember. I made bias-binding with the heavy satin I used for the lining/collar, overlocking one edge. This was a) fast and neat, and b) nicely finished the edge, which tends to fray on satin bias binding, because satin has intense fraying super-powers. Only the skirt is fully lined. I say “only” but the skirt has easily three times as much fabric as the top bit. Maybe five times. The skirt is lined in the same duchesse satin as the collar (minus embroidery). Goodbye project budget! It certainly would’ve been easier to attach the skirt neatly with a lining. As it is i bound the back seam and it took some unpicking and handstitching to get everything where it should be. The skirt is LONG, by the way. I took a full 2″ hem and it still brushes the floor if I’m in flat feet—and I’m 5’7″. If you are shorter, check the length and save yourself some fabric.😉

I added 3″ in length to the sleeves, petite’d out 1/2″ through the armscye, and did a square shoulder adjustment by slashing and spreading the front bodice pieces  where I guessed the shoulder line would be (not at the shoulder seam, mind you.) I’m pretty happy with all these changes—they are very much my usual adjustments.

The (lack of) ease works only because of the stretch fabric—if I’d used a non-stretch using my proper size would’ve been the way to go. Which is honestly pretty refreshing. I would stick with a 10 in the shoulders, though.

14714510_1813433092275358_5651808285838278656_n

Here’s the best shot I got of Syo wearing it on Hallowe’en—I am such a terrible Hallowe’en photographer. As you can see it is far too long, but otherwise fits her very well. Really the whole thing deserves much better photos, but if I wait for those I’ll never blog at all.😦

In other news, I may have purchased Redthreaded’s rather expensive single-size Regency long stays pattern for the costume as well… I could possibly have finagled something similar by extending the Sensibility Patterns short-stays pattern I have, but, easy won. I will discuss that costume item when/if I can get some decent photos.😉

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In any case, a fun Hallowe’en was had by all! (And very creepily, the weather this first week of November has been as lovely as the weather throughout October was terrible. This weekend it was verging on 20C—I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such warm temperatures in November.)

 

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Star Wars: The Full Feature

dsc08612A day after I finished my wearable muslin of Butterick 5748, I had the Star Wars dress ready to go. Most of the pain was in the cutting out, anyway, although I wasn’t too fussy. Mostly I just made sure the midline seams aligned along breaks in the big square tiles of the print.

2016-10-30-19-18-27Probably not much to say here—I went over the dress deets in the post on my first version.

dsc08605This version is fully lined, whereas the Kanji dress I onlylined the bodice. Not much difference to the final dress, although it does make the skirt a little more substantial.

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Ernie K Designs was wondering how I was going to fit the circle skirt to the square print. The answer is, with very little creativity. As with the first dress, I added a seam at CF right between two of the little panel-shapes. The CF is vertical, so the side-seam has the print going horizontal. On the up-side, I didn’t really need to worry about what was on the other side of the vertical panels, as long as the joins were in the right spot. Otherwise there would’ve been no hope of fitting this dress on the amount of fabric I had.

I added big wide sash ties, since I liked the look of the other dress better with some waist interest.

dsc08606I lowered the neckline in a smooth scoop. And then apparently took all my pictures from the side so you can hardly see. WTF.

dsc08620I love adding piping but I’m not the best at making it mesh with the clean-finish methods I was using… maybe need to do some further research, there.

dsc08621The zipper went in so nicely, though. Quilting cotton is a beautiful thing sometimes. And the lining fabric, which is this super-soft cotton shirting that seems to have the world’s tiniest twill weave ever. Love it.

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The pockets are in a better position on this dress. I am always tempted to skip the pockets when I’m sewing, but I am so much happier with the finished dress when it has pockets.

So, another fluffy dress in a novelty print. Not exactly creative, but it makes me smile, which is the important part. My camera, on the other hand, is not making me happy at all—I think the iPhone is taking better pictures, at least in low-ish-light conditions indoors. POOP! But anyway, fluff. Speeder. Millennium Falcon. Win.🙂

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 Star Wars dress prequel (with no actual Star Wars sewing)

In the universe of nerd-dom, as I’m sure you all know, there is a great divide: Wars, or Trek. I confess I am Wars all the way, though I suspect this represents a bit of a moral and philosophical failing on my part. So how could I resist when my work got this schematic print in:

After waffling and considering more creative options, I had to ask myself: what kind of Star Wars dress do you WANT to wear? And it came back to something cute and simple with a circle skirt. 

In other words, it was a perfect opportunity to finally try Butterick 5748. It’s like the ultimate fit and flare dress, and nothing else. 

Now, at this stage I rarely make muslins of Big 4 patterns. I know my basic adjustments and, especially for work projects where there’s a time limitation, I really just want to finish it. But given the simplicity of this project (and the epicness of the fabric) I wanted to try it out first, so this post is actually not about the Star Wars dress at all. It’s about my “wearable muslin.”

I re-measured my back length just to be sure (yes, it’s still 1″ shorter than Butterick standard). I also checked bust height, and determined that I should probably take the height out between bust and waist, not through the armscye. This handily meant I could just use the petiting line. 😁 Then, on holding the pattern piece up to me, I decided to add back 1/2″ to the front at the bottom, tapering to nothing at the side seam. This is basically the same as a swayback adjustment, except done backwards—having already shortened the back to fit, I tend to need a wee bit more length in the centre front to keep my waist seam level. 

Then there’s the neckline. It doesn’t look alarmingly high in the drawing, but looking at the pattern piece I knew it would be way higher than I typically enjoy. 

Anyway, because I wanted the Millennium Falcon dress to be Perfect, not just wearable, I wanted to do a practice version first. Fortunately (?) I have several other lengths of quilting cotton in stash purchased with novelty dresses in mind—it was just a matter of picking the right one.  

In the end I settled on this kanji print. It was a present or giveaway prize, years ago, from Kristin of Quiet & Small Adventures. It almost became curtains for my daughter’s room, but that never quite happened. I’m sure Kristin would be happier with this outcome anyway.😉

So, having selected fabric for a quick wearable muslin, I promptly spent hours agonizing over  which way was up—heaven forbid I put my kanji upside down! (Never mind what it may or may not actually say… 😂) Google translate and similar sites did, in the end, convince me that the way I thought was up probably was, so  I put on my big girl panties and went for it. 

Then there comes the issue of cutting out a circle skirt this long from a 45″ wide fabric. The cutting layout would have you do it on the cross grain. Having just spent forever figuring out the right way up, I was NOT going to do that. (Nor would I on the Star Wars dress, so this was still good practice.) I would have to add a CF seam. 

I carefully positioned my pattern piece so that the front aligned mostly with blank space; after I cut it, I ironed my seam allowance back, and miraculously found the point where it mirrored. I wish I’d taken more photos for my own reference, but I wasn’t actually sure it was going to work until after I’d done if all. Anyway, it DID work, although since the section was mostly red it doesn’t show too much. I ended up with both pieces creased right at the seamline, then slipped those two folds together and stitched along it, which I think helped. 

Everything else was quite simple. The pattern calls for my favourite clean-finish technique for sleeveless lining, so that’s a yay.🙂

I was happy with most of my alterations but did have a few minor tweaks to the bodice, so it wasn’t a wasted test run. I added pockets to the side seams (yay!) of the skirt but they’re a little low (boo!) so I’ll fix that next time. 

I gave the higher neckline a chance, even with the bow. Don’t like it. (Though the bow does help, and I like it more in these pictures than I thought). I’m thinking I may make it square in the final dress, to go with the square print. 

Of course, sewing in quilting cotton is just dreamy.  Everything presses nicely and stays where you put it. The invisible zipper? Cinch! I did hem it quite short—I turned the differential feed up on my serger and managed to get about a 2.5″ hem, which is a little insane on a circle. The shorter length is fun, but I might leave it maybe one inch longer for the next one?

I do like it better with a wide belt to give a bit of relief from all the crazy kanji. I think a solid black belt might be better than this stripey one, but this is what I had on hand. 

Pockets!

As you can see, the season of boring back-yard photos has passed, to be replaced by the even-more-boring season of indoor-in-front-of-the-closet pics. Look, I put on makeup on a Sunday for these pictures.  Take what you can get. 

So now that I’m all dolled up like a 50s housewife I may even make a real breakfast… And then start on the REAL Star Wars dress! 

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