Sunday, January 3, 2010

A new year

Well, here we go: the obligatory new year's post. At least I spared you all the holiday ones, right?

Well, the last year brought a lot of changes in my life. I decided to take a leap and step away from my whirlwind life in Theatre and try something entirely new by going back to school for Baking and Pastry. And what a change it's been! I've gone from on average 18-hour workdays of nonstop physical labor to 5 hours of running around in a kitchen and 20 hours weekly of a job that mostly entails sitting in front of a computer. If I still have my apartment from New Orleans, this would be an amazing schedule, but unfortunately I have a rather small apartment with three roommates. THREE. I've been able to get some small amount of knitting done, and finished two jacket commissions for a coworker of my mother, but not much else creatively. Don't worry, a resolution will hopefully take care of the lack in that area.

Since last we met, I acquired a serger! My mom, knowing that her mother always lamented the fact that I'm the only other one out of our family that sews, dropped the hint that I really wanted one, and not a few days later Grandma called me up and told me she'd found me one. She's awesome. Brand new Singer, and not one of the cheap Wal-Mart ones either, but a proper one. Beautiful stitching. I haven't had much opportunity to use it yet, but again... hopefully this year.

I'm taking part in the Harry Potter Knitting\Crochet House Cup on Ravelry that's running kind of concurrent with the Ravelympics. Still getting some planning done on my projects, and will hopefully be able to get knitting as soon as I get back to Ohio. I also still have a baby sweater to work on, for a little one that's due in about a month! Was supposed to work on that over the holidays, but this break's gone... well, it's gone about the same as every other break. I always plan projects and mean to be productive, but time off is SO GOOD.

Well, them's the basics at the moment. I plan to be around a lot more, as I just got my very own brand new laptop yesterday as a late Christmas\birthday present (thanks Mom and Dad!), so I'm going to be updating my food blog with projects from school and my own experiments, and will be able to update this one as well. I'll try to keep you all posted on my knitting projects... and now that I'm not sewing for a living anymore, I actually *want* to sew again, so hopefully I'll have a chance to do some of that soon as well. Until next time!

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm a bit of a sewing machine myself

"Why Laura," I seem to hear you say. "Is that a serger in your home?"

"Why yes," I would reply, had I actually heard you say such a thing. Alas, this beast of a machine is merely on loan. I may have mentioned, I've been commissioned to create a couple of jackets for a coworker of my mother's. Another one of my mother's friends happens to own a serger but doesn't know how to use it, so she loaned it to me to use on the jackets for the trade-off that I'll figure it out and teach her and her daughter. Pretty good trade, if you ask me, though I kind of wish she'd decide "Oh, I don't need this thing" and give it to me... well, a girl can dream.

The jackets I'm making are based on the patterns Vogue 1081 and 1040, with some minor alterations (of course, because I just can't manage to make anything like patterns tell me to!). She's a bit of a hard-to-fit woman, so I'm glad to have the chance to make her something she really likes that will fit her right. After all, I know about difficulty in finding off-the-rack clothing that fits right and is flattering, being tall and curvy.

Like my pattern weights? I pulled all the small cans from the pantry -- black olives, sliced mushrooms, tomato paste. Dad asked if I was making a giant pizza. I wish. And excuse the mess behind the dining table -- we're all pulling stuff for a potential yard sale.

The toughest part about this project has been making myself actually work on it. It's partly my trepidation about making everyday wear, especially for someone I don't know well -- everything I sew is costume, and almost all of it for the stage, so the finishing is different. But it's also because... well, other than work, I don't really sew. Sometimes --very rarely -- I feel like I love sewing, but even when I do, I don't want to do it outside of work. The only person I've known who enjoyed what they did enough to do it outside of work as well is Mary Ann, the woman who taught me costuming in college. She was *always* sewing at least one or two projects at home as well as working at least 40 hours a week in the costume shop. But when I get home at the end of the day, generally the last thing I want to do is pick up another needle. Even now, being on hiatus, I can get excited about ideas for me to design and make for myself, but when I look over at the sewing machine, it just makes me want to procrastinate ever longer. Blah.

I'm hoping that taking some time away from the costume work will help me get over that feeling. Being able to sew without deadlines or divas or outside stress would be helpful in changing my feelings, I hope... especially as I need to get these ideas in my head out and into 3D!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Evolution of a garment

The Theatre company I worked for the last two summers kicks off the season with a themed Gala, which is the one really fancy event of the summer. Last year the theme was "1940's Red Carpet", as the cornerstone show of the season was "City of Angels", but as I was new, I didn't realize what a big deal the Gala was. My outfit left something to be desired. I was determined not to let this happen again.

This summer, the theme was "Witches and Wizards". The fact that I don't have a workroom, cutting table, or serger, means that the finishing on the garment isn't quite what I'd like. But it was done, so there ya go.

I decided, rather than go with the broom-wielding, orange-and-black stripe wearing witch, or the Gryffindor sweater vest-wearing type, I'd go for more of a medieval kind of feel, bodice and skirt kind of thing. The color choices... well, I made them for one reason, and that reason is named Professor Snape. I heart him. As you can see from the photo at right, it's sort of the Slytherin colors. I decided to do a bodice from the brocade, and a green skirt with a sheer black overlay.

The pattern I chose was Simplicity 9966. Of course, I purchased this even though I chose to make lots of alterations to it. Like I do. I guess it's all the same, since nothing fits me right anyway (I'm pretty curvy).

I started out by cutting all the pieces from muslin and putting it together the way I wanted (as opposed to how the pattern wanted me to). Then I severely altered it, doing all the pinning myself, through some contortion and clever usage of multiple mirrors. I have to say the fit left a little bit to be desired in the end, but that's what I get for trying to pin the back of a garment on myself (already altered in pic).

After I was satisfied with the mock-up, I retraced all of the pieces on the only large paper we had: a leftover roll of Christmas wrapping paper. That's when I discovered the brilliance of this! The wrapping paper has a grid printed on the back, which is to theoretically help you cut and wrap your presents more neatly, but this was perfect for placement of the pattern pieces and to keep me true to the grain lines.

I don't have any further photos of the process because, well... I put most of it together the night before I drove up there for the summer (as in, was up till about 4 AM sewing on the living room floor) and finished it the afternoon of the Gala, so I had zero time for photo ops. And I don't have any decent photos of myself wearing it yet, but I should be getting some in a few days, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here are a few photos of it on my new dressmaker's dummy! It fits me better than the dummy. Oh, and please excuse the wrinkles... I don't have a proper steamer.


Top, close-up

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Fresh Start

Hello all! I think I may have told some of you, but as of this October, I'm going to be back in school -- I'm working on a Baking and Pastry diploma from the Art Institute of Ohio. A big change of pace, yes, but I'm excited to get my hands dirty and try this new challenge. I'll still be blogging about my hobbies and costuming over here, but starting in October you can also catch my kitchen adventures over at It should be interesting!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland"

I'm a Tim Burton fan. I can't help it. Even I am sometimes a little overwhelmed by the dark imagery in some of his films, but the beauty and poetry that accompany it make those few moments of discomfort totally worth it. So, naturally, I've been following the development of his upcoming project, "Alice in Wonderland".

It doesn't hurt that he's working with some of my favorite people in the entertainment industry, either. You've got Alan Rickman (the Caterpillar), who just happens to be my all-time favorite actor. Johnny Depp (the Mad Hatter) is a staple of Tim Burton films, and also one of my favorite actors. But most importantly -- you have Colleen Atwood, Burton's go-to Costume Designer and my personal hero.

One need only skim Atwood's IMDB listing to realize the amazing body of work she's completed. I mean, come on! "Series of Unfortunate Events", "Sweeney Todd", "Memoirs of a Geisha", AND "Edward Scissorhands"?! If that isn't enough to win you over, I don't know what is.

Anyway, my point of this is that some pictures have been posted by the incredibly lucky people who got to attend the "Alice in Wonderland" exhibit at Costume Con, and I'm incredibly jealous. I have to be content with being able to see the pictures of the costumes and sketches rather than getting to see them myself, but honestly, after how crazy I went over the "Harry Potter" exhibit in Chicago last month, I might just die over one of Colleen's work. I guess I can summarize it by saying "She's brilliant. Just brilliant." Anyway, follow this link and see for yourself:

The Costumer's Guide to Movie Costumes: "Alice in Wonderland"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Let me hand it to you...

Found this amazing video, which I believe is from a Japanese talent show. The costumes are stunning, but what really makes this incredible is the precision of the dancers. The only part I didn't like is that their last pose looks like a millipede to me, but then that's just personal phobia brought out in a Rorschach test-like way.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Save the Cheerleader

I've been a bad blogger. Call it anticipation of life getting in the way in a couple of weeks when I head off for summer stock in central Illinois for the second summer in a row. By way of apology, please accept this tutorial on how to make a Claire "The Cheerleader" Bennet costume very quickly and for ubercheap.

This is Claire. She's a Hero.

Supplies you will need are:
- Oversized red turtleneck
- White sweater vest
- 1" wide elastic, to the length of your waist measurement plus one inch
- Scissors

You will probably also want:
- Pins
- Chalk or marking pencil
- Sewing machine
- Red and white threads
- Scraps of white muslin or other sturdy cotton fabric
- Sharpies in assorted colors (red, gold, and black)

First things first. Determine how long you want the skirt to be. Measure from your waist to where you want the skirt to hit (i.e. just above the kneecap, if you're modest like me). Add 1 1/2" to this measurement. Use this length to measure from the bottom hem of shirt and mark the length in chalk all the way around the body.

Cut the sleeves off of the turtleneck at the seams, as indicated by the vertical dotted green lines.

Cut the shirt horizontally along your chalk line (as indicated by the horizontal green dotted line). Discard the neck\yoke area (or save it, if you need a dickey to wear at work). The body has now become your skirt.


I recommend doing a preliminary try-on of the skirt at this point to double-check length and tweak width. As the body of the turtleneck is very straight, you may want to take darts in or resize it along the seamlines. If it doesn't gape too much, the elastic waistband will help smooth it out, but more than an inch or two of extra fabric may give you that Sweatpants Granny look. I'm pretty curvy, so I only had to nip mine in about 3/4" on either side.

Turn under 1/2" around the raw top edge of the skirt, then turn under another 1" and topstitch almost all the way around, leaving a 1" gap at a side seam. Thread your elastic through this gap and stitch together with a seam allowance of 1/2". Try the skirt on one last time to make sure the waist fits fine, the elastic is comfortable, and the skirt will stay on before closing the seam gap.


This one's pretty simple, if you know how to set a sleeve. Just put the sleeves you cut off of the turtleneck into the armholes of the sweater vest. You can hand-sew or use a blind hemmer if you want the stitching to be invisible; I personally just top-stitched mine with white thread.


Okay, this is where it gets a little more on the creative side. I made my patch by tracing a circle on a doubled piece of white muslin and serging around the edges, flatlining the circles together. I then freehanded the design onto the circle with a pencil, using a ruler to ensure even spacing. My design was even more simplified than the Trojans helmet pictured above, as I had about 15 minutes to do it in. After penciling the design, I colored it in with black, red and gold Sharpies (thank heaven for Hobby Lobby and their frequent sales).

A simpler way to make a patch might be to draw one up on your computer and print it on iron-on paper or printable fabric. Not all of us are lucky enough to have fierce computer drawing skills or convenient technology.

I recommend putting on the sweater vest to pin the patch on. This will help you take into full account the amount of give the sweater fabric has and will make it lay better when it's on.

Voila! Your Cheerleader costume is complete! You may want to add other finishing touches such as trimming the skirt with gold and white bias tapes (I just used some white twill tape for side stripes on mine, to add a little visual interest). The costume isn't exactly a screen-accurate replica, but then neither am I, and it's a pretty quick solution when you get a last-minute invite to a Superhero party.

And to close... this isn't just a gratuitous boob shot, I just wanted to show how the patch turned out.