Friday, February 28, 2014

Project Renway - AKA the 24 hour panic

My panic face is clearly not as good as my friend Nicole's

The Oklahoma Renaissance Festival does something I've found to be unique in the Ren Faire world.  We call it "Project Renway".  Born out of the love our costume mistress has for the TV show Project Runway, a group of seamstresses are given a single day to make an entire festival appropriate outfit.

The first weekend of academy we get paired up with a brand new performer.  The performer gives us $50 and a general idea of what kind of character they will be making.  We go over a quick sketch of the outfit we'll be making them, then it's off to the fabric store.  The $50 goes into buying supplies (I usually go about $10 over, but I always fund any overage myself) and our time is donated.

11:00am - Meeting the performer

The lovely Miranda paired up with me this year, and really wanted to play a gypsy character.  Her favorite colors are pinks, purples, and teal.

Really quick sketch
11:30am - Off to the fabric store

Armed with this, I invaded the Muskogee Hancock store, where I promptly hit a road block.  Pinks were not my friend.  At all.  Even a little bit.  After agonizing over fabrics for far, far longer than I'm willing to admit, I finally found a gorgeous sari fabric which became the piece all others were matched to.

1:00pm - Return from Fabric Store

These were the fabrics I came back with.  I overspent again this year (oops) but wanted her to have several tiered skirts which were very full.

1:30 - Cutting out the basics

I started by cutting out the shirt and skirts.  I brought my basic shirt patterns with me, so I didn't have to do any patterning for that.  I remembered, however, why I prefer muslin over cotton gauze.  The gauze is so nice to wear, and catches every breeze on hot days, but it bunches like no other.  It took as long to make the fabric lay smooth as it did to actually cut it out.
I decided on a simple circle skirt for the bottom layer, and two handkerchief style skirts above it.  I almost skipped the middle skirt, but felt it added to the eclectic look of the outfit.

2:00 or 2:30 - Pattern Drafting

I think I started on the pattern drafting by mid afternoon.  She got a custom fit set of effigy stays, which I draft via computer.  Here was the table for three of the seamstresses.  The clutter by the computer (and the Java Monsters, as I expected a long night) were mine.

And here is my friend Nicole, working on her girl's outfit.

3:30(ish?) - Take the drafting to the table

Normally I print my patterns when I am done drafting them, but I didn't bring my printer with me.  So I got out my rulers and started on it the old fashioned way.  I used the digital pattern to give me all the measurements and anchor points, and drew them out on pattern board.  Then I cut and assembled the pattern, before using it on the black twill.  I had friends lovely enough to bring me dinner from the barracks so I didn't have to interrupt the sewing.

 Custom drafting is a lengthy process, especially when I'm away from my studio and can't find anything.  I must have misplaced various pencils half a dozen times.  I'm not sure when the drafting ended and the sewing began, but the rest of the evening was all effigy stays.  Effigy stays, and their two hundred boning channels!  (This may or may not be hyperbole.  I've never counted the channels on a set of stays)

1:00am - Packing it in for the night

Phew, and what a night it was!  After the ladies at my table tucked it in, I decided to pop in my ear buds and listen to podcasts.  Unfortunately, I decided it was a wonderful idea to listen to scary story podcasts.  Normally, while sewing in my studio, this is fine.  However, in an empty castle at one in the morning it was not such a bright idea.

I shut everything down right after I finished sewing the boning channels, which is the majority of the stitch work on these stays.

7:00 am - It begins again

The next morning I squeezed in a little sewing before our leadership team meeting, and the opening hour of Academy, and then by 10:00 I was back to the sewing.

I was too busy to take many pictures, but somewhere in here was the shirt and skirts construction, the stuffing of the boning, grommeting, and (right as the deadline was bearing down on us) finishing the binding.  I was almost sweating bullets at this point, so the binding got a simple Hong Kong finish.  I distinctly remember, most of a Java Monster in, singing "I looooove aaaaaa  HONGKONGFINISH" while stitching it down, probably to the chagrin of my table mates.

"I looooove aaaaaa  HONGKONGFINISH"

She's a gypsy character, so I added a couple of patches to the stays.

Alas, I had time for neither the hat or the jacket, but with the shirt, skirts, and stays Miranda was fully dressed.

3:30pm - Walking the Runway

At 3:15 we all dressed our girls (no men signed up this year) and piled into the hallway to start the show.

If I recall correctly, "I'm sexy and I know it" was playing.  Miranda was a wonderful model, strutting through the audience and spinning for them.  I was sad I didn't get to see it, but one of the performers caught the moment on camera.

Once the ladies have all walked the runway, we come back out with them to line up at the front of the Chalice Hall and talk about our outfits.  The costume mistress, Chris Ryan, went over some of the details, and how they were appropriate for each character, and then we spoke a bit about the outfit ourselves.

I'm the one in red and black clapping.

 These were the other lovely outfits made during the 24 hour rush.

This is an event I am so proud to be a part of.  Festival is an expensive hobby to start, and the price of costuming can be a really big barrier for a lot of new performers.

So here are pictures of the final outfit!

Let me know what you think!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

3/52: The Travel Bustle

**Sorry the post is so late!  I finished the bustle nearly a week ago, but between a frantic week at my day job and preparing for an OKRF planning retreat I haven't had a chance to post it yet!  Without further ado, here it is!**

I love bustles.  All kinds of bustles.  I'm a big fan of skirt supports in general, but bustles are my favorite.

There are so many styles, so many sizes and shapes.  There are a lot of resources talking about the overall shapes of bustles by decade (I recommend starting with Corsets and Crinolines pg 93-97) but my love is in the structure and engineering of the items.  I mean, just look at these!

(Pics after the cut) as there are many.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2/52: The Peek-a-Boo Skirt

I've toyed for a long time with the idea of a solid colored skirt with insets of fun fabrics.  Something I could wear to my day job without raising eyebrows, but would show some of the personality behind my business professional demeanor.  This was the test run for the Peek-a-Boo skirt.

I pulled a lovely black linen out of my stash for the main material.  I should say, a am absolutely in love with linen, especially for skirt material.  It has enough weight to keep a skirt where a skirt should be, and has a lovely drape and feel.  Obviously there are different weights of linen, but I find they are usually in the perfect range for skirts.
The contrast is white cotton printed with sheet music.  It took me a minute to figure out which way was up on the music, and I found myself orienting each piece based on the flat symbols.  I also had a pang of longing for my old piano, and resolved to start taking lessons again (she was an old upright grand my parents had fixed up, and she was beautiful!).

This is why photographing black fabric is a bad choice.

I wanted a more modern look to the skirt, so I decided on a waistband which sat down on the hips.  I'll do a tutorial on the slash and spread method I use at some point in the future.  I debated a while about making the skirt calf length or knee length, but with the chosen material I thought longer would look better.

I cut all the pieces, and started inserting the accent pieces between panels.  I wish I had taken better photos during this process, but digital sketches will have to suffice.  I was very careful on cutting everything to exactly the same size, because I knew I wasn't going to be pinning the pieces in.  I placed the accent triangle face down on the linen, and sewed from the bottom to a half inch short of the edge of the triangle (okay, it's a trapezoid, but I'm going to call it a triangle).

Next I flipped the triangle out, and lined up the next main panel face down.  I had to be very careful to make sure none of the inset material was caught in the stitch line for this piece.  I stitched from the waistband edge to the exact spot where the first line of stitching starts (I call it the pivot point).

Then I folded open the seam, and stitched from the same pivot point down the other side of the inset.  I held the bottom edge of the two materials under a little tension, so the stitching would come out even with the originally stitched side.  Otherwise the linen tried to stretch out when I sewed.

Maintaining a crisp pivot point gives the inset a perfect triangle top, and prevents bunching and gaps.  Overlapping the seams prevents the materials from laying smoothly, and any gaps in stitching become gaps in the seam.

A close up of my terribly trimmed threads.
I serged each side of the seam separately, to get the cleanest edge possible and prevent fraying during wash or wear.  You can see the top of the inset didn't get serged before it went in.

Then the process is begun again with a new inset and a new panel.  I chose four panels front and four panels back.  Each seam is pressed open, and one is left un-sewn for inserting the zipper later.

The waistband is two layers of linen with a sewn interfacing (I would have gone fusible, but didn't have any on hand).  I basted the interfacing onto one of the waistbands before attaching the two sides together.

To prevent the waistband lining from riding up, I under-stitched the full length.

I then basted the bottom of the waistband to prevent the lining from moving around before or during the stitching to the body of the skirt.  As I have said before, when sewing for myself I do not encase the waistband seam.  Rather, I leave it easily accessible, though serged, in case I fluctuate weight and want to alter the skirt later.

Next, install the zipper and give it a rolled hem.

Tada!  (Pardon, I didn't press the waist band seam, so it's a little noticeable.)

It's linen, so I expect some of the wrinkling.  It feels delightful to wear, so I've decided to not care if it needs pressing on occasion.

Here is a close up of the insets.  They all fall beautifully.

I wore the skirt to work yesterday, and adored it.  I'm not used to skirts that sit on my hips, rather than my waist, so I had a hard time choosing a top to go with it.  Maybe I'll make that a future 52 project.

All in all, I'm very happy with this one!