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!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Announcing: The New 52! Project 1/52: The Corduroy Skirt

Nope, not the DC relaunch that made me love Aquaman (an article that pretty well sums up why).  This is a project I'm undertaking for 2014.

I have been going through and updating my pattern collection, which is honestly pretty massive.

I collect patterns the way some people collect shoes or comic books.  As I was cataloging them, I realized the majority of the projects I'd done in this last year had been for other people.  I did only small updates to my festival costume, and barely squeezed in a drindl and an R2S2 dress in October.  I miss sewing for myself.  Besides, that's how this whole sewing business got started.

So, I decided to sew one new item for myself each week for the year, and blog about it.  Some weeks may get bigger items, some smaller, and there will probably be a lot of skirts, but I'll sew something every seven days and blog about it.

This is my first project: the plaid circle skirt.

I've had this purple and green corduroy in my fabric stash for at least eight years, probably longer.  I've been dying to make something with it!  It's also been colder than Fort Briggs this last week, and I wanted to add something fun to my winter wardrobe.

So I started by measuring my fabric, which came to 43" wide and 4 yards 4" long.  I hoped to be able to get a full length skirt out of it, but when I did the math the longest I could get was roughly 39" long.  I thought that would be a perfectly acceptable length to wear over leggings and with boots.

First I laid out my fabric and drew the circles.  To get the most of the material I offset them, which means the nap of the fabric will be a little different front and back, but only I would notice.  My standard circle skirts zip up on the side, but I wanted to add pockets to this one so I added a center back seam for the zipper so the side seams would be free.

This was roughly my layout.  I didn't include the seam allowance for the hem, as I was going for maximum length, not a specific number.

I went ahead and cut out the main skirt pieces, then turned to the leftovers to cut my pockets and waistband.  Since I was doing a skirt sitting at my waist, the waistband is just a straight cut.  I prefer a 2" waistband, but couldn't get a solid 5" piece to fold over, so I cut two 3" pieces (I use 1/2" seam allowances).  After stitching the top seam of the waistband together, I pressed the seam open, the folded it over and pressed it again.

I use the same pocket pattern for most of my skirts.  It looks a little like mittens to my eyes, and is the perfect depth.  

Each pocket piece gets sewn to the top of a side seam, right sides together.  I then pressed them open with both seams folded towards the pocket.

It was cold in my studio, hence the gloves.
The next seam goes around the edge of the pocket piece, then down the side seam.

I always put a pin directly through the seam at the pockets, effectively closing them off to be treated separately from the main part of the skirt.  (I hope that made sense)  The pockets get folded to the front when everything is attached to the waistband.

For customers I encase the seam in the waistband, but for myself I do a single serged seam.  I know I will fluctuate weight in the future, and that makes the skirt easier to pick apart and re-sew to another size.

I set in the zipper next, leaving a small gap at the top for a hook and eye.

The final step I didn't take any pictures of is a very thin rolled hem on my serger.  I love those hems, as the wrapped thread gives a thin stripe of color (I set mine on the lowest stitch length to get the maximum amount of thread) and the edges get a little wavy and look slightly scalloped.

Aaaand we're done!





Glimpse of inner pocket
I'm going to try and take some pictures wearing the skirt, but I can tell you it's comfortable and warm!  I paired it with a button down shirt today and an elastic belt.  The corduroy does like to catch on other fabric, as corduroy does, especially when I put gloved hands into my pockets.  However, I don't like making pockets of contrasting material (I think it looks funky when you catch a peek at it) so I will live with it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Looking Back on 2013

Happy New Year!

Wonderful things are afoot in the studio!  A beautiful bride and groom, some out of this world clothing, and a project I am SUPER excited about and will update everyone on soon.

However, before I sally forth into the new year, I'd like to take a quick look back at 2013.

The year started off with remodeling my new home to accept the studio!  I became the proud owner of my first condo.  Unfortunately, it needed some serious work.  The floors upstairs were only finished a couple of months ago, and I've spent the time since then moving everything into the new place and getting the studio set up to my liking.  Unfortunately, the fall rush meant I had to work all of that around orders, so it took pretty much the rest of the year to do.  There will be several posts coming out this year detailing what I did to get the beautiful studio I have now, but the room itself (and condo) was a big part of my year.

As far as projects, this year has been wonderful!  There were too many to talk about all of them, but I'll hit the highlights.  I started it off working on this lovely pirate ensemble,

 and moved quickly to a gorgeous green ball gown.

April saw updates to my Oklahoma Renaissance Festival costume (historical accuracy not included), and a host of costuming for others.

That's me, walking the rail at the Joust
Doug got a new doublet for Scottish weekend.

Jen got a whole new outfit!

The fall was another very exciting time for projects!  I was delighted to do historically based stays for the two lovely ladies of Turtle and the Hair.  The stomacher on the 18th century stays was reversible, and the entirety of the Effigy stays were reversible, in gorgeous fabric supplied by their owner.

I loved this orange!

Halloween is always a busy season for me, and this year was no exception!  As well as supplying costumes for customers across the states (and several outside the US) I got the chance to sew several costumes for performers at the Haunted Castle.

Alice was cute as a button, I loved the 50’s dresses for one of the Brotherhood’s vampires (unfortunately I don’t have pictures of the grey dress yet), and the Mad Hatter has been one of my favorite pieces to work on to date.

Luckily, I managed to squeeze in some time for a Dirndl to wear to Oktoberfest!

The year ended with a family trip to Arizona, where I found a little slice of heaven.  There’ll be two outfits coming from fabric bought here, and I hope to have them up soon!

On a slightly different subject, I list that my products come from a home with cats, but I haven’t spoken much about the animals I foster for the Central Oklahoma Humane society.  I was raised in a home with cats, and have always been an animal lover.  In February of 2013 I took the leap to foster two small kittens in my home, and to date have fostered seven cats and one dog.
Not only do some of the proceeds from Tailor of Two Cities go to feeding and sheltering these animals, but the studio itself is their home when they are first introduced to the house.  Don’t worry, the fabric and projects in progress are all stored in a large walk-in closet they have no access to, and I’m very fastidious about sweeping the studio!

Unfortunately, despite a weekend with the vet I lost a foster who was too small and too sick, which was heartbreaking.  However, the other seven blossomed this year, and brightened both my life and the lives of the people who adopted them.







Thalia (still awaiting adoption)

Merri (still awaiting adoption)

I’m looking forward to 2014 and am hitting the ground running!  I’ve got a ton of projects in the works that I am incredibly excited about, and want to blog more about them as I go.  Here’s to a wonderful New Year!