31 January 2014

A Pair of Fixer-Uppers

This is a pair of leather shoes I've had in the bottom of a closet for nearly a year, not being worn.  I purchased them at Gulf Wars two years ago (on clearance for $20, no less!  The whole line was marked down because the factory apparently got the sizing wrong:  these are supposedly a men's size 9;  I wear a women's 8.5 and they fit me perfectly).  Last Gulf Wars I took a rather spectacular fall, and in the process some of the stitching along the bottom burst.  

I tried to find a leather worker who could fix them for me, but the ones I know have been extremely busy, and so the shoes sat in my closet.  Finally, sick of wearing my uncomfortable backup pair, I figured, the holes are already in the leather - how hard could it be to do it myself?


upholstery needle FTW

As it turns out, it wasn't remotely difficult. I didn't have any cord made for stitching leather, so I used a heavy upholstery thread, four strands together for strength.

It only took about ten minutes; but when I was done, I decided to really spiff these shoes up:

I traced my feet (feet turkeys!) and made a pair of insole pads out of some craft felt I had in my stash, to help with the comfort of walking, since I killed my last pair of gel insoles.

I ran a doubled length of brown, twisted embroidery floss over all of the decorative edge-stitching that was already on the shoes, on either side of it.  

I cleaned, polished, and oiled the leather as well, to condition and soften it, and to fix up the places where the dye had worn away from the leather from wear.  

The things you see in the above picture inside the heels are pieces of a plastic Ikea placemat (I got a pack of four in the as-is section for 50c a few months ago, and have been using them for all sorts of little things like this).  After reconditioning the leather, I wanted to make sure they'd cure into the correct shape again, so I stuffed the toes with paper towels and slipped these plastic pieces into the heels to keep them upright. 

All done!  The whole process took about an hour and a half. 

30 January 2014

January Bonus Project (Candlemas)

Since the blue silk cote ended up not being wearable for the event this weekend, and since yesterday my office told us to stay the hell home because the city was iced over (Idk about the folks in north Texas, but we here in central and south have about as much ability to deal with ice storms as people in Russia have with dealing with tropical cyclones), I spent my surprise day off whipping up something else to wear for Candlemas.

I've wanted a sideless surcote forever, especially since I wore one that belonged to a friend back in October, and since I made that heraldic cyclas for Bordermarch Autumn Melees in November. I also had a large remnant of a pretty, pale blue damask given to me by a friend, and an old, pale blue cotehardie that hadn't fit me in ages and was kind of beat up.

Oh, and a paisley shower curtain.

[exhibit A]

 Somehow, during or after the construction of the cyclas, I lost the freaking pattern pieces I used (McCall's 7197).  Fortunately, for some reason McCall's included in that pattern four different versions of the pattern which are very close to identical, so I just grabbed another and marked it up all over again, this time for a sideless.

The finished result.

The top went together in about five seconds.  The bias trim - made from that paisley, acetate shower curtain (it's so narrow that the paisley design doesn't show; all you get is the contrasting colors) took like a million years (okay, like an hour).

The skirt didn't take long, either, since I basically just chopped off the bottom of a dress and trimmed the new waistline to match the top half.  Unless you count the epoch it took me to steam and press the whole thing, since the dress had been wadded up in an Ikea bag full of "trash" garb on the bottom of my closet for like a year. Yeesh.

Pretty, pretty blue damask. This is the leftovers, by the way, from the child's Italian Renaissance outfit that my local Clothiers' Guild made for a competition in the Barony of Stargate in May of 2012.  (There's a teensy tiny bit left, too, that will eventually become a corset).  The child's dress itself was made by my friend Francisca, who passed the remnants on to me. :)

Closeup of the brocade shower curtain bias trim; and a line of metallic silver stitching that I used to wrap the trim around the edges of the blue damask. It was going to show anyway, so I figured, why not make it pretty?  It's barely visible, except when it catches the light.  I love stuff like that.

It's sheer coincidence, by the way, that this is just about the same blue as the silk dress I made for the event and can't wear.  The first thing I did, by way of a replacement, was to alter an old, plain, black cotehardie to wear during the day.  When I thought "surcote" to throw over it for court in the evening, I originally went through all my green fabric and old green dresses, but couldn't find anything I wanted to deal with this week - the blue was easier, hehe.  (And yes, there will be a green surcote at some point soon, just not right now.  I still have a few things to finish up for Candlemas, which is in three days).


29 January 2014

January Sewing Challenge + Blue Silk Cotehardie Finished

TADA and stuff.

Hey, look, it's another blue cotehardie. I should start a blog or something.

Closeup of sleeve buttons and buttonholes.  Nom.

Buttons given to me by a friend in trade for some jewelry and jewelry parts.

Photo of the actual fabric texture, a woven stripe with very nearly a seersucker effect, once washed and pressed.

This fabric was a birthday present!  :D

Since I wanted to button the sleeves, I had to convert the top-seam raglan sleeve pattern to a back-seam pattern....I realized after I'd cut the whole thing out.

Nearly thirty years sewing, and I still do stupid crap like that.  I originally made two right sleeves, too, and had to re-do one.

So I sewed the top seam closed and cut a line up the center for the new opening.

I intended to make a paper pattern for my raglan-sleeve cotehardie pattern set from this, but there were some minor complications* that led me to skip it, for now.

The sleeve openings and neckline/front opening are faced with a dark blue washed silk bias tape that I cut from a remnant.

(That's Rabi, my sewing helper, or, as a friend of mine calls these things, a "fuzzy pattern weight").

*About that "minor" complication:  while I'm not normally one for New Year's resolutions, I did something crazy this January 1st and joined a gym, and have been going nearly every day since then (go me).  While I've lost a bit of weight already, I realized, while doing the final fitting and alterations on this cotehardie, that I've got muscles in new places, and I'm already taking on a completely different shape:  not just "less of me", but my upper back is widening with muscle development, my ass is higher and hips narrower, and my biceps seem to be reaching for the Hulk Hogan stars.  Gotta watch the upper arm development, yikes.

That's all well and good, but I cut this dress out weeks ago and have been just staring at it since then, until just the other day.  I've changed shape so much since I cut out the pieces that the dress no longer fits - and it's not a matter of letting out or in: there are sections of the dress that just aren't the right shape, as if I'm putting on an outfit tailored to someone else entirely.  Which means, sadly, that I can't wear my Candlemas dress to Candlemas.

I did, however, come up with a solution to at least that problem.  Details tomorrow!


16 January 2014

A Drumroll, If You Please...


(Sorry for the double-post, those of you who read both this blog and my housey blog. I just had to share! Lots!)

Yes, it's pink.  I don't know what got into me, but I love-love-love it.  So much.  I mixed the color from paints I had on hand; but it's an exact match for Glidden's "Pale Red Dust."   I left the same 8" drop around the top of the walls that I've done for the ceilings in the rest of the house.   The pendant lamp is a $6 Ikea kit with the marbled glass shade I took out of the kitchen not too long ago, and it's already proving indispensable as task-lighting.  I have it and my primary sewing machine on a surge protector under the table, so that I can sit down and turn both on with my foot at the same time. 

The sewing table, which is just painted white, and the legs black (it was gray and silver, and the whole room was basically just gray and white and half-finished), was going to be découpaged with old pattern pieces, but I decided against going that kitschy.  Because of the amount of work involved, the difficulty of un-doing it if I ended up hating it later, and also because, as my BFF pointed out, "But what if you end up making the same pair of pants over and over again by mistake?"  Heehee.  Actually, she made a great point:  I'd lose pattern pieces on it, and pins, and god knows what all else.  

One day I'd like to fill the walls of this room with my artwork, but for now there are two pieces up, my SCA AOA award, and some random stuff printed out from the internet.   

The big shelves were also painted white, the hardware black, and the whole shebang was moved low down on the wall and towards the closet.  Most of the fabric boxes have been organized into the closet itself, to make room for a bit of display, and a bit of usable space on the shelves.  

The file cabinet, which will one day go into the closet, I think, is sitting where one day there will be a pretty dressmaker's dummy in the window.  :) 

BAM.  Organization. 

Holy crap, I love this paint color.  So much.  

50-c Ikea shelf brackets, and some spare plywood bits I had laying around in the shop.  The chalkboard is a corkboard painted in black chalkboard paint, so I can use it for all kinds of things (and I do; I've had it over my sewing table for years, and I couldn't do without it).  

One of my favorite things about this room is the way the morning sun shines through the sheers.  Day or night, it's private as can be, too - there's a sheet of bubble wrap across the bottom half of the window, which insulates against the summer heat a little bit, but mainly, blocks view from outside while still letting light in - and it's invisible behind the sheers.  It's a trick I picked up from a friend a few years ago, and it works GREAT.  

*  Okay, it's not entirely finished.  I still very much want to re-cover both ironing boards, and the task chair, all of which have seen better days (rips, burn spots, etc).  I don't have the money right now for the fabrics I need, but I'm hoping in February.  :) 

Also, the ceiling isn't actually painted yet, because I'm out of the color I use for the ceilings.  Again...February. :) 


15 January 2014

Candlemas 2014 + January Sewing Challenge

With any luck, this will be me in two weeks:

I have NO idea why the picture came out gray - it's white on my screen, y'all.  Sorry.

Simple cotehardie, in a blue silk from FabricMartFabrics (.com), given to me for my birthday by a friend.  It's this color:

But with a shimmery woven stripe.  100% silk, lightweight suiting.

Floor-length tippets in white - I'm toying with the idea of doing them in a semi-sheer organza, since I have semi-sheer white organza.

Teeny silver buttons up the arms and down the front; though I haven't yet decided whether or not to do buttons allllll the way to the floor or not again.

So far, I've re-worked my raglan-sleeve cote pattern to fit me better; and I've gotten the dress and lining cut out (the lining is plain white cotton).  The sleeves will be lined in a cornflower-blue washed silk, for when I want to unbutton them and turn back the cuffs.

I'm not sure exactly how I'll make the headdress, yet, either, but I have some ideas (123).  (I did something similar a couple of years ago by just putting my hair up in two buns with big, plastic hair clips, and wrapping it all with fabric).

not pointy, but, it's a start.

I'm also still in the midst of re-decorating my sewing room.  Actually, the last piece - my sewing table - has finally been finished, so I'm about to throw the whole room back together and actually begin working in there again (sewing on the cutting table in my art room = NO).  Pics of that, and progress on the blue silk very soon. :)


03 January 2014

Navy Dress Finished (December 2013 Sewing Challenge Project)


It.  Is. Gorgeous.  It came out exactly as I planned, and for the most part, went off without a hitch (aside from some unexpected cleanup around the V in the front where the seam line was bulkier than I thought it would be).

So, you know that thing where you try on a really gorgeous outfit in a store, but then discover that while it's awesome, it's just about the least flattering thing you could possibly do to your poor body?  Disappointing, yes.  But all you have to do is put it back on the rack and move on, though.

front detail; elastic inverted-V empire waist

Now imagine that you made that outfit yourself.  You used pretty fabric you'd been saving for something special. You spent weeks planning, researching patterns, and drafting the final pattern to use.  You spend weeks putting the dress together, expending ridiculous amounts of effort to make sure every last stitch is perfect and professional-looking, and end up making the emergency-last-minute fabric store trip three times to get the exact right parts.

And only now do you realize, after all of that - and the night before you need to wear the thing - that while the dress is perfect, it looks horrible on you.  It fits like it should, but the style accentuates all the worst parts of your figure and exposes every single flaw.  And now you have a beautiful dress that you can't wear, and can't just put back on the rack.  Nor do you have anything to wear the following night for your shindig.

fake (decorative) buttons made from beads)

Still, though, it came out beautifully, and I'm really proud of it.  I'll probably never be able to wear it, though.  I could lose all the weight in the world and I think I'd still be the wrong shape for this, but you never know.

actual button (bead), and hand-made button loop

When I was a kid, my mother had a similar sewing fail - a dress she made for herself that came out great, but looked awful.  She ended up using it as the default "clothing" for her dressmaker's form, when she wasn't actually using it.

I think I'll do the same thing, if I ever get around to getting a dressmaker's form, hehe.