Monday, June 19, 2017

Regency Bust Support

Next on the agenda was preparing for History Alive (my major annual re-enactment event) in early June. While I thought I still had everything together from last year, about six weeks out from the date, I realised that the stays I have been using for the previous years are no longer suitable. They no longer fit well - too small in the bust. But that's not so surprising given that I made them in 2011 and have changed shape quite a bit since then.

For these, I simply upsized the existing pattern. Giving myself a little more room in side seams and adding bigger bust gussets. I also added a bit more boning for bust support this time. They went together quite quickly aside from the eyelets, which need to be hand-sewn.

But it was well worth the work. They give a great period shape and provide a good about of support for my now E-F cups.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Hot Fix

It really has been a busy few months since I last posted. I've been rather slack about my blog this year but stuff is still happening. I wanted to share my first foray into Hot Fix crystals.

A couple of years ago now, I made my own design of a pinup Elsa for Supanova. And while I loved the costume, I really wanted to make a couple of changes and revamp it all. I have yet to shoot the new version but what it does involve is a corset in place of the bra. And said corset features Hot Fix crystals. I used a lot of different sizes to get the effect I'm after.

I adore how it turned out. It really picks up the light well in full sun (which is rather hard to photograph). It was well worth the hours of hunching over the ironing board, burning my fingers as I stuck on the crystals. I think I will definitely be using the hot fix tool again.

Also, rather pleased with the shape of the corset.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Corded One

Corded petticoats are a great way of adding a lot of extra size to your skirts without the weight of more and more petticoats. One corded petticoat will add about as much as three of four standard petticoats. So, using one helps reduce bulk at the waist. The corded petticoat is the pre-cursor to the cage petticoat (or hoop skirts as they can be known). As skirts started getting wider, women were coming up with ways of reducing the number of petticoats. A corded one is quite easy to make, but very very time consuming and requires a lot of patience. Mine has taken months to finish and I really had to break it up with some other fun sewing in the meantime.

But onto how I made it!

  • Cotton – I used an old 100% cotton double bed sheet. It’s quite a thick cotton and I’m glad I went with something sturdy as the cord can poke through.
  • Cording – I chose to buy fine sisal string from my local hardware store (Bunnings). It was a massive roll and very cheap. The only problem I did have was that the thickness does sometimes vary. I just worked with it. (The one on the right in the picture)
  • Thread – A large roll of white thread, maybe two. You will probably need it.
  • Zipper foot for your sewing machine
  • Patience – endless patience
Start by stitching the sides of the sheet together to form one long tube. Then fold in half wrong sides together and press (iron) the fold. This will be the bottom of your petticoat.

Put the folded bottom on your machine and lay the cord into the fold, using your fingernails to push it in tightly. With your zipper foot attached, start stitching beside the cord. As you continue around the tube, stuff more cord in and use your fingernails to push it in next the previous row of cord. You are sewing in a spiral.

Continue doing this until you have enough rows for your section. Trim off your cord and end the section.

Measure up from this section and mark where you want your next section to start (mine is about 5cm apart). Stitch around your line and then start again with the cord, spiralling up for the section.

It’s up to you how many rows and how many sections you do. Just continue until you are happy with the shape you are getting and the length. My petticoat starts with a section of 40 rows, a 5cm (or 2 inch) gap followed by 20 rows. Then another 5cm gap and 10 rows, with another gap and five rows, and finally another gap with five rows.

Once you are finished your rows or cording, trim the top of your petticoat down to the desired length. Now you need to decide how you will be doing your waistband. I have seen ones on a yoke, a waistband or a drawstring. I tried a yoke first, which then fit really badly (too big). I then decided to gather the petticoat to a waistband and use a drawstring to tie it up. But it really is up to you how you go about finishing the waist. The only thing to remember is that it should only hit at about mid-calf length – it needs to be shorter than your next layers of petticoat which in turn need to be shorter than your outer gown.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Petticoat Froof

While I haven’t been posting much over the last six months, I have still been working on a number of sewing projects. Namely, my 1830s undergarments. They’re now all finished and I am up to the task of drafting my gown pattern and beginning the embroidery. Of course, I’ve been procrastinating over this for the last few weeks since I finished my second set of stays. These ones...

After the evil fitting of the first set, I needed to cut down my next set to make them a little more suitable for my shape. I’m incredibly pleased with how these ones came together and the whole process was so much faster given that I knew what I was doing and what was next.

The other tedious part of getting the undergarments ready are the petticoats. The layers and layers of petticoats that help give the bell shape of the 1830s. So, here are what I have made to go over my chemise, drawers and stays:

1. Cotton petticoat. This is a lightweight undergarment that is used for warmth, modesty and to protect your legs from any roughness in the corded petticoat. Mine is made out of cotton voile. In fact, I pulled the fabric from the regency petticoat that I ripped last year.

2. Corded Petticoat. So much cord and so much time went into making this. But keep an eye out for a write up of how I went about it.

3. Bum pad. This is a stuffed tube with a few frills that ties on to help fill in the gap between the waist and your butt. It smooths things out lovely and helps give a good backward thrust to the skirts.

4. Cotton petticoat. Just adding on the layers now. This one has a bunch of pin tucks which help the bottom sit out nicely, adding fullness.

5. Cotton organdy petticoat. A super stiff cotton fabric that helps pop the fabric out really well. Again we’re going for froof, so the more the better.

I was going to add a taffeta petticoat as a layer to help stop the silk of the skirt sticking to the cotton, but the cotton organdy should solve this issue. I may come back and add one once I’ve finished the skirt, but I’ll have to see how it goes.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Playing Photographer – Briar Rose

Late last year, I spent one afternoon doing a photoshoot. Only, from behind the camera.

My best gal pal Gael Storm and I have long been speaking about doing a few photoshoots ourselves. In large part to improve our experience and confidence behind the camera. As a cosplayer, it’s quite often that we like to get some good photos of our outfits, so it really does help if you aren’t a bumbling frozen and stiff mess in front of the camera (kinda like I am now). I guess the beauty of doing this with your best friend is that we will tell each other if we look like a complete gumby or that pose makes it look like you have 12 chins. You catch my drift. And now that I am done with all my editing and choosing, I’d like to share a few photos from the shoot.

I give you Briar Rose…

Friday, February 3, 2017

Future Planning

Lately, I’ve seen so many of my fellow costumers and cosplayers post about the ambitions and cosplay plans for the year. And while I too, would normally be doing this (I’m so organised and nerdy I have a spreadsheet) this year I’m taking a step back from planning too much.

Generally my approach to costuming is to look at what events I’m hoping to attend throughout the year and decide where I will be re-wearing costumes and where I will be making new costumes. And then I put together my list of costumes that I will be making and start hunting down supplies. But, as a woman and it being my prerogative to change my mind, I have in fact put aside a lot of costumes that I had planned and purchased supplies for in favour of something else which fits in with the event in some other way. What this means is that I have a huge fabric and supplies stash and I blow through too much of my cosplay budget too fast.

So this year, things are going to change. And so far, I like it!

My intention is to rather work on a project as I’m inspired to. As I mentioned In previous posts, I do have at least one long-term costume in the mix that I am always working on but it’s nice to be able to still put together smaller projects throughout the year.

What spurred this was one of my projects last year. I made a new 1870s bustle dress. There was no real plan to wear it to any particular event (there was one I could wear it to but I have others in my wardrobe that I could wear instead), but I just wanted to work on it because I had cut it out and wanted it made up. But what it meant was that I could take my time. I wasn’t stressed about a deadline and rushing things to get it done in time. In fact, I took it one step further than I had planned and made a dust ruffle for the trained skirts. It also meant that as I didn’t like one of the fabrics I had originally chosen, I had time to find something else that would go with it better.

I’m at the stage with my costuming where I pretty much have something already in my wardrobe that I could wear. In fact, I’ve already sold a number of costumes that I no longer wear on my etsy store and I do have some inklings to sell more of them. This means that if I want to go to something, I just choose one already done, iron it, dig out the props and wigs and put it on.

It doesn’t mean that I’m taking a break from costuming. Far from it. At the moment, aside from working on my long-term historically accurate Ariel, I’m also working on sprucing up my Pin-up Elsa. And I will wear it when an opportunity presents itself. Let’s face it, there are plenty of conventions nearby that I can wear it to, so there’s not really a worry that it won’t ever be worn. And of course, there are always opportunities to do photoshoots as well.

One of the other things this means is that as I won’t be stressing about timelines for projects, I can spend a little more time on some of my other hobbies (cross-stitch, learning different embroidery, learning crochet) and I will have the time to blog a little more. Heck any more than last year will be a win.

So, to the future! New costumes and reducing my stash.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Historical Ariel - The Stays

As promised, the next step in my Historically Accurate Ariel. The stays. I spent a long time researching 1830s stays - how they were constructed, the pieces to make the shape, the types of boning. There were a few the really influenced my design (from Jill Saleen's Corsets). To be honest, I spent the most time searching for the cording layouts.

In the end I decided to butcher one of my 1850s victorian stays patterns that I knew fitted. It was a matter of merging corset pieces together to create a front and back and drawing out the bust and waist shaping to give myself gores which would replace these. It's hard to explain how I did it, but it did work. These are the pieces laid out. There's a front, back, back hip gore, front hip gore and two bust gores.

So, here we go, how I made my 1830s corded stays...

First up, I stitched my centre front pieces together. These stays have a wooden busk down the front instead of a separating busk, so they go on over your head. Hence, stitched centre front. I then used bias binding on the underside to create a pocket for the busk. My busk (scroll down for pictures) is just a wide wooden ruler which I have sanded back to remove the numbers and smooth off, then cut to length and rounded the corners.

I then worked on my bust gores which I had decided to quilt. I used a couple layers of cotton and sandwiched them with some bamboo wadding from my stash. It was then a matter of drawing in the lines (2cm apart) and then stitching them.

Next, I stitched in the bust gores. They can be tricky, but once you get the hang of them, they do go in pretty easy. First you cut the slit down for the positioning of the gore and then snip at 45 degrees from the end so that you have a little triangle. You then fold back about 6mm - 10mm of fabric on each side and press it down. This is what your seam allowance. Line up the edge of the gore and pin in place. Then you top-stitch the gore in place. And repeat on the lining pieces (yes mine is made out of Ariel print cotton).

I then stitched in the hip gores. The back one is applied in the same way (just not quilted) whereas the front one it stitched in the seam between front and back pieces. It's a bit easier to apply - stitch to front and then stitch the whole back to it and then top stitch around. I then added in the boning channels which stitch down either side of the seam, splitting over the gore.

I then started on the placement of boning and cording. The cording I used is just a cotton cord that I picked up at bunnings (local hardware store). I used a couple of methods for applying the cording. The first was to sandwich between the layers and then using a zipper foot on my machine, stitching beside the cord to hold it in place, which I did for the centre front as below.

Then I got the centre back ready to go. I'd cut a facing piece of the white cotton to be the edge, so stitched that to back, understitched it down and then created a boning channel, an eyelet channel and another boning channel (it's how I always finish my corset backs).

I then started putting in all the cording channels - stitching 6mm lines to be later filled with cord.

Some shots of my cording channels. There are a lot!

Then comes the cording part. Stuffing the cord in the channels. I got a big old needle, cut off the sharp end and sanded it back to round it off. Then, you poke a hole in the top layer of fabric with an awl at each end of the channel and thread through the needle with the cord. Once you cut off the extra ends, you just work the fabric back to close up the awl hole. And bingo, filled channels and you can't see the holes.

Then came some decorating. I added in some pretty little flowers in my Ariel embroidery colours and stitched the bottom of each gusset for re-enforcement.

Then came the lining, stitched to each facing panel on the back.

And finally, the finishing process begins - binding trimming all the edges to match; then bias made of the finishing fabric to finish the edges, stuffing in the boning and busk, and eyelets.

My final step was to finish it off with some flossing on the boning. I've never done flossing before but I knew that I wanted to make these stays pretty. I spent a hell of a lot of time deciding on a flossing pattern, and I'm happy with the one that I chose. Turned out very pretty. And then finally adding the lacing cord.

The finished product:

The only problem was that in the end my stays turned out too big for me (combination of weight loss and the fact that I always squish more with corsetry than I expect). They don't look too bad in the image except that there is a hell of a lot of room in the bust and I didn't feel secure. I've sold them on now and have a new set already cut out and ready to be made up - the time consuming part. Let's just hope that I have cut them down enough that they fit properly this time.