Oct 11

When trim can make all the difference…

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It’s funny how trim really can make all the difference between loving and despising the end results of all our efforts.

I’ll admit…I had a really bad moment with this project once all the major sewing was finished.  I put the skirt and bodice on my dressform and nearly cried–it was just so boring.

Thankfully, a friend talked me down and helped me go through my stash to see what I had in the way of trimming and brainstorm some ideas for what to use and how to apply it.  Unfortunately, this fashion fabric has been a bit tricky to match up with a complimentary trim, so I did actually have to go out and buy some fabric.  (I had some velveteen in the absolutely perfect burnt orange color, but I was concerned about the velveteen weighting down an already very heavy skirt.  I somehow managed to stumble across a poly satin drapery fabric in the exact same color to use instead.)

Now, I am absolutely loving the results.

Oh, and as a side note on the patterns, I used the Truly Victorian can can skirt and 1890’s evening bodice.  The skirt pattern calls for seven yards of fabric, but you don’t actually use much of the width.  I only had seven yards of this fabric and ended up with plenty left over along the selvege edge to cut the bodice from.  In fact, because I shortened the skirt, I ended up with about a yard left over, but didn’t need to use that part at all for the bodice.  The sleeves come from Hunnisett’s Period Costumes for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress 1800-1909. 

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Main fabric: From stash–synthetic brocade
Trim fabric: Purchased for this project
Gold trim: Purchased for this project
Petticoat fabric: Purchased for this project
Beaded trim: From stash

More pictures coming soon.  Hemming is currently in progress and closures still need to be attached to the bodice.  I’ll be wearing the finished gown to an event this upcoming Saturday.

Sep 06

A New Space

The past year has been quite a whirlwind.  What started as a bathroom renovation soon expanded to the kitchen and eventually ended with our house on the market.  I spent Presidents’ Week moving out of our house and into and apartment, and then Memorial weekend moving out of the apartment and into our new house.  The rest of my summer was spent unpacking and organizing.

But now that we are settled and I’ve mostly gotten my sewing room set up, it’s finally time to start sewing.  The best part (for now) is that my sewing space really is literally in the center of our living space, so I can still watch the kids while I work.  (They are now three-and-a-half…independent enough to mostly play on their own, but still too little to pretty much even be able to turn my back for a moment.)

Okay, so on to the good stuff.

The GBACG is hosting a Moulin Rouge themed event, so of course, I need to finally make the can can dress I’ve wanted for so long.

First, I needed a pair of drawers…closed drawers, for obvious reasons.  I found some leftover fabric from another petticoat project and set about making the drawers from Folkwear’s Edwardian Underthings pattern.

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The only change I made was to apply the ruffles a bit higher up so that the legs didn’t end so low.  They are already a bit shorter than my usual drawers, but for a can can outfit, I really wanted to make sure they didn’t end up too long.

Next up, I pulled out my copy of Truly Victorian’s can can skirt.  Once I actually sat down and looked at the yardage requirements, I nearly expired…seven yards of fashion fabric, seven of lining, and eleven for the ruffles.  Since I wanted to make the ruffles from the same fabric as the lining, that was 18 yards of fabric.  I pretty much don’t have any fabric just laying around in those sorts of yardages, but before I ran off to the store, I wanted to be really sure I actually needed that much.

When I looked closer, I realized that the ruffles used a doubled up piece of fabric.  Not only would that make the skirt twice as heavy, I felt like it made the ruffles look heavy, which I didn’t like.  I decided to go ahead and take the time to finish both edges of the ruffles.  This made it take a VERY long time (roll hem one edge, press and shell stitch the other edge, pleat top edge with ruffler foot, sew to skirt), but I’m much happier with the finished look.

I also shortened the skirt by six inches.  I’m only 5’3″ and am used to shortening patterns, but Truly Victorian patterns–especially their earlier ones–usually seem like they are made just for me, so I was a bit surprised at how long this one was.  It’s possible that they designed the skirt to be ankle length, but the little research (mostly visual) that I’ve done preparing for this project suggests that the skirts take after the fancy dress costumes of the era with a length that hits closer to mid-calf.

These two significant changes means that I was able to cut down on the yardage requirements, but not by that much really.  I ended up using 12.5 yards to complete the lining–shown below with just a little bit of the top row of ruffles not quite complete.

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My fashion fabric is a synthetic brocade that washed beautifully, but I can already tell it’s going to fray like the dickens.  Thankfully, I’ve got my serger up and running and threaded with black, so I was able to serge EVERY edge of the skirt panels almost as soon as I got them cut out.

The skirt is now pinned to my dressform to relax before I hem it at attach it to the waistband. (The ruffles really are under there…it just doesn’t look like it because the dressform has no legs.)

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Next up…a fitting is in order.

Aug 25

I’m sewing again!

Just a quick drive-by post to let you know that I’m actually sewing again.  We are all settled in our new house, the sewing room is all set up for the most part, and I’ve got tickets for an event!

Currently, I’m making a set of closed drawers.  The goal is to eventually make a can can costume, which will require closed drawers (not that I think I can kick that high, but on the off chance that I fall on my behind trying, it might be a good idea).  I’m using Folkwear’s Edwardian underthings pattern, which is going pretty well.  I’ll be sure to snap some in-progress photos soon so that I have something fun to post.

May 19

Girl With a Pearl Earring

I haven’t been able to do any sewing or creating in several months as we’ve been in the process of selling our home and buying a new one.  My one creative outlet has been my hair wrapping.  Today, my hobbies merge!

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Girl with a Pearl Earring

To give a little background, the group I follow where I get the majority of my wrap ideas had posted a tutorial quite some time ago on how to do a wrap the approximated the look from this famous painting.  I’d never tried it as I wasn’t completely convinced that the technique really reproduced the right look.  I was dissatisfied with it for several reasons.  First, I didn’t like the look of the knot on top of the head; in the painting, the twisted crown portion seems to flow smoothly into the straight tail hanging down, without any knot to secure it.  I also didn’t like how uneven the bottom edge of the tail comes out in the tutorial; in the painting, you can clearly see that edge and it is pretty even across the bottom.

Of course, as a costumer, I’m also a little concerned about the rarity of this kind of wrap historically speaking.  Of course, that’s part of the popularity of the painting, that it depicts such unusual head covering.  What bothered me most about the whole thing was the assumed asymmetry of the veil/tail portion.  I wanted to see if this was supported by any other imagery from that period.

What I discovered was that my prediction of symmetry held true…for functional head coverings.  But here is the important bit: this was not true of turbans.  The images I could find seem to be telling the story that true turbans (as depicted on figures from Easter origins) are symmetrical and have no tails, but stylized turbans worn by Europeans are often shown with tails and quite a bit of asymmetry.

Once I realized that the inspiration for this wrap is more likely to be a turban rather than the more functional hair coverings (such as a kerchief tied around the hair), it completely changed my approach to wrapping it.  The tutorial takes the opposite approach, which makes sense since that is the way most of the wraps are started in our little community–you wrap an oblong scarf around your head and tie it in the back.  The key issue with this is that your tails end up being uneven, since the distance traveled around your face to the knot is vastly different from the loop of fabric in back that closes up to be nonexistent.

Turbans, on the other hand, can wrap more evenly around the head, keeping the tail ends much more even.  Also, unlike modern fashion turbans that have a knot on top (sort of the reverse of the kerchief tie), traditional turbans tend to use the wrapping process to secure the ends of the scarf under the layers, no knots required.

Armed with this new understanding, I was able to create a wrap that I’m much happier with.  The tail hangs with a pretty straight edge, and I’ve secured it with a simple straight pin so that the twisted section does not slide off my head as I teach or wrangle my own kids.  The blue scarf is simple folded, wrapped around a couple of times, securing the one end in the process of wrapping and the second end by tucking into the layers.

Dec 13

Discernment vs. Judgment

Growing up as a fundamentalist Christian, I spent most of my younger years being very judgmental, with the nobel goal of being “in the world but not of it” and trying to help others “see the light.”  I had to live my life to very high standards and, by golly, so should everyone else.  I was especially hard on other Christians who “stumbled.”

The weird thing is, I didn’t see it as being judgmental.  The world, in my mind, was very black and white, and so of course there were some things you just did not do.  It was that simple.

Obviously, as I got older I began to realize that nothing in life is really that simple, that even with the best of intentions, we all still stumble and fall.

But it wasn’t until quite recently that I began to understand more about my own character and how both judgment and discernment (see side note below) are part of how I express myself and interact with the world.

While I’ve learned to see that side of me as negative, along came someone who said that discernment is a positive aspect of my character.  I had to do a double take on that one…how can you possibly put a positive spin on this personality trait that I’ve been working so hard to get rid of.  Turns out that, channeled correctly, the ability to judge ideas and situations quickly can be an asset.  I’m not sure I can fully communicate how much of a weight that lifted off of me.  I can avoid being judgmental, but I don’t need to completely give up that part of my personality, the part that has allowed me to look at the big picture, assess all the information I have, make a quick decision about the direction I want to take, and begin working to make that happen.

On a brief side note about discernment, it is considered one of the Gifts of the Spirit, right up there with speaking in tongues and healing, but is not really taught much in the churches I attended growing up.  Conceptually, it’s the ability to judge well between things and to gain greater spiritual insight.  In practice, it’s when someone seems to have supernatural insight into a person’s life with the goal of encouraging (or admonishing) them in their walk with God.

On another side note, if this post has intrigued you as to how I gained this insight into my own character, check out Carol Tuttle’s website and book on beauty profiling.  I’m not entirely sold on the whole idea, which she would tell you is exactly in keeping with my “energy type” but her book has some really great information about how what you might consider a flaw is actually a beautiful part of your type of beauty.

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Oct 25

On a Spiritual Journey

As I’ve started this whole hair covering journey, I’ve connected with a couple of wonderfully supportive and inclusive communities online, which has really helped immensely.  I recently got to thinking at it might also be nice to connect specifically with othe Christian women who cover their hair.

I really should have known what I would find.  The Christian websites were very full of religion rather than relationship.  As I dug a little deeper, I was surprised to discover that my rationale for covering actually aligned so much better with Pagan woman than with Christians.  Why is that?  I do still consider myself a Christian woman, and I really do feel that covering is part of my spiritual journey, but maybe that’s the issue.

Websites giving a Christian rationale for covering are so focused on justifying the practice as a religious law (meaning you are sinning if you don’t fall in line with this obscure teaching) that they fail to address the spirituality of it at all (how does it draw me into a closer relationship with God, my Maker).  By making it a law that must be followed (“or else…”), they miss the most powerful part of the practice.

Other Christian websites argue against the practice, but do so in a way that is just as inflammatory, aiming to discredit denominations that are insisting on hair coverings.  They add to the divisiveness and leave no room for someone like me.

On the contrary, Pagan women seem to have tapped into the spiritual aspect quite readily.  They recognize that wrapping can be empowering as well as an act of devotion.  AND they recognize that it is not part of everyone’s spiritual journey.

And so here I am, yet again, perplexed by a Church that is so far from what it should be that it only serves to alienate rather than draw people in, a church that is so focused on either law or grace that there is no room for personal experience and relationship.

I suppose that even this frustration is part of that personal journey for me.  It took doing this research for me to realize what I would say to other Christian women about why I cover.

As a Christian woman, I cover because the wrap is a constant reminder that I am a sinner covered by God’s grace.  I’ve spent much of my life, quite honestly, being far too judgmental of those around me.  I need this reminder that I am flawed, have been forgiven much, and should never presume to treat anyone else with anything other than the same grace I have received from above.  I feel closer to God and more confident in myself.

Not everyone needs this practice to feel closer to God and more confident in herself.  It’s simply something that I was searching for, and wrapping has fulfilled that hope at a time when I felt very hopeless.  I do, however, think that we could all benefit from anything that might help us be more loving (and, dare I say, more Christ-like) toward each other, whatever that may be.

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Sep 30

Teaching as an Introvert

Today during lunch, I was thinking about why I don’t join the other teachers in the staff cafeteria.

When I was in my teaching program, our professors warned us away from hanging out in the teachers’ lounge or in the staff cafeteria.  They explained that a lot of negative complaining goes on in those places and that we should avoid that sort of talk.

While the ideal young me completely agreed with that assessment, that’s not why I still steer clear.

I’m an introvert.  It has taken many years to figure that out.  As a child, I was called shy by adults and “stuck up” by my peers.  I’ve always been slow to warm up to new people, quiet when in large groups with very outspoken people, and only keep a few close friends.  Over the years, I’ve discovered that rather than being something that I should try to overcome, it’s a part of my personality that I should embrace and nurture.

Lunch time at work is my ONE time of the day to recharge after having to be “on” all day for students.  As an introvert, I can’t afford to spend any of my social energy with colleagues, even though it would be a different sort of interaction.  During lunch, it’s like feeling a weight lifting off of my shoulders…I can finally relax for a moment before having to be “on” again.

So, I’ll continue to skip on staff lunches and even many of the after school gatherings and reserve my social energy for meeting up with a handful of people after I’ve had time to recharge.

Sep 16

Layering

The cool weather has started to arrive, though we seem to still have some hot weather in the forecast.  I am a typical Californian (or perhaps stereotypical) in that I feel completely justified in complaining about our weather extremes even though our temperatures are always moderate in comparison with the rest of the country (and most of the rest of our state).

And yet, I’m also a costumer, which means that I will don multiple layers of clothing that cover much of my body even in the most extreme heat.

Of course, the trick is natural fibers and loose fit.  This knowledge has helped me immensely as, over the past couple of years, my personal style has become more covered.  Lately, I tend to prefer long, loose skirts that are mostly cotton or linen, paired with knit tops that can be layered with a long-sleeved shell in the winter.

This trend seems to also be working out with my new scarf collection.  I’ve tended to invest in scarves that are lighter weight in breathable fibers, rather than the heavier pashminas.  While I do have a few pashminas, which I’m sure I’ll be grateful for when the weather gets really cold, it’s nice to have all of these lighter scarves that I can start to play around with layering now that the weather is starting to cool just a bit.

I’m also realizing the value of variegated scarves like this signature scarf from Wrapunzel which, even though it is a pashmina, can be worn alone but still look wonderfully layered and vibrant.

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Sep 15

Getting My Smile Back

I used to be one of “those” Christians…the ones who are constantly walking around with a big old grin on their faces.  No matter what is going on, no matter what the situation or circumstances, nothing ever seems to putter a damper on their high spirits.

Sure, for some people it is a show.  It can often cover deep unhappiness and can serve only as a mask for what’s really happening in a person’s life.

But for others, like me, it was a simple determination that I was not going to let my circumstances determine my mood, or my reactions.

I liked that part of me.

Of course, years of teaching started to take its toll, and my recent alienation from the church certainly has not helped.  I’ve found it more and more difficult to put that smile on, and only put it on when needed (mostly when interacting with my students).

This morning, as I was walking from the parking lot to my classroom, I realized that I was grinning from ear to ear.  This year is already a very challenging one; I have had more issues with student behavior at the beginning of this year than I ever have before.  Yet, here I was on my way to start what was doubtless to be another grueling day of teaching, smiling and with my heart filled with joy.

This is why I cover.

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I feel more connected to my faith, more connected to my joy, and more confident in who I am.

On a related note, while I can’t cite a specific study, I remember reading that school culture (and how comfortable students are at school) can be heavily influenced by the way the adults interact with students while outside of class.  In schools where adults are friendly and approachable, students feel more comfortable confiding in adults and reporting bullying as well seeking help with personal matters.

Where I work, a smile can make all the difference.  So, welcome back smile!

Sep 13

Addicted to Decades

I kind of can’t get enough of these Decades of Style patterns right now.  Last weekend, I decided to make up the 1930’s Stardust skirt.  I was in a bit of a rush to just get it done, so I literally just threw it together in a couple of hours.  While I do love the finished skirt, but the next time I make it, I’m going to take the time to sew contrasting piping in the front seams.  Without something there, you really can’t see the lines of the skirt.  For now,I’m don’t have any other fabric on hand that I want to use for this pattern, so I think it will go on the back burner.

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In the meantime, I have some new Doctor Who fabric that I’ve been mulling over for a week trying to decide what I want to make.  I have enough for a simple dress, but no dress patterns that I particularly want to fuss with in order to get something that fits well.  (I have a lot of problems fitting modern dress patterns up top and prefer to have separates that I can pair up with knit tops.)

Well, I just had a bit of a lightbulb come on that I could make one more Given A Chance dress, but lengthen it to be a maxi.  I think I’ll let that idea simmer this week and then go to the fabric store to get a nice contrasting fabric for the yoke next weekend.

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