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Jan  10th,
2016

Re-purposed sweater part one  by Anne

Category: Sewing

Recycling is nothing new to me, the latest trend of re-purposing clothes is ancient, and I love that as a society we are rediscovering our creativity by re-inventing, transforming, changing one item into another.

This started off as a men's size medium J. Crew sweater 100% wool, four times through the washer and dryer on hot felted it quite nicely. No I didn't take a photo of it before, I got so excited about making things from it I just forgot, so here it is in its post washed, post dissected state, complete with it's first project. The lower half of the sleeves are fingerless mitts, my hands get cold, but I still need to type and sew and use my fingers for various things. I had to make one alteration to the seam above the thumb, angling it in to fit the curve of my hand, and after several attempts at embellishment, I opted for fleece binding (google search here). I am not done yet though, I think a beaded snowflake on the back of each mitt will look nice, in black to match the binding. The collar will be made into a headband complete with floral embellishment (that might be the upper sleeves, not sure) and the body of the sweater is going to be made into a stocking cap.

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Mar  24th,
2015

Corset Supplies  by Anne

Category: Sewing

I usually order my corsetry supplies on line from various suppliers, but recently I got to go to Richard the Thread located on La Cienega in Culver City (not Los Angeles). What a wonderful boost for creativity, being with someone who was a complete stranger, yet so friendly and welcoming! The shop is a decent size, everything fits with room for more goodies. Neatly laid out, with everything organized and labeled. There is an enormous sorting cabinet for all the bones and busks. I bought my first spoon busk. I didn't want to get one until I could touch it and see how it would go on my body (shipping, returning, etc. such a hassle sometimes). So I stocked up on black and white coutil, lacing tips and some good white grommets. Had an educational conversation about piercing holes for grommets. Use a leather belt punch, they are slightly smaller than the grommet shank and the grommet punch so the grommet/eyelet will hold the fabric better. Then we talked about dying the white grommets, I was shown grommets, lacing, and ribbon that had all been dyed purple. They were different materials so the intensity was different, but they were all the same hue and now I can do custom colored grommets for corsets. Next up in the experimentation list is lacing bones.

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Mar  18th,
2015

Pirate Shirt  by Anne

Category: Sewing

So the shirt for Tom is done, finally. Midweight white linen with lacing at the throat, and hand gathered flat lace on the cuffs. The sleeves on these shirts are always monstrously poufy, which is great if they are being made of habotai or batiste, but this linen is heavy enough that I would make a suit out of it (hey there's an idea...no, not yet, focus on the Pirate). The coat is from Reconstructing History but the rest of the costume is from the Simplicity pattern that is so obviously Pirates of the Carribean and it is historically accurate. You wouldn't necessarily think that being a mainstream costume pattern, and there are so many of that type that take shortcuts, but not this. The only difference between the Reconstructing History coat and the coat in the Simplicity pattern is that the RH one has the full coat skirts as one piece (on the jacket front you wind up cutting almost a full circle, and the back is a 3/4 circle), and the Simplicity uses pie wedges, (which because of the directional pattern I drafted anyway to preserve my ocd and sanity).

So the shirt.

In order to make the sleeves not so poufy, I cut them down so that the sleeve head was not gathered to the shoulder at all, thus making the gathering into the cuff less so and a much smoother line all the way around. Construction is mostly straight lines, with the neck being a gentle curve that gets gathered into the collar.

First I did a traditional gather, sew two lines with the top tension loose, gather, gather gather. I didn't like it.

Then I did hand gathering, again evenly distributed around the neck, still didn't like it.

Finally I did hand gathering only by the front placket and the center back, again by hand. That I liked.

I pinned the collar to the shirt matching shoulder seams and center back, pinned the front placket at center and the side to keep it flat, then gathered and pinned and settled things until I was happy, then tied off the thread and pinned the daylights out of it. The back was a bit more finagling as I had to judge how much I could gather in from the center and make sure it was even on both sides of center back.

After I got everything gathered neatly and pinned into submission, I basted, and then sewed it down. Of course while doing this I got a good look at the cuffs and lace, which I had already gathered by machine and attached and was getting ready to sew them closed, but the more I looked the more I didn't like. So they got the same treatment. I carefully un-gathered the lace, and re-gathered it by hand. It lay much nicer, and stitched it all together. Gathered the sleeves into the cuffs by hand, just like the collar.

Over all I am pleased with the effect, but the person whose opinion matters most after mine is Tom, and he hasn't seen the shirt yet.

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Feb  26th,
2015

The Dress That Started it All  by Anne

Category: Sewing

Dress? What dress?

If you have paid any attention at all to me when I talk about how I got started in doing costumes for a living, I always talk about Darth Vader. How I quit my day job (file clerk at a company that went under a few months after I left) to devote myself full time to making a costume of such beauty and detail and epic-ness as to impress the makers of the original Darth Vader. But that isn't the one that started my love of costumes.

Thoroughly Modern Millie was produced in 2000 at the La Jolla Playhouse and I got to work on some of the costumes. I heard about this job when I went to Gyldenholt's 20th anniversary, one of the other people in our camp worked at the La Jolla Playhouse and mentioned they needed extra help sewing, so I applied. It was only part time, and I didn't have a set task, it was whatever needed to be done; from steaming or pressing satins, silks, taffetas, silk velvets (so yummy!!) to sewing velcro and buttons onto the actors shirts for quick changes, I was even a body double for one of the actresses who was a similar size as I was at the time so the costume mistress could see how the dress would move as the actress walked.

But the thing I remember most, that lives with me to this day are the daisies at Millie's neck and asymmetrical waist line on this one particular poison green dress, complete with loooooong fringe. The daisies were originally part of a velvet burn out fabric, each one set apart from the other, randomly scattered over the sheer background fabric. The person supervising me for this particular task gave me piece meal instructions without ever telling me how it was supposed to turn out and what we were trying to achieve. What was achieved was two dozen or so of these 4 inch diameter velvet daisies stabilized on interfacing, cut out of the fabric oh-so-carefully, then edge-stitched to prevent raveling, before being placed just so on the dress. I never got to see the play, on the night that we were supposed to go they were having technical difficulties with some of the stage equipment and there wasn't any other night in our schedule during the run of the play. And my only photos are those scanned in from the newspaper that I did remember to buy the following day.

The realization that sewing wasn't just a hobby for me, but a passion, happened in that incredibly warm workshop located upstairs at the La Jolla Playhouse, and no matter what I am sewing, even when I am hemming my own pants, those poison green velvet daisies go dancing through my mind to this day.

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