Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Of Dyeing and Spinning Wheels

How was everyone's Memorial Day? It was rather an intense weekend for me, as my great-grandfather died and my cousins from out of state came in for the funeral and to visit. Hence the rather long internet hiatus.

However I have been working on several new projects. I have another dress for Your Little Princess nearly completed and there will be pictures arriving from that soon! I also am working on a piece based on a "Once Upon a Time" costume that I'm quite excited about. This will involve some dyeing, so that should be quite an interesting experience to write about.

Shaylynn asked for pictures of my spinning wheel, which unfortunately has a piece broken so I need to get that fixed before I can use it properly (which reminds me, I need to go research that!). However I may go ahead and do a photoshoot with my drop spindle and carders anyhow. I have one drop spindle that was made by my great-grandfather who was a master woodworker, and I'd love to have some photos of it in action.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Princess Dress - Patternmaking

Drafting a pattern can be scary. I started out using a draping method on my dress form, which is a bit more foolproof. Actually drafting a pattern requires a knowledge of what pattern pieces look like, and how different parts of the body require different shapes and ease. 

I don't claim to be an expert, and when making pieces for someone I can't fit personally, I prefer to work off of an existing pattern. However for my new business, (Your Little Princess Costume Design) I have to draft my own patterns for copyright reasons. Thankfully, dresses for little girls are some of the easiest pieces to draft if you have any knowledge at all, and I've made plenty of costumes for my sister, cousins and nanny charges over the years. 

 Items you'll need:
The design you're working off of
Measurements for your client
A hard surface
A pen/pencil (I like pens because they show up better, but pencils work too)
A ruler
A measuring tape
Large sheet of paper (I use butcher paper, but you could also use tissue paper, newspaper, or even muslin)

 Most of the measurements are fairly intuitive. How long is the client from shoulder to waist? Add seam allowances and voila! You have your height. For width measurements you also have to add some extra room for movement.

Long division gets to be a headache, and there's a quicker solution than getting out the calculator. Just fold your measuring tape over!

See how easy it is?

1/2 inch for room, and another 1/2 inch for seam allowance.

Pattern piece is shaping up! Necklines and armhole openings are the most difficult to work with. They've got to be big enough, but not too big. It can help to use an article of your client's clothing for measurement. OR...

I can't use a commercial pattern for this dress. HOWEVER. I can take a pattern that is about the same size as my client, and check to make sure that the neck and sleeve openings are roughly in the right ballpark. This pattern piece utilizes a tilt in the shoulder seam that I realize has a good practical purpose and I add a bit of a tilt to my own (although it's still different than the commercial pattern).

Here we go! The front pattern piece!

For the back,  I trace the pattern front and make a few alterations. Backs typically have higher necklines than the front, and the armholes do not cut in so deeply in order to allow enough room for the shoulder blade.

Also, if you are working with a zipper or buttons, you need to add extra room for that!

Sleeves work much the same way. I measure down how long I want, and add on the seam allowances.

Then I figure out the upper arm circumference (and wrist circumference if longer) plus allowance and movement room...

For the upper arm curve, I get my measurement off the bodice pattern pieces.

The lower sleeve here is a pretty basic piece, really the only important measurements from my client's sheet are the length and upper armhole width.

What about the skirt? I rarely make patterns for skirts as they are pretty flexible and often vary based on fabric width and grain. I'll demonstrate my technique in post #2 for this dress!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to Store a Hoopskirt

Hoopskirts are kind of awkward things to store. For years I just shoved mine in the back of the closet, but with my new room there simply isn't the space. My mom suggested I try a super large storage bag and tuck it under my bed, and sure enough, it works! I didn't even know they made bags that big...

(And yes, hoopskirts are collapsible! Didn't you know?)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Costumes and Costumes and Costumes

You know you have a lot of costumes when you haul five tubs in from the garage, sort through all of them, wash nearly everything, then realize you are missing some costumes and find another tub out there.

Yes, the spring organization continues. My extensive costume collection has been in need of some care and weeding for quite awhile, and this week my sister agreed to help me with the task (don't worry, she got several cool pieces out of the deal!). So we sorted through everything. There was no real organizational theme, which means everything was just jammed in there. We threw away the stuff not worth keeping, tossed a few things in the Goodwill box, and then I started washing the rest of it. By the time I'm done it will have been something like 8 loads of laundry, and that's not counting any of the more elaborate garments that never get stored in boxes and are hanging up on a rack.

Now I'm nearly done, and I've got all the boxes sorted by type of garment and everything is folded and easy to see. There's also plenty of space in each box, so all of the covers will actually fit on! Oh, and we have new tubs too! Finally I don't have to worry about dust and nastier stuff getting in among my treasures!

What's been interesting about this process is seeing exactly what I have. There were several pieces I'd totally forgotten that I owned, and there were other pieces that I made so long ago, they're not worth keeping in their present form but have really nice revamping possibilities. So those will be some nice projects to fit in between my commission work and sewing for Your Little Princess.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Royal Gown and Rite of Passage

There's an interesting story behind this dress. When I was young, I had two passions, Tudor England and sewing. My room was filled with history books, half written stories of Mary and Elizabeth and Henry VIII, and print outs of famous portraits. The rest of the space was covered with fabric, trims, sketches and of course my sewing machine.

I'd been sewing since I was about five years old, but until I was nearly 14, I had absolutely no interest in using patterns. To this day I still raise my eyes at following someone else's rules, especially when they seem so obviously impractical! But my mother and other seamstresses kept telling me that I needed to at least try using patterns, that it would give me a lot of training and information I needed to grow in my work. I wasn't impressed.

Then one day, I was in a fabric store with my mother and happened to get bored (HOW COULD I BE BORED IN A FABRIC STORE I DON'T KNOW) and started flipping through a book of patterns. Suddenly I saw a page with dresses from Tudor England. My jaw dropped. My eyes shone. I turned to my mother and pointed to the page. "Mom," I said. "I'll use a pattern if I can make that dress!"

God bless my parents. I owe so much to their support of my interests and talents. They agreed that if I used a pattern, they would cover the cost of the materials, but if I didn't finish the project I'd have to pay for half of it. I agreed.

I spent a little over a month. Mom helped me learn the basics of using a pattern, but I picked up everything pretty quickly. I've always been a good visualizer, so even though I don't like patterns, I'm quite capable of using them. And though I still prefer to create or adapt patterns to this day, those wise women were right, and I learned so much from my pattern experiences.

And yes, we took this picture recently and I still fit into the dress I made for 14-year-old me. It's not a perfect fit as the proportions have changed slightly, but it still totally works. Crazy, huh?

P.S. These beautiful pictures were taken by my good friend Anthony, and you can view his photo gallery here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/visualdecibel/

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Good Seamstress is a well Organized One

One of the best things about moving down to the basement, is that I now have enough space to properly organize all of my sewing stuff. Between my hairdressers cart-turned-sewing cart, my little bookshelf and my big craft table, I have nearly everything I need at my finger tips.

But I'm more than a seamstress, and yesterday my sister and I completely reorganized our laundry room to hold all of our boxes of paints, glitters, papers, stamps, and miscellaneous projects. I forced myself to throw away a few things, and discovered several pieces I'd forgotten I had.

So now I'm looking forwards to delving into some long abandoned projects, finishing them up, and creating more space to work with.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Want a daily dose of pretty dresses?

I have a personal tumblr, that is often updated with gorgeous costumes, fashions, and random posts on sewing. (I also reblog stuff related to Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, Once Upon a Time, Marvel Comics, Sherlock and more!)

You can find me at www.elenatintil.tumblr.com. Drop me a line and let me know you followed me over from my blog - I'll check out your tumblr as well!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Queen of Gondor Gown

I made this piece many years ago, back when I was 16 or 17. It's based on the style of gown that Arwen wears in the second and third installments of "The Lord of the Rings," and since the colors are those of the royal house of Gondor, I consider this her "Queen" gown. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spinning Wheels and such

Been sickish, but I did get my spinning wheel out last night. The piece attaching the pedel to the wheel is broken, so I'm going to have to get that fixed before I do any major spinning, although I might try out the drop spindle.

In the meantime, I'm nearly finished with the first Rebecca costume for YLP! Check out yourlittleprincesscostumedesign.tumblr.com for pictures!

I'm also about to start work on a project that's going to require dye work, so I'm prepping for that.

And also I'm looking forwards to seeing new costumes on Once Upon a Time tonight!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Being a Seamstress is...

  • Taking over your parents' garage to store your fabric.
  • Taking over half of the family room as a sewing area.
  • Buying cool patterns when they go on sale even though you never use patterns.
  • Learning how to be really, really good with an iron.
  • Owning two irons - a regular one and a mini one.
  • Having your mom bring you back fabric as a souvenir.
  • Not letting anyone you know throw away curtains because they're the best sources of awesome cheap fabric.
  • Organizing your thread by color and type.
  • Spending more time analyzing the costumes in movies than the dialogue.
  • Asking for a dress form for Christmas.
  • Daydreaming not about boys, but about awesome new sewing projects.
  • Actually dreaming, not about boys, but about awesome new sewing projects.
  • Maxing out your credit card on fabric, rather than make-up.
  • Measuring the economy by how fabric prices fluctuate. 
  • Winning games like Scrabble and Scattergories because you know obscure clothing words.
  • Finding mysterious bags on your front step full of fabric because everyone knows you'll give all sewing stuff a good home.
  • Going garage-saleing so that you can snap up bargains when people give up sewing and sell their stock. 
  • Regret wasting even the smallest bit of fabric because IT'S FABRIC!
  • Having your friends send you links for every cool costume and sewing reference they find and say "Look! It's you!"
  • Play "Who am I?" at your birthday party and your friends tag you as Edna Moe from "The Incredibles."
  • When distracted by a superhero costume, it's usually because it's physically impossible, not just because it's immodest. 
  • Being unable to fall asleep because you didn't hem the organza properly. 
  • Wishing we still had old fashioned quilting parties because getting together with other girls to sew sounds like the best thing ever. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Your Little Princess" appears on Tumblr!

Amanda and I have both been working crazy hard on all matters related to YLP. She's building our gorgeous website and managing all of the online content - which includes our new Tumblr page! I'm halfway done on the very first dress (which will appear on one of our models) and you can see the first sneak peeks on... you guessed it! Our Tumblr page!

Check out the goodness here: http://yourlittleprincesscostumedesign.tumblr.com/

And don't forget to help us spread the word by 'liking', 'following' and 'reblogging' us! Every little bit helps!