Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Make a Travel Sewing Kit

We've all been there. On vacation. Out for a fancy dinner. A night with friends. A wedding. And a snap breaks, a seam tears, a hemline comes loose. And you think "man, if only I had a needle and thread, I could fix this so easily!" 

If you're wise, you carry a small sewing kit with you. If you're me, you look at those kits and go "oh, they're so cute! But why would I spend money on them when I already own everything in it?" And then of course I promptly forget about assembling such a kit at home.

This all changed when my grandmother gave me this cute little purse. Or lipstick case. Or whatever you do with a three inch long pouch. My sister and I both got them and the first thing we said was "HOW CUTE!" in unison. And then mine sat unused for awhile because I couldn't figure out what to do with it.

Then last week I realized it would be perfect for a travel sewing/repair kit.

Needles and pins secured into some folded up fabric. I could have assembled something more finished, but hey, it worked and it was quick. I had two tiny spools from an old repair kit (by old I mean 15 years ago), but I needed at least white and red added to that collection, so I cut notches in a straw and handwrapped them. They fit in the center holes of the black and brown thread spools, so it's a great space saver.

Then of course safety pins because sometimes you don't have time to even sew!

Lastly I needed a miniature scissors. I had a Swiss army knife that I never carried, and it has other useful things in addition to a scissors, plus it was the right size. So I added that.

And there you have it! A simple yet cute kit assembled of things any good seamstress already owns. And if you don't have your own sewing stuff, these are the sort of things that you could raid from your mother or grandmother's sewing box, because I pretty much guarantee they have surplus.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Confessions of a Seamstress is now on Facebook!

I've greatly enjoyed following artists, costumers and authors on Facebook, and realized that many of you might also find that the easiest way to keep track of who is updating their blogs when! So I've gone ahead and created a Facebook page for Confessions of a Seamstress, which I'll be updating with a link to the blog posts once they go up here, and I'll also post sneak peek photos, links to interesting/helpful articles and tutorials that don't get a full blog post, and text 'confessions' about the life of a seamstress.

If this sounds like something that would be useful, interesting or entertaining for you, I would like to invite you to come on over, check out and maybe even 'like' my page. You can visit it by clicking the following link:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Reproducing of Princess Aurora's Crown

Remember how I told you that my friend Shaylynn would be the perfect person to reproduce Aurora's circlet? WELL! The very first customer I recommended to her did indeed order it, and not only did Shaylynn make a stunning reproduction, but she has written up a gorgeous and well-photographed blog post for me to share with you! 

Image from ABC's Once Upon a Time
Princess Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty, is one of the newest characters in Once Upon a Time. I've been watching this show as much for the costumes, props, and sets as for the actual story... it's not unusual for my eye to wander everywhere except the actor's face! Right from the start, Aurora's headpiece caught my eye. ~*~*~ THE SPARKLES ~*~*~ A couple of days later, Elena recommended me to a bride who wanted a replica of Aurora's circlet to match her wedding gown! Eeep! This was my first time ever creating a replica piece, my first time ever working with rhinestones, and the first time making a bridal piece this large. I was a little nervous, but so excited. I started by re-watching the first episode and snagging screencaps to analyze. I analyzed it to death. :)
Her circlet is made from rhinestones and ribbon which are plaited together into a band on her hairline. At least two small braids are woven around this band, creating a lovely mix of ribbon, hair, and sparkles. Additional rhinestones are woven around her hairstyle in a very asymmetric zig-zag. This top part fits much more like a cap than a tiara, as it folds snugly over the crown of her head.
I noticed pretty quickly that Aurora seems to have found plenty of time to do her hair between scenes.  :) The rhinestone placement is not consistent, especially at the edges, and she wears at least three hairstyles in the first episode. At first, her braids are woven around the top, zig-zag-y part, so that the rhinestones are barely visible. Later, the braids move down and are intertwined with the bottom band. In the last scene, the circlet rests on top of the braids. I wanted to make the circlet versatile enough that all these hairstyles (and more) can be worn. The bride didn't want dangling rhinestones, so I simplified the design at the edges.
Aurora always wears the back of her headpiece tucked underneath her hair. I think the actress had her hair teased and curled and then extensions added. (This is a beautiful crown... I'd love to be a props/costume designer, I really would. It must have been so much fun for the designers to come up with a sparkly, girly headpiece that wasn't your typical tiara. Aurora's whole costume is lovely. I hope she doesn't get put in pants like the rest of the royalty. I feel that we need at least one kick-butt princess who can wield a sword while wearing a frilly skirt!!!)
After I figured how how the circlet was made (and planned a few changes of my own to make it sturdier), it was time to get started! First, I wove a base from silver-plated copper wire. The next part-- making the band of braided rhinestones and ribbon-- proved very tricky. I tried to simply braid them together, as it appears in the show, but it wasn't sturdy enough. So I used two different sizes of silver-plated super-shiny rhinestones and twisted them around each other, using temporary jewelry glue to hold it in place.
After this was done, I wove the ribbon in and laced everything together with wire before removing the glue and polishing the silver and rhinstones.
The asymmetric zig-zag design was made from more rhinestone chain twisted onto freeform silver wire. The circlet can be attached with bobby pins or tied with ribbon. It's just heavy enough that it needs to be secured in some way.
(After taking these pictures, I tweaked things a bit more... I "de-fluffed" the ribbon and adjusted one point of the zig-zag so it wasn't so tall and pointy.)
The bride was kind enough to me model the circlet before shipping it! I usually have friends model for me, but I'm the only one with long and dark enough hair to attempt Aurora's hairstyle. So one cold autumn morning, I put my hair up in braids and taught my awesome mom how to use my camera.
Thanks, Elena, for letting me share this on your blog!

And thank you, Shaylynn, for writing up such a great post!

Want to commission a crown of your own (reproduction or original)? Head on over to Shaylynn's website!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Costumes of Downton Abbey - Season 3

Last winter I write a post entitled "The Costumes of Downton Abbey." It quickly became the most popular post on this site, singlehandedly doubling my number of visitors. Obviously quite a lot of you love the clothing on ITV's popular show, and I hope you'll enjoy my second round of gushing over dresses, suits and hats!

In Season 3, the War has ended and we're marching into the Roaring 20's. This means quite a change in the costuming, as I'll discuss below. First, you may want to take a look at some of the sites I've listed to learn about the history of fashion during the 20's. 

And then of course, some great articles on the fashion of Season 3!

Finally, although I've tried to steer away from plot points, this post does assume that you've watched Season 3. So if you haven't, and you don't  want to be spoiled, please hold off reading this until you get a chance to watch the whole thing.

(All pictures were retrieved from DowntOnline which has a fantastic collection of high rez images. I highly recommend checking out their gallery if you wish to find more images of a particular costume. Also, click on any image to bring up a larger version.)

Mary and Matthew, looking classy and dapper. Matthew pulls off his light grey suit with aplomb, and Mary shows that she was made for the straight silhouette of the 1920's.

Gathered for Edith's wedding photo, we see all three girls wearing light, loose dresses. Sybil has a gorgeous overdress of embroidery and cut lace, Edith wears here elegant wedding gown (more on that later!) and Mary wears a sheath of delicate blue lace and soft draping sleeves.

Cora is still moving towards the younger, youthful styles of the new decade. Here she still wears a structured but beautiful bodice.

Edith's gown is deceptive in it's simplicity. Although cut fairly straight and simple, it features beautiful embellishment at the waist ruching and on the train.

In this season we get a chance to see Anna outside of the house - and therefore wearing something other than her maid's uniform. Here we get only a glimps at the cute cotton print of her blouse, but we can soak in the quality of her finely tailored jacked.

Compare these costumes to the garden party of season one... looser, simpler styles are all in evidence here, much to the relief of a very pregnant Sybil who is much more comfortable in her loose dress than she would have been in the maternity styles of a decade earlier.

Season 3 is really Edith's turn to shine in the fashion world, as she takes up colors and styles that are particularly flattering for her. She really wears no color better than peach-orange, as in high evidence here. although the cut is simple, she has plenty of detail in the pintucks and embroidery on the bodice to indicate the cost of the dress and her society status.

I picked this picture because I adore Violet's hats. In a time when the younger generation is turning to the much simpler cloche hats, the Dowager Duchess sticks to her guns and proudly sports the highly decorated hats of the Victorian era.

So far Downton Abbey has not featured any children in the cast, so it's a refreshing treat to see Ethel's young son. In the 1920's, as in all preceeding fashion, children worn minature versions of adult clothing. The only major difference we see here is the short pants that are still in the future for grown men.

What about the other side of Downton? We ooh and ahh over the gorgeous creations worn by the Crawley sisters, but it's worth taking a peek at the clothing worn by the servants as well. Although the dress worn by this scullery maid is far less elaborate than anything else worn at Downton, it is still well made. Servants rarely had more than two dresses, which usually had to last them several years. The show does an excellent job of portraying this, as well as properly aging and distressing the clothing.

I think one of the most beautiful pieces from the Victorian era is the sheer blouse embellished with lace. Thankfully it was such a practical piece that it carried over into the Edwardian period and the 1920's as we see here. Mary's blouse features a beautiful collar of freehanded cording. I'd love to try to imitate it someday, although I don't have Mary's slim, boyish form that works so well with this piece!

This is a far cry from the hospital gowns most women give birth in today! Loose and comfortable, yet with minute embroidery around the collar, this is a birthing gown fit for a princess, as Sybil is in the hearts of all who know her.

Look at these two lovely ladies! Laura Charmichael (Edith) and Michelle Dockery (Mary) have figures that were simply made to wear 1920's fashions. Oh wait, have I said that already? Well it's worth repeating. Not everyone could pull off these sheaths. And though they are far simpler than the evening gowns of the previous decade, they nonetheless feature equally elaborate beading and needlework.

This was a time when beauty and care was applied to all clothing, including that which one wore to bed. Here we get to see the Crawley girls in their gorgeous bathrobes, each featuring very eastern decor.

While I'm not entirely fond of the gray pairing with the peach here, this nonetheless is a beautifully constructed garment, utilizing the piping to good purpose.

Here we get a rare glimps of the back of a dress, and we can see the row of covered buttons holding the sheer overdress closed. Open the picture in a new tab to really see all that lovely detail along the yoke!

Purple seems to be a favorite color for the Crawley women at formal occasions, and here we see Mary and Cora in beautiful gowns of lavender and lilac. Cora's robe is very different from the structured coats she would have worn previously, a style that remains popular today for women in her age group.

Here is another one of Grandma Violet's awesome hats!

Full length on all of the baptismal wear, and a very good look at the rising hemlines on the ladies, particularly Mary.

Edith's signature detail this season is the ruched waist, fastened with an elaborate embellishment. It's a very flattering look on her!

Although coats are becoming much simpler, Mary's nonetheless carries some nice touches, such as the contrasting collar and the double layered buttons.

And Edith's coat is another look entirely. Completely 20's (and I suspect this was vintage fabric) it has very little tailoring but goes wild with insets and contrasts.

Here we see our first pleated skirt! The sharp knife pleats, perky beret, and contrasting collar give Edith the fresh modern look she needs for her new position as a writer.

Menswear is slowly becoming more relaxed as well, and cricket is the best excuse to roll up sleeves and forsake coats, vests and ties for sweaters.

More cricket goodness! Here we get to see all the beautiful detail of the front of Edith's delicate gown, as well as admire the cute hat Aunt Rosamund is wearing.

Bates and Anna! Bates looks dapper in a three-piece suit, while Anna looks lovely in a dress that looks vaguely familiar... why? Because it used to be Mary's! Love this little detail the show added, as it was very common for maids to inherit their mistress's former clothing.

I included this picture because a) it's adorable, and b) it gives us a good look at Mary's short hem and the unobtrusive side buttons of her dress.

I'm in love with Rosamund's dress here. The accenting of the green silk at the sleeves and the embellished slash is elegant and gorgeous.

Carson! Outside of his house uniform! Now this is a cause for gasping and excitement!

Mary has such an amazing taste in coats. I love this deceptively simple draped affair in maroon.

A lower neckline, extensive beading and sheer sleeves make this a departure from the eveningwear Mary displays during the rest of the season.

Costuming is an important piece in conveying character, and nowhere is it more apparent in Downton Abbey than here. On the left is Grandma Martha in the height of 1920's fashion. On the right is Grandma Violet, steadfast in her adherence to the restricting clothing (and code of conduct) of the Victorian Era.

From a distance Mary's wedding gown appears shockingly plain, so I highly recommend opening it in a new page to see all of the detail. The fabric is richly embroidered, and the veil is edged with tiny pearls to weight it down.

Another great example of servant clothing is Daisy. Unlike the upstairs maids, she doesn't have a uniform, and we usually only see one or two dresses per season. I really like this purple piece with the contrasting collar, and the floral patterned apron is a sweet touch as well.

Who else has awesome coats in this show? Anna! Just look at the detail on that collar!

Sybil, once again modeling the best maternity clothes ever. This soft gray velvet with the brocade hem panels is both elegant and gentle on our mother-to-be.

Another look at Sybil's gown, with a good peek at Mary's dress. I love the contrast of the white and silver embroidery on the stark black.

Of course, just because someone is a background character doesn't mean they'll be ignored at Downton! Here an elderly guest is resplendent in velvet, pearls, embroidery and a modest chiffon collar.

Here Isobel and Cora wear similar colors and fabrics, but with drastically different cuts. Cora has retained a more youthful figure and highlights it with the new slim look. Isobel follows a more maternal line with long drapes to flatter her less trim curves.

Grandma Martha in sharp, classy velvet, with a scarf tossed around her neck for effect.

Sybil, once again showing how good she looks in purple. The detail on her dress is beautiful, I simply adore the delicate white embroidery.

Edith wears an unusual color for her - gold. Yet surprisingly she pulls it off very well. She should wear it more often - it flatters her and enables her to stand out in a crowd.

More Grandma Violet hat love! Plus the detail on the coat lapel...

At Mary's wedding. Here we see Sybil in pale sea blue with a star shaped detail on the bodice, Cora wearing what looks like the same ensemble she'll wear again at the baptism, and Sybil in a soft but slightly darker sea blue, wearing a rare but fashionable silk scarf.

Daisy again! Here once again we see purple on display, again with the contrasting collar and cuffs, probably cut out of a dress that was otherwise completely worn.

Again a great contrast photo. And take a look at the interesting headpiece and short hairstyle of Grandma Martha. That woman is ahead of the times! (But I love Grandma Violet's chiffon overgown dearly.)

Whew! There you have it, folks! A close-up look at the gorgeousness that was the costumes of Downton Abbey, Season 3.

UPDATE: In January 2017, my husband took me to the Downton Experience to see the costumes of the show in person!