Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Embroidery Machines are Addicting

I love being able to so quickly make a beautiful gift. This is a bag I embroidered for a former nanny charge of mine on the occasion of her birthday. Since she is a dedicated ballet student, I found this design on Urban Threads. It was a bit fussy to get the color gradients correct since I stitched it in purple rather than pink, but well worth it!

I wanted a bit more sparkle, so I sewed some beads along the skirt hem. Simple, but very effective and classy!

If you've got $300 laying around and are at all interested in getting into machine embroidery, go check out the Brother SE400. It's beautiful.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Confession: I procrastinate on cost queries.

Well, procrastination is actually not entirely accurate. It's more that it could appear to be procrastination, but the reality is I have to make choices about what to do when, and answering cost queries come below working on current commissions. My method is now to answer queries in blocks, and if you'd like further details, read on! (As of 8/23/14 I am currently catching up on all the queries in my inbox.)

My query form submission confirmation has been promising y'all replies in 3 days... which hasn't happened for most of you. That is now fixed with a link leading here.

I get a lot of queries. I have found it to be much more efficient to answer them in large groups. Because I constantly collect new data as I create each costume, answering everything as close to the new queue openings means I have the most data to give you the best quote for your project. If I gave you a quote nine months before my queue opened, that quote might change before I reached the point of sewing it. Which would be frustrating for us both.

Because my queue only opens once or twice a year, if you are in a hurry and my queue is not due to open for several months I strongly recommend that you search out other costumers. The nearest deadline I could meet after my queue opens is usually three months after that. (Costuming is a busy business right now. For which I am thankful, but does make life more difficult for you, the customer).

I'm a one woman business, and I have another job (writing) and also some health issues that can affect my timetable and even my ability to get on the computer when a migraine hits. Often I have to chose to give my attention to the costume currently in construction rather than replying to queries from potential customers. Is this ideal? No, but for now it is the one that actually happens and I need to be honest with you about it.

Some of you sent me queries months ago and are only now getting answers. Please know that I am thankful for your patience, and I completely understand if you found another costumer in the meantime. As much as I dearly wish I could complete all the sewing each and every one of you needs, I simply don't have the time - especially since my health requires that I institute longer periods for myself to work on each costume than another costumer might. I am continuing to do my best, and being clear about the reply wait times is my attempt to avoid misunderstandings or worries on your part.

Plus, all this means that if you are patient for the queue and do commission a costume from me, you can know that I will give it my all and you will own a piece that I believe is worth waiting for.

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's Legit!

It's legit - I have garment tags now! These lovely silk ribbons came all the way from France. Ironically, that was the best price I could find! Very happy with the service offered by Ikaprint and will order again when I use my first 100 tags up.

Friday, August 15, 2014

White to Blue Skirt Refashion

Well, I was happy with the length, but between being tired of white skirts and not liking how the elastic waistband sat on my waist and poofed out, I wasn't wearing the skirt at all. 

So I threw it in a batch of blue dye and got ready to refashion!

First I chopped off that huge elastic waistband and separated the overskirt from the modesty underskirt. Since the fabric was darker now, I no longer needed the modesty slip. I used that fabric to form a new, fitted waistband. The I put the skirt on my dress form and pinned in the sides and created darts in both front and back to get the more fitted look I wanted.

Now the skirt was 95% okay without the modesty slip - but that upper layer of lace had just enough peepholes that I needed to put something there - so I put that blue bias tape to work!

I sewed the bias tape from the outside to make sure my seams would look straight where they would actually be seen.

Then I sewed the waistband to the skirt, inserted a zipper, and did a row of white topstitching to make the waistband seam match the other seams.

I like the skirt SO much better now and it is much more comfortable and cool with the removal of the weird elastic and the slip! Plus now I can safely wear it after Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Make a Fandom Dice Bag

Dice rock. In fact, they rock so much, that Nathan and I made them the favors at our wedding.

Photo by E.P. Photography

Recently a group of our friends has been having fun with a Star Wars role-playing game put out by Nathan's company, Fantasy Flight Games. It has its own set of dice that we wanted to keep separate from our regular gaming dice. So I decided to make everyone their own special Star Wars dice bag. Originally it was going to be a draw string leather bag, but that sort of morphed and zippers are better for keeping dice in anyhow.

First off, you need to cut a piece of fabric that is four times the size as you would like to make your finished bag, plus seam allowances. This can be either a rectangle as shown above or a square as pictured below.

I made most of the bags from quilting cotton, but you can use any non-stretchy fabric that you feel comfortable working with.

You next need to turn your fabric into a doubled over rectangle. For the blue square, all I had to do was fold it over. For the white fabric, I had to fold it, sew one of the long edges right side together, then turn it back right side out. Either way, you need one folded or finished doubled edge facing up.

Then you get to fold it over again and find a zipper that fits the upper edge. I had two short zippers salvaged from other projects that worked well here. The blue one is an invisible zipper, which I don't recommend for this project but was all that I had.

Now you are going to cut that folded side seam, so that for each side you have a doubled over square with the finished side pointing up.

Time to attach your badge! I made mine on my embroidery machine, using this Jedi Order design from etsy, but you can just purchase and stitch on a badge of your own fandom choosing. If you have an embroidery machine, you could of course embroider your design right on the bag, but I thought the pleather looked cool.

Because pleather shows pinholes, I glued down the circles before sewing them, rather than pinning them on.

Time to put the zipper in! This is a good project to learn about putting in zippers, as all  you have to do is pin down the finished edges on the zipper and sew!

Make sure to leave a half inch on each end unsewn, this will allow you to sew the side seams. See how the pins mark the gap above.

Time to sew down the edges! I start at the top of each side and sew down to the bottom. After doing both sides, I sew straight across the bottom. You may need a zipper foot to get close into the top, as the zipper will want to push the foot away from itself up there. MAKE SURE YOUR ZIPPER IS UN-ZIPPED BEFORE YOU COMPLETE THIS STEP! Zippers can be hard to unzip from the interior.

I did finish all the edges with my serger, but this is not a necessary step.

Turn it right side out. The ends of the zipper may want to pop out at the side, so you may want to turn and tack them down, as seen by the red arrow.

A little pressing with the iron and you're done!

Pin me!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Goodbye Singer, Hello Janome!

Guys, I'd like you to meet Magnolia.

Two years ago I purchased a store model Singer Professional 5, scoring myself a very powerful and complex $800 machine for just $300. It had five threads, could do overlock and coverstitch and a million other things. Best bargain ever, right?

But then it broke down. I got it fixed. I played around with it, testing out other stitches. It was so complicated to thread and switching over to coverstitch was not fun at all. But hey, I had an awesome serger for a great price. Still, I eyed some simpler machines and wished that I'd maybe gotten something a bit simpler. Especially when I figured out how to do a coverstitch with my regular machine and a twin needle!

It worked for another 18 months... and then broke down again. This time when I brought it into my sewing repair place (which ROCKS, btw. If you're in the Twin Cities, go to Gratz Sewing!), they did everything they could but finally had to admit they couldn't repair it. They were lovely and didn't charge me a penny, but said that even if an official Singer place could repair it, they might charge me $200.

I so did not want to put another $200 into this complicated machine when I could use the same money to purchase a simpler one I knew I'd be happier with. When Gratz offered me some store credit towards a new serger if I traded in my Singer, and when I found their price for the Janome (Jah - gnome - me) 7034D beat Amazon by $11... I was sold.

(I'd previously been looking at a Brother Serger, since I love my Brother SE400, but Gratz was highly rating the Janome and since they gave me a year's warranty with the purchase and they'll be doing the repairs, I figured it was best to go with what they were familiar and happy with).

Guys. Best decision ever. I grilled the store people about the machine and made sure I knew everything I should know and saw it in action before paying, and then I took it home and opened it up...

Ahhhhhh it was so beautiful and pre-threaded and SIMPLE.

Ugh, and it's so much smaller and lighter!

The inside is about a third as complicated as the Singer and there are only two needles and it sews beautiful seams. I am a happy happy happy lady.

I am now a very strong supporter of the separate coverstitch/overlock modal. If you are looking to get a serger, get the Magnolia or a similar overlocker. If you want to sew a coverstitch, use the twin needle on your regular machine. If your regular machine doesn't have this option (which would be weird), then you can look into a separate coverstitch machine, but trust me, you don't want one super complicated machine to do all the work that you have to constantly rethread. It's a nightmare.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Queen Regina's Purple Dress - Part 4

Wow. Blogging about this dress has gone so much more quickly than the actual creation. That's always, true, of course, but after working on this particular costume for three months, it began to feel like I was never going to get to share the whole thing with y'all. So exciting to finally be posting the last piece today!

(Don't forget to read part 3 if you haven't yet!)

Remember how I said the trim came in spools of 15 feet? WELL that was about 2.5 feet less than what I needed to trim the back how I wanted. Even another 6 inches would have allowed me to reach the bottom of the peplum. Alas. It was not to be. So I played around and came up with something that was a decent fix.

If you're making this costume and you have a really narrow waist, you could probably get away with the 15 feet. However, if you want the trim to reach up the back slit, and if you've got a normal waist, you'll want at least 17 feet. Which means tracking down a trim option other than this one - or buying two rolls. (I used a coupon on the Hobby Lobby website and one roll came to $20 with shipping. Which comes out to $4 a yard, just for comparison.)

I folded, pinned and stitched down the outer edge of the trim first. Little pleats were necessary around the curves. I made sure to pin it while on the dress form to ensure the right curvature over the bust. Pinning it off the form would have created weird buckling and gaping issues.

I stitched down the inside of the trim and added the frog closures in front. You can pick these up at JoAnn's on the Notions Wall, although I recommend waiting until you have a total purchase coupon or a notions wall coupon, as they get pricey fast. I think I spent around $17 for the four of these.

Can you spot something interesting about this panel? This was the very last skirt panel and we ran out of purple thread on the last half of it! 2000 meters was not enough, apparently! Unfortunately we couldn't match it perfectly in the time we had, so we went with the best we could find. Thankfully it isn't too noticeable with the way the fabric catches the light anyhow.

Originally I was going to make a completely separate skirt, but I was afraid that this would create a lot of slipping around and since the fabric was so thin I was able to insert it into the bodice without adding a lot of bulk. I made a very thin waistband out of bias tape to cover the raw edges, and stitched in the ditch on the outside to secure it. This method worked VERY well.

Ahhhh look at it!

I still can't believe I really embroidered all of those flowers.

The back trim turned out okay!

BTW, I used 6 yards of the blue fabric and that was just barely enough. For a taller woman I'd want at least 7.

I actually snapped these photos before hemming the skirt, as I knew I wouldn't have time to put it back on the form before shipping it out.

The overskirt was running just a tad shorter than I wanted, so I pulled some black lace out of my stash and used it as hem tape. It worked really well and added a really special touch for the interior of the dress.

Because my client wanted to wear this in a crowded environment with lots of walking, bustle hooks were a must! I put just one on the underskirt and one on the overskirt. Three would have been idea, but I didn't want to make it too fussy to put up.

I also needed to make sure that the underskirt waistband didn't slip down from under the bodice and expose tummy. So I put two hooks in the underskirt waistband...

...and the corresponding eyes in the bodice.

Overskirt all bustled up!

At that point I shipped off everything except the bra, which I still needed to finish. This went very quickly. I stitched down some of the lining fabric over the sheer lace cups, then appliqued on the beaded pieces.

If you read the introductory post, you'll know that my client needed to have alterations done to expand the waistband. Above she is wearing the altered dress (although honestly I can't even tell it was altered from here). And yes, she is wearing that at the San Diego Comic Con!

And that, folks, is how I recreated Queen Regina's Purple Apple Dress from "Once Upon a Time." It was a crazy adventure, but a very cool one - and I even made a new friend out of it!