Friday, June 23, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: The Franken-Pattern Dress.

It was on a dreary night of June that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. 
With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of fabulousness into the pile of fabric that lay at my feet...

Clearly, I've been spending a lot of time with the tales and films of Frankenstein and his monster.
Forever my favorite story and "monster"-- the one I so closely identify with and obsesses over.

My latest, though not the only project finished, is my favorite creation to date. It has been an idea that has rattled in the back of my head for years, and it was Mary's contribution (from Autumn Moon Enchantement --how awesome that her name ties well with the theme of this post) that pounded the last nail in that coffin. She traded me this Pumpkinheads fabric from Michael Miller; I didn't know such amazing material existed, and it was all too perfect for this dress, I begged her for her scraps and she kindly obliged me haha!

Initially the plan was to make a full dress with some kind of pumpkin material, and the amount that Mary sent me wouldn't have been enough... but as it turned out, it was destiny that brought my creation together.

So, in the beginning of June a sewing with lace contest was announced for Sewing Pattern Review Online Sewing Community. I love lace, but ironically it's a material I am rather short on at any given time. Good lace is tough to stash... but I really wanted to enter and give it a shot, and all I really have is novelty laces-- this spiderweb lace meeting the criteria as best as my muse could muster. It needed to be a project I could quickly finish, given that I would be losing two weeks on account of my in-laws coming for a visit, rendering my room unreachable for the time being: one week to make the room "livable" and one week for them to reside in.

Funny enough, I wasn't even sure what I was going to do or what fabric I was going to use. After a day of pulling fabrics and patterns, it hit me like a bolt of lightning-- I should make the dress I have been wanting to make! It took a little franken-patterning to reach the design that I so dreamed about: the skirt from Simplicity 1194 and the bodice and midriff of New Look 6146 (ironically one of those 'mix & match' patterns).
 One aspect that I had to figure out on my own was the bat wing collar.

I am no stranger to the bat wing collar (throwback to my bat dress), but I must admit that I wasn't entirely sure how this would turn out in faux leather; it's considerably more bulky.
I opted to do one side in the faux leather and the other in cotton, to alleviate the amount of bulk. It worked beautifully.

The skirt used up 4 yards of my spiderweb lace; it's double layered. It was a touch too long, and from the ensuing fabric I made the sash, which looks to be part of the dress.

But it isn't. 
I did this purposely, since I love using waist belts... and some of my own design will be starting to see the light of day soon enough.

I am still not sure this would meet the criteria for the lace contest, though it says the garment must be 75% lace and this uses 4 yards of "lace" including an accessory against a quarter yard of cotton and a bit of faux leather... seems to me like it should, but we shall see. In any case, I do know it meets it for another contest, a little IG contest for a Halloween box. A Halloween spirit contest hosted by Order of the Thinned Veil-- I really dig this particular contest. Even if I don't win it, I shall endeavor to purchase their All Hallows level. Seems kick-ass.

Lastly, I have to say that I am completely obsessed right now with hemming my skirts with ribbon. I can't stop doing it, haha! I did it as an afterthought though, as you can tell from these subsequent shots of me wearing this dress without that hem.

Hmm, I don't know... should I keep or remove the ribbon hem?
Till next time, fiends. Spook you later!

Bat knit hood knit by yours truly.
Ribcage necklace handmade by yours truly.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Bloody Potential.

It's been a mayhem infused May for this gal.
Frankly I'm surprised I'm still here to continue my sarcastic tirade on life.

But here I am! Still stitchin' along, but also still pondering 'Y, tho' in true nihilistic manner.

Here I am, on the doorstep to 29-- just a little over a month from now-- and the only thing I can think of is 'sexual peak'. I think I read somewhere that 30 is the 20 for women's libido. It just may be, because I would never in my teens or early 20's ever would I have sewn, let alone worn, a crop top, and yet this is my second iteration of one.

Like a champ, I made Simplicity 8386 in between a little slew of projects on my chopping block-- I think if my plans ever went along in a neat little line, hell might serve orange smoothies and tacos.

But let's talk about this pattern cover for a minute-- how utterly boring can a pattern look? Dear Simplicity cover designers, wtf mates?!
Thank the gods I can see past a bland-looking pattern, and see its beautiful potential... but let me tell ya, I had a hard time not overlooking this pattern. I think I put it back 3 times before I remembered I had a sh*t ton of knit materials these may look good with.

I landed on this beautiful textured knit material which I have 8 yards of, and bloody hell I can't remember where I bought it haha. Must have been a big sale for me to buy this amount of it.
I dug it up trying to look for another knit material for another project-- felt just like a new discovery! What a feelin'.

I cut out view C in size 12-- it has a whopping two pattern pieces in total. This is about as easy as a project can get, and it suited the need to procrastinate while still satiating a misguided desire for productivity in a life of chaos. There wasn't much to it, but in case you needed it the instructions were crystal clear.

I'm a sucker for proper pressing in order to get the most out of garment appearance, even when it comes to using knit fabrics.
Pro tip: a tailor's clapper is your friend for pressing these kinds of tenacious knits. You get a nice fold, without the risk of your knits falling back into its previous drape or accidentally overheating your material in an attempt to use the iron's weight to press the seam under a press cloth-- which for specialty knits can be a real danger.

Instead of using packaged binding for this top, that the pattern calls for, I made some binding from a few strips of the material-- so I could retain the natural stretch of the material and for it to also match nicely.

I tried experimenting with the neckline by using a binded casing, instead of using the method they use in the pattern instructions; I ended up hating what I did and painstakingly removed all the woolly nylon overlocked stitches I did. I reverted back to their method, it turned out to be the best for reduced bulk; I carefully hand-stitched the casing closed, as I liked the idea of an invisible seam there.

I finished this in just a mere couple hours, sufficed to say in good timing. I wasn't feeling great about my body; bloated, blemished like the pox, grumpy, nauseous, and hair that was so kinked and frazzled a bird mistook it for a nest. All courtesy of mother nature and her visit that went unimpeded by birth control. I'm not sure why I thought it was a good idea to get off of it, but in a bid to figure out my reluctant health... well, desperation is never a pretty color to paint with.

All's well that ends well, though-- I'm about the end of her visit this month and my body is going back to relative normality... whatever that really is, all things considering.

I had further design plans for this top, like adding more texturing to the surface through meticulously designed stitches... but alas, as a rather unlucky sewist, I broke the key needle player in that game before I even begun to chuckle towards completion.
It'll just have to wait, because at $3 for one needle... I'm in no rush to get it out of my drawing board yet, heh.
By itself, it makes a great goth summer staple article; simple, buildable, sweet... and that seems like enough.

Till next time, fiends-- spook ya later!

What are your sewing or crafting plans for the summer heat?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Ghost With The Most.

What do we got 'ere tonight, kids?

I'm on a roll, my fiends, sewing like tomorrow the bells will toll. Better yet, all these projects are made using fabric from the stash, and not just any stash... the good stash. The stash I didn't think I would ever cut into. So bold, so ambitious... so freaking scary.

I would be remiss if I didn't say I have (had?) ulterior motives to getting back into sewing so voraciously. Contests; contests are very good motivators. McCall's Pattern Company has such a contest of interest, for the construction of M7542.

The prizes are $100 gift certificate to Vogue Fabrics plus a 1 year sub to their fabric catalog, and $100 worth of McCall's patterns. I was so excited for those prizes, but the ironic thing was this was a pattern I actually passed on during a pattern haul (doh!).

Luckily I have have a really awesome friend here in San Antone who didn't mind buying the pattern after telling him I've been having withdrawals and wished I didn't pass it up so I could participate; I haven't bought fabric in a few months, partly because we have been heavily cutting down on the outgoing cashflow, but mostly because I made a very substantial bet with my significant other that if I managed to make it to October without purchasing fabric, I would get a "within reason" fabric/hallowe'en shopping spree in return.

Anyway, so I found this rayon challis at Walmart, and in a black and white stripe print some odd years ago now when I lived in Arizona (?)-- such an odd almost out of place good quality too that I ended up buying the rest of the bolt at the time. When I find fabric this good, I tend to get very greedy and buy entire bolts; bad for the wallet, but hella satisfying.

There isn't much to say about the actual pattern itself. I cut out a 12 and extended the back opening about an 1 1/2" down from the original ending point-- partly because I couldn't get my head through in the mock up, and partly to have a subtle skin reveal as I moved. Other than that, it fit as it should-- not too tight, not too loosely. It's semi-loose fitting with bust and shoulder darts for the tiniest bit of form fit. There was an excess of ease on the upper sleeve pattern piece, but nothing you can't just chop off after you've set it in with a baste stitch; I know, I'm a filthy savage.

The hook and eye is meh, it catches my knotty hair every time I take it on and off.
I would've added a loop closure with a fancy button if I didn't mess up that plan by serging the facing on before sammiching a loop between that and the outer fabric.
The hemline sits a touch higher than what's typical, ending right at the high hip point-- I didn't know I would like this cut as much I as do, it's flirtatious!

Sample dress #1, WIP
I used an applique bib that initially I was going to use in a dress I was designing around a dual sided lace fabric that was purchased for me from the same friend. There's a little regret in doing so, the material and the bib went so well together but when I get to designing without a clue as to what I want... I didn't know if it would ever see a use... individually, they are quite pretty.

There is one good thing that came from my indecisiveness, I mean, other than using it in this top... I started drawing croquis again . So there's that. This hasn't been a usual practice for me for the past 4 to 5 years, mostly because I now sew and design as lark rather than as a meticulous planned endeavor. Keeps things fresh and satisfying, I lose steam as quickly as I gain it anymore these days... but it feels good to be going back to my roots.

Back to the blouse, the bib didn't seem like enough and I struggled with the idea of adding more embellishments to, well... an embellishment. I landed on the idea of spikes, however, this being a rayon challis and a mesh bib, it would not stand the weight of conventional metal spikes or studs; it would sag rather unflatteringly. I remembered Hobby Lobby had some acrylic sew-on spikes with a chrome finish that turned out to be perfect.

A little dab of well placed fabric glue on the bottom of each spike and placed in their appropriate spots ensured I would get the perfect sew-down every time.

A beetle pendant makes my 'Beetlejuice chic' work properly.
I alternated the way I cut the upper and lower sleeve portions, because it can't be Beetlejuice inspired if the stripes weren't horizontal on the sleeves... but the pleats I don't think would have had the impact they do if I continued the horizontal pattern.
I guess it is worth noting that the sleeves are the hardest part of this blouse. I don't like how they have you close up the upper portion and hopefully you've accurately transferred your markings that you may or may not have drawn on the wrong side of the material; if like me, you did the latter, you might run into a little hitch because those pieces are meant to fold up and close as a kind of self-lining feature, I guess.

Because I didn't want to mess with reopening the lower portion and potentially marring such a large piece of rayon in the process, I just picked out the small seams of the upper sleeve portion and marked out the seam allowance so I could pleat along the flat length and hope for the best haha! It took a couple tries, pinning and unpinning, but inevitably I persisted into a successful even fit.

With the temps getting warmer and warmer now, I feel great that I have a top to head on the incoming weather. My latest wardrobe purge left me without many good summery tops as I've come to realize; thankfully I sew and have no shortage of things to sew... as I haven't been much in the mood for clothing shopping in a while now.

I actually think I will attempt to sew another one of these, in a different style of sleeve offered-- I'm just in love with this pattern. I fail to understand why I nearly passed on this pattern; don't be like me in this regard, my spooky friends. Get the pattern, you'll love it too!

Spooky you later, fiends! 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: The Hat Atop My Batty Head

Well folks, here I am again.

It occurred to me while writing a reply in my previous post that the pillbox hat kind of deserved more than a little footnote to the work spent on the final look for my gothy Easter ensemble.

Ok, so the process of making the pillbox hat was slightly more than what I initially made it seem like. Yes, the pillbox shape was easy to draft; it is just a circle and a band that matches the diameter.
However, there were certain and important factors that I considered heavily before construction on this "little" project.

First, I was going to use cardboard... but throwing back to the coffin purse I made for myself (here's a completed view) a few years back, as wonderful as it was the cardboard I used for the front and back pieces inevitably collapsed. Cardboard is intrinsically temporary-- lesson firmly reiterated. As an aside, this purse still outlasted any store bought purse I own; every month it feels like I'm patching up anything from Kreepsville.

Sorry not sorry if you love Kreepsville. Small rant over.

Anyway, buckram is what any milliner would recommend... though I am not a real milliner (I'd like to think I'm still capable, though) so it's not like I had the best on hand, but I am a sewist which does afford me better substitutes than mere cardboard.

I used notions in my stash that were otherwise much more niche than other items, like my 72F Peltex ultra firm double sided fusible interfacing by Pellon, which is what I used as the foundation-- I reserved this primarily for the bottom of bags, but served no other purpose to me... until I discovered it made a great foundation for my fascinators.

Fused the stiffened material to the peltex, 
and cut it out with pinking shears to prevent fraying.
 This peltex is firm, but not buckram firm. I grabbed some of those pesky muslin scraps and first tried to starch them using Mary Ellen's Best Press; ordinarily I swear by this stuff for making the knifiest of knife pleats, or crispest of the crispest folds and hems... but as a solid, almost crusty (probably not the best description) starch, I found it did not meet my expectations.

While checking out at the craft shop where I would normally breeze past the impulse buy shelves, I caught a glance of Aleene's Stiffen-quik and decided to give it a whirl. It turned out not to be a half bad impulse buy hahah. So now we were buckram stiff.

Well, first iterations were not keeping their shape as nicely as one hoped, and after doing some research found out that buckram although stiff, still also needs stabilizers which come in the form and recommendation of milliner's wire or hat wire. I've never personally come into contact with milliner's wire, but from the looks of it, it looked a hell of a lot like thread covered wire-- seemed to me that stem wire would make a great substitute.

The only problem was that stem wire did not seem to come in spools where I tried shopping for it, but rather... well... stems of 18 inches, heh. I had to use two pieces overlapping of this wire on both the top and bottom of this hat in order to cover the diameter.

Next, and I don't know how viable long term these are but, I used a light coating of fabric basting spray to adhere the first top portion of the hat to prevent bubbling of the material while I stitched it down to the sides. I feel it worked wonderfully and is as tight as a snare drum.

I did not use the spray for the side however because I needed to make a very small and invisible stitch and sprays do gum up fine needles, regardless of their no-gumming claims; so I used a fusible tape, because I have never had a needle gum up with them yet. I think a fusible sticky tape may have been better, but I didn't own any nor did I think of it till later to buy it. But the normal fusible tape also worked very well, with a little dexterity.

I also used copious amounts of Fray-Check on my fashion fabrics, because not one piece ever saw the plate of my machines-- I didn't want to risk too much warping and tugging of the material.

When I got the top and band on, it came time for the best part of any project-- decorating and embellishing!
As with the embellishments on the dress, I made many little fabric yoyos using clover's templates.

I have a bunch of tins with random beads I cut off from old garments and projects lying about with the explicit purpose of doing something like this-- reusing them-- the very beads I used to top the yoyos on my dress. I also took some fabric glue and rhinestones and meticulously laid out my quasi-random splay. It's not so easy to make random look so undeliberate.

I think the most challenging predicament, at least for someone who is an amateur milliner at best was lining the damn thing. In all my books and all my searches, there were barely mentions of how to line a pillbox hat. I went instead to look at actual photos of vintage pillbox hats to see if I could solve the mystery through my visual deduction. Indeed, it very much helped-- it was so simple it hurt and the answer was literally right in front of me.

In the same way you make a fabric yoyo, this beautiful lining is made by taking a piece of lining cut from the band pattern piece and basting a long stitch along one side and then pulling it tight-- it will naturally collapse into a circle, very similar to the fabric yoyo. I then put some permanent fabric glue along the inner edge and dabbed the center and placed this lining piece in. BINGO mutha-heller!

Later I did discover someone mentioning this technique-- I am quite proud that I arrived at it organically, though.

Next was figuring out how to mask the raw edges of the lining-- I thought about glue and some bias tape, but that sounded awful messy and unprofessional looking. Glue is always visible on a band with no movement, folks... especially on premade bias tapes.

I dug through more of my niche notions and uncovered iron-on hem tape. It must have been an impulse buy for I don't remember what in the hell I would ever use iron hem tape on; this stuff is buckram firm too, and at that point why not just use horsehair... it's much easier to mask on a garment than this stuff...

Odd that I had it, but fairly serendipitous in the end. It looks pretty great, and works pretty great! I stitched round elastic onto it before fusing it and thus completing my hat.

The irony to all this is that it is probably cheaper on paper to buy buckram and hat wire than all the items I used to make these seem more like buckram and hat wire, hahah... it's just that I had these (except the stiffen-quik) on hand and not the others that guided my hand.

On a final note, I'd like to mention that flicking this hat is very satisfying because it is very stiff and taut; the sound it makes is so professional...

That's not weird at all. Some people flick vegetables for their sound...

Do you like hats? What kind of hats are your favorite?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Twas The Night Before Easter...

And all through the cave, the creatures were stirring especially... me!

I'm not very good at story telling.
Nor with keeping blogs updated on a regular basis. Luckily, Goth Gardener has given me just the right motivation to get back into the swing once more. She began hosting this contest/competition for a most wonderful looking basket of gothy Easter treats... and truth be told, I am cutting that rather damn close, by literally a night. The rules: write about your perfect gothy Easter, or what you would put in a gothy Easter basket, or even yet, write a gothy Easter spooky tale.

I was going to write about my perfect gothy Easter... but I thought long and hard, and being a mountain home shy of a hermit, I found that rather difficult to come up with. My perfect Easter would be a day spent home-- much like any holiday sans Halloween; and much like any other holiday, I attempt to inject as much Halloween cheer into aspects of it.

Easter egg decorating would consist primarily of ghoulish visions and jack o'lantern grins. Probably a lot of jump scares during the hunting of them...

These don't seem like original thoughts for a goth Easter. Nor are they particularly goth so much as they are Halloweeny...

So, I decided to stick to what I do best: sew!
I had this one on the back burner for a little while if you've been following my instagram, admittedly... but I finally got around to completing it and you know what, this entire ensemble would make a great Easter Sunday Best-- for a goth!

Meet my version of New Look 6670 plus a matching hat!
What a hassle it was to construct, but I'm so glad it's finally done.
It's a two piece dress; the base dress which is a princess seam style sheath silhouette, and the over-skirt/belt. With the scraps I constructed a matching pillbox hat

I think my favorite part of this ensemble is the over-skirt; it's a good piece to carry over into other outfits!

Now for the technical talk-- you can skip over this part if you don't care about the pattern construction info:

I chose view C and over skirt E. The shorter slightly less formal view than the others.

So my main issue was the zipper, hands down the worst location for an open back dress, not to mention for a lapped zipper. At least for one with some swayback issues, such as myself. It was designed with this zipper dead center of the back. Blech. I sewed up the entire back, and attached the zipper in an invisible style to the side under arm.
The finished dress could look much better, but truth be told, I just wanted to be done with it-- seemed like an unlucky dress. Not only were new fit issues popping up during mock ups every time I adjusted one part of it, but my machines just didn't cooperate with my material choice, which is a shantung sateen; no matter how many times I switched needles, cleaned it out or what have you. The dress sews up easily enough, and the instructions get a little vague in parts, but I'd assume you would tackle this if you have some sewing experience... so it's not vague enough to throw an intermediate sewist off.

My bust size is significantly smaller than the size I needed to fit my waist and hips. I tried to fit at the bust and work my way out, but it made so many issues being princess seams and all. I had to constantly readjust the back portion of the strap to prevent the gaping, but as it would appear, it was not completely resolved. I wasn't fully able to tailor this successfully, it was this dress that made me realize that I have shrunk down enough that tailoring on my dress form is no longer viable. I think that was the main problem why I was so unsuccessful in getting this "right".

So, like I mentioned, I used a black sateen shantung with recycled embellishments salvaged from past garments. The material itself was a large remnant piece sold to me in one big piece because I worked the cutting table at Hancocks, and because special privileges and whatnot (hah!). It had minor tears and tape adhesive stains throughout, but I managed to fussy cut my way into this dress. Not feeling great about the massive amounts of scraps, I bought some fabric yoyo makers from clove and started cutting out a bunch of yoyos to use as embellishments on the dress, but I decided against it since the lace I was going to use for the over-skirt belt (also purchased from Hancocks) was rather fussy to begin with. So in came the idea to make a pillbox hat. I drafted the rather easy pattern myself and used more of the scraps to make more yoyos and the hat, then proceeded to fill in gaps with black rhinestones that I had because they were damaged goods I was allowed to take while working at Hancocks (RIP).

For sure not my favorite thing I have ever constructed, but probably not the fault of the pattern?.. Egads is it gorgeous, though! Even for its flaws.

End of technical talk.

Like I said, if you were following my instagram (@mari_mortem) you would have likely seen the progress shots of the dress and the hat. If I had an event to attend for Easter, this is exactly what I would have worn, hehe!

So, because I don't know if this submission will meet the criteria of the contest, and we know my story telling abilities leave a lot to be desired... let me leave with a Easter time haiku a la mort:

Pastel gloom be gone
Hallowe'en we miss you so
At least it's raining.

I guess I better stick to my sewing machine, heh...
  • Shoes revamped by yours truly, check out close ups in this link.
  • Gloves from Claire's

Spook ya later, friends!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tales of Trial and Terror: Bubble, Bubble, Toiles and Troubles.

Mock ups (or toiles, pronounced twalls or twahls) are important when constructing a garment-- whether you're drafting your own pattern or testing the fit of a commercial one, they save you the trouble of screwing up on your main material.

I, among most seamstress', use muslin for these toiles. It's cheaper than most garment materials, it drapes like most garment materials, and most importantly it's blank and some variation of white so that any markings, stitching or glaring fitting errors are completely visible.

The problem is the life of my muslin toiles and its scraps ends when all of my corrections are made and done, which when you think about it... makes muslin seem like a waste of money and precious resources.

I count myself very lucky that I rarely need to make extensive corrections in order to justify the purchase and use of muslin; a little shortening here, a little tightening there... but, like now, there are times I actually need to make sure of the fit... well, the waste can be quite daunting. I hear some people even make up to 4 toiles before their end garment!

One toile results in this much scrap
Some of these people have solutions to their growing muslin collection. These people are smart and crafty with their muslin.
 These say use the final draft as the pattern, they say use it as stuffing or stabilizer or sew-in interfacing. These ideas are great, but they haven't exactly worked for my needs consistently leaving my muslins to take up space for very long intervals of time.

For the life of me I have never found a sustainable use for my muslin mocks; for my garment material scraps I have loads of uses because of the variation in fabric design and color, but muslin... meh... which is why I try to be very deliberate and conscientious about the use of it-- prompting this post.

I thought about dying them, maybe in the hopes of turning it into a garment I could wear... but the lack luster appearance of muslin on the whole doesn't pique my interest enough.
Dying it is still an idea, though.
With the news that many grocers will be transitioning to bagless down here in the South pretty soon, it got me to thinking... maybe I could stitch these dyed scraps together and make reusable totes? Perhaps I could even stamp and paint these in 'ol Hallowe'en fashion... hmm.

What would/do you do with muslin toiles?

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: Pressurized Spleen.

Though I have done a lot this past month, last week in particular I managed levels of productivity unfounded in my book.

Even so, the things I have completed are not the things that should have been done in that timeline.
Though I am quite happy to have them out of the way... it does beg the question, was it properly motivated? Or was it really anxiety related procrastination at work.

The idea sounds paradoxical, yet it somehow exists, nay, thrives in me at times; procrastination thy name is anxiety! Or is it the other way around... this one does not know.

I was supposed to have my Etsy shop open by now.
I was supposed to have at least 20 items made ready to list and ship.
At the very least, I was supposed to have my shop icon/logo fully designed.

Instead, I have an organized craft room that has a little less unused bulk that it once did, a formidable challenge renting space in my brain and table in the form of a sheath dress with princess seams but ultimately a personal project, a quiet and small obsession for certain games, and a surfeit of questions/solutions dealing with the daily minutiae.

I find myself imperceptive of the fact that later is better than never, and finding in some part of my brain that never might just be better than at all... it's quite good at convincing me...

These echoes of the past, these ill-fitting advices consumed as truth, 
knocking over every foundation I attempt to build like an ominous pendulum-- an anti-anchor. Words that keep me drifting in a sea of doubt.

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