Monday, September 22, 2014

Quickie Project: Jodhpurs!

With Steamposium fast approaching and the local thrift chain stores full of costumes, inspiration is everywhere and I'm all too easy to sidetrack into little demi-projects. Yesterday I found a pair of vintage 1951 military field pants for six dollars that I thought could easily be made into a pair of jodhpurs.

Jodhpurs are those puffy-legged pants you see on British adventurers of a certain era, or old-school equestrians, or 1930s movie directors with megaphones. Like this:

Like a lot of vintage pants, they are high-waisted, sitting at the natural waist instead of the hips. That's what made the field pants I found so great -- they had a generous rise and fit at the waist.  They were also full through the seat and thighs, which I hoped would be enough to give that poofy look without me having to set in gores or anything.  I didn't get any "before" pictures because I was too excited and started cutting, but here's a link to a pair exactly the same, and a picture in case the link dies.

I put them on and marked with chalk where my knee was and pinned along my calf to how tight I wanted the lower legs to fit.

I left the inseam alone and only removed fabric from the outside edge, to keep a more finished look. I basted the path I intended to cut and sew to make sure of the fit before proceeding and then, with crossed fingers for luck, I cut out and stitched the new outer leg seam. I left five inches of the cuffs entirely alone so I could figure out a buttoned flap to fasten the cuffs snugly.

They're not perfect-- I think I may take them a little higher up the knee -- but the fit is good, and when I put my hands in the pockets, they "poof" correctly. They could be a little fuller, but I'm not going to mess with that. They're fine for costume wear, and that's what I intend them for, so it's a good effort.

The nice thing about jods is their versatility. You can dress them up with a shirt and jacket, or down with a undershirt. Just like jeans, I guess. I tried a few things from my wardrobe to see how they looked.

I've also learned that snapping selfies with the timer gives me enough time to strike a pose, but not enough to work up a smile. Don't I look serious? Any suggestions on what to wear with my jods? Put them in the comments. Thanks!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Boy Makes It, too!

I have a son ("The Boy") and he makes music. Thought I'd post his new EP here for my friends to listen to. What a talented family I have! 

Seattle Steamposium 2014

This year's steampunk convention, the Steamposium, is next Saturday --a week away!-- and so I've brought out my outfit and checked to see if it needs any mends or freshening after hanging in the closet for a year.

Except for taking the waist by an inch (yay!) everything looks good. Then I remembered how last year I couldn't take off my jacket because *confession*  I had finished the skirt's waistband with pale green bias tape. (I was in a hurry, okay? I always meant to do it properly, but there's a lesson for you: do it right the first time!) The leather belt I threw around my waist to keep my skirt my from sliding down and to try to cover up the green didn't do a proper job and so I had to keep my jacket on and buttoned up so no one could see my shameful shortcut.

The ubiquitous steampunk corset is a trope I was trying avoid, sticking to my mantra of "No corset, no goggles, no pointless gears." I mean, let's show a little creativity, folks. Besides that, corsets never give me a proper curvy waistline; I'm built like a tree trunk. They just make me look like a fancier tree trunk.  I decided a wide belt would suit my needs and after considering leather I decided to see what I could do with scraps from my stash. It took me three hours on the sewing machine, cutting a modified version of my original corset pattern from a brocaded satin with a canvas backing for strength, nylon stays, and crimson velveteen binding. Six grommets fit out the back and a piece of black ribbon ties it all together, though I may change that for a bootlace or similar for easier tightening.

Here it is on Imogene. She's not got a squishy waist like mine, so I don't have it snug, but you can see the effect of it.  I've got the jacket flipped back so you can see most of it.

Mostly I'm going to have my jacket buttoned and no one will see the belt at all, but if I get hot it will be nice to be able to shrug it off, roll up my shirtsleeves, and not worry about anyone catching a peep of that green bias tape.

I'm thinking there will be a little more decoration on that belt, too -- maybe some buttons with chain swagged between them. We'll see.

I've got almost all the sequins done on the MC cloak, too. Next month I'll start work on the tunic, so stay tuned for that!

Friday, September 12, 2014

MC: Lady Elvis?

It's starting to cool off as fall sets in, which is good, because I can't handle many more 80-degree days sitting with a wool cloak thrown over my knees as I stitch on hundreds of sequins.

Stitching sequins isn't difficult work, but there sure are a lot of them and tying off after each one makes it hard to get into a rhythm. I'm almost out of red thread, too. I figured putting the shinies on this cloak would be a three-evening job at most. Boy, was I wrong.

And the little buggers have a nasty tendency to reflect my sewing light right into my eyes. Dave pointed out the other night that when I shift the cloak on my lap, the sequin reflections dance and swirl on the ceiling, giving an air of late-70s disco to the room. The cats think it's fantastic.

The worst part of it is, I'm not even half done yet! I still have to mark and set the sequins on the other half of the cloak. It's a good thing we've been given a year to finish this challenge. And here I thought I'd be done in no time. Ha! Ha ha!

On the plus side, the cloak looks amazing. I've never seen anything like this at an event, and I'm rather looking forward to showing it off like a medieval Elvis.

Dave asked who I was making this outfit for: myself, him, just to fit Imogene as a display piece, or to sell, or what?  I told him it was for me, of course. Is it odd that my Manuscript Challenge will be cross-dressing? Perhaps I should hire a model that looks a bit more like the guy in the drawing, instead of putting it on my thick-waisted, middle-aged female self. I guess in the time given I could shed a few pounds, but that still won't help when it comes to the beard. Hmm. Something to think about!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

MC: How's it look so far?

Well, I got the spangles in the mail on Friday and I stitched about one-third of them on that night. Not perfectly happy with the result, because the sequins flapped from their single stitch-hole. I bought a tiny hole punch so they can be anchored from two points and I think that will be much more pleasing.

The blue cloth draped there is the raw silk that my friend Sunny Jim helped me dye. I should have taken pictures of that party, but I was too busy stirring my fabric in the dye bath for an hour and a half. It turned out very well, and I think the color (which here looks a little yellowish, darn indoor light) is absolutely perfect. I'm excited to cut my tunic pieces and start stitching!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Armor, argh!

I'm just going to post a few notes about armor I've found so that I can find them all in one place again later.

The first is a picture: "Soldier wearing the lamellar klivanion cuirass and a straight spathion sword. Byzantine fresco of XIII century." 

This has some pretty good detailing; I can see the way the lamellae are laced together. Sort of. I mean, it's tiny, but I can squint... 

And there's some nice-looking stuff on this page. The "Lamellar Armor with Leather Strips" is particularly choice. 

And now I need to get some sleep. How much you wanna bet I dream of armor? Too much!

MC: All we need now is spots.

Finished hemming the cloak last night and put a fastener onto the collar. I'm very pleased with it and eagerly anticipate the arrival of the spangles. I've ordered them from a place in New York that is shipping them Priority, which I think means they should be here within three days. Hopefully they will be in my mailbox by Saturday afternoon, if not sooner. The tracking number on the package tells me where it is, but doesn't give an arrival estimate; very frustrating, haha.

The color is off because of the flash -- really orange-y. The red in the clasp picture is closer to what the actual fabric looks like.

The neck clasp is nothing special, just something I found in my stash. The inspiration picture isn't detailed enough for me to really see what our king has holding the cloth together there, so I used this piece and call it good until someone can offer up a better suggestion.

Tomorrow I'm meeting with a friend who will help me dye my six yards of cream-colored raw silk into a cerulean blue to make the tunic. I wanted to use woad, but couldn't find anyone that had experience to help me and I didn't want to risk spending big money and ruining my fabric. So we're using a fiber reactive procion dye from Dharma. I'm excited to see how it turns out!

A Free e-book!

Elina over at Neulakko has a link to a free download of a PDF e-book about Norse medieval garment reconstruction. This is a wonderful opportunity to add some knowledge to your library, filled with patterns and pictures of extant garments.  I've only glanced through it so far, but it looks amazing!

To get your free e-book download, just visit this page and click the "free book" heading.

Many thanks to Elina for sharing!

Monday, September 1, 2014

MC: Seeing spots!

The spots on the cloak needed a little consideration. Were they colored spots embroidered on? Appliqued circles of fabric? Metal spangles? I did a little sniffing around on Google and found a book called Needlework as Art, by Lady M. Alford. Project Gutenburg has it here. Figure 19 shows a variety of shapes in which laminae of gold were cut and used to adorn clothing. As gold has been used to adorn the clothing of the wealthy since before the time of Christ, I think it is entirely reasonable to interpret the yellow dots on this cape as gold spangles.

I compared the size of the dots to the size of the man's hands and determined that they were approximately an inch wide and set about a hand's-width apart. I drew up a 1" block graph on some typing paper to determine what the spacing on my cloak should look like. The dots are offset, rather than in straight rows, and having this graph would help me determine how many of the shinies I need to order. (It's always more than you think. I have a completely random guess that I'll need about 200. Let's see how close my estimate was, once I get the spacing transferred to the actual fabric. Will I be way off?)

None of the local shops have sequins this large (30mm) so I'm ordering them online as soon as I get an accurate count -- allowing a few extra, of course, for the ones that hide themselves in the couch cushions while I'm sewing and to have replacements on hand for the future. 

Next weekend I may be meeting with a friend to dye the raw silk for the tunic. I'm very excited about that, and it's hard not to talk about it, but I'm saving that for an entry all on its own. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: I need 325 sequins! And of course they come in packets of 300, so I had to order two packets and will have a LOT left over. If anyone needs some big gold sequins, just holler.