Sunday, 31 August 2014

Elsa started

This week I've started seriously with my Elsa Coronation Gown.

As you can see I have gotten my wig. It's a platinum blonde, not white wig and it's lovely. It's great to have a wig with a bang, so it actually covers my hairline. I actually feel a bit bad having to style it, so I will be gentle with it so that I can get it back to its original shape.

The skirt took some time to figure out. Frost has is probably the most detailed animated Disney film when it comes to costumes, so I want to be really close to it. Looking at screencaps I started to count the number of seams in the skirt and come up with that it must be a skirt with seven panels.

It's also a fairly tight skirt, unlike Anna's fluffier and wider skirts. When it came to selecting a pattern I went back to an old favorite, McCalls 4491.
This is probably one of the most versatile patterns that I have. I've used it for at least four costumes/ball gowns by now, for example my aunt's Eowyn gown, my own Arwen dress and it was also the basis for my Maria of Habsburg gown, and at least one ballgown.  I also based the sleeves for Amidala's purple trael gown on this one.

It's basically a princess seemed gown, quite slim over the hips but then it puddles a bit on the floor., but it's so easy to adapt into different costumes. It happens to have seven pieces so I took the pattern and cut it off at the waist and then I cut out the skirt for Elsa. The pattern is too long for my very short legs, so when I cut to just floor length I lost quite a lot of the very wide circumference, which is good for this costumes.

The fabric I'm using is a silk/cotton mix that I've ordered from The fabric is great to work with, it's fraying a bit, but otherwise it's really easy, basically combining the best of silk with the best of cotton. From some angles, and with the flash from the camera, it's really shiny, bot from other angles it's not. The same goes with the colour that photographs a bit more on the blue side, when it's greener in reality.  I would have loved to use some kind of wool, but this fabric was more in my budget, and it wasn't easy to find any wools in blue/teal/turquoise. In order to get more body and a heavier drape I have flatlined each piece to cotton, the fabric Ditte from IKEA.

The skirt is not finished, in that I haven't closed the centre back seam or added a waistband. I want the skirt to be lie flat when I'm going to trace the pattern for the embroidery, and of course do the embroidery.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

This was going to be an announcement

So today I had planned to post about my big upcoming costume project that I would enter into the cosplay contest at Stockholm ComicCon. Unfortunately Stockholm ComicCon released the info about the cosplay contest today, and it's going to be on the first day of the con, a Thursday. Not only that it's on a Thursday, it starts with rehearsals in the morning. For me that would mean that I would have to take two whole days off work and go down to Stockholm on Wednesday. Since this is also the week of the autumn break in schools I have one of my busiest work weeks of the season, so there's simply not a chance that I can take both Thursday and Friday off for a cosplay contest. I'm quite disappointed right now since I was really looking forward to this and be able to enter something. It's a bit ironic that when I finally earn the money to make high quality costumes, well then the contest is on a day when most people are at work, unless you are still in school.

Anyway I can now announce that my big project for the autumn, and a project that's big enough to push back my start on the gold handmaiden is going to be Elsa's coronation gown from Frost.

Not only that I'm going to recreate the gown, in a nod to its bunad inspiration I have decided to try and incorporate quite a lot of elements from that tradition, for example I'm going to embroider the motifs on the skirt and bodice rather than painting them on. I have come far enough that I've cut out the outer fabric for the skirt and my goal is to have the skirt ready for embroidery in the weekend.

Now since I'm not going to enter the contest I might skip on the sceptre and orb and just do the fabric parts of the costume, and the tiara. I don't like working with hard materials, but for a contest I felt that they were essential, if I'm just going to walk around in the costume then that's another thing.

I guess I just have to let it go when it comes to my disappointment in not being able to take part in the contest.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Venetian ball

In my professional life I'm working as a museum pedagogue in an historical mine, and World Heritage Site. Around 1,5 hours drive from us is another historical mine and during the summer we try to keep up a tradition to go and visit each other and have fun together. This year the other historical mine, Sala, invited us to a Venetian masked ball in their underground ballroom, they have been doing quite a few 18th century events and tried to profile them as 18th century.

I decided to wear my navy anglaise. As for the rest of the people going we had had a bit pf presentation of 18th century fashion, some of them had watched costume dramas and then they had created a lot of nice outfits, not historically correct but great for having fun in an 18th century way.

We were a couple of people who arrived early in Sala to get dressed. I had had minor disaster with my wig when I tried to restyle it, so this is what it looked like.

Photo: Frida Unnerud-Björsland
Still I had made two rats, one was a net stocking that I simply filled with foam to make a long roll and one was a donut that I had covered with some dark loose hair that I had. I managed to pin the wig over the rats and into something decent. Since I dyed my hair bright red it's no way that I can hide my own hairline though, so the next time I'm going to an event I need to get a wig that I can work my own hair into.
Photo: Frida Unnerud-Björsland
I'm quite happy with the result, I pinned some feather on top as well. This was the first time that I wore the anglaise with the trim that I added earlier this year, and I love how it has transformed the whole gown.

Except for me wearing my anglaise there was a mix of how people had come up with their clothes. I had lent out my printed anglaise to one of the girls, one of them had borrowed from our museum, one has a mix of her traditional folkcostume and a wedding gown she found in a second hand store, three of them (including the guy) had sewn most of their outfits, and then there was another second hand store.
Photo: Frida Unnerud-Björsland
When we got underground there was of course dancing. We learnt one polonaise, one renaissance dance I can't remember the name of and one anglaise. My feet and legs hurt a lot the day after, since my shoes have very thin soles and we were jumping/dancing on the bedrock, so now spring in that dancefloor.

Compulsory "I'm all dressed up and underground" photo.

A full body picture of me in the anglaise.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Glamorous and fun 1920's

Yesterday I was invited to a birthday party with a 1920's theme. It's actually one of my least favorite fashion decades, so I don't really have anything in my wardrobe from the decade. Some years ago I made a ballgown in purple, it was actually the leftovers from when I tried to collect fabric for the first time for the purple travel gown. I was never really happy with the ballgown and some years after that I remember that I had simply cut off the bodice and turned the skirt into a new ballgown. I also remember that my first instinct when I saw myself in the new ballgown was "I've been watching too much of House of Elliot lately". I went up to the attic and found the gown. I took away the longer underskirt and pushed the belt as far down towards the hips as possible, not easy since it was supposed to cinch the waist.

I added some plastic pearl necklaces, a pair of black shoes with a strap and black evening gloves for a glamourous 1920's look.

I'm quite happy with how I managed to style my hair. I am getting better at doing things with my hair and that's fun. Now there are tons of tutorials on how to make flapperstyle hair, and I can't really find the exact videos that I used. I basically washed my hair, parted it to the side and clamped it with hair clips to make the wave pattern. The rest of the hair i put into foamcurlers and then I let it dry. The back hair was looped up in the back and the waves were put in place with a ton of hairspray. I put an elastic silver/black headband over it all. I think I'm going to try and make more hairstyles like this, and practice the finger weave more so that I can get a more distinct weave.

This was a fun dressing up thing, and I am actually surprised on how I liked the style, so maybe there are some good things when it comes to 1920's fashion and I shouldn't totally dismiss it.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

My outfit at the wedding

For the wedding I of course also wanted make something for myself. In my stash I had a piece of this wonderful gold/blue brocade that I had gotten from my sister and her (now) husband when they visited Cambodia and Thailand. It's gorgeous fabric, but I had really no idea what I should make with it. It's splashy with all the gold, and the fabric is quite stiff as well. It had always screamed corset to me, but I couldn't justify making another party corset, without knowing how much I could use it. Now when my sister decided to get married I felt that it would be a great opportunity to actually make something out of the fabric. My plan all along was to make a corset, skirt and jacket. The idea is that I can combine the pieces with other things, and then I might get more use out of them, compared to if I had made a cocktail dress out of it.

The skirt is B4451, the same pattern I used and tested for the HSF14: Plaid and Paisley challenge. The fabric has a very distinct border with three different rows of pattenrs before going into the main pattern of the fabric. Since this pattern ended with the selvage I didn't hem it but kept that selvage as the bottom of the skirt.

The corset is once again Truly Victorian TV110. I lengthened it a bit at the top, but if I'm making another corset that shouldn't be worn with anything under I would lengthen it a bit more. I couldn't lift my arms over my head without some serious spillage happening. For this corset I actually splurged out and bought a busk with gold fastenings. It just didn't feel right with the ordinary silver ones compared to all the gold of the fabric. The foundation layer is coutil and the boning channels are sewn between the brocade and the coutil. I've used two spiral steels on every seam, except for the back where I used spring steel around the grommets. It's bound with purple bias binding and I also used purple lacing. This corset has totally converted me to using spiral steel instead of spring steel everywhere but around the grommets. It's easier to move and bend in it, and it still laced just as tight as with the spring steel.

For the shrug I didn't use B4451, but instead a drndl-inspired pattern from an old Burda magazine. The fabric is some kind of shiny polyester that I stumbled upon when I discovered that there is actually a really good fabric store in Mora, only an hour or so away from here! I cut out pieces of the border of the fabric for the edging. The original pattern came with a very puffy sleeve, and I wanted long fitted sleeves. I decided to actually draft my own sleeve pattern for this. I used the instructions in Constructing Historical Clothes, and now I have a base pattern to work with for sleeves. It's not finetuned, and I definitely need to work more with learning how to shape the armscyes to make the whole sleeve fit better, but it's a better start than in a long, long time when it comes to sleeves. I should also say that this took a lot of trial and error, and at 00:30 the night before the wedding I cut off the sleeves that I had worked with and started over. For that reason the sleeves aren't lined and I couldn't find any buttons to close the cuffs.

Now as I mentioned in the post about the wedding I didn't get any photos taken with me and the bride, or even of myself.

Here I've dressed up my dressform in the outfit, and I could only pin the corset on so you can't really see the fit. It's also quite wrinkled and crumply after a day/night of dancing and being thrown into a bag when I decided to skip the corset and shrug and continue with just a tanktop and skirt.

My sister got a shot of the people waiting outside of the church, and it's the best I've seen of the outfit on me, unfortunately I'm in the shadow and holding my bag in front of me.

The facts
Fabric: 2 m of gold/blue brocade, 1 m of white coutil, 2 m of poly satin (?) (it was good that I had bought some extra when I needed to redo the sleeves), 70 cm of blue lining for the skirt.
Pattern: Corset - TV110, skirt - Butterick 4451, shrug - Burda drndl bolero and my own sleeve pattern.
Notions: busk, spiral and spring steel boning, bias binding, lacing, zipper
Hours to complete: 3 days
First worn: my sister's wedding August 9
Total Cost: The main fabric was free, since it was a gift, most of the cost was for the coutil, busk and boning. In total I end up with probably around $70

What I learned with this project
I drafted my own sleeve! It's not perfect, but it's not worse than any of the commercial sleeve patterns that I have used. I have written quite a lot of comments on the sleeve so when I implement them I hope that I can finally make nice looking sleeve.

Future plans
Now when I've made this outfit I want to use it again. I happen to be invited to ball, it's the 375th anniversary for a student organisation I was part of, and my first plan was to use some of my old ballgowns from those days or one of my 18th century gowns, now I'm thinking about using this corset and shrug and sew a late 19th century inspired skirt for them.

Fun story from the wedding day
The wedding was in the afternoon and I was going to deliver the wedding gown to my sister when she was at a hair salon in town. I did that, and then of course we wanted to eat lunch, something that was easy and not too messy. I ran down to a sushi place dressed in this and when I came in the women working there immediately recognized that the fabric must be from Thailand/Cambodia, it's apparently quite a special pattern on it.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The wedding

Yesterday my sister got married, in the gown that I had made for her. I think it's also a great thing to have my 100th post on this blog to be about such a special project

(it's the wind that makes it look very uneven)
The gown consists of four parts; petticoat, skirt, corset and a shrug. The process has been long and started back in May when I got to know that I was going to make it. She showed me a picture of a wedding gown in a 1950's style. It was very important that she didn't feel like a princess or a meringue, she wanted a fun wedding gown, so absolutely no full length gown or long veil.

When she showed me the picture I directly felt that it would probably be best to make a skirt and a corset combo. I got a budget of around $300 to work with, when it came to fabrics my sisters only wish was that it should be white and shiny. I really felt that if I was going to make a wedding gown, then I wanted to make it in real silk. In the end I decided to make the gown out of silk charmeuse, yes it would be a pain to work with but the flow of the fabric is just so beautiful.

Now on to the different parts.

Petticoat - this is actually the piece that took the longest time. I wanted to make a full petticoat in just silk organza, so I spent a month cutting up strips of organza and making a tiered skirt. After that month I realized that it simply didn't look full enough, when I had the skirt over it. Late one night I decided to start over, I cut up the whole petticoat, found a remnant of poly tulle in the stash. I made a row of tulle ruffles instead, and then I could attach all the pieces of organza that I had cut off from the original skirt were just enough to make a ruffle attached to the tulle. That took a lot of piecing of every remnant of organza that I had. I haven't hemmed the organza, but just used a satin stitch to bind the edges of it. In the end the petticoat is a very pieced things made out of fabrics from my stash and the 5 m of silk organza that I bought for the originally planned petticoat. It gives a lovely shape and to be honest it's actually the piece that I'm most happy about.

Skirt - The skirt is made out of 3,5 meters of silk charmeuse. Silk charmeuse is a tricky fabric and I thought and pondered about how I would be able to make a full skirt, with as few seams as possible. I felt that with each seam the risk for puckering and unevenness got higher and higher. In the end I simply used one long piece of fabric, so it's on the cross-grain, and then I gathered it with box pleats to the waistline. The box pleats gave a lot of spring to the skirt, and made it possible to make a full skirt, with just the centre back seam.

Corset - now making a corset with silk charmeuse is of course just asking for trouble, and I was fully aware of it. I used the TV110 pattern, but I raised the front quite a lot to make it fully cover the bust. She didn't want a busk so I cut the centre front pieces as one. My sister has a very large bust, but once again it shows how great this pattern is. I cut out the DD-cup pattern and it fit like a glow, or actually I made it a bit too big, but it worked great in supporting the bust and give it a great shape. My sister isn't used to wearing corsets, and she was very insistant on having straps in order to feel secure. I added straps made out of coutil, silk charmeuse and the very last piece of organza from the petticoat. I'm a bit angry that I didn't take a picture of the straps because I came up with my own solution on getting them to be placed to where she wanted it. Basically the straps are attached on the outside of the cup in front, and then they are placed diagonally towards the opposite shoulder on the back. On the back they are tied on through an eyelet. The result is a pair of straps that look like a halterneck from the front, but they don't put any weight on the neck, and they are adjustable with through the ribbon in the back.

The corset itself is made out of two layers of coutil, with the boning placed between these two layers. The goal was to make it look more like a bodice than a corset, so I didn't want to have any visible boning channels. The charmeuse was placed as a shell over the strength layers. In order to make it possible to even cut the charmeuse without it moving too much I first fused it to a layer of interfacing, more for the cutting than to make the fabric stronger. Despite this I couldn't quite get the parts to line up perfectly, so there are a few wrinkles on the corset, but I'm still very happy about it. For the boning I used the heavy spiral steel from VenaCava for the first time, except for the front where I replaced the busk with several spring steels and in the back where I also used spring steel around the grommets. I also used a length of normal spiral steel over the bust curve, since the heavy spiral steel wasn't available in the length needed. I used one piece of boning on both sides of every seam, but no boning in the middle of the panels. This isn't a tightlacing corset, so I wanted to make it as "light" as possible while still achieving a great shape. I'm definitely converted to using more spiral steels in my corsets from now on. The corset is laced through metal grommets with double faced satin ribbon.

Shrug - The shrug was the worst part to make, simply because I hate making sleeves. My first plan was to use a stretch charmeuse to make it easier to fit, but the stretch silk charmeuse that I ordered turned out to be more yellow than the charmeuse for the corset and skirt, so they didn't match. For the pattern I used an out of print Butterick pattern that I happened to have at home. This pattern has quite a noticable collar, that I had to remove, my sister didn't like that look. A bit of added complexity was that I had cut out this pattern back in the day when I wasn't exactly caring about transfering markings to the pattern pieces, so I had no markings to work with. For the sleeve this was of course a big problem. I made a mockup of the sleeve in cotton and it felt tight, but it turned out that if I cut the sleeve on the bias the same pattern piece fit a lot better and more comfortably. The sleeves aren't set perfectly, but among the best that I have ever done. The shrug also has a bit of extra in that I attached a piece cut from one of my father's ties to the cuff.

The whole outfit was topped with a tiny veil. It's an oval of silk organza, she really didn't want tulle in the veil because she felt it looked like a  mosquito net, and bound with some silver bias tape.

I would have loved to put up a photo of me and my sister to also show what I made for myself, but we only got a photo by the wedding photographer with the two of us, and those pictures will wait until we get them.

The facts

Fabric: 10 m silk charmeuse, 1,5 m white coutil, 5 meters grey silk organza,
Pattern: Butterick 4451 for the shrug, TV110 for the corset, no pattern for the petticoat or skirt.

Notions: regular sewing thread, zipper, hook and eye, grommets, boning, bias binding, double faced satin ribbon.
Hours to complete: I tried to keep track of the time for this gown, but failed. In all I would say that on average I have probably worked 2-3 hours every day between the end of June and first week of August. A lot of this time was spent on the petticoat that I cut up.
First worn: The wedding on the 9th of August

Total cost: My sister gave me a budget of around $300 (2000 SEK), and I didn't keep the budget, but not with too much. I think if you count the fabrics and boning I was on the budget, but the notions and small things like ribbons and things like that made go over budget.

What I learnt with this projcet I managed to work with a very tricky fabric, but I'm most happy with a gathered confidence in making sleeves. They still aren't perfect but at least my sister didn't walk down the aisle in big poofy balloon sleeves. I've also realized why I will never take commissions or make things for other people. It simply wasn't as fun because I felt a lot more pressure for this gown than I have for projects for myself. It was a great experience and I'm proud of it, but I will probably never do it again.

As a bonus here is also a picture of the wedding cake that my other sister made, a lovely thing with vanilla cake and layers of raspberry mousse under a blanket of Italian meringue butter cream and sugar paste.
That sister also bound the wedding bouquet and cooked all the food, except for some things that my mother made. It's been exhausting organizing a party for 60 people all by ourselves, no catering or anything, but it's been fun and the wedding and the following party was just great. I came home at 6 am this morning.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Me and my stash

A discussion on whether the fabrics that you have in your stash is free or no, and how they should be calculated into the costs of projects over at the HSF facebook group made me think about what I have in my stash.

I'm quite happy with my stash, after I cleared out a lot of it earlier this spring. My stash contains mainly of four categories of fabrics.

1. Leftovers from older projects.

Since I do most of my fabric shopping online I tend to order a bit extra, just to be on the safe side That means that when a project is finished, I usually have around one meter of fabric left. Another drawback with ordering things online is that you don't always get exactly the quality or colour that it looked to be on the screen, for some projects that doesn't matter so much, but for other it does. I have quite a lot of pink/purple fabrics still left after my Queen Amidala travel gown since I ordered fabrics that when they arrived simply weren't the right colour.

A good thing with leftovers is though that they are usually of quite a nice quality, since for the last few years I have tried to save up and do fewer, but more expensive projects. The HSF challenges have been a good way of reducing this part of the stash, and the reticule in the picture is a good example of small pieces of leftover fabrics that were too nice to throw away, but also too small to make anything big out of.

2. Planned projects that never came to be
This is the dark spot in my stash, and I'm not too happy about it. A couple of years ago I planned to make more "normal" clothes and bought quite a few fabrics to make skirts and dresses out of. Well that has never happened, and I also must question my judgement when it comes to the look of the fabrics. This part of the stash is mostly filled with knits and pin stripes, but in colours that won't be usable for historical projects. Also I don't like working with knits, so I'm not sure when I'm going to make something out of those.
3. "natural fibres"
Since I started with historical costuming I've come to realize that it's always good to have some white/natural linen and cotton around. I always need something to line with, or make a petticoat or chemise. These kinds of fabrics are also great for tusken, jawas, jedis and other Star Wars costumes. This is the one part of my stash that I'm actively refilling, without having proper plans for it. It's usually comes down to me ordering a couple of meters of cotton voile or linen when I order other things from Stoff och Stil, since I love their voile.

4. Given fabrics
 These are the truly free fabrics, the ones that I have been given as a gift. Ironically quite a lot of these fabrics would probably be very expensive. In the early 1990's my father went on business trips to China, this was before it was opened up to the West like today. He brought with him quite a few really nice silks and brocades that he gave to the family In later years when members of the family have been to Asia they have usually come back with fabrics, since I like sewing I will appreciate fabrics after all. Many of these fabrics are gorgeous, but it's hard to find a use for them. They are usually modern patterns, or in colours that I don't really know how I should use. Also since they usually carry some emotional meaning and connection to the person who gave it to me, I'm hesitant to cut them up.

A good example of when I was able to use a fabric like this was for these pair of stays. That's a fabric that I feel very connected to, due to family history, but it was great to be able to squeeze the last remaining piece into something that I can use. The outfit that I'm making for myself for my sister's wedding is also a fabric from this part of the stash.

The rest though...
I have other fabrics in the stash, but those are fabrics that have been bought for specific projects that I'm planning to make in the near future. That includes fabric for a new Princess Leia white gown, two new 18th century jackets and so on. Since these fabrics are earmarked for these projects I don't count them as part of my stash, since I can't just grab them and make something out of them or use them for other projects.

This is not the current state of the stash, I have filled it with some more fabrics and removed some, but I have decided that I'm not allowed to fill up more space than I have here. Except for the "natural fibre" part of the stash I am trying to not buy more fabrics, unless I have a certain project in mind for it, and hopefully that will keep the stash in check so it doesn't start overflowing too much.

In all though I must say that I really haven't got a clue about the value of my stash, or the cost of individual fabrics. Once they are in my stash and up for grabs for non-specific purposes they are "free" in my mind. I have bought these fabrics because I could afford it at the time, so it doesn't cost me anything now. I try to estimate when I'm doing the HSF challenges, but those are just estimates.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Less than a week left

The wedding is on Saturday, and I'm starting to look forward to being able to clean up my living room from all the wedding gown things. The gown is mostly finished, I need to add some details and finishing, but it fits and my sister is happy with it. Now I only need to make the outfit I want to do for myself. I want it to be a three piece thing with skirt, corset and jacket. I've only to hem the lining and attach the waistband to the skirt and bind the edges of the corset, but I'm not sure if I will be able to make the jacket in time.

Some things have arrived here in the last week though, for future projects.

First of all the book about 18th century hair and wig styling, I haven't tried any of the hairstyles yet, duh, but having read through them they don't look too hard. I happen to be invited to a small Venetian ball next week and I really hope that I will be able to restyle Marguerite, my wig, into something at least inspired by the book. Those foam rollers will hopefully help. I've bought them to be able to style my own hair though.

Finally the Styrofoam ball is part of my next big costume project, my fingers are really itching to get started on that one, but I'm also worried since it's going to involve working with hard materials as well.