Saturday, December 31, 2005

Less than 10 yards...

Not quite Fabric Parity, but it'll do. I'm not going to sew today, so the 2005 totals will stand at 112.25 yards out and 121.5 yards in. I really wanted to get to within 10 yards, so I made 2 pairs of lounge pants from the Burda One Seam pattern from flannel and one from black sweat shirt fleece. I'd been intending to make them for ages and ages but other, more glamourous projects kept getting in the way. So I wasn't just trying to 'make something quick'...I was trying to 'make something quick that I actually need'.
For comparison, in 2004 I purchased 110.5 yards but only sewed 78.5, so I've improved considerably. My goal for 2006...actually sew more than I purchase. Wow, what a concept...

BTW, Happy New Year and a healthy and prosperous 2006 to everyone!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Got 'em Done!

All four pieces! I'm not going to re-review the top for DD...I don't think...I might change my mind. I did review the Today's Fit T, and I will review the other two pieces today. It was after midnight before I got access to the computer last night and I only managed to write one review before my head hit the keyboard.

Now I'm thinking about cranking out a couple of pairs of Burda One-Seams in flannel or fleece for lounge pants...just to bump the 'yards out' total a bit more. ;)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Striving for Fabric Parity

But I'm not going to make it this year. Close, though, I'll be very close. If I finish out the 4 knit garments I cut out on Tuesday I'll have moved 109.5 yards out this year while acquiring 121.5 yards. That's only 12 yards away from FP, and I have a ratio of out:in of right at 90%. It's much closer than I have been at any time since discovering I could buy fabric via the Internet. I guess I'm recovering!

So I am holding off on ordering SWAP fabric from Timmel Fabrics until after Jan 1. Maybe I'll hit Fabric Parity next year. ;)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Can I do the Cadeau?

Ok, so I've downloaded and printed the Cadeau T Shirt from Hot Patterns and actually thought I'd see about making it. It just so happens that I got a really cool black and white stripe rayon/lycra jersey from Louise Cutting at the ASG conference in Nashville last summer, and I envisioned actually making the top on the pattern art. So I taped together the front, back and sleeves and decided to compare them to the only other raglan T I've made lately, the Santa Monica T from Textile Studio. Whoa, mama! I used a Medium for the Santa Monica T, but as you can see in the photos, even the size 6 on the Cadeau is considerably bigger overall. Hm. I know the necklines are different, but that's not what I'm really looking at...the bust level, at the bottom of the sleeve-bodice seam, and the hips, and the width of the sleeves all look to be much bigger than I expected...since I should use a size 12 according to the size chart at HP.

Not cutting anything yet...I think I'll go re-read the Reviews again....

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Patch Happy

Or maybe I should title this "Reclaiming Blue Jeans?" There was a HUGE pile of to-be-mended jeans monopolizing the sewing nook...not surprising, since I hadn't had time to do any sewing at home for ages. Younger DD can't seem to wear a pair of jeans without ripping the knees out...I had SIX pairs of jeans to patch for her. She even outgrew one pair while it was waiting to be mended. I also had a castaway pair of jeans for older DD that was a puchasing mistake laying around. So, yesterday I just sort of hung out in the laundry/sewing room and cleared the whole lot out. Mostly it was just straightforward patching, but for younger DD I did try to be creative, trimming the jeans in heart and star shapes on a couple of pairs and leaving edges to fray up in the wash...they'll look just like the RTW jeans I saw at Goody's and Burlington's when I was looking for a pair of jeans for her for Christmas. It took just a little longer, but they look very cool and she loved it. I guess that'll make up for letting her wear raggey pants for the last month. Every pair of jeans the child owned had holes in the knees.

Older DD's jeans were a different story; I ended up cutting off the top of them and using it as a yoke in a rather unique skirt...but since I already wrote it up, you can see the review and the picture here:
Salvage Jeans Skirt Reveiw

Today: budget work

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Boxing Day

Sometimes I think we Americans could do with a little lesson from other countries, who start their celebrations of Christmas on Dec. 24 and don't really stop until Epiphany. Instead of having to do *everything* on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, we could spread things out a bit. Actually, in years in which we traveled to family in Indiana, we spread the holiday out over at least a week, doing our own gift giving on New Year's Day. It runs really counter to the culture, though. It's hard to maintain the Christmas atmosphere when the neighbors have already hauled their dried up, tinsel-trailing trees to the curb for pickup. But our tree is still up and lit and will remain so until the kids go back to school...which is a couple of days before Twelfth Night. I can ignore the trees in the gutter, but back to school just can't be denied.

But, for the next 9 days, we'll be doing family time...which is really a great way to celebrate Christmas, anyway.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Eve Sewing

Not mine, my mother's. And not this year, but many years ago in a little house far away. I'll guess I was about 7 or 8, laying in bed awake long after bedtime. Crying into my pillow, in fact, because I *knew* Santa wouldn't come if anyone in the house was up and about, and my mother was sewing. And sewing and sewing. I'd doze off, then wake up to still hear the hum of the sewing machine. I listened for sleigh bells, afraid to hear them because, of course, Santa would pass us by since Mom was still up. When I finally did fall asleep for the night, at who knows what time (as a kid, I was sure it was Very Late, but it may only have been 10:15...who knows now?) the light was still on and the sewing machine was still going.

And to think I credited Santa for the handmade doll clothes I got the next day...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Catching up

Laundry, budget, housecleaning...

And I'm itching to sew! Christmas shopping for younger DD yesterday, I found some cool gauchos, but nothing in her size. So I drove home mentally adapting a pattern for them. You'd think I'd be sick of sewing at this point, but nooooo.

Unfortunately, you can only put off things like laundry, budget, houscleaning, for so long...and the older kids are expecting to bake cookies today...

Sigh. The sewing will have to wait.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"Talent" vs. "Skill"

Just a few thoughts that have been roaming around the last few weeks....
There have been a number of folks who have complimented the costuming, making remarks about me being a 'talented' seamstress. That's struck me as odd, because, according to my perception of 'talent', I am none of it. 'Talent' has always denoted to me a God-given ability, so that it is something that comes very naturally and needs only to be focused and directed in order to be remarkable. That's easy to see in something like art...there are people who have sufficient eye/hand coordination to draw a recognizable picture, while others (including me) can't even draw a straight line without a straight edge to help. I think sewing is the same...even as a 10-year-old kids in 4-H, there were a few who seemed to just naturally sew a straight seam, who could manipulate the fabric as desired without frustration, who could tell what fabric would work for a garment and what would not. I was not among those. As I grew up sewing, my seams wavered, my corners knotted, my fabrics were so cheap and ugly (well, it was the 70's) that my clothes screamed 'homemade'. I never noticed that the green-and-white poly doubleknit gingham with the daisy print superimposed on the checks, from which I made a skirt, pants, and bolero jacket that I wore for years, had no equivalent in any Ready-To-Wear. At least I was a pretty standard 8/10 in those days so fit wasn't an issue...but I would've been oblivious on that, too. I was a solid red-ribbon seamstress all the years I was in 4-H. Nothing remarkable.

But I did have one thing that I suppose was not common and that was an interest in making my own clothing. Frustrated with RTW prices, I just kept sewing, even though it was only so-so. It was the year I turned 30 (16 years ago, if you're keeping score) that I decided I needed to sharpen up my sewing skills. I actually went through a bit of a personal identity crisis...hey, I'm 30 YEARS OLD! I should be GROWN UP now!...that motivated me to do some personal growth reading. One of the books I read was Anne Ortlund's Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. That book rocked my world and even though I've come to disagree with it in places over the years, it still ranks very high on the 'Words that changed my life' list. In the book, Anne wrote that everyone needs to have one thing that they are good at/knowlegeable about. Something they have highly developed. I decided I was going to study up and develop my sewing/fashion skills. So I subscribed to Sew News and began reading, learning, and trying more. That, my friends, is when I began to sew in earnest. Just 16 years ago. That's not talent, that's skill aquired through study and practice. Which is available to anyone who has the interest to pursue it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Cleanup Time

That's all that's left...but boy, is there a bunch of cleanup! Not the least at home, where I don't think the sound of a vacuum cleaner has been heard since Thanksgiving. But I got the reviews all posted yesterday, before I forgot what I did, and if you click on 'My Reviewed Patterns' on the sidebar you'll see them...the five most recent reviews are all costumes.

And the Christmas packages are all going out in the mail this morning; yesterday was a shopping and wrapping marathon. Still not done, but at least what is left will not have to be mailed anywhere.

But the first order of business on today's agenda is grocery shopping...somehow that didn't get done very well in the last few weeks either and the larder is pretty bare.

And I'm already trying to decide which of my delayed personal sewing projects I'm going to tackle first. It would be so nice to get a few more yards on the 'yards out' total for the year. I'm so close to fabric parity...(current totals: 121.5 yards in/103 yards out...not including any costume sewing)

Monday, December 19, 2005


Very good run of the production! Estimates are that somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,500 folks saw the show (well, that's the audience count; I'm certain there were a large number of repeats from our home folks) and it was very well received. I don't have to worry about sorting the costumes for cleaning until after Christmas, for which I am VERY grateful.
Here's the link to the bulk of the output of Ye Olde Dresse Shoppe, but I have to say that I didn't make any single garment all by myself from start to least one of several different sewing ladies did at least a little on each piece. Miss A even made about 3/4 of my bertha for me while I was sewing the hooks on Belle 10's bodice. It truly was a team effort.

Scrooge 05 Sewing

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Closed for the Season

We officially closed Ye Olde Dresse Shoppe yesterday; everything that's going to get done is done. I finished my costume at about 10:30 yesterday morning, so I got to wear it at both performances yesterday and the closing show tonight. I felt much more appropriately Victorian with the whole thing on! But, I'm not sure how to review it; the skirt is from last year's dress, with the front panel replaced. I used the front panel to make a new, separate bodice, and borrowed the bertha pattern from the Belle dress to make a bertha from the contrast fabric on the skirt. The new one fits and feels SO MUCH BETTER!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Ink Wasn't Dry...

We finished Belle 10's dress at about 4:30 yesterday...a whole 2 1/2 hours before curtain. Miss A and I did a tag-team sewing frenzy; I'd put together one component while she did another; I'd put the two components together while she started the next, etc. Frantic but it worked. Belle 10 came in for her final fitting at about 1:30; I fit it on her w/o sleeves first, to make sure we didn't have tight sleeve issues like we did w/Belle 16, then put the sleeves on it and put it on her again. When she left at about 3:00 I started sewing on the hooks and eyes...and I dug a small hole in my finger w/the eye of the needle (have I mentioned anywhere that we are using some unnamed mystery lining fabric that seems to actively repel being punctured? We've had lots of fun sewing this stuff...but it'll be good and durable, you bet!). But she was ready to go on on time and the dress looked fabulous on her. And, while I was finishing up the hooks and eyes, Miss A made a goodly portion of the bertha for MY dress, which I still haven't worn on stage. Maybe today.

Wouldn't you know, while we remembered to take the digi cam, the batteries were dead and I still haven't got good photos of the finished product. We have two performances today...Belle 16 is in the matinee and Belle 10 is doing the evening show, so I WILL get photos of both girls. I did update my reviews of the Angel 2 robe and the Victorian Gentleman's jacket to include photos of the garments on the actual people, taken opening night; you can click on the 'My Reviews' link to find 'em.

BTW, today also happens to be older DD's 20th birthday. I don't think I'm any less tired today than I was 20 years ago.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Still Sewing....

Everyone is shocked to find that we are *still* not finished w/costumes...Belle 10 goes on tonight and her bodice is only partially assembled. We are putting what we learned on Belle 16 to work, though, and it's going together a bit faster. We're hoping to have it done to the back hooks and eyes by noon so we can try it on her to see where to place those items.

Yesterday, after a bit of discussion (and after I'd studied that photo I posted yesterday), we decided part of the reason Belle 16's dress fit so poorly was that the sleeves were too tight and she couldn't quite pull it up to where it should be. So we took the sleeves off, serged about 1/4" off the armsceye all the way around, took the overlapping bit of the oversleeves off and pulled some of the gathering thread loose to enlarge the armhole for her, and we cut (ouch!) the undersleeve net/lace band and up into the undersleeve a bit to open the band and closed it with about an inch of 3/8" elastic. It fit much better; I was able to overlap the top of the bodice (but not the bottom) about an inch more at the top. A couple of saftey pins and a good tug on the ribbon drawstring at the top and it fit her much better. Of course, I forgot the camera yesterday so you'll just have to take my word for it. ;)

However, the instructions require that the skirt and the bodice be connected w/hooks and eyes...that doesn't work really well on an elastic waistband. We tried, but I think we're just going to have to keep her together at the waist with safety pins.

My bodice is done to the bertha and waistband hooks; don't know if I'll be wearing it tonight or not. It would be nice, wouldn't it?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Opening Night

Poor Belle was held together with prayer and saftey pins; one muslin clearly was not enough to properly fit the bodice on this style. Unfortunately, one muslin was all we had time for. It didn't help that the young lady portraying her had a nasty digestive virus two days ago and probably lost five pounds in the process. I will say, however, that the camera shows the loose fit much worse than the naked eye, and I'm told that, from stage, it looked great. We still have to finish the bodice for the second Belle, who is playing the role tomorrow. I think we can do it ;).

As soon as I get a moment (next week?) , I'll review all the patterns I haven't reviewed yet and add updated photos to the ones I have.

I was surprised at the crowd we had last night; the church was full. Standing in the back of the sanctuary (in my Plan B costume, I might add), waiting on the cue to move into place for the opening, I looked at the crowd and thought 'This is it'...and nealy bawled. I think I was just really tired, but to my amazement I was blinking back tears. I didn't have a tissue anywhere on me, so I couldn't cry. "No,'re happy! You're a shopping, singing Townsperson! No crying!" Fortunately I pulled it together but it was a near thing. :rolleyes:

But it was worth it! We received many compliments on the show afterwards, and, most importantly, there were 15 people who made decisions concerning their relationship to Christ, which is why we do this whole thing in the first place.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

That is NOT an Oncoming Train!

It really is the end of the tunnel! Show opens tonight, although we expect the audience to be comprised mostly of folks from our own church; the people from the community at large will be here Fri-Sun...or at least that's how it worked last year. Everyone was costumed for dress rehearsal except Belle 10 and me...neither of our bodices are done yet. We wore our skirts and knit tops; very interesting combo. Miss A stayed in the sewing room and worked on the bertha for Belle's just about finished now, she did a lovely job, so unless the hooks and eyes that close her top are totatlly wrong (and they may be; I've got to put it on her this morning to check) she's just about done. Belle 10's bodice is cut out only, but she doesn't play the part until Friday so we've got a bit of breathing room there. I've just got hooks/eyes and the bertha to do for mine...and I've still got to find a 'suitable' (read 'strapless') foundation ;)

I forgot the camera again and didn't get any photos last night, but I will get some sometime during the run of the show. And I went to bed at about 10:30 last night; much better than 1:30 or 2 am!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


We (Miss M and was Miss A's birthday, so I told her not to come back to sew after her hubby took her to dinner. I won't even dock her paycheck... ;) ) worked until 12:30 AM this morning, and just as we were leaving church I thought of something important that I had to do when I got home. But, when I got home I couldn't remember at all what it was. I put some laundry in to wash, got myself a snack, read a bit (An Excellent Mystery, the 11th Brother Cadfael book) and still had no idea. About 2:15 I gave up and went to bed.

I still don't know what it was. Sigh.

I've got an awfully lot to do today. Final dress rehearsal is tonight. If I'm awake enough to hold a camera, I'll try to take some photos. It did occur to me that I could likely do a fair amount of hand sewing backstage; that's good, we've got a bazillion hooks and eyes to sew on things.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Your Basic Dickens Skirt

These are the directions I wrote last year for sewing volunteers who were helping us make skirts, slightly condensed and updated to include the drawstring,which we found to be pretty much a necessity. I thoughty I'd share them here, as this is pretty much what we did for all the skirts (except the Belle skirt...that was an exception) we made, regardless of the pattern for the bodice. I probably should add that from now on we will also be incorporating inseam pockets, just in case someone wearing the skirt should need a microphone transmitter at any time. Sorry I don't have any photos of the process...maybe later.

Directions for Sewing a Big Pouffy Skirt

This skirt works great on stage for early Victorian (i.e., Dickens- era) productions. It is a pull-on elastic waist skirt and quite simple; I’ve included directions for adding a drawstring to the elastic waist (increases size flexibility), but you can just put the waistband seam in the back and skip all the references to the drawstring if you prefer.

Fabric required: First, determine the skirt length:

Skirt Length = Waistline-to-floor measurement, plus 5/8” seam allowance at waist, plus desired hem allowance. (note: if a full slip is worn under the skirt, it will pull the length up a bit)

Waistband width = 2 x elastic width + 2 x 5/8” seam allowances (1 ¼”)+ ¼” casing ease. I recommend using elastic that can be sewn through, as you will sew through it twice to create the casing for the drawstring.

*Important Note* - If the lady who will wear your skirt has a hip measurement that exceeds the width of the fabric you will need to cut another strip the width of your waistband and piece them to the desired measurement, so you would have to add a second waistband width to the needed length of the fabric.

For 45” fabric, the fabric required will be 4 x the skirt length + the waistband width. For instance, my skirt length is: 41” (waistline-to-floor) + 2" hem  + 5/8” = 43 5/8”, which is just slightly less than 1 ¼ yds; I’m planning to use 1 ½” wide elastic (note: I suggest hefty elastic; this will be a heavy skirt) so my waistband width will be 1 ½ x 2 + 1 ¼” (5/8” seam allowances along the length)+ ¼” (turn-of-the-cloth allowance) = 4 ½” = 1/8 yd. So my skirt would require 4x 1 1/4yds + 1/8 yd = 5 1/8 yds…but I’d buy 5 ½ yards, in case it shrinks a bit in pre-washing, and also to allow for crooked cutting at the fabric store. (I’ve had to cut of a lot of fabric to square edges in the past!). For 60” fabric, the same formula applies, but you only have to multiply the waist-to-floor measurement by 3. (note: this will yield a skirt that is approximately 176” – 180” at the bottom.)

Cutting out the skirt:
Straighten the edges of the fabric before cutting, so that you have an on-grain line to cut on. The best way…albeit tedious…to do this is to pull a crosswise thread completely out of the fabric and carefully cut along the resulting void in the fabric. Of course, if you have a plaid, you can just cut along one of the horizontal bars.
From one straight edge, measure off the distance required for the width of the waist band (in my example above, that would be 4 ½”) and cut straight across the grain, either by pulling another thread or using a rotary cutter and ruler.

Now, for 45” fabric, measure and cut four Skirt Lengths as determined above
For 60” fabric, you only need three Skirt Lengths

Cut the waistband length on the cross grain such that
Waistband Length = hip measurement + 2” (for hip ease)+ 1/1/4” (5/8” seam allowances). The Waistband width was determined by the elastic width.

*Important Note Repeated* - If the lady who will wear your skirt has a hip measurement that exceeds the width of the fabric you will need to cut another strip the width of your waistband and piece them to the desired measurement.  The finished waistband circumference should be no less than 1" larger than the hip measurement.

You’re done cutting.

Skirt Construction: (Note: these directions are for conventional machines; if you have a serger, you’re probably advanced enough to figure it out the serger techniques for yourself)

Seams: Simply lay the right sides of the fabric together and sew all the panels together along the long, selvedge edges. The seam allowance width here is not important…just make sure you use the same one for all the edges and you include all the selvedge (the coarser woven part of the edge of the fabric) in the seam allowance. ½” will probably be sufficient, but sometimes the printing doesn’t go all the way to the edge and you may have to use as much as a ¾” allowance so as not to have a white line along the seam. Press the seams open.
For the seam that closes the waistband, choose one edge to be the ‘wrong side’ of the waistband and make a mark 3/4” from this edge on the seam line. Now, fold the waistband in half lengthwise and make a mark at the exact middle of that edge. Make another mark 1/8” in from the middle mark, on the same half of the waistband as the first mark. The first mark and the third mark show where to leave the opening to insert the elastic. Put right sides together, and sew the waistband seam, leaving the area between the two marks unsewn (backstitch securely at the marks; this opening will get stressed when you put the elastic in). Press the seam open and, for less aggravation later, machine baste the seam allowances down (this will keep them out of the way when you’re putting the elastic through) Fold the waistband in half lengthwise, WRONG sides together, and baste it ½” from the raw edge.

Attaching the skirt to the waistband is probably the most patience-requiring step!
First, quarter mark the waistband…fold it in half, with the seam on one fold. This will be Center Front, so the drawstring is easily accesible to the wearer. The other fold is Center Back; put a pin there to mark it. Then, re-fold the band so that the Center Back mark is matched to the seam and put pins on each of the resulting folds. Now you have the waistband marked into four equal lengths.

If you’re using 45” fabric, you have four seams already marking the quarter divisions and you’ll be matching the seams to the marks you made on the waistband. If you’re using 60” fabric, though, you’ll have one seam on the center back and you’ll have to fold the fabric just like you did the waistband to get the other three marks. Note that the Center Front mark will be in the center of the panel opposite the seam chosen to be Center Back.

Using your favorite method for gathering large amounts of fabric, gather the skirt pieces to the waistband, matching the quarter marks. The side of the waistband WITHOUT the opening in the seam will be the right side, which you will match to the right side of the skirt. For the 4-panel skirt, match any seam to the seam on the waistband…for the three panel skirt, match the seam to the Center Front mark . (this will be much easier if you turn the skirt wrong side out and pin it so that the skirt is outside the waistband).

Now, DON’T FORGET to set your sewing machine tension and stitch length back to normal, and slowly stitch the skirt to the waistband on top of the 5/8” gathering stitch.. When you’re done, pull the skirt off of the machine and clip the threads and inspect the seam you just sewed for puckers or other sewing errors…if you find any (the most common will be that fabric that shouldn’t be in the seam got caught in it), carefully unpick those stitches, straighten the fabric and re-stitch it. Once everything is stitched down well, remove any basting that shows on the right side and, for security’s sake (this is going to be a heavy skirt) stitch the seam again, right on top of the first stitching. Then, to finish the edge of the seam, zig-zag stitch the raw edges together. Press the waistband up away from the skirt, press the seam toward the waistband.

Now, cut the elastic so it is about three inches smaller than your HONEST waist measurement (it needs to fit snugly to support the weight of the skirt) NOTE:  If you're using very firm elastic w/ less than 1:1 stretch ratio, cut it a little larger..up to no more than 1/2" larger than the actual waist measurement, so that it's just slightly smaller than the waist after closing the circle.

Using a large safety pin or bodkin, thread the elastic through the casing, being careful not to twist it. When it’s through (again, make sure it’s not twisted) overlap the ends ¾” – 1” and sew them together, using a crossed box for security (sew a box over the overlapping portion of the elastic, then sew from one corner to the opposite corner, along the edge to the adjacent corner, and cross back to the opposite corner again). Stretch the waistband to pull the elastic completely inside. To make the drawstring casing, lengthen the stitch length and topstitch about 3/8” from the top edge all the way around the waistband, stretching the elastic to fit as you go. Repeat this step at about 3/8” above the waistband seam. This just keeps the drawstring from slipping around to the top of the waistband, which is uncomfortable and unattractive. Using a pin or a bodkin, thread the drawstring (cord, twill tape or ribbon) through the waistband. Remove basting stitches at the opening.

Now all you have left is the hem! First, zig-zag along the whole lower edge of the skirt to keep it from raveling (a better finish would be to press it under ½” and stitch it, but I’ll admit that would be tedious. Go for it if you feel patient) Put the skirt on over the pouffy slip with the shoes on you plan to wear, and have a sewing buddy (or just someone who’s around the house) pin mark the skirt ½” above the floor. Remove the skirt and measure the edge to the pin…that’s the hem you need. Press up the hem all the way around; you can fuse it down w/fusible webbing, or straight stitch it on the machine…that’s up to you. Fusible DOES come undone after a while...

Now, breath a sigh of relief…your skirt’s done!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Which Dwarf Am I?

Miss M and I worked until 12:45 AM Friday/Saturday to get what costumes were ready (and it was most of them...Belle is the only really noteable tardy) and pulled to the dressing areas at the other end of the building. She is a crossing guard with the city safety division and had to work the Rocket City Marathon yesterday; I was at Wal-Mart at 7 AM buying Febreze to spray the costumes down after rehearsal. But I was so busy tending costume issues that I didn't get dressed at all and went through my scenes in my street clothes. There are a few notes to deal with...a couple of skirts (including Belle's) need to be shortened about 2 inches, and Angel Two needs to have the side seams of her cloak opened from the shoulder to the waist so she can put her arms outside of it (I shoulda thought of it). And here's a note for future reference: every garment we make from now on will have a pocket in it that we can stick a microphone tranmitter in. Live and learn.

But I spent most of the day wondering if I were Sleepy, Grumpy or Dopey...or all three...

Next dress rehearsal Tuesday...Show opens Wendesday. I'll post some photos when I get a chance to take them.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Dress Rehearsal Tomorrow

Gotta make at least one Belle bodice today; I got the girls into the muslins yesterday and saw what adjustments needed to be made; brought the patterns home after rehearsal last night and made the changes, so they're ready to cut when I get in this morning. Both of the girls needed extra length in the side and back; I think that's a pattern draft issue. But Miss A will be in and I do believe we'll tag team the construction somewhat. Belle 16 will wear the skirt/bodice tomorrow; I do have a backup dress for Belle 10, who doesn't play the part until Friday night's show. So we have a week on hers. Oh...and the Ruffle that Doesn't End has to be shortened 2". I'll have one of the extra helper ladies (I'm expecting at least one today) pin it up for me...then I'll cheat and run it through the Kenmore with the blind hem stitch.

To quote Ann Steeves, "This is costuming, not couture!"

You won't believe how many times I have told myself that this week. ;)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

WIP - Belle's skirt

Still needs the rest of the poufs -- basically oversized fabric yo-yos -- at the top of the swoops. Fitting today (I hope!). If the bodice muslins basically fit I think I might actually make it by Saturday...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Making Haste Slowly

I'm determined to do it right so it doesn't come apart...but it's taking a lot of time. Dress rehearsal Saturday; I'm really going to have to push it to get both Belle bodices done. And that doesn't include the dustmen or the Angel of Christmas Yet to Come or the oddball trim/mend projects that are yet to be finished. But the skirt is done to the waistband and a wee bit of trim. It's gorgeous and it weighs a ton. Well, maybe not a ton...but I'm guessing it's a good 8 pounds!

At least both Miss M and Miss A have secured time off from work for the remainder of the week, so they are planning to come in and work. We'll get as much done as we can.

And I sat up till ??? this AM putting the Christmas letters in envelopes and putting the address labels on them. Christmas isn't waiting on me to get done, either.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Somebody Stop the Clock....

I commented to one of the set builders last night that, if this were last week, I'd consider myself to be in pretty good shape regarding the costumes. Unfortunately, it's not last week and I'm feeling rather behind. I got all the trim on the Belle skirt last night...omigosh, the fabric/lace combo is wonderfully Christmassy...but the skirt still isn't finished. I did manage to get the patterns for the bodices altered while I sat at home with ailing DD, so that was good, but her fever came back up last night so she will not be going to school today either. Somehow today I must get the skirt finished and bodice muslins cut and basted up so I can try them on the girls.

The show opens a week from tomorrow. I am taking deep breaths and praying a lot...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lose One Turn

I had truly hoped to have the skirt portion of the Belle skirt finished and the muslins of the bodices ready for the girls to try on, but things were running slower than I'd hoped over the weekend. I did go in to church yesterday late afternoon -evening and got the big ruffle on the was all ready to put on and it still took THREE HOURS to gather that puppy and get it sewn down. So I was planning to go in early today and work hard.

Younger DD caught me this morning. "Mom, I don't feel good." She has a stomach-ache and a low grade fever (I think...I haven't found where we put the thermometers after the move. She feels a little warm.) So much for spending the day at church. I may leave her by herself at home just long enough for me to run down and get the bodice patterns and the measurement book; mayhap I can get the patterns altered and the muslins made at home.

Of course, I do expect stay at church Very Late tonight. Maybe I'll grab a nap sometime today...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Dem Bones

Finished putting the boning in my bodice last night; boy, is that stuff contrary! I used the pre-cased boning for it and tried to apply it with the curve of the boning following the body curves, but the stuff is twisting around inside the casing and rolling up. I guess it'll be held on tightly enough that the boning will be forced to conform to the curves underneath, but it is frustrating.

After I purchased this stuff, I read Kenneth King's article in a 10-year-old issue of Threads in which he recommends using Rigilene and 'stitching in the ditch' of the seams right through it. So I'm trying that for the Belle bodices...but perhaps I should suspend a weight from the ceiling using the currently rolled-up Rigilene to straighten it out a little? :p

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The 'Twice Turned' Gown

Had a bit of email discussion regarding Dickens' description of Mrs Cratchit's dress as 'twice turned'. My grandmother (1905-1986) talked about turning her dresses when she was young, but she meant that when the front got dirty she put the dress on backwards so it looked clean again. That's not what Mrs Cratchit did! What 'turning' the dress referred to was the frugal practice of reversing the fabric so that shiny, beginning to wear down places or stains were turned to the inside. Of course, this meant that the dress was 1)carefully, completely unsewn 2) possibly sponged, but at least pressed out well, and 3)hand sewn completely back together with the reverse side of the fabric out. Talk about an extreme makeover! As Shannon Gifford mentioned in an email about this practice, it does imply that Victorian ladies had access to fabric of a much higher, sturdier quality than what we'd find at our local chain stores, for sure. It also implies that the fabric used was not a print, as it had to have looked roughly the same on both sides.

But it does explain why she stuck the ribbons all over her dress; probably to hide the spots that motivated her to turn the dress the FIRST time. With that in mind, I probably should've stuck a couple of ribbons on her elbows...that would've been one of the first places to wear out. I don't suppose anyone in the audience will think of that, though... ;)

Quite a foreign concept to our throw-away society, isn't it? Although my backwards-dress wearing grandmother, who used to repeat, "Use it up, wear it out. If it doesn't do, do without," would heartily approve.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Brave in Ribbons

"Cratchit's wife [was] dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence."

Here are the before and after shots of Caroline Cratchit's dress; it was originally in one of the boxes that came from Florida. The collar is actually printed stretch lace; I had it draped differently for about 2 weeks before I went in Wednesday and changed it all up. The actress bought a small hoop slip to wear...not period, but when she spent a chunk of her own money, what can be said? I don't think the hoop'll be all that noticeable...I hope ;).

I should finish up Grandma Cratchit's dress today; I'm going to try to make a pelerine to go on it, which should be a good trick as I've only seen one or two pictures on the web of such a piece. It'll be my best guess approximation.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Tailed Coat

Hooray! The Saga of the Tailed Jacket finally moves to the next chapter...Sometime Sewing Gentleman Fellow Castmember will receive it today to finish. He's got to sew down the lining in the sleeves and at the back, add the buttons, tack the collar points down and remove the basting in the tail pleats. I can move on to my bodice now...when I'm not sewing at church, of course.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Angel Two: Done!

It took 15 hours to make the cape, about 7 of which were neck-numbing hand sewing. I spread it out on a table, which helped but didn't entirely prevent the neck creaking. I put the cape on the hanger with the dress, then decided I'd put it on so you could see the hood. I'm about 4" shorter than Angel Two, so I had to stand on tiptoe and DS, who took the photo, is not yet sufficiently educated in fashion photography to know to look for things like a flipped up hemline. But you can get the idea!

Today's agenda: Determine what Dickens meant by his description of Bob Cratchit's wife as 'brave with ribbons'...leaves much scope for the imagination, doesn't it? Time to figure out what to do with Mrs Cratchit's dress...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Flying Fur

Got Grandma Cratchit's skirt done; she can wear a sweater under a cape for the parade and no one will be the wiser. So I have moved on to Angel Two's cape, which is from THIS Butterick pattern. It is mostly a deep forest green robe velour...the poly kind that just sticks to you when you get out of the shower. Feels really icky but the color's great. I did find fur, after all. The Hobby Lobby nearest me had just gotten a bolt of some kind of silky fur that is very soft. It looks like fur on one side and curly lamb fleece on the other. However...after I cut it and worked with it to get it on the robe last night, I looked like I'd lost a pillow fight. It shed little feather bits EVERYWHERE. I've got to take the lint roller in today!

I've still got to line the robe...I think. The lining is a grass green (only green they had on the dollar table); I didn't think it would show so I went ahead and got it. After I tried on the unlined robe last night(it's about 4" too long for me...Angel Two is tall), I'm not so sure the collar won't roll back a bit and let the lining show. Gotta make up my mind on that one today. Also have to add the trim around the edge...hand stitching time. Finishing it could yet be an all-day project.

I try to remember to take in the camera and take a picture of the whole thing today.

Monday, November 28, 2005

DeTails on De Coat

Ok, so no tails anywhere to be found; while at church yesterday I picked up the little bundle of scraps left from the jacket that we'd folded together and held on to, thinking it could make good patches on Cratchit garments. I was hoping to find enough fabric to piece together to make the tails, but at least I knew I could use a scrap for matching the fabric if I had to go buy more. But...folded in with the scraps...there were the tails! One of the other sewing ladies and I had team-cut the jacket, so I don't know which of us folded it up. Doesn't matter -- I was just glad to see them! I got them lined and attached yesterday; all I have left to do is put on 6 buttonholes and I can hand it off to Mr Sewing Cast Member to finish up.

But, just for the record, I did switch out the trash can in the sewing nook; I now have a trash can with a lid on it in there. ;)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Missing DeTails

I worked hard yesterday. Put the lining together, got the lining into the jacket and hung the jacket up to make the tails. And hit a brick wall. I had the lining for the tails, but the tail pieces themselves were AWOL. I tore my sewing nook apart and still no tails. Either a) I took them back to church by mistake or b) they fell into the trash can which, having not been emptied since we moved into the house in July, was overflowing and I had DS empty it about a week and a half ago. So if they fell in there, they're gone. I'm hoping to find them at church, but I suspect they've gone to the city incinerator.

The irony is that I happened to glance at the trash can before it was emptied, noted its proximity to the serger table and thought, "It would be really easy for something to fall in there and I wouldn't know it." But there's no other space for it, so I told myself I needed to be careful about what gets left where....

The fabric came from the dollar table at Wally World; I'm already praying that there is one yard left.

I spent the rest of the day boning my bodice, so it wasn't time lost. Just not spent on what I had planned.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Back to the Machines

Well, the turkey dinner was scrumtious, the tree is up and's time to get sewing again. Today's agenda is simply to get the lining in, tails on, and buttonholes made in the Victorian Gentleman's Jacket, Butterick 3648. If I can get it done to the handwork, I can give it to fellow castmember and sometime sewing gentleman at church tomorrow and he'll finish it. He bought the fabric; it's his jacket anyway. I've got the jacket shell finished and shoulder pads in; I have hopes of getting it done today. I'll post a review and a photo when the two of us jointly have finished it out!

Friday, November 25, 2005

No Shopping Here

There are those who love to shop today; more power to you. As it's the only free weekend between now and Christmas, we'll be putting up Christmas in the house while we nibble leftover turkey.

I'm hoping to do a little sewing on either the costume jacket I'm to have done to the handwork by Sunday or my own dress bodice, but the holidays approacheth and the sewing's got to give way now and then or the family revolts ;)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

DH did fine yesterday; I got Young Ebenezer's hat and Bob Cratchit's jacket patched. Didn't finish with all the turkey prep until 1 AM, though...short night! But it's nice to have the turkey deboned and carcase rendered and disposed of before the major cooking marathon begins. But it's just us'ns today, so we'll just eat when I get it ready. No rush. I have much for which to be thankful and I intend to enjoy the day. :D
Anyway, I'm off to bake pies and chop potatoes and tear stale bread with the Macy's parade in the background. I wish everyone good food, good fellowship and much contentment.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hand Sewing Today

Well, DH is scheduled for one of those 'Oh-you're-past-50-we-must-check-things' invasive health maintenance procedures today; I've got Bob Cratchit's moth eaten jacket and Schoolboy Scrooge's moth eaten hat to patch and repair with needle and thread whilst I wait around with his stuff. The trick is to patch the holes so they look patched, but neat. As usual, I'll be making it up as I go along.

And sometime today I've got to cook a turkey, too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Schedule Lessons

I've learned something this year; we shouldn't take on custom costume projects after September 1, or at least after the cast is set. There have only been a couple of folks who have brought in fabric and asked for their own costume, which is ok and I don't mind doing it, but it has thrown us off just a bit. But, since one of those people is me I'm going to have to include myself in the 'do it early or don't do it' list.

My dress from last year was just too short waisted. Last year, I was happy enough to have it done and wearable that I ignored the short waist issue, but when I pulled it out of storage in October and tried it on I realized it was going to bug me no end. If you look closely at the photo, you can even see the waistline seam above the belt. Sigh. Not good. So,I found some sort-of coordinating fabric (depends on how the light hits it), took the skirt off the dress, removed the center front panel and replaced it with a panel of the new fabric,cut off the hem allowance and replaced that with a horsehair braid facing. I used the hem allowance to make a waistband for the skirt and then had half a dress. Sunday I finally got a new bodice cut out of the salvaged front panel; it JUST fit. I will need a Bertha collar from the new fabric to pull the skirt and top together a little better, but fortunately the Belle dress pattern includes a Bertha collar (which I'll use for at least one other dress besides mine). That, and the jacket I mentioned in the Band Aid entry comprise my Thanksgiving weekend sewing, when I'm not cooking or eating, of course!

But I intend to announce to everyone that, if they desire their own costume for either Scrooge or the Easter production (that's Biblical costumes), I'll be happy to make June and July.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Parade Priorities

The parade entry will feature the Cratchet family, Angel 2, Scrooge and perhaps one or two townspeople on a float with about ten or so townspeople walking, mingling with the crowd along the route. So that has determined my sewing priority for the little bit I will do this week and all of next week. Grandma Cratchet, having no costume at all, is at the top of the list. If I can at least get the skirt portion of her dress done, she can wear a blouse and a cape w/bonnet and no one will really know the bodice and pelerine are still not done. Miss M sewed the hooks and eyes on the back of the bridal dress to bustle the train up out of the way, so Angel 2's dress is finished...but I still have to find the fake fur trim for her cape. I'll probably go looking at the Hancock's on the other side of town, then check Hobby Lobby. The Hancock's by me did not have white fur in a large enough (2 1/2 yds) piece. There has to be some, somewhere in Huntsville...right?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Please Pass the Humble Pie

Today's lesson is from Rom. 2:1c, NIV " who pass judgment do the same things."

Bloomer party yesterday; we (a crew of 6) made 12 pairs of bloomers, plus a couple extra 'false bloomers' (I'll 'splain that later). Now, we had just kind of estimated the amount of fabric we'd need, not knowing when we went shopping exactly how many pairs we needed or how big they were to be. And we came up short of fabric on the last pair. So, we pulled some eyelet-looking fabric out of the remnants from last year and cut the last pair. Since the fabric was so fancy, we decided to make these Schoolgirl Belle's bloomers and put multiple rows of lace on them, so we left sewing them for last, so we'd know how much lace we could use. After much squinting at the embroidery and discussion between those who needed reading glasses but didn't have them handy (um, that being me), younger eyes prevailed and we marked the 'outside' sides as the wrong side. One of the other ladies started putting the lace on row on each leg, then two rows on each leg, and so on. The plan was to put all the lace we could on them; after all, according to our script Belle's family was somewhat wealthy (I know that's not the case in the original story, but this is a based-on deal). Anyway, the lady who started it had to leave before she was finished, so I took over. Put the rest of the lace (a total of five rows) on, sewed up the inseams and proceeded to *try* to sew the crotch seam. Whoops. One leg had been trimmed wrong-side-up. I grumbled, I sighed, I found someone who preferred ripping to sewing and got her to unstitch it all while I started another project. When she was finished taking it apart, I carefully compared the untrimmed flat leg to the correct trimmed and finished leg, marked the wrong side and put on the first row of lace, then handed it off to another volunteer, who put the rest of the lace on it. I sewed up the inseam, put them together to sew the crotch and discovered that (you guessed it)we had two left legs. It was sewn with the wrong side out AGAIN...and this time it was MY fault. How could I have done that? I have no idea. Arg!!!

Before we took it apart again, we all looked at it and pinned an "X" on the wrong side of the fabric. Once more, from the top, with feeling... Before I sewed the first row of lace back on, we checked it again. Held my breath while I sewed, but the third time was the charm. Whew!

I repent me of the grumbles and the sighs.

After that, we checked the bloomers off against the costumes and discovered that we were two pairs short...two of the girls were listed on another list, but not the one we were working from. And we were out of fabric. So our solution was to make two pairs of false pantalets...tubes w/elastic at the top and one row of lace (we had enough remnants of other pieces) at the bottom. Under the long skirts, no one will be able to tell they don't go any higher than the knees. Ah, costuming is such great 'outside the box thinking' exercise.

But we did get bloomers for everyone! That's a biggie down!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bloomer Party

We're going to try to get 12 pairs of girls bloomers made today from ironing the yardage to finished product. Miss A and Miss M, my costuming co-conspirators, will join me, of course, but there are about three or four other ladies who have also indicated they will come. It's a stack-and-whack and sit-and-sew; hopefully we'll get 'em done.

Wouldn't you know, there are about 4 other things going on at church today...we're heading in Very Early to hopefully snag enough tables that we can have at least two cutting stations.

And for some strange reason I stayed up WAY late re-reading (well, skimming) Dune. I kept asking myself, 'Why don't you go to bed?' but I didn't have a good answer. The best I could come up with is that it was nice to have some free chill time...even if it was when I could have been profitably sleeping. So it may be a sit-and-YAWN-and-sew-and-YAWN for me.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Band Aid Time

I have a poster I got from Nancy's Notions somewhere in the neigborhood of 10 years ago featuring the 'Sew A Holic' - Y'know, one of those ditzy things with labels. Now, the hat wrapped w/my favorite fabric and the skirt with the button motif will probably never appear on my body, but the rest of the poster...sigh. One thing that was labeled was the Band Aid on the finger. Always. I just ditched one day before yesterday, then yesterday...

Fitting a jacket on one of the guys in the cast, I had the shoulder pads pinned in. Somehow in tugging on the jacket to get it to hang right (it's not lined yet and was hanging up in places) I snagged my pinkie finger on one of those pins. Ripped her good. The guy I was fitting (who actually sews a bit himself and is going to do all the finish handwork on his jacket for me, bless him) heard the pin catch and tried to lean with the motion so I wouldn't stab it too badly, but the damage was already done. Ouch. Since it was a rip and not just a stick, it bled like nobody's business. So much for working on the Angel 2 dress, which I'd been doing before he came back to be fitted. I left it on the sewing machine, needle down, which is something I HATE doing.

I had one bandaid left in my purse; once the bleeding slowed I used it but it was time to go to rehearsal. Gotta remember to restock before I head out again today...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Um, Look but don't Touch, Please

I got four slightly-sewing-experienced Master's Commission students for 2 hours yesterday afternoon; they cranked out a good day's worth of tedious tasks for me and I'm EXTREMELY grateful! Big help! One of the girls sewed the small amount of sparkly (green sequins) that I'd pinned to the Angel 2 dress down for me; left the dress hanging on the end of one of the rolling racks that are now resident in Ye Olde Dresse Shoppe (aka sewing room). As I've mentioned, this room is basically a thoroughfare between rooms and it's smack in the middle of the area in which the girls have their Wednesday night club classes. All the girls who walked through the area had to stop and google at the dress. After about the fifth time it was handled and admired I finally wised up and moved it to the center of the rack, where it wasn't quite so obvious. It is (or was at one time, anyway) a sort of white dress, after all.

But it's kind of gratifying to see all the oohs and aahs...nice to know other folks think it's pretty. I've pinned on a circle of the green trim at about knee level on the front of the skirt; it looks a little better balanced, I think. If the director agrees with me, I'll sew it down and I think I'll put some of the sequin trim on that, too, but that'll be it. I don't want to overdo it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Heat is On

Literally; the cold front has gone through and our 80+ temps have probably left us for the season. It feels a little more like turkey and Christmas Carols now than it did last week...

Figuratively; the costumes need to be pretty much done for most of the characters by the first Saturday in December; that's the town's annual Christmas parade and one float from church will feature the Scrooge cast. I sort of forgot that until just a couple of days ago; hopefully I'll find out today who MUST be ready for that event and prioritize the sewing for the next two weeks accordingly.

There's still an awfully lot of work to do...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sewing Exploits

To help battle the overwhelmed/panicky feelings that do crop up from time to time while working in the costume room, I hung several encouraging Scriptures about the room. One of them is Daniel 11:32b, KJV... "The people who do know their God shall be strong and do exploits." The dress for Young Adult Belle, Simplicity 5724 is definitely in the 'exlpoit' realm for me. The role of Young Adult Belle is double-cast, which means two different girls will be wearing the dress. One is a size 10 and the other is a size 16. Believe it or not, the skirt (which is a separate garment from the bodice) uses the same pattern pieces for all sizes, except for the waistband. The grading is done purely by gathering up more or less fabric to the waistband.

I've already modified the skirt pattern a little; this is pre-hoop, so I am not making it quite so full, and the tier of ruffles on the underskirt has been replaced by one deep ruffle. And I'm going to use an elastic waist treatment, supplemented with a drawstring. The good part about that is that I only have to make one skirt; the girls are close enough in height that we can make up the difference in shoes. When I first saw the pattern, I suggested using one skirt for both girls, but the (non-sewing) Powers that Be were not receptive to the idea. However, once I got into the pattern and discovered that the pieces were identical, I made an Executive Costuming Decision: One skirt will be made. If the directors are not pleased with that, I can always promise a second be made *If* we have time.

I'm making the skirt first so I can fit the bodices over it. Boned and highly fitted. Yeah, definitely exploits.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Pattern Envy

Well, maybe 'envy' is a little strong...perhaps 'wistfulness' would be a better word. :)
I wasn't one of the hundreds who swamped Hot Patterns with pre-orders; I knew my late fall sewing time would be consumed by Scrooge and there just wasn't any reason to order patterns that would sit around and sing a siren song the whole time I was busy with other things. And, in all honesty, perhaps the person who will receive the patterns that I might have ordered will get them made up quickly and be happy. But I am watching the reveiws begin to trickle in and I'm wishing...just a little...that I had both a pattern and some time to play with it. Right now I'm leaning toward getting the Pirate Queen Swashbuckling Pants Suit and/or the Wong-Singh-Jones Sari Tuxedo Shirt. There are a couple of things in the Miss Moneypenny collection that really appeal to me, too, but I suspect I've got some things very similar to those already in the pattern stash. DH was shaking his head, wondering what the big deal is with these patterns, and my reply was that they are highly fashionable, which is one thing, but the really big deal, to me, is that they come in three size ranges for three body types. It's going to be interesting to see the reviews to see how well these patterns really do fit the body types for which they are marketed. Personally, I'm a Glamour Girl with narrow shoulders...I think.

Ah, well, something to look forward to trying after the holidays have come and gone and life has settled down somewhat. Maybe by then, the Hot Patterns people will have cleared out the backlog and be taking orders again.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Frump City

The fabric with the adolescent tendancy to argue had been brought into submission; I finished the blouse from it last night and wore it to church today. The blouse itself worked fairly well; I thought that fabric was just playing control games and I was right. However, a look at the photo I posted with the review on PR reveals a hairstyle that makes me look frumpier than any old blouse would. Sigh. It's just that icky in between stage; I'm letting it grow out so that it won't be so difficult to deal with when Scrooge hits the stage in a little over 4 weeks. (Deep breaths, Lisa, don't panic!). As soon as the show's over I can get it cut into something a little more fashionable, I hope. However, it has occurred to me that if I get it cut I'll just have to go through this growing-out bad hair season all over again next year. Maybe I'll just buy a hat and let it grow on out. Either way I'll be a resident of Frump City for some time.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I Get it Now...

Pants fitting has been an ongoing struggle for me, as it is for just about everyone who sews their own clothing. It doesn't help any that so many of the 'experts' seem to offer diametrically opposed advice, including some absolutes like 'never scoop!'

I'm sorry, I just don't think there are any such things as absolutes in fitting. There's waaaayyy too many variations in shape of the human female form. Since I've become, um, highly concerned (that does fall a bit short of obsessed, you know) with fitting, I've become a people watcher. There are women with huge cabooses and there are women who must surely sit absolutely on their hip bones. If a pattern was originally drafted for a flat seat, with very little curve in the back, simply adding on to the crotch point and the waistline is not going to correct for a fanny that curves. Ya gotta scoop it out.

Now, I don't have an excessive backside, but I apparently do have more rear curve than the average sewing Jane. My common sense told me that I needed to scoop the rear, but it didn't work. The resulting pants were always too tight at the low hip. I didn't want to add to the side seams; I had visions of jodphurs. So I kept adding to the ends of the back crotch seam; it worked...sort of.

Then arrives issue 122 of Threads. In it is an article on pants fitting. An excellent article, I might add, with wonderful visual aids (I'm wondering who made those teeny pants for the wooden doll models, but I digress). The author writes about scooping the backside and adding the amount removed to the side seam. Suddenly, I saw my error. I had been removing fabric from the curve itself; the recommendation is to remove the fabric from the curve all the way up to the waist..then add that whole bit onto the side seam. Bingo! No jodphurs! The addition goes all the way into the waist!

I think I've found my answer. Now, to find some time to make another pair of Oxford Pants and try it out!

Friday, November 11, 2005

The "AHA!" Moment

Someone on Sewing World asked what everyones 'Aha!' moment was in sewing...a realization that caused a paradigm shift. Some mentioned discovering the fit of European patterns, others when they realized they could cut between or outside of the lines on a real 'Aha' moment came when I realized didn't have to rely on a pattern to tell me how to do something.

Back in 1982, I bought a pair of Liz Claiborn raw silk pants on sale and wore them for probably 10 years...until they really looked bad. They had the zipper in the pocket, which I just thought was the coolest thing. I looked long and hard for a pattern that had a zipper in the pocket. There were a few patterns that had a hidden open seam in the pocket, which provided plenty of room for entry but they tended to be drafty. Then one day it hit me: The zipper's IN THE POCKET! No one will see it! Who cares what it looks like!

I played with the pocket just a little, came up with a way to stick the zipper in it (no, it doesn't look wonderful, but who cares? For anyone who's curious, I've got a photo album of the process HERE), put a blue zipper on a pair of black pants and never again considered the pattern guide to be The Final Word on how to put a pattern together.

Which I suppose was the foundation for the waaaayyy out of the box thinking I now find myself doing to put costumes together.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Two Birds with One Post

Ok, I was so pleased with the way the two dresses I talked about yesterday were coming together that I decided I'd post a photo of them as WIPs and also experiment with photo posting. Now I'm wishing I'd taken 'Before' photos of these dresses, too...but I didn't realize what I did to them would make them look so different. Oh, well, I'll remember that next time! Anyway,here goes: First up is the Wedding Dress, I'm guessing that it's from around 1976, in the process of being redesigned to be worn by the Angel of Christmas present. I think I will also take the motifs of the trim and use them to make a wreath CF on the skirt. Dear Director wants some sparkle on this dress, too; I'm going to have to see what I can find. Bad sparkle would look worse than no sparkle!

I also have the magenta dress, trimmed with the lace that came off of one sleeve from the wedding dress. There's a faded out spot on the front of the skirt of this dress; I've got a huge lace applique that was salvaged off of a hopelessly stained skirt that will cover it nicely.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Costuming 'Coincidences'

One of the coolest things about doing the costumes is the little coincidences that seem to accompany the process. For instance...

The very petite lady who had the role of Angel Two (the Present) made a drop-dead gorgeous costume for herself last year, but that family moved to Memphis. So we needed a whole new outfit for the fairly tall lady who has the role this year, as not only would last year's costume not fit her, it was the personal property of the lady who made it. Dear Director decided to take current Angel Two around to thrift stores in search of an old wedding dress that could be the basis for her costume. Now, we received a shipment of costumes from a church in Florida who did this prodution 15 or so years ago (there's a long story behind that, too, but I'll save it for another day). In that shipment was one wedding dress and veil. One. Well, the thift store shopping trip hadn't happened yet, so it was worth a try, right?

It fit our Angel Two as if it had been made for her. A lovely (ahem) late 70's dress with long drapey sleeves. I'd also been requested to make a green velvety cape with fur trim for this character. In the shopping trip to the fabric outlet in Tennesses, I managed to find (for cheap!) a poly robe velour that feels icky but has a really rich green color. Looks good with the dress. However,the dress itself still needed some, um, *something* to make it look a little less overtly bridal.

Now, last year someone had purchased a goodly amount of dark green and black floral trim that hadn't been used, being too dark on the costume for which they'd purchased it. I dug that out and held it next to the velour for the cape...dead match. I pinned it all around the sleeve edges, then along the lace trim on the bodice and the front of the skirt. I had enough, with a wee bit left over. And it looked GOOD. The only other thing it wants is bit of sparkle and it'll be exactly right.

So, I carefully removed the white lace trim from the edge of a sleeve in order to sew the trim on; the lace was rather bulky and I didn't think the Kenmore would manage sewing the thick trim over the bulky lace. No sooner did I have the lace off of one sleeve than a brainstorm hit...I had another dress for one of the Fezziwig's guests that was a very plain magenta satin. Nice lines, but no oomph. I took the lace from the sleeve and, starting at the backwaist, overlaid the princess seam, took it over the shoulder and down the princess seaming on the front, around the v-point at the front waist, and back up and over the other side. I had three little flower motifs left over when I got back to the back waist seam. Perfect. And that little bit of lace made a huge difference.

Just two dresses out of several with similar stories. This part is fun. :D

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Do You Not See What I Don't See?

Back to church around 6:30 PM for the second costume work session yesterday; Miss M. and I had 'sort and organize' on the agenda. We'd just been there that afternoon and pulled 'action items' from the racks so we'd have all the costumes that need fixing, embellishing or altering in the sewing room and now we were going to get 'assigned' costumes separated out from the 'unassigned' costumes in an attempt to get some more rack space available. We walked around the sanctuary to the back hallway where the costumes were in temporary storage, walked through the black curtain that separated the end of the hallway from the restroom area ('What a great idea that curtain is!' we'd commented to one another that afternoon) and beheld an empty hallway. About 4 hours after leaving it full of costumes. We found them in just a few minutes; they'd been moved into the loading dock area at the end of the hallway (once upon a time, our church building was a Service Merchandise and we have a loading dock). That's also the set buiding area...not the best place in the world to store costumes. We pulled them back into the hallway, contemplated leaving them there but thought better of it. We did the sort and organize thing, put what we were fairly certain we wouldn't need up in the attic storage and then pulled everything else back around to the sewing room (which is on the other end of the building). Unfortunately, the sewing room is actually a room-shaped hallway, so it gets a lot of traffic. I guess everyone will get used to walking around them! At least the gremlin will have to work harder to hide them from there; there's no handy stashing spot.

I did take some photos and I've decided to leave them posted on photoworks for now. I like the 'view photos larger' option that's there, even though it is kind of a pain in the patootie to click through the album. The dresses are 'before' shots; I'll take new photos after they're Dickensed up.

Scrooge photos, part 1

Monday, November 07, 2005

Still on the Learning Curve

I managed to find a little time over the weekend to work on the 'blouse made from opinionated fabric' that I mentioned on PR...the discussion started about half way down this page and continues over the next page or two. I can report that, after attaching the sleeves and sewing up the side seams, it appears that the fabric was lying; I believe this is going to be a nice, classic looking garment. Of course, I still have collar, cuffs and closure to do, but so far so good.

I think I'll take the digi cam in with me to 'Ye Olde Dresse Shoppe' (the sewing room at church) today and get some photos of things I will be working on. Last year I really wished I'd taken 'before' photos of a couple of the dresses, this year I intend to do that! I haven't looked at photo posting at all yet; I need to find out important stuff like how much space is available for a freeloader like me to use for photo posting. I may just have to load them up to Photoworks and include the link; we'll see if I'm ready to learn something new or just stick with what I already know.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Alors! I'm an AUTHOR!

Hey, any time something appears in print for the masses, it counts, doesn't it? And the fact that I was paid a small amount of moolah for the material makes it official! Not that the masses will see this; it's a tip in the current issue (#122) of Threads magazine. And I missed it the first time I glanced through the magazine, being distracted by the ad for the new Loes Hinse pattern on the opposite page. Still, a paycheck is a paycheck... :D

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Frets and Fumbles

One of my favorite worship leaders is a guy named Leonard Jones, who is affiliated with the Morningstar Ministry folks. I've watched him, both in person at a conference and on TV broadcasts, move effortlessly among various stringed instruments. From a sitar, with its huge neck and widely spaced frets, to both accoustic and electric guitars to the teeniny-fretted mandolin to a violin, which has no frets at all, he plays them all, often more than one in the same musical piece. Amazing. I can't even switch from an alto recorder to a soprano recorder without fumbling to hit the differently spaced tone holes. And my teenage son is greatly amused every time I attempt to put our newly acquired small car into reverse and turn on the wipers instead...the wiper lever is mounted on the steering column, where the gear shift lever has been on every other car I've driven since 1992.

Now I'm dealing with the same issue when I'm sewing. I took my backup machine -- a 25 year-old Kenmore-- into church and left it in the room we're using for costuming. It's just enough different from my primary New Home that I'm fumbling. Fumbling for the reverse stitch lever and the presser foot lever on both machines, and upon finishing a seam I routinely, uselessly, rub the thread tail on the backside of my Kenmore, which does NOT have the thread clipper that's mounted there on the New Home. And I marvel all over again at Leonard's ability to always remember exactly which instrument is in his hands.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Ok, one more thing off the 'things I want to do someday' list...start the blog. Now, if I can figure out where to put info in the Profile, we'll be all set to go.

Some will know me from Pattern Review and/or Sewing World, but I suppose a few surfing souls may just have picked this up at...random... so, until I get the profile located and up to speed, here are the basics:
I sew. A lot. And I love to write/talk about sewing with other folks who also enjoy the creative process. I've got four kids, ranging in age from 9 to nearly 20 (ack!) and a wonderful hubby, and there will no doubt be references to them. We moved this summer into a much larger house than we'd lived in for the last 20+ years, and my sewing nook is in the laundry upgrade from the garage, where I had the sewing stuff all set up for several years. Now I get to be creative in a space with actual heat and AC...even if it is a little small. Someday I'll clean it up and post a photo.

Current major project: Costuming 'The Gospel According to Scrooge', which is being presented at our church, The Rock Family Worship Center in December...lots of discussion about that in the next few weeks! I've got a few little side projects going, too, but that will be the Main Thing. Actually, I bit the bullet and started the blog because the costuming discussion thread on the PR discussion board was a bit, um, one sided? Anyway, I'm off in a bit today to (hopefully) finish tracing off dress patterns for the garments that must be made from scratch this year.

Anyway, this should be a fun adventure...not much time to work on the blog learning curve but at least I won't be monopolizing the Sew Along so much!