Hall costumes, black and gold

•January 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

  Arisia was this last weekend.  I love Arisia.  Some people go there for the panels, some for the parties, some to shop or see famous people or buy art… I go for an excuse to wear anything I want, and dress my family up as well.  I often go with a color theme, both because it’s striking, and because it makes it easy to find the kids.  I may have finished the color coded sets though, I may be moving on to themes.  We’ll see.

This particular set has been sitting in my head for at least 2 years.  I don’t remember when I found the black and gold patterned velvet.  I bought every bit the discount fabric store had, which was 5 yards.  Then I started imagining.  I needed the perfect costume for it though, because every time I picked it up it made me so very happy, and I knew I couldn’t waste it.  Then when I had it designed, I needed the time, because it had to be done right.  Well, it’s still not quite done, but it was wearable.  This one I’m likely to go over in detail later on, but I wanted to get the basics down while I’m still excited.

My dress is in stretch velvet.  The waist and skirt are a patterned black and bronze, and the bodice is black with a gold base fabric.  There’s probably a name for that.  The sleeves are two layers of fake silk, (but it’s a good fake), in slightly different colors.  They’re open sleeves, with long points held down by beads.  I need more pictures, don’t I?

My husband has a vest of black and bronze, with a built in ‘belt’ of plain black velvet.  His hat is a Renaissance Italian style rolled hat, which needs more embellishment.  His shirt is the shape of a modern dress shirt, with the laced and ruffled front of a ‘pirate’ or ‘poet’ shirt.  That’s probably the most skilled sewing work in the whole set.

My daughter has a long loose velvet gown which I made to double as a tunic for myself.  It works pretty well.  The black vest over it gives it shape, but the fabric is so light that I put beaded fringe on it to keep it in place.  The mask is not an intended part of her costume.

My son has a shirt like his dad’s, except with buttons instead of lacing.  He has a vest identical to his sister’s, except a little smaller, and a hat which was supposed to be dad’s, but came out too small by accident.  The pants are from his Firebird Prince costume, but I finished the legs with elastic, which I didn’t have time to do before.

Total time from beginning of cutting to (current) end of sewing: almost exactly two weeks.

I will definitely talk about this in detail, in part because I haven’t solved all the problems yet, and in part because I’m still somewhat obsessed.

Here’s the little one with a plastic cup that I swear isn’t as enormous as it looks.  One of these days I will learn to take decent pictures.  As it is, I can get ok ones only outside during the day, and only then by chance.

Advent Mittens (or, how I learned to knit)

•January 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

  So for a couple years now, I’ve been wanting Advent Mittens.  Just a string of mittens, preferably with numbers on them, which I could hang around the fireplace in December and put cute little handmade advent gifts in.  But all the ones I saw for sale were expensive.  And they weren’t quite the right colors for my taste.  And it seemed so simple!  So I knew I had to make it myself.  There was just one problem:  I didn’t really know how to knit.

Now, normally I’m not the sort of person who’d let this stop me.  But my mom knits, so I’d tried to learn to knit several times before.  And technically, I’d learned.  I knew how to do a knit stitch, and after watching someone do a purl I could remember how that went as long as I was in a project, and I’d even knitted a pair of mittens before.  But it always felt awkward, and slow, and unnatural.  I am lazy, and usually a quick learner, so I have very little patience with anything which doesn’t come easily.  So I hated knitting.  So I tried other methods.

I tried flat felt, sewn together.  Old felted sweaters, serged together.  Crochet, I think.  I contemplated needle felting, and even weaving around some sort of mitten-blank.  The thing was, all the easy ways gave a weak and/or inflexible result, and none of the methods looked like mittens.  Mittens, to me, are fundamentally hand-knit out of yarn.  So I found a pattern, and thought that even if I didn’t like it, it was just one mitten a day, and they were small.  How bad could it be?  Here are some things I learned:

  • Knitting one small mitten a day is really excellent practice, and doing it for a month will make you much better and more comfortable with knitting!
  • December is not the correct time to attempt to knit one mitten per day, no matter how small.
  • Knitting a mitten each day does not leave me time to make cute little presents to put in them.
  • The kids would rather have candy for breakfast anyway.
  • Candy for breakfast is Bad.
  • Spots are much harder than stripes, and should probably wait until more than halfway through the month.
  • Numbers are Right Out, I will embroider them or something later.
  • When you have no numbers, and no cord to put the mittens on, you don’t even need to finish the month!  Just go until you have a bunch, and then try to finish sometime before December next year.

On the whole, the project was a success.  I didn’t make enough mittens (though I found two more after taking the picture), and they are different shapes and sizes because I abandoned the pattern after a few days.  The spotted one is lumpy as well, and took three times as long as the others.  But, they look like mittens!  And they look good in my living room!  And they hold presents!  And I’m comfortable knitting now!

This opens up a whole new potential storage problem in the craft room…

Firebird and Prince

•January 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

  My daughter wanted to be the Firebird for Halloween.  She said this first immediately after Halloween last year, when she was 4 1/2 years old.  She had a lot of different opinions over the course of the next year, but ended up coming back to the Firebird, with only a little prodding from me.  I thought making a firebird costume would be the coolest thing ever.  I was pretty nearly right.  For anyone reading this who doesn’t know what the Firebird is, here’s a link to one version of the Russian folktale.  Given that my son is young enough that you can get him enthusiastic about anything at all, just by asking in the right tone of voice, he wanted to be the Prince.  I started work on the firebird nearly right after I finished the Italian Ren outfits, and I needed that time.

The Prince is pretty simple.  Very wide gold pants (though I should’ve made them wider), and a fuzzy red jacket with gold frogs.  The hat is just an adult-size winter hat my mom made long ago, but it went so nicely that it became a costume piece.  I thought I was going to make him fake boots to go over his sneakers, but I ran out of time.  So I took some wide double-sided Velcro, and wrapped it around to hold the pant-ankles in place.  At least 1/4 of my costuming is the ability to improvise.

They both adored their costumes, though I didn’t quite get him willing to say ‘thank you’ in Russian when trick or treating.  However, apparently no one knows this folk tale.  In fact, apparently people don’t even hear the word ‘prince’, at least not when they’re looking at a 2 year old with long hair.  My daughter told everyone that ‘he’ or ‘my brother’ was ‘the prince’, and at least a third of them looked confused for a moment and then said ‘What a pretty princess!’  One couple on the entire trick or treating route recognized the story and were excited about the costumes.  Fortunately I have friends and family to appreciate it. 😉

  Here’s the Firebird at an angle so you can see her beak.  The beak is the same sparkly tulle as the ‘feathers’, with a very thin wire around the edge to hold it in up.  It probably would have been smart to use a thicker wire, so I didn’t have to keep straightening it, but this way it was nearly invisible.  I love tulle, when it’s appropriate, because it doesn’t need to be hemmed, but this is the first time I’ve run wire through the little holes.  Too bad it’s almost never appropriate in the things I’m doing. 🙂

I won’t be doing any sort of tutorial here unless someone asks.  So if you want to know, ask.

Italian Ren Garb, in a hurry

•December 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

  So back in… September?  There was this event.  And I decided that by golly I was going to actually finish the garb I’d started making for my husband before my daughter was born.  That’d be… 6 years ago, or so.  So the title of this post is kind of a cheat, because while I was in a hurry, for this I started with something half-made.  And a good thing too.  I should weigh this thing, it’s probably close to 15 lbs.  The body is a full circle, 3 layers of fabric.  It should’ve been two, but the lining fabric I could find in an appropriate color was too thin, so I put a heavier linen in the middle.  “Too thin for what?” I hear you ask in astonishment.  Well, I really liked the brocade I had for the sleeve linings, and was under the crazy impression that they should match in weight.  Each sleeve, by the way, is another half circle, and the whole thing is trimmed in nasty fake fur, because by that time I was fed up.  Here’s the thing about the trim: it has to be curved.  It’s going around a circle, and it’s wide, and it has to match the curve.  Here’s a shot of the inside, or ‘how you make the thing fall correctly in neatish folds.’

  You carefully pin the folds, and then you sew the first half inch of each.  Then you run a tape across and sew the innermost part of each fold to it.  Then it stays all neat when you put it on a person!  In theory.  When they stand very very still.  You may notice from the previous picture that my hems don’t line up properly either.  The fur should go straight across the bottom of sleeve and body alike in one straight line.  To which I say, ‘Ha!  Who has time for that?!’  Maybe someone without two small children.  Maybe not.  The sleeve actually stays up that way, interestingly enough.  This is good, because otherwise my love would be unable to use his hands.

And now we get to the real ‘in a hurry’ stuff!  I like having my kids in garb, but they keep growing!  It’s ridiculous.  So I usually stick with reasonable facsimiles.

  This is my 2 year old boy.  You can tell he’s a boy, because he’s wearing tights with a very short top.  Totally inappropriate for girls. 😉  This is made of the sleeve lining fabric from that last one.  It is also a pleated full circle (plus shoulders), but this one is open at the sides, and lacks inconvenient sleeves.  He’s wearing it over thick tights and a turtleneck, because I couldn’t be bothered.  He’s also wearing his everyday cotton webbing belt, but backwards.   (It goes outside in front, but inside in the back, so you can’t see the buckle.)  If I’d been smart, I’d have paid more attention to making it longer so that he could wear it again, but I was making it out of scraps so that he’d match.  Matching garb is convenient even if it’s not period, because then when the kids wander off, people can easily see who they belong to.  Speaking of matching…

  This is my daughter.  Her sleeves seem to match but are actually from a different fabric altogether.  Her outer dress though, is the same fabric as the monstrosity above.  She’s wearing it over a grey gown which is normally fine by itself, but we were dressing up for this event.  I meant her to wear the grey backwards (since she’s the same shape front and back, being 5) so that the closure wouldn’t show, but I was not thinking straight when I dressed her.  She has a random matching piece of trim tied around her as a belt.  The overdress is just a flat piece of fabric, wide at the bottoms and narrow at the shoulders, with a large V-neck.  It would look nicer if I’d pinned the hem before stitching.  Note to self:  If I’m going to put stuff up on the internet, maybe I should try to be neat every once in a while.

I don’t include mine for two reasons.  First, all I made new for this event was the sleeves.  Second, I would really like to post a picture that I like of my own garb.  There were a lot more pictures to choose from of these guys. 🙂

American bento

•December 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

  My daughter started kindergarten this fall.  Suddenly, I had to make portable lunches!  This is complicated by the fact that I’ve tried to teach the kids to pay attention, not just to whether they’re hungry, but also to what they’re hungry for.  So even for a quick mid-morning snack, I have to send in a variety of things, or she might just not eat anything.  So bento is perfect, plus it’s fun.  Fun to make and fun to eat, and it reminds her during snack and lunch time that I care.  This one is tortilla/turkey rolls, carrot slices, cheese, and a small tomato.  I cut a couple of silicone baking cups shorter so they’d fit better.

  I was worried in the beginning that I’d get tired and stop doing nice snacks.  That’s happened a couple of times, but really by the time I got very tired, I was in the habit already.  Here we have carrots, peas, red peppers, and cashews.  I can’t use cashews anymore now that they’re eating with other classes.  Nut restrictions are a problem for me.  Mini cookie cutters, on the other hand, are my best friend.  I have little animals, hearts and flowers, butterflies, a star, and goodness know what else.  Just pack food tightly, and top with anything cut in a shape.

  Some meals are not great for cutting into shapes.  With those, I just make them look neat, and it’s all good.  As a side note, I love the Oneida children’s silverware.  I wish I’d had it when she was first born.  I was worried about sending it to school with her, but to the best of my knowledge, we haven’t lost anything yet.

Ok, just one more, because it’s cute:

Bread and butter, carrots, and red and orange peppers.  And some cookie cutters.  Always the cookie cutters.  Now I’m doing two a day, some days, because she needs lunch and snack.  I admit that I’m not always very original.  But the cheese cow and the ham pig were pretty good.

Victorian Rag Fairy

•December 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I love costumes.  Costumes are what my brain does when it idles, and what I see when I look at fabric or beads or hats.  I watch people on the sidewalk and see costumes, and I walk into thrift stores and see costumes.

I have a wonderful husband who not only eats anything I cook (and the leftovers too), he’s also willing to wear any costume I make for him, and he’s happy that I make him costumes.  Right now my daughter also feels this way.  I’m sure this will change, when she’s not 4, so I’m taking advantage while I can.

There are two fabrics involved, a stretchy lace and a slightly lacy subtle floral print.  They’re both silly polyester things, but I don’t care so much about fiber content for costumes.  The big thing about this costume was that it was (theoretically) no-sew.  Really.  The underskirt is a circle with a hole in the middle.  The overskirt is a square with a hole in the middle.  The undershirt is a triangle of lace, with a ribbon threaded through near the top point which ties around the neck, and the two bottom points tied behind the back.  The overshirt is a rectangle with a slit halfway up the middle.  The unslit half is the back, the slit half hangs over the shoulders and is pinned in front with a cameo.  The wings are the bit left over on one side of the circle skirt: narrow in the middle, straight across the top, and trailing down to points on the sides.  I gathered the middle together vertically with a scrap of yarn, and tied it to the neck ribbon in back.  It hangs a little low, if she wears it again I’ll fix that.  It turned out that it wasn’t actually no-sew though, because while the fabrics are stretchy, they aren’t stretchy enough to stay at the waist of a little girl with no waist.  So I sewed elastic around the two skirts together, and they still didn’t stay up, but didn’t actually fall off.  She wore brown shorts underneath because she was wearing it to a party on a playground.

  I am so so happy that I found this post.  I wrote it immediately after that first post, and then my computer crashed and I couldn’t find it.  Now I can write other things without this being missing.

This is one of those fabric-dependent costumes, but perhaps the shapes will be useful to someone.

External monologue

•September 21, 2010 • 4 Comments

This is an experiment.  I’m going to try writing about the things I make and do, and possibly anything else which occurs to me.  Perhaps someone will read it, perhaps it will be a personal log.  We’ll see.

Either way, it will mostly have to do with creation, which is very important to me.  And almost everything I do is tied up with my children in one way or another, even if it’s only because they keep me from getting anything done.  So that may come into it some.  We’ll see.