Testing Times

Anna

Now that I’ve developed my Princess Anna cape, I need to work on the dress that goes under it. Anna’s dress has some fancy stuff going on though, so I’ve been forced to do some product testing to avoid attempting fancy stitching. Not sure if you can see the design clearly in the picture above, but, doing a little photoshop work, it looks a little like this:

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After a little research, I decided that I wanted to do something with paint. The catch there, of course, is that the bodice of Anna’s dress is black. There is no end of difficulty finding a simple, affordable paint that will show on black fabric. And then I stumbled across Derivan FabricArt Markers. They seemed to meet all of the requirements. Easy to use, not hugely expensive, and, in the kicker, available in a white that seems to allow colours to show on black. The video on the website shows them producing some fairly crisp images on black fabric. I got excited and ordered a few. I got even more excited today when I heard the postman quite literally throw them at my front door. (Side note: How hard would it have been for him to take the extra 12 steps and put them at the front door, instead of standing at the bottom step and throwing? Thank god they were well wrapped within the package, or I think I might now be reviewing shards of marker.)

In my excitement, I didn’t wait to test them. I had a bodice cut out from an earlier failed experiment, and decided that it would do for testing. I carefully stencilled on my design – which was the purpose of the Photoshop exercise, creating a working stencil – and waited for the white paint to reveal itself. I have to admit, I probably had unrealistic expectations. It’s a bad habit I’m trying to break. But I was not wholly disappointed with the first attempt. After all, I’d been aware that I might have to do multiple applications. So, rather than throwing the pens away in disgust when I didn’t get a clear image after the first application, I patiently did another round, and then a third. Before heat setting the third application, I was excited again. It looked great.

IMG_1226And then I ironed it. I followed directions. I’d waited for it to dry. I used the right heat setting, on the reverse of the fabric. I moved the iron evenly over the design, and hopefully turned it back right side up. And this is what I saw.

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Yeah. It was gone. It looks a little like the design had been flocked. But not really. Looking closer, it was embossed onto the satin of the bodice. It was visible in the right light, and kind of cool, but not at all what I wanted. Not entirely daunted, I moved on and thought that perhaps another application of white, followed by some colour may have the desired effect. I bet you’re waiting on the edge of your seat to know how this turns out, yes? So I’ll cut to the chase. Another white, and two layers of colour, and this is where I stand:

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Look closely, and you can just make out some colour there. Some. Again, I show that my skills with a camera are a little lacking, but even allowing for that, it’s not great. All in all, not impressed. It may warn on the packaging that there are no guarantees with dark fabric, but if that’s the case, don’t use it in your video promo, Derivan.

In no way could I give this to a kid and have them think it was a real Anna dress. I’d already written off my chances of doing the design on the skirt. But now I’m really back to the drawing board. I have no skill with a paint brush, and no desire to spend the $12-15 per colour that would let me test them, since there’s every chance that this would also fail. And I don’t really want to give up the time to embroider them all – that’s a whole lot of time to invest in a kids costume. So I’m back at the drawing board and researching alternatives. If anybody has any ideas, short of buying a sewing machine that will embroider, I’d love to hear from you!

Pink! And Historical! And…

Well, everything, really. See, after a hiatus of posting – because writing essays has been more than enough time at the computer for the past few months – I’ve decided to see how many Historical Sew Fortnightly tasks I can tick off with just the one item.

I’m sewing like a mad thing at the moment, trying to get together items for a market stall in a bit less than a month. Items of children’s costume, since I’ve decided that I love sewing for kids. You can do the most over the top, outlandish things, and kids will love it. So, with that in mind, before the big reveal, let me tease a little and tick off a few challenges, however late I’m completing them.

1. Challenge #6 – Fairytale.

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In 1844, the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, The Snow Queen was first published. Earlier this year, a film was released with Disney’s take on the tale. Frozen has since become the favourite movie of every little girl on the planet – or at least it seems that way to anyone who wanders through a kindergarten and hears the spectacular versions of the hit song, Let It Go. I’ve had previous run-ins with Queen Elsa costuming, and with the frantic mothers who have been desperately trying to find a costume for their birthday girl. But this time, I’m attempting Princess Anna instead.

2. Challenge #3 – Pink

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but Anna’s cloak is pink. Or at least magenta. I’m choosing to interpret this as pink. Which leads me to…

3. Challenge #2 – Innovation

Early fabric dyes were created using natural substances. There was a limited range of colours available, and many tended to fade. Science accidentally delivered an alternative when William Henry Perkins was attempting to synthesise quinine, but instead created mauveine, a synthetic dye. This was closely followed by Fuchsine in 1858 or 1859 (sources vary on the date), discovered by Frenchman Francois-Emmanuel Verguin, and, in 1860, Magenta, discovered by Brits Chambers Nicolson and Georges Maule. The colours were a great success, and many variations on the shades have been produced since. I’m using two of these in my cloak.

 

Bouguereau's Psyche, 1892, using magenta for the goddess's cloak.

Bouguereau’s Psyche, 1892, using magenta for the goddess’s cloak.

4. Challenge #10 – Art.

Okay, I know this one’s a stretch, but technically, the creators of the Disney movies are artists. These days they’re digital artists, but the skills are still the same. And given that I’m working off a single image, I figure this will fit. Give me some leeway, here, folks!

And finally…

5. Challenge #15 – The Great Outdoors.

This one is less of a stretch. I’m making a cloak – it’s made for wearing in the great outdoors. And anyone who’s seen the movie knows that Anna acquires the cloak in order to survive the blast of icy weather triggered by her Snow-Queen-sister, Elsa, as she treks to an ice palace to try and talk her down.

 

Wow, 5 challenges in one – better than I thought. So now I’ve covered that off, how am I making a Disney costume that is also historical? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out!

I know the inspiration image is a cloak, with a cape over the top. I’m simplifying things and just making the cape. The design for this is drawn from a pinterest page that shows a pattern book from what looks to me like the early 1940s. Again, I’m choosing to interpret it that way so that it fits the challenge!

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Not being blessed with the ability to read Spanish, I’ve had to guess on a few things and just take the image as my inspiration. But I managed. So, for the great unveiling of the finished product…

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The Challenge: I don’t really need to list them all again, do I?

Fabric: About 70cm of velveteen, and about 50cm of satin lining.

Pattern: My own, but based on the Spanish pattern book above.

Year: 1940-ish

Notions: polyester thread, 1m of satin ribbon

How historically accurate is it?: Reasonably accurate. I left the darts out of the original pattern and played with the length, but on the whole it’s pretty close. The fabrics are synthetic versions of things that were available at the time.

Hours to complete: Including drafting the pattern, and faffing about figuring the best way to iron velveteen (Answer? Dont! Use steam instead!), it probably took about 4 hours total.

First worn: Never worn – but going to be for sale on Etsy, and at the Essendon North Kindergarten Fete, so some time after the first sale!

Total cost: The fabrics were all bought wholesale, so providing a price to make is a little inaccurate based on what I would pay buying retail. I can say that I’m selling them for AU$30 though!

The glitter ball

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I know. It’s been AGES. And I’ve start to write posts in my head so many times, I’ve lost track of them. But I have a moment of breathing space in the insanity that has been my life for the past month and bit, so it’s time. Time to update. Time to explain. Time to sparkle.

The busy has been caused by a few things, mainly a terrifying coming together of the need to work – damn those people and their expectations for payment of bills – and the need to pass my course if I plan on ever graduating. In between, there have been moments of incoherent rage at just how many other things I’d rather be doing than whatever was in hand (especially if whatever was in hand was my laptop and I wasn’t cruising for inspiration…). But there has also been a birth, of sorts, so it’s not all bad. Perhaps I had better explain.

In my enthusiasm for sewing things for my niece, back in April, I made a costume for her birthday. She was Queen Elsa. Then someone approached me through my normal dressmaking means, and asked me to make another one. So I did. And somewhere along the line, a new sideline was born. So yes, now my sideline sidelines have sidelines, but that’s beside the point. Because in refining Elsa’s look before launching her into the world (of Etsy, complete with terrible place-holder pictures until I can bully – er, convince – a photographer to take some nice ones for me for free), I realised that the key to success with five year olds was bling. And lots of it.

Of course, this has a side effect. I have no photos of the wreckage of my bunker when I finished the last dress. I’m still to traumatised to contemplate it. Let’s just say that some point during the first one, I learned that I should have sparkle clothes, and drop sheets, and, well, things that could be quarantined. Because glitter gets everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

But on the plus side, there is now this:

There will be more – and that’s without factoring in the PDF pattern I’m putting together for this one. Once I get my head around the fact that I will be going out with glitter in my hair, on my face, under my nails, in places that glitter should never be. Because every princess wants to sparkle. And now I’m off to make more costumes (or I will be in two weeks when the final assignment gets handed in to my lecturer…), none of which will sparkle in any way. Unless you count the tape off high-vis workwear. Because I’m off to sew for boys now. Anyone fancy themselves as Turbo?

Please Help Save Foundations Revealed and Your Wardrobe Unlock’d!

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Originally posted on Threading Through Time:
I don’t usually do things like this, but this is a biggie. The clock is ticking for the two best, most in-depth and professional series of articles on historical sewing available online today. The single complaint most often encountered is about the price, which is just under $30/month (USD).…

Historical Fashion Fiction

 

In brief lulls between sewing (cash-generating alterations only, folks, so no new work photos at the moment. Nothing exciting being finished right now!) and studying, I’ve been carving out some relaxation time with a novelist that I’ve been meaning to get into for a while but never, for some reason, made it past the first couple of pages on previous attempts. Georgette Heyer has been credited with creating the historical romance as we know it today. She was a prolific author from the 1930s until her death in the 1970s, setting many of her novels in the world of Regency England. Romance is the key word in that description. If you you do not like your plots predictable, your heroines atypical of their time – but still beautiful and genteel – and your heroes, well, heroic, then I doubt very much you’ll enjoy any of the four works I’ve read so far (so maybe there was more reading than there should have been. But in my defence, I was in serious need of something to keep my mental attention while I hand hemmed four dresses, reconstructed a fully lined jacket, and took up 8 pairs of trousers…).

 

Authentic Regency fashions

Authentic Regency fashion

The stories are light enough to fly away, but enjoyable all the same, once you get past the fact that you know exactly how they are going to end. I think it was this that held me back from them for so long. As someone who has long scoffed at romance, I find it hard to admit that I now have a sneaky liking for it, arrived at by way of chick lit. But it’s true. I do enjoy something light, fluffy and easy to get through in a single sitting (provided that sitting is something like 7 hours long, that is). What I don’t like is the apparent lack of awareness of fashion int he regency period displayed in the books so far. Sure, there are passing mentions of muslin, an awareness that the fast set would damped their skirts to make them cling to the body, but the remaining descriptions sound like they are much later in the nineteenth century. And it bugs me, even when my brain is switched off by the rest of the book. It seems that they hoped to get by with references to muslin and the occasional pelisse – seemingly the only phrases really known by the author. But the lack of detail about dress sets the novels apart from the genuine regency article. And it is disappointing.

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Georgette Heyer, looking all soft and romantic, just like her novels.

I haven’t read all of the novels written by Heyer – although I have a goodly number of them queued up on my kindle for perusal at a later date – but so far I find her novel entertaining enough, if formulaic. I will no doubt read many more them. But for all that, I prefer Phillipa Gregory for my history. Sure, she is also capable of playing fast and loose with historical fact and the film adaptations of her novels are guaranteed to send me into paroxysms when the female leads drop their dress to be completely naked underneath, but for all that there is at least an outward appearance of research. Gregory knows the facts before she meddles with them. Heyer, I’m convinced, just made them up to suit her. I’ll still be reading her though. It’s like car crash fiction – terrible, but at the same time, you have to look.

 

Normal service…

… will resume once I get through with the thousands of words I have to write if I’m going to pass my current round of studies. I would like to think that this will get easier, but somehow it never does. In the meantime, here’s one of my procrastination projects – Queen Elsa for my niece, who was very excited when she unwrapped her birthday present and refused to do a normal pose for me when she insisted on putting on the dress.

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Another example of my wonderful phone-tography, but this is as close as I could get to an actual Elsa pose!

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Not sure what she thinks this looks like, but this is what I got when I asked for a smile…

For anyone interested, I plan to put this patter up on easy when I have breathing room. I couldn’t find any actual patterns, so made my own! The blue/aqua is a basic dance satin, with ribbon sewn onto the bodice. Everything else is crystal organza (although in the photos it looks kind of like I wrapped her in cling film – it looks much better in real life when the pearly iridescence shimmers as she moves.)

Incomplete, insomnia, insane.

I have been suddenly and – stupidly – unexpectedly busy of late. Who would have thought that going back to university for a post graduate degree, attempting to scrape a living, sewing, and generally surviving, would leave me with bout 4 hours a day for the combination of sleep and blogging, and that none of the tasks would get done properly? Apparently not me, or I would never have signed up for the insanity… All of this, of course, means, that my plans for Historical Sew Fortnightly-ing, for doing side projects, of completing any projects to my own satisfaction, seeing my friends and family, and generally having any sort of breathing space have fallen by the wayside. So I’ve made a point of carving out a few minutes to post a much delayed and incomplete entry for the Bodice Challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, and added it to the list of things to be finished at a later date. Along with the planned rest of outfit to go with it…

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The front cut-aways are still to be determined. It’s missing sleeves, trims, seams… but you get the picture, right? You do? Please say you do… Because I have big plans for this outfit. If I ever get the time, I have enough of the striped cotton to make a bustle/overskirt, and what I hope is enough of the blue linen left to manage some sort of underskirt, cobbled together in truly period fashion with cheaper fabric for the invisible bits. There is some weirdness happening in various parts of this which need to be addressed before that, though. And the whole hemline needs to be adjusted (it’s going to be higher in front and dip down at the back over the bustle). And there needs to be – well, there needs to be lots of things. I figure this bodice is maybe a third of the way done, if I’m generous. And that’s having cheated and machined it. What you can’t see from these photos, though, is that it’s also flatlined. I didn’t want to cheat on everything! I figured I could justify machining since they did, technically, exist then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There are many things I would change about this in hindsight, already. Not least of them is the way I’ve done the back seams. It is in no way historically accurate. Nor it is something that I like, so I’m tempted to pull them out and re-do now that I’m not in a mad challenge deadline mode. Although I’m in mad Conservation Professional Practices easy mode, which will be followed by more essays and… If you look closely, you might just see that steam coming out of my computer, my ears, my head, as I implode from all the pressures at the moment. No wonder my sewing was not going well, with all this going on. But I have to put it aside. A certain niece has a birthday coming up, which means that all other sewing not directly relating to income must be put aside to make a Queen Elsa costume, in full Frozen/Snow Queen glory. Good thing I discovered how to get through months with next to no sleep during my first stint at uni. Shame that was more than ten years ago and my body refuses to submit to demands for alertness on a week of four hours a night. Which might go some way to explaining any incoherence in this post.