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!

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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?

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.)

Busy little bee

I know, I know. There has been a severe lack of posting going on with this blog of late. That’s because I’ve been busy actually sewing things. And finding other ways to procrastinate. But now, as soon as my terribly, painfully slow internet connection decides to let me access them, I have photos for updating what has been going on. I know – novel.

First there was the dress I made as a Christmas present for my niece.Last year she got a version of a ballet outfit – I say a version, because all of her dress ups are things that can be worn over other clothes – and she loved it. This year, I decided to go for a princess theme, based on Simplicity 2817.

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Her mother and I both try and avoid branding her too much, so she was never going to be Snow White or Cinderella. Plus, her favourite colour is purple, so that had to be in there somewhere. Add to that the fun of making something for a 3 year old who is the size of the average 6 year old, and you see where things might go wrong. Except it turns out that the only major problem was the length of the dress. I’m not sure if it was down to the lack of pouffy underskirts, but this dress was looong. As in I ended up having to take up about 15cm (6 inches for those who are still imperial), even after a deep hem. But she was thrilled with it, and refused to take it off – insisting that she must be called Princess A–. Incidentally, the pose is all her own doing. I told to stand still so I could take a photo and this is what she came up with.

Apologies for the terrible photo - that's what you get using a camera phone on a sunny day.

Apologies for the terrible photo – that’s what you get using a camera phone on a sunny day.

My other major tasks have all related to the Historial Sew Fortnightly (aka HSF). I’ve already mentioned the spencer that I planned. Turns out, I may have overestimated my pattern drafting abilities. Even working off the Janet Arnold original – which looks to be child sized to me, and may just fit Niece – I struggled to get something workable. So I ended up making my first attempt at draping.

On the whole, it came out pretty well, I think, even if the jacket is not, technically, finished. OK, it’s not finished at all, but you get the idea. The eagle eyed may notice one of the reasons why it’s not finished. I got a little distracted during the process and decided to makeover Esmeralda, my trusty dress form, so that she resembles me a little more closely. There will be more written about this at some stage, but suffice to say that hours with iron-on wadding, pins, and poplin caused me to evaluate my own natural shape in a fairly confronting manner. But they did also produce an increased likelihood that things will fit me better in future (except the hips, where I ran out of wadding…nothing seems to be getting finished at the moment).

Which of course leaves the question of what else I have been doing. Well, here it is. There was the bonus challenge for HSF, which I finished but never got around to photographing and posting. It’s a slip, planned for wearing under many a dress that I have daydreamed about, using up some gorgeous stretchy silk from the stash.

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I’m not entirely certain if this is late 1920s or early 1930s. I think I lean towards 1930s. Either way, it’s an entirely practical garment that is so unflattering I refuse to wear it in front of a camera. Esmeralda is otherwise occupied at the moment as well, so she has also refused to wear it.

I have been planning ahead with my HSF challenges. Or attempting to. There’s the UFO challenge up next. Of course, I have many UFOs. So I’ll not only be finishing the spencer jacket, I’ll be selecting something from the pile of period appropriate items that have been languishing in my UFO basket for years, in some cases. This is my task list for the next week or so –

UFO pile

Yep. I’m going to be busy again.