Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Fake Hair - The Beauty of It All!

I have medium lengthy out of control curly hair.  I used to have a whole lot of thick hair and the process of aging has not been now I have medium length much thinner out of control hair.

For years I've worn wigs, and especially for Victorian costuming I've used hair pieces to create up-do braided styles.  I've saved shedding hair to make my own hair rats (no they don't have paws and a tail) but I've never used clip in extensions as they never see to be something that would work with my hair texture. I can find wavy ones, and I can find for the African Ancestry community but not for my I just don't use them...

....until now.

The price of wigs for cosplay and extensions on eBay has come down tremendously. For less than 11 dollars I was able to get a set of wavy clip in extensions that matched my hair well.  These were crazy long, the longest I could find at the cheap end of the clip in hair (in the U.S. as I didn't have time to order from China).  After several YouTube tutorials watching high maintenance trophy wife types walk viewers through the steps I got the gist.  My natural hair was an odd mix of the bottom being flat ironed and the top remaining curly, which worked well with the accessory crown I had built for Ren Faire.  Since the hair was for Ren Faire on the Halloween festivity weekend I decided to play with some ridiculous filters.  Here is the MASSIVE HAIR test run:

 My family laughed at me because I sat around petting my new clip
                        on hair as though it was a new

 Here the top was more smoothed out, but for Ren Faire I actually left the top pretty curly which helped the crown stay on.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tools to Invest In - Sometimes It's Good to Have Tools

This is a short post to share my love of tools.  Having the right tools is not only the right thing for men, it is great for creative women (or men) - ok...don't burn me for being sexist or stereotyping...I have a garage full of tools and build furniture as well as sew costumes....

One of the things I have found most necessary for making Ren Faire vests as well as other things, although you will not find any of these "00" grommets on any of my Victorian clothing, is a real grommet press.  The tool that weighs enough that you don't want to be dropping it on your toes or the floor .  The press sets grommets beautifully, a press is not cheap but I will NEVER go back to the hand method of setting grommets, especially for corset making.  If you sew your own corsets, make Ren Faire cloths, steampunk wearables, a grommet press. 

At this point I don't have a recommendation because mine was discontinued a long time ago.  It was not a professional one, and I know there are companies that make them for hobbyist use.

The other must haves are a rubber mallet and the leather punch for cutting the holes in fabric to put your grommets into.  Mine came from a big box craft store (punch), mallet from big box hardware store.  Don't forget to put something on your work surface when punching - I use an old plastic-ish cutting board from the big flat pack store.

The right tools are awesome time saving, stress reducing goodies.  Happy sewing!

Queenie Wants a Crown - a tale of costuming wanderings.

Have you ever had a brilliant idea for something that lead to something else entirely?  Well, I had a brilliant idea to make myself a "fairy crown" for the Halloween weekend of Ren Faire.  Only problem is that the crown lead me down a path of making an entirely new costume I didn't intend to make.  Ahh...maybe only problems costumers have.

So this post is about how to make a crown.  An earthy crown for what would eventually turn out to be an elf-queen like costume for Faire.

First I needed vines, I was going to run to the local craft big box store when I realized I had a grape vine in my back yard.  Mother nature was providing, however it was a little late in the season so many of the vines were already a little dry.  I was able to pluck enough of them to work...but I needed a frame:

I always try to keep some wire hangers in the house.  They come in handy -- everything from digging miscellaneous stuff out of drains to creative endeavors.  I  quickly found a white one, and some floral wire I had in the craft box.  I bound a circle first then added on several "L" shaped pieces.  I tied them so they would angle out.

I then sprayed it with some spray paint I had in the garage.  It was a bronze/gold colour left over from another project.

Before I started adding the grape vine I trimmed the vertical pieces so one in the front was taller, and I bought some bronze coloured wire to wrap with.  I cheaped out and the wire was really thin which meant I kept breaking it.  Next time, if there is a next time, I'll spend a little more and buy a slightly thicker wire.

I then took the vine which was still green and pliable on the inside and started bending it around the frame while wrapping it.

At first I was going to overlap the end pieces, which I cut with garden trimmers, but that would have been too bulky.  I realized I could notch the grapevine pretty easily with an xacto knife.  I eyeballed the cuts as this was a "woodsy" crown and perfection wasn't necessary.  Here is another picture:
I then continued adding to the crown and winding the wire until I got a form that made me happy and seemed pretty sturdy.  No rules here.  I kind of created as I went with no firm plan at this point.

I tried really hard not to add any glue at all but ended up using the glue gun a little at the very tops where the thin pieces met to keep them all tightly together.  You couldn't see it once done because it was more inside.  Then I let it dry out.

At this point I took the crown to the craft store and tried to be inspired in regards to how to decorate it.  I wanted natural or natural-ish decorations.  I ordered some butterfly wings from Ebay....yes I do realize for some people that is gross but I had a vision.  In the end they showed up weeks late and crushed to a pulp....maybe karma for buying the things in the first place.

I found these wonderful quartz "beads" that would work...not a unique idea but they did turn out nicely.  They were a bear to find the right bead that would work without glue.  Lots of twisting wire (which should have been thicker) and praying everything would stay.

Loved my earthy crown, but the insidious thing is that because of this accessory I ended up with a whole new Ren Faire how that works sometimes.

NOTE:  I don't have a picture of this, but once I was done I realized I didn't know how to  attach it to my head.  I did get some thicker galvanized wire from the garage and made a "Y" shape that had three ends that wrapped around the base of the circle so it made a brace to attach hair pins to.  I will try to get a photo and post at some point.  It did work, that sucker wasn't moving but the whole thing hurt like heck when I didn't duck low enough to get in the car while wearing the crown...ack!

Here is a getting dressed photo with the crown on...sadly I didn't realize I pinned it on a little cock-eyed.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Back and Up to My Ears in Projects or Now That I'm Fluffier

I posted nine months ago - if you think about it, I could be on my way to the labor and delivery ward just about now...but no, that store is closed.

I have projects - sew many projects.  And for the first time in a long time I have the motivation to sew.  I will be sewing for myself and a few others which is exciting.  Ren Faire, and some Steampunk themed costumes are on the is rebuilding an entire costume closet because time and sitting in dark closets with lots of chocolate has not been kind.  Fluffy.  There was a time where it was easy to corset into a 23.5 inch waist...well...procreation, and now being "cough cough" over's more my thigh size than my waist size.

Over the last nine months I have been purging.  I had a stand at the annual GBAGC's Costume Bazaar which was a riot of treasures.  Never have I seen so many wondrous things.  Bargains galore!  However, I was there to sell, to build up some funding, kind of like "pin" money to move forward for this year's costumes.  I did well...but alas...I failed...I bought a sword...and boots...did I mention the sword.  A metal sword...a PIRATE's long and heavy and I ALWAYS wanted one!  Who am I to pass up a bargain pirate sword?

There was more to haul to the Bazaar by the time I was all said and done.  It felt good to clear some things out.  There were other bags that were donated and a trash pile as well.  Still can't barely walk in my costume/sewing/guest room, but the closet is a bit lighter and most of what was in the picture didn't come back home.  Marie Kondo would be proud.

Saturday, January 5, 2019 has been a long, long, long time.

I have been on a years long break from this blog - there have been some sewing projects but not many.  This year, 2019, I am hoping to update the few projects I have worked on, many without success, and document the projects I hope to achieve for this year.  The Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild has some events that I want to attend as well as a goal to attend Dickens Fair at the end of the year.  The the wicked results of time and gravity have not been kind, I need new costumes...nothing is not even a matter of nothing fitting well...there is no tight lacing that will the machines must come alive to battle the effects of time!  (The dramatics is a way overcome the reality that I've gotten chubby and can't zip, tie, or button anything up

For those who are interested:   is the Guild address, they have a great "pattern review."   if you are ever in the SF Bay area between Thanksgiving and Christmas it is a "must do once" -- if you come without children then you must try to score free "French Postcard" tickets, but be aware it is an adult only show. then of course there is Faire.  I have done some sewing for Faire and will update it here.

Looking forward to a New Year full of threads and thimbles, and being a child at heart...
Image result for vintage calendar clipart


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Oh Sew Many Projects...

I have been MIA for months but I have been sewing...really...but what I haven't been keeping up on are the posts and sharing projects.  I ended the year not getting to so many things I wanted to do.  I also am trying to do a 12-step fabric program....this was a decision I came to trying to organize my sewing room/spare room/public storage locker(not really but it ends up being a store room).....too much stuff...way way too much stuff.  However, like any seamstress, getting rid of anything is painful.

A quick peek at some of the things I've been doing:
 ...and the hat keeps time!  It actually works :-)

I've also done several commissioned pieces for children, non-costume sewing projects, and now I'm also working on my Steampunk dinner party project for this summer.  You can view the tutorial on how to make a fun chair covering and the story of the chair below here:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Aunt Inez Dress Unveiling!!

There are so many more progress photos to post, along with my awesome undergarments, Cuban heeled stockings, and my $2.99 thrift store score of a purse!  However, since the event has now passed I decided to post the dress.  The dress has more of a golden/black glow in good light or sunlight so although it may look odd with the black trimmed brown shoes, in person it was a good fit.  The dress was 90% complete and wearable.  Not a 100% restoration and I took liberties to make things work, but it is entirely hand sewn.  I figure now close to 100 hours have gone into this -- good thing I don't have much of a life.  However, there is no reason this dress can now not last another 85 years...a piece of history saved from the rag is good!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Aunt Inez Dress Project: Lining and Beading (or how I'm slowly losing my eyesight)

Above is the center front panel before and after repairing the loose and missing beading.  Below I will go over the process of getting to the end result, including how to easily replicate beading patterns with stuff you have in your kitchen!  Nothing fancy required.

LINING:  My first attempt at lining failed.  I had purchased some lovely and cheap silk chiffon off of ebay.  The restoration concept was to line the dress completely and rebead through both layers to stabilize the dress and transfer the weight of the beading off of the fragile outer silk.  Good in theory no so good in practice.  1)  The black silk caused the "sheerness" of the dress to disappear because it made everything dark  You could hardly see the beads.  This was resolved by using a light umber chiffon which unfortunately is not silk instead.  I did not have time to mail order more fabric and take a leap of faith that it would be right when I got it.  The second pic below shows the dress with the lighter goldish fabric below it.  2) I thought I could just rebead a little bit and that would be good enough.  Nope....much more extensive beading is required.  So I'm using my trusty #20 needle (love it!) and silk thread and slowly losing my eyesight.  Not having good ergonomics is also a problem so I can only bead in short intervals before my body is exhausted.  I need a much taller table and now have a lot more empathy for third world beaders.
 Umber fabric linking in photo below

 BEADING BASICS:  As I mentioned a good needle and silk thread seem to be key.  However the thread used to bead the dress is thick, almost like embroidery floss.  Where I have to add missing beads I have to double my thread and then go back across the beading at least twice to get it to look like the original beaded areas.  The glass beads are amazing.  The seed beads are six sized and reflect light beautifully, you might think them round until you hold one and look closely.  The faceting of the tiny beads really gives the dress sparkle.  The larger flat backed beads are like rose cut diamonds.  They are faceted like a round diamond but then poke up like a pyramid in the center.

Where to get extra beads?

The hem!!  I got this juicy tidbit from a blog called "Nan Sews the Dress," an amazing restoration of another amazing 1920s gown.  I also am getting beads because I am somewhat reworking the beading pattern to balance out the dress as I repair it.  Since in the end I will not have enough beading to restore the dress perfectly, I'm doing what I need to do to get a lovely outcome.  Here is the hem stash:

Below are my little cups of glassy goodness.  I probably should have lids on them....

Here are stitching pictures:


1)  Pin the area you are working on together and smooth flat.  You may get some poof from the original fabric being grossly out of shape but if you don't pin you will end up with big poofs you will need to undo (trust me...learned the hard way).

2)  Make sure you keep all the little bits of thread and fuzzy off the sandwiched part of your materials.  Learn from me that having to work a teeny tiny bit of black thread out of an area you have stitched shut is a huge time waster. 

Above is an example of me working a long straight area -- PIN FIRST!


I'm probably not the first person to come to the following conclusion but I found that by using the following I was able to easily replicate missing beading patterns --

clear zip top sandwich bags
white paper (napkin)
scotch tape
black sharpie marker

I'll go over how then you can follow the pics below:  Lay a sandwich bag over the area you want to trace.  I find working in small areas is better, all you need is another sandwich bag when you move on (and you could technically reuse the bags for lunch).  Use your sharpie to trace the over the good beading area (even if it is on another part of the dress).  Now that you have your pattern you can use your sharpie and copy the pattern on the other side of the bag from the first side (just lay it down flipped over and trace what you have already done).  Figure out which side you will use for your pattern, then on the opposite side tape a white piece of paper, napkin tissue etc.  This will help in visibility.  Then slip the whole thing under the lining and original dress.  Use pins to secure it and then carefully recreate your pattern without sewing into the plastic.  I found that the needle just kind of slipped over the plastic as long as I wasn't using brute force.  Not once did I sew into the bag.  Here are photos:

 I copied from the good side, flipped it over and aligned it under the fabrics where the beading was missing.

Above you can see two sections which are supposed to be mirrored but something weird happened.  The mistake looks original and not a repair.  The curly cue on the right should be going the opposite way.  I undid all the beading there and used the plastic bag method to repair that section.

 Below you see the curly cues on the bag that is pinned in waiting to be beaded.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Aunt Inez Dress Project: MORE PATCHING!

September 7th - today I am moving to lining and beading the dress but before I share that portion I have more photos of all the patching.  I had thought I had caught every hole and tear I was going to patch but then when I set the lining I saw more...ugh.  The big project change change was that I decided to pull off the grosgrain ribbon at the shoulders on both the front and back.  I'm still not sure how I will make the top look nice but I'll figure it out as I go.  Here are more pics:

 (Above) I did the burn test on the grosgrain and it appears to be silk ribbon.  I decided to remove it on all four shoulder points to reduce the bulk when I possibly covered the shoulders to hide the ugly bits.  That meant that on all four shoulder points I had to remove and stabilize with the new black silk.

 (Above)  There were lots of good beads to scavenge and I made sure to get every little seed bead.

 (Above) Apparently at one time the dress had a side shoulder opening as well as the side bodice opening.  The front had torn away and had at some point become stitched into the back of the dress (below).  I saved the vintage snaps, they are kind of cool.

(Above)  I had removed some of the beading to be able to get a good repair in.  I will re-bead the area.

Oh, and although not 1920's I wanted to share another wonderful pair of shoes from American Duchess -- I'm a bit of a fan!  Check out her new "Claremont" Oxfords....oooooh....I know I want a pair:

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Aunt Inez Dress Project: PATCHING! Tiny Stitches...lots and lots of tiny stitches.

I was on an epic quest to find a way to glue small bits of new black silk to patch holes and tears before I underlined the dress.  Lets just say my epic quest turned into an epic failure.  I requested technical assistance from the wonderful members of the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild, and as always they came to my rescue.  Well, kind of that the answer to my question "what fabric glue will try matte and clear," was none will.  I had already gone through several test runs and everything dried shiny and clear, white, or shiny white.  Ug.  Oddly Fray Check did not dry shiny or white but provided only a temporary hold...booo!

Here is a test run of some small spots of iron on tape, as well as glues...might be hard to tell but none really worked:

Before I started patching the dress I decided to stabilize the ripped areas and holes.  Through testing on a piece of the original sleeve I found that if I used a fine paint brush and dipped it into Fray Check and painted the edges of the tear or hole I could stop the edges from fraying.  I was still working on the large pieces of paper I had set out earlier on the island top.  The Fray Check dried very fast and I would poof the fabric up a bit so it wouldn't stick too badly to the paper.  I didn't have one area adhere so tightly to the paper that there was residue.  REMEMBER, I did a precheck with the old fabric first before I dove in.


So back to patching:  The answer to my question was stitching will be the only way to go.  I pulled out a #20 needle I could barely thread, picked up a small spool of silk thread at the local big box fabric store and set off to patch Aunty's dress.  Immediately I ran into issues.  The smaller bits of silk I cut to patch the small holes frayed as I tried to sew them on.  Frustration ran high...I had to pause and find chocolate.

Thinking a bit I used the concept of fiberglass repair to make my own stabilized patches.  I did a test run with a  (aprox) 5 x 10 inch piece of new silk first and found that it worked beautifully!!!  Here is what you need:  Fray Check, tin foil, paint brush.  I found using blue painters tape helped with hanging the piece to dry.

 A note here is that I found that when I coated the fabric by dropping Fray Check from the bottle I did end up with more shiny areas than when I just squeezed the liquid into the cap and painted it on.  I made sure that all the fabric was coated but I did not saturate the material.
Here is where the blue tape came in handy.  Oh, forgot to mention.  I found that if I ironed my new fabric first it was easier to coat.

AND NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF:  Patching and stitching, stitching and patching....

 Above is the large dried patch and a small piece I cut out.  I find if I cut a larger patch than I need then CAREFULLY trim away excess after I sew it in I get decent results.  I also don't knot the thread.  I leave about a 3 inch tail and when I reach my starting point after stitching around the perimeter then I tie off the two ends.
 Above I show using pins but for the smaller patches I don't pin, I found it did more damage than help.


Above is before and after.  I am not patching every single weak spot on the dess, but will patch any holes that can't be covered by beads, and anything hugely apparent.  Here are more:

The shoulders present a huge challenge.  I was going to leave the grosgrain ribbon that was at one time added (along with tape) to stabilize the shoulders...then I decided not to.  Repairing the shoulder made me realize that with large patches it is apparent that the two silk materials are quite different, the old has a more subtle finish and the new a tighter weave.  I will still cover the shoulders further to camouflage the repairs but for now I've done this:

 First I removed and saved the loose beading (above)
 Then I cleaned up the opening a little bit (above).

 I coated another larger piece of material since the smaller one was used up making patches.

 Above is the patch, however, I went on to take off the grosgrain ribbon and will post a pic of that soon.