Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Regency Day Dress Made from Sheets

Many thanks to all of you who weighed in on my sheet choice dilemma two weeks ago; although many of you were in favor of the IKEA duvet cover, in the end, research seemed to back up the choice of the more colorful floral sheet instead. To refresh your memory, here's what I was choosing between:

ElleC helpfully pointed me towards examples of brightly colored, floral print cottons, especially the work of William Kilburn, and that was enough to convince me that it wouldn't be totally wrong to use the sheet on the left. Besides, there was more white in the fabric, and even though there are examples of  non-white-and-poofy Regency gowns, in the end the delicacy of the floral just read more stereotypically Regency to me.

William Kilburn's floral designs for cottons were definitely brightly colored!
An extant gown with a vaguely similar print from the Manchester City Galleries, circa 1795-1800. 

I used a frankensteined amalgamation of the two Regency era dresses in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion; it's the gathered bodice and skirt of the V&A dress and the back and sleeves of the Salisbury Museum dress, combined with the drawstring neckline and closure that was demonstrated on Sense and Sensibility's pattern site. Unfortunately, some aspects got lost in the frankensteining process, and the back is much lower than I intended. The problem with using Cecily as a model is that she has a larger (and less compressible) bust than I do, and that threw off the fit of the bodiced petticoat and the length of my shoulder straps, which in turn caused the bizarre sloping toward the back. This is especially sad since research shows that the backs of the gowns should be higher and smaller, and mine is exactly the opposite -- larger and lower! Ah well, now I know for next time, because you can bet your Regency britches that I'm going to be making another one! Regency dresses are so easy to make and comfortable to wear, and I'm already dissatisfied with my workmanship on this gown, so I'm itching to make another, better one.

From the Fyeahtheregency tumblr.

After all my dithering about how the bodice looked, I became pretty dissatisfied with the gown, and it turned into a fairly slapdash effort to finish it up before the Jane Austen Evening. It's almost entirely machine-sewn, even the drawstring channel, and I didn't even bother blind-stitching the hem. The whole thing is unlined, too, so at some point I'm going to need to go back in and either bind or overcast my seam allowances. Anyway, enough disclaimers. Here's what I ended up with for my tea dress!

These pictures were actually taken the day after the tea, since I was in a rush to get out the door on the day of. 
I need to fix the bodice of my petticoat, since it's not doing an adequate job of lifting and separating the little I have to work with. 
Wearing my fichu askew and untucked. You can see here that the back waistline is much lower than it should be. 
Better view of the back. There's a ribbon drawstring at the waist and at the neckline, along a with a few hooks and eyes to help hold it all closed. Like I said, the back turned out lower than I expected, so I actually had to unbutton the top button of my petticoat and tuck it down so it wouldn't show! 
Why do Regency dresses conspire to make the wearer look pregnant? 

The bonnet was also thrown together from materials I already had -- a thrift store straw hat that was originally part of my Ren Faire ensemble, bias tape left over from my hobbit maid costume, a long cream-colored ribbon from my one attempt at being a wedding florist, and fake flowers pulled off of another thrifted hat.  I followed this very helpful tutorial to cut apart, line, and re-trim my bonnet.

I sewed in part of a wire coat hanger to shape the rim of the bonnet. 

It was mostly hidden by the bonnet's ribbons, but I was also wearing a book locket! 

This outfit is technically part of my Historical Sew Fortnightly sewing queue, so here are the facts:

The Challenge: #2, the UFO challenge, although mine was more of an unfinished idea than an unfinished object.
Fabric: One flat sheet and half of a fitted sheet, twin size, 50/50 poly-cotton blend, apparently from JC Penney's at least a decade ago, if not more. It's been in my stash for two years, so I'm simultaneously stashbusting as well!
Pattern: An unsuccessful combination of two different extant Regency gowns from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion
Year: 1800-ish
Notions: Hooks and eyes, ribbon for the drawstring
How historically accurate is it? Not very. There's the anachronistic materials and construction, and even my attempt to at least use a period pattern was thwarted by poor fitting. At least I tried to do my research for the fabric print, even though I was still trying to make do with what I already had!
Hours to complete: About 12. Even though actually sewing the gown was easy, I spent a while futzing with the pattern pieces and the fit, as well as hand-sewing the inner waistband and the sleeve bands.
First worn: Saturday, January 26, to the tea portion of the Jane Austen Evening.
Total cost: $5 for the sheets, $5 for the straw hat, $5 for a white cotton voile shirt that I cut up and re-sewed to make a triangular fichu, and all the notions were leftover from other projects...all in all, $15 for a fake Regency outfit!

Even though my final outfit didn't turn out very historically accurate, it did provide a good reason to actually do a lot of research on Regency era textiles and extant gowns. So even though what I learned didn't necessarily make it into the gown, I at least know where I deviated from historical accuracy. And really, isn't that the goal of the HSF? To be encouraged to do research? See how I'm trying to excuse myself? Anyway, since this dress is already more costume-y than historical, and since I have a wooden katana from my college martial arts days, I'm thinking that I might actually try mixing up some fake blood to splash onto it, and go for a Lizzy Bennet of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies costume. Not sure when I would ever wear it, but when has that ever stopped me from making a costume?

Zombies are coming! Fly, you fools! Oh wait, that's the wrong story. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January Stashbusting: Itty Bits Link Party!

I know I promised more pictures of the Jane Austen ball, but I suddenly realized that January is drawing to an end, which also means that all you stashbusters should be wrapping up your projects involving scrap fabric! Of course, if you've been just doing your own thing, that's fine too, but for those of us who need direction in our sewing, January was supposed to be the month of using pieces of fabric that were less than a yard. I made a few pouches and a mountain range, and Emily sewed up some delightfully adorable pocket playsets! Seriously, nine year old me would have been all over these, so if you haven't checked out her scrapbusting blog post yet, you should do so!

Rather than having Emily and I go poking all over the sewing blogiverse looking for your stashbusting projects, we've decided on having a link party at the end of each month for you all to link up your creations. We'll highlight our favorites, but you should still check out what your fellow sewasauruses have been up to and leave some friendly encouragement. Remember, it takes a village to bust a stash!

[ETA: If you haven't finished your project or haven't taken pictures yet, don't worry! You've got until Sunday night to link up your pictures! Also, when you fill out the "name" section, put the name of your project, not your own name.]

Oh, and if you're wondering what's up with the February LOVE CHALLENGE, here's the deal:
  • This month's theme is sewing something for a loved one -- a family member, a friend, a pet, a favorite piece of furniture (j/k). Much as I love the Selfish Seamstress, sometimes it's good to remember that we can use our skills to the benefit of others. 
  • Any month that says CHALLENGE means that if you sew along with our theme, you can enter your finished project in a contest! We'll all vote on our favorite makes and you'll get bragging rights and a tiny prize. And we promise that the prizes aren't just pieces from our stashes that we want to get rid of!  ^__~
  • If you don't want to enter this challenge, there's always the Vibrant Color Challenge in April or the Knits Challenge in May!
  • To actually qualify for the contest, your entry must be made in the month of February, using mostly stash fabric (notions like buttons or elastic or interfacing can be purchased new). 
  • Near the end of February, I'll be hosting another link party where you can link up your projects, and then we can get to the voting and picking our favorites! We'll announce the winner the first week of March.  
As always, if you don't want to follow along with our theme, that's fine, just know that you won't be eligible for the contest. But hey, the important thing is that stash fabric is being used up in any way possible!

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Year of Magical Doings

[I feel slightly bad about hijacking my blog post title from Didion's Year of Magical Thinking book, considering that I didn't read it (and in fact ranked it fairly low in our book club's book-of-the-month vote) and don't actually know much about it...but it seemed like an appropriate title for what I want this 2013 to be. I know, I know, it's almost February and I'm just now talking about my plans for the year.]

See, Mr. Cation and I keep talking about the possibility of thinking about maybe trying to produce a small human being (note the many levels of uncertainty) once he starts his new job and we get health insurance. While we're still decidedly ambivalent about the idea, what we are sure of is that this is the year to do all the things we've always wanted to do, before any SHBs come along and tie us down with their nap schedules. For me, this means going to the TORN Oscar party in February, as well as finally doing all the things I've wanted to do. Since I'm a huge nerd with an aversion to the outdoors, that doesn't mean classically exciting activities like bungee jumping or skydiving, it means making the Regency dresses I've always wanted and attending a high tea and a ball. It's only appropriate, since this year marks the bicentennial of the publishing of Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite books ever! I'll do more detailed posts about my costumes once I take better pictures, but in the meantime, here are some teaser photos:

These are really horrible iPhone photos in a dimly lit place, but I was just so excited to show off my ball gown!  Oh an hey, there's a Carson lookalike coming up the stairs behind me!

The back of my gown. Bonus points if you know what
extant gown mine is based on/inspired by!
Saturday was a major milestone for me, and not just because it was my first experience making and wearing historical costumes. As I've said before, I'm not good with new people and big social events, and the Jane Austen Evening was a heaping helping of both. Since Mr. Cation showed no interest in getting all Beau Brummell-ified, I went on my own. I'll be honest, I was pretty anxious on Saturday morning, and when our garbage disposal decided to go kaput, I was tempted to take that as an excuse to not go. Thankfully, the 50+ hours I'd already spent making the costumes (and the ticket money) were burning a hole into my mental pocket, so I decided to suck it up and drive out to Pasadena. It was pretty awkward at first, since I didn't know anyone and the tea portion of the evening was open seating. I ended up plonking myself down by the door and eating my cottage pie by myself and watching everyone else socialize. It was very reminiscent of middle school lunches spent with only a book for company; I couldn't help but think of Mr. Darcy saying "I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers...I certainly have not the talent which some people possess, of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."

If you're a P&P fan, you'll know that Lizzy then calls out Darcy on not practicing his socializing skills. I suppose I could have gone up to random people and introduced myself, but I decided to just take it as a victory that I had even gone on my own in the first place. I've already spent a good number of years looking at historically themed, costumed events and wishing that I knew somebody who would go with me. This year is the year that I just go ahead and go to them, even if nobody else will go with me. And if I haven't yet worked up to going by myself and talking to strangers, well, at least I'm not bothered by being the odd duck wandering around the event on my own. I've had lots of practice being a loner, after all, and I don't feel the need to perform to strangers.

There's nothing like dancing to a live band!

And lest you think gosh, what's wrong with you, you just spent all evening in the corner by yourself?! Well, after the awkwardness of the tea portion, things got much better. I ran into people I remembered from the practice class, and then danced with and met more people, and all in all got a lot more social as the evening went on. In the end, I was really glad that I stopped waiting for people in my life to suddenly develop a love for historical costuming; going on my own was scary, but well worth it for an opportunity to dress up!

I was channeling Miss Caroline Bingley's fabulous turbans...

Speaking of dressing up, I got a bonus costume opportunity last night when Mr. Cation and I got invited to The Magic Castle! I hadn't actually heard of it before, but all I had to hear was "NPH is the president" and "you can dress up and people wear all sorts of kooky things" and I was all for it. Mr. Cation loved the magic aspect, and while I enjoyed that part, the highlight for me was really that I got to wear all my thrifted costume-y pieces and wander around a castle.

Getting ready to go: I had my cape and muff and fascinator, and Mr. Cation looked sharp in his new gray suit.
One day,  I'll talk him into wearing ruffled poet shirt. 
The mesh top was from one of Shayna's clothing exchanges, the cheap black corset and and fishtail lace skirt were thrifted.  I always secretly wanted to dress like this in high school, but never had the guts (or budget, or parental permission) to. It only took a decade for me to finally step out in a vaguely gothy outfit! 

All in all, this weekend was quite magical and I'm excited to carpe the annum. I know the typical blogger thing to do is to come up with a 30 before 30 list, but I think I'll just settle for saying that this is the year I do things that I always wanted to do, even if it involves being a little uncomfortable or having people look at me funny. Here's to more costumed events!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Purple Mountain Majesties

The January scrapbusting continues! While looking through my fabric bins, I quickly came to the conclusion that the bulkiest yardages in there are fleece scraps. When my mom was cleaning out all the fabric in my old room at home in SF a couple years ago, she insisted that I take all of the bags of fleece. It's only right, of course, considering that a lot of it was from my early plushie projects. Unfortunately, fleece take up so much space! If I'm going to be efficient about stashbusting, using those pieces needs to take first priority.

The worst part was that so much of it was tiny scraps (less than four square inches...I don't know why I saved such tiny pieces). If I was to be perfectly honest with myself, I would have to admit that they will never be used on an actual project. I mean, I guess I could have cut eyes out of them, but will I ever really need hundreds of stuffed animal eyes in different colors? The answer is a resounding no, of course, so I decided to turn them all into stuffing. The only question was, what would they be stuffing for?

In case you didn't guess from the title of this post...
As the Crebain from Dunland would see it. 

I had this pillow hanging out in my "Crafts to Make" pin board as well, so I went with this large-ish piece of lavender fleece that was a remnant from's not a color that I would ever use for a stuffed animal or food item, so I felt okay turning into some majestic purple mountains.

"I want to see mountains again, mountains Gandalf!"

See how lumpy it is? But at least my seams lined up?
I didn't bother following the actual tutorial/pattern, due to the odd shape of my fleece pieces. I freehanded (freescissored?) the mountain shape and then cut snow pieces until they looked about right. I also made the corners boxier so that it would sit up properly, then stuffed it with all my scraps. It makes for a lumpier, heavier pillow, but at least it's sturdy and sits nicely? Anyway, the more important result: there's now space in the bin for a few more sheets that were formerly living in plastic bags! 

You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-Dum...the Nameless Terror, Durin's Bane!
Okay, okay, so Walnut's not exactly made of shadow and flame, but he did look pretty grumpy about being woken up from his nap just to take a picture with some dumb mountain. 
You shall not pass. 
One last, slightly less forbidding picture. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

January Stashbusting: Itty Bits

Dear readers, my apologies for disappearing for a bit and not answering your lovely comments on my last couple of blog posts! I've turned into a Regency era sewing manic this last week after I realized that I not only had a ball gown to make, but also a day dress for the afternoon tea, plus a reticule and bonnet. I had grand plans to make a pelisse as well, but a whole Regency wardrobe in two weeks might  have been a bit too ambitious. As it stands, I've got the day dress finished, most of the ball gown (missing sleeves and final hemming and trimming), and most of the bonnet (also missing the trimmings). My hand is cramped from all the hand-sewing, even though most of my seams are done by machine. I don't know how actual seamstresses in the day managed to do everything by hand, and on a tight schedule, too!

Anyway, after all the intensity of historical sewing, I decided that I needed a break from staring at the same two pages in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion and checking my Pinterest compulsively for pictures of extant gowns. I pulled out my scrap bag and whipped up a couple of pouches for all the sundry items that get lost at the bottom of my big purse. Sadly, these pouches hardly made a dent in my significant scrap pile, but I just tell myself I have to start somewhere.

The outer fabric is from my Ms. Frizzle dress; the cotton twill is sturdy enough that the pouch feels substantial even without interfacing or fleece lining. I ended up using scraps from my Alice in Wonderland dress as lining. The zippers are 7" ones that came in a big grab bag, and I'm unlikely to use them for anything else so technically even the notions are part of the stashbusting! There are a million lined zipper pouch tutorials out there so I won't bother with writing up my process; I'll just say that it was a relief to only sew straight lines and not have to worry about fitting or a historically accurate silhouette. I didn't even bother trying to aim for a specific finished size, just started sewing without a plan!

Bonus stashbusting: I used up all the scrap bias tape (and some ribbon) I had left over from other projects to make some pattern weights! Goodbye cat food cans, hello pretty fabric-covered washers! Thanks to JillyBe for the tutorial/idea

Pouch-making appetite whetted, I dove back into the scrap bag and pulled out scraps from my hobbit skirt, some red fleece, some striped jersey scraps, and another random zipper, but this time I specifically wanted one in white, with metal teeth. I needed this combination because...

Every time I see this adorably derpy face, I just laugh. 

I think the choice of red fleece for his maw was spot just makes it so much creepier!

I can't take credit for this adorable idea, though; I saw it here first, and it's been on my "Crafts to Make" list for ages. It took a while to figure out how to make the zipper extend out, and even now it's still pretty ugly up close, with lots of dubious hand stitching to close up awkward gaps (darn! to think I was trying to give my hands a break!). Still, I'm pretty pleased with myself. Even Mr. Cation was impressed, and that's saying something.

Okay cats, everyone stick out your tongue and make a derpy face! 

So that's my small stashbusting step for January...itty bits indeed! I actually started teaching myself to sew by making zippered pouches, and I'd forgotten how fun it is to finish a project in less than an hour. After spending 20+ hours on one dress, it's a relief. What about all of you stashbusters out there? How do you use up those tiny scraps, or do you just toss them?

Incidentally, if you're wondering if it's too late to join the Stashbusting Sewalong, the answer is it's never too late! You can join anytime, and you don't have to follow our themes if you don't want to. This is one of those commit-only-as-much-as-you'd-like kinds of sewalongs; the bottom line is as long as you're using stash fabrics, you're golden. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This Isn't Even the Half of It

I am so incredibly thrilled to see what a response there's been from the online sewing community regarding our stashbusting sewalong! I told my husband I couldn't be the only one with bins and bins of fabric! Speaking of which...

*deep breath* Okay, friends, here goes...this is the picture of the fabric piles I hope to turn into clothing this year:

Just to give you a sense of scale, these piles are taller and wider than Walnut when he's sitting up straight. While not all of these fabrics are old per se, I tried to choose things I thought I could reasonably see myself actually sewing this year.

That doesn't look that bad, at least until you read the description of it's the rundown on the individual fabrics, from top to bottom, left column first:
  • 3 yards of bird print on cream colored background, jersey knit: c. 2012 from the FIDM scholarship store, originally meant to be a dress, still intended to be a dress.  Completed!
  • 3 yards of feather print on pink background, jersey knit: c. 2012 from Fabrix in SF, originally meant to be a Tiramisu, still intended to be a Tira.  Not a Tira, but still busted!
  • 4 yards of slightly stretchy navy blue cotton twill: c. 2011 from F&S in TCOCC, no original plans but it was $1/yd so I bought ten yards. I had plans to make it into a Battlestar Galactica dress blues costume.
  • 2 yards-ish cream-colored sweater knit: c. 2012 from Michael Levine Loft, originally intended for a sweater, still intended to be a sweater.
  • 5 yards of mint green and silver striped jersey knit: c. 2012 from Michael Levine Loft, originally intended and still meant to be a Tira.  Completed!
  • 2 yards-ish pink lace-print jersey knit: c. 2009 from SAS Fabrics in Tucson, originally intended and still meant to be a summer dress of some kind.
  • 1 yard cream-colored burnout lace-ish fabric: c. 2010 from Yardage Town in San Diego, originally intended to be a top, new purpose unknown.  Turned into a 20s-esque day dress!
  • 1.5 yards mint jersey knit: c. 2010 from Yardage Town in San Diego, original and new intentions both unclear.  Turned into a slip for the 20s day dress!
  • 3 yards coral twill: c. 2012 from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, originally intended to be a summer blazer, now intended to be skinny trousers
  • 1 yard black and red plaid, wool blend: c. 2012 from Happy Fabric in Oakland, original and new intentions both unclear.
  • 1 yard gray tweed, wool blend: c. 2012 from Happy Fabric in Oakland, original and new intentions both unclear.  Completed, as gauchos!
  • 2.5 yards dark blue rayon with an abstract spot pattern: c. 2012 from SAS Fabrics in LA, originally intended to be a dress or blouse, probably still will be a dress or blouse. 
  • 3 yards floral print rayon: c. 2012 from SAS Fabrics in LA, originally intended to be a 30s or 40s style dress, probably still will be, but not entirely sure.
  • 3 yards purple leopard print rayon: c. 2009 from SAS Fabrics in Tucson, original intentions unknown, probably destined to be a maxi dress. Completed!
  • 3 yards of brown/purple plaid, mystery fiber content: c. 2009 from SAS Fabrics in Tucson, originally intended to be a circle skirt, now intended to be a dress and suit jacket? Completed and with pants and a hat instead of a suit jacket!
  • 3 yards orange wool-poly blend: c. 2011 from F&S, originally intended to be a circle skirt, still intended to be a circle skirt. Completed, but as pants!
  • 3 yards navy blue and white striped jersey knit: c. 2012 from Michael Levine Loft, originally intended to be a maxi dress, still intended to be a maxi dress.
  • 1.5 yards of abstract print rayon: c. 2012 from SAS Fabrics in LA, originally intended to be a top, new intentions unclear.  Completed, as a blouse!
  • Less than one yard of skeleton print quilting cotton: c. 2012 from Sew Modern, originally purchased just because it was awesome, now intended to be a corset for my sister. Completed!
  • 3 yards gray chambray: c. 2012 from the FIDM Scholarship Store, originally intended to be a dress for me, now intended to be a shirt for Mr. Cation.  
  • Striped twin bedsheet: c. 2011 from a TCOCC thrift store, originally intended to be a sailor dress, now intended to be a historical garment of some sort, possibly a Downton Abbey-esque day dress?
  • Seashell print king-sized duvet cover: c. 2012 from San Leandro Thrift Town, originally purchased because it was just awesome, now intended to be a Victorian bustle dress.
  • 4 yards black and white checked cotton: c. 2011 from Birmingham, originally intended to be the infamous Retro Butterick wrap-around dress, now intended to be a generic 50s-era dress.
  • King-sized flat sheet and pillowcases with an only vaguely indienne large floral print: c. 2011 from a TCOCC thrift store, intended to be a late 1700s-ish polonaise of some sort.
  • Red king-sized flat sheet: c. 2011 from a TCOCC thrift store, intended to be a fantastic red dress from an indeterminate era.  Half used, to make an Anna dress!
That is 53 yards of fabric and several sheets, which would probably make up another 20+ yards of fabric. Crikey. And this is my attempt to be reasonable and not just take pictures of everything in my stash! I've still got another 66-quart container of fabric that's not listed here, and another two 66-quart containers of fabric leftovers. A lot of my bed sheet projects resulted in fairly large remnants, and then there are the actual scraps from "real fabric" projects. Ideally, I'd make them all into a fabulous quilt that showcases all of my old dresses, but  to be perfectly honest, that probably won't happen this year. Don't worry, though, January will still involve a couple of scrap-busting projects! 

This it what my fabric storage looks like. *ducks embarassedly* There's still one more storage bin behind these three, plus miscellaneous pieces in corners and on chairs. I know storing fabric in plastic bags is a huge no-no, but well, giant tupperwares cost money. Readers, I feel more exposed in this one picture than I have ever felt, more so than when I was posting my croquis or posing in my Elizabethan undawears

Lastly and somewhat relatedly, I've got two twin-size duvet covers in my stash that I'm toying with for making into a Regency-era day dress. See, my fancy dress is for the Jane Austen ball, but I realized that there will also be an afternoon tea, for which I would like to have a different dress. I know that neither of these prints is period-appropriate, but in the spirit of making do from stash materials (especially since I already had to buy new fabric for the ball gown), I am resolved to use one of these. The question is, which one is the lesser of the two evils? Any thoughts, historical fashion buffs?

Left: I'm pretty sure the flowers are too bright, and it's a poly-cotton blend from JC Penney that's on the crisper side.
Right: The red is very red, and the design is pretty contemporary, but it's got a better drape and it's a little sheerer, plus it's 100% cotton. You might recognize it as the ALVINE TRAD from IKEA. 

I've also got a huge black velvet tablecloth that I want to make into a pelisse, but that might just be biting off more than I can chew...

Friends, if you've got a stash to bust and you haven't yet joined up, there's still time to do so! Okay, who am I kidding, you could join in December and it would still be fine. I'm just glad that I have companions on this stashbusting journey!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Announcing the Stashbusting Sewalong!

One thing that I notice every year in other sewing bloggers' resolutions (ha! I say "every year" as if I've been doing this for years, but no, this is only the second time I've been participating in the online sewing community) is the desire to get rid of stash fabrics. Somehow, despite our best intentions, we all manage to collect more fabric than we can sew, and that takes up valuable room in both our sewing spaces and our minds! So when Emily aka EmSewCrazy contacted me and suggested that we host a stashbusting sewalong challenge for 2013, I was super excited. I've participated in other sewalongs and challenges before (like Me Made May and the Sew Weekly) and had tons of fun, but I've never started one before, but 2013 is the year of trying new things, so here goes!

Wait, what's this all about?

The 2013 Stashbusting Sewalong is a casual sewalong whose goal is to encourage us to reduce the size of our stashes. If you've got more fabric than you know what to do with, join Emily and me as we systematically purge our stashes by sewing items to fit a series of themes. We've got a whole schedule that you can follow if you need that kind of structure, or you can just join us by pledging to destash in your own way; it doesn't matter if you want to follow our themes, as long as you use up that stash fabric. Either way, we know we're in it together, and we know that others will be cheering us on as we go. If it takes a village to raise a child, well, it takes an online community to bust a stash!

Here's how you can join us!
  • Leave a comment here or on Emily's blog with your pledge: "I, _______,commit to using ____ pieces of stash fabric in 2013. Additional option: I also commit to not buying any new fabric/patterns/ notions except for _______ until ______."
  • Post on your blog (if you have one) about your commitment! There's nothing like accountability and public shaming to get us to use up fabric that's been lingering in our stashes. Please share the link back to this post so others can join in if they want.
  • Join our Flickr group! Whether you have a blog or not, this is where you can post photos of your stash, your plans, and (hopefully!) your finished projects. We can encourage each other and gush over the reduced piles together at the end of the year. 
  • In one of those above options, tell us about what pieces you would like to use up this year: 
    • how much there is, 
    • how long it's been in your stash, 
    • what your original intentions were when you bought each piece, and 
    • what you would like to make from it this year. 
  • Be reasonable and kind to yourself, though -- as tempting as it would be to list everything, the point of this challenge isn't to make us feel guilty at the end of the year about our failed plans. Choose pieces that you could conceivably sew up this year; don't choose everything. If you've got a gorgeous piece in your stash that doesn't match your current lifestyle or sewing skill level, feel free to leave it in the stash to wait a little longer. Its day will come! It's just not this day, and that is okay. 

So what's this about themes and challenges I hear?

Every month we'll have a theme for our stashbusting, e.g. knits, accessories, scraps, etc. We'll take turns posting on our blogs with our stashbusting projects in case you need the inspiration, and we'll also have Pinterest boards going for ideas that go along with the theme. You can follow along with us if the structure helps you, or just do your own thing...the goal here is to use fabric in any way possible! Here's a list of the first six themes, which covers the first half of the year.
  1. January: Itty Bits! Sew up those remnants left over from another project, use up some of those tiny scraps that you've been long as it's less than a yard of fabric, it counts!
  2. February: THE LOVE CHALLENGE. 
  3. March: Impending Seasonal Change. Regardless of your hemispherical location, the weather will be changing soon...what will you make? Something fun for the coming spring, or something cozy for fall?
  6. June: Containment! Get ready for those long car trips, summer outings or some good old fashioned cleaning and organizing! We're thinking bags, boxes, totes, purses, pouches, you name it; this month is all about making things to put other things in.
We will be posting the rest of the themes/challenges later in the year, so as not to overwhelm you right this instant. You'll also notice that some of the months are challenges, and that they don't have descriptions yet, but that's for a good reason -- they're going to be contests! This means that if you sew along with our theme, you can enter your finished project in the contest, we'll choose our favorite and you'll get bragging rights and prizes. And we promise that the prizes aren't just pieces from our stashes that we want to get rid of! ;) We'll give you more detailed information about the rules and how to enter before the February challenge.

Okay, I think I'm in! I made my pledge and joined the Flickr group, now what?

Start sewing up those scraps for January! Emily and I have a very helpful Pinterest board going with all sorts of ideas for using up scraps, so you can check it out if you need inspiration. It's up to you if you want to post every month about your project on your blog, but we encourage you to interact with your fellow stashbusters, whether it's through Flickr or blog comments. Besides documenting our own projects, Emily and I will also post round-ups each month of your makes so that you can see all of your fellow stashbusters' projects gathered into one place.

Lastly, if you want to proudly proclaim to the world (or just to the people who have to share a living space with!) that you are Finally Doing Something about that stash, you can grab this nifty button for your blog's sidebar:

Stashbusting Sewalong

The button features a Sewasaurus Rex tackling a piece of stash fabric in a rather, uhh...extreme manner. It was done by one of my former chemistry students; you can check out more of Jen's amazing artwork here, or you can contact her here.

Yeah, yeah, that's great, but what about you? Are you just going to laugh at our stashes and not show your own? 

I've got a whole lot of stash fabric that I need to sew up before we move in June, so I am definitely going for serious stashbusting this year. Bonus points to me if I manage to make things that also work for the Historical Sew Fortnightly! Look for a post tomorrow featuring my own guilt-inducing piles and what I plan to make from them.

What about Walnut? Is he stashbusting too?

Nope. Walnut's all about saving all the stash fabric for sleeping on.

You take this fabric away, lady, and you will pay. Do I look like I'm joking?

Ahhh, see, that's much better. 

Isn't that just like a cat, to be diametrically opposed to everything you want to accomplish?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly: Regency Bodiced Petticoat

Week #1's challenge for the Historical Sew Fortnightly was the " Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona Centennial," i.e. sew something that would be worn in __13. I had grand plans for finishing my ball gown for the Jane Austen ball, but alas, I got bogged down in the research and all the possible fabric/trim/pattern possibilities. I'm still not sure on that front, but in the interest of having something finished, and because I know it's important to have the correct underpinnings, I tried my best to sew up a bodiced petticoat following the directions on Sense and Sensibility's website.

Let's just preface this whole HSF endeavour by saying that I will never be a historically accurate costumer. I love my sewing machine too much (read: don't have the time or patience for hand-sewing) to make entire costumes by hand, and I don't have the budget for getting historically accurate patterns, fabrics, or notions. Still, I'm going to do my darndest to produce historically "inspired" costumes on a budget (both chronologically and financially speaking...meaning more bed sheets!). This means utilizing free resources to the best of my abilities, namely the internet and the two Patterns of Fashion books I already have.
I'm not modeling it because it's quite scandalously low-cut. I will say, though, that there's nothing like a Regency outfit that's supposed to "lift and separate" to remind oneself that there's nothing to display on that shelf. The skirt was quite long, so I added a couple of tucks to bring it up some, but I might put in one more. I'm not really sure how long it should be. I might also want to eventually add in a ruffle or something at the bottom to pretty it up, in which case it will definitely need more tucks to ensure that the hem's not dragging on the floor. 

It fastens at the back with four large, un-period buttons, along with a hook and bar at the waistband.
You can kind of see here that there are three different fabrics being used: the skirt, the bodice shell, and the bodice lining.  

The Challenge: Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona/Centennial
Fabric: 3.5 yards of 35" wide 100% cotton muslin, but from three different sources and therefore in three different shades of white...
Pattern: The directions called for using your Regency gown pattern as the basis of the bodice, but I didn't have one, so I used Burdastyle's free Danielle dress bodice. I had to modify the neckline and angle of the straps to match the diagram in the S&S directions, but it wasn't too difficult. If I were doing this again, though, I would make the back much shorter to be more historically accurate. The skirt was just two panels of muslin sewn up the sides and gathered into the waistband.
Year: 1813-ish.
Notions: I used the heftiest zip ties I could find for the boning, bias tape for the casing, and seam binding for the drawstring.
How historically accurate is it? Erm, not very? Besides being entirely machine-stitched and using plastic boning, I think the circumference at the hem isn't quite wide enough, but I didn't have anymore muslin and was too lazy to drive out to the nearest Joann's (not to mention that once I purchased the muslin I'd still have to wash and iron it). I did check to be sure I could still dance in it, though.
Hours to complete: Six...even though essentially it's just a sleeveless dress like all the ones I started out making, it took a while to futz with the pattern and fitting, plus turning it through those tiny straps took ages!
First worn: Not yet, but it will make its debut in a couple weekends!
Total cost: $10

I know that one of the goals of the HSF were to encourage us to improve our standards of historical accuracy, but frankly I'm going more for some of the other goals that Leimomi listed, namely having an excuse to sew up historical costumes, and to have fun. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of the latter! With that disclaimer, please don't laugh too hard at the mismatched bodice and skirt fabrics, or my terribly wonky darts. Do you know how difficult it is to pin triple darts on yourself without an assistant?

At least no one will see these under my actual dress!

On a totally different note, do you ever feel like your background entertainment (Netflix, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.) has to match what you're sewing? I was watching My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic while sewing this, but felt like it was slightly I should be watching Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility instead. Oh well!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Whole Lot of Random

I couldn't think of a good way to tie in all the assorted topics in this post, so here's another bullet-pointed list!

Hey, that's my text and images on this horrible ad-filled site!
  • If a trolling comment is the first step to Arriving as a Real Blogger, then surely this is the second step: I had one of my blog posts stolen by a content scraper! Funnily enough, they stole one of my 2012 sewing fails, but still. Many thanks to Steph at 3HoursPast for noticing and taking the time to let me know. Since Blogger doesn't have a lot by way of tools to prevent this kind of thing, I'm now considering switching over to WordPress; I'll let you know if that happens. In the meantime, I've gone and added a RSS Feed footer. So here's your PSA, fellow bloggers: CONSTANT VIGILANCE. Here's the extremely helpful post that I used to get that content scraping site shut down. Friends, has this ever happened to you? What did you do about it? 
  • I never shared some of my haul from birthday/Christmas happenings. Not that you really care, since you can't enjoy them, but have some pictures anyway:
Top left: Kat of Macskakat is a total sweetheart and sent me some hobbit-y souvenirs from New Zealand, along with a handmade pincushion. It was the best package ever! Top right and bottom: My very thoughtful brother, who I could've sworn didn't read my blog, surprised me with this amusing book, All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome. I'm pretty sure that's why I'm a cat person...they're just like me

  • Lastly, I've done something jolly with my hair! I was growing it out for the first hobbit movie, but that's over now and it was really getting gross and split-endy and hard to manage, so I've gone and chopped it all off. I was originally thinking that I wanted a true pixie cut like Anne Hathaway or Emma Watson, but at the last minute I wasn't sure if I could pull it off so I chickened out. At least this way, it's still long enough to curl for the Jane Austen ball at the end of the month.
Mr. Cation and I went to the Huntington Library and Gardens to see their Civil War exhibits, and it was such a nice day!
I mean, it's January and I'm wearing a sleeveless maxi dress and only a tiny bit cold!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012 Sewing Round Up

I know I said I wasn't going to do a post about everything I sewed in 2012, but right after I said it was too overwhelming, I got curious. What exactly did I do last year, and how does it compare to the year before? Here are some statistics; this year I put them into the form of charts!

Number of items sewn has increased in all categories, especially when it comes to non-dresses! I'm so happy to say that 2012 was the year I tackled pants/shorts, underwear, and outerwear, although there's still so much more I want to learn when it comes to those categories. I also branched out into using buttons and hooks and eyes as closures, instead of just zippers. And probably the biggest change was that I ended up sewing waaaay more with knits than the previous year. The accomplishment that I'm proudest of, though, is that almost half of what I sewed was done using patterns of my own making! Granted, the patterns mostly boiled down to three basic blocks, but still! I also think it's telling that the next highest number of patterns came from free patterns put out by other generous sewing bloggers. I'm pretty happy with these numbers; the only thing I would change next year is making more patterns by independent pattern companies. I've got a Tiramisu, Cambie and Thurlow in my queue for this spring.

I also couldn't figure out a way to put the following stats into chart form...

Blogging community "events" participated in: 4 (Sew Grateful week, the Sew Weekly, but only sporadically, the Summer Sewing Swap, and VPLL's 1912 Project)...this one makes me so happy, and I totally want to participate in more!
Projects that used sheets/curtains/other non-traditional yardage: 17 (mostly sheets, but a couple of curtains and a tablecloth too!), up from last year's 13
Stashbusting projects: 16, including two fabrics from the earliest stages of my stashing, definitely an increase over last year's 6! It's just too bad that fabric-buying more than made up for it...

And speaking of fabric buying, the average cost of projects this year was $5.91, a slight decrease from last year! I blame the FIDM scholarship store, Michael Levine Loft, and several fabric gifts for the decrease. The total cost of all the garments though, was $432. This is almost exactly double last year's amount, but the number of garments I made is also roughly double, so this is actually reasonable.

As for time spent sewing, the average time spent per garment was 6.7 hours, for a total of almost 491 hours of sewing this year! I didn't calculate this number last year, so I have no idea if the average time per garment went up. I'm inclined to say that there was little change, since I know that that's about how long a dress took me last year, and that's pretty much all I sewed. I will say that the range of time spent per garment definitely widened, though, as I had many more knit projects that took less than two hours, and many time-intensive projects that took upwards of 20 (e.g. my jacket, my Elizabethan stays, the Girl on Fire dress, etc.). Considering that I tackled so many more tricky fabrics and patterns and PANTS, I'm actually surprised that the number isn't higher!

And now, the really scary part is the actual collage of everything I've made, minus the five fails that I listed previously. I also somehow missed my Ms. Frizzle dresschiffon tunic or Mr. Cation's shirt, for some reason, but I'm not going to go back and add them in after getting all of these pictures to play nicely together.

Whew, what a year! I knew that I had been productive, but seeing it all put together like that is a little scary. This is one of the reasons why I'm taking on the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge: I don't really need any more modern clothes. While I still want to tackle jeans and jackets, I don't think my closet can handle this frenetic pace of sewing for another year. I've donated quite a bit of clothing (both RTW and me-made from last year), but really, how many tops and dresses does one really wear? I mean, I get lazy in doing laundry, but not that lazy. So here's to sewing slower, larger projects, and being more thoughtful in what kind of fabric I take in and sew up!