Friday, December 11, 2015

Flamingo Project - Part Three

Duff, the PP, and the Baby Pink Pirate -photo courtesy of the Texas Renaissance Festival

After how well the DH's outfit came out, we got to thinking we needed to update the other flamingo's outfit. He has not had the best year in 2013, and we thought this might cheer him up. 

We essentially did a hybrid of the DH's Pirate coat and his linen.  We used the same pattern as the linen, but got our hands on the last of the Pink upholstery from the pirate.  As much as I hate the pattern for the loops done for the CF closer, I did them for Duff.  Despite the annoyance of them, they came out well for him.

Fabric Used:
Outer fabric: Medium magenta pink Upholstery weight micro suede
Lining: We used left over cotton broad cloth for the top part lining, while used a white polyester crep du chein for the skirt portion.
Trim: Plum/Magenta/black/ pink 3/4" wide trim goes down the front edge, and on the Eppalets. We were going to put a gold/ pink trim around the hem and on the epalets but it didn't look right on the doublet for him. 

Conclusion: I think it turned out nice on him. It used the pieces he already had and simply updated his look.  Sadly life has not allowed him to come out to faire since then, but that doesn't mean we are not continuing to try to get him there. 

Flamingo Project - Part 2.5

This is Flamingo Project 2.5. We went to the opening weekend of our local faire, and after an hour of wearing the coat, if he didn't have an ice pack put down his shirt he would have died of heat stroke. We had to return the coat to the car, but he was still sweating in his black brocade vest. He asked if I could make him a new SLEEVELESS doublet. He wanted something light, that was still his traditional pink but wouldn't weigh him down like his 'couch' of a coat did. 

Pattern :  We did Simplicity 4059. I had since used it a couple times for different doublet projects.  We chose to do the long jacket version for this project. I believe was more of a Turkish style of dress. 

Pattern Sizing: 48 chest with 2" full abdomen adjustment.

What did you particularly liked about the pattern? 

 Removable sleeves!! This pattern offers not doing the sleeves. He needs something that gives the look of a jacket that doesn't have sleeves. 

What did I dislike about the pattern? 
I had trouble making sure the dots on the shoulder epaulet things matched the coat. It may have been due to a little shifting but I had a little trouble making sure they lined up correctly. Unlike other patterns I have used they are not a pure 50/50 balance over the shoulder seam, so you have to be careful to line them up properly with the dots. 

Fabric Used: The DH struck gold at the fabric store. They had on the clearance rack the last of a bolt of the original flamingo project fabric. He bought all of it.
Outer fabric: Carnation Pink light weight Linen
Lining: a Light weight silk Chein
Epaulets : Carnation Pink linen, lined with white cotton broad cloth.
Trim: Pink/Magenta/black/ pink 3/4" wide trim goes down the front edge.  Then Pink Marbou feather trim on the epaulet edges, and on the hem. This is to hark back to the original Flamingo outfit. Also we wanted to put the sparkly magenta and gold trim from the original flamino pants & cape.
Buttons: Originally he wanted Frog closures but later on he changed his mind to matching buttons to his pants buttons and button holes.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I did a mild 2" Full abdomen adjustment. After it was assembled we realized that the design has a natural extra 1 inch gap that is part of the hoops for the front of the jacket. We went back and made a new front placket that is 3 inches wide instead of 1.5 inches.

Sewing Notes: It went together fairly easily. I just made sure any trim I wanted on it I sewed on BEFORE assembling. I just made sure to take seam allowances into account. This allows you to still have the trim, and be able to do adjustments later. 

At final fitting we discovered the CF gap issue. I had already added additional room for his full tummy, but the design was still made to have that 1 inch gap for the button loops. The DH didn't want that. I let the back out as much as I could. It would have been nicer if the 'skirt' on the doublet had side seams that matched the doublet. As it was, I could only let out the CB. It gave him an extra 1/2 inch but I could have given him another inch if the skirt had that extra side seam. To ease it a little more. I made the CF placket a little wider. That allowed me to close the front completly, and still have room for his buttons and button holes.

When I made this pattern again, I added the side seams to the skirt portion.  This made life much easier. 

Over all Comments: It is a good pattern for a nice doublet and I prefer it over the issues I had with it's predecessor. I would certainly make the DH nail down what he wants BEFORE I progress into the assembly stage. There are many design elements that you just can't do once assembly has started, or at least do them and it not appear as if you goofed up. 

 When we originally planned this item we had wanted a particular trim that we used on the original Flamingo project, a magenta & gold sparkly trim. Joann's discontinued it, however there were a couple places online to still get it. I took the advice of other seamstresses in my online sewing groups and went with jkm ribbon for the trim. I had terrible service from them. It took over 6 weeks for them to even SHIP the trim. As I needed the trim ASAP I ended up cannibalizing the trim from his old pair of pants, and matched the ends together. Unless you look carefully you won't know they are spliced, but it irks me to no end that I had to do that. Currently his new pants don't have trim on them because what I was going to use on them, had to be used on the doublet. I was very annoyed with them. Going forward I won't be ordering from them. I will recommend that when you do order trim for a project that you give yourself adequate time in case there are shipping issues.  

One last note,  as a special gift for the DH I got a special edition  fez for him, which since then he has started to wear with this outfit.  It is called the "Double Headed Party Chicken", aka two Flamingos on a black Fez.  Check it out here.  Since then I have bought him another Santa one, which he wears with his Santa Hat wearing Flamingo panel shirt.  Like always, that will be another post.

Next post will be on Phase 3 of the Flamingo Project.  We can't have one Flamingo look fabulous and the other drab, now can we? 

The Flamingo Project - Part Two

After the success of the initial Flamingo Project, and how popular the 'Pink Pirate' came to be known, the DH wanted in  2010 an even better Pirate outfit. The DH  came to me saying he wanted a 1750-1780's style colonial style coat to go with his Pink Pirate look of the Flamingos.  My challenge was that he wants me to hide where the cables for his shoulder puppet runs.( If you like the DH's Drabbit,  Quizzik, you can find the rest of his family at The Imaginarium Galleries. )  Also the other challenge was that he wanted in 6 weeks! 

The coat pattern was based off of the POTC Jack sparrow coat, Simplicy 4923 . We added faux button binding, and 'closed' the front with small chains with hooks on them. (We later removed them due to a snagging issue with the brocade vest.)  The original pattern is unlined, however this pattern is lined like a proper suit coat. Lastly, all pockets are functional, and 2 welted breast pockets were added for him to keep his wallet, cell phone, and keys.  

This was the first major project for me to do the full abdomen adjustment.  It took a couple tries to figure out how much the DH needed, but once it was found everything went together accordingly.  The things that took the longest was appliqueing on the faux button closures, the trim around them, and the placement of the center front trim.  This had to be placed exactly 3/4" from the cut edge.  This allowed the trim not to get caught in the center front seam.   
Honestly if I was going to do this project again, I would start with a proper suit coat pattern as a base, and alter it so that it would make the coat.  The difficulties of shoe horn-ing the suit tailoring aspects into the pattern were a pain.  The biggest quibble I had with it was that Butterick makes a colonial jacket pattern that is unlined.  It includes alteration lines  above and below the elbow for adjustment, this pattern didn't.  This made the 'bend' in the arms hit much lower on the DH than necessary.  It works but he continually is 'hiking' up his sleeves so they sit properly in his elbow properly. The last quibble I had was the pattern had a gore-let to allow for the back of the coat to 'swish'.   When guys say they don't like to twirl... THEY LIE!  They simply say they like more ' Swish!'  in their coats.  I thought there would be more swish in this coat, and their wasn't.  

Fabric Used: 
  • Outer fabric: Medium magenta pink upholstery weight micro suede
  • Lining: Pale bubble gum pink Silky solid, made of polyester. Originally we wanted to get silk taffeta, but it was not found locally.  I found that I REALLY do not like using the silky solid for a lining.  It didn't have enough substance to it.  I should have simply gotten a suit lining, or even gotten pink cotton. Oh well live and learn.
  • Faux Button holes and Cuffs: Black floral brocade, same as vest. 
  • Trim: Plum/Magenta/black/ pink 3/4" wide trim goes down the front edge. Then a gold braid with pink strands of metallic thread woven in around the faux button holes. Then Pink Marbou feather trim on cuff edge, with a magenta and gold trim next to it. This is to hark back to the original Flamingo outfit with the gold on the pants, and cape. ( The marbou trim was later removed as it never quite fit with the over all look) 
  • Cravat: Ruffles are left over coat lining. The base is left over Cotton from shirt. The decorative pin is a flamingo button, and red/pink glass bead dangles made by my DH himself. 
  • Vest: Black floral brocade (matches cuffs and faux button holes) and lined with black Egyptian cotton.  Over time the brocade has caught onto things and shows wear and tear.
  • Shirt: White Kona Egyptian Cotton with 4 inch lace cuffs, Plum/Magenta/black/ pink 3/4" wide trim. More interfacing should have been placed in the collar because it looses it's body quickly.  I think in the future the shirts need to be properly starched.  IE the old fashion way.
  • Buttons: All match, and were special ordered (40 of them at 50% off yay!!!)
 Sewing Notes:
  • Front Panels: Couldn't start sewing until all the trims were purchased. As much as it was a pain in the back side, I feel it is best to add some of the decorations BEFORE you sew the garment together. There is nothing like lugging a heavy item as you are trying to satin stitch around a small applique when you could have just done it in the beginning when it was easier to move that one pattern piece around. Just keep in mind of the seam allowances. I almost made that mistake but caught it before I sewed it down. Both welted pockets are 9 inches deep.  This way it is deep enough that he won't loose items in there but not so deep that he has difficulty reaching coins and such.
  • The only irksome thing was that only AFTER I had the welted pockets on and looking nice did my DH decide that he wanted decorative gold trim on the pocket flaps. Thankfully what he wants can be hand sewn on after the coat is completed. Anoying but workable.
  •   Back Panel:  It was assembled and the trim was again matched around the neckline. When sewn together they matched up as if one whole piece of trim.  I still feel the CB needs more "oomph", but it looks good. Besides do I WANT people looking at my DH's backside?  

  • Sleeves: It took me nearly 2 hours to get one sleeve made right. The problem was 1) I, some how, sewed the cuff together wrong, but it took 15 minutes to fix that, but the biggest problem was that I had to figure out the order that things got sewn on. To make the cuff lay right on the sleeve it had to be basted on one way. Then the lining sewn on to it , then everything sewn together, and pressed. Once I got the first one done it took me an hour to make the 2nd one from pieces to full press. Then getting them in was tricky. I had to ease the sleeves in using an ease stitch, and in the mean time keep the lining from getting caught in it. The plan was, that once the regular lining was inserted I would hand stitch the sleeve lining into place. This way there were NO visible seam allowances in the coat.
  • Lining:The lining went together with no problem, however the DH got ansy for his coat. He wanted me to cut the breast pockets because he was worried it would take too long. When I told him I only needed maybe 1 more evening of sewing to complete it he quieted down. Also once he saw how nice the pockets were he quit his fussing.
  •  Hemming: The main coat was hemed 1", and the lining 2".    This let it hang smoothly, and more like a suit coat. The sleeve lining was finished being sewn in. This completed the coat. 
  • Cravat:  The Cravat was a headache of it's own.  Because the silky solid easily ravels the edge of the ruffled used had to be carefully finished before it was used to created the ruffles. Detailed directions on how I made the silly thing can be found here.  Trying to explain every details on it once was enough of a head ache. :) 
  • Shirt:  I missed the deadline on the shirt by 2 weeks, but we had a back up in the mean time. My previous versions of the pattern hung to his knees so I shortened the shirt by 4 inches.  That seemed to work much better. I did do a FAA on the shirt which helped. We had gone to Joanns to get some felt for another project, but cam home with a different 4 inch layered lace, and a sequined baby pink with iridescent trim for his cuffs. He wanted even more froo foo but anymore would have been too much.  After adding the lace and trim he began asking me how was he eat with such long cuff. I could only laugh and tell him, "This is why forks and spoons were invented. So you don't get your cuffs dirty." 
  • Special Note:  After talking to my dry cleaner. I got a 40% discount for a " cleaning" when I brought in the coat and did a simple steam press without any cleaning solution.  They did the same pressing as a tailored coat.  It was worth the money to get a good pressing on the coat. 

Customer's Response --

The DH has found the coat to be a little heavier than he expected. He jokingly called it "The Couch". Because of the fabric it is made from. He discovered that when the temperature is over 80 the coat is unwearable do to the heat. This posed a problem as the temperatures at Scarborough Faire typically start at  75 and can go up to 110 degrees.   This is why we began development of  Flamingo Phase 2.5.

As we walk around the ren faire's he has started to carry "Cheat sheets" he gets so many questions he is now just handing out cards that have how I made the coat on one side, and a photo and my contact info on the other. He said it saves him from repeating it over and over again. Also, he is being noticed by people all over. He radiates "pink-ness" and is easy to spot by alot of people. No one see's me 5 feet behind him but they see him like a beacon. Oh well, at least my work is noticed. 

After seeing photos of him in his outfit his work had him wear his pirate gear for several special events to promote a program they are doing.  

He has been wearing the coat 5-8 time a year since we made it in 2010 and how several years out it is showing wear and tear.  We are debating making a new one ( Flamingo  Phase 4) , or simply changing the vest and cuffs out. Right now I'm leaning toward doing a new coat, but we shall see what happens.  

The Flamingo Project - Part One

Sorry I have been so busy I haven't had a change to write up the next section of Mrs. Claus.  In the mean time I am posting the write ups on the Flamingo Project.  If you remember I mentioned it in the Father Christmas write up.  This project has an interesting story behind it.  Enjoy!
The Original Flamingo Brothers - November  2007

In June of 2007 the DH and I visited my DH's best friend Duff for a holiday.  We goofed around and had fun.  In fact Duff took the DH on a short motorcycle ride, where my DH fell and put a good gash in his arm when he hit loose gravel on the road.  Little did we know this would come back us in prophetic irony.

Duff called the DH his flamingo,  IE his best friend that he would be willing to do anything for.  The term of being someone's flamingo  goes back to Boston Legal where the characters of Denny Crane and Alan Short are close friends despite their great political differences.  In one episode despite their difference they are willing to both dress up like flamingos and make fools of themselves together even if they disagree. Duff and the DH are  perfectly each others flamingos. That whole weekend together Duff teased that I, as a seamstress should make them matching flamingo costumes.  He meant the bird, but it gave the DH an idea.   The DH and I joked about the whole thing on the drive home, and honestly didn't think we would put much though into it.

The following day, a Monday,  I was in a meeting when Duff called me, which was odd.   I sent a text saying I was in a meeting.  Something told me I needed to take the call then, so I left the meeting and called him back.   Heavily sedated he told me he had been in a terrible motorcycle wreck 2 hours after we left.  Going around a turn he hit loose gravel on the road and lost control of the bike.  Somehow he managed to control the bike enough that instead of hitting the cement wall, or the mesquite tree, his body landed in the 18 inch space between them.  The bike went airborn into the tree and fell on him breaking 9 of his ribs.  Thankfully he was ridding with a body builder who bench pressed the bike off of him, and whose wife is a trama nurse, so he knew what he needed to do.   Long story short, Duff should have died that day but didn't. The whole situation scared us and the only thing we could think to do for him was show him how much we cared about him by making him  his own Flamingo outfit.

The accident put the project in high gear.  The plan was to make a Renaissance Festival Flamingo outfit for the two of them.  I sneakily got his measurements, and went to work. I used a carnation pink linen as the base fabric. The shirt is a basic poet's shirt off an Out of Print McCalls shirt pattern. There in 2" cotton lace on the cuffs. In January of 2009 I added Persian style black/gold/magenta trim was added to the cuff it's self to make it more fancy.

 The pants Design was based from a "Pendragon Ventian Pants". They were blocked off of a Simplicity Men and Boy's Lougewear pattern. There are button on the sides with snap and pant hook waist line closures. In January of 2009 I added magenta and gold trim down sides of pants, and invisible zipper in the front. Trying to go all day with a sash around your waist, plus your belted gear is not easy.   Having the zipper allows for easier relief.  Since then I have added one to some theatrical garb I did for show.  The actors didn't appreciate why I did it until they had  60 seconds to grab a potty break and didn't have to take off half their costume to use the privy. 

The cape is made of a magenta 100% cotton denim. The store gave it to us at a 50% discount because after a year NO ONE wanted it. The design is based off a 1/2 circle cloak from the 1700's. It is lined with a white lining & trimmed with Magenta martiboa trim. In January 2009 I added more mariboa trim to the collar, and matching magenta and gold trim was added to edge and collar. Also  added were 12" sequined flamingos to the back. The DH is right handed, Duff left.  The capes were done in mirror images of each other so when they are walking along they look really cool. In May 2009 I added a 1" high flamingo pin to the collar.

 Lastly is a basic red cotton sash.  It is really simple.  3 widths of 12" panels sewing together end to end, with the edges finished and tied around the waist.

We presented him with it that fall at the Texas Renaissance Festival. He had healed enough to be able to go with us.  It was fun to watch the two of them walk through the faire proud to be wearing their pink.  I mean you can look really mean wearing  studded black leather, but would you REALLY want to mess with a guy who has the self confidence to walk around wearing THAT much pink?

The story doesn't end there.  After the TRF trip the DH and I began going to Scarborough Faire.  We had season passes so we went nearly every weekend.  The DH is not hard to spot wearing all pink, so he began to get a name for himself.  He became known as "The Pink Pirate" or PP for short.   In some circles he is still called PP even years later.

Honestly I was happy with it because the Flamingo Brother's were happy with it, but it wasn't my best work technique wise.  I wanted to do better, which led us to phases 2 and 3 of the Flamingo Project. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mrs. Claus Project- Part 2

I made everything skin outwards.  The fit of the gown is determined by what is underneath it.   I started with Simplicity 2890 - Women's Drawers, Corset and Chemise- size 12.
I used a 100% Cotton bleached white Muslin for the Drawers and Chemise.  The lace was a pre-gathered eyelet that I picked up at Joann's. I had to cut/ un-pick  the binding off the eyelet in order for it to work with the bottom hem of the drawers. The buttons were from current stash.

One thing one must understand about these historical garments is that they are not like normal 'modern' undergarments.  The chemise will be far larger than you expect.  Check the finished garment measurements before you select the correct size. I feel that the size 12 was MUCH too big for what I wanted, but that is what I measured out to.  The only rational that I can give for why it is so big is that once the chemise is cinched in the looseness at the shoulders will allow for better movement under the gown.  Having the chemise so much bigger cause a gathering problem under the corset.  If it is too much bigger it can cause excessive wrinkles.  Normally these wrinkles wouldn't be a problem, but when I got hot I sweated a lot and those wrinkles felt like knives under that corset.  Think of it like having a wet wrinkled sock and you can't get rid of the wrinkles.  It can be painful if you are not careful.  I may go back and make a smaller chemise for this project but otherwise it works fine.  I like the length because it covers me to just above your knees.  That is important given how the drawers work.

When you make these your brain will tell you that you are sewing them wrong, but you are not.  Yes the drawers are open through the crotch area. Typical bloomers are just elasticized PJ bottoms with lace.  Those will NOT work with this style of outfit.  The corset has you laced snugly from bust to tail bone.  With regular bloomers you can NOT get to them under the corset.  This causes a serious toilet problem.  That is where the drawers come in.  The drawers are very full in the back.  This prevents drafts, and helps with modesty.  The only difficulties I ran into was when "Aunt Flow came to visit" and  when the legs of the drawers did not cover the thighs all the way up.  With 'Aunt Flow' you can not wear traditional gear under the gown.  You will have to make other arrangements.  I'll leave that to your imagination and creativity. With the legs not covering the thighs completely I found that I got chafing on hot and sweaty days. My recommendations are baby powder is your friend, look at anti chafing sticks, Or when you are making the drawers adjust the rise on the drawers so they fit your body better to compensate for it.

I know many would not want to discuss it but it is something that must be brought up when wearing one of these gowns... using the toilet.  Historically these gowns were worn when you simply stood over a chamber pot and did your business.  Now a days, that is not the case.  The technique I was told to do was, hike your skirts from the front, spread the drawers and.... sit on the toilet backwards.  You will feel like a bloody great idiot the first time you do it, but you will find it will make you life much easier.  With so much froo froo, and structure in the back of the gown, trying to control all of it over the toilet bowl is not easily possible.  By going backwards, the bulk of the skirts points toward the front of the stall and you only have to control the front of your gown that way.  It is odd, but works!

On top of that I had to find a corset to use.  I had originally planned to make myself one, but I ran out of time  to be able to make the corset and have the gown ready in time for my event. I got new lacing for an under bust corset I had, but that was a failure.  I couldn't get the lines I wanted. I highly recommend getting/ making an over the bust late Victorian corset. Due to my time constraint, I ended up using my  Star Trek Next Generation Medical Division steel and Leather corset by   A Wench in Gear.   Yeah, you read that right.  Cee Cee makes these wonderful steel and leather corsets.  I have a Sea Queen belted version I wear with my Lady Stitch and my Steampunk inspired outfits.   This was a special item the DH got me for my birthday one year. I even wore it to the opening of the new Star Trek movie.  It is even the one corset I have no problem wearing all day at work.  It is very professional looking.  Trust me I love this corset, HOWEVER ...  for this application it did the job about 90% of what I needed.  If gave me the shape I wanted but the bust line on it is 4 inches too tall.  I am hoping to work with Cee Cee to get a basic corset to go under the gown properly.  I can't say how much I love Cee Cee's work.

The next layer would be the bustle it's self.  I used  Truly Victorian TV163 - 1887 Imperial Tournure. I made the Imperial Size. The pattern it's self is simple enough, however I had to learn the hard way that this a structural item, not something you should skimp on materials wise. When I first made the Bustle I did the Imperial "Lobster Tail" bustle because, if you are going to have a big butt any way, go all out.  This thing sticks out 12-18" off my back hips.  I put it on my dress dummy, and started adding the layers of the dress.  I got so far as the underskirt, this didn't even include the heavily decorated, and bustled over skirt and my bustle had gone "ker-Fluff" , to quote the Swedish chef.  I had used the same cotton muslin as the chemise and drawers for the bustle fabric.  That was my first mistake.  I have already decided that I will be remaking the structural portions out of a canvas, the ruffle portions, and sides can stay in muslin but it really needs the structural and abrasion resistance of the canvas.  That was mistake number 1, the second was the use of plastic boning.  I had on hand rigaline plastic boning.  This is the stuff I have used so many times in evening gowns, and hats for structural support.  Typically this works fine, not in this case.  While the boning could support the petticoat, it couldn't handle the additional weight of the underskirt much less the over skirt.  I had to have steel holding this skirt up.

With time and funds short I ended up going with what is called plumbing strapping.  You can get it in 5 ft., 10 ft. or 100 foot rolls.  You will need a dremel, or heavy duty steel snips to cut it.  Then the edges will need to be trim, filed, and then dipped in plasti-dip.  This is to prevent it from poking through your casing.  Why do I stress this?  Because I tried to cut corners and I had the steel break through the fabric and casings have one day of wearing.  I had to do repairs, and try wearing it again.  The third time, I actually went back and added reinforcement layers of fabric where the steel was pushing up on the muslin. Make sure you put as much time and effort into this item as you would a corset.
If you can afford it, go ahead and get the proper steel boning from . Yes it will be 20 bucks plus another $5-8 for shipping but it will be worth it to get what you need.  Just like you don't skimp on your corset, don't skimp on your bustle.

The petticoat is Truly Victorian TV170 - Victorian Petticoats.  This was a good investment because this pattern has the proper Petticoat from  1870-1897.  I did view 3 (1883-1889) for this dress.  Honestly it was the first pattern I had ever made from this company and was incredibly easy. There is one decorative element on it, tucks on the back panel.  Are they necessary, no, and they have the line to cut if you don't want them, but it gives you the opportunity to have something a little 'fancy' under your skirts as your own little secret. I used a simple bleached Cotton muslin, with a cotton cording for the waist tie.

 The underskirt was made from 100% Hunter Green Cotton.  I wanted something light-medium weight that was easy to clean.  With weight of so many layers they could add up to be a great strain if I wasn't careful.  I used Truly Victorian TV261-R - 1885  Four-Gore Underskirt.
I enjoyed working with this pattern because it is very simple but can be done in a variety of ways.  You can use it as a simple underskirt with pleating across the back hips, or bustle it with tapes it's self.  You can also add a ruffle on the hem for an additional look.  I wanted all the attention on my red gown not this, so I chose to keep this basic.
           Unlike my Petticoat, and overskirt, the skirt hooks at the side back seam.  Because I did an Imperial Tournure, I added an extra 4-6" onto the back hem, blending it into the side seams.  After I had made it, and found the structural problems with the bustle, I most likely didn't need to do that, but it did give me a slight train with the dress, which was nice.   The only drawback was the outdoor events tended to be muddy ones.  The fix with that was simply to make sure the fabric was washable, and to possibly treat it with scotch guard ( or the like).  I also learned that when wearing a train, don't just step backwards, you have to sweep you leg first to move the train.  Also, unless your companions are aware you have a train, you may need to remind them not to step on it. :)
In the picture you can see just how much the basic plastic bones fell under the weight of the layers.  The finished gown had much more structure that what you see in these images.

Next post I'll tell you about the "fun" I had building the underskirt and bodice. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

2015- The Mrs. Claus Project- Part 1

Mrs. Claus was created because of two coinciding events. The first was that the Father Christmas was out at events doing photo shoots and visits.  Our daughter was in a pretty Green taffeta Christmas dress, and here I was in my jeans, sneakers and Sleeping Beauty/ 10th Doctor mass up tee shirt.  I looked so out of place it was silly.

Mean while, I had just finished a show where I was making 1880's gowns for a lady of quality.  I was beginning to take an interest in the Victorian era outfits.  Keep in mind, previously I detested this time period.  I did NOT want to have anything to do with it because it was all froo froo and ruffles, and hoop skirts, and layers upon layers.  YUCK!  Yet some how I came to discover that it was an era, specifically the 1870-1890's that peeked my interest in silhouette and construction techniques.  It also helped that my body frame worked ideally for this style of gowns.

That Christmas the DH got me three Truly Victorian Patterns.  They were not cheap let me tell you.  When you go from getting the Big three pattern companies 99 cents each sales to hand crafted historically accurate patterns, your wallet takes a sticker shock.  They range from $13-18 each but they are well worth it. For Christmas I was given a gift card to a fabric store so I set out to make myself a gown from those patterns.  Yeah, that fabric is still sitting in my office, untouched.

Since then I had also acquired 7-8 yards of a nice wool fabric that I was going to make myself a Steampunk inspired gown to wear during cold weather events.  I wanted to do it in the  1880's style. It is what they call a natural form.  Instead of having bustles and hoops under the gown, the silhouette shows of the natural curves of the body and the skirts slope from the waist to floor in a natural 45 degree angle.  The only thing under the dress is a petticoat the supports the dress to keep the gentle slope.  Keep in mind that had been the plan until the DH threw the gauntlet down for me to make something for Mrs. Claus.

I found an inspiration photograph in this gown.  My design ended up being nothing like this other than the square neckline, 3/4 sleeves with ruffles, then an over skirt with green under skirt.  This at least gave me a jumping point so I knew what I was looking for.  I love to have an inspiration image of some sort when I start a project.  In all honestly, it may not turn out like the image (unless I'm paid to do that)  but it will get me in the neighborhood of where I want to go.

This left me with the challenge of figuring out what exactly it was going to take to make this very complex gown, AND the underpinnings to go with it.  What people forget is that just because you have a gown doesn't mean that what you wear under it isn't important. It is what gives a gown it's structure and silhouette.

Something I always do before I start a project was take an inventory of what patterns I have on hand that I can use on my project.  This will prevent over buying of patterns and let me use what I have already invested in.   What I did have on hand was a skirt, petticoat and bodice pattern from the 1870's.  Problem was that the look I was going for was from the 1880's.   For perspective that is  like trying to use baggy pants and shirts patterns from the 1990's to make tight fitting jeans and tops from the Madonna look of the 1980's.  Is it doable, yes, but it would make life so much easier if I actually had a pattern that was from the correct time period.
As luck would have it,  I got an amazon gift card and was able to purchase  a corset pattern, a bustle patter, a new skirt pattern, and an over skirt pattern.  I also bought another special bodice pattern that I would later make my wool gown out of  ( at least that is the plan).

Now that I had the patterns, it was onto fabric and all the pieces no one will ever see.

Father Christmas - Part 3

The final parts of the outfits are the shirt , Pants and Boot Tops.  The shirt is fairly simple.  I used Butterick 5008.  This is a pattern I have used 25+  times for different project.  The only thing I do NOT like about it is that it has ties for the cuffs and collar.  Just don't do them, and instead do buttons for the cuffs and adjust the neck slit length so it works for the model to get it over their head but not go to their naval, as this pattern seems to want it to.  I used a 100% white linen for the shirt.  All seams are finished with an over lock stitch.  So far this seems to be the best period shirt  I have made.  I have a 1 " wide brocade trim on the V of the neckline.  This trim matches what is on the pants.

Like the shirt the pants were also done out of linen, but this was a brick red linen blend to give it more substance.  Linen allows more breathe-abily under the coat, and when the weather is warm he can still have his Santa look and not have to wear the full coat.  The pants were made from a 1990's mens' pleated front dress pants pattern.  While previous projects I used a lougewear pant pattern as my base, I treated this as proper mens' pants.   Then go to his ankles in length, and are tucked into his boots to get the look he wants.  These pants have regular trouser pants pockets.  The only alterations I have made on the pants was the waist band and belt loops.  The waist band was widened to about 3". There are two sets of belt loops on the pants.  These correspond to the 2" wide belt that he wears under the coat to keep his pants up.  Then when the coat is not needed he uses the 3" wide loops to carry the 3" belt he typically uses for the coat. This was planned out in advance so no last minute changes were made.  The pants have 1" wide trim that matches the shirt going down the side seam .

The boot covers are as cleaver as they are simple to make.  I got two old tube socks and cut off where his ankle would roughly be.  That edge would become the top of the boot cover.  Using M5050's boot cover pattern, I cut out the band that it would have used, and attached it using regular sewing and the over locker/ serger.  That way the edge was finished.   The way this works is that her puts on his regular boot socks and pants.  He folds his pants so they are snug to his leg (think how you would start tight rolling you jeans.  I know I just dated myself but it is the best example.)  Then he pulls the boot tops on over them so that the fur is about where is boot tops would be.  He then outs on his boots. Once snugly on, the boot top is folded over the top of the boot. This gives the look of it coming out of the boot. You can use this technique to do pirate boot tops, and other creative ideas.

When an outfit is "complete", it is never truly finished.  There is talk of making a special doublet to go with the outfit so the coat can be left in the car if necessary.  This will give him more of a 'Winter Huntsman' look.  This way he can be undercover for Santa.  Now  that you know Father Christmas head to toe, on to Mrs.  Claus. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

2014 Father Christmas Project - Part 2

As I promised I was going to give you construction details about the Father Christmas Project. I have been criticized for wanting to share my journey on this project because of the fear that someone can steal my design and make the coat themselves instead of buying it from me.  What I have to say is, "If you have the time, skill, funds and drive to make it yourself, then go for it."  When I make things while I may use the same pattern they are always unique to the person wearing it. I learn something each time I make something.  If I didn't share my knowledge with people, who would others learn from my mistakes?  Half of what I learned was through the suggestions and failures of others.  One of my favorite tutors,  Jim Acheson, (Look him up, he is a 2 time academy award winner.  VERY talented) a thing he bashed into our heads over and over again was "NEVER stop learning! Never stop gaining knowledge that you can use later!"  Others ignored him and lived in  the moment, and now nearly 10 years later they are desperate for that knowledge his was giving freely. Thankfully I have taken his words to heart and much of what he taught I have kept and shared with others.  Others have passed along knowledge in trade.  In our world we should always be wanting more knowledge.

Anyway , back on Father Christmas.  I will tell you about each piece and my trials and tribulations with each.   The first thing people see is the coat, so I will begin with the coat, then shirt and pants, and finally boot covers.


 There were two patterns that I actually used to make this coat.  The first was  McCall's 5550 View C.   The second was Out of Print (OOP)  McCalls 3789, which I used for the hood.   I have used this hood piece for a variety of projects and it has worked amazingly well.  If you don't have access to this pattern look for a cloak/robe pattern that has a deep cowl like hood. It will allow you to get the look you will want.  

There were two main alternations done to coat pattern it's self.  The first was a full abdomen adjustment (FAA).  What this alteration does is allows the front of the coat to lay smoothly from chest to waist.  Santa has a natural "bay window" and this takes this into account.  The standard flat pattern does not take this into account as it was designed for a very tall lean Santa similar to Pere Noel or the Swedish Father Christmas.  The British  Father Christmas, Ghost of Christmas Present, and even Russia's Grandfather Frost all had a little tummy on them.  This pattern doesn't take that into account; therefore if your model has a tummy himself, or is planning to wear one,  Make this adjustment.
** Please note because of the FAA, the hem and center front are effected which will require additional adjustments to the bottom hem trim piece and the center front trim and facings.  

The second adjustment is in coat length.  The coat is suppose it mid calf on whoever wearing the coat.  The patterns standard size believes the man wearing it is at least 6 feet tall.  I love my DH but he is not 6' tall, therefore the length was shorted at the hem, which is noted on the pattern.   What this alteration will cause is  a cascade of other alternations.  Because there is a pattern piece that makes up the bottom hem of the coat you will need to make a new piece so that it matches with the new hem line.  Also because you shortened the length of the coat you will need to make/ shorten the center front pieces to adjust for this.  Also please note, if you did the FAA, you will have already needed a new piece anyway.

Design Changes:  The big one was adding the hood.  With the M3789 hood it should fit will onto the neckline, however you might need to put small gathering or pleats in the center back.   The other thing we did was add a removable cotton lining.  Using the coat body pattern as a base we added 2 inches to each side which we turned in to make a sturdy facing.  We then sewed buttons 4 inches appart up the inside of the front facings of the coat, with matching buttons on the coat.  The neckline, and hood was done with snaps.  The reason for this was simply, buttons catch on hair.   If someone has ever gotten a shirt button tangled in their when taking off their shirt, it is not fun.   When placing the snaps, make sure you place at center back of the neckline and around hood.  This will help things stay in place.  Now why did I put that lining in the coat?  Simple fact...sweat.
This coat is heavy and warm.  When I say that I mean that my DH has worn it out in 35 F degree weather with snow and he was still warm.  If he wears at any event where the temperature is over 70 degrees he is pushing heat stroke!  I keep him hydrated and a fan on him when he is in the full coat.   When this was taken to the Texas Renaissance Festival the temperatures were pushing 75-80 degrees.  The poor boy was sweating buckets! When we got home that lining stunk to high heaven. 
If the lining had been part of the coat we would have had to take it to a dry cleaner after every wearing which would have cost  $$$$$.  With the removable lining,  we take it out and throw it in the washing machine, fabreeze the inside of the coat, and let everything dry.  Once dry, lining goes back in for another event. Easy-Peeze!   At the end of the season, we can take the coat to the dry cleaners for a full cleaning.  Less expense that way.
The only suggestion I would make is to put snaps around the cuffs as well. I forgot to put the snaps in the sleeve lining and sometimes the lining creeps up during wearing.  It is a relatively small fix.

Resources: This is my most expensive project to date simply because of the materials used.  Yes I could have made the coat out of Panne and cheap cuddle fur but it wouldn't look as nice.  I even thought about doing a high end silk velvet and the high end fur.  My DH wanted the full Grandfather Frost/ Russian/ Victoian/ Father Christmas in his Sleigh look, so far it was for the coat.
The DH  had found the vendor Mendels  when he was looking for  muppet fleece for his puppets he makes.  Got fabric from them and started a working relationship.  When this project came up we turned to them.  As each for the furs we were looking at ran $25-50 per yard, simply going off the website to pick was not an option.  We decided to order swatches.  Mendels charges $6 for 5 swatches, or $16 for 25.  We went with the 6.  There was no charge for shipping.

We selected possible options of Red, and Rhubarb 'Punky Muppet' for the main red portion, and then either, white 'Punky Muppet', a realistic wolf, white tipped fox.  The final decision was to go with the Rhubarb Punky Muppet, and the White Tipped Fox.  The Rhubarb  has a 1 1/2" pile so it is long and lush, and has slightly dark tips.  This adds a slight shading to it.  As we needed 5+ yards for the project we were able to get a discounted price. The White Tipped fox is the most expensive fabric I have ever purchased and it was $40+ per yard.  It had a 2" Pile, so extremely thick and lush.  When ordering this stuff, know by the INCH what you need!

The lining fabric is  100% Country Cotton found at Joanns in the color, 'Brick Red'.  The notions including thread, fur hooks, buttons, and snaps were purchased from  Cleaners Supply Company.  They have a tailoring section which allows seamstresses and tailors for buy supplies in bulk.  They have great pricing including $4 shipping for orders up to $100.  I prefer getting my thread there as I can get  1000 yards of a color for $2.50 from them, vs 25 yards for $2.50 from Joanns.  I also can get certain base colors in  6-8K yard cones.  One spool of white I have used for 10 years, and I am just now running low.  Trust me for base colors, well worth the $8-12 for a cone.

Trim was slightly tricky. The trim needs to be at least  1 1/2" wide, no more than  2 1/2".  We selected ours for a simplicity trim found at Joanns.  This was done by personal preference but we did look at a variety of sites across the web.  One thing I will recommend is taking a photo of the spool the trim comes on.  This will give you the necessary codes that should you need to to order more, or look at another store, you have them handy.

Necessary Techniques:  The big one is knowing how to work with fur.  DO NOT attempt this project unless you are confident in your fur skills.  The best way to practice is to make teddy bears.  I know seems silly but if you don't know how to trim the fur to remove the bulk for the curved seams of a teddy bear, doing this tailored fur project will take you to tears.

When laying out fur you can't do it like you can with regular cotton and cut two pieces at once, it won't work for a good project.  You have to have space to lay the fabric out flat.  I had to use a very clean floor to do mine.  I also use  2 inch long quilters pins.  Regular pins have trouble dealing with the bulk of the fur.  When laying out the patterns I got a white marker pen.  Chalk might work, but you need it accurate.  You will need to mark what each piece is, and if it is the pattern side up or pattern side down.  I can't tell you how many times I saw on news groups where people were in tears because they didn't note that and cut out two of the same piece.   Just mark it and note it,  save yourself tears.  This will also be handy when you have to do pieces on folds. You can trace the piece, then hinge it to the other side, and trace.   Do not try to cut from just the tissue paper it will easily slip while cutting.   When laying out and cutting go from the back side of the fabric.  The pile will easily slip during this process and you will have problems.   When doing your cutting cut only the backing not the fur.  You want to keep as much of the pile in tact as possible.  If you cut the fur with the long pile it could cause look problems in your garment.  Take your time!

Speaking of the fur,  it will get EVERYWHERE!  Soon as there is a cut edge it will start shedding from those edges.  After you cut each piece, carefully remove into a trash bag any loose fur.  If you have access to it, go outside and shake the excess fur from the pieces,  CAREFULLY!  When you are not putting fur in it, keep the trash bag twisted shut.  This will prevent too much fly away.  Also do NOT have fans going when cutting the fur, it will only spread it further.    Have  lint brushes and sticky tape handy because it will go EVERYWHERE!   This is important if, like me, you use your dinning room table to sew and cut things out.  It is possible for fur to get into things you don't want it to if you don't clean/ dust after yourself.   When you are done sewing for the day, clean and dust so it doesn't get away.  Even with all these precautions, you will still have fluff, but  not as much if you didn't take precautions.  When I cut out my fur I wore jeans and a long sleeve tshirt.  Soon as I was done with fur cutting, they went into the dryer to remove as much as the fluff as possible before they were washed.  I didn't want to track it across the house.

Now that you have the pieces cut from the main fabric you now you get to the "fun" part.  You can not get accurate seams if have alot of bulk due to the pile of the fur.  With as dense as the good furs are , there will be alot of bulk if you don't trim the seams.  What I mean when I say, trim the seams is this.  Everywhere that there will be seam you trim 5/8" away from the edge.   This includes where the white turns up to cover the bottom hem of the robe, this means under the trim on the center front and cuffs.  This is every single place where there is a seam.  Yeah, it's a lot.  So how do you do it?   I used my measuring tape which is 5/8" wide as my guide and I used small thread snips.  Why didn't I use my large 9" long shears?  Because I couldn't control them. This is fine cutting where I needed to stay with in the 5/8" space never cutting the pile past that, and never cutting the backing it's self.  It is time consuming and exact work.  If you want it done right it has to be done this way.  There is a reason why this is considered advanced work.  The pattern itself is easy it is the fabric which is the challange.
You will read elsewhere that you can use a beard trimmer to do this, which is true.  Just like with the scissors you will need to be slow and accurate.  It does work, but I would recommend using it only in areas where you have large space.  For example under the white trim on the hem, or cutting the paths for the trim.  The paths for the trim is tricky.  I cut the paths on my Mrs Claus cape but didn't on the father Christmas.  Both had their perils, but the decision is up to you.

Times up, looks like I will need to save the shirt and pants for part 3. :)

Friday, December 4, 2015

2014: The Father Christmas Project- Part 1

Jon-Paul McGowan-- Texas Renaissance Festival November  2015

This all started in October of  2013.  It was a normal day for us, up to our eyeballs in our daily lives when my DH sent my a private message simply saying, "Michael is dead.  We need to leave now."  This was a heavy blow to our family.  Michael is my DH's  youngest brother.  Michael was adopted into the family when he was a baby, and had grown up with my husband.  What was special about Michael was that he was special needs.  He loved his barbie movies, his coke, and his 'Las Palapas' tacos.  He had died instantly that afternoon from an unknown birth defect at the age of 27.

This event left our family reeling.  Each family member channeled their grief in different ways. Some family members got memorial tattoos, my DH decided to use that grief to help other kids like Michael.  He planned, ( and is now doing)  visits to day cares, and has offered to visit special needs kids in their homes.  This will allow children who normally don't get to have Santa visits due to health issues, or stimulation issues.

When our daughter was real little she would see a drawing or statue of Santa Claus and say "Dada!"  to her Santa was her Dada.  If he could be Santa to his little girl, why couldn't he be Santa for other kids?  That is what he set out to do.  The only problem was being Santa is not cheap. Thankfully through the generosity of our family and friends money was donated so that we could begin building Santa.

In the spring of  2014 we researched the different types and styles of Santa across history and the world.  We decided on a late 1800's Victorian Santa with the silhouette of the Russian Father Frost.  The rational is that the late 1800's had the old Christmas card quality we were going for, also Father Christmas doesn't have to have a snow white beard, he can still have gray, and dark hairs.  By the way, that is my husband's real beard in the photos.  Yes he lightens it with make up, but our daughter is whitening it naturally quickly enough. :)  When asked why we didn't go the 'Coke-Cola' Santa route we just say that isn't our favorite Santa.  There is nothing wrong with that type of Santa, but we found the look we were going for.

Now that we knew the look we were going for the next step was finding the pattern to make it and the rest of the pieces.   We broke the design down into elements so we could build it in stages.  Those pieces were :  Coat, Shirt, pants, boots, pants belt, coat belt, boot tops, toy bag, belt pouch, socks, Naughty and Nice Books, glasses,and gloves.

Here are the things we bought and from whom, the rest I will give you a review of what I did to make them.

Gloves:  He has two pair.  The first is simply white satin gloves from a bridal store I happened to have in my costume stash.  The second pair is thick black leather gloves from  Excalibur leather. He did the plain ones.  What is nice with this company is that should the palm wear out it can easily be replaced for a small fee. You won't be out alot of money simply because one part was loved to death.

Glasses:  The glasses are from They are simply that, half circle 1.0 strength reading glasses.  When we got them they were $10-15 plus $5-ish shipping.  Really easy to order and have delivered.  Finding the site in the first place to get them  was the hard part. 

Pants Belt:  It is a 2 inch wide hand tooled belt with a circular buckle.  It was purchased at Scarborough Faire in Waxihachie, Texas.  The vendor only goes to this faire, and only takes cash.  I do not know the vendors name specifically.

Coat Belt:  It is a 3 inch side belt from Ravenswood Leather.    It was our first time doing buisnes with them and they have treated us very well ever since. We got the base belt from them but the buckle we got from Captain Edward Teaque at Black Rose Trading Company.  He has screen authentic Captain Teaque buckles for sale for reasonable prices.  Check him out to get these great buckles.

Belt Pouch:   This is a pouch that hangs from belt hangers so that it slides freely on the belt, and it clips to the  hangers via special hooks. Rev and Beth are good friends of ours that hand make all the leather in their shop.  They stand behind their projects and do amazing custom work.  Rev's Armour Werx did it in red and black leather, and has two compartments.  One of our more expensive prop purchases  but amazing quality and workmanship. Well worth the expense as he uses it with the Flamingo Project.

Toy bag:  Originally we planned for him to carry everything in his belt pouch. However we found that between his personal items, and the candy canes for the kids, he had no room for his naughty and nice books much less anything else he would need.  This lead us to getting him a simple 'Monk's bag' in Red/ Black from  Zootzu.   It is reversible and holds a lot more than you would think.  I highly recommend.

Boots and Socks: The boots were the most expensive purchase of the whole outfit.  Honestly they proboly were half the budget.  Thankfully the DH not only uses it for FC but also the Flamingo Project. ( I'll explain the Flamingo Project in another post, just be patient.)
The boots are  9 button boots from Son of Sandler. They are Black with Red trim, red laces, and circular gold buttons.  SoS  are real cobblers, as in REAL  shoe makers.  They have been doing this for generations going back to Europe.  That is why their sizing is done in the European style. If there is one group that I know KNOWS what they are doing with their project, it is these guys! They do AMAZING custom work and do great customer service! (They also did Mrs. Claus's Mary Janes, but more on that later.)
What is nice about SoS boots is that if you need to change the look you can change out the laces, as well as the buttons.  Now it isn't cheap to get a second set of buttons but if it is $100 to change the buttons  vs $600 for new boots, you can see the appeal.
As for the socks this is something that came from customer demand.  The DH wore these with orthopedic heel inserts (yes you would need to get some not because the boots are uncomfortable but because everyone is different and they prefer you put your own insole inside that fits you instead of them having to guess.) The problem was that over the many many long hours of the DH wearing the boots the simple basic tube socks he wore with them did not cut it.   When we spoke to SoS about it they pointed us to their new line of socks.  They carry specially made Boot Socks.  This means they are made to go over the knee and properly fit their boots.  The first pair they got didn't quite work for the DH which is why they ended up as part of the Mrs. C outfit, but the second pair works amazingly well.  They are lofty, warm, and absorb the sweat on those long hard days on your feet.

Naughty and Nice Books:  The DH wanted a nice journal to hold as his Naught/ Nice Journal and use it as a place to take notes for his school projects. We found just what he was looking for at Poetic Earth Hand Made Journals. He really wanted to get the leather embossed with " The List" on the side by the leather was too soft.   As we walked around the faire people asked about his list, and he showed the thick book saying it was the Naughty list he left the Nice list at home since it was the size of a pamphlet.  Later on we were in their shop picking up a new purse/ belt for my Lady Stitch persona, which I noticed this 3x4"  leather book for $5.   The leather matched his Naughty book, so we now had our "Nice" book.    Since they do not have their names on them, he can switch them when he is working with kiddos. IE the big book is the good kids, the small book is the naughty kids.  :)

Be on the look out for the reviews of what I did to consturst the rest of the pieces as well as posts about Mrs. Claus,  The Flamingo Project, the Baby Pink Pirate, as well as  Lady Stitch.

The Success of the Claus Art Project

Jon-Paul and Christina McGowan
Texas Renaissance Festival, November 2015
 After the success of the 'Father Christmas' Project in  2014  we added the 'Mrs. Claus' Project for 2015.  On November 27, 2015  the DH and I took our outfits to the Texas Renaissance Festival for their annual Celtic Christmas Costume Contest.  As a couple we took first prize against a large field of contestants.  We won season tickets to the 2016 faire, as well as a slew of items in a nice goodie bag.  We were popular with photographers that day.  The photos included here are from the KHOU television station's site and their coverage of the weekend.  I think they mistook us for cast, which is a great compliment. 

Since then I have been continually asked two questions, "How did you make them?", and  "Now that you have won, what will be your next art piece?"   As for the art piece question, a gauntlet has been thrown by the DH to make a special gown art piece for the munchkin.  The idea he tossed out will depend on if he could get her to wear theatrical make up.   Asking our munchkin to wear a pretty dress, trust me is not a challenge.  She continually comes up to me while I'm sewing or going through my fabric stash asking, "Mummy is this a new dress for me, or you or dada?"  Trust me, getting that kiddo into a costume won't be a problem.

The second question of "How did you make those outfits?"  wasn't so easy to answer.  I actually started a blog a while back but somehow it got lost in the mists of the internet, so I am going to try again.   I will be breaking down each of our outfits into it's different pieces and give you the how's the what's and the where's.   I will start with Father Christmas as he was the  2014 project.