Happy Halloween 2015!

So yeah... 2.5 years between blog posts is TOTALLY reasonable, right?

I've been planning this costume for a while so it was cool to be able to finally realize it... Of course I'm procrastinating actually finishing it to write this post, so.... Pictures will come later.

Light-up shell!

So you can probably guess what my costume is based on the above photo. From here on out, I'm going with that assumption as I outline what I did to get from random flotsam and jetsam (see what I did there?) to final product.

Goodwill trip: One purple bridesmaids dress c. 2005 and one pair kids' purple/black glitter slip-on sneakers.

Imagine me in purple.

Joann Fabrics trip: Wherein I spent WAY too much money on parts and pieces to make the shell, and tentacles.

The hardest part of the whole endeavor was making the shell light up. And not because that was technically difficult it was just that my LED lights kept cutting out because the wiring was bad. Luckily, I am perfectly capable of rewiring small electrics. You  have to admit the result is epic.

I bought some fabric spray paint (came home with two different colors instead of two black, whoops) and sprayed the bottom half of the dress and created an ombre-ish effect.

Then I cut the skirt into 8 equal-ish parts that ended at an appropriate distance from any "naughty bits". The dress was fully lined in front which was perfect and the back wasn't, but there was another slip sewn in, so *that* lining will become the bottom of the "tentacles" in the back. I plan on wearing black capri pants underneath to blend in with the night.

The makeup part was a lot of fun. As you know, I have a background in theatre, so creating an illusion is not difficult. I used regular items I had on hand to create it.

You poor, unfortunate souls...
The only "trick" I used was to plaster my already skimpy eyebrows down with a glue stick. Who says you don't learn useful things from RuPaul's Drag Race?

My eyeshadows were Urban Decay's "Get Baked" palette that I've had for years (I only used the turquoise called "Flipside") and a new E.L.F. quad called "Party Purple" that I picked up from Target for $2 which I used on my eyes and to create the contour on my cheeks.

Eyeliner was Rimmel's Exaggerate in "201 Noir". Lipstick was NP Set in "Madrid". Mascara was Maybelline HyperCurl VolumExpress Waterproof "Very Black" which I picked up last summer in Jakarta, Indonesia after leaving all my makeup home for the summer (ask me if I'll ever do that again!)

Also from Jakarta was my foundation and powder - Max Factor's PanStik "13 Nouveau Beige" and Transluscent powder. Both of those may not be readily available stateside, but if you live in Europe or SE Asia... Alternately, you could use a theatrical or heavy coverage foundation. The reason is that you want to COVER the brows.

For the hair, I used the "Play Dirty" dry wax spray by SexyHair to get the volume and shape and then MegaFreeze hairspray that is every pageant girl's friend. If you've ever watched an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras you know the one. If you haven't, here's a picture for reference:

In the interest of full disclosure, that's an Amazon Affiliate link, so if you click it and buy the hairspray I get a couple of pennies. Just sayin'. I wouldn't link it if I didn't think this stuff was the bombdiggity, by the way.

Gertie's Book & Scalloped Skirt

If you follow sewing blogs at all, I don't need to explain who Gertie is or what book I'm talking about. For those of you not in the know, I've provided handy dandy links.

I was given a copy of this book a while ago as a gift. Mother's Day? Birthday? Anniversary? Christmas? I forget. But I love the book. LOVE. And not just because I've been following Gertie's blog for what seems like ever. Or the fact that the tips and tricks held within are amazing. Elastic thread. Bobbin. AMAZING RESULTS. Or even the way the book is laid out and made. Although that's pretty darn amazing, too.

No, the main reason I love the book is the patterns. I have a love/hate relationship with patterns. I love to look at them. I collect them. I love the envelope artwork - especially vintage patterns. But I hate when they don't come together right. Or the sizing is fictional. As in, you go based on your [bust/waist] measurement [depending on what you're making] and when the garment is cut out, it's miles too big. Wearing ease/design ease my eye. No one needs EIGHT INCHES of ease. Ahem.

So when I made my first item from the book - the scalloped waist skirt - I was pleasantly surprised.

Image Source
Why? Because it actually fit. The first time. With NO monkeying around with the pattern. I didn't need to grade up or down from my own measurement because it was one of the listed sizes. And when I traced and cut the pattern as is, it was exactly the right size. Not too big, not too small, JUST RIGHT. You heard me, Goldilocks, JUST RIGHT. That NEVER happens. And when I say never I mean NEVER.

Crappy Phone Camera Picture
I've yet to wear the skirt for a couple of reasons...

1) I'm terminally short, so the skirt as made is about 8" longer than Gertie's is on her.

2) I really want a crinoline to put under it. See #1.

3) I don't yet have a blouse to go with. That's coming soon.

Gettin' tech(norati) wit' it...

They asked me to stick a code (SA3ZK59EUPZY) in a blog post and publish it to prove I'm me. So there it is.

What would you know? You're wearing a dress!

I was around 9 years old when those words were spat at me by another girl roughly my age. We were waiting for "Children's Church" to begin. For those of you not familiar with the phenomenon, it was a program that ran during the Sunday evening service for kids from 1st Grade to 5th Grade or so. Chairs would be arranged in rows like "big church" and typically there would be singing, bible verse memorization quizzes and awards and some sort of kitschy bit sketches and a puppet show portion.

Now back in the day, when you went to church, you wore a dress or skirt/blouse. Pants were NOT acceptable as a general rule. Especially in more conservative churches like the Assemblies of God. Everyone wore some sort of tights or pantyhose. I swear I wore more pantyhose as a kid than I have in my entire grown life.

"Get to the point!" you must be thinking. I'm getting there, I promise. As we were waiting for the service to begin, the girl immediately behind me was having issues with her sunglass cords.
The little metal thingy that slides down the loop had fallen off and she was having "issues" getting it back on so she could put her Wayfarers (imitations?) back on. Her sunglass cord was neon colored (of course!).
It was the height of "fashion" back then to wear them. Even at night. What can I say? But apparently my choice (or lack thereof) of sartorial splendor somehow negated my intellect or my ability to trouble-shoot a small problem. I will keep my opinion of her hairstyle to myself. It was the 80s. It was a bad hair decade. Especially in the early days.

It wasn't as if wearing anything bifurcated on my bottom half was even an option. It wasn't. Not at our house. There was an unspoken air of "wearing pants to church is disrespectful". Or something. Nowadays, I wear whatever is clean. And if that's jeans and a tshirt, so be it.

But it's really funny how things can be seared into your mind. I will never forget that incident. I can see it as if it happened 30 seconds ago instead of 30 years ago. I can't say that it changed anything about the way I dressed. It hurt and it made me mad. But it didn't inspire me to dress or act a certain way. Maybe that's because there was no option of dressing a different way?

Have you ever had a fashion incident that struck you in such a way that you'll never forget it? Did it influence you one way or the other? Did it change your opinion of who you are? Is there a type of clothing that screams [insert thing here] to you? Have you ever thought one thing about a certain style of dressing and then  been dead wrong?

Kebayas R Us

The muslin is completely finished. AND WEARABLE. Woohoo! The sheer blouse/jacket is a repurposed vintage tablecloth from my Nana's. It had a couple of holes that I was able to patch easily and plenty of diameter to get enough trim for the entire affair - including sleeves.

While it is a little biggish, that's OK because the fashion fabric is NOT stretchy at all like the lace and I'll be able to take it in here and there with darts if necessary. I will make it a scootch longer though to get more volume. I might omit the godet on the back. Not sure how that will look in the more structured fabric...


The unfortunate thing about these pictures is that you can't see the actual color. It's not gray/green. It's a lovely light celadon which really complements the sarong part. Tomorrow I start on the fashion fabric version. WOOHOOOOOOOO! Once this is finished, then I'm back to formal wear finishes.

Project (Pageant) Runway

Love them or hate them, pageants are a part of life for many American girls. I'm a former "pageant girl" with a boatload of state/national titles from my younger days. So it was a natural progression that my children would be in pageants.

And when you "do" pageants, there are a bunch to choose from. Natural or glitz, scholarship programs or beauty pageants, and so on. Click the link to listen to Kathy Morningside take FBI Agent Gracie Hart to task over mistaking the Miss United States Scholarship Program for a beauty pageant.

Which pageant system you choose depends largely on your personal taste/comfort levels. When my girls were babies we did a few pageants, but I drew the line at plastering them with makeup and wigs. A hair scrunchie was one thing. A wiglet or fall was a totally different animal. When my girls were older (7 & 9 respectively) we did a couple of small local pageants. My oldest decided they weren't for her, but the younger wanted to continue. So we did some more small local pageants, mostly of the free entry variety. When we received a letter in the mail from the National American Miss program for an open call, we decided to check it out. My daughter made it throught the audition program and was chosen to be a State finalist. 
Interview Suit - Made by ME!
She also won free entry into the Royal Dynasty International pageant and so our summer was really busy prepping for these two events. These two events cemented my daughter's wish to continue with pageantry. Both programs above are natural pageants. NAM is far more strict with makeup/hair than Royal Dynasty, but both look for girls with clean, fresh faces who look their age.

1st Runner Up at Royal Dynasty International 2012
We are currently prepping for two major pageants this spring: Little Miss Citrus Nationals and Dream Girls USA State Pageant. If you know anything about pageants, you know that you need a WARDROBE. Many pageants have a "theme wear" division that is either required or optional. Little Miss Citrus has a required component called "Citrus Wear". For younger contestants, it is an anything goes category.

I'm in the process right now of finishing up her Citrus Wear. Typically I don't post pictures of pageant projects until the day before the pageant to avoid anyone copying our ideas. We're close enough to the pageant date that I'm comfortable sharing this design with you. It is based on the national dress of Indonesia, the kebaya, as a tribute to her mixed-ethnicity.
Inspiration Picture - Source
Since we are limited to a "citrus" colored pallette of tangerine/orange, yellow and lime green for "Citrus Wear", I chose a lime green and gold sari silk for the sarong/skirt and an orange crepe-back satin for the corset top. I had in my possession this amazing bordered embellished organza that I wanted to use and the colors worked out perfectly. I was even able to hand dye some more organza to match the embellished yardage in case of "emergency". In any case, I drafted this completely by hand with no assistance from a preprinted pattern block. I saw the image above and interpreted it as you see below. The yellow jack is not finished because I've been having "issues" drafting the pattern. It's a definite "Make It Work" moment since we're 2 weeks away from pageant time.

Fashion Fabric - In Progress

Muslin Attempt
The lovely peach confection above has been outgrown and so we needed new Formal Wear. For Formal Wear, the mainstay of every pageant wardrobe, I had designed a gorgeous green and gold ballgown but life got in the way.
Initial Design
Fortunately for me, my oldest daughter's previous bespoke ballgown was in pristine condition and needed only to be cut down for her sister. I'm still working on the finishing touches and waiting for more rhinestones to arrive from Hong Kong, but here's a fairly good example of both girls in the same dress:
Oldest Daughter - Dec 2011 - Age 9.5

Younger Daughter - Dec 2012 - Age 8.9
Please note that both girls are fairly close in age in the two pictures. I won't ask you to answer the question "Who Wore It Better?"

This week I am going to finish sewing all the things so I can relax and get our bags packed.

Oh Fashion, where art thou?

Bear with this blog post as I'm transcribing notes on the back of envelopes instead of free-blogging. I never write anything out longhand any more (yay! technology!) so this should be interesting. I'm primarily right handed but because of my disability, I tire easily when writing things out. How I ever managed to get out of high school writing, I dunno. Perhaps it was because computers were just being used in homes by the time I hit middle school. I digress. I was inspired by Peter's post over at MPB to get back to writing more about what I love. Sewing. The fashioning of garments, specifically. And even more specifically, my crusade against crappy clothing for boys. I am not alone, apparently, in my quest for sartorial splendiforousness. Tim Gunn & Carson Cressley also have a "thing" against crap clothing. But school age kids - boys especially - seems to be my mission in life. Go figure. Must be the fact that I have one of those models at home. On with the blog...

It's a fact that home sewers are left with few choices when sewing menswear. Look at any pattrern book and you'll see it's true. This is even more evident when sewing for school aged boys. As a mom of a boy, I made a decision when he was a baby to no let him dress in "typical" Ready To Wear (RTW, hereafter). I was going to sew all his clothes. And I did for the most part until he went to grade school. The exception was "grubby" clothes and t-shirts and those were relegated to "water day" at preschool and playing in the yard. Yes, my son was the infant in dress slacks, dress shirt, sweater vest and tie. He would ask to wear his "bow" to church when he was 3 and 4 years old.

Gratuitous Kid Pic: Christmas 2010 - Almost 5 years old
After kindergarden things got a bit dicier. The reason for the shift away from a more formal look? A lack of decent pattern and the expense involved.

Anyone who says home sewing is cheaper or "more economical" than buying RTW is either lying or able to score deals that the rest of us mere mortal aren't privy to.WHen I can buy a pair of pants for the price of a zipper, why would I bother sewing?

Setting aside the cost factor for a moment, let's examine just how badly the deck is stacked against home sewers for boys that are not infants/toddlers. Cute baby clothes for boys exist. Toddler clothes can be adorable, too. For our purposes, a toddler wears a size 3 or smaller. I know I'm being arbitrary, but my almost 7 year old wears a size 4/5, so I'm going with that. But it's as if they suddenly STOP needing clothes once the attend grade school. In the current catalogs, it's painfully obvious that boys are being given the shaft.

Simplicity has EIGHT pages of boys' patterns. ALL of which also contain the grown man's counterpart. With one pattern per page, they were broken down thusly:

1 PJs - including DOG pjs. A dog? SRSLY? Are we equating men with animals now? Or am I overthinking this? What if I don't have a grown man OR a dog? What am I supposed to do with all those extra pattern pieces? Wallpaper with them?
I can haz pjz?

1 boxer shorts - which according to Tim Gunn are ALWAYS the wrong answer.

2 - yes, TWO - sets of different "Western" shirts/vests

2 Shirt/vest combinations. One might have had bow ties. Again, bowties - always the wrong answer.

1 short sleeve shirt/cargo shorts combination. With the most abominable shirt fabric in the history of ever. Cargo shorts - ALWAYS the wrong answer. But don't take my word for. Take Tim Gunn's. Seriously. The man is a GENIUS.

1 "sportswear" or "dressy casual" long sleeve shirt/long pants.

In contrast, there are ONE HUNDRED TWENTY SEVEN pages for girls. Even allowing for some duplicates because that's how Simplicity rolls when they offer a pattern in 2 size groupings for girls, that is a HUGE disparity. You do the math. The worst part of it is that there's no FASHION involved. No DESIGN. It's all just "Plain Jayne".
The Man They Call Jayne - source
In some cases there are "unisex" items for kids under age 10, but I'm not counting those since generally they are pyjamas. Simplicity is by no means the only pattern company guilty of fashion sexism. McCall's, Vogue & Butterick, along with Kwik Sew, are ALMOST as bad. The one pattern company that typically does a good job of having a decent amount of boys' wear with some actual STYLE to it is Burda. Unfortunately, the Burda catalog wasn't available at my local fabric mega mart this morning when I was flipping the pages. And while I will sit at a table and count patterns on the pages, I draw the line at hand-checking each pattern envelope in the drawers.
I would do anything for love, but I won't do that.

What do we want? Better sewing patterns for boys!
When do we want them? Yesterday!

My personal pattern collection numbers over 800 and roughly 75% of them are vintage. I've noticed a trend with patterns dating before the 1980s - there was a decent variety of boys' and mens' fashions with more visual interest. And not just in the trainwreck 1970s wide label/bell bottom phenomenon. Even in the more "conservative" mid-century, mens' & boys' fashions had appeal and style lines that were interesting and offered a respite from the t-shirt/elastic waist cargo shorts trend that seems to permeate boys' clothing today.

There is a distinct void in boys' fashion today between toddlerhood and adulthood. And we wonder why young adult males don't know how to dress anymore... Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting a return to the the three piece suit to mow the lawn - not that that model ever existed - but there needs to be a happy medium.

Maybe one way to revive fashion for young men and boys would be to return to school uniforms and stricter dress codes. I'm not suggesting that every school should adopt a Dalton Academy Warblers-esque uniform. But something clearly needs to be done. There's NOTHING wrong with button-shirts and ties. Harry Potter and his chums saw to that.
My children attend a public school with a uniform. Polo shirts for boys and girls - q'uelle horor! with khaki, navy or black pants/shorts for everyone and skirts/jumpers for girls. I don't know WHAT would happen if I sent my son to school in a kilt or a bona fide skirt like Marc Jacobs. But that is a subject for another day. All I can say is that if girls must be forced to wear polo shirts (ick), then boys should be allowed to wear skirts. Fair is fair, after all.

In closing, I think I'd like to see a little bit more formality in every day life. What say you all?

Where I have never gone before - Quilting 101

Wherein I learned the fine art of cutting large pieces of fabric into smaller pieces of fabric and then sewing them back together. This was something I've wanted to try for a while and so I used my Christmas $$ to sign up for the class.

The class was held at the local fabric mega mart with an instructor my daughters have had. So far, so good. I thought it would be much more frustrating than it was, but I was pleasantly surprised. I'm a terrible instructor, so I can't pass along what I learned, sadly.

We were given a FREE Olfa rotary cutter (a $45 value), a lovely package of batting samples and a 50% off coupon for the next quilting class. SCORE! During the class we were supposed to make something called "hole in the barn door". Not sure what I think of that as far as a design goes, actually.
Source - Bonus free pattern!
Ours used three colors instead of two with the North, South, East & West center blocks being 3 strips instead of 2 and the middle block being the third color. It was rather enjoyable putting it all together. I was pleasantly surprised!

Now of course, I can't ever do anything just like the instructions, so mine was NOT a typical "hole in the barn door".
"My 1st Quilt Block"
Since I was the most advanced sewist in the class, I was able to complete not only the block but also a nice border to finish off the raw edges. It is pretty OK. Not perfect, but hey, it's a *first* attempt.

The hardest part for me was getting fabric I liked to use together. In the end, I cheated (!) and purchased a set of blocks that came on one piece of fabric.
I love it because the colors are soothing and have a very retro 1930s-1950s feel. Total WIN.

Pattern Postulation

Normally my policy is "If you can't say somethin' nice, then don't say nuthin' at all". Unless of course it's laced with dripping sarcasm and irony and cloaked with an awesome parody photoshop. Never mind my evil twin. I have NO idea how she escaped.

I've been following a bunch of sewing bloggers [cough] Gertie, Peter & others [cough] for quite some time now and I keep seeing references to Colette patterns. Maybe I'm missing something since I don't actually own any, but for some reason they just don't appeal to me. I'm trying to figure out what exactly it is, but I just can't put my finger on it. And as MANY of you know, I LOVE me some sewing patterns. To the tune of nearly 1000 of them at last count. Yes, that was One Thousand. A one with THREE zeros after. Ahem.

Mens', Womens', Childrens', Toys and other things.

      Vintage, Vintage Repro, Modern, all eras.

            Downloadable, Printed, Non-Printed, Self-Drafted.

                  Big Four, Independents, Mail Order and More.

So it's not a case of "I ONLY sew [insert pet pattern type here]".

What is it about a sewing pattern that draws you in or turns you off? How do you decide whether to try a new pattern company or take a pass? Do you have any special criteria? Or is it just a gut feeling? What say you dear readers?