Costume and Graphic Design

Leave a comment

Victorian Geo-cacher – Pt 3

I have to admit that this outfit is time consuming. The hemming, pinning, starching, and ironing of the pleats took 6 hours! I had worried plans to sew every night, spend lots of my weekend time pinning and stitching, but this has not been the case. Housework and the now blooming garden have taken priority several times, leaving me tired and less inclined to sew. I spent an afternoon pulling dandelions last weekend. But it is moving along quite quickly, and the skirt is now complete, along with a full lining that the original pattern did not call for. I opted to add this lining because I intend to wear this as more than just a costume piece. I might actually wear this skirt for a day out. It is not outlandish or overly fancy for ordinary wear.

The skirt itself is pretty basic to put together, and following the instructions was super simple. From top to bottom, the pieces are: the waistband (a long rectangle) the yoke (the fitted part over the hips, basically slightly curved rectangles) the gathered skirt (straight rectangles, stitched into a loop. A long stitch along the top, pull one of the threads to gather the fabric, and stitch into the yoke.), and the pleats. It is the pleats I will cover today. They are simple, but time consuming. They were 6 out of the 9 hours I spent on the skirt.

Starting with a long strip of material, I marked out the pleats in 1″ intervals, all the way along the strip. It is much easier to mark everything with your pencil and ruler, instead of eyeballing your 1″ pleats. This ensures that they are evenly spaced all the way around.

My pencil might be really old and brittle, or just crappy, but it kept breaking. I used a different one, and it kept breaking. Frustrated, I finally grabbed a white ordinary pencil crayon, and it worked like a charm. Only after I finished everything, and had to try to remove those marks, did I realize the error I had made. Fabric marking pencils are designed to rub away easily (if you are handling your material a lot, that is a pain, and you have to keep remarking everything over and over) and pencil crayons are not… All of my marks are on the outside, not the inside, so they are highly visible! I have had several sessions of scrubbing to remove the pencil lines…. I am sure that washing would remove them quickly, but it would also remove my starch, and I would have to pin and restarch them… Not sure which will take more time… Lesson: if you are going to use regular pencil crayons, put your marks where you will not see them on the finished garment, or you will be doing a lot of scrubbing.

Next, I gathered each pleat, and pinned it into place. For this width of material, I used three pins for each pleat, one on each end, and one in the middle. This is also where I put my marks, to make sure that the entire length of the pleat would be even.

I continued for hours, taking short breaks to stretch my back and grab some tea. The finished product weighed a fair bit, and about half of that was probably pins!!
Once all the pleats were pinned, I sprayed the inside with starch. Unlike the pencil, I thought ahead on this one. I wasn’t sure if the starch would leave a white residue. I tried a test on a scrap of fabric, and no marks were left, but I figured I would be safe anyway, and spray the inside.
Spraying and ironing small sections at a time, I worked my way around the loop. The pattern didn’t call for starch, but I felt that the pleats would look much sharper and hold their shape all day if I did. 
After starching, I stitched my pleats to the bottom of the skirt, and I was done! 
You can see it fits quite high on the waist, but that is nice. Once I have the bodice on, you won’t see the yoke at all, and the zipper in the back will be almost completely hidden. With the jacket on, you would never  know that the skirt is closed with a zipper.
I will see how the final fit is, and if the back could use more poof, I will add a small bumroll, or perhaps a small bustle pad. I have a feeling I will have extra material left over, and if I do, I might even add a detachable bustle for the days when I am feeling especially extravagant. Being removable, I can dress the skirt up or down according to the occasion. 
That is all for today. I have started work on the jacket. So far the lining is finished, and my sleeves went in the right way on the first try!! Zippers, sleeves, and buttonholes… my three most dreaded things! Tonight, I will tackle the outside of the jacket.

Leave a comment

Healthy Choices

Like many people, I have an on-again-off-again relationship with healthy eating. I am only slightly into the “overweight” category, according to my Body Mass Index, and my doctor has advised that I try to lose a few pounds… really, about 10 would bring me within my healthy BMI. Most of us don’t have chefs and personal trainers on call 24/7 (I’m looking at you, Oprah), so any weight loss can be a challenge. In the first year I was doing well, only to have Thanksgiving/Christmas/All-Inclusive Vacation/New Years foil that in one fell swoop. While I didn’t go all the way back up to my Wedding Weight (I was actually my absolute heaviest around that time, just what every bride wants!) I had almost undone everything I worked that year to achieve.

I have been coming up with every excuse in the book… We are moving, we are unpacking, I just started a new job, we are still adjusting to our schedules, I have a sewing project and don’t have time to work out today. 
My latest challenge has come in the form of allergies…. I found out several years ago that raw peas made my mouth itch. So, with sadness, I had to say goodbye to that summer snack. The next summer, watermelon and most other melons joined the raw peas. 
Last year, after my doctor gave me the orders to lower my blood pressure and cholesterol, I found almonds (good for lowering cholesterol) caused an itch in my mouth too. My daily crunchies had to leave. 
Last week, in another attempt to find something to fill that need to munch all day, raw carrots decided to wage war on my tongue. This reminded me of the time last summer when my in-laws gave me some fresh carrots from their garden, and one bite of this super fresh picked yesterday goodness set my mouth on fire. 
Cooked versions of these vegetables cause no issue, only the raw kind, and the fresher they are the worse it is. This latest occurrence with the carrots had my mouth tingling for several hours. I only seem to get a local reaction, isolated to my lips and tongue.
This prompted me to do a little searching, and I found something called Oral Allergy Syndrome. This is found in people who are allergic to pollen and suffer from hay fever. These people will suffer from itchy mouths when they eat certain raw fruits and vegetables, but the cooked versions are fine. This is because the allergen is destroyed by heat. The body recognises the allergen in the food as looking very similar to the allergen in the pollen, and gets confused. This causes a histamine reaction. In severe cases it can cause hives and last for hours. Occasionally, it can cause the throat to swell, but usually it is just a discomfort issue rather than a dangerous health issue.
I have plans to see the doctor to find out if this is the case with me, and what I should do about it. Should I be avoiding the foods, or just limiting how much I eat?
For now, I am avoiding them. I signed into my Spark People account for the first time in months. Today, I filled out my daily food, and updated my measurements. This website is a great way to track what you are doing, for good or bad, and doesn’t cost anything like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. It has resources for cooking healthy foods, recipes shared by members and staff, forums to share stories and tips. There are daily articles that offer helpful advice, and you can customise them to your specific health needs. I often get updates on blood pressure, heart health, and cholesterol, and tips on how to control them. The only drawback is that you do have to put in the effort to log in and do these things. I guess that is no different that the paid ones, because you would otherwise have to drive to your Weight Watchers meetings… but there, you have to face your peers next time, so I guess there is the added accountability there. I have fallen off the wagon several times! 
So here I am, officially starting year 2 of my challenge.
This year, I vow to not postpone doctors appointments because I didn’t do as I was told.

I vow to fit exercise in once a week, then twice a week, then three times a week, until I am doing it all the time.

I vow to find healthy non-allergy foods to fill my snacking habits with.

I vow to take my heart and health seriously.

Leave a comment

Victorian Geo-cacher – Pt 2

No pictures today, but a short update.

I have cut out and measured some key points in the pattern. With this being a fairly simple bustier, rather than a corset, I have decided to wear one of my purchased corsets underneath, so I will have that lovely hourglass shape. This will require some re-fitting of the pattern, to follow the shape of the undergarment. I put the corset on my dress form, and adjusted the outer measurements to match my own while I am wearing that corset.

I will take a snapshot of the dress form with the corset. I had purchased it from Felix and Kitty, a Canadian boutique. They travel across the country, selling their products at conventions and shows. They are wonderfully built, with quality products, and you can have one custom made to your measurements. I love wearing mine, and it is quite comfortable to wear all day!

That was my plug for the day! LOL! But seriously, I love it, and their prices are quite fair. These are difficult garments to make, and I have tried!!

So, stage 1, tidy the sewing room to a usable state, has been accomplished. Stage 2, cut the pattern, took almost an hour (imagine pinning and cutting all the fabric!!!) has been completed as well. Even though it is Friday, and we have many social activities planned with our Mothers, I hope to get all my pieces cut, and the  bustier sewn this weekend. That will require the most modification, so I will do that first.

Leave a comment

Punk Cupcakes

My sister just turned 26, and I decided to make a sweet treat for her. I found some adorable cupcake papers, and they were just perfect for her! When she was in high school, she was very much into the punk thing, and wore pink plaid, had a huge (I mean huge, it was over 18″ tall) mohawk in various colours. These papers were the inspiration for the cupcakes I would make for her birthday!

The colourful animal prints in hot pink and black were perfect!

Last year I made some fantastic cupcakes using a white cake recipe, and they were the best cupcakes I have ever tasted. They took me the whole day to make, between mixing my own batter and buttercream icing. This year, I didn’t have the luxury of time, so I had a little help from Betty Crocker.

I used all the different papers, and filled them with the batter. This was the first time I had tried baking in my new oven, so I set the timer for the shortest time listed on the package, and kept a careful eye on them.

While the cupcakes were baking, I took that opportunity to mix my icing. I started with a premade icing (thanks again, Mrs. Crocker!). This was too soft to hold peaks, so I added confectioners sugar until the icing was the consistency I needed. Once this was done, I began to add the colour. Food colouring can be quite potent, so I started with just a few drops.

I would mix the colour in, and add one or two more drops at a time, until I reached the colour I wanted, a nice hot pink!

Meanwhile, I cupcakes were cooling on the rack near the window. Once they were cooled through, I prepared my piping bag.

I chose the spirally tip (I don’t know what it is called) that makes nice rosettes. After a couple of failed attempts at making nice tall spikes, I had to settle on cute little spikes!

I had a small tube of black gel and added the little dots for interest.

I had a lovely collection of spiky punk cupcakes for us to enjoy! The handful that didn’t fit into the case were placed on a plate with plastic wrap, and ultimately ended up all over the seat and floor of my car! But of the surviving cupcakes… She loved them! Her kids thought they were the best thing ever, and all her friends had a good chuckle.
Happy Baking!

Leave a comment

Victorian Geo-cacher

This project is really going back to the beginnings of my sewing adventures! Back in the days before vampires sparkled, I was very much into the dark and mystical. I would go to the shops on Whyte Ave, and browse longingly at the beautiful dresses and coats, wishing that I could afford to buy even one piece. I began to sew my own instead. In those days, my funds restricted me to the discount bins and flimsy cottons, giving my clothing a far less luxurious look than the ones at the store. My sewing skills at the time also left much to be desired, and everything was hand sewn in the days before I mustered the money to buy a machine. I looked like a sad little vampire wanna-be, but I was proud of what I had done. I still own many of those pieces, though I wouldn’t dream to wearing them, even if they still fit! I do pull them out once in a while, and remember how long it took to put that together, or where I wore that outfit for the first time.

By the time I was able to afford those pieces I so longed for, I could sew them myself. Bringing us back to…

This project is something I would love to have had back then, when I would have worn it as an everyday outfit. My style has become subdued in my “old age”! But I would wear this for special occasions or outings. In this case, a group of us are going geo-caching in June at a Victorian village, and period costumes are encouraged. You don’t have to tell me twice! I stopped in at my local fabric store and began browsing through the patterns the first chance I got! After sifting through the various catalogues, I chose Simplicity 2172. It has the clean lines I was looking for, and should be fairly customizable. Similar patterns in the other books were too frilly and poofy. I love that this one has structured pleats and a great shape. Reviews have said that, while straightforward to make, it is very time consuming. Reviewers were stating 2 months or more of fairly regular work. If that is the case, I should get on it! I have found myself in the last minute panic at the end of what should have been more than enough time… Our Victorian weekend is in mid-June, giving me just over a month. Lets see how this goes!