Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: The Hat Atop My Batty Head

Well folks, here I am again.

It occurred to me while writing a reply in my previous post that the pillbox hat kind of deserved more than a little footnote to the work spent on the final look for my gothy Easter ensemble.

Ok, so the process of making the pillbox hat was slightly more than what I initially made it seem like. Yes, the pillbox shape was easy to draft; it is just a circle and a band that matches the diameter.
However, there were certain and important factors that I considered heavily before construction on this "little" project.

First, I was going to use cardboard... but throwing back to the coffin purse I made for myself (here's a completed view) a few years back, as wonderful as it was the cardboard I used for the front and back pieces inevitably collapsed. Cardboard is intrinsically temporary-- lesson firmly reiterated. As an aside, this purse still outlasted any store bought purse I own; every month it feels like I'm patching up anything from Kreepsville.

Sorry not sorry if you love Kreepsville. Small rant over.

Anyway, buckram is what any milliner would recommend... though I am not a real milliner (I'd like to think I'm still capable, though) so it's not like I had the best on hand, but I am a sewist which does afford me better substitutes than mere cardboard.

I used notions in my stash that were otherwise much more niche than other items, like my 72F Peltex ultra firm double sided fusible interfacing by Pellon, which is what I used as the foundation-- I reserved this primarily for the bottom of bags, but served no other purpose to me... until I discovered it made a great foundation for my fascinators.

Fused the stiffened material to the peltex, 
and cut it out with pinking shears to prevent fraying.
 This peltex is firm, but not buckram firm. I grabbed some of those pesky muslin scraps and first tried to starch them using Mary Ellen's Best Press; ordinarily I swear by this stuff for making the knifiest of knife pleats, or crispest of the crispest folds and hems... but as a solid, almost crusty (probably not the best description) starch, I found it did not meet my expectations.

While checking out at the craft shop where I would normally breeze past the impulse buy shelves, I caught a glance of Aleene's Stiffen-quik and decided to give it a whirl. It turned out not to be a half bad impulse buy hahah. So now we were buckram stiff.

Well, first iterations were not keeping their shape as nicely as one hoped, and after doing some research found out that buckram although stiff, still also needs stabilizers which come in the form and recommendation of milliner's wire or hat wire. I've never personally come into contact with milliner's wire, but from the looks of it, it looked a hell of a lot like thread covered wire-- seemed to me that stem wire would make a great substitute.

The only problem was that stem wire did not seem to come in spools where I tried shopping for it, but rather... well... stems of 18 inches, heh. I had to use two pieces overlapping of this wire on both the top and bottom of this hat in order to cover the diameter.

Next, and I don't know how viable long term these are but, I used a light coating of fabric basting spray to adhere the first top portion of the hat to prevent bubbling of the material while I stitched it down to the sides. I feel it worked wonderfully and is as tight as a snare drum.

I did not use the spray for the side however because I needed to make a very small and invisible stitch and sprays do gum up fine needles, regardless of their no-gumming claims; so I used a fusible tape, because I have never had a needle gum up with them yet. I think a fusible sticky tape may have been better, but I didn't own any nor did I think of it till later to buy it. But the normal fusible tape also worked very well, with a little dexterity.

I also used copious amounts of Fray-Check on my fashion fabrics, because not one piece ever saw the plate of my machines-- I didn't want to risk too much warping and tugging of the material.

When I got the top and band on, it came time for the best part of any project-- decorating and embellishing!
As with the embellishments on the dress, I made many little fabric yoyos using clover's templates.

I have a bunch of tins with random beads I cut off from old garments and projects lying about with the explicit purpose of doing something like this-- reusing them-- the very beads I used to top the yoyos on my dress. I also took some fabric glue and rhinestones and meticulously laid out my quasi-random splay. It's not so easy to make random look so undeliberate.

I think the most challenging predicament, at least for someone who is an amateur milliner at best was lining the damn thing. In all my books and all my searches, there were barely mentions of how to line a pillbox hat. I went instead to look at actual photos of vintage pillbox hats to see if I could solve the mystery through my visual deduction. Indeed, it very much helped-- it was so simple it hurt and the answer was literally right in front of me.

In the same way you make a fabric yoyo, this beautiful lining is made by taking a piece of lining cut from the band pattern piece and basting a long stitch along one side and then pulling it tight-- it will naturally collapse into a circle, very similar to the fabric yoyo. I then put some permanent fabric glue along the inner edge and dabbed the center and placed this lining piece in. BINGO mutha-heller!

Later I did discover someone mentioning this technique-- I am quite proud that I arrived at it organically, though.

Next was figuring out how to mask the raw edges of the lining-- I thought about glue and some bias tape, but that sounded awful messy and unprofessional looking. Glue is always visible on a band with no movement, folks... especially on premade bias tapes.

I dug through more of my niche notions and uncovered iron-on hem tape. It must have been an impulse buy for I don't remember what in the hell I would ever use iron hem tape on; this stuff is buckram firm too, and at that point why not just use horsehair... it's much easier to mask on a garment than this stuff...

Odd that I had it, but fairly serendipitous in the end. It looks pretty great, and works pretty great! I stitched round elastic onto it before fusing it and thus completing my hat.

The irony to all this is that it is probably cheaper on paper to buy buckram and hat wire than all the items I used to make these seem more like buckram and hat wire, hahah... it's just that I had these (except the stiffen-quik) on hand and not the others that guided my hand.

On a final note, I'd like to mention that flicking this hat is very satisfying because it is very stiff and taut; the sound it makes is so professional...

That's not weird at all. Some people flick vegetables for their sound...

Do you like hats? What kind of hats are your favorite?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Twas The Night Before Easter...

And all through the cave, the creatures were stirring especially... me!

I'm not very good at story telling.
Nor with keeping blogs updated on a regular basis. Luckily, Goth Gardener has given me just the right motivation to get back into the swing once more. She began hosting this contest/competition for a most wonderful looking basket of gothy Easter treats... and truth be told, I am cutting that rather damn close, by literally a night. The rules: write about your perfect gothy Easter, or what you would put in a gothy Easter basket, or even yet, write a gothy Easter spooky tale.

I was going to write about my perfect gothy Easter... but I thought long and hard, and being a mountain home shy of a hermit, I found that rather difficult to come up with. My perfect Easter would be a day spent home-- much like any holiday sans Halloween; and much like any other holiday, I attempt to inject as much Halloween cheer into aspects of it.

Easter egg decorating would consist primarily of ghoulish visions and jack o'lantern grins. Probably a lot of jump scares during the hunting of them...

These don't seem like original thoughts for a goth Easter. Nor are they particularly goth so much as they are Halloweeny...

So, I decided to stick to what I do best: sew!
I had this one on the back burner for a little while if you've been following my instagram, admittedly... but I finally got around to completing it and you know what, this entire ensemble would make a great Easter Sunday Best-- for a goth!

Meet my version of New Look 6670 plus a matching hat!
What a hassle it was to construct, but I'm so glad it's finally done.
It's a two piece dress; the base dress which is a princess seam style sheath silhouette, and the over-skirt/belt. With the scraps I constructed a matching pillbox hat

I think my favorite part of this ensemble is the over-skirt; it's a good piece to carry over into other outfits!

Now for the technical talk-- you can skip over this part if you don't care about the pattern construction info:

I chose view C and over skirt E. The shorter slightly less formal view than the others.

So my main issue was the zipper, hands down the worst location for an open back dress, not to mention for a lapped zipper. At least for one with some swayback issues, such as myself. It was designed with this zipper dead center of the back. Blech. I sewed up the entire back, and attached the zipper in an invisible style to the side under arm.
The finished dress could look much better, but truth be told, I just wanted to be done with it-- seemed like an unlucky dress. Not only were new fit issues popping up during mock ups every time I adjusted one part of it, but my machines just didn't cooperate with my material choice, which is a shantung sateen; no matter how many times I switched needles, cleaned it out or what have you. The dress sews up easily enough, and the instructions get a little vague in parts, but I'd assume you would tackle this if you have some sewing experience... so it's not vague enough to throw an intermediate sewist off.

My bust size is significantly smaller than the size I needed to fit my waist and hips. I tried to fit at the bust and work my way out, but it made so many issues being princess seams and all. I had to constantly readjust the back portion of the strap to prevent the gaping, but as it would appear, it was not completely resolved. I wasn't fully able to tailor this successfully, it was this dress that made me realize that I have shrunk down enough that tailoring on my dress form is no longer viable. I think that was the main problem why I was so unsuccessful in getting this "right".

So, like I mentioned, I used a black sateen shantung with recycled embellishments salvaged from past garments. The material itself was a large remnant piece sold to me in one big piece because I worked the cutting table at Hancocks, and because special privileges and whatnot (hah!). It had minor tears and tape adhesive stains throughout, but I managed to fussy cut my way into this dress. Not feeling great about the massive amounts of scraps, I bought some fabric yoyo makers from clove and started cutting out a bunch of yoyos to use as embellishments on the dress, but I decided against it since the lace I was going to use for the over-skirt belt (also purchased from Hancocks) was rather fussy to begin with. So in came the idea to make a pillbox hat. I drafted the rather easy pattern myself and used more of the scraps to make more yoyos and the hat, then proceeded to fill in gaps with black rhinestones that I had because they were damaged goods I was allowed to take while working at Hancocks (RIP).

For sure not my favorite thing I have ever constructed, but probably not the fault of the pattern?.. Egads is it gorgeous, though! Even for its flaws.

End of technical talk.

Like I said, if you were following my instagram (@mari_mortem) you would have likely seen the progress shots of the dress and the hat. If I had an event to attend for Easter, this is exactly what I would have worn, hehe!

So, because I don't know if this submission will meet the criteria of the contest, and we know my story telling abilities leave a lot to be desired... let me leave with a Easter time haiku a la mort:

Pastel gloom be gone
Hallowe'en we miss you so
At least it's raining.

I guess I better stick to my sewing machine, heh...
  • Shoes revamped by yours truly, check out close ups in this link.
  • Gloves from Claire's

Spook ya later, friends!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tales of Trial and Terror: Bubble, Bubble, Toiles and Troubles.

Mock ups (or toiles, pronounced twalls or twahls) are important when constructing a garment-- whether you're drafting your own pattern or testing the fit of a commercial one, they save you the trouble of screwing up on your main material.

I, among most seamstress', use muslin for these toiles. It's cheaper than most garment materials, it drapes like most garment materials, and most importantly it's blank and some variation of white so that any markings, stitching or glaring fitting errors are completely visible.

The problem is the life of my muslin toiles and its scraps ends when all of my corrections are made and done, which when you think about it... makes muslin seem like a waste of money and precious resources.

I count myself very lucky that I rarely need to make extensive corrections in order to justify the purchase and use of muslin; a little shortening here, a little tightening there... but, like now, there are times I actually need to make sure of the fit... well, the waste can be quite daunting. I hear some people even make up to 4 toiles before their end garment!

One toile results in this much scrap
Some of these people have solutions to their growing muslin collection. These people are smart and crafty with their muslin.
 These say use the final draft as the pattern, they say use it as stuffing or stabilizer or sew-in interfacing. These ideas are great, but they haven't exactly worked for my needs consistently leaving my muslins to take up space for very long intervals of time.

For the life of me I have never found a sustainable use for my muslin mocks; for my garment material scraps I have loads of uses because of the variation in fabric design and color, but muslin... meh... which is why I try to be very deliberate and conscientious about the use of it-- prompting this post.

I thought about dying them, maybe in the hopes of turning it into a garment I could wear... but the lack luster appearance of muslin on the whole doesn't pique my interest enough.
Dying it is still an idea, though.
With the news that many grocers will be transitioning to bagless down here in the South pretty soon, it got me to thinking... maybe I could stitch these dyed scraps together and make reusable totes? Perhaps I could even stamp and paint these in 'ol Hallowe'en fashion... hmm.

What would/do you do with muslin toiles?

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: Pressurized Spleen.

Though I have done a lot this past month, last week in particular I managed levels of productivity unfounded in my book.

Even so, the things I have completed are not the things that should have been done in that timeline.
Though I am quite happy to have them out of the way... it does beg the question, was it properly motivated? Or was it really anxiety related procrastination at work.

The idea sounds paradoxical, yet it somehow exists, nay, thrives in me at times; procrastination thy name is anxiety! Or is it the other way around... this one does not know.

I was supposed to have my Etsy shop open by now.
I was supposed to have at least 20 items made ready to list and ship.
At the very least, I was supposed to have my shop icon/logo fully designed.

Instead, I have an organized craft room that has a little less unused bulk that it once did, a formidable challenge renting space in my brain and table in the form of a sheath dress with princess seams but ultimately a personal project, a quiet and small obsession for certain games, and a surfeit of questions/solutions dealing with the daily minutiae.

I find myself imperceptive of the fact that later is better than never, and finding in some part of my brain that never might just be better than at all... it's quite good at convincing me...

These echoes of the past, these ill-fitting advices consumed as truth, 
knocking over every foundation I attempt to build like an ominous pendulum-- an anti-anchor. Words that keep me drifting in a sea of doubt.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Knitters Frills.

I knit, but I don't knit often. I blame the persistent heat... and the plethora of other crafts I engage in, hehe.
When I do, and unlike many of those other crafts, I always found a need for one thing to harken that one more temptation, and I acknowledge that need by creating the tiny implements to suit the problem (such as my stitch markers or my notions bag)... gradually my appurtenances reflected the years gone by that I have maintained this hobby which I partake in irregularly.

There was one thing I haven't made until now, and I am not sure why its taken so long to do it.
I made a project bag: 

But Madame Mortem, what is a project bag?
I'm glad you asked, it's exactly as its name suggest... a bag that holds your knitting (or crochet) project during those pesky moments where you're dragged to an event and you're finding yourself unable to properly socialize. MmmHmm.

Typically these bags are drawstring so that your working yarn can be fed through the closed bag; preferred I should say, over nettlesome zippers whose teeth constantly threaten to snag fluffy yarns.

Well, and I like drawstring bags...
I have been using a Hallowe'en treat bag till this point.

While living in New Mexico, I picked up a pattern from Walmart-- it was during the release of the first batches for the McCall's Easy Stich & Save patterns they were introducing to the retail giant's repertoire. I know Easy Stitch & Save's have been around forever... but is it just me or weren't they ridiculously hard to track? I am glad to see they're in every Walmart now.
It's McCall's 9106. It's strange but I can't seem to find the pattern anywhere online by that number in a quick web search or their website... they don't seem to track them? It would certainly explain why I've had issues finding them in the past.

I have been hoarding this cameo witch head silhouette fabric for what feels like forever; I have been aching to use it but unable to find a good blender nor a good project that truly called out to me.
Though I once saw a retro undergarment set made with panels of this material, and it almost had me.

I was trekking around a self induced quilt shop hop, when I came upon this hidden treasure of a shop surrounded by automotive detail and repair places and some other commercial retail stuffs-- Memories By The Yard. I wasn't sure about it since other shops similarly located were mostly sewing machine vendors with the tiniest peppering of fabrics and notions to offer. As soon as I walked in my jaw dropped; it's wall to wall of the most succulent quilt fabrics you'll lay your weary eyes on, and a notions section to render you into a dream state.

It reminded me so much of the shop I worked at while living in New Mexico, only Jill's Fabric & Design had a fair amount of garment materials. It made my heart ache, as I loved living there.
Anyway, I found this beautiful floral print nestled right in their blender wall-- it's just the right muted granny retro that my witches needed!

I made a slight pattern change with the addition of a slanted 3 section needle holding pocket; to hold long needles or DPN's as the whim and project beckons. The pattern originally comes with just two side pockets, which was fine-- I just wanted an interior pocket of some kind, who knows if I'll really use it, hehe.

I took this opportunity to try that foam interfacing people have been using for their hand bag creations instead of the standard fusible fleece. I almost forgot I bought it, if it hadn't been for digging around and organizing my interfacings and stabilizers.
I was hesitant for so long that it just fell off my radar I guess; again I find myself asking why didn't I do it sooner? Heheh.

I had bought the more expensive ByAnnie's Soft & Stable some time ago (roughly $12 for one pack at time of purchase--it still had the tag on it! Oops), but now Pellon has been producing their own (Flex Foam) at a little more reasonable price and by the yard. Foam interfacing is quite expensive still, so I can see it drive up the cost of a handmade bag easily. However... it gives a bloody beautiful finish! Omigosh! I am sure I'll be using it for my future bag creations.

My only gripe is that it is tough to work and maneuver under a walking foot (and you really do need a walking foot for this stuff), especially if your machine has a low clearance already-- a little huffing and puffing was involved, but I managed to get through it with my sanity intact, though a little disheveled. I had to use my brother machine (with it's notoriously low sitting needle bar and ankle) for its free arm, otherwise I think I'd have saved myself all this trouble if I could use my ol' faithful.
I'd like to spotlight my orange stick turned sewing stiletto for this-- a lifesaver-- to coax it through the feed dogs without endangering my finger tips, hehe.

To round off my little project bag, I omitted the piece to create the ties and bought some simple tassel ties from the home dec department of my Jo-Ann's. I admit, I believe I should have went a little more kitchy and flamboyant with the tassels, but this suffices. Maybe if I recreate this bag in the form of an actual purse, I might embellish it a lot differently.

My final thoughts on this creation; though I love the foam interfacing, I'm not sure this was the bag to use it on. It's very full bodied and the cinch is a little awkward to pull off flatteringly to the bag-- it's quite bulky to be for a drawstring bag, unless there were a sectional left lax for the casing and cinching.

Well that's that and now I have a project bag! Heh!
If I didn't admit otherwise, you'd think I was obsessively knitting, not distracting me at all with it's one more line...

*accusatory glance*


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: It Started With A Question And Ended With Cats.

If you haven't heard, Bane of GIY started a craft along and you know I was on this like darkness in a batcave.
I might even be jumping the gun a little here; seems early... but I can get quite zealous when it comes to crafts.

She started us off on a pet based theme.
I have two little darlings, and they usually have enough "toys" from a Momma that is always producing crinkly, stringy and other nonsense that falls from her table.

However, it's been a while since they had a real toy to play with since they chew and claw their way through just about anything that isn't a skitter, and those get lost all-the-time. I don't usually see a point in buying expensive toys, unless of course they're too darling to pass up like these little jack o'lantern skitter balls I bought at Target one Hallowe'en. They're gone. I don't know where, but they are.

Whatever toy they get bored with I plop into a fabric crinkly jack o'lantern treat bag which they'll mess around with from time to time-- the combination of the plethora of jingly and sparkly old toys and the nature of the ripstop that the treat bag is made from makes it kind of like a toy in itself.

I suppose it's prudent for me to mention that this did not initially begin as a quest to make toys for the kittles. It instead was a sort of answer to a question I didn't directly think of during a moment of weakness (?).
I recently finished knitting a bat hood, and I really wanted to incorporate pom poms.

I finished the hood (my own improvised pattern), and in my crafting reverie when making the pom poms the old fashioned way (cardboard and whatnot), I pondered if maybe I should buy the clover pom pom makers. Would it be easier to make a pom pom that wouldn't fall apart and need a lot of trimming?

Well these questions burrowed a hole in my head, and the inevitable happened when I had to go back to the craft store for an item.
I bought the damn things.
(brace yourself for a brief product review and trick intermission)

I can't help myself when it comes to crafty gadgetry...
Plus my husband was with me which meant I could take advantage of two 50% off coupons-- just a perfect storm.

Well they do indeed produce a fine and uniform pom pom that needs little trimming, but they still fell apart when tugged on. So I took to my lab and started tinkering.
I heard of gluing each layer, but that sounds messy and most of all temporary. The only thing then was needle and thread.

Curved needles work really well for this, since the area where you're sewing is kind of a cramped and deep. You'll also need a button craft weight thread, as it's the only thing strong enough to withstand all that tugging without snapping.

The stitches you'll make will be in that 'U' area of the maker. I start with a few vertical stitches and finish off with horizontal overcasts, making sure to alternate between the deeper parts and the surface. You'll have to make sure your stitches are also fairly narrow to ensure they cinch all the layers together.

Instead of using one type of thread to wrap it all together, I used both the button craft thread and then a length of the yarn for weaving into your project. I noticed the cinch was tighter when I did this.

I like the pom pom makers, but I really didn't know what else to use them for... until Bane came along.
I took some time to ponder what to make for my kittles, I thought about constructing a coffin shaped cat bed but they would never use it over the couch, or my lap, or the corner of the bed. I thought about making a coffin shaped food mat but I didn't feel like trekking to find a large enough mat to cut away from (I still may get back to this one). Then I thought about buying some ceramic pens to paint cute Hallowe'en things on their food bowls (again might come back to this one)... but again, the trek to buy the supplies interrupted that train of thought.

Well, it was during the making of more pom poms for fun with the cats "helping", that a light bulb went off in my head.
Why not? lol.

I stitched on some bat wings I cut from scraps of black felt and attached a little jingle bell, cut a long enough tail to tie onto a dowel and... VoilĂ !
I barely got it off the table before Khan went crazy trying to nab it; I caught some of the action.

I will likely get back to those other projects for them; the mat and the bowls. I am due for another craft store visit here! Heh!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: Continuous Continuum.

Every new year, without fail, I am surprised by two things:
1.) That it's a new year
2.) I somehow survived the last one with my humor relatively intact.

Being of this mortal coil, I am not remiss in taking advantage, whether real or perceived, of beginning anew.
In a way, that is what keeps me going with Bat Fit. With Bat Fit, every year felt new instead of a perpetual cycle which I have placed myself in under 'tumble dry'; before Bat Fit it kind of felt like it. Granted, it's taken some refining to get my Bat Fit regime to suit my needs-- like a sock in a dryer, I kept losing pieces of myself making impulsive decisions and grandiose goals that affected my life more than I gave much thought to, but the Bat Fit community (of which I am ghost of sorts to) is a community that makes even the most ghostly of apparitions still feel connected.
Bat Fit is good, so when Franny announced the 2017 kick off  I was all too happy to climb aboard once more.

Y'know, she's right about resolutions. It's a rather finicky word that has a tendency to lead people into failure, and if anything were to be a perpetual cycle it should be good habits. Which is precisely what I will target this year.

Last year I managed to achieve most of the intentions I had set for myself in 2016, sans two or three: I didn't get a hair cut, I didn't continue learning to tat, and I didn't sew a waist training corset heh.
I didn't refer to these at all as resolutions, and perhaps that might have helped to keep my affirmations strong. Those goals were more than achievable and I feel better for having done them, and thanks to having completed them I have the confidence to continue: it's time for a little step up.
Albeit a baby step.

So, what to jot down as my 2017 intentions...
There isn't a lot I want to change from last year's, except add two or three things:

  • Participate in my chosen communities. Meaning, I shall endeavor to post more often again; write content big and small, relevant and irrelevant. Comment more on other's blogs, share more on instagram or FB groups. In other words, be sociable hehe.
  • Use my makeup. I have a pretty big makeup collection for someone who rarely wears it. I want to dress up for the sake of breaking up the amount of time I spend in pj's and messy hair, hah! Would help adding capricious content to my blog, heheh.
  • Tackle one large project. I have collaborated for large sewing projects to go in shows and other things, and of course I make a lot of stand alone pieces... but I haven't truly made, say for example, an evening ensemble from scratch all by myself. I have also wanted to illustrate my own tarot deck, heck maybe even just the major arcana, and I have never knit a sweater. I think it's about time one of these changed to said and done.

Good enough, eh?
I feel good about this list, hehe.

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