Monday, April 29, 2013

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Mortem's Favorite DIY Notion Links

There are certain tools that are essential when it comes to endeavoring into garment construction.
Over the years I've learned that some things are just too important to get into the habit of using and doing, than to progressively invest in them over time. The thing about garment construction is that it's face value is pretty much how it always is; you either don't like the idea of spending hours fussing at the machine and ironing board, or you're really passionate about it. I would lump "casual" sewists into the latter because lots of love and time was spent getting to that point-- even if you feel like you can only make skirts.

The price of these particular tools are exorbitant-- vintage, used or new; it's enough to put off the novice into thinking it isn't a vital tool to have. What's more, with the lack of quality inherent in the market, it is in fact cheaper in the long run to DIY; as an individual you're able to learn from your mistakes and transcend them, whereas the quality of store bought usually tends to remain stagnant for long periods of time.

Here is a brief list (I could go on forever about essential items) of some basic tools you simply should not be without for sewing clothing-- and the best links on how to make them yourself:

  • Pattern Weights: One of the things I commonly find is that many teachers hammer in the idea of using pins in sewing. Pins are good, mind you, but not for everything in sewing... a good example of where not to use pins is pattern cutting-- enter pattern weights. These heavy little bundles of nifty keep the pattern and fabric together quite flat and accurate; I love to use my rotary cutter and mat as I find it the most precise way of cutting out patterns. If you don't have a cutting mat, than simply trace with marking chalk then cut it out with shears.                   
Woman of 1000 hobbies Instrutables
The only thing I would add to this tutorial is more washers to each bundle for more weight; hot glue them together and proceed as written.
  • Wrist Pincushion: Before I figured out I needed one of these, I had been jumping back and forth to my pin bowls; the one by my machine, and the one at my table; going to refill one from the other. Once I had my dressform, it was more of a pain to reach out for pins.
Ruffles & Stuff + Tea Rose Home
  • Pressing Equipment: pressing and ironing is to sewing as heat is to cooking. If you're not doing them together then chances are you're not achieving the greatest results. They say that you spend as much time at the ironing station as you would at the sewing machine; I find this to be an unequivocal truth-- and the right equipment for the job makes all the difference.
Tilly & The Buttons Tutorial

Tailor's Ham:
a fundamental tool for pressing darts of all kinds-- how can you ever sew a garment without one?! The ones that dritz make are very run off the mill and affordable, but they tend to fall apart not too far along-- so in reality you'll end up having to buy more, meaning you'll have to spend more. The pattern also comes with a contoured ham, which helps with rounded seams. You'll need a ham holder to go with the ham; you might find that they're more expensive than the hams themselves, but a great and almost-always-inexpensive alternative is a football kicking tee.
Seam Roll: Perfect for pressing long or tricky round seams, like in pant legs or cuffs. Dritz also makes one, but has the same pro's and con's as their ham.

The Curious Kiwi
 Tailor's Board: Probably the most intimidating pressing tool is the tailor's board. This tricky looking piece of jumbled wood is probably the best item you could have in your arsenal-- it gets to the even trickier parts of garments such as pointed collars and highly curvaceous seams. Dritz makes one that has an integrated clapper that I currently own, but sadly it's quite pricey-- truth be told I am not entirely in love with it either. I'm hoping one day I can make my own clapper and board separately and from more quality and heavier wood.

 Sleeve Board; This has one use that you can probably guess-- yup, sleeves. You can press the entire length of a sleeve on this baby without worrying about leaving leftover creases. This blogger also offers an alternative template/pattern for the tailor's board.
The Curious Kiwi
Don't forget about the importance of pressing cloths to go with your newly made pressing equipment! Uncolored silk organza, and 100% plain uncolored cotton are the best to get; high temperature tolerant and not at all abrasive to even the most delicate fabrics-- the organza allows you to see through to your work being pressed, and won't leave a shine. An added tidbit; if you find yourself wondering where on earth you might find solid wood sawdust, there is another equally good product, albeit pricier than sawdust; ground walnut shells, which is commonly used for iguana bedding-- crafters also use it for filling pincusions!

  •  Dressform: An invaluable tool, but also can be quite a pain finding the most accurate one for less than the price of your eyeballs. There is the commonly known duct-tape version, which I have had very lumpy and flimsy results with... then there's the brown paper tape method. It doesn't lose quite as much shape after it's dried and ready to come off.
    Threads Magazine Tutorial
 Although finding paper tape proved to be the most tedious task. This article also happens to have alternative DIY dressforms with a tutorial on making your own dressform stand. I'd still stuff the form once it's finished, FYI. Side-note, the magazine itself is a fine morning read. 
Update 05/04/2013: I found this blogger via the Threads comments who has shared in depth the casting method of making a dressform, which also includes instructions to create an adjustable stand to go with it. Casting yourself seems like a much more accurate way of acquiring your true "double"; I have a strong itch to try it! Go see for yourself at LULUSHION.

I realize that the tailor's board and sleeve board DIY may not be a viable choice for everyone; it wasn't for me, since I don't have the tools to make them... I ended up couponing my own tailor's board from Joann's, and found my sleeve board for .25 cents at the thrift store; I don't presume to know if the shops and sales are quite the same elsewhere in the world, so I can't say waiting for coupons are viable as well. My hope is that somehow more options have been realized, and that starting up good garment sewing habits doesn't have to be a totally arduous endeavor, and can actually turn out quite fun and inspirational little sewing room equipment. I plan to write up my own tutorials, reviews and tips about sewing notions in the future.

Happy crafting!

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: Final Challenge Update

Although this post may be brief, I felt it needed it's own page; it is after all the wrap up post to Ms. Misantropia's inspiring challenge.

To recap from my intention post, I wanted to:
  1. Unclutter the house.
  2. Find inexpensive ways to do something romantic and fun with the hubby
  3. Rearrange and organize my craft room
I'm very happy to say that my entire list received much needed focus and love. I have successfully uncluttered my home (although thanks for this can also be given to the fact I am moving), I have found a few inexpensive ways to do something romantic with my husband, and finally as you all know, my craft room is better than it ever was.

Part of what my hubby and I have been doing to add a little spice to our relationship for our meager meager budget: 
  • We unearthed his collection of Magic the Gathering and allotted some time each week to play.
  • Once a week we went for the dollar sundae's at McDonalds and watched the sunset in the car while chatting
  • We went stick hunting around the desert for one of my projects; he enjoyed it much more because there was a main purpose to all the walking and effort.
  • We dragged out our air mattress and slept in a different room of the house; it is surprisingly romantic and fun, heh.
  • We grabbed a book we both wanted to read, and read a chapter to each other before going to bed; we're currently reading The Foundation series by Issac Asimov
  • Star/moongazing-- always a fun one to do, especially now that it's heating up and the night sky is super bright. Plus we're finally breaking in his binoculars.
  • Uncluttered the house together; lots of junk and lots of memories jumbled together-- it was quite fun sifting through it and reminiscing. 
I really hope I can keep all this up, and think of newer and better ways of improving; I'd hate to go back into a rut just because the challenge is over... but c'est la vie-- or at least mine, anyway. Heh.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Old Mouse Pad Into New -- DIY Tutorial

No blouse today. Again.

*le sigh*

On the brightside, I've been feeling heaps better and still really itching to craft. I know, I know. I wouldn't say I'm lazy, but surely I have a fierce propensity to procrastinate... especially when there's so many things I wish to do at once, and one project is taking up more time than it should.

So in order to treat you all, (and also alleviate some of the guilt) I have a tutorial I'd like to share: turning your old, ratty mouse pad into a new and awesome one! I've been wanting a new mouse pad, but could not find one that reflected my tastes for less than $30. And I thought to myself, why not craft one myself? I have the stuff and the know how, plus I could make other matching accessories later with endless possibilities!

Onto the tutorial....

What you'll need:
  • Scissors-- fabric and utility (I know, it's rotary cutter up there)
  • Fabric of choice
  • Old mouse pad
  • Marking crayon/chalk/pencil
  • Fabric protector spray-- I use Scotch Guard's fabric & upholstery type
  • Fabric adhesive-- either heavy grade iron on ( I used Heat n' Bond's ultra hold), or spray (shown but not used is Elmer's multi-purpose Craft Bond)
1. To begin, trace the outline of your mouse pad onto your fabric like so... I used chalk because it gives me the right amount of allowance needed for this particular project. It's better that the mark isn't flush to the pad for this step; you'll see why further down. Cut it out as accurately as you possibly can, leaving a crisp edge; this is why I prefer rotary cutters to scissors for cutting fabric.

2. Then you're going to take that circle, and trace it onto the paper side of the iron on sheet as close to the edge as you can-- this step has to be flush. I like using pattern weights because it really helps to keep the fabric from moving around too much as you trace

3. Now, you cut out the circle from the sheet. Your pieces should be nearly identical. Proceed by following the instructions on the labeling of your iron on adhesive, to adhere the sheet to the fabric as evenly layered/together as possible. All iron on adhesives require you to iron it on the back side of the fabric.
You should now have one piece that has the fabric on one side, and the paper on the other; like this...

4. You'll notice that fabric and paper are peeking out at both sides of the piece; this is alright, because now you're going to peel that paper off and reveal the iron on side...

5. Align the fabric on top of the old mouse pad as evenly as possible. There should be even allowances going past the edge of the old mouse pad-- do not put an edge of the fabric to the edge of the mouse pad.
Now iron it on as per instructions once you align it all properly.

Be really careful not to over iron this type of adhesive because you can end up burning it off, rendering the bond useless (not to mention stinky).
Check and make sure that the fabric doesn't come up from the edges easily. Having the allowance makes sure that your bond is flush against the old mouse pad, with very little chance of coming up.

6. Finally, trim your allowance and spray two thin coats of fabric protector spray. This ensures that the fabric you've chosen will suffer minimal damage and stains over the use.

And you're done once its dry! A nice new-ish mouse pad to adorn your computer area!

Alternate adhesive instructions:

I apologize for the lack of photos for this version, but anyways:

Follow step 1 of main instructions.

2. Then you're going to spray a light coat of adhesive to the backside of your fabric, and to the top side of your mouse pad. Let it briefly dry so it becomes tacky.

3. As accurately as possible, align the two pieces together with the allowances all around just like in the main instructions, making sure not to wrinkle the fabric as you stick the two together. A brush over the top with a card or ruler will ensure that there are no wrinkle bubbles and such.

4. Place some heavy books onto the top of the pad and let dry over night. Check to make sure your edges don't come up; apply more if needed and that dry over night again.

Once it's all nice and snug and dry, proceed with step 6 of the main instructions.
Then you're done!

Enjoy and happy crafting!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Sweetest Temptations...

Oh my...

I failed. Not miserably, but I certainly caved in dear readers.
As most of you already know, there were two things that seemed pretty clear about me as of late:
  1. I get confused with commercial patterns and prefer to make my own; I did make an attempt here, but ended up completely altering the look of the pattern entirely. I haven't worked on it since.
  2. Big one here. I was not to spend any money, whatsoever, on crafty supplies...
Well... that all changed today, and $15.00 (technically $13.00) later I have all this. Buttons, and fabric, and patterns... oh my!

Both yardages of fabric are light weight cotton, perfect for the tops of both the New Look patterns. One has a nice crushed vertical pattern, and the other is plain. A veritable steal for the price, I say, and just in time for the coming hot months.

My neighbor kindly purchased me an assorted bag of buttons.
They do quite perfectly because there's enough in each set to make 5 button-up tops! I was so afraid I'd have too much randomness in the bag, but it turned out to be quite fruitful; $2.00 for all of these! I'll have to keep this in mind when I need more simple black buttons.

What prompted me to buy the patterns, you may ask? Well, have you seen them?!
I simply could not resist the temptation of visiting the craft section during my monthly grocery visit to Walmart.

I was so enthralled with view B of this Burda Style pattern, I adore the stylization of this top; I remember having a few of them back in Canada, purchased at various thrift stores. I've tinkered with the idea of making my own, but never found the motivation to do it... until now.

For about $2.00 per New Look pattern, I also could not resist this cute little slice of chic. One thing struck me though, view D and E are identical (the one the model is wearing)... I don't see why they differentiated the two-- perhaps because of the pattern of the fabric? But the cut is the same... puzzling. I planned on utilizing some Halloween fabrics I have in my stash; I was going to use them for other projects, but as soon as I got my crafty fingers on this pattern, I decided they'd be better put to use as clothing!

Finally, my absolute favorite of the three, this is truly a gem. Even if I cannot muster to decipher the pattern instructions, I feel adept enough to figure out the pieces on my own if push comes to shove. Just look at those choices! Ugh, I simply can't decide which one of these I want to make first when I manage to gather all the materials!

So, remembering I already said I'd make a peplum top, I decided I'd better update that statement.
In light of this totally unnecessary but oh so good purchase, I am going to make one of these tops. It's likely going to be view D-E from 6078.
I have some rick-rack ribbon and two choices of fabric in my old stash for my first commercial-pattern made article:

I'm leaning towards the candy corn and spider webs...

I'd love to hear your vote for which fabric to use-- Skulls or candy corns?

And also, because I never get to use meme's, let alone Star Trek inspired...

Oh, readers, you have no idea the size of the Trekkie in me... perhaps one day I'll tell it all.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Skeleton Closet: A Fundamental Approach

I never thought I'd live to hear myself say the words "I don't know what to wear".  I've been wanting to make an outfit post for a few days but feeling less than inspired by my current wardrobe (eek!), I find myself uttering that awful phrase!

I've never had to wear a uniform in my life, so I never understood when some have claimed that it hinders the desire to dress up prettily on a daily basis... well, my current job requires one and I find myself relating to that notion as well. Even moreso I am finding it less inspiring to simply do my make up!

Today, I went back to the basics of goth-- lace, long skirts and dark lipstick! With a little skull cameo to boot. This top came at me via my mother's most wonderful care packages; it is one of my old tops that for some wildly unknown reason I never wore either. She sent it along in case I wanted to revamp it (I love my momma so very much). I guess it could use some taking in, but with a waist belt, it's just dandy.

If you ever find yourself in a rut, well it doesn't hurt to go back to the fundamentals-- it can be just as refreshing as the new and shiny!

Off topic: I can't believe how big my beautiful fur baby has grown! He's such a treasure; his company has been an integral part of my recovery process.

6 months old! Doesn't fit in any of the below!
4 months old (fit comfortably inside a candy bucket)
5 weeks old (easily fit inside a teacup)

...I'm a sap, no two ways around it...

What I am wearing:
  • Top: old top, likely thrifted
  • Skirt: Sirens
  • Waist Belt: Fairweather
  • Necklace: Self-made

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Peplum Confessions

Well dear readers,

I'm happy to say that today I'm feeling in an exceptionally good mood, despite an extremely sudden cold spell that has aggravated my joints. Things haven't changed much, no, but certainly something in my form of thinking has since committing myself to being Lighter-- I must really thank Ms. Misantropia, lists seem to really work for me... especially if they're short baby step ones heh.
I feel inspiration trickling in my brain, and it all started with a design feature.

I usually try to acquaint myself with what's in style, not that I really follow it in my own wardrobe; I love fashion, what can I say? Last years fashion trends have went right up one of my alleys with 40's vintage inspiration, while this year is offering questionable 70's and 80's comebacks of some really atrocious stuff.
Regardless, one key design feature I have been absolutely obsessing over is the peplum, which appears to be going strong this year for spring too. Oh beautiful, wondrous  peplum.
There's a very tiny difference between a peplum and a fishtail hem-- the peplum is a circle flair that begins at the waist and ends around the hips of either a fitted bodice or pencil skirt, whereas a fishtail hem is just a circle flair on the bottom of a long fitted skirt.
As far as I know (and I could be really off target), the peplum was making the most headway into fashion around the 40's when a waspy waist was making a comeback... the corset being replaced by girdles of all kinds, however.

Since I am an absolute thrifty gal I am pleased by people who choose to keep up with trends, because this means that my beloved thrift stores receive surges of last years trends around spring; lots of people's favorite time of year for many other reasons than the weather. Alas, since purse strings are tight I have abstained from visits to places that might tempt my inner fashionista.
But! I have plans!

Since being lighter means making the best of my situation (no new crafty supply), and since my craft room is officially organized, I was able to really get to know my current stash. I'll be honest, it's as grim as I first thought it was... but I have enough material to make one, maybe two projects. I've decided that a peplum blouse is what I'll make.

I've opted to go with a much more modern take on the peplum however, taking huge inspiration from Asian trends, which in my opinion are almost always so chock full of the most exquisite lace details-- here are just a couple examples:

I have some left over stretch velvet and a yard of stretch lace that my mother sent me in one of my care packages-- I can't wait to show you all what I have in store!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Skeleton Closet: The Golden Ages of Fashion

One of the things I love about vintage clothing is how well it is able to represent class and beauty while ultimately being timeless.
The thing I love the most about it, though, is how well many articles stood the test of time. It's a reminder of the days when many garments were sewn with thought and care; unlike our highly automated built-to-break present reality.

Sometimes, though, vintage can mean a way of thinking and it's not always a good thing.
I often hear people say "I was born in the wrong era"... well for me, I was born in the right era. An era when I can enjoy all fashions pre 1980's, and all the civil liberties that comes along with a more socially evolved one. Before the 1960's, I would be pelted with stones for even thinking about joining in matrimony with my husband-- interracial relationships were highly frowned upon.

Despite all the social barriers and fights for equality in the past (women and person of color alike), I still choose to dress as though I travel to the past to buy my clothing-- but with a touch of the present.
I own many items that would be considered antique/vintage; I love the charm of old items. Sadly, such as it is right now, they are all back in Canada (mostly).
Most of my books are vintage, some I actually have with me and already posted about.
Some of my clothing is vintage, and the ones I currently have with me are posted about here and here.
But I just love and cherish the music of the past:

(Blogger wouldn't post my favorite version by Tommy Flanagan
so Benny carter will sub in-- not that it's any less good mind you)

I found Mrs. Kitty's challenge to be a most timely one; a dress that has been in my wardrobe for a few years has somehow made it with me to the South-- I recently unearthed it during some spring cleaning. This recent discovery, and the fact that I didn't know what to post about next, well... it certainly came to my aid.

I never had an opportunity to wear it since finding it those years ago at a thrift shop display.

It's not vintage, but it was obviously inspired by the empire waist detailing of the regency period.
I think the biggest reason for not wearing it is that I didn't feel slim enough to flatter the empire waist; I still feel that way, but perhaps a little less than before thanks to my increased physical activity.

In fact nothing about my outfit for you all today is vintage; all of it is just inspired by it, even my glasses.
But I hope that my contribution (and my blog) somehow reflects how much I adore history and all its braces, especially in fashion.

P.S. Have a look at my 1920's glam inspired outfit

What I am wearing:

  • Dress: thrift
  • Gloves: Claire's
  • Necklace: Self-made

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