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!

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