Monday, September 25, 2017

Mortem's Trick or Treats: For The Love of All That Is Spooky.

Ahh fall. Glorious isn't it?

I feel the shifts, like cosmic strings tugging at my being. I feel renewed, and I am welcoming of change.
That doesn't mean much in the way of weather in the places I've been living at since moving to the U.S.
That is, until this wonderful October. I'm moving again.

My new home will be in a small town in beautiful overcast (but still four seasoned) Washington state.
It also means I'll be much closer to the border of my homeland--so close to the border in fact I could take a little drive and have dinner in Vancouver city if I were so inclined, and I just may because ever since I discovered Japadog's existence several years back, I have been dying to try them.
My new home is still unfortunately about a 10 hour drive to my hometown, though... but 967 km beats the over 3000 km I was/am.
This also marks the 4th state in 5 years I'll have lived in. Pretty crazy-- for someone who lives a life indoors... I lead a surprisingly nomadic life.

So, at the time of writing this I am a little over a week from my move date; we'll be driving all the way up and it's roughly a 5 day drive at best.
I decided to say good bye to San Antonio and my current version of my creative laboratory with one final project to hold me off till I can get my new lab set up.
Since I am altogether saying so long to the South, I decided it should be with a great big bang... and what better way than with a little Hallowe'en cheer?

I made a jack o'lantern bag!
I have been after the original ones for about a year; every time I have money and think about getting one, there is none available and being a fabric/craft addict that I am I promptly spend that liquid cash on feeding my addiction. When they do have them available, I am such as I am now-- pinching every dollar in my pocket.

Well I had about enough of coveting one, and a round purse isn't terribly difficult to figure out... though the bottom piece did give me some grief.

I have a deep and difficult love for vintage faced pumpkins-- they have round eyes and sharp jagged teeth. Whenever I see one, a switch is flipped in my head and I become fevered with lust for that which triggered the desire. It's not always a pretty sight for my wallet. So I drew from that inspiration for the face of my lovely little 'treat' bag.

I had at first considered the possibility of using a vinyl for my material, but I was never able to locate any in the shade I wanted. I did have in my stash a home dec weight velvet that I honestly can't recall the purpose for its acquisition-- and for some reason it looks far more red in my photos than the muted autumn maple color that it truly is (color identification courtesy of Mutant Stomps Pantone fall colors guide).

Spider web lace not shown*
The candy print cotton was a purchase I made from this year's haul of halloween fabrics (I'll make a post of my loot some other time). The candy print was always intended for the bag because these bags reminded me more of candy buckets... and what kind of candy bucket shall I have if it didn't have some 'candy' within? This particular print however wasn't always due for this bag, I had another one from several halloween's ago, from the time I lived in Arizona, that I was going to use... that wasn't a cheap purchase, and not to mention it's out of print now-- so I chickened out at the last minute. This one is $4 per yard and it's from Walmart, so it was a formidable substitution.

My intention for this bag wasn't to make it overly complicated-- simple, but unique to that of the rest. And to think back on it, I think it would have turned out that way... if fate hadn't intervened...

I had previously worked on a small project and hadn't gotten around to putting everything away after I wiped the table down (shame, shame...), so I had a scrap of spiderweb lace and a bottle of glow paint staring me in the face, seducing me with promises of a prettier bag. I took the bait... and oh the delight.

It is with this project that I also got to try Pellon's version of Annie's soft & stable: their fusible flex foam. It's been on the market for quite some time now, but I had enough Annie's in my stash to last me a while. What I have left is promised to a messenger tote I am making my mother.

It's certainly cheaper per yard than Annie's, but the adhesive they used leaves a lot to be desired. I noticed, now that my bag is done, the back panel is coming up in places... it's rather annoying since it's quite unsightly.

I don't think I've ever used so many different weights in one single project ever. To my count, it's 5 different types! Overall I'm quite pleased with the stability of my "prototype".

The bow was always part of my original intent, what I hadn't decided until last minute was that it was to be a bat wing bow-- anything seems to be made better with bat wings! I very carefully hand-stitched the bow onto the bag, as I wasn't confident simply gluing it on, though being that it was pvc it might have actually held onto the velvet really well. I spent so many hours just hand basting much of it in place. If I hadn't I'd fear for my sanity, what with the different kinds of materials alone in this bugger.

The striped pipping was another detail I decided on adding as a lark. I had so many scraps from this dress I made a couple years back. I don't remember there being so much, but when I went digging for pieces to make a plain black pipping, I discovered the pile of varying sized chunks. I found a front bodice piece that was just large enough to square off and create a decent length of binding from. Weird, but fortuitous-- it completed a nice retro feel.

Why are you so red?! And why did I leave the shoulders collapsed?!
The bag's size turned out a little bigger than anticipated, but roomy is never a bad thing for a bag isn't it? I might have to redraft this bag to something a little more manageable for everyday wear. It makes a superb carry on though. I made sure to have pockets in it, including a zippered one for things that shouldn't bop around like my lip balm and keys. The other two pockets are for my wallet and phone, so they too don't jingle around, or get scratched up. This is where the spider web printed material (not the lace) came in, I contrasted all the pockets with it. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite seem to grab a decent enough photo of the pockets except the one shown below-- which still isn't that amazing. I will keep trying and edit this post when I do, though!

The bag turned out to be quite a grand labor of love, and I really couldn't be happier with how it came out. It turned out better than the preliminary sketches-- I love it when that happens! I poured my passion for Hallowe'en straight into the design.

I used glow paint to hand paint in little details on the sides; they're not so obvious by day, unless you're actively looking for them; the lace overlay keeps them quite hidden. Darkness really brings out the best of this bag, as it tends to do for us darklings-- we who bump in the night!

Glow paint! It's the medium of Gods; it's my favorite addition to this bag... I want glow paint to be my signature touch, my bread and butter, my forte-- holosexuals, meet your match... phosphorescensexuals.
Ok, it's a mouthful... but it'll catch on, I swear!

Anyway, I haven't had much of a chance since completing it to actually wear it out and it's been raining pretty unpredictably to get good enough shots modeled outdoors... maybe I can snag one soon, so I can have a completed outfit to show off.

Until then, spook ya later, fiends!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: 10 Things I Wish I Knew.

There was a discussion I read that I thought might be a fun topic to think about and write about here; it was a '10 things you wish you knew when you first started sewing'. Being that I am almost completely self taught, it's safe to say I wish I knew a lot of things. Most especially now.

The history of my sewing background is long and a little complicated but to make a long story short: I was sewing on and off since I was 10, mostly hand sewn doll clothes and little repairs to my own clothes. I didn't tackle a wearable garment till I was 14 when my mother bought me my first machine, an Omega. The serger I own was always in my life (it's older than I am-- my parents bought it new), but I never used it until a few months after getting my Omega; I didn't really understand it's full purpose, so how could I even use it effectively? Heh.
When it came to sewing my mother knew only how to hand sew, which she taught me, but after that I was on my own. Consequently, I spent a lot of time at the library, maybe more than I did at my machine... but everything I learned, I still learned the hard way despite those long hours with my nose in a book... surely one can write an essay on the lesson of theoretical vs. practical knowledge using 'teaching yourself to sew from books' as evidence.

So if there were 10 things I could tell myself at the beginning? Well, in no particular order...

1. Keep your measurements up to date and accurate.
Taking proper measurements is time consuming, and making sure to take your time to do it right and do it at least once a month makes it tedious. I still have a hard time making myself do it, but I do know better now. I will on occasion head onto projects willfully ignorant every now and again, heheh. Whereas when I began, many projects were dubiously "successful"-- mostly out of pure luck.
I use this template I created now, popped it in a glass picture frame and use dry erase markers, now I have a no-waste reference sheet always available.

2. Don't skip hand basting 
Once I didn't skip this tedious little task, the quality in my sewing sky rocketed. Everything was more accurately placed, with far less warping and puckering, not to mention painless to sew.When you're dealing with a lot of layers, or delicate and slippery ones... pins just don't suffice for accuracy. 
Even when you're sewing over pins (which I used to be guilty of, but don't anymore), there's still a considerable margin for error between each pin.
Always use contrasting thread, because you should always be taking it out afterwards.
It does suck to do and it's time consuming... but again, worth it-- a couture standard and for good reason. 

3. Take ergonomics seriously
When you're young, you feel invincible, but... that's pretty far from the truth. Bad lighting, bad posture, no preventative gear... it catches up. Especially when you're enjoying yourself.
Thimbles, chair cushions, extra lamps, wrist supports... these are a few of the things that will cut down fatigue and strain that cause aging to suck ass. 

4. Develop the habit of finishing your garment properly
I confess, I didn't line my garments for a very long time (but I always finished my seams!). It's kind of tough working backwards, that much is true. I wish I started learning this much sooner than when I did actually start. I think it's invaluable in learning the fundamentals in garment construction-- there's something to be said about learning something, and doing it backwards to ensure you understood what happened. Pathways in the brain open up!!
Plus, it's impressive looking as hell... heh. 

4. Don't "Cut on the fold"
I have always been one to make copies of my patterns to keep the original intact, but one thing that took me a long time to get into the habit of was mirroring those 'cut on fold' pieces into whole pieces. Cutting on the fold is a somewhat troublesome habit that pattern companies reinforce. The reason pattern companies do this is to make it easier to save on fabric, and to save on the tissue they print on... but you'll soon learn that it's not always possible, and no good has ever come from cutting corners. If you're keen on matching your print or you need to be especially conscious of your seam allowances, piles, grains, bias... basically anything (lol)... save yourself headaches and heartache by just doing the extra step.
In the photo above, you'll notice I still write in the cutting instructions; sometimes I mirror after I finish copying all the pieces, as a reminder to go back and mirror pieces. Later that will be erased.

6. Pay Attention to Grain lines. 
Seems like a no-brainer... but since I was so stingy with my fabric at first, I preoccupied myself on how much material I could save rather than pay attention to the placement of my pieces on the fabric. Cutting your material along different grains can severely warp your final product, but it won't be obvious until you try and wear it and it's not fixable mistake. Usually the material's selvage works as a guide to find your grain lines, but sometimes mystery fabrics happen and in that case research is key!

7. Be patient with mock ups, and use a material closest in drape as your 'good fabric'
If something is not working during the mock up stage, continue to work on it till it does and never mix weights; a cotton muslin material doesn't drape the same way silk crepe de chine does, and as tempting as it is to use because of how cheap it is per yard, it's not a good idea if you're looking to gauge how the fit or fixes will look as the crepe de chine...

8. Learn and apply pressing and ironing techniques and tools
Another one for the finishing technique pile but can stand on its own. Nothing looks more sloppy and more obviously homemade than an unpressed project-- it's not always needed, but it's important to learn when, where and how it should be done. I once heard someone say that an iron is as important as the sewing machine. At the beginning, I would laugh at such a statement... and now, I nod my head in agreement so fast I could sprain it.
There are almost as many tools and ways to press a garment during the construction process, as there are steps to constructing any garment... Above are just some of the 'basics'. Makes my head spin! 

9. Use and transfer pattern markings.
My very first self pattern drafts did not include a single marking, so I was unable to learn or discover any mistakes I made. I learned my lesson even harder going into commercial patterns, because without transferring the markings or even understanding why they were there to begin with, meant any attempt I made at alteration a futile one.

10.Keep Your Space Clean.
I know, ground breaking concept, heh.
Seriously, though, I think of my space much like I think of a laboratory-- hence why you'll often see me referring to my creative space as a "creative laboratory". You're dealing with a lot of things that, as funny as it is to think, can cause bodily harm. If not to yourself than perhaps a curious paw or tiny hand... You might be dealing with some substances that can destroy hours of work; like excess machine oil or grease that wasn't cleaned up properly... and suddenly you find an unsightly stain on that finished dress made up of out of print fabric in a very unfortunate and visible spot...
Shit happens, best prevent it as much as possible.


I guess the real lesson here is take your time, and your sewing will reward you. One well made garment is worth 100 crafted pieces of mediocrity. Even if one simple blouse takes you days... that's really ok, as long as you're taking away something from the experience.
There's comfort that with enough dedication and time, speed is an eventuality.
Find and know your way before you attempt short cuts; they can be so very seductive... but in the beginning, they can only be reductive.

So those are my ten, good luck to any future sewist out there.

Spook ya later!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mortem's Trick or Treats: A Time For Recouping.

It's been rough these past couple of weeks. Physically that is.
I have been fighting a small injury to my hip, that although small, nevertheless kept me from my usual freedoms. After I healed from that, I was stricken with a bad allergy attack that made my eyes swell up shut. After I took enough antihistamines to get them open it was just a matter of waiting and medicating for the rest of my body to follow suit...

Still, despite all of it, recovery time did offer me a moment to finish some smaller projects I kept putting off and of course writing on my blog-- that's why I have been so very active online, hehe.
Now that I'm mostly back to relative normality, I took the chance to model out a pair of overalls I finished before the allergy attack.

This was the project I had even earlier set aside to work on my version of McCall's 6503.
It was while I was deciding what to do for embellishments on this project that my path took me to the dress. After that struggle, a little break afterwards, and I guess the bruised hip (lol) I was able to finally get back to it.

This is McCall's 7547 in view C; the overall shorts.

Always wanted me a pair of velvet overalls, and now I finally have them-- with a few modifications.
And modifications there are a few of...

To start, I omitted side seams and any zippers or the connected waist bands that were originally designed with the pattern. In their place I used grommets for lace up details, and double sided button tabs to ensure they stay together-- in case unlacing should somehow occur.

Next, I added some pleather gear/cog appliques... though it would appear this idea was kind of a bust. They were meant to be more pronounce. I may add decorative rivets in order to accentuate the design, but I'm not sure I want to use the amount I would require for a substantial difference to be made. These appliques are placed on the bottom left front and the back right on the pocket.

I would give this a solid 'meh'.
Perhaps if I had not went with double textured materials, it might have panned out better.

The button tabs were things I had to draft in myself, though as you might imagine, not very difficult to do.

I took a portion of the original waist pattern piece and arrowed it off.
The method might have been easy, but the decision to use them wasn't; this new design feature. I bounced the idea around among buckles or snaps. None seemed more neutral in the end to any future belts I may wear than fabric covered buttons, since I kept the original belt loops in the design.
Lucky I had some button making kits in my stash leftover from making my bat dress.

My biggest revelation while making this up was the use of fabric glue. I know, sounds like a no-brainer to a crafter.
Once I did scoff the use in garment construction, because hand basting was more than sufficient, and glue can have rather unsightly effect on the finish, if you're using liquid glue or a strong enough stick glue. I use it all the time in my millinery and other accessory related craft... but during this, I wasn't in the mood to baste every seam in this to make it sit right.

Stick glue never liquid for basting
See, I don't have a velvet board; a tool used to press/iron velvet without affecting the pile adversely. It's also very expensive, and the sole reason I don't yet own one.
Fluffy towels are said to be a good substitute, but I don't have fluffy towels. It left me puzzling over what I could do to get the cooperation I desired when pins were too cumbersome for accuracy.

I bought this fabric glue pen to experiment in my millinery (brand: June Tailor), but the application was far too light for those purposes. Kind of an ah-ha moment.
A quick swatch test, and doors of possibilities opened.
I was able to make the straps and work under finite seam allowance with ease, all thanks to fabric glue basting; the pen applicator was acutely responsible for the level of handiness.

Pattern Overview:

  • The finished garment produces a close fitting/fitted pair of overalls, worth it to note for those looking for a loose fit. With major and complicated tweaks, the possibility is there. 
  • Front top pocket is not originally intended for View C, this is an optional piece for this view.
  • If you're using a material with not a lot of thickness, like I did, make sure you're reinforcing and adding an interfaced thick layer where the dungaree buttons will be installed.
  • It should be mentioned that originally the pattern has a side zipper closure, and a working front fly. I wanted neither.
  • Comes together very easily, though I suggest paying close attention to how you finish your seams and reinforce stress points; the crotch, corners of pockets, the point where the straps are attached, as well as front and back bibs along the waist.
So despite my resting witch face, I am very pleased and relieved with the outcome. I barely tested for fit, except for mocking up just the bottom portion and trying that on once, I didn't put them on again until I was fully finished. Kind of a gamble, especially considering the material-- velvet ain't the cheapest material on the market, most especially a quality crushed velvet that isn't stretch and doesn't look super costumey.

Until next time, fiends.
Spook ya later!


Top: Handmade-- Simplicity 8386
Necklace: Handmade
Boots & Hat: Ardenes and Ebay

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Mortem's Trick or Treats: Art Inspired By Art.

I have a lot of things to catch up on, things I  have been up to during the past year...
I promised opening a shop, and for a good chunk of the year I was working on a few items to fill that shop.

I suddenly find myself in a position of not quite liking the name I had chosen for myself earlier... and I still haven't been able to settle on a name I feel at home with; nothing seems to be speaking to me much.

Anyway, I wasn't going to focus on my sewing with the shop so I started making some hand painted items-- these items were made a few months ago, but like I said, I am catching up on the going ons in my humble abode.

I started with a jewelry box. The idea was to make a kind of folk-y type kind of jewelry box... but I don't know how much I succeeded, because images of vintage beistles danced across my head.

I free handed all the pencil outlines, using the popular scaredy cat napkin as a reference. It's funny, this is my absolute favorite beistle cut out... and I don't own it. One day I will... I'd like to focus on collecting them in the future-- them and blow molds.

I can't remember where I bought the little blank trinket jewelry box-- it wasn't normally from one of the main craft shops. Some little mom and pop shop I believe... could be a chance it was a thrift store too... Sadly my memory fails me, but I was ecstatic when I found it. I have to track down where to find more just like it.

I got a little carried away with some of the details, which is why I say it is not quite a folk-y type box any longer... it's just an art box?

You know when you love creating something, and all your love is pouring right into the project?
I mean I guess I experience that with everything I am creating, but I felt it ten fold while painting this lil thing. Painting is a nice break from my usual going on's; perhaps I am just speaking out of my ass... Well.

I am second guessing that spider web ribbon that holds the lid/mirror up. Maybe I should have went with lace, as I did decoupage a bit on the top. I used some really pretty damask felt to line the top storage portion, and instead of using it in the drawered portion I continued the spooky design-- there was a lack of bats on this box, these kind of turned into a nice little 'surprise'.

Oh oh, and my favorite part of this little box?

It glows in the dark!
Glow in the dark paint is my new favorite thing. I can't stop painting with it, and adding it anywhere I can.
So this was supposed to be for selling, yet despite what I made it for, I don't think I can replicate it... and its been in my possession since I made it back in December of last year, and since no one has expressed an interest in it I feel extremely inclined to keep it for myself.

I did make another little hand painted piece of vintage-halloween inspired love around the same time that I hope to have sold to a loving home.

It's heart shaped, get it? Get it?

I really wanted to continue experimenting with some of the surplus of supplies I had bought from doing a halloween swap and the supplies I had bought to build stock for my shop; I got a little zealous, to say the least. I had a huge block of white sculpey clay... so I've been making a few things- pendants, charms, pop out details to some hand painted wood wall hangings... hehe.

This one was inspired by another popular beistle stand up cut out, the pumpkin wasn't a part of it and was also inspired by yet another beistle print (couldn't find the exact pumpkin I referenced, but it was a set of pumpkins not unlike those in the link). Of course it also glows in the dark as well!

Ooooh, spooky lil ghosts!

Though I guess I didn't use as much glow in the dark paint on the pumpkin as I thought I did. It's so faint in the photo... but still visible in person.
If you're interested please feel free to email me for info and such:

I hope sooner than later I can land on a shop name to get this ball continuing to roll... in the meantime, I will be making many more Halloween inspired goodies that I may or may not decide to keep, haha!

Spook ya later, fiends!

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