Monday, November 28, 2016

Cosplay By McCall's Patterns: Steampunk, Lolita, Accessories

Five new patterns have come out in the Cosplay by McCall line since I posted about it.  I have my hands on all of them now so I can give them a rundown.

Bow and Brine is a pattern for a pirate blouse. The blouse is ok, but it's really more fashion than costume.  Unlike a period garment, it buttons down the front and is fitted with bust darts.  It has three styles of sleeve and a variety of rather strange removable straps/neck things.  The pictured hat and belt aren't included in the pattern.  Overall, I don't see the point of this one.







Obi: Gado is a lovely full-length traditional kimono, an undershirt, and a short kimono with detached sleeves.  It also includes two styles of obi belt.  The obi are closed with hook and eyes and permanently styled.

Fatale is a set of accessories including the collar and foam crown from the front picture, a piece of fabric shoulder armor, and thigh-high leggings.   These pieces are fairly disappointing, and don't really feel like cosplay quality items  The crown is craft foam glued together.  The shoulder "armor" is a piece of thin faux leather gathered up and strapped on.  As far as their usefulness, they feel like something more for bedroom play or maybe burlesque than cosplay.






Stash is a pattern for a pair of  canvas belts and pouches in a military style. The pouches close with snaps and there is an option to attach them to a purchased belt.  The hip bag is attached to a belt with a bunch of D-rings attached to it.  I like the way the belts are closed with D-rings and metal clips instead of velcro or less secure methods.

These pouches aren't exactly steampunk, but they could definitely be used as part of a steampunk costume.  Especially if it was made in different fabrics or trimmed differently.


























Rove is a bolero jacket pattern with several variations in styling.  I do really like this jacket, and it's nice for steampunk wear and wearing with corsets.  View F has some nice military tab detailing.  The only complaint about this pattern is that it's only a jacket and that may be a bit slim for an up-priced pattern, when there are other patterns out there with multiple skirts, a corset, and a bolero all included.

Manikin is a complete lolita pattern. It includes a blouse, a jumper skirt with shirred back, an apron with a corset-laced back, and a bow.  There area couple of other mainstream lolita-esque patterns out there, but this is the first time I've looked at a pattern and said "that's REAL lolita."  Now, I'm not an expert, but I've tried to educate myself about lolita fashion over the years and it's a style I really like, if not one I really wear.

But I'm super impressed with this pattern, and think you could make your own clothing that would be indistinguishable from purchased clothing from the well-known brands.  The pattern includes information and guidance about types of lace to use and how to choose and make trim for all the ruffles and layers.  So this is a pattern that's going to be invaluable to lolita fans, IMO.



Papillon is a really nice women's jacket with either tails or a pleated flounce at the back.  They are essentially the same jacket with different detailing, but it does give you two fairly different looks, from a menswear look to a fairly accurate Victorian women's bodice style.  The tails version is also a perfect pattern for the ever-popular character Sebastian from Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji).   The jackets are fully lined and the instructions give pretty good tips about fitting and using interfacing and choosing lining fabric.  So this is a pattern that I think will be good for a steampunk sewers library and I have seen demand for a good tailcoat pattern for women.

If anyone has more detailed questions about these patterns, please let me know, as I do have copies of them on hand and can check things if you're curious about something.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A few new patterns of interest

So I was just getting prepped for Black Friday, as you do, and noted that Joann's sale starts tomorrow and they have Simplicity patterns on sale 5 for $5.  I brought in a large haul of Simplicity patterns in the last sale but I had to go look for new ones...

And there are some of note.


This is another design by Lori Ann Designs, and I pretty much love it.  There's a nice gothic lolita version and more pirate lolita (Is that a thing?  It should be a thing.) version.  Honestly, I have nothing to nitpick on these.

The jacket on either version could work great for steampunk, but honestly you could wear either of these to a steampunk event as-is and no one would kick you out.  (I mean, ok, they wouldn't anyway, but you know what I mean.) It's hard to figure out exactly what all the pieces of these are from the drawings, but it looks like there are two skirts and a bustle you could mix and match with.




I was recently digging through my pattern stash to look at the cape options I had and this is a nice one for a couple of lengths of short capes.  I was snuggled into my full-length wool cloak at my last event and said I wish cloaks would come back into acceptable fashion because it's basically a wearable blanket.  Maybe all the cape patterns I've seen recently is a sign that wearable blankets are back.










This one is from Butterick, and it's very obvious they are going for a Phryne Fisher look with this jacket and jodhpur set.  So that's 1920's, a little modern for traditional steampunk, but with the right accessories or a more Victorian bodice, it could work.  I like that these jodhpurs have contrast patches on the inside of the thighs and aren't as extreme in the hip pouf as some others.

(And by the way if you haven't watched the Australian series Miss Fisher's Mysteries, you MUST.)








I'll also note that Simplicity has released a slew of vintage patterns of styles from the 1930s-1970s, if any of those decades are your thing.

There are also several new patterns in the Cosplay by McCall's line, including a couple I really like, but that's going to be it's own post, probably next week after the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans!










Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Finds: Hips and Curves Steampunk Wear

When I was out at Steampunk November one of my friends spotted a woman wearing a very nice lace-trimmed peasant blouse and said "I need a shirt like that!"  She asked where the woman got it, and she said "Oh, Hips and Curves!"  And then there was a conversation about how great their underwear was.

Luckily, I'm an affiliate for Hips and Curves, which means if you buy from them after following the links from my blog, I get a commission.  So I went to find this shirt, and was really surprised how much great steampunk clothing the site has.  It's been a while since I really looked at it.  Now some of their stuff is going to be costume quality, and I don't necessarily vouch for their corsets (I believe they are of the same quality as Corset Story, and you can read my opinion of those here.)

But they also have some pretty decent pieces to add to your steampunk wardrobe.



This is the item that started this.  Hips and Curves calls it a dress, but I'd wear it as a top, personally.  Maybe with leggings.  But it looks great under a corset.  And the fabric is very flowy and gauzy, which is nice for warm weather.  Sure, maybe this is more Ren Faire or fantasy than Victorian, but we all know the fashion of steampunk is broadly inclusive.













I have a pair of striped bloomers I made that I love, and have taken to wear frequently when I want to be comfortable and cool but still dress steampunk.  These white bloomers are similar and I would recommend them to women who want to forgo long skirts and get a little more comfy in their steampunk.











Black and white stripes are classic steampunk, and you can't go wrong with a tiered ruffled petticoat skirt either.   They also have a similar skirt in black.

















The purple velvet Alice Revolver jacket is really lovely, with a corseted back and frilly tails at the back.  They also have a similar look in black brocade with the Bowie Brocade Jacket.
















This Cotton Tiered Petticoat is nice for it's simplicity.  You could wear it for everyday wear, alone with steampunk clothing, or as a base under other costume pieces.















That's really only a taste.  There are a lot of petticoats, accessories, and potentially cool pieces in the costume section.  It would be a good place to get some base pieces for a steampunk look, particularly if you have trouble finding things in plus size, or live somewhere that you don't have access to a festival to buy from vendors.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Steampunk November Festival 2016

Of course they have a TARDIS.
Regular readers of this blog know I really love Steampunk November.  So much that it's the only steampunk event I've attended this year.  (It's been a rough few years personally.)

If you're not familiar with the event, let me briefly explain it.  It's basically a Renaissance Faire, but for steampunk.  It's held on some rural property just south of Dallas in Mansfield, TX.  It's currently a three day festival of live music, dance and variety performances, and vending.

This was my third time attending and vending at this festival in four years.  (One year I was ill.) I've been able to watch the event grow from a large party to a full-fledged festival, and I've gotten to know the organizers and a lot of people involved with it.  Pretty much every time I talk to a Texas steampunk I ask, "Are you going to Steampunk November?  You should go to Steampunk November."
The new Gypsy Stage.  How gorgeous is that?

This year was definitely the biggest yet, with an entire new area of vendors and a 4th stage. There were more acts, especially musical acts, and more variety.  There were also a lot of small improvements to the site and I was seriously impressed at the amount of work that had been put into it.

For me, the experience of going to Steampunk November as a vendor is like going to a family reunion.  I know a lot of the people and a lot of them know me.  But I talked to quite a few new vendors over the weekend and they all expressed wonder at how welcoming and friendly everyone was.  It's normal to see someone walking around looking dazed and saying "this place is incredible!"

Unlike some other steampunk events, this isn't a convention.  The focus is on performers and vendors rather than educational panels.  The line-up for performers is long and consisted of musical acts, belly dancers, sideshow acts, and other comedy/variety acts.  Since I spent most of my time in my booth, I only really got to see the acts performing on the two stages in the original central area.  And even then I heard the acts more than saw them.
The Phantom Sensation performing

Because I didn't get to really see the non-musical acts I'll just focus on the bands.  Besides, part of my main reason to go to cons and events is to see live music.

 My favorite bands of the weekend were Plunk Murray, The Phantom Sensation, The Long Losts, and Frenchy and the Punk. Plunk Murray is a local Dallas Celtic Punk/Rock band and I totally enjoyed their set on Sunday morning.  The Phantom Sensation is a Fort Worth band who call themselves a punk rock, southern gothic, blackgrass band.  They played several times over the weekend and I caught bits and pieces and was really impressed with them.   The Long Losts are a goth punk duo from New York and they were seriously awesome.  I mean, my tastes incline in that direction, but I loved them.  They are also both very nice people. And finally there's Frenchy and the Punk.  They were the Saturday night headliners and only were able to play one set but they were awesome, as always.  This is the third time I've seen them and they are always a great time.
Frenchy and the Punk (at soundcheck)

The selection of vendors was fantastic.  There were a ton this year, and in general the quality of the merchandise was high.  The focus was definitely on handmade items, not the kind of factory-produced stuff you see at most comic cons.  The wares covered everything from steampunk costumes and jewelry to fine art, glasswares, books, and more.

There may have been a few too many vendors there for the size of the crowd, from a money-making point of view.  Certainly there is room for the festival to grow in attendance and it never felt crowded, but it wasn't ever empty either.  From talking to other vendors how well they did ranged wildly from breaking even to raking it in.  But pretty much everyone I talked to said how much they enjoyed the event and that it was worth it to show up just for the experience.  (This is the category I fall in really.  I never make huge money at this show, but I always make some and I really enjoy it.  This year I didn't have as much stock as I would have liked due to being laid up recently.  But I made more than I expected.)

My husband and I in front of
the Steam Ingenious booth.
The only real complaint I heard was regarding food options.  The only on-site food was an Italian-themed food truck.  They had a nice variety of food available from salads, sandwiches, pasta, and fried snacks.  But the line was long and the wait for food was even longer.  I know some people got frustrated.  Everything I ate was good, though, and the organizers have said they are planning on having more food vendors next year.

The other attractions of the festival are two wine-tastings, an afternoon tea, a beer-tasting, and tea-dueling.  I have never been able to go to any of these, so I really can't report on them.  But everyone RAVES about the wine tasting (and I don't think it's just because they come out drunk.)  And I know people had fun at the tea dueling.  The tastings and tea cost extra and tickets for them must be bought in advance.

The one downside of Steampunk November is that the location isn't very convenient or easy to get to.  That's hardly unique for Renaissance events, but I think it's probably the reason the festival hasn't gotten more popular.  It's a significant drive from Dallas, but ok for a day trip.  There is camping available, but in November it's a little cool for a lot of people (i.e. me.).

But I would really encourage people to make the effort and plan to attend, whether that means camping out for the whole weekend, driving from Dallas, or getting a hotel room nearby.  It's absolutely worth it for a relaxed, enchanting, fun atmosphere with great people.

ETA: I forgot to say hi to those readers of this blog who said hi at the event!  Thanks so much for stopping to talk and I was so glad you turned up!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Brief Pattern Reviews: McCall's and Butterick

McCall's, Butterick and Vogue had a Labor Day pattern sale and I took the opportunity to order several patterns for $1.99.  They've arrived and I thought I'd right up a bit about them.

We'll start with the Butterick ones. The two I ordered are both historical patterns.





B6400 "Misses Bones, Back-Pleat Jackets" is a Making History pattern for a Victorian Bodice with variations.  It's basically the same bodice with different rear bottom details and different trim.  View A and View B are actually exactly he same except for the braid/lace trim and the giant bow on the back.   View C is my favorite with the military look of the ribbon trim.   So this may not be the most exciting pattern ever, but it's a good staple to have for Victorian costuming.










Next is B6397, a Making History pattern for 4 different historical hat styles.  You know, this pattern makes me wish the Making History patterns came with ANY historical notes about the patterns, just so I could be sure exactly what time periods they are shooting for.  But anyway, we have a 1940's style pillbox, an early 20th cen broad brimmed hat, a bustle-era Victorian hat and a beret/tam thing that I think is vaguely Regency, but is pictured with Victorian clothes and yeah I don't really know.   So I'm just going to totally ignore that style because it's basically a round bag with a brim and yeah.

The three other hats are constructed with buckram covered in fabric and the instructions seem pretty good.  Not as thorough and good as, say, Lynn McMaster's hat patterns, but if you are vaguely familiar with hat construction or can watch some YouTube videos you should be fine.

The entire reason I bought this pattern is for the Victorian hat, which is a lovely historical style you rarely see people wear these days. It's a style meant to be worn with an updo and features a small crown and lots of decoration at the back.  The instructions for this one are pretty detailed, including how to gather the tulle/veiling and attach it, which I find super helpful as I'm not very good at hat embellishment.

Next we'll most onto some of McCall's costume patterns.  I picked up the recent Pride and Prejudice and Zombies inspired pattern M7493.  I absolutely adore the coat and I'm wondering how well it would work with a steampunk outfit.  Short jackets are something that ISN'T very period Victorian, but IS very steampunk, so Regency-era spencers are something I think translate well.

I also like the Regency gown under the coat, since it is very simple and I tend to like simplicity in my Regency styles.  It probably doesn't have as much fabric in the skirt as a real historical pattern would, but this is really meant to be more costume than recreation and I appreciate it being slightly more frugal.  This will give you the look, especially with the long coat.

I need an excuse to make this whole outfit, really.  Why aren't there Regency events around here?  As far as the pattern it looks fine, the instructions are standard pattern instructions, nothing seems overly complicated.

Next up is a McCall's pattern from YaYa Han for Men's pants and vest, M7399.  When I first saw this pattern, I was not too impressed.  It looked like a pretty boring, standard pattern of men's Victorian wear.  The pants don't have anything exciting going on, and the single-breasted vest is pretty plain.  It is a little different than the more common lapel-style vest, so that's something, but overall the pattern didn't scream NEED TO OWN to me.  Until I noticed the line drawing that shows this pattern actually includes three completely different vests: single, double-breasted, and a lapel-version of single breasted.  The double-breasted version is SUPER steampunk and of a style that I don't think exists as a pattern from a major company yet.  (Harlots and Angels has a similar vest pattern on Etsy.)

I don't know where this style of vest first came into steampunk, but it seems like it's been copied by a lot of clothing makers and artists.  Which is cool, cause it's awesome.  So I think this pattern is worth while for the vests.  As for the pants?  They appear to be a bog-standard pair of modern trousers, with zipper fly and everything, so I don't see what it's necessary.  Yes, you could get away with using this pattern for steampunk wear, but there's nothing inherently steampunk about them and they aren't very Victorian.

I also picked up the Yaya Han corseted bodysuit M7398.  I haven't made a bunnysuit style bodysuit before, so I thought it'd be interesting to see this pattern.  Overall the pictures of the finished suits look pretty nice and I like that it has different pattern pieces for different cup sizes, up to size D.  The
curve in the waist is VERY mild, though, so this is really made for people with athletic figures and not sizable hips.  It's definitely not meant to really be a reducing corset.  There is a version with a zipper closure in the back and one with lacing closure that is meant to be laced completely closed.

The instructions are very detailed and give advice about using steal boning (both flat and spiral) and how to cut and order boning.  The boning is attached to the lining layer by placing channels made of bias binding over the seams on the inside.  The top layer is free-floating for a smooth look, which is appropriate for this style.

I like the instructions for the elastic around the leg openings and the hook and eye closure between the legs.  Over all, the construction is ok for a costume piece that won't see a lot of use.  It's not likely to take a lot of strain or heavy wear, but that's most likely not what most people looking for a bunny suit will want.  If it were me making it, I'd make sure to make the lining of a strong twill or coutil and use something a little better than store-bought bias for my bone channels.  Otherwise, you could follow the pattern instructions.

Again, I'd say this isn't a pattern that is going to work for every body type and is mostly intended for women who fit in a narrow range of sizes and fairly straight or gently curved figures.  But this is a challenging style garment to make for more extreme curves, so that's not really surprising.







Finally I also picked up the M7373 Coat by Yaya Han.  This was really popular when I posted a picture of it before.  I do love the gored version shown on the front of the pattern.  I wish the longer version also had contrast gores but it is pretty voluminous on its own.  There's not that much to say about this pattern, as it's a fairly standard garment.  It's lined, has pockets, and doesn't seem to have cut any construction corners.  I'm glad it has two sleeve options if you don't like the poofy shorter sleeves you can substitute the straight, long sleeves.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Costuming updates

So WAY back in January, I posted about my plan for my next costume make for myself: the Soulless Manga Floating Dress.

At the time my personal financial situation was just starting to stabilize and I thought it wouldn't be much of a problem to find the money for the couple kinds of fabric I needed to make that outfit. And then personal disaster struck and suddenly things like keeping my utilities on and food in the house became pressing concerns.  Obviously, making a dress was pretty much last on my list of priorities.

But I did come up with an alternative source of fabric for this outfit.  I have a big roll of pale pink silk that I got super cheap in an estate sale.  Since I have no desire to make anything in pale pink, and no customer has appear requesting a giant pink princess dress, I decided I would try to dye this fabric to a dark teal to make the bodice and hat for this costume.

So here's what the fabric looked like to start with.   I was fairly sure this was silk dupioni based on the crisp hand, shine, etc.  I did a burn test and it was ashy.  So I went looking for dye for silk and learned that RIT dye is generally recommended.  Not all dyes will work on silk, but RIT does, apparently.  So I bought some teal RIT powder dye and dyed up several yards at once in my washing machine.  I have a front-loading washer, which isn't ideal for dyeing, but I read a couple articles on how to make it work.  I've tried dyeing large amounts of fabric on the stove before with really poor results, so I thought this would be best.

When I moved the fabric from the washer to the dryer I was pleased with how dark it was, but it appeared more green than I really wanted.  After it dried, it looked MUCH lighter and this was the result. Not the most even dye job, and both too light and more green than I really wanted.

Looking closely at the fabric I noticed it looked like some of the fibers had not taken the dye, so I decided maybe the fabric I had wasn't 100% silk after all, maybe it was a silk/poly blend.  I've seen 80/20 and 70/30 blends that were difficult to distinguish from pure silk, after all.  I did another burn test and still wasn't sure about the results.  So I looked into dyes that work on polyester.  I've dyed poly before, so I knew it required high heat.  The problem is that the color options for poly dyes if really limited.  There are basically two poly home dyes: iDye Poly and RIT DyeMore.  Neither has a teal color.  It's blue or green.  So I decided to try dyeing this same batch of fiber with blue poly dye.  I was hoping that just the poly threads would take the blue and it would combine with the greener shade and give me something like what I was after.

And, although dyeing 5 yards of fabric in a stock pot turned out to be easier than the last time I tried, the results were not what I was hoping.  The fabric took the dye beautifully.   And I wound up with some lovely blue fabric.  Not at all teal.  So...I have really no idea what this means for my fiber content.  Was it not at all silk?  Did the silk take the poly dye even though the dye packet indicated it wouldn't?  Was it the heat that helped it take the dye or actually the different dye formulation.  Would my original dye have worked better on the stove rather than in the front-loading washer?  Yeah, I'm still pondering these mysteries and what to do about them.  You may also notice that the fabric has lost it's shine.  That's not strange for silk, which loses it's shine in temps over 185 degrees F.

 My plan from here is to test a small piece of fabric with some regular RIT dye I have on the stove to see if it takes better than it did in the washer.  If not, then I'll probably try mixing blue and green poly dye to try to achieve the appropriate color.

Meanwhile I've had some other costume projects pop up.  There's a Harry Potter Yule Ball being held in December in Houston and appropriate costumes are required.  So I've started working on a Steampunk Hogwarts robe costume.  It's going to be put together out of all fabric I already own and pieces that I'll be able to use for multiple events/looks.  I hope it'll all work together.

The first piece I'm working on is a black taffeta skirt from the Truly Victorian 261 Pattern.  I'm doing the view with the bustle pouf at the back.  This is a truly versatile pattern I've made before, without the pouf.

The skirt is mostly assembled, but I decided I wanted to add a zipper closure to avoid showing off my underwear since I plan to wear the skirt alone.  And I don't care whether or not a zipper is period accurate.  So until I can get to a store and buy a zipper, I'm waiting to finish the waistband and do the final bustling and hemming.

For the top I'm planning on making the jacket from this Simplicity Pattern (long-sleeved version.)  I'm still slightly debating but I'm leaning towards using a wool suiting with subtle pinstripe.  It's not Harry Potter traditional, but something about that fabric wants to be that jacket and it seems scholarly to me so I hope it works with a taffeta skirt.  I'll probably add a hooded short cape with Slytherin colors and accessorize as much as possible.

And I've just learned about a New Year's Eve Labyrinth Ball in Austin.  Labyrinth is my all-time favorite movie so naturally I've started daydreaming about an outfit for that.  I don't actually know if I'll be able to attend, and it's not super likely I will since my husband works in the restaurant industry now.  BUT I just may have an outfit already planned and fabric picked out for that.  And I'll probably try to make that whether or not I actually go to this event.

So, that's what's up in my costuming life.  Too many ideas, not enough time and money, but what else is new.  And of course I have at least one commission and things to make to sell at an event or two this fall. I'm currently working on a prototype for a new line of corsets I want to sell.  I wish I could sew all the hours of the day, but my back is currently reminding me that that's not an option, ow.


>