Monday, October 20, 2014

My current project: 18th century stays

With a little break between commissions, and Texas Renaissance Festival going on, I decided to see if I could quickly put together some 18th century stays for myself.

I've had a "RenPunk" outfit planned for well over a year, but haven't had time to work on it.  This style of corset is part of it, so maybe I will eventually get an outfit together a piece at a time.

I had planned to draft a pattern out of Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines, but with time of the essence I decided to use Butterick 4254 as a starting point, since I had it and it was already full-sized.  Knowing that all mainstream corset patterns run at least 2 sizes large, I started with a size 16 pattern, although my measurements put me more in the range of their size 22.  (I measured the 16 and it was about right for my waist.)

I also measured the length of the pattern and knew it was short so I slashed at the waist and added two inches.  This is pretty common for me, because I'm so tall.




So this was the size 16 in a really quickly thrown together mock-up of one layer of fabric and very minimal boning.



















There are obvious problems in the bust region.  I've since learned that this pattern has this as a known flaw.  The bust is way too low and the stays too short.   My first instinct was to add not only to the height of the front but quite a bit of width in the bust, but advice from other corsetmakers led me to just raise the front and add a bunch more boning.  I slashed the pattern right under the bust (ish) and added 2.5 inches.  I also added a bunch of boning to the front panel, but I used the same side and back panels.





















Much better.  It's now a bit too big and closes fully in the back without being as tight as it needs to be.  And the front point is a but too low, I want the whole front panel to sit a bit higher.  So I took some off the sides of the front panel and the rear panel, added boning to the entire corset, and tried again. (Using the same front panel due to laziness even though I made minor adjustments to the pattern piece.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Steampunking a Skirt with Drapery Tape

 I originally got this idea from someone I spoke to at a convention.  I admired the way her skirt was gathered up and she said she used drapery cord tape to do it.


Conveniently I have had this skirt hanging out in my closet for years, but never wear it anymore.  So I decided this would be a good opportunity to try a new technique for modifying an existing skirt into a steampunk piece.

The first step is to buy some drapery gathering tape at the fabric store.  They are usually located in their own space in the home decor section.  They come in many different styles, you'll have to see what is available.  I bought 1" pleater tape.  I thought it had pleats every one inch, but instead it has several pleats every few inches.



You'll also need some thread that matches your skirt as closely as possible.










Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Book Review: Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel

This is the third book in a YA series which I actually can't believe I haven't reviewed previously on this blog.  The books in order are AirbornSkybreaker, and Starclimber.

All three books follow the adventures of Matt Cruse, who when we meet him in Airborn is a cabin boy on a luxury passenger airship, and Kate Devries, a wealthy young woman with a passion for science.  The two are thrown together on various adventures, large portions of which take place on ships of one kind or another.  There are sky pirates, mad scientists, and lots of strange creatures.  Kate's obsession is the discovery of animals or lifeforms previously unknown to science and much of the plot focuses on these scientific discoveries.

The characters are strong, with Matt Cruse a determined and talented young man determined to make something of himself, and Kate DeVries a privileged and sometimes self-absorbed young woman who defies convention to live her passion.  I love practical, intellectual, unemotional female characters, and you don't really get enough of them, especially in YA fiction.  The supporting casts of adults tend towards the comic, and mostly keep things light and fun.

So is it steampunk?  Oh, yes, very.  It's set around the turn of the 20th century, there's lots and lots of advanced technology, particularly a very well-developed airship system, and there's a strong focus on scientific discovery and exploration of the unknown.  One thing I adore with these books is that they capture the optimism of the period, when the boundaries of science were completely untested and anything was possible.

Which brings me to the third novel, Starclimber, which I recently finished.  The topic of this one is
space travel!  Matt and Kate are invited to participate in the launch of a top-secret vessel to Outer Space.  At first, I admit I was a bit skeptical.  'This book is just going to skip all the years of slow incremental steps the actual Space Program went through and just launch a ship with a full crew into space on the first go,' I scoffed.  And while yes, that's sort of what happens, I was pleasantly surprised by the ingenuity and originality of the method by which they travel to space.  I won't say more, but I was quite pleased all around, really.  The book manages to be exciting and action-filled while giving lots of space to its characters and their relationships.

Honestly there's no reason NOT to read this series.  It would be great for children of any age, but equally recommended

Monday, September 29, 2014

Con Report: Weird West Fest 2014

Saturday September 20th was Weird West Fest in Giddings, TX.  This is the second year for this event, and the first time I was able to attend.  I was a vendor for this event as well.

Photo by Charles Lincoln Miller
I love the idea of placing a steampunk event in a small town with historic locations.  Small towns are always looking for more ways to increase tourism and I get the impression everyone local was super supportive of this event.  The event was sited in the downtown of Giddings, spread over several buildings withing a couple of blocks of each other: the Historic Train Depot, the 1910 Silent Movie Theater, and the modern Landmark event center.

How ADORABLE is this trio?
I spent most of my time inside the event center, where the bulk of the vendors were, and where the talks and panels were located.  It was also the only air-conditioned location, which is significant when it's 90 degrees, quite humid, and you're in period dress.  Last year the event was held in December and actually had to be rescheduled due to a huge winter storm.  It's Texas, there's never an ideal time to hold an outdoor event that can't be messed up by the weather.

Scientific displays,
photo by Charles Lincoln Miller
Although the various locations of the event were within fairly close walking distance, they were just far enough apart to discourage flitting from one to another, with the effect that events and vendors were fairly isolated from each other and people didn't really know all that was going on or available in the different locations.  In fact, I missed some of the displays because I didn't know there was anything INSIDE the train depot!  Better communication and signage as well as possibly more volunteers directing people to attractions would improve actually getting attendees to see everything.

There was a film festival as well in the 1910 Silent Movie Theater nearby.  Unfortunately, I heard the theater was unbearably hot because it was enclosed and not air-conditioned.  That's not something the festival organizers can change, obviously, but it meant that something that should have been a nice rest for attendees (sitting and watching indie films) wasn't an option for many.  And it's Texas, so temperature is always difficult to predict.

Photo by Charles Lincoln Miller
Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay after the vendor room shut down because I was in a lot of pain and exhausted.  There were several entertainers performing that night I was looking forward to.  I do think it would have given people more to do and more reason to stick around if there was more continuous entertainment throughout the day.  I think quite a few families took a quick spin through the vendors and then left.

Myself and my husband
Photo by Charles Lincoln Miller
The selections offered by the vendors was really fantastic.  I was totally impressed by both the number and quality of the vendors.  Unfortunately it seems there were actually too many vendors for the crowd, and it was a low-selling event for most.  I about broke even, but I know some vendors sadly took a loss.  This points to the real need for MORE attendees and better advertising of the event.  The attendees were definitely split into those who were aware of steampunk, and those who showed up with no idea what to expect.  Some apparently expected more of a rodeo show and were confused.

The problem with locating your event in a small town is that you have to be able to convince your audience to TRAVEL to your event.  Giddings is an easy drive from Austin, and a reasonable drive from Houston, but it still takes planning and effort for people to make the trip.  I think Weird West Fest needs to ask what it is that is going to inspire people to make the drive so that they get the numbers of attendees and the target audience they deserve.   Bigger name performers? More organized events?  I don't know exactly what would attract the masses, but this is an event I'd love to see do really well.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Adding Lace with a Serger

So I only recently got a serger for the first time.  A lot of people are surprised I've never used one or had one already, but there's no need for one when making corsets, and for other applications I mostly use my narrow hem foot for my regular machine.  I'm really good with that thing.

So I got a really spiffy Juki serger (this one, if you're curious) but had no idea what to do with it. So I took the Beginner Serging class on Craftsy, and a week later I felt like a total pro.

I've recently used it to whip together some simple skirts using material I had sitting around.  I made a nice A-line skirt with some grey suiting, and it looked nice but I wanted it to have a little more steampunk-appropriate flair, so I decided to add some lace to the bottom edge.

Figuring there must be a clever way to do this neatly with the serger, I did some quick research and decided to attach it with a 3-thread rolled hem.  I don't have any fancy feet for my serger yet, so I just guided everything by hand.















This leaves a nice clean finish, and after pressing the lace down, it's a seamless join on the outside.















So, although I don't think the serger is often necessary for Victorian or steampunk sewing, there are applications where it's convenient.  I'm really happy with this skirt and it's got a lovely look that would work for daily wear or costume use.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

State of the Baroness, September Edition

I have been neglecting this blog for the last couple of weeks, I know.  I've been dealing with a bad flare of my back condition that left me almost totally incapable of walking for a few days, and then a week of recovery from that, and a new flare this past weekend.

And while typing up posts for a blog would seem like something it'd be easy to do from bed, when I'm in pain it's really difficult to concentrate enough to produce anything worthwhile.  Mostly I just want escapism.

I DO have a mostly complete tutorial to put together, but I'm missing some photos of the finished item, which require me to be mobile at a time when I have someone to take photos of me and the weather cooperates.

I also have been on a break from reading steampunk books.  Every so often I reach a steampunk overload and I get to the point where I can't keep different steampunk novels straight and I'm not enjoying them anymore. I recently have got some sequels to read of first novels I know I enjoyed, but have absolutely no memory of other than possibly, "There was steampunk?"

So I'm reading some traditional sci-fi and fantasy (Lois McMaster Bujold, right now, damn I love her.)

I am also sewing when I can, working on corset commissions and getting stock made for my next vending event.

I have had to pull out of Steampunk Invasion, which is this coming weekend in Dallas.  I was attending and presenting a corsetmaking panel, but I've unfortunately had to cancel for health reasons.  The following weekend I'm vending at Weird West Fest in Giddings, TX and I'm afraid if I push myself to go to the Invasion I will be in bad physical shape for the following weekend's event.

After that my next event is Steampunk November, which is one of the most fun events EVER and it's going to be awesome.  I applied to both vend and present panels at Aetherfest in San Antonio in November, but I was apparently not selected so I'm not certain I'll be able to attend.  Although I have loved that event in the past, I am quite worried by the chaos that seems to be surrounding its planning this year.

So that's me and that's what's going on.
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