Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Whoop, Whoop, New Steampunk Pattern Alarm!

It's almost July, so apparently it's time for Early Fall sewing patterns.

McCall's has just released it's new patterns, including several new costume patterns.

Yaya Han has partnered with McCall's to bring out cosplay patterns.  The first two are a bodysuit and this Neo-Victorian style outfit.

Now, ok, this is gorgeous, and I think the pattern has some interesting and potentially useful pieces.  But THAT'S A LOT OF PEACOCK FEATHERS.  And the pattern calls for them.  It's designed to include the feathers.  There's nothing to the bustle without the feathers.  And I'm skeptical about how many people are willing to spend the money for that many peacock feathers and also spend the time hand-stitching them all in place.  Oh, wait, the pattern calls for "industrial adhesive."  So they're glued.  Enjoy your trail of feathers.

My usual skepticism about Big 3 corset patterns applies as well.  The corset in the pictures doesn't seem to have much in the way of boning, and I know Yaya Han wears real corsets UNDER her cosplays so don't assume this is doing any shaping.

McCall's has also released a new men's Victorian-ish pattern.

I'm not ENTIRELY sure what they're going for with this one, with the super short coat and rather unattractive trousers.  It's a big matador-ish, and not really historically accurate.  The vest is nice, though, and I'm sure some men could pull this look off nicely.  

Simplicity also has several new "of interest" patterns, ones I've already posted about on my FB page.  They have apparently finally figured out that cosplayers are a big market and are making patterns aimed for that demographic.  Several of them are steampunky, too.

First is the "Super Villainess" pattern.  This may be my favorite as I like the look of the corset and there are some cute pieces included in the pattern regardless of whether you recreate any of these looks exactly.  

I found it totally fascinating that the pattern creator said she had no say in the sizing or instructions of the pattern.  So that explains why the instructions are so often useless.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Con Report: A-kon 26

I spent last weekend in Dallas attending A-kon 26!  This was a bit of a last minute decision, because I was offered the opportunity to vend at the Friday night Steampunk Ball, so it made going financially possible for me.

Steampunk Social
I was totally excited because this is a con I've wanted to attend again.  The last time I went to A-kon was five years ago, when it was my very first con and very first event as a steampunk!  So this was my five year "Steampunkiversary"!  I love anime cons and prefer them to comic cons, actually.  I feel like they are lots more fan-centric rather than celebrity oriented.  The cosplay tends to be better and in general the vibe is more positive and inclusive.

I didn't get to spend a huge amount of time attending the con itself for reasons having to do with travel, other commitments, and my back condition.  I didn't go to the con Friday before the Ball because I knew I'd have to set-up and tear down our booth and function for the evening, so I rested in anticipation.  We went as attendees Saturday for a few hours, and that was it.  Sunday was spent meeting with a corset client and driving home, plus I was tired by then.

Me at the ball
But let's talk about the Steampunk Ball.  It was held Friday night in one of the hotel's (many!) ballrooms.  It was actually a lovely space, a circular room with a stage and dance floor at one end.  The Steampunk Social started at 7PM and there was free snacks and coffee and tea!  The Durian Grey steampunk troupe presented some Victorian parlour games and there was tea-dueling as well.  I was busy vending during this time so I didn't get to participate or even watch much of these activities.  I think it would have been fun if the tea-dueling was a bigger deal, maybe with multiple tables dueling to involve more of the attendees.

As far as the vendors, I know most of them were recruited last-minute as I was,  There were a couple empty tables which could have been filled to give more variety.  I was the only one selling steampunk apparel and we did very well for only a few hours, so it was totally successful for me.  I bought some awesome buttons from one of my friends' booths and we also got our picture taken by the photographer, Albertex Photography.  I was really glad to see a photo booth at the event.  Too many events lack a reasonable way to get decent pictures.  If there are photographers, they charge a large price for prints.  This time it was only $15 for a 5x7 print with photoshopped background or $5 for an automatic photobooth collage.

The turnout for the event was pretty good: not crowded, but full.  Most were in some kind of steampunk dress but there were a lot of newbies that hadn't been to a steampunk event before and us regulars didn't recognize, which is always great.  And of course some people in anime cosplay and street clothes as well.
My husband showing off the new vest-coat
 I made him and his new hat band.

There were two bands for the actual Ball portion of the evening: This Way to the Egress and Psyche Corporation.  I believe This Way to the Egress played the Ball the year before as well.  Much as we love our Texas steampunk musicians, I heard several people glad there was "something different" for entertainment as too often the line-up at steampunk events is very similar.

This Way to the Egress went on at 9PM and were fantastic.  They won over the crowd and had people dancing all over the place for their whole set.  Their music is a huge mash of styles, with a lot of swing, vaudeville, and a huge number of instruments.  The closest influence I could name is Gogol Bordello, but with a lot more swing. Check them out here.

Psyche Corporation went on later, close to 11PM.  Their sound was a big change from Egress, a lot more down-beat. (Check them out here.) The lead singer has a good voice, but the songs were dreamy and sparse, which may not have been ideal for so late at night after a day of con.  I don't think I was the only one who found myself feeling really tired.  In general they are similar in style to Unwoman, with the soaring voice and cello, but I have to say based on what I've seen Unwoman does it with a lot more energy and success.

The Ball ended fairly quickly as people left to either find beds or wilder parties, I assume.  We were out of there by midnight, though it was scheduled for DJ and dancing to continue until 2AM.
A gentleman with a serious prosthetic.

As far as other steampunk programming for the weekend, I have to confess I attended none of it.  There were the usual panels.  I intended to attend a couple of them on Saturday but I missed both: one due to traffic and parking problems and one because I decided I needed to visit the dealer's room instead once I learned it closed at 6PM.  Several of my friends were at the con promoting the in-progress steampunk film Aether, so you should check it out.

There was a Steampunk Afternoon Tea presented by Durian Grey.  It was actually a murder mystery tea with an additional cost of $35.  I was originally glad to see a tea on the schedule, but couldn't afford to attend.  In the evening was the Goblin Market, a unique role-playing experience presented by some of the steampunks.  It also had a cost for entry of $10.  I wanted to attend, but my back didn't make it till 8PM.

The con as a whole was typically A-kon: big, crowded, intense.  This was my first time at their current venue, and it's a big improvement on their old one.  The Hilton Anatole is a huge complex, so that while it's still crowded and overwhelming, you don't have to physically struggle through crowds.  There were lines everywhere for everything from getting into the dealer's room to getting food (thank god for all the food trucks, though).   I wish the temperature had been a bit cooler through the con, but it was 95 degrees out and it's a big place to air condition, so they can only do so much, I guess.  I still don't know how people in heavy costumes do it, though.  I dressed for comfort and coolness both
My friend, Moira McCrae showing her colors.
days and was still sweaty.

The Artist's Alley was awesome, with very nice stuff and lots of talent on display.  The Dealer's room was a bit of a disappointment, though.  I remember A-kon as having an AMAZING dealer's room, but this time it seemed most of the dealer's were selling the same things and almost all of it was anime or manga related.  While, yes, ok, it's an anime con, I still would have liked to see a broader selection of general geek stuff.  There was only one vendor selling games, for example, and not even much selection of t-shirts.  My only purchases were one "Welcome to Nightvale" sticker for myself and a Star Wars tee for my husband.  And pocky.  We bought a couple small things in Artist Alley for friends as well.

So that was my con, essentially.  This took me so many days to post because I'm having problems with Blogger and it wouldn't upload photos for me.  I'll have another post about some of my recent projects with more maker details.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Corset Review: Corset Story Black Label Waist Taming Corset

As I explained in my last post, I've never been a big fan of the largest corset retailer out there, Corset Story.   So I was a little surprised to be contacted by the company's CEO and asked to review their newest corsets.  But also intrigued.

I received two corsets, one of which I reviewed on Monday.  Today I'll be talking about the corset I received from the "Waist Taming" line. Their marketing materials say of these corsets: "Our patterns, measurements and fit are better than ever as we have undertaken robust market research and listened to our customer feedback so that our new elegant Waist Taming corsets can be worn by a wide variety of body shapes and sizes. We believe we have crafted our most comfortable waist training corset to date!"

The corset I chose was the Classic Overbust with Hip Gores. They also have one with "hip panels" which may have been a better choice in hindsight as the hips look larger, but I liked the look of this one the most.  The Waist Taming line is sold by waist measurement instead of dress size like other CS corsets.  I ordered the size recommended by their charts, which was 34".  I would probably normally order a 32" corset, but I have put a little weight on recently so I went by what my waist measurement currently suggested.  According to the website, ideally these provide 3-4" of waist reduction.

When my corset arrived, my first impressions were pretty favorable.  In comparison with the Instant Shape model I received with it (which I reviewed here) it is about twice as heavy and feels much sturdier. I was also immediately impressed to see it's made with an extra wide (1 inch on each side) busk, which is pretty rare to find.  I personally prefer the extra wide busks because they're more durable, so this is a definite step up.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Corset Review: Corset Story Black Label Instant Shape Corset

The most popular post on this blog is Where Not to Buy a Corset, Part 2: Corset Story.  It's so popular, it apparently attracted the attention of Corset Story themselves.  I was contacted by the CEO of Corset Story and asked if I would review their newest lines of corsets.  They feel they have taken steps to improve the quality and address some of the problems myself and other corset blogger have pointed out about their products.

Intrigued, I agreed to give an honest review in return for receiving two free corsets, one in the "Instant Shape" line and one in the "Waist Taming" line.  After thinking about it for a bit, I decided that knowing I have a very difficult to fit figure, maybe I should involve someone  else in the testing.  I chose my friend Susan, who has recently started performing burlesque.  She and I are both plus-size, but have very different shapes, so I thought it would be interesting to see how these corsets fit us.  We both chose our size based on the Corset Story website sizing guidelines and recommendations.
Product photo from the website.

I'll be starting with the Instant Shape today.  This is the lower level item, ranging in price from $80-95.  The one we ordered was the Classic Overbust with Halterneck Strap.  Corset Story's advertising claims these Instant Shape corsets "helps your waist look one size slimmer and more shapely, instantly."  They also state they are not intended to reduce the waist by more than 2 inches.  The big change from their previous standard corsets are that they are now advertising spiral steel boning instead of the heavy flat steel they previously used which made their corsets so stiff.

Because my guinea pig took her corset home with her, I didn't tear it apart to see what was inside.  However, CS conveniently includes an example of the boning on the tag of the corset.  This is nice, I'm really glad to see they are not being evasive about their materials.  So here is the boning from the Instant Shape card next to the boning from the "Waist Taming" card.

See how itty bitty that bone on the left is?  The one on the right is what I would consider a "normal" 1/4" spiral steel bone.  I've never seen anything like the little skinny thing on the left.

 The website refers to these as 4mm spiral steel.  To check, I measured it, and yup, that seems pretty close.  The regular one is 7mm.  So this is really light boning, and there's not very much of it.  It's exaggerated by the fact the example I got is a size 22,   One bone on each seam can be enough for a smaller size, but those seams get pretty far apart in the larger sizes.  I always prefer having at least one bone in the middle of the panel for larger sizes.

In addition to the boning, this corset feels lightweight and flimsy all around.  The exterior fabric is a nice color, but has a cheap feel to it.  The interior fabric is a thin twill, and it feels like those are the only two layers in the corset.  The seams and bones are reinforced with interior twill casings that feel pretty secure, though.  If a bone works it's way through the fabric I would imagine it would come out the front rather than the back.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sewing Tool: Frixion Gel Pens

I want to share a little tip with y'all.  I've recently been using Frixion pens as a marking tool and they are really neat.

I heard about them from other corsetmakers who use them to mark bone channels and seam allowances.  They aren't designed as sewing tools, but as erasable gel pens.  They erase from the heat of friction, which means the heat of an iron makes the ink magically disappear.

See what I mean:

 Here I've drawn a straight line with the blue pen on some scrap white coutil.  I've been using this to mark the stitching lines for all the channels on my 18th century corset and it's really useful.

And here's what happens when you hit it with an iron.  It's instant, so you have to be careful if you're ironing something and don't WANT to erase all your lines yet.

And here it is completely ironed.  You can see the ink totally disappears.  Here you can make out the white line where it was, but it's not something you'd spot from any distance and it doesn't show up on most fabrics.  Always test your fabrics first, of course.

The only problem with these is they don't work on black so I still have to use chalk a lot of the time.

I also was recently making some little storage bags and realized how super useful they were for marking all the pocket lines and zipper lines, etc.  So I thought I'd share since they are so useful for all kinda of sewing.

Monday, May 18, 2015

State of the Baroness May 2015

So, what have I been up to?  Well, as I mentioned previously, my husband and I have been doing a lot of home improvement projects.  We painted our kitchen cabinets and are just finishing painting one of our bathrooms.  We had a big yard sale to get rid of a lot of stuff.

And I've been rearranging and organizing my sewing room.  We got rid of a computer desk and a sewing cabinet that was in there in the yard sale, and Justin (my husband) just finished some big shelves in their place to hold all my STUFF.

I've been working on a few corset commissions here and there, and also doing some sewing for myself.  I'm still working on my steampunk stays, if you remember my post about fitting back many months ago. They're almost finished, but I'm hand-sewing the binding on, which is a PITA and taking forever.  Here's a photo of them without binding or straps.

I've made myself a few quick pieces as well.  I realized I had a real hole in my steampunk wardrobe for casual steampunk clothing.  I had only two yards of this awesome Tim Holtz measuring tape fabric that I originally bought for a bag.  But I used every last inch of it, and made myself a skirt.  Then I used the Laughing Moon underbust pattern and made myself a lightweight waist cincher out of faux leather.  Here's those two items together.

The top is a silk thrift store top and the hat is a vintage one I picked up at an estate sale last weekend.  I bought 4 black velvet hats!  I'll be selling the rest of them.

I have several things on the horizon.  I haven't attended any cons FOREVER, partly for health reasons, partly for financial reasons.  I've had to reevaluate my business and if vending events is really a good financial decision, in many cases deciding it isn't.

But I am super excited because I WILL be attending A-Kon in Dallas in June.  A-Kon was my very first con, and my first time dressing steampunk, but I haven't been able to make it back for years.  I was offered the opportunity to vend at the steampunk ball on Friday night of the con, so I'll be doing that, and also enjoying the rest of the con as an attendee for once!  This means I suddenly need to get finished with some projects I've been meaning to do for a while.

I also am planning two corset making workshops this summer, and I've been doing some prep work for those, but the details aren't firm yet.

So that's what I'm up to.  Mostly.  :)