Monday, May 30, 2011

One Project, Two Project, Three Project, Four...

Mint & Lavender
There is nothing so divine as walking into my house from the garden and being enveloped by the sent of mint and lavender drying. It is hot today (the temperature here in Dayton is expected to top-out just above 90 degrees), but the sun is shining and the humidity is low - a perfect day for harvesting and drying fresh herbs. Ohio has been inundated with so much rain over the last two months that despite this unexpected heatwave, the blazing sun is more than a welcome sight! Finally, my musty world is drying out a bit - lol!

Simplicity 0663 (8855 or 3623)
Over the last week, I have managed to work on my Celtic dress a bit here and there. I have the bodice fitted properly and constructed (I have also added a peplum, which is not pictured here) - I just need to insert some heavy boning in the center front, pound in the grommets, and sew on all the decorative elements (and that means hand sewing - although hand sewing takes time, I find that I have better control over the details and the finished look is far more polished and exact). I'm not really loving this pattern - Simplicity 0663 (or 3623). The bodice is super easy to construct and I do find the squared shape of the neckline and armholes interesting, but the overall construction of the blouse is ridiculously over-worked. For all the steps and plackets and pattern pieces it takes to make the shirt to this dress, it would be less time-consuming and frustrating to construct an authentic Irish leine - lol! And that's not all! Even after cutting a size 12 (I'm roughly a 16 in the tailoring world and a 14 in the retail world), I still had to downsize the bodice pattern to an 8! WTFrench-toast? This particular bodice is meant to be well-fitted and figure enhancing (not suffocatingly tight, but snug enough to boost the girls a bit and trim the waist just an inch or so). So, fair warning: if you own this pattern or you are wanting to buy this pattern, the bodice will be HUGE (a couple to several sizes larger) in comparison to the skirt and shirt patterns. Oopsie, Simplicity!

In the meantime, I have been gearing up for some home improvement and sewing projects that I need to work on over the summer, and these will be all the easier to accomplish now that school is in its final week (thank heaven!- I am so burnt and so are my students). One of my biggest projects is to freshen-up my kitchen (I am keeping the vintage elements to it, like my cabinets - they may be old, but they are beautiful, so why replace them?). One of the new elements I will be adding to my renewed kitchen is an area to store all of my herbs, dry them, and prepare them for medicinal uses so that I can work more efficiently. Yesterday, the hubs and I went out and I purchased new air-tight glass storage jars (my old ones will be passed on or recycled) and sometime this week I hope to head over to the hardware store to grab some hooks to install for air drying (speaking of which - I need new screens for sun drying). It's all coming together - one finished project at a time!

Happy sewing (and painting, and gardening, and etc.)!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Got Ghillies (Silly Nillie)?

Corrected pattern -vs- original pattern
Tonia has just informed me that the next Dinner In A Costume for our collaborative costume blog, The Emerald Parlor, will be the weekend of her birthday in late June - and the theme will be Celtic! This is convenient, indeed, considering I am presently constructing Simplicity's Women's Celtic dress pattern for a pattern review. The Women's Celtic dress was released three times - I have the original from 1998 (Simplicity 0663), which was repackaged and renumbered that same year as pattern number 8855. Simplicity 8855 was discontinued a few years later, only to be brought back a few years ago as patten number 3623. Tonia and I have looked at the patterns to determine if Simplicity has  made any structural changes to it over the years, and they haven't. All three editions of the patterns are identical, so don't get suckered into buying the rarer 0663 package when the other two (8855 & 3623) will make the exact same costume - :)

Ooooo, aaahhh!
Anyway, I started to construct the Celtic dress this week, and as usual, I never use the skirt pattern - I always make my own. I finished the skirt in an evening. However, when I got to the bodice pattern, I noticed that my size (a 16 in most dress patterns) looked particularity large. And so did the 14 (my retail dress size). I cut out a 12, and dang if I still didn't need to take in the bodice pattern at the bust! lol! I gave Tonia a ring and asked her if she had the same issue with her pattern (she has the newer 3623) and she told me yes - so, the over-sizing is consistent across all the editions of the Women's Celtic dress pattern, as well - lol! For the fabric, I'm using a quality green and navy plaid cotton for the bodice and a medium-weight, navy cotton blend for the skirt - I love the colors and can't wait to see the whole dress put together.

New patterns to construct and review
Also this week, because I was inspired by all the lovely costumes my sisters had made for themselves and me, I decided to order some patterns from Truly Victorian. Both Tonia and PJ loved the patterns, so what choice did I have but to purchase a few of my own to construct and review? :) Although I draft most of my personal patterns from historical references and art works that I admire, it is so important for the novice or beginner sewer to have solid references from seasoned sewers about particular patterns and notions to help guide them. Again, when Tonia and I started out, there wasn't The Great Pattern Review, or any other public resource to help us determine what patterns were good and what patterns were not. We had to wing it.  With so many pattern companies to purchase from, it's good to have a reliable source to use when determining what patterns to use (especially regarding theatrical patterns, which vary in quality and price so drastically that the task of choosing anything can be discouraging). I'm looking forward to experimenting and constructing a few of these Truly Vicky patterns just in time for the Old West Festival in October! Yeehaw! 

Dang, I just realized I need to purchase a pair of ghillies! Better get on that! lol!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

Tarragon, Chives, Lemon Balm, Oregano
Saturday before all the girls arrived for the Ladies' Tea, I spent my morning out in my garden harvesting some herbs - chives, tarragon, lemon balm, and oregano. It's strange collecting the first harvest of the year so early (June is usually when I pull out the shears), but it's all this rain, rain, and more rain! I believe, if I heard correctly, that Ohio has surpassed the average rainfall for May by 3x. While my garden might love it, by basement sure doesn't. I own a 100-year old house - in my neighborhood, on a good rainy day, you can hear the hum and squeal of shop vacuums sounding from every direction - lol! And it's not just the rain, but the freaky temperature - 40s and 50s during the day? In May? Last week, we Ohioans had this three-day 85 degree spell with 90% humidity. What's up with that? Mama Nature needs a Xanax, already - lol!

Despite the strange weather conditions looming over the great Buckeye State, I refuse to believe that summer isn't coming, so I started working on some summer clothes last night, completing a little chiffon halter top I plan on wearing to the Kent State Costume Museum in June with Tonia, PJ, and Elma. Picture it: My chiffon halter with a red tube-top or bandeau, dark-blue skinny jeans, wedge sandals, hair piled  on top of my head, and rocking some red door-knocker earrings? Sweet! lol! 

This little number didn't take me but a couple hours to make last night. I double layered the chiffon to make the halter more opaque and less flimsy. I thought about making a belt for it, but with the neck tie in the back, I thought this might be a bit much and take away from the aesthetic of the halter. Anyway, I love it!

Now, if the rain would stop, the skies clear up, and the sun shine a bit...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I've Got All My Sisters With Me...

Where to begin?

My Friday 13th was a week long affair it seemed, beginning last Saturday when I was constructing my second attempt at an Edwardian costume for the Ladies' Tipsy Tea. While cutting out the over-skirt to my ensemble, I was cutting too fast, slipped and cut a perfect slice right in the center the fabric. All I could do was stand there for a minute and let it sink in what I had done. I pulled out the remainder of the fabric in hopes of squeezing out another skirt panel, but to my dismay I discovered I was a 1/2 yard too short. And, it's not like I could have run to the fabric store to get more. I had bought this fabric 12-13 years ago and safely stored it in an airtight bin until I found a use for it. I was disgusted with myself. How careless of me - and all done in haste! After losing my teaching position the day before and the Ladies Tea just a week away, I blew a fuse. I took everything I had sewn for my costume at this point, dumped it in the wastebasket, tied up the bag and hauled it all to the dumpster. I couldn't even look at it. I spent the rest on my evening listening to Tchaikovsky and cleaning my sewing room. 

Tonia & PJ's handiwork...
I sent Tonia a text on Monday and told her that I would not be sporting a costume for the Ladies' Tea - I explained that I was tired and frustrated and worried; however, I did not mind attending the tea "naked" if she and the other girls didn't mind. Of course, she called me right away. At first I was resistant to her suggestion that she and PJ put their fingers to the grindstone and make me a gown - my goodness, the tea was a mere few days away and they had just barely finished their own costumes, let alone being strapped with a project for me. I suggested that maybe we could all dress in one of our other era costumes, like our Renaissance ensembles. Well, the other ladies were not having any of that considering all of them had put so much time into their Victorian gowns - can you blame them? I relented. Tonia and PJ set to work constructing for me a costume, and I went to work hawking for a new job! 

Job hunting attire...
But the graciousness and support of friends did not stop here! On the morning of Friday 13th, as I was heading out the door for school, I get a text from my supervisor. She says, "Good morning! ;) Are you happy today? I am! :)" I text her back and say, "Uh oh! lol! What sort of wickedness are you in to?" She tells me that she just received some good news and she is very happy. I tell her that I am on my way in and that she can give me the skinny when I get there. She sends a text back that says, "I heard that you already heard? (rolls eyes) - see the principal when you get in." Oh, boy. Shortly after I arrive, it is explained to me that the high school principal, the high school supervisor, the middle school supervisor, and the elementary supervisor went to the school administration and supported my case. My supervisor went in armed with my syllabi and lesson plans, and explained that since I have been there, the students have responded positively to changes that she and I have made to the English program, their grades have increased, and so has their enthusiasm to learn. In short, my position as the high school Language Arts Teacher has been reinstated. I was not only surprised by the good news, but I am deeply thankful for the confidence and loyalty of my colleagues and friends - wow! 

Dublin Pub, Dayton, Ohio: Elma, PJ, (our fabu server) Trish, Tonia, me
Yesterday, as if the events on Friday weren't good enough, when the girls arrived for the Ladies' Tipsy Tea, they presented me with a lovely green Victorian day jacket and walking skirt, a sensational hat, white satin gloves, and a matching umbrella - they are too good to me! lol! And off we girls went to the Dublin Pub for good food, excellent service, and quite a bit of attention from the other guests! lol! We had a wonderful time! The evening was capped-off with a leisurely stroll in the Oregon District and then tea and dessert at my house before everyone headed home. Let me tell you, it was a wonderfully unexpected  and delightful finale to an otherwise dismal week (I think it's good to be shaken-up a bit sometimes - makes the blessings that come more profound and appreciated) - ;)

For more details regarding the 2011 Ladies' Tipsy Tea, please visit The Emerald Parlor - there's a load of pictures documenting the event and some great information about the places we visited in case anyone has an opportunity to visit the Gem City (Dayton's very cool nickname). 

Happy sewing!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shotgun Susie Sunshine

It's been a tough week at school. I was told Friday that I would not be asked back for the 2011-2012 school year due to school budget constraints. I felt worse for the principal, who had to give me the news (considering I had accepted his request to stay for another year not two weeks ago), than for myself - he was not happy about the decision to let me go (to say the least), and expressed his appreciation for my dedication and service to the school. The worst part of this news is the impact my leaving may have on the kids, especially academically - it is no secret that the old English curriculum needed amped up, and over the last year (with the school supervisor's guidance and suggestions), I was able to change much of the program, getting my students excited about English. The kids not only met my educational challenges, they did so with a winning spirit and a winning attitude! Their academic success and enthusiasm toward the changes in the English program this year encouraged the school's move toward greater educational possibilities -  in response, the high school supervisor and I had put together a new and comprehensive college preparatory English curriculum which was to be introduced at the start of the 2011-2012 school year. With my leaving, I am afraid that the new program may not be implemented at all, and if it is, it will be taught with little enthusiasm or approval by the person who I know to be taking over my position (God bless my supervisor - she has many challenges ahead of her). Despite these developments, I still have students to teach and exams to get them ready for, and many people to thank for enriching my experience at the school - teaching there has certainly been a blessing in my life. 

In the meantime, I have to get on the ball! I realized that the loss of my teaching position is a perfect opportunity for me to actually open my Etsy shop and begin marketing my line of fine outerwear (which I have put off for almost two years). When I closed my shop at the Renaissance festival in 2008 (after ten very successful seasons), I put my business aspirations to the side for a while - I needed the break. But I have come to miss being a successful business owner; more so, I miss designing an exceptional product that brings joy to my customers. Since I am no longer confined by the product guidelines and mandates of the festival's jury as to what I can and cannot design and sell, I can now create what I damn well please, and this fills me with great excitement and anticipation (maybe a little fear thrown in there, but this is a good thing). I certainly don't lack ambition or motivation, which means I plan to have my fall collection of coats and jackets introduced on Etsy by August. It's a tall order, but I am up for the challenge. And you get to witness it all (Oh, noes! That means I'd better be on my game!) - lol! 

Happy sewing! 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Red Stiletto Conspiracy & Cut-work Velvet Debacle

It is a corporate conspiracy. DSW simply does not want me to own a pair of red stilettos - at least not the pair that I have been watching since February! The minute I left work on Friday, I bolted over there to see if my beloved, patten leather pumps were on sale like the clerk told me they would be. Uhhh...NO! I did purchase the same shoe in nude, however, which I had planned to do anyway and in addition to the red pair. While up at the register I asked the clerk (not the same gal - this one seemed to have all the light bulbs on) when my coveted stilettos would go on sale, explaining that I was in two weeks ago and the clerk whom I had spoken to then assured me they would be. To my disappointment, this clerk apologized and told me that she could not say, and that corporate office may or may not put them on sale - it's anyone's guess. "Keep checking back," is all she could say. Yes, yes I will, because I am obsessed with this shoe and I'm too damned thrifty to pay full-price! lol!

On the sewing front, I have not had a cooperative week! I started on my Tipsy Tea gown (which is in less than two weeks - yikes!) by scaling the skirt pattern and constructing it first because the draping of the cut-work velvet concerned me. I was correct in my suspicion - the velvet is too light and flimsy to hang correctly from the waist with any shape or form. My daughter tells me I am being too critical of my work and that the skirt looked fine (she's so sweet) - ahhh, but don't let the picture fool you! It might look good modeled on my manikin, but on me it is quite another story! It is what the skirt does when I walk and turn, etc., etc. It gets caught up and it doesn't maintain its shape. I thought I would take the skirt up a bit - the movement was better, but the over-all shape of the skirt was not what I imagined. It no longer looks graceful but rather frumpy. I took the skirt off of Bertie (yes, she is fixed - a couple of her screws just needed tightening - :) ) and put it away. I was pretty irritated about it, but with any creative endeavor, sometimes an element doesn't work, and in this case, it was the weight of the cut-velvet. C'est la vie...

I plan on recycling the velvet skirt into a swanky peasant shirt - my daughter tells me she doesn't like the hot pink voile and that I should use a light neutral color - we will see! As for my Tipsy Tea gown, I have started on a completely new look that involves a crisp, white shirtwaist, vest, and hobble skirt, and yes, the weight of the fabric is appropriate this time! lol! My patterns are all prepared and cut, and my corset is nearly finished - I just need to high-tail my butt in gear and get'r done! After this project, however, I am going to take a costuming break and construct myself some real world clothing. As a teaching professional I have to dress in a professional manner. The issue is that I refuse to pay $200+ for a suit as Macy's, and as you have concluded, I am no spendthrift - I have been waiting for 12 weeks to buy a particular pair of red stilettos, for heaven's sake, because I refuse to pay $70 - lol! And, there is this little 1950s style sundress I have been wanting to make myself for a couple years now - it's high and time that I do! 

Happy sewing!