Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Make Your Own Cross Stitch Pattern

I said I'd do an update on Sforza and Gaddi, but well, this isn't it.

If you're like me, you've found that you're unsatisfied with following the readymade cross stitch patterns on the market. You might, like me, long to create your own pieces. And, like me, you probably don't want to spend money on software to do it for you. I'm poor folk, and I can't afford a fancy schmancy computer program - Adobe already emptied my pockets.

Doing it by hand is easier than you might think. First and foremost, decide on what you want to embroider. If you have a photo or printout, you're about halfway there. If you're like me and can't find a big enough jpeg to print, you do it by hand on tracing paper.

Next step is to get ahold of some 1/16" graph paper. I can't afford to buy a pad, so my awesome boyfriend printed a few sheets for me. Slap your original image onto a light table, and tape it well while you're down there. Next, tape your (makeshift) graph paper on top of the image/drawing. If you, again, are like me and can't afford a light table, you can flip a clear plastic bin over and stick a bright light under it. Cheap and effective.

The next bit is coloring your graph paper square by square. This part is a bit of a painstaking process. Fortunately, after years of "dolling" I'm used to drawing one pixel at a time, so this part isn't so bad. Here's a snippet of what I've got so far. I'll be slowly working on this over the next few/several weeks/months, in between paying stuff. Here's hoping I don't forget about it in the meantime.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Evolution of a Corset

This entry is going to be somewhat image-heavy, mostly because I don't have a lot to say about the project. The sky blue corset I've been working on is nearing completion - all that's left at this point is adding grommets. But since that's the only thing left, I'm going ahead and creating an entry as if it were done. Because I can.

Here is a picture from after I had assembled all the fabric bits and threw it on my form. I like putting things on dress forms often, because I like checking and making sure everything is about where I want it. Plus, it's just plain satisfying.

Aaaand, here's a shot of it, as I was adding boning and channels.

Exciting, right? Maybe only for me. Next is one of the bias binding, and a closeup of some of the flossing.

Flossing was originally added to help keep bones in their channels, thus avoiding issues of them popping through stitching and/or the fabric, itself. The technique quickly evolved to become more than just functional, and there are some beautiful examples of flossing in period and modern corsetry. Mine isn't particularly beautiful or refined, and it doesn't take theform of flowers and the like, but I do enjoy it, nonetheless. Like embroidery, it's soothing to do and helps complete the overall look.

Nice effect, huh?

And lastly, the finished corset.

I'm very satisfied with the finished product. This corset would look better on a body than my crappy form, but it definitely achieves the look I was going for: feminine, soft, pretty. 

What I learned from this project:
Not much, really, though I did enjoy working on it. I did learn that Ageless Patterns isn't much help, beyond just the basic pattern. If I ever need to make something I've never done, I won't buy a pattern from this company. The stitching on the corset isn't as perfectly symmetrical as I'd like, but it's still quite satisfactory. 
After I get the grommets in, this piece will be delivered to its new owner, and I'll be taking measurements to get her gown underway.

Up Next: Luigi Gaddi and Mario Sforza

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Update on the Russian Court Dress

Back to work on the corset! I'm almost done, which is rather exciting. The bias binding is now sewn down, and I am currently working on flossing the thing. I'm planning on being done with the corset within the week, and moving on to the dress.

This weekend, I was also able to fit the giubonni for Mario Sforza and Luigi Gaddi, so there will be updates involving those, as soon as I get the muslins trued up and adjust my patterns. Exciting! For me, anyway.

In other unrelated news, I got engaged over the weekend! Yay, me! And my fiancé, of course. We're not getting hitched for a little while, as we have other ducks to queue up, first (even though I'm already planning things in my head). But Yay! I swore to myself years ago that I wouldn't become a wedding-obsessed-type. We'll see how well that pans out.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Non-Update, aka Revisiting Old Work

So, Halloween has just passed, which means that up until this week, I was busy working odd hours and fighting illness (every year, I get sick. It's tradition, now). But now the chaos of haunted events and the Playboy Mansion is over, and I have some fun stuff to report: The busk for the late Victorian/Edwardian corset arrived, which means I can finally get going on it, again. And while I was waiting on the busk, I got a doublet and sleeves drafted for Luigi Gaddi. Progress! That said, I don't have much else to post about, so I'm showing a veste I worked on last Winter/Spring.

The Chocolate Veste
This was the inspiration portrait. I have no idea who painted it. The woman who wanted it for Southern Faire was keen on keeping her original main color, which was a black/orange shot taffeta, which reads as brown. Because she was playing a Baronessa, we chose to trim her veste in a subdued gold that reads like gold with extra nickel in it. This was the second Italian dress I'd worked on, and the first noble costume. This costume had a number of challenges. First and foremost, the woman who commissioned it was planning on losing weight. A lot of weight. between her first corset fitting and the final veste, she lost somewhere between 4 and 6 inches in her waist. This was awesome for her, but quite challenging for me. Also, San Lorenzo, the guild we're in, has a history of trouble with collars on vesti. Women either had collar flop, or resorted to inserting boning. After trying two different collars on my toiles, I realized I could just make a built up collar that was an extension of the bodice.

Pretty satisfying. So far, this is just one layer each of taffeta and cotton canvas, with two lines of trim to cover the shoulder seam. So, first hurdle was complete. Next up, the dreaded baragoni. The portrait had four rows of loops, so I attempted to do what I could to achieve the same look.

My baragoni are definitely bigger. But, in this case, I was okay with that. The woman who commissioned this veste has a broader ribcage and hips than the little young thing in the portrait, and the larger baragoni really help to show off her ever-diminishing waist. I ended up started with a short sleeve as the base for the baragoni, before tacking down strips of taffeta and trim. It was a simple solution, and a pretty effective one, if I may say so. I have no clue if this is the way it was done during this period, but it was the most straightforward method I could come up with.

And this was the veste, once I attached the skirts, which were padded and pleated in the usual way. See how tiny that waist looks, between the baragoni and the skirts? And I swear this dress isn't as shiny in person; the flourescent lights in the shop are reeeeaaaally making it look funny.

What I Would Do Differently
What did I take away from this project? Overall, I like it. The veste looks like a chocolate box, which pleases me. However, next time, I will do my damnedest to convince the next person that they should really be wearing two layers (a sottana AND a veste), as it never looks right otherwise and creates extra issues that have to be solved in a theatrical manner, instead of maintaining a better level of period accuracy (like adding a zipper to keep the skirts from gapping in front). I would love to never ever put another zipper into a Renaissance costume. Ever. That said, you can't actually see the zipper, so it works from a theatrical standpoint. But everything would have been much more satisfying if I had made two whole garments.

Up Next...
The corset to go with the Russian Court dress, and some toiles for Mario Sforza and Luigi Gaddi.