I’ve had to take a close look at my costume plans for this year’s Dragoncon and do some scaling back. I’ve got a massive deadline that basically coincides with the convention (yay!) but it means the majority of my non-work time this summer will be spent working instead on that project.

getting started

On the upside, it’s forcing me to not procrastinate when it comes to the two costumes I decided to make. I’m already in the thick of it with the most labor-intensive of the two I’m planning to make: the neo-Victorian Snow Queen. I’m using my existing Truly Victorian corset (which I need to rebind) and bustle underneath and revisiting the TV Vested Basque and Trained Skirt Ensembles for remainder. These are the same patterns I used for last year’s Night Circus costume, which makes things a bit easier on me: no drafting or working with new patterns. I am making a couple of modifications, mostly to the skirt, to accommodate trim and also to make sure I actually have a skirt that’s long enough to wear with shoes. Unlike the Night Circus costume…

Of course I have to amp up the difficulty level a bit and am making a Victorian riding hat from a pattern by Lynn McMasters. I’ve had the supplies and pattern for years but just couldn’t get started. It’s amazing what a little incentive and vision can do to get you moving!

hat in progress

Did I mention how much of this hat involves handsewing?

I more or less raided my stash for the fabrics I’m using for this project. I picked up a nice chunk of aqua no-wale (featherwale) corduroy at JA five or six years ago. It’s a lovely, lightweight but plush cotton cord that looks a bit like velveteen. I did not have enough fabric for the skirt in my stash (it’s about 5 yards) so grabbed some stretch sateen in white at JA (surprise!). I know a lot of costumers look down on fabric from the chain but I’m on a budget and wanted to be able to get more easily if something messed up.

For the vest part of the basque, I grabbed some of the Timeless Treasures Pearle in white. It’s got a bit of a frosty look to it, which I think will be a great detail to play against the aqua.

The finishing touch for the outfit will be the white faux fur I’m using for trim on the hem of the skirt and the cuff and collars of the jacket. Yes, this is for a convention on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta where the average daily temperature hovers around 90 degrees. Yes, I am going to sweat to death. Yes, I am crazy.

skirt progress

I was inspired by another Victorian gown (OK, actually several) I ran across on Pinterest and decided to embroider snowflakes on both the skirt and jacket. There are a dozen on the center front panel of the skirt and another 20 arcing up on the rear train of the skirt. I chose two colors for the skirt snowflakes — aqua and silver — which I thought would play nicely against the white. Because it is a HUGE expanse of white. I could host a circus under that skirt! And since I can’t do anything the easy way…I’m hand beading to accentuate each snowflake. All 32.

beading

It’s a little more than 100 days until DragonCon and I’m thinking I need to actually get started on sewing if I want to have my costumes ready in plenty of time. I always start out with the best intentions but procrastination gets the best of me and I’m lucky to have my plans solidified by August 1.

I tend to start thinking about costumes before the current con has even ended. This year is no different! I think I actually had four or five ideas on the table but practicality is winning out and I’m going to have to scale that back to two or three costumes. Fortunately I actually have been buying fabric — and even decided on one that will use a fabric from my stash — so now I need to just force myself to get working.

1174569_10151722137223387_505476339_nFirst up is a costume based off this work by artist Michael Dooney, an 1887 version of Selene from Underwood. I seriously have a thing for Victorian-era costumes and I’m thinking about doing the corset in leather — always a great choice for Atlanta in the dog days of summer. *eyeroll*

riddlersuit

Frank Gorshin’s Riddler from the 1960s Batman TV show has always been a favorite of mine. My version will be much more feminine. It may also be the only non-period costume I make for DC. I’m not 100 percent certain whether I’ll cover the suit in question marks — but I have some great ideas for doing them if I go ahead with them!

4a682d87262d6279ecf32b18cede4fcbI fell in love with this Victorian ensemble the moment I saw it. It’s serving as the inspiration for another costume — again, seasonally appropriate — that I’m planning to embellish with lots of machine embroidery and beading. I have nearly all of the fabric for this one and will use the same Truly Victorian patterns I used for last year’s Night Circus costumes as the starting point. I’m also thinking of blogging my progress with this one as the summer progresses, to help keep me motivated.

 

 

 

I never intended to make quilts. My mother was a quilter, meticulously piecing and quilting by hand. The idea of following in her footsteps never crossed my mind. Yet here I am, decades after swearing I’d never make a quilt, not only making them but designing them. And now I’m teaching others how to piece quilts. Crazy!

Sarah and I just finished the second session of our block-of-the-month at Intown Quilters. It is so incredibly fun to go and encourage people to make these blocks each month with one of my dearest friends! When she brought up the idea of us doing this back in November, my first reaction was “Me? Really?” But then we started bouncing quilt ideas off each other and were in love with many of the same things and, well, one thing led to another…

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The Starfall quilt by Fresh Lemon Quilts was the starting point for our BOM. The designer graciously allowed us to use it for this purpose, which meant adding enough stars to it for the program to work as a block-of-the-month quilt.


Sarah and I took completely different approaches to the quilt when it came to choosing our fabrics. Both quilts were quilted by Regina Carter — I love how she chose quilting patterns that are so different yet work so well to play up the design of each quilt!

Our Christmas gift from my parents this year was a week-long trip to Orlando with visits to Disney World and Universal Studios Florida. It was, in a word, magical. The weather was perfect and our anticipation of the heavy holiday crowds helped us prepare for the parks and get the most out of our trip.

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This was our second trip with Miss L to Disney but the first since the Fantasyland expansion opened, so it was a must-see for us. Her grandparents were up for spoiling her on this trip so we started the visit with a makeover at the Bippidi Bobbidi Boutique, then hit up the rides. She loves meeting characters so there was a fair amount of getting in line for those experiences — including a mad dash to Belle’s storytime cottage when we arrived on the second day — but it was worth it. We also managed to convince her to try Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain Railroad, which were hits.

The crowds were pretty insane — Christmas Eve, especially — but we still managed to see and do everything we wanted during our two days there. I even had my first Dole Whip (it was good but I don’t know if I’d wait in line that long for a second one).

I was really looking forward to visiting Universal Studios Island of Adventures for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I loved the books — and the movies — and couldn’t wait to experience it. Miss L, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less. She’d never seen the movies and wasn’t terribly interested in the first book, which I’d downloaded to the Kindle she received for Christmas.

Until our second day.

photo 1

I don’t know if it was the fourth butter beer of the week or her third time on the Flight of the Hippogriff coaster but 90 minutes into the day, she grabbed my hand while standing in the middle of Hogsmeade and proclaimed, “I’m going to become a Harry Potter fan, Mama!”

The girl who showed zero interest in Harry Potter before that day then chose Ginny Weasley’s wand for her trip souvenir (surprisingly less expensive than I would have thought — seriously, the T-shirts at Universal are $28; the wands, $32.95). And then she read. And read. And read.

photo 3

She’d nearly finished the first book in the series by the time we made it home. She’s since finished two more and would be further along if she didn’t have to wait for next month to roll around to borrow the next book from the Kindle Lending Library.

And, yes, she’ll be a Gryffindor for Halloween this year. I’m already collecting items for her costume.

I have intended to start a regular feature like this for some time but just haven’t gotten myself going on it. Times, they are a changing!

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I designed this beach bag for Westminster Fibers last year to showcase the Beach line of fabric by David Walker. It’s a nice, roomy tote with a flat bottom, exterior pocket and interfaced with Soft n Stable so it doesn’t droop. I’ve made a couple for gifts; they’re really easy to sew and can be personalized in so many ways (I’m thinking laminated cotton for the exterior!)

Here’s what you need to make one:

Exterior: 7/8 yard (.81m)
Lining: 7/8 yard (.81m)
Straps: 3/8 yard (.343m)
Pocket: 1/4 yard (.229m)
Binding: 1/4 yard (.229m)
1/4 yard (.229m) of heavyweight fusible interfacing
7/8 yard (.81m) of By Annie’s Soft n Stable
3/8 yard (.343m) of 3/8” elastic

The nice folks at Westminster have the instructions in handy PDF format here for downloading. Enjoy!

 

DragonCon 2013 was a blast, as expected. Labor Day is usually a time most folks are trying to sneak in a trip to the beach but the geeks in my house all head into downtown Atlanta to spend a few days among our people.

I was an Attending Professional this year and spent a few hours on panels for the Costuming Track, which was just a joy. I love talking about sewing and getting the chance to do so with some amazing costuming professionals at a fun convention just makes me happy beyond belief.

Miss L loves dressing up just as much as I do, so I decided to sew companion costumes for us to wear one day. I was inspired to create these after reading the book The Night Circus. There’s such vivid imagery in the book and I loved the idea of playing with historical fashions to create my version of what Reveurs might wear.

Reveurs
L’s top is a girl’s boned ballgown bodice pattern I bought online somewhere. I drafted the skirt and used black piping between the pleated ruffle and the skirt to add a little flair. The stripes on her skirt are cut on the bias. Matching them up was fun. If you’re idea of fun means “crazymaking and dizzying.” My sweet friend Amber surprised us with the fingerless gloves she crocheted to complete the look.

My outfit used four patterns from Truly Victorian, including the corset and petticoat under the skirt. I’m so in love with the vest basque, it’s not funny. But it’s a crazy amount of fabric in this costume. Crazy. Like, 20 yards or so. Did I mention that it’s usually in the upper 80s — if we’re having a cool spell — and I was wearing a wig? Just a little bit hot in there. Major props to my Honey for helping me get in and out of that get up in a parking lot. He’s a real trouper.

A couple of months ago, Sarah and I were trying to figure out the whole Block of the Month thing for the shop for 2014. Our regular BOM teacher is taking a break this year, so we decided that the two of us will lead a Block of the Month. Or possibly she suggested that we do it and I dove in, feet first, and dragged her along with me before she changed her mind. (If you’ve met me, you probably can figure out which is the correct scenario.)

We figured out pretty quickly that we were on the same wavelength when it came to choosing a quilt and decided to take different approaches to the fabrics. She chose a beautiful neutral Essex linen for the background of her blocks and a scrappy assortment of fabrics, leaning pretty heavily on ones from the Kaffe Fassett Collective. I went a little more…crazy. LOL! Here’s a sneak peek:
stars

The background is from the Collage line for Windham Fabrics and I used a mix of dots, chevrons and solids for the stars. I know the fabrics aren’t for everyone but I was so thrilled to see it come together the way I saw it in my head.

Ultimately, I think our quilts really reflect our styles. I absolutely love how mine turned out and I can’t lie: I think Sarah’s is pretty darned awesome. Hers is off with the longarm quilter and mine is waiting for me to get the back pieced but I’ll share pics when they’re ready to be unveiled. (Plus links to sign up for the BOM, just in case you’re interested.)

I don’t have PS on my laptop. I use my iPhone for maybe 99 percent of the photos I take these days. I’m waving the white flag and giving up on any pretense of polished perfection in favor of actually writing more than one blog post a year. So if less-than-perfect pictures offend you, you probably want to stop reading my blog.

Life happens. A lot. So here I am, seven months since my last blog post, trying to start anew. So how about I just dive back in?

At Quilt Market in Portland this past spring, I snagged a copy of Bari J‘s Holiday in London Duffle Bag. Bari is one of my favoritest people ever and I really love her aesthetic, so I pretty much had to pick up one of her awesome bag patterns, especially one that had the potential to become my go-to travel bag.

I was itching to make something with a gorgeous range of Michael Miller fabrics we had at the shop. Norwegian Wood plus a bunch of other gorgeous, graphic brights. Elizabeth Hartman’s patchwork Weekender came to mind but I didn’t want to make the Weekender so the patchwork Holiday in London Duffle came into being.

Holiday in L

I picked up 10 fat quarters plus extra cuts for the handles, strap and binding. Oh and separate lining fabric. Yeah, not doing twice the patchwork. As it was, the patchwork, quilt-as-you-go method probably added about eight hours to this project. Why? Because I’m slow and sometimes mess things up and have to figure out a fix midstream.

Holiday in L

I did an easy piecing job by using strips of different widths to fill the space. If you do this, you’ll want to cut the Soft n Stable at least an inch larger all the way around to compensate for how much it pulls in during the quilting process. I forgot this on a couple of pieces and so my bag turned out a wee bit smaller because I had to trim things up to get them to fit together properly. Whoops!

Holiday in L

I tinkered with the straps and handles (and tabs) and just made them into casings to slip cotton canvas webbing through. I really like using webbing for the durability factor and having them covered with fabric pulls together the whole look. I also used my favorite, favorite, favorite Fuse n Wrap piping because it is one of the best inventions ever. Seriously. (Soft n Stable falls under that category, too.)

The instructions were easy to follow and I like how the seams are all encased. If I make this again (and I probably will because I think it will be a great graduation gift), I will attach the bag bottom a little differently because I’m too lazy to do the hand sewing. (What? Have you not met me?)

Holiday in L

I skipped the “faux piping” step at the end because it’s a little on the bulky side and I just wanted to be done with it and start using it. I immediately took it upstairs to show off to Miss L and my Honey because nothing says “I’m done!” quite like show and tell. Ok, I really wanted someone who was not me to ooh and aah over it because it is FABULOUS. I love, love, love it and am so glad I put in the extra effort to do all that piecing and quilting. If you’re thinking about making this bag, I highly recommend checking out Bari’s fantastic sew along.