Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Quick Project - Knit Turban

This is officially the last sewn project of 2013.

A few weeks ago, I wrote very quickly about making a turban for bad hair days. At the time, I didn't have any pictures of the project to show, but I do now. Unfortunately, there is no picture of me wearing it. With the current lighting and my dark hair, you just can't see the details. I think to wear a turban well, similar to wearing a cloche, there needs to be some hair peeking out at least. Perhaps, if I buy some hoop earrings and always wear lipstick it would work but not without.

I used this tutorial from It's very simple and quick and can be made in less than an hour. All you need is about 5/8" yard of fabric. I used an interlock knit but the fabric doesn't even have to be that stretchy, an old solid t-shirt would be fine.

The front is anchored by a loop of fabric creating gathers for visual interest. It is also a perfect resting place for a great broch or some faux peacock feathers if you want to be dramatic.

My dad just happened to have this hat stand!
The three back pleats create structure by being sewn in the ditch down the middle back seam.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Fashion in Film: Camelot (1967)

Director: Joshua Logan
Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Harris, Franco Nero
Music: Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe
Costume Designer: John Truscott*

This also just happens to be one of my favorite movie musicals, along with The Music Man, Funny Face, Sound of Music, Company, West Side Story, and Sweeney Todd**. The embedded video towards the bottom of the post is a medley of all the songs from Camelot. Enjoy!

Vanessa Redgrave, at her most beautiful, is first seen dressed in white arriving for her first winter in Camelot. Hooded in white fur, bundled in blankets, and wearing white gloves she is delivered to her husband-to-be in a horse drawn carriage. From this image, you can see that the costume design in this film will not be boring.

The majority of the costumes of note in this movie are worn by her character, Guinevere. A variety can be seen in the Take Me to the Fair number seen here.

Designer John Truscott’s costumes for Guinevere ran the gamut from a mustard cowl neck gown to a plain smock with a mesh-like vest (see below) to gleaming gold and burgundy red gowns. The design of the regular day gowns were perfect, as they not only evoked the medieval period of the play but also reflected the contemporary fashions of the late 1960s. The long loose hair, daisy crowns, and long A-line gowns could have been seen on the streets at that time.

A gorgeous Haleen Holt illustration of Truscott’s designs show the variety of looks envisioned for Queen Guinevere.

The headpieces, hats, and hairstyles were highly imaginative and some of the braided styles are amazing. The film displayed Vanessa as a great beauty, important to the plot as this Guinevere is loved/or admired by all of the male knights and Arthur, her king.

Moving onto the true reason for this post: my up close and personal view (at the VMFA Hollywood Costume exhibit) of one of my favorite cinematic gowns, the unique wedding gown of Queen Guinevere.

Costumes of historic English Queens, note the incredible texture.

My favorite angle of the dress with the open sides.

An example of the crochet overdress
The exquisite wedding gown arrives in the movie, lit by candlelight, shimmering out of the darkness. It is designed with a bateau neckline, long sleeves, in an a-line shape with an attached cape that flows over the shoulders and arms and then drops into a large circular train. The overdress is composed of a gown crocheted from fine wool to resemble airy spider webs that had tiny shells sewed into the center of each one. It is open at the side for easy removal and tied with cords.

Underneath is a shimmery kirtle (or cote-hardie) made of something resembling distressed velvet. The third and most dramatic element of the dress, the train, is made from fine mesh embroidered with another loose cobweb design in silver. Along this design, the fabric is embellished with bleached pumpkin seeds tied and hanging every few inches from the design, much like one would expect pearls on a couture gown.

The outfit is breathtakingly beautiful in person. Luckily, this dress is seen in motion in the clip below (it appears at 3:50); however, we do not have the experience of hearing the unique sounds of the seeds as it moves.

More images of the wedding dress can be found at the Fashion Media Arts Council and its own Hollywood Costume review.

An outfit that seems to fit more with the 1981 Arthurian tale, Excalibur, is this gold reptilian-like costume, complete with a lizard-like headpiece. This outfit would have perfectly suited Helen Mirren's Morgana/Morgan le Faye character in the later film much more than the Redgrave earth mother/flower child-influenced Guinevere in 1967.

From sketch to studio costume to film.

An exquisite design constructed of diamond shapes combined to make a monumental armored gown of interlocking diamonds of copper or bronze. The short-sleeved overdress and cape are hinged like chain mail over a long-sleeved gold patterned high-necked gown. It was then topped with a horned lizard-like hood and crown.

Surprisingly, I also found the male costumes, particularly the armor, beautiful. The details as seen in these few photos show an attention to detail so amazing its upsetting to know that it barely was noticed on film. I love the basket weave-like chain mail of the tunic worn under King Arthur’s breastplate and the difference in weight and look of the kind used in the chain mail gorget (cowl) arranged around his neck for protection.

Here is a costume the knight Lancelot Du Lac wore during his boastful song C’est Moi. The shirt is constructed of silk with a smocked waistband and cuffs, both embellished with violet embroidery on the cuffs, waistband, and neckline.

I must confess that the purpose of this post was to document only the wedding dress. However, looking at the film again, I realized the whole production impressed me. This should be no mystery since John Truscott; the costume designer was also the production designer for the film. Unfortunately, Mr. Truscott only designed one other major motion picture because he was considered too extravagant and expensive. However, look at the results!

*John Truscott won Best Costume Design that year for this film.
** The last three all with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim!

Illustrations: Haleen Holt
Images: Bettmann/Corbis, auction site

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

1. 22. 2014 - Phoenix Rising From the Ashes

  • Cut and pasted together two free PDF patterns, the Crepe Suzette clutch and the Yellowtail Camisole from Disparate Disciplines, now Seamster Patterns.
  • Cut out and stitched together a Colette Clover muslin in a mystery cream fabric with maybe 5% Lycra. I only cut the pant legs pattern halfway down the thigh to conserve fabric.
  • Worked on new pattern alterations for the Grainline Moss skirt. I have now cut out the fabric for a new muslin!
Ok, here goes: I have bought a few items and I feel EXTREMELY guilty about it. You see while I do have some money to live off I still have not found a new job and should be saving right? Well, here is my explanation and perhaps my justification for the purchases.

Coming home three months ago did a whammy on my self esteem, but in a way I wasn't expecting. I felt good about my self professionally and I will get another job. However, emotionally and physically, I felt like crap. I let my hair grow out and the mixture of new gray growth and my faded dyed hair made me look mousy and washed out. Even when wearing makeup, I felt horrible.

Legacy Lane 21 - America's Best
Eyewear: Because of lack of funds, I have been wearing old glasses (w/ a very old prescription) for more than a year and my eyesight has been compromised, I gave up on driving at night or god forbid, at night in the rain. Why I didn't fix this earlier can only be blamed on the depressive state I was in while in Richmond. No wonder I felt unsure of myself since I couldn't even trust my vision when out and about.
Legacy Lane 27 in Brown
My style had also changed quite a lot since I first purchased those glasses and I felt I looked older and conservative with them on, which of course, didn't help my self-image much. In order to feel better when interviewing for jobs I knew this had to be fixed. My eldest sister came to the rescue by offering to pay for the eye exam and a 2 for $69.95 deal through America's Best eyewear. I now have two pairs, one in no-nonsense black and another pair in a brown that matches my skin and that are also "baby's first bifocals".

Makeup Shockingly, perhaps the biggest change was the wrangling of my eyebrows. Over time, they have become sparse and seemed to disappear at a distance and in photos. You know how a great eyebrow (think A. Hepburn, Ava Gardner, ) can frame a face? Well, I needed that especially with new glasses bringing them into focus. I decided to check out Ulta (similar to Sephora). Having already purchased NYX Cosmetics products before I looked at their extensive range of eyebrow grooming products, in particular, their auto eyebrow pencil w/ attached brush for only $5! Penciling in the empty spaces and creating a more commanding shape did the job. Even my father remarked on my eyebrows at breakfast! Now, that's saying something! For just a dollar more, I also bought some of their matte lipstick in Alabama as all my lipsticks now have to be dug out of their tubes.

Rockstar Tuxedo Stripe Skinny Jean

Jeans: I have full or wide-legged pants in wool and tweeds for fall and winter and have slim casual pants for spring and summer. However, I wanted something cuter and figure flattering for winter too. I went to Old Navy seeking corduroys on sale but no go. These flattering "skinny jeans" with their subtle tuxedo stripe were on the clearance rack for $16 and then further reduced down to $9.99! How could I possibly pass those by? They make me feel great and amazingly make everything I put on seem younger. They are also a cheap alternative to the similar Madewell Tuxedo stripe skinny jeans seen here for $135.00.

New All-purpose Shoes: My most worn shoes of the last two years were some quasi-riding boots that developed a hole in the sole and a pair of Clarks Mary-janes that unfortunately, I wore the entire time I was moving and cleaning out my apartment. Therefore, they are not in the best of shape. I do have a pair of practical black fabric pumps (10+ years old) but they are worn only for interviews. I needed to find a pair of shoes I could wear with pants and the kind of top and skirt combinations that I practically live in.

Earth Origins McLean

These Earth Origins "booties" from Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse fit the bill quite well and luckily could be paid for with a Christmas gift of money. Practical but cute.

Ok, so that was my confession, there is no more! I hope I will soon tell you about a new job, won with the help of these items and this new boost of confidence. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Essential Stripe Tee - Burdastyle 02/2010 #112A

Here is my last clothing make from 2013. To see my other makes from 2013, click here.

Pattern: Burdastyle 02/2010 #112A c. 2010

Pattern Description: Knit top with raglan sleeves and wide neckline.

Pattern Sizing: Sizes 36-46 (US 10-20). I originally cut it out as size 44, which corresponded to a US size 18. I then basted and cut it down slowly until I liked the fit.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, after I made some alterations.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very simple.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I loved the slight curve of the wide neckline and the slight waist shaping.

Fabric Used: An 8.5 oz. medium-weight half-inch black and white stripe cotton spandex knit (CL-1260) from ($5.50 per yard) and Pellon Easy-Knit fusible interfacing.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: My first issue was matching the stripes at the raglan sleeve and at the side seams. Where the sleeve joins the body needs to result in chevrons and it would be noticeable if they did not match. I used this tutorial by Sewaholic to match the striped fabric. I also used my walking foot which I think helped extremely well.

Luckily, the pattern pieces have printed match lines for striped fabrics though you could add your own to any pattern. I would even suggest if your pattern paper is transparent that you trace a stripe all across the piece to make a more accurate match.

I aligned the match lines on the pattern with particular stripes on the fabric. I did the same with the second pattern piece, matching its match lines with corresponding stripes in the fabric. Though the fabric was folded for the bodice, I cut the piece out of the top layer only. Putting aside the paper piece, I used the cut fabric piece as a guide to cut the lower layer making sure the stripes were parallel. I then used the front piece as a guide to cut the back piece matching stripes starting from the bottom. The front and back pieces were basted together by hand and I attached one sleeve in order to check the fit. I wanted my top to fit the same way as Nicole’s

At this point, the top was too large so I laid the pattern over the pieces and found that the fabric had stretched and grown. I cut down both the pattern pieces and fabric to a smaller size above the waist and a larger one below for the hips. Once I finished the alterations, I pinned and basted, by hand again, making sure that all stripes were aligned at the seams. Using a narrow zigzag stitch, I sewed the top together on my machine.

As a last step, I fused interfacing to the hems and neckline for durability. I used knit interfacing as a substitute for the Vilene bias tape suggested in the instructions. I then attached the neck binding differently, as single-fold binding, because the double-fold method they called for would have been far too bulky. I folded the hems over 1/4" and then 1/2", stitching them to the inside by hand.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, no wonder it is a popular top on Depending on the knit, I will probably cut the shoulders of the next one in a size 40 (US 14) with the waist and hips staying a 42.

Conclusion: Another great knit t-shirt and perhaps another TNT pattern. My goal is a whole wardrobe of knit tops of all styles.

Images: my own, 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The 2014 Wish List

Happy New Year!!

Last year, I said I wasn't going to set myself up for stress by making any definite sewing plans. But, we all know, the planning is the best part of it all! So, here's some of what I would like to attempt in the next six months or so. There will be some finishing up of earlier planned projects like that Simplicity 6656 duster coat and my turquoise Moss skirt; however, I now have more primary priorities in place (career & debt) but these things are what I would like to spend my "free" time thinking about.

Starting with a few small things:

Create a black knit turban for bad hair days using this free tutorial. Done!
Stitch up a practical corduroy clutch purse using a free download. Done!
Make a full skirt made from Vogue 2747 using my now unneeded red poplin apartment curtains. Done!
Attempt Simplicity 5287, a vintage funnel neck dress, in free green double knit.

Projects I want to try:

Last year, I posted an inventory of the handmade wardrobe items that I still wore from my own closet. I still have quite a few RTW items in my wardrobe. Well, I don't believe in getting rid of stuff before it's been throughly used and bordering on threadbare; therefore, I got about altering or embellishing all my RTW pieces and reclaiming them in my own style, so that any Me Made Mays or such would have an advantage?

Why not try reverse applique such as that done by Alabama Chanin. I feel like taking apart some of my RTW knit items, restitching them with raw seams, and adding simple stitched embellishments like this. You know...reclaim the handmade from RTW! It's another way to increase the handmade garment/accessory numbers in my wardrobe. Luckily, I've got lots of embroidery floss from my Wee Wonderful doll supply stash and I also have ribbon and inherited button collections from numerous "no longer with us" personages.

Start on my muslin for the Colette Clovers. I took apart these H & M stretch woven pants in order to make a pattern and will compare that with the Clovers to help mitigate any problems using the Colette pattern.

Muslin and create the Built By Wendy Sew U pants. The fact that they were referenced by Sallie as the basis for these jeans is all that I need. If these work, I won't need to go purchase that popular Jalie jeans pattern.

I would like to try out these Shelby Kaava #302 Vuokatti leggings using this free downloadable pattern or trying out this tights tutorial from Handmade By Carolyn. I find I treat my store bought tights harshly and I hate the expense.

Underwear and more underwear! I also have my eye on this DL01 balconette foam bra by Make Bra. The best thing about it besides having no underwire is that you can cover the cups with woven fabrics which will make it a stash-buster. *Bonus from moving: I discovered many discarded t-shirts that I wouldn't wear again but could use for these.

Oh! and I will also be participating in Stash Diet 2014, since all the projects above will be supplied from my existing stash. I won't be posting specific goals or fabric counts but you are free to check out my stash (with fabric content and amounts, if possible) on Flickr here.