30 December 2010

My big FAT fluffy cat

I've been saying for a while I need a new "scale" pic for my oldest and largest cat.  I used to have a picture of me holding him, but that is on an old harddrive that crashed beyond retrieval.  Besides, few of y'all know what size I am in person, so that pic wasn't so helpful with nonfamily members.  So, I decided to get a picture of him with a standard 12 ounce pop can for scale:
For a further sense of scale, that sisal scratch mat he's laying on is 17 inches long including its border.

So what has prompted this endeavor into feline photography (which involves catnip spray)?  Guess which cat decided to wake hubby and me up when we tried to sleep in this morning?  Yup, this big fat fluffy hairball ... who weighs 30 lbs and is VERY effective as a variable time alarm clock.  At least he got the memo that hubby is on leave ... he has tried to wake us up at 0515 many times before, usually on a Saturday morning, thinking hubby was going to be late for first formation. 

I'm going to need another cup of coffee before I start in on that denim.

29 December 2010

Paralysis by analysis, and the fix

Since at least yesterday when I dug out my selected patterns, I have done nothing other than read the directions to Simplicity 2562 ... paralyzed by what is probably overthinking. 

Like most of my projects, this is my first go-round with this pattern, and I only have 2.75 yards of my black mystery bundle fabric that I intend to use, which is the amount the back of the envelope says I need for view B, the noncuff version.  I don't have enough to do cuffs.  I haven't tried prewashing said mystery fabric, mainly because I'm still not sure what it is exactly.  I do know it is not a synthetic.

I was quite congested when I burn tested it originally, so have no idea what it smells like.  It did catch fire, but the flame sort of fizzled out on its own, so it may have wool in it.

With no room for error in cutting, I have decided to do a wearable mockup first ... and have finally made up my indecisive mind on what to use for that: a midweight drapey denim that I don't recall when I actually bought, but I have about 3 yards of it and it will make nice mostly-dressy jeans slacks.
Since this is denim, I'll probably slap patch pockets on the back and use jeans buttons instead of pants hook closure thingies, but this will help me nail down the fit idea so I can adjust the pattern pieces to use the least amount of fabric on the black.

New techniques for this project: shaped waistband and a real fly (as opposed to the mock fly I did on my gaucho pants).  Now I just need to find the sewing motivation to move around, as my back and knees still feel stiff from the road trip.

The infamous Terrorist Kitty

Those of y'all on PR have probably heard about my "terrorist kitty", whose actual name is Twilight ... although we often call her by less-affectionate nicknames.  Usually she will not hold still for pictures, but this morning she was in a strange mood, posing on a box next to my trash can (I cropped most of that out).
Yes, she usually does look that smug.  She also loves to lay on my fabric piles even though she knows she isn't supposed to ... and most of the time will sprint off the fabric as soon as I have her in sight.  Last night she must have been sleeping a bit more soundly, because I was able to walk up to her as she slept on the top of my fabric bolts (stored vertically in a vain attempt to cut down on cat hair accumulation) and pick her up to scold her.

Yes, this is the furry monster who routinely flips the vent covers up and until recently would venture down into the ductwork -- thankfully she is now too chubby to fit.  This is also the one who used to run up the drapes, walk across the long curtain rod, then launch herself onto someone's head and shoulders.  When she got too heavy to accomplish that ... and it took about half a dozen times of her pulling the drapes down before she accepted the idea ... she then moved to the tall bookcases for her launching points until we moved the bookcases.  She is obsessed with both plastic and cloth grocery bags, and even moreso by boxes.  Folding a box closed will get her full attention as she tries to find a way into the closed box ... even doubly so if the box contains a dark colored fabric that may snag.  She's just recently discovered the feline joy of thread spools and bobbins after ignoring them completely for over a year.  My mom says I am probably the only sucker who would keep this onrey feline ... but she does look cute in this pic.

Yes, that is a copy of Linda Sparks' The Basics of Corset Building she is sitting next to in the pic  :) a much-appreciated gift from my little sister.

28 December 2010

Back home with fabric withdrawals

We successfully hid from the holiday storm system in NE Florida, getting mostly rain with only about 20 minutes of sleet/ice/frozen mix ... although we did not escape the cold temps!  It ended up being an effective test of the KwikSew 3123 his-n-hers coats I made of canvas and poly fleece:
The coats work best with layering as the temperature drops, but the canvas does make a decent windbreak.  We has forgotten our garment bag, which had my "just in case" sweater in it, but hubby had brought two sweaters so I wore one of his on the way home as the thermometer on the truck's rear view mirror went from 47F down to 18F (eeekkk!!!!) as we travelled north.  Around here, folks say if you don't like the weather - just wait five minutes and it will change ... by the weekend we are supposed to be in the mid-60s F!  Layers are the only way to survive our variable winter weather.

Being over 600 miles away from my fabric, I could only plan my next project: a decent winter outfit for my teenage son's football banquet ... since my 13th century sideless surcoat and chemise won't do, according to the teenager.  So, to avoid having my only child DIE from embarassment, I've picked out a modern outfit he actually approves of:
Slacks: Simplicity 2562 in black woven mystery bundle fabric
Blouse and vest: Simplicity 2566 in white Michael's Fabrics shirting (no longer on their site, a shame because it is truly wonderful dress shirting that just won't photograph properly) and the Black Stewart dress plaid wool that was even better than I had hoped when I ordered it, to be lined in my black 50/50 cotton/linen that I made my short gaucho pants from ... and still have yardage left LOL
Deadline: evening of January 13th ...

Guess I'd better get started!

Almost forgot:  the M 4861 back brace worked great for the trip, and held its shape almost perfectly.  The only place it didn't was the bottom front, where my "baby pooch" sticks out from the emergency C-section over 17 years ago.  As y'all can see from my next project, I am still living with the "side effects" of that surgery (*snicker, chuckle*)

21 December 2010

McCall's 4861 waist corset done!

It's not only finished, but photographed for proof!  Getting the eyelets through 4 layers of fabric (2 stiff canvas, 2 cotton duck) plus the buckram proved to be a PAIN, and as hard as I whacked the setting tool to set the eyelets ... I done broke my wooden cutting board I retired from food prep to crafting.  Oops.  Oh, yeah ... the pic:
My jeans are a bit loose around the waist after two and half days of only eating soup, so the spacing in front for the eyelets is a bit small.  I've been wearing it for almost an hour, and it is both sturdy and comfortable.  It will get the real test tomorrow on the supposedly 9 hour road trip.

I'm particularly happy with the back panel  :)  I now have a pretty backbrace.  Some of y'all know I have never taken a pic of the previous version, except for a cropped photo of the inside where I had stitched in a contrasting thread.  It's still too ugly to show y'all, but now I have a nice one to show off.

M4861 bound but not gagging

First up, my daily driver - the still unnamed Brother CS-770 computerized - does not tolerate hitting the poly boning with the same humor as ole Timex (the cheap 14-stitch mech).  I got the E6 error two or three times when I misjudged where the poly boning was, and one small thread knot on the bobbin side .. which thankfully was also on the lining side.

Hubby chose the binding, folks!  :)  Actually, I agreed with his choice.  I have navy blue binding, but the print's darkest blue is still obviously lighter than my navy blue binding ... so we went for the contrast to match the sides of the lining: light pink.
Now I need to clear off my table ... especially electronic and electrical devices ... to pull out my eyelet stuff, which includes a hammer.  I tend to whack my eyelets pretty hard and a couple times I've missed the little eyelet-setting thing-a-ma-jig and whacked my thumb, so yes I swing the hammer with a bit of force.  Ten goldtone eyelets, one black shoelace, and I will have my new backbrace!

M 4861 lining

I woke up a couple hours early this morning, sweating like I had just ruckmarched in August ... but the stuffiness headache is gone!  The head cold is still here in the form of major drainage, and I cannot go further than five feet away from a tissue, but I do feel better, and here's proof:
I cut out and sewed the lining for my waist corset/back brace this morning, and have already started to attach it and the outer layer to the canvas core.

I no longer have enough of the cotton duck print left to cut more pieces, but I did measure the uncut selvage: 22 inches of 44/45" wide duck has yield a layer and a half of this pattern.

I will say those bias seams (two per side!) really annoyed me this morning.  The extra stitching, tacking the seam allowances down about 1/16th to 1/8th from the seam itself, does help mitigate the bias effect a little but not enough to mollify me.  These bias seams put this pattern firmly into the "costume" realm -which McCall's does market it as - and not as a functional corset (without serious modification).  When I decide to do another underbust or waist corset, I will choose a different pattern.

20 December 2010

M4861 outer layer done

I've run out of energy for now, but I did get the outer fasion fabric layer cut and sewn, and picked out the lining, the leftover light pink linen/cotton (50/50) that remains after a summer blouse (which will go to my sister if I can remember to send it) and the skirt extensions on my medieval chemise when I ran out of the white-white.

I'm pretty pleased with how it looks, especially since I (successfully) tried to cut out the design centered on the back panel.  A note about the Hancock "special collection" cotton duck: it has a lot of bias stretch.  For some reason (wearing ease?) this pattern has two seams per side cut on the bias ... if I make it a third time I will need to fix that.  Meh, two will probably be enough from this pattern.

I'm not sure if I mentioned here or not, but for the most part I am disregarding McCall's instructions for this corset's construction, instead sort-of following this excellent tutorial by Sidney Eileen I found a couple weeks ago.  I'm also using her method of pressing the seam allowances to one side (alternating with the layers) and then stitching them down a bit to the side of the original seam.  My last two working brain cells say this should be stronger than pressing the seams open ... but this one should put it to the test.  I do have to make up for not using actual coutil!

If I can catch a second wind later this evening, I'll work on the lining ... but right now I am at the whiny stage of this head cold.  I'll spare y'all ... but hubby does get to hear it.

Needle notes on M 4861, cord, and poly boning

I have the canvas core sewn together, with the boning and cording on the inside, so not much to take a pic of ... but a few random thoughts as my 2nd round of decongestants kick in:

It's easy to sew through the hemp cord, and my machine doesn't complain about it either ... but boy does it dull a needle quickly.  So does sewing through stiff canvas and buckram ... 

While I proved with my first boned bodice last year that it is indeed possible to sew through poly boning, the machine will let you know as soon as the needle goes through the poly boning ... mine tend to complain about it, both "Timex" my original $80 Brother LX-3125 mech, and my daily driver $160 Brother CS-770 computerized (that I still haven't thought of a good name for yet).  For the record, I most certainly do NOT recommend sewing through poly boning ... nowadays I skip over the boning, which is why I sewed the core with a contrast thread, and will use fabric marker to mark the outer layers.  Oh, if you do sew through the poly boning, that will also dull your needle.  I don't think I'll admit how long it took me to figure that out last year.

Trimming the hemp cord and canvas makes an awful mess ... I've been trying to clean up after every couple of trims, but there is still little fibers and fray threads everywhere.  It's a good thing hubby also has a messy hobby - painting miniatures.

Finally, it makes for a slow slog when cutting and sewing to need to constantly stop and wipe a runny nose or sneeze.  *But* if I keep at it, I may have this done tonight!  Time to go scrap diving for the lining layer, and cut both that and the fashion fabric outer layer.

M4861 waist corset corded

Here it is ... the core layer poly boned and corded.  I'm using a stiff unbleached canvas as the core layer, poly boning from Hancock (half off sale) and hemp craft cord from Hobby Lobby to stabilize the poly boning which has a habit of molding to the body shape when worn (due to body heat).
Instead of sewing channels and running the cord through that way, I zigzagged the cord onto the base layer.  It's an experiment, plus I dreaded the thought of trying to pull uneven diameter cord through unevenly sewn channels like last time.  Sewing straight lines is definitely one of my weaknesses.

I ended up trying the boning scheme from the pattern.  Why not?  I'm playing around with all kinds of ideas I haven't tried on this one.  As I've mentioned, it takes little fabric and relatively little time to make.  The front has 4 cords next to the poly boning, and the back has 6 cords on each side.  The side bones have two on each side.  Oh - that's a strip of buckram under the boning at the center front where the eyelets will go.  Underneath the core layer is the outer fasion fabric layer: a nice cotton duck that softened up in the wash.  I only have a 1/4 yd of it on this piece, so I'll be able to see just how little fabric this pattern uses per layer.

Grey rayon jacquard

I'm hyped up on decongestant, because my dear hubby shared his head cold with me ... somehow I don't think the "marriage is about sharing" should include pathogens, but it is what it is.

I'll take a pic of the cording on the waist corset in morning, as my sewing area (that hubby still calls "the dining room") has an east-facing window and morning pics are best in there.

Meanwhile, a little more fabric-bragging is in order.  I picked up a lovely rayon grey jacquard on sale last week.
Ain't it purty?  I paid only $2.38/yd after the sale, the discount, AND a coupon code :)  I also bought 9 yds of it, so I'll be using this off-and-on for quite a while: jackets, linings, vests, corset outer layers, waistcoats, trim, bodice stomachers, and outside facings for collarless jackets and blouses are just some uses that immediate spring to mind.  And this time, I didn't buy the last of it ... fabric.com still has quite a bit left as of this writing.

Not that I would ever enable anyone ... I just love fabric.

19 December 2010

Cats and front-lacing corsets

This has been a problem for me since the spring: two of my three cats insist on "helping" me lace my Elizabethan!  With 14 pairs of eyelets to lace in the front, it really does get annoying -and futile - to try to shoo these two off.  Here are the two usual suspects:
Both often try to "help" hubby with his bootlaces in both the morning and evening as well.  I'm sure one will tell you he is helping, while the other will assert that he is "saving" us from these laces.  Being cats, neither will take "no" for an answer!

18 December 2010

Waist corset M 4861 (E) in progress

I was going to put that my waist corset is now boned ... but I promise this is a family-friendly blog! (*snicker*)  I'll post up a pic after I cord it alongside the poly boning, as I am using unbleached canvas for the core and the boning tape it white, so it probably won't show very well until the tannish-brown hemp cord is alongside it.

I spent a bit of time earlier today googling images of medical-style back braces, and have to admit that was disappointing.  Most are for immobilization of either the lumbar region, the total spine, or up around the neck and shoulders.  The back of this corset covers the thoracic spine area, which is also where the most pain is for me (T4-T5, originally).  The ones for support showed vertical boning, which I already tried for the previous version and am not completely satisfied with. 

A couple showed a boning scheme similar to what the pattern instructions illustrate, which is making me reconsider my opinion of the boning scheme.  This particular one uses so little fabric and takes so little time, it's worth trying it.

The red silk/rayon brocade

Y'all will probably hear a lot about this fabric acquisition ... actually, this one is firmly in the "fabric splurge" category.  Yes, Mom, I paid regular price for this one ... but this falls firmly into that same category as the fabric for my prom dress you made me (*mumble mumble*) years ago.  The one I still have.  The one that still got complements when I wore it to hubby's battalion formal in 2006 (the last time I fit in it again).
I originally only bought a 2 yd piece, but when it arrived, it was love at first pet.  Of course, this fabric ravels if you just look at it, so I had to immediately overcast (overedge?) the raw ends because I don't want to lose any of it.  It disappeared off FabricMart's website for a little less than a week, then reappeared ... someone must have cancelled their order because I cannot imagine how anyone would return the beauty.  So I truly splurged and bought the last few yards of it ... I just finished overcasting the raw edges on the second piece because I was thinking of it, and it's a good excuse to fondle such luxurious, rich fabric.

I have at least two plans for this gorgeous stuff: the outer fashion fabric layer of a mid-Victorian corset, and also a mandarin-collar jacket.  I need to practice both ideas before I dare cut into this ... while it may not be "haute couture" expensive, it is definitely not cheap enough to make any mistakes on!

Since I bought the last of it, I had to post this beauty up to share.  OK, maybe just a touch of bragging here ... but this is definitely one of my better fabrics in my possession.

OK, I'll blog my sewing

Hubby suggested it, and it was seconded (and thirded, and fourthed) in the PR chat room ... so I'll blog my sewing.  I'll probably also be blogging my fabric acquisitions, especially since it's so much faster to buy and dream than to do the actual sewing!  Expect coats, corsets, costumes, modern garments, and massive fabric-lust ... and the daily musings on how necessary coffee is.