Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Renaissance Festival Outfit With Truly Victorian 110 Corset

Happy Halloween and welcome to the final post in my Halloween costume miniseries! (See posts 1 and 2.)

While I'm not planning to wear this costume for Halloween this year, I did make and wear it recently, so I thought I'd post a bit about it.

Two years ago, one of my friends took me to the Maryland Renaissance Festival (don't ask how I lived my entire life in Maryland and had never been before -- I seriously have no idea) and I was instantly and irrevocably hooked.

Fast forward to this past spring. One of the ladies in my sewing group is very interested in Civil War-era garment construction and offered to give a little class on corset-making.

A corset is not something I generally have need of in my daily life, but I figured I could turn it into a Renaissance Festival costume and learn some interesting construction techniques, so I went for it. I'm going to put this out there now: My costume is in no way historically accurate -- it's just for fun.

The corset was made from Truly Victorian 110.

In class, we made mockups -- for which I ordered the cheapest possible white coutil from It was still fairly expensive, but I had never worked with fabric of this type and weight and wanted to try it. 

I made my mockup in a straight size C, and it was fairly obvious that I needed to grade out at the hips, so my final version was a C-D-E size. 

For my final corset, I chose a tea-colored coutil. 

This corset is far from perfect -- for whatever reason, you can definitely see some of the notches I cut in the seam allowance to make the seams lie flatter. And there's a few places where the fabric could be a bit less wrinkled, which probably would be fixed with more boning and more flat steel boning (as opposed to spiral steel, which is used for the majority of the boning on this corset.)

By far the most difficult part of this project was getting the boning into all the channels. There are definitely a few channels I sewed ever so slightly too small.

For the back, I bought corset lacing and size 00 grommets. The lady who led the corset class brought her grommet setter -- so fun! 

You can even lace this type of corset by yourself -- though it can be difficult to get the lacing even (you can see above how the gap down my back isn't exactly even and parallel).

The binding is just plain homemade white bias tape. I wish I had been able to find a close color match to the corset fabric, but nothing seemed close enough. I kind of half-assed the binding because I was in a hurry to finish -- hopefully I'll find some nicer binding at some point and redo it. 

The rest of the costume I bought at the Renaissance Festival. The shirt and skirt are from Wolfstone Kilt Company, a local Virginia company. 

I also wore a knee-length underskirt/slip I made from a bedsheet a couple year ago to provide a small amount of poof. 

I know it's totally "cheating" to buy pieces of the costume I could easily make, but I've got a lot of projects going on at the moment and the clothes at the Festival's Wolfstone booth are just so inspiring and beautifully made. Tough to resist!

As for accessories, I bought the little brown hat at a hat booth at the Festival. The basket probably once belonged to my mother but has been in my various bedrooms for at least the last 10 years. The cloths inside the basket are napkins I dyed for our wedding (and are covering my cellphone, sunglasses, wallet and lipstick!) The blue shawl in the first picture was made by my mother (I wore this costume for the first time two weekends ago and it was a bit nippy!)

All in all, I had the best time wearing this costume. So many people go to the Festival in costume that it's easy to pretend to be in a fantasy novel -- so fun!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Candyman Vest, Bow Tie and Sleeve Garters

Continuing this week's Halloween costume series, today I present the candyman to my candy corn: my husband, Greg. 

I had in my head that I wanted to make a candy corn dress, and I needed a costume for Greg that coordinated. So what did I do?

Subjected myself to another vest and tie set!

At this point, after making six sets of vests and ties, plus a sample, for my friend Ashley's wedding, I am basically vest expert. Or at least as much of a vest expert as I care to be. :-P

This is Simplicity 4762, inspired by the candyman in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (coincidentally one of my absolute favorite movies growing up.)

I definitely wanted to do a striped fabric and black bow tie. After some intense searching, I found lots of theatrical productions of Willy Wonka that included sleeve garters, so I decided to work up a set of those, too.

The pattern includes a simple four-button vest. I lost the pattern piece for the back waist adjuster, so I eyeballed it. (That is going to be a theme for this costume.)

I didn't bother to match the pattern at the back since the stripe was so small, but this did result in a larger-than-normal white stripe at the center back.

For the buttons, I used some of the cover buttons left over from the vests I did for the wedding. I love the clean, well-matched look of cover buttons.

As for the fabric, I used quilting cotton for the striped fabric and a heavier quilting cotton for the black accessories. 

The lining is a lining sample I bought for Ashley's wedding from It was one of those times where a swatch cost 75 cents and a yard cost under $2, so I just bought the yard. 

The black sleeve garters are made the same way I made scrunchies as a kid -- a small loop of elastic in a fabric tube.

The bow tie is essentially a tiny bow belt (it's a fake tie) with a button at the back of the neck.

I'm definitely pleased with the way this came out -- it's much more comfortable than a jacket would have been (and a lot less work!) Perfect for dancing!

What do you think? Are matching costumes too cute or too insipid for words? :-P

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Week Costume Series: Candy Corn Dress

This year, I've really gotten excited about making costumes, and, since it's Halloween week, I thought I'd post a miniseries of three posts on my recent costume makes. 

First up? This year's Halloween costume. Greg and I dressed up as a vintagey candy corn and candyman.

I'll post about Greg's candyman costume on Wednesday and my costume from this year's Renaissance Festival on Friday, all in time for Halloween. Sound good?

But today, my vintagey candy corn dress!

Surprise, surprise. This is yet another version of Butterick B5748. I seriously cannot quit this pattern.

I've worn versions of this dress in two weddings (including my own!) and made a general version from bedsheets -- and I wore it frequently this summer.

At this point, I can make this pattern in my sleep.

For this version, I took one of the skirt pattern pieces -- since it's a circle skirt, the two pieces are the same, I felt I could sacrifice one of them -- and measured to find it was 25 inches. At 13 inches, I made a mark on each side and the center and eyeballed a curve between them.

Since the skirt is on the long side, I slashed at the curve I drew and didn't add seam allowance, just used the new pieces and sewed them together with a 3/8-inch seam allowance.

For fabric, I used plain old quilting cotton from JoAnn. Total, for both my costume and Greg's, plus some thread I needed, I came in under $30, despite the fact that I used the nicer, more drapey quilting cotton.

I lined the bodice in self fabric, but didn't bother to line the skirt since I knew I'd be wearing a petticoat. The seam allowances are all serged.

 After making Greg's bow tie, I decided to make myself a little bow belt so we'd match a bit better. This is a simple bow, belt and button assembly.

To give myself some floof, I wore one of the petticoat crinolines from my wedding. This is the Modcloth Va Va Voluminous short petticoat in white. The net is soft and it provides a lot of lightweight floof.

Plus, it gave me a more triangular, candy-corn-type shape.

Looking a little wrinkled from the back -- we tried really hard to get good jumping and spinning shots, but it didn't work out, which is why I'm a bit wrinkled in this picture,

We wore these costumes to the Halloween dance at the local arts center, which is where we take ballroom classes. Not to brag, but we were totally one of the three couples who won the costume contest. ;) We had so much fun! We're new to ballroom, but I am loving the classes. Our teacher is a hoot!

What's your Halloween costume for this year? Got any exciting costume projects coming up? 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Simple Sewing: Grainline Scout in Japanese Double Gauze

After the epic projects I've done lately, I needed a major break. (I also made a bridesmaid dress that has gone unblogged -- and several other projects that will be coming soon to an RSS feed near you.)

Enter the Grainline Scout Tee.

This pattern is an absolute breeze. It's loose and comfy and required no fitting.

I bought it as a PDF on a whim when I was buying the Archer shirt last year and until now, I hadn't made it up.

Since it's such a simple pattern, I figured it would be a good time to experiment with a new-to-me fabric. 

(Oh! By the way! I cut off all my hair. Ha!)

This is a Japanese double gauze purchased from the Miss Matatabi Etsy shop.

I've admired Nani Iro prints for a while now, but I'd never worked with double gauze before. I decided to order some (cheaper) plain double gauze so I could experiment before trying to work with the good stuff.

Double gauze is a really neat fabric -- it consists of two layers that are some how bound together. It reminds me of a soft, loosely woven version of surgical gauze pads.

It wrinkles like mad, but luckily it irons well. You should see this shirt when it comes out of the wash, though. It's wrinkle city!

The fabric takes stitches very well -- they sink in and are nearly invisible, which is cool.

See? Can you even tell that that sleeve is hemmed? Cool, right?

This is just a natural cotton color. What better to go with jeans? I managed to squeeze this top out of a single yard, though I did have to really work to make the neckline binding work. Luckily this fabric is pretty stretchy whether it's on the bias or not.

I finished all the insides with my serger -- white thread was a close-enough match for me!

All in all, this project was exactly what I needed for my mental health.

Up next, I'm working on a trench coat and I've got some other super cool projects to share (including a corset, some pants and a suede jacket.)

Not going to lie, though, sometimes simple projects feel so good! It was such a relief to make this easy, instant-gratification top after all the tough projects I've been working on lately.

How about you? Do you sew the simple stuff? Or do you just go balls to the wall every time? :-P