A look back on 2015

I’m a little late with writing this – but not as late as I was last year! So hopefully that counts for something!

Like the title of this post implies, this is going to be a look back on what I made in 2015. I’m going to share my thoughts on each project, my goals for 2016, and my feelings towards this year as a whole. And it’s probably going to be a long one since I made a lot of stuff!

Project wise this year was kind of weird. I don’t mean to be a downer, but i’m not very happy with what I accomplished this year. Not because of how many things I made – I finished more than twenty projects and the majority have multiple pieces, which I think is pretty respectable. But I didn’t enjoy working on a lot of the projects I finished.

When I started off this year I had a plan, and I was determined to stick to it. I had several big elaborate projects I wanted to work on and figured i’d make easy fashion projects in between. Those fashion projects didn’t end up being easy, I actually found them to be really time consuming and draining to work on. But I had the materials for them and they were part of my plan so I kept making them – even though I didn’t enjoy them at all.

That led to rut of sorts, where I didn’t want to work on anything. Especially the really elaborate projects I had originally planned. The enthusiasm for them wasn’t there at all, which is why I only finished one of the three projects I had planned at the beginning of 2015.

Luckily I did get back into the swing of things after a shopping trip to the garment district in October. I picked up materials for a slew of medieval projects which really restored my enthusiasm towards sewing. So I managed to finish the year on a high note, and i’m feeling very inspired and excited about my projects for 2016!

But before talking about those projects, it’s time to look back on 2015…

January: 

In January I started working on the underthings for my Tudor project, which involved making A Pair of Bodies and a Chemise.

But my first project of the year was a cotton sateen polonaise circa 1790, which was intended to be worn over a embroidered satin gown. I finished the dress but the polonaise is currently living in my bin of death and I don’t think it will ever get finished. I could not for the life of me get this thing to fit and eventually gave up due to frustration. Quite sad – in it’s early stages I really liked how it was coming along!

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I did manage to successfully finish one project that month, and that’s my Silvery Blue Dress which is inspired by a gown in the show Galavant. I like how this turned out a lot, and I would like to expand this ensemble by making a cloak to go with it.

It’s also worth mentioning that this is the first of many blue dresses I made in 2015. More than a third of my projects this year were blue!

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February: 

I continued making Tudor underthings and managed to finish the Farthingale. Alongside that I made the Tudor Kirtle. This is one of my favorite pieces from the year. There was a lot of trial and error involved since I wasn’t very familiar with the silhouettes from that period. That made it quite challenging, but also very enjoyable since I had to get creative. I’m also really pleased with the beading on this dress, it was my first time doing such an elaborate pattern and really inspired me to include more beadwork in my future projects.

My next project was a three piece ensemble which I titled the “Fluffy Feathered Dress” which was inspired by Marchesa dresses. I like how this turned out, and I enjoyed parts of the process. I used a lot of sequins and lace on the bodice to create a variety of textures, which was fun. The rest of the dress was kind of boring to work on by comparison.

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March: 

At this point I became frustrated with my tudor project, so I decided to make a dress from materials I had around. This project ended up being titled the “Pleated Navy Gown“. I enjoyed the process of making this a lot. It was very quick, I made it in less than a week and I think it’s one of the most visually impressive things I made this year. I love the fabrics and the drape of the sleeve.

But this dress isn’t perfect. The bodice is really thick at points, and since it isn’t boned it doesn’t sit very nicely on my body. I need to figure out some way of fixing that before properly photographing this project.

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April: 

I started work on the foundation garments for my 18th century ensemble and managed to finish the Half Boned Stays and Chemise. I realize now that the stays are too big and the fabric for the chemise was way too thick, so both need to be remade in the future. That’s kind of a bummer, but at least i’ll know for next time.

This was also the beginning of my Cinderella dresses from hell, though at this point I only had the Petticoat finished. I think these were the main reason I became so frustrated and uninspired. These were very time consuming, not very enjoyable, and seemed to fight me at every turn. I really wish I had given up on these dresses and moved onto something else instead of working through the misery to finish them.

A project I like more is my Orchid Inspired Dress, which I made from materials I got during my birthday in the middle of the month. This project had it’s ups and downs but for the most part I enjoyed working on it, and I like how it turned out. Though as always, i’d do some things differently next time!

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May: 

I finished one of my Cinderella Dresses but my happiness towards that was overshadowed by my struggles to complete the second dress in the series.

I did manage to figure out the bodice of my Tudor Project, which was great. I was also working pretty intensely on my 18th century dress. I made a set of pocket hoops, the bodice, and dyed the lace for the skirt. Unfortunately that was the last time I worked on that project, and though it isn’t abandoned, I haven’t made any effort to finish it.

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June: 

I finished my Tudor Project this month, which was a huge accomplishment for me. The final pieces include two necklaces, a french hood, foresleeves, and lace cuffs. I have mixed feelings about this project – I love all the detail work put into it, and how the pieces work together, but I don’t think it was completely successful. There are little fit issues here and there and the level of mobility is really bad.

I think my expectations for this project were higher than what it ended up being, which is why I don’t feel completely happy with it. But I am proud of it! I think it’s the most elaborate thing i’ve ever made.

I also FINALLY finished the second Cinderella dress. Thank goodness. This turned out better than I had expected but I hated working on it, so that soured the end result for me.

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July:

This was my favorite month project wise. I got so much done and I love everything that I made.

After months of on/off work I finished a Brown Menswear Ensemble. I made the pants for these in January, the shirt in March, and the hat in July. Those pieces were simple compared to the doublet (which was made in November 2014) but weren’t a big priority of mine, so they took a while to finish. I like how this turned out a lot, I think it’s cute!

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I made my favorite project of the year this month, and that’s my Heinrich Inspired Dress (along with two matching headpieces). I adore everything about this, I don’t think I have a single bad thing to say! It was really fun to make and I think the end result is gorgeous.

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Another one of my favorites is this Taffeta Ensemble based off a portrait of Ana De Mendoza. The dress, hat, and chemise were all made in the same month. I really enjoyed making this. The hat and dress bodice especially. Everything went so smoothly! And I’d never made a hat like this before, so completing it really motivated me to attempt more elaborate headpieces.

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August: 

August was less successful. I had a lot of things in progress throughout the month – including an elaborate mermaid inspired gown which I ended up putting on hiatus. I also started work on my Damask Print Medieval dress, which was fun at first but turned quite frustrating at the end.

I managed to finish three projects. The most successful of the bunch is a Regency Dress and Bonnet made from floral curtains and cotton sateen. I liked this project but I didn’t feel very excited about it while working on it, it was just something to pass the time. And looking back at it I still don’t feel very excited about it! I think it’s cute but needs some alterations before I’ll feel comfortable photographing it.

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The other project I didn’t enjoy very much at all…it was messy, and boring, and quite frustrating at times since I was allergic to all the materials. But I managed to complete my Forest Sprite project. I also made a quick dress in five hours from curtains which was fun, I’ve called that my Ikea Curtain Dress.

September: 

This month my main priority was a Black Lace Dress, which I wore to my Uncle’s wedding. This project ended up being frustrating at times, but I think it turned out very pretty!

I also kept working on my damask print dress, and I made two skirts. One was a plain circle skirt, and the other is a ruffly horsehair skirt. Both were the subjects for youtube tutorials so I never blogged about them.

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October: 

I managed to finish my Damask Print Medieval Dress this month, and a pair of PJ’s inspired by Toothless! I really dislike how the Medieval dress turned out but I think the Toothless PJs are pretty cute!

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With that finished all my “commitments” for the year were done. I didn’t need to create projects for youtube content and most of my WIP’s were complete or abandoned, so I could start fresh! This is when my enthusiasm really came back and I got back to creating projects I really love.

The first of those projects was a Medieval Escoffin and matching Dress. I love this project. It was so much fun to make and I think the end result is quite stunning, and different from everything i’ve made before. I’m very pleased with it!

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November: 

I didn’t finish any projects this month, but I made a lot of progress on various pieces. One of those pieces was a Medieval Cotehardie. I also made a headpiece to go along with a Civil War Era Dress, a medieval hennin, chiffon chemise, and a gold brocade kirtle. I really like how all of these pieces turned out, though I haven’t blogged about any of them yet!

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This month I also began work on a 1630s dress, an 18th century riding coat, medieval mantle, lace chemise,  long toed shoes, and a Burgundian Dress.

December: 

I had a massive to-do list for December. I didn’t accomplish everything on it, but it still ended up being a very productive month. I finished my Burgundian Dress and Medieval Menswear Inspired ensemble, both of which i’m very happy with.

These two projects rank highly on my list of favorites for the year. I really like how all pieces come together to make something interesting and elegant. And since I was constantly working on a new piece of each project I stayed really enthusiastic, which let me pack way more hours of time and detail work into each element.

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And of course I finished my Christmas Project! Which I ended up being surprisingly happy with as well.

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It’s worth mentioning that a good portion of this month was spent beading a riding coat which isn’t finished yet, but is coming along quite nicely. I spent the week between Christmas and New Years Day working on this like crazy. So much beading!

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Now for the fun part – what’s next! I’ll actually have a blog post all about the fabrics I bought with my Christmas money, and what I plan on doing with them. So I won’t talk too much about my future plans, but I did want to share my goals. My goal is actually pretty vague – i’m a bit worried to commit to anything in particular, since that let me into a creative ditch last year!

But my main goal for this year  is to improve my general knowledge of historical fashion, and learn more hand sewing and fabric manipulation techniques.

I like reading and I like learning, but I like sewing more. So I don’t put a lot of effort into research or new techniques unless it’s related to a specific project. And I want to change that. I own a lot of really great reference materials that I look through when i’m stuck on something, but I haven’t read many of them cover-to-cover. And I definitely haven’t practiced all the techniques that are detailed in some of the books.

There are some really basic techniques, like blanket stitching or smocking that I don’t know how to do, since i’ve never had a project that requires them. This year i’m going to try and push myself to learn and practice those techniques, even if they are only used to create a sampler.

I think if I took a few hours each week to read through my reference books i’d have a more well rounded skill set and knowledge of historical fashion. Right now what I know is pretty limited to european fashion from the 15/19th centuries. And even that is a little spotty. I’m interested in learning more, and I have the books around to do so, I just need to take the time to read them!

As for project plans, mine are very loose because I never seem to be able to stick to the solid plans I make, and this year I don’t want to, I want to work on what I feel enthusiastic about and go with the flow. But I do have a few things I would like to accomplish and that includes:

-A draped gown. Probably inspired by the statues from the Metropolitan Museum of art that I was fascinated by. I have the fabric for this (ten yards of satin faced red chiffon).

-An 18th Century Project. I’d be happy just to finish the one I have in progress! But I have fabric for a turque and chemise a la reiene so the possibilities are endless.

-A 20th Century Project. More on this in my next post, since I picked up fabric for this on a recent NYC shopping trip!

-A Regency dress. I’ve made a few of these but don’t love any of them, maybe i’ll get one right this year.

-A big ball gown. Probably a Civil War Era evening dress – potentially made out of pink cotton sateen and lace that i’ve had forever.

-Something Tailored. Maybe a women’s suit? A riding ensemble? I’m not sure what.

Of course there are many more things i’d like to make. Another menswear inspired project is on my list for this year, and I want to make a women’s cotehardie very soon. I also have four projects I purchased fabric for over Christmas, which will keep me busy for the first half of this year. But I can’t list all my ideas, there are simply too many to share!

Also I think i’m going to, for the most part, be doing more of the same this year. I’m hoping to get more of my projects photographed, and take on a wider variety of silhouettes and era so my portfolio has a little more variety. But I think my blogging schedule will stay the same if not more frequent.

And that’s it! This post is massive so I’ll end it here. I hope you enjoyed my blog throughout 2015 and that you continue to enjoy it throughout the new year. And of course, I hope your year is off to a good start!

Thanks for reading!

Progress Report: November / December 2015

It’s been a while since i’ve done one of these, my last one was back in August so this is long overdue! I have a lot to share, so I have a feeling that this post will be really long and all over the place. Sorry about that.

If you are new to this type of post,  Progress Reports are a monthly round up of what i’ve been working on, what i’ve purchased, and what I plan to start working on soon.

I’m not going to talk too much about what i’ve finished in the past few months. Partially because I can’t really remember since i’ve had so much in progress recently. But mostly because the year is almost over, which means my “Year in Review” post will be up soon and in that i’ll be talking about everything i’ve finished this year.

So I won’t bore you with that information twice. But I do want to mention the projects I managed to get photographed this month, since i’m quite happy about those!

I made an escoffin and matching maroon dress to create a medieval ensemble. I’m really happy with how this turned out and I love the photos of it, I think they are quite striking. Unfortunately i’ve been really slow when it comes to editing photos, so I still don’t have this set completely finished…or any of the photosets. Hopefully i’ll get them done soon!

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We also photographed my Damask Print Medieval Dress. I don’t like how this dress turned out, and the photos were a it of a flop. Most had weird shadows in them and the best ones of the bunch were taken with a flash – which made my eyes look really dead. But I do like this photo, it really shows off how pretty these fabrics are in sunlight.

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And I FINALLY got photos of my Civil War Era Dress! I adore this costume, it was one of my favorite things that I made in 2014. Unfortunately I never got photos of it, or made a petticoat to go with it, or even finished blogging about it!

 I still have all the progress photos of it, so a long overdue post about making the skirt and headpiece will be up in the coming months.

In the mean time, look at all the pieces together! I’m still thrilled by how this project turned out. The fit, the sleeves, and the fabric, I love it all.

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I didn’t end up making a petticoat to go with this dress, instead I layered petticoats over my farthingale, which has an elliptical shape similar to large dresses from the mid 19th century. It wasn’t pretty, but I got a decent silhouette out of it.

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Then I re-hemmed the skirt so it sits properly over it and made the half bonnet from lace and matching green fabric. I think it finishes off the look nicely.

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Since i’m talking about photographing finished projects I think I should mention this years Christmas Project, which I finished a few days ago. My dad and I went out to the Christmas Tree Lot (for the third year in a row) and took some pictures. Last year this was a bit of a fail, but this year they turned out wonderfully. I’m not ready to share any of them yet, but here is a little preview of the costume!

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I’ve made Christmas inspired dresses for the last few years, and usually the ideas for them are easy to come by. That didn’t happen this year. Coming up with a concept was really hard, and I ended up going for something quite simple. But I do like how it turned out. The construction process went really nicely and I think the dress is very cute, even if it isn’t as exciting as the dress I made last year.

I used gold brocade from my stash as a base, some beads in matching colors, and red ribbon for a pop of color. I took some color inspiration from these little velvet birds I found at Joanns. I found the contrast between the red and white really striking, and I wanted to do something similar.

I won’t ramble on about it too much since a “The Making of” post about the process is going up tomorrow, but here are the things from the Joanns trip that helped inspire this dress.

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I ended up using some of the materials I got to create another seasonal crown (yet again, for the third year in a row). I’m very pleased with how this turned out as well, I added some battery powered lights to it and I think the whole thing looks magical. I can’t wait to get worn photos of it!

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I did film a video tutorial on the process, but i’m not sure when it will be going up.

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I also got a few other bits and pieces from Joanns, thanks to Black Friday sales, so i’ll share those as well.

I got six yards fake wool flannel for $24 – which I think is an absolute steal. I love this fabric, It’s what I used for my Civil War Era dress and the texture of it is wonderful. Unfortunately they didn’t have the best color selection, or enough fabric left in most colors for me to do something great with it. But I do like the one I bought.

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I also got four yards of a sari fabric and a yard of this textured stretch fabric. Not sure what i’m going to do with any of these materials, but I really like all of them!

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These next few things I didn’t buy, they were a gift from my Great Aunt. She gave them onto me a few months ago when my family was visiting Canada to attend a wedding.

She got these from an auction at a theater that was shutting down. They are all vintage costume and sewing books – I think they were all printed before the 1960s, some as early as 1907.

The first few are a set of textbooks from the 1920s, which were created by Mary Picken for the Women’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences. I haven’t read through them all just yet, but i’m really impressed by them. They explain a huge variety of techniques in really simple terms that makes the most complicated of things pretty easy to follow.

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The other books are specific to costumes and historical dress. Again, I haven’t read these through yet but i’ve enjoyed browsing them! And I will take the time to read them cover to cover soon.

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They are all well balanced between photos and text, which I appreciate since i’m a very visual person.

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Now lets talk about some things in progress. Of which I have plenty. I decided at the start of December that I wanted to finish five projects before the new year. Five! In a month! As you can probably imagine my to-do list has been looking really overwhelming since I made that decision. I have managed to get a bunch of things crossed off in the last week, but here you can see it in it’s original state.

So many things.

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I want to start fresh in the new year, and be able to focus on new projects without these weighing me down. Not that I dislike the projects, but I know when January rolls around i’ll be ready to work on something new. So I’d like to get these things finished first.

But that is easier said than done.

The project i’m closest to finishing is my Cotehardie ensemble. If you’ve seen my last post than you’ll know I finished the cotehardie part of this and i’m pretty happy with the outcome.

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But that piece is one of many. I still have to finish the crown and mantle which go along with it. Luckily i’ve finished the shoes which were the part I was really scared of, and the leggings. If I remade either of these things I would do them a bit differently, but for the most part i’m happy with them.

Wool Shoes~

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A blog post about these should be up soon – these were a step (ha!) outside of my comfort zone, so I think they will be fun to write about!

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The dagged edges on the mantle are what slowed me down, but they are done now so the rest should go quickly!

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The crown is…well the crown isn’t going too well, but hopefully I can get that figured out soon and have the whole thing done!

My next “almost done” project is a Burgundian Dress. This project has actually been going quite well, though i’ve hit a bit of a setback because I don’t have enough trim to hem the skirt with…and the trim is discontinued, so I can’t get more of it, which means I have to take in my pretty skirt. I’m annoyed by that even though it’s my fault for measuring wrong.

Aside from that, all the difficult parts of this project are done, but it’s usually the easy finishing bits that take me ages, so i’m not sure when it will get finished.

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That dress will be paired with a Medieval Hennin, which I finished this month. It’s made from matching fabric with a chiffon veil and lots of pretty beaded trimming.

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I don’t think the chiffon matches very well,  I’ll definitely be on a lookout for a lighter, more grey toned chiffon next time i’m in NYC. But it works fine for now!

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The Burgundian dress is worn over a kirtle, which i’ve also finished. It’s made out of the most annoying brocade ever but I think it turned out quite nicely. Here is a WIP of it, from before I added the sleeves and trimming.

I don’t want to give away too much about these projects since I really want to write detailed blog posts about all of them, but i’m so far behind with my blog that those posts probably won’t go up for another month or two. 😦

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The third project is already done, and that’s my Christmas project. As I said earlier blog posts about that will be up really soon, so i’ll talk more about it there.

Unfortunately my other two projects that I want to finish haven’t been going as well. The first one is a 1630s  ensemble that i’m becoming quite frustrated with. First the shoulder didn’t fit, then I fixed that and realized the bodice was too short waisted. I spent many hours hand sewing the strips for paned sleeves only to realize they are the wrong length and the arm hole isn’t wide enough.

This week I started work on a matching chemise to go under it and the sleeves for that are too full and short even though I triple checked the length. It’s like this project is refusing to go well!

I think i’m going to have to completely start over…but my motivation towards this  project is fading, and i’m not sure I can remake it without giving up. It’s such a shame since this is my favorite style of gown ever, I’ve been so excited to make one and now that I am it’s going horribly.

It could turn itself around, and I haven’t given up on it yet, but i’m certainly not happy with it at the moment!

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Here are the pieces bound together, you can see how shoddy the shoulders are due to crazy alterations. I’m also not happy with my choice to have the bodice close at the front, if I redo this it’ll have lacing in one of the back seams.

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The chemise might not fit nicely under this dress, but it looks pretty so far! I’m using a lovely lace fabric over white chiffon and embellishing it with iridescent white sequins.

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The sleeves cuffs are finished with more sequins and some iridescent braided trim.

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The other project i’m determined to finish this year hasn’t been touched in months, even though it’s close to being done. It’s an 18th century gown that will be worn over a chemise, stays, and pocket hoops. The gown has wide lace across the hem and will be worn with a riding coat and hat.

I started on it this summer and it hasn’t changed much since then. The underthings were done, but i’ve realized I need to remake the chemise from lighter fabric and take the stays in so they are smaller.

The bodice is almost done, it’s just missing sleeves. And the skirt is almost finished as well, I just have to finish sewing on the lace.

But the jacket and hat? No clue how to make those or what the patterns will look like. I haven’t even thought about it. But I know the beading and detailing will take time so I want to get started soon. I need to have a research day and figure out what this costume is even going to look like, then get my butt in gear and actually finish it!

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I think my goals for this month might be a little bit too ambitious. We’ll just have to wait and see if I can accomplish them.

Oh! I’m also working on a velvet kirtle, but i’m honestly not feeling very excited about this project and I don’t see myself finishing it this year. I don’t dislike it, it’s just boring. It will eventually have a cartridge pleated skirt, small sleeve rolls at the shoulder, long velvet sleeves and white cuffs. I’d like to pair it with a damask print vest and hat as well, but I don’t see any of that happening any time soon.

I made the smock this month as well. I used three yards of a really neat metallic chiffon and it has a gorgeous sheen to it.

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With all the stuff I have in progress out of the way, lets talk about the future! I’m going into NYC to spend my Christmas money soon and I have big plans. Okay that is kind of a lie – I don’t have any plans because I haven’t researched anything yet, but I have big ideas!

I’ve been watching Downton Abbey recently and it’s given me an appreciation for fashion from that era that I didn’t have a few months ago. I’ve always considered the silhouettes and styles from the late 19th/early 20th century to be quite…ugly, and unflattering. They still aren’t my favorite but i’ve definitely found a few gowns from those times that I love. And the challenge of working on designs from an era I haven’t worked on or researched before has me excited.

I’ll be doing historical research of course, but thanks to the dresses in Downton Abbey and the costume design for Crimson Peaks i’ve decided an Edwardian day dress, hat, matching cloak, and sparkly evening dress are all in my future. I’d also like to look into making a flapper dress, but I feel like the shape of them would look awful on me

In addition to those plans I’ll be searching for some wool to make a large cloak to wear over my Silvery Blue Dress for a photoshoot in the snow.

And though I won’t be shopping for it on this trip into NYC, I think a 1880s bustle dress might be in my future as well. Which probably doesn’t sound odd to you guys, but I’m a bit shocked to be saying that! A year ago I would have sworn that I would never make anything from that period. How things change!

I also have a few menswear projects on my upcoming “to sew” list. I picked up these shoes from a modcloth sale because they reminded me of 18th century footwear. They are really inaccurate but I don’t care. I have some blue jacquard fabric that matches them nicely, and some blue velvet laying around. So i’m totally going to make a horribly tacky menswear inspired 18th century ensemble and wear these with it. I can’t wait.

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I’d also like to make a 19th century court dress from the embroidered blue velvet I got last year. And I have some gold trim and taffeta that I’d love to use for a matching menswear ensemble from the same period.

Though i’m not super excited about this one, because i’ve made similar things in the last month, I want to make the women’s cotehardie ensemble I bought fabric for a few months ago. I  want to photograph it in the snow, which means it will be at the top of my project list for January!

The one i’m most excited about is a civil war era ball gown. I bought cotton sateen and lace for this a few years ago but it wasn’t until I was altering my Plaid dress from the same period that I remembered how much I love the silhouette and dresses from that time. I’m on the look out for another material in the same color scheme that I can use for an ovelay on the dress. If I find it when i’m in NYC i’ll be starting on it right away. But I do have to make a petticoat to go under it, which will probably take ages, so I might not have a lot of progress to share about it any time soon!

We are almost at the end of this post! The last things I wanted to mention are social media related. Nothing super exciting has happened, but last month I was part of Schmetz Inspired to Sew Series. The interview I did with them can be read here if you are interested!

I also (finally) made an instagram. I wasn’t expecting to like it because i’m not someone who reaches for my phone very often, but I love it. I’ve found it very convenient and have been updating at least once a day with some stuff that doesn’t get posted anywhere else. So if you have an account and want more regular updates on my work, I would suggest following me there! My account name is AngelaCostumery.

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I also hit 50,000 subscribers on youtube quite recently which is insane, but awesome. I’m really excited and grateful to know that that many people are interested in my work!

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And speaking of youtube, I made a much requested video this month which is an updated tour of my sewing room. It’s really long but it goes over pretty much every detail of how I store my costumes, fabrics, trims, notions and all sorts of stuff.

I had intended to make a blog post showing the room as well, but I think the video format works better for the amount of information I wanted to share. If you’re into that thing it can be watched here! 

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And that’s it!

As an end note I wanted to say that i’m sorry i’ve been slacking so much when it comes to blogging. I went through a weird phase where I wasn’t excited enough to write about my projects. Now i’m over that and really enjoying my projects but seem to be making them faster than I can write about them, so I just haven’t bothered.

Now I have enough photos to write about 20 detailed “The making of” posts, but so much to do before the New Year that I haven’t written any of them. I think January and February will be slower months, since i’ll be making corsets and petticoats and patterning new projects. There won’t be much to report there which means I should be able to make my way through the backlog i’ve developed recently. I really appreciate your patience when it comes to this stuff.

Thanks for reading!

Progress Report: July & August 2015

It’s been almost two months since my last one, which means it’s time for another progress report!

I got a lot done in the past two months, and i’m happy with what I got done, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I had a little mid year crisis in July, where I felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything. Six costumes in seven months isn’t bad, but i’m not particularly happy or proud of any of those projects. So I sulked about that for a bit, then got super motivated and completed five projects. Which is awesome, but would be more awesome if I didn’t feel like I need to make up for the previous seven months where I got so little done.

I’m mostly over that now, and i’m feeling enthusiastic about new projects, so I think it was just a temporary sewing slump. I felt this way around the same time last year too. I guess July isn’t a good month for me!

Anyway, onto what I got done in july and august, and what I plan to do in the coming months! I promise the rest of this post is happier than that intro!

I started and finished my Heinrich inspired dress. I also made two headpieces to go with it. I mentioned in my last progress report that I wanted to make this and I’m so happy that I did. This really got me out of my “sewing slump” and left me with enough enthusiasm to finish up some frustrating projects.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out, I wasn’t at first but now I really love it.

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A couple weeks later I decided to take on another fast but relatively elaborate project, which is based off of a portrait of Ana de Mendoza. I’m very pleased with this costume as well, I think it and my Heinrich inspired dress are tied for my favorite projects of this year (so far). I really like both of them, and I like wearing them.

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I also made a dress out of ikea curtains – I don’t know if this really counts because I made it in a day, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to mention! I like how this turned out, but I definitely prefer my more elaborate historical ensembles.

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I also finished off two projects that had been dragging on, and they are both short fashion-y dresses.

This month I came to the realization that I need to take a step back from the fashion and fantasy projects. I started doing them as a fun “break” from the complicated historical pieces but they really aren’t. I don’t enjoy making them as much, they aren’t valuable in my portfolio, and they tend to be just as time consuming and expensive to make as something like my Heinrich dress.

In fact, my Cinderella dress took over two months and the Forest Sprite took a solid two weeks of on and off work. My Ana de Mendoza costume and Heinrich dress were each made in less than a week.

I have a couple more fashion projects planned, but they will be hugely different in silhouette and design from anything i’ve done before.  Or they will be truly simple projects I can make in a day, like my ikea curtain dress. No more of making these short fluffy dresses just for the sake of it!

 Here is my Cinderella dress! This took ages, everything that could go wrong went wrong and it was a battle to get it finished. But I made it to the end, and it turned out pretty cute!

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The other fashion project was a Forest Sprite costume, inspired by materials that were on sale at Michaels. This wasn’t fun to work on for various reasons (one of which being my allergy to burlap and moss…two materials that are prominently featured in this costume) which i’ll go into more when I blog about the process.

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I also got photos of a couple projects. One of those is my brown menswear ensemble.

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And another is the Forest Sprite. I haven’t finished editing this set, so i’ll be a couple weeks before I post them, but here is one i’ve finished.

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I mentioned last month that I wanted to take some painting-esque photos of my Tudor costume. I attempted to do that – I even set up a backdrop and lighting! It kind of worked, but the fake drapery I used looked really bad and my room was too small to include the hem of the dress in the photos. I plan to attempt this again, but I have to make proper velvet curtains and hang a curtain rod in my room…so it might be a while before that happens.

I think my photo goal for this month is to take photos with flowers. I have a half dozen costumes which haven’t been photographed outside my sewing room that would look really nice in a garden. I want to accomplish that before autumn and winter come. The only problem is finding a garden that would allow it.

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Now, lets talk about things I’ve started and should be finishing soon.

I’m mostly done with a regency gown. I really love the fit and shape this has, and i’m excited to complete it. The only thing I don’t like (and it’s a big one) is my material choice. This dress is also made out of a set of Ikea curtains, when I bought them the print reminded me a lot of this chintz dress that I love. Once I turned them into a dress I began to realize how modern this floral print looks, and now I’m less happy with it.

But i’ll carry on and get it done! Hopefully blog posts about this will be up soon.

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I’ve also been working on the 18th century project I mentioned in my last progress report. I raised the waistline of the skirt (the hem is straight, so it has to be pulled up from the top to sit evenly over the panniers) and pleated it. I had planned on beading the lace elaborately, and I started with a ten inch test section. Unfortunately it looked really bad, and I much preferred the look of the lace without it. So I removed the beading and have decided to leave it this way.

I’m a bit bummed about this, but I think it was the right decision. Since it won’t have pink and gold beads on it I feel like this dress will better suit the colors in winter (it will be paired with a red riding coat). I’m still going to finish sewing on all the lace and plan on drafting the sleeves for the bodice in the next month or so, but i’m not in any rush to finish.

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The final thing I have in progress is a stomacher i’m working on embroidering (I stole the pattern from photobucket, I hope that doesn’t offend anyone). Before this i’d never embroidered before, so it’s been a learning process. I’m terrible at making this symmetrical, but aside from that i’ve really enjoyed it!

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I work on it whenever I have TV to watch. It’s nice having a small handsewing project I can do on my lap. I usually use a whiteboard as a table that rests on my knees, and Guin sits next to me while I work. I’ve been really into crappy reality shows on the History channel and watching Friends on netflix.

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The design for the project which will use that stomacher is still a mystery. I want to make a 17th century ensemble (I have enough 18th and 16th century project planned) but they didn’t have colorful embroidered stomachers during that time. I think i’ll ignore historical accuracy and go with the silhouette of the 1630’s with the colors and fabrics from the 1560’s. It won’t be accurate, but it will be pretty!

Even though the design doesn’t exist yet, i’ve bought fabrics for it!

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During Joanns student discount month I picked up supplies for a fashion project – I know what I said earlier, but this one has a very different shape and i’m really excited about it. I’m not making it because I want a break from historical things, i’m making it because i’m enthusiastic about the design. It’s going to be a mermaid inspired dress made from glittery and sheer materials, and decorated with rhinestones and shells.

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I’ve mentioned these a couple times (and already used two sets…) but here are the ikea curtains in their original form. Two of them have already been turned into dresses, and i’m hoping to do the same with the final set later on this month. It’s a beautiful lightweight cotton gauze that is very soft . When I saw it I knew immediately that I wanted to make a Chemise a la Reine of it.

I’d really like to get that started (and finished) soon since it’s a summery style of dress, but I don’t have the materials for a matching sash or hat. So I might put this off for another month or two.

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I have a lot of plans and hopes for the next couple months – an early 1800s velvet court dress, another menswear project, an embroidered 18th century gown, and lots of others. But the two that I really must finish are a damask print medieval dress and a short lace dress, which i’ll be wearing to my uncles wedding. I’ll have more info on the lace dress soon, but here are the materials for the medieval one. This will be my next “The making  of” project on youtube, so I need to get started on it soon!

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I’m not completely set on a design yet, but it’s mostly based off this painting of Eleanor of Portugal and the women’s dresses below. Whatever I end up doing will be worn with a gold headpiece, I bought some gold mesh especially for it.

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And the final thing I wanted to mention is that i’ve opened an etsy store. I really want to sell spiked headpieces like the ones I made to go with my Heinrich dress. I have all the supplies for it, so now I just have to make a bunch of them and figure out how to work paypal, then i’ll be in business!

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And that’s it for today – this post became much longer than I had intended, but I had a lot to share. A “The making of” post should be up early next week!

Thanks for reading!

Progress Report: May & June 2015

This is going to be a progress report! I haven’t done one of these in ages. If you aren’t familiar with these posts, they tend to be a bit all over the place and talk about my  projects in progress, what I plan on starting on in the near future, things I finished, and anything else I feel like that is vaguely related to costumes and sewing. May and June have been interesting months so I figured I would turn it into one long blog post!

In the past two months I’ve finished three projects….which doesn’t seem like very many. But in my defense one of those was a “big” project, and I was working on two new things as well.

One of those project is my Orchid Dress, which got a very mixed response when I posted about it. I’m actually quite pleased with how this came together. I really like the mixture of textures and the neckline. I think it’s really interesting, and different from my past projects. And certainly the closest i’ve gotten to making something “High Fashion”

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I also finished my Tudor project! I still have a couple blog posts to write about this, plus a video to edit which will talk a bit about each part of the costume, but the costume itself is done. Finishing this was a HUGE accomplishment for me. Though I don’t love how it turned out, I’m pretty happy with it considering how many pieces there are, and how tricky some of those pieces were to make.

Hopefully next week I can set up a backdrop, some candles, and do my best to get some nice photos of this. I really want to get photos that almost look like a painting come to life. But for now, here is a picture that definitely doesn’t look like a painting.

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I also finished Cinderella! I finished this long before the orchid dress and tudor costume, but it’s a good transition into the next topic. I like this dress as a shorter version of the one from the animated film. I think in that way, it’s cute. But that wasn’t my original vision so i’m a little disappointed with the end result.

However it’s really sparkly and fun to wear, so that’s good!

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And the way this transitions into the next topic is because it was the reason that here was a buzzfeed article about me! Which led to a HelloGiggles post and an interview on the Cosmopolitan website. Those articles ended up getting reposted and translated for a bunch of other sites too, so in addition to a huge view bump from the US i’ve been getting thousands from France, Russia, Italy, and strangely surprisingly, Belgium! Lots of places I hadn’t expected to have readers from, so that has been really neat!

I don’t expect my work to have a broad appeal, so it’s always a big surprising (but really great) to see it on sites that have a large audience. And even better to see that people actually seem interested. I’m really grateful for the kind comments I got, and of course the new followers! I really appreciate the support and I hope you are enjoying my blog!

Now for things I have in progress. Even though these are pretty far along they aren’t quite far enough along to blog about. Which is a bit annoying!

The first is a dress and jacket based off of the ones worn by Sophie Marie Grafin Voss in this painting. I want to get the dress finished soon, since it’s so summery and would look lovely photographed in a garden. I’m using off white fabric and lace, plus thousands of pink seed beads to decorate the lace.

I made the bodice a little while ago, but I only recently finished all the eyelets. And I still haven’t tried it on,. But i’m pretty confident it will fit well, since I did so many fittings between steps.

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For the skirt I fussy cut lace trim and appliques out of a lace fabric. It took me a good five hours, but I did it! Then this past week I used tea to stain the lace to match the fabric. It’s a very subtle stain, just enough to remove the whitish blue tinge.

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All the lace is now pinned onto the one hundred and eighty inch hem of the skirt. I’m sure i’ll have great fun stitching it on…

Though if I have trouble stitching it on then beading it will be REALLY miserable. I’ve never taken on a beading project this large before so I have no clue how long it will take and how difficult it will be. I guess I will find out soon!

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Part of making this project involved creating a set of pocket hoops. I made a pair last year but they were really, really, bad. This time I altered the pattern so the silhouette is a lot smoother and the construction is much better. I made a youtube tutorial on the process, which is posted here!

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And this is how they look with petticoats overtop. My petticoats are a bit ratty, but I think the shape is really nice!

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My other project is the second Cinderella dress, this one inspired by the dress from the live action film. The bodice is almost done. The fabric I used for this was annoying (lame, chiffon, and tulle – bleh) and my iron wasn’t working very well, so it’s less even and more puckered than it should be. But it looks good when worn!

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The real problem with it is that the eyelets that lace it closed have not been behaving. I tried metal ones first, and they betrayed me…

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So I replaced them with carefully embroidered ones and it happened AGAIN. I think I cried a little. I’m quite familiar with eyelets, so I don’t need advice on how to work with them, I think this was a case of me drastically misjudging how sturdy this fabric is…even though i’ve embroidered eyelets into organza and chiffon, the most delicate of all fabrics, and had them be fine.

Needless to say, this was not a good day for me and I’m not too excited to resume progress on this!

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Hopefully i’ll be starting on two new projects in the coming month. The first has been planned for a while, though i’m still not certain what the design will be. I’m making a dress based off of some things I got from Michaels. Those things include fake flowers, fake moss, burlap, and my personal favorite: Fake bird nests, which will make a lovely headpiece.

I think this will end up being a forest fairy type of thing. I might even attempt to make a pair of wings!

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I also might resort to taking on a procrastination project this month. Since my Cinderella dress isn’t going well and I can almost guarantee i’ll be fed up with embroidering lace after I sew on the four thousandth bead.

I’d like to make another easy, draped dress, which is once again inspired by how saints were depicted in artwork. I recently fell in love with this painting, it’s called “The Body of Saint Catherine of Alexandria Borne to Heaven” and painted by Mucke Heinrich. The image below does not belong to me and was taken from this page.

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I find the red dress in that picture especially inspiring, which is good because it gave me a reason to buy a fabric from joanns which i’ve loved for ages. This is a rust colored sari fabric with gold stamping on it. I love the weight of it and the mottled print, it feels a bit like chiffon and I think it will be gorgeous for a draped dress like the one above! I also bought some suiting for lining, since it’s sheer.

I got this during Joanns memorial day sale, so I believe they were both 50% off, plus 20% off your entire purchase. Not a bad deal!

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And speaking of fabric, I bought a little bit in NYC. I didn’t plan on purchasing any, I actually went into NYC to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve been to the museum before, once to take cosplay photos (I cringe a little remembering this) and another to see a fashion exhibit. At those points I had no interest in historical fashion and artwork, so I didn’t appreciate the experience very much.

This time I went in alone, hoping to learn something and get really inspired. I think both of those things happened, and I really enjoyed the visit. Here are some photos of the ‘adventure’

I think the medieval statues, tapestries, and paintings were my favorite. It’s hard to research these things online since most of the results bring up reproductions popularized by renaissance faires. I’d like to make a dress similar to the one below (the name of this style is escaping me right now). I recently got six yards of fur trim I could use on a hem of a gown like this, so maybe it will happen soon!

This piece was especially impressive because it was huge, it was more than nine feet tall and ten feet wide. A better image is available here.

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One of the many medieval statues which I liked. I love the draping on these dresses. I have no idea what the pattern of one would look like, but I really want to make one. A better image is available here.

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The european painting gallery was lovely too.  I didn’t look at the archives online before going, so I had no idea what they would have or how much would be there. They ended up having a lot, including some Lucas Cranach works which were nice to see in person. They also had Peter Paul Rubens paintings, and a good amount of Rembrandts work. They are two of my favorite painters and I was so happy to see some in person!

I was kind of shocked at the size of everything, you don’t expect that 400 pixel wide image you see on pinterest or in a book to be eight feet tall in person. Definitely gives you a new appreciation for the artists!

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Unfortunately the historical costume exhibit was switched out for the “China Through the Looking Glass” collection – which was very pretty, but I would have rather admired eighteenth century stitch work instead.

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Okay – now onto the fabric! I didn’t get much. I got a bit of metallic gold brocade, some horsehair braid, and ten yards of satin faced chiffon. I’ve posted photos of very similar things in my past hauls (and I filmed a video haul for next week) so i’ll just show you my two favorites. The first is a floral print brocade, which I hated at first. I thought it looked like bloody starfishes and it grossed me out.

But now I think it looks like the most gorgeous floral brocade ever and I can’t wait to make a dress out of it.

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And the second is a white organza with laser cut blue flowers and embroidery attached. I love how delicate this fabric is, while still having a lot of movement and a fun flare to it. I think this would make a really nice skirt – something simple that doesn’t take away from the pattern, like a circle skirt.

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Now the very last thing I wanted to mention is that this month involved a bit of traveling! My family went up to Canada for a reunion, which was nice. But our trips over the border didn’t go that well. The first time we crossed through an indian reservation that had billboards about missing women and how white people weren’t wanted there. Then we crossed into the US on the same day prisoners escaped from Dannemora, so there were officers with M16s checking trunks. Not to mention checkpoints at the start of major towns, where Sheriffs would stop and question you. But we got back okay!

It stunted the progress on my costumes for a bit, but it wasn’t a total wash! We went to an antique bookshop that had a tiny craft section which I took advantage of.

I got two of the Art of Sewing books from the 70s. I love the covers of these, they are textured like fabric. It’s such a cute idea and they are really nicely laid out inside. Now I want them all – I think there are 16 in total?

I’m not sure how much use i’ll get out of these, but it was  only $10 for the pair. They have a few really nice diagrams on fabric manipulation and embroidery stitches, which are both things I want to improve at.

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I also got two more historically based books. I’m not sure how accurate the information still is, but I bought them mostly for the pictures. The top one is “The Horizon Book of the Renaissance” and the lower one is called “Costume of the Western World: Renaissance fashions” – both of which are really nice hardcover books with lots of fashion plates. I think they will work well as references for future costumes.

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And that’s everything! This was a massive post but I think it shows pretty much everything I did over the last month when it comes to costume work. Thank you for reading!

Progress Report: August 2014

Oh gosh it feels really weird to be more then halfway through the year! I feel like I haven’t gotten much done so far, not nearly as much as I wanted too, but i’ve learned a lot and i’m proud of the things I have done. Hopefully the rest of this year will prove to be even more productive!

This is my second progress report, and this time i’ll be talking about what I got done in July and what I hope to do in August!

Last month I went on about my many works in progress, and i’m happy to say that I completed three projects and made a little bit of progress on two others!

I’ve also started a youtube channel, which has been really scary but exciting! I’ve wanted to make videos for a long time but they scare me a lot, I’m always really concerned about what other people will think and a video seems so much more revealing then a blog post or photoset. So far I’ve enjoyed the editing process a lot and hopefully I can continue with the process.

I updated my portfolio site which should have happened a long time ago, I still have more to do, but it’s in much better shape then it was a month ago! This month i’m going to get wordpress updated and try and get rid of any “page under construction” warnings that have been floating around for ages.

I’d also like to resume my “Workspace Wednesday” series, but do it in videos instead of blog posts.

As for projects, I started and finished the companion piece to my Dewdrop dress and got photos of the completed pieces. This dress went together really quickly and I like how it came out!

I’m also very pleased by the photos, they turned out a lot better then I had hoped they would. I liked these pictures so much that I made a new banner and color scheme for my tumblr – the old one had been around for 7 months so it was time for a change!

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I finished my Isabel de Requesens costume which I will be talking more about in an upcoming blog post! This was the biggest project i’ve taken on since Elsa and it’s been strange not having it around my workroom. I worked on it a little bit every day for almost a month, so I miss it!

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I also started and finished my flower dress! This didn’t come out quite how I had hoped, but I think it’s cute and I’m glad I made it.

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Unfortunately my Regency dress and 18th century stays didn’t get finished. The stays just need the edges bound, then they’ll be done, but that has proved to be far more difficult then I had expected.

I got the bodice of my Regency gown cut and sewn, but i’m still not feeling very excited or committed to this project. It’s definitely not a priority of mine right now but hopefully I’ll make a little more progress this month!

Onto recent purchases! It had been almost two months since I had bought any fabric…which is a long time! The last fabric I purchased was for my birthday, then I put myself on a ban. I was determined to use up materials I already had, and I did, I’ve used nearly 50 yards of material from my stash in two months, which is kind of crazy!

Since July was student month at Joanns I had piles of coupons and decided that the ban should be lifted. I needed organza for an 18th century project, ribbon for lacing, and white/off white thread. Home decor fabrics were on sale too, so I picked up a bit.

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I also go lot’s of fake pearls and ribbon flowers!

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And more fake flowers because they were so cheap and pretty…

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I only started one project this month, and i’m not sure if i’ll finish it.

After making the flower dress I had a ton of left over leaves, so I decided to put together a little jumpsuit using the same technique and the poofy shorts pattern  I made months ago. I’m not sure what I think of this idea or if i’ll ever complete it, but it is technically in progress.

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My goal for the coming months is to show more variety in my work. I think i’m going to create a few less historically focused original designs. I would also like to make several looks inspired by menswear, including a 17th century doublet, court suit (1800s inspired), velvet suit (1800s inspired), and perhaps another frock coat/tunic combo.

I’m really torn about what to make first and which fabrics to use, but I’ve been playing around with designs a lot! I think I might start with a frock coat and matching trousers, but i’m not sure what fabrics and trims to use.

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Here are two combos that I really love, But i’m not sure if they are exciting enough.

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I’ve saved the very best for last – I’ve started work on a butterfly inspired project. It will feature a giant cloak with monarch butterfly wing patterns painted on the interior, a draped chiffon dress, a tulle ball gown, and potentially a bodysuit.

I picked a black velvet and orange batik for the cloak, along with acrylic and watercolor paints which i’ll use to create more depth.

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I’ve decided on two dress designs that i’m really pleased with, unfortunately I couldn’t find the fabrics I need in stores so i’ll need to make an online order and wait a bit before starting on these. In the mean time i’ll be making the patterns and working on the cloak.

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So that’s what I have on the agenda for this month!

Thanks for reading.

Progress Report: July 2014

Today I’m posting something a little different.

I had a very productive week.I made a bodice, a skirt, hemmed a skirt, sewed on seven yards of trim, added boning to a bodice, made two mock ups, drafted two patterns, and so on…

It was successful, but the success was spread out over a half dozen projects so I don’t have enough content for a single “The Making of” post. I used to work on several projects simultaneously with great success, but this week I learned it’s a method that no longer works for me. I like being focused on a single costume, things get done so much faster, my studio stays cleaner, and at the end of a week I not only feel like I accomplished something, but I have visual proof too.

I’ve decided to pack a few of these projects away for the time being, and focus on finishing them one at a time, because right now i’m really overwhelmed.

Even though these projects are going to be set aside for a few weeks, I have every intention of finishing them all. So I thought I would create a post about whats in my workroom, with a few teaser pictures of projects to come, as well as some photos of things I’ve finished but didn’t document well enough to blog about.

Depending on how well this goes, I may do something similar monthly or bi-monthly with teasers, sketches, recent purchases, and life updates all crammed into one.

The project i’ve had going on for the longest is a set of stays. I started these over six weeks ago and got them over 50% done, but haven’t managed to finish them off. They have all the bones in place, bound edges, and eyelets, but none of the pieces are together just yet.

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Once I get the stays finished off (which at this rate, won’t be happening anytime soon) I’d like to being work on a Robe a L’anglaise. I already have the bodice drafted and the underskirt cut out, so technically this is in progress, but I need to buy some ribbon and organza before I can properly get to work.

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Sticking to the 18th century theme, a project I recently finished is a set of pocket hoops to go with my Dewdrop Series dress. These were more challenging then I had expected but I really love the end result! I drafted the pattern myself but referenced Norah Waughs “Corsets and Crinolines” book to get an idea of the shapes.

These were made from cotton with hooping wire to keep the shape.

(Pardon the messy studio)

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Another thing I finished was a hat and eyepatch! These were made to go with my Pretty Pirate costume. I started on these last October, but the weather became too cold to photograph the costume, so I lost the drive to actually finish it until now.

The hat is made from felt weight interfacing, covered in a cream brocade, with a satin faced lining. The edges are bound in ivory linen and the whole thing is decorated with feathers and a chiffon applique.

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My most challenging work in progress, and the one i’ve chosen to focus on for the time being is re creating the painting Joanna of Aragon by Raphael I’m making a few changes to improve it’s appearance in real life, like using off white materials and lighter gold tones to give the appearance of age. But for the most part i’m trying to make it recognizable.

I’ve gotten quite a lot done, including the most difficult aspect – the very detailed, hand beaded and embroidered collar!

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A project that I will definitely be packing away is this tulle and lace wedding gown idea. I actually began drafting this pattern a few weeks ago, but set it aside when I was asked to design the dress collection. I’ve worked on it a bit throughout the last week, including cutting out the bodice and getting half the boning channels done.

There is still just a ton to do, and it will take so much space to make that I think this is best left alone until I have a cleaner workroom!

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The lace was actually sent to me as a gift and I really, really, adore it. Whenever I Get around to making this it will be the real focus of the dress.

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A few days ago I began work on a companion piece to my Dewdrop dress. I wanted to make a similar, more modern design from my left over fabric. It would have a lot of similar traits to the original, but be much sleeker in cut and style. So far all i’ve done is draft the pattern – and i’m not sure if it will ever move beyond that.

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My last W.I.P is an empire waisted Regency gown. It’s made from bridal satin and chiffon, with gold lace and ivory pearls to create details. It’s a much less elaborate version of something I would like to make in the future, I guess you could say it’s a practice piece, though I think the end result will be pretty lovely!

So far everything is drafted and the skirt is sewn, hemmed, and decorated with the trim.

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Now for a future project – which I shouldn’t even be thinking about with all I have in progress. Michaels was having a 40% off sale and I bought 40some sprigs of flowers, which is around 200 blossoms in total! I want to add these to the hem of a dress, and make a corseted bodice from tulle and organza. I’m honestly not sure it’s possible, but I would really like to try.

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So that’s that! Lot’s of stuff in the works.

Thanks for reading!