The Stylish Adventures of Lilasaurus

Lilasaurus rides the bus to the city.

I thought I’d take a break from stretch pants pattern and alteration posts to show you what I threw together over the weekend.  My niece and nephew all but share a birthdate, so my SIL throws one big party for them- usually themed.  Last year, I made Lila a leopard-print coat dress for the Jungle party.  (I have this crazy idea that I don’t like little kiddie jumpsuity animal-ly type costumes.  I like costumes to be semi-wearable garments.)  This year, they were all about dinosaurs.

Lilasaurus helps Mommy look for stripey fabrics.

Hmm.  I had no idea what to do for the costume, so I procrastinated.  On Friday, Stephen told me the party was that weekend, not the following weekend as we’d thought.  Awesome!  Luckily, I found a cute (and very very quick) tutorial for a dinosaur hoodie from DIYing to be Domestic.  It’s a new-to-me blog, but I love what she does!  Her hoodie is a little different from mine and she does a great job of showing you how to make it, so skip on over and check it out for instructions.

Lilasaurus standing on a street corner just before a pair of Japanese hipsters giggle and ask to take her picture.

This hoodie uses felt diamonds and a pre-made hoodie.  I can’t believe I had to go to four stores before I found a kinda-sorta plain one!  It’s nice and plushy, and has some cutie girlie details.  Lila wanted a pink hoodie with green spikes.  Ok, kid.

Lilasaurus wants to catch a pigeon.

I took some photos today while we were out and about.  I said to Lila “Let’s go to the library today, Mommy needs another Fandorin novel and you can get a new book, too.”

Lilasaurus stands in line for sushi.

“Ok.  Can we get sushi and go to the park?”

“Sure.” (Sushi is really cheap here.  Ridiculously.  It’s good, too.)

Lilasaurus loves the pretend pirate ship in the Bontanical Gardens, and learned the word “steering” because we don’t drive ships.

“I can wear my new hoodie!”

“Alright, Lila.”


Lilasaurus gets a book from the library.

I had originally planned to remove the spikes after the party, but she loves her little hoodie so much I’ll leave them.  We have such good fun on these afternoons out, thanks for letting me share!

Do you ever make kiddie costumes?  What’s your favorite?  Do you kinda want a dino-hoodie now?  (I do…)

I woke up this morning to nearly 80 new data points waiting in my inbox for the waist to hip ratio project I’m working on and they’ve been rolling in all day!  If you have a minute, I’d really appreciate it if you’d contribute your own measurements, too.  Once I have a nice large set, I’ll play with the numbers and write all about it!

Notes on the Tudor Dress

I really, really like this dress on Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s final wife.  I have in mind to make a red, gold, black and ecru dress; from what I can find in my research this color scheme was rather popular.

I discovered I could print the front and back schematic drawing of the dress from the website to play with the placement of color.  I rather like the fabrics together.

I bought this entire card of trim at an op-shop for $3.50.  Wicked.  I could use it around the neckline, trimmed with some gold beads and sparkly bits:

I’d probably find some other large-ish stones or pearls to place between the gold sparkly pieces.  I think this could be a rather striking dress, and fun to wear.  What do you think of my colors on the line drawing?

Now to confess.  Look away, costume purists.  I want to use the off-white curtains I recently evicted from my bedroom for the main part of the dress.  My reasons are three-fold.  1) I haven’t done an event or made a costume for a long time, and I’m not sure if I want to pursue it as a hobby.  It all depends on the group of people, people I don’t yet know.  My husband never tried this before, and he might go to one feast to please me and decide it’s not for him.  2) Meterage.  This dress calls for 9 yards of 60″ wide fabric.  I found a few fabrics which might work well, but would cost well over $100. 

3)  These curtains have built in cartridge pleating, which is the method described in the pattern and a period way to gather fabric into the waistband.  I could seam two curtains together for a CB seam, pull up the pleats, and stitch it to the waist.  I have all this curtain fabric lying around, if I use it on a dress I never wear again I won’t be too upset.  I could always go back later and replace it with decent fabric.  It’s a poly, so I can’t really dye it easily.  The drape and weight are right, I’m really only worried because it is so matte.  No texture at all, flat.  Not plasticky, but plain.

I want to avoid this look at all costs:

I’m not sure.  Did I talk myself into using curtains because it’s handy and cheap?  Will it look awful?  Should I lump the cost?  Would I truly be better off using ecru dance satin (shiver) or a delicious thick upholstery velveteen? 

Dabbling in Costuming

(Jane Seymour, 3rd wife, died)

I used to be a costumer.  In fact, that’s why and how I learned to sew.  Sometimes I see period events posted by Dreamstress or Wearing History Lauren’s blogs and turn absolutely green.   Duchess Lauren’s Revolutionary gown series sent me over the edge.  I can’t stand it anymore!  I need to costume!  I need an event!  I started searching and it turns out Brisbane has a flourishing SCA barony- St. Florian de la Riviere.

(Anne of Cleaves, 4th wife, annulled)

And- dear me– they’re holding a Tudor Feast in honor of Anne of Cleaves, Henry VIII’s *ahem* overlooked wife, come mid-August.  Apparently Henry thought the court painter, Holbein, was too generous about her looks and couldn’t stand to consummate the marriage.  Or so says the gossip.  At any rate, she will be feted here and soon.  In my excitement, I wrote to my husband at work with the message “I’d cut off my right arm to go to this, can we please? Please please please??” and no link.  He rather feared I wanted to go somewhere in Scotland; when he discovered it was local he readily agreed. 

 (Young Elizabeth Tudor)

Squeee!  I haven’t done any serious costuming for nearly 10 years, I’m out of practice with my research so I’m using Simplicity patterns and not going for a careful copy of a gown in a portrait.  The steward of the event informs me that while they are not complete sticklers for accuracy, if I wear crush panne velvet they will giggle behind my back.  I think I already like them.  A large shelf on my bookcase groans with books on this era, from Phillipa Gregory novels to more serious works.  My first era-love was Elizabethan, but this is a close second.

I like this general look, though it is Italian rather than English or German.  We won’t fuss much over it.

I’m not striving for 100% accuracy.  I thought to make the doublet with sleeves, without the skirt, and with buttons.  I already scouted the fabric, but won’t buy before I run it by the person who will wear it.  My lovely, sweet husband not only agreed to wear Tudor garb, but will go to the dance lessons beforehand.  I can’t wait to see him all dressed up, he’s never done an event.  He already has a rad beard.

(Catherine Parr, 6th wife, survived)

I rather like the red/ecru/gold color schemes repeated in so many Tudor portraits, though I’m fond of blue.  In the next few day the right colors and fabrics will come together in my mind, I have no doubt.

I think this will be a great starting place, though I’m thinking I may be lazy and inaccurate and build a corset into the bodice rather than make one.

I do want hoops and a bumroll, however.  There’s no faking hoops, the finished gown would look diminished without them, and it will be lovely for dancing.  I haven’t made hoops in ages!  I like that the model has “Tudor” red hair.

It’s a large undertaking for 6 weeks, but I already started on my husband’s clothes, I sew fast, and I’m not lovingly constructing a piece of art.  Not this time, not yet.

Where do I find hoop boning (or something that will work for hoop boning) in the Antipodes?  Any words of wisdom for joining a re-enactment society?  I don’t want to embarrass myself.  How do you ladies wear your French hoods?  What keeps them in place?  Did Tudor ladies wear something very pretty beneath their hoops, in case they flashed a little in the dance?  Does anyone else love this period?

Thank you, ladies of the costume blogs, for your inspiration!  I haven’t been this pleased about something in a long time.

(I’m working through my pile of work clothes UFOs; more on that when my photographer has time….)

(Finally) Finished Object: The Experimental Skirt

(All photos courtesy of Lila)
In the midst of my not-blogging funk, I’ve finished a number of irritating UFO’s.  It’s the worst type of UFO- the I-Want-the-Finished-Object-But-Can’t-Decide-the-Perfect-Finish-So-It-Sits-On-My-Worktable-In-A-Near-Stage-of-Completion project.  I tend to keep those projects out so I can see them and feel guilty until I either finish them or we breakup.
(Poor Blouse has recently died)
I made this a few months ago, longing for a pink voile skirt I had in college.  I wanted to play with sheers, semi-sheers, and ribbons- all machine washable.  I used an underlayer of mosquito netting (cheap and to hand) to create oomph, and sewed ribbons on it to provide a little depth to the skirt.  The ribbons didn’t show through as much as I’d hoped, and despite the super high, stiff rouched waistband, something about the skirt didn’t work for me.  I set it aside.
(Worn here with the Burda Bardot Top.  Wait, isn’t it supposed to be winter here?)
I made a little lace insertion near the hem, and sewed the bottom of the skirt to the shorter white lining layer for a balloon effect.  It’s probably not the best idea for an already curvy figure, but I enjoy wearing it more than I care about its suitability.  I threw it on yesterday when I woke up on the wrong side of the bed; by the end of the day I had a little skip in my step.  
Pink and lace, red lipstick and flower hairclips aren’t serious ways to handle the blues, but at least it makes other people smile.  I took my daughter grocery shopping dressed like that, and every person I saw flashed me a huge grin.  Sure, they might have been thinking “Smile at the crazy lady and move away quickly,” but I don’t care.  After a while, I found myself smiling back at people, and I felt lighter. I even got some winks from old men.

It’s a funny shape, but I was trying to make something a little funny when I started out.  My desire to just finish the skirt trumped my plan for several rows of lace.  I’m planning a pretty merino jersey top with an insertion, I could post how I insert the lace if anyone is interested (I forgot to take progress pictures this time). 
What silly or funny things do you do to put a little whimsy in the world?  Does anyone else do this sort of thing when they’re not feeling great?  How does that work out?  Or on the flip side, what would you think if you saw grown women running errands dressed in head-to-toe pink?  Or wearing K.Hep pants or big-skirted 50’s dresses?   Would you respond with a smile or an eye-roll?

Help Me Build A 1950’s Jumper in Corduroy

I have a few meters of cranberry colored corduroy, purchased in the midst of my Great Wide-Wale Corduroy Fixation of 2011.  I toyed with the idea of a red-cord cape for a while, but I already have a cord jacket.  The cape can wait.

I started noticing gorgeous 50’s jumper patterns.  Since it’s winter and all, it’s a no-brainer to make a cute jumper of red cord.  I cruised the Vintage Pattern Wiki for images, and combed through my own image files.  Since I finally made a sloper/block that fits I can make up most simple patterns by myself.  It’s easier than I thought, once I make a plan of action.

I definitely want a full circle or half-circle skirt.  Other than that, the field is open.  I looked at many 30’s-40’s patterns, but they didn’t tickle my fancy quite the same way.

(Narrow, deep neckline and large pockets)
(Wide, nearly off the shoulder neckline, belt)
(Wide, square neckline.  Needs pockets)
(Sweetheart-like neckline, narrow skirt.  I could remedy that.)
(Square Neckline again, no waist seam.  Do I want a waist seam?)
 (HUGE skirt, tiny bodice)
(I’m not a bit worried this is a teen pattern, surely I’m not too old for a cute collar.  Would a collar on the jumper compete with the blouse underneath?  Should I save the collar for another dress?)
(Deep Oval Scoop neckline, BIG pockets.  Modeled on an older woman, jumpers aren’t just for teenie-boppers.)
If you sew, collect, or just adore 1950’s patterns, I’m sure you’ve run across skirt pockets big enough to accommodate a baby.  They’re perfect for a mommy.  I find I’m always collecting little bits and pieces as I potter around the house.  If I don’t put something away immediately, I’m bound to misplace it but I often find I’m distracted en route to the item’s destination.  I don’t like to carry a purse, either.  My brain isn’t together enough not to lose a bag.  I think this jumper needs great big pockets:
Wow.  Maybe not that big.
These make me smile, though I’m not sure I could pull it off.  They’re in the running.
These might be my Goldilocks pockets- just right.
This is the photo that inspired me to make some big-pocket 1950’s utility clothes.
I’d love to hear ideas- is a cranberry cord jumper a good idea, what are your favorite necklines, should I make big pockets or ridiculously huge pockets?  Life’s too short for small pockets, right?  Do you have any pattern pictures, photos, or ideas to share?I’d appreciate all kinds of input, basically any opinions even if you don’t sew or wear vintage.

Summer Sewing: A Retrospective

It’s still summer here, but not really.  The air changed, gradually, over the past few weeks.  The atmosphere no longer presses the city into the mud flats it sprang from, sweat doesn’t stick to the skin mixed with dust under a still, wet heat which seldom stirs.  Though the sun still shines brightly, it doesn’t bear down mercilessly from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening.   At night soft, damp, cool air swirls through our opened windows.

Red Hemp-Cotton Skirt, Hemp-Silk Jacket, Cotton Blouse, Hemp Hat; Zemelda Dress

Past summers in this climate meant burned, roughened skin, blocked pores, insomnia, depression and tension headaches for me, coupled with a general feeling of “This ain’t right” around hot Christmas.  I find it physically difficult to reconcile my body to this climate though I hail from the southern United States.

 Opium Poppy

In previous years, my doctor prescribed a therapist for the depression and codeine for my headaches.  My head pounded from the moment I woke up until I could find a way to sleep, even if I took an aspirin.  The drugs created a vast distance between me and reality, and also blocked my digestion which was uncomfortable.  Last winter, I decided to try a new approach to summer.

I planned ahead how best to approach the endless summer though dress and grooming.  Here’s the list I wrote up last winter, and how it worked out for me:

Skin- I use an oats and yogurt mixture as a mask on my face nearly every morning.  I apply after breakfast, do some chores, then shower.  It’s effective; when I miss a few days my skin goes just as crazy as it has in past summers.

  • Big Hats, big beautiful hats– This tactic worked well, though I never wore sun hats much before.  I used a 1925 reproduction pattern for both hats.  The one on the left was made of hemp canvas.  The wide brim and silk band worked for me; unfortunately the brim interfacing gave out after two washes and the hat was always a touch too small.  The hat on the right comes from the same pattern, made of organic cotton and the crown fits better.  Unfortunately, the front brim is too skimpy.  I might use the crown from one and the brim from the other, or re-draw a wider brim on the second.  Either way, I feel naked if I go out without a hat now.
Mirabilis Top, Jean Ross Pants
Self-Drafted Wholesome Dress
  • Breezy coverage.  Flowing sleeves, wide leg pants, swirly skirts- After discovering the wonders of a sun jacket, I focused more on sleeveless tops which I comfortably wore beneath my jacket.   The beach pajamas worked better in theory than practice, though I have worn them this summer.  I put in a side zip, they’re inconvenient to wriggle off on a sweaty day.  I plan to make separate bottoms and a top from them.  Jean Ross pants suited me well through scorching hot days- covered legs but still cool.  The Wholesome Dress looks like summertime, it’s very cool to wear.
  • More and more sunscreen– I wore sunscreen every single day and must say I’m not fond of it- thick and greasy.  The stuff I used for my face made me feel like an oil slick, so I was happy to use very little and wear a hat.  Besides, it has to be re-applied with continuous sun exposure.  I found I was more comfortable in long, wide pants and my jacket than in shorts, coated with sunscreen. Thumbs down to sunscreen from me.
 Blueberry Parfait of linen saw much wear this summer, Five-Alarm Jalie saw less action
I finally made some Plus Fours in linen, paired here with “Sideways,” a linen blouse
  • Use of fibres that won’t stink when I glisten.  I want to experiment more with wearing bamboo, lightweight merino jersey, hemp and linen for summer wear- While I didn’t wear merino this summer, I had success wearing linen, hemp, bamboo and cotton.  These natural fibers work well in this climate to keep me cool.   I made an important personal style discovery this summer- I prefer wearing woven blouses to knit tops.
Ruffles Have Ridges Top in bamboo, Jean Ross Pants in organic cotton
Sex Candy” tunic of linen saw very little wear this summer, mostly because I gained some weight and had no summery pieces to match with it.
  •  Light colors / very bright colors that won’t appear washed out in the sunlight- While this may be a summer no-brainer for some, I tended to wear black, white, red and only occasionally blue.  Last year I made an effort to introduce more color into my life, especially for summer.  I think wearing bright, pretty colors can influence mood.
  • Parasol, possibly.  Some Asian ladies here carry around umbrellas, but I would want an actual parasol:  I didn’t try this, mostly because I discovered sun jackets and hats.  Maybe next year. 
  • Perscription sunglasses.  Or perhaps I should start wearing contact lenses more:  Again, another no-brainer but since I started wearing contacts, sunglasses and hats, my summer insomnia and tension headaches nearly disappeared.  I find I get headaches if I go out for extended periods of time without covering up, or if I forget to drink enough water.

On the whole, I found a few “new” ways to dress for a long, hot, damp, bright summer.  I discovered the role whimsy can play in lifting my spirits a little, especially around Christmas:

 Dressed for Husband’s graduation, hat of silk and stripped coque
 Christmas Cheer Hat, worn most of the month of December
Cleopatra and Caesar, we’re not fans of Antony


My Cleopatra dress from New Year’s Eve turned out to be the most perfect summer house dress I could imagine.  It’s flattering, I don’t have to wear anything else with it, and the cotton cheesecloth means it’s airy.  I might make more next summer.

Hats and shades and light unlined jackets changed my approach to summer.  My sun jacket saw almost continual use, as did my three rotating sun-hats.  Jean Ross pants were a great favorite, along with crisp little cotton blouses and easy-to-wear dresses.   In fact, I’m a little sad about washing them and packing them away for a few months.

This summer I had a few bouts of insomnia which responded to low dose melatonin tablets.  I had a little depression around the holidays which is to be expected.  My skin is clear, I have a normal appetite and don’t take drugs to get through every day.  On the whole, it’s been much easier to get by this summer than previous ones.  Perhaps it’s the sun blockage; perhaps it’s easier to cope because I’m finding my own ways to adapt.  I’m not sure, but I have an idea it’s a little of both.  It’s exciting to deal with my summer blues through behavior modification without turning to opiates.

Drafting the Mirabilis Top

I feel whiny about matching regular plaid; matching irregular plaid causes full-scale temper tantrums.  The colors of this Madras cotton make me smile and matches with 95% of my bottoms so I bought it while anticipating punishment.  I approached this first pattern made from The Pattern Drafter sloper with a few inspiration pictures and the general idea to create a shirt which would require no plaid matching and still showcase the fabric.

First, I traced the basic front to six inches below the waist.  I find tucks quicker to sew than darts and they allow me to take in a large amount of underbust fabric without risking a pointy dart.  To that end,  I left off the dart apex for the vertical dart.

I re-drew a Sabrina style neckline- deep-ish and wide.  I made sure to leave enough shoulder to cover my bra strap.  No one wants to see that.   I dropped the armscythe 5/8″ for sleeveless.  Since I had 1″ of shoulder, I extended that meausrement along the neckline to make a band.  I made another band 1″ wide at the armscythe.  Having done that, I placed scrap polytrace on top of the bands, traced the shape, and added seam allowances as I would for a Burda.  I marked the new pattern pieces so I’d know what they were later, (#ME4788) then added seam allowances to the body of the shirt.

I used a black marker to show the final cutting line lest I should become confused.  The CF measures 17″, so I drew a 17″ X 3″ rectangle with a bias grainline to create a 1″ finished front button placket.

I measured 1″ of shoulder and 4″ down from the CB which was a number plucked from the air and I drew the curve.  I created a back tuck rather than a dart, smoothed the waist angle at the side seam, and followed the same technique as for the front.

Front and back.  The entire process took me about an hour and a half, or the same time it would take me to trace and alter a “new-to-me” pattern.

Cutting layout.  I cut each of the bands double- outer band and facing- on the bias so I left a little extra room for the second cutting.  The front and back wouldn’t fit side-by-side, but I’m not bothered matching irregular plaid at the side seam when it isn’t going to match anywhere else.

Could not resist laying it out “to see.”

The little girl and I went to Chinese New Year Celebrations for the Year of the Rabbit today- such fun!  She took candy from a lion’s mouth- and me without a camera.  Did anyone else know that you can get red bean (actual BEANS in them) popsicles at the Chinese supermarket?  They’re delicious and I never would have tried them except for the sweet old lady who pushed them on me.

Happy New Year!  Let’s put those floods and hurricanes behind us.

How to Make Dior Roses

(I think the hat looks like dessert)

Between Christmas and my recent work-flurry, I never posted about the Dior roses on my hat.  Apparently, Dior loved little embellishments like these, and this is how he made his roses.   In the past, I put fabric flowers in the “too hard” file and left it, but they’re as easy as they are satisfying.  These days my silk scraps go into a little box for flower making.   Linens and cottons may make nice flowers given the right cut, but my knit fabric roses looked like wadded up socks.  Mostly I stick to silk for its texture and luster.

Make templates.  You’ll need a small, medium and large, each about 1/2″ smaller than the last.  I cut three rectangles of paper at 8″x5″, folded them into quarters and made a rough football shape.  Then I set one template aside, re-folded into quarters, and drew a line 1/2″ from the edge.  I cut that, set one of the templates aside, and repeated the process.   Then cut one of each size from your fabric for each rose.  I read Dior liked to make his in triples, though I haven’t seen this on any dresses I can remember.  For triples, cut three of each.  (These roses made from Burda 08-2009-117 leftovers)

Starting with the smallest piece, fold it in half end-to-end and make a running stitch along the raw edge.  The folded edge will be the outer edge of the petal.  Pull it up tight-but-not-too-tight, and curl it around to make a little bud.

I found it worked best to ram my thumb into the middle of the bud to help it maintain a good shape.  Then repeat the folding, stitching, and curling with the second petal.  It should wrap around the bud, and don’t draw the stitches up too tight.  When I wrapped the second petal, I lined up the middle of the petal with the overlapping bit on the bud for the sake of symmetry and it worked.  Repeat with the third petal.

I nestled three of them together and stitched them to my hat.  It was a round sampan frame.  I cut a circle of slubbed silk equal to slightly less than the diameter of the frame times two, finished the raw edge, and gathered it on the underside.  A comb secures it in my hair.

With hats and fabric flowers, there’s not really a “right” or “wrong” way to sew it, just  finding a way to make it stay together while looking halfway decent.  I think that’s why I like making silly things and costumes, they’re so free.

I’m a little tempted to make one or three gigantic ones to wear on their own in lieu of a pillbox hat, just stitched to an invisible little base.  Why not?

The Costume I Should Hate But Don’t

First, a disclaimer.  Almost every single picture of Cleo from NYE looks decidedly awkward.  I’m not sure why, I can’t even blame copious amounts of alcohol.

While Christmas and Thanksgiving in summer time confuses me deeply, ringing in the New Year at an open-air seaside cantina while swathed in cotton cheesecloth makes so much sense.

My inner over achiever hates the costume-y quality of my Cleopatra.

But– I had a great time, I was comfortable and had many compliments from fellow revelers.  I call that effective costuming.

I started with a long white dress.  Visions of complex pleating, draping and tiers played through my mind, and with two days to the party I felt paralyzed by indecision.  Then I thought, “shirr it, stupid”.

Of course.

I sketched the schematics on a cocktail napkin:

I sliced some fabric from one end to make a really wide strap.  Then I folded the main fabric in half lengthwise and found the point halfway between the cf and sides.  I seamed the strap piece into a tube, then cut two straps the length from below my breast to just over my shoulder.

This was no precision job.

I realized I needed a little more bust engineering besides shirring.  I created a casing for a 1″ wide piece of elastic, and cut the elastic to a length which fit snugly around my ribcage.

Then I shirred

I made some straps for the back, pleated the front straps into it, and viola. Caesar pointed out he could see my nipples through the cheesecloth.  Dang.  I interlined the front with some natural colored cotton jersey.

Then I made a necklace from findings at Spotlight.  I basically grabbed anything that looked ok, dumped it on the table at home, found some pliers and made a necklace.

I spent hours working on a gold cardboard crown that ended up looking like my daughter made it.  I rigged up a gold bead headband instead.

After that, I ran out of steam.  I threw sparkly trim around my waist and used some bangles for armbands.

Caesar made his own “laurel” wreath, he’s pretty handy.  I slapped together a tunic and some purple ribbon on a 4m length of poplin.

Some drunk idiot though the was Moses.  Moses.

This was the best Cleo wig I could find.  I decided to embrace my pallor and not mess with bronzer.  Bronzer tends to make my skin look dirty rather than tanned.  I had fun with the makeup.  I used a wet brush to make bright turquoise shadow stick all night.

Funny- I had the thought I’d chop up my Cleo gown after the party to make breezy sheer blouses, but I like my costume!  I feel cool and graceful wearing it, and don’t need to wear a bra.  I can’t exactly wear it down to the grocery store but it works for around the house.