Friday, February 26, 2021

A Jolly Hobby - The First Costume

I often hear new costumers ask "How did you get started?" and "Where do you wear your costumes?"  Costuming has brought me experiences I would not have had with any other hobby and I want everyone to experience the same if they desire.  With that in mind I'm starting a #costumeflashback segment in both my blog and YouTube videos for anyone to draw on my journey as they begin their own.  I will share the process in creating costumes from the past as well as events I've attended and hosted. 

I started The Perfect Touch blog in 2009 but I began my costume hobby in 2007.  October 2007 to be exact.  I owned a very basic Singer Sewing Machine from the 1980s purchased at a Spiegel outlet store for $75.  What  a deal, I thought, until I plugged it in and it ran backwards!  Being brave I opened it, found that a cam was inserted incorrectly, changed it, and voila! perfect seams.  I had taken a sewing class in grade school and happily made an apron and then a few curtains and pillow covers over the years.

While my sewing skills were weak, my attention to detail and attention to instructions was strong.  Apparently my confidence was also good as one day I decided I wanted to create costumes for myself, my husband, and my German Shepherd puppy for the annual photo sessions at my local pet store.  I had found a penguin hat which would fit my pup, and the Jolly Holiday idea was born.

I knew I couldn't sew an entire costume but felt I could upcycle something into my Jolly Holiday dress and I created an ebay search and each day ebay would let me know what matched my keywords.  And one day there she was!  A used wedding gown in my size and budget and just perfect to make even Mary Poppins happy!  As if she could get any happier, right?  I found some embroidered fabric at a local store and planned to make an additional skirt and cover a hat.  The fabric is organza but it was years before I knew anything about fabrics.  I only knew this fabric didn't stretch, had the right feel I wanted and, most importantly, was the right price.  I still have several yards of it on this same cardboard tube and have used it for many many costumes over the years.

I wasn't a part of the Facebook community at this time but my husband and I had become aware of a local group of people involved in a hobby called Cowboy Action Shooting.  Part of this hobby required wearing clothing from the cowboy era which is the same as the Victorian era and I had joined an online group dedicated to the hobby.  It was similar but much smaller than today's Facebook sewing groups but it was there I learned about sewing patterns available for creating Victorian and cowboy clothing.  I learned about Truly Victorian patterns and used TV280 to create the organza circle skirt which would be worn over the base gown.

I can't find the words to tell you how excited I was to create this skirt!  It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen!  LOL  There is something truly magical about taking flat fabric, adding some thread, and creating something that can be worn.  Textile art!

Being happy with the Truly Victorian pattern for the skirt, I purchased the TV492 1890s Victorian Corselet.  Again I found some red fabric and to this day I don't know what it was but it seemed right.  Trusting yourself is an important part of costuming.  It is just fabric and thread and unless you are cutting into something very expensive, any mistake can be done over.  I've learned much more from my mistakes than my successes.  And I always buy a bit extra fabric because the only way to avoid mistakes is to do nothing.  I found some white ribbon, a spool of covered plastic boning, eyelets and tools, and lacing at a local store.  They aren't completely correct as I've since learned, but sometimes just doing the project is the only way to learn.

As I said before I believe my only early skill was following instructions in order and carefully.  I still do.  I never assume I know what comes next and I trust the pattern designers.  If I'm really in a bind I've been fortunate to always get an answer from the pattern designer in the multiple Facebook groups they run or through their website.  They want us successful!!

Here is the red mystery fabric backed with a white cotton and all pieces ready for assembly.

The 2-layer front is finished and the white ribbon sewn over the seams.

The eyelets are added by hand..

..and the back panel with boning added.

My second project is complete!  I've made a Victorian corselet and I'm thrilled!

Following the illustration in my book I add red ribbon bows on the circle skirt and neckline and sleeves.

Last I sew red cord to outline the neckline.  I've since learned it's called rattail.  I don't always know what things are called but I know it's what I want when I see it.  LOL

I've been certain from the beginning that accessories are what make a costume and I spend a lot of time sourcing the perfect touches.  I found (yes, on ebay) a pair of used white Victorian-esque boots and sheer red and white striped gloves.  The straw hat came from a local shop and the Parrot Parasol came from the Disney online store.  It is so cute!  There is a toggle that makes his mouth open and close.  Very fun!

I covered the hat with the embroidered organza fabric and created bows and a chin tie by just draping the fabric until it looked right and then sewing everything in place.

The Parrot Parasol had a black cover which I wanted to keep in place so I cut a circle of the same white patterned cotton I used in the corselet, trimmed the outer edge, and then gathered and tied it around the parasol with red ribbon.

The Jolly Holiday dress and accessories are complete!

I knew I wouldn't be able to make a Jolly Holiday jacket for my husband but I thought I could try making a vest.  Folkwear had and still has an amazing Vintage Vests pattern 222.  I found a coral and cream seersucker remnant and had some of the white patterned cotton left over and dove in.

This vest was a challenge!  Folkwear's instructions are exceptional and I wouldn't have gotten as far as I did without them!  Welt pockets!  Shawl collar!  Lining!  Buttonholes!  All new skills for me but so well explained that I've kept what I learned all these years thanks to Folkwear.  Every new pattern teaches me something.  While the vest fit my husband despite the strange placement of my buttons, it was a bit short and he hated the fabric.  He refused to wear it!  But I know better than to push and I didn't.  And thank goodness I didn't because not long after he began to join me in my costume fun and we have had great times together!

So I wore my Jolly Holiday costume on my front porch and took photos with my camera's timer and had an excellent time enjoying my creation.  I don't remember, but chances are I also had tea.

What about the puppy photo?  She and I had our photo taken together later at her puppy graduation.  Without the penguin hat!  I suspect she was happy about that...



Wednesday, February 17, 2021

A Wicked Witch - Part 2 - The Gown

 Previously in A Wicked Witch - The Plan:

The Blog Post:

The blog post linked above will give you the project beginnings and preparation for recreating the Supreme Witch illustrated by the talented DeviantArt artist Sedeptra.  With her permission I have begun a project that is inspiring, exciting, and will stretch me far beyond my current skills.

This post is Part 2, and the video which I will link below, will detail the creation of the gown.  Both are lengthy and I recommend you conjure up your favorite magic potion and curl up and enjoy.  To be able to cover all the steps in the creation of the hat and broom, as well as the final wearing and reveal, I will publish a separate post and video for those in a Part 3.

Do you have your magic potion?  Good!  So do I!  Let's begin our journey!

The gown I have planned consists of an underskirt, draped overskirt, corset, and sleeved shrug with standing collar.

The Underskirt:  As with any project, it can be rewarding to begin with something familiar and I do that with the slim underskirt using a pattern I've sewn from before, TV225 1878 Fantail Skirt by Truly Victorian.

The bedroom floor is a great place to cut the long pattern pieces.

The front darts are sewn and the front panels assembled.

The back panels and fantail are assembled.

And the tie casings and ties are added to the back.

The front and back panels are sewn together and for this underskirt I have doubled the width of the waistband to keep a smooth silhouette at the waistline as the corset is worn over the overskirt and underskirt.

The back panels are gathered onto the waistband and the hem is hand sewn and the overskirt is finished!  Although not shown on the illustration, the fantail is a nice added back detail and also makes the underskirt reusable for future Victorian costumes.

The Bustled Overskirt and Hip Pads:

As I studied Sedeptra's illustration of the overskirt I realized the hip width would likely not be accomplished with the draped fabric alone.  I printed the illustration and using my own height as a guide, I calculated the life-size dimensions of all parts of the illustration.

Locating hip pads online and purchasing on Amazon was surprisingly simple and inexpensive.  The pads are smooth on the interior and nicely shaped on the exterior to follow the curve of the hip, extend down the thigh, and curve around to the backside.

The hip pads increase the hip measurement over the petticoat and underskirt from 41-1/2" to 48-1/2".  A very nice curve!

I covered the pads with the faux taffeta fabric and then pinned them to the underskirt so I could adjust and remove them as necessary.

The overskirt appears to be pleated and overlapped and then draped over each hip dipping low on each side.


I pleat one edge of the fabric in 40 1/2" pleats which will take up 60", drape the fabric to mimic the length of the drape and pull it up to the center back.  I decide to double that length and repeat the pleating and draping for the other side.

The pleated ends are overlapped and pinned and the sides draped into position and everything is pinned in place onto the underskirt.

With the front and sides in place I bustled up the back, pinned, and determined the placement of bustling tapes.

Everything is then carefully removed from the dressform, a waistband added which is the same width as the waistband of the underskirt, and the bustle tapes moved to the interior.  Everything is sewn and secured.

The bustled overskirt and hips are finished!

The Waspie Corset with Back and Bust:

While I have previously made five corset and stays patterns I have never drafted my own.   I have become aware of some extraordinary corset pattern designers and follow their work and offerings.  I had already made the CorsetsbyCaroline Colette 18-Panel Waspie with Bodice and Bust Sections a favorite on Etsy.  It was a downloadable pdf pattern and the back and bust option would allow me to keep the shrug short in the front and back while displaying the corset laces beautifully.  I purchased the pattern and in a short time had the pieces taped, cut, and pinned to the dressform to visualize the assembly.

I transferred the pattern to coutil adding seam allowances as indicated in the directions.  My corset will have 17 panels with the front panel a single piece to follow the artist's illustration.

The illustration looks like a patterned fabric and I consider many techniques to replicate the look.

I narrowed down the options to a black applique or a black beaded and embroidered net overlay.  Since I will have some black touches in the overall design I think either of the black options are beautiful.  To help with the decision I put the options out for a vote to both Facebook friends and Instagram followers.

Which did you choose?  The overwhelming choice was the beaded and embroidered net overlay and I decide that some touches of the applique might be perfect as well.

With all decisions made and the coutil cut, the faux taffeta, the net overlay, and a burgundy lining layer are all cut.  The bust pieces will be faux taffeta with the burgundy lining, and the underbust support has an additional layer of coutil.  Now to keep everything organized!

The center piece will not have a busk and instead I create a channel and will use a piece of reed for support.

In the pattern instructions are several methods for the corset construction.  I choose the sandwich method which encases the finished panel between the outer and lining layers of the next panel and the seam is then sewn.  For this method each outer panel of overlay, fashion fabric, and coutil is sewn together at one edge.

When the next panel is to be sewn I lay the previous panel over a sewing ham to allow the fabric to naturally curve and be pinned as it will naturally curve over the body.

All but the back and grommet panels are sewn together.

I decide to add the grommets before sewing the final panels to the corset as it is easier for me to handle the fabric rather than the entire corset.  This panel is different than I'm used to as it is a single piece folded at the outer edge.  I've sewn the boning channels and hammered in all those lovely grommets. 

Next I've sewn the boning channels for the other panels.  There is a boning channel on each side of each seam.  Here the boning channels are sewn on the what would be the left half when the corset is worn.  You can see the shape beginning even before the bones are inserted.

Now the back bodice panels and grommet panel are pinned to check for alignment.

The back panels are sewn as are the bust supports and bust sections.

All the sections are fitting together well.

Bias strips are cut from the fashion fabric for the upper and lower edge of the corset and back and all edges of the bust.

I sew the bias binding to the lower edge of the corset and outside edges of the back first by machine and then turn the bias binding to the inside and sew by hand.

What do they say about the best laid plans?  No matter how careful I try to be there seems to be something I miss and in this case it was with the boning.  I was prepared to cut my own steel boning until I read the instructions again and realized I needed spiral boning.  Spiral!  And I can understand that as I have so many bones and some drastic curves in this corset.  Luckily I place my order and the bones arrive within days!

Everything is staged.  I choose not to bone panels 7 and 8 as they require synthetic whalebone and I don't have any on hand nor do I want to invest in a large amount right now.  I can always remove my binding and add the channels and bones at a later date if I purchase the synthetic whalebone for another project.

Time to insert many, many bones!

The shape of the corset is beautiful with the boning added.

The binding is added to the upper edge of the corset and around the bust sections.

The bust cups can now be sewn to the corset front.

Handling the beaded embroidered overlay and sewing the seams and boning channels meant removing much of the beading.  With the corset finished I can reattach the saved beads.

And the corset with bodice and bust section options is complete!  This could be beautiful worn just as it is with the underskirt, bustled overskirt, and corset with bust.

Shrug and Gathered Bodice:

Recreating this part of the illustration was the most difficult for me as it meant drafting so many pieces for which I had no experience.  So I started with something familiar, the Truly Victorian pattern TV420 1879 Cuirass Bodice.  I chose this pattern for the standing collar, the sleeves, and basic bodice body.

From this pattern I cut the two-piece sleeves from the striped silk organza, and the bodice front, back, sides, and side backs for both the bodice and bodice lining.  I didn't know just yet how long I wanted the bodice to be so I kept all the length to the natural waist.

I drafted the front opening shape and transferred my pattern to the fabric.

The shoulder detail reminded me of 1980s full caps and so I used a vintage Vogue pattern to create the pads I felt would provide the right silhouette.

I drafted a large collar using the dimensions of the standing collar from the bodice pattern.  I also drafted the shoulder embellishment pieces using the shoulder pads as a starting point and cut fabric and the same beaded overlay used on the corset.   I cut strips of the silk organza for the upper arm detail, sewed the sleeve pieces together, and now all pieces are ready for final assembly.  I'm amazed at how many pieces it takes to create this 'simple' shrug!

To double check that I have everything I think I need I pin the pieces onto the dressform and check that the silhouette looks right.  I do love the touches of black against the purple/black shot faux taffeta!  I sew the narrow standing collar and sleeves to the bodice, and sew in the lining.

I decide to complete the large collar next.  I baste the undercollar to the buckram and then sew the upper collar right sides together, notch, turn and press.

To add stability and shaping ability I sew channels at the corners where the curve meets the straight side, and at both front edges.  I insert #19 millinery wire in the channels leaving the wire long enough so that I can cut it to the correct length when attaching to the standing collar.

A black trim is hand sewn to the collar edges.

In the illustration the front of the shrug just below the standing collar has a beautiful triangle in the illustration.  I cut two squares of fabric to the size I determined, sewed two edges, turned and pressed.

I will use the same trim that I just used on the large collar and I have AB crystals in two sizes.  The perfect touch for A Wicked Witch will be the sterling silver whistle which I purchased from graybeardtrading on Etsy.

" she blew upon a silver whistle that hung around her neck."  L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900

The next challenge...the shoulder embellishment...

I begin with cutting bias strips for piping along the sides of the shoulder piece and between the furthest shoulder edge and the gathered upper sleeve.

I baste the beaded net overlay to the shoulder pieces and then sew piping down both long edges of each piece and then along the curved edge leaving enough piping on each side to attach the gathered upper sleeve.

I had measured around the upper sleeve to determine how much fabric I would need to gather and multiplied that by three.  I sewed two gathering threads on each edge of the fabric strip, pinned the strip to a quilting board, and evenly gathered the fabric and pinned.  I sprayed the fabric with water and held an iron over the fabric to help set but not press the gathers.  Then I let the gathered fabric dry overnight.

I carefully removed the fabric from the board leaving the pins in place and machine stitched over the gathering threads to hold the gathers in place.  Then I attached the gathered fabric to the shoulder piece.

Now I have two shoulder embellishments with upper sleeve gathers ready to attach to the bodice.

The pads are stitched to the shoulder pieces and the shoulder pieces are hand stitched to the bodice at the piping inner seam.  And I hand stitch an applique over the center back seam.  The upper edge of the standing collar has been machine stitched 1/2" away from the top edge creating a channel to insert the large collar.  I test that fit of the collar and take photos to determine if I am satisfied with the silhouette and recreation.

The front lower edges of the shrug did not extend as far as I liked so I added an extension which gives some added dimension to the shrug.  But I quickly realize that although I extended the shoulders to balance the width of the hips, I'm not satisfied with how far they extend.

As I look at the back of the shrug I'm happy with the length but decide it needs some weight.  I think more piping will be perfect.  And even relative to the widened hips, the shoulders seem too wide.  I remove and reattach the shoulder embellishments creating a narrower shoulder width and it feels much more balanced to me.

Then I open the lower edge of the shrug.

And add piping.  Then I hem and trim the gathered upper sleeves.

Although they will be covered by gloves when worn, I add the similar trim to the lower sleeve edges.

Time to add the large collar.  I pin the collar inner edge into the top of the standing collar to both the exterior bodice and the lining and hand stitch each side.  Where the millinery wire will go into the standing collar I take out a few stitches, cut the wire to the correct length, and thread the wire down into the collar.  The wire is then secured inside the standing collar with a few stitches along its length.  The wire at the front edges of the collar is also cut to the correct length just before stitching the opening closed.  

With the collar secure I can finish the shoulder pieces where they follow the standing collar.

With the collar and shoulders and additional piping added I stand back and feel the back is lacking something.  The illustration only shows the front of the gown so this is my chance to add my personal touch.  I add more applique with more beading and some dimension in my placement and stitching.

With the shrug complete except for the closure I move to the gathered bodice.  Earlier I thought this piece would be attached to the shrug on one side and hooked to the other side.  As I constructed the corset I decided the gathered overlay would be best attached to the corset bust.  I measured the fabric I would need for width including the center front dip, and the length with the pleats to form the gathers and added seam allowance on all sides.

The fabric is pleated, pinned to the corset bust sides and lower edge, and hand stitched.

The center gathering strip is created with the fabric and the net overlay.

The gather strip is threaded through an opening left at the lower edge and the ends sewn together inside the gathered bodice.  The pleats are adjusted and I love the effect of this bodice!

The shrug fits over the gathered bodice beautifully and now I can finish the shrug front.  There are some details I can see in the illustration and some that are not as clear to me.  I have some black glass buttons left from a Victorian gown made years ago and they blend nicely with the crystals on the triangle.  I sew 4 to the shrug.

I test the trim that I can see in the illustration on either side of the buttons and try the trim on the edges of the shrug front opening.

I decide I like the edges without the trim and finish stitching the trim on the standing collar, add the embellished triangle, and complete the closure with snaps.

I can hardly believe it!!  The shrug is complete!  Actually the entire gown and project are complete except for photos and video!  Here are a few of the completed shrug and I'll include a few of the completed gown but the full wearing will be in Part 3.

Finished Gown:

Lighting has beautiful effects on the fabric!

Thank you for following Part 2 of A Wicked Witch!  I'm so very touched that my blog posts and videos are read and watched by so many of you and I'm so very pleased that you find my content interesting enough to spend your precious time reading and watching.  I'm already working on the blog post for Part 3 - The Hat, The Broom, The Magic and there will be a surprise at the end of Part 3 so don't miss it!!