Rufflecon Harry Potter Challenge Update

Rufflecon is this coming weekend! If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably seen that I’ve been (anxiously) working on my Natural Form era, Gryffindor-inspired gown, and I’ve just finished! I will be wearing it on Saturday of Rufflecon, because the handmade contest is at noon that day. I hope to see some other people there in historical Harry Potter outfits! A sneak peek of my outfit is below.

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Robe à l’Anglaise Photoshoot

Two years ago I made a robe à l’anglaise out of the Waverly Indienne curtain fabric. I documented the project here, but I didn’t have a proper kerchief, cap, hat, or shoes at the time and wasn’t satisfied with the photos I was able to get of the gown. Since then I’ve acquired the rest of the accessories so I recently set up a meeting with a photographer to get better photos. We went to the local National Park where battles of the Revolutionary War were fought, and I love how everything came out!

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Small Project Catch-up

I keep dithering about making a post about my Costume College experience. I didn’t take many photos, so I can’t just do a photo dump. I’m wondering if people might want to read a wordy, first-timer’s experience-type of post that is more about what it was like, rather than what I saw? But that will take a while to write up, and meanwhile I’m backed up with sewing, so I will have to keep putting it off for a bit.

For now I’m just going to post about the smaller projects I’ve been working on recently (when I say smaller, that usually means “not a full outfit” in my mind, but some of these are still quite time-consuming).

The first is a Victorian Hat that I am making to wear with my existing Victorian gown as well as the Gryffindor gown that I am in the process of making. This is my first foray into millinery and I’m using the Truly Victorian V551, 1880s French Bonnets pattern. I bought buckram and millinery wire from corsetmaking.com and used the same black cotton sateen that makes up the vest portion of my 1887-ish gown, and will make up the jacket of my Natural Form Gryffindor gown.

I hand-sewed all of the wire to the buckram, and learned that you have to take frequent breaks to avoid pinching a nerve while trying to pinch the wire to the edges of the buckram while you sew.

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Tudor Waistcoat and Kirtle

After the Jamestown Conference last year I really wanted to make a Tudor-era waistcoat and kirtle. The ones I saw people (and mannequin displays) wearing at the conference were just so sleek and tailored looking, I loved the style.

I started by drafting the waistcoat pattern from The Tudor Tailor last July; I also decided that I was going to completely sew the entire garment by hand–a first for me. The instructions were easy to follow, though I had a bit of a mishap where I kept ending up with two left sleeves and had to unpick all of my handwork (twice). I didn’t take many progress photos because the fabric, dark navy wool left over from my bliaut, does not want to photograph at all.

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The shell, before inserting gussets and lining.

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Sewing Injuries, or, Why I Regret My Eyelet Pliers

A couple years ago, before I learned how to do hand-bound eyelets in my garments, I bought a pair of Dritz Eyelet Pliers. I thought they would neaten up my eyelets on laced bodices (not historically accurate ones), and at first they did. The first few rows of eyelets came out much neater, with the metal eyelets set more securely in the fabric, than they did when I used to use the anvil eyelet tool.

But after the first few rows, the eyelets just got progressively messier. It became harder and harder to line the anvil side of the eyelet tool up with the open end of the eyelet in a way that would open the eyelet neatly to grab the fabric and secure the eyelet. Finally, my mother borrowed the tool to make her Ren Faire bodice and in trying to show her how to use it properly, I ruined a few eyelets and the ones I did get set in did not feel secure. We finished her costume as best I could, and then the pliers were buried in my sewing box because all of my projects since then have needed hand-bound eyelets for historical accuracy.

This year, I need a new Victorian corset. The one I used to wear under my Victorian gowns was an old plastic-boned thing that I made eight years ago before I dove seriously into historical costuming. It really wasn’t doing anything for me, but I was too lazy (and intimidated) to make a real one. The plastic-boned lame-o finally died last year after an ill-advised 7-hour be-costumed work shift during a bout with bronchitis (wearing several warm layers+sitting in a desk chair for long periods+heavy coughing fits=plastic bones molded into 90 degree angles). I finally realized that I needed to make a Victorian corset for real.

I bought the corset kit from Corset Making Supplies that includes the Laughing Moon Dore corset pattern, along with all of the necessary coutil, busk, steel bones, and grommets. Firstly, the instructions that came with the pattern are very lacking, but I’ll save that for another post. I was able to muddle through just fine, getting the shell pieces sewn together and the busk set in. When the time came to insert the grommets, I took some time to decide how I was going to get them in. I didn’t have a specific grommet tool, but the eyelet pliers have instructions on the card for small eyelets as well as large two-piece eyelets, so I thought they might work for the grommets as well. I tested a spare grommet on a bit of fabric and though I had to apply a lot of pressure on the pliers, the grommet seemed to set in very well. Because I was suddenly raring to go on the corset, I decided to proceed with the eyelet pliers. I set in 12 grommets over the course of an afternoon, taking breaks between grommets because the force I had to exert was hurting my hand a little, but nothing too bad.

I quit for the day after I had put grommets in one side of the back opening. At the time my hand felt fine. But that night while I was getting ready for bed, the muscles in my palm suddenly started spasming and then seized up, basically giving me a Charlie Horse in the palm of my sewing hand. I had to go to bed with a heat pack wrapped around my hand to try to get the muscle to relax. The next day my hand was swollen from the time I woke up until after dinner time. I could also feel it straining when doing things like buckling my seat belt and picking up books.

I couldn’t sew at all that week and I had to be careful with certain tasks. Even now, more than two weeks later, I keep getting weird little involuntary muscle twitches in certain parts of my hand, especially if I’ve been holding my phone or a pen for a while, or sewing, or typing. I feel pretty stupid for not realizing that I was injuring my hand by using the eyelet pliers on the grommets, but setting the grommets was working, so I just kept going.

I’ve since been told by a couple different people that even the grommet-specific pliers are not that great, and people actually prefer the die and anvil grommet tool if they don’t have a grommet press that they can use. The presses run upwards of $150 or more, and I use grommets so infrequently that I’m not ready to invest in one of those yet. However, while JoAnn Fabric has a grommet die on their website for only 6 bucks or so, it’s the wrong size, and the other sets that I can find are $24 or more. I don’t understand the price discrepancy, so I haven’t bought anything yet to finish my corset. It’s just been sitting on the sewing table because I don’t know what to do about the grommets at this point.

Basically, I’ve learned that 1. small metal eyelets are the worst and I’m never using them again 2. hand-bound eyelets are obviously the best (reasons include: they’re stronger because you’re opening the weave with an awl, not cutting the fibers; if they start getting loose you can just stitch them a bit more; they come out much neater; bonus points for historical accuracy) 3. grommets are an acceptable, though not HA alternative, but I need the right damn tools next time.

So I really don’t think I’ll be using my eyelet pliers again. I’m sad that I spent the money on them and was so excited, only to realize the small metal eyelets you can find at the fabric store are really no good for anything. I wanted to write this as a follow-up to my previous post on using the eyelet pliers, at the very least to let people know that repeated use may change results over time. But also to let people know that I’ve gone over to the dark side of hand-bound eyelets and you should join us here; they’re really not that scary. Definitely way less scary than causing muscle spasms in your sewing hand by abusing the eyelet pliers.

18th Century Pocket

While I was at Rufflecon wearing my polonaise I realized that I really needed a pocket to keep my phone and things in while I walked around the con. I had been teaching myself a little bit of embroidery since the Jamestown conference last year anyway, and I thought a pocket would be a good first project to work on. I looked up examples of extant pockets online and rather than copy anything exactly, I sketched out my own free-hand design.

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I stitched it on a scrap of linen left over from lining my bliaut. The embroidered face is backed with a second piece of linen so that I don’t catch the back of the embroidery as I put things in and out. The back of the pocket is muslin because I had run out of linen scraps that were big enough.

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The binding and ties are more linen scraps. I actually still have to finish sewing the ties, but since the pocket itself is done and it’s been a while since I posted, I thought I should upload it now. I’ve also finished my Tudor waistcoat that I started over the summer, but I can’t get the damn thing to photograph well, so I’m probably going to wait to post about that one until I finish my kirtle so I can post about them together.

Rufflecon Harry Potter Challenge

I was scrolling through Instagram earlier this week when a post by Royal Vintage, the American Duchess vintage sister-brand, caught my eye. In it, Lauren made a comment referring to the fact that her 1930s-style sweater was in Gryffindor House colors. My mind made several leaps, and suddenly I was challenging Lauren and Abby to a Harry Potter-themed historical project which I now present to you, if anyone wishes to take up the challenge.

For Rufflecon this October I will be making a historically-accurate (as possible) Victorian Natural Form-era gown in the Gryffindor House colors. I’ve invited Lauren and Abby to make Natural Form-era gowns in their Ravenclaw House colors, and I’m opening this up to anyone who is planning on going to Rufflecon and is interested in historical costuming: make a historical outfit in your House Colors and come show it off!

While it would be fun to see a whole bunch of Natural Form gowns in House colors, I don’t want to limit it so much that people interested in other eras can’t participate. So if you’re into Regency or Renaissance or Georgian or Edwardian, this is open to you, too! When I brought this up to my Facebook friends I saw mention of German Renaissance Hufflepuffs and 18th Century menswear Slytherins, so what about Regency Ravenclaws or medieval menswear Gryffindors? It will be amazing to see what interpretations people come up with!

I don’t want to put too many rules on it, because this should be a fun project, but there are a few guidelines:

  • Your outfit should reflect your own Hogwarts House (you can be sorted on Pottermore if you haven’t already).
  • Try to make your outfit as historically accurate as possible! Since this is for fun, no one is going to exclude you if you use polyester taffeta for your Victorian outfit or machine stitch your medieval gown, but the special spin on this challenge is historical rather than steampunk, fantasy or lolita HP outfits, so try to make your outfit look as historical as possible!
  • Obviously anyone interested in this can make a historical Harry Potter themed outfit, but if you want to participate, I absolutely encourage you to look into attending Rufflecon. I want to get all the challenge participants together for a little meet and group photo at Rufflecon (details tbd once Rufflecon schedule is up) and it will be exciting to see how many participants we can get! (plus Rufflecon is a blast and such a welcoming, supportive environment for alt-fashion gurus, so come check it out)

So that’s it; my challenge has been issued. I’ve had gown and trim combinations turning over and over in my head for days now, and I want to throw all of my other projects aside to start working on this.

If you want to participate and if you have any questions, please contact me on Instagram or Tumblr @mylittlewolfie. I’d like to try to keep track of people who are participating so that I can let people know where and when we’ll meet up at Rufflecon.

Good luck!

Second October Project: Merida

I don’t quite remember when I got the idea, but for at least a year or two now I’ve been wanting to make a Merida costume that I could use for Halloween, comic/anime cons, and any other event that seemed like it needed a kick-ass Disney princess. If you’re not familiar with Merida, she’s this awesome Scottish lass from Brave who don’t care about no marriage traditions, she just wants to shoot her bow and explore the majesty that is Scotland in the 15th(ish) century:

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Photo from disney.wikia.com

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The Yellow Polonaise

Several years ago, a friend of mine was cleaning out her fabric stash and gifted me a yellow upholstery fabric woven with a green and pink flower and stripe motif. I always intended to make a robe a la polonaise out of it, but between other projects and the fact that yellow isn’t always flattering on my skin tone, the fabric sat untouched for a long time.

Over the summer I learned that the founder of American Duchess would be coming to Rufflecon, an alternative fashion convention that I had already purchased my ticket for. American Duchess’ Bastille Day sale was still on, so I finally bought the Kensingtons that I had been wanting for years, and subsequently decided that if I were going to wear my Kensingtons to Rufflecon to meet the founder of American Duchess, I needed a new, fancier gown to wear them with.

I was inspired by this extant gown that I found posted on the Fripperies and Fobs Tumblr:

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The Summer of Little Focus

On the one hand, I have the urge to blog about everything I’ve been doing in the last two months since the conference. On the other hand, I have been all over the place and totally unfocused and I know that would just lead to a messy post. So what I’m going to try to do is just focus on the two main things that are occupying me right now with a short summary of my other projects at the end as a kind of “coming soon.”

First, a little over a month ago when it really started getting hot and humid (unusually so, as they just announced that July was officially the hottest month since they began keeping records in 1880) I somewhat half jokingly threatened to make myself a linen Viking-inspired breeches and tunic set to try to cope with the heat. I hemmed and hawed for a while, bought the linen because I had a coupon, set it aside to try to stay focused on my in-progress stuff, and then finally I had a four-day weekend last week and spent half of it putting together my set.

I wasn’t going for 100% authenticity; I just wanted something comfortable that would look sorta Viking. But lightweight and comfortable were the absolute keys. These two dudes were my image inspiration:

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Image by VendelRus.deviantart.com

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Image from hurstwic.org

For the breeches I loosely followed the diagrammed pattern on this site. Instead of a waistband I made the breeches drawstring, and instead of relying on leg bindings to get the poofy pants look, I added cuffs to the legs. At the moment I just close the cuffs with safety pins because I am lazy and have other projects to work on. But someday (probably) I will add button closures to the cuffs.

For the tunic I followed the pattern for the “Birka tunic” from this site. I ended up making both the tunic and the breeches slightly too big, but they are comfortable so they’ve achieved their purpose.

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Just your casual backyard Viking.

I still need to hand-sew trim around the neckline, but I haven’t the patience for hand-sewing at the moment. Once my Viking set was done-ish I thought I would be able to work on my Halloween costume. But. Recently Rufflecon announced that Lauren of American Duchess will be one of the guests at the event in October.

Cue excited fangirling. Then I had to stop and re-plan my entire Rufflecon wardrobe.

Then I decided it was time to finally buy those Kensingtons I’ve been wanting (thanks, Bastille Day sale).

Also, I decided I need something fancier to wear with my new Kensingtons. Better make a new frock.

Which brings me back to the 18th century.

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I’m using my trusty J.P. Ryan pattern again for a polonaise this time, but I’m going to use some of the trim ideas from Patterns of Fashion. I’ve actually been planning this polonaise for years since a friend of mine gifted me the yellow fabric in the image above, but now that American Duchess is coming to Rufflecon I figured it was finally time to put this together and show off a little.

So far I’ve got the bodice shell sewn together and did a fitting over my stays.

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Once I get the sleeves on and the lining sewn in I’m going to hand sew trim of self-fabric with pinked edges around the bust and the sleeve openings. I was going to set in the sleeves and the lining today, but I seem to have burned myself out with these and my other projects over the last couple weekends, so I am blogging instead (still productive, right?). I still need to order petticoat fabric, but I’m having trouble finding the color that I want. Swatches are on the way, so hopefully I can order that soon. I also need to make a proper bum pad once and for all, because I never did get around to it for my previous 18th century set, and with this fabric being pretty heavy, I’m going to need proper skirt support.

So those are just two of the things I’ve been up to. I’m also putting together a panel on historical foundation garments that I will be presenting at Rufflecon, so I’ve been doing some supplementary research and starting the framework for that. The other things I’m sewing right now that I will post about later include: hand sewing a waistcoat from the Tudor Tailor pattern; learning embroidery basics so that I can try some Tudor blackwork; a mystery Halloween costume (history inspired, of course); and my 18th Century menswear set that I started months ago is still in pieces and still in progress. I will finish it eventually. Stay tuned to find out how long that takes me.