Local resources

Jonas and Anya from Sarah Ellerton's "The Phoenix Requiem," both impeccably dressed

Jonas and Anya from Sarah Ellerton’s “The Phoenix Requiem,” both impeccably dressed

In preparation for tailoring a morning coat and  Anya’s traveling dress (http://requiem.seraph-inn.com/viewcomic.php?page=282), I made a visit to the UW School of Drama’s library last Thursday.  I had been requesting all the Victorian costuming books I could find in the university catalog and then realized that 90% of them came from the Drama Library.  I walked into the TT500 aisle and promptly started hyperventilating and pulling each volume off the shelf individually, placing each of the 100 books I looked at back after I scanned the contents.  I found Jean Hunnisett’s book, from which I drafted my Red Mage corset from, to multiple books on tailoring, tailoring for men, costuming through the ages, Edwardian costumes, Victorian coats, fabric draping, pattern making, and more.  And they had an extensive gamut of Past Patterns and Folkwear Patterns, many of which I would love to own but hadn’t the funds or projects in mind to purchase them.   I’m sure I looked like a cat on Nepetalactone and walked out with over a dozen hardcover volumes.  The patterns were library use only, but the library cheerfully informed that I could bring paper and trace patterns to my heart’s content. (And I don’t think you even need to be affiliated with the UW to go in and browse/trace.)  I LOVE LIBRARIES.

Last night I totally had a (stress?) dream in which I was going to my friends wedding, but had to refashion the Cascade skirt I am working on into a stripey confection not unlike Eliza Doolittle’s Royal Ascot ensemble.  

Nope.

Uh, no.

Clearly, I have been reading too many Victorian/Edwardian tailoring books.  I don’t even like “My Fair Lady.”

Anyway, still excited to start this project.

I also bit the bullet and bought my first serger from my local “Quality Vacuum & Sewing” store: a Babylock Lauren on super sale as a birthday present from Art.  I had been avoiding buying one for so long, telling myself that I can totally sew knits using a zigzag stitch my regular sewing machine and finishing my edges with French/flatfelled/pinked seams.   After two popped seams on my kitty Plantain shirt (unblogged), hours spent faux French-seaming my Tania culottes, and upcoming projects (hello morning coat and knight armor sweatshirt), I was ready for a serger experience.  There are local sewing studios around that let you rent time to use their machines, including sergers, but my miserly Chinese blood realized the $10/hr could soon be put toward a $300 serger.  So yes, a brand new Lauren is shipping out from their warehouse and I should get her by the end of the week. =D  And the people at the store said they would be happy to teach me how to use my new serger if I bring it back in.  Yay, local resources! ^_____^

Also, kittens in two weeks?  I can only hope!

Finding homeostasis

This post is more scape-goaty and reflective than my previous posts.  I used to have a livejournal, which may or may not explain things, and I thought typing things out might help me sort out my thoughts.  I might take it down later, we’ll see.

It’s not news that I’ve been in a creative slump over the last two years.  Over the last 6 months, I sewed up a pair of pajama pants for my husband, but nothing for me.  I’ve knitted up a bunch of things to be sure, but I don’t get the same amount of joy I get from sewing clothes.  I’ve even stopped baking macarons on a regular basis.  I can blame the large amount of time spent on knitting, unpacking, lack of data, uncertainty of grant funding…but I actually think the biggest drain on my motivation has been peer pressure and the idea that I need to make things that will impress other people.

I don’t think they’ll read this, but I have friends who I used to make costumes with on a regular basis.  We held “sweatshop” days where we worked on getting projects finished for display at conventions and I really enjoyed having camaraderie while I sewed.  Then these friends became more involved in the dedicated cosplay community, which lauds petite/sexy doe-eyed maids, being the first to make such-and-such latest outfit, and elaborate costume armor sets.  And I felt like I was in high school again: I don’t fit in.  I am not a thin, vapid moe girl, I can’t force myself to make costumes for characters I don’t care about, and elaborate armor is beyond my reach as of yet (especially for something I don’t have any connection with).  But unlike high school, when I was an unapologetic nerd (I dressed like a Rebel Alliance pilot one year and no one knew who I was aside from my friends), I failed to detach myself in order to my own thing.  And I felt like crap because I felt like I was ignored in favor of the cool kids, so I would need to make something to impress…yet disliking the group costumes that my friends were making.

What’s worse were some of the people who started joining in on sweatshop days: cute-looking but emotionally-draining, oblivious, and utterly useless at sewing/crafting/LEARNING.  I ended up working on everyone else’s stuff, especially the emotionally-draining people’s stuff, even on the days when I brought my things to work on, like a pattern that I simply wanted to cut out muslin for.

 I felt like I wasn’t important enough to dedicate time to making things that I wanted…and I stopped going to sweatshop days.  And stopped sewing because I was going to be the unphotogenic lump in the photo in an outfit that no one but me cares about, so why even bother.

Yay, low self-esteem.

As a related  side note, an unrelated one of my friends recently commented that she didn’t like the book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, well aware that many people consider it a masterpiece of love, self-sacrifice, altruism, etc.  I actually HATE “The Giving Tree” and, as a kid, never understood why it was celebrated: a kind tree gives all she has to an inconsiderate brat kid who makes no pass at visible appreciation.  (I am clearly not ready for parenthood anytime soon.) Until my husband pointed out that you can actually interpret the giving tree as a warning.   And you know what?  I often feel like the Giving Tree, the Little Red Hen, Boxer from Animal Farm, etc.  I watched Anna Akana’s “How to put on your face” video and felt chagrined when she said “Some poeple are too kind…and end up giving all of themselves away.” Because that’s how I burned out.  I rarely even bake cookies any more because I give them away and almost never get anything back in return.

I’m slowly working my way back to acquiring my activation energy.  My husband forced me to take a day off for my birthday and do nothing but what I wanted.  I still cleaned the bathroom. But I also cut out fabric for a pair of Tania culottes that I wanted to wear to my Irish step-dancing class that week.  It took me two weeks to finish them and the shorts were by no mean perfect (for some reason, the culottes look better when I wear them backwards), but you know what?  I wore them anyway.  Wearing this red, twee, and flawed skirt-like thing made me happy all day through dance class.  

Something made for myself, felt joy.

I am making it a point to seek out my other (non-costuming) friends because they do put things in perspective.  My husband and I are actually going to our friends’ wedding in September and they encouraged their guest to envision an English wedding and encouraged dressing up.  I emailed my friend the bride about my husband wearing a tuxedo and what era of “English,” ’cause I had ideas for eras from Victorian to Downton to William&Kate. I got back an enthusiastic reply stating that I would rock any time period and asking if he was going to wear a ;morning coat.  And I found her email super supportive and encouraging. My husband doesn’t have one yet, so CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!  And for me, I was actually excited becuase I think I can make an outfit that’s been on my list for a while: Anya’s traveling dress from The Phoenix Requiem, a favorite webcomic of mine.  The Fabric Mart was having a sale on suiting, so I couldn’t resist.

So yes, trying to get back in to the swing of sewing things that mean something to me.  If all goes well, I’m going to make my husband the King of the Wild Hunt’s armor from the Witcher III game, hopefully in time for Emerald City Comicon.  My husband has been a huge fan of The Witcher since the first game came out and I have a soft spot for it since he shared a lot of the game with me while we were still engaged in our Udistrict apartment.  Plus, if he is the King of the Wild Hunt, I can make Ciri’s outfit as a complement.

And I can get behind that.

Anyway, sorry for the rant/whining/pity party.  Hopefully we’ll get back to my regularly scheduled program of stuff I make…when I actually get around to making stuff. =)

Knitting bag for a Norwegian

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Ah, Unofficial Harry Potter Knits. One day, I will tackle your Tapestry vest

Tangentially related to the previous post: I’ve been sewing knitting project bags!  This one is for another college friend who was sorely disappointed that, as a Norwegian, she wouldn’t be able to get her hands on the Unofficial Harry Potter Knits.  So I covertly connected with her husband and got it to her for her birthday!  I wanted to send a little something else to, so I made her this knitting bag.  Again, we went to college in Portland and this “Birdie Spokes” fabric seemed apt. =)

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Uhm, my skin looks mottled due to the sunlight filtered through a screen. It’s not contagious. =)

I found that I like having pockets inside my projected to hold needles, a folded pattern, and my tube of tapestry needles/stitch markers.

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Recognize the pocket fabric?  Yep, I used the leftover fabric from Lily’s dress (mainly the uneven shirt hem) for pockets.  It’s a fairly simple addition and I stitched some thin pockets for DPNs.

Charlie tunic & penguin for Lily the firebrand

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Appropriate gifts for a girl of two years?

Wow, I have really fallen off the blogging train over the last year and I’m not certain why… I always photograph things that I make and think of comments to write….just never get around to actually posting.  Maybe it’s data related: I’ve been going through a data slump recently because I’ve been optimizing a protocol, which just doesn’t satisfy me as much as testing hypotheses.  My friend calls me a “data junkie,” which I guess refers to the euphoric feeling I get when I get a great result, so maybe I post more when I’m feeling more productive.

I’m also going to unjustly scapegoat knitting: I’m a slow knitter and simple knitting projects take exponentially longer than complex sewing projects.  Cabled hat for a friend: 1 month.  My red mage outfit, complete with corset, belt, and hats: 1 month. *sigh*

But anyway, do you have the time to listen to me whine?  Probably not. =)

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Yep, ’twas autumn in Seattle

My friends’ daughter Lily turned two back in the autumn, which is when I finished up her birthday presents: a Charlie tunic dress and a purple penguin (I think it’s always nice to include a toy and a non-toy item in a kid’s gift).  I also threw the pattern for Green Bee’s Lily dress because I thought it was oddly appropriate.  Anyway, Lily is amazing: she is preternaturally intelligent (her parents are geniuses in my eyes), bold, knows her own mind. and  Really, firebrand.  Oh, and cute to boot.

My friend commented that she had a difficult time finding lightweight summer dresses to protect Lily’s Scandinavian-ancestry skin from the sun.  Hm….oh really? *steeples fingers* I know, I know, I could have actually made the *Lily* pattern, but the Charlie tunic came to mind since it was cuter and, er, more earthy….I don’t know, we all attended college in Portland, which rubs off on you.

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Tsuru messenger bag

TsuruWhile I’m at it, here is my Tsuru messenger that I made way back in June. (I have a backlog of unblogged projects.) I fell head over heels for Rashida Coleman Hale’s Tsuru fabric line and wanted to make something that I could use often, though I do also want to use the remaining bits for a quilt. I wanted a new day satchel and Aleah’s No Time To Sew Messenger bag tutorial seem to fit the bill: simple, easy to sew, and is a useful size for non-work jaunts. It didn’t take me too long either, maybe about 5 hours from start to finish?
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Colette Patterns Cooper: Vulpes familiaris

Fox.  Fox fox fox.

Fox. Fox fox fox.

Otherwise known as “The sewing project that shortened my telomeres” (see: Blackburn Lab research such as this) or “This is why you shouldn’t start sewing leather without checking your sewing machine’s capabilities.” But hey, rational thought hasn’t stopped me previously! I now have an adorable backpack. The pattern itself is well designed, easy to understand and construct, though I did find the extra “Cooper Companion” to be useful when I didn’t want to brain.

I had been thinking about making a new carrier for Petra (my Asus laptop) over the last couple months. My current bag is a Speck bag from my dad, which just barely fits my laptop, her charger, a mouse, and a few papers. I do really like the Speck, but if I wanted to bring anything else (such as lunch, a lot of papers, a book, a knitting project), I would have to bring another bag along. Which is what I had been doing, but I have to admit wrangling two bags and an umbrella was getting old. I still have affection for my “Carry ALL THE THINGS” REI-esque backpack, but I thought it was overkill for my postdoc position since I’m not hustling between classes anymore. Also, I tend to stuff things in there and forget about them. (At least it was granola bars and not fruit.)

Fast forward to a month ago when Colette Patterns announced a new pattern: Cooper, a pattern that could be adapted for a messenger bag, backpack, and satchel. I liked Cooper’s clean design that looked effortlessly customizable and that did not seem too bulky. And hey, they were having a sewalong contest, which was devilishly convenient. I spent a bit of time crudely mocking up ideas in Photoshop.

Right side are bag images from Pansy Maiden, the collaborators with Colette pattenrs

Project brainstorming. Right side are bag images from Pansy Maiden, who designed Cooper with Colette patterns. I liked how their bags hold umbrellas


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Sorry about the radio silence

It's the year of the snake!  Also, I love lion dancers.

Happy year of the snake! Also, I love lion dancers.


…I don’t really have a good excuse? We moved back at the end of October, which was lovely, but we are totally still unpacking and organizing! As in my sewing machine wasn’t set up until last week. I also was without an ironing board until yesterday. Whoo!
My new neighborhood has a lot of corgis.  I really want one.

My new neighborhood has a lot of corgis. I really want one.


I do have to say that I feel a bit weird not having any sewing/costuming projects up and running, especially since con season is just around the corner. My costuming buddies are talking about getting the Jinouga armor up and running…but both I and Lobster haven’t found a good time to meet up for that. (I know, I need to make the time.) But we did did find the time to make this happen:
MMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!  Seven years dungeon! No trial!

MMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!! Seven years dungeon! No trial!


Oh, but I did teach myself how to knit since my sewing machine was out of commission. I totally blame Tasia’s post on knitting her own socks. I am a sockophile and the prospect of locally designed DNA socks was irresistible. Oh, and to knit some fake chainmail for my Hermitaur armor. Of course, now that knitting is in my repertoire, I started by knitting a whole bunch of gifts for my family and friends:
Fingerless mitts for our organist friend

Fingerless mitts for our organist friend

Totoro Scarf for Lobster.  And bunny slippers for me.

Totoro Scarf for Lobster. And bunny slippers for me.

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Beanie for Sister #1

Slouchy hat for Sister #1


Pompom hat for Sister #2

Pompom hat for Sister #2


Beanie for Sister #2's boyfriend (Sock monkey scarf loom knitted by my sisters!)

Beanie for Sister #2’s boyfriend (Sock monkey scarf loom knitted by my sisters!)


So yes, hopefully I’ll get my sewing station up an running sometime soon! I hear there’s a friend’s gothloli dress in the planning stages….