Thursday, May 28, 2015

Going All Out

I mentioned in my last post that I was looking forward to a masquerade ball that a friend was hosting. In fact, I had been looking forward to it ever since I heard about it in January or February. And I had been working on my dress for about that long, as well! Yes, I put a lot of effort into my outfit...but it was so much fun!! Not to sugar-coat things, though - it was also a very hard project that gave me several brain-storming headaches, especially in the beginning stages.

I have to warn you, this is a long post! I tried to keep it interesting with lots of pictures, goes!

When I first bought the fabric below, I spent the drive home from the fabric store wondering how in the world I was going to make it fit into my very unsolidified ideas. At home, I laid the fabric out on the floor and stared at it for a good while, then closed my eyes and imagined, then stared some more. That is usually what my brainstorming process looks like - sometimes accompanied by groans and hair-pulling. And let me tell you, I repeated that process often throughout the next several weeks.

The main problem was that I didn't quite know what I wanted! I had vague ideas and wispy mind-pictures which proved very hard to bring into reality. Pinterest was a great inspiration. By looking at pictures and more pictures of dresses, I was able to gradually piece together the look I wanted. 

I started out with two pieces of fabric, a yellow silk and a gold sheer. Together they were the perfect combination. You can't tell from the pictures, but the sheer has shimmery gold lines in it.

I started by cutting out the skirt. I wanted a long, full A-line skirt, so I used the skirt of this dress as a pattern.

I was going for a wood-nymph look, something ethereal and fairy like, and to create this effect the skirt would need more layers. I found cream netting with gold glitter - the perfect thing - for the first layer...

...and a flowy tan netting for the second. I cut the bottom of the glitter layer in and irregular wave to create an asymmetrical look.

Yay! Things were coming together! But it needed something more. I really wanted that tattered look you can get by sewing a bunch of strips of fabric on the bottom of the skirt. Once I had picked the colors for decorating the top of the dress (green and blue) I cut strips from all the different fabrics:

I divided the strips into piles of short medium, and long and began pinning. I used up every single one of my pins in the process, and I have a lot of pins! (Later, I ended up sewing a fourth row of strips between the medium and long ones to fill it in a little more.)

As you might be able to tell, I did not pin the strips onto the skirt in straight rows. Instead, they randomly curved up and down like the glitter netting for a softer, more natural look. 

Three looooong seams and lots of tedious pin removing later, the skirt was nearly done! Sort of. But at this point I began working on the top, so we will come back to the skirt later.

The top was quite difficult to create. It was made from the yellow silk and gold sheer of the skirt with the glitter netting sandwiched in between. I was originally intending to gather the side seams for a ruched look, but my sheer fabric wouldn't lay right. So instead, I ended up ironing several lines across the top and sewing them on the wrong side to create texture. Unfortunately, the memory card for my camera stopped working before I got those pictures onto my computer, so I don't have much to show you for this step. But you will see the result in the next few pictures.

The texture on the top was nice, but I wasn't done. I wanted a vine swirling across it dotted with flowers. For this, I needed a pattern. I couldn't find the perfect swirl online, so I drew a picture...

...scanned it into the computer, scaled it to size, and then printed it off, cut it out, and taped it together. I laid the paper vine down and stuck pins on either side of the main stem, then took off the paper and pinned the fabric vine in place. The same technique worked for each of the swirls as well. I then hand sewed everything down.

To make the vine itself, I bought a shimmery green fabric and cut long strips. I made them into thin tubes by zig-zagging the ends together and then turning them inside out. For the main stem, I twisted two strips together.

The next step was the flowers. I will tell you all about those in another post, but here is what they looked like sewn on the top:

You will notice the little beaded if what I had already wasn't enough! But I love detail work, as I have said before, and I just couldn't resist adding the delicate, shiny swirls. I think it added a lot! 

I extended the vines and flowers around the back a little as well.

The picture above was taken after I had hemmed up the bottom of the sheer layer. As you can see, the yellow silk stuck out a bit beneath. I hemmed it up as well, but left the glittery netting showing, because I thought it would look pretty over the skirt.

Now we can get back to the skirt! I pulled the netting up in the front a little to the right of the center and secured it with three flowers. I also added strips of green and a few strings of beads to tie it in with the top.

Skip forward a few steps, and here the dress is, finally all put together! ...minus the above mentioned strips and bead strings, which were added after this picture. I put an invisible zipper on the right side of the top and down a little ways into the skirt. The skirt is hand sewn to the top at the waistline through the yellow silk layer  (the sheer glitter netting and gold sheer were enough to cover the seam line).

The neckline and sleeves were all that was left! Well, that and a lot of hand-tacking, but I will spare you all those tedious details. This post is long enough as is!

The sleeves were made from the gold glitter netting overlaid with the tan netting. I originally intended them to be elbow length, but ended up not liking that look and turning them into cap sleeves. I gathered the tan netting and fastened it with three flowers to echo the gathering on the skirt.

And here is the final result:

And since I know you are dying to see more pictures from the evening...

My handsome brother

My dear friend Kelsey made her dress, too! Isn't it amazing??

Well, that was a long post! I hope you aren't totally bored! Over the next several days I will be blogging about the rest of my accessories - mask, jewelry, etc. Stay posted! ;-)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dream Job

A week from Monday, I will be attending a masquerade ball that a friend from my church is putting on. It is probably the most anticipated and talked-about event of the year! Back in February, when I first heard about the ball, I immediately began planning a dress. My thought process went something like: If I start now, I should have plenty of time to get the dress finished. In fact, I might even be done several weeks ahead of time! Ha! Life never really works that way, does it? Not for me, at any rate. So here I am with one week to go and still a lot left to do. But my goal of being finished by Saturday is attainable, so I don't feel too swamped.

I'm not going to give you any sneak peaks of my dress here - you'll have to wait until next week for pictures - but I did want to share something that I realized while making my dress. I discovered what my dream job is: making costumes for movies! Especially fairy-tale, fantasy movies. I seriously love spending hours designing beautiful dresses full of intricate details and then bringing those designs to life. I rarely find it tedious.

The other day, when I felt like wasting time, I got on Pinterest and looked up pictures of fantasy dresses. Here are a few of my favorites. I would love to be able to make any of these, but especially the green one below (with a few alterations for modesty's sake). I just love the color and the flowers and the gathered sheer and, well, everything about it!

I cannot get over the flowers on this skirt! I love the whole vine idea!

More flowers...and those bead swirls!! Totally sold!

I am totally in love with this dress. The style, the beading, the train - so elegant!

I really like the unique top of this dress and the smooth contrast of the skirt. So fairy-tale-ish!

So if any of you dream of being movie producers someday, I would love to make costumes for your movies! As long as they can be elaborate and full of crazy details. We can all dream, right?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Picture Perfect

Last Saturday, my good friend (and adopted sister) Ayu gave her graduate piano recital, and I had the privilege of making her recital dress. (Ayu has been featured on my blog a few times before. I made her a dress last year, taught her how to make a skirt, and made a dress and a skirt for myself with fabric she brought back from China for me!)

Ayu found a picture of a beautiful red dress and asked me if I could make one like it. The pattern looked simple enough - long panels that flared out into a full skirt and a tie that was sewn in on either side of the front panel. The only change was to make the back higher.

We went shopping and found a polyester fabric with an almost velvety sheen to it. So pretty! We bought 5 yards. I combined two patterns to get the right fit/look. It took a several fittings and adjustings, but I am happy to say that the dress was done a few days before the recital - no last-minute stuff this time! 

Ayu looked beautiful and played beautifully! Congratulations, sister!!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Trying Something New

I have been sewing for years, but there is so much I haven't even tried yet! Sometimes someone asks me to do something I have never done before. Some of these projects can be very challenging, like the swimsuit I custom made once (that was probably the most stressful project I have ever taken on!!), but some of them are delightfully simple.

When a friend asked me to alter a jacket for her, I was a little apprehensive. Tailoring a jacket sounded complicated. I was surprised to find that it wasn't! If you have a jacket lying around that you haven't had the guts to try to alter, maybe this post will give you the confidence to try!

My job was to tailor the light khaki jacket to give it a nicer shape, like the brown one:

Since there were pockets on the front, I couldn't alter the side front seams, so I decided to just take it in on the sides and see if that worked. 

First, I ripped up the side seams to a little below the sleeve. 

Before I cut anything, I sewed in the side as much as I thought was needed. That way, if I needed to take in more or less, I could just rip out the seam and try again. I find this way of experimenting much more reversible than cutting. ;-)

That shape looked pretty good, so I cut the excess fabric off of both sides and ironed the edges in.

Jacket seams can be tricky, but the little bit I had left sewn at the top of the seam showed me how to put it together. One side has to be ironed towards the inside and the other towards the outside. You then overlap the fabric to hide the raw edges.

I then sewed the edges together and sewed the bottom band back on.

I laid it out to compare with the brown jacket.

Hmm...the khaki jacket needs a smoother curve going into the sleeve. I took up a few inches of the side seam just below the sleeve and took it in a little more.

Much better!

Yay! I learned something new! Jackets no longer seem as scary as they did. Maybe I will make one someday.