Sunday, April 30, 2017

HSM - Ridiculously Ruffled Hand-sewn Shirt

Hello again, darklings!

As some of you might know, I've decided to take part in this year's Historical Sew Monthly challenge! Although I'm starting late, I'm lucky enough have been allowed to get involved all the same. (Thank you, dearest Dreamstress!)

Look at those ruffles! My word, how excessive.
This month's challenge was Circles, Squares, and Rectangles. Luckily enough for me, most historical patterns use basic geometric shapes - especially basic garments like the shirt that I've made. For this shirt, I'll be using this pattern from the February 1981 issue of Early American Life, scans courtesy of the wonderful Vincent of Mouse Borg Designs. (Go check out his work if you haven't already!) Aside from four triangles, the pattern consists completely of squares and rectangles.

I recently picked up about a yard and a half of black hopsack linen as a remnant from my local(ish) fabric store. Unfortunately, I've learned from trial and error that with shirts like these, it's not worth skimping on the amount of material used. So, despite the anguished cries of my poor bank account, I drove back down to the store and bought two more yards. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure it's a linen blend, not pure linen, but it's still a step up from the cotton I'd been making my other shirts out of.

I made the sleeves a bit smaller than called for, and didn't taper them. They're more voluminous without the taper. However, I wish I'd stuck to the pattern size.
Because all the pattern pieces were simple geometric shapes, cutting out the pieces was straightforward. My only hangup was with the construction.

In the name of improved historical accuracy, I decided to sew the entire shirt by hand. I haven't hand-sewn an entire garment since I was eight! Miraculously, I did it all without a thimble, although it wasn't necessarily a painless process. I'll have to get myself one eventually.

Although I don't have any linen thread in my stash, I did try to stick to older and more natural fibers, like cotton. All of this thread was inherited from my great-grandmothers and liable to snap easily. In the pursuit of increased stability, I tried to wax my thread initially, but I applied too much wax and it was just shedding off the thread and right onto the fabric. Since I'm using such a dark colour, the excess wax was obvious against the linen. Eek! I gave up on that quickly. I'll have to get myself some proper beeswax and try again with the next garment I make.

I was mid-way through sewing the sleeves to the body when I realised that I'd forgotten to pre-wash my fabric. Ack! Linen shrinks quite a bit. To prevent future mishaps, I put all of the unwashed fabric in my stash in the wash... only to find that linen sheds. A lot. It was just unravelling in my hands when I took it out of the dryer. I suppose I'll have to hand-wash all of my clothes from here on out. Still, there was enough salvageable fabric that I could work with (and the original pattern dimensions are far enough away from my measurements) that I could complete the shirt.

I'd gotten the basic structure done enough that when ArtisticMiserys came over with their camera I was able to wear it for a photoshoot. I hadn't yet added buttons or buttonholes, impatient as I am, so if you look closely you can see that I've pinned the sleeves in place. The outfit I have on is a bit too costume-y for my liking, but I plan on making some black breeches for everyday wear sometime in between this month and next month's challenge. I'm trying to channel Jareth from Labyrinth here - do you think I've succeeded? The brooch is just a cameo button with some black lace and an alligator clip hot glued around it. It's completely unnecessary and (as far as I know) a bizarre choice given that I'm wearing a cravat, not a jabot. But hey, I'm wearing leather trousers already. What's one more historical faux pas?

(Of course, I want the shirt to be as accurate as possible. The rest of the outfit is another story that will have to wait until I acquire a more 18th century-friendly wardrobe.)

After much dark brooding, silly posing, and general photoshoot nonsense, we called it a day.

The following evening, I placed the finishing touches on the shirt - adding thread buttons, finishing the bottom hem of the shirt, and overcast stitching the inside edges of the ruffles. This was pretty tedious work, because I wanted a nice solid edge and I'm all out of black embroidery thread. I ended up doubling the thread and then threading that through the needle again and tying all three ends together in order to approximate some six-strand embroidery floss. This is pretty difficult to explain in writing, and if anyone would like a diagram, I'd be more than happy to draw one up if you leave a comment below asking for one.

The unfinished edge is on the left, while the overcast one is on the right. 
I used Vincent's method of making thread buttons (goodness, I'm a terrible copycat, aren't I?), but I used a knitting needle instead of an awl. I'll have to get myself one of those...

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with this shirt, although I wish that it had puffier sleeves. That's my fault, of course, for forgetting to wash my fabric before I cut out my pattern pieces. I might post a comparison photo showing off the various levels of sleeve-poof between my three black shirts. This, however, is my most well-made one yet. 

The Challenge: Circles, Squares & Rectangles 
Material: Mysterious black hopsack linen blend
Pattern: Early American Life Colonial Shirt Pattern (Thanks, Vince!)
Year: 1700s?
Notions: None.
How historically accurate is it? Well, the linen's a much more accurate material than the cotton I've used on past shirts. But I'm a bit disappointed that it's a blend. The colour's not (as far as I know) accurate, either. I'll have to make myself a white shirt soon. I'm fairly pleased with the usage of the thread buttons, although the thread isn't even accurate! And I'm certain that an 18th century seamstress would have used much more material than I did. From a distance, though, it looks alright. 
Hours to complete: Seven, maybe? I'm not certain. I started trying to track how many hours I'd been working on it by listening to audio dramas while I worked, but at one point I was too overcome with Crystal of Cantus ~feels~ to concentrate on sewing much. I will, however, say that I'm on series 7 of Bernice Summerfield now, so take that as you will.
First worn: April 29th, 2017
Total cost: I've thrown away the receipt (whoops) but the fabric was on sale. I'm guessing it was about ~25$? I look forward to building up a better stash of fabric in the future so that I don't have to go out and buy more especially for these challenges. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

DIY Tutorial - Old Belt to Spiked Choker

Hello again, darklings!

After the monstrosity that was those platform boots, I'm pleased to have taken on a much smaller project. I actually made this in about ten minutes, yet I'm thoroughly pleased with the result.

I wanted a spiked collar or choker to go with my outfit the other day, and so I decided to simply DIY my own. For this, I used four leftover spikes from my platform boots project (although you could certainly use more if you have more!) and an old thin plastic belt. You could probably get your own from a thrift store if you don't have any cheap belts ready for the rubbish bin to salvage.

Now, I didn't photograph the process as I was in a rush, but I went back and took pictures of the final project in an attempt to illustrate how it was done.

I first measured around my neck, then added two inches to that measurement and cut the belt to the calculated length. Remember, you can always cut off more of the belt, but you certainly can't add any once you've cut!
It cut so cleanly, I almost can't believe it!
I added on two inches for extra space, as the belt will go through the buckle and we must take the overlap into account for comfort's sake. I did cut off quite a bit once I figured out the proper fit, though, in order to avoid a trailing tail of belt material. It's all up to you and what you prefer!

Hey, I never said the belt wasn't cheap!
I then took my handy cordless drill and drilled right on through the belt (and the "Made in China" stamp) at equidistant locations, again leaving that extra two inches on the side without the buckle.

Just as with the boots, I pushed the screws on through, screwed on the studs, and it was ready to go! (Well, after I trimmed down the belt one last time, that is.) 

Here, have a grainy photo of it being worn.
Thanks for reading, and I hope that you get some use out of this tutorial! For such a quick and simple project, it turned out quite nicely. It was so easy, it almost feels like a dirty trick... As always, best of luck in your own DIY endeavours!

Until next time,


Thursday, April 6, 2017

DIY Tutorial - Platform Boots

Hello again, darklings!

This time, I'm taking on a rather ambitious project - making my own platform boots using only materials around the house, rather than spending $114 on a pair of Demonias.

(oh, sweet Demonias, why must you tempt me so...)

As per usual, I'm taking on a DIY project in order to avoid burning through my paycheck!

For this project, you'll need a pair of old boots. I'm using a pair I've worn through. They're still wearable, but the heels have eroded away and they're starting to crumble. I really recommend using boots for this, because you'll need the ankle support.

Now, to create the platforms, you'll need some foam. Insulation foam has been known to erode away in the face of super-strong glue, so I'm skipping out on that and using an old interlocking foam pad that was once used to protect unfinished floors. You can find them on Amazon or at Walmart for cheap.

This is the kind of foam pad I used.

I then placed the boots on top of the foam and traced around them a few times. Since these aren't very thick, you'll need to layer the foam. Make sure to trace around both the left and right boots!

Next, I filled in the empty arch space with more foam. I did this by carefully marking on the foam where the two contact points of the shoe were. This may be better illustrated in pictures below, but my phone was dying and they all ended up blurry in my haste. Apologies in advance!

You can sort of see what I was trying to do here.
Then, I traced around the boot to in order shape the arch support foam.

Does this make a little more sense? ^^;;
Make sure to do this for both boots!

I cut this - and all of the other pieces - out with an Exacto knife, then broke out every type of glue I had. I ran out of superglue about halfway through the first boot, so I opted for (-gasp!-) hot glue instead. Now, this sounds like a horrible idea because hot glue is not waterproof, but we're going to cover up the foam core base with several layers anyway. 

I actually heated up two different hot glue guns, so that when one ran out of glue I could keep going. Time is of the essence here - you want to cover the entirety of each piece of foam with hot glue as fast as you can. The colder the glue gets before you stick the two pieces together, the less securely attached they will be. 

After going through two or three bags of hot glue sticks (and three little tubes of super glue), I took a metal clamp and clamped the foam soles together, then let them dry for a few hours. We're using a lot of glue here!

After this, I set the boot on top of the foam, heated up my hot glue guns again, and glued them on as securely as I possibly could. This process took a couple hours and several more bags of hot glue sticks. I broke into my sparkly glue stash - and used up almost all of that! If you're feeling especially crafty, you could epoxy them together. I may do this if my boots fall apart, but for now things are going well.

After letting the boots dry, I took a roll of duct tape and carefully taped all the way around the soles of the shoes, making sure to get as few wrinkles in the tape as possible. This step is important - it provides some small measure of protection against the elements, and makes the soles much more secure. 

I then threw on my five-sizes-too-big designated DIY hoodie and broke out the black spray paint. You're going to want to wear old clothes for this next process.

Pardon the blurry photo - my phone died the moment I took this picture.

I took the boots outside and spray painted over the duct tape. Since my boots are black, I didn't have to worry about the paint bleeding onto the fabric. I applied many coats of spray paint over the course of many hours, and now am consequentially left without any spray paint... orz.

You can see that the boots ended up getting stuck to the styrofoam I had underneath them and some of the paint came off.

The next night, I got out some of this 3M Undercoating spray. This is NOT designed to be used this way, nor is it designed to be painted over. Please read all the instructions carefully and shake it well!! Thankfully, the stuff is black, so I had nothing to worry about. This spray is textured, so it will provide some sort of grip to the bottom of our shoes and cover up some of the wrinkles in the duct tape. It'll also provide some measure of waterproofing. 

I don't think my camera has ever taken a photo that's not blurry...

Because I did not want any off this stuff on the fabric part of my boots, I used painter's tape to completely cover the upper portion of the boots. This stuff is nearly impossible to remove, so either wear gloves or be careful. I used several coats over an extended period of time.

The boots being prepped.
During the drying process, I bought some studs to decorate the boots with. (Alright, alright, so these boots aren't entirely made from things I found around the house. But those are the only things I bought!) I bought them off of Amazon and received them pretty quickly. I did, however, have to switch out the screws. The ones that came with them were not long enough to reach all the way through the fabric of the boots.

Drilling holes through the boots!
I carefully drilled holes through the boots, making sure not to let the lining fabric get caught in the drill bit. This is harder than you would expect! I then inserted the screws from the inside, pushed them through, and screwed on the studs. For a final touch, I took a few old necklaces and repurposed the chains from them to use as decoration. Because I'm lazy, I just threaded the chains through the laces, and...

VoilĂ ! Here's the finished product:

Optionally, you can use a waterproofing spray all over the boots. I plan on doing this, but I'm not sure how it'll react with the undercarriage spray. If there are any chips in your paint or undercarriage coating, you can simply use a Sharpie or other permanent marker to cover up any duct tape that shows through.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that some of this helped! While these definitely aren't Demonia quality, they're certainly wearable and pretty neat for a three-day project made almost entirely out of old junk. As always, good luck in your DIY endeavours! 

Until next time,


Monday, March 27, 2017

DIY Tutorial - Plastic Milk Crate to Vinyl Record Holder

Hello, darklings!

Vinyl records have experienced quite the resurgence of popularity in the past few years, and I'll be the first to admit that I've fallen victim to this particular craze. But now that my record collection has spiralled out of control, I've found myself becoming increasingly disorganised. A simple record storage box can go for obscene prices on Amazon, and I don't know about you, but I'm not paying that much for a cardboard box!

My solution? DIY, of course!

For this, you'll need a milk crate, spray paint, cardboard, and (of course) records that need storing.

Here's the milk crate I had on hand. Not very exciting, is it?

To liven up your boring old milk crate and turn it into a fantastic piece of useful decor, you'll need to get out your spray paint. Make sure to do this outside, in a well-ventilated area. The wind likes to blow spray paint flecks everywhere, so maybe don't wear your nicest boots and favourite Bauhaus shirt while painting! I'd recommend wearing a mask, too, as the fumes can be quite strong.

I'm painting mine black and red, but the colour scheme is up to you.
Maybe try using some carefully-applied masking tape to get some Beetlejuice-esque stripes?

Place a piece of scrap cardboard beneath your milk crate before spray painting, to protect any surfaces outside. I placed my milk crate bottom-up so that I could get at all sides of it. Since mine is clear, the colour shows through the sides, and I only need to paint the exterior. When you are done, let it dry overnight before bringing it inside. (Make sure to check the weather forecast so that the rain doesn't end up interfering with your decorating process!)

Here are my results! As you can see, the paint ran a bit because it was applied too thickly. Thankfully, it's not that noticeable!

Now, I buy most of my records from antique stores. What can I say? It's cheap, and often the only place I can find lieder. Unfortunately, this means that several of the beautiful album covers had to go because of how saturated in mildew they were.

In order to keep my records in fair condition, I decided to put them all in record sleeves. These I got from a family member who happened to have too many on hand, but I'm sure you can find them online for cheap.

Plain and not very distinctive, eh?

In order to liven them up a bit, I got out my calligraphy pens and set to work.
The pot of tea and spiky cup aren't necessary for the decorating process, but I find that a nice cup of chai does make calligraphy much more enjoyable.

I put a piece of scrap cardboard between the record sleeve while I worked on it, to make sure that the ink wouldn't bleed through.

Listening to Winterreise made the tedium of writing out "Festival of Light Classical Music" twelve times (it was once a box set!) somewhat more bearable.

As you can tell, my italic calligraphy is pretty rusty. 

It took two hours, but eventually I got them all decorated and labelled! They still look a bit plain, so maybe I'll airbrush some designs on them someday. But for now, I'm pleased with them and grateful for the calligraphy practice.
Look at how much space there still is! Hmm, does that mean I need to buy more LPs…? ;)

Thanks for reading, and I hoped that some of this helped! It's simple, but sometimes even the tiniest bit of inspiration can lead to something great. Good luck in your DIY endeavours!

Until next time,