Monday, November 9, 2009

ren faire planning

I've been dreaming and planning of ren faire costumes since our visit last month. I've done tons of research and looked at hundreds of costumes. I've been on forums and boards, and very badly designed sites looking for advice and opinions. What I've discovered is that (and this is something all regular faire-goers know) for the most part, it is frowned upon to make a costume that isn't historically accurate. This is a problem for me, because I like to put my own twist on things. However, I do really like the historical gowns. So, I'm reaching a compromise of sorts.

I've essentially decided to make two costumes. Yep, two. It means a lot of work, but it will satisfy both of my costuming wants. I sketched out this basic costume to start with. I'm basing it on peasant garb and will be using Simplicty 5582 as a base for the skirt and blouse. Instead of a bodice over the blouse, I will be using a corset from McCall's 4861. I plan on this being kind of an adventurer/mercenary costume. Of course, there was no such thing as far as I know historically, so I will be stepping on some people's toes. But I want an interesting costume, damnit! This way I can wear cool boots, and carry weapons, and wear wrist bracers. All the stuff men get to do. But I still want a pretty corset. :)

I drew this sketch up and then went shopping for fabrics. I want to try to be realistic where possible, so no purple fabrics, and as much natural fabric as possible. I'm using an un-dyed slubby muslin for the blouse, a dark blue for the skirt, and I picked up a dark maroon that will possibly be used for an overskirt. For the corset I chose a dark brown twill for the lining and a natural dark brown faux suede for the exterior. I've wobbled back and forth about sewing a bodice that can be changed out or worn over the corset, but we will see. I bought enough of the maroon fabric that I can do so if I decide.

I'm hoping to order a pair of boots like these to go with my outfit, but I don't think it will happen any time soon because they run about $600. However, they are completely custom made, fitted to your individual foot. And of course the colors, materials, and designs are up to you. This particular pair comes from Native Earth, which is the booth I saw at the Texas Ren Faire outside of Houston. I think that they are cool enough that if you chose designs and colors that don't scream ren-faire, (like opting out of the turned down top) you can wear them for street wear as well. The idea of custom shoes on my extremely hard to fit feet makes me giddy. Maybe they'll give me a discount for my tiny feet. :)


Ooh, totally forgot to put up the pictures of the "weapon" I found at the Celtic Festival this weekend. I was looking for daggers to go with my outfit, and came across a booth with a guy that was selling some awesome replica items. He was pulling out pieces, and when he showed me this one, I was already ooh-ing. I was very impressed - and then he pulled it out of the sheath to show.....

Scissors! And I knew I had to have them. For Ren Faire, they will look just like a dagger. And at home, I have gorgeous sewing shears. I danced a little jig, and took them home.

Monday, November 2, 2009

yet another new sewing machine

Two weeks ago I bought yet another sewing machine. I was at Joann and they had a floor model on sale for $250 because it was a class machine, and another 10% off as a floor model. It's a Husqvarna Emerald 116. It's a strange purchase in a way, because it's a step up, and a step down.

It has a whole lot less features than my current machine, which is a Brother CS-8150. I like all of the features my brother has, but its not a very substantial machine. I wanted something that had more power and a bit more finesse. When I alter jeans it frequently skips stitches and has problems with thick layers of fabric. It's also loud as hell. Brian and I have a kind of all purpose room where my sewing machines, the computers, and large screen TV live. We do that so that even though we have completely different activities, we are still in the same room and can talk. However, the Brother can make multi-tasking difficult because it's very loud. Brian plays games that require a mic, and between the sewing machine and the TV turned up to loud enough to hear, he has issues playing.

When I bought it I was very impressed with all of the stitches it could do, but now I find that I use them very infrequently. Generally its a basic straight stitch, basting stitch, or zig zag that I find myself using for most projects. Assuming that I keep the Husqvarna, I won't get rid of the Brother. It will be a back up machine, and on some rare occasion that I need a stitch that looks like a leaf, or need to sew an eyelet, I'll break it back out.

So, I think the new machine fits the bill. Even though it's short on features, its a Husqvarna and quite sturdy. Its much more quiet than either the Brother or my serger. It zipped right through the last pair of jeans I bought with no skipped or elongated stitches. After the jeans I immediately had some wonky stitch issues that I'm still trying to work out, but I suspect that it's user error and not the machine.

On the negative side, there is no needle up feature, no thread cassette (I got spoiled), and everything is controlled by dials. I keep finding myself reaching for the needle up button, and then having to reach around to the side to turn the hand wheel. Same with the buttons for changing stitch length and width. I think that maybe the dials aren't really a con, it's just something I need to readjust to. Also, the Brother starts and stops with a push button, and has a slider to control speed. I always thought that was a major benefit, but in working with a treadle again I'm discovering it wasn't. Having the treadle really allows me to control my speed without having to take my hands off the fabric. It's a real plus when the fabric is slippery, or it needs to be stretched, and going around corners or curves.

I think I'll play with it a bit longer and see how things go before I decide definitely to keep it, but so far I'm pretty happy. Its interesting how you can feel the power and smooth operation of the motor in the better machines, and that does whisper to me that I should keep it.

Photos of my finished costume

Everything in the pictures are made by me, except for the corset. (Makeup by me, too.) I wanted to make a corset, but I ran out of time. The overskirt is a six gored skirt and is made from the tutorial here:

It is a great tutorial, and really stretched my math skills. Everything else I made from scratch or altered with no pattern. Yay!