Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Project 13: Collared Shawl

Shortly after the big Halloween event was over, one of my co-Workers, a woman in her 30s, approached my desk carrying a piece of clothing. It was a black knit shawl-like something. A rectangle with an opening up the middle and fringe at both ends. She asked me if I would make her something like it.

"Does it have to have fringe?" I asked, being a snot.

"No" she replied.

"Does it have to be black?" I asked, pushing it further.

"No" she replied. "I trust your judgement."

I told her to go to a fabric store and find some medium weight wool coat material that she loved and I would do my best. She brought back several swatches and we discussed them. She picked out her favorite and I got busy making a muslin. I actually made two because I had two different design ideas. One had a kimono-style neck / closure treatment and the other had a collar. She went for that one, which made my quite happy since it was a little more challenging.

The wool that she picked was on the cool end of the spectrum, so for the collar and facing I picked brown silk dupioni on the warm end for contrast. I made a long silk ribbon to bind the hem of the wool and used a blind hem stitch to secure the facing to the body of the garment for a fully finished, secure feeling. Nothing worse than trying to put on a garment and finding your facing flopping out for the world to see.

Once it was done, I realized that she was going to need some kind of a purse since there weren't any pockets in the design. In less than an hour I whipped up a little bag to go with it.

I gave it to her yesterday and she loved it. This morning she told me that her husband loved it too and slipped me a few bills. I can't believe that I've designed and sold a garment. Tim Gunn, if someday you read this, I want you to know that I made it work!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Project 12: Halloween Costumes

You've got to be kidding. I didn't sew a single garment between Halloween 2009 and Halloween 2010? My goodness it was a crazy year. Even if I didn't sew anything during most of the year, I certainly made up for it at the end.

I sent out an invitation volunteering to make a Jedi knight costume for the first six people who responded and wanted to come party with us in Vancouver. Four full-time Vancouverites, me and LCD Seattle wound up being the six. A very nice mix, I have to say. I had to be pretty creative, since there is not a licensed pattern, but by studying the movies and reading a lot of Star Wars costuming forum posts I got a fairly solid muslin together in August.

I made two really important fabric sourcing discoveries that month also. First, that there is a very inexpensive kind of fabric called Osnaburg which is made from rejected cotton fibres. It's thick, fluffy, textured and sturdy and dirt cheap. I bought a 15 yard bolt online for about $2 per yard. Second, I found that the retail mark-up on wool is criminal. I bought a three 12 yard bolts of absolutely exquisite dark brown 100% wool online for about $7 a yard. It would have been at least $25 a yard in a fabric store.

I spent just about every free moment in September and October sewing frantically, but I was having a great time doing it anyway. I think my sewing skill level jumped significantly and I know that I got a lot faster at cutting, pinning and pressing! The thing that really made the costumes work, though, were the Hasbro Force FX lightsabers. The have very high quality sound and light effects and were movie-ready replicas of the props used in the movie, as you can see here:

We got a hotel suite in downtown Vancouver so that no one would have to do any driving during the evening and also so that we would have a nice, central costuming location! I've never packed up my sewing equipment for international travel before, so that was an adventure in planning ahead as well.

I also booked us a limo so that we could first attend the Parade of Lost Souls put on by Public Dreams Society in the Commercial Drive area of Vancouver. It's a wonderful performance-art parade and community celebration which is alone well worth the trip to the city. We stopped at Vancouver City Hall on the way to the parade and took a few photos. Here's one of the better group shots:

When we arrived in the area and stepped out onto the sidewalks of Commercial Drive people went nuts. We had dozens and dozens of people take their photos with us, shout "May the Force be with you!" at us across the street, or just exclaim "COOL!" as we came into view. It was absolutely like being a rock star. When the rain started to fall we were glad our costumes had lovely big hoods as we made a beeline for a nearby Italian restaurant. After dinner it was back downtown to visit bars and clubs in the gay village where we were received with great enthusiasm.

Exhausting? yes. Expensive? yes. Worth it? beyond super-yes.