Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Halloween 2012: Homemade Vampire Princess Costume

I took some time away from the blog to get some real-world stuff done, most of it involved travelling to warmer climates. Haven't had time to sew much, but thought I'd jump back in where I left off-  Halloween!

My daughter wanted to be a "Vampire Princess" for Halloween which sounds ludicrous because it is, but she is 5 and I guess I should just be happy she wanted to be something only sort-of scary and that she didn't want to be a sexy kitty or something truly horrifying. 

A Homemade Vampire Princess Costume! 
This was her final fitting-- if you look close you'll see the trim isn't applied around the edge of the train yet and no black, bedazzled plastic crown.  The necklace was made with a black choker I had leftover from the '90s and a black brooch piece I picked up in Michael's tacky-jewelry making department.
I once again started with a commerical pattern and then totally ignored it.  The pattern in this case was Simplicity 2065, the "Tangled"-inspired Rapunzel costume.  I chose it because I thought it was more Medieval looking then the more poofy princessy dress patterns which kind of all look like overwrought 1950s ball gowns, really. 

 I got this on sale, so I don't feel quite so bad about barely using it.

For the bodice:  I immediately made some changes.  I omitted the ties and so adjusted the pattern pieces down an inch or so, making the center "stripe" a little thicker all the way down.  I also raised the neckline since all the Disney patterns seem to have a low neckline problem.  Plus, vampires don't wear a scoop-neck. I discovered over on PatternReview.com (beginner's tip:  pay the money and join, it is totally worth it!) that the neckline was also a bit wide so I narrowed that up too.  Instead of a zipper I put in Velcro.  My Aunt Gail helped me to figure out exactly how to place that-- I had it pinned in wrong for a couple of days and couldn't figure out how to fix it.  I also may or may not have lengthened the bodice-- I honestly can't remember, but it seems vaguely true.  I also omitted the stripes on the puff sleeves and instead of a sheer arm I went with a dark red shantung.  Insetting the puff sleeve was no problem at all.  Super easy.

Have I ever mentioned how difficult it is to tailor anything to a child?
 "Stop moving so I can poke you with pins!"

Please note these are the first full length sleeves I've made.  Yeah for me!  They turned out pretty well though I realize the straight arm proportions of a kid are much easier to fit than an adult. 

For the skirt portion:  The photo on the cover of the pattern is totally misleading.  Either that girl is wearing a crinoline or she has an enormous elephant ass.  Either way, if you follow the pattern your skirt will NOT be as full as the picture.  It's a simple drindle skirt (which I didn't even know what that was until I made this, but think Oktoberfest Barmaid instead of Cinderella) and is damn boring.   I didn't want poofy but I guess I didn't want flat either.  As soon as I cut it out and pieced it together I knew I was going to have to fancy-it-up somehow. 

The train (again without the trimmed edge). 
The curve was key; leaving it a rectangle would have looked stupid.

My solution was to convert the sheer overlay that split in the front into a full on Princess Diana-esque lace train.  Okay, maybe not that long, but chapel length at least.  This took math, figuring out where to place the lace, how many inches in to make it even at the sides and fashioning a curve (on my own) so it would puddle prettily on the floor.  I have no idea how I figured it all out, but I did.  I omitted the lace trim along the seam with the bodice since I was going to have to insert the lace train. It's a little hard to see in the photo but I flipped down the top of the lace so it had a nice ruffle along the inserted seam in the back.  I finished the train with matching trim and then sewed in a hook and eye to bustle it... which is something I always do backwards.  This costume was no exception. I then hand sewed it small plastic spiders scattered into the lace.  Bats would have been better, but they had spiders at the Dollar Tree so that's what we used.

The bustle hooked up. 
This was Halloween night, when it was POURING rain outside, so I was damn pleased with myself for thinking of the bustle.  Note the lace now has a totally trimmed edge.

Notes on the project:  The only real issue I had once the dress was made was the length.  It was about a half inch to an inch too long and she had some problems at school with it.  Because of the weather we trick or treated only a few houses in town so it wasn't a huge hindrance at night since she was lifting it to avoid puddles anyway.  She wore black wrist length gloves which completed the look.  Fake vampire teeth were rejected-  too much spit according to Abby.  I also hot glued the hell out of a otherwise blank black crown adding tons of rhinestones and spiders.

Cost:  I got all the fabric (black stretch velvet, dark red shantung and the matching red lace) on sale.  I had the Velcro, the thread, hook & eye, and reels of black lace trim in my stash at home.  Total cost including the dark princess tiara, gloves, spiders, rhinestones and face make-up was around $80-90.  I'd estimate this costume took me around 16 hours to complete.  If you know what you are doing and actually follow the pattern I'm sure this would take way less time.

Verdict: Success!  It was exactly what Abby wanted which was a vampire costume that was pretty and not too scary.

Abby (The Vampire Princess) and Henry (Alien in Flying Saucer) give the camera their best Halloween scare faces!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Homemade PECS Visual Schedule for Kindergarten

Thanks, Ryan.  I know. 
Ah, PECS.  If you know what they are without having to click on the link, well then, we're in a special club together, aren't we?  Your kid has autism of some variety or is otherwise "spirited".  Abby's diagnosis matters less and less to me as long as she is getting what she needs to succeed. 

A short day.  Removed one so you can see the Velcro strip beneath.
So, this is what I've been up to on the craft front... though that's more necessity then creativity.  It is a serious pain in the ass, to be honest. We are very fortunate that we only need to use PECS to let Abby know what to expect for the day, as a visual schedule, so please don't think I'm being ungrateful. She has zero trouble communicating and in fact I'd be happy if she STOPPED talking, but she can be very slow to adapt and any unexpected transition has a 50/50 shot at causing her to meltdown like Chernobyl.   The visual schedule is a recommendation from her behaviorist and does seem to help!

I went around and took photos of everything she's likely to encounter in her school day, from her mat at "Morning Mat Time" to her Spanish teacher (who, yes, looks like a model even when I catch her running to her car after school) in order to make Abby individualized images.  This was WAY more labor intensive then I'd anticipated and I seriously appreciate the pre-packaged sets now, but for our situation doing it myself was the only way to go.

And let's not forget about this guy!  Henry doesn't get what the big deal is with the schedule and the stories and the endless appointments and playdates, but is aware his sister is getting some disproportionate attention--  I've solved this by actively playing video games with him.  Sad, but true.  He's thrilled!
Obviously there are lots of ways to make your own PECS, but I stole a bunch of ideas from the Internet:

1.  Since Abby doesn't need a million of them to communicate, I went ahead and enlarged the standard format from 2X2 to a much less likely to be lost 3X3 inches.  This makes everything easier to see and read, but it also means commerically available PECS pockets and folders won't work with my homemade ones.

2.  I laminated mine onto cardstock-- this makes them more rigid and sturdy.  I used a non-descript color so I don't have to worry about matching it later when I need to make more.  The cutesy-colored and decorated ones are great and all, but if you have a kid who values "sameness" this is key.

3.   Blank PECS!  This is a brilliant idea.  Like with our chore charts, I just write on the laminated square with a dry erase pen if something unique is happening in her day and I need to give her a heads up.  For instance, I'm not going to make her a special PEC for an "Earthquake Drill" she only does once a month.  Plus, how do you make a non-terrifying image for that??  I stuck Velcro to the pen and attached it to the binder too.

If only these emoticons were gifs...  moving them back and forth with my hands isn't the same.

4.  The folder that IS the chart:  stole this idea from Pinterest but can't find the image now... that said, go ahead, search Pinterest for the word "PECS"...  pretty nice treat for Mommy!  Anyway, this is great.  I used a standard binder (make sure it is the kind that will lay flat), sticky backed Velcro, hole punched sheet protectors and plastic dividers. The dividers must be plastic, the paper ones no matter how sturdy will rip. The sheet protectors keep her "Social Stories" neatly organized, her teacher's rough (to the point of uselessness, but that's just me bitching) daily outline, and her weekly "smiley face reports" safe.  All her interventions are in one place!  The Velcro strips on the cover are for today's schedule, any PECS not being used are stored inside on the dividers.  

Social Stories deserve their own post since they are in some ways the most creative part of this whole mess.  "If I Am Late to School.." is our most recent project.  The ones that gets the most use are "When It is Time to Stop My Work..." and the infamous, "Recess is Over and..."
Things are improving for Abby and I am grateful, but it is intense and, to be honest, costs a fortune.  It leaves me little time for my own hobbies and interests (and friends and sleep and coherent thoughts) so that is why the blog has been dead.  I do have some awesome Halloween costumes to post before the holiday!  Watch out!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Back to School: Practical Sewing & Organization

*I delayed publishing this post after it became clear my daughter might not make it at school, but I still did all this crap so onto the blog it goes now! I've gone ahead and inserted updates and commentary where needed.

Well, that summer went fast.  It is still hot, the pool is still calling my name, but the kids are back at school.  Henry proudly helped me make the signs for the photos.  My kindergartner and my first grader!
Yes, those are her spare glasses - she broke her other pair days before school started. *She now has two new pairs, thank God.  She looks 2 in these pink plastic Harry Potter ones.

He is going to be ridiculously tall.   He wears a 1 wide shoe.  He's 6!  *These white shoe with laces have already been replaced by navy shoes with velcro.  Some things are better in photos.

I took a few days out a while ago to clean out my kids rooms-  sorting toys, culling outgrown clothing, and generally tidying up.  And it has stuck!  Somehow my kids have embraced the new system and their rooms have been super tidy for weeks now.  My housekeeper even said, "What am I supposed to be cleaning?!"  (Not to worry, things are tidy, but she is hardly in danger of losing her job.)  *Note:  Still very clean, more then a month later.  Amazing!


4+ trash bags destined for the Salvation Army.  They run an adult, inpatient, NO COST substance abuse program in my county which is such a great service (standard 28-day rehab runs from $8,000-$42,000 around here) that I always make an effort to donate anything I can to them.  The jobs sorting, pricing and running the stores go to those in recovery trying to turn their lives around. *Note:  My sister Anna ended up getting sick of looking at my pile of donations and put them in her car and took them to the Goodwill near her house.  I was way too overwhelmed to follow through.  Thank-you Anna!!

The Lytton Springs Salvation Army facility in Healdsburg.  Built in 1921 it was originally "The  Salvation Army Boys and Girls Orphanage, Industrial Home and Farm"  That sounds like the setting for a book about an orphan-led adventure that leads to an abandon gold mine and... pirates!

Toy Bin Labels:

Quick and dirty-  I didn't take out my lamination machine or my real camera.  I used self-laminating pouches and printed photos straight from my phone.  This should solve the always annoying whine of "But I don't know where it goooooes!" from my kids.  My sister helped me knock out Henry's room in a few hours-- my daughter's enormous room took me days.  I got heat stroke sorting her stuffed animals.  No joke.

Hair Tie Storage:

Abigail, sadly, has inherited my thin straight hair so a lot of the cute hair accessories are too big for her.  I sorted these by color and put them in an old pill organizer, ala Ask Anna guest posting on Tatertots & Jello  Abby loved it and I love that it locks so she can't dump the 500 tiny ties all over the floor. *This system has worked great!  She picks out a color and locks the box.  Perfection!

Lunch & Snack Packing Station:

This was the before picture. *It can now double as the "Today" picture.  Sigh. 
I have to pack a separate snack and lunch for both my kids.  They use the Laptop Lunches system (an Americanized bento box essentially) for lunch and random bags for snack time.  There are lots of pieces- some with lids, some without, water bottles that fit in the snack bags but not in the lunch bags, etc.  It was a mess.  I also put together a quick list of easy ideas for those days when I blank on what to pack and what to buy at the store and stuck it to the inside of the cabinet door.  *This is now a total mess and the list has vanished. My husband has taken over packing lunches/snacks in the middle of the night because I've been too busy.

Uniform Alternations:

It's more obvious it is too long when she does active stuff like this.  I just need to get it hemmed.
I think every school on Earth should have kids in uniforms.  I love them.  Abby's jumper dress is a strange fit.  All the mom's were complaining.  Her's is a 6X and only kind of fits her at the waist and is way too long-- she is just into a regular size 5 right now.  To fix it I just snipped the seams on the shoulders and sewed it back together a few inches in.  I left the excess tacked inside so I can alter it again when she grows.   Much better! *Still way too long in comparison to her classmates many of who are just wearing their super tight size 4T dresses from pre-K. Oh well.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wedding Crafts: Jam Jar Labels, Flower Girl Barrettes, & Bolero

No posting because I've been swamped with other tasks, mainly related to my fabulous sister-in-law's equally fabulous wedding the end of last month.  She got engaged while we were all in Paris last year and pulled off the largest, most amazing wedding this year.  Personally, I was engaged for five years, so... she's just an overachiever as far as I'm concerned!  I also went on vacation for awhile and have been generally spending all my free time in the pool. Summer is sweet, but almost over.

Wedding stuff!  In addition to making the labels for 300 jars of jam in five flavors and two sizes, I helped tie/hot glue the raffia to them for the place cards (I thankfully had nothing to do with that massive seating chart).
Tip for wedding beginners:  Combine the favor and the place tag  and save room on the table for important things like wine and food and wine.

This was the version the happy couple chose;  still think I would have gone with a simpler design myself, but this did have the advantage of the jam flavor listed for the guests.

But mostly my time was spent corralling my (adorable) children in their roles as a ring bearer and a flower girl.  I made the three girls' bow barrettes. They all have super fine, super thin hair. My mother-in-law wanted really understated bows, made with a specific translucent ribbon, which is exactly the opposite of what I would have done, but they were cute on the girls so my stress about it was stupid.

Henry & his fellow ring bearer looking gentlemanly.  I had to do nothing for the boys.  Thankfully.

My nieces sporting their handmade hair bows- constructed with love and a heavy sense of anxiety by me.

In between those actually necessary wedding tasks, I made myself this bolero to wear over my dress.
I wanted to make the bolero a little less formal as I was afraid that my dress was too cocktail.  I used Simplicity 3921, though I made a few changes to View C. I used a cotton polka dot fabric to dress it down and lined it with a coordinating costume satin.  I shortened the sleeves and narrowed them; I don't think a wide sleeve is all that flattering.  I also expanded the front curve to accommodate my bust line without having to make darts.   I skipped blanket stitching the edges because... who would do that?  

Trying out different sleeve lengths.  Please ignore the unfinished dress underneath-  still working on that.

Flipped open to see the lining.  The cheap costume satin worked fine and looked way better then most lining fabrics would have looked.

The only trouble I had with the pattern were the instructions on how you attached the sleeve lining to the sleeve at the opening.  I followed the directions word for word multiple times and always messed it up, so I just hemmed them together, made some narrow bias tape, and called it done.  I would really like to figure out what I was doing wrong.  In the end I never wore it. HA!  I'm an idiot.  

I will now be making all my own wraps.  Suck it, Macy's (tiny evening-wear-accessory-department)!

Random picture:  Abigail drinking milk at the Barndiva bar before the rehearsal dinner. Yes, she's winking and  yes, she ordered that milk from the bartender herself.   She LOVED being in the wedding party.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Graduation Cookies: School's Out for Summer

The cookie thing is kind of fun, if maddening.  These are for the reception following my son's "graduation" ceremony for finishing kindergarten today. 

Good job, kid!  One down, a solid 19 years to go!  Hurrah for the class of 2024!


Baking and decorating these cookies was a true test of my latent perfectionism.  I had to keep telling myself, sometimes out loud, "I am not a professional baker.  In fact, I don't like to cook" and  "These are for little kids who will not care",  "Stop obsessing about them, they are fine!", and the infamous, "This is so stupid!"

Yeah, I need to get back to sewing ASAP.  

For Abby's preschool graduation last week, I went with the much easier flower bouquet.  Not as tasty but way less stressful!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Alter or Destroy: Black & White Cotton Dress

I have some thinking to do and plenty of other projects before I tackle this one but I thought I'd share anyway.  I've found a great use for Mabel Mae, my new dress form (I seriously considered "Patsy" as a name so that I could blame her for everything I screw up, but thought that was mean).  She can help figure out what the hell is wrong with this dress!  Mabel Mae is a dress detective!

So cute, right?!  Slight problem, the upper waist, just around the rib cage is way too tight.  The top of the bust just fits and the lower waist and hips fit great.  At first I was upset with myself because it didn't fit, but then I was like, "My ribs?  Really?  My ribcage is too big now?" and realized that was probably the dress and not me.  And I was right. 

See how the top comes together at the hook and eye? But the rest is a no-go.  This picture makes it look way closer then it actually is- that gap is big.

Meanwhile the lower waist and hips have plenty of room to spare. The zipper goes down quite a bit, over the hips to the top of the thigh. It's a little more then half way down in this photo.

It doesn't even fit the dress form and she is, technically, perfect.   I'm not sure who is a 40DD with a 30 inch ribcage, but I've got the dress for you if you are out there, mutant!  As far as I can tell, the factory where this was made cheated the full-bust adjustment- adding depth to the front but not lengthening or widening any other part of the pattern. According to the tag the dress was "designed" in L.A. and made in China.  I'm sure a standard set of numbers were given and extrapolated on by whoever makes those decisions on the factory floor.  Probably someone without boobs. 

I could return the dress... but I'm not going to do that.  I'm going to take a gamble and see if I can fix it. I'll either alter it or destroy it!  I feel like a mad scientist!  Wooha-haha!

The dress is cotton (as is the lining) so adding some sort of panel seems like a good possibility.  But where?  And how?   I don't really want to mess with the invisible zipper, but that might be impossible. The stripes make things tricky too.  Here are the options I've come up with:

1. Insert a full panel (pieced, I think? maybe not, maybe more like a racing stripe) all the way down the none-zippered side seam.  Drawback? That will mess up the pretty way the strips are matched to each other. 

They did a pretty good job matching the stripes- not perfect, but not bad for a dress that was less then $100 retail. 

It would also make the lower waist and hips less fitted since they aren't too small now.  A bummer, but less of a bummer then not wearing the dress at all.   I could possible find the same fabric or go with a contrasting color like pink or red or just a solid black.  Very Project Runway Mondo-esque, perhaps?

Okay, maybe something a little more subtle.
A different pattern could work for sure. The dress is so stripey anyway it won't look that strange if you don't know how it is supposed to look. 

Maybe something like this? 

How much do you want to bet my husband tries to scan me with his phone? 
Like that's not going to happen... don't take that bet.

2.  Insert a gusset along the invisible zipper.  This would of course require me to remove the zipper and replace it.  Drawbacks?  My very limited experience with zippers makes this scary.  A gusset  would mess up the pretty pattern too.  However, a gusset might look neater then an added panel.  Particularly in a contrasting fabric- a smaller triangle of color vs. a stripe.  It would probably stand out more though and I'm not sure I want my alterations actually attracting attention. My only issue is that the zipper is currently longer then I would need the gusset since it's just my ribs and bust that need the adjustment.  I'm not sure how to work that as far as inserting the zipper in the new seam.

Could use a fun contrast:

Wouldn't have to worry too much about it being straight.
 or something like this: 

Subtle and girly, fancy black eyelet.  Obviously, I'd line it with white. 

 3.  Add inches to the waist band.  Not just around, but up too.  This would lower the waistband from around my ribs and add some space to breath.  Because I'm short enough I could hem the dress a couple of inches without a problem to get some perfectly matched fabric to do this work,although the stripe would be running the opposite way.

I think, based on my zero experience, that this alteration would make it harder to sew the dress back together. 

Drawback: it wouldn't alter the upper part of the bust which does fit, tightly, and I feel if I'm going to all this effort I might as well make it fit nicely everywhere.  I would still have to mess with the zipper.

4:  Screw it and chop up the dress as a pattern to make another dress, adding inches where needed.  Drawback?  That's an $80+ pattern, plus the cost of new fabric. This will be my fall back if things go poorly with the alterations.

We'll see!  I still have slipcovers to finish, some curtains to hem and another dress to make before I commit myself to re-working this one-  maybe I'll lose a rib in a freak napping accident in the meantime and I won't have to touch it.  Never know!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Dress Form Fun!

This was my Mother's Day gift to myself:  a professional dress form.  Project Runway eat your heart out!  She needs a name which I'm not settled on yet.  All name suggestions welcomed! As long as you are okay with them being disregarded if they suck.

It may look like I've already spilled cabernet on her, but no.  That red tinge across the bust is just the bad lighting.  

Isn't she lovely?  Not having a head is very slimming.

I can add an arm later if I want.  Build-a-lady!

I poked around and considered a bunch of different options.  The entry-level adjustable models (Dritz, Singer, etc.) that you can pick up at Joann's and other chain stores just didn't look very well made to me.  Plus, I couldn't get over the spacing that goes down the middle.  What if you have to fit something there?  The real deciding factor was the wheels.  I'm going to have to be moving her around a lot since I sew in my dining room. Her rolling base is a solid 25 lbs of metal and real, not plastic, casters. SOLD!

I have no idea what the cage is really for, only that it's considered better then not having one.  Feel free to fill me in if you know the why.  

Plus, she isn't an ugly color, just a neutral linen.  Which I realize shouldn't be an issue.  That said, who wants a red dress form?  It would be a distraction to me and I'd hate it clashing with my decor, even when I'm the only one looking at it.

There are some small issues.  She was a total bitch to put together even with my husband's help.  In fact, I doubt she's assembled correctly.  Technically she is height adjustable, but since I'm 5 feet that's hardly an issue.  At her lowest setting she's still a bit taller then me.  I'll just imagine I'm wearing heels.

Gratuitous new shoe photo-  their cork!  I live in a vineyard!  Yes?  No?  Well, I was amused.

And they were on sale!  Thank you Macy's!  Maybe I should sew in them.

The other issue is the sizing.  She matches up pretty well with some slight problems:  the hip to waist ratio is off a bit, but I'm an oddball so that isn't surprising.  I don't wear form fitting outfits anyway.  The bust measurements are great on paper but I realize now that a goodly portion of my inches are on the front and nearly half of hers are across the back.  I'm not sure how much that matters if you are doing a full-bust adjustment on most patterns anyway (which I am), but we'll see.  Mostly I want to use her for draping.

That is some serious princess seaming.

Because she isn't adjustable if I lose more then, say, 15 lbs I'll be sized out.  Which since it took me a year to lose 42 lbs I'll not be holding my breath.  I figure I'll just sell her on Craigslist and reward myself with a new one when that (glorious) day comes.

A name, an after-use review, and some dressed photos coming to the blog soon!

Upcoming Projects: Not Yet Blogged

a rundown of what I've been up to: DIY wedding dress, "Back to School Night" decor, Flower Arranging for the Incomptent, more jam labels, a dog bed solution, paper embroidery, flying pig needlework, attempting to scrapbook, make your own board game kit, Link from Zelda costume, organinzing for homework, and how to build an afterschooling program!

how to declutter after a death... and how not to do it

what do you do with all your fat clothes? Make doll clothes!