Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Embroidery, Part II

How to do the Embroidery in the words of a Newbie: Part II

In this installment, I'm going to touch on two things that I learned how to do better as I went along.

1. Filling in wide gaps.  

This technique I had the humility to learn from a friend, who found a helpful link on the internet.  I couldn't tell you where now, though.

Most of the designs are thin enough that a full stitch across is narrow enough to hold its own.  However, I found that there were a couple of petals here and there that were simply too wide for tidy stitches without a little bit of help.

Exhibit A: Notice how the stitches in the center petal are loose and puckering because they're wide enough to have a lot of their own wiggle room.

Exhibit B: When I did the same petal on the opposite side of the skirt, I overlapped stitches into the middle so that they lay more nicely.  It creates a sort of "seam" in the middle, but I staggered it to make it less noticeable, and you really can't tell from a distance or at a glance.  

2. Turning a corner.

This technique is my own.  That is to say, I figured it out on my own, but it's probably some time-honored trick of the needlework trade that I could have also had the good sense to just read about on the internet.

There are a lot of curlycues in these designs, which means there's a lot of going around a curve.  Unfortunately the laws of geometry obviously mean that the inner curve has a much shorter distance than the outer curve, and trying to follow the design purely from edge to edge you end up with a lot of crowding on the inner curve.  In my efforts to do so, I ended up wasting a lot of thread, and it didn't really look that great, either.

Many curlycues later, I stumbled upon a method of compensating that was tidy and elegant enough for my liking.

NOTE: All the stitches in the photographs below are going bottom to top.

Exhibit A: When you reach about the halfway point of the curve, jump ahead and angle an outlying stitch the way the "end" of the curve would be.

Exhibit B: Mirror the outer stitch with succeeding stitches back in toward the curve, until the two groups connect on the inner curve (the point where the needle is sticking above).

Exhibit C: Still paralleling with the "outer" stitch in Exhibit A, tuck the next stitch under the threads of the first group of stitching so that the end of it is hidden underneath.

Exhibits D and E: Keep repeating this process, still in parallel with the "outer" stitch.

Exhibit F: Until the curve is completely filled in! 

As you can see in the pictures, the result of this technique leaves a kind of overlap effect which someone else might not like, but I didn't mind in the slightest.  I actually think it looks kind of neat.  Or that could be me being pleased at my own cleverness, I don't know.  In any case, much like the staggering of stitches to fill a wide gap (described above), you can't really notice it from far away.

And that concludes my general adventures and advice about embroidery! For now, anyway.  I still have to do the hem, but I probably won't start working on that until next spring.

Behold the results!

Embroidery, Part I

I started to do this post almost a week and a half ago, and then my computer battery died and I lost it and I've been much preoccupied ever since.  But the costume is ready for Dragon Con, people! I need to start making posts about the many wonderful days of culmination.

We will begin with the embroidery.  I have two posts on the subject.  The first will describe my general embroidery process.  The second will talk about my experiences with a couple of more fine-tuned embroidery techniques.

So, without further ado...

How to do the Embroidery in the words of a Newbie: Part I

First, we begin with one of the transfers that I uploaded and posted here.

Step 1: Trace the design onto tissue paper.

Step 2: Pin and otherwise affix the tissue paper into place where you want the design to go on your fabric.

Step 3: Using an easy running stitch, trace the design onto the fabric with thread. You can see I have begun this process on the top-most petal of the design shown above.

I know you can use tracing paper to accomplish the same thing.  There were four reasons I decided to go this route:
(1) On the night I was ready to get started, I didn't feel like running to the store to get tracing paper.
(2) I wasn't really sure how well tracing paper would work on slippery satin anyway.
(3) I didn't want Yet Another Obscure Sewing Tool that I had way more leftover than I really needed, which I would probably never use after this project, and which I then would move from nook to cranny to cubby in my bedroom for the next ten years, before finally deciding to throw it away, and end up needing it the following month.
(4) The back side of the long stitching left a very tidy way to finish off the loose end of a thread, both in the tracing thread, and in the embroidery threads themselves when I got to that step (see below).

(But let's not kid ourselves.  While all of these are very good reasons,  the first reason was the real one)

Step 4: Carefully tear away tissue paper from the long-stitching.

Step 5: Fill in the lines with embroidery floss (two strands). It's really kind of just like coloring at that point. OH! And put on your Patience cap.  And don't cut your threads too long.  Believe me, you'll spend more time un-tangling a long thread than you will just cutting another short one.

My next post will be about a couple of more fine-tuned techniques that I discovered along the way.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We interrupt this broadcast...

My dear readers: 

If you're wondering how my costume progress is coming after last week's major milestone of completing the bustier, I am happy to report that it is coming along well.  I completed transferring all the embroidery designs to the right front skirt panel and I'm presently following a very aggressive schedule in order to try getting them completed by the end of this week.  If I can keep up the schedule, and devote most of Saturday to sewing, there is a reasonable chance that I will have a costume ready to wear for Dragon Con by that time.


After that is done, then I'll let myself breath again and go back and post some of those tutorial-style installments I've been promising.

In the meantime, I have a diversion of sorts.

My dear friend and co-author, Laura Josephsen, has recently published a standalone teen novel, as shown below:

Confessions from the Realm of the Underworld (Also Known as High School)

by Laura Josephsen

"Write what you know."

Persephone "Sephie" Benson scoffs when her creative writing teacher throws that little gem out there. Maybe this advice would work for a professional skydiver or a baseball star or a ninja princess. It's not so great for a high school student who doesn't even know what to do with the rest of her life. Add in being the oldest of six girls, having Responsibilities with a capital R, and living in a town the size of a tick, and you've got a recipe for boring soup.

At least, that's what Sephie thinks until her senior year. Now, her grandfather is losing his house. One of her sisters plays a starring role in the local high school scandal. Even things with her best friend Joey aren't the same. As Sephie deals with the changes in her life, she finds that nothing is quite what she expects--and that sometimes, the most extraordinary life can be the one that seems the most ordinary.

I love this book.  I've read it three times at least, and skimmed it a half-dozen more times.  While I've read my share, I don't usually enjoy "real life" books to the point of raving about them (by that I mean, I'd much rather have dragons or swordfights or magic or other worlds or all of the above-- I'm a "genre" reader to the core), but there are always exceptions to everyone's usual, and this is one of mine.  As Laura herself will tell you, she doesn't usually write this kind of story, either, but so it happened.

Maybe it's because Sepphie Benson is so real and likeable and relate-able, she seems to just climb off the page and unceremoniously take a spot at your family dining table, munching on potato chips and making faces at you (but all in good fun).  The same goes for her family and friends.  You get sucked into their story, full of the familiar ups and downs of life, humor, warmth, heartache, and love, and learn, like Sepphie, that the things that are "cliché" about life have become so for very good reasons.

Everyone should read this book.  The even better news is, it's economical! I bought it for Kindle and I'm totally going to buy it in paperback too, as part of my next Amazon run.  You can click on the picture above for links to the book's Amazon page, and both formats available for purchase.  Give it a try.  You'll finish it in a single afternoon/evening.  And then you'll probably read it again.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


It is finished!!!

The bustier is finished.  Now all I have to do is finish the embroidery and zip zip zip, finish the skirt (easy peasy).

(This is a special picture because that is my personal favorite frying pan in the house.  I use it to make eggs almost every morning!)

The only thing I don't like about these pictures is that they don't show the truly awesomeness of the purple.  The lighting is really bad.  I will be sure to take my pictures of the full costume in broad daylight for better reference.  And possibly inspect the color settings on my mother's camera.

The 2nd batch of embroidery transfers are completed.  Now to fill them in.  I anticipate finishing that much by the end of next week.  I have twenty whole days left.  I am cruising, here! (Not that I'll use that as an excuse to go lax, mind).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I can see the finish line!!!

Hello, my fellow costumers and Disney fans and other folks interested in this blog for their own purposes!! It has been a productive few days, let me tell you.  Since last Thursday I have successfully:

-- Completed the main body of the bustier, with trim
-- Finished one of two puffed sleeves with pink ribbon stripes (and tested it for size)
-- Added a false back for the "undershirt" in the back, complete with lace and buttons
-- Finished (but not attached) the modesty panel for the front and center
-- Started working on the 2nd half of the embroidery transfers

Bustier 2.0 turned out beautifully.  I learned even more about applying trim evenly, and it fits nice and feels nice and looks nice.  The next thing I did was cut out the sleeve and sew pink ribbons on, and I confess when I held the sleeve up to the bodice for the first time I might have squeaked a little in excitement.  It's really starting to look like a recognizeable costume!!

But don't take my word for it: See for yourself...

Saturday: The bustier body was complete, and I tacked on the ungathered sleeve just for a first look at the two together (that would be the moment where I squeaked).

Last night: Gathered the sleeve and did a fit test, just to make sure it would look right and that I didn't have to alter my homemade pattern any.  It's just sewn on with a machine baste, and I have since removed it, because there are a few more things I need to do with the main bustier that require me to get into the inner lining (once I attach the sleeves I'm cut off).  Also, I still need to get some fabric for the lower part of the sleeves.  They should be pale pink.  Still, I'm quite pleased with the results.

Last night: finished the "undershirt" with buttons.  It's just a couple of lined squares with lace on one edge and held together by the buttons, then hand-stitched to the inner layer of the bustier.  Quite easy, really, and I couldn't be more tickled by those buttons.  For those of you who don't obsess over Rapunzel's costume, the only time you really see this part in the movie is at the end when (SPOILER ALERT -- just sayin') her hair is short and she's hugging Flynn, so we get a nice view of the back of her dress not blocked by her hair.

This morning: Made the center modesty panel, complete with lace and the two most beautiful points I have ever made in my life with lined fabric.  Did I mention that seam-clipping is my very best friend on the whole wide world of inanimate (or in this case, procedural) friendships?  I just pinned it to the dress form in the picture above.  I still need to get it attached to the bustier, which I plan to do with a seam on one side and snaps on the other, so that I can get in and out of it.

And that's it for now!  I plan on making some more detailed posts about the processes for the sleeves, false panels, and embroidery, but for now I'm running late picking up a friend at the airport, so those updates will have to wait until later.

In the meantime, what do we have left to go?

-- Attaching the center modesty panel
-- Adding the eyelets and lacing to the bustier (I am expecting those supplies in the mail tomorrow)
-- Finishing the sleeves
-- Finishing the embroidery
-- Making the petticoat (and trim)
-- Adding the center panel to the skirt (once the embroidery is complete)
-- Hemming the skirt and joining it to the petticoat

I'm hoping to have the bustier completely totally absolutely finished by the end of the week.  And then it's embroider like a maniac until the deadline.  The good news is, finishing off the skirt is child's play once it's finished.  I could definitely get all that done in one dedicated evening.

But it's looking SO GREAT! I'm as happy as can be.