Monday, August 25, 2014

Cosplay for PAX East - Elizabeth from Bioshock

Hey Everybody,    I hope this finds everyone in good spirits!   We are wrapping up the weekend, one of the few left of summer.  The past couple of nights have been a little chilly - an early harbinger of fall?   It makes me kind of sad that summer is nearing an end.

This post is a bit of a throw back.  My daughter had wanted to cosplay Elizabeth from Bioshock for PAX East this year (this past March) We worked really hard on perfecting her look, but I was dismayed as she didn't get any pictures of herself at the event, and it was so busy getting everyone ready that I forgot to take any when it was completed.     She did say that many people stopped her and took pictures of her in cosplay while she was there which is always a sign that it came out well.

Since then,  we took some photos at home. She took some by herself on time delay with her Ipad, and some my son took with his Blackberry phone. (See below for several of them.)

The way we usually go about creating a cosplay look - first we find some inspirational photos on the web.   The character of Elizabeth has a couple of different costumes - this one that Autumn chose with the long skirt, corset and short jacket, and a simpler one that appears in a different part of the game that looks more like a school uniform. (not pictured here, but it is a simpler skirt, white blouse and ascot type tie/scarf)   

more "inspiration"
Example of an "inspiration photo"
For the next step, I try to find patterns that have similar shapes to the clothing pieces needed.  In this case, I used McCall's M6845 (bolero jacket)  and McCall's M5681  (50's style full skirt) Both the patterns were rated as easy. 
Autumn was pretty specific about the fabric she wanted - a dark blue velveteen/velour type, not heavy weight (it had to 'swirl' easily).   We bought about 5 or 6 yards at Joann's fabric.   ( A couple of side notes here:     I purchased the fabric for this project as well as another couple cosplays I was helping to make for  friends, and used a bunch of coupons.  If you are not signed up for Joann's coupons,  do it before you go shopping!  Also, sign up for email coupons and texts if you can.  I got about $300 worth of fabric and notions for $80 that night.
Another thing to keep in mind, and I think this is true for most sewing projects.   Whatever your regular size is when you buy ready-made clothes - Disregard them!   Take your measurements (usually bust, hip and waist) and go by the chart on the back of the pattern. In my years of making different clothes & costumes,  the size the pattern says you are has never corresponded to the size you normally buy your jeans or tops in. )

 This look was not as hard to achieve as I initially thought it would be.  Autumn bought the wig,  corset & hooped petticoat online.     The corset we added thin strips of dark blue bias tape to the create the stripes and outline.

I modded the jacket from the initial pattern shape which had a really loose sleeve that morphed into the sides/back of the jacket.                     
You can see here,  I measured where the arm would fit, then sewed a seam in and clipped the excess fabric off.        I also added a collar onto the back of the neck area, and edged the whole thing with double fold bias tape. (these steps not shown in pictures)

 The skirt pattern was actually one that was supposed to be a poodle skirt,- a 50's style full skirt with the decorations  (I left the poodle off!)   I made this skirt the shorter length of the two shown on the pattern, as we wanted the petticoat to be able to peek out from underneath it.  Also, I added some extra width to each of the cut pieces (this pattern was basically 4 large triangles with the tops scalloped off. These were sewn together on the sides with a zipper in the back and waistband on top)  By adding a few inches on either side of each of the pieces,  I got a little more flare, and a better fit over the petticoat.

So here is my beautiful Autumn modeling the completed Elizabeth Cosplay:

I think some of these are her recreating poses from the game

good view of the back of the jacket, and the bias tape striping on the corset

Pretty Petticoat

I also made an Victorian inspired bird necklace ('choker style' shown below) as part of the original costume.  You can see it in the inspiration picture on the right above.   The choker it was a bit scratchy on her neck and she ended up finding a little gold cage necklace to go with it instead. (there is a part in the game where you as Elizabeth's character have to choose between a bird or a cage, so her choice of necklace stayed true to the character which is very important to Autumn when doing cosplays)
To make this, I started with about 1/2 yard of 2" wide dark blue ribbon. Then the same amount (1/2 yard), but slightly less wide lace ribbon (go maybe 1 1/2" wide, this is so you can see the blue as a background when the lace ribbon is laid on top of the dark blue).  Both could be found in the ribbon section at Joann's).  The lace ribbon was sewn to the dark blue ribbon.  The bird charm was in the jewelry/craft section also at Joann's fabrics.   I made a cardboard circle, glued some of the excess skirt fabric as backing, and then glued a string of faux seed pearls around it, and affixed the whole thing to the center of the ribbon.  I put a small piece of velcro as the closure (measuring her neck exactly first so that the excess ribbon could be trimmed)

The whole cosplay turned out really nicely.  There are a couple of other Cons coming up she can wear it to as well.

I will post some other pictures of the other cosplays we did for PAX and Anime Boston this year.

Do you enjoy cosplaying?    Do you sew or create your own?  I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!
xo Yvonne

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Toy - Vintage Kenmore Rotary Sewing Machine!

Hi Friends!

One thing to love about the tag sale season - sometimes when the sales are over, people still have awesome stuff that they want or need to get rid of.

This amazing machine was left on the side of the road with a 'free' sign on it.   I tell you it made my weekend!    This is a Kenmore-Franklin Rotary Electric sewing machine, boys & girls, Model E6354, circa 1948.  (There is a little plate on the inside of the cabinet with 'another' model number printed on it (think more of a newest type designator as Sears made these machines from the late 30's to mid 50's)  that allowed me to find the year, thanks to this Sears Sewing Machine Archive page. )

Check out the 40's Industrialness of it....   It's angular lines and lack of decoration are quite a departure from the previous generations of machines.   As with many war-era items and slightly thereafter, there was a stark practicality to them.   

For comparison, here is my 1930 Singer model 66 "Red Eye" machine.  This one, like many that came before it, was pretty. Even if you didn't sew much, this thing would look lovely sitting in a corner.

In the twenties and early thirties, even the most pedestrian of household objects were ornately detailed.   (note the radiator below from the 20's. Utilitarian?  not in the least)  Going into the late thirties we start to see cleaner lines, less frills, and  more technological influence.
1920's radiator
closer details of my Singer sewing machine
Sewing machine close-up: Even the end plate is fancy!

So the 1948 Kenmore-Franklin Rotary machine seemed to be in excellent condition.  I decided to plug it in and see what happened.   But where was the foot pedal?  It didn't seem to be a hand crank machine, and despite much searching, I couldn't figure it out.  I was beginning to think that maybe it had a separate plug in foot pedal that had gotten lost over the years.   But wait....  There was this fold out lever on the bottom of the machine.  It seemed to have a tensiony spring to it.  So I plugged the machine in, and pushed the lever to the right - Voila!  we have lift-off!   The lever is actually supposed to be operated by your knee, so when you are sitting, you just lean your knee over to the right to make it go.  The needle went up and down pretty smoothly.  After a few minutes, there was a faint electrical smell so I decided to unplug it before the seventy year old wiring went up in flames.    

See that long metal thing in the center of the picture?  That's a lever.

Alas,  I am well aware that most vintage sewing machines aren't very valuable.  I found an interesting article here that talks about that.    I have a very beautiful treadle machine that I bought it at an antique mart about 20 years ago for $40 and today it's probably only worth $42.    However, it is quite a beautiful piece and it makes me happy.  I  currently have it in storage, but I will get it out soon and put some photos up here for everyone to see.    Also, Vintage Machines are a bit of a 'white elephant' item.  Most of the older machines are an actual piece of furniture that you actually have to find a place for in your house, and they are very heavy at that.  Unless they are into sewing, few people want to make room for them. 

Here is a link to  Sears sewing machine history if you should have interest in the lineage of Sears machines.  I currently sew on a Kenmore from the 1970's that was my Mom's.   I have had two new machines over the past several years, but both broke in a matter of a year or two so I keep coming back to my faithful Kenmore.  A few tension problems aside,  it is a wonderful machine.

Here are some other pictures of the 1948 machine's bits and pieces:

I have laid out here a modern size bobbin (3/4" diameter)
 alongside the ones that go with this machine (1" diameter). I do not know if that was the
standard size for all machines back then, or if each manufacturer would have there own sized ones. Luckily this
machine had several extra bobbins!

This is the bobbin winder, found beneath the wheel. On most Modern machines they are on top.

It came with a whole box of attachment goodies and spare bobbins

So, do you have any vintage machines? what kind? Have you ever tried sewing on them?
Comment below! I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading,
xo Yvonne

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fish Tank turned Terrarium - craft post

Hi Guys,

Today's post is pure 'craft' with very little (actually no) vintage.  Although I do promise to make a few references that people under 30 will have a hard time getting.

I have a few fish tanks around my house.  You never know when you will need to house a mouse or hamster or something else (to those that know me and my penchant for taking care of small furries, this will make perfect sense).  For those of you that want to play along at home,  you can usually find fish tanks at tag sales for under $10.    Tanks that have developed (water) leaks are also great to upcycle into Terrariums.

One thing I will mention if I haven't before - I am frugal when it comes to crafting. That is to say I don't like to buy anything new I don't have to. (up and up Yankee thriftness!)     At some point I will do a post about how I source some things for gardening without paying a lot, which may or may not end up being helpful.

1) Assemble your ingredients

  • Drainage material (I used small white crushed stone )
  • Charcoal - this helps with filtration and keeping the soil fresh
  • Potting Soil  - should be self explanatory (though if you are planting cactii or succulents, you should get a soil suitable for those).
  • Sheet moss (helps retain the moisture for the plants and prevent soil erosion)
  • Plants & Decorations

"And Everyone wanted to get in the newspaper story about it..." (Arlo quote!)

So the above couple pictures are basically the kittehs checking out all the neat stuff I have assembled for this project.  Note, I am doing this in the middle of the living room rug, so have put a towel down to make things a little easier for cleanup.  Newspaper works well too,  but the cats tend to like to play (*read* shred) it.

2.  Creating the drainage layer.  - I used white crushed stone.  I had bought a few bags a couple of years ago and had half a bag still sitting around. I rinsed it a few times and soaked it overnight so as to remove any extra chalky residue and creepy crawlies that may have moved in while it was sitting around.

3.   Charcoal layer   - Sadly I forgot to get a picture of the charcoal layer, so imagine it in your head.

4.  Spread out the Potting Soil. ( Note the Quality Control Dachshund making sure I am doing it correctly.)  There should be a 3" to 5" layer of soil, at least deep enough to put the root balls of the plants you are planting in.  Note-  pack the soil down so there aren't any air bubbles.  This will keep the soil from settling too much later and exposing the plant roots.

5.  Figuring out the placement of the plants.   I left them in the pots and moved them around a bit til I felt I liked the arrangement and each plant had enough room.    The plants I chose for this terrarium are: Fancy leafed coleus, Polka dot plant, African violet, and Cock's comb.

6. Planting the plants - make sure they are spaced out enough so they have room to spread a little. You should have put enough soil down so that the root balls are not sticking above the soil level.

Investigating kitty

7.  I put sheet moss around the bases of the plants sort of sporadically. I have seen terrariums that have it covering the entire potting soil layer, but I didn't want to do that.  The sheet moss will help the plants retain moisture, as well as keep the soil from eroding down around the roots.

8. Decorate!   - Colored Gravel - you can categorize this under 'decorations'  I sprinkled some handfuls of colored aquarium gravel around because I thought it looked nice.

More Decorations - couple of plastic cows (Note the 'walking dead' cow on the left - Calvin (my dachshund) started chewing the cow's face before I realized what he was up to)

"A little Birdhouse in your soul..." (They Might Be Giants)

A small set of twinkle lights.  Yes, I am a sucker for twinkle/fairy lights and will add them to just about any craft I can.   I got this set at the dollar store - it is about 2 feet long and has a waterproof battery pack (takes (2) AA batteries)  so perfect for this environment.  (I taped them to the upper wall).

 The final masterpiece!  

Here is Lightning kitty relaxing on the top of the finished terrarium.   I had a screen top that goes with this size aquarium that I am using because well ...cats...plants..... 

Update - After about a 2 weeks, the cocks comb died.  The polka dot plants (there were 4 ind. plants in the container, and they were a little on the ragged side when I got them)  one of the 4 has also died.  The African Violet seems to be faring the best.   I think maybe I need to move the whole terrarium to where it gets a little more light.

Thanks for reading!
xo Yvonne