March 8, 2012

Diagonal Seamed Corset and Awesome Freebies!


I haven't featured this corset here before, but some of you may have spied parts of it in photos of other items on this blog.   It's not made of striped fabric; the corset is diagonally seamed and each stripe is a different piece of fabric!


I wouldn't have had the slightest clue how to create the pattern for this if it wasn't for an amazing two part article by Katarina Vukšić on Foundation Revealed: The Corset Maker's Companion  (affiliate link).

Double yikes.

The best part is that the first article is now free for everyone!  Check it out here.  You should read it even if you're not planning to make a diagonally seamed corset, as the techniques she goes over are applicable to a wide range of projects.  Don't forget to take a look at the other free articles available, and consider becoming a paid member for access to lots more.  

 It takes a while to start being recognizable as a corset!  (Don't mind that weird zigzag stitch; it got removed later)

I'm planning to make another one of these one day soon.  It will have a slightly different shape and stripe pattern.  What color combo should I go for?

I think I like the back even more than the front!

March 3, 2012

Gettin' Rid of the Funk

Yesterday I showed you some vintage saris and dupattas I ordered off eBay.  They're beautiful, but they stink!  But how to wash a super delicate silk that has been embroidered with actual metal, not to mention beads, sequins, and other embelishments?

Pretty, but impossible to wash.  Or is it?


Yes, seriously.

I'd heard of theater costumers filling up spray bottles with vodka and lightly spritzing dry clean only items between shows to get the funk out.  Nothing I found online indicated that it would hurt the silk at all.  Vodka can be used as a disinfectant, so it could probably kill any germs that might be adding to the general odor in my fabric.  I've also seen jewelry cleaned with vodka, so it likely wouldn't hurt the metal embroidery and might in fact shine it up a bit.  I figured I'd give it a shot; at worst I'd be out some cheap booze and the $30 I spent on one dupatta.

Disclaimer: While the following procedure worked fine on all the fabrics and embellishments I tested, it could potentially harm your fabric.  Use at your own risk, and definitely test a swatch first!

First off find some super cheap vodka, the kind you wouldn't drink if someone paid you.  For only $10, I got a 1.75 liter bottle.   Soak a swatch in the booze for a while to see if the fabric color changes or any damage to embellishments occurs.  Obviously, if it ruins your swatch, don't continue!

The photos I have of the process swap back and forth between various dupattas, so don't be concerned about the color changing between pictures as it's just a different fabric.

You may want to do this outside, as the fumes from the booze get quite strong.  Loosely place your fabric in a large bowl and pour enough vodka over it to soak it thoroughly.  Swish it around a bit, then let it soak.  I don't know if soaking is necessary, but if it doesn't hurt and might help, go for it.  Check periodically for damage or discoloration.  (Note: my vodka turned a little reddish, indicating that some color was coming off.  The fabric looked fine though, and I chose to continue.  In the end, it didn't seem to noticeably change the color of the fabric at all)

When you think it's as clean as it's going to get, take it out and gently squeeze as much excess vodka out as you can.  Spread the fabric out on a large towel.  Starting at one end, roll the towel up with the fabric inside.   Squeeze the bundle so that the towel soaks up the extra booze.  Or, if you're lazy like me, just sit on it and let your weight do the work.

Hang your fabric up to dry, preferably some place inside.  Sunlight is harsh and damaging to many fabrics, and especially to metal embroidery.  Smooth out any wrinkles with your hands since you probably don't want to try ironing this stuff later.

Impatiently speeding up the drying process with a fan is ok too.  I found that with a fan these dried in about 20 minutes flat.

Before and after taking a boozy vodka bath

The vodka really shined up the metal bits!  There were a few tarnished areas that didn't lighten up much, but on the whole the dupatta got much sparklier after its vodka bath.  The silk feels nice and clean and retains its color and texture.  I was concerned that the fabric would retain a boozy smell afterward, but once it was completely dry it just smelled nice and fresh.  The funk is gone, and I didn't ruin anything except a bottle of nasty cheap liquor.

Now I can make a beautiful gown out of this and not worry about assaulting anyone's nostrils!

March 2, 2012

So Much Pretty

Whoops, got sucked down a rabbit hole for a few months.  Between Dickens, a work promotion and life in general I've been busy.  Last week was the first time in two months that I stepped into my sewing room to do anything other than find a missing costume piece!

Even so, I've got plenty of stuff to show you over the next few weeks.  Today isn't for showing things I've sewn though.  Instead, I'll be showing you the results of my latest addiction.  In the wee hours of the morning, when I'm exhausted from work and want nothing more than to just sit and look at pretty things, I've been lurking on eBay buying these-

Above: far more saris and dupattas than I really need.

That's not all of them; there are two more on the way, plus some sari borders that I bought to use as trim.  My excuse was that I'll use these to make Titanic dresses, but really I'll probably only do two or three.  I started buying them after I saw the beautiful dupatta that Diary of a Mantua Maker is using for one of her dresses; later I saw that several people on The Unsinkables Facebook group were buying saris to make gowns as well.  (If you're planning to make a Titanic-style gown, the members of The Unsinkables have been posting all sorts of wonderful things that will help you)  Once I got started buying them it was hard to stop!

I've got some ideas for a few of the extras, but maybe readers could suggest projects for them as well?  Note that the saris tend to be about 5 yards in length and 1 one yard in width, with about a yard of one end heavily decorated.  The dupattas (a type of veil) are roughly 90 inches by 45 inches, with some being smaller or larger.  Unlike a sari, if the end of a dupatta has a fancy border, that border is mirrored on the other side. 

 Bright yellow with over the top green, pink, and cream embroidery with bead work!

This yellow sari is begging to be made into an open-fronted Regency over robe.  I probably won't get around to it until summer, but I WILL make it.

 Teal net with exquisite goldwork embroidery.

This teal net sari with goldwork will definitely be made into a 1912 gown.   I'll be rummaging around Stone Mountain and Daughter this weekend to find suitable fabrics to go with it. 

Self destructive dupatta!

This red dupatta is one of the first I bought.  I've been planning to use it for a 1912 dress, especially as I've got the perfect trim for the top of the gown (I'll have to show you later, as I don't have a photo of it just now).  However, the sequins and goldwork on it tend to snag the delicate fabric, and while I love bright red it just isn't floating my boat the way it did at first. 

Love.  Love.  Love.  Don't know why, cause I'm not generally an orange fan.

When this light orange beauty showed up in the mail, it immediately stole my heart.  The tambour embroidery is just so pretty, and the pearly beads are the perfect understated accent.  It's a lovely drapey chiffon-like silk and the color is gorgeous.  The only thing I'm not a fan of is the fringe, but I can deal.  This is seriously vying with the red one  to be made into a 1912 gown.  I'd do a cream silk charmeuse under gown, with rusty accent details.  I don't have the perfect trim for the top of this one though, so I'll have to be on the lookout for some.

I don't have a plan for this one yet, but the fabric is gorgeous!  It's a thin, ever-so-slightly crisp silk with a pattern of squares all over.  The pallu (that's the highly decorated end of the sari that is often worn slung over the shoulder and hanging down in back) is beaded in a simple no-frills style.  With five yards to play with (one yard of which is beaded) there's lots that I could do.  But what to pick?

 Super stiff, but still pretty

I'll admit I was slightly disappointed with this one.  The listing said it was made of "tissue silk" and the photo showed an open weave fabric, which led me to assume it was lightweight and drapey (I know, never assume) I didn't see the part that said it was a little stiff.  It's almost like a super heavily starched net, and not at all appropriate for a flowy 1912 gown.  I'm not a huge fan of purple either, so I'm not sure what this is destined to become.  Any ideas?

I am apparently easily entranced by sparkly things.

Wowza!  No idea what to do with this bright orange dupatta with insane amounts of gold sequins and embroidery.  I bought it because SHINY.  That's a perfectly acceptable reason, right?

Why fringe?  Why?

More exquisite embroidery on this gauzy light green veil, and more icky fringe.  This looks like a sibling to the light orange one further up.  Not sure what to do with it.

I adore this rust colored dupatta!  It's soft and gauzy, and it's covered in tons of metal embroidery!  Those flowers are almost entirely made of copper, silver and gold; the veil also has bead work, regular embroidery, and sequins.  I was trying to come up with a 1912 dress design to use this in, but nothing is coming to mind.  I'll settle for drooling over it for now.

 Pretty floral embroidery on a green fading to light green dupatta.  I had some ideas for a 1912 gown for this, but I've already got my top three choices for my Titanic gowns and this one didn't make the cut.  What should it be?

Recycle, reuse and all that jazz.

Last but not least, trim!  These are from saris that were too damaged to sell; the usable border is cut off and sold as trim.  The blue one will likely end up as some sort of headband thingy for the teal 1912 gown, but I'm not sure what I'll use the others for.  The best sari trim I got isn't pictured, but it is fabulous and I can't wait to put it on a dress. 

Since these are all used, they have a particular "old thrift store" smell.  They really need cleaning, but how does one clean gauzy silk that's been embellished with strands of metal, beads and sequins?  Tomorrow I'll show you how I got the funk out of these delicate fabrics!