Tuesday, December 7, 2010

T-shirt to Choli Conversion How-To

Don't ask me what the motivation was, I honestly don't know what planted the idea in my mind! I have a long torso and a growing collection of shirts that are just barely too short plus some that are just silly lounge arounds that I barely wear. I got it into my head to sort of re-build these into cropped tops for dance class because I always seem to have a shortage of good tops to wear at practice. It's relatively simple to do. Minimal supplies, not a lot of patterning or sewing know-how needed.

1 T-shirt
matching/coordinating thread

Rotary cutter and cutting mat (preferred)
sewing scissors
sewing machine
soap sliver or chalk

1.Put your shirt on and use a sliver of soap to mark how far under the bust you want to cut the shirt.

2. After marking, lay out your shirt on the ground as flat as possible. Try to match up seams and keep the sides from rippling because of twisted fabric.
3. Go ahead and even up your lines. Make sure the line is not lopsided. One side may be lower than the other because YOU are slightly asymmetrical. If that is the case, use the lowest line and draw across from there.

4. Use scissors/shears to cut along this newly smoothed out line. The line you drew on the front of the shirt should extend around the sides just enough that when you flip the shirt over, you can see the tail ends on each side. This will allow you to connect the tails with a straight line so you know where to cut along the back of your shirt.

**If your shirt is a blousey t-shirt, then you must remove some of the material from the sides and back to make it more fitted. If you don't, it will wrap around to the back and sort of bunch when you tie your rib cage straps. If you like that look, go for it. If not, then:
5. Cut little triangles of fabric off each side under the armhole. Wide bottom of the triangle down, point towards sleeve. If in doubt on amount to remove, slip your half-shirt on and pinch the fabric on either side of your ribs. It doesn't need to be super tight, but evenly distributed between the sides is good. Note how much fabric is pinched. For me this is usually about 2" to the fold on each side.

6. Here's where you have an opportunity to get creative. Simplest option: Make a 4" vertical slit along the center back of your t-shirt. This can be varied by making different types of keyholes instead. Keyholes are especially helpful if you need to remove a little more fabric from the width of your shirt to make it fit snugly. Your keyhole can be a triangle shape with a base and point aimed towards the neck of the shirt or it can be a circle or upside down tear drop shape. Fancier shapes like stars and hearts should be possible but they'll hang funny if they're not reinforced which I won't go into here- you want it fancy, you figure it out ;) If you're not good at free-handing shapes, use a round dish or print a shape from your computer (Microsoft Office software and some of the really basic art programs have shape art).

At this point, you may set aside the top portion of your shirt.

Making the rib cage strap from the bottom half of the shirt:
7. Make sure you have no wrinkles or folds in your lower t-shirt before marking and cutting.
8. Use a ruler or other straight edge and your rotary cutter to cut a perfectly straight line where your original chalk/soap line was drawn. (The idea is to cut off any jagged edges or curves)
9. Measure 4 inches down from your new straight edge and cut with the rotary cutter. You should have a tube of t-shirt material that is 4 inches high and the width of the shirt. Repeat this process one more time.

10. Cut the 2 circles of material to separate each into one long strip. Cut one of them in half to make 2 shorter strips. You now have 3 strips of fabric.

**Note, I also cut the sleeves on the white and blue tops pictured. This is another 'creative opportunity' :D

Sewing your new choli:
**Sew using a stretch stitch (looks like a lightening bolt) or a straight stitch set with a very slight zig zag (just barely moves side to side). This will prevent broken stitches when/if the shirt stretches while you wear it.
11. Sew a short strip on either end of your long strip to make your complete rib cage strap.
12. Sew the sides of your shirt if you cut off triangular pieces of material. If your shirt was fitted to begin with, you should have no side seam sewing to do.
13. Match up center front of the shirt with the middle of your rib cage strap that has been folded in half- it's still as long but now it's 2 inches tall instead of 4 inches. Pin at center front with right sides together and raw edges to the bottom.
**Here you get to decide how fussy you want to be about finishing. I'm not that fussy for this type of project- just an FYI. Knit fabrics don't fray so I'm not bothered by raw edges. There will be some.
14. Starting at center front, stitch rib cage strap to shirt around one side. Sew all the way to the edge of your keyhole opening. Repeat for the other side.

Viola! You now have a brand new dance top made from your favorite band t-shirt or funny slogan shirt :D If you try this out and share pictures somewhere, I'd love for you to leave a link to the pictures or your blog post on the experience in the comments!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mini Top Hat How-To

Almost a year ago now I created a mini top hat for a quirky dance performance. This morning I was rummaging through my collection of photographs and discovered step by step pictures of the process and thought I should share them already!
4 pages of 8.5x11 cardstock
¼ yd fashion fabric
craft glue (I prefer FabriTac)
spray adhesive
paper and fabric scissors (one each, usually)

Printing Pattern:
Print two copies of the page with circular shapes and one copy of the rectangular shape page.

Cut out all pieces of cardstock with one exception. For the second large circle, do not cut out the center of the ‘doughnut’. This is your lower brim and will be left solid.

Glue the cardstock down to the back side of the fashion fabric using spray adhesive and then trim the pieces out. Leave yourself a little extra fabric around the edges of the long rectangular piece (the 'stove pipe').
 Use hot glue or fabri-Tac to join the edges of the 'stovepipe' piece into a cylinder. Notch the extra fabric around the bottom and top edge as shown below.
 Use an Xacto blade or scalpel to remove the extra fabric from the middle of the 'brim' piece.
 Fold in the cardstock tabs on the top of the hat and glue them inside the top of the 'stovepipe'. This part will likely require an additional tool like a popsicle stick or butter knife to slide between the top of the hat and the wall of the 'stovepipe' to press the tabs securely to the 'stovepipe' piece.

Next, slide the fabric-and-brim piece over the top of the hat and glue to lower 'stovepipe' tabs of fabric and cardstock. You will be glueing the two 'brim' pieces together as well as you can here.

 Glue down the fabric tabs at the top of the hat and cover with the fabric covered, tab-less top piece (remember, you have two of these?). Carefully trim the fabric that is hanging off the brim. Now would be a good time (while the glue is still super flexible) to start shaping the brim. I chose to finish the edges of my brim with some flexible ribbon stitched over the edge of the two brim pieces.
 At this point you can consider your hat done or go on to add embellishments such as net veils, hat bands and feathers. The best way I've found to keep the little fascinator hat on is with little combed snap clips stitched or glued to the bottom of the hat.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ahoy Matey!

While working away on the Mord'Sith project for my halloween costume, I was also trying to put together a custom order for a good friend of mine. I was commissioned for the project ages ago but we were plagued by constant delays in obtaining materials so were left scrambling at the last minute. This is a modified version of one of my patterns. I had to change the shapes of the princess seams (and yes, they're called princess seams even in men's clothing) to reflect a masculine shape and the sleeves had to be redrafted and cuffs created. We stayed up til 1am the Thursday before Halloween weekend sewing and doing fittings. Then got up to finish buttonholes at 6am on Friday. The coat is 'coat weight' wool lined with dark sea green rayon lining material. We're probably going to revisit this project at a later date to add extra trim and such for further pirate foppery ;)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Call in the Experts!

Last night's progress on the Mord'Sith costume was all due to my friend Adam who worked at a leather shop some years ago and can often be induced to help out when I find myself in need of leather working. You don't get something for nothing of course. In exchange, I am sewing a fully lined wool pirate coat. Here you see the corset progress as of probably 8pm.

After pictures were taken more strap work was completed and I've drafted the thigh guard and holster for tonight's slaving... Incidentally, if anyone wants a copy of these patterns as a starting point, I'm happy to share. You can find the patterns WITHOUT assembly instructions here (click the picture):

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Where's a good Agiel when you need one?

Well this has been a rough week for costume progress. My buckles were delivered on Friday in two different colors/metals and the boot laces that I custom ordered set in leather were set backwards and can't be used as planned. I was also double charged for shipping. I will be calling the company Monday morning to see if they'll make things right. To be fair, I did place 3 separate orders with them that they had to combine so it might have caused confusion in their systems.

Buckles, spray painted gold:
The gorget neck piece laced up and ready for snapped tabs as closure. Note, this is different from the TV version which has more boot hook quick laces on the side back piece. Those hooks are reported to snag the braid horribly not to mention how tricky it sounds to lace the piece on by myself with the hooks in back... I have chosen to make it look like the whole thing is laced on and have hidden snaps actually holding the piece together at the side front panel.

And here are the boot hooks/quick laces that I intended to sew to the corset piece. They followed my template for placement just fine.

But they faced the hooks towards each other, instead of away so I can't actually lace them when they're sewn in as intended.

I'll be setting rivets and adding buckles to straps next while hoping the company can quickly ship me replacement boot hooks. If not, then 1) I won't be using that company again and 2) I'll have to punch little holes along the slender edge so that I can hand stitch the hooks to the corset in the proper orientation. PIA. *sigh*

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Yeah Straps!

I've finally gotten a couple chunks of productive time and made quite a bit of progress on my Mord'Sith costume :D I am in danger of running out of things I can do until my buckles, boot hooks and rivets ship!

Here you see the corset with straps- it will need rivets and boot hooks to be wearable:
And here is a quick view from the inside in case you're unsure how the straps weave in and out of the corset. You can see the loose ends on the right where the straps will be anchored by rivets.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Mord'Sith Costume Progress Report

We're getting down to the wire and boy is it tense! The dark red lycra body suit has been received from China and the individual panels of the neck corset (gorget) have been cut and finished but await some new equipment and supplies to be laced together. This morning I ordered buckles, rivets and a leather punch along with quick laces/boot laces/boot hooks pre-set into strips of leather. I've drafted a preliminary pattern for some pleather knee high spats that has to be tested. Now that the buckles are ordered I can finally cut straps and glue layers together. Below you see the pieces that make up the neck protection cut out of heavy interfacing, glued to the wrong side of the pleather, trimmed out and finally with decorative stitching holding the pleather wrapped around the edges.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Halloween Returns and She's Not Playing Nice

As it happens every year, I find myself buried in a heap of costuming projects. I am happily crafting away on a wool pirate coat, a toddler's My Little Pony costume, merchandise for vending at the Denver Witches' Ball the weekend before Halloween, performance costumes for my student troupe for that same event and the coup de grace- my loooong awaited Mord Sith costume. If you don't read fantasy literature or get into that sort of thing on TV then you most likely have no idea what I'm talking about. That's okay. Those who DO know are shuddering in fear and lust for you ;) 
The costume for a Mord Sith is somewhat complex though not impossibly so. Typically the largest challenge (assuming you know how to pattern and do fitting) is procuring the bloody buckles. Not what I would have expected to come to as my ultimate hurdle. I'll be blogging periodically about my construction process for those who might be interested (those who aren't can take a leap into cyberspace).

Here you see the patterning process more or less completed with the exception of the thigh holster.
The waist cincher is asymmetrical. It is supposed to open/close by way of quick laces in the gap you see on your left. Straps weave in and out of the remainder, basket style. I will be making this piece from the heavy Pellon interfacing you see pinned to my form here sewn to a layer or three of denim with mottled red pleather on the outer surface. Despite at least a solid week of searching online and in tack shops I have still not been happy with my buckle finds. Either they cost a fortune or they're too plain. *sigh*

Oh, and you might note that I've only draped half of the neck protection (gorget). That's because you only NEED to pattern half of the darn thing so long as it's symmetrical on each side. This will also be constructed from layers of Pellon, denim and pleather.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Adrift in Wings

For the last two months I have been feverishly producing merchandise for my very first festival merchant booth. All told I created about $2300 worth in merchandise in that time and I am so glad I got to finish up all that production with a fabulous vacation! Some of you may have seen my previous style of faerie wings that involved layers of cotton fabric on a metal frame with hand painted and glittered wings. They're gorgeous but the materials and labor put them at a rather high price point. I now have a new style of wing that has a very different look. The sails are translucent like a stained glass window and backed with iridescent cellophane that catches the light and changes color depending on what angle it is viewed from. Several steps of labor were eliminated and the material costs are less so now I can offer wings at a more accessible price point :D

The butterfly hair clips that I make have undergone a similar material change from fabric to acetate and cellophane. They have so much sparkle now!
I've also been experimenting a bit with some of the wild ideas that come to me while I dream. Here are two of my latest whacky creations:
My Book Monster Page Protector
and my Magical Mushroom Chair!
For more of my crazy crafting antics, come visit me at my etsy shop: http://NightLilyDesign.etsy.com

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring Follows Winter

About 10 years ago now when I was very new to belly dancing and gearing up for my very first student performance in the cabaret style of dance I made this costume:

The overall look has been well received by many and it's a costume that I've continued to wear for many years. As most first project attempts go it has been successful. However, there are some design issues that I've learned from. In the years since its creation the velvet has faded and become crushed and the soft bra cups used for the base don't have much support and frankly don't cover enough to make me feel safe whilst shoulder shimmying! It is time for this costume to have a renewal. The belt underwent some modifications a few years ago as no interfacing had been used and the velvet was 'slouching' with wear. I added buckram to the inside as well as some extra fabric and length at the sides. It wears a lot better now except that I never lined it. That leaves the scratchy buckram to rub raw spots and occasionally peak out at the top of the belt.

I'm hoping to double check the fit (due to weight loss) and add some lining to the belt. The bra must be entirely remade. I have begun by salvaging the cool colored glitter dot fabric from the old cups and cutting the embroidered-down leaves from the old bra as an applique. A new design has been drawn up and I'm ready to start getting down to business by cutting away straps from the new bra foundation and starting to cover this new bra in a style that more closely matches the remade belt. The vest will be done away with as it is too far gone for salvage. The beaded fringe will be moved to the bra and some velvet details similar to the belt will be included to contrast with the dragonfly glitter dot fabric. Some might argue that I should do away with the glitter dot all together but for some reason- maybe sentimentality- I just can't do it. I love that glitter dot. It shimmers in my favorite color!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Crow Moon Feather Neck Ruff

I am part of a team of fantasy artists on Etsy (search FAEteam for awesome creations!) and part of what we do is challenge each other to keep the inspiration coming thick and fast. This year has a challenge theme according to names given to each month's moon. The moon for March has many names but the one that I jumped at was Crow Moon. I have started making some of these feather neck ruffs to sell in my Etsy shop. Of course, I'm finding that my biggest hold up to adding new product is not making the product itself but taking pictures that I feel show it off to advantage!

You can see my current Etsy listings at http://NightLilyDesign.etsy.com. Click here for the actual Feather Neck Ruff listing and more pictures!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Green Monster is Back!

Off and on over the last several months I have picked up this costume to work on as life and other projects have allowed. My half-hour lunch breaks at work have been filled with bead embroidery and now that I get to place the appliques that I worked so hard to build on the covered bra I feel so close to being done! Of course, I'm not really that close. I still have straps to build and attach, lining to sew in and the whole skirt to build and decorate! Here's what we've got so far: