In case you don't subscribe to Simplicity's Youtube channel and you also don't follow Simplicity on Twitter ... you probably haven't seen these fun videos made during the photo shoot for the latest Super Hero costumes ... enjoy!
So, here is proof I was at the American Sewing Expo for the last 4 days in Novi, Michigan.
A couple years ago Janet Pray, the master mind behind this wonderful event wanted to have costume sewing be a part because, let's face it, LOTS of people sew costumes!
So she's asked me to teach for the last two year and judge the costume competition. The entries were so good this year. Judging was a hard job. The best in show won a Bernina sewing machine. So, I hope this brings in even more and better contestants next year.
Sunday was costume day for any and everyone. I dressed and even Janet Pray herself joined the fun along with Brandy from Sandy's Sew and Vac in Detroit. SEE!
Janet is on the left ... type casting if I ever saw it!
My black and gold dress was made using a pattern I designed about 15 years ago. It is now available again at Simplicity's website in their Premium Print on Demand program. This link will take you there.
Now I need to unpack, do laundry and catch up on my sleep.
A little retro fun while I'm packing for the American Sewing Expo in Michigan starting Friday.
Sewing education has always been important to Simplicity and other companies. The Singer Sewing Machine stores were famous for their sewing classes back in the day.
Now we have Youtube. I recently found out Simplicity even has it's own Youtube channel with lots of tutorials. Check it out!
Look at these cool doll mannequins Simplicity sold to help people, children in particular, learn to sew. Wish I could get my hands on one of them.
But the best vintage promotional/learn to sew thing I've ever seen is this 1948 film! It is not hard to find on line any more. Have to thank my wonderful brother-in-law Joe, for finding it almost 10 years ago for me.
It's about 20 minutes long ... enjoy!
And if for some reason it isn't playing well here on my blog. Click on this link to watch it directly on Youtube.
Please stop by and say hi, if you are at the American Sewing Expo this weekend. I will be in the Social Lounge on Friday from 2-3 and Saturday from 10 - 11.
Just a quick blog today showing how I made the chest emblems for the 3 female characters.
As you can see, when I'm working on an official license, they (usually) send me LOTS and LOTS of official images.
If they want me to get it right, they better!
Here are the 3 finished emblems. I used 2 different techniques to make them.
For Super Girl I did the fused felt method.
PLEASE disregard the fact that I used Heat'n'Bond LIGHT. I was on very tight deadline and didn't have any of the regular Heat'n'Bond on hand. The light version probably won't hold through a wash cycle. But, if you do use the light version, I would recommend removing the emblem when washing the costume.
ANYWAY, trace the design on the paper side of the Heat'n'Bond, press to felt (follow instructions that come with the Heat'n'Bond) and carefully cut it out.
And ... &#@)(%^@!!!
I told you I had a tight deadline. This is ALWAYS when mistakes happen. Grrrrr!
So, if at first you don't succeed. Cut, Cut again.
Continuing ... press the cut out shape with the Heat'n'Bond onto the second color of felt. I waited until after this step to cut the yellow to the right size. To me, it is easier that way to get the outer border exactly even.
Anyway, that one ... DONE.
For the other two, I first rough cut a piece of broadcloth the size I needed and traced the design on it. THEN I cut a similar sized piece of Heat'n'Bond and pressed it to the back of the broadcloth. THEN I pressed that onto a similar sized piece of felt, a broadcloth, Heat'n'Bond, felt sandwich.
I do this, because you cannot draw clean straight lines on felt and the broadcloth and Heat'n'Bond give the emblem a nice stability. Now, straight stitch along the traced lines.
And this time it is important TO USE the Light Heat'n'Bond. This emblem requires lots of stitching which will completely gum up your machine needle if you use the regular Heat'n'Bond.
There are now really good, clean lines on the felt side to satin stitch over.
Then cut out. I made my first Wonder Woman emblem with yellow felt and then found out they wanted metallic gold .... sigh ...
So, here is the final one made with the exact same technique.
The Bat Girl emblem is done in the exact same manner.
But, as you can see, is much easier!
Well, less sewing, the curved lines are hard. You can see mine are a little wobbly.
So many details to worry about. PHEW!
From Andrea ... Today I'm turning the blog over to my sister Theresa LaQuey. We worked together on a project for the first time. Below is her version. You can read my version by clicking this. So ... take it away Theresa.
It was really truly wonderful to be working with my big sister on a project. She is amazing, has the best work ethic ever and always seems to have a constant "we can do this" mindset. I had never worked in Spandex before, I was terrified as almost everything I stitch up is vintage, not power stretch. She held my hand the whole way.
Also, I must mention, that she was the person who wisely told me to take our mother's Bernina 930 home after she passed. I have two industrial machines, a singer featherweight and an old Wilcox and Gibbs chain stitch machine but I could not have finished this project if I hadn't followed her advice as the Bernina had the correct stitches on it.
Remember Theresa specializes in 20th Century vintage and Steampunk. Not too much Lycra needed there.
This is also the same week that we brought a new puppy into our home. (Please take note of the photo of my industrial machine with two other machines on its table, as I had to have all three of them there to get the things together.)
From Andrea ... I explained in the previous blog how Theresa and I helped each other out from opposite sides of the country. One of her contributions was Bat Girl's little belt cartridge. This is how she explains coming up with this clever detail.
The belt cartridge for batgirl came to me while I was dreaming. Unfortunately for me a lot of my work comes in the deepest part of the night when I should be sleeping and I find myself trying to figure out my projects. I just tried to figure out the easiest way to get the belt to look correct. Good for the belt, bad for my sleep.
Andrea helped me so much by telling me which Simplicity patterns to get so that I could modify them for the project, and I also found myself using that proportional scale for another project about a month later. She also told me how to get the logos sized up to the correct proportion. All in all a wonderful time. I think the thing I like the best was getting to talk to Andrea almost every day. We had to do all sorts of goofy things, like when I was sent the Wonder Woman Spandex (blue with stars) and she hadn't received her portion and having to overnight it to her. You see, I live in California, and she lives on the east coast.
From Andrea ... Simplicity thought I was doing the men and boys and Theresa was doing the women and girls So they sent all the fabric for the female characters to Theresa. BUT I was doing the girls and needed the star fabric, which Theresa had to send to me after she got it and she got her so late because they sent it UPS ground from New York and she lives in California. grrrr.
Back to Theresa ...
My spandex came so late that stitching up the samples in time was really hard. I actually had a friend come in and cut out all of the red stars for the cape, she and I are still joking about that.
More from Andrea
So, you may wonder how did I get my samples done, if Theresa's fabric came in late and then she had to send me my portion??
Well ... I got all the fabric for the men and boys a week before she did because I don't live too far from New York. So I could start on Thor and Captain America. Luckily some of those fabrics worked for the girl's costumes. I did have to wait for the stars to make the girl's Wonder Woman skirt and if you look carefully, the blue for Super Girl's top is different on my samples than Theresa's. I didn't know Super Girl was supposed to get a different blue so didn't think to ask her to send some of that, too. So I used the Captain American blue.
Oh, and let's not forget that the new puppy, Harriet, managed to get one of the pieces that I was working on and ripped into our backyard with it the day I was to get the photo samples into the mail. Err, that was fun.
My big sister is such a great inspiration, she is one of the biggest heroes I know. I am always so grateful that I have such a wonderful family, and that I got to work with Andrea in this project.
From the big sister ...
Our mother taught us extreme thrift, SO Theresa put her left over spandex to good use! She is a member of the Art Deco Society of California. They have a group of young women called the Deco Belles and Theresa often makes costumes for them. Since there are SO many Deco Belles figuring out how to make something FAST is a plus. She used black spandex for the yoke of these skirts which meant no waistband and no zipper.
SEE! She made all of these in ONE day.
And she does this in-between designing for Simplicity and her custom work ... amazing.
Another benefit of being part of the Deco Society, is access to perfect sized fit models.
My fitting model is a dear. Her name is Monica Lenk, she has danced ballet and she and her partner are about to open a vintage store. She is a former Miss Art Deco. I was really lucky she was around.
Next time ... logos explained ...
My baby sister, Theresa LaQuey, is a wiz at Steampunk and vintage 20th century clothing BUT she had never done a licensed character before. I've done TONS. Because of the years I spent making commercial toy samples I had to get good at it. Simplicity usually asks me when they get licenses. I do LOTS of Disney and Amy Brown fairies, etc., etc.
This year, Simplicity decided on the Marvel Super Hero license kind of late ... Betsy (my design director) called to say they needed four pattern packages in about 2 or 3 weeks. EEEKKK!! usually I get one pattern package to do in 3 or 4 weeks. Well, I panicked then thought of Theresa. She could do the adult women, which would leave me with the adult men, boys and girls. ONLY ... ha ha.
Theresa was excited and worried! So the first thing I did was to buy her a proportional scale.
This is an extremely handy little non electronic gadget that helps enlarging a drawing into a human sized thing.
We had such a tight deadline, I suggested patterns she could use to get a quick start. And then I wanted the Misses pattern and the Girl pattern to look like they came from the same world even though we were working on them independently. So I mocked up bat girl hood for the child size ...
and scanned and sent her my patterns (we live on opposite sides of the country) so she could size it up for adults. ... and this chart ...
Which is a chart I like to use when sizing things from child to adult or the other way around.
And THIS is what she sent me back ... HA!
So then I said she had to work out the boot top variations for the three female characters and send her patterns to me and I would size them down for the child pattern.
But there was the usual problem ... how to get the three different boot designs in one pattern. I sent this quick sketch to Theresa. But then she pointed out the shape wasn't correct for Super Girl, the one on the left.
So, I suggested this solution, which everyone liked.
Theresa worked it out and sent her patterns to me.
then a photo of her mock ups.
Which I then turned into the little girl boot tops. I sent this photo to Theresa with one right side out and one inside out so she could see how I finished them on the inside.
These costumes have SO many annoying details and, as I have already said, we were in a time panic. Thankfully Theresa came up with this easy solution for the cartridges on Bat Girl's belt.
Which I used on my little girl version. All the logos I worked out and shared with her. I'm writing a separate blog about those.
The two of us were working so hard ... Theresa lightened things up by sending me this Youtube link.
Back to seriousness ... then I sent Theresa my plan for the kid Wonder Woman cape so her's would look similar to mine. You can see a lot of the reasoning that goes one when working on a pattern like this.
Here is another short note I emailed Theresa. I don't even know specifically what piece I was talking about but this is the message
"This is giving me another idea!
Trying to keep the pattern piece count down.
just a minute"
So, we are supposed to not have too many and unnecessary pattern pieces, the sewing shouldn't be to hard and we should be mindful of how much fabric we are asking the customer to buy. BUT, it still has to look like the license!
the panic continues next time ...
Wednesday I introduced you to, Liz, the Pragmatic Costumer. Today, she is my special guest blogger with her perspective on costume making and many useful tips!
This from her website
"Costuming pragmatically doesn’t mean you’re limited to what you can scrounge up from the $2 bin at Goodwill or Rue21 (though they are two great places to look). Costuming pragmatically means utilizing all the resources you have available as far as you comfortably and financially can."
So take it away, Liz ...
Sewing has become a happy hobby, primarily historical costuming. Quite recently, I realized that many of my favorite sewing patterns were designed by one lovely lady: Andrea Schewe. I find myself serendipitously gravitating towards her patterns because they are so appealing and user-friendly. In the five years since I began, nearly every single costume I’ve made was fashioned from an Andrea Schewe pattern. Three patterns in particular have become sewing staples:
This is far my favorite pattern to make! It is exceptionally economical: three eras (or more, if you get crafty) for the price of one? Yes, please! The pattern shapes are all simple and easy to alter for a perfect fit. The sleeve pattern is my favorite pattern piece ever! I often use it with other patterns.
Who knew Jack Sparrow was so fashionable? This “pirate” pattern is actually ideal for making a historically accurate man’s suit from 1680-1740! Andrea even put the shoulder seams diagonally across the shoulder blades like the antique originals. It’s the little things that make her patterns great. I made my very first costume from this pattern: a brown 1713 gentleman’s coat. As a bonus, my husband, Chris, looks very handsome in this pattern and has even worn it of his own free will in public!
Simplicity 4156 is the most classically “historical” of the bunch. I was able to find an affordable copy a year ago and now I can’t stop making it! It’s supremely handsome and really easy to change up and make your own by playing around with the collar and sleeves. The way it is constructed is pretty accurate for the era, too. Andrea’s research certainly shines through in this pattern!
Andrea Schewe’s patterns are the perfect combination of historical styling adapted for modern methods. Even the 1890s Walking Suit—which seems intimidating—provides beautiful results with only the most basic of techniques. With a little ingenuity, you can mix, match, and manipulate them to get even more out of your investment! I use a few simple tricks to make patterns more historical accurate:
1. Basic Pattern Alterations for Fit
If you’ve ever made something straight from the envelope and were disappointed at how it looked, it was likely because of fit issues. Andrea’s patterns are wonderfully easy to alter to fit, especially 3723! New Mexico State University has a free online PDF you can download that details basic alterations to solve common fitting hang-ups (I have it saved to my desktop for quick access). There are also tons of books, videos, and classes available online and at your local craft shop!
2. Historical Adjustments
There are so many changes you can make to create a more historical pattern, but three really stand out: fabric choice, zippers, and undergarments. And Pinterest…er…RESEARCH! Research will help familiarize you with real clothes from the era so you’ll know what fabrics to pick and what shapes to aim for.
Both of these versions of Simplicity 4156 are made from polyester I found at Walmart.
Fabric choice is probably my #1 trick for creating a more historically accurate look. To figure out what sort of fabric you need, think about how you are going to wear your dress (indoors/outdoors) and look at antique examples to familiarize yourself with colors and prints. Cotton is a great choice for everyday dresses and can be purchased inexpensively—an important factor since many historical dresses take 6 or more yards! I love shirting, Walmart quilting calicos, and second-hand sateen sheets. However, plain cottons aren’t suitable for fancy ballgowns or evening dresses. Natural fibers like silk and wool are wonderful choices if you can afford them. While our ancestors didn’t have access to polyester, if you are judicious with your fabric choice, there are some really nice poly fabrics that look like expensive silks, linens, and velvets for much less than the real deal. For best results, choose poly fabrics with luster rather than shine (if that makes any sense).
For an 18th century version of Simplicity 3723, I covered the zipper with a snap-on panel of faux Watteau pleats. My 1850s calico dress has the the opening moved to the front and hooks and eyes instead of a zipper.
Zippers weren’t commonly worn until the 1930s, so making them unobtrusive or removing them altogether instantly improves your historical street cred! One option is to hide the zipper under a placket or trim. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, remove the zipper entirely and use hooks and eyes or buttons to close your costume instead. I like to move my openings to the front so I can dress myself.
The last historical biggie ties back in with fit: foundation garments. If you want to get the most out of a Victorian dress, wear a petticoat or two…or four! Want to blow the historical awesome meter through the roof? Wear an appropriate corset underneath! What undergarments you wear will change how the pattern fits your body, so if you plan to wear them, take your new shape into consideration during the all-important fitting portion of your projects.
Many thanks Liz!
If you like this, you will love her blog ... check it out.
I've been blogging for about 2 1/2 years now. And because of this have become aware of many wonderful sewing and costuming bloggers. I've even become friends with a few.
Most blogs have have cleaver sewing or costuming related names. One name that caught my attention early on was The Pragmatic Costumer. I consider myself a pragmatic person and actually wished I had thought of that name! Click this to read her Pragmatic Manifesto.
Well, some time passed and I came across an interesting blog praising the virtues and versitility of my really basic costume dress pattern #3723.
I get sales records twice year for my patterns. And several times this pattern has been the number one seller. Of course I'm happy when a pattern sells well, but with all the other patterns I've designed I found this curious.
So, when I saw this blog all about this pilgrim/prairie pattern, I clicked on the link to read it and ... guess what? It was written by The Pragmatic Costumer! Click this to read it yourself. And for part 2 click this.
How could I not love this woman??
BTW, she gives good advise about the armhole.
So, I asked her to be a guest here on my blog and she said YES!
I asked how she got into sewing and her are her answers.
Sewing for me started off as a pitter-patter: making Halloween costumes out of household stuff with my mom (like a bathrobe angel when I was 5) and learning to hand sew (badly) so I could make clothes for my Barbies. I did a lot of costuming for theater and literature events, but most of that was thrifted/assembled rather than sewn to save time. When you take a lot of English Drama classes, you begin to realize how important clothes are to portraying a character properly. I was intrigued, but very intimidated and often discouraged because of the amount of nit-picking that goes on in the historical costuming arena. The "real" sewing didn't start until I got out of college and found myself at a new job in a new town without familiar faces, so I had a lot of freetime to fill. I still loved costumes, did research during breaks at work, and would go home wanting to copy what I had seen. So it began: as hobbled and ill-supplied as it was (the area I was living in had no fabric or craft store besides Walmart within a 100+ radius). So I guess you could say I dove in, though my method was more like a haphazard cannonball...
I wasn’t born a costumer. Indeed, sewing was a mystery until I was out of college. I did, however, come from a very creative family and we always visited craft stores when I was growing up. When I was in middle school, I remember discovering the Simplicity costume pattern catalogue. Around that time, Renaissance fairs were extremely popular and the earliest incarnations of Simplicity’s renaissance-inspired pattern lines began rolling out onto shelves and into my dreams. I couldn’t resist buying Simplicity 5517 because it was so cute and I argued with my sister over which version of 8192 was prettiest.
For my 8th grade Halloween costume, my mother very kindly sewed me my first bodice from Simplicity 0663, the Celtic Lady pattern, which I had been obsessing over for months. I wish I still had it! All I have left are angsty teen MySpace photos. Ah, memories.
An interesting lady, indeed. Come back on Friday to read the blog she as written specially as a guest here.
These are the everyday sewing adventures of a designer and commercial pattern maker.
Archives by Subject
To search for blog posts in specific categories, use the drop down menu above by hovering over the word "Blog"