Friday Favorites, Episode 28: And Now for Something Completely Different!

I’m hoping that next week, I can get Friday Favorites back to its usual format. The last couple weeks have been nuts on weekends. But since today is Halloween (and I have nothing to dress up for this year, sniff sniff!) I’m doing things a little different this time– a retrospective on some of my favorite costumes that I’ve made!

(Warning: VERY picture-heavy post coming up!)

The first comes to you from my junior year of high school–the first serious costume I made. At the time, I was completely obsessed with the updated version of Romeo + Juliet (and no, it wasn’t because of Leonardo DiCaprio– I just loved the combination of the Shakespearean dialogue and the modern beach town mafia setting!) And one of my favorite things about it was her angel dress from the masquerade. So this was my 16-year-old attempt to copy Prada… I sewed the dress from two layers of a white cotton, and made a velcroed sash to turn the princess-seamed dress into an empire waist. The hard (and most fun) part of it was the wings– they took forever! I used cheap fairy wings from Joann’s, dissected them and re-sewed them together to change the shape, and then completely covered both sides with white craft feathers that I’d hand-trimmed to the correct shapes and then hot-glued onto the wings. I no longer have the dress (gave it to a friend, as you’ll see later, because due to some proportion changes in college I could no longer zip it up!) But I still have the wings.

Moving along to mid-college, because while I did have a couple other costumes in the high school/beginning of college era, they were all kind of last-minute thrown-together and not really that memorable or cool. So now we skip forward a few years to the beginning of my obsession with Lord of the Rings, which started when I read through all three trilogy books and finished just in time for the first movie to come out. And I’ve been hooked ever since. So the next major costume I made, naturally, has that sort of feel to it. So this is my elf dress, which I made from Simplicity 9891— with some major alterations. The first was, I changed the shape of the sleeve to be more fitted down to about the middle of my upper arm, and then flare from there. The second is the silvery panel in the middle, which I added because after sewing it together, I realized I couldn’t zip it up past my ribs! (See previous mention of proportion changes.) But this was a good change, because I think it added more interest. The third was that I just had a silver strip at the top instead of a drape, because that sheer was too stiff to drape. This picture is me at the Maryland Rennaisance Faire.

And a closer-up view of the top taken behind my house. Can’t see it, but the silver panel and the tops of the sleeves are also hand-painted with swirly designs.

And every elf (or fantasy heroine wannabe) needs a cloak, so this is mine. It’s made from a green fine-wale corduroy and lined with some really nice dresss lining. That sort of sagged past the hem, so it’s tacked up kind of oddly in spots. But when I’m wearing it with a dress, you can’t really see that. (Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to wear this to the Ren Faire yet– it’s been too warm every year, or we went as pirates. This was going to the the year, but then we got rained out last weekend and now the Faire is over for the year. Oh well…maybe next time.)

But of course, the LotR-based costumes were not done. Eowyn is my all-time favorite character (with Faramir being a very close second), and so my next costume was an attempt to make one of hers.

My biggest challenge in making the Shieldmaiden Dress was that I did it straight from promotional pictures that were released during the second movie, but the actual costume didn’t show up till the third. Part of me wishes I’d waited a bit longer, because the first time I was watching Return of the King, I kept noticing all these little details on the dress that would have made it so much better! But overall I’m pleased. The underdress was drafted by me, from a historic costume pattern book and based on a 15th-century chemise (with some seriously modified sleeves). It’s made from bleached muslin. The vest/corset was also drafted by me, but using a t-shirt that I chopped up as a pattern. It’s suedecloth with hand-sewn on gold trim. If I had opportunity to wear it again, I’d be seriously tempted to remake the chemise, because I never was totally happy with it. But I do like the vest.

And here’s a better view of the back.

Next major movie costume inspiration: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. But since this was for pirate day at the Pennsylvania Ren Faire, I thought it would be more fun to play Jack Sparrow than Elizabeth Swann! (Now, later in the trilogy may have been a different story, since I do like her more Asian-inspired Pirate Queen getups!)

This was a very mix-and-match costume. The coat was made from one pattern (out of mostly velveteen, but with a piece of car upholstery fabric to replace a piece I cut wrong!), the shirt from another (out of more of that bleached muslin), the pants were already in my wardrobe, the hat was felt and I think taken from online directions. The boot tops are my favorite– figured those out on my own, out of thin vinyl, and over top of a pair of boots I already owned. I also refashioned the sword out of a flea-market find that was all shiny-silver but the perfect style! So I “antiqued” the hilt with paint and spray-painted the scabbard black. Also made the baldric from vinyl and a thrifted belt-buckle. (Which I’ll have to redo sometime, because apparently I lost it after last year’s Halloween party!)

Later on, a vest also got added, made from some polyester stuff that was horrible to sew on, but it was a quickie job for PA Ren Faire Pirate Day Take 2, because it was roasting hot. (And yes, that is my angel costume, which my friend N borrowed from me for the party! And she now owns the dress.)

Back to LotR for the next one. This time, inspiration came from Eowyn’s coronation dress, but I made it in green instead of yellow–partially inspired by her green dress and partially because yellow is a pretty awful color on me.

Yes, mine is more foresty and hers is more olive, but that’s what was available in the crepe-backed satin that this dress is made out of. It was based more or less off McCalls 4490, which I modified to smooth out the neckline gathers and split the skirt up the front. And then I just made a long underskirt to go under it. The sleeves are fully lined in the lighter green, and the back is laced up.

The belt (which is sewn onto the dress) is also hand-beaded, and the sleeves have beads on the dividing line between the lighter and darker green. A very time-consuming costume, but totally worth it. (And washable, thanks to the fabrics!) So this is one of my Ren Faire staples.

And this is about where this blog comes into the picture. My first Halloween on here was the year of The Wizard of Oz, where some of my friends hosted a party where each of us came as a pre-set character. And since the movie is slightly lacking on female roles, I was the Scarecrow. (It was either that or a flying monkey, and we had no scarecrow.) So I blogged about the straw… but the rest of the costume never made it on here, so here you go.

My costume was mostly thrifted/refashioned– the hat and shirt are as-is, I added some patches to the pants, the hood was refashioned from a turtleneck, the belt is just some braided yarn, and the boots are thrifted, but ones I had before and wear as everyday ones.

As you can see, we had a very creative group!

And of course, there was last year’s also-almost-entirely-thrifted/refashioned fairy costume. But I like this picture better than the one I posted.

So that’s that. And now I just have to hope that N does have that New Year’s costume party she wants to do, so I have an excuse to make something new!!

Treasure Jar!!

I’ve spent much of the last two days in thrift stores, it seems. Went to all four of the stores in my area–3 Goodwills and a Salvation Army. The goal being to look for stuff I could possibly use for Christmas gift jewelry. The first Goodwill (last night’s) and the Salvation Army were rather disappointing (though I did find some reconstructable clothes and a good shirt to wear as-is at the Goodwill). But I did have some luck at the other two. For one, I found these different jewelry pieces– mostly purchased for reconstruction purposes, but I like the purple and silver earrings as is. And I like the black necklace too, but I have a lot of black jewelry so that might get reconstructed too.

But THIS was what really got me excited. Not a jar, really– a vase filled with old jewelry stuff and all covered in packing tape. The whole jar, for $10. So I figured I’d take my chances– my inner pirate was coming out, I think. Hoping for buried treasure. Arrrrrrr. (This picture was taken before I opened it, btw.)

And this is what was inside!

I liked these earrings as is. Aren’t the cherry studs just too cute?

I wish this was stretchy– it would make the perfect armband for my Cleopatra costume, if I need to make one for New Year’s!

These swirly earring bits were fun too- a bit plain as is, but might be a good base for some vintage-style jewelry. If I can find something for a necklace to go with.

I like that blue-green pin thing. Which has no back. So if I can find a way to put holes in it, I’m so using it for a necklace. (And look at the green acorns! I’m trying to decide whether I love or hate them.)

Bunch of random beaded things that will likely get deconstructed….

In the category of what the heck?

There was some crap in there. Earrings made from 80s craft plastic (I remember playing with it when I was a kid), pins made from stiffened cloth, Mardi Gras beads, and 3 little plastic toys. But overall, I think I found more treasures than trash. Now to just figure out what to make with all this booty!

The Difficult Leather Bag, completed (for now)

Ok, here we go… my pretty much completed Diana bag.

It became apparent that this bag, despite my enlarging it a bit, wasn’t going to be big enough for its intended purpose (which was to haul my band stuff in. So I’m just going to stick to carrying the books in my big old flute bag like I have been). So I decided to just use it as my winter purse this year– it’s a good size to carry my essentials (which generally includes a book), but not backpack-large.
I do like the lining of this. I think it’s really fun– adds some interest to an otherwise plain bag.

And I really do like the buckles too– once I decided to use it as a purse instead, I had to find a good way of keeping it closed. And I did not want to deal with sewing buttons on leather. These straps were in the sleeves of the original trenchcoat.

And since the flap had some seams anyway due to how I had to cut it out, it was easy to rip a few stitches out and slide these in. So I sewed them in, trimmed them off, and inserted the buckle part into another convenient seam at the bottom.
I’m still a little worried about the main strap holding. I sewed over it as much as I could (including hand-cranking the machine for much of it), and reinforced it with as much hand-sewing as I could get the needle through the holes for. But the machine skipped a lot of stitches, despite my leather needle and setting the machine to a longer stitch length and using upholstery thread for the heavier weight (which worked fine on the rest of the bag). This was a huge problem on the topstiching too, which I’m still not happy with. I tried handsewing it initially to get the lining to lie flatter, but that pretty much killed my fingers, and the machine just put a bunch of holes and no thread in it. I broke 2 leather needles and finally gave up once I got something resembling thread at least all the way around. So if any of you reading this have worked with leather before and have some tips for me, I’d love to hear them– I still want to fix the topstitching at some point, and reinforce the strap if need be!
In other news, I’m going into Christmas gift mode now that it’s almost November, and I’ve decided to make as many gifts as I can this year. My goal is to make as many of them as possible using things I already have on hand, or recycled materials. Which I’m not sure how the latter will work. May have to buy new due to the time crunch, since I don’t have months to browse the secondhand shops. I did go to a thrift store yesterday since I had some unexpected time between lessons– found some clothes for me to recon into some much-needed casual long-sleeved shirts and one good shirt as is, but for what I need for the gifts I have in mind (especially in terms of jewelry components) the selection was rather disappointing. I have unexpected time off work again (garden center told me not to come in because the weather is so gross that the manager didn’t think they’d have many customers), so I’m going to hit a couple more today. But I do need to have some things by next weekend, since I’ll have craft time with friends (I just won’t work on their gifts while I’m with them, obviously!) so I may have to just buy new for some. No time to waste, since I also have to make a pantsuit by mid-December for the band concert I’m conducting! And a muslin first, to boot!

This is not my best day ever.

Well, it’s pretty much official…. I’m not going to be able to complete the BurdaStyle minichallenge in time now. I tried, but machines are not cooperating with me today. I’ve tried two different sewing machines, broken two leather needles, nearly killed my fingers attempting to handsew through the holes, and punched a bunch of obvious holes in the leather that the thread wouldn’t catch in while trying to topstitch it. And this was after spending a couple of hours fighting with the straps, trying to get enough stitches for them to stay on. The topstitching, frankly, looks awful. And I’m not sure if I can fix this one.

And, to cap it off, I can’t upload the pictures anyway. One of my friends inadvertently gave me a computer virus, so the last 20 hours or so have been spent scanning, rescanning, restarting my computer, watching my computer restart itself, and getting generally frustrated. So while I could take pictures of the finished product (if I could actually finish it), we’re also supposed to show what we made it from. And those pictures are no longer on my memory card–they’re on my computer. Which I can’t access until this mess straightens out, because I had to unplug the network cable lest I infect all of my family’s computers as well.

The one crafty bright spot this weekend: You know that shirt I’m embroidering trim for? Since two of my friends were hanging out here yesterday (we were supposed to go to the Renaissance Faire, but got rained out, so we ended up hanging out at my place instead), and I needed something to occupy my hands while we binged on Stargate Atlantis and they crocheted, I finished an entire piece! So now I just have the under-bust band to go, and I can actually get this thing together. Which will hopefully go quickly, because I have a scary number of projects that need to get done in, oh, the next month and a half.


So these are the pillows I mentioned in my last post, for the girl whose room my Bible study is re-doing. I was given the fabric on Sunday night– basically, it’s lining fabric, but it was the right color and not very expensive. I wasn’t sure how well it would hold up though, since it’s such lightweight stuff, so I had to doctor it up a bit.

First step: Turn it into quilted fabric. I used the varigated thread left over from serging the sheer edges of that plum skirt I recently fixed and some scrap batting that was courtesy of my quilter mother. Drew the lines on with some chalk first, and that made it a lot faster–especially since the lines were 3″ apart! Seriously, I was able to quilt an entire pillow’s worth in about 45 minutes. I would have finished that part on Sunday night, except the machine I was using (not mine) stopped taking more than a couple stitches at a time. In my slightly brain-muddled state, it took me till the next day to figure out that the problem was the machine had become partially unthreaded! Doh!

Next step: It needed something. So I got some beaded trim at Joann’s (hurrah for 50% off coupons!)– the color scheme of the room is purple and silver, so I figured this would go well. Besides, adds a little fun that will hopefully make these work well into her teen years. So I spent Tuesday night finishing up the quilting, basting this around the edge, and sewing the actual pillows together. Had a bit of a setback because the bobbin ran out of thread and I didn’t notice–hate when that happens! So it took a little longer than I expected.

Finished these up last night with some very creative hand-sewing. I say creative, because I was trying not to stitch the thread over the bead ribbon so it was visible. So I ended up doing this sort of funky weaving in and out between the main fabric and the side of the trim that wasn’t basted to the other side of the main fabric. I hope it holds…
Anyway, the woman who started the project loved them, when I handed them over to her this afternoon. Hopefully the girl will too.
On a side note, I have another article up on Crafting A Green World, as of yesterday! So feel free to check it out. 🙂

I’ve been tagged! (And a few minor setbacks)

Christina tagged me, so here goes… seven random things about myself.

1. I don’t have an absolute favorite color. I used to say it was blue. But now I like green pretty much equally. And no particular shade of either– I just really like blues and greens. And browns too, at least in my clothing choices.

2. I’m addicted to finding new music. It doesn’t matter how many cds I have loaded onto my iPod– I’m still constantly searching for new bands or cds to check out! So my subscription to eMusic is definitely a good thing for me– 40 new tracks every month! (Incidentally, I wish that Blogger had the LiveJournal feature of being able to post what music you’re listening to as you write…)

3. I hate Valentine’s Day so much that, during my senior year of college, a couple of my friends and I invented our own holiday to take its place. We called it Single Women’s Empowerment Day. And then exetended it to a month and shortened it to SWEM. The holiday kind of died last year, when J (one of the original 3 partners in crime) was engaged. I miss that.

4. I have literally scarred myself by crafting– when I was 15, I sliced a huge chunk off of my fingertip with scissors while making paper beads. What really upset me about it was that my dad had planned to take me to a parking lot to get in some driving practice, but since I was bleeding all over the place, he took my then-13-year-old brother instead! I still have a circle missing from my fingerprint, as I found out a few weeks ago when getting fingerprinted for my band teaching job.

5. It’s very hard for me to just sit and watch TV. I either have to be crafting or on the computer at the same time. Sometimes both.

6. I have never been able to develop a taste for coffee. Even when I worked at a coffeeshop. People give me drinks with coffee in them, and all I can taste is the coffee. I can’t even distinguish different flavors of it. But I can with tea. Weird.

7. Despite the fact that I play flute for a quasi-living, I have no control over what notes come out when I whistle.

Let’s see…tagging seven people (Man, I hate this part… if I linked to you and you already did it, let’s just say you’re ahead of the game, ok?):

1. Lydia at Lydia’s Cozy Corner

2. Gwen at After the dress…

3. Oonabaloona

4. Antoinette at

5. Mom2fur at Sorta Frugal

6. Caity at caityquilter

7. Sharon at Adventures from the Sewing Studio

Here are the rules:-Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.-Share seven facts about yourself on your blog – some random, some weird.-Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.-Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.


I’m not entirely certain I’m going to be able to finish my bag in time for the BurdaStyle contest. I’ve run into a bit of a snag on trying to sew the strap on, in the form of “my machine will only take about 3 stitches in the entire thing because it doesn’t like multiple layers of leather”. I’m hoping that since it at least made needle holes, I’ll be able to hand-stitch it on without inducing multiple stab wounds to my hands! And, you know, that the stitches will actually hold. Secondly, I did end up losing a lot of time on Saturday in pumpkin carving.

But I was happy with how that turned out, and it was crafty, so it’s all good.

And then I lost pretty much all of Sunday, between blueifying S’s wedding dress (we spent a couple episodes of Firefly on it and only got 4 flowers beaded… *sigh*) and this project that my church Bible study group is doing– basically an Extreme Home Makeover of a girl’s room (with the dad’s permission, while they’re on vacation)–she’s the neighbor of one of the women in the group, the mom died of cancer last year, and the dad’s pretty overwhelmed with trying to support his family and play the role of both parents. So she’s basically a pre-teen with what was a toddler room, so we’re trying to make it a little more age-appropriate on the cheap. I said I’d sew some pillows, and so I basically spent a couple hours on Sunday night starting that, had no time for anything crafty on Monday because of work, and then spent pretty much from 8 last night till 12:30 this morning trying to finish them. And didn’t. I still have to hand-sew the open edges closed. But I’d like to think that the results will be worth it.

And then tomorrow is later work and cleaning, T and C are coming over on Friday night, Saturday I’m going to the Renaisance Faire, and Sunday is the deadline. Maybe if I can work on it Sunday…

Guess I’d better get on that hand-sewing. And tagging.

in brief…

I’m skipping Friday Favorites today. I’ve been running around all day, C just left from a night of craftiness and sci-fi that started later than expected, and I’m kind of beat.

On the bright side, I did get stamping work done on several pages of road trip album. Got about 24 more spreads to do stamping/rub-ons for. And then it’s on to the sewing machine/final attaching stage. And, well, making a cover for the album to help keep it together, since the thing’s gonna be so thick that the snapload tabs are barely going to hold it!

So we’ll see how much craftiness I manage to cram in tomorrow. I do have laundry to deal with. And a pumpkin to carve, since my brother invited me to carve them with him and his girlfriend. And first priority of craftiness is sewing my leather bag together. But that should be a project of no more than a couple of hours. So maybe, just maybe, I can knock a few spreads off that 2 dozen.

Chevron blouse (and a new project)

Here it is…the blouse I finished last night. For the most part, I’m quite happy with how the design turned out. I do wish that the V lined up a bit more in the center front– I’d intended it to do so. But it didn’t quite turn out that way.

It did on each side though, and I guess that’s the really important thing, right?

Started a new project tonight, too.

BurdaStyle is doing a recycled mini-challenge, and so I’m trying to turn these two things (a leather trenchcoat that my mom was going to get rid of, and a dress from when I was a teenager) into a new bag to haul my band teaching stuff around in. So I spent the better part of tonight taking the dress apart, once I realized that while the flap can fit on the skirt piece just fine, the back (with the seam) would only be able to accomodate one. So I’m going to have to get a little creative in piecing the print with the black fabric from the top. I mean, yeah, sure, I could just use the lining from the original coat to line the bag… but what fun is that?

Since the leather is going to be seamed on every single bag piece, and I have a big empty corner on the flap, I’m debating whether to add a bit of detail, taking a cue from the lining. The petals are just the leather flipped over to show the more sueded side. I’m not sure about this yet though. Any thoughts?

And yes, there is going to be a good bit of leather left. But I do have plans for some of it, at least. Just wait and see…

Congratulations, Leanne!

(Picture courtesy of
Unlike last year, I was quite happy with how last night’s Project Runway finale played out. Leanne was totally deserving of the win, IMO– her collection was the most cohesive, I thought the wave and water inspiration showed through really well without being costumey, and I absolutely love that she made a point of saying that a large portion of her collection was made using sustainable fabrics!! I wasn’t sure about her at first, but she really grew on me as a designer throughout the season. And I still want to make something inspired by her skirt from the New York challenge.
I am glad Korto was the runner-up, as well. I liked her collection too– great colors, and some really innovative stuff. And I thought it was just adorable when she brought her daughter up on the runway for the final walk-off! I’d felt like she’d kind of been choking near the end, but for making two completely new looks for the final collection in so short a time, I think she pulled it off well.
Kenley’s collection wasn’t bad. But I did think that that floral dress that the judges were saying was a copycat of some designer did look kind of like a grandma print. And I have to admit, the “oh crap” look on her face when they found out that Tim Gunn was going to be the guest judge was kind of priceless!
Ok, off to work. Later today: the blouse I finished last night.

Still plugging away…

Got the panel in S’s wedding dress fixed to her satisfaction on Sunday. So next week, the “blueifying” begins.

Spent a little time tonight working on my blouse– got the facings sewn in, and the cuffs sewn togtether. I hauled my machine up to my room so I could simultaneously chat with a friend on IM, and so was too lazy to go downstairs and press seams and all. So I’ll finish this tomorrow, hopefully.

Finding myself getting into a scrapbooking kick again– figures, since I have a pile of sewing with deadlines coming up! So I’m trying to work some prep stuff in, like figuring out exactly what I need to do to get caught up on my backlog of the past 5 years (got behind in grad school and never quite caught up), figuring out what I need to make layouts of from this year, etc. Will also need to sit down and figure out what I still need to develop for photos.

I’m figuring that I’ll just aim to finish the road trip album this year, since it’s already mid-October and I have a lot of stuff I need to get done in the next few months craft-wise. Like Christmas gifts for several of my friends. And the pantsuit I want to make before the band concert in mid-December, which will require a muslin being made first. BurdaStyle is having another mini-challenge, this one based on recucling, and I already have a project in mind since I was planning on doing it for a Crafting a Green World article. (I’m working on a miniseries of articles pertaining to clothing refashioning.) And it is something I sort of need in the near future. I also have two more pants I have to make muslins of and sew– I’ve had the fabric for one of them for two years now!! And, as of Saturday, I have some flannel-backed satin to make myself some new winter pjs. I guess I just wanted something luxurious-looking but comfortable, and am beginning to feel like just because I’m single doesn’t mean I should resign myself to sleeping in grungy flannel with sleeves that are too short! In fact, I sent all the pjs with too-short sleeves to Goodwill! And then there’s also the shirt I’m slowly embroidering the trim for. But once I get that done, it’ll come together fast. And the fabric I was originally going to make the Eva jacket out of. And so on.

But anyway, going back to the scrapbooking, I’m thinking that I’m going to try and get a little more caught up on that during the couple of months where I’m not working at the garden center and will therefore have more time. Hopefully by then I’ll have gotten those wintery things I wanted to make done. And I can work on that in my room, if I get the supplies I’ll want to use all set beforehand (like I like to do so that I can just blitz through pages). Which will be good, since I get cold sewing in the basement that time of year and don’t want to be down there anyway!