Friday, July 31, 2009



Designed and made by multi - award winning designer, Renay Lawrence of -J-i-g-g-l-e-

I had known about the order for Kara's white dress and hat, and had the plan and the materials ready for at least three weeks. So I cruised on through the making of it about a week before the deadline. Four hours, as planned, to sew it up. I decided that Trevor should wear a matching tie, and whipped that up too.
Kara and Trevor were both pleased.

What I didn't know about or expect, was a last minute order from Mel for the same party...

Originally about a week before the deadline Mel decided she wanted a Naughty Fairy mini skirt - which I had almost finished by the time Kara's dress was done......

The party is on tonight (Saturday), and on Thursday Mel changed her mind about the naughty fairy and decided she wanted a "Naughty Elf" costume instead!

AND a much harder one than the fairy skirt!

She had printed out a picture off the internet of a costume she liked and wanted, and sprung it on me that she would prefer me to make this one instead!

I grumbled a lot, and told her that it was not going to be an easy job, it would take me hours to do and I was not particularly happy about the fairy skirt.... but said yes I'd do it anyway.

Mel bought the fabric for the costume previous to letting me know she had changed her mind - which of course made it harder to say no as well.

The fabric choice was lovely I must admit: a slightly stretchy green velveteen, and a creamy white fur. Being a non - sewer, though, Mel wasn't to know how hard the white fur is to sew.
(The white fur used in Kara's dress was the cheaper variety, and therefore has a thinner backing and is easier to sew - the more expensive creamier fur is much thicker both in the backing fabric and the pile)

I modified the pattern for the bodice from Kara's white dress pattern, without too much trouble - at least for the pattern making. Haha.
I simply shortened the dress pattern to hip length, and as the pattern already has the underbust line pencilled onto it, I was able to shape the bra pieces from the dress top quite easily. By drawing two design lines from underbust to hem in place of the centre darts on the front piece, I was able to measure and place the ribbon crosses in the front panels.

I think perhaps the easier way to do this would have been to buy a pre- made strip of some sort - I know some laces come wide enough and with binding - like edges for example - and sew them instead... ALTHOUGH, whether these would come pre - shaped also to taper towards the top I just don't know.....

Starting with the bound edges, I ironed a wide ribbon in half and folded it over the edges of the green fabric and sewed it down. I then cut, measured and pinned each piece of ribbon and placed them before sewing them into place to create the criss - cross effect.

Also while doing this I learned of a better way - instaed of cutting all the pieces of ribbon to length and fiddling with small, very moveable pieces - I realised that to make this easier I would have folded and ironed the ribbon into the crosses and then sewn it on. The crossed ribbons turned out nicely regardless of how I sewed them. The green fabric panels have just enough stretch in them to pull tight and make the ribbons (with no stretch at all of course) sit nicely down the ribs and stomach.
I traced the bra - trim pattern pieces onto the back of the fur, making sure the pile was running in the correct direction (always with fur running down the body) - with pencil as this will rub off with wear.
When cutting fur it is important NOT to cut the pile (the fluff on top). Often places like Spotlight will just cut straight across the fabric and not pay any attentin to this tiny, but very important little hint.
The "correct" way to cut fur (and only leading teddy bear suppliers MAY know and do this trick) is with just the very tip of your scissors, UNDER the pile.
If you hold the fabric fur - down, and cut from the wrong side of the fabric, this is easy to do. You can feel the backing fabric with the scissors, and aim to only cut the backing, pushing only millimetres of the tip of the scissors under the pile before cutting.
Taking such tiny snips, it IS a time consuming procedure, BUT in the end result is so much more quality - looking bears and garments that you will never just hack a piece of fur again!
Knowing how tough the white fur is to sew I hemmed the top edge of the bra trim pieces before sewing them onto the green bra cup pieces.

After years of making Collectible Artist's Teddy Bears, I also still have my fur brush; and brushed all the seams in the fur as I went. As you sew the fur, some of the pile will tuck under the stitches. For a quality finish, this must be plucked or brushed out of the seams... it really does make a big difference.....

Happy with the bra pieces and the front panel, I cut out the back panel, slightly slimmer than the dress pattern to allow for the stretch of the velveteen.

I pinned and sewed the darts in place at the back anyway - despite being stretch fabric and not necessarily needing it - as I think this will make a more quality - looking finished garment - The front panel has the tapered ribbon section, so darts at the back will carry through the slight tailoring over the whole garment.

Mel had said she wanted slightly wide shoulder straps so she could wear a bra underneath, and therefore wanted the straps wide enough to hide her bra straps.

I simply cut two strips and sewed them in half and turned them inside out for these.

Once all the separate pieces for the bodice top had been sewn I started to assemble it.

I started by sewing the bra cups onto the front panel, matching the ribbon panel with the front dart in the cups.

I met the two tips of the fur bra trim at the centre front of the bodice panel, and later realised I should have overlapped the tips of the fur edges instead; as being stretch fabric, the velveteen gap between the fur of the bra cups would eventually stretch. Overlapping the edges a little would mean the green fabric would be unable to stretch apart at the centre front.

The pieces all went together with no problems.

I used a million pins each time I sewed a seam. Hand tacking would have also sufficed, but pinning is much quicker.

Without a million zillion pins the velveteen will slide as you sew it. (In fact any fabric with a pile will do this). Of course if the fabric moves when you sew it your finished garment will not be the size you were hoping, as each tiny bit it slides gives an extra millmetre or more to each seam - in effect adding several millimetres or worse to the overall size of the garment.

(Imagine your bodice has four seams, two at sides and one front and back - each seam slides 2 mm as you sew it - that's actually now 8mm larger around than you wanted... now imagine that in centimetres!!! You get my point.....)

As well as this, sliding seams can mean twisted garments.... with stretch fabric each slippage when sewing a seam, causes a different area of stress on the fabric when stretched. If the sliding is uneven this can cause the finished garment to look twisted and warped.......

Easier just to pin a million pins!

By sewing a ribbon horizontally across the bottom of the crossed section, I created a fake hemline in the cut - out panels at the front, so that the bottom hemline of the bodice would sit flat and not stretch further apart and / or ruin the ribbon crosses.

I simply overlocked and turned up the remaining bottom hem and sewed it down with one row of matching thread. (Any fabric with a pile becomes too thick for a double hem).

Final touches on the bodice included placing the shoulder straps - this required a fitting to ensure they were just right for Mel - and a red ribbon bow at the centre front.

The skirt was all too easy after designing and working out the bodice. Mel wanted an elastic waistband that could be hidden under a belt, and a nice thick row of fur at the bottom of the skirt.

The skirt was cut out and sewed up within an hour of starting it...........

and WOOHOOO!!! we have a "NAUGHTY ELF" COSTUME!!!!

Compared to the original picture from the internet, I think I have done a swell job of reproducing this outfit.

(internet print out of the costume Mel wanted...)

(Mel's costume...)

I charged $90 for the joy of making it for her, and have requested photos of her wearing it tonight..... stay tuned for the photos of Mel as a "naughty -J-i-g-g-l-e- elf" and Kara and Trevor in their "winter -J-i-g-g-l-e-land" costumes as well.....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

embiggening Oztion

"Patch by Patch I sew World Peace....."

"Stitch by stitch I clothe the world in Peace....."

(tehehe - I dunno - I'm working on it....)

One more patchwork quilt sold this week on Ebay - that's two now for winter of 2009.
It's cold enough that people should be needing some warmth in the form of a gorgeous crazy patchwork quilt from the World of Rapture!

I am POSITIVE that this is just the start of the million quilt sales that are coming for the rest of winter 2009......

I still have two more quilts listed, on Oztion not Ebay...yet.... sales are much slower on Oztion....It's a tough call. Ebay is now a household name, so that is where people go when they want to buy stuff. Listing my stuff for sale on Ebay, means more sales.
BUT, using ebay also means the biggest fees for selling. Catch 22!

Ebay charges a fee to list your item, and then a final sales fee.... in all it adds up to ebay taking almost 10% of all sales.

Paypal takes at least a dollar for every transaction using Paypal.

And sometimes the bank jumps on the bandwagon and takes some too.

On Oztion on the other hand, there is NO listing fee at all, things are relisted automatically for up to 60 days if they don't sell, also for free....The final sale will attract a fee, however, it is only 4% as opposed to Ebay's 10%!

It is seriously cheaper to list on Oztion by a million trillion precent!

Alas, as I mentioned earlier, Oztion just isn't a household name yet, and so just doesn't have the same huge number of buyers as Ebay. So .......
Time for PLAN B.......

"Build it and they will come!"
I am currently in the process of learning how to open a "Vshop" on Oztion, which has a few more cool features than just the normal seller's page has.....
I'll let you know how I go with it... lots of reading involved.
I have been listing like crazy on Oztion for the last few days - if it is not listed somewhere it can't be selling!
So almost all (or maybe all by this morning) the finished skirts are listed (these are just some of the photos) and all the choker collars are also listed.(I am not sure there's a better way to photograph the choker collars....)
I have photos taken of all the vests, which I will list next, and I need to take some new photos of the jackets, which I then will list too.
Over the last few months I have been experimenting with different formats (??) for my listings....
Trying different ways to take photos of the items; listing as a lot rather than individually, etc.
It has been a very expensive lesson as far as fees go; and not succesful at all.... And now I have simply come right back around to listing almost the exact way I originally did!

It's such a catch 22 situation - if I make sales it improves the quality of my son's and my life immeasurably. But to make the sales I have to be spending money.
I supose this is the catch all businesses and such face. You gotta spend money to make money!
So I guess I see the fees as a necessary evil, and I understand how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to sell my wares at all over the internet and Oztion and Ebay.
Oh and it is so cold at the moment!! -2 in Canberra means chill factor in the air and wind here!! Imagine doing the markets on a day THIS cold!!!
The internet opens up worlds of opportunity that I would otherwise not have had, and well..... my relationship with Ebay has always been a love / hate one anyway.
I guess that's something I have just learned to roll with.
Next we just need Australians to get behind an Australian site and support it, and tell everyone else about it and embiggen Oztion's name until it IS a household name....
(Yeh I just made that word up... but it conveys the feeling I think... heheh)


Monday, July 6, 2009

“Where there is a sea there are pirates”

I am very pleased with my efforts this day - I have finished several projects, including THE PIRATE TRICORN HAT that I had started! AND, even better, it looks AWESOME!

Last post I wrote about this very hat, I was at a stand - still while I thought about how to finish the hat off, was hoping I could come up with a way to NOT finish it off by hand....and over those couple of days since then I figured it out in my head how I would go about it.

This hat is what the teachers at Tafe last year taught me is called a "first sample".... I think.

Basically it is the design test to see that the design was able to be made into a pattern, and the pattern was able to be made into a wearable garment..... and I suppose to learn the things NOT to do when making up the second or third samples, or the final product.

Apparently to be placed in the sample room in a factory, you have to be one of the best sewers - I think the sample room would be the place I'd like to work, were I to ever work in a clothing factory.
I am sure I would get too bored if I was simply a machinist - sewing a thousand pockets per day or collar after collar after collar...

In the end I did sew the finishing touches to the hat by machine, which always makes things so much faster than sewing by hand, and is less annoying to my wrists than hand sewing.

The choices of braid were gold or white; Josh's opinion was no help at all, he said both looked good.

The only gold braid I had was metallic gold, plaited with a row of brown through it. It did look good. Royal almost..... but.....
I went with the white braid in the end, as I guess it matches the skull well, and white matches almost all outfits, pirate or not.
I was able to sew the braid on by machine, with no trouble at all..... till the very last second when my needle broke and the flying broken pieces missed my eye by about a millimetre!!! *phew* so lucky to be able to still SEE what I am doing!!!
Sewing around the inside edge of the brim, to hold down the edge of the brim on the inside - was not so easy, but still I was able to do it without any troubles.

I used black thread and it blended in on the front nicely so that you can barely see the stitching. The gold top stitching is more visible than the black, and so attracts the eye, (as I intended all along of course!!)

I would love to finish the entire hat with a black feather, but for now I am done! and I am happy!
It worked out as well as I was hoping and planning. It looks awesome. It fits!
What more could one want out of their hat?
I am not really sure whether the hat will be worn at the party by Josh, Elise - or someone that I haven't even considered at this point. I think Elise would be the better choice, as the skull has a flower in it's non - existent hair, the hat has a slightly girly sense to it.

While on the topic of pirates.....

(.... well, we were't really on the topic as such... but now that we are.....)

Decorations for the pirate party are coming along nicely. I have made two treasure chests - this one is a "fishing creel' - a nice name for a fisho's basket - simply with painted paper wrapped and stuck around it, and a few "gems" stuck on. The inside is filled with pieces of broken foam boxes and looks GREAT! (If I do say so myself...hahah)

All pirate flags are finished...........
Four skull and crossbones flags and an "Enter at own Risk" flag.
...Is finished! I am sure the photo here is nothing compared to how cute it will look with THE MERMAID GODDESS sitting in it!
Also well underway and waiting for the return of the overlocker, are the pirate mini skirts....
This one is the one I will finish first, and is for Kara to wear at my party......
....and then I have two more also half made waiting for the overlocker that I can sell on ebay or oztion or to any other chiccies that need a quick pirate skirt.......

With a layer of tulle under the red I think they could come out very tutu.
And they both leave me a lot of room to punk or goth them up a bit once all the sewing has been finished.... or leave as is coz they're cute.
Productivity is good! But maybe it's time for a swig o'rum and be scrubbin' some decks.....