Friday, December 30, 2011

Edwardian Corset Sew Along - Sign Up

Edwardian Corset Sew Along - Sign Up

The 1912 Project

I am really excited.  I have signed on to be a part of the 1912 Project with the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.  I got the following email today:

Welcome to the 1912 Project.
 With the upcoming 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, there seems no better time to be motivated to tackle one of the Library’s archives largest projects.   The scanning and digitizing of the patterns and magazines of La Mode Illustree – once France’s foremost publication of fashion.
 We will be starting with the April 1912 Issues, which are the ones closest to the Titanic date.  Afterwards, we will be working through the rest of issues in the hopes of completing the full year by the end of 2012.
 How you can participate! 1. Test sew the patterns.  These can be done in muslin or any other fabric you like.  It would be wonderful to see a finished, wearable garment – but it’s not required.  (Hopefully - though you may get inspired enough to actually complete and model the garment in a photo for us!)  2.  Blog about your experiences with the project a minimum of once a month, (or more if you’re inspired!) and provide a link to your post so that we can share it with our newsletter readers.   If you don’t currently have a blog – you can guest post on the VPLL blog at Wordpress.   It is important to include photos of your work in progress – so please remember to take some shots of your project.
 3.  Everyone who posts at least once a month will be automatically included to receive the next month’s patterns.  You do not have to complete the test sewing in a month to continue to be included in the project – but it’s encouraged.  That’s it – it’s pretty simple! 
 A few more bits of information -
 The pattern packages will include full–sized printed pattern sheets, a translation into English of any construction information, and a graphic of the garment.
 It’s important to note that construction and cutting information for these patterns are very vague, usually amounting to only a paragraph or two.  Any notes or supplementary information about the construction process that you are willing to share would be wonderful.
 The patterns are replicated directly from the original pattern sheet without changes – so sizing tends to run fairly small.  3/8-inch seam allowance will be added and other information to clarify construction.
 At the beginning of each month we will be using to determine randomly which patterns are sent to whom.  You may receive any type of women’s, men or children’s patterns at any given month.  If you especially don’t want to sew a specific type of garment – please let us know, and we will try to accommodate your request.  However the goal is to replicate and write about all the patterns in a given issue.
  Bonus for those who stick with us through thick and thin!  At the end of this project I expect to have every page of every issue of the 1912 La Mode year scanned, and all of the patterns available.  For those who manage to make it through the long haul – you will receive a complete set of ALL of the patterns – and the cds containing the scanned magazines – as a thank you for your participation.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pricing my commissions

   I find it hard to set prices and have basically used the formula Cost of materials X 2 + 25% with shipping and handling added at the end.  For most commissions, this is a pretty fair exchange rate.  However, when there is a lot of designing, patterning, hand work and tedious extras that have to be done to a really special piece of work, not to mention that finding the right materials for the project may also require a lot of research, this formula doesn't quite fit the bill.  An hourly rate is also hard to judge.  I've had relatively simple projects that took more time than anticipated and I have had really complicated projects that I've breezed through because all the planets were aligned or some special kind of luck came my way.  I also have a network of very skilled artisans that I have compared notes with before I have decided on prices.  That seems to be pretty helpful because I always seem to underestimate the marketable value of my own work.  Then so many potential clients come to me with aspirations of fabulous costumes for bargain basement  prices and are shocked by how expensive custom work can be.  I supposed that is part of the reason why I have never really launched myself into a viable business venture because you can't build a business on being the cheapest competitor out there or maintain a steady stream of clients when you are one of the most expensive ones.  The happy medium is hard to figure out.
    I also have dropped way back on my output because of loss of drive after some serious setbacks within the costuming communities in which I operate.  A few unkind folks who praised my work, but have struck me down on a personal level because of alliances with others who were not welcomed in the inner know the same ol' same ol' of politics and personality conflicts that damage the reputation and dampen the spirit of creative persons.  I am trying to rise above all that crap because I really am too old to continue to play out school yard rivalries or petty jealousies that have ruined friendships and businesses.  
    In any case, I am trying to get myself back on a balanced footing, ignoring disappointing or broken  relationships and focusing on what I really love, creating, crafting and promoting the skills of made from scratch costumes and other garments.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Getting started

I have posted hundreds of pictures and made little comments, but never have really jumped into Blogging about costuming and sewing.  I think it is time I get to it.  I go on all the time about how our youth are not learning as many of the old skills as what we did in our youth....that they spend too much time playing games on the computer or watching other people actually DO stuff.  I have long been disappointed that my daughter never took any interest in sewing or costuming other than the traditional Halloween time or special event that required a costume, but she did jump in with both feet into music, photography, poetry, writing and counselling which are some of my interests even more so than myself.  Props to her for that.

So, what do I have to share with anyone who might find so interest in "How does she do it?" or "I think that's cool..." or whatever?  So I guess I will start with some basics...

Patterns...I love commercial patterns because they get me rolling on a project and save me some time on drafting them from scratch.  I can, however, honestly say that I rarely ever use a pattern exactly as drafted.  I often use the sleeve from one pattern to go with the jacket on another and so on.... I do draft patterns from scratch, but like I said, I like to save time when I can and it is so much easier when I have a client to go through what I have on hand (well over 500 commercial patterns) and start from there.  Of course there are ideas that have no commercial pattern with all the elements in them, but that's where the mix and match comes in.  Just about every basic idea has been drafted, just the embellishments and variations have to be worked in.  I often buy multiple copies of the same pattern in both the same size and multiple sizes when it is something I think I will be using for many projects.  When I had to do 27 dresses of the same design for a choral group of teen-aged girls, with greatly varied sizes, I bought 3 and traced each size before I started.  I have to say I was never so glad to be finished with that project, claimed I'd never do that again, then in 2006 started making soft parts for Imperial Bikerscouts and proceeded to make over 250 of them over a period of about 5 years...yikes.  Never say never.

Fabrics...It is amazing where one can find the right fabric for a project.  I use the standard commercial fabric store...Joann's Fabrics is one of my favorites, but I also have several stores that sell through eBay, internet stores and garment district stores that I have to have one of my connections shop for me.  I also love re-purposing old garments, taking them apart for use in other projects.  I get a lot of my soft leather from old skirts and jackets at the neighborhood thrift store like Goodwill and consignment stores.  I have also used table cloths, sheets, drapery and other miscellaneous fabrics  for projects with great results.  I am always on the lookout for doable fabrics for future projects.  I also keep scraps of the fabrics from projects and have pieced things together to make smaller projects.  I have lots of left over scraps of velvet from doing robes and have made handbags, collars, belts, pet costumes, even a corset from the remnants. As I am cutting out my projects, I have a trash bin and a save bin.  Needless to say, I have many remnant bins over the years.  

Project Ideas ...Everywhere.  I surf the net regularly for reference photos of theatrical costumes, characters, drawings, other costumers' work.  I also always try to give credit where credit is due.
I have a pretty fair library of reference material in the form of books and my wish list for gifts is to enlarge that library with books having tons of great pictures.  I have a quite extensive wish list on that I wish my family would pay more attention to rather than making purchases of things that will be set aside all too soon.  I draw inspiration from industry icons like Trisha Biggar, Colleen Atwood, and others.  I also learn from others like Kay Dee, Vera, Margie, Rachel and several other excellent costumers who share their work with those who like me just love to see the craft at work.
Movies, artwork, sketches by other costumers....the ideas are out there if you keep your eyes open.