Wedding Dress, Aug ’17

So, it’s late. Very late. But I just realised I never did a post about it, and I wanna talk about one of my favourite, and most challenging sewing projects. The Wedding Dress of August ’17.

When my friend Emily approached me towards the beginning of last year to make her wedding dress, I was thrilled, and flattered, and a little terrified. I’d worked on a wedding before, but it was alteration for an existing dress, and it was for the bridesmaid, not the bride. This request was a huge step up in commitment and level of difficulty, from anything I had attempted before. But, I enjoy a challenge and, like any good masochist, evidently love procrastination to the point of panic. So, we began by going shopping for the right fabric.

Now, Emily is not what you would call a traditional bride, and she in no way wanted the traditional marriage. No white dresses and tossing of the garter here! Instead, we went on the hunt for a forest green satin and when we found it, oh, what a perfect fabric it was. Weighty enough for the winter wedding, but not too heavy as to be stiff. So, with the fabric purchased, I set about making a toile for the bust.

The bust was the hardest part. It required many measurements, many adjustments, and about three different attempts at pattern making before I finally got it right. I was living in the city at the time, and my space and time were limited, so it was only when I moved back home that things really got into full swing. To flatter her figure, we opted for princess seams and a sweetheart neckline. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a matching green lining silk, so I lined it with black (which works with the black tulle overlay, don’t worry.) when I was happy with the shape, we had a quick fitting and moved on to the rest.

The next step involved attaching a waistband and adding the overlay to the completed bust pieces. This was also trickier than it should have been. Between the slippery lining fabric, slippery satin and almost weightless tulle, it became a battle to keep everything aligned properly to sew it all together. Boy, what a pain. I managed to get everything pinned together, but then had multiple sewing mishaps as one fabric slid away from the other, or the tulle pulled away from where it was pinned. To be honest, it was a bit of a nightmare. But I persisted, and finally got it all attached.

From there it was relatively simple. The skirt was just a large block of gathered fabric. I cut three large rectangle panels, attached them together at the side seams for three (yes, three) seams around the whole skirt, and then spent a heckin’ long time gathering all that fabric to the right circumference. The same thing with the lining, and again with the tulle. And voila, I had a dress. But of course, then I had trouble again with the waistband. The early measurements (triple checked!) turned out to be too wide, so I had to unpin the bodice from the waistband, adjust and reattach. But, after many more alterations, hemming, and final trimming of the tulle overlay, Emily ended up with a whimsical, beautiful, completely untraditional wedding gown. And, coupled with a flower crown and sparkly ruby slippers, she looked absolutely stunning. Plus, the wedding was like walking into an enchanted forest and without question, the prettiest wedding I’ve ever been to.

So that’s the tale of the August Wedding Dress. And on a quick side note, for those who are interested in all things pretty and magical, Emily happens to be the maker behind Le.ft_made, which is a Melbourne based small business she created to cater to all your witchy, whimsical needs. Pop on over to her Instagram if you wanna check her out.

Photo property of Vanessa De Santis
Photo property of Vanessa De Santis

“Max Pry, Private Eye”, and My Foray into Theatre 


This weekend we performed our play, and it was one of the most fun and incredible things I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Written by my incredibly talented friend, the one act play, titled Max Pry, Private Eye, is set in the late 1930’s and follows the story of Max Pry; a detective who dreams of becoming a famous private investigator. The problem is, Max is a terrible detective. In fact, his greatest bust (discovering Frankie “The Cruncher” Pavlov’s hideout in a down town laundromat) was purely by accident. So, when Max’s boss gives him an ultimatum that could see him demoted, Max teams up with some (equally terrible) gangsters to stage the bust of a lifetime!

After three months of rehearsals, we took to the stage on Friday night for the first time and it went off without a hitch. Me, who has previously sang in front of crowds utterly shaking with nerves, found myself stepping onto the theatre stage confidently and without fear. Admittedly, that may have been because there is more involved in theatre that I had to focus on, but nevertheless! Our lines on-stage were delivered to perfection, and as I listened backstage in between my scenes, the other scenes ran just as smoothly. The couple of times we did forget a line, the ad libs were so good that nobody noticed a thing.

We had three performances that each had the theatre almost full, and a good few of my friends and family showed up to see us perform, which was really awesome. The costumes, made by myself and our lovely production manager, looked fantastic and really helped make the show. The set, designed and made by our playwright’s father, looked sensational. Honestly, everyone involved did such a wonderful job and I am so proud of everyone that had a hand in bringing Max Pry to life.

We even made it to the paper a couple of times, and we got a fantastic write-up about how the play was working to encourage neurodiversity in the arts. For those of you that may be unfamiliar with the word, neurodiverse is a blanket term used to describe autism spectrum disorders, ADD and mental health disorders, amongst others. The idea was a shorter play with a longer rehearsal time, to allow for those who may be suffering from neurodiverse disorders to be able to participate in a production that doesn’t have the high demand and stress level of a full length play. And I can’t even begin to tell you how kind and considerate the cast and crew were.

My role in the play was that of Dotty, the femme fatale if you will, and I loved playing the character. Though, with her sass, wit and penchant for casting a dirty look, it was pretty much just like being myself…in a blonde wig. In fact, I was offered the role purely because the playwright and her parter (both good friends of mine) thought that the character would be perfect for me. And, in an attempt to step outside my comfort zone, I took on the role without hesitation.
Honestly, it was such an incredible experience and I think I’d be keen to get back on the stage again at some point. But, for now, it’s been a long and busy weekend, and I think what I really need is a cup of tea, and a nice relaxing Sunday.

Self Drafted Summer PJ’s

It’s coming into warmer weather here. As few of my clothes fit me anymore, I’ve gone on a bit of a sewing plan, starting with a pair of cotton pyjamas. I don’t wear pyjamas to sleep in; I’m 100% a “sleep in the nude” kinda girl. However, as I no longer live alone, it is unacceptable to chill in the public spaces of the house without clothes. Thus, the necessity for pyjamas.
I went to Spotlight a couple of weeks ago and,as with almost every craft store trip, I saw too many cute things and spent way too much money on fabric. Amongst the stash I purchased was this cute woodland print with tiny foxes and other cute little animals. So I had to buy it. And I did. Along with some other fabric I also just had to have, but still haven’t worked out what to make with.

So with the fabric in mind, I decided that pyjamas was the way to go. I’m very much into loose fitting cloathing lately, comfortable items that don’t sit too tight or cut in in unwanted places. Shorts are easy to make, but I made one fundamental mistake; I made them way too big! Once I tried them on, I realised that I could fit both legs into one of the shorts legs, so I had to bring the seams in at the sides and the crotch. They’re still a bit too big around the legs, but the waist fits fine and comfort is key, after all.

The top was also self drafted, and I just kinda winged it. I took some rough measurements and sketched up a quick design. What I ended up with was an oversized, vaguely old fashioned sleeveless shirt, perfect for those hot summer nights. Overall I was pretty happy with the result. I’m trying to challenge myself with creating my own patterns, so this was one of those attempts. A few tweaks I think, but otherwise I’m glad to say I can see constant improvements in my skill. Anyway, here’s the finished result! 


Sewing Dreams

Last week, I finished my friend’s wedding dress. It took me a whole lot of weekends, a whole lot of stress (mostly of my own creation), a whole lot of travelling back and forth between home and the city, and a whole lot of fiddling about with tricky fabric…lots of tricky fabric. Now. Until she gets married next weekend and the dress gets revealed to the world, you’re not allowed to see it (so there). But now that this year’s greatest sewing triumph is complete, I’m dreaming about all the things I want to make a start on.

I follow a few sewing enthusiasts (and geniuses) on Instagram, and every day I see things that other people are creating. Everything from lingerie to shoes, and every cute, wearable thing in between. It gets my fingers itching to guide fabric through a machine. When I see crisp lines and perfectly overlocked seams, I just can’t shake that urge to set myself up at the table and just create in a frenzy of fabric and fatigue. Because sewing endlessly until I can’t see straight, and my back is aching like a labourer after a hard day, is exactly the way I roll. 

I sometimes get frustrated with how little time I manage to find to sew. I envy those gals on Instagram who are forever posting their sewing successes and I wish I could do it all day every day. I dream of once again having my own dedicated sewing room. I had one when I lived on my own, and it suited me perfectly fine. But if I could, I would have a big room, fully kitted out and completely dedicated to the craft. Oh, how I long for the day.

I have so many things I want to try. I am passionate when it comes to extending my skill and learning new ways to make things easier, or better. At the moment, I would say I am a decent sewist (still gonna keep saying that). I can take flat fabric and make it into something wearable. I’m past the point of things I make looking distinctly home made. And I’ve been trying to tackle new things this year instead of sticking to my comfort zone – i.e woven fabrics with no stretch. But even in the last project, there were things I would have liked to do better. And I know that will probably always be the case – indeed, my lovely friend insisted that she loves the dress, and that I am being too hard on myself. She’s probably right, and at the end of the day it’s mostly about her feeling beautiful and comfortable on her wedding day. But I now know that I have areas of improvement to focus on to unsure I keep getting better.

I have a few more projects to finish for other people, and then I think I’m going to put a hold on commissions for a while. There are a couple of things that I’ve had in my head for ages now, and I think it’s about time I started to get them out of my head and onto the table. Even without a sewing room, I can’t wait to throw myself into something new. And I’m excited for the creations yet to come.

Cramped Creativity

I’m feeling a little cramped at the moment. This is partly due to having no space at dad’s (once again, not his fault) and partly due to the fact that I wish I could just take a month off from everything, sit down and create.

I’m really enjoying my new job, and I can’t adequately express how much I love being at home. In the last month I have been infinitely better and happier than I ever really was in the whole nine months I spent in the city. My life, as a whole, has greatly improved. So please don’t think I’m just here to complain!

As I’ve said (countless times) before, I am a creative person, and making stuff or writing stuff or practicing stuff is what keeps me grounded and mostly even tempered and…y’know, sane. And it’s been a fair while since I’ve really done any. Whilst it’s true that I am in the middle of making a dress, it’s a little different than casual calm creating because a) the friend I’m making it for is in the city, whereas I am at home and b) there is a certain element of stress and pressure that comes with making a dress for someone to wear to her wedding. Don’t get me wrong; my friend has been lovely and accommodating and patient…so very patient with me. Rather it’s a kind of self imposed pressure to not fuck it up because let’s face it; that would suck.

When the dress is done, I have another skirt to finish for my friend Lou. It’s mostly complete but I stuffed up the zip insertion and so now have to buy a new one and fix it properly. Then I have a pair of pants to make for my friend’s six year old son, and then I’ve been asked if I can repair a favourite leather handbag of a woman I work with. It’s great that I’m getting all these requests but it does make it hard to find the time to complete them when I’m working full time and still travelling to the city every weekend. I mean, I haven’t even had time to do my own washing in the last two weeks, much less find time to sew!

And do you remember my 200 words a day writing goal? Well, that’s fallen completely by the wayside. My laptop died and I never had the time and so when I got home, I bought a new tablet to replace my poor dead Atticus. Of course I then got home to discover that it’s not compatible with iTunes so I have to find another way to store and play my music. And, despite being a Microsoft tablet, is doesn’t have Microsoft Office installed…! Which means no writing program for me! At least until I buy the program…at nearly $300 a pop. *sigh*

Now, it’s unlikely that I’ll find that month to take off, especially since I’ve just signed a full time contract for the next six months. But I’m considering another trip to Tassie next year so maybe I’ll get another creative holiday in there then. Until that time though, I shall just have to squeeze in creating time where I can and then perhaps stop taking on commissions one after another!

Oh! Fun little fact which is slightly off topic but which excites me greatly; I’m getting the internet set up at home! Which means I can write blogs on my laptop instead of my phone, and most importantly, try and utilise YouTube to potentially learn how to play my many instruments! It’s a brave new world, y’all! 

Sewing Update (Simplicity 1252)

At the start of the year, I set myself a goal to sew one new thing a month. My plan was to make a different item than I have ever attempted before, or use a different or tricky fabric. So far I have stuck to this goal, albeit barely!

January was a Peter Pan collar dress with a waistband. February was a loose fitting tee for my best friend, made from faux leather and a light, floaty patterned fabric that I have no name for. The first was a success, the second…well, I wasn’t overly happy with the end result. I used an existing shirt of hers to create the pattern which,in hindsight, wasn’t the best way to go given what I was working with. The seams were wavy, the sleeves were boxy and a little too GaGa-esque for either of our tastes. I made a couple of quick alterations, but all in all I was pretty disappointed. I also let time get away from me a little bit, and I know that if I had have taken the time, the result would have been better. The good thing about it, is that now I know my weaknesses when it comes to that kind of fabric, and I can work towards improving. Silver lining!

March was a tricky month, and I very nearly didn’t make it. I went on holidays, and I made some small progress on a jumpsuit I’ve had planned since pretty much the start of the year, but then life got in the way. Now, by some wonderful circumstance, I managed to get two days off this week. Two consecutive days off. Which is pretty much a dream come true for me. So yesterday, I abandoned by jumpsuit idea altogether, because it is still too far from completion to get done in a day. Instead, I raced down to the local Lincraft and picked myself up a basic commercial pattern. I’m not usually a pattern kinda girl, preferring to make things up and challenge myself that way. But, desperate times and all that. The pattern I went with was Simplicity 1252, a basic 60’s style sleeveless shift dress.
Image result for simplicity 1252

The other night I caught a film called God Help the Girl (review pending), and I was inspired by the outfits in the film when I chose this pattern. Aside from wanting something I could smash out in an afternoon, I was looking to emulate the vaguely hipster-y, mod style of clothing worn in the film. I found some lightweight wool suiting in a dark green tartan that was perfect for the project – and at only $10 a metre! – and so I set to work.

I count this my new thing for March, because all of the dresses I have previously made, have had a defined bust and skirt, where this dress is one piece. The pattern was simple to follow, and just as simple to put together, though I made a number of alterations. First thing I did was lose the neckline facings, in favour of a full lining. I wanted to be able to just slip the dress on, and the silk lining has the added bonus of helping to keep everything smooth. Secondly, the pattern has a front centre seam, which I think looks a little strange. I did actually add the dart in initially, but ended up unpicking it and leaving just a small detail at the top, and I liked it much better without. The third thing I did was alter the length. I always go a size up when I’m making commercial patterns, because I like to allow for error, so I used the size 10. When I cut out the pattern pieces, the finished dress would have sat at the awkward just below the knee length, because whilst I’m not overly short, I’m not especially tall either. And I wanted to make a mini dress anyway, more reminiscent of the fashion of the late 60’s. So I cut a solid three inches off the length, and then hemmed it with a 1/4 inch seam.

I did have a little trouble when it came to hemming, because I was stitching the lining and the outer fabric together to hide the seams within, and the wool had a little stretch to it, where the lining silk didn’t. This left me with too much fabric at the end of the seam line, which created an unsightly wrinkle. To fix this, I simply unpicked the back seam a little, and did a little snipping and stitching to tidy it up and reduce the bulk. I just had to add a small slit in the back of the dress, but that doesn’t affect the aesthetic, so I was happy with the end result.

All in all, I am infinitely happier with my March make than my previous month’s attempt, and I can see myself wearing this dress a lot, probably styled with a white collared shirt and a cute continental necktie. Or I can grunge it up with a pair of Docs (note to self; buy Docs) and a leather jacket. I think, because of my fabric choice, this will be a really versatile little number. Plus, I have plenty of fabric left over to make a pleated skirt and matching bow tie. So even though I left it until the last minute, and I used a commercial pattern, I am still going strong with this one new make a month goal. And I’m starting to get some ideas for the next ones too, so good things are coming!

In Which I Suffer From Creators Block…Again.

 

I’ve hit a bit of a creative block. Like a giant, impenetrable brick wall smack bang in my path of creativity. And this ain’t no Harry Potter wall, that you can tap with an umbrella and stroll casually through to world of magic (or imagination in this case). It is a huge, threatening wall of bricky-ness, and it is solid and imposing and mean. Due to a whole bunch of extraneous factors, I haven’t been able to focus on any of my creative outlets. I’ve been trying to stay true to my goal of 200 words a day, but in the last couple of weeks, I’ve really had to wrench those 200 words out of my brain, with no small measure of difficulty. And instead of feeling accomplished afterwards, I feel exhausted, and like I never want to write another word so long as I live. The last time I tried to play a bit of Rocksmith on my day off, I had a phone call that had me in tears by the end, and I lost all motivation I had for rocking out. And don’t even get me started on my lack of sewing inspiration/motivation.

It happens to everyone. We’ve all dealt with a blank screen, an empty machine, an unrealised dream. And it can be really disheartening. Especially for someone, like me, who relies on being creative to stay sane and hold onto some modicum of contentedness. On one hand, the goals I set at the start of the year are, in a way, forcing me to get my creative on. But on the other, there’s also a little bit of self imposed pressure to get done the things I don’t really feel like I can do (lately anyway). Self motivation is kind of a double edged sword that way.

We are five days into February, and I haven’t even given my sewing machine so much as a sideways glance in at least two weeks. I have a pile of fabric stacked on the table, and I guiltily avoid looking at it every time I set foot into the kitchen. The thing is, I actually have an idea of my next make in my head. I purchased some blue and navy rayon at Lincraft a couple of weeks ago with the intention of making a romper. But then I also bought this really adorable embroidered gingham about a week later, and the idea in my head would be perfect for that instead. Yet despite actually having a half formed design in my head, I still haven’t been able to find the time or the interest to throw myself into the project. And this is why I set my goal at one new make a month, instead of a week, or a fortnight. I expected that there would be issues with time, and lack of motivation, and so I knew I needed to allow myself the month to create a new piece. For my own peace of mind, as well as my sanity.

But nevertheless, I keep coming up against that giant wall of doubt and uncertainty and totally empty brain. Creators block is a thing, and it can suck a giant penis in hell. It doesn’t help that every few days, I get a notification on Facebook, reminding me that I haven’t posted to the page in a week or so. I gotta say, I truly am growing to loathe the phrase “Keep up the good work with The Elegant Fox”. No, fuck you Facebook, I do not need a constant reminder of how I am failing as a creative person. *cries a little bit*

It will pass. At some point I will break through the haze of blankness and come out like some kind of monster of creativity, spilling words and sewing things in a frenzy until I make up for the last couple of weeks in the space of a couple of hours. It’s a process, and it is only that certainty that I will be motivated again that prevents me from throwing myself down in despair and sobbing for a million years. (Wow, I’m really getting imaginative with my description here…maybe the block is already gone!). Like Sarah in Labyrinth, all I have to do is find a break in the wall. Only I’m trying to get my creativity back, not a baby.

Image result for labyrinth wall movie

Anyway. Tomorrow I am going shopping with my friend for fabrics for her wedding dress, and I’m honestly more excited about that than I have been about anything in about a fortnight. So here’s to finding good things in shit times, here’s to the eventual return of my creativity, and here is to my friends having faith in my abilities, even when I don’t. *raises glass entire bottle of wine*