Current Projects

Saturday, September 17, 2016

18th Century Miniature Portraits - Marie Antoinette

So, as promised, the mini portraits for the French Revolution Zombaes.

I did a lot of research on 18th century miniature portraits and other related jewelry (Pinterest boards here and here) and decided on a few details I wanted: round/oval, symmetrical, silver, fairly simple design, and sparkly.  Georgian jewelry can get quite elaborate and is quite varied (The Pragmatic Costumer has excellent posts here and here and here), but I wanted something a bit more subtle: upper-class but not royal, and that I could reuse on other costumes.  I found these from Beyond the Basics on Etsy.
They hit everything on my list except color (which isn't a deal-breaker and is an easy fix anyway), and as a bonus the little shapes around the edge look a bit like fleur-de-lis.  Who can say no that that?

For the portraits themselves, my friend and I chose these:
By Joseph Kreutzinger, 1771
Copy of the original by Louise Èlisabeth Vigèe Le Brun, 1785 
I followed American Duchess's awesome portrait tutorial as a starting point and then kind of veered off as I played with other techniques.  After prepping the images (scaling, printing, cutting as per the tutorial), I popped the pictures into the setting without glue and did some comparison tests with the surface: brushed Mod Podge, stippled Mod Podge, and sticky domes.  The domes looked okay, but for this I preferred the stippled Mod Podge.
It helped hide some of the graininess and lines from the so-so print job, and made the portraits look more painterly.  I'm not sure how it would hold up to water, but I don't plan to get these wet, and it looks pretty darn cool anyway.  (Also, if you go this route and have the surface plain instead of using a dome, I still highly recommend having a dome of the correct size on hand for tracing the image before you cut it out.)

When that was finalized I pulled the test images out and glued the real images into the settings with Mod Podge, then stippled the front.  I forget how many layers I did, but it's really just a matter of personal choice and aesthetic.  I had planned to leave the setting its original brassy color, but decided in the end to make it silver after all.  For that I used some silver acrylic I had sitting around and lightly (and carefully!) drybrushed it over the fleur-de-lis shapes and the raised rim around the portrait.  I was a little too heavy-handed on mine (1780s big-hair Marie) but it still looks alright.  The silver paint has already rubbed off the setting loop just from handling it while I attached the bows, but the rest has held up.  Silver Rub 'n Buff might be a better option next time.

The bows are 1.5" satin ribbon.  I maybe should have used a grosgrain instead, but I wasn't thinking about it when I dashed into the craft store 10 minutes to closing to grab this really fast.  So I've just told myself to pretend it's silk strips.  The front bow is a single piece that I ran through the loop and stitched together in the back, and the back bows are actually two separate pieces sewn into half loops and stitched down on each side.  I might add some tails depending on how much more floof our dresses need, but for now this works.

What a saucy young lady!

I don't know why this Marie keeps photographing such weird colors -  this is the least yellow-orange out of every photo I took - but she's much nicer looking in person.
This was a super fun and easy project, and I can already see myself going crazy and doing portraits of EVERYONE.  Don't be surprised if you see some more historical personages popping up from time to time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Busy Summer Recap

Lots going on lately, if only I could get things organized enough to actually post about it.  I've been working on an indie film, which has taken up most of my costuming time, and that's ongoing until at least late fall.  As a result, I haven't done anything for the Historical Sew Monthly since April - though I did a lot of research and came close on a few things, and having finished one challenge, I'm still doing 100% better than past years.  What I have done, however, is make some quality progress on a few other personal projects.

Lucille's robe and nightgown from the finale of Crimson Peak are coming along nicely.  I've got the nightgown sleeve drafted, maths (eww) figured on customizing existing patterns for the rest, and lots and lots of swatches and dye tests.  I think there's enough worth compiling for a post now.

I've also finished step one of a new project: French Revolution Zombaes.  Essentially, Queen M's most fashionable groupies who got the guillotine and came back as des morts-vivant.  Chemise dresses, huge hair, bloody stitched-up necks, and of course bedazzled mini portraits in honor of their dearly departed queenie.  It should be a lot of fun, and as a bonus, all of the non-zombies aspects - namely the dress, jewelry, and hair-styling practice - can be reused for more serious historical costuming.  The bit I started with was the mini portraits, and I'll post about that soon too.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Holy Grail Replica Version 1.5

In typical fashion, I decided I wasn't content with the Grail replica I made this spring.  The more this sat around and the more I looked at it, the more I didn't like it.  It wasn't terrible, but not what I wanted and I never came around to it. So I scraped the paint and started over from the gold step.

I broke down and got the Gold Leaf Rub 'n Buff. It still doesn't compare to real gold leaf, but it's definitely a step up from the old color.

For the paint, I mixed the color better - started with the same red again, but only did one drop of black and added a lot of brown - and only did one streaked coat. The bits of gold showing through made the worn spots more natural this time, and matched the reference photos better. I also did fewer worn spots, same reason.

Aaaaand done (almost). I just have to figure out the dusty weathering. I'll probably try some Plains Dust. For now, I'm so much happier with how it turned out, and locking down a good technique makes me more hopeful for the eventual Version 2.0.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

HSM 2016: #4 Gender-Bender - Cocked Hat

The Challenge: #4 Gender-Bender

Material: costume hat base, 100% wool, mystery poly lining

Pattern: None, but a pre-made costume hat was used as a base.

Year: Late 18th century (inspired by American and British cocked hats c. 1770s-1780s).

Notions: thread, spray adhesive, double-fold bias tape, cotton scraps, foam wig head

How historically accurate is it?: The design is heavily based on extant hats, with liberties taken on a few things.  I haven't found examples of the changes I made, but they don't seem too outlandish, so I'd say they're historically plausible.  The outer materials are accurate, the lining and interior (base hat) materials aren't.  Except that I did all the sewing by hand, the construction is almost totally inaccurate what with the spray adhesive and wonky patterning.

Hours to complete: About 1 hour to strip the hat and pick apart a skirt for fabric, and another few for actual construction/stitching.  Maybe 5-6 total?

First worn: Not properly yet, just for fitting and being saucy around the house.

Total cost: This was a no-cost stash-buster.  When I bought them months ago, the hat base was about $4 and the wool and lining came from a $2 thrift store skirt.  All the notions were leftovers from other projects.


This hat started its life as a pretty typical budget costume hat.  I got it wildly discounted during a post-Halloween sale as a cost effective and easy way to play with millinery.

Via Amazon
I stripped the trim and outer fabric - plastic-y lace stuff and feathers, and funky stretch velour - first and was happy to find that the core of the hat was pretty basic and definitely reusable. 

It seemed easy enough to re-cover the bottom of the brim and add new trim, and I considered just leaving the top as-is or experimenting with some faux suede spray I saw at the hardware store recently, but I ultimately decided to go all out and re-cover the top too.

Before I did anything more with the hat, I dug around in the stash for some potential fabric.  I totally lucked out with a black wool pencil skirt I bought at the thrift store ages ago, as it was 100% wool, with a lightweight lining, the color I wanted, and just large enough to cover the whole hat with some to spare.  (Perfect time to point out to the doubters why I buy random pieces of wool and silk clothing at thrift stores.)  After ripping that apart, I pulled some white double-fold bias tape from the stash too (or more accurately pulled it off the unfinished 18th century pockets it was pinned to) and found some cotton scraps and I was good to go.

I cut a hole in the cotton to make a pattern of sorts for the top of the brim and crown, and that was transferred to and cut on the wool.  I pulled the stretchy velour stuff off the top of the hat around the same time too.

The bottom of the brim was covered first by coating it liberally with spray adhesive and then setting it down on the fabric and pressing.  It stays tacky for a while, so it was pretty easy to rearrange the fabric and stretch it in places and generally just mess with it until it was completely flat.  I did the same thing on the top using the pre-cut piece.  Then I cut tabs in the fabric around the crown on the top and bottom, and trimmed the edges of the brim down to be flush with the hat base.

I don't have photos of the next bit while in progress, because it was a lot of fiddly stretching and pinning and darting and basting and cutting and stitching.  But it worked in the end.  Essentially I laid a piece of fabric over the crown, then another scrap under that piece at the back of the hat to cover a gap, and stretched/pinned/darted/basted/cut/stitched it until it fit over the curves of the crown fairly smooth.  This approach was definitely only feasible because the sides would be flipped up and therefore hide all the weird spots, but because of that and for what it is it worked fine.  When I stitched the circumference of the crown piece down, I ended up with some wrinkles in the front that are kind of eh, but again, with the sides flipped it's not so noticeable and I might even be able to smooth it down some.

I was thinking about lining the whole crown interior with just a gathered circle, but after reading some hat tutorials, I decided to do a strip of fabric with a casing to make the fit adjustable (inspired by Festive Attyre's Merry Widow hat).  Since I wasn't aiming for a particular year or even decade with this hat and I wanted it to be fairly multi-purpose, adjustability over the changing silhouettes in wacky 18th century hair is a bonus.

With all the handling, the spray adhesive started to give way and the fabric started to pull off the base in some spots around the edge, so I touched that up before moving on to trim.

I had planned to use petersham ribbon, but I can't find it locally and ran out of time to order any.  The white bias tape looks okay though, so while I might swap it for ribbon down the road, this works fine now.  The uneven seam in the back kills me a little, but it hasn't bothered me enough (yet) to redo all of it, so maybe I'll just think up some kind of trim to hide it.

The hat originally used snaps about halfway down the brim and crown to hold the sides up, but I decided to attach the brim just above the snaps.  This makes each side have a more pronounced curve (and hey, also hides my Franken-stitches better, so that's cool too).  I do still like the look of it the original way with the edges of the brim standing more upright though, so there's always the possibility I'll change it later (that is, if I ever get brave enough to let a glimpse of the crown darts show).

The bump from the snap will eventually be hidden by the cockade.
I attached the brim in back slightly differently, with the same stitching along the top but spread out in two spots instead of centered.  There was really no reason for this except ~*aesthetics*~ and it was the biggest liberty I took with the accuracy of the overall design.  I haven't found a historical example of this, but it doesn't seem too outlandish, so I'm tentatively putting it in the realm of historical plausibility. 

Last step was supposed to be the cockades, but like the petersham I ran out of time to do what I wanted so I just left it plain for now.  I always intended the cockade part of the trim to be removable, so skipping it isn't a big deal.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it, as my first hat and first completed HSM challenge, and I'm already gearing up to do more.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Holy Grail Replica Verson 1

This is actually a few days of work spread out over a month, and it's been done for a while, but I just got the notion to post it here so it's all condensed.  

A friend and I got to talking about history and archaeology a few months ago, and naturally an Indiana Jones joke came up. I'd been antsy to work on something fresh and get a break from the school grind, so I decided to sort of plot out an Indy project just for kicks. Eventually research alone wasn't enough, so the easy answer of course was to do a smaller/cheaper/faster accessory or prop piece. I bought a ceramic goblet at a thrift store a few years ago because it was too cool to pass up, but it had been mostly gathering dust ever since. I realized it's a pretty close (or close enough) match to the Grail. Seemed simple enough to paint it up.

This is the base I started with. The shape isn't perfect, but it's decently close and I already had it so it made things cheap and easy.

I did a sandable spray primer to cover the glaze and prep for Bondo, which I used for the little bubble pits in the original glaze. I liked the texture of the Bondo so I ended up spreading a rough single layer over the whole cup to make it more like an unfinished plaster/ceramic again. I didn't take a photo of the all-over Bondo on its own, but you can still kind of see it under the first coat of paint on the right.

Base paint was Ceramcoat Old Gold, and the second color was Ceramcoat Metallic Gold. The "Old Gold" is really more of a weird rotten pea soup or mustard color, but it worked well as a base to cover up the Bondo and make the second paint go on easier.

After paint I did a coat of Rub 'n Buff in Antique Gold. In retrospect I should have used Gold Leaf or Grecian Gold instead, but my local craft store was out of both of those (naturally) so I went with what I could get. (I really should have used actual gold leaf, but I didn't want to spend that kind of money on a cup that doesn't have quite the right shape. ~*STANDARDS*~) For anyone who hasn't used it, I highly recommend wearing gloves when you apply it. The package says you can just use your fingers, and some people say bare fingers work better, but I didn't notice any problems with gloves and it made the whole thing a lot less messy.

I dithered for a while over whether to continue with the coppery gold color, or wait until the craft store had another gold in stock and switch to that.  But I ultimately stuck with the Antique Gold. I was too impatient to wait for the store to get other colors in stock, and this is just a first draft, so I figured what the heck, might as well keep going. 

I mixed matte red and black acrylic and painted that roughly over the whole outside in a solid coat. It turned out what seemed like too red, so I went back with another darker coat that later ended up being too dark. Live and learn. Then I rubbed and scratched off sections of the paint to let the gold come through. I started with just a little, then progressively worked more off. The paint and scuffing had dulled the gold some, so I also touched up the visible spots to brighten them again.

I don't have photos of the process beyond that, but I mixed some white and black acrylic for a very particular light grey, watered that down, and did a wash over the cup. It ended up a bit too heavy so I sanded it. It also ended up too glossy, which is a whole other thing and my own fault for assuming the matte black paint would tone down the glossy white.  But again I didn't want to bother getting new supplies and I felt okay with taking a chance on it. After being sanded it looked a little better, so I sprayed it with a few heavy coats of matte sealant.

It's technically done now, and while it's not really ideal and definitely not close to screen accurate, I'm satisfied with it as an experiment. With some ashy Plains Dust and a grain of salt, it'll be pretty decent for a cosplay prop or casual display piece. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Round and Round

Let's try this again, for realsies this time.  I've set myself the mid-year's goal of keeping up with my costuming and its documented progress on a regular basis, partly just because I want to (and, really, because I should) and partly to spruce up my skills and keep better track of my work.  I've got movie replicas in the works, historical originals on the brain, some old stuff I might transfer over from the old blog (Throwback Thursdays maybe?) and plenty more going on besides.

Let's do this thing!