The Queen and the Doctor

I promise I didn’t disappear. And I promise that I’ve been sewing. Actually, I’ve been pretty busy getting things done, so I have a backlog of posts to make about so many different projects I’ve been working on.

But these projects are pretty special so they require a post before any other projects I talk about.

Last year was my first time attending Emerald City Comic Con with one of my dear friends. We dressed as characters from the show Firefly, specifically from the episode, “Shindig”: her, Inara; me, Kaylee. We’re going again this year, but for two days, since we had a good time last year, that we would go for another day this year.

We each picked a theme for our costumes: she picked Doctor Who, and I originally picked Padme from Star Wars, however after looking at the headpiece I’d have to make to go with her blue senate gown, I decided that I didn’t want the stress of figuring out how to make that work. My friend suggest doing Alice in Wonderland for another time, and so I fell back on that. Since she wanted to make an Alice costume, I decided to go as Queen of Hearts.

Queen of Hearts
Fourth Doctor

The Queen of Hearts

Let me just start this off by saying, this is probably my crowning achievement (pun intended?) as far as sewing projects go. I’m elated with how absolutely amazing this project turned out. After I posted it on Instagram and Facebook, and showed it off to a couple close friends who don’t follow me on social media, my friends have started to brag to others on my behalf about how awesome this costume is. Because of all the gushing, all the “likes” and now Facebook reactions, all the compliments, and all the encouragement I have received from all of my friends, I want to say “thank you”. It definitely makes a girl feel loved when I get the support from you that I have gotten while working on my sewing projects.

With that said, let’s talk about the costume!

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Second sketch for Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts costume was sewn after the Fourth Doctor costume, but I’m going to talk about it first because it is a bit more exciting than my Doctor Who costume. These costumes were probably the first time I’ve actually made something based on a sketch. I do not consider myself artistic in anyway; I just happen to be able to follow directions pretty well. For both, I dug through my stash of patterns and pulled out the ones I liked and drew the elements that I liked using colored pencils. The first inceptions of the Queen of Hearts costume featured a red skirt instead of a black one, and I was torn on the style of sleeve I wanted. Also, I had originally included a partlet, and a large, standing collar (which was very fairytale-like). I ended up editing out a lot of these extra details because I was starting to feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I was inflicting on myself.

When I started out sewing this costume, I took a week off of work (I get a lot of vacation time, and we don’t travel as often as I’d like, so this seemed like the perfect use for it) and had a “sewcation”. My goal was to get a fair amount of the costume done, and I did more than I had hoped.

As with most projects, I started from the top down. The bodice usually is the most complicated part of any garment (because we’re fitting two-dimensional fabric onto a three-dimensional form) so I did that first. Also, in the case of this costume, I was using two costumes to make up the bodice, and one pattern was one I hadn’t used before.

A long time ago (more than 10 years ago), I thought that I would be making my wedding dress, so mom and I bought a ton of wedding dress patterns. Having the hoarding habits I’ve inherited from my parents, I never got rid of them. It turns out, wedding dress patterns make excellent period/fairytale gown costumes, so I’m glad that I did keep them. The corset-style wedding gowns were fairly popular when I was getting married and that’s exactly what I used for the base of the bodice. (McCall’s 3449)

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Adding the boning to the bodice

This pattern is out-of-print now, but if you can find it, I’d recommend it, with some modifications.

There’s boning in this bodice, which is okay! I actually like the feel of the structured garment, and it definitely helps with giving the garment stability. (I think it might even help with my posture, but who knows, maybe that part is just in my head). The pattern recommends making your own channels in the bodice (with top stitching parallel to the seam) for the boning to go in, but I didn’t like the idea of the extra stitching showing up on the bodice, so I sewed the boning to the seam allowance like you would normally do.

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The interesting thing about this bodice, in particular, is that there’s no shoulder seam. This took some figuring out, and if I had paid more attention to how each of the billion different pieces of lace and trim were being used, I would have understood what I was doing better. There’s a length of lace that you cut (which isn’t labeled very well in the pattern, so I had a momentary freak-out that my pattern was missing a piece) and then sew it to the neckline of the bodice. Portions of that lace are actually left unsewn to the bodice, and will later be gathered and used as the shoulder for the sleeve to set into. It was about this point when I mused to myself that if I had made this dress for my wedding when I was getting married, I would have probably given up and had my mom do it for me.

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I don’t recall any oddities with sewing in the lining, so I’m assuming that part was fine. The back of the bodice where the corset lacing is was pretty interesting and fun. Unlike previous period dresses I’ve sewn, where the lace-up part is done with grommets, this was much easier being done with buttonholes, instead. One side of the back panel is sewn down to the rest of the bodice, and the other side is attached with Velcro. Then you just lace it up and then you’re done. I used some of the lace leftover from the front panel on the bodice to show in my progress picture.

IMG_20160303_211446So the sleeves. This is where the second pattern comes in. These sleeves came with another pattern (Butterick 4571) I had made years ago for a period costume I needed when some friends of mine went up to a little medieval village called Camlann. (I have no idea how historically [in]accurate my costumes are.) We all dressed up and went out to dinner there, and had a fun time. I haven’t worn that dress since, but I loved LOVED the sleeves on it, and after polling some friends when I was making my sketches, that was the favorite sleeve style.

IMG_20160315_214259IMG_20160315_214313Since the bodice had the lace/trim for the shoulder, I essentially traced a new sleeve, using the sleeve cap from the original pattern, and then blending that into the sleeve for the one that I wanted to use. Sewing the rest of it sleeve together as the instructions directed, and then gathering the sleeve cap, gathering the lace along the shoulder, basting, basting, sewing, ironing… it was a little more work than I’m used to with sleeves, but it looked pretty good when I was done. Also, I was worried about the sleeves constantly falling down, but after trying it on, they seem to fit well enough that it stays up without any extra help from fashion tape. (Although, I will make sure to pack some with me, in case of emergency).

That’s about when I stopped working on the bodice. I still needed to add some bling to the front, and get an actual ribbon for the corset-lacing at this point. I was about half-way through with my sewcation at this point, and was making better progress than I had hoped. Next was the skirt.

This skirt pattern is also very discontinued (Simplicity 0679/8881). I bought this in probably 1999 (at least, that’s the copyright on the pattern, so I’m sure it was around then) and was probably planning to use this for my senior prom dress (I didn’t, but went with a different period-style dress instead). I didn’t realize how historically accurate this pattern was supposed to be. No zippers, lots of hooks, lots of embellishments noted in the instructions of the pattern, instructions for how to construct an actual farthingale. (Didn’t do that, since I still have my trusty crinoline from my wedding that I used for last year’s costume). The bodice in this pattern is pretty ridiculous, so I’m glad I didn’t decide to use that one, and just stuck with the skirt.

There’s an underskirt and an overskirt. There’s so much fabric used in the overskirt, that between what was needed for that and the bodice, I bought a whole bolt of poly dupioni online. I still have quite a bit, so I could make myself something else in the future. The underskirt is mostly some inexpensive poly satin, but the front panel was a remnant of poly brocade. I used the same red fabric that I used for the sleeve contrast and the bustle (later) to make up the hearts that I appliqued to the front of the skirt. I appliqued the hearts using a metallic gold thread (more bling for the Queen), and I meticulously glued red rhinestones around each of the hearts. This is one of the very few times I’ve actually felt “artistic” about my craft at all.

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I regret not serging up the seams on the inside of the skirt, but it’s going to be over the crinoline, so it will be somewhat protected from fraying too much. I added a zipper to the underskirt, because I didn’t like the idea of only securing the skirt-opening closed with a bunch of hand-sewn (there’s enough hand-sewing on this costume already) snaps. I think this is about when my sewcation ended, but I was back in my sewing room every moment of free-time working on it until I had it done.

Amazingly, it only took a couple more days to finish the overskirt. I say “amazingly”, because of how much work was required on it. The skirt is voluminous, which is why basically a whole bolt of fabric was needed for this project. They don’t even have a pattern piece for the back portion of the skirt, because it’s just a giant rectangle, and the front portion of the skirt is in two pattern pieces because it’s so much fabric it couldn’t be cut from a single piece of fabric. I had to sew three pieces of trim (two pieces of the gold braid, and one of the novelty trim) along each edge of the front of the overskirt. I kind of wish I had bought enough trim to add it to the hem of the skirt, but it was already getting ridiculously expensive.

Then came the fun part: cartridge pleats. I had to research this a little to understand what it was that I was doing, but I was pretty sure I got it as I was making 1/4″ chalk marks along the edge of the top of the skirt so that I could hand-stitch each pleat that would fold up like a drape would. I had to do this three times on each side of the skirt, and then hand-sew each inside pleat fold to the waistband, and then hand-sew each outside pleat fold about halfway up the waistband. It’s supposed to help in making the skirt look fuller. It was all worth it in the end, just time consuming.

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All that was left at this point was more trim, more bling, some hand-sewing of snaps and hooks-and-eyes, and hemming the skirt. Oh, and the bustle.

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I was finally in a mood to do some hand-sewing, so I sewed the rose trim onto the sleeves and sewed the beads to the front. I hemmed up the skirt on the machine, and then felt good about working on the bustle as the finale part of the costume. While I was working on it, I was admiring the back of the costume, and took a picture and sent it to my friend asking if I was weird for just sitting there, admiring my costume. She told me if that was weird, then she was too. :)

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What I was admiring

The bustle was pretty easy (McCall’s 6097). Most of it was just matching up the pleats, and matching up dots to tack the bustle to the lining to give it the drape effect. And then just add buttons to the skirt waistband and buttonholes to the waistband of the bustle. Then, this is where I had an inspiration of creativity, which I don’t feel happens very often.

I was already planning to attach rosettes to the bustle, but I decided not to hand-sew them, because I was done with hand-sewing (not really, because now I’m hand-sewing a crown). So when I went to the store to get all the rest of the trim and bling that I needed to finish the costume, I bought some red silk roses and white silk roses and some red fabric paint. Then, I partially painted two of the white roses red, similar to the scene in the story of Alice in Wonderland, in which the card soldiers are frantically painting the white roses red in the Queen’s garden. This piece seems to be one of the most remarked upon parts of my costume.

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I love how beautiful this all came together, and sometimes I can’t even believe that I created it myself. I am really thankful for all the encouragement I’ve been given while working on this. It really means a lot to me to hear the kind words about my work. :)

The Fourth Doctor

06Tom Baker’s Doctor from Doctor Who is probably one of the most iconic Doctors from Classic Who. I had already made his scarf a couple years ago, so it only seemed reasonable to pick the Fourth Doctor as my muse for my Doctor Who costume (even though I’m a major Eccelston fan girl). However, my friend wanted to do a gender-bended, steampunk twist on our Doctor costumes. Let’s just say, I’m glad I stock up on a ton of patterns when they’re on sale regardless of if I’m going to use them any time soon or not.

I wanted to make sure my costume was pretty accurate to something that he wore, even if I was putting my own spin on it. After doing some research, I found a picture of his costume that I liked.

The elements from this costume that I liked was the brown/burgundy coat, the plaid vest, and the tweed trousers, so I had to figure out how to incorporate that into my design. I don’t feel like a very creative person sometimes, but I’m pretty good at following other people’s designs and instructions. That said, I pored over my collection of steampunk patterns to look for something that would mesh with the idea I had in my head.

Originally, I wanted to do my entire costume in this pattern (Simplicity 2172), but my friend pointed out that with the full length skirt, I’d probably be burning up. Fair enough, I was feeling kind of sweaty in my Shindig dress last year, and the Queen of Hearts gown is going to be warm enough. I ended up pulling together elements from a handful of patterns instead.

In the end, I melded two coats together (Simplicity 2172 and McCall’s 7071), decided on a bustier (Simplicity 2172) and skirt from two different patterns (Simplicity 1299).

I found a pretty argyle that was similar in color to the Fourth Doctor’s vest that I would use for the bustier. The bustier has 10 panels, and I nailed that pattern matching like a boss. Helps that I had practiced it with a wool plaid dress I made earlier (post forthcoming), and felt pretty confident.

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The rest of the bustier wasn’t too bad. I think the hardest part about it was dealing with the fact that it wanted to curl up because of the boning, making it hard to work with. I remedied that by pinning it to the dressform, and after a day or so, I could add the lining, and then after a few more days, I was able to insert the zipper in the back. When I wasn’t working on it, I left it on the dressform, and by the time I was done with the entire costume, it didn’t want to curl up.

I was so impressed with myself after I got the bustier all done. Even though I had bought them, I decided to forego the buttons on the front of the bustier because the pattern matching looked so awesome, and I didn’t want to distract from that.

I worked on the skirt next. Figured that those two would be the easiest to bang out and get my sewing momentum going. The fabric I ended up getting for the skirt was a really large weave boucle. This was my first time sewing with boucle, so I’m glad I heeded my friend’s advice about serging up the edges before working with it, or else my pattern pieces would have fallen apart as I worked on it. The pattern of the fabric wasn’t really the same as the grey tweed trousers he has in the picture, and the brown lace I picked up for the bottom part of the skirt didn’t really match the rust threads in the boucle, but I said, “Meh”. The Doctor’s outfits kind of clash anyway, so I went with it.

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The skirt was really super simple, unlike most skirts I’ve sewn in the past. I’m assuming this is because it’s actually from a costume pattern, and they wanted to keep the garment easy to construct. Fair enough. There’s no zipper, just some elastic around the side and back of the waistband. Most of the work done on this skirt is with adding the trim and the lace, which you actually do need a fair amount of trim and lace. The lace part of the skirt I chose was a blend of beige and brown, and I got some scalloped-edge brown lace with rhinestones for the bottom edge of that. Then, on the seam where the lace and the boucle were sewn, there’s some burgundy trim, and some white trim just above that on the top raw edge of the lace. To be honest, I kind of didn’t read ahead to figure out what all the trim would be used for, and just bought whatever I thought would go well with the other fabrics in the skirt. I kind of lucked out.

With the skirt done, it was finally on to the hardest part about this costume, which was the jacket. Originally, I was going to use one single pattern for this whole costume, but since I was warned I was going to boil (and I’ll boil enough in my Queen of Hearts costume as it is), I needed to chose a different jacket that wasn’t near-floor-length like I originally chose.

But I really REALLY loved the neckline and the sleeves on this coat. With the organza ruffles, and the epaulet-like detail on the shoulder, I just loved it. However, another jacket pattern I had featured a really cute pleated peplum that I adored. So, I decided to meld the two together. The weekend I worked on this was spent really just figuring out a new pattern that would use both of the features from the two patterns that I wanted to use. I came up with a decent enough pattern, and I was not gutsy enough to do it without a muslin. I think I had to make a minor tweak to the end result, so I’m glad I did a test pattern first.

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The fabric I chose for the jacket was a microsuede, which I think was probably supposed to be upholstery fabric, but it worked for what I needed. It’s not too heavy, but still has that soft suede texture, and it was just about the right color. For the inside lining, I went with this ridiculously 70’s style paisley lining. Like I said earlier about the clashing fabric, this really seemed appropriate for the Doctor’s jacket, and I rarely pick “fun” lining fabrics for myself (Although, I probably should more often. It really gives the garment more character, and it’s kind of like a secret hidden within the garment).

Constructing the jacket was fairly easy, although I changed a couple things. The patterns recommend sewing the sleeve and sleeve lining together, and then sewing the whole sleeve to the body of the jacket. I didn’t like this, because it would leave a raw edge on the inside of the armscythe of the sleeve, which is not very clean, in my opinion. Since I know how to properly construct a jacket, I sewed the sleeve lining to the rest of the lining, and “bagged” the jacket buy sewing the neckline edge of the jacket to the lining, right sides together. Then I turned everything right side out, and stuffed the sleeve lining down the sleeves, and slip-stitched the edge of the sleeve lining to the edge of the sleeve (after attaching the organza ruffle). The peplum went on after, and then I slip-stitched the rest of the lining over the seam of the peplum to the rest of the jacket. By the end of that, my hands were hurting from slip-stitching through microsuede.

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Lastly, but not least, I finally found a hat that would work for my costume. It’s a bit large, but it was better quality than some of the costume hats I’ve found online.

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I still have a couple more items I want to make for my costumes (namely, jewelry and purses), but if I don’t get those done, I’m okay with it. I got everything done for Emerald City Comic Con that I wanted to get done, and that’s a success in my book :)

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