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Ask me for Anything but Time

Ask me for anything but Time

Yesterday, I wrote about UFOs and picking your project.  Today, I write about time.  As in, it is fleeting, and madness is taking it’s toll.

Madness…it is upon me…

My next vending event is next weekend.  Fortunately, I have no costumes I need to make for this event.  Unfortunately, two weeks after that, I DO have costumes I need to make.  Which I don’t have time to make.  Because I committed to this blog.  One post a day from 3/16 until 4/21.  And in yesterday’s post, I mentioned the importance of practicing willpower.  But all things come at a cost.

Magic isn’t the only thing with a price

Time is a finite resource.  We all have the same twenty four hours.  But the time I spend writing this blog is time I am not spending sewing costuming.  There is only so much one can do in a day.  Generally need to sleep for 8 hours.  I work for 8 hours at my day job.  And I spend at least 1.5 hours eating.  Another hour at the gym…the gym is not my natural habitat, but I am trying to take better care of myself so that I am able to make the most of the other 23 hours in my day.  Spend one to two hours maintaining my various animals (three birds, three cats, two dogs), and cleaning my house.

Which leaves me 3 hours to work on my business.  Three hours to blog, to check inventory, to make signs, to plot videos, to plan outfits, and to sew…which I can’t do until I finish this quest of one blog a day.

Because by choosing to write one blog a day, I have to give something else up.  Giving up sleep and eating are impractical for health reasons.  For the same reason, I can’t give up going to the gym.  My health is the only thing allowing me to keep up with everything else.  Until Damask Raven is a self-sustaining business, I need my day job, so I have to give that my all during the 8 hours I’ve committed to it.  So three hours to blog, sew, and run a business in general.

But wait!  What about weekends?  No, I do not work the day job on the weekends.  Usually.  Except when I do work the weekends so that I can take a long weekend to vend for Damask Raven.  While this is not a common occurrence, and I have had several weekends between March 16 and now, I usually take several hours on the weekend to NOT work.  On anything.  Because hitting the go button without pause leads to high stress burnout.  And collapse.  Which is what happened last October through December.  Three months to re-collect myself and get back on track.  So yes, downtime is a requirement.

So, rather than beat myself up over NOT getting costuming done for Miss Fisher Con, I dug in to my existing costuming closet, found some appropriate alternatives to wear, and have moved on.  Once I get through the next week of blogging, I can start prepping my costumes for Costume College.  And I won’t be blogging every day, and making towels for sale, and prepping dances for performance pieces.  And I will be motivated and focused on completing the very best costuming I can for Costume College.  Having chosen my outfits, I am excited to start working on them.  Only my willpower keeps me chugging along on this pre-existing project.

But April 24th, the new madness begins.


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UFOs in a Shame Spiral

UFOs cause shame...

A while back, my friend Ember Sky, who is a cosplayer, was torn between two projects.  She had one thing she needed to finish to have Costume A completed.  But she really wanted to start work on Costume B.  I told her to start Costume B.  My logic being, if she forced herself to do Costume A, her heart wouldn’t be in it.  Which meant she’d be dragging her feet and not really concentrating.  This would invariably lead to mistakes.  Which meant MORE time before she could work on Costume B, as she would then need to correct the mistakes before calling Costume A completed.

This was both simultaneously very good AND very bad advice.  It was very good advice for the reasons I listed.  If Ember start’s Costume B, the time will fly by and she will be productive because she will be working on what she is called to work on in that moment.  It was very bad advice because by caving to the desire to work on what she wants to, two things happen.  First, she was not practicing willpower, which is always a good trait to have.  Second, she was contributing to her UnFinished Objects (UFOs) pile.  Now, given that the one item she needed to complete for Costume A was in fact needed for a fast approaching convention, I knew she would complete the item.

And then there is me.  If I put down an object, it may be decades before I pick it up again to finish it.  This is not a joke. A literal decade may pass before I complete the item.  I have an entire Box of Shame of UFOs that I sort of look at and realize I should just re-cut them in to quilting squares.  Because there is no chance anything in that box would ever fit me.  I have a jacket that I cut out and assembled 9 years ago, all it needs is buttons and button holes.  I found it while cleaning out a closet.  It now sits in my cutting table, a constant reminder of my shame.  It even has a matching skirt that has never been worn…because of buttons.

UFOs cause shame
Shame shame shame…

I have only gotten slightly better over the years. I have gotten to the point where I purchase or cut off bits of fabric, but don’t actually cut them out.  This creates a Schroedinger’s effect…until it is cut, it is both UFO and not UFO.  Which is how I find myself in possession of a huge, outdoor bin of fabric.  I can look at 95% of it and know exactly what I was going to make of it.  I am just not excited for that project.  So I have storage bin of UFOs/non-UFOs projects.  And the shame continues….

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I think I mention cosplay as an option for silk in every product description.  And I’ll admit to a bit of bias there.  I mean…I SELL silk.  Of course I think it’s perfect for cosplay.  But seriously, lycra gets all the love in the Cos-community, probably because of the eye popping, hip hugging, curve loving choices available to cosplay as.  And Lycra is outstanding for curve hugging.  But it doesn’t breathe well, and after hours on a convention floor, you sweat.  And even the strongest deodorant will leave you with body stank after being trapped in non-breathable lycra all day.

Know what does breathe well?  Silk (also linen, cotton, rayon, and hemp),,, but Silk breathes really well.  Know what else hugs curves?  Bias cut.  The couture house most credited with bringing the elegance of bias cut to runways was Madame Madeleine Vionnet.  Now, bias cut is not always the most practical or even the best cut for a garment.  But not every, single, cosplay, calls for skin tight couture.

And cosplay is for everyone.  If you read the linked wiki-site for cosplay, it creates an interesting link to masquerade balls and Carnival.  Additionally, I was talking about the SCA with someone, who said it was like cosplay only more frequent.  Which made me laugh because it’s true.

So seriously, whatever your costuming pleasure–From Disney Princess, to Marvel Hero, DC Villain to Blizzard Character, Civil War to Carnival–Whatever you love, you can make.  Sometimes in Silk, sometimes in lycra, sometimes in polyester, and sometimes in worbla.  But whatever you make, out of whatever medium, own it!  Wear it with pride, even if it’s your first attempt.  You MADE that!  And that is AWESOME!


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Costume College

Costume College

This is an annual event held in Southern California at the end of July.  I’ve been twice, once just to go, then last year I taught.  And the class was so wonderful and open, I decided to teach again.  So, here is what I am teaching at Costume College 2017.  All three classes are on Sunday, July 30.

9am to 10am What’s in a Weave.  This class is designed to talk about different weaving techniques, specifically silk weaves; however many techniques are universal (plain weave, satin weave, twill). And this class will teach you which weave is which.

11:30am to 1pm From Street to Stage: A History of Oriental Dance Costuming in Egypt.  Called by many the oldest dance, Raqs Sharqi has a long performance history. But what did they wear? While the standard costume is well known today, they didn’t always wear Bedlah when performing. Learn the differences between street wear and stage wear used in this lovely art form.

4pm to 5pm Care and Feeding of Silk.  This is the class I taught last year and in it, I answer all your questions about working with silk.  How delicate is silk? Can it be washed? Can you iron silk, and if so, how? Do you use starch? Bring your questions to Care and Feeding of Silk and I will answer them (if you can’t make it to Costume College, you can always contact me and I am happy to help by email).

So that’s it for what I am teaching.  However, on the flip side of teaching is studying.  And class schedules are set to mail out this week!  And then there are the parties!  Each night holds a different event.  So traditionally, Thursday night is the pool party.  This years theme is Happiest Place on Earth. Now, since the overarching theme is the ‘6o’s, this one is specifically meant for vintage Disney.  But wait!  There’s more!  You don’t have to dress on theme.  And this year, I’m going half theme.  I am going Disney…just not vintage.

Friday morning is Freshman Orientation, for those new to Costume College.  Now, I didn’t go to Freshman Orientation, even when I WAS in college, so I have yet to attend this event.  But it looks to be full of excellent information.

Friday night, is the ice cream social.  The theme this year is Casino Royale, and all spies are welcome.  I am again, interestingly enough, going with a Disney themed character.  Not from the Spy angle, more from the Casino angle.  Hey, I worked twelve years in a casino…I know a little bit about what customer service is like in that dark den of iniquity.

Saturday before entering the Gala party, you get to walk the red carpet in your finest dress.  This years Gala is Dinner at Tiffany’s, a nod to the fabulous Audrey Hepburn’s Little Black Dress.  And here is the crux of my problem. Not quite four months out, and I have no idea what Cinderella (me) is wearing to the ball.  I have ideas…but nothing set in stone.  I know sort of what I’d like to do, but not sure I have time to do it, with my other vending events between now and then.  And the day job.  So I’m working on it.  It may end up being vintage and vaguely couture.  Or it could be fully designed, draped and drafted to me.  It all depends on how well outside forces work with my schedule to make it all happen.  So fingers crossed, I get it all done.

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Patterning...The Tome

The easy part of pattern making is knowing that I can’t draw a straight line.  Seriously.  Even with a ruler, my lines tend to veer off page.  Which means patterning for me is finding a good program that won’t break the bank.  Not actually as easy as one might think.  There are A LOT of good programs out there.  All offer excellent packages, with excellent options.  Most are over $1,000.  Which breaks the bank for me.

Burda University did offer an excellent class on pattern drafting using Adobe Illustrator.  Which was my introduction to Adobe Illustrator.  And it’s a lesson I’m sure I will revisit as I work my way through patterning and decide to offer digital downloads.  But first I want to know how to make and print actual patterns.  And for that, I need books.

Fortunately, as a long established bibliophile, I actually had a ready collection of books on Patterning in my collection (I also have books on beekeeping, horseback riding, trance dancing, and Mongolian history…I am eclectic in my tastes…).  So for my deep dive in to the world of pattern making, I will be pulling on Pattern Making for Fashion Design, Make Your Own Dress Patterns, The Pattern Making Primer, and Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear.  As an added bonus, I have actually read three of the four before deciding to start this venture.  Pattern Making for Fashion Design is an epic, text book, looking tome which reminded me freakishly of math class, so that one is new knowledge.

And since I REALLY want to have at least one pattern available by the time I hit Hot Raqs, I have some motivation to hit the books…college style.  And I just have to remember that while practice makes perfect, perfect is the enemy of the good.  My first pattern doesn’t have to be the height of couture, it just has to be good enough for people to follow directions and for all the pieces to fit together without extra inches.

Perfect is the enemy of the good, but practice makes perfect.  I’ll get there.  With practice.

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Working with Silk Fabric

Working with Silk Fabric

One of the things that keeps people from buying and working with silk fabric is fear.  Fear that it’s delicate and they don’t want to damage it, fear that they’ll mess it up.  So here is a crash course primer on how to work with this lustrous fabric.

First off, pre-wash the fabric using your preferred method.  The Caveat is that Silk Velvet and Watered Silk should always be dry cleaned.  Otherwise, either hand wash or machine wash the fabric in preparation of working with it.

Once you have washed and dried the fabric, iron it.  Just like with cotton, linen, or synthetic blends, you don’t want to cut wrinkles in to your silk.  Use a pressing cloth to protect your fabric from scorching.  If you have a very good iron, you might be able to get away without a pressing cloth, but if you are at all uncertain, far better and scorching that happens occurs on the pressing cloth, NOT your fashion fabric.  While you can remove many stains from silk, scorching is basically fire damage.  There’s no coming back from that.

If you don’t want to buy a cotton press cloth, you can make one from a scrap of silk organza.  Simply cut the scrap approximately one yard by one half yard, surge the cut ends to prevent fraying, and you’re good to go.  Make sure it’s SILK organza.  Polyesters can melt under high heat, and again, if it melts in to your silk, there’s no coming back from that damage.

After you have ironed the fabric, lay it out like you would any other fabric for patterning.  Make sure the entire piece is fully supported on your cutting surface.  Silk is SLIPPERY!  That zero friction is one of the difficulties of working with it.  If the full weight of the fabric isn’t supported, then when you start cutting out the pieces, the fabric can slip right off the cut surface, which will pull the fabric and pinned pattern pieces out of alignment, pretty much wrecking the project.  You can recover from this, but why cause yourself unnecessary agony?

For pinning and cutting–If you are comfortable with pattern weights, then by all means use them.  If you prefer pins, then I use Dritz Ultra Fine Pins.  Be cautious about jamming the pins into the cut surface underneath.  Because they are ultra fine, the point can dull very quickly.  As long as the pin shaft has not bent, you can always sharpen them using the emery pad on an old fashioned Tomato Pin Cushion.

When you’re satisfied with your pinning, it is time to cut.  Now, I have not used rotary cutters on silk, but that is mostly due to my inability to use rotary cutters without slicing my hands to ribbons.  I use Gingher Dress Shears with a micro-serrated edge.  The micro-serrated edge will hold any slippery or slinky fabric in place for a clean cut.  If you use a standard knife edge set of scissors, it becomes an exercise in frustration as the silk slides off the blade while cutting.

Once you’ve cut out, transfer any markings using either Tailor’s Tacks or Pin Marking, or a smooth tracing wheel and wax paper.  I do not recommend a serrated tracing wheel for any fabric due to the serration pokes tiny holes in whatever fabric you’re marking, which MIGHT close back up, but again, why risk the mayhem when alternatives are readily available?

Sew as usual, but I do recommend using silk thread when sewing silk fabric.  I also recommend shortening your stitch length to 2mm, or approximately 13 stitches per inch.  The filaments on silk threads are considerably finer than cotton, linen, or rayon threads, making the thread virtually invisible against the fabric.  And silk threads will run through your machine the same way cotton, linen, and rayon threads do.  Use the finest size needles for your machine and for hand sewing.

Originally, this post was published in June, 2016.  I am adding this paragraph here to reflect new knowledge.  When I originally published this post, I did not know what I now do about Seam Slippage.  Given this new to me knowledge, I wanted to include a paragraph about finishing your seams, as a preventative to seam slippage.  My first recommendation is to flat fell your seams, but a good alternative is french seams.  Both work well in giving a clean finish to your seam, and in preventing seam slippage.

And that’s it.  Follow these guidelines to make sewing with silk less stressful.  For additional tricks and tips, read this post from  I think the only thing we disagree on is thread type.  Otherwise, everything there is what I also recommend.  Happy sewing!

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Costumes, Costumes, EVERYWHERE!

Working with Silk Fabric

Oh lord!  Costume College is just around the corner.  Which means I am jumping both feet in to the sewing storm in preparation.  First up, have to finish the vest for my Steampunk outfit.  And I should have had this outfit done for the Steampunk Convention in March, but time got away from me there, leaving me with a half finished project.  Luckily, the theme of the High Tea at costume college is…STEAMPUNK!  Which means I just need to finish this vest…

Next, I have to figure out how to paint lekku…and me.  I have the pants for my Imperial Assassin, sort of.  Need to shorten the legs a bit, turn them more in to knee pants.  And I have to make the top and half cloak.  And thanks to American Duchess, I also have the shoes!

Also have to make dresses for day wear for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then decide which will be the outfit for the Friday night social.  I may or may not be in 18th Century that night.  Sort of depends on how the rest of the sewing escapades go.  Whatever I wear, it will be Silk!  It’s exhausting just looking at the list, and one would think that two months is plenty of time.  One would think.

But one is also trying to run a company, start another company, further one’s studies, LEARN ALL THE THINGS!  And help friends, walk ones dogs, spend time with the boyfriend, work a day job, clean the yard…. You guys know how life gets in the way of what you’d rather be doing.  Which is why blog posts with updates will be so very important!  If I have to report here, I might actually stay on track and get all the things done that need to be done.  It’s a thought, at least.

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One of those weeks.  Last week’s blog was – well, a bit scattered.  This is what happens when one blogs after a very long weekend of vending.  Lesson being to pre-write the blog so that it at least makes sense once posted.  And then the blogs I thought I was going to write this week were topics already written about by others.  And so here I am, left with nothing to blog about.

Instead, I spent a productive week preparing the sewing area for my next big costuming push: Golden Beltane.  Then I spent Sunday making a cloak for said Beltane.  Then I started playing Star Wars online and got extremely distracted with planning my Twi’lek cosplay.  All very worthy endeavors, but are they blog worthy?

The cosplay is, yes.  After all, it is sewing related.  I think everyone knows how to make a basic circle cloak, and there is nothing special about the one I made for my boyfriend.  But an all silk Twi’lek Sith Lord cosplay?  There’s something to ponder.  Most people think Sith Lord or Jedi Knight, and they immediately go for wools and linens.  Which of course makes sense.  If you refer back to the original costuming from the movies, and these are the fibers used to create the costumes worn by Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul.

On the flip side, people will make their cosplays using vinyl or leather or even pleather, because this is what they see in their minds eye when creating their costumes.  All of which makes perfect sense.  You have a look you create and see yourself in, and when you feel good about what you’ve created, you look good wearing it.

But as someone who has lived and breathed silk for the last year and eight months, I see silk.  I see flowing robes, and silky sirwal.  I see sassy boots (not silk) and lekku adorned in silk.  And as someone who is rather enjoying the expanded universe created by Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWOTR), I see no reason I can’t create what my minds eye sees in silk.  And we know silk certainly was used in costume creations in the Star Wars films, at least as far as Princess Leia and Queen Amidala were concerned.  So why not for a Sith Lord?  Wouldn’t the bad guys adorn themselves in the uncommon?  Set themselves apart from the so called good guys?  That is my intention.

So this is my statement of intent for the future.  For now, I must complete my costuming for Golden Beltane, where I will be vending.  But as soon as that is over, I learn body painting.  I learn to attach my lekku firmly to my head, and I create my flowing robes.  That is a journey I will gladly share as I progress upon it.

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Welcome to the Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum

That about sums it up.  I run my own company, Damask Raven obviously, which sells silk fabric. When one sells fabulous costuming supplies, one tends to do a lot of sewing.  Why wouldn’t you?  You have a ready supply of what you need to create fabulous-ness, and in doing so you also create instant advertising for your company.

Look what we have!  You too can purchase this and make your very own…. Whatever.

So the next logical step, when faced with at least a year of hard sewing, was to start blogging about it.  But I’m a little leery of blogging about sewing and sewing projects on Damask Raven, because that is not what Damask Raven is about.  Damask Raven is about the silk.  History of silk, how it came to the west, how it came to be, legends, silk road, pitfalls and pleasures of working with silk.  I don’t want to just tack on another sewing blog when there are already hundreds of excellent sewing blogs.

Additionally, since the primary focus of Damask Raven is historical silks, silks that could be used in period costuming, I am worried if I blog about sewing here, I will get bogged down in historical projects only.  And that narrows my customer base.  Silk isn’t just for the historical costumer!  It can also be for Cosplay.  So not just the historical stuff, but the Con-stuff, the Anime and the Super Heroes stuff, the stuff that would make me step outside my comfort zone.  And not just sewing!  I want to blog about everything it takes to become a cosplayer, in whatever genre lights your candle.  Love the middle ages?  I can SCA with the best of them.  The Bard is your Bitch?  I’ve done my time in the Ren Faire Trenches.  Twi’lek…well, that will take some work.  But I’m willing to learn!

So I cataloged my strengths and weaknesses and figured out what I need to do to become at least moderately accomplished as a cosplayer.  While I totally understand and admire the raw courage it takes to put on a costume and go out in public, I also believe anything worth doing is worth doing right.  And if you’re going to do something… Balls to the wall baby.

So, strengths for cosplay.

  1. I can sew.  I mean, expert level, couture quality sewing…when I take my time.  If it’s rushed, I am not ashamed to use pinking shears to finish my raw edges.  But my hand sewing creates invisible seams, nearly machine perfect stitching.
  2. Completely shameless.  I haven’t gone out dressed like Wonder Woman only because I lack the proper costume.  I am not shy and have no qualms about public displays.


  1. Need to lose weight.  I love the body positivity movement, but seriously, for my health, I need to lose about 40 pounds.
  2. Makeup.  I have it.  I wear it daily.  It’s basically functional.  I see YouTube videos of makeup artists turning themselves in to dopplegangers of Angelina Jolie and then Keith Richards and am pretty convinced that these people are the source of legends about shape shifters and glamour spells and that in Snow White, when the evil queen transformed herself…It wasn’t a spell, it was her MAC makeup kit.  Seriously.  I am NOT one of those people.  I need to be.
  3. Hair.
  4. WIGS!  I will probably get around my complete inability to control my hair with copious amounts of wigs.  Not sure where I’m going to put them, but I’ll burn that bridge when I cross it.
  5. Leather.  I can sew any medium that is fabric, including vinyl and latex.  Leather is not fabric.  I either need to get real friendly with a leather smith, or learn to sew leather.
  6. Body paint.  Not like makeup, but like air brushed body paint, so I can be Twi’lek…especially since I’m getting Lekku from Firelight Cosplay for Christmas.

Lot of weaknesses to work on.  Little bit at a time, and by the time Wizard Con in Sacramento rolls around in June, I should be at least a little ready.  Here’s to the new year, and a year of new cosplay!