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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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Silk Knit

Silk Knit Sweater

When people think of knits, they think of wool sweater, or cotton knit athletic wear.  But much like any fiber can be woven, any fiber can be knit, including silk.  Silk knits range from very fine, single filament knits, to four or more ply strands available for home knitting.  Well, technically I guess you COULD knit at home with filament thread.  But even a rank novice knitter like myself knows that it would take a devilish amount of thread to knit a sweater from filament.

The Met lists this as a 17th century Silk Knit Sweater

Silk knit fabric is usually listed as Silk Jersey, so if you want to buy a silk knit, jersey is the best Google search term.  For Silk Yarn for knitting at home, many yarn shops will have this in stock.  Again, rank novice knitter here, but make sure the yard you purchase will work for the pattern you intend to knit.

As for sewing with silk knits…it can be devilishly hard.  Silk is already a very slippery fiber in general.  Knits are ALSO very slippery by nature.  But, this fabric is particularly luscious, clinging to curves, gathers beautifully, and the drape is pure sophistication.  On the flip side, knits in general are prone to shrinking.  A lot.  So either buy extra and make sure you pre-shrink before cutting, or determine ahead to dry-clean only the finished product.

Now, as for styles, like any knit, Silk Jersey is excellent for clinging styles and close fitting garments.  Also like any knit, Silk Jersey is not good for structured garments.

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Cosplay

Cosplay

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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Mongolian Clothing

Mognolian Clothing

In joining the SCA, the boyfriend and I were trying to determine persona.  This is a fairly common ritual for those who think they may be around for the long haul, and most people have a general idea of where they want to go with their character creation.  Vikings are common, as are 14th and 15 century knights, Elizabethan nobles, even Ottoman and Arabian persona are fairly well represented.  Less represented, at least in the West Kingdom, are Mongolians.  And the boyfriend, wanting to not follow the crowd, decided he wanted to be Mongolian.  And the more I learned about the Great Kahn (Genghis), the more on board I became with the idea.  To learn why I have nothing but mad respect for the “Barbarian Hoards” led by Genghis Kahn, I highly recommend Genghis Kahn and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford.

But this blog, this site in general, is more interested in textiles.  And in this case, what DID the Mongolians wear?  When the average Mongolian rolled out of bed in the morning, how did he or she dress?  So I set out to find out.  And let me tell you, this was not easy.  Mongolia, while not specifically insular, is not as mainstream as say, Samurai, The Black Prince, or even Sulieman.  But, in researching Mongolian Fashion, I did find some VERY interesting pop culture references.

Traditional Mongolian Headdress
Traditional Mongolian Headdress
Queen Amidala
Queen Amidala…from Star Wars Episode I

So Mongolia, while not traditionally mainstream, clearly has some influence on Hollywood beyond Netflix.

But that still leaves the question of Mongolian Clothing.  Generally speaking, men and women wore much the same thing.  There were differences in Armor and decor, but the style and cut of Mongolian clothing is uniquely suited to the harsh life on the Mongolian plateaus, which makes unisex style garments eminently practical.

So for starters, both wore pants.  Both men and women were accomplished equestrians, and side saddle was literally unheard of in Genghis Kahn’s Mongolia.  And while women could ride in carts, generally, transport by cart was for the sick and elderly.  Everyone else rode or walked.  And since Mongolian winters are brutally cold, with temperatures routinely reaching to -4 to -45 Fahrenheit (-20 to -45 Celsius), pants were a necessity to keep from freezing your lower extremities.

Mongolian warriors would wear a silk undershirt because it was believed to assist in removing arrows that might successfully penetrate armor.  Women would not have necessarily needed such an undershirt, in that there is no evidence they actually went to war with the men.  Not to say they didn’t, but there is no evidence to that effect.  Also not to say they didn’t wear undershirts.  Mongolia, as shown above, is COLD.  Layers would be the order of the say, even in Summer.  So while no extant garments have been found, it is not unreasonable to assume undershirts were worn.

The Deel is the garment worn by both men and women for which Mongolia is known.  Originally made of hemp, as Mongolian culture progressed it came to be made of wool, cotton, and eventually silk.  Of course the reason for this is that Genghis Kahn basically hi-jacked the Silk Road and all tithes and taxes thereof, usually in the form of silk, spices, and livestock, made it’s way back to the heart of the Mongolian Empire, resulting in vast wealth for the Mongolians.  And Silk became a staple of their wardrobe, useful not just in deflecting arrows, but for high fashion in Mongolia.  If the Deel was insufficient for warmth, more layers in the form of vests or additional coats might be added.  But generally speaking, the Deel, carefully woven and lined, provided all the protection Mongolians needed from the rapidly changing climate in Mongolia.

Over the Deel is a long sash, wrapped several times around the waist.  The sash wrapped allows for a pocket to form in the Deel, in which anything from small items to small livestock can be kept, depending on the needs of the moment.

Boots are stiff, heavy leather, turned up at the toe.  Several explanations have been given for the design.  My favorite ties back to the Shamanic tradition of Mongolia.  Tradition says that if the toe is not turned up, it might gouge mother earth, so that the turned up toe is respectful to her, to avoid injury.

And finally, the hats.  Discover Mongolia says there are 400 styles of hat worn in Mongolia, and lists some of the reasons and styles found.  But my favorite example of Mongolian style bleeding over to the west was from Contemporary (to Genghis Kahn) fashion, when women in Europe adopted the Boqta in to the Hennin.

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On Inspiration

Inspiration

Yesterday, it was all about the muses.  Feed the muses and they will feed you inspiration.  But what do you do when inspiration is in short supply?  How do you get out of the rut if you’ve ignored the muses and they seem to have abandoned you?

Well, it ain’t glamorous.  Hollywood would throw up a montage and when it’s all over, inspiration is restored, the big idea has hit you, and you’re off to make millions…or art…or kick some guys ass…whatever you were wishing for when the montage began, suddenly it’s there.  But the point of the montage is to cut out the boring stuff.  It shows an abbreviated version of what’s required to make the millions, or make the art, or win the fight.  The abbreviated version shows WORK, set against a catchy tune meant to inspire.

But very few people catch that while Rocky is running on the beach with bricks in his hand, he is also WORKING.  He is working his cardio, his core, his arms, his grip strength…everything he needs to win his big fight, he is working.  And not just for the four minutes of the montage.  That routine would be over MONTHS of training before the big fight.

So as Steven Pressfield says….repeatedly…DO THE WORK!  There is nothing alluring or seductive about it. Do the work, the rewards will follow.  And the muses will see your effort and reward you with more attention.  Which has it’s own problems, but lack of inspiration won’t be one of them.

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Feed the Muses

feed the muses

I am a fly by the seat of your pants, roll with the punches sort of gal.  Living in the moment helps me to adapt on the fly when things don’t go according to plan.  Mostly, this works for me.  But having a plan and, more importantly, sticking with it, is ALSO a good skill set to have.

Among the many things I have learned are that those slutty muses WILL give away your ideas if you don’t act on them.  Now, don’t panic.  Just because you have an idea does not mean you MUST act on it RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  Rushing in is where you go awry.

Now, inspiration feeds inspiration, and once the ideas start coming, inspiration becomes the norm.  The more often you feed the muses by heeding their call, the more often they will reward you with ideas.  My original desire to create patterns was inspired by a very specific picture.  Then I saw another picture and thought “Oh, I want to make that too.”  Then another.  Now I have approximately 15 ideas for patterns floating around in my head.  And the muses keep feeding me more.

This is where having a plan becomes vitally important.  If I jumped up and started working on every single pattern as the idea occurred to me, nothing would ever get done.  I would start a pattern, something else would catch my eye, and I’d drop my current pattern project to work on the new one.  Live in the moment is great in specific situations (not everything will fit in the car?  What don’t we need for this weekend?)  But have a plan to progress forward with ideas.  Otherwise the ideas remain floating in the ether.  And eventually, those muses will lose patience, and give your idea to someone else.

Should that happen, don’t throw in the towel!  Too many people, on starting a project and discovering that someone else had the same idea, lose heart and quit.  Find YOUR angle.  Use YOUR voice.  How is your product different and/or better than what the other guy came up with?  Be the standout, continue feeding the muses, and eventually, your voice will be as clear as Melpomeni.

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Doupioni–friend or foe?

Doupioni

Doupioni.  Dupioni, Douppioni, Douppione, Doppione.  All the variations of spelling mean the same thing–Double.  Doupioni Silk threads are spun from silk cocoons that were spun too close together.  This filament is usually from cultivated silk due to overcrowding.  In the wild, silk worms have lots of room to spread out, so double cocoons rarely happen.  When the filaments are un-spun from the cocoons, there are thicker slubs where the cocoons crossed over.  That’s the technical portion of the filaments.  On to the technical portion of the fabric.

The slubs are structurally weaker than the other silk filaments.  For this reason, the warp threads are never doupioni–they can’t take the stress of being strung on a loom.  So the warp threads are pure silk filament.  The weft threads are of the doupioni threads.  And as stated, they are considerably weaker.  Which means this fabric, while really easy to work with, is prone to seam slippage, pilling, and abrasion.

And yet, probably because of how easily available it is, Doupioni remains the preferred silk of costumers and home couturiers.  It is structurally inferior in virtually every way.  It is texturally interesting, with the slubbiness adding visual contrast to the smoothness of silk.  Additionally, the texture makes it very easy to work with.  It dyes well and is frequently found as a shot silk.  All of this makes it very appealing.  Which is fantastic for cosplay and modern couture.  Not so much for historical costuming.

But, silk is silk, even structurally inferior silk that is readily available.  And if you have to choose between sweltering in a polyester Elizabethan or being stylish in silk, go for the silk.  Even the Doupioni.  And when you can afford it, go for the Damask.  Or the Taffeta.  Or even the Habotai.  Or use the Doupioni.  It is a great fabric, widely available, in a gorgeous variety of colors.

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Crepe de Chine

crepe de chine

We already discussed Crepe, but how is Crepe de Chine difference from Crepe?  Obviously there is a difference, words matter, and they each carry a unique name.  Surprisingly, Julie Parker was not as helpful as usual, listing the major difference between the two as Crepe de Chine is French for Crepe from China.  But good old Fairchild was supremely helpful (p. 157):

“A fine, lightweight, plain weave silk fabric woven with a silk warp and a crepe-twist silk filling alternating 2s-2z…more ends than picks per inch.”

Translation:  There are more warp threads, which hold the tension on the loom, than there are weft threads.  The warp threads are silk filament.  The weft threads alternate two rows of s-twist filament and two rows of z-twist filament.  This creates a very smooth smooth face, a firm hand, and a lustrous, slippery surface.  Crepe de Chine has a smoother surface than Crepe.

Like all silks, Crepe de Chine is easily dye-able and when a solid color is fully reversible; however, given that it has a considerably smoother surface than Crepe, it can also be printed on with a fair amount of ease.  In that case, watch for whichever side is brighter, that’s your primary.

As for when Crepe and Crepe de Chine made it’s appearance, the earliest references to date are 19th century France.  This is not to say these weaves did not exist prior to this point in history.  But so far, no references to them have been found, so use caution with historical sewing and crepe.  But as usual, if you are a cosplayer, go for broke.  Crepe de Chine is lovely, and elegant, lightweight, and sleek.

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Patterning

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.