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Baby Lock

Baby Lock Destiny 2

While prepping the last video shoots for the Baby Lock Destiny 2, I found something specific in the manual, that made me slap my head.

Sewing Settings.  The manual tried to tell me...
See it? At the top. Sewing Settings…

Basically, for the settings screens, screens 1, 2, and 3 are specifically sewing settings.  Yep. I could have made one video showcasing all three of those screens.  Covered more territory, much quicker.  So screen 1 covers presser foot height, pressure, and stitch width.  Screen 2 covers needle position, type of stitch, and multi-function foot controller.  Screen three covers more presser foot functions, automatic functions, and reinforcement priority for stitching.

So then screens 4, 5, and 6 are general settings.

It was so obvious
See…General Settings

Screen 4 is for needle position when machine has stopped, machine volume, brightness of display, and light over the needle/sewing area, and bobbin/thread sensor options.  Screen 5 is display.  Machine shut off, screen savers, spool stand, calibration.  Screen 6 is purely functional.  How many stitches you’ve sewn, internal machine number for your machine and embroidery unit, and which program version is currently on your machine.  That’s it.  See…4, 5, 6 are general machine settings.

And finally, screens 7, 8, and 9 are Embroidery Settings.

Baby Lock Destiny 2--Embroidery Settings
Took me long enough to figure this out…

The embroidery settings I had to defer pretty much to later.  I have used the machine for embroidery, but every single option said “See page…” for instructions.  Screen 7 you select embroidery frames, thread color display, speed during embroidery, tension, and foot height.  Screen 8 is for display functions during embroidery.  Inches vs. mm.  Background color, stitch width, brightness.  Screen 9 utilizes the machine camera function, which I am stupid excited to learn about.  I may even try in-hooping a design mid-stitch just to see if I can get it back using the camera function.  Maybe.  I might not be that brave.

And those, in a nutshell, are the settings screens for the Baby Lock Destiny 2 machine.  Which sews like a dream but is still intimidating.  I’m scared to yell at it.  You know, when something doesn’t go as planned.  Ok, maybe that’s just something I do.

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5,000 Years

5000 Years

Time is so accelerated today.  Technology advances practically at the speed of light.  Micro-chips double in capacity year over year.  The camera on your phone is as good as if not better than the camera’s you buy as separate items.  With the information of the world literally at your fingertips, it’s hard to put in perspective just how advanced silk weaving was for it’s day.  Silk has been found in Henan province dating to 8500 years ago.  And we know clothing for the elite in China has been made of silk for at least 5000 years.

Several weeks ago, I mentioned the impulse buy of 5000 Years of Chinese Costumes.  Which book came in while I was at Hot Raqs.  Then I had to prep to vend at Miss Fisher Con.  So I didn’t really get to sit down and look at until last night.  Now, I am a fairly quick reader, but I have not yet had a chance to actually read the book.  However, I quick glance through shows a wealth of pictures.  Photographs of extant garments.  Line drawings of what garments are believed to look like, based on bronze statues found in tombs or left as relics or family artifacts.

And it is fascinating!  The line drawings almost always have a picture of the statue it was based off of.  And from that one can see the Chinese were exceptionally skilled weavers.  We may have been introduced to Damask by way of Syria, but there is little doubt the Chinese did it first.  They were brocading silks, as early as the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581-618 CE).  Satin is known as such because this weaving technique originated in Quanzhou, and was introduced to the West by way of the Silk Road, and Arab traders who called Quanzhou by the Arabic word, Zayton.

But the most exciting picture I found was on page 120, where there was a photograph of an extant garment.  Labeled as being from Huang Shen’s tomb of Southern Song in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, the garment is an Over-dress made from crepe fabric.  Now, in my post on Crepe de Chine, I had said the earliest reference I was able to find to Crepe de Chine was from the 19th century in France.

I should have waited to write the Crepe de Chine post.  The Song Dynasty was from 960 to 1279 CE.  So my guess was off by an alarming 600 years.  Which is good news for anyone who likes Song Dynasty costuming.  Not so good news for the egg on my face…

I have not yet had time to fully read this book, at this point I am giving it enthusiastic endorsement.  5000 Years of Chinese Costume is an excellent reference and I am excited to see what else I can learn from this beautiful book.

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In Search of Duchess Satin

I felt the need to write about Duchess Satin, alternatively known as Duchesse Satin, or just Duchesse.  I felt this calling for several reasons.  First, if one Googles Duchess Satin, you will be led to several websites offering Duchess Satin for $4.98/yard. Or for $6.95/yard.  These are polyester satins.  Nothing wrong with polyester, but it shows the corruption of the language.  Duchess, in English, is high nobility, usually of royal blood.  How often do you think Royals wear poly satin?

Even more alarming, was when Vogue Fabrics provided that “Duchess Satin is a soft, full bodied, polyester satin used in evening wear and special occasion garments.”  Or NY Fashion Center provided a silk/nylon blend for $111.99.  One Hundred Eleven Dollars!  It’s not even 100% silk!  And yet I know that 100% silk duchess satin exists because it was among the samples sent to me from my manufacturers.  Burn tests confirm, 100%silk.  In my searches, I saw one well known website (not cited here for discretion) that said duchess satin was silk satin, with no further disclaimer.

While it is certainly true that duchess satin can and is silk satin, that definition falls woefully short. We sell silk satin, and while it is certainly luxurious, it does not have the heavy hand of true duchess satin.  So, how do the two differ?  Back to Fairchild, “A highly lustrous, smooth silk or rayon fabric with a large number of ends per inch, made with an 8- to 12-end warp satin weave (p. 199).”  As we learned in my post on Crepe de Chine, a large number of ends per inch means there are more threads on the warp than on the weft.  8- to 12-end warp satin is HIGHLY technical, but for a good breakdown of what that means, I refer you to this blog.

In layman terms, it simply means that this is a very thick satin weave, with a very lustrous face and a firmer hand than typical satin.  So yes, duchess satin is silk satin, but not all silk satin is duchess satin.  Duchess Satin is very suited for heavy beading in wedding gowns and other formal wear.  This is because of the density of the weave and the firm hand it imparts.

How to tell the difference between duchess satin and regular satin (both in silk):  It’s all in the hand. Duchess Satin simply FEELS thicker and more luxurious.

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After the event…

After the Event

After the event comes project planning.  After the tear down and the load out, you review what worked and what didn’t about the event so you know what to do better next time.  Not just next time for this particular event, but at your next vending event.  And project planning. Where do you go next with your business to keep moving you forward on your path to success?

For me, it is pattern design.  While it’s a long shot that I will have a working  pattern by the time I pack for Cairo Shimmy Quake, it’s not impossible.  I know what I want to make and I have the sewing skill.  And since my self imposed blog challenge is over, I have more time to devote to my next project–pattern making.

Which will be interspersed with costuming for costume college.  And prepping my classes for costume college.  Oh crap, I forgot about costume college!  Which leads us back to choices.  I MUST go to costume college.  I signed up to teach three classes, it’s an agreement I made, so this is a must do.  Costuming for costume college can be fudged slightly.  I don’t HAVE to go all out and create new gowns for each event.  Many do, and I have in the past, but it is not a requirement.

So with that knowledge, I will make patterns.  I will create my class content for Costume College.  And if I have to limit my new costumes, then I will do that too.  Choices move us forward in life.  If A than B, but not X.  It’s ok to give yourself a break to save your sanity.  Pick your battles and fight those battles well, and in the end, you will win at life.

That bit of pithy philosophy was brought to you by post-event exhaustion.  Talk at you all next week 🙂

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Cartridge Pleating

Cartridge Pleating

No, not *another*  how to on Cartridge Pleating.  There are literally dozen’s of how to’s for this particular technique.  What I wanted to know, was where does it come from?  Wikipedia has it popular during the 15th and 16th Centuries and making a resurgence in popularity during the 1840’s.  Which is all true, as far as that goes.  But not really helpful in explaining this:

Close up of what appears to be Cartridge Pleating…
…on a Yuan Dynasty Robe, Mongolia

Images are from the SCA China Facebook page, where an enquiring seamstress wanted to know if her eyes deceived her.  And all of the skilled seamstresses present agreed that that very much appears to be what we call Cartridge Pleating.  On a 13th or 14th century Mongolian Robe…no where near Renaissance Europe, you might note.

Now, my time machine is in the shop, so I am unable to ACTUALLY confirm with the original tailor that that is, yes, cartridge pleating.  And what every single one of those tutorials above lists is how cartridge pleats are made:  Run two or more rows of evenly spaced basting stitches parallel to each other, then pull them up to create the gather before hand stitching them to the waistband. Which sounds an awful lot like: “Two rows of tightly-sewn stitches hold these pleats in place, and then the bodice is connected to the upper stitched line.”  That description is from a book called Traditional Korean Costume, and is describing a men’s coat excavated from the tomb of Yi Hwang.

Now, for those who dislike following links, Yi Hwang was a Confucion scholar who lived from 1501-1570.  This is certainly falls within the 16th century zone when cartridge pleats were known to exist.  But there is no smoking gun connecting European tailoring techniques to Asian tailoring techniques.  Silk and other textiles were widely traded on the silk road.  But it was the uncut goods that were traded, not finished garments, like we have today.  If we can believe Korea had cartridge pleating the in 16th century, is it impossible to believe Mongolia had it in the 13th century?

Even if you don’t believe the Mongolian hordes are capable of great refinement, they were certainly capable of raiding it from other cultures which they defeated and then folded in to the Mongolian Empire.  Which became the Yuan Dynasty upon Khublai Kahn’s inheritance of the title of Great Kahn.  Yet the hubris of mankind has all of us who do European costuming believing that cartridge pleating was the sole provenance of Europe.  I’ve even heard that the name Cartridge Pleating is from pleating the fabric over a bullet casing or cartridge.  However, there is a SERIOUS flaw in that logic.  Cartridge pleating existed in the 16th century.  Yet the first actual Cartridge for firearms wasn’t invented until 1845.  Paper cartridges existed for muskets as early as the 14th century, but would have been VERY expensive and not likely used in tailor’s shops.

But wait!  How can you know paper cartridges wouldn’t have been used in tailors shops?  Because paper cartridges were filled with gun powder.  And why would you want something easily combustible, a hot military item, closely controlled by the government, in a shop filled with flammable cloth?  One slight accident and you lose EVERYTHING.  Who would risk that?  A more likely explanation is that gauging was in use for many centuries.  When firearms became the hot new thing for up and coming nobility to own, enterprising tailors everywhere began calling the technique cartridge pleating to cash in on the military fervor of the day.

Again, my time machine is broken, so this is all speculation.  But it’s my belief that any method of gathering large quantities of material was widely available to tailors the globe over. Much like many cultures simultaneously figured out the art of spinning and weaving, they all figured out gathering quite handily.  And gauging pleats were a lovely way to show off a tailor’s craftsmanship and technique.  At least, that’s the way I’m going to tell it.

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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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True Damask

True Damask is fully reversible

What is a True Damask weave?  The original luxury weave for silk, Damask is “a rich silk fabric with woven floral designs made in China and introduced into Europe through Damascus, from which it derived it’s name (Fairchild, p. 170).  The introduction to Europe was by way of Crusader’s returning from the crusades by way of Damascus, Syria.  More commonly known as Jacquard due to modern damask is woven on a Jacquard loom, damask is a combination of satin and twill, or satin and plain weaves, to form a pattern.

So that is the simple explanation, But simplicity often needs more explanation.  In an earlier post I explained what is satin, plain, and twill weave.  When they are combined in to a single piece of weaving, they create damask.  Like this:

Acanthus Scroll Silk Damask
True Damask

So in the above picture, the plain weave is predominant, with the satin weave creating the design.  But the beauty of a true damask is that it is one hundred percent reversible.  So that the flip side of THIS design, looks like this:

The other side of Acanthus Scroll.

So here, the satin weave is predominant with the design being in plain weave.  Both images come from the same bolt of fabric…Acanthus Scroll Silk Damask.

Silk Damask is fairly easy to work with, will crease beautifully when ironed, gathers well, pleats well, is soft and draping and simply elegant.  And while it can be woven in one color, it can also be two-toned.  For two-tone damask, the warp threads are one color and the weft threads are a second color.  Two-tone damasks are thread died first.  This means the warp threads are dyed the first color, and the weft threads dyed the second color, prior to weaving.  The effect is less subtle than monotone damask but can be very dramatic.

Over the years, Damask has come to be synonymous with any scroll design with a vaguely eastern flavor.  Which is plainly inaccurate.  True damasks create this tone on tone design in the weaving for subtle elegance or dramatic effect.

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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.