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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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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.

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The Humble Caftan

8th Century Caftan

So here is a garment that is as old as time.  With origins going back to Mesopotmia, this simple garment constructed entirely of squares was originally cotton.  When silk found it’s way to the middle east,  it quickly became a favorite textile for the Caftan.  So how did this humble, ancient garment, survive from antiquity to present?  By being eminently practical.

Originally, the Caftan was the outermost garment worn by men throughout the middle east; however, in Morocco it is traditionally a woman’s garment, and even today enjoys a special place in couture of Morocco.  While worn throughout North Africa and the Middle East from Mesopotamia to present, the Caftan did not make the leap to Western fashion until the 20th century.

Between  November 14 and 26, 1894, Czar Nicholas II married the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England, Alexandra Feodorovna.  The new Czarina was photographed wearing the traditional, Orthodox dress of Russian nobility…a heavily embroidered caftan.

Czarina Alexandra in Russian Orthodox Finery

This photograph sparked continued interest in the exotic east, and a love affair with the simple caftan was born unto the Occident.

Starting in stage productions in the 1910’s, this simple robe appeared in ballets, in movies, plays.  And even then, where theater went, fashion followed.  By the 1950’s to 1970’s, couture houses from Dior to Yves Saint Laurent to Halston were walking the simple cut garment down the isle as the next big fashion movement.  And it remain popular as a housecoat, as outer wear, as re-creationist costuming.  Caftan’s, while humble and straightforward, are popular BECAUSE of the simple cut, which allows adornment or even luxurious fabrics, to truly shine.  Simplicity is beautiful.  And the Caftan is simply elegant.

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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.