Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31, 2016: Happy Halloween!

            Well, I’ve got it all in shape for Halloween. Not complete – there’s still a lot of work to complete my full vision of what SteamFreddy will eventually be. But it’s done enough for Halloween 2016.
            Since the last post, there were only a few odds and ends required to get this baby ready for the holiday. These were the cravat, and the respirator. I’m not going to go into detail on the cravat – I just followed the instructions from this blog and used the leftover lining material from the vest.
            The respirator mask was quick and easy. I had a respirator from a home demo project we did a couple years ago. All I did was spray paint the pink filter cartridges with a hammered copper finish spray paint.

            The final elements were a pair of goggles, a pocket watch and chain that I already had anyway. These and the respirator aren’t included in the cost of the costume since I already had them (and some were gifts, so I don’t even know what they cost). And the result is:

Cost of supplies: $98

Time: 30hrs

Friday, October 28, 2016

October 28, 2016: Under the Hood

            Vest is done!
            The last thing I had to do was putting in the button holes and attach the button. I’ve never done button holes before, but it turns out that there’s a specialty presser foot for the sewing machine that makes it pretty easy. I practiced a few button holes on scraps of fabric to make sure I had the technique down before doing them on the actual vest. 
            Finally, I sewed the buttons on, and the vest was complete. Here it is!

            Now, this thing here represents about $35 in materials, and 26 hours of work. Obviously, if I were more experienced, I’d be able to work a bit quicker. And there are cheaper places to buy materials than where I did. But if I were to charge my equivalent hourly rate at my actual job, this would represent a nearly $1000 garment. Kinda put those $65 vests that vendors sell at events into perspective, huh?
            Don’t think I’ll be giving up my day job to become a tailor.
            So, what to do next?
            Well, my design calls for a canvas cowl instead of trying to do any kind of burn makeup, so I moved on to that part. The plan was to make this in three pieces: a single strip down the center, flanked by shaped pieces on either side. I actually had been feeling a bit of trepidation about this part, wondering how I was going to shape the side panels. Then I remembered I have this handy drawing tool from my old college drafting classes: it’s a flexible ruler that you can bend into curved shapes which it will hold. So I wrapped this thing over my head from front to back, and that gave me the curve I would need to draw. I traced that out on my material, then I drew a second curve that followed the first but offset by half an inch to give my seam allowance. I folded the fabric in half so I could cut out both side pieces at once by following this outside curve.

            The center strip was easy. I first used a tape measure to get the distance between the outside corners of each of my eyes, added an inch for seam allowance, and that gave me the width. For the length, I applied a tape measure to the first curve I drew on the side panels. Then I just cut out a rectangle of that length and width.

            Next was the trickiest part: sewing it all together. It was tricky because, in another first for me, I was sewing a straight edge to a very curved edge. This would result in the panels distorting into a 3-dimensional shape as I was sewing them. So to make sure they stayed aligned while I ran them through the machine, I used a lot of pins. But I got them sewn together. I actually stopped the seams about a third of the way down the back of the head, to make sure it would be easy to put on and take off.
            The end result wasn’t too bad. It does fit a little loose, but it’s useable for now. Probably later on, I’ll add grommets and lacing to the open seams in back, so I can snug it down a little better.

            Oh, you may notice my cost of materials has bumped up another ten bucks. That’s because I picked up a cheap Freddy Kreuger glove from a costume store. While my eventual goal is to construct my own glove and arm, I want to wear this costume for Halloween, and there’s no way I will complete that project in time.

Cost of supplies: $92

Time: 28hrs

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October 25: Walk the Lin(ing)

            OK, so, with the pockets all put together, the next step was to assemble the collar. I’m sorry I don’t have more pictures of the construction, but I ended up handing my phone off to the toddler so he could watch videos, play games, and (most importantly) not be interfering with the work. But anyway, each collar consists of four pieces – an upper and lower section, and a mirror of each for the underside - that are each backed by interfacing. I sewed the upper and lower pieces together, then the top and bottoms (inside out) along the outside edges. Then flipped them right-side out, and basted each down to its corresponding front panel. Voila!

            That done, it was time to move on to the lining.
            You remember how I put darts in the front panels? Well, I had to do the same with the corresponding lining panels so they’d fit together properly. Again, these were hand stitched and took a couple hours to do. Fortunately, I also had Halloween Wars to watch for entertainment.

            I also had to make the little belt that goes on the back of the vest to adjust fit – you know those things, right?
            Once that was done, things started moving pretty quickly. I sewed back panels (both outside and lining) together, added the belt pieces to the back panels, then sewed the front panels of each to their respective backs at the shoulders. This got me two large, three-lobed pieces that will become the outside and the lining respectively.

            I pinned these two pieces together inside-out, then sewed them to each other. In doing so, I left the side-seams unsewn, in part because I needed open holes to pull the fabric through when I turned the vest right-side out. And this was the result:

            Finally, it was time to sew the sides together to actually complete the construction of the vest. This was kind of tricky, and the instructions in the pattern weren’t very clear. But to be fair, I’m not sure that I could have explained it any better, and it was good enough for me to eventually figure it out.

            Long story short, vest construction complete, and… IT DIDN’T FIT! Gosh darn it all to heck!
            Here’s the thing. The pattern package says it’s for all sizes between S and XXL. Now, it turns out that in reality the package only contained patterns for S through L, with the XL and XXL patterns being sold separately – a fact we didn’t realize until we got them home. And for the longest time, I’ve worn size XL shirts. But I’ve lost some weight over the last year and started fitting into size L, so I figured if I took the size L patterns and cut them a touch large, I’d be fine. Nope.
            And not by a small amount, either. It was off by a couple inches. So I don’t know what was up with sizing on this pattern (or the clothes I ordinarily wear), but something ain’t right.
            On the plus side… I picked the double-breasted version of the pattern. Which means that the front is designed to overlap much further than it would have been if it had been single-breasted. So even though the vest came out small, it’s still large enough for me to button it as a single-breasted vest. So I can make it wearable, even if it won’t look exactly like I intended. Phew!
            So hopefully, later on I’ll be able to add some additional panels to make the vest the right size. But for now (since I want to be able to wear this costume for Halloween this year), I’m going to finish it off as-is.

Cost of supplies: $82

Time: 24hrs

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 24, 2016: Got One Hand in My Pocket

            Who knew pockets were so complicated?
            OK, obviously tailors, seamstresses, and fashion designers knew. But I didn’t. There really is more to it than just sewing a bag of fabric round a hole in your garment (at least, if you want it to look nice).
            It starts with that little strip of fabric that covers the opening of the pocket. Apparently, that’s called a “welt,” and will be made from some of the patterns pieces I cut out earlier and backed with interfacing. The patterns are basically elongated chevrons that, when folded in half lengthwise, become parallelograms. These are sewn together inside-out, then inverted to hide the seams and pressed flat with an iron. Nice and simple.

             These are then pinned to the outside of the vest panels. You remember how I transferred marks from the patterns to the insides of the vest panels in a previous blogs? The welts are lined up with the bottom of the markings that represent the pocket opening.

            Next came the pockets themselves. Again, I had to transfer markings from the patterns – I used a white colored pencil, since a regular pencil mark wouldn’t show up well on the dark brown fabric (which is the same as the lining). The marked pattern piece was then pinned to the outside of the vest panel, aligned with the welt, and stitched all around where the pocket opening was going to be.

            Once everything was stitched down, I opened the pocket by cutting a slit through both the pocket fabric and the vest panel. The pocket fabric then got stuffed through the hole to end up on the inside of the vest, the welt flipped up to cover the hole and pressed down with the iron.

            To finish off the pockets, I then hand stitched around the edges to close them up and hand stitched the ends of the welts to secure them in place. Also per the pattern, I added two more welts at chest level on the front panels and stitched down the ends – these were made and installed the same as the bottom welts, except without pockets. They’re just there for decoration.

Cost of supplies: $82

Time: 20hrs

Friday, October 21, 2016

October 21, 2016: Darting To and Fro

            Made some more progress on the vest over the last few days.
            The first thing I needed to do was permanently secure the interfacing to the insides of my pattern pieces. If you recall from my previous post, I’d pinned them all together in preparation for this step. The actual process is pretty simple: you lay the pieces out on an ironing board with the interfacing side up, place a damp cloth over top of them, and then press with an iron. This activates the adhesive on the interfacing to secure it to the fabric. It’s recommended to leave the iron in place for 10-15 seconds, then lift it off the cloth, move to a new section, and then place it back down. This helps to prevent the interfacing from accidentally shifting around, which could happen if you try gliding the iron around, and gives the adhesive time to heat up enough to work.

            That being done, there are several features that need to be located on the vest front, such as: pockets, buttons, button holes, and darts. The locations of all of these things are on the patterns, but of course I needed some way to accurately transfer them to the fabric. What I ended up doing was laying the patterns over the fabric pieces and poking holes through the paper to mark the start and end points of each line with a pencil (I chose a pencil because I didn’t want to take a chance on ink bleeding through the front of the fabric and crayons wouldn’t be sharp enough to poke through the paper without destroying it – I hope I made the right call!). Since the interfacing is white, the pencil marks showed up well enough to be useable. Then I used a ruler to draw the lines connecting the points (which will represent stitch lines and cut lines for later).

            Once that was done, the pattern instructions said to start by sewing the darts. For those who don’t know, darts are folds in the fabric that you stitch in to provide some shaping. In this case, they take the form of the long, narrow wedges you see below.

            Because these are so narrow that I wasn’t confident of being able to do them on the machine, I decided to hand stitch them. And let me tell you: that can be pretty tedious. The process took me about three hours, though I wasn’t working very efficiently on account of watching TV, eating dinner, and responding to a toddler’s repeated requests for food and drink throughout the process. But I completed the darts, and then the next step was to press them flat with an iron.
            So that’s where I am as of today. The next step is working on the pockets.

Cost of supplies: $82
Time: 15hrs

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17, 2016: Getting Invested

            Yeah, yeah, I know; it’s been almost a year and I haven’t reported any progress yet. A number of reasons – ranging from working 10-14 hour days for half the year at my old job (which didn’t pay overtime, since my position was salaried), to changing jobs in the middle of the year – I just haven’t had the time or money to make a serious push. And of course, I ended up missing my deadline of Steampunk Unlimited 2016, as that occurred just this past weekend.
            But on the plus side, I have started making real progress. And the first major element I’ve started is the vest.
            I’ve never made a vest before. Actually, I’ve never made any kind of patterned, fitted garment before (and technically, I still haven’t since at the time I’m writing this the vest isn’t even close to complete). The most I’ve ever done before is sewing together a few rectangles and triangles for medieval tunics and breeches. So just this one element represents stretching myself, but it’s been a pretty great learning experience.
            So the first thing I needed to do was pick a pattern, and this is it:

            Double breasted vest with lapels, darts, and pockets, because why start out with something simple just because you’re a complete novice? But I like the look of it, so I’m going for it.
            Next: fabric. Largely due to budget, the vest front is going to be made of cotton – green and red stripes to match the classic Freddy Kreuger color scheme. The back and lining will be made from brown suiting fabric.

            Now, I had taken a vacation day on Friday, October 14, in order to get ready for Unlimited and possibly attend the opening night festivities. But since it also ended up being the same day as my kids’ Homecoming game and they were going to that instead, and I already had last year’s outfit to fall back on for Saturday, I decided to dedicate the day to working on SteamFreddy.
            The first thing I had to do was make fabric. You see, since the local fabric store didn’t have any green-and-red striped prints, I ended up purchasing separate green and red solids, cut them into strips, then sew the strips together and iron them out to make the look I want. Because this wasn’t already going to be complicated enough. But doing that wasn’t difficult – just a bit time consuming.

            Then I had to figure out the patterns. Printed directions in the pattern, it turns out, are sparse, and there are some conventions I had to work out since this is my first time reading one. Thankfully, my wife has pattern experience, and was able to help me out with interpreting the directions and finding the pattern pieces I needed (the package actually contains patterns for several different vest styles, so we had to sort out exactly which pieces were needed for the style I’ve chosen).

            Then… well, did I say cutting and sewing strips together was time-consuming? Because that doesn’t hold a candle to cutting out pattern pieces. While the strips took maybe an hour and a half (that’s including setting up the sewing machine and having to pause in the middle to wind a bobbin), cutting out pattern pieces took almost the entire rest of the day. I hope this is something that gets quicker with practice, ‘cause damn! I’m just glad this is a symmetrical pattern, meaning that for each of the pieces I could simply fold the fabric in half, pin the pattern down, and cut out two pieces at once. If I’d had to do every single piece individually, I’d still be working on this part. Between front panels, back panels, lining, lapels, pockets, and interfacing, there were twenty-eight individual pieces. Thankfully, I only had to cut out fourteen patterns, but even so this took a looong time.

            The last thing I did on Friday was to pin all the interfacing panels to the insides of their matching fabric panels. What’s interfacing, you ask? Or at least, I asked, since I’d never even heard of it until I started this project. It’s a kind of stiff, lightweight fabric that is attached to the inside of garment panels to help them hold their shape. It’s supposed to be ironed down (it has adhesive on one face), but at this point in the day I was exhausted and the ability to concentrate had fled. But I’ll have to do it soon, if for no other reason than because it’s currently held on with every single sewing pin in our kit.

            So that brings me to the end of this progress report. It’s early days, and I’m already starting to see how some of the more elaborate costumes rack up 200-hour build times even for experienced makers.
            Incidentally, the below cost totals include some odds and ends I picked up recently for other parts of the costume, namely a new top hat and the fabric for the cowl. But since I haven’t actually done anything with those items, I didn’t really discuss them in this update.

Cost of supplies: $82

Time: 10hrs