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

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