I love Halloween, so any year that I get to do more than one is awesome! In 2013, we did the usual Halloween set up, which means we had about 100 pounds of candy. Someone said 115 total. Yeah, we go all out. It was year two for Mad Science, but we couldn’t just duplicate the previous year. What fun would that be? Last time we did Steampunk Mad Science, this time we emphasized the Mad.


More after the jump. (more…)

20131026_090927It turns out that I live a few minutes from a fully restored 1890s Victorian Lighthouse, the Port San Luis Lighthouse. I had the pleasure to discover that when a friend asked if I’d like to help at a haunted house. I didn’t know where we were going or what I’d be doing. I just knew that I needed to be ready at 8am and (the night before she told me to) wear something Victorian.

The haunted house was a collaboration between the Lighthouse Keepers docent group and the Central Coast Paranormal Investigators. The CCPI did some ghost hunting in the weeks leading up to the haunted house and made their findings part of the tour experience. We had a cannibalistic fisherman’s family in residence with some gruesome victims – a girl chained to an old iron bed frame, a woman missing a limb in the basement, the White Lady, assorted ghouls and a couple zombies. And blood, lots of blood Each tour group included a plant who was attacked by the zombies. I think we got some genuine fright!


Costume-wise it was more about gore, but I wore some pseudo-Victorian wear and trailed behind the groups to reset doors, etc. I basically recycled my New Orleans Halloween 2010 costume with the newer bolero jacket I made a couple of years later. The skirt was a thrifted a-line wool, which I added a black and white stripped flounce to, a matching black and white top, my green silk waist cincher, a (surprisingly matching gray poly) bolero with black and white striped piping, and my green false top “top hat”. The only thing I didn’t make was the thrifted part of the skirt.

If you have a chance to check out the lighthouse, at Halloween or any other time of the year, it’s worth the trip. Docent led tours are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Link love and lighthouse history:

Even though I don’t like New Year’s resolutions, I end up thinking about them. Last year I had some blogging opportunities that I didn’t take advantage of. I realized it was because it wasn’t always terribly convenient to post. To that end, I am attempting to post-by-email and this is my first such post. I have no idea what it will look like, what tags will appear or what category it will fall in. I’ve also set up an IFTTT (ifttt.com) recipe to keep a log of my posts in Evernote (evernote.com) for later reflection. Clever, no? (Flaw #1, I’m writing this in EN web and can’t add links this way).

And, lest you think I haven’t made anything in the last many months since my last post:

Monster feet slippers!

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.


Corsets from different periods mold the body into very different shapes, which is why it’s important to wear the correct corset for the correct time period. My grandmother used to refer to undergarments as “foundations” and indeed, real corsets – the ones meant to change your shape – are exactly that. You can’t create the correct period effect with your costume without first having the right foundation.

More after the jump. (more…)

Couture Rani image

As I was talking about the bridal corset I’d recently made a friend who normally wouldn’t be terribly interested in fashion or historical clothing piped up to inquire about my sewing. It seems that when an Indian woman, his wife in this case, buys a sari she is only purchasing the beautiful sari skirt (I’m sure there must be another name for it, but I don’t know it yet). The matching or contrasting, midriff baring blouse does not come ready-made, but as a piece of fabric to go with the sari. Now clearly if I don’t even know what the different pieces are called, I’ve never made a sari blouse (Wikipedia’s sari page informs me that the blouse is called a choli or ravika). I’m sure someone provides ready-made choli, but this is not the standard practice.

I would love to get some beautiful sari fabrics and I’m always interested to learn about new aspects of clothing, whether that is historical, cultural or technical. Not only do choli not come ready-made, but neither do the patterns. Each woman has her own pattern(s) made custom. I’m intrigued. Further reading shows that there are many, many ways to drape a sari (great image here), depending on region and personal preference, and in a way, dressing in a sari has quite a bit in common with the wearing of a great kilt (today is National Tartan Day in the U.S., by the way). Obviously they are of very different origins and function, but I’ll leave that to you for pondering…

What I wanted to share was a site that has some stunning couture sari. The site is called Couture Rani. Check out  their blog page and particularly the images from India Fashion week 2013 for a different take on high fashion. The fabrics! The shape and movement of the clothing! The embroidery! Want! Hmmm… I think I need to start by mocking up a choli pattern…

Varun Bahl red gorgette sari Payal Singhal 2013 fashion

All images are from the Couture Rani website.

IMG_7063corset 4a

It’s nice to see a project like this finished and someone very happy with their custom garment. I’m quite pleased with the way it turned out. It is pretty, while being very sturdy. She’ll be able to get wear out of it for some time. We sized it so that it will still be wearable after some weight reduction.

corset 5IMG_7064

Dress pics after the jump. (more…)

P1010891I first learned to sew about 18 years ago. The Peasant Guild had up to then only done Renaissance Faires, and we were branching out into the Golden Age of Piracy. I needed a new costume. This then led into my love affair with fabric and thread, needles and trim.

It was my mother-in-law who first taught me to sew with a sewing machine. My high school did not have a Home Ec. class, and I never learned from my mother, though she did make costumes and clothing for my sister and I as children.

My first foray into sewing with a machine taught me to put the foot down, or the fabric won’t go .

My with my current peasant costume, made seven or eight years ago, I found that the serger is a beautiful tool that makes my cuts look straight , and the edges don’t fray.

On my first co-operative project, the costumes for Our Captain and First Mate  that A. and I made several years ago; I learned  patience and how to walk away before I lit something on fire. (Those Pirate pants were very frustrating.)

 This brings me to one of my current projects, a Spanish Surcoat and Kirtle  for the mistress of our Blue Boar Inn. I will post about it in the near future.  I have learned some tips that are new to me. That I have tried today.

The first photograph to the is the cover of the surcoat pattern I will be using. The designer, Margo Anderson, is an expert  in reconstructing historical patterns of the Renaissance Period. This pattern includes a manual, which at first horrified me. I don’t want to read that much to make a costume. However, I have found some very interesting information from its pages.

Most of us know that once you have purchased fabric for a project, it must be washed in hot water prior to cutting. There are a number of reasons for this. It removes the sizing which gives the fabrics that nice crisp finish. It also  pre-shrinks the fabric to minimize the shrinking of the finished product.

P1010884I usually surge or use a zig-zag stitch on both of  the ends. I do not like loosing any more fabric then absolutely necessary, nor do I like having to trim off the frayed edges. I then wash the fabric. Once the fabric was clean, the battle would begin. First I would have to search for one of the ends. Once an end was found I would have to systematically pull out some of the fabric and untwist, then  pull more fabric and untwist some more, until all of it could be placed into the drier. This is a lot of work. Although I could use more exercise, this is not how I want to go about it.

What Margo recommends is to surge or zig-zag the two edges together. This minimizes the amount of twisting that goes on in the washer and dryer.

I have tried this twice today. The first was a 2 yard piece of brown linen, That I will be making into a Peasants Jerkin or vest for our Assistant Guild Master, D. When it came out to the wash it was not twisted at all. I then put it in the drier. Once again there was no twisting. Then again it was only 2 yards.

P1010894The second trial was a 90 inch wide cream-colored  linen cut of 15 yards long. This will become one or two table cloths for our Lord Mayor’s Pavilion. This piece was folded length-wise, twice and left on a bolt. One edge was not an even cut, so I zig-zagged that edge once, and again with the two edges together.

I washed the fabric. Once it was done I found that, although it had twisted, it was not nearly as bad as usual. It was much easier to pull out with minimum effort needed to untwist and stack to go into the drier. It took me about fifteen minutes. Previous efforts could last half an hour with only ten yards.


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