Monday, August 13, 2012

County Fair Results!

This year I entered six items, and was very happy to win ribbons for all of them!

My contrast collar and cuff shirt got fourth place in the Ladies Blouses category.

In the Masquerade Costume category, I took third place for the Jafar costume.

I received a second place ribbon for a skirt I made that I completely forgot to blog about. Anyway, it's a simple gored skirt with pockets and a center back invisible zipper. It look dreadful on the hanger!

My blue sheath dress got first place in Ladies Day Dresses -- Cotton.

This year's Smithson Gown got a blue ribbon in the Long Formal category. It's hard to see... took me a minute to find it tucked way in the back!

My final blue ribbon was in the Accessories: Scarves (fabric) category. I entered the two Longcat scarves I made for Diana.

The fair is also displaying the garments from the Project G Street challenge:

So that's it for another County Fair! Each year I say I'm going to make lots of stuff to enter, and each year I let time get away from me. So I'm going to make a goal of creating one fair-worthy item every month, so that by the time next year's fair rolls around I'll have at least a dozen items to enter!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Not quite Project Runway, but close enough!

Wow, the last two days have been simply dizzying... in a good way, I assure you!!

On Friday, I packed up my entries for the Montgomery County Fair and headed over to the fairgrounds to register them in the Home Arts category. I had six entries altogether (and I'll write about them in a separate post). I got there right as the registration desk opened at 2pm. It took a while to get my entries written up, and then because I was nervous about it being damaged, I carried the Jafar costume (on a dress form) into the exhibit hall so I could be sure it was set up safely.
While I was getting it all arranged, two of the building volunteers approached me. "Have you heard about Project G Street?" one asked.
Yes, I said, I had heard about it but didn't enter. "Well," she continued, "Audrey here had a team member drop out suddenly and is looking for a replacement. Would you be interested?"
Project G Street was a new event this year at the County Fair. Eight teams of three would spend a day creating outfits using only fabric gleaned from a pile donated by G Street Fabrics. Teams were also given a $25 gift certificate to G Street to purchase things like zippers and buttons. The teams gathered on Thursday evening to pick their fabrics and get the theme: "The Sophisticated Fair-Goer." They were supposed to design their outfits, then choose patterns and notions on Friday. Teams were not permitted to use anything from home other than sewing machines, tools and thread. Sewing would take place on Saturday starting at 9:00 a.m. and concluding at 6:00 p.m. with a Runway show in the Home Arts Building.
So here it was, about 3:00 pm Friday, and I was peppering Audrey with questions. Did she have much sewing experience? (Yes, some) Who else was on the team? (Her 12-year-old daughter) Had she already chosen the fabrics and garment design? (Yes, sketches and fabrics were in her car) Would she be the model because I had no desire to do the runway walk? (Sure)
I warned her that I can have a tendency to be bossy and competitive in situations like this, and when she said that wouldn't faze her, I agreed to help.
Yeah, I'm nuts.
We went out to her car and looked over what she had. I told her I have completely forgotten how to alter commercial patterns and said I'd much prefer drafting something with PMB. She was fine with that, so I measured her right there in the parking lot (got some interesting looks from the security guard, too!). Then I headed home to start drafting the patterns and gather my sewing stuff together, as we had to deliver all our supplies to the hall before 8pm.
By about 6pm I was back in the hall with all my gear and eight huge pages of printouts from my plotter, with patterns for a knit top, pants, jacket, purse and hat. Audrey and I put our heads together to figure out what else was needed and I gave her a shopping list for G Street for that evening. Then I headed home to get some sleep and prepare for the coming day's insanity.

This was our designated sewing area. The area draped in white behind the tables was one of two dressing areas for the team models. I brought my Viking 1+ and Rowenta steam generator iron, and Audrey brought her Brother sewing machine and serger. I also had a big cutting board and lots of scissors, pins and marking tools.

The Fair Queen and Prince started us off at 9:00 a.m. with words of encouragement and a rousing "Ready, Set, SEW!"

Audrey cutting out one of the parts of the knit top she would wear. She loved using my scissors and pattern weights!

Our first finished outfit parts: the sun hat and purse in matching fabrics. Audrey made the rosette and leaves. The hat and bag patterns were both from Wild Ginger's free Wild Things program.

I didn't realize until well into the afternoon that the purple fabric had been shedding all over my pants the entire day!!

We only really had one minor crisis: My Viking 1+ was acting up (shredding the needle thread), so we were doing all the sewing on her Brother. But she didn't have a buttonhole foot for her machine! Here we were frantically going through the boxes of machine accessories she had, to no avail. And her machine was just smart enough not to let us sew a buttonhole with the incorrect foot. Dang!! But luckily, by sewing very, very slowly, I was able to do the buttonhole on my machine without incident. Whew!
We finished with just five minutes to spare... the only thing that we just couldn't get to was adding the purple piping to the jacket.

Here's Audrey being dressed and prepped for the Runway.

We all lined up behind the Fair Queen and Prince, who were holding the Project G Street banner, and paraded to the Home Arts building for the runway show.

We got a lot of cheers and applause as we made our way through the tents.

We waited outside until the audience was seated in the hall.

Then it was our turn to go in and start the show!

Here's Audrey taking her turn down the runway.

So who won?
This outfit took third place, with a prize of a $100 G Street gift certificate.

This romper and jacket set took second place ($200) gift certificate). The team consisted of three teenagers, and the quality of the work was really amazing!

To my total lack of amazement, this dress took the top prize ($300). It was simply stunning in every details: the fit, the workmanship and that pop of red in the flounce that was picked up by the shoes.

In the end, we got a fourth-place ribbon, which came with a $25 G Street certificate which I told Audrey to keep. All the teams' outfits will be on display at the fair for the rest of the week, and will then go to G Street Fabrics to be displayed for about a month. After that, Audrey is so excited that she will get to take the outfit home, because she simply loved it! She said the pants were the most comfortable ones she's ever worn, and she plans to make the shirt again too. Her daughter (at right) already has designs on the hat.
As for me, I get the satisfaction of having taught Audrey some sewing tricks, but even more than that, I think I've found a new friend! We got along so well all throughout the day and were always laughing, so it really made the hours just fly by. She's already told me she wants to do it again next year, and she wants to team up with me again. I'm in!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to Regular Sewing: Wool Riding Skirt

I'm a sucker for sewing things for my daughter. She loves good quality clothes and is always delighted to get something custom made. She also knows that I love the challenges she presents me (usually).
She was actually a little hesitant to give me this request, seeing as how I was still recovering from all the Otakon sewing. But she sent me a link to this skirt:

She asked me if I could replicate it. After looking closely at the pictures, I concluded that it was a simple A-line skirt with a button-loop front closure. And it sure looks like a topstitched hem! With the belt in place I couldn't tell if it had a waistband or facing at the top.
After discussing it with Diana, we agreed on a flared gored skirt with a regular button closure and a contoured waistband. So I made the pattern with PatternMaster Boutique (of course) and made the muslin.

Either she's getting less picky or I'm getting better at sewing for her, because she said it's perfect and gave the go-ahead to make the final version. I don't have any of the right wool in my stash (much to my surprise), so will make one out of a lightweight denim first. It won't be ready by the time she heads back to college (on Saturday!!) but I'll send it to her when it's done.
I will look for the wool when I'm in New York City in September; I've signed up for the Shop the Garment District Speakeasy Tour. I'm really looking forward to finding some more interesting shops and doing my part to keep the garment district alive! (Anything else I should do while I'm in the city? I've got a free day!)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Otakon 2012: Lessons Learned

This will be the last post about Otakon 2012, and it won't really have much to do with costumes. Feel free to breeze past it, but I feel compelled to write it anyway.

This is the fourth Otakon my daughter attended, and my second. In the past years, Diana's real wish was to have a costume that was so amazing that everyone would want to take her picture. Well, for the first year she only got a handful of picture requests. So the next year she asked me to make her a better one, and ended up with the Mother Nature costume. She got quite a few picture requests, which she loved. Last year she wanted to be Mother Ocean, and I decided to go along dressed up as a black-and-white 50s era mom, like the movie Pleasantville. We both had fun, but didn't really get a lot of picture requests. And I got a lot of "Who are you cosplaying?"

So this year she said we needed to do something awesome, and convinced my son Ian to join in the fun. It was her idea to do the Disney villains, and I had a lot of fun with the costume process. But I did learn quite a few things along the way.

Lesson One: Plan, plan, plan.

I had so many ideas rattling around in my brain, each relating to a different costume. I kept notes on my computer to help me keep track of what needed to be done for each costume. When the crunch time came, about a week before the event, having these notes really helped me keep the process on track and make sure I wasn't forgetting some detail.

Lesson Two: Think Outside the Box

There aren't any commercial patterns for the costume stuff I do. Keeping my mind open to possibilities is what allowed me to look at a robotic dog and see a purse, and figure out how to make a huge red gem out of a soap mold.

Lesson Three: Be Careful What You Wish For

We really wanted costumes that got noticed, and boy, did we get them. Being stopped every few steps for picture requests meant that it was very difficult for us to get pictures of our own. Whenever one person stopped to take a picture of us, a small group of cameras would appear and we'd spend a minute or two posing. Yes, it was immensely flattering... and it also meant that we simply couldn't get to any of the events we wanted to. So for the following day, Diana and I elected to go without costumes, while Ian was still having a blast being Jafar. She and I got to take more pictures and wander in the two vendor halls. And we agreed that for next year, the costumes shouldn't be quite so awesome. Maybe. Or we'll just accept that for one day, we're not going to be able to do anything but pose for pictures.

Lesson Four: Accept Help

This was the hardest lesson for me. We were planning on going to Baltimore on Thursday evening to pick up our registration badges, rather than wait in the long lines on Friday morning. But on Wednesday afternoon, I found myself in the emergency room with chest pains. Can you believe that while I was hooked up to the heart monitor, all I could think about was that I hadn't finished Maleficent's staff yet, and still had some final touches to do on my cape? Yeah, my priorities were a little skewed at that moment. And when the doctor told me I would be admitted to the hospital overnight, I was distraught: how would I finish everything in time?
My wonderful daughter and her best friend Alyxz jumped in and finished everything for me. They spent the evening in my sewing room, doing all the little last-minute costume work, so that I could concentrate on getting better. And when I was released on Thursday afternoon (and it wasn't my heart after all, luckily!! Just a small issue with my gall bladder), the costumes were done and we were back on track to head to Baltimore as planned.

So that's it for this year's Otakon adventure! We're already thinking about next year's costumes. What do you think? Have an idea for a theme we could follow? We're totally open to suggestions. Except there's no way I'm going as a Disney princess.