Steampunk Soliloquy: Part 1

I am determined to have a “more betterer” Steampunk costume to wear at DragonCon this year.  And Halloween.  And a Renaissance fair.  Heck, I might even wear it to work on a Friday if it comes out nice!

This project is going to take me a while.  I imagine this is the first of at least 3 posts about it, possibly more.  Anyway, here is the pattern – Simplicity 2172.  I seem to be sewing many Simplicity things lately.  Hmmm.

I absolutely LOVE this pattern.  There are many scary things about it, but I love it more than it frightens me I guess.  My original intent was to make the coat in a silver microfiber suede fabric, the bustier in a yellow microfiber suede, and the skirt in a black microfiber suede.  I even bought the fabric – though I ordered it online.  When I went to cut the coat, I realized the “silver” fabric for the coat was more of a beige – tan.  Fail.  Not wanting to go purchase more fabric for this project, I assessed my stock.

And very quickly decided to change my plan.  I recently bought a stretchy polyester wool fabric from Hancock.  It is charcoal gray with silver and burgundy pinstripes.  I intended to make a work jacket & dress.  I fell in love with the fabric during a trip to the store and waited until the day after Christmas, hoping it would go on sale.  It did.  Instead of $13/yard, it cost me $5/yd.  I bought the rest of the bolt, which was a little over 5 yards.  Conveniently, the jacket part of this costume requires 5 yards of fabric.

Since I would not have enough fabric to make the skirt and I am frightened of those pleats along the bottom of the skirt anyway, I decided to nix the skirt completely.  Found a newsboy capri like pants pattern I like, and I am going to make those instead of the skirt, out of a burgundy stretch moleskin fabric I found.

I am trading in the white organza I bought for the ruffles for a sheer burgundy chiffon fabric that was on clearance online.  I think it will work well.

The bustier will be made out of a black and silver silk brocade fabric I bought back in October, which has a nice ornate paisley like pattern on it.

I am SO excited about how nifty these colors and prints are going to work in this costume, it is not even funny.  Way better than my original penguin colored plan.

On to the cutting!

Since the jacket fabric has pinstripes, it is considered “with nap”, so I had to be extremely careful cutting it.  I almost didn’t have enough because the pinstripes were vertical on the bolt, not horizontal.  Hopefully I don’t make any serious errors because I have no backup fabric really.  It took me a long time to cut, between 4-6 hours.  It was kind of fun though, I got to use my new self-healing cutting mat that Mary gave me for Christmas and the rotary cutter I got back in September from Suzanne.  Love using these.  I am still surprised at how easily the fabric cuts with these tools.

I did the cutting one night a few weeks ago while Jesse was traveling.  Then one night this week, Elizabeth came over and I cut out the bustier pieces.  I gave myself some extra room on the bustier as I am afraid of it being too small.  Oh and by the way, silk brocade frays like nobody’s business.  I spent an extra hour fray checking all the pieces.  Grunt.  You will notice I have a bunch of pins laid out on one of the pattern pieces in the picture below.  I realized I am a little bit OCD about pinning.  I have two different length of pins and I spend the extra time trying to use the same length pin on any given piece that I am cutting.  I might need to work on that.

Elizabeth invited us all over this past Saturday to sew.  Sadly, Liz had to study for comps – like getting her graduate degree is important or something! 😛  Kelly came and finished off her cape, as well as did some knitting.  Elizabeth hemmed and finished her maxi dress, sewed a pillow, cut a new dress to start working on, and modified a dress she already owns.  Oh and she hemmed some pants.  She wins on accomplishments for the day!  Below is Kelly in only-slightly-evil-monk mode wearing her unfinished cape.  I love the fabric she used for this – wool, stretchy, soft.

My jacket began with … stay stitching.  I have done this before on a red dress and a tunic pattern.  This time, I made a vow to myself, Elizabeth, and Kelly that I would not see ANY stay stitching on the outside of my garment when I am done with this.  Elizabeth thought my vow was worth immortalizing with a photo.  Just say NO to visible stay stitching:

I really don’t find my vow humorous – I was actually saying no.  Somehow all this picture does is make me look confused.

After stay stitching, I had to attach the two tiny pieces of fusible interfacing to the front pieces of the jacket.  I assume they are there to support the button holes and buttons.  I have yet to find the perfect buttons for this costume so please let me know if you have suggestions.  I am trying to get better at taking pictures during the sewing process.  Here I am while the iron fuses the interfacing to one piece of fabric, showing the other identical piece of fabric that will require interfacing.  I lost the pattern piece of the interfacing – ooops.  I was improvising here.

The next step was, strangely, pockets.  This was my first project with pockets.  I was even a good girl and marked my fabric with fold lines for these!  It is hard to tell from the picture, but these pockets are interesting.  The coat front is actually three separate pieces – the top, the pocket, and the bottom.  Below I am pinning the pocket to the bottom of the coat.  The instructions had me stitch around the weird sharp edges at the top – this is the pocket facing that will be visible on the coat when it is worn.

After I stitched these pieces together, I clipped and overcasted the edges (even though my pattern refused to remind me about this).  This was my first time using Stitch 08 on my machine, which is specifically for overcasting on stretchy fabrics.  Even though patterns do not tell me about overcasting 9 times out of 10, I love how neat and finished it makes the final product.  Observe.  Finished pocket vs not finished.

That seems like an excellent segway into how I hate patterns.  Have I mentioned this before?  I know I have.  It is worth mentioning at least once per post.  Elizabeth shared the following link with me earlier this week.  I whole-heartedly agree with everything this person mentions.  And furthermore, I find that pattern instructions assume too much – please tell me when to overcast!  I am still learning this shit.  It’s 8 characters worth of ink.  Furthermore, you find it worthwhile to tell me when to iron crap.  If ironing is worth mentioning, overcasting is totally worth mentioning.  /rantoff

After this, I had to turn the pocket facing right side out and iron it a bit.  Then I encountered some confusion.  Prior to this, I did NOT understand that the front of the coat was really three pieces.  I had to pin the bottom of the coat top to the bottom of the pocket piece, right side to ride side.  It looked something like this.

See how the pocket facing is turned right side out?  And how there is a bunch of fabric in the center there?  The bunched fabric is the bottom front of the coat, which is already connected to the pocket via the pocket facing stitches.  Craziness.  I originally had this pinned very very wrong.  I re-read the instructions several times, then confirmed my new thoughts with Kelly and Elizabeth.  So glad I re-read because it saved me the pain of seam ripping.

After stitching the bottom of the pocket, I was able to pull the bottom front of the coat down, and stitch the sides of the pocket closed.  Then iron the pocket facing flap down.  Finished product?

Oregon Trail flashbacks anyone?

Anyway … I rinsed and repeated this for the other side of the front of my coat.  Aren’t you proud of me for my cutting skills with the pinstripes?  It is looking decent so far.

Next up, the back of the coat.  I stitched the back center seam together.  Easy peasy.  After this was when we took a quick break to go to the Walmart that is only 1 mile up the road and has a fabric section.  The pattern was calling for me to use the pinstripe fabric to create loops for the back of the coat.  And for me to create my own tie to go through the loops.  Frankly, I think that is silly.  So the Walmart trip was in search of cord / ribbon to make the loops and potentially a tie for the back.  I left Walmart with a burgundy twisted cord that I really liked to make the loops.  I did not find anything I was happy with for a tie.  I did find a black and silver metal chain for the front of the finished coat (see the red dress in the pattern picture at the top of the post, it has a chain in it).  So I left with that as well.

The next step (merely Step 11 or so of the pattern) was for me to baste the loops onto the back of the coat.  The loops would later be sewn in completely when I attached the coat side back pieces.  This was a pinning nightmare, along with a cutting nightmare as the cord I bought unraveled super easily when I clipped it.  We tried many things, including fire and fray check (not at the same time).  Verdict?  Fire and sewing do not get along.  We imagined this melting the three pieces of the cord together.  What actually happened was that the end of the cord blackened and the air in Elizabeth’s townhouse smelled like burning.

I decided that I would tape both ends of the pieces I cut, leave a little extra, and that I would just baste the loops on with the tape there.  I practiced first on scrap fabric.  This was a little bit scary.  I made some sounds that I am not sure I could replicate.  As did my sewing machine, which may be worse.  But I persevered!


On my top ten list of things to do today, breaking a needle was about #283.  Thankfully (or NOT), I managed anyway.

So I have learned about needle sizes before.  This afternoon I apparently felt like forgetting that information as I attempted to baste through fabric and a thick cord.  Repeatedly.  Frankly, it is a miracle I managed to sew several of the loops to the fabric prior to breaking the needle.  My machine made awful sounds.  I made awful sounds.  It was traumatic and stressful.  So much so that Elizabeth grabbed my camera in the middle of the ordeal.

There was so much nervous laughter that there were tears.  I was cracking up.  Meanwhile, my machine was literally cracking up.  Needles were cracking, to be specific.  My Size 11 TITANIUM  needle broke.  AND it bent.  As I mentioned before, I should have known better.  The thickness of the cord should have made me think “Gee, maybe I should swap out of my size 11 needle for a larger one.”.  But I did not.  This was actually my first broken needle.  I have bent a needle before, ever so slightly, which was super frustrating to even figure out.  But there was no question – this one was a goner.

Immediately after the needle broke, I replaced it with a size 16 titanium ballpoint needle.  While I would hesitate to call the basting of the rest of the loops “smooth sailing”, it was definitely an improvement.  Mental note: Always remember to think about needle size.  I will need to adjust the needle size again for the this coat after I am done with these loops, and then again when I start to work the very thin chiffon ruffles onto the neck and wrist edges.

This is where I stopped for the day.  Step 12.  Of about 50.  Despite the traumatic needle breakage, I feel confident that the project is going mostly well.  I might even finish the coat by the end of March.  Stay tuned.


4 comments for “Steampunk Soliloquy: Part 1

  1. Jill F.
    February 25, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    You. Are. Amazing. Pinstripes?? Wow.
    Also, hand-stitching for cord is much less traumatic. And don’t be afraid of the skirt pleats, just get one of these:

    • jadesabre9
      February 25, 2012 at 11:56 pm

      Wow that is a crazy device! I will put it on my list 🙂

  2. February 26, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I know this is not helpful, but your trauma pictures make me laugh so much. I still say there’s no need to be sad about a broken needle. Maybe I should post of pic of my needle graveyard (where our titanium friend now rests in peace) to make you feel better. Anyway, this costume will be EPIC. I know it’ll be worth all this hard work.

  3. Kim
    February 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I am speechless! You are doing such an amazing job! Tackling things a much seasoned seamstress would try to avoid! I love reading about your adventures! And… it helps to get an idea of what you are wearing so I can make the appropriate jewelry!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: