Monday, July 12, 2010

Victorian Steel Costume

Here it is except for some finishing details, like adding the steel cups. The crinoline is one that my sister bought for her wedding and I used for mine. The brow skirt acting as a petticoat belonged to my other sisters. Or maybe it still does if she wants it back. The skirt is a silk shawl that my roommate Rebecca bought and then put in the drier so now it has antique looking puckers and wrinkles. It's wrapped around like a sari. The boots are from Fred Meyers. The hair piece is Native Alaska Bead work in an interior style. But I think I will make a different barrette.
The cat once again helps out

Steam Punk Overskirt

I cut off three 2" strips to use as straps then used the remainder of the burgundy fabric for the overskirt. I cut it in half, pressed down cord channels and bottom hem, then sewed the side seems.
This is the side cord channels being pressed.

I threaded silver colored cord in the side channels and white rayon grossgrain ribbon in the top channels. This is a corner where the channels meet.

This is the skirt laid on the floor. It's two rectangles sewn together. I find it amazing that something this shape ends up looking like a draped overskirt.

And the cat getting involved.

The skirt gets hooked to the corset by a wire goodie with a hook and a place for a strap. It probably would work fine attaching only by the strap, but it's hard to tell before things are made. I made the hook goodies from galvanized utility wire and a bit of silver wire and sewed them on with pearl cotton embroidery floss. The straps are 1" wide and have buckles bought from Black Elk Leather.

I wanted the overskirt smooth in the front and back with the gathers at the side. This is the top channel of the skirt with the gather ribbon pinned where I well sew it to keep the front flat.

The bustle installed on the overskirt. The crinoline was made with panniers made of net, the wrong look for the late 1800s. I removed the panniers and reattached them as a bustle.


I won't be able to wash this corset, so I need a chemise This one is a practical and not particularly historically accurate undergarment. It's a tube. I bought a yard of cotton lycra blend(5% lycra) from Jo-Annes. The fabric is folded in half with modern chemise on top as the pattern. I drew the shape with quilter's pencil and cut. The fabric and shape may not be Victorian but the intent remains the same, keep the outer clothing clean.


Sewn together.

Finished with straps added. The hardest part of this was getting the straps in the right location so they don't show under the corset.

No, I'm not going to photograph this with me in it.

Steam Punk Corset Bodice

Shell fabric is burgundy colored linen/cotton jacquard bought at Jo-Annes. Lining is white cotton denim. I decided I needed a heavy lining to support all that steel hardware. I think I bought 3, or maybe 3 1/2, yards of the burgundy fabric. I would have bought more but it was all that was left on the bolt. I pinned the pattern to the fabric (folded in half) and then traced the pattern with chalk on the burgundy fabric and pencil on the white fabric. The chalk helped with accuracy of sewing. Latter I switched to a quilters pencil which works better, sharper line and less of a mess. The pattern still has tape on it from checking fit relationships. The two semi-circular shapes are the bust cups.
The front burgundy parts sewn to the lining. I did the cups with the burgundy outer parts sewn down last by hand. If I were to do this again I'd wait on stitching down the cups until after straps are installed and the bottom edge closed. In the background is the back part of the bodice with the back seam stitched.
Next came the difficulty of fitting. I got enough done to try it on then had to take apart the bodice to reduce the size. Taking it on and off was done mostly with pins. I'd planned it to fit without the space for lacing and so had to remove about 1/2 " from each seam, except for the front opening.

Here is the fitting process. It's pinned in front instead of closed with the busk. The openings all have plackets behind.
The bodice is all puckered because it doesn’t yet have the boning. This shows what boning actually does. Corsets were more for a smooth fit than for making the waist smaller.

The sides have aluminum Dritz eyelets put in with a set of Dritz snap and eyelet pliers. I'm not all that pleased with them. The eyelets either don’t clamp all the way or get crushed and snag on the lacing string. I smoothed them out with a small file. I found it works best to put the eyelets in messy so that lots of frayed fabric gets entangled in the crushed aluminum.
The boning is steel and purchased from Seams Like Home, which is also the source of the ribbon and silver colored cording.
I made a mistake on the length. On one side of the front opening the bodice wasn't long enough for the busk. I solved this by adding the 2" binding on the top and bottom. This also creates the pockets for the ends of the boning. I laid out the boning then drew the location with quilters pencil and top stitched going across the binding to make the boning pockets. Next I cut the boning to length and crimped the metal ends on. I found crimping the end caps works best with two sets of pliers, a set of lineman's pliers to squeeze from the side and old the cap and a set of flat jewelers pliers to squeeze from top and bottom.
The boning hand stitched with pearl cotton in a zigzag pattern. I was going to do cross stitch but zigzag looks fine and is simpler.
In this photo the straps are still pinned on the back, and the busk is only tacked in place. Pins can't be used with metal mesh since it doesn't bend enough.

Here it is on me. Notice goofy expression on face. I tend to do that when doing self timed photographs.

Steam Punk Corset Busk

Making the busk started with a search for metal mesh. First I went to Home Depot but they only had large mesh hardware cloth that came in pieces 3 feet by 12 or something like that. Headed next to Lowe's. It took a bit of explaining about how I was looking for metal mesh, preferably steel. A Lowes sales clerk with tattoos and piercings helped me out. We found galvanized Kwikmesh in rolls in 6" by 25' rolls. I only need two little pieces but bought the whole roll. Then the fellow asked me what I was making. Turns out he also writes science fiction and we discussed the relationship between steam punk and goth. Pretty funny I don't look like the sort of person who would know about goth.
With the mesh home, I traced the cardboard busk onto the mesh and cut it out with tin snips leaving 1/4" 'seam allowance.'
Here I have half the busk clamped ready to bend the edge under. Actually I had to use larger clamps. These two kept slipping.

Here are the two halves of the busk with the edges turned under.

I've bent 16 gauge galvanized utility wire into the hooks. On the right is my layout drawing. Sorry I didn’t take pictures while bending. It become awkward to put down pliers and take off gloves to operate a camera.

Attaching hooks to busk with what I think is silver wire. I bought the wire at Black Elk Leather. It's for jewelry, and the wire has tarnish on it that looks like silver tarnish. On the right is my gloves. I started off not using them and got a blister on my hand.

I coiled then ends of the silver wire and attached the ends down with brass wire and coiled those ends in turn. Sorry didn't take pictures during this process. Too hard to put down gloves and pliers. Here is a detail of the finished busk.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Romance Through Technology

There is now a movement afoot to combine Science Fiction with Romance, which I think is great fun. This type of story is being called SFR and there's a new blog up called SFR Brigade bringing together readers and writers interested in the combination. I enjoy stories that bring together love and technology, so I fit right in. I've posted the following on the SFR Brigade blog but I'm putting it here too.

I came to RSF from science fiction, or more accurately I came to romance through technology, both in my art and in my real life.

I started off studying art and moved my focus to sculpture. A sculpture lab is a great place to see what can be done with tools and materials. For about five years I melted, burned, and blew up materials. I love the gritty honesty of working with real tools and real materials. I love how bronze glows vermillion orange in a crucible, the feeling of power in cold bending steel, and the technical challenge of turning an idea into concrete reality, sometimes using Portland cement.
In the midst of this exploration I fell in love with an engineer. He was a brilliant and creative man, one who could design and make almost anything with limited tools and materials. It was a romance of technology. Early in our courtship, we had construction dates. I'd go to his place and we built his garage, that later became ours when we married. We did gardening and red worm composting. For a birthday present he gave me a drill press.

He was also dying of a rare neurological disorder that ate away at his brainstem leaving him struggling with physical coordination. I came to identify with the B&B ships in McCaffrey's Ship Who Sang. I was the brawn and he was the brain. I craved stories about machinery melded with the human body.

My husband, medical retired, threw himself into volunteer work. He became coordinator of a statewide volunteer effort to put computer networks in schools, and I became his assistant. We put computer networks into every school in the State of Alaska. Ironically he did this while the neurological network of his brainstem was failing. I became a certified network installer and attended seminars on such things as fiber optics. Oddly, I was often the only woman at these seminars.

I began to see that society considers some technology and materials to belong to men and other technology and materials to belong to women. Steel, concrete, electrical wiring, drills, and soldiering irons are male. Fabric, textiles, sewing machines, and laundry irons are female. Women often don’t think of women's tools as technology even though the girls' stuff is often more complex and technical that the boys' stuff. Just bring up the subject of quilts and see how technical women can get in their discussion. And actually, installing a computer network isn't any more complex than crocheting, depending on the project.

In my art, I began combining male and female materials and techniques. I made clothing such as bras and hoopskirts out of male materials: steel, rubber, concrete. Most of these were not wearable. Then I moved from sculpture to writing, but I'm doing the same thing, by combining romance with science fiction. I'm taking the girl stuff and putting it together with the boy stuff. This is hot. I love technology, but even more than that I love techy men. I love how they think and how they solve problems.

My husband died of his disease, but I now write about romance heroes who are tech nerds like him. To write these characters I've got to get the technology right. Boys love their tools in a particularly male way. In showing male characters it helps to understand this love and to share in their fascination with things that go boom. Go borrow their stuff. I want to tell you girls, that you can go into the garage and use boy's tools, or buy your own. And for you boys in this group, you can use tools from the sewing room. Be sure talk to your sweetie when you do it. He or she will want you to treat the tools with care and will have good information on how to use the stuff. As a reader or a writer, don't be intimidated by either male or female technology, you are as smart and technically savvy as member of the opposite sex. And they are willing to share.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Victorian Steel:Duct Tape and Busk

Before committing myself to steel, I made a sample busk out of matboard, good thing. I found I had to remove about 2 inches so I could sit down comfortably.
I taped the busk into the muslin mockup with duct tape and taped in some boning too.
Here's what it looks like.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Victorian Steel

Summer will soon be here and I'm making my plans. This year I'm going to attend RWA(Romance Writers of America) Nationals in Nashville. Part of the festivities is a steampunk party aboard a steamboat.
I've got a steel bra that I made as sculpture back when I was an art student. I'm planning to remake it as part of a corset. But now the ideas are snowballing and I'm planning an entire steampunk costume.
Last weekend, I began drafting the pattern for the corset. I made a rought preliminary out of paper then made a muslin and redid the pattern. I'm going to do another muslin next.

I purchased fabric, a burgundy colored linen/cotton blend for the outside and a cotton twill for the inside layer. I'm going to do the lacing on the sides and a split busk on the front. I looked into purchasing a split busk and decided it would be better to make my own out of steel mesh and wire. I'm going to put the busk on the outside
Yesterday I went from hardware store to hardware store looking for steel mesh. I what I was looking for at Lowe's. Loui, a salesperson there, was a great help. He writes science-fiction short stories. He had a Mowhawk and tattoos. We talked about art and industrial goth. I never thought I'd be doing industrial goth. This costume won't be. It's more industrial than goth.

I drew a layout for the corset, and put the steel parts on top.