Hold Up!

hold up!

[Stuart voice]: “Look what I can do!”

Hold Up!

Hold Up!
The Beyoncé “Hold Up” dress (here’s the original: yes, it’s amazing!) was my biggest project this Halloween. A friend saved up and went big – she not only requisitioned the dress, she acquired the hair, shoes (which were then hand-painted), and jewerly. There is nothing I like more than someone going all-out, and it was wonderful to be a part of that.

Hold Up!

Let me get right to the knitty-gritty of how (I think) the dress was originally constructed (it’s from a collection, so there is more than one version out there – which is confusing for a reconstruction effort), and how I duped it.

So, he dress appears to be made with tiered chiffon flounces, and lace appliqué on a mesh and spandex underdress. The flounces were also roughly pleated and lettuce-edged; the bottom two flounces were trimmed with lace. The dress is hardly structured at all, a lot of bare skin shows as well as the actual push-up bra. My client found the black bra herself and hand-stitched an interlining to emulate the double-strap look on the bra. I wish I’d paid more attention to that particular bra detail, as I could have done that job for her by machine; her handstitching failed at the party she was at (bras need to be very sturdy, especially for the large-busted)!

Because the dress is mostly a monochromatic garment, I had to figure out how to get four matching colors in the absolutely gorgeous yellow of the dress, and this affected my choice of fabrics. Notice in the photo at upper left a version of the dress looks warm and poppy-colored, at left – and greenish at right; you will also notice the dress appears several different colors in this post depending on the lighting I am working with. I ended up deciding to buy my 25 yards of chiffon, and dye the other fabrics to match using a local dye artist. Note that dyeing different fabrics (including fabrics with differing fiber content) is a bit of a technical challenge, and will likely involve lots of testing and different types of dye processes.

It took trial and error to get the fabrics dyed the correct color;  one nylon lace, for instance, simply didn’t take dye. My dye artist friend (Val from FiberPlay) had to do two washes to get the colors deep enough – but they were lovely and all matched, by the time she was done. Below, you see (from left, clockwise) the chiffon, spandex, mesh, and lace I used.

Hold Up!

One other major technical component was the pleating. I believe the flounces on the original garment were cut circular, not straight – which meant the pleats were formed that way as well (I think of this as sunray pleating although I’m sure it has other names). After lots of pleating research and a few phone conversations with the *amazing* Rusty at SF Pleating (415.608.1983), I opted to send Rusty labeled strips, and he pleated them all. The pleats arrived in these fabulous crepe paper bundles. Rusty was beyond amazing and I hope to work with him again!

Hold Up!

Hold Up!

Now that I had the pleated chiffon and all properly-hued fabrics, it was time to assemble! I build the mesh and spandex underdress, using carbon paper to trace my flounce positions. I then fussy-cut the lace motifs, and applied the lace to locations on the mesh underdress:

Hold Up!

The mesh needed a stabilizer to form a nice strong zig-zag stitch.

Hold Up!
All of the chiffon flounces had to be finished by serge, as chiffon likes to fray into these teeny tiny fibers. These flounces were then either edged by serge or edged by fishing line. The latter process is so fun! You wrap your fishing line around a form, use heat (boiling water or heat gun) to seal the shape of the circular culry-q’s, let cool, and feed this line into the chiffon while hemming. This process required a lot of trial and error; you have to find the right weight of fishing line – but was super fun. I’ll have to create a tutorial someday!|

After the flounces were hemmed, I applied them to the mesh in the locations I’d traced:

Hold Up!

One regret I had was not acquiring a twist-cord blank to dye. Instead I created cord from the spandex fabric, and used it for the dresses’ back-tie, as well as the three straps in the bodice.

Hold Up!
The original dress likely does not fasten by tie, but this is the most adjustable and comfortable way to go for a costume:

Hold Up!

So, obviously my friend K. stole the show at her event. It was both an honor and a privilege to get to make her something so special! And I can’t wait for my next pleated project!

Hold Up!

Holiday Robe Sew-Along Badge

holiday robe sew-along: supplies

Join the Holiday Robe Sew-Along!

 Holiday Robe Sew-Along Badge


As promised, here is a bit of a supplies post for the Holiday Robe Sew-Along, starting on the 10th of this month.

So first, I absolutely love this robe. I generally throw it on after showering, putting my hair up, and donning my undergarments. The jersey is so cool, and the drape and volume give a very elegant but modest effect so I don’t mind, say, answering the door if someone knocks.

Holiday Robe Sew-Along

For this sew-along we only need our pattern, our fabrics (if sewing a floor-length for an adult, I wouldn’t order fewer than five yards), and optional interfacing for the belt (you’ll want a knit or tricot interfacing; I favor Fashion Sewing Supply‘s products).

Holiday Robe Sew-Along
And before I talk fabrics, I am well-aware that sew-along peeps usually bend the rules. 🙂

The pattern I am using for the robe SAL is a pattern suited for knits or wovens, and carries a lot of ease. A lighter-weight fabric is the best choice, due to the sheer volume of the robe – especially if you’re going floor-length. My fabric choices below will highlight lightweight knits in either cotton, modal, or rayon (or a combination) – with or without lycra. You want to make sure your fabric is not sheer (unless sheer is the look you want). But remember, you can make this robe out of a variety of fabrics so if you want to try something else, post in the comments and I will give you my advice.

Obvious choices for this robe are solids, yarn-dyed stripes, and florals.

Green Jersey Fabric

Stripe Jersey Fabric

Floral Jersey Fabric
In alphabetical order, a few shops I’ve used in the last year that I’ve enjoyed working with.

Cali Fabrics is a great, quick source for inexpensive, good knits. You can search their knits by colorway. Imagine a glamorous Christmas-evening robe in this gold-on-navy sparkle knit; a playful daytime robe in this wonderful apricot jersey; something dramatic like this rose-print black and red. (You may notice the robe I demonstrate for this sew-along was made from the floral-on-sage rayon knit in this shop.)

Fabric.com is one of my staple sites. Not fast shipping, but free shipping. And they have a huge catalog of knit fabrics. I often search with highest price first, because you can find quality yardage at good prices that way.

FashionFabricsClub is rumored to be in cahoots with Fabric.com (let me know if you know better than I). They have a real hit-and-miss reputation, but the last time I purchased from them their customer service was fabulous. You can do a search on jersey knit or rayon knit to get started.

Similar to Cali Fabrics in quality and price, Girl Charlee carries great knits, and they are fast and inexpensive. Start at their knit section and work from there; cotton jersey and cotton lycra are both great choices, with lycra sporting a springier feel.

If you are interested in a cotton solid, imagine gnats is a great shop and Rachel is a wonderful person to order from! Her knit collection holds several laguna solids, which are great (and gorgeous) all-purpose solids (note: prices are per half yard).

Mood Fabrics has some of the most gorgeous fabrics around. Start in their knit/jersey section and go from there (look at this eggplant with metallic stars!). Fast shipping, too! Their customer service “Chat” function is very disappointing. But otherwise, I’ve been very happy with Mood.

There’s always Nature’s Fabrics – one of my favorite shops, hands-down. They have a lovely selection of cotton jersey prints and stripes. Many of their fabrics are knits, so searching a few other fibers yields wonderful results (like this rayon slub).

So there you have it! More than enough to get you started. Remember, you can email me or comment here if you want any guidance!

See you on the 10th!

Halloween 2016

ooky & a bit spooky

Halloween 2016

Halloween 2016
The night before Halloween, my husband and a friend traveled south, went to a concert, and upon heading back north the car broke down in the middle of nowhere. Six hours and a $600 tow later (middle of the night Sunday), they were home safely and I was entirely wrung out like a flannel.

Worse than the hardship was my anger. The car hasn’t been right; it’s not reliable. That morning I’d asked, “Do you think it’s a good idea to go down there tonight?” He did. He was wrong.

It sucks. It doesn’t bear dwelling on. My mortgage payment is gone. For now. I’ll figure something out. Or something will come. I have come to rely on this.

Halloween itself, then, commenced a little off-kilter. Ralph slept during the day a bit. In the later part of the day I was up and roasting tomatoes and de-hulling chickpeas for a small gathering at our house. Despite a tightness in my chest, and a headache in my temples, the day soon began to ease for me. My son’s friend A. came in, intrigued by my cooking, by my costume. I asked for him to put out our luminaries, a series of jars festooned in colored tissue paper decoupage. More willing than my own children to help, his eager-to-please sweetness gave me something to focus on. His presence soothed my spirit.

Ralph came back home as I finished the bisque, and set out little pickles and olives and the like. We grabbed a few photos in the gloaming, a misty rain baptizing us. Autumn has always been a very special time of year for me, and no less so this year. There is an intimacy between the children and I that I have come to find so incredibly comforting.

As darkness fell Ralph and our friends, and all the children, went off through the neighborhood and as is my custom, I manned the door. Children knocked and I greeted them, a huge bowl of candy in my arms. “A queen!” a young boy beamed, delighted by my golden crown.

Next year we’ll need a well-lit walkway; I fear it was too dark for some of the Trick or Treat’ers to brave.

This year, I am happy to have spent it in festivities with my loved ones.

Halloween 2016


Costume Workshop Sew-Along Badge

costume workshop sew-along: finishing

Costume Workshop Sew-Along BadgeWe are almost finished with our costume workshop! Our first week we put together a simple hat with ears and whiskers. Then, we prepared our jumpsuit-style pattern and cut and marked our fabrics. Then we joined our shell, including our pockets. Last entry we joined the lining and prepared our neckline and front placket

Today? We are finishing and joining the costume. Our final post will be a little costume/tutorial workshop roundup, consisting of some helpful costuming resources (and please email me if there are any you’d like to share)!

Ready? OK!

Fist Bump!

Costume Workshop Sew-Along Badge

costume workshop sew-along: joining the shell

Costume Workshop Sew-Along BadgeOur first week we messed around with hats and ears and whiskers, that sort of thing. Last week we prepared our pattern and cut and marked our fabrics. Today we will be joining our shell (including pockets), to prepare for lining insertion.

A reminder: I am working with faux fur here, and if you are working with it as well you may want to check out my post from a few years back. 

Ready? OK!


Costume Workshop Sew-Along Badge

costume workshop sew-along: hat with ears

Costume Workshop Sew-Along Badge

Costume Workshop Sew-Along: Hat With Ears

Yo yo yo! Today’s the day we get started on some costumery. Instead of a typical sew-along where we are all making the same garment, I’m showcasing some costuming basics so you don’t have to have endless mishaps, glue-gun burns, blunted scissors, and bent sewing machine needles!

Well let’s just be honest. You are going to get a few glue gun burns. That’s probably given.


But here’s the thing. The real benefit of this sew-along are my Skype sessions. This is where you and I video chat and you can tell me all about your project and I can direct you to sources, help you find techniques, and advise you! My next three Fridays are open for Skype appointments  – 12 to 3 PM PST on September 16th, 23rd, and 30th! I already have slots filling in (albeit slowly) – so if you want to reserve a spot, text (360.500.3287) or email me!

Costume Workshop Sew-Along

costume workshop sew-along: supplies & pattern

Costume Workshop Sew-Along
Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

Max From Where The Wild Things Are (Upgrayedd)

babycreeps #1: little dickens

On The Prowl

(post one September 15, 2016: hats with whiskers and ears, here)

(Literally waited until the earliest possible seemly date to start my Halloween sew-talk)

So hey. Hey good peeps. You know what?

I love making costumes so so so so much!

And given I’ve made quite a few for kids and adults all over the globe – from California to the Netherlands to Australia! – I wanted to showcase some of the methods I use to make a costume last, and last, and last.