Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some Wordy Top Five Lists

I've really been enjoying reading the Top Five lists organized by Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow, because I think it's so satisfying and fun to look back on the things people have accomplished in a year's time. As much as I'd love to participate in full, I genuinely don't think I have enough to fill out most of the lists! I've really only made five things this year (The Other Williamsburg skirt, my two Coopers, the Stress-Sewing T-Shirt dress and my as-of-yet unblogged Newcastle Cardigan), and they've all been crammed into the last two or so months at that. Not quite enough for a Top 5 Hits and/or Misses, unless I have all the things I've made serve as both!

What I can do, however, is all the more introspective or forward-thinking questions. It can serve as a boost for me, especially as a beginning sewer (is sewist the term? It feels strange to say, but I imagine that'll change) and blogger. Plus, I'm a sucker for lists. So, here we go, slammed into one massive (and text-heavy) post!

Top 5 Reflections/Things I've Learned:

  1. The sewing machine is not an object to be feared, but if you need to get yourself a cutesy, completely non-intimidating beginner's model to convince yourself of that that is a-okay. I've always had an interest in making my own garments (it started with a desire to take up cosplay), but I was terrified of my nana's and my mother's sewing machines and self-aware enough to know that handsewing was not my thing. It was even worse when I tried to use my friend's gray storm cloud of an industrial-strength one last year while working on cosplays (it didn't help that the buttonhole feature of it totally destroyed my blouse- and that was with her trying to do them for me!). It wasn't until I bought myself my cutesy little mint green Janome Hello Kitty machine that I actually felt comfortable with a sewing machine, and that has made ALL the difference.
    I love you, little buddy. Guest starting my BJD, Thomasina, who will eventually show up on this blog as I venture into RIDICULOUSLY SMALL SEWING.
  2. Letting myself embrace the fact that I had no idea what I was doing made it possible for me to actually learn. I know that probably sounds hella weird, but it's true! I have this problem in all areas of my life: I'm so afraid of coming across as uninformed or stupid that I lie to myself and to others that I know a lot more than I do. That's a ridiculous way to be! Going into a hobby where I really had to study and embrace the fact that I knew nothing (Jon Snow) is helping me attain the confidence to, well, not know things and to respond to that lack of knowledge not with embarrassment but with excitement.
  3. Wearing things I've made is really satisfying! I wore my Stress-Sewing t-shirt dress to both a luncheon honoring an alum of my college and to my voice jury and I felt completely comfortable in it. I thought I'd be self-conscious, but since it's considering impolite to flip someone's skirt to see how they finished their seams or inspect a worn garment to see if the thread matches just so, I knew only I knew about the flaws of what I was wearing.
  4. If wearing things I've made is satisfying, giving things I've made to others is even more satisfying. Best sewing-related thing of the year was definitely making my sister the Winnie the Cooper. The Newcastle Cardigan for my boyfriend would've edged that out if I'd made it a bit neater, as he adored it (and so did his parents, something I did not expect- his Army dad actually complimented me on the workmanship of it and his British mom couldn't stop complimenting the fabric choices). Can't wait to steal that back from him tomorrow to fix it up a bit.
  5. It may be a silly reflection, but as this is my first year (well, half a year or so) sewing it's an important one: I really, genuinely do love sewing!
Top 5 Inspirations:
  1. My cosplay group at college and my cosplay friends online. If it hadn't been for the group's tutelage last year and the motivation to make costumes to go along with my friends when I met them at conventions, I never would've built up the determination to get into sewing.
  2. Tilly and the Buttons. It was reading her "Learn to Sew" posts that really made me feel like this was something I could do, as I actually understood things, both from what I'd learned with the cosplay group and just from how she was writing it. Looking forward to her book!
  3. Independent pattern companies. Seeing the incredible stuff made by companies like Colette, Deer & Doe, and Victory Patterns has shown me that I can have the wardrobe of my dreams. My fashion style is a weird mesh of feminine, flowing and effortless with futuristic, bold and androgynous, and that's kind of a hard thing to pull off using storebought clothing; by utilizing patterns from these amazing companies and using cohesive color palettes, I can make my ideal style a reality.
  4. A slew of different sewing blogs. Reading about others' projects made it seem so fun and so creative that I wanted a part of it! Besides the already mentioned, I really love Ginger Makes and Cation Designs. That said I'm still looking for more blogs to follow- again, I'm pretty new to this slice of the internet! 
  5. Animated fashion designs. This is a little dorky, but man, being able to sew means if I so chose I could have an entire wardrobe based on the Disney Princesses or on my favorite video games (I could dress like I live in a Harvest Moon game!!). I'm going to go mad with power.
Top Five Goals:
  1. Sew more, plain and simple! By the end of the year I want a wardrobe of items I've made myself that I can wear for a variety of occasions and environments.
  2. Be more mindful of my technique. It's well enough to sort of be sloppy in certain things while I'm building up the confidence to do them in the first place, but if I want to improve and to have a solid foundation for my future sewing I have to start doing things right now. (Although I think I'll always be that person who'll fudge things if I can get away with it...)
  3. Focus on things I'll wear, rather than patterns that make me go "ooh how cute!" I don't have the budget to buy patterns that'll just linger there looking pretty.
  4. Have a cohesive feel to what I make. Similar to the above, I can't let myself get swept up in a pretty fabric if it won't go with anything else I own or have made!
  5. Get more involved in the sewing community! I don't really know anyone else who makes their own clothes (my cosplay friends sew for cosplay and that's typically it), but I'd love to make some friends who won't tune out when I start talking about fabric choices or how I want to learn a new technique- and if they can help me learn, so much the better!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sewing for the Holidays: Winnie the Cooper

Apologies for the gap in posts, but I permitted myself to take a break from the siren song of the laptop for the start of my winter break. By that I mean I was avoiding opening up my laptop because it'd mean I had to actually deal with the bureaucratic mess that is getting some paperwork done for my history thesis, but I do genuinely believe it's good to take nice, long breaks from the internet and it's charms when possible. And I promise I put that time to good use, as I whipped up two new makes during that time!

Without further ado, the first of the two Christmas gifts I handmade for special people in my life: the Winnie the Cooper Satchel for my sister!

The elusive sophisticated Winnie the Pooh print fabric has been found.
Initially, I was going to make a Cooper satchel for my dad, but I knew he'd be more particular about what he wanted in a bag so that plan got scraped. I really wasn't planning on making my sister one, but then I discovered this Winnie the Pooh printed burlap while traipsing around the Joann's website and everything clicked beautifully into place. I mean, a mature-looking Winnie the Pooh print?! Knowing how obsessed with Winnie the Pooh my sister is, I knew what I had to do, and thus in a marathon night of sewing (more because I had the motivation to tackle it right then and didn't want to stop working on it than because of time constraints) this Cooper satchel was born... with a slight modification.

No pannier here!
My sister doesn't ride a bike. She doesn't live in a very bike-friendly place, so she couldn't even if she wanted to. I knew the pannier straps'd be a waist on her satchel, but I still wanted to put the clasps I got in the hardware kit to good use. I considered a shoulder strap but my sister doesn't really like those, and then it hit me: why not make horizontal straps for it rather than vertical ones, so it could slide over the handle of a rolling suitcase and serve as an awesome travel bag? It was a really simple switch to make. First, I sewed the back handle into the top contrast panel rather than the bottom one, so it was neatly enclosed. I then eyeballed the length of the horizontal straps I'd want, taking the fact that the straps would need to be longer than one might think to accommodate the bag being full (okay, that makes it sound like I planned everything out, when really I just cut two long pieces of fabric and sewed them up as per the instructions for the bag's handles and it just happened to work out well), then sandwiched the raw ends into the side seams, backstitching there to reinforce it. Dad and I stuffed a twin-sized thick blanket into it to test the straps and they worked like a charm!

The body fabric is a great thick corduroy I found on sale that matches the red of Pooh's shirt perfectly; it makes this bag look a lot more "fashionable" than utilitarian, like the pack cloth of my messenger bag. It was my first time working with a fabric with pile, but mercifully bag sewing is a bit more forgiving than garment sewing so it wasn't tedious to work with at all, although I did have to give my machine a through cleaning afterwards as it left everything with a delicate frosting of red fluff. Since I was using burlap for the contrast fabric, I lined the bottom gusset with the corduroy as well, to make the bottom of the bag extra sturdy. I also lined the flap pieces with the lining fabric (a cute blue and white polka dot waterproof fabric that was cryptically labeled "bag fabric" at the Joann's, but it was in the utility fabric section and was $2.50 a yard so I figured what the hell, let's go with it), to ensure that the snaps wouldn't tear out of the loose burlap and that the flap itself wouldn't be too, well, floppy.

This pattern sewed up even more easily the second time around, with one notable difference: I totally bugged up those straps at first! I had the messenger bag instructions too fresh in my mind so I stitched the front straps down the entire body, which made it so that when I went to test how the bag looked with the handle done up I found that completely impossible. Mercifully, since the straps are sewn down entirely on the outside of the bag, it was a simple matter to seam rip out the extraneous stitching with no damage to the bag. Bless my lime green seam ripper, it's my best sewing friend (don't tell the shears or my teapot pin cushion).

I do wish I'd taken more care with cutting out the burlap- it'd be nice if I'd managed to get a Pooh between the handle straps rather than being cut in half by or creepily blindfolded by them. But! My sister is incredibly pleased with it, and really that's what matters the most to me.

Next up: a Deus Ex: Human Revolution inspired Newcastle Cardigan for my boyfriend, which was many a first for me (first time sewing for a guy, first time making a jacket, first time using facings- the list goes on!) But first, I need to recapture the cardigan from him to make a few fixes (definitely made the arms a little too long as I forgot that the cuffs were a thing) and so I can take some decent photos!

P.S. I got the Colette Sewing Handbook for Christmas, so definitely expect more Colette Patterns makes in the future. I love all the patterns (well, I might make the Pastille Dress have a fuller skirt, because I don't like dresses that are so fitted everywhere even though I know that's kind of the point of the dress, but) so I'm going to work through it almost like the Home Ec class I never had. I might go a bit out of order, though, as I have the perfect hunter green chiffon for the Taffy Blouse, and I'm itching to cut into it and try it out. This really is a beautiful book, full of great tutorials for the beginner and just inspiringly pretty in general!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Completed Cutesy Cooper!

I studied for approximately eight hours straight yesterday, and I'll be doing about the same starting in an hour today, so I decided I would treat myself this morning to a bit of a break to bash out the rest of my Cooper bag. Hey, I need something to cart around all my Russian history textbooks, now, don't I? My satchel certainly can't, and it's finals time. This was a practical decision (or so I keep insisting to myself to nullify the mild guilt of devoting a few hours to a sewing project rather than studying).

Ready for the grand reveal?

It's possible this qualifies for green overload but I DON'T CAAAREEE.

This sucker is ADORABLE you guys. I struggled with a few parts, mainly because, well, my body fabric did not press well. And when I say not well, I really mean I literally melted the first flap strap piece I cut, and had a momentary panic of "oh god how brutally will they kill me if I cause a fire alarm during finals week". It creased nicely, however, so I ended up making the straps work by using an unholy quantity of pins to hold them in place, pinching the edges firmly a couple of times, and then leaving the pins in place while I sewed and removing them as I went along. My self-made shoulder strap doesn't like to lie particularly flat as a result, but hey, I take what I can get.

I decided to make my body pocket out of the contrasting fabric as well, rather than the main body fabric like the pattern suggested- when you have a contrast fabric this cute, it's a crime not to use it all. On that note, I have a shoulder guard in the works, but I couldn't complete it as I completely lack any velcro and lack the time and the vehicle to get out to a store to buy any, but it will get done! The fabric is already cut and ready. Oh, returning to the whole body-fabric-does-not-press thing: it also made it so my straps ended up a bit uneven. The right-side body strap is noticeably bigger than the left side, but honestly I'm just not that bothered by it. Considering this was my first time ever making a bag and using most of these materials, I'm just tickled pink it actually worked! Speaking of new materials...

The lining fabric was both a breeze and a bitch to work with, let me tell you. It cut and sewed up beautifully, easy as could be, but that stuff gets stiff. It does not want to get turned inside out without a significant struggle and a few tears. The fighting was worth it, though, as it gives the bag some wonderful shape and I just love how the fabrics go together- the cute green ribbons and purple fabric, uhg, it's too cute. I only sewed down the center of one pocket, as I wanted to leave the other full-sized as then it's the exact right size to accommodate my Nook. Plus, I know if a soda ever explodes in my bag it'll be an easy matter to just wipe down the inside! (I'm not speaking from personal experience, but my freshman year roommate definitely lost her favorite bag that way. Moment of silence for the sparkly zebra print purse.)

I used the Gifts for Crafters hardware set for this, and it was a total breeze. Doesn't hurt that the bronze finish happens to be my favorite, anyway, and that it went so nicely with my fabric choices! I'd never installed snaps or rivets before, but I was surprised by how straightforward it was. I think next time I will use a bit of interfacing to reinforce the snaps, though; I don't think my fabric will tear, but I still hold my breath a little bit every time I unsnap it. The rivets were a bit of a struggle as, confession, I lack an awl and mallet (I MacGyvered a makeshift one using a pair of tiny scissors and a lot of brute force, and then used a wine bottle opener as a mallet because I keep it classy), but it all came together in the end.

The other thing that absolutely amazed me was that my machine had no problems handling this, even when I had to sew through five+ layers of fabric at once. My machine isn't anything particularly fancy- in fact, much like this Cooper, it's on the cuter side of life (it's a mint green Hello Kitty Janome model), yet I have yet to run into anything it can't do. Sometimes the cute ones are more than they seem!

Now, the main motivation for this bag was I needed something big enough to hold all my books. As a history major, I get a lot of reading assigned, with a lot of textbooks to go along with it. How does the Cooper bag stack up under the pressures of a senior history major?

GLORY GLORY HALLELUJAAAHH. Now imagine the bag is saying that. You're welcome, I still haven't stopped giggling.
There are five books, one Nook, and two notebooks in there and the sucker is still ready for more. I could probably fit the majority of my textbooks for the semester in this little beauty, although I am a little concerned as to how well it'll hold up under that strain. I sewed the shoulder straps on about five times each for that very reason, though- I knew what this poor thing was gonna get into. But just, man, this thing is the TARDIS of bags, I genuinely think it's bigger on the inside.

... who let me think that, now I can't get the idea of a TARDIS blue satchel out of my head.

Obligatory modeled view! Ah, the mess of my room increases.
I am mildly concerned that since I went so cute with the fabric it ended up looking a bit like a diaper bag, but that's a very mild concern. I'm planning on adding some button pins to it and I think that'll take care of that concern in an instant (as well as draw attention away from the slightly messed up straps). I do really love the size this ended up being, though, it's exactly what I wanted without overwhelming me.

My Two Bags: A Love Story. Guest starring the unreasonably large Hello Kitty KISS bag I got at DragonCon from the WeLoveFine booth.

Between my satchel as my laptop bag and my Cooper as my "toss everything into it and run" bag, I think I have all my bases covered- and don't they look so nice together? Technically speaking my Cooper has its share of mistakes to its name, but even so the result is exactly what I envisioned, practical as all get out and go, and the mistakes aren't really noticeable unless you're A) familiar with the pattern and B) really looking for them. That's enough to make me inordinately proud of myself.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must put my new creation to work and trudge off to a Russian history study session. At least I'll be cute?

UPDATE: It kept all those books dry through a ten minute walk through a cold Williamsburg downpour, like a little boss. A+ job, bag friend.

P.S. While adding three of these photos into the Colette photostream for the contest, I realized that I made my flicker account years ago and it has the somewhat embarrassing moniker of moonlight-chan. I... I don't really have anything to say for myself on that front.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

In Which There Are Feels About Princess Gowns

Yesterday was the last day of classes, which is affectionately referred to as Blowout. The intent is to, uh, spend the entire day in a drunken stupor of "thank god classes are done with for the semester", and crazy things tend to happen. I skipped on the drunken stupor part, although I did partake in some of the best alcohol I've ever had: I am officially a 100% mead convert. As my friend Joanna kept saying, it makes you feel like you're sitting in a huge armchair by a fire surrounded by cozy furs and at utter peace with the world (this mental reverie only slightly inspired by Skyrim). This does not mean, however, my Blowout was not wonderful; after seeing our AMAZINGLY talented friend Sophie perform with the orchestra (she's a killer mezzo-soprano opera singer), a group of us was left wondering what to do when Joanna announced there was a showing of Frozen in fifteen minutes.

You have never seen a group of college students leap up and run (literally) out the door as fast as we did then, stopping only to accept a plate of pancakes from a group of students dressed up like cutlery (I swear I'm not making that up and I swear all of us were completely sober).

The movie itself was splendid and adorable (although it certainly has its problematic elements- one of the reasons I left tumblr was my burnout over all the posts upon posts of preemptive hate Frozen was getting for its continuation of the trend of the white Disney princess, the reduction of female characters, and so on, which are all incredibly valid and necessary points to make, but they don't necessarily define the movie- but that's a discussion for another time), but one of the things that really struck me was my god the costume designer was on point.

They put the blue-eyed redhead in green or blue dresses. Bless their hearts, they finally figured that one out.

Do I have tears in my eyes right now? Possibly.
I have not been able to get this dress out of my mind. The box pleats! The colors! The sweetheart bodice! The rosemaling-inspired details! It's enough to make this blue-eyed redhead cry because finally, finally they didn't make the ginger wear pink! Not only that, but they basically made the exact dress I'd want if I were a princess dressing for a ball, sans exaggeration. It truly has all my favorite elements. Her winter outfit (blue!!) and end-of-movie outfit (ANOTHER GREEN ONE) are also beautifully done, and make me wish I still had hair long enough to pigtail braid. Elsa's gowns were also on point (her ice gown, with the snowflake cape? Genius.), but the reaction I had to Anna's dresses was nigh visceral.

Really, I have been longing for a good green princess dress. Tiana's lily pad dress in Princess and the Frog gave me hope, and is probably still my favorite truly over-the-top princess gown, but the huge bell skirts and straplessness of it made it so while I can love it for its beauty I'd never want to wear it myself. (Her fantastic end outfit with all the 20s flourishes a girl could hope for, however, is another story- but it's not a true Princess Ball Gown. Actually Tia probably has my favorite full wardrobe, and I still maintain that in the event I get married I want her wedding dress.) Shockingly none of the other Disney princess gowns have ever spoken to me; I reiterate, I don't go in for huge bell skirts, Rapunzel's outfit was adorable but a little too pastel for me (were it only a bolder purple!), and while I am head-over-heels for Mulan's matchmaker outfit I'm too white to not feel inappropriate and mildly culturally appropriative were I to ever wear it. Aurora's dress (in blue) is nice, but not nice enough to really get my heart beating, and Belle's green library dress again wasn't a true Disney ballgown but a filler outfit. 

We just don't talk about Ariel's gown. It never happened. The new seafoam version is vastly better, but it's still a smidge too poofy for my tastes.

Do you know how mildly devastating it is for a cosplayer to not have a princess gown they dearly want to make? It's just one of those things that eventually happens to us all: making a princess ballgown is like a rite of passage. I'd been contenting myself with Anastasia's Once Upon a December sequence gown, knowing that, while stunningly beautiful and something I'd love to make, it wasn't quite right.

Although damn I still love this song, and will always love Anya's color palette as also getting this blue-eyed redhead's preferred color palette SO RIGHT.
My head is just abuzz with inspiration from Frozen's costuming, I just can't help it. I'm scheming up a version of this dress with a modified pointed waist rather than straight for the contrast bodice, and while I could never afford it I can't get this fabric out of my head for the skirt and sleeve portions, with a nice darker purple for the bodice and a lovely dark orange and purple peter pan collar and cuffs. Almost like taking design inspiration from Frozen with a dash of Kayley from Quest for Camelot (who also has a wedding dress I adore, and anyone who wears a purple tunic with blue tights is okay in my book). While we're on the subject, I'd also love to make a shirt dress inspired by the one Dmitri got Anya... Maybe using the Colette Hawthorne pattern? I have Christmas/Hannukah money incoming, it could happen...

Basically, my ultimate wardrobe goals would be ganking the design elements of my favorite animated heroines, and I am certainly not ashamed of this in the slightest. Now, for the time and the money to make it so.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Please Hold for Finals

And just like that, I missed basically the entire last half of November. All I can say to justify myself is, "It was Thanksgiving break, I was exhausted, and now it's the week before finals and I am even more exhausted."

I have some things in the works I really would love to share: my Cooper is coming along adorably, despite some issues with pressing (my body fabric refuses to press neatly, so sewing down the detail straps on the body was a bit of a bear, for example, which makes me a bit apprehensive about making my own straps but eh, might as well just press on), I've got the Newcastle pattern printed and pieced together and ready to go, and I've been chipping away at the Yui Hongo and Chihiro Fujisaki cosplays, but the only time I really have to take pictures is late at night and my room has succumbed to the Finals Pit of No Return stage. It's really not the nicest place to take photos... if I could find a flat enough surface to lay out my things to TAKE photos, even.

Currently, I'm working on a Russian history paper due tomorrow at midnight (only eight pages doublespaced, but the prompt is so massive I could have double the page count and still feel like I was leaving things out, so that has me a bit on edge), revising my writing seminar portfolio, and beginning to study for my finals, all of which are next week (my college doesn't believe in Reading Days- or, rather, it believes Reading Days is just a fancier term for the weekend). I'm also polishing off my grad school applications, so a lot is getting crammed into the next week and a half!

... and then I'm done with my last fall semester as a college undergrad. How the hell did that one happen, I ask you.

Anyway, the point of this post is: sewing posts will resume once I get a break from the chaos that is the last week of finals, because I can't wait to get back into it! I'm gonna try to have a sewing wishlist post for Sunday, as a bit of a break for myself (because who doesn't love to destress with a little internet window shopping around the holidays?), but I don't want to make any promises I might not be able to keep, so that's still up in the air for now.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Just Like Fabric Chrismukkah

(Note: I did not know until now that there was a roughly "official" spelling for the portmanteau of Christmas and Hanukkah. I've never actually typed it out before, and I typically don't even say it as I don't mind just going "Yeah, I celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah." Who knew!)

I got five package notification emails from my campus' post office today. Five! In one day! That's the magic of ordering the materials for two projects all at once, I guess, and having all of the vendors have incredibly speedy shipping at that. (Seriously, two of the Etsy stores I bought from shipped off so fast that Etsy won't even let me leave them feedback yet!) These five packages contained almost all the materials I'd need for both the Newcastle Cardigan I'm making for my boyfriend (including main fabric, contrast fabric, buttons- which I have a somewhat silly story about, but more on that latter -and interfacing) and the Cooper messenger bag I'm making for myself (including main fabric, contrast fabric, and lining- still waiting on the hardware kit and the pattern itself, but since that's coming from literally across the country I'm not surprised it didn't arrive on the same day as everything else.)

I wish I'd thought to take a photo of all the envelopes (plus one box- sweatshirt fleece gets bulky when folded up), but I didn't have that kind of self restraint. I tore into everything about as soon as I got back to my dorm.

Look at how perfectly the main body fabric matches the green square part of the contrast fabric pattern! I'm a little apprehensive about using the oilcloth, but as far as overall look goes I love it. Also yes, I still haven't taken the main fabrics out of their protective plastic shipping material, shh.
THIS SWEATSHIRT FLEECE IS SO SOFT AND SNUGLY I'm going to steal this from my boyfriend all the damn time.
I can't wait for my Cooper pattern to get here so I can tackle both of these projects. I'm printing out the Newcastle pattern tonight, but since I've two papers due tomorrow, well... probably not getting to cutting anything out until tomorrow at the earliest.

Now, for that silly story about buttons I mentioned. I guess I temporarily forgot how to read descriptions, but I somehow got it into my head that "Quantity: 1" meant one singular button. In reality, the website very clearly states that "There are 3 buttons per card", so obviously "Quantity: 1" really means one order of three buttons.

I, er, ordered quantity: 5, which translates to 15 buttons.

Some day I'll be able to take non-phone pictures in which you can actually see some semblance of detail!
The good news: I really like these buttons, so I guess I now have some direction as to what I'm going to make my Mathilde blouse out of: something that matches the buttons in my stash! Maybe I'll go for a black main body with blue sleeves to echo the navy-and-black of the buttons... and maybe with a peter pan collar added, as I've a major weakness for those. But that's not going to be for a while, no more projects for me for now!

I ordered all the Cooper fabric from Etsy. The main fabric came from Bratpacks Fabric, the lining was from Oilcloth by the Yard and the contrast fabric (that made this whole project need to happen) was from Fabric Supply. Fabric Supply also included a whole bunch of adorable fabric swatches- they have such cute import fabrics. The Newcastle Cardigan fabric and buttons all came from Fabric.com. I was really hesitant about ordering from them as when I looked up reviews of them in advance (as I always do with online sites I haven't used before) it was fairly predominantly negative reviews, but they were the only place I could find with the exact fabric I wanted and the price was incredibly right. I took a chance, and either I got very lucky (which is possible- some of the reviews, both positive and negative, said it tended to be luck of the draw) or they've shaped up a bit. Whatever it was, I'm incredibly pleased with the fabric I got from them (and again, the button confusion was entirely on me- their site VERY clearly says one order is a card of three buttons).

Now if only I could pause academics and just sew... If only.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cooper Sew-Along Planning

My favorite thing about sewing is fabric, and that can cause a bit of a problem. If I see fabric I like, I basically feel compelled to figure out something to make with it, just because I must have that fabric in my life. Now, I'm pretty good at resisting my impulses, but sometimes the most perfect fabric in the world appears and I suddenly find myself with a new project on the table when I really didn't intend to have one or honestly have the time for one.

Which brings me to the Colette Cooper Sew-Along, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Canvas. (Link in sidebar!)
Girliest interpretation of a unisex pattern ever. Well, probably not girliest, as I considered a Hello Kitty oilcloth lining, which definitely would've been a bit more girly. Left: main body fabric. Right: contrast flap fabric. Tiny center: adorable oilcloth lining.
I found the canvas on the right first, and everything snowballed from there. I needed that adorable patchwork mess of cuteness in my life. I already have a Cambridge Satchel Co. backpack (I know they call it a batchel but I can't bring myself to do that...) that was a gift from my grandfather and which I adore beyond words, but its limitation is that I really can't shove it full of books and be about my merry way. My laptop and a notebook pretty much fill it to capacity. This is a problem when you're a history major working on an honors thesis and constantly carting around books by the dozens- my poor Josh Groban tote bag can only take so much! And besides, it constantly slips off my shoulders, particularly in the winter when it can't get traction on my peacoat, which gets mad annoying. (The tote bag, I mean, not the backpack.)

I love messenger bags, though, and have been idly looking for a new one for, well, ages. I had a Ghost in the Shell one that I adored beyond words, but, uh, I kind of wore out the corners of it in high school. I don't know what it was that did the poor thing in, but something ate through the corners like a monster. Someday I'll get around to patching that up, maybe with some faux leather in a matching shade of blue as the Laughing Man (because of course I still have it even if it's useless right now, that bag is awesome), but even once I fix it I doubt I'll be loading it up with anything too heavy and it's not really the right size for loading up on the library books.

Anyway, the combination of Pattern I Really Like with Cutest Canvas Ever That I Must Own resulted in my jumping on this sew-along bandwagon and ordering, well, everything possible last night (main fabric, contrast fabric, lining fabric, pattern, and hardware kit- I decided to be lazy and just order one of the pre-made bronze kits from Gifts for Crafters along with my Cooper pattern, although I'll make up for my laziness by making a matching-fabric strap and key chain). Cannot wait to get started on this- the goal is to have it done before my trip to Los Alamos so I can use it as my plane bag, and so I can enter it in the sew-along contest. The fabric combo prize would be amazing- $200 at Spoonflower would mean one of my dream cosplays, Tali'zorah vas Normandy from Mass Effect, would be financially possible as I could get the really nice printed fabrics by eixyn, and that would just be all shades of magic.

Tali is probably my favorite of my (somewhat embarrassing) figure collection. I also swear I did not buy that glass pumpkin to match her, it just worked out that way.
The main reason I jumped on this, though, is because I know my dad's been looking for a specific type of satchel for the longest time, but can't find anything that's precisely right. Depending on how my whipping up the messenger bag goes, I might see about using this pattern to make him his ideal bag as a Christmas present, although I'd definitely have to get creative for it. You know those doctor's medical satchels that open up and then stay opened up, like they've got reinforcement in the bag or something, like this one? He wants one of those, but in a larger size and ideally not black. If I could make it in burgundy and brown with antique gold hardware, it would be absolutely perfect. But I figure I should probably not dive straight into that more complicated project, so starting off with the messenger bag makes a lot of sense to me. Depending on how this goes I can already see myself making my sister a backpack with camera-print canvas (she's a photographer) and my mom and downsized messenger or satchel of her own to use as a purse in a turquoise faux leather striped ticking... this could be the birth of a monster.

So, yes, I am now in that simultaneously delightful and agonizing period of waiting for new fabrics to come in so I can get to work on my new not-researching-or-writing downtime project of the Walden by Colette Cooper bag. Gonna be fun.

And no, I did not forget about the Newcastle Cardigan I'll be making my boyfriend for Christmas- I'm waiting on that fabric, too. It should be here Monday!
Totally nailed it with that rib knit jacquard as far as the Deux Ex inspiration jacket goes, so pleased with myself right now.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get as much work done as humanly possible before these fabrics arrive and the desire to immediately start playing with them overrides whatever vestiges of academic responsibility I have left to my name.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stress Sewing: T-Shirt Dress

You ever find yourself in an inexplicably bad mood, where you're just sad for no reason whatsoever and you have to do something fun or creative to maybe jumpstart your mood into not being terrible again? That's where I was last night and that's where this dress came from. I wanted something simple, something quick, and something that'd be crazy comfortable, while also using some new techniques or at least a new something. I think this hit all of those nails on the proverbial head.

I do love me some horizontal stripes but please hold your prison inmate jokes until the end of the post.
Okay, I entirely recognize that this doesn't look like much on the hanger, but I'm really quite pleased with it, numerous flaws and all. I used Dixie DIY's T-Shirt Minidress pattern, as I had it lurking in my bookmarks of "cute free highly wearable patterns" and this blue and white lace striped knit lurking in my stash begging to be made into a dress. I lengthened the hem pretty significantly (by six of the stripes on the fabric, which probably translates to approximately six inches) and lengthened the sleeves a bit, because I wanted it to be more cold-weather appropriate... although considering how thin the fabric itself is, it's still probably going to be relegated to late spring/early fall. I didn't fuss with trying to match the stripes at the side seams, as, again, I wanted a quick project to maybe brighten my mood, although hilariously it seems that I matched them up perfectly- if I was going for an offset match on the stripes, anyway! It's kind of a fun look even though it's blatantly wrong, actually.

(I was going to leave a comment on that blog post about my making this dress, but I chickened out when I saw the last comment was from 10 months ago...! I suppose the pattern IS 2+ years old.)

Avert thine eyes, gaze not upon... whatever this mess is supposed to be
The less said about the collar, though, the better. I'm really not sure what I was thinking when I attached it, as I just did it blatantly wrong and figured out how I should've done it about ten seconds after botching it. I considered ripping it out and starting anew, but ultimately decided that was a bit more effort than I cared to expend at that precise moment. That's what cute scarves are for?

Outside of lengthening the sleeves and hem, I also cut between sizes. I wanted a more fitted dress  rather than the slightly oversized look of the pattern itself, so I cut a medium for the top and tapered out to a large on the bottom, as those were the sizes that best matched my measurements. I kind of eyeballed where to start shifting from medium to large on the pattern and hoped for the best, which sounds like a pretty shoddy way of doing things but actually worked out rather perfectly.

Worn shot, guest starring my overflowing fabric stash bag and my solar system socks. Someday, I will rope someone else into taking multiple photos at multiple angles, but that day is not this one.
When worn, the problems with the collar aren't really visible at all, and I lovelovelove the way the sleeves came out. The way I hemmed them (just with a zigzag stitch- everything is zigzag here, using my plain ol' sewing machine, although I did indeed swap in a ballpoint needle) gives them this lovely ruffle-y effect. I do still wish the fabric were less see-through, although weirdly enough when worn that's less of a problem- you can kind of see my obnoxiously blue sports bra in that worn photo, but when worn with sane white or beige underwear I actually don't think it'd be much of a problem.

 I love simple, comfortable dresses like this, so I can definitely see myself whipping up an army of them in various hem and sleeve lengths and with different necklines, especially since it was just plain easy. Seriously, this dress came together in 3 hours, starting with uncut fabric and a pattern that wasn't even taped together yet. Knits are the magic promised land of no crazy darts yet splendidly fitted results. I already have a list going of wishlist knits for my next one, although I am making a conscious effort to not only buy striped fabric for it. I know some people can't abide the thought of wearing horizontal stripes, but I am very far from one of those people.

I still have about a yard and a half of this fabric left (it was on sale for $2 a yard at Hancock, and I'm now kicking myself for not grabbing some of the other colors) so I might try making a hoodie or a loose billowy vest with the leftovers. It's just so soft, I have to put it to use somehow.

And yes, you may be wondering, my mood did improve slightly after finishing this project and I'm definitely in a better mood now. I also am still working on the Alice dress but stalling like a boss on actually making the bias tape- I'll keep you posted on that.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Projects in the Works

I'd hoped to have a new project to show off today (a view C Simplicity 1609 in powder blue to by my Syfy Alice dress- yes, I recognize that dress is actually probably a knit, but this isn't a cosplay I'm taking too seriously accuracy-wise and I really wanted to give this pattern a go), but I didn't have enough time between when I started it and now to whip up some bias binding for the arms and neck and the lace I'm waiting on hasn't even shipped yet. I know the pattern uses facings, but bias binding is definitely more reference accurate, so I'm going to take the time to make some matching bias tape out of the copious amounts of leftover fabric I have.
Here's the WIP teaser I tweeted a few days ago- still need to get those unfinished sleeves bound, cut the neck deeper then bind it, and sew on the lace... and maybe take it in at the sides. I cut a 16 but I think a 14 would've done me just fine.
Seriously, I don't know if I just always buy a bit more out of some nervousness that I'm going to mess up or the packages lie to me, but I always end up having a ton of remainder fabric. Weird, that.

Anyway, since I don't have a project to show off today, I figured I'd instead do a bit of an inventory of what, precisely, I'll be working on. Heads up, this is mostly going to be cosplay-related with a dash of Christmas gift sewing and maybe one or two things for myself.

1. A Newcastle Cardigan

One of my boyfriend's absolute favorite games is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The main character, Adam Jensen, has a particularly stylish black leather coat with black  brocade-looking shoulder panels. Now, I'm not about to make a leather jacket, and I really don't think my boyfriend would have many places he could wear one anyway without drawing a lot of attention (sadly), but when I saw the Newcastle Cardigan pattern by Thread Theory my first thought went to this coat.

From the Deus Ex wiki
I'm on the hunt for the perfect black knit and brocade fabrics for it now (if anyone has any recommendations, please feel free to share, right now I'm considering this for the bulk of the cardigan with this as the shoulder detail, and ignoring how ungodly expensive it would be in the process), but man, this should end up being one of the better holiday gifts I've gotten him. Funny how the past few have involved clothing (well, and Munchkin Cthulhu, but.) Also yes, I will be making myself one of these, because I am addicted to cardigans and this looks like it's going to be comfy as hell. And/or I'll end up stealing this a lot from him once I make it.

UPDATE: Just picked out the fabrics for this! I'm going a little off the cuff from the inspiration and going with navy rather than black, mainly because I found the most perfect dark navy knit jacquard and coordinating sweatshirt fleece. So looking forward to playing with this. I have some slate blue faux leather in my stash, so depending on how his goes I might make up one of my own utilizing that leather for the shoulder detail and maybe some elbow patches, as I am a sucker for elbow patches...

2. Priestess Yui from Fushigi Yuugi

At some point I went temporary over-optimistic and agreed to far too many cosplays for Katsucon. This is one of them.

Yes, that skirt is basically a very long draped loincloth... eek. Funny how a priestess outfit is going to be my most revealing cosplay to date, huh? I already have all the fabric for this, some beautiful faux-dupioni silk for the main part of the top, the top collar, and the "skirt" plus some organza for the sleeves (I'll just make an underjacket) and the bow detail, and I've got the perfect bolero pattern to modify for the top. I'll hand-mebroider the vine and flower detail on, maybe using some seed beads for the flowers if I get really ambitious.The bottom is entirely just draping it until it hangs right and then body gluing EVERYTHING in place. I'll also be making the necklace out of probably sculpy or primo clay. Hemming all that organza could get old fast, but since my friend (doing Priestess Miaka, naturally) and I hope to compete in these, I'll be paying extremely careful attention to this one.

Did I mention I'll also be styling her Miaka wig? 'Cause that's a thing that will be happening. I might document that on here- I really enjoy styling cosplay wigs, so it'll definitely pop up from time to time. We're also doing the school uniforms, but the priority is definitely the priestess outfit so that's the one I'm focusing on first.

3. A Zinnia Skirt

I found some absolutely beautiful forest green chiffon on sale while looking for cosplay fabric (of course) and couldn't resist the thought of a Zinnia in it, especially as I had some cotton batiste in my stash that'd go perfectly with it. The main reason I had to snatch up the Zinnia pattern was so I could make my own lined sheer skirts, as they're one of my absolute favorite things to wear, so it only makes sense that it'd be my first priority.

Outside of these priority projects, I've also got a simple A-line plaid skirt already cut out, so that'll get sewn up soon enough. I was just waiting on the invisible zipper foot I'd ordered for my machine before finishing it off. I found this fabulous purple, teal, navy and gold fabric and had to get it, it'll make for such a nice winter skirt. I do say winter lightly, though, as I live in Virginia where even once it gets cold it's not THAT cold... then again I think we might get flurries this week, so shows what I know, right? I also have the fabric lurking about for a Sailor Mercury cosplay and an Athena Cykes cosplay (I just finished Dual Destinies but I knew the instant I saw Athena that I HAD to cosplay her- I've always wanted to do an Ace Attorney cosplay but never had a character that grabbed me until Athena, but man did she more than make up for the wait!). I'll work on those piecemeal, but since I'm getting closer and closer to finals (and more and more behind on my thesis...) I probably won't get too far on them with everything else going on.

I'll try to update once that Alice dress is done as well, just because man I want it done and it documents a first of mine- an invisible zipper! It didn't go in perfectly because I made a bit of a stupid mistake but, all things considered, I'm pleased with the outcome.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why You Shouldn't Feel Sad for Pluto

DISCLAIMER: This will be an Unpopular Opinion Post. But, I feel it's only fair to get this opinion out in the open ASAP, so no one gets too invested in my blog only to be turned away by this bombshell of a revelation. It has to do with Pluto, so if you feel strongly in your heart that Pluto deserves all the pitying and nostalgia-fueled victimization it receives, you probably should skip this post, 'cause I reeeaally don't.


So, yesterday I discovered the most perfectly me t-shirt to ever be created by mortal man (well, I assume to be mortal, anyway).

My ire towards the fad of bemoaning Pluto's reclassification is very well known among my friends, twitter/tumblr followers, and my entire expository writing seminar last semester. There was a time where I was incapable of not reblogging asinine "Pluto's always a planet in my heart!" posts just so I could write long, slightly angry tirades about why this line of thinking was just plain bad. Shockingly, it got me little to no hate (except in one instance where I was told I should "just let it go") but quite a few messages of, "You totally changed my mind!" This isn't to say I never got any hate for correcting a popular-but-scientifically-inaccurate post, to be clear. One time I corrected a post that was trying to say something about the structure of an atom in relation to something tumblr-y, and holy crap, the original poster just went passive-aggressive ballistic on me. I still feel a little badly about that one, but their atomic science was just so wrong!

Anyway, Pluto. Why do I get a bee in my bonnet over a hunk of space rock that has a lot of sentimental value to an entire generation? Mainly because their stubborn nostalgia is anti-scientific and fuels into a really toxic mentality.

Bear with me on this, I swear I'm not overreacting.

The entire "fandom" of Pluto revolves around the notion that being a planet is the be-all-end-all for space objects (that aren't stars or nebulae or any other distinctly non-rocky-or-gas-giant-y object there is in the universe). They feel that Pluto has been robbed of some high-point status, and that's mainly because of the way astronomy is taught in elementary school: kids learn "My Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Served Us Nachos" (nee "Nine Pizzas"), maybe some description of what each planet is like, and that's that. When all you're taught is the names of the planets, it only makes sense that you think being a planet is the most important thing a space object could be, and then the outrage over Pluto kind of makes sense.

Except that really isn't the case at all, and the whole Pluto kerfuffle began over trying to combat that outdated way of looking at things. It can be traced to the Hayden Planetarium at the New York City Museum of Natural History and a team of scientists and staffers led by Neil deGrasse Tyson (that's the guy on the t-shirt at the top of this post, by the by, along with Bill Nye the Science Guy- again, most perfectly me shirt ever), who decided when renovating their planet exhibit that the whole notion of "planet" was a bit rubbish and sought to do away with it entirely. This was in part because they didn't want to have to re-renovate the exhibit any time soon because the International Astronomical Union was drawing closer and closer to reevaluating planetary status- and whether planetary status was even a meaningful thing at all. Rather than cater to the traditional set of planets, they instead sought to focus on classifications and groupings- arranging the planets in logical, meaningful groups rather than an arbitrary label of planet.

This reclassification caused people to go utterly bananas. 3rd graders sent in hate mail; a group claiming that the whole thing was a political conspiracy sprang up; and, in the earlyish days of Facebook, a slew of groups declaring "Pluto Is a Planet in my Heart!" came into being.

The thing is, there's just no reason why it's seen as such a bad thing, because really, this was one of the best things that could've happened to Pluto. Since we're already pretty committed to anthropomorphizing a hunk of space rock, let's step back and really look at what's going on here. Imagine, if you will, that you're forced to spend your existence thinking you're supposed to belong to a certain group, but you feel that you've got absolutely nothing in common with them and forever feel like the odd one out: that's Pluto with the planets. Pluto has nothing in common with the traditional planets at all, but it has everything in common with its new group, the trans-neptunian objects (TNOs), to the point that it's now the poster child of them. Seriously, rather than a sad tale of exclusion from an elite group, the story of Pluto is one of a wayward outsider finding where they truly belong- this is the stuff of dramatic and touching young adult novels, people!

It's always hard when a cherished aspect of one's childhood is challenged, I recognize that- but this disproportion response has gone on long enough, and it's painfully indicative that we teach science as a set of concrete facts rather than a growing, evolving body of knowledge that's constantly in flux as new discoveries are made. I'm tired of seeing "I love Pluto so much, I just want it to be a planet again!" instead of, "I love Pluto so much, I'm glad it's finally classified with like bodies in a way that actually makes some sense!", and I'm tired of people asserting what they learned as a kid as though it's unassailable. Science is a process, and in that process things get rearranged to fit in best with its kind- just like Pluto.

And that, friends, is why you shouldn't feel sad for Pluto, but instead feel overjoyed for it.

(And yes, I am a lot of fun at parties.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Other Williamsburg Skirt

I spent the past summer working as the publications intern for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I spent my days writing and researching for an in-progress book, selecting photos for partner publications, fact-checking quotes and figures from editing-stage manuscripts- all  the things a history-loving undergrad tends to enjoy, and I was being paid to do it, too! The internship also came with two ancillary facts: I got the employee discount on Colonial Williamsburg goods, and I had a lot of free time in the evenings.

I also got to walk through this tunnel every day, which made me feel like I was entering a Studio Ghibli film.
It was during those free evenings that I took the time to get familiar with my new sewing machine. My machine is nothing fancy- in fact, even though I absolutely adore it to pieces, I'm pretty sure most would find it a bit embarrassing or childish -but the main thing that used to prevent me from sewing was how utterly scared I was of sewing machines. They were loud, they were intimidating, they had a bunch of weird knobs and things, and, oh, there's a sharp pointy object moving up and down really fast in semi-close proximity to your fingertips. Color me intimidated.

As I got into more and more sewing blogs and got deeper and deeper into cosplaying, however, my sewing machine fear became something I had to overcome. Ultimately my desire to actually be able to make things trumped, and I emerged from the summer triumphant, with a few headbands, a doll-sized yukata, a practice Sorbetto top and a pair of the tackiest-yet-greatest pants in the world for my friend to show for it. (Actually, considering the name of this blog, those pants are incredibly apt for it. Unintentional genius, me!)

That wasn't all, though: I also emerged with three-odd yards of fabric and six lovely silver buttons. A lesser-known CW (Colonial Williamsburg, mind, not the TV channel) product can be found in the Mary Dickinson shop on Duke of Gloucester Street (DoG Street, for the college students and locals- you should've seen how impressed a girl in my employee training class was when I told her that acronym!). It's the old-fashioned millinery, and while the website page for it only boasts of its ribbon-adorned hats, caps, cloaks and short gowns for sale, along the back wall it displays what really caught my attention: fabric for sale by the yard.

Additional perk of those straw hats: they make for GREAT shields against photo-happy sisters for you and one additional guest.
One of the only things I was a little disappointed in regarding my internship was that, since I was working behind-the-scenes, I wouldn't get to wear the period-appropriate fashions the interpreters get to. The fabric for sale in the Mary Dickinson shop was my chance at getting a little taste of that world, because it was fabric in the same patterns as many of the gowns the interpreters wore! I quickly selected a white fabric with a beautiful floral pattern in greens, blues and reds, and then, thinking I'd make a Mathilde blouse with it, went to look at the buttons for sale.They only came in packs of six at most while the pattern called for seven, but I figured I could work with that somehow, either by getting a seventh contrast button or just having the bottom of the blouse be a bit more open.

Fabric, buttons, and my very wrinkled bed sheet from over the summer.
Funny aside about purchasing those buttons: I ended up getting the anchor design ones entirely because of an interpreter I got to talking with in the shop. He didn't actually work in the Mary Dickinson shop, and I'm not sure why he was there at the time, but he was the one who ran across the way to get my fabric cut and then asked me about what I was making upon his return. I told him I was trying to decide between two button designs (they were both silver, but the others had maybe some kind of letter design?), and he insisted I get the anchor ones because, and I quote, "They'd match the buttons on [his] uniform's jacket, and will thus remind [me] of [him]".

Hey, five months later and I still vividly remember him. I guess he was right!

Anyway, I made my purchase (utilizing my employee discount, aw yes), and set off with plans of a Mathilde blouse in my head... and then nothing happened. I really don't know why I just sat on the buttons and fabric all summer, and never got around to actually making the blouse I had so firmly in my head, but when I moved into my dorm for the new semester I still had the uncut fabric and the unused buttons sitting there in my stash, begging to be made into something.

This skirt came to be in two and a half nights of focused cutting and sewing, breaks from reading for my courses and trying not to dwell on how utterly behind I was (and still am) on my thesis research. I know I'm just now blogging about it, but it was actually made a few months ago in September, although I can't say exactly when. I ended up scrapping the idea of a Mathilde blouse, because I didn't have the patience to print out the pattern and tape it together and pay rapt attention to each lovely detail- I wanted something made of that fabric now, dammit! However, Tilly still guided me through the project, as I instead shifted gears to her amazingly simple Picnic Blanket Skirt tutorial. Now, I call it simple, but it still contained two very new techniques to me: gathering and, gasp, buttonholes.

Yes, my buttonholes came out a little shoddy (first time doing them, period, though, so since they work correctly I don't mind!). Yes, the part of the skirt attached to the waistband gaps ever so slightly for some reason (but that just means I can imitate the look of a lady's short coat by wearing a billowy, lacy button-up blouse over the skirt to hide that particular imperfection!). Errors and all, I really couldn't be happier with how this skirt came out. It's a beautiful use of my sentimental fabric and buttons, even though I did have to dash out to buy a second set of buttons after all, as I ended up needing eight buttons altogether- good thing I live within five minutes walking distance of the shop! It's so full and long that I don't need to worry about it riding up when worn with a backpack (the source of a hilarious conversation between me and two grad students on the drive back from Punkin' Chunkin' yesterday- we all lamented the lack of a good social protocol for telling people their skirt rode up too much and made their underwear visible, a widespread plague of the college community), and if I wanted to really amp up the fullness I bet you I could fit a light petticoat underneath it. My only regret is that since I didn't have a pocket pattern on hand (ha ha) I ended up making a pocket-less version of this skirt, a fact I am sadly reminded of every time I put this skirt on and think, "Man, this thing would be perfect with pockets!"
The deer-in-headlights look of "I made a thing and am posting a picture of myself wearing that thing to the internet" Apologies for sunburn and camera phone pic, I just got back from Punkin' Chunkin' and live in a single dorm.
Next time, me, next time. Other things for next time: ironing the damn garment before wearing it. I don't know how something could get so mussed in a closet, but eesh.

Oh, and the title, some of you might ask? I refer to this skirt as The Williamsburg Skirt, as it's sort of my wearable memento of my summer spent working for Colonial Williamsburg and, in a way, of my entire college experience (I'm an undergrad at the College of William and Mary). However, I know that when many people think of Williamsburg, they're going to think of the hipster paradise of NYC, especially in fashion/sewing circles, from what I've gathered, so I tossed in the "Other" to emphasize which Williamsburg I mean. Hey, I thought it was cute!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In Plain Language, or A New Beginning

Yesterday, I asked a friend to change my tumblr password, and cut that website from my life. There were many reasons for it; it was a timesink, it made me feel horrible about myself, it made me into an angry and judgmental person at times, it numbed my mind so that I didn't pursue things that either mattered more to me or could be more beneficial to me. The endless scrolling of images, thoughts, interactions and ideas was nice, sure, but it was a void I'd stared into for too long and it was beginning to stare back, and I didn't like what it saw in me nor what I saw in it.

So I left. But, I didn't want to leave the whole blogging concept. Instead, I'm going to take one ending and morph it into a beginning- a beginning that's been a very long time coming.

I really wanted to name this "Fabric of the Universe", for the record, but that URL was taken (by someone who only made one post, and that in 2007...! Ah, well, I can forgive them because they referenced Douglas Adams in their little tagline thing. That lessened the blow). You see, I come to blogspot largely because I've become absolutely addicted to various sewing blogs, and most of them are hosted here. However, while I will definitely be posting about my sewing escapades, documenting both my quest to shift to a me-made wardrobe as best as I am able (excluding jeans and graphic t-shirts because I would go crazy sewing for THAT particular demand) and my cosplay exploits, that's certainly not the only thing I plan to write about.

I'm a undergraduate senior, majoring in history and minoring in physics (yes, weird combination, yes, I get that a lot- ask me about it, and I'll tell you why it's the best combination in the world), and hoping to ultimately end up as an in-house writer for either a research lab or a natural history museum. Not too ambitious, right? The one thing I want to be able to say at the end of my life is that I got people, kids and adults alike, to say, "That is awesome and I actually understood it!" in response to something science-y. I'm tired of the notion that cutting-edge research can only be understood by someone with a PhD and a readily available dictionary, and, even more, that that notion is perfectly okay. It isn't! With so much amazing work being done nowadays, everyone, no matter their educational level or even their established feelings towards science, deserves to have access to information about scientific research that's catered to their level of understanding.

I like to jokingly say I want to become a translator of science into plain language*, but as I write more and speak more with a non-scientific audience, I begin to wonder, is it really a joke? Is it really is a type of translation, and if so how am I to get better at it if I don't constantly practice?

So, that's what you'll get here at Stitches of the Universe (hey, it was the best I could do once Fabric was denied me!). Sewing and science. I'm certainly not the first to do this (I squealed like a small child when I discovered Cation Designs), but hey, I figure the more crafty scientists running about fighting that obnoxious false dichotomy of science vs. the arts (that's a whole other post, friends, and it's probably one that'll happen relatively soon), the better!

... you'll also probably find a fair bit of the history of science, too, as I really dig that sort of thing. And nuclear history. Sorry, you'll be getting a lot of that last one, I'm working my senior history honors thesis and the whole thing is about the memory of the Manhattan Project. Yeah, that one's totally coming up a lot.

Next time, I promise there'll be pictures to break up the monotony of text!


*This phrase is lovingly lifted from the play Copenhagen, which I first read in my freshman year (four years ago, eesh!). That line, part of an exchange between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, crystalized what I wanted to do: Bohr stated he did science so that he could explain it to others "in plain language", but nowadays we've predominantly got scientists frantically rushing to churn out publications (the joys of "publish or perish") rather than seeking to pass on their knowledge to a lay audience. Add in the increasing specialization of sciences and you get a community that can barely converse with one another, let alone someone who, say, teaches 7th grade English or works as a defense attorney, and you have a failure to communicate on the most basic level. With any luck and a lot of writing, I hope to help bridge that communications failure.