From the Archives is a series where I show my earlier works - the good and the bad. The idea is to eventually use this as a portfolio, and it also gives me a chance to re=look at what I've previously made. Some of these projects are awesome and some are laughable. Some may have terrible photography from the early 2000s - sorry about that!
This is another 2005 creation from my early sewing days. Apparently 2005 was the year of incredibly complicated costumes. After I had finished this one, I jumped into Violet Baudelaire's dress from the movie A Series of Unfortunate Events. That costumes remains to this day the most in depth and fussy thing I've ever made. But this one comes in a close second. This is Arwen's coronation gown from The Return of the King movie.
You'll also have to excuse the super shiny polyester velvet fabric., I had not yet learned the value of using good quality, natural fabrics. Also, I was a poor college student at the time so I had to make do with what I could afford. And I also apologize for the poor quality of these circa 2009 photos. I have dreams someday of reshooting all my costumes so I have decent photography, but who knows when that will be.
This costume is made of 2 pieces, an underdress and an overdress, so let's break it down one at a time.
Base of dress - Simplicity 9103 with altered neckline
Sleeves - Simplicity 9891
Yoke and under arm panels - drafted by me
Base of dress - stretchy poly green fabric (exact type of fabric unknown)
Upper sleeves, yoke, and under arm panels - poly shantung, wrong side
Lower sleeves - under layer yellow poly chiffon, over layer green poly stretch velvet
So the underdress looks pretty crazy on it's own. The base of the dress is some sort of stretch poly fabric that I no doubt found in a clearance bin somewhere. You don't see any of it when the overdress is on, so excuse the ugly, it does it's job. I used Simplicity 9103 for a pattern base, I lengthened it a bit and make the neckline wider and deeper.
I created the yoke by tracing the neckline on the poly shantung and measured 3.5 inches down to give enough coverage. I ended up using the wrong side of the fabric, as it had the texture I was looking for. I hand embroidered and beaded the floral design onto it and sewed it onto the base. I did the same thing with the under arm panels, since you could see a bit of the underdress when I lifted up my arms in the whole costume. This way none of the lime green underdress shows through.
The sleeves were made from Simplicity 9891. The tops were also out of that poly shantung but the bottom has 2 layers, one of yellow poly chiffon, and one of the green stretch velvet to match the overdress. The upper sleeves were also hand beaded and embroidered and I found some lace that I cut up and dyed to make the applique pattern. Silver trim was added along the seam where the upper and lower sleeves meet.
Simplicity 9103 with altered neckline
Dress - Polyester stretch velvet
Straps/trim - green poly brocade
The overdress is a fairly simple 3 panel construction. I completely altered the neckline and back upper portion to make it look more like the movie costume. I created bias tape out of green polyester brocade to trim the neckline and make straps. Since the velvet material has stretch, there are no zippers or any closures in the costume.
Unfortunately the crown was crushed in a move years ago and these are the only pictures I could dig up from my archives. But trust me, this was pretty epic! I made the crown out of sculpey clay painted silver, 19 gauge steel wire and seed beads strung on fishing line. I wish I had recorded exactly how I made this, because I don't remember at all. A lot of hot glue was involved, which didn't hold and the thing sort of fell apart so I had to reattach some of the wires. Unfortunately I can't tell you anymore about how it's put together, because I just don't know.
Well, I was going to write a tutorial on how I made these, but then I realized that I just combined a few other people's tutorials and they probably explained things much better than I could. So I figured I'd just link to their tutorials and give any tips and tricks I picked up while making them. (Also I made these over a year ago and just got the photos off my camera yesterday, so the details are a bit fuzzy. Whoops.)
Main Tutorial used:
Cre8tive Design's How to make a tailored valance
I ended up mostly going the route of Cre8tive Design's tutorial, however I used a 1x2 board instead of the 1x4 she recommends. My valances were going in our sewing/sun room and one window is against the sliding glass door to go outside so I didn't want them sticking 4 inches out and getting in the way. The blinds themselves are also inset in the window frame so I didn't have to worry about the valances sticking out far enough to cover them.
I didn't cover the boards in white fabric before attaching my batik because I'm lazy and no one would be standing under them looking up at the unfinished wood. I'm all about saving time.
My fabric was also 14 in wide, so I just left it as is and hemmed the one end. I stapled the other end to the boards without hemming it since my valances were going to be right up against the ceiling and no one would see a raw edge.
As you can see here, I didn't have the fabric go all the way over the top of the board. I wanted as much length as possible and with only 14 in to work with, I had to get clever. And as I said, the boards were going very close to the ceiling so no one would see if the fabric didn't entirely cover the top.
Also, staple guns are awesome. What else can I make with these things?!?!
These L brackets were super easy to install. We ended up using 3 per window since they were pretty long and we didn't want the valances to bow in the middle.
And here are the completed valances! I really liked how they came out, however they aren't the perfectly smooth tailored look that you would get by wrapping the fabric around a foam board, which I've seen done in other tutorials. I think if I ever made these for a main room in our house I would do a mix of a wrapped foam board and the wooden board for hanging with L brackets. But overall, they went together very easily and I'm loving how they look in the room. I call this a definite win!
If you follow me on Instagram you'll know that I've been working on Viking costumes for both my husband and myself for an upcoming Renaissance Faire in August. Time is almost up but I'm in good shape! I'm going to do a full post on the costumes once I'm finished and can take some nice photos, but here are a few snapshots from my phone of what i've been working on over the last 2 months. Above is my husband's mostly finished costume. I just need to work on the leg wraps and finish up a few accessories.
Cutting out the pieces for my apron dress. I bought some gorgeous linen from Insta Linen and have been extremely happy with it.
On the left is the mockup of the straps and Viking bling for my dress. The right photo shows the underdress with a finished neckline (including some embroidery that you can't really see in this picture) as well as the straps and trim attached. I still have to finish stringing the beads on the brooches and hem the blue apron dress, but here's a little sneak peak of how it's coming along :)
I also tried my hand at leather working! The top image is of bracers that I cut out of veg tanned leather and dyed for my husband's costume. Not sure if these will be done in time, but they're pretty fun to make! The bottom image is another shot of the leather pouch I made to hold all our stuff at the faire. There's more images of this on my instagram if you're interested in seeing more.
So that's what I've been up to. I'm really looking forward to posting a full write up on both costumes once they're finished. Also, we're finishing up the 30 day #sewingphotochallenge over on instagram where I've been posting a little more background on what and how I like to sew.
You know those gorgeous Moroccan wedding blankets that are incredible but crazy expensive? They're beautiful and have such a great story behind them. In Morocco they're handmade by a Berber bride's female relatives and given to her for her wedding. After the ceremony the bride wears the blanket like a cape and takes it to her new home.
I've had my eye on one of these for a while, but with their price tag it just wasn't going to happen. However, when I found this throw blanket on clearance at Hobby Lobby last week, I knew I could whip up a pretty close approximation and get the look for much less. In fact this cost me less than $50 to make.
This was pretty easy to make but it takes a lot of time and patience.
1 blanket or throw (I found mine on clearance at Hobby Lobby)
10 yards of sequin trim (this particular trim is from Joann Fabrics)
sewing machine (or you can try fabric glue)
I basically laid out the sequin trim on the blanket, pinned it down, and sewed it on with a long zigzag stitch.
This is where it got a little tricky. The sequins would get caught in the presser foot on the sewing machine, so to fix that I laid a piece of tissue paper over the trim while I stitched it down. I had to fiddle with the tension on the sewing machine since I was sewing with clear plastic thread and the long stitching, but setting the tension to a lower setting took care of any pulling issues. You can lay out the sequins any way you want. I wanted a more minimal look with the sequins so I just had a few straight lines of trim. Even this took 10 yards of trim, so if you want to do a more complicated design, take that into consideration when calculating the amount of trim to buy.
Once I stitched through the paper and tacked the trim down, I carefully pulled the tissue paper off, which took some time but wasn't horribly difficult. Just make sure you don't pull too hard and accidentally pucker the stitching. (Trust me, it's a pain!)
You might be able to skip all of this and use fabric glue to secure the sequin tim onto the blanket, but I've never used fabric glue so I can't say how well that will stick or how long it will last. I figured sewing it down was a more permanent solution so I went that route.
And that's it! Once the sequins are sewn down, you can iron the blanket (or not if you're impatient like me and just want to take some photos) and add it to your bed, couch, or wall.
I'm Sarah, a textile, history and sewing enthusiast. I talk about contemporary and historical fashion, sewing, patterns, tutorials, home decor, and anything else you can make with a needle and thread. I love books and am happy to talk your ear off about historical clothing.
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