Thursday, April 26, 2012

2011 In Review -- Part 5: Gifts

I'm not quite sure why I've had such a mental block on writing this post, but I've started it several times, only to leave it unfinished.  So here it is the end of April and I still haven't wrapped up my 2011 year in review posts.  Part of the delay is that my health is suddenly once again requiring nearly every waking moment of my time (I'm assembling a new team of doctors, oh joy), but part of it is good old fashioned procrastination.  But at this point it's keeping me from writing other blog posts, keeping me from getting productive sewing done, and more or less blocking up all the creative pipes.  So let's crank this puppy out.

On the topic at hand, I probably don't do as much gift sewing as I should, but there are a couple of reasons for that.  First off, I have this strangely strong desire to avoid giving any sort of "Becky Home Ecky" (in the immortal words of Michael Kors) style gifts.  I hold the gifts I make to an even higher standard than I hold my clothing and costumes to, especially because once the gift is given, I'll likely never have it on my sewing table again, so it needs to be free of any sort of issues that would require repair or adjustment.  I want the giftee to like the gift, find it beautiful, and be able to put it to real use.  If a gift doesn't meet any of those criteria, chances are I won't give it.

The second reason I don't do as much gift sewing as maybe I should is that I am pretty selfish with my sewing time, in all honesty.  Even simple projects can take way too long to finish, between my illness and all the other demands on my time.  I always have a long, long list of sewing I want to do for myself -- I counted off the top of my head, and there are at least twenty-eight different pieces on my To Sew list right now, almost all of which I could put immediately into regular use, and some of those are actually urgently needed.  My sewing can't seem to keep pace with my designs, so I have to prioritize, and if the gift doesn't meet the above three criteria (beautiful, useful, and liked), I scrap the idea and figure out a better gift for the giftee.

And third, December is my biggest gift giving month, between Christmas, MB's birthday, and my mom's birthday in early January.  Everything else tends to be crazy that time of year too, cutting down on my sewing time, and I worry about having to find an emergency last-minute gift if I'm not able to finish the handmade gift in time.  To say nothing of the fact that my health tends to be worse once cold-and-flu season starts.  All of that adds up to: I'm pretty picky about what gift sewing I do.

So with that said, I actually made three handcrafted gifts in 2011, two for my mom and one for my sister Jezunya, all given at Christmas.  In both cases I had to guess at what each of them would want for Christmas, but the gifts seem to have been well-received.

The first gift I sewed for my mom was a set of rice warming pillows, inspired by this tutorial (and using this one for additional tips).  Rice pillows are little pillows full of rice (as the name implies, lol) that you stick in the microwave for a few seconds, and then use like a hot water bottle or a heating pad.  The rice retains heat better than water does, and obviously they're more portable than a heating pad, and the weight of the rice can be an added bonus too.  They're great for sore muscles, cold hands and feet, and general relaxation.

For my mom's set, I started with basic muslin fabric for the inner pillow, and then used classic unbleached linen to make a washable pillowcase.  I was aiming for rustic chic with the whole thing, playing up the handmade quality rather than trying to make it look store-bought.  I decided to make three pillows: one large pillow for sore neck muscles, and two very small pillows that can be heated up and put inside a pair of mittens, boots, etc.

For the largest pillow, I started with a piece of muslin about 60cm x 24cm.  I folded this in half width-wise (so now 60cm x 12cm) and seamed up the sides and the folded edge with a short stitch-length, leaving the long cut edge open.  I then flipped this inside out and sewed those same edges again in a French seam sort of way, to make sure the seams won't bust open over time, and the rice won't find a way to wiggle out.  I then split the pillow into five sections, each about 12cm wide, by sewing seams from the cut edge to the folded edge, back-stitching liberally, again to keep the rice from escaping.  Splitting the pillow into five sections also keeps the rice from all shifting to one end of the pillow.

With the pillow divided into five subsections, I folded both of the unsewn top edges under and sewed small sections down, leaving an inch or so unsewn in each of the five sections.  For the filling, I used a mix of rice and dried lavender, with a bit of lavender oil thrown in for good measure.  I whipped up a quick funnel from a piece of paper, and slowly fed the rice mixture into each of the five sections, a quarter cup at a time, until each section was about 75% full.  Then I pinned the open edges closed and sewed the whole thing up, going over the seams a couple of times to make sure the rice stays put.  The smaller pillows were a similar process, but each had only one 12x12cm section.

With the pillows done, I turned to the exterior pillow case -- the idea being that if the pillow gets dirty, the case can be washed when the main pillow part itself can't.  I used pre-washed, unbleached linen for the cases, using this tutorial to make pillow cases that open at the back, like European pillow shams.  I knew I also wanted to have writing of some sort on the exterior pillow case, to dress up the wide open expanse of unadorned linen.  I went through a bunch of quote sites looking for just the right quote for my mom, but in the end I went with one of my own devising:

I did the stamp work before sewing the pillow pieces together, using an alphabet set of stamps I found at JoAnn's (possibly this one) and some brown fabric paint.  I drew lines with a wash-off fabric pencil, but otherwise just free-handed the stamp placement, to play up the home-made quality.  I also embroidered a pair of lavender stocks at the bottom of the larger pillow case, using embroidery thread and a by-the-seat-of-my-pants style of hand embroidery, lol.  Once the stamping and embroidery was done, I sewed the pillow cases together following the tutorial linked above, put the rice pillows in their cases, and called it done.  They smelled soooo good too, and felt so nice when warmed up, that I decided I needed to make myself one too, after the holidays were over.

The second part of the gift for my mom was a footrest like the one I made for myself and wrote about in my last post.  My mom is a bit taller than I am and keeps her desk chair slightly lower (according to covert measurements taken by Jezunya during her Thanksgiving visit, anyway), so I made the footrest for her a bit shorter, out of two foam pads instead of three like mine is.  I used a garnet red (Mom's favorite color) velvet-ish upholstery fabric for the exterior, and a matching garnet red fleece for the inside pocket.  Using what I'd learned making my own footrest, it all went together pretty quickly, with fewer mistakes.  Unfortunately I only have one rather blurry picture of my mom opening it on Christmas morning, looking slightly confused:

But I am told the footrest has made the move to my parents' new house, and sits proudly under Mom's desk.  I included a heating pad with it too, since Mom's feet get at least as cold as mine do, and as she's a middle school teacher, she spends a lot of time at that desk grading papers and the like.  I need to follow up with her and make sure it's being as useful and liked as I hoped, heh.

The third and final gift project was a skirt for Jez -- a surprise, of course, so one I didn't post about on Twitter, unlike most of my sewing, since Jez would undoubtedly have seen it there if I had mentioned it.  As I was nearing the eighth anniversary of when my joint pain and instability started up, my younger sister was just starting her own saga with joint pain -- a fact that has us both now looking towards genetic causes, as this seems to run in our family, with each of our other four sibling experiencing it to some level or another -- and while I was giving up pants altogether last fall, Jez was just starting to transition her non-Army uniform (she's active service currently) clothing towards more joint-friendly pieces.  To this end, she mentioned that she would love a full, fluffy skirt, maybe a bit bohemian, maybe in blues or greens.  She mentioned this as offhandedly as anyone can in the run up to gift giving, but I took the hint and the wheels started turning in my head.

I had a skirt in my closet that was just taking up space, that instantly sprang to mind.  It's a floor-length, tiered, gathered skirt made of 13 yards of unbleached muslin, that I made a few years ago when I was taking lessons in American Tribal Style Belly Dance.  It's wonderfully fluffy, and at $2/yard, it wasn't too expensive to make (though once again, I really, really need to get a gathering foot).  The bottom tier is 26 yards long, using the selvage edge of the fabric, to avoid hemming.  In addition to wearing it to ATS classes and performances, it also made an appearance as the base layer in my sea nymph ren faire outfit from a couple of years ago:

But 13 yards of anything is huge.  Way too big to take to DragonCon, too big to store well in my closet, too big to do much of anything with, except wear for fluffy long skirt occasions.  When I had to stop dancing because of my joints, the skirt just sat in my closet, taking up too much space.  So when Jess said she wanted a fluffy, knee-length, tiered skirt, my brain went ah ha!

After giving it a good washing, the first thing I did was cut the skirt in half width wise, resulting in two tiered half-skirts that each had a 13-yard-long bottom tier.  I set one half aside (still under my sewing table as I type this) and focused on the other half.  I pulled out another (much less fluffy) gathered tiered skirt I made years ago and used that as a template to shorten the half skirt to knee-length.  I wanted the previous floor-skimming tier to end just below knee-length, so I measured up from the bottom, cutting off the top tier to make the skirt shorter, and angling the waist so it's slightly higher in back than in front.  I then sewed the cut edges to each other, and turned under a bit at the top to form an elastic casing, resulting in a knee-length, fluffy, off-white skirt.

This is where it got fun.  I've experimented with dyeing fabrics off and on the last few years, and I really love it.  I love being able to personalize the color of a fabric in addition to sewing it.  For this project I wanted to experiment with ombré dyeing, using two colors, going from lighter at the top to darker at the hem.  Using liquid Rit Dye in Teal and Navy Blue, I started by dyeing the whole skirt teal in my washing machine, then slowly added Navy Blue to the mix, pulling the skirt out of the washing machine little by little.

I rigged up a bit of rope over my washing machine, and strung the skirt up by string and safety pins.  The whole thing went really well, considering, but I did run into one snag: If the water doesn't stay hot enough (as in a washing machine standing open for an hour or more), Navy Blue dye tends to go more purple.  So the first pass at the skirt ended up with teal at the top, fading to dark purple at the bottom, and the two together looked a bit... odd.  So back to JoAnn's for more dye, this time in green, to give the whole skirt a more blue-green tint.  This worked out much better, and turned the darkest color to a more evergreen blue.

After dyeing it, I ran the skirt through the washer and dryer and then tried it on.  And almost didn't want to take it off.  It's fluffy, spiny, girly, and all around wonderful, and I had to remind myself that 1. I love Jez and she deserves a great skirt as a present; and 2. I still have the other half of the original skirt left over to make myself one.  Those two things were the only reasons I was able to talk myself into giving this as a gift instead of keeping it for myself, lol.  But Jez seemed to like it:

I really do need to make the second half into a wearable skirt for myself.  Jez and I are very much BFFs (in addition to being full-blooded sisters, each other's editors and beta readers, and now joint-pain-twins), and I love the idea of half a skirt for each of us, like those Best Friend necklaces I remember from my childhood.  And thankfully 13 yards is more than enough to make two super fluffy skirts.  Here's another shot of Jez's skirt, with the colors a bit blown out to show the detail:

If I were sewing this from scratch, I probably wouldn't have made the tiers nearly that tall, but for a re-purposed skirt, I am crazy proud of it.  Jez seems to love it too, and will randomly tell me that she's wearing it on the weekend, with cowboy boots or cute wedges or whatever.  Having worn the skirt for even just a few minutes, I'm very envious.

But the other half is still sitting under my sewing table, so the only question I have now is: What color should I dye my half?  Blues?  Greens?  Blue-green to match Jez's?  Something totally different?  Ombré or not?  What do you guys think?

Next up: what I've been working on so far in 2012, what I'm dying to sew, and costume planning for DragonCon!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2011 In Review -- Part 4: Disability Aids and Home Decor

Getting back on track with my 2011 In Review series, next up is home decor and disability aids.  I should start out by saying that I don't do a lot of home decor sewing.  It's always been one of those things that I can do, when I need to, but I don't get a lot of joy out of it.  Unlike clothing and costuming, home decor feels (to me) both restrictive and boring.  Restrictive in that decor is what your house wears every day -- most people don't change throw pillows or slip covers or curtains as often as they change outfits -- and in that I share my house with my husband and my cat, so I have to take their needs and desires into account too.  (MB's opinion on what clothing looks good on me gets a lot of weight, but I ultimately decide; Kitty Pryde, on the other hand, doesn't really get a vote.)  And boring in that much of home decor sewing is straight lines and easy shapes, with no challenging fit to tackle.

So between 2000 and 2010, I sewed one pair of throw pillows for our sofa, and nothing else that could even loosely be termed home decor.  2011 didn't bring a sudden burst of home decor sewing inspiration, but as we headed into the second half of the year, inspiration of another sort struck.  I somehow got it into my head that I would participate in National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo.  Not just participate, but finish, which involves writing at least 50,000 words of an original work of fiction within the 30 days of November.  Now I've done some writing before, both technical and fiction writing for various games I've worked on (and others I can't mention), as well as fanfiction and some original poetry, but I tend to be a pretty slow, perfectionist writer.  I have a couple of outlines for novels that I've been kicking around for a few years, but have never taken the time to tackle.  My logic last fall was that participating in NaNo, forcing myself to devote all of November to writing 50,000 words, would help break me of my perfectionist habits and just get something down on the page.  All good in theory.

I do this to myself from time to time, in all sorts of areas.  I'll set up some ridiculous goal and loudly proclaim that I am going to meet it.  But at its root, it always seems to come down to "If I can accomplish X, then it'll mean that I'm not really chronically ill, that my illness doesn't dictate that much of my life."  In the past it's been jobs, social activities, dance classes, travel, and probably more I've forgotten about.  In the fall of 2011, it was writing a novel.  I would push through the pain and write a novel, and thus prove that my illness can't stop me from doing anything.

Yeah, that didn't work out so much.  After psyching myself up, prepping my work space (which is what this post is about, promise), developing my characters, outlining my plot, etc etc -- I crashed hard on November 2nd.  So it goes.

But in the months and weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo, I focused on prepping my work space to best allow me to put in the hours I knew it would take to write a 50,000 word novel.  I tend to live at my computer, between writing, blogging, reading blogs, playing video games, and once upon a time making video games.  My knees and hips are my most pain-ridden joints, and there's a certain point of the day, each and every day, where I can't sit in my desk chair anymore, no matter how many prescription painkillers I load up on.  The idea started to form in my head that I could sew things that would extend the hours I'm able to comfortably sit at the computer.

My work space, such as it is, consists of a computer desk and chair in the center of the large open main room of MB and my condo, about equidistant from the tv and my sewing area, and framed by our couch on one side, MB's matching desk on another, and the front entry way on the third side.  Most days, it looks like this:

Only usually without flowers -- MB got me those for Valentine's Day, and I'll happily sacrifice surface space for flowers any day.

Being the short, hypermobile person that I am, my desk chair is always set to the highest possible height, to keep my arms at the correct height for keyboard use -- which leaves my feet uncomfortably far from the floor.  Before last fall, I'd developed a bad habit of crossing my ankles and resting my toes on the roller stand of my desk chair, or alternately folding one leg under me and keeping the other foot on the roller stand, simply because my feet couldn't reach the floor on their own (you short ladies will know what I'm talking about -- nothing in this world is made for someone 5'2", I swear).  This, of course, did very bad things to my already painful and hypermobile hips and knees.

My feet are also perpetually, unceasingly cold, to the point that it doesn't matter how many pairs of socks I wear (I'm wearing two pairs right now, one of them SmartWool, and a pair of legwarmers besides -- and it's 68° outside, I have a fire in the hearth beside MB's desk, and my feet are still cold).  It's gotten so bad in recent years that the only way to keep my feet from aching with cold is to put a heating pad directly on them.  So an idea started to percolate for something I could sew that would give me a better place to rest my feet while sitting in my desk chair, and potentially keep my feet warm.

I started with a set of 15"x17"x2" high density foam cushions I found at JoAnn's.  I bought three, brought them home and tucked them under my desk, and was happy to find that the combined 6" height was the perfect elevation for my feet and the 15"x17" surface area was just a bit bigger than the heating pad I usually use for my feet.  Based on the measurements of the foam, I sketched out some very basic plans:

MB suggested I just stack the three layers of foam and call it done, but I knew I could do better.  I pulled out the leftover home decor fabric I had used for the throw pillows from where it had languished at the bottom of my stash for a good five years.  I didn't have a ton of it, so I also pulled out some spare muslin.  Starting with the side of my foam cube that would be against the ground, I cut out a piece of muslin 40cm x 45cm (15"x17" plus a 1cm seam allowance on each side -- I switched to using cm in my sewing while making my steampunk Tinkerbell corset, and I've never gone back; inches are just too imprecise for me).  To that I added a 40x45cm piece of non-slip pad, cut from a too-big pad currently folded up under an area rug by our tv.  I ran a quick machine stitch around all four sides to keep the muslin and the non-slip pad together.

(Pardon the pile o' pink in the background there -- that's a UFO that I hope to finish this year.)

Next, I cut 45x17cm rectangles from the left-over throw pillow fabric, to cover the front and back edges of the cube.

I sewed those to the 45cm long sides of my non-slip bottom layer, drawing on the way we used to make paper cubes as kids.  I was worried I wouldn't have enough of the home decor fabric, so I cut the 40x17cm side pieces from muslin and sewed those rectangles onto the 40cm long sides of the non-slip layer.

For the top of the cube, I used bit of leftover black fleece from my stash -- once finished, this would form part of a fleece-lined pocket for my feet on the top of the footrest.  I cut out another 40x45cm rectangle from the fleece and sewed it to the free edge of what would eventually be the front of my footrest.

This is where it started getting a bit tricky, but thankfully my sewing machine cooperated and I was able to sew up each of the four corner seams, and then sew the top to the side panels, all while keeping it fairly flat.  Only once I started putting the foam pads in did it actually start looking like a cube.

I added some loose recycled fiber type stuffing (salvaged from an ugly-as-sin giant heavy pillow that I'd been using as a footrest before) on top of the three foam pads to give the footrest more of a pillowtop feel, then hand-sewed the fleece top layer to back side of the cube.

The next step was to make the top of the pocket where my feet would go.  I wanted this top piece to wrap around from the side, up over the top of the footrest, then down the other side, with enough room in the front for me to put my feet in, but closed in the back near where my toes would be -- in other words, a trapezoid shape roughly 80cm long in the front and 76cm long in the back, and 38cm wide.  I cut this shape once from the home decor fabric for the outside, and again from the black fleece fabric for the inside.  I sewed the 80cm edges together with the wrong sides facing each other, then flipped it right side out and topstitched it, so the front edge would be nicely finished.  Then I set about hand-sewing this outer pocket piece to the cube.

And quickly realized that the pocket top wouldn't completely cover the white muslin I had used on the sides of the cubes.  Thankfully I had enough home decor fabric left over (way more than I thought I would have, in fact) that I was able to cut a couple of smaller rectangles to cover the muslin that showed on the sides.  Rather than take the whole cube apart to re-do these seams, I just turned the edges under and hand-sewed the rectangles directly onto the muslin.  If I had to do this project over again, I would definitely do this part differently (and in fact did do it differently when I made a similar footrest as a gift for my mom, but I'll get to that in the next post).

With the muslin covered, I got back to hand-sewing the pocket top into place, first along the two outside edges, and then with an envelope fold in the back, to tuck it all down tight at the back edge while leaving the front edge open enough for my feet and ankles.

Once it was finished, I tucked my heating pad into the fleece-lined pocket and put the footrest under my desk, where it has lived ever since.  In fact, if you go back and look at my first shot of what my work space looks like today, you can just barely see it peeking out from under the desk.

It turned out to be exactly what I needed, and has significantly increased my comfort while sitting at my desk.  Now I can sit at the right height for keyboard use and still have my feet flat.  It's light enough that I can pick it up and move it without having to worry about consciously engaging my upper arm muscles to keep my elbow from subluxing (like I have to do when picking up groceries, books, and overgrown cats), but the non-slip pad on the bottom means that it won't move unless I want it to, even on our Pergo floors.  And a heating pad inside a fleece-lined pocket?  Best thing ever for cold feet.

While I was working on the footrest, I started evaluating what other parts of my desk set up were causing me pain.  I narrowed in on the shape of my chair's seat.  Now, there are a lot of things I like about my desk chair, including how high it goes and how high the arms are, which are perfect for resting my elbows on while I type.  But the center of the seat portion is weirdly curved inward, and as I started evaluating my work space, I realized that that inward curve was doing odd things to my hip joints -- it felt as though my tailbone was sitting significantly lower than my hip sockets were, putting strain on my hips and subluxing them by the end of any given night.

So while I had the salvaged loose batting out for the top of the footrest, I grabbed a big handful and plopped it down on my chair, then sat on it for a few days.  Any time part of my hips didn't feel supported, I'd grab any bits that had started migrating towards the edges and move them back to where I needed, and a couple of times added a bit more batting to the pile.  Over the course of a few days, a shape started to emerge from the batting pile, a circle roughly 37cm in diameter, with one flat edge where it meets the back of my chair.  Using the batting pile as a guide, I traced this shape onto more of the same black fleece I used for my footrest, mostly because it was soft and already out on my sewing table.

I folded the fabric in half along the flat side and cut two layers of fleece.  I machine sewed along the rounded edge, leaving a couple of inches open, then turned the whole thing right-side out.

Using the same couple of inches that I left open to turn the cushion (lower right in the above picture), I took the batting that had been living on my chair and stuffed it into the cushion form.  My plan was to hand-sew this area up once the cushion was stuffed, but I realized that I would probably want to add more batting to it at some point, so I safety-pinned it closed instead.  Three and a half months later, the safety-pin is still there, but I think it's just about time to add more batting.

It's not the prettiest thing ever, but it does what it needs to do, and it allows me to sit at my desk chair for longer stretches of time, and later into the evening, which is a good thing even when I'm not trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

After I finished the footrest and the seat cushion, I did some careful measuring and realized I had juuuust barely enough of the home decor fabric left over to re-cover the all-purpose bench that I use when sewing, playing the piano, doing my makeup, etc.  The bench originally had a black (faux?) leather covering, but as any cat owner knows, cats' primary goal in life seems to be perforating every bit of leather they come into contact with.  And this bench had been claimed by Kitty as what we call "The Princess Chair" -- if I'm ever not actively sitting in it, it's her little throne -- so it had more than its fair share of claw marks. 

I measured the bench and cut five sides of a cube as one piece (again drawing on those old paper cubes from childhood), sewed up the corners, and plopped the whole thing on top of the bench, with a little extra loose batting for good measure.  I attempted to staple the raw edges of the fabric to the underside of the bench, like I had seen in so many episodes of Trading Spaces back in the day, but I don't know if it was my materials, my stapler, or my technique, but it didn't quite work like I wanted it to.  Did you lead me astray, Vern

I may at some point try to get back under there with a needle and thread and hand-sew the top fabric to the crappy fabric covering the cardboard or whatever the lowest layer of the bench is made of.  But it's my sewing chair, and I don't do well with sewing either on the floor or standing up, so I keep putting it off.  But it's a vast improvement over the ripped and cracking pleather, and with the extra batting it's more comfortable now too.  MB keeps saying we should get at least one more of these, if not two, so I can stop carrying it from room to room depending on where I need seating.  Sounds like a great idea, but I'm all out of that home decor fabric now, so additional benches wouldn't match, sigh.

All told, I made two home decor pieces and modified a third.  The footrest and the seat cushion in particular really allow me to live with less pain, so I would consider those "disability aids", though the line between home decor and disability aid is pretty fine for me -- just as the line between "clothes that accommodate my illness" and disability aids is a pretty fine one.  Especially when it comes to home decor, if I'm going to take time to sew it, it's probably because I need it to fit my exacting specifications.  Otherwise it's just throw pillows, and the two I sewed in 2006 will hold me for quite awhile.

And as far as the novel that inspired all of this fix-up-my-work-space sewing?  I'm still planning on writing it, but I've come to my senses and realized that NaNoWriMo is probably out of reach for me.  And that's fine, I don't need to stick to anyone else's schedules.  But these characters still live in my brain, especially my heroine, who is in her own way a means of dealing with my illness.  I hope I get to introduce her to all of you someday.

Monday, February 6, 2012

On Murphy Vs Zooey

I'm working my way through my next "2011 in Review" entry, but this post over on got me thinking today.  Below is a slightly-edited version of the reply I left on the original post.

I've been watching The New Girl fairly casually (mostly because Community is on hiatus right now, sigh), so while I love Zooey, I haven't followed much of the press about the show.  I hadn't heard this divide articulated as Murphy vs. Zooey, but I think that encapsulates it well.  This is something I've struggled with myself over the last decade and a half, and as I'm nearing 31, I think I finally have a good handle on it.  Maybe.

I spent most of the last decade working as a video game designer (until taking a chronic-illness-induced sabbatical about a year ago).  It's a very male-dominated industry, with about 90% of designers identifying as male, and about 95% of programmers.  There's not a lot of interest in or patience for anything twee, and being too girly can get you mistaken for the receptionist, rather than taken seriously as a creative professional.  Having an influence on the creative process at all requires that you speak loudly, clearly, and with a good dose of sarcasm and wit.

Those are things I've never had trouble with.  I've always been loud and sarcastic, despite being small in stature and easily injured physically -- I was the one child in the school play who was told to speak quieter instead of louder, and the girl who when offered $5 to eat a relative's Thanksgiving corn kernels, countered with $10.  Like I said in my intro post, I chose the moniker "GlassCannon" because my outward appearance and physicality often doesn't match my internal feistiness.

For years, I tried to make my exterior presentation fit with the idea of a tough, snarky video game designer who can keep up with the guys.  After wearing my hair long for a few years, I went to a salon and actually said the words "I need something edgier, my hair is way too sweet for me."  The hairdresser cut it into a style inspired by Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama, proving that not even my request for "edgy" was taken seriously.  But I spiked it out and got progressively shorter, edgier cuts.  I wore sarcastic tshirts and big Doc Martens and shrugged off colleagues' comments that I was "dressed up" when I wore even a jersey skirt with my sarcastic Ts and combat boots.  And beyond that, I focused on my designing and writing and pushed hard to be taken seriously by the male-dominated industry.

But early in my career, I came down with a chronic illness.  As it got worse, I stopped working full time in offices with other designers and programmers and started working more from home.  I would still carefully construct professional-but-edgy outfits for in-person meetings, but when working from home, I didn't really give it much thought.  I stopped worrying if a tshirt accurately expressed my inner snark while papering over my outer girliness.  I grew my hair back out.  I took the plunge and got Zooey bangs, even.

And somewhere along the way, I realized I don't have to walk around in a tshirt that says "snarky video game designer" to be one.  I don't have to wear my profession on my sleeve -- or my politics, my sexuality, my geek-cred, or my snarkiness.  I like to make my own clothes, and I don't have to save those skills just for making geek-themed cosplay to retain my geek-cred.  I can wear vintage-inspired dresses that I designed and sewed myself, I can wear my hair long and curly with Zooey bangs, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my ability to design video games just as well as a guy can.  It also has absolutely nothing to do with my standing as a feminist.

So when Virginia said "I find this exciting, because it means we get to decide which aspects of these narratives apply to our own lives", I think she hit the nail on the head. We get to choose, for ourselves, how much of Zooey we want to incorporate into ourselves, and how much of Murphy. And we get to change that ratio whenever we want. They aren't mutually exclusive, and I think calling women out on choosing to be girly is going against everything the Murphy Browns of the world fought for. Forcing women into a Murphy stereotype is just as bad as forcing women to be homemakers. Isn't feminism about choice?

Personally, I like being snarky and tech-y while wearing petticoats and winged eyeliner. Retro femininity is something that feels good on my body, that works with my body type rather than against it, that makes me feel good about how I look. But my personality isn't Zooey, much less Jess -- maybe Zooey a la Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, sarcastic and adventurous and likely to shoot a guy (with an empathy gun, probably -- maybe). But I shouldn't have to act like Jess to defend the fact that I dress a bit like her, any more than I should have to dress like I stepped off the set of Hackers to defend my geek-cred.

And I agree with Zooey's comment in the NYMag article about New Girl: "I think the fact that people are associating being girlie with weakness, that needs to be examined. I don’t think that it undermines my power at all."

As far as the end of the latest New Girl episode, with Julia coming over and joining in on crochet time, I didn't feel like it was a slight against the Murphys of the world. To me it said that it's important to accept each other and support each other as women regardless of our Zooey dresses or Murphy Brown pantsuits. Feminism shouldn't be dependent on what we wear, and it certainly shouldn't be used to dictate what other women wear. To me, that was the lasting message of the episode.

But this Pintrest thing? That I still can't quite wrap my head around. ;)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2011 In Review -- Part 3: Costumes

2011 was a pretty typical costume sewing year for me.  Every year, MB and I go to DragonCon over Labor Day weekend, and each year I typically make three costumes for myself and one or two for MB.  DragonCon being the bastion of all things geeky that it is, costume inspiration can come from pretty much anywhere, and chances are someone at the con will be excited to see it, no matter how obscure.  As much as I'm enjoying making and wearing more everyday clothing, I could never completely give up costume sewing.

The first costume I focused on in 2011 was one I had planned for 2010 (but which got bumped for
Hit Girl).  The concept was steampunk Tinkerbell -- a callback to the silhouette of Disney's Tink, with a vaguely Victorian corset, in brown and brass instead of Tink's usual green.  As with a lot of my DragonCon costumes, I imposed a couple of other rules on myself as well: I wanted to be able to pair the corset with other steampunk outfits, and the wings had to fit into carry-on luggage.

I wrote about the corset construction in detail over on the LiveJournal Corsetier community.  Corsetry is by far the most challenging sewing task I've ever undertaken, but in the end I felt like it was worth the effort.  I started with Simplicity 9769, which I purchased years and years ago with the vague notion of making a corset someday.  Working from that as a starting point, I went through a pretty tedious process of measuring the tissue pattern and then adapting it to my measurements.  Most of that was done in late 2009 and early 2010, and by March 2010 I had a working mockup of the corset.  When my costume plans for DragonCon 2010 shifted, the corset got put on the backburner until May 2011 or so.

After making two other corsets in 2010, jumping back into this project last year wasn't all that difficult.  I turned the cotton duck mockup I had started in 2009 into the strength layer of the corset, and used brown upholstery pleather as the exterior layer.  The brass busk, steel bones, and brass lacing eyelets came from, and the rest of the materials came from my local JoAnn's.

I finished the corset in mid July (after again setting it aside for another costume, which I'll get to below) and then moved on to the other pieces off the costume.  For the skirt, I decided I wanted two layers: a poofy gold underskirt and a draped overskirt made from the same brown pleather as the corset.  For the underskirt I used two different gold netting fabrics, both from JoAnn's.  The lower layer is a yellow glitter tulle and the upper layer is a more metallic gold tulle with a filigree pattern in the netting itself.

I gathered both fabrics onto a waistband made from a bit of stretchy faux suede I had in my stash, to which I added a simple elastic casing.  The glitter tulle shed glitter everywhere, of course.  Seven months later I think I've finally stopped finding it in corners behind my sewing table.  This was another project that I wished I had a gathering presser foot for -- something I should invest in before tackling any gathering in 2012.

For the overskirt, I draped and pinned (on myself, looking in the mirror, as I don't yet have a dressform) until I got the Victorian swag overskirt look I wanted.  I ended up gathering the sides of the overskirt and tacking a few of the folds in place with a bit of handsewing.  The back is closed with a length of brass chain that I found in the notions section at JoAnn's, which tends to sit just under the back edge of the corset, but looks wonderfully steampunk when it is visible.

I used a bit of leftover tulle to make a gathered, flouncy little bustle in the back of the skirt as well.

The last major piece of the costume were the wings.  I had made cellophane wings previously, for my original-concept fairy costume for DragonCon 2009, so I was able to knock out this fairly simple pair in a couple of hours.  I started with small sketches, looking at the shape of the traditional Disney Tink's wings, and then made a full-sized pattern on posterboard.  I wanted to keep the Disney shape, but add filigree-type swirls.

Using the pattern as a guide, I carefully hand-bent 16 gauge brass wire into the shapes I wanted, making sure both wings more or less matched each other.

Once I had the wireframe done, I used floral tape to hold the wires together, and the shape of the wings started to emerge.

From there, I covered the wire frame with a layer of clear light-weight vinyl (also from JoAnn's) on one side, and clear vinyl and iridescent cellophane on the other side.  I used a Elmer's blue glue stick to initially bond the layers, and then ironed them on low heat to melt everything together (based on the steps of this tutorial, and what I learned with my previous wings).  Once I trimmed the vinyl and cellophane down to the right shape, they started looking a lot more like wings.

The backbrace for these was designed to slip into the back of my corset and to be held in place by the tightness of the corset, so I didn't use any shoulder straps or the like.  Because I wanted these to be able to fold flat and fit in a roll-aboard carry-on suitcase, I rigged up a hinged crossbar using small pieces of the same brass wire, then covered the whole backbrace in white duct tape and painted it gold.

The last thing I made for this costume were puffballs for my shoes.  I wanted to keep that traditional Disney aspect, but give it a steampunk twist.  I bought a set of FairyBerries, little plastic bubbles with an LED in each that fades slowly on and off.  I tied them into two bunches of three each, and used a bit of leftover tulle from the underskirt to make puffy coverings for them, gathered around some gold elastic from my stash. 

When I wore the costume, I looped the elastic between my toes (think flipflops) and then wore the same Gabriella Rocha black flats pictured in my last post, and let the elastic keep the puffballs in place.  The three LEDs in each puffball faded on and off in a nice firefly type pattern.  I'm not sure if anyone else noticed this little detail, but I really loved it.

Along with the pieces I made for this costume, I also wore a pair of Old Gold Aviator Goggles that I bought a few years ago specifically for steampunk costumes.  Goggles are a big deal in steampunk costuming, and honestly a bit overplayed, but I felt like between flying and tinkering on inventions, Tinkerbell would probably wear a pair.

I wore this Sunday night at DragonCon 2011, by which point I was pretty exhausted and not feeling well (not unusual given my illness), but I couldn't miss out on my chance to wear it, so I went out for a bit despite not feeling great.  I had a lovely time wearing the costume, and only wish I'd gotten to wear it for longer.

At this point, I'm planning on bringing this costume back for DragonCon 2012, hopefully with a few prop additions.  My dad and younger brother worked out a great little device that looks like a welding torch but shoots glitter out the end -- perfect for a steampunk tinker fairy who welds with pixie dust -- but the propulsion source is compressed air, and when it came down to it I just didn't have time to get compressed air shipped to the hotel for DragonCon.  I'd like to spend some of my costuming time this year working out an alternate propulsion source.  The other prop idea that I'd like to pursue is a giant thimble as a drinking tumbler, but we'll see if I have any luck finding or making something like that.

In keeping with the original concept for the corset, the second costume I made for DragonCon 2011 was another steampunk outfit that featured the corset.  This costume was a bit more free-form and less character driven, and I called it "Steampunk and Old Lace" for lack of a better name.

The concept for this costume started with a knitting pattern in VogueKnitting's Holiday 2009 issue for lacey, fingerless, opera-length gloves.  I knitted the pattern up in an unbleached crochet string to show off the laciness, and loved the effect.  The finished gloves sat in my costume drawer for at least a year before I got around to making the rest of the outfit.  

Once I finished the corset, the last remaining bit was the skirt, which I made from salvaged cotton sheets that had bit the dust a few years earlier.  The sheets were a creamy off-white with a tone-on-tone satin stripe, just perfect for the sort of slightly shabby, antiqued look I wanted for this costume.  By the time I got around to making the skirt (mid to late August), I was so done with all the hand-gathering and careful arranging of gathers that I had done with the Tink underskirt and the black French lace skirt.  

But I knew I wanted some poof to this skirt to balance out how top-heavy I look in the corset, so I took the quick-and-dirty route in sewing this.  The cotton ripped cleanly on the grain, and frayed nicely without unraveling too much, so I ripped instead of cut, and left all the pieces unhemmed.  I cut a basic waistband, higher in the back like I typically prefer, and folded the top edge over to form an elastic casing.  For the skirt body, I figured out roughly how long I wanted the skirt to be, measured out that length on the salvaged sheets, and ripped long strips, with the stripes on the vertical.  I ripped eight long strips total, but didn't sew them together, just gathered the top edge, without worrying about matching the gathered length to the waistband length.  I then layered the strips on top of each other, sewing them to the waistband, while making sure that any slit between strips at one layer was covered up by the next layer, in a sort of brick pattern.  The result was a very fluffy and free-moving skirt that is surprisingly heavy, but doesn't take up much luggage room.

I paired the skirt with the corset and the gloves I made, and the goggles I wore with Tink, along with a pair of brown Pikolinos boots I've had for a few years, a pair of LegAvenue pinstripe thigh highs from the ever-awesome SockDreams, and some surprisingly steampunky jewelry from Target.  I wore this outfit Friday night at DragonCon (one of the few things I would do differently if I had the chance is wearing this one on Sunday and Tink on Friday, but live and learn), and it was fun and comfortable, though the corset tended to push the skirt downwards, aided by the weight of the skirt.  If/when I wear this again, I'll have to tighten the skirt's elastic waist.

I ran into a Dexter costumer while out and about at DragonCon, and had way too much fun getting wrapped in plastic wrap:

Other than exchanging the nights I wore this on and adjusting the waistband of the skirt, there's not much I would change about the outfit.  It'll be a good backup costume for DragonCon or any other steampunk events, but I'm not necessarily planning on bringing it back for DragonCon 2012.

The third costume in my DragonCon 2011 lineup was once again, the one that snuck up on me.  Like a lot of people, I got really into the Game Of Thrones tv show that premiered last year (and be warned, if you haven't watched the show, there are spoilers below), and particularly enjoyed the character Daenerys Targaryen.  In the sixth episode there's a fairly iconic (and graphic) scene in which Daenerys eats a raw horse heart, which started the wheels in my head turning.  I was absolutely blown away by the costuming in Game Of Thrones, but I wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary, and the idea of a fully edible "horse heart" as a costume prop started to percolate at the back of my mind.

(I posted a detailed description of this costume over on my page, and I'm recycling some of the text from there here, so my apologies to those of you who have read this already.)

From the get-go I knew I wanted to debut this at DragonCon 2011, which would mean that the costume, including any edible props, would be flying with me from southern California to Atlanta, Georgia, and anything that wouldn't be airplane-safe would have to be assembled in my hotel room.  As the idea started to come together, I narrowed down on the idea of jello as the edible medium, mixed and poured into an anatomical heart-shaped mold in the hotel room.  I read up on making your own gummy bears, and added a good dose of unflavored gelatin to my recipe draft -- and I read up on making jello shots, and added vodka to this list too, so I could get my drinking on while still looking like Daenerys.  A test run of mini batches of gummy-shots followed, and a final recipe was selected: raspberry jello, black cherry jello, unflavored gelatin, cocoa powder, red food coloring, vodka, Irish cream, and water.

Once I was certain I would be able to make the gummy heart in my hotel room at DragonCon, I turned to the outfit itself.  At first glance, it looks like Daenerys wears the same outfit throughout the middle of the first season, but on closer inspection, it's the same leather skirt, leggings, and boots, but her top and accessories change ever so slightly from episode to episode.  I focused on her outfit during the horse heart scene specifically, while using screenshots of her other similar outfits as additional reference.

In the interest of comfort walking around the crowded and hot DragonCon hotels, and in the interest of saving room in my suitcase, I decided skip the leggings and boots that Dany wears throughout the season, in favor of flat, lace-up leather sandals, identical to those worn by other Dothraki women during season 1.  I wore a pair of Aruba's Oasis sandals that I've had for a few years and absolutely adore.

For the skirt, after looking at every scene and every angle I could, and considering the realities of a culture that lives on horseback, I decided to go with two distinct layers, both in faux suede.  The underlayer is a short, off-white skirt, split at the sides all the way to the waistband, while the overskirt is sage green, split to the waistband at the front and back, with a few inches of overlap between the two panels in the front.  Splitting the skirts this way means that they could be worn on horseback without having to ride side-saddle, and behave the way we see Daenerys's skirts behave in the show.  I made the overskirt knee-length in front, as in the show, but longer (nearly floor-length) in back, because of my lack of boots.  

To the underskirt I attached another bit of off-white faux suede that folds over the top of the green overskirt, forming the base of the belt area.  Both skirts are made from unhemmed, unseamed pieces of faux suede fabric -- the off-white was from my stash, leftovers from my 2009 Victoria costume, and the green was from SyFabrics -- cut with ragged edges (the stray threads carefully snipped off) to simulate a suede hide. Both have elastic waistbands, secured with hooks-and-eyes, which are hidden by the folded over top of the underskirt.  The overskirt also has a small pocket hidden behind the overlap in the front, sized to fit my phone, credit card/ID/room key, and chapstick.

For the top, I looked at a lot of different fabrics, both in person and online, trying to find something that had that home-spun, almost primitive look to it.  Every single fabric I looked at was too finely woven and too uniform.  I went as far as to look into woven placemats and hand-made scarves from Thailand, but couldn't find anything I was completely happy with.  So I decided to make the fabric from scratch.  I started by knitting a base in roughly the shape of Dany's top, first with a thick brown/gray tweed yarn, and then a second time with a sock-weight tweed yarn, as the first knit up far too puffy and bulky.  I knit it on large gauge needles, and used a drop-stitch pattern at irregular intervals, to increase the space between the rows.

Once I finished knitting the base, I used a tapestry needle to weave random bits of yarn into the knitted loops, without worrying about being too precise or perfect.  The end result doesn't exactly mimic the colors or patterns on Daenerys's top from the baby shower sequence, but (like the sandals) I felt had a Dothraki feel to it, more than any of the fabrics I had considered for the top.  I braided several of the main yarns I used in the weaving into a trim for the top front edge, and the neck-ties.

The top folds over in the front, and like Dany's is held closed by two pins.  I looked for pennacular pins similar to the ones she wears in the show, but when I was unable to find any of the right size and look for less than about $50, I decided to start looking for dragon pins instead, to echo the Targaryen house crest.  I ended up going with two small circular pins (meant to be a place to hang your glasses, lol) I found on ebay.  I also purchased a couple of metal belts from etsy, similar to the ones Dany wears.  The pins and the belts all started out too shiny silver, so I applied a paint wash (a mix of black, brown, and antique gold paint colors, with a whole lot of water) to all of them, to age them.

The necklace that Daenerys wears in the horse heart scene appears to be two large metal claws or fangs (perhaps dragon?), suspended and freely rotating on a metal chain.  Again I wasn't able to find anything online that looked right to me -- most real fangs/claws are far too small -- but when I stopped by a costume store to buy a wig cap, a pair of bright red devil horns caught my eye.  They seemed to be the perfect size and shape, so I bought them, sanded them down smooth, applied a coat of primer, and then painted them a weathered gold to match the chains.  When I bought them they had a suction cup at the wide end (no idea how they were intended to be used, lol), which I cut off to get to the hollow center.  To give the horns some weight, I bought a fairly fine 100" aged gold chain from JoAnn's, split it in half, and put 50" inside each horn. To that I attached a thicker chain of the same color to go around my neck, and secured the horns to the chain using a toggle bar clasp, with the hole where the suction cup once was acting as the loop for the toggle.

In the horse heart scene, Daenerys is wearing an armband (but no gloves), which I made out of a length of leather, a couple of feathers, and a few beads I had in my stash, all held together with clear beading elastic.  The leather strap originally had a small brass rivet to hold it closed, but it fell out and was lost at DragonCon, so I had to rig it with a bit of string at the last moment, and get MB to tie it for me (ironically the only part of the whole costume I couldn't put on myself).

Throughout the middle of the first season of Game Of Thrones, Daenerys wears a narrow strip of fabric over her skirts in the front (which again, would help with being able to wear these skirts while actually on horseback).  The best screenshots of other episodes showed what looked like a woven piece of fabric, similar to the fabric of her top, but I noticed that in the 'baby shower' scene, she's wearing a different piece that looked, when she moved, to be made out of rows of brown and blue tassels.  With help from my sister Jezunya, I made 12 brown tassels and 12 blue tassels, using yarn I had used to make the top as well as a few other complementary yarns.  Using the thick yarn I had started with for the top but eventually discarded, I knit up a quick long rectangle, again using the drop-stitch pattern.  I then tied the tassels to the knitted base in 6 rows of 4 tassels each, alternating brown and blue, and tied an extra length of yarn to the top corners, so I could tie it around my waist, under the belts and folded over underskirt.  The tassels move in a really lovely way, and I was able to attach my DragonCon badge to the back of the skirt, keeping it hidden for pictures but easily shown to the security at the con doors.

For the wig, I bought a long curly white wig from easyshop75 on ebay, the same vendor I bought my HitGirl wig from.  As before, I wasn't disappointed, and the wig was high quality and quite thick.  I would have preferred a bit longer, but once I broke up the curls a bit and braided back the front, it was a fine length.  

I decided to do the violet eyes described in the books, even though the show didn't, and got a pair of Super Pinky Violet 15mm contacts from (in prescription strength, woot!).  I'm really happy with the contacts and had a ton of fun wearing them with the costume, and have even worn them out of costume, just because.

In addition to the costume itself, I also packed all the dry ingredients to make the gummy heart, along with cooking supplies to mix it all up, and an immersion heater so I could boil water in my hotel room.  Once I got to Atlanta, I bought a bottle of vodka and a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream to complete the recipe.  My plan was to wear the costume to the Game Of Thrones meetup Saturday evening, so I made the heart in two separate halves on Friday, boiling the water and mixing everything up on the teeny tiny table in my teeny tiny Hyatt Radius hotel room.  I packed the heart molds in ice to help the jello set, but with the unflavored gelatin thrown into the mix, it will actually set at room temp.

The Saturday Game Of Thrones meetup was split into two parts, first at 4:30 and again at 7:00pm (before and after a 5:30 GOT panel), so I went to the first without the heart and blood, to get clean pictures.  

Between the two meetups I went back to my hotel room and mixed up a half batch of the gummy recipe, poured just a touch onto one of the heart molds and put the other heart on top of it, so they would meld into one giant heart, and then got started on the blood.

The fake blood makeup is actually the exact same recipe as the gummy heart.  To get the right look, I smeared some around my mouth and let it drip off my chin and onto my chest, and then took a big handful in both hands and let it drip down my arms.  And then stood over the hotel room sink and let it drip.  It took about 15 minutes to dry, maybe half an hour to really cure, but once it did the drips were all completely solid and not at all sticky -- kind of the dry, powdery texture of gummy bears.  That meant that I could open doors, push elevator buttons, pose next to other people, etc, without leaving any fake blood behind.  The drips still looked wet, but were in fact completely solid.

The one unforeseen issue I ran into at DragonCon was that the gummy blood around my mouth liked to stick to the gummy heart when I took a bite, and so started peeling off as the evening went on.  I went back to my room once to apply more gummy blood to my mouth (re-liquifying set gummy is harder than it sounds, turns out, but enough hot water did the trick), and then just carried a tube of bright red lipstick I had somehow thought to pack, and touched up the peeling bits with that the rest of the night, in sort of the Joker school of lipstick application.  I took bites out of the heart for most of the pictures I posed for, so the peeling wasn't really visible, but I would like to figure out a way to keep this from peeling before I wear this costume again.  

In addition to my Daenerys costume, I somehow talked MB into letting me make him a Ser Jorah Mormont costume to match.  We pretty quickly narrowed down on the outfit that Jorah wears in the second half of the first season: off-white cotton shirt, wool riding kilt, black pants, and black boots. 

For the shirt, we used one that MB has had for years, which I believe he bought at a ren faire in Texas in 2000 or so.  To better match the show, I tea-dyed it to a slightly darker off-white/aged yellow, and cut the v-neck a bit deeper, but otherwise left it as is.

The riding kilt I drafted from scratch from MB's measurements, using four rectangular overlapping panels (which, from what I can tell from screenshots, looks like what they used for the show, too).  My first attempt I used black and brown cotton, since I was a bit worried about MB being too warm in wool, in the crowds at DragonCon in Atlanta in August.

But after MB tried it on, we both agreed that the cotton just wasn't draping right.  We also decided that the panels needed to be wider and overlap more.  So I headed back to JoAnn's and picked up suiting wool in black and brown (probably the same brown I used for MB's wool Jedi Robe in 2010, but I didn't have enough scrap from that to make the kilt).

Once I had the panels sewn together, MB was a bit worried that the brown was a tad too light, so with some trepidation, I threw both fabrics into the washer with some
black iDye, just long enough to darken the brown slightly.  Washing it also gave the wool a nice lived-in, almost felted look, which fit the character better than dry-clean-only suiting would have.

Of course with all my other costume sewing going so well, the pants for the Jorah costume began and ended as a disaster.  I started out with a pair of black canvas pants I had made for MB for a costume a few years ago, where I had somehow managed to mess up the rise and make it way too short.  Since he was planning on tucking the pants into his boots, and the kilt would cover most of the top of the pants, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to cut a section from the bottom of each of the legs and attach it to the top of the pants in a sort of extended waistband yoke thing.

Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking.  The pants only got worse each time MB tried them on.  After the third or fourth disastrous alteration, MB talked me into scrapping the pants and letting him just buy a pair, since they wouldn't really be visible, anyway.  One very short trip to Target yielded a pair of black jersey pajama pants -- on sale, even! -- that tucked into his boots easily, and even had pockets.  Moral of the story: no more pants.

To complete the costume, we bought a pair of Funtasma Walker boots in black and a double wrap sword belt that matched the one worn in the show fairly well.  I whipped up a few accessories: linen and cotton fabric wraps for his wrists, a silver beaded bracelet I just happened to catch sight of in one screen shot, and a black suede baldric that can occasionally be seen peaking out from under Jorah's shirt.  I used a bit of scrap black suede left over from the Aragorn jerkin I made for MB way back in 2003, and even put a small hidden pocket in the baldric, sized to fit MB's iphone and/or roomkey, etc.  Though I think in the end, he just used the pockets on the purchased pants, heh.

We had tons of fun wearing the costumes, both at the meetup and just walking around the hotels at DragonCon Saturday night.  Everyone we met at the meetup was unbelievably cool, and their costumes were to die for.  I was one of about 20 Daeneryses (Daeneri, we decided!) at the meetup, and as far as I know the only one at DragonCon with an edible horse heart.  We had about 50 people total at the meetup, and everyone was appreciative of each others costumes, cheered when people walked in, and were generally just an awesome group of people.  I bonded with the other Daeneri on the difficulty of finding good fabric for the top, and together the 20 of us (with assorted dragons and eggs) decided we could take Westeros on our own, screw everyone else.  ;)

Overall I'm extremely happy with the way both costumes turned out.  I'm waiting for the second season of Game Of Thrones (which starts April first!) before I decide if my Daenerys costume will be making a re-appearance at DragonCon 2012.  I've been avoiding spoilers and screenshots in the run up to season two, but I fully anticipate that at least one of Dany's costumes will catch my eye.  I'll wait to nail down my DragonCon 2012 lineup until I've seen what second season has to offer.

So that's it for costumes I sewed in 2011!  Next up in the 2011 review will be disability aids and home decor -- a much shorter list, so hopefully I'll be able to get it written and posted soon.

(Photographs primarily by me and MB, with additional DragonCon shots from Courtarro, dunemanic, uubergeek, and Lindsay Gordon, and DragonCon video by Zennie62.  Game Of Thrones screenshots copyright HBO.)

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