Sunday, December 22, 2013

My beloved readers....

I must apologize, but there is no blog post tonight! I was planning to do something special for tonight's blog post but it unfortunately didn't quite happen, and I'm still up wrapping presents for Christmas. I will have a post for next weekend for certain since I did not have one for you this weekend, but for now, all I really have to say is......

Merry Christmas!!!!

Oh, and have a few of my favorite Christmas songs:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Important tools in a seamstress' arsenal: numbah two!

Good tidings to you in this season of joy, giving, and unfortunate holiday stress! I hope you all are avoiding the stress where you can and instead spending time with loved ones creating memories. Remember that this season is about giving, not receiving, and that often giving time is more important than giving presents. I would rather have a few quiet evenings spent playing games with and chatting with my family and friends than receive many expensive presents.

This week, I come to you with a brief but hopefully informative post about one of the infinitely important tools in a seamstress or gentleman seamster's arsenal:

Pinking shears! When I first started sewing and acquiring the tools for my new craft, I didn't even know what pinking shears were. The first time I saw a pair, I thought they seriously resembled those craft scissors you use in scrapbooking, the kind that leave fun shapes on the paper you're cutting. I thought maybe they were for some sort of creative fabric-cutting, and perhaps they left special edges for aesthetically pleasing designs. All I knew was that there was no way I'd ever need those things. As it turned out, I was quite wrong. Pinking shears are very useful for finishing seams. If you have a serger, that works better in many cases, but sergers are much more expensive than a simple pair of pinking shears and can be a daunting investment for someone just getting into the craft. I inherited my serger, and I'll admit I don't know how to use it yet so much of my finishing seams has been with my pinking shears.

Like my shears, these are Fiskars pinking shears.
They are not my exact pair, but they are similar.
The hover link is the image's source.
Here's a breakdown of what pinking shears do. Fabric is made by interlocking threads that go in two opposite directions. They weave together to form a whole. Look closely at any material and you will see these interlocking threads. Think of the looms many of us did as children, where you use a little hook and loop the bands under and over other bands to make potholders and other small things. Fabric is exactly like that, only much smaller threads and more intricately woven. When you cut this fabric, you run the risk of a single thread coming loose and separating from the rest. Then another will follow suit, and another, and another, until your fabric is unraveling. Ever had a pair of jeans sprout a hole in the knee? Remember how you could pluck the thread away from the hole and make it bigger? That's what I'm talking about here. Now, one way to break up this sort of unraveling is to break up the line of thread so that one strand can't free itself and loosen the entire length. That's where the jagged edge of pinking shears comes in. It breaks up the line of the fabric, helping to slow the fraying process.

Things to consider when purchasing pinking shears:

  • Good ones tend to be upwards of $20. Cheaper ones are available, but since you'll be using these a lot and the sharpness of the blade matters, I recommend getting a nicer pair. I have two pairs, one of which I inherited and the other of which I bought, and the bought pair cost me about $25. They've been well worth it and I don't regret the purchase in the slightest. They can be a slightly costly investment, but they're one I recommend making.
  • You'll be using them a lot to finish off seams, so get a pair that are comfortable for you. My preferred pair have a comfort grip and are fairly large. The inherited pair have a plain plastic grip and are not nearly as comfortable to use. To me, the comfort really matters, and it's worth paying a little extra for.
  • Pinking shears also come with bells and whistles and titles to make them sound more valuable. Do your research on all these special features before buying to make sure you really need and want what you're getting. A lot of the shears I've seen that tend to be on the $40 side are solid metal and look all shiny and fancy, but they're really not comfortable. They have a nice heft to them, but I'm not buying my shears for their heft, I'm buying them for comfort and efficacy. What I'm saying here is don't be swayed by titles like "dressmaker's shears" or similar claims. Do your homework, make sure these are what you want, and while they are worth investing in, make sure you're not over-investing in something that ultimately won't be worth the extra expense.
That's all I can think of for now with pinking shears. They're very very useful, but be careful about buying overpriced shears; I've seen them up to $80 for one pair. To me, they're not worth quite that much. My $25 pair will do just fine, thank you very much. If you don't already have a pair in your arsenal, start shopping now!

And good night, dear readers - good night.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

And now, a tale.....

Good evening, dear readers! I have returned to you after a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration last weekend and marvelous adventures with friends old and new this weekend. I also had a photoshoot, albeit a small one with my poor-quality camera, on the Sunday following Thanksgiving and shall hopefully have pictures up for you all from that within the next week or two. There will not be many, but we hope it was just a preliminary photoshoot to get a feel for the situation and location so that we can come back with a photographer and better equipment to try again.

But, in the title, I promise you dear readers a tale, and a tale I shall tell! Step back with me, dear readers, to the week J-Jo Cosplay decided to pay me a visit. She and I both wanted to get a few photos of my Belle costume with the cape but I, as per usual with me, procrastinated washing the bodice, blouse, skirt, and tights, so we couldn't do it on the weekend when it would have been optimal. I also had not quite finished the cape. I decreed, however, that on Monday we would rush out as soon as I got off work from my first day at my new job and get photos! (I was quite determined.)

Upon my return, I rushed out of the car and raced up to my room where a slightly worried J-Jo awaited me. It was about 5:30 p.m., so we weren't going to have much daylight. I changed lightning fast. .......... All right, I'll admit that's a lie; there's no way to change lightning fast into a bodice you have to lace up every time you put it on. But my fingers flew and I left anything that wasn't essential. Because I hadn't repaired the zipper on the skirt yet, J-Jo had to help me pin it closed so the darn thing didn't fall off me mid-shoot. And we didn't have many safety pins, so that was a tall order. It more or less stayed together....though it kind of tried to slide off..... J-Jo reminded me that we had such limited time and that we probably wouldn't get many photos or have long. I said that if nothing was ventured, nothing was gained, and that if nothing else we would have a good time running around and laughing at me trying to walk in heels over rough terrain. We abandoned the original plan to drive to our farm for the photos because it was just quicker to walk out behind the house, where we have a field of switchgrass (warm season grass, grows to approximately 6 feet tall) and a little stretch of woods. I trekked past chickens, cows, and my horse while decked out in my full cosplay, cape swishing and all, trying to avoid chicken poop and cow pies as we rushed.

When we reached the field, the sky was still light, but the sun was beginning to disappear beyond the trees. J-Jo steered me out into the field and suggested a sort of "Lost Princess" theme for the photos, which I tried to match. Let me pause a moment to say that J-Jo is absolutely fantastic, especially with putting up with me and my eccentricities and often my idiocy or ignorance. She is a very stop and go photographer, by which I mean she'll tell you to do something or let you do your own thing and then suddenly tell you to freeze because she wants a picture of whatever it is that you're doing. This creates, in some cases, very natural, gorgeous pictures, and it certainly did here, despite the fading light.

 First, we tried a few shots with my hood up. As you can see in these pictures, though, my face was seriously shadowed. HS Media did what she could in the editing process for these shots, but they still turned out dark and shadowed. She discarded that and told me to take the hood off, then told me to freeze (when she demands, you do it, because trust me there's an epic reason). She had me pause with my hood half-off and glance towards the camera. My expression isn't the best here, but just look at the framing and angle of that shot! All of these turned out far better than we expected, I think.

After we got all the shots we wanted there, we headed for the woods. As I giggled my way across rough terrain, my cloak got snagged on a brier. I grumbled, turned, and freed it. I was a little worried it might have torn or at least snagged badly. Then, with a gleam in her eye, J-Jo told me to do that again. So I turned my back and walked away, and she snapped pictures as I went. Just look at the pretty swishy cape, aaaaaaahhhhhh! I'm still in love with it, I swear. Drapery fabric capes are just SO lovely (though I'm learning some of their downfalls too, whoopsie). Oh, and the cape did not tear, snag, or anything. It's surprisingly durable....except for the seams, but that's a story for another day since it happened a bit more recently. At any rate, after J-Jo snapped several photos, she sent me into the woods. Right off the bat she spotted a tree she wanted me swinging myself around and posing with. I stared at the sea of sticks on the ground between the tree and I and sighed. Rough terrain never bothers a cosplayer, riiiiiiiight? I picked my way across the sticks, certain at any moment I would fall (and there were some close calls I tell you), until I reached and subsequently clung to a rather large hardwood tree. I should be better at tree identification, I know, but I cannot for the life of me remember what kind of tree that was (my money's totally on white oak though). I then played a very odd game of peekaboo with a photographer and a tree as my hiding spot.

We took pictures in a couple more locations, but the light was nearly gone, and they didn't turn out well enough to salvage. We wandered back across the field, two cosplayers laughing about the chaos we'd just engaged in (she took pictures of me looking at my shoes for heaven's sake), and happily went inside to get changed on my part and go out to dinner on both our parts. It was fun, turned out some very nice photos (though I still hate my expressions in most), and overall was a good learning experience for me.

Tip so you can learn from my mistakes: Don't have a photoshoot extremely close to nightfall. The sun WILL set, and it WILL lessen the quality of your photos. Give yourself some room to improvise and take crazy photos in crazy locations without being in a rush.

Also, links! I mentioned J-Jo Cosplay, so here she is - check her out! The above photos were edited by HS Media, and you should check her out too, because she's incredible. She's even better when she's both taking and editing the photos. She's also a talented cosplayer! Truly a remarkable person, she is.

For now, though, that's it dear readers! I hope you enjoy the above photos - I had so much fun getting them - and I'll see you next week! Good night, my dears!