This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will always try to recognize and submit to the gods in me … — D. H. Lawrence
Jon Pessin is a self described “Balloonatic & Licensed Goof-Off“. He entertains at children’s parties and came to me needing a new party look.
Because this was a costume for work it had to allow for maximum movement (there’s a lot of arm movement when manipulating balloons), be practical (pockets for supplies), but need not be historically accurate.
For Pessin’s purposes he decided the Simplicity 4923 would work perfectly. We discussed the pattern and made a few tweaks (no collar on the shirt, adding patch pockets to the coat for supplies).
With yardage and material notes in hand, I hit the local JoAnn Fabrics store. This is the fun part of the job. Even when faced with varying shades of gold and forest green. Sending pictures to Pessin we chatted back and forth about the choice for coat fabric. It was proving difficult to convey the choices color and pattern wise, through cellphone camera pictures.
Eventually, he went to his nearby JoAnn Fabrics and sent me a picture of what he wanted, which matched one of the ones I had already photographed. Being able to also feel the fabric in question helped. Fashion is so much more than the colors of the fabric. The texture, how it drapes, even how it smells all need to be taken into consideration when you are making an outfit.
With fabric decided upon and materials gathered it was time to sew, sew, sew. The outfit came together pretty easily. The only real drudgery was sewing all the darn buttonholes. (I also had to plunder three different stores to get the forty-five buttons needed.)
Things I learned with this project: don’t wait till the last minute to attach buttons. It is far more enjoyable to sit in the evening watching Ripper Street and hand sewing, rather than trying to do it all in one go the day it is due. I won’t be making that mistake again!
Fortunately, Pessin is an understanding client. And his glee showed on his face when he came to pick up his new costume.
A few months after I delivered the outfit, we hit a snag. Being a robust gentleman, Pessin needed a little extra ease in his clothes. While I had built in what I thought would work, trying on a vest in the workshop is a different beast than wearing it to work. All which led to a few buttons popping off where there was strain.
Pessin brought the vest back and I went to work. First I reattached the buttons, this time watching new episodes of Black Mirror as I worked. Then I added a panel to the back of the vest.
Historically, back lacing was used to give a custom fit to clothing. However, I decided adding lacing would end up being more of a nuisance with the possibility of slipping laces and the requirement of an extra set of hands to adjust the fit. Instead, I decided to add a back panel to the bottom portion, giving him an extra fit that could be adjusted just with the tie already present.
I ran into an obstacle in that I couldn’t find a matching lining fabric, so I went with something close that coordinated. And then I turned to the sewist’s magic bag of tricks. There is one universal truth: a fancy trim will turn any alteration born of necessity into a matter of design. The result was something that was very pirate-y indeed.
(You can read the first part of this spotlight here.)
The first obstacle I ran into with this commission came as I gave the pattern my first thorough read through. Like so many women’s fashions, there were no pockets provided. This is a topic I feel passionately about. Your typical wedding dress can possibly, maybe be excuses for not having pockets. the assumption being that the wearer will have attendants to hold keys, wallet, makeup, what have you. This outfit, however, is meant to be worn on other occasions, so pockets are necessary.
Fortunately, I’ve had experience the last few months with adding pockets to normally pocket free patterns. Other than that alteration, the construction of the outfit for the fitting was straight forward. The top is an unlined vest and the pants were much easier than I had anticipated. The newly reorganized workshop helped immensely.
Having room to maneuver also made the fitting a more pleasant experience.
A.C. has a very slender build, meaning a need for some alteration to the bust to eliminate a gap at the armpit and taking in where the vest hits the hips a bit to reduce the flare. The pants, however, could stay a little loose to accommodate the pockets.
Marking the hem was a little tricky as the fabric didn’t want to cooperate, but we got it figured out. And that was that. For a wedding outfit, this has been one of the easiest going projects I’ve done in a long while.
Next time I’ll have pictures of the finished outfit.
Outdated, patriarchal claptrap aside I’ve always loved the above advice from the 1949 Singer Sewing Manual, not only because it is solid, but because it points out that sewing is serious business. It also works, in many ways, as advice for ritual work.
When you are working a ritual, casting a spell, praying, collecting herbs, or what have you, there is a process of preparation, steps we follow to align their will with their goal. We mentally prepare ourselves. We gather our materials. We cleanse ourselves and consecrate our work space. We make sure we won’t be interrupted. Readying ourselves for magic and readying ourselves for sewing follow the same steps.
I mention this because I’m currently working on a book. The subject matter is paganism and sewing. I’ve got a good portion of it already written, and the goal is to finish it before the year is out. The timing for November is just coincidence, this isn’t a NaNoWriMo project.
I’ll be posting bits and bobs of research over the next few weeks, along with more on sewing, cross stitch and whatever else strikes my fancy. I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I do.
It is hard to keep in mind that cloth making was a laborious process not so long ago. Watching this video of cloth making, from plant fiber to finished cloth, is almost exhausting to watch.