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Posts Tagged ‘handmade’

The first round of serious clothes altering was when I started making myself some very plain shirt dresses. While you’ll see a number of dresses that look like they are a slightly altered men’s shirt they are pretty much only for the typical “model” body type. I had never found any in plus sizes or anything remotely close.

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I was looking for tops that I could wear with leggings while working at the shop or around the house/garden. There were a bunch of boxes any possible item had to fill.

It had to (in no order):

  • be easily washable and not need ironing
  • be a light, breathable fabric but not see-through or clingy
  • print, plaid or mid-tone colour preferred since it might get smudged
  • have mid-length sleeves so I don’t have to keep pushing them up
  • not be constrictive or limit movement
  • pull-over preferred
  • needs to cover my butt
  • cheap enough that I won’t cry if it gets ruined (paint, putty and sharp objects are all risks)
  • hopefully at least “cute” if not high fashion

Not really an excessive list of demands, but I wasn’t having any luck. Instead, we found a few really good quality, brand new, 3X and 4X men’s shirts at our local thrift store and they seemed a good place to start. They were all under $5 each so there was little risk in jumping right in. The collars for that size of shirt are proportional for a man so were very large. To keep them from looking too weird, we just cut them off and made either a v-neck or a simple curve. One v-neck ended up a bit too deep for me so a small insert was made from the left-over bits. They were all big enough to be pulled over my head so the fronts were sewn down. The ones that were not short sleeved already had the sleeves cut off and finished with a straight hem. To help the flow and keep them from catching on my hips, I opened up the side seams and finished each side with the same straight hem. This gives a more tunic-like look.

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The only other thing was some light darting to give a bit of shape around the waist. The trick with those was that I put it on inside out, pinned the darts; top, bottom and depth, on one side. Then slipped it off, matched the other side so they lined up perfectly and did each as a single sewn line. While it’s very fast and easy, the darts are what really sell these as dresses, not men’s shirts. Of course, if you want and it better suits your body, it’s also easier to not bother with the darts, although you way want to take the bottom seam of the sleeves in a bit so they don’t gape. Those with a very large chest might find it works best to take it in a bit along the bottom for the same reason. No matter what you need, pinning it while it’s inside out should work to help adjust the fit. It’s all about what suits you best!

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I decided it was time to start talking a bit about one of the areas of altered art that I’ve been playing with the past couple of years and it’s going to get personal so I wanted to start with a general explanation of how and why I got into it and why I’ve decided to blog about it.

I am, and have been for all of my adult life, fat. I’m also tall, nearly 6′, and broad-shouldered. As a result, clothing has pretty always been difficult for me. Finding comfortable, affordable, flattering things to wear is a constant nightmare. Add in that I also want them to be easy to care for, durable (both in style and wear) AND to match my own sense of taste, and it becomes almost impossible.

Working as a custom framer for years meant that I had to keep to a business casual/suitable for retail level and one that met with my bosses approval. Luckily, it’s (rightly) viewed as an “artistic” profession, so a bit of personal flair is acceptable. I mostly got by on long skirts, blouses and dresses.

Becoming my own boss has opened up some more options for me. I’ve gradually become more comfortable with expressing my personal taste, when it comes to what I wear. The rise of “disposable fashion” seems to have made the plus-sized clothing options in shops even worse, which I didn’t think was possible. That has driven me to modify/make even more of my clothes. As my daily wear has become personalized, I feel more confidant and relaxed about myself and I’ve had more and more people compliment my clothes and/or ask where I got it. Considering how many people have wanted to know how I’ve been making my stuff, I thought it made sense to start showing how it was done. I am not that accomplished as sewer, but most of what I’ve been doing doesn’t take much skill, you just have to be willing to jump in. I’m not going to do too much in the way of details, but if you have any questions, always feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer.

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IMG_6940It has been quite a while since I made a new batch of masks. I shouldn’t have taken so long a break, but kept getting distracted by stuffies and jewellery, since those are the bulk of what’s needed for shows. At any rate, a new group just got finished! They were done to use up the last of the edging lace. It makes beautiful crowns and is the best accent for the feathers I’ve found but, because it was salvaged, it was in limited supply. All the full crown masks made with it had found homes, so I decided it was time to just go ahead and use what was left. I stuck to most popular colour combos so there is one gold and black, (pictured), a gold and white and one silver and brown. The silver one also used up the last bit of the long natural coque feathers. It’s always hard to reach the end of a favourite supply, but I should look at as a chance to do something different. Either way, it’s going to be hard to see these ones go.

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Last year I made my first steampunk mods from some Nerf guns. For my next modding project IMG_6147 I decided to go sonic. There was a fun, mixable set of make-your-own sonic screwdrivers that I found on ThinkGeek. What appealed to me was that there were three screwdrivers, each made up of four swappable parts. (the sound and light emitting guts fit inside any combination) This meant that I would have lots of options to work with as well as having multiple possible fall-backs if a planned mod didn’t work. My intent was to produce a single one for myself that could just be an add-on to one of the Steampunk outfits but I ended up altering all twelve parts. The set that got the most work was this one. It already had a bit of a steamy feel to it, but the all plastic parts just didn’t work for me. There was a good supply of many different metal watch bands in the stash and they came in handy for this project. I think that shortening and linking the one that wraps around behind the light-up window was one of the most difficult parts, IMG_6143 but the finished look is exactly what I wanted. I was also grateful for the size of the parts stash when it came to matching up a watch case to the window. Some gilding and an antique mother-of-pearl button accent the on/off switch and detailed metal panels cover over where I cut off the fake, plastic gears. On the lower end of the case, I used some more of my salvaged antique ivory panels and am still trying to decide if they need to have some Gallifreyian symbols scrimshawed into them. The end is a large, solid resin crystal with a jointed gold metal edging. The top was heavily rebuilt with the surrounding prongs being cut back, shaped and capped with metal to fit a light green faceted stone. I liked the stone since it tied to the existing colours but is still translucent enough to transmit the light from the working insert. All the parts were also either painted or gilded and then hit with antiquing washes to give them realistic ageing. (great existing wear/ageing on both the metal parts and the ivory help too)  All the changes also give the finished screwdriver a nice substantial weight when held.

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The last of the Key racks was were I had the most fun. IMG_6129 The back is the centre part of the panel and a chunk of the original sticker was still on it. While it was no where near intact, it is still partially readable and has a great look. I wanted to keep that but doing so limited where hooks could be placed. I fiddled a bit with using the key hooks but then remembered that I had a few antique brass gears around. These ones hadn’t been used for other things because they all still have their central pivots solidly attached. That made them perfect for my needs and I was able to embed them into the wood backing. Almost all were bent, at the tips of their pivots, or in one case, it was tilted strongly upwards, so they will still work as hooks. The spacing even worked out well enough that the remains of the label show well through the open parts of the gears! While I’m pleased that it turned out to still be a functional key holder, the finished piece has such a great Steampunk vibe to it that I think it is likely to get hung up as pure decoration.

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For the second of the my Key hooks, I wanted to use IMG_6137 some of the longer flat silver ones. I love how their shape is closer to the antique keys and is vaguely reminiscent of a spine. The problem was that, unlike the solid brass keys, many of them will break instead of bending to the curve for a hook. It was a bit frustrating, trying to figure out which ones had the right type of metal composition and shape, that would allow them to be bent (some were too hard for me to handle with the tools on hand) without snapping. I had to make things even more difficult by only wanting ones with specific looks too. Eventually, I was able to get a trio that I liked done. For the accent, it’s simply a large enamelled clock face. This one was a bit too big for jewellery but was in such good shape I didn’t want to use as a background for a collage either. This was a good way to let it shine.

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A while ago we found a large group of keys. IMG_6130 My primary area of interest was the antique skeleton keys but the lot also included quite a number of more modern ones as well. (and by “modern” I mean from this century) The later keys just aren’t a style I like for jewellery, so aside from the “Key to My Heart” painting series, they hadn’t been getting used. At the same time they came in, we also found a pair of solid iron ring mandrels. Having the mandrels meant that I could shape some of the softer keys into hooks and make a group of “key” hooks. (and yes, the terrible pun was part of the appeal) I wanted to keep them small enough that they would fit in a range of spaces since most key racks are used in tight spaces. I also wanted the finished pieces to keep the vintage feel of the keys. To do that, I ended up cutting up a back panel from an antique clock that I found in the stash. It gave me three panels that were small enough to be hung anywhere but big enough that each could fit enough hooks for a usable key rack as well as some decorations. For this one, I went with a trio of brass keys and a dark brown accent piece. The flower is a fairly newish, resin piece but has a great antiqued finish and was cast from an antique sculpture so the keys end up feeling like the newest part of the whole thing.

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