Onto the skirt (it’s a bumper blog update today!).
You’ll remember I was planning to use this pattern to make the skirt, using View D.
I found out after opening the pattern that the skirt has four panels, which means that the zip would have been offset slightly on the seam between one of the centre and side panels. So I decided to alter it to use six panels rather than four.
I cut an extra two side panels, and then adjusted the seam allowances to get it to fit. I think I ended up with 2″ seam allowances in the end.
It’s a bit fuller than I was planning, because of the extra panels, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
I ended up machining the hem, rather than doing my usual invisible hand-sewn hem. That was just for speed, but I don’t think it will show.
I also machined in my first zip. Achievement unlocked! I had to use the special zipper foot for my machine and everything. It’s just a basic zip in a grown on waistband. But it works, which is quite exciting.
The original costume shows Missy wearing a petticoat under her skirt. I found this bridal petticoat on Amazon for a bargain price. It was quite tricky to track down a straight petticoat, rather than a more A-line one. It gives a good, Edwardian shape to the skirt.
I’ve been a bit quiet on the Missy front recently. Sorry about that. But with just a week to go, I’ve finished the jacket. It needs a bit of a press, but I’m pleased with how it’s come out.
The new braid proved to be a dream to work with – much better than the other one. I decided to sew the braid on the collar pieces, the front facing and the body of the coat before sewing them all together. I secured the braid in all of the seam allowances to make sure it wouldn’t come loose.
It all went together well, though I did have to fudge the seam allowances a bit when I attached the lining to the coat at the neck edge, because of the modifications I made. If I’d had more time, I would have topstitched the front edges to make them lie a bit flatter.
The original coat has a back vent, with the braid running up one side of it. But my braid needs to be secured in a seam allowance, so I wasn’t going to be able to have braid on the outside of a back vent in the same way. Instead, I created an overlapped back vent, and put the braid on the inner flap.
If I were making this again, I’d sew the braid further away from the bottom edge. My hem allowance turned out to be pretty small, so i ended up making quite small turned hems.
The buttons are sewn on the outside, but the coat was fastened with snap fasteners. This is lazy, but also screen accurate: Missy’s costume is fastened the same way. I attached those on the front of the coat before sewing the main fabric to the lining. This was for neatness, as it keeps the untidy ends inside the garment without them showing.
The ones on the cuff are added in the same way. The buttons are purely decorative, but I’ve added a small snap fastener in the point of each cuff, as I’d found the cuffs would otherwise fall down and turn themselves inside out. I’ll see how that works out, but I might need to add some more snap fasteners down the outside edge of the cuff.
I’ve also sewn the pockets closed as the light fabric meant they were gaping open a bit while the jacket was being worn. I can open them up if I want to at a later point.
I’ve discovered one thing I hate more than gimp braid. Running out of gimp braid.
I’d bought a 10m card, thinking that would be plenty for the whole outfit. And it probably would have been, if it hadn’t been for the section that unravelled and needed to be replaced, and there being a flaw in the final length that rendered it unusable.
No problem, I thought. I’ll buy some more from the same supplier. Except I went back to them to find they’d sold out. Much cursing ensued, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to find a replacement that would be identical or close enough that I could get away with it. You would not believe how much variation there can be in a simple 15mm wide scroll gimp braid.
Given time pressures, and the challenges of unpicking the existing braid, which is now heavily secured into seam allowances to stop it fraying, I’d rather have a close match even if it’s not perfect. I can always come back later and replace the other sections so it all matches. But I’ll still have to rip out where I’d tacked the original braid onto the collar and the body of the coat – which took me several episodes worth of House of Cards – and tack on the new braid. I want it to at least be consistent where I’m using it. So I ordered two lots to try and get a close match.
Conscious of time, while I was waiting for it to arrive I also started making the skirt (which I’ll cover in a later post).
So here’s what arrived in the post:
The one at the top is the original braid. The others are the possible replacement options.
You’ll see neither has the internal channel of the first braid. I think I marginally prefer Bachelor No 2 (the bottom braid), as it has a sheen and definition closer to the original.
I have 45m of it. Do you think that will be enough?!
I got an email two days ago saying that there are fifty days to go until the event I plan to wear my costume at. Gulp. Better pick up the pace.
My coat now has sleeves, which is a big piece of progress.
Most of the work was in the cuffs. As well as assembling and braiding them, they had to be attached to the sleeves. Because I’m not lining the jacket, I needed to fasten off the raw edges of the seam joining the cuff to the sleeve somehow. In particular, I can’t rely on the ends of the braid not fraying, unless they’re secured somehow. So I’ve finished off the raw edges with some grosgrain ribbon sewn to the seam allowance and then hemmed to the sleeve. This should hide and protect the raw edges.
The sleeves themselves went into the jacket a treat. I’d been slightly worried about them not fitting, given that they’re from a completely different pattern, but there was no problem at all. I gathered the sleeve heads and they’ve gone in beautifully.
Next step, is the collar. It’s going to require some quite complicated sequencing to work out in what order to add the braid and sew the pieces together. More on that in the next post.
For the last couple of weekends I’ve been assembling the body of my Missy coat. Here’s what it looks like right now.
It needs a bit of a press, but you get the idea.
The body has gone together well so far, but in working with the crepe fabric I’ve decided that it really would benefit from being lined. So I’ve decided to line the body, but not the sleeves.
You’ll see I’ve also started to put the curve on the bottom hem of the jacket. This was done with those old reliables, a dinner plate and a Sharpie.
I’ve not sewn the front facing to the lining yet, as I need to think through how the collar will work, particularly the order of construction with the braid.
I’ve added braid above and below the pocket openings, mirroring the direction it’s sewn on for each side of the jacket.
The braid I’m using is gimp braid. I already hate it with a burning passion.
You can only sew it in one direction through the machine (with the point of the ‘v’ facing away from you) if you want to avoid it getting snarled up in the machine. And it frays like nothing else. I made the mistake of trimming it back close to the seam allowance after I’d sewn it on and sewn the side seams, only to find it unravelling on the right side. I had to unpick the seams and insert a completely new piece of braid.
The fact that it needs anchoring within seams, and sewn across several times to secure is posing a few problems about how I attach the long stretches of braid along the bottom edge and fronts, and the collar. That’s going to need lots of thought.
Today I spent cutting the pieces for the jacket for Missy. I managed to watch the whole of Iron Man 3 and an episode of Orphan Black just while cutting out the paper pattern pieces and making some modifications. This is going to be a long project to make …
As I said in the first part of this series of posts, I’m substituting in the collar and sleeves from another pattern for a coat of the same period. The sleeves *should* be a straight-forward bait-and-switch. Famous last words, no doubt. But we’ll come to those in a later post.
So, in order to steal the collar from the second coat I traced the top of the fronts onto some baking parchment (no expense spared …) twice. Once each for the front, and the front facing. I then taped these bits of baking parchment onto the pattern pieces, and modified the lines as need be with some more scraps of parchment. I used the pattern notches on the front and the facing to make sure that I’d lined up each piece of the baking parchment so that they matched. I’ve used Magic Tape so I can take the modifications off later and use the pattern again as it was originally intended.
This makes both the front and the front facing quite a bit bigger, and the facing will now need to be cut from the pattern fabric, rather than lining fabric, as it’s a foldback collar that exposes the inside of the coat. Good job I bought plenty of fabric.
To make sure that I’ve got enough room to play with, I’ve cut the pattern a size larger than I would normally use. That gives me scope to trim out any excess, and adjust seams as necessary to get a good fit.
The fabric I’m using is a crepe-style fabric I bought on Goldhawk Road. I have no idea what it’s made of, but it feels like a polyester. I have a lot of it, not least as it only cost £4 per metre.
It’s quite lightweight, and would probably benefit from being lined. But since I’m going to be wearing Missy in the summer I’ll try to get away without lining it. But I will include the pockets. Because pockets are useful.
The only piece of the jacket I haven’t yet cut is the collar. It will probably need adjusting to allow for the different line of the fronts and backs of the jacket. I’ll make a toile of that once I have the bodice together. That will let me have a bit of a play so that I can get the fit and shape right.
Tomorrow, I’ll get the machine out, neaten the raw edges and start the construction.
My plan for this year is to cosplay Missy. It’s another great choice I think. It’s highly topical and she should be very recognisable. It’s also a great character (I love that one of Who’s most iconic villains has become a woman) and the costume is very wearable.
I’m planning to write a series of blog posts about the process of making this costume, in particular documenting any pattern modifications I need to make to pull it together. And, of course, I’ll show you the final result at the end.
In this first post in the series, I’d like to set out the plan of how I’m going to pull this look together.
For the jacket I’m going to use a combination of these two patterns.
The one on the left has the right structure for the coat. Option B has the right length. It has the princess seams and the way the pockets are set in is perfect. But the collar and cuffs are totally wrong. So I plan to use the sleeves and collar from the pattern on the right, and to curve the hems on the front of the coat. Merging pieces from these two patterns in this way is going to be an interesting challenge, so I think I’ll be making toiles of both collar and sleeves to see how they fit into the body of the coat, to enable me to make any modifications that will be needed.
Missy’s coat has a single back vent, which neither of these patterns has. So I’m going to think carefully about whether I want to try and create a vent, or work without one.
The skirt is a very straight-forward panelled skirt. I’ve pulled this pattern out of my stash. Option D looks perfect, and I don’t propose any modifications to it at all.
If I have time, I’d also like to make a blouse as well. I have one in my wardrobe I can wear in a pinch, but it’s not quite right for the look, so I’d prefer to make one.
Missy’s blouse is quite distinctive. It has a bib front on it, with the blouse gathered underneath that, and a Peter Pan collar. The body of the blouse has a fine blue stripe, but the collar is plain white. There’s quite a bit of fullness in the sleeves.
I’ve really struggled to find a pattern for this. Most of the bib front blouse patterns out there are the full Gibson Girl: back buttoning and with a traditional Edwardian high collar. The closest I’ve been able to find is this one (which I bought at ruinous expense on eBay after a bidding war).
I think Option C will give me the kind of look I’m after, but I’ll have to reshape the collar a bit again. And the pin tucks will be interesting!
Missy also has some fabulous accessories. I’ve found a black cameo brooch on eBay already (99p!) and it looks like I’ll have to learn some simple millinery skills. Hat blanks can be bought fairly easily online, and I’ll need to attach some plastic fruit to one.
I thought I’d set down how I went about pulling together the Nyssa costume, in case anyone is interested.
For research, I watched The Keeper Of Traken, the Doctor Who serial where Nyssa first appears, and used stills found via Google Image searches to try and get the details right.
This is the key part of the costume. It was the most time-consuming to make, and is probably the most complex thing I’ve ever made. The original is in a sort of patchwork velvet in dark red/russet colours. That is very difficult to replicate, so I ended up opting for a plain crimson velvet instead. It has leg of mutton sleeves and a high collar. It’s fastened with four buttons, and button loops. The hem is straight.
I used the jacket from Simplicity pattern 2207 as the base for mine. It’s a princess-seamed jacket, which gives the right shape through the body.
But I had to do some significant modifications to it. To make sure I’d got these right and understood the jacket construction I made a full toile/muslin before cutting into the super-expensive velvet.
The modifications were:
I recut the collar to make it a high, straight collar.
I recut the sleeves as well, to turn them into leg of mutton sleeves.
I changed the fastenings to four, self-covered buttons and button loops, which were sewn into the front of the jacket between the front and the facing.
By far the most difficult modification was the sleeves.
I did this by making up the sleeve in calico. The pattern was in two parts (an upper sleeve and an under sleeve), so it was impossible to do the modifications without making it up in that way. I then cut across the sleeve head horizontally and inserted another piece of calico to add extra fullness and length (about an extra 10cm in length across the full width of the sleeve). I pleated the excess into the sleeve opening, using the same technique as on my Rowena. When I was happy with the look I undid the seams on the sleeve and cut the inserted calico on a straight line between the two pattern pieces. This piece of calico became my pattern piece for the sleeves, with seam allowances tidied up.
I toyed with straightening the hem, but decided that the shaped hem was more flattering. If I did straighten it, I would have liked to have added a bit more length in the side seams.
The fairy skirt
This was a very simple and quick part of the costume (about 2 hours from start to finish).
I cut a series of leaf shapes out of three different fabrics, using another bit of calico as a pattern piece. The green and pink are both polyester lining fabrics. The blue is a voile with a printed sparkly gold design on it. I had it in my fabric stash already, and it provides a bit of variety in the skirt.
I layered the leaf shapes over each other. The green provides the base, then the blue, then the pink on top. I then gathered them into a very simple waistband which acts as the channel for some 1″ elastic. It’s not the most elegant of skirts, but the waistband is covered by the jacket and it gives the right effect.
I left the edges of the leaves raw. I might go back and do some simple rolled hems, but it will be a lot of work for something that is only going to get occasional wear. I also experimented with putting some net under it for shape and structure, but found it left the skirt too bulky when the original has quite a draped look.
There are a few other key pieces for the Nyssa look.
The brooch Nyssa wears at her throat is very hard to see from stills and I struggled to find a good close up of it. So I had to aim for something that was broadly the right size, shape and texture. I made this one from a button I had in my button box that I’d got from a mixed lot of vintage buttons. I simply glued a brooch back onto the back of it using jewellery glue.
The tiara is a child’s tiara for a wedding or confirmation. It’s on a comb, which makes it secure an easy to position. I found it on eBay.
Nyssa’s shoes are, again, not really shown on screen. From the way she moves and the sound, I get the sense they were low-heeled pumps of some sort. And the colour clearly matches the rest of her outfit. I’ve had these suede, kitten-heeled courts for a long time, so I thought they’d be perfect.
The tights are a pair of Jonathan Aston opaques in a gorgeous, bright blue, which turned out to be a perfect TARDIS blue. I found them in the sale in John Lewis.
The final result
Hair and make up were very straight forward. I scrunch dried my hair with a bit more of the creme I use than normal (Aussie Frizz Remedy) and parted it in the centre rather than to one side. Make up was heavy on the pinks.
Yes, I know, I appear to not be wearing the shoes by this point …
Craft skills have always been an important part of my heritage. Both sides of my family have practiced crafts, and many relatives have made their livings that way. I have aunts who were florists and seamstresses, and my father is a mechanical engineer by trade. As an apprentice he had to make his own tools from scratch, and they are beautiful things: smooth curves of burnished metal.
My mother was always making something while I was growing up, and she made most of my clothes when I was very small. The hems were always let down as I grew until finally a strip of wide lace would be sewn onto the hem to eke a last bit of usable life out of a dress or skirt. She taught me to knit when I was seven years old. She still has the first thing I made somewhere. It’s a Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf. It starts off with a wobbly edge, gets narrower as my tension has the death-like grip of a new learner, before loosening drastically. The stitch count varies wildly as I inadvertently create and lose stitches, and it’s full of random holes. But my skills grow along with its length and it settles into something recognisable as a scarf. My mother also taught me basic dressmaking skills on her ancient Singer. The first thing I made was a skirt. Two rectangles seamed down the sides and gathered into a simple elasticated waistband (exactly the method I used to make the skirt for my Nyssa costume last summer). With such a basic machine (it only did straight stitch) I also had to learn a lot of basic hand sewing skills: neatening raw edges, invisible hemming, setting in zips by hand and making button loops.
Craft skills are something that it is difficult to learn from a book. They are handed down teacher to learner, often within families, or between friends. Famously, there is one style of embroidery – Mountmellick – that nearly died out. It went out of fashion and the knowledge of how to do it wasn’t passed on. Eventually, the only person who knew how to do it was a former nun living in a nursing home in Ireland. The style only survives because someone took the time to sit with her and learn it, before passing that on to other embroiderers.
Yesterday, as part of a series of wellbeing themed events at work, I had the opportunity to do my own part in passing on craft skills to others by teaching some colleagues to knit. My excuse was the wide range of evidence out there showing the beneficialeffects of any type of crafting on stress levels, mental health and, in the longer term, staving off mental decline. But mostly I just wanted to share the joy of creating.
I assembled some needles and small balls of leftover yarn, and pulled together a small display of finished items, yarn and pattern books and magazines. Over an hour and a half, and with the help of a fellow knitter, we taught people to cast on and knit. For the whole of that time there was intense concentration in the room and not a word was spoken about work. There was that wonderful buzz that comes from creativity and learning and accomplishing something new.
What did I learn from this? The joy of passing on skills to others. And that both teaching and learning can be exhausting…