Radio Silence – Moving

Sorry for the radio silence.  I have some more spoonflower fabrics ready to release, some photos of one of the Viking hoods I’ve made recently, more items to photograph, and a host of writing projects I would like to be working on, but all of that has had to take a back seat to moving from Las Vegas back to California.  Moving is an exhausting experience under the best of circumstances, and though I had hoped to at least keep the fabric releases coming, I have not found the energy for any of it.

Though I am expecting the exertions of the move to knock me on my as for at least a month after the move is complete (mid-March?), I am hopeful that the change of circumstance and scenery will reinvigorate my artistic endeavors and motivation to write.  Hopefully that will be accompanied by enough energy to do the things I want to do, because the chronic fatigue symptom still kicks my ass on a regular basis.

Only time will tell what I will manage to accomplish, but be sure that though I might still be quiet now and again, I will always return.

Red and Blue Viking Garb – Teaser

Diana wearing her hand-sewn Viking age garb at an event, teaser photo.

Diana wearing her hand-sewn Viking age garb at an event.

The main project I have been working on for the past couple months (and then some) is Viking garb for Diana and myself.  It can be extremely taxing for me to spend time at a sewing machine, so I decided to make the outfit entirely by hand.  It’s not unusual for me to be able to sit on the couch and stitch away slowly, so even though it took a lot more hours of work to make, it means Diana’s garb is well underway and wearable.  Had I decided to make it by machine, odds are it would still be sitting un-sewn.

Diana was able to wear the garb to Great Western War 2015 the one day we attended, but it was so hot and we were so tired that taking nice, full-length photos was not going to happen.  Instead I took a little teaser snapshot while we were sitting in the shade.


The Serk

The red linen underdress (also called a serk) took a little more than fifty hours to sew by hand.  I have not added any decoration to it yet.

Viking Serk Construction Detail, by Sidney Eileen - Hand sewn running stitch and whip stitch with thread pulled from scrap fabric.

Detail of the seam and hem construction of the red linen serk. Upper is the inside of the dress, and the lower is the outside of the dress. It was assembled with running stitch using thread pulled from the fabric. Seam allowance was folded over and whip stitched. Hem was also folded over and whip stitched.

Flat Felled Seam Finish Illustration, by Sidney Eileen

Flat Felled Seam Finish Illustration

Basic Whip Stitched Hem Illustration, by Sidney Eileen

Basic Whip Stitched Hem Illustration


The Apron Drape

The apron drape is hemmed with double herringbone stitch in Londonderry linen thread, with about fifteen hours of sewing involved.  It is about six inches longer than it should be to avoid tripping over it, so Diana had to pin a fold to wear it at the event.  I am currently unsure if I should just turn it into a table runner and make an entirely new one that’s also a little wider, or if I should fold the fabric and add some more embroidery to hold it in place.  The intention for this piece is a simple white apron that is functional and can be easily washed and bleached, so I had not originally intended to add any more decoration to it.  Decisions, decisions.

White Viking Apron - Detail, by Sidney Eileen - Linen fabric, hand sewn with herringbone stitch done in line thread.

White Viking Apron – Detail


The Apron Dress

The apron dress is a floor length, open-front style with pleating in the back.  It is inspired by Valkyrie figurines, and intended as special occasion style garb, rather than practical everyday style wear.  It is held closed in the front by a penannular brooch that is hidden by the apron drape in the top photo.  It took about fifty hours to hand sew, which includes the time spent embroidering the shoulder straps.  I have spent about twenty-five hours on embellishment so far.

Blue Open Apron Dress - WIP Detail, by Sidney Eileen - Hand sewn and embroidered with linen, decorated with cotton tablet weaving I did not make.

Blue Open Apron Dress – WIP Detail

The above photo shows part of the top of the dress, at the back where the shoulder strap attaches.  Along the bottom of the photo you can see the seams of the pleats.  Sewing is all done with line thread pulled from the selvage of the fabric.  Embroidery is done with Londonderry linen thread.  The top and bottom tablet woven bands were created by my friend Amy, and the middle band Diana received in an informal SCA art exchange.  The tablet woven bands are applied using linen thread pulled from the selvage.

Apron dress shoulder strap, showing detail of the seam being closed using a double van dyke stitch, by Sidney Eileen

Apron dress shoulder strap, showing detail of the seam being closed using a double van dyke stitch.

Van dyke stitch can be used to create a beautiful braid-like appearance by using close stitches.  In this case I worked two threads, catching the loop of each stitch under the intersection of the same color’s previous stitch.  Because the stitches across the seam all go down and left, the down stitch pulls down the right side, and the up stitch pulls up the left. If you don’t adjust the tension at every single stitch, the left side trends to travel up and the right travels down, resulting in misalignment. Basting the two sides together would probable reduce the problem a lot if you don’t like fiddling with the tension constantly.

Detail of the apron dress shoulder straps while in progress, by Sidney Eileen. At this point it just needed the remainder of the interlace stitch added to the running stitches.

Detail of the apron dress shoulder straps while in progress. At this point it just needed the remainder of the interlace stitch added to the running stitches.

WIP of the embellishment on the open apron dress, by Sidney Eileen

WIP of the embellishment on the open apron dress.


Project: Viking Age Garb

Hybrid Style Fully Corded Corset – WIP4-5

Apparently I had not gotten around to posting all the WIP images from July to this blog.  My apologies for that.  I have not actually worked on the hybrid style fully corded corset in nearly two months, but here are a couple more images of the progress I did make at that time.

Corded Hybrid Corset - WIP4 Detail, by Sidney Eileen

Corded Hybrid Corset – WIP4 Detail – At this point I managed to finish cording the last two black panels of the corset, and the next day I managed to cord half of the gores (I’m not counting the two tiny ones, which are too small to cord and exist purely for aesthetic reasons). That meant I still needed to cord four goes and the four stomacher panels. I think that will be the half way point of total construction.

Corded Hybrid Corset - WIP5, by Sidney Eileen

Corded Hybrid Corset – WIP5 – I finished cording all the panels! I had barely prepped enough cord. You can see the small coil of remainder. Thank goodness I pulled all the cord I thought I would need and then pulled a few more yards just to make sure! I could have washed more had I run out, but I’m glad to not have to go to the trouble. This puts me at what I estimate is the halfway point of the project, two weeks in.


Project: Fully Corded Hybrid Style Corset

Health Update – August 2015

While it is undeniable that I am feeling markedly better than I have in years, and that I am managing to work on projects again, and even do a little informal teaching, the biggest question on my mind has shifted to: Am I capable of resuming work?  And if not, how far am I from being able to work?  I know I am not the only person wondering this.  I have had some inquiries about commissions in recent months, and comments online from people that are hopeful I will re-open business soon.  On top of that, to say that things have been a struggle without me providing income for my own upkeep would be an understatement, and it’s been sadly indicative of how far I am from being able to work that I have been absolutely incapable of consistently managing simple chores around the house.  I will get there, but progress is slow.

While I was working on the fully corded corset project last month I had comments on my FaceBook page marveling at how quickly it was coming together, when the reality of the situation couldn’t have been more the opposite.  For me it was a very painful reality check regarding what I am actually capable of managing.

The project was intended to be a new corset to show off at the 2015 North American Corsetry and Lingerie Symposium, which I attended as a teacher.  I have only ever made four corsets for myself, and of those only the two underbusts still sort-of fit anymore, so I wanted to have something nice to wear.  I had intended to start the project well in advance of the symposium, and I had a clear concept in mind more than a month ahead of time, but I had a couple fighting jackets for friends I was trying to finish before starting on the corset (which also are still not finished) and I was dealing with a symptom downswing that landed me mostly on the couch again.  I finally threw my hands up at the jackets and started on the corset a little more than two weeks before the symposium in order to have a prayer of finishing it before a hard deadline.  To add to the problem, I had the dates mixed up and thought I had three weeks before the symposium.

The fully corded corset is not a simple corset in terms of design, and it is admittedly a time-consuming construction style.  Even when I was well and working, this one probably would have taken me the better part of a week, working eight-hour days, to finish.  During the time I actually spent working on it, I think I managed to work at a fairly respectable pace.  It was managing to work on it that was the biggest problem.

The greatest barrier I have to working is the chronic fatigue.  It really is a productivity killer.  I do have a little more energy more often than I used to, but during those two weeks I still had days when I got absolutely nothing done, including a three-day span of complete inactivity.  I had very little time to finish the project, so I made no attempt to do any household chores because that was a direct trade-off for energy I could spend trying to finish the corset.  I didn’t even bathe as much as I should have, because it is also a direct trade-off to be able to do something else (admittedly, this is a trade I make more often than I would care to, and it’s horrible when I make that trade and then hit a few days where I have no spoons, so nothing gets done and I still don’t bathe).

Corded Hybrid Corset - WIP5, by Sidney Eileen

Corded Hybrid Corset – WIP5 – I finished cording all the panels! I had barely prepped enough cord. You can see the small coil of remainder. Thank goodness I pulled all the cord I thought I would need and then pulled a few more yards just to make sure! I could have washed more had I run out, but I’m glad to not have to go to the trouble. This puts me at what I estimate is the halfway point of the project, two weeks in.

If I am putting all my energy for the day into one thing, I just zone out on that one thing and try to ignore all my symptoms, including the fatigue.  Mentally and emotionally I am prepared for the remainder of the day to be just resting once I have worked on that one thing as much as I can.  There is a lot that I can ignore, including the early stages of fatigue setting in.  If I wasn’t able to ignore a lot of my symptoms I never would have been able to continue working until 2011.  That means I ignore symptoms and keep pushing along until I reach a point where I hit a metaphorical brick wall.  All my spoons are spent, and I find myself staring dumbly at whatever I am trying to do, lost in a confused state of mental and physical mush.  Occasionally after I realize I’ve been staring into the void for a while I can refocus and manage an extra few minutes of work, but it’s never much, and odds are good anything I try to do after that point will turn out poorly, or completely ruined.

I think the average amount of time I managed to spend productively working on the corset on any given day was about 2 hours.  Some days I only managed a half hour or forty-five minutes.  On one miraculous day I managed nearly six hours, but that was followed by the three days where I got nothing done, resulting in less overall productivity than if I had worked two hours each day for those four days.

The month since the conference has been busy for me, with travelling, a friend visiting from California, dog-sitting, cooking for an SCA event, and a lot of down time following on the heels of those exertions.  I’ve been back to napping frequently, barely managing any household chores, have done very little hand sewing, and managed no embroidery.  I haven’t touched the sewing machine since the conference.  I haven’t managed to work on any art (though I very much want to).  I still need to finish those two fighting jackets I promised to friends, I’m trying to finish Viking garb for Diana, hoping to start Viking garb for myself, had a friend beseech me to make her some Italian Ren garb for 12th Night this coming winter (which I would love to do, but doubt I can manage), need to restart the Opus Anglicanum embroidery stitch-along, have promised custom bras to a couple friends who desperately need them, and need to work on the promised corset pattern modification tutorial.  Those are just the big projects!  I have also promised patterns to a couple different friends, want to do some more calligraphy and create a set of award scrolls for the Barony of Starkhafn, would love to make some medieval shoes (because I sure as hell can’t afford to buy them), would love to pick weaving back up, make some assorted small bags to hang from belts, and start a large Opus Anglicanum project.  I’m sure there’s more, but those are what are coming to mind right now.

Before I got sick I could have worked a full-time job, figured out a time-table to be able to complete all those projects simultaneously, been able to make paintings and drawings at the same time, and also still meet with friends regularly.  Instead I think I’ll be lucky to finish Diana’s Viking garb (though not decorate it at all) and one fighting jacket in the next month.  I’ll also hopefully resume the stitch-along.  Mind you, I think there is maybe ten hours of actual work left on the fighting jacket.  Time is definitely not my problem.  The ability to use that time is.  On the bright side, this time last year I wouldn’t have finished anything, so there is definite improvement.  It’s just not enough improvement for me to be able to get a job or resume taking commissions.  Instead I’ll just keep plodding along as I am able, working on personal projects, and looking forward to the day I can resume working.

Lucy Corsetry Interview and NACLS

The North American Corsetry and Lingerie Symposium happened on July 18, 19, and 20.  I was mistaken about the weekend when it was happening and had to pack in a rush to head out the door for the symposium.  The corded corset did not get finished, and I have barely done anything with it since.

That said, the weekend was absolutely amazing!  One of the biggest highlights for me was meeting Lucy of Lucy’s Corsetry in person.  Most of you probably know her because of her site and YouTube channel where she shares her wealth of knowledge about corsets, corset makers, and corset brands.  For me the connection is much more personal, because when I announced I was sick she offered to run a funding campaign for me to help pay for me medical expenses.  The campaign was a success, and without it I am fairly certain I would still not be able to take the antibiotics I needed because all of my expenses have been out of pocket, without any help from insurance.  At the end of the weekend we had time to film an interview for her vlog.


In other news I met lot of other amazing people, and had a fantastic time.  In the classes learned a new technique for pattern matching from Amber Welch of Lovely Rats Corsets, an interesting method of draping a ribbon corset so it does not have a side panel from Jasmine Ines of Sin and Satin Corsetry, and learned more about ready-to-wear corsetry from Jessica of Ties That Bynd Designs, Inc.  On the second day of classes I also got to prattle for several hours about hand sewing and embroidery.  I was tired enough by that point in the weekend that I had trouble staying on focus and on topic, but despite my issues I saw a lot of ah-ha moments, which always makes me happy.

Zessina took a number of candid photos on the first day of classes.  These first two are from the pattern matching class, where we were using tracing paper to pattern match across panels.

Photo  of NACLS 2015, by Zessina

Photo of NACLS 2015, by Zessina

Photo  of NACLS 2015, by Zessina

Photo of NACLS 2015, by Zessina

I love the fabric I ended up with, but I didn’t get far enough along during the class to cut into it, so at some point down the road I will use one of my own patterns and that fabric to make a corset using the method Amber Welch taught.

Floral Cotton Print Fabric

Floral print cotton fabric I received at NACLS 2015 for the pattern matching workshop.

Lastly, I want to include a candid photo of Zessina the photographer, model, and all-around delightful person who took the candid photos above.  Here she was trying on one of the Lovely Rats corsets with the assistance of Amber Welch, ahead of the photo shoots that happened the next day.

Photo of Zessina and Amber Welch, NACLS 2015

Photo of Zessina and Amber Welch, NACLS 2015

Later that same day we also had a fun corset trying-on session, where any of us who were interested got to try on the corsets various makers had brought with them to the conference.  Some of the corsets from Ties that Bynde were close enough to my measurements to try on, so I did so with delight.  They were a little too long for me to sit in (a very typical problem for me with ready-to-wear corsets), but otherwise delightfully comfortable and with a much larger reduction than I currently have on any of my personal corsets.

The next NACLS is tentatively planned for 2017, and I’m looking very much forward to it.  I hope to see more of you there! :)

Clockwork Alchemy 2015 Recap

Sidney and Diana - Clockwork Alchemy 2015Thank you once again to everyone who helped make my trip to Clockwork Alchemy this year a success.  Diana and I both had a wonderful time, we got to see lots of friends, and both the panel and workshop were well attended and well received.  I’m very happy we made it, and hope we make it out again next year.

We drove out on Thursday afternoon, and stayed with a friend on Thursday night, saving us one night’s expense at the hotel and ensuring that I didn’t start the weekend sleep deprived.  We made it out to the convention hotel before 10am, in time to catch the SteamWomen panel, which was scheduled in the first time slot on the first day of the convention.  If you’re not familiar with it, SteamWomen is a blog dedicated to highlighting the amazing women makers, artists, and creators in the steampunk community.

Diana was fighting a migraine that started on the drive out, so after we got our hotel room she took a nap in the dark and I headed back out to see live acoustic music sets in the tea parlor.  I got to drink lovely tea while being serenaded by Nathaniel Johnstone with Dogwood and Tempest, Unwoman, and Captain John Sprocket of The Cog is Dead.  I hadn’t expected to stay for the entire afternoon, but that’s exactly what I did.  That evening Diana and I both attended the Wind-Up Cabaret where Dogwood performed a set of her own music (something I had been looking forward to), as did Frenchy and the Punk, and Unwoman.  I greatly enjoyed all the music sets leading up the performance of Any Moment Now, a steampunk musical written by Nathaniel Johnstone and Alyssa Rosenbloom.  After the performance we chatted briefly with friends before retreating to our hotel room to unwind and go to sleep.

Saturday we perused the vendor room and milled about before the panel Recognizably Victorian-Esque, which was presented by Yuly Springer of Butterfly Frillies Corsets, Diana, and myself.  We got to prattle on about Victorian foundation garments and silhouettes, and ways to recreate those features in steampunk garb to achieve immediately recognizably Victorian influence.  The panel immediately following was all about how to tie ties, bowties, and ascots, so of course Diana and I stuck around to try our hand at it.

After that we headed back up to the hotel room so I could finish putting together the base patterns for the corset drafting workshop on Sunday.  We had intended to head back downstairs for the Saturday concert, but instead we just stayed in the hotel room and relaxed.  I am grateful for the ability to have the hotel room, because the option of resting instead of being stuck out in the convention made a huge difference in how well I fared throughout the weekend.

Sunday was the fashion show, which of course I wasn’t going to miss!  It was fabulous.  :)

After the fashion show I had to go back up to the room and grab all my materials for the corset pattern alteration workshop.  We had a full house, with a few people choosing to work on the floor since there was not enough table space.  Lots more people poked their heads in, but quickly realized there wasn’t enough capacity in the room for more attendees, and as it was Diana dn I spent most of the three hours moving around the room talking to people and helping them along with their particular situation.  For the first hour there was a lot of confusion, but everyone followed along with the instructions as faithfully as they could.  Then we got far enough for the Ah-Ha! moments to start occurring, when the setup we had done for the first part of the workshop started to result in actual drafting.

No one actually finished a pattern, but I believe I succeeded in providing them with the tools they need to finish the patterns at home.  A number of people were able to get pretty far along, and before we reached the end of the workshop time a lot of attendees had already reached information overload.  Overall, I was extremely happy with how to workshop went, and if I make it back to Clockwork Alchemy next year I’ll be sure to offer it again, only next year I will have a handout as well.  All of the material I covered in the workshop is from a tutorial I am writing, and hope to have finished in the next couple months.

I was completely exhausted after the workshop, but the day didn’t end there.  We ran into other friends I didn’t even know were at the convention, chatted for a while and made plans to meet on Monday, and made it out for the all-con photo before retreating to our room once more.  I would have loved to attend the Sunday night concert, but I was too tired.

Monday we met back up with our friends, attended a panel on Victorian serial killers one of them presented, said our goodbyes, and hit the road heading back for Las Vegas.

All in all, it was an incredible weekend, as always.

Planning for Clockwork Alchemy

Take Sidney Eileen to Clockwork Alchemy 2015 is an Indiegogo campaign to fund myself and Diana going to Clockwork Alchemy.

Clockwork Alchemy is a steampunk convention that happens the last weekend of May in San Jose, attached to Fanime.  I have attended every year since it’s inception, providing panels and workshops on corsets, corset making, and corset buying. This year I am planning to give a corset pattern drafting workshop and costuming panel, the details of which I will provide after the convention schedule has been announced.

Diana and I are both natives of the San Francisco Bay Area, and lived for a number of years in the Sacramento area, where we were active in the local steampunk scene. We moved to Las Vegas in 2012 when Diana was accepted as a PhD candidate in Anthropology at UNLV, and Clockwork Alchemy is one of the few chances we have to see and hang out with our friends in California. Due to chronic health problems I have not been able to work for four years and our finances are abysmal to say the least. That means we need your help to come up with the money for gas and food for the trip, and the handicapped accessible hotel room.  Staying in the convention hotel would be ideal for me with my health problems, so I have a quiet place to retreat when I need to without having to drive a distance from the convention hotel.

Any money raised above the campaign goal will go towards my medication, ongoing testing, and doctor visits for the summer.

There are a handful of perks available, set up to be easy and fun for me to fulfill.  Among the offerings are homemade cookies and homemade couverture chocolates.