Gothic Corset and the Page 100 Happy Dance

Normally after finishing one of those hectic spells of sewing I don’t even want to look at a sewing machine, much less turn it on and sew something. Not this time. I woke up on March 18th with the absolute need to sew something. With a mostly blank sewing schedule in front of me, I’ve decided to plan a proper photo shoot to properly document some of my costumes. I’ve recruited my friend who in turn talked to a photographer so now its up to me to provide some costumes.

For this shoot I’m mostly going to make two main, brand new costumes. I gave my friend the option to choose whatever she wanted to be as long as it was unique and fantastical. She chose vampire faery.


I guess I can work with that.

The main piece will be the corset and the rest will be built up of ragged layers. I was glad to give my corsetry skills a bit of work, they needed it!

Fantasy corset, vaguely late Victorian.

Fantasy corset, vaguely late Victorian.

This is the third actual corset I’ve made and it’s a huge improvement from the first two. There’s still room for improvement but at least this is a sellable piece.

this may or may not be laced up with an old lace from my Irish Dance Ghillies.

this may or may not be laced up with an old lace from my Irish Dance Ghillies.

Note the handsewn eye holes for lacing. (I once swore that I would never do this and that you had to be insane to attempt it, now I won’t do it any other way)

We don’t have a date for the photo shoot yet but I’ll keep you updated on the costume progress.

On top of my sewing I’ve been making major headway in my current manuscript. I got bogged down for a while, then St. Patrick’s day shoved it aside. Now I’m back on top of it and I just passed page 100! A minor victory but I can’t help but congratulate myself whenever I hit a hundred pages. Somehow that just makes it more ‘real’ to me. ‘All right, If you’ve made it to 100 pages you can finish this. Look at how much you’ve already written and don’t be scared by how much you have left to write.’


My Night Fury Solo Dress

I’ve been working away on this one since the beginning of the year and I first hinted at it here:

This is the most elaborate dress I’ve done so far and definitely my favorite. Plenty of mistakes were made of course but I took what I learned from this dress and used it to make the black and purple dress (previous post) the best quality dress I’ve sewn yet.

But who cares, pictures!


Close up of bodice detail.

Close up of bodice detail.

This was the most complicated embroidery I’ve done. My machine hasn’t forgiven me yet.

But this dress has a little surprise …



 Yes, I’m obsessed and I don’t care who knows it. Now Toothless can come to all my performances! The sash isn’t 100% done, I’m going to add a Celtic knot to the top where it attaches to my shoulder. That was one task too many to finish before St. Patrick’s day so for the moment it’s safety pinned.

The dress in action. Photo taken by Jennifer Saikley Miller-Raeth.

The dress in action. Photo taken by Jennifer Saikley Miller-Raeth.

Black and Purple Solo Dress

For those of you outside the Irish Dance world here’s a quick summary of the solo dress. These are dresses worn for competition that are completely unique to each dancer. They are covered in traditional knotwork and are usually made out of velvets and covered with Swarovski crystals. Dresses made by the leading dressmakers can go for for thousands of dollars.

Now, Irish dance fashion is constantly changing so I feel that calling them ‘traditional’ is pretty much bull. They’re no more traditional than those Shirley temple wigs. But whatever, they’re beautiful and sparkly so who cares.

I have made several for myself over the years. The first were pretty awful, looking back. But trial and error teaches you more than anything else so when one of the girls in my school approached me about making a solo dress I felt that I was up for the challenge.

She wanted hers to be simple (remember, this is relative) in black and purple. She had a specific request, she wanted ‘lace up’ on the front of the dress. We sketched some ideas back and forth until we were both happy then it was off to find fabric.

The fabrics.

The fabrics.

While I waited for the fabric to come in I started working on the stencils for the knotwork. I don’t have a big fancy embroidering machine (Yet) so for the embroidery that makes a solo dress I have to get a bit creative.

Stencil, This piece is for the top of the bodice.

Stencil, This piece is for the top of the bodice.

First I cut the stencil out of a cereal box (The thickness is perfect) then line velvet and use the stencil to mark the design on the back of the lined velvet. I then cut the design out of the velvet and lay it on top of the fabric that will show through, in this case white satin. This is later satin stitched to the dress itself-every raw edge must be covered with the satin stitch. It’s a time consuming job but the end result is worth it.

A happy dancer!

A happy dancer!

This dress is decorated with only a tiny scattering of Swarovski at the dancer’s request.  

The dress in action.

The dress in action.

We were both very happy with how the dress came out! And while my dresses probably won’t be mounting the podium at Worlds any time soon, I’m excited to continue exploring the possibilities of future solo dresses!

Next: Pictures of MY solo dress.

St. Patrick’s Day 2015

Another St. Patrick’s Day season come and gone. Our school participated in three parades and more shows and festivals than I can count. We had a lot of new choreography to memorize this year and on top of that I had thirty performance skirts to sew. AND I was hired to sew a solo dress for a girl in our school. Wait, I’m not done.

I had TWO WEEKS to sew all of it.

Well, ok, I had a couple of extra days to sew the solo dress, but still.

On top of a serious time crunch I also had to worry about running out of fabric. We ordered a bolt that we estimated had just enough fabric for all the skirts. If we had underestimated we never would have been able to get more in time.

Happily I finished with not only fabric to spare but a full day ahead of schedule (sleeping was put on the backburner for the last week). The solo dress was finished in time to be worn for the weekend shows so it was time to pack everything up and head out to dance.

Dancers on the float at Hollywood parade wearing my skirts. I'm second from the end.

Dancers on the float at Hollywood parade wearing my skirts. I’m second from the end.

The skirts are boxpleated and reversible, the other side being black with a blue edge.

The reverse side of the skirt, they're not actualy that shiny in real life, not sure why it looks so shiny here. Photo credits to a photographer SOL Exposure.

The reverse side of the skirt, they’re not actually that shiny in real life, not sure why it looks so shiny here. Photo credits to photographer SOL Exposure.

Next post: The solo dress!