Queen of the Summer Seas Part 2

Part 1 here :https://dancingseamstress.wordpress.com/2017/09/22/queen-of-the-summer-seas-part-1/

So the last post ended with the construction. Next, the decorating!

I did some research and found that Octopi are quite the avid little hoarders. They seem to love shiny things. I wanted to reflect that in the dress. I began collecting all sorts of bits and bobs to decorate the corset. Old crystals that I had floating around my room, pearls, suitable beads, etc. And then Michaels had a fantastic sale and I scored some shell beads!


To add a little extra sparkle, I purchased a gross of Swarovski in Scarabeus Green, which is a greenish blue. In retrospect, I probably should have picked a different color as these blend right in to the dress, but oh well, they sparkle!

Playing around pinning a few decorations here and there. I wanted it to feel somewhat organic and to capture the idea of the sea, so I cut out some ‘seaweed’ to tack to the bodice.


The skirt also got the sparkly treatment. I hand sewed dozens of sequins along the hem. Also, can we take a moment to appreciate the color of this two tone organza?!?!?

It was about here that I was reaching the finish line and stopped taking progress pictures. Honestly, I’m impressed I manged to take this many! So after all this I whipped up two black velvet arm covers (Handless gloves? What do you call them?) and a little shrug made out of fish netting (Michaels, if anyone needs to know) . I decorated the shrug with yet more pearls, sequins and crystals and added a few more drapes of sea weed to hang gracefully.

Well, that’s how I put it together, are you ready to see the finished product?


Of course you are.

(Forgive the mess, busy sewing and all that!)


This is the only picture I have of it on Sue, it doesn’t really show off the tentacles. It does, however, show off its awesomness (She said humbly).

The necklace was handmade out of clay, painted and decorated with swarovski and a ‘fairy’ stone. Pearls connect it.

I am unabashedly proud of this dress. I’ve been dreaming of it for years and it’s finally a reality. A few days after completion my friend and I packed up and drove to Jupiter for a photo shoot. We got some simply AMAZING pictures that I can’t wait to share with you in the next post!

So, how much goes into a dress like this? Well, let’s see.


Blue/green two tone Organza-3 yards

Lime Crinkle Organza-3 yards

Black shimmer Organza-Bought 3 yards, used 1 1/2

Purple Shimmer Organza: -2 yards (FREE!)

Black and purple cotton scraped together from stash for non-sheer underskirt, -3 yards

Two tone Avocado Green Taffeta-2 yards.

Black Crushed Velvet- 2 1/2 yards

Bag and a half of Stuffing

Duck canvas for Corset lining- From stash, plus muslin lining for velvet.

Steel Boning

Fish netting

Sea Shell Beads/sequins/swarovski/pearls/various gewgaws.

Rubber tentacle finer puppets. (yes, I’m serious, but wait till you see what I used them for.)

That totals up to about 16 yards of fabric used in the dress.

For a total cost of approximately: $113.

Not bad! Luckily some things were in my stash (boning, lining, etc.) and I’m an extremely frugal shopper who hates to waste a penny, so the cost of this dress remained reasonable.  (not that I’ll be dropping 100 bucks on materials for one dress again any time soon). The true cost was time!

Next, the photo shoot! Let’s see this thing in action!


Queen of the Summer Seas Part 1

Confession time. I’ve got a thing for tentacles. No, I don’t know why.

In August I set myself the task of sewing a costume that has been on my mind for years. An ‘Octopus’ gown, a la Ursula from the little mermaid. I’ve been lusting over the idea for ages, but 1: it was going to be a ton of work, 2: a lot of money for the fabric, and 3: no place to really wear it which sort of makes it hard to justify spending said money.

Well, a local pirate fest recently announced a costume contest, all pirate, and sea-themed fantasy costumes accepted. HALLELUJAH, a reason!

Here is the original idea sketch. It did change slightly from beginning to end, but then everything I make does!


Here’s the fabric I collected for the project. Fun fact: there are about 16 yards of fabric in this picture. And this isn’t even all the fabric!

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Cutting and pinning pieces!

Testing the different layers of the skirt, there are four layers of fabric to create the rainbow-y waters effect I wanted. Super washed out in this picture due to sun coming through my window, hang tight, I have better!



Testing the overskirt minus the underskirt. This part was, unsurprisingly, the hardest part of the dress. Getting the chiffon webbing between the tentacles was a nightmare. On the other hand, I’d chosen a crushed velvet for the top of the tentacles, which is super stretchy. As I started cutting them out, I panicked and told myself I was an idiot, Velvet stretches! It warps! I would have to layer and adhere it all to make it behave, adding a ton more work and fabric to the equation. Then I calmed down, took a breath, and realized that the warping, stretching velvet was PERFECT. Look at how those tentacles are twisted and writhing! In any other situation it would have been a disaster, but for this my miscalculation was serendipitous!

Plus as a bonus, I managed to get all eight tentacles stuffed with only a bag and a half of stuffing, I’d been expecting half a dozen, at least. I stuffed them very lightly at the top so the corset can settle over them comfortably.



Above, the corset, with boning channels sewn, top bound, ad middle insert all sewn in and pretty. But far from done! Part 2 coming this weekend!

St. Patrick’s Day Craziness

I probably should have guessed this would happen, St. Patrick’s Day preparation started and I completely abandoned my blog! In my defense-Damn was I busy!

Last year I made our school new performance skirts, well this year it was time to make the matching tops. You might recall that last year I made almost 30 skirts and completed two solo dresses-in two weeks. Crazy, right? I promised that there was no way that would happen again.

Image result for laughing animal meme 

Yeah yeah yeah…

With one thing and another it was suddenly the end of February and I had *Drum Roll* OVER FORTY PIECES TO SEW. And, just to be perverse, I once again had exactly two weeks to make them all. Well played universe. On top of the sewing, this year I was also in charge of making the matching headbands. Yes, thankfully headbands are a good deal easier… but I had around 20 to make.

 The new costume tops were to premier on March 11th, 8:00 Pm.

I finished sewing March 11th, 3:00 Pm.  A whole five hours to spare!

In the end I sewed 45 costume pieces (Tops, boys’ vests, and more of the skirts from last year) and made 20-25 headbands, I forget exactly. There were several days were a sewed for 15 hours…Whew!

The tops were a collaboration between myself and a local Irish Dance Solo Dress maker, LinDesigns of Florida. She did the embroidery and created the shirts. But enough talking, here are the pictures!


The front panels fresh from the embroiderer.

Embroidered with the Aranmore 'A'.

Embroidered with the Aranmore ‘A’.

The very first show to use the entire costume!

Boynton Blarney Bash, 2016

Boynton Blarney Bash, 2016

And from the parades!


Photo credit to Melissa Price of Priceless Photography.


My best friend and I ready to dance through the parade! Photo credit to Melissa Price of Priceless Photography.


In one weekend, my work danced in three parades and multiple festivals and then danced through St. patrick’s day. I know I like to complain about the work, but honestly, it’s worth every moment of it to see my hard work on stage and hear the dancers tell me how much they like it. I feel so lucky to be able to both dance and sew for my amazing school!

Hope everyone else had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day season!

Let’s Wrap It Up!

The end of the year all ready?! It must be, WordPress sent me an end of the year look back at this blog. Apparently the majority of my readers live in Germany? That’s awesome! Hello and welcome!

So let’s take a look back at 2015!

I started an Etsy Shop!


Yeah! Go me! Sure, I don’t have a street front shop and no lackey’s under my command, it’s just me and my business cards, and my sewing machine, but I’m so glad I finally took the step! https://www.etsy.com/shop/LadyShredsDesigns

I vended at my first show!

And I can’t wait to find more! I had my eye on a Pirate Festival that we always attend in Fort Pierce but the time crept past me and now it’s too late to find a cheap hotel. Oh well, now I know better, there’s always next year for that one and in the meantime I’m searching for other shows!

My first Solo Dress commission!

A happy dancer!

A happy dancer!

Yeah, I’m still excited about this!

This Thing!

Guess who found a tea bag and ate it on my bedroom floor?

Guess who found a tea bag and ate it on my bedroom floor?

"Nope ... not me ..."

“Nope … not me …”

we tried to explain to her that dogs who sleep under the tree get kicked out but she didn't fall for it.

we tried to explain to her that dogs who sleep under the tree get kicked out but she didn’t fall for it.

What didn’t get done:

Well, one of my main sewing goals this year was to recreate the dress in the painting The Promise, by Alan Maley


Sadly this didn’t happen, with everything else I was doing I couldn’t justify the money on the fabric. YET. I still very much want to recreate this dress. Hopefully I’ll do something worth rewarding myself for in 2016, and when that happens, it’s splurge time!

A Feis

I didn’t write about this, but I had sort of promised myself that I would finally compete in an Irish Dance competition. You have to understand, I’m not afraid to dance before a judge, (I love performing!!) my nerves are fairly cool. I simply don’t like the idea, or the way our competitions run. Mostly I don’t see the point or the waste of money. But lately I’ve been getting a little curious… How would I do?

Well, I wimped out but just… maybe… next year?

Finish one of my ongoing manuscripts.

One is still neck deep in rewriting and others are half done. Pirate fest preparation really threw me off consistent writing. However, I am happy to report that I’ve quite suddenly made leaps and bounds in my rewriting-yesterday I had the best writing day in months!

So what about next year? Well, I’m not the type to make resolutions for the new year, but there are certain things I hope to accomplish in 2016. If I push myself I can maybe start querying again by, or before, summer, who knows? Maybe this will be the year I find an agent, and from there …??? I intend to further explore selling on Etsy and will be expanding my shop shortly. I also have some dance themed ideas in the works that will mix my dancing and costuming!

With so many possibilities, 365 days suddenly seems quiet short! Happy New Year to everyone!

Any writing/sewing/dancing resolutions out there? I’d love to hear them!

Wait, what kind of blog is this?

I introduced this blog as blog about me becoming a published writer so some people might be confused that I rarely talk about my actual writing. There is a simple reason for this. THERE IS NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT. For me to focus solely on my writing would look something like this:

Monday: Wrote seven pages today, nice!

Tuesday: Eh, only one and a half.

Friday: Oh, look another rejection letter!

Sunday: Stared at the page all day, wrote nothing. Bummer.

Wednesday: Another rejection letter …

As thrilling as this behind the scenes look is I have to focus on my other pursuits as well.  I’ve seen some bloggers who talk about their books and characters but that’s just not my style, in fact I’m terribly shy about talking about my work, period (Inexplicably, I start crying. Yes, I know this is Not good, if I ever have to pitch my work face to face I’m so dead). Maybe I’ll have something to talk about when I finally finish writing/rewriting the two manuscripts I’m working on but I probably won’t be querying them til the end of the year. If nothing else at least writing has taught me patience!

Luckily sewing and dancing are just as much my passion as writing, and more rewarding. Dance camps are starting in a little over a week and once again I will be assisting as a counselor. And I should shortly have some exciting news on the sewing front, but for the moment here is a sneak peak at what I’ve been up to:

One of multiple fabric hauls.

One of multiple fabric hauls.

Leanring how to insert a busk! Black and silver underbust corset.

learning how to insert a busk! Black and silver underbust corset.

Steampunk-y corset and Pirate sash.

Steampunk-y corset and Pirate sash. The new boning is unformed to a body and is twisting the corset around oddly.

How To Make Your Ghillies Smaller.

Ghillies are what Irish Dancers wear for their soft shoe dances. It is pretty crucial that these shoes fit very tightly to show off the contour of your foot. If they are too loose than judges will not be able to see if your foot is pointed or arched.

     My American shoesize is usually 7 1/2, my first pair of soft shoes were Irish size 6 (equivalent to American size 8, I don’t remember how this happened). Way too big, my foot was lost inside them. So I went down a size for my next pair. Nope, still to big.

   Long story short I’ve owned several pairs of soft shoes and not one has fit me properly. I mean, yeah, I could just go order yet one more size down and that would probably do the trick, but I’m getting really tired of shelling out $45 minimum for shoes.  It is possible to temporarily shrink them with water and heat but by the end of your dance they’ve stretched back out.

So grab your seam ripper and a sturdy needle, I’m going to show you how to make your shoes smaller.

Please do not try this without parental approval! I don’t want to be responsible for children getting murdered by their parents because they cut up a hundred dollar pair of shoes!

The unaltered shoe heel.

The unaltered shoe heel.

First thing’s first, determine how much smaller you need your shoe to be. I could easily fit two fingers in the extra space in my shoe.

Look at all that room.

Look at all that room.

Here is the back of my shoe, a strip of leather was sewn over the main seam. Carefully pull the stitches out of this to reveal the big seam at the heel.


The back flap unstitched to reveal the main seam.

The back flap unstitched to reveal the main seam.

Pull those stitches out, opening up the back of your shoe. 


The heel unstitched and laid flat.

The heel unstitched and laid flat.

Here’s the point of no return, find a sharp pair of scissors and carefully cut down the back of the shoe, following the existing shape. Cut just a tiny bit at first, going slowly and testing the fit. Take your time here and don’t make it too small.

When you’ve cut it to where it needs to be it’s time to sew that seam back up. Use thick thread and don’t stint on stitches, this shoe takes a lot of abuse. You will probably want to find a thimble and a pair of pliers to help get the needle through the leather. It wasn’t actually difficult on my shoe, the leather is fairly thin and soft, but after a while my fingers become super sore from pushing the needle through. Seriously, they hurt as I type. Save yourself the pain and use thimble and pliers.



Once you have sewn the heel closed (hopefully trying it on as you go) it’s time to put the supporting strip back in place. Secure it with some glue first so that it’s not moving as you try to sew it.

Sewing the back strip back into place. I made use of the holes that were already punched in the leather from the previous stitches.

Sewing the back strip back into place. I made use of the holes that were already punched in the leather from the previous stitches.

 Ta da!

The altered shoe.

The altered shoe.

I don’t have a picture of the shoe on me but I have since worn them to dance class and the alteration made all the difference. I *actually* have a point! They fit much better and feel nice and sturdy, I will keep an eye on my stitches though, ‘cuz it would be just my luck to have a stitch pop during a show 😉


Research for 1890’s Striped Gown

I was randomly searching through some pictures of Victorian gowns when I came across this painting:


I Love it. I ADORE it. Who cares that I have absolutely nowhere to wear it and no reason to make it. This dress is happening.

So first thing’s first, a break down of the dress. The 1890’s aren’t an era I’ve spent a lot of time researching so I’ve been working on fixing that in order to understand this dress.

The skirt’s a fairly straightforward skirt of its time, what makes it interesting is the way the fabric is cut so that the stripes create a pattern. Unless that was how the actual fabric looked? I’m going to assume those are seams because there is no way I can find that exact fabric otherwise.

Next we’ve got a Swiss Waist with buttons down the front. These were corset-like (But NOT actual corsets, corsets are undergarments, they go UNDER the dress. Sorry this issue really bugs me!) garments, it will be boned and probably laces up in the back. for a better understanding on the Swiss Waist check out this excellent article.  http://thedreamstress.com/2012/07/swiss-waist-waist-cincher-corset-and-corselet-whats-the-difference/

The bodice really had me confused for a while, at first look I though it was low cut-something you only saw on evening gowns, which this is not. I spent an entire day looking at extant dresses, fashion plates, and pictures trying to find evidence that there were afternoon/walking dresses with this neckline.

Then I looked at it again and it was like an iron skillet walloped me in the head; THAT’S NOT SKIN THAT’S HER BLOUSE.

Oh, yeah, that makes sooo much more sense.

So we’ve got this shirtwaist with a matching piece of the striped fabric at her throat. Unfortunately it’s really hard to see the details in the painting so I’m still not sure how I’ll be putting it together yet.

Finally the sleeves. Those sleeves. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THOSE SLEEVES?

My issue here is that they look like something you would have seen two decades prior when the Victorians went all patriotic and revived the colonial style briefly to celebrate our nation’s centennial. The 1890’s best known sleeves were the infamous leg o’ mutton sleeves (usually to the wrist). The sleeves in the painting do have a bit of the cap I would expect and are a little bit full.

After a ton more research I finally found one example of a dress with similar sleeves. (Though this dress might be later than the one in the painting?)

1990.28a-b 0002 

This makes me feel a little better. I want to make the exact dress from the painting but I also want to make sure it’s accurate. This is good enough for me.

I found the black and gray striped fabric on etsy; Taffeta Stripes Gray & Black 58 Inch Wide Fabric by the Yard, 1 yard Now I just have to get past my guilt of spending money on fabric for a dress I don’t need …

The bodice part and the fluff on the sleeves looks like it’s made of some sort of blonde sheer/lace. It looks cool in the picture but I’m worried how the cream will look with the gray in real life. Guess I’ll just have to wait and find out.

No matter what, I am determined to make this dress. I have never followed through and actually made a historical gown. Something always happens whether an event is cancelled or I get distracted (which happens more than I’d like to admit!) Well, not this time, I may have to ban myself from the realm of Pinterest though.