Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Cosplay by McCall's Abigail & Hat Madders


Women's Fantasy Costumes

Another pair of patterns are emerging on Cosplay by McCall's website - unfortunately the website is currently down (?) but you can see them in all their glory once it's fully operational again. For now you'll have to settle for a sneek peak.



Abigail
Misses' Dress
M2089

This is another pattern designed in partnership with Anachronism in Action. It features a fully lined vest and decorative trim on the seam lines and skirt. The package also comes with instructions and pattern pieces for a petticoat and a bum roll (don't laugh! that's the correct terminology, it's like a bustle but smaller and looks like a sausage wrapped around your waist), it also provides tips on underlining which is often a technique used in formal wear to add structure to a garment and stabilize fussy materials. I can only read this through the eyes of a non-conformist who doesn't have cable - I can't speak to it's popular culture origins, instead I can interpret it solely as a costume. It's nice. I like the vest, the gussets are a cool touch. I wish I could see the back of it or the sketch diagram to see what details I'm missing out on as it's difficult to critique it without the nitty gritty details. The fit looks acceptable and the construction is good. Overall, it's a pretty feminine ensemble and I could see this popping up at Renaissance fairs across the country.


Hat Madders
Costume Accessories
M2093

This is difficult to do a cold read on. The description I am provided with: "Pattern includes a unique Top and Bow Tie for any fractured fairy tale or mashup you construct. Also included is a headdress for your inner unicorn and a choker and cuffs to complete any steampunk or fantasy cosplay." We're only seeing half of this pattern by the sounds of it, I'd like to know what the headdress, choker and cuffs might look like but for now all we can go off of is the bow tie and hat on the cover of the envelope. The bow tie is...what can I say? It's a bow tie. It doesn't fail to convey it's bow-y-ness. The hat. looks. busted. I am not a fan of exposed cage anything, I know that it's been a popular trend among Steampunk enthusiasts and has appeared in many specialty alt shops as a skirt with bustle. I just view it as awkward and an inconvenience, and in this case rather unfinished. The whole thing looks unfinished. Surely Ichigo Black has done better than this before but this is...not her shining moment. The brim is buckling and flopping in a weird way, likely due to the selected materials. The skeletal framework of the crown is relatively well executed but it fails to impress me as it looks like a tomato cage perched atop the models head, swaddled by a scrap of duponi, or maybe it's taffeta? Regardless, the hat band is busted. And the name of this pattern? It's as though McCall's themselves weren't even taking it seriously. This is a missed opportunity. Folks, creativity madders, and I have seen many a comment on the Cosplay by McCall's blog begging for armor and fantasy style accessories. I can only hope the other half of the accessories contained in this pattern make up for the shoddy hat design, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. 

UPDATE!



The headdress, choker and cuffs seen here are way nicer than the Mad Hatter cage hat, I'm not sure why they didn't make it on to the cover. You can also see in the photo above that the hat continues to look less than ideal from more than one angle. I just don't understand why the hatter accessories took center stage, I'd much rather see the unicorn. Maybe it's because it doesn't require as much sewing?? The unicorn accessories are nothing ground breaking, just some super embellished cuffs and a headband, but they look good and I can see Lolita fans wearing them.

Conclusion

I'm underwhelmed by the accessories pattern but only being able to see 50% of the contents makes this review unfairly skewed. That being said, I can't see any one buying the pattern for the bow tie alone! I know that it's a part of the branding to have a big glossy high fashion promo photo on the cover of each envelope, but when it comes to multiple looks or styles (in this case accessories) it could be beneficial to feature all of them on the cover, perhaps using two or more models interacting with each other so that all options can be viewed (the way it was done on the patterns Shapeshifter and Laced). I just feel like if I were presented with this picture in a catalog I'd skim right past it, expecting that the hat and bow tie is all that's inside the pattern.

I'm always curious to see the future of Cosplay by McCall's and I'd like to see more prop building and armor crafting in the works, but perhaps they didn't have as much success with their initial attempt, Flight.

What are your thoughts? If any of you are cosplayers, what would you like to see?


Best,


Monday, 10 April 2017

My Diet Adventure Part 1


Adjusting to a Healthy Diet

As some of you may recall, I had seen a gastroenteroligst for some time concerning my digestive troubles. I have yet to receive an official diagnosis, we'll be discussing some results next week, but I was given the go ahead to return to my gluten free diet. I'm ecstatic! I think this is the best choice for my overall health, especially with this new diagnosis of active EBV. Today I want to share a handful of products that I use to get by on the gluten free diet.

Now these products are probably not all 100% FODMAP diet friendly. I recently switched to the FODMAP diet at the request of my Gastroenterologist. According to Wikipeida, FODMAPS are short chain carbohydrates contained in food that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. The FODMAP diet is a diet that consists of foods that are low in fructans, fructose, lactose and polyols (whatever that means). I don't trouble myself with the scientific details. The FODMAP diet is largely a gluten and dairy free diet. You can see the difference in the high offenders food table and the low offenders food table. The idea is that on the FODMAP diet you will limit your intake of high offending FODMAP foods opting for low FODMAP foods instead. People with IBS use the FODMAP diet to control their condition.

Yes, the FODMAP diet is by far one of the most overwhelming and confusing diets out there. The fact that you can apparently eat cheese but shouldn't drink milk? Confusing! I'm sure it all has to do with how things are processed and what they contain but it's not easy to understand if you're not already a dietitian. I've made the personal decision to go off of dairy and gluten altogether, with the tiny exception of butter. I've never had issues with butter but milk and cheese tend to make me feel rather bloated. I also stay away from most meats and would describe my diet as being more like a pescatarian. 

I should note that with these dietary changes I am taking supplements, like calicum, to make up for the lack of nutritional quantities in my food. I have to find new ways of getting protein since I rarely eat meat as a primary meal component. It's a struggle but I'm learning to adapt.

Food Substitutes & Alternatives

One of the things that I've learned on a gluten free and dairy free diet is that you will almost never find substitutes for your favorites (unless you're really lucky). I found a tofu based dairy free substitute cheese which tasted okay when melted but nothing like the real deal. It was more like mayonnaise! Likewise, I've tried the vegetarian mock foods, like burgers or chicken nuggets, and they all taste like the smell of cat food! They're also technically not allowed on the FODMAP diet because they contain certain offenders (like onion). 

After much searching and experimentation I have found a few gluten/dairy free substitutes that are now cherished favorites and some have become dietary staples for me. Let's take a look! 


When I need cookies I buy the ones from Ottawa's Strawberry Blonde Bakery. They are available at some Farmboy locations. The chocolate chip mint cookies are just like GIRL GUIDE COOKIES!!! They are, legit, better when frozen! They also make some pretty bitchin' ginger spice cookies and I'm pretty sure I had their carrot cake once too. These are delicious. They probably contain some kind of FODMAP offender, surely the chocolate contains milk(?), but overall I don't find they irritate my stummy so they meet my approval. If you've gone gluten free, give this brand a try!

When I need ice cream I buy So Delicious Cashew Salted Caramel Cluster - OMFG!! Certified vegan, dairy free and gluten free, how does it taste so fucking good?! I've experimented with plenty of frozen dairy free/gluten free ice creams and this one blows everything out of the water. I've tired their cookie dough which was also pretty good, it uses a coconut base. I prefer the cashew base because the texture is more like real ice cream, something that's practically unheard of when it comes to ice cream substitutes. I definitely recommend this product!



When I need pasta I buy Barilla gluten free pasta. It has a distinct corn flavor and the texture holds up really well. I like that when you use it in soups the corn flavor comes out, which truly enhances my made-from-scratch chunky vegetable soup. Pasta was one of my go to dishes for months when I switched to gluten free, it's easy to make and my ultimate comfort food. As a little girl I swooned for spaghetti and meatballs! The only downside is that it's expensive but if you're only feeding yourself or sharing with a spouse it's not so bad (hubby loves this stuff). I recommend the penne over other kinds of pasta because it bulks up considerably once cooked, so you get more bang for your buck. It's also important to mention that gluten free pasta can make you constipated, so if that's an issue for you make sure you're taking a fiber supplement to counteract it. 


When I need bread I buy All But Gluten products! I adore their bread and they make hands down the best lemon poppy seed loaf ever. I even used it for my birthday cake! I love it. They've got a good handle on texture. I recommend their raisin bread, it's quite lovely toasted with butter (If you can still have it) or spiced peach jam. I haven't had access to their other products but I hope they emerge in time; you can find them at Metro and I think the Superstore carries it as well. Another decent alternative when I can't get All But Gluten is Udi's Gluten Free products. I like their baguettes and my husband enjoys their wraps. You have to toast them just right otherwise they're a bit gummy and tough to chew on, but they're not as revolting as some bread substitutes.



When I need milk I buy Silk products. I used to purchase Earth's Own but I have since learned that Silk is the superior brand as far as taste and texture is concerned. I buy their almond milk and coconut milk. I'm sure some of you might be put off by either of these milks but they're really quite nice once you get accustomed to the texture - yes, milk has texture! Almond will seem considerably runnier than normal milk and coconut will come across as thicker. I use coconut in my smoothies and baking recipes because it has a higher fat content. I use almond milk for my cereal or just for drinking, the vanilla almond milk is almost like a dessert drink which is great for treating yourself. They make specially formulated coffee substitutes as well, I don't recommend using their straight Almond or Coconut milk in coffee or tea because it separates and tastes sour, buy the coffee version instead!


When I want chips I buy Que Pasa Tortilla Chips. These are organic corn chips that are certified gluten free! You'd be surprised at the number of brands that will add wheat to their products as a binder or flavor enhancer. I was happy to find this brand. They're tougher than other non GF brands, like Tostitos, but they're great with salsa and they hold up better as nachos (which my hubby loves).




When I want cereal I buy Kellogg's Gluten Free Brown Rice Krispies or Crispix. Crispix is not in fact certified gluten free, it has no mention on the box that it is but the nutritional information is void of any gluten ingredients - what gives? Unlike the Brown Rice Krispies, I'm under the impression that Crispix is made in a facility that uses gluten and therefore cannot commit to being entirely gluten free. So, if you're dangerously reactive to gluten I don't recommend it, but if like me it's more of a preference go for it. It is the better tasting cereal between the two. I have tried other gluten free brands and find they're too sugary and they go stale crazy fast, it's like eating saw dust, so I haven't found a non-Kellogg's alternative.


Conclusion

These are the best alternatives I've been able to come up with for many of my old favorites. It's nice to be able to buy something you thought you'd never be able to eat again. There are plenty of gluten/dairy free vegan brands that are always trying to come up with something new! Maybe one day we'll see a great alternative for cheese, who knows? For the items I haven't been able to substitute I replace. I don't like any of the box gluten free soups I've come across so I was forced to come up with my own from scratch. This is becoming the norm for me, my culinary skills are being put to the test. In the final installment of this diet adventure I'll share some recipes that I've come to rely on. 

Do you have any vegan, gluten free, dairy free products that you would recommend?

Best,

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Gothic Green Thumb: Growing a Goth Garden in Containers


Growing Flowers in Containers

What would apartment or condo dwellers do without potted plants? I have been successfully growing flowers in containers for a few years. Don't get me wrong, I'd love an in ground garden but right now that's not a possibility for me. There are times when an all container garden is better than an in ground one; the major benefit to a container garden is that it's easier to control the soil but the downside is that only certain flowers and plants will do well when grown in containers. Unlike a permanent in ground garden, you can move your containers around to change the look of your yard or deck. This is especially helpful if your plants haven't been getting enough sun, you can pick them up and move them into the sunlight.

 Here are some of my tips for gardening in containers:
  • Get a good potting soil. It usually has a mixture of soil, perlite or vermiculite, and peat moss. It's formulated to allow for proper drainage and nutrient retention. Not product plugging here but I use Miracle Grow Potting Soil or a mixture of it and an all purpose soil for my larger containers. I don't recommend all purpose on its own, it's too dense and lacks the qualities of a good potting soil. When I first started gardening I made the mistake of using purely all purpose soil and it compacted, killing my plants. Potting soil should have a light and fluffy texture to it. If you have something thick and sludgy it won't work well and likely won't drain properly. Also, I have to mention that knowing the PH levels in your soil is important for growing certain plants. If you want to grow a flower that requires more acidity you will have to look for a potting soil with that quality. There are often PH testing kits available but these are generally used for in ground gardens, with container gardening you have the benefit of purchasing soil that has the components/PH levels that you already need.
  • You don't have to use just annuals, I grow many perennials in my planters too.
  • Choose plants that can live together! Some plants are prone to choking others out. I once planted some morning glories in with my petunias. Big mistake! They choked the petunias to death. Likewise, petunias are prone to getting leggy; last year I had them in my planter box and they became horrid sprawled out things that killed off my pansies.
  • Similar to above, don't overdo it with your planting. Flowers need room to grow and the ones you buy at the garden center are often not at their full size. Each individual flower will have different spatial requirements and these can and do change when planted in containers. Sometimes the information will be present on the flower tag, other times you will have to look it up online.
  • Don't plant too little, either. My flower boxes looked way too skimpy a few years ago. I suggest using a filler, or what's called "groundcover", for the empty in between spaces. I might use something small and bushy like alyssum to go in with my pansies and snap dragons.
  • Some flowers will require shade where others need full sun, don't mix the two together. 
  • Don't assume that rain will give your plants enough water. Some people may believe this because they're planting in small pots and not great big gardens, but the truth is is that rainwater might not be sufficient enough. Unless you had a significant amount of rainfall, you should always check and make sure that your plants are watered enough. You also want to avoid over watering which will encourage root rot and kill the plant. All you need to do is stick your finger into the soil and if it's more than an inch dry you'll need to water your plant(s). If you find that your plants get dry too quickly they may have become root bound, this is when roots exceed the soil to root ratio and take over the pot, you would need to transplant the flower or flowers into a larger container.
  • Remember to fertilize; what kind of fertilizer and how much or often depends on the plant's individual needs.
  • If you purchase a larger container you don't need to fill it all with soil, you can insert floral foam into the bottom to reduce space (unless you need that extra space for roots for say maybe something like a small tree or shrub).

Photo from Dragonfly Garden Design & Build LTD

Selecting flowers for your garden

On your first visit to a garden center you'll likely be overwhelmed by the colorful array of flowers. You might be tempted to grab up as many "goth themed" flowers as possible but don't! If only planning your garden was that easy. As mentioned above there are different variables to factor in when choosing plants for your container garden. The most important thing is to understand the needs of each individual flower/plant. Consider the following:
  • What climate does it require? * Look for information about Plant Hardiness Zones, this is especially important when purchasing online. My government offers a full scale map that details what zone I'm living in and I use that as a guide for successfully choosing the appropriate flowers. I live in roughly a Zone 6 so anything above 7 is pushing my luck!
  • Does it thrive in full sun, partial, or shade?
  • How much space does it require?
  • How tall does it get?
  • Does it have any specific soil or care requirements?
  • Can it be planted with just about anything or does it do better with only specific plants?
Arm yourself with this knowledge and you can begin planning your container garden. Start by visiting your local garden centers. If you're lucky your garden center will group flowers by their sun requirements, full sun, partial or shade. I once visited a garden center that had created a condo friendly section where they carried potted flowers and shrubs, it was great! If your garden center isn't so organized you might want to ask a clerk for assistance. Compile a list of possible flowers and return home to research which ones can be planted together without issue, and which, if any, require special care.

Check out BHG's Plant Encyclopedia. I used this when I was trying to determine which annuals to look for and what would suit my gardening needs. The entries are very detailed and will often note what works well in containers. You can filter search results based on size, season and colour. The encyclopedia also offers detailed plans for creating cottage style gardens, gardens that could attract butterflies, red themed gardens and so much more. Have a look!

I hesitate to tell anyone to jump head first into gardening with colour as the primary focus. Colour is paramount but shape, smell and purpose can also be equally as significant within the garden. Consider height and space requirements first and foremost, then your zone, and then your colour scheme. If you want to prioritize using plants that are purposeful, like adding herbs or flowers that you can utilize, or you want to attract butterflies or birds to your garden, you might have to adjust your colour scheme accordingly. Amass a list of possible flowers and then you can choose which colours suit your taste.

Start a Book!

Notebooks may seem obsolete with today's technology but I personally find them to be quite beneficial provided that they're well organized. I try to keep my books divvied up; one for sewing notes, one for story notes, and one for housekeeping/gardening and all around home improvement notes. My home and garden book will contain information on perennials, annuals, herbs and soon to be deck measurements and planter building plans. I want to be able to pull this thing off the shelf and look up whatever I need to, like did I need a certain drill bit? Do these flowers go with those flowers? Who carried it for what price? Sure, I could record all of these details onto my phone but I find it's getting too cluttered with my writing and art inspiration notes! I don't need gardening notes all the time, it just takes up valuable phone space in my eyes, so why not fill my ordinarily skimpy looking bookshelf with books? It's sad to think that bookshelves will become obsolete someday...

So what will you put in your book? Whatever you like! But you can take some inspiration from mine. Try creating detailed entries about your favorite flowers. Ask questions like "in which seasons do they bloom? what soil type do they prefer? what are their uses or benefits?" You may choose to group flowers by colour or theme. Treat it like your own personal gardening encyclopedia! You can also use your book as a gardening journal to catalog your triumphs and failures and document gardening techniques that you found were most successful.



A few flowers to consider

(From top left to bottom right)
1. Ajuga
2. Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper
3. Plum Coleus
4. Halloween Pansies
5. Shadow Cat Dahlia
6. Black Petunias
7. Blackberry Heart Sweet Potato Vine
8. Tuberous Red Begonias
9. Joseph's Coat

What about roses?

You may know about the Black Baccara, the darkest and gothiest of roses. I would love to add it to my garden someday but not all roses are container friendly. Through my own stupidity I have purchased three climbing roses which are not meant to be grown in containers. As their title implies they are destined to climb and therefore should be planted in ground by a fence or arbor. Hence why we are forced to create a planter specifically for these roses. I think it's acceptable to start climbing roses in pots but they should make it into the ground by the following year. Now, I'm not saying that you can't grow roses in containers, it's just that many of the fancier varieties of rose will not be available to you. Miniature roses are usually the best choice. They're cheaper and easier to come across. Finding container friendly roses in your garden centers might not be easy. When I was shopping I saw few varieties. You may need to buy online. This site has a great list of roses that can be grown in containers, plus descriptions of the different colours.

Conclusion

The gardening experience can seem overwhelming but can also be a great deal of fun, don't be too intimated to try it. The great thing with container gardens is that you can start small and build your way up.

Best,


Friday, 24 March 2017

Gothic Green Thumb: Spring Garden Planning


Hooray for Spring!

Spring is upon us! And as I patiently wait for flowers to break soil I'm reminded that winter can have it's last say any day now. The weather has been a roller coaster, guiding us through warm bursts of sunny spring days and then punishing us with blasts of frigid arctic air. This has been one of our mildest winters to date and I don't think anybody complained (except maybe skiing enthusiasts). It's been torturous waiting for the weather to stabilize. We're finally entering double digits, today could reach a high of 20°C! I'm definitely going to get out and enjoy it, even if I am sick. XP Our low temps are just above freezing but I'm hesitant to bring out the rose bushes just yet.

I'm in the early stages of my garden planning. Last year, I would've already had my seedlings germinating (and if you're an avid gardener you probably started germinating in February), but this year I decided against it. You might recall that I had a very difficult time raising dahlias, they all succumbed to some kind of disease. I decided that they no longer fit our garden requirements and that I wouldn't bother with planting them this year. Last year I chose to plant perennials. This kind of flower lives for maybe two years at best, if its roots can survive the winter frost, and since most flower boxes get waterlogged - including ours - I don't expect to see last year's petunias or snapdragons re-emerging in my container garden. I knew they wouldn't last which played a role in my decision to purchase them. When we moved into our condo it was winter, so we had no idea whether or not our deck would get full or partial sunlight, or none at all! It's important to know these kind of things because each plant has specific needs. Some plants are more successful in shaded gardens while others require full sunlight to thrive. I'm still not 100% of exactly how many hours of sunlight our deck receives but it's enough to sustain partial sunlight plants.

Since I used mostly perennials my deck is practically void of any vegetative life! The only thing straggling behind are the icicle pansies which can live through winter, and my chocolate mint - no, not chocolate as in yummy, chocolate as in brown! There's also the Fuji shrub and the climbing roses that I housed indoors. I'm very excited to see the Fuji in bloom and it's already sprouted leaf buds. The roses can't be brought out until we're sure that the frost has buggered off, but more importantly we've decided that this year we'll build them their own personal planter box, complete with trellis and hanging candle holders. 
That is if we end up actually building the box! Unfortunately it's too early in the season to see what shops have to offer. It'll be a few more weeks before all the garden stores have their inventory out. I'm finding most of the containers/boxes available are too small and far too expensive for our needs. Raised gardens are insanely popular and they've been clogging up many a Pinterest feed for some time. There are a handful of DIY videos that explain how to build one from scratch, and it's looking like this might be the path to take. Most pre-made raised boxes have been too small and too deep for our needs. I'm working with an itsy bitsy deck and as you can see from my garden plan above it's cramped. The blue planter is the rose planter we're thinking of building. It'll be about 4 ½ feet in length. Depth is being debated but I'm thinking a little over 2 feet. We're contemplating building the trellis. Can you believe that the kind of trellis we like could cost us up to $300 pre-made?! I figure it's gotta be cheaper to do it ourselves. I don't want to buy the cheap traditional trellis most stores carry because it tends to come apart over time and it would block out the afternoon light that the roses rely on. I want the box to look more like this (on the right) only not as long and probably not as deep.

Pre-made this kind of planter box could cost anywhere from $700-$1200. That's a lot. Ours probably won't look as polished with the finials and all that shit, we want it to be basic and a lot cheaper. I'm going to paint it a beautiful turquoise colour to accent the roses, which are Climbing Joseph's Coat and Westerland roses. It'll be a tight fit so I probably won't add anything else to the box. I'd really love to be able to screw wrought iron hangers into the trellis frame and hang light weight candle holders from them. I'm torn between doing a shabby chic style with mason jars and sand, or maybe purchasing some Moroccan inspired candle holders with coloured glass. I found that I keep gravitating towards bright and fun colours which was not my original plan. I truly thought my garden would be more pastel, shabby chic Goth, with white, pink and black flowers. This year I think I'm just going to go with this instinctive need for colour and go balls to the wall tropical! We've got some funky orange outdoor fabric that I stashed and I'd like to incorporate that this year in the patio furniture linens. 


My ultimate goal this year is to maximize space and minimize containers! I had so many damn containers last year I didn't know what to think. We couldn't hang anything up and unfortunately all the over-the-rail style planters didn't fit our railings. So everything just piled up on the deck - ugh! It look sloppy, for sure. In the plan you can see in the bottom right corner there's a large container with flowers. This could change to a slimmer, two tiered planter, to reduce even more space. I like symmetry, so I might purchase a duplicate to the Fuji's container and do it as the plan suggests, it's just a very big container, but if I'm putting all my flowers into it kinda has to be! I'm planning on mixing in my mint and maybe some of my herbs into this planter, but I want to be careful not to put anything acrid smelling in there; that means that the garlic and green onions should be planted elsewhere. I should note that if you ever wish to use mint as a filler it has to be planted inside its own separate container, like the one it came in, otherwise it'll spread like wildfire! It also needs to be pruned often, but it smells AWESOME! 

This year I need to establish some rules for adding flowers to the garden. I'm thinking about bringing back pansies. I want to plant them around the outer rim of the container, and I do want to use snapdragons again because they're easy to grow, however, I need to put them behind the pansies. This is something I neglected to do last year and it was a huge mistake! Snapdragons and petunias should behave as "backdrops" for smaller flowers like pansies, otherwise they choke them out. I'm going to buy black pansies again and hopefully orange and hot pink snapdragons for the center of the container, then fill the remaining space with herbs and hopefully something that flowers every season. The colours need to match this year, as last year it was a bizarre hodge podge of madness! I want black, orange and hot pink. I think it will really pop with the orange and blue patio decor.

Last year's container garden madness!
It's difficult planning a garden on a small condo deck. There are so many rules, such limited space, but I don't want that to ruin the gardening experience for me. It's my hope that soon I'll have a lovely outdoor space to enjoy minus the backyard!

Do you have any gardening plans for this year?

Best,

Monday, 20 March 2017

Simplicity - New Batch of Alt Patterns

Rockabilly, Boho Goth and Steampunk

I haven't been paying too much attention to Simplicity's new releases and unfortunately it allowed a few new alternative fashion patterns to slip past my radar! It appears they've added a few new Steampunk accessory patterns, a Rockabilly pattern and a Boho Goth ensemble. Let's check them out!


Misses' Knit Tops, Cropped Pants, Skirts

This is a really neat pattern. Although I feel like the Rockabilly scene isn't as strong as it once was, this is a nice attempt at recreating some of the classic pieces. I don't think it's something I'd ever use considering I have a vintage stash of over fifty items! (I purged a lot too) >.<  But I feel that this pattern would be beneficial for those who don't want to pay the hefty price tag for authentic vintage patterns. I should note that not all vintage patterns are too expensive, I bought a classic rockabilly summer dress pattern for only $10 CAD. It all depends on preference and luck I suppose. If you don't want to have to wait and search for that ideal wiggle skirt or halter pattern it is easier to buy it new. 

What I appreciate most about this pattern is what it offers for plus size girls. I sell vintage patterns in my shop and plus size patterns fly off my virtual shelves like hot cakes! They are hard to find. This pattern makes up for that scarcity and allows fans of vintage to get the style and the fit they've always wanted. I like these designs but they're far from accurate. These are "vintage style" because they lack the classic construction lines of the era. Case in point, there are no waist or bust darts to give the tops the iconic cone boob look, and they rarely used knit during the 50's (yet they did in the 40's - I think cotton allowed for a more constructed appearance in the 50's). All in all, it's probably a more comfortable and accessible pattern than it's vintage style counterparts.

On a random side note, I hope I get reincarnated as a plus size girl with an arse like that!


Misses' Lace Blouse and Skirt in Two Styles

Another one from Karen Fleisch of Arkivestry. It's weird that some of the Simplicity patterns are designed by Karen while others are labelled Arkivestry. It makes me wonder who has their hands in the design process when the Arkivestry brand is used and if Karen has dropped the label and it's been picked up by another designer?? I really wish I could tell Simplicity to buy some more versatile shoes for their promo shoots. I cannot count how many times I've looked at the pictures and thought "what were they thinking?!" Those heels with that dress? C'mon, put that bitch in sandals! 

I admit I like this better than her previous designs. I got what I asked for - more lace and a chance at chiffon. However, these designs suffer from what typifies all of Karen's work: they're terribly dated. The gored skirts sit too closely to the body and come across as matronly to me. The longer skirt is not floor length and that shit drives me bonkers. I get that that style was popular in the 70's, like bell bottoms, but in these days they need to hit the ground otherwise they look like you're preparing for a flood. I'm also not a fan of how high the top is cut, my eye wants it to drape down past the hips, like a tunic. The biggest hit against these designs is that you should not, under any circumstances, create a garment in chiffon or lace that has TOO MANY SEAMS. This is couture 101. They've tried to mask them by stitching lace trim over every seam but it comes across as clumsy and poorly made. You want sheer and lace materials to speak for themselves, seams should be subtle and not detract from the delicacy of the fabric.

I like the shape of the bell sleeves and the concept as a whole, I just wish it had been kicked up a notch, to meet contemporary design standards, because these silhouettes are far too matronly. I wish it looked like this.



Misses' Hats in Three Sizes

Look! View C is pretty much the hat that I requested in Simplicity 0666! With the exception of that icky looking bow, make that in some black felt and you've got your wide brimmed fedora. This is another Arkivestry design adding to Simplicity's ever growing appendage of Steampunk patterns. They mimic hats that I've seen on Pinterest, and while the construction of the crown leaves a little to be desired, these hats could be ramped up with the right amount of embellishment. I would like to see someone craft a fedora using this pattern but I admit that around here the thick felt required for such a project is quite costly and I'm better off buying one ready made.


Conclusion

Although I'm not blown away by much of this it is encouraging to see them continue to try navigating the world of alternative fashion. The most successful piece here is the rockabilly pattern. I'd like to see some vintage repro swimsuits come up, I know they released a vintage play-suit and bustier patterns but people felt they were too difficult to sew. Alt and goth fashion are still so unfamiliar to Simplicity. I don't think they understand the aesthetic and it's going to take some time and experimentation before they get a solid grasp of the style. Let's just hope they can see it through and not just give up entirely!

If you look through their new catalogue you can see many items that can be adapted for alt fashion uses, but things that are explicitly alt in style (like bondage clothing and body harnesses) have yet to make an appearance. What will the future hold?

As usual your thoughts are encouraged and welcomed in the comments below.

Best,

Friday, 10 March 2017

Lip Service Returns


The return of Lip Service

A brand much loved by trad goths, Lip Service recently announced its return to the fashion world, and in honor of its late founder, Drew Bernstein, the store is featuring the iconic Lip Service dagger motif in its first collection. It's important to note that the bulk of the store's inventory is currently vintage. There are a handful of new printed items available featuring the dagger, but the majority of the catalog's eye-catching display are single sized vintage items. It's a small start but it's a step in the right direction and the reception has been tremendous with items being sold off in a single day. 

This leaves us asking a lot of questions, like what does the future hold for Lip Service? With the obvious desirability of these vintage designs, I tend to wonder if re-releasing the classics will be their first step. I mean, I've looked at that pvc dress about a hundred times since receiving their newsletter and even though it's sold out it doesn't stop me from wanting it.

We've already seen some other brands borrowing from trends of the past but Lip Service pioneered a lot of those trends! It has such a tremendous history to pull from. That being said, because Lip Service is a brand known for trendsetting I am equally interested in seeing what new creations they can come up with. It's exciting to say the least.

What are your thoughts?



Cheers!

Cosplay by McCall's Thirst and Wayfaress


McCall's Pirate & Vampire Costumes

Who doesn't love pirates or vampires? Or for that matter, vampirates! This makes me think of Halloween and anything that does that is awesome. These are your essential vampire and pirate costumes only kicked up a notch with some exquisite detail and fine construction.


Thirst
Vests and Shirt
M2090

At first I saw the cover of this pattern and thought "uhhhhh...embroidery? I don't have the machinery for that," but my concerns were put to rest when I read that the floral motifs are appliquéd on. In fact I believe this is the second McCall's pattern I've seen that utilizes the lesser known technique of couching. It's a technique I read about in couture fashion books and I've always been looking for the opportunity to give it a try (particularly on the bodice of a 1950's prom dress but we'll get into that another time). 

There are two different style vests in this pattern, I prefer the longer one although the cropped vest could look quite dapper if paired with men's high waist trousers. The construction is visually appealing and I enjoy the corseting on the back. It also comes with a men's blouse - men don't wear blouses though, do they? lol! Although I feel that the appliqués used in the promo photo are a bit blocky, I'm sure that those who are fortunate enough to own an embroidery machine could come up with some more imaginative and elegant designs. Overall, I like it, I wish it had been out when my husband was interested in going as a vampire. I'm slated to go as vamp for Halloween this year so perhaps we'll do a couples costume.



Wayfaress
Pants and Overskirt
M2085

My spellcheck just crapped itself when the word "wayfaress" hit the page lol. There's no definition for that in English either so if you're a reader overseas don't fret if it doesn't translate, to wayfare is to journey. Pirate costumes have not been McCall's strong suit. In fact their nicest looking pirate costumes aren't even pirate costumes, they come from the Vault Collection which specializes in historical costumery, and even at that they tend to flop when it comes to adequate construction. This is where you develop a true appreciation for what the Cosplay by McCall's brand is accomplishing, they're taking costume design to a new level. These are higher quality designs. I wish they would carry this level of detail into their regular costume line because Simplicity is still beating the crap out of them, but perhaps it will come in time.

I'm satisfied with this pattern. I believe the blouses you see in the promo photos are from previous Cosplay by McCall's patterns Manikin and Bow & Brine. The pants come in three styles but are all fairly similar; they're all the same length but have varying contrasts or details like ruffles, corseting and piping. I prefer look A but I feel like they should be gathered into some seriously stylized pant cuffs. The overskirt is a nice idea but there are aspects of it that I feel aren't as successful as the pants. The skirt looks a little stiff and frumpy and I believe a lot of that comes from their decision to use faux suede in the skirt material. It looks like it must've slipped around a bunch when assembling the lining because there's this bulk that's present throughout the skirt that can only be the result of poor fabric choice.

The celitc braid design is really cool looking and I'd appreciate it on a sturdier velvet fabric. I think the biggest drawback to this skirt is the overall design. In the front as it approaches the waist yoke the skirt veers outward causing the flaps to point toward the crotch, which is distracting to say the least lol. More importantly though, the waist yoke looks sloppy, even when belted. I know that the idea here is to create the impression of being over-sized. Historically, pirates would steal articles of clothing from the wealthy because fine fabrics were highly desirable, but the clothing seldom fit. Picture the garments of a fat well fed aristocrat on the emaciated weather worn form of a pirate and you can understand what I mean. This is why so many depictions of pirates show them in frumpy awkwardly fitting outfits. It's really encouraging to see a designer take that history into consideration, however, in this particular instance it is not well executed and appears as though the garment is just poorly sewn and not intentionally over-sized. I would encourage anyone picking up this pattern to redraft the waist yoke and cut the flaps on an outward angle.


Conclusion

I'm very pleased to see McCall's exploring classic costume designs. Their competitors have a much broader catalog to choose from and it would be nice to see McCall's offering designs of a comparable quality and selection in the future.

What are your thoughts?

Kind regards,

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Beauty trends that I'm already over


Trends that need to end, like now, please.

Last year I described some trends that I was either sick to death of or hated from the very beginning. A few of those things are still occurring today, for example, Killstar has continued with its famed prints. Worse yet, it's been copied by brands like Banned Apparel and Jawbreaker! So much for originality. Occult prints have shown no sign of stopping but the fad has definitely slowed down. I can safely say the same for profanity slogan tees and bodysuits. Perhaps practicality might have effected those sales and put an end to most of it. 

This year my thoughts have settled less on garment style and more on hair and makeup. Since all that's popular in mainstream media is "street fashion" (which isn't even an actual fashion movement, it's just a mashup of everyone's different tastes), there's not much to critique this spring in Goth and Alt catalogs. It's all very boring in fact lol. There's very run of the mill products this year, lots of knits, tees, and jogging pants. I can't complain about pants, we need pants. No, instead my focus has been drawn to the things that won't stop popping up in my Pinterest feed...


Pastel Hair

It looks good on almost nobody, unless you happen to be sixteen and still have radiance to your skin. I recall when it was cool to dye your hair an unusual colour but now it's terribly mainstream and you'd be daring if you dyed your hair a normal colour! What is it that bothers me so much about smoky pink, smoky lavender and smoky turquoise? Well, for starters, why does it have to be smoky anything? Why can't it be vibrant? But more importantly, why does everyone seem to assume it'll work with their skin and hair type? I have seen this shit on eleven year old girls right up to women in their sixties. It's been popularized by many celebrities. Too many celebrities. Too many people have jumped on this trend, and isn't that indicative that it's not cool any more? When you're all doing it?

But it really doesn't work for everybody. In order to achieve these shades you ought to see a professional and not attempt it with box dye kits (I'm looking at you Féria) and Manic Panic with a bit of bleach. Truly successful candidates will already have light ash blonde hair. Those who have dark hair who attempt to bleach themselves will have to deal with the dye becoming patchy but more importantly brassy. I have read through a handful of reviews of brunettes trying this with absolute failure and it is because they're brunettes. You've probably seen the differences between a brunette who bleaches their hair and a blonde, a blonde will go platinum and the brunette will turn coppery. Now imagine putting any other hair colour over copper successfully, you can't, it comes out looking muddy and orange. And that's my biggest issue with pastel hair, people don't understand the science behind it, they don't realize that it's not fool proof and it can be fucked up very easily. That's why there are so many pictures of girls on Instagram and the like with drab, muddy pastel dye jobs. A professional hair dresser knows how to bleach your hair and prep it for such colours, it's expensive but if you want this crap it's worth paying for it.

5% of People
I just think the whole thing needs to end though. We were at a supermarket recently and my man turned to me and whispered, "Jesus, did you see that girl's hair? It looks like shit." He never comments on anything fashion related so I instantly took notice. That's when I spotted her, a girl in the distance with gray hair. Like grandma gray. The poor thing must've only been 24 or so but it made her look older, worn out and shitty. Pastel and smoky hair colours aren't complimentary for most skin types. They can age you rapidly, even more so if you're already pushing into senior citizen status. These shades are too dull and will have the opposite effect for most; instead of highlighting the rosiness in your cheeks, it brings out the veins, age spots and dark circles under your eyes. It makes you look tired and busted. It's not pretty. Unless you happen to occupy the like 5% of people who can get away with it. The same 5% that can get away with wearing leggings on their own and g-string bikinis.

I just personally hate this trend with a passion because it looks trashy on a lot of girls. I felt the same way about the ombre fad. Ombre hair made it look like women hadn't touched up their roots in three years, it looked sloppy. This pastel fad isn't much different. It looks like someone dyed their hair pink once and it didn't wash out completely, leaving a patchy, fried over bleached mess. Honestly, I saw "homeless" punk kids downtown with hair like this when I was sixteen, it wasn't flattering then and I don't think it's flattering now.



Overdrawing lips and Eyebrows

The big lip thing. Ugh! I hate it. The 1" thick eyebrow! Gahh! Everyone looks like a drag queen or a living Bratz doll these days. Drag queens overdraw their lips to parody women, now we have women embracing the trend?! How the hell does that even work? But it's out there. Thanks to Kylie Jenner we have people desperate to pump their lips up to an unimaginable, icky, inflatable degree. It's sad really. I've been perusing RealSelf for advice on aging. My skin is starting to show the telltale signs of getting older and I want to nip it in the bud while I'm still young. I've been reading up about all sorts of crap like fat sculpting, laser reduction, implants and derma fillers. As you can imagine, 90% of the derma filler reviewers have pumped their lips. Some aren't even happy with their already gigantic filled lips. Let's be fair, RealSelf is loaded to the gills with body dismorphic surgery fanatics. I would say in a way this is beneficial because they try every surgery known to man, you get a lot of reviews from them...yet their expectations are severely unrealistic. There are so many poor sons of bitches who just want the fakest, most unachievable lips imaginable. I pity them.

I must give props to those who have chosen to not mutilate their bodies through excess surgery (or by sucking their lips into a bottle until they tear and bleed) and have opted to overdraw their lips instead. I'm not against overdrawing in general. I have to do it myself because my top lip has been disfigured by a scar revision surgery. If handled delicately overdrawing can be quite successful. It's not new either...despite what some incredibly unaware makeup bloggers may claim. This trend has been around since the dawn of lipstick. Women have under and overdrawn their lips in a variety of different ways, these techniques were popularized in the early 20th century and can be seen by the likes of Theda Bara, Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe. In order to overdraw properly you have to have a good hold on your technique and you must use the appropriate tools. There are only certain lip shades that make overdrawing successful. Firstly, you must use a bright or dark shade and depending on the natural shape of your lips you should do this in matte lipstick. If you have a prominent upper ridge on your lip then glossy lipstick will highlight this and it'll be glaringly obvious that you've overdrawn your lip. Shades that have been most successful on me are bright pink, red and maroon or plum. I start by applying concealer above my lip because it for some reason acts as a really good foundation for my lipstick. I use a lip pencil to establish the shape, and then fill with lipstick. You only extend it beyond your lip by maybe a millimeter, you have to keep it subtle to be believable. Anything beyond that and you're risking stares.

People have also gone into excess with their eyebrows. I've seen some big ass eyebrows lately. They're not terribly flattering and they're filled to an unnatural degree. I talked to a makeup artist at Sephora and she seemed to feel brow pomade should only be reserved for those that require filler. It's been abused by many girls who clearly have eyebrows to begin with but for whatever reason want them to look so precise and on point that they're bordering on being cartoony. In a fit of rebellion, I have plucked my once natural angular eyebrows into rounded and thin 30's style brows because I am just that fucking sick and tired of seeing these big, ugly, eerily precise brows (not even Joan Crawford could make this shit look good!).

As much as I love drag queens, I don't think we should be doing our makeup like them...



What are your thoughts on these trends? What would you love to see go for good this year?

Best,

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Cosplay by McCall's Ribbon Candy & Victor


More Patterns! Ribbon Candy and Victor

Two more cosplay patterns for your spring "to-sew" list! Victor, a men's floor length, lined, period coat, and Ribbon Candy, a ladies' bodice, tutu, detached puff sleeves and sash! Let's take a look at them. :)

Ribbon Candy
Top, Skirt, Sash and Detached Sleeves
M2086

This is apparently cosplayer Becka Noel's trademark tutu design, with puff sleeve arm bands and bodice. I've always been curious to see how these tutus are made, they're pretty crazy looking and remind me of Elizabethan collars (and I want to wear a high Elizabethan collar like you wouldn't believe lol). It's cute, not my scene, but followers of hers I'm sure will be excited to give this a try. My only beef is that the waist sash looks busted. It just doesn't sit well with me at all and it's a design flaw for sure. If you look at other dress sashes you'll notice they're typically gathered or pleated, this helps conceal figure flaws and allows it to conform to the body better. A plain sash would work well if it were a smaller width, but at this width it's terribly unflattering. If you're going to do it, slash the piece horizontally, spread it (width x 1.5 or 2) and gather it instead. I noticed that they used shantung, which works well for creating the leafy structure of the cross body sash, but it fails miserably in the waist sash, gathering the material might have softened the look of it.


Victor
Coat
M2087

Now as much as I proclaim to be interested in historical fashion, I draw a blank when it comes to historical men's fashion! I'm assuming this is a medieval coat. It looks well constructed. I like the frog closures down the front and the t-shape across the back is visually pleasing. It has nice construction lines. It's also fully lined and I imagine it's an intense project (rated intermediate) but it'd be a labor of love, I'm sure! 

Conclusion

These are pretty neat looking designs, and it's nice to see a new cosplay designer added to the mix! I would be hard-pressed to name any cosplayers and their work, I don't follow this stuff personally, but it's always cool to see what people are up to. What do you think?

Best,

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Mad world.

When is it time to speak up?

The news of Katelyn Nicole Davies' live-streamed suicide has spread across the world like wildfire (and sadly that includes the video in question). I'm sure many of you have heard the story by now and it's gut-wrenching to say the least. But it's not the suicide alone that has me upset, it's the fact that people are continuously circling her video in some deranged mission to "educate about suicide and abuse." It's not surprising that the majority of individuals doing so happen to be struggling with severe degrees of mental illness themselves, so they're clearly not in the right state of mind to see how fucking dangerous and exploitative this piece of film is.

Now I blog, but truth be told, I fucking hate social media and what it's done to our youth. I protest being tied in with the "millennials" because I view our generations as being entirely different. While my gen (Gen Y) has had to deal with rising un- and underemployment rates, and the perils of inflation, I can honestly say I have never worried once about cyber bullying, sexting, having my nude photos circulated as revenge porn, or feeling compelled to start a youtube channel just to feel accepted by someone; these kids have a shit load of problems. Social media is the bane of their existence and yet it's their whole world. And just think of how entirely isolating it is when a child living in this time has to deal with these social pressures on top of physical and sexual abuse! 

People defend her video as a means of education and that she wanted people to see it. I have no doubt that she did want people to watch it but not in the way that everyone else thinks... I think she did it to hurt other people. It's not unlike a suicidal individual who picks up a gun and shoots everyone else before himself. It's a destructive, hateful act. She was twelve, crippled with depression and wasn't thinking clearly, but the impact of her actions has been devastating on more than just the home front. Psychologists fear the video will end up in the wrong hands and encourage suicidal youth to do the same. Anyone anywhere can search for the video, find it, and learn how to do it for themselves! It's a sick sad world.

To any asshat who ends up here defending the message of this video, take a moment to really think about how this works: by acknowledging this video as her way of speaking out and finally garnering attention, you're sending the message to other youth that the only way they'll be acknowledged is if they do the same, by committing suicide or self harming on video. The appropriate measure is to instead remove the video and generate conversation as to why suicide is WRONG. It's really that fucking simple. We need to take more active roles in preventing suicide in all ages and improving mental health. Conversation is easy, it shouldn't require the loss of a young girl to start it.

Suicide is not the answer. I'm saying this as someone who thinks about killing herself fairly often. I'm writing a screenplay/script with a suicidal protagonist, and coincidentally (in the worst possible way) I am adapting a short story into a wordless short graphic novel about a depressed teen whose been sexually abused by her step dad. No shit. Only my adaptation has a happy ending. I just wish I could have told this little girl the truth: that there's life after abuse.

Talk to me in person and I'm not overly shy about being honest with my past traumas. I've neglected to write about it here but it seems an appropriate time. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault and date rape. It does not define me. I don't let it. I used to, once upon a time. I used to have nightmares. I used to cut. I used to hate myself. And then one day I realized it's not my fault. It's not my fucking problem. Even after seeing psychologists, psychiatrists, and attending support groups, it was age and wisdom that allowed me to overcome the sadness, the anxiety and the depression that had held me down for years. I still struggle with depression but not for those reasons, and I combat an eating disorder daily, another lovely side effect of sexual abuse. But that's how I look at it. Objectively, like it was a car accident that happened so long ago. It damaged my soul but not beyond repair, never beyond repair, because I'm still here. I might have the odd nightmare once in a blue moon. I might get nervous around men at parties and watch my drink like it was my first born child. I might be suspicious and untrusting of new friends. It's just a day in the life of me. 
It doesn't have to be sad anymore because I own this life and this world is my bitch.

I don't want to preach that I'm a survivor, I'm a victim, let's not take the emphasis off of blaming my attackers. We're all surviving. I'm living because I choose to live. I have surrounded myself with better people. I've adapted. If you think that there won't ever be a day where you can say the same, you're wrong. It'll take time, there's no band aid solution, but it'll happen. Like all problems, you have to stay committed to overcoming it, you have to want to change and work towards a better life. Maybe you might need medication, counselling, group therapy, or just a good friend who will listen to your problems; seek help. It's worth it. It's worth it like ice cream, or seeing a spring thunderstorm, or having someone tell you in earnest that they love you.

Stick around awhile.

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