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?


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.


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.


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?


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.

Vests and Shirt

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.

Pants and Overskirt

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.


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,

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