Steampunk Shopping at Sanctuary

There’s this little shop up in Edmonton that I make a point of going to every time I’m up there.  Part of me thinks “oh, why can’t we have a shop like this in Calgary?” which is then often followed with either “we probably do, and you are ignoring it” or “yeah, so you could go once a year like you do to Sanctuary in Edmonton?” depending on how jaded and bitter my inner monologue is feeling that day….

Sanctuary display in Edmonton

So, a while back I mentioned Sanctuary in a post about Steampunk Supportive Skirts – well I was going through my photos that had been downloaded off my phone (before I realized to take the film off *headdesk*) but that I hadn’t loaded up yet to this blog, and I found these photos – quick shots of their “Steampunk” displays.  Goggles, respirators, medals, compasses, cameos, keys, pocket watches, telescopes, lockets, and other various icons… some of which with the whole ‘glue-a-gear’ theory of Steampunking… others a bit more creative.

Sanctuary display in Edmonton

Since its one of the first ‘retail’ displays I’ve seen of all the kinds of things I’ve seen on Etsy and other places online, I thought it might be interesting to show. I can’t say that anything there really caught my eye and made me want to buy it.. but still interesting. (Mind you, I do have that mini telescope already, and pocket watches, and cameos, and lockets…)

If you haven’t been to Sanctuary before, it’s mostly a goth and new-age kind of store with clothing, books, crystals, incense, jewelry, footwear, hair dye, etc.  Think of it like a Hot Topic (USA) but with less emphasis on band t-shirts, or Torrid (also USA) if you were only looking to have something fit your left thigh.  Their shop is WAY more interesting than their website though – the site doesn’t do the shop credit at all.

My favorite things

  • hair dye (they carry stuff I haven’t found elsewhere in Canada)
  • jewelry (it’s fun and unique)
  • window-shopping the clothing
  • physical atmosphere

My least favorite things:

  • they carry VERY small sizes so the only thing I have ever bought from their clothing racks is a fishnet shirt…
  • the staff tend to be rude and ignore the customers – regardless of what you look like/how you’re dressed/what size you are. It seems to be equal-opportunity rudeness
  • their prices – they are sometimes silly-expensive.  I’ve found identical items for half the price at other stores – but there is something to be said for not having to shop around.
  • the fact that the clothing is off-limits unless you have a staff person there.  A staff person who will NOT help you find sizes or ask you if you want to try something on btw – they’re apparently just there to make sure you don’t steal anything.
Have you been to Sanctuary?  What do you think of their positives and negatives?  The folks on YELP seemed to have a similar experience as I did… leave your thoughts in the comments below!  Do you think that steampunk and goth/new age are a good fit?

Sanctuary Curio Shoppe
10310 81 Ave NW
Edmonton, AB T6E 1X2
(780) 944-2654

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Cut! – Hamlet – Gertrude

I really do have a LOT of photos from the Cut! exhibit, and here’s one more.  Who knew there would be so much to say!?

Pleated gown

This version of Hamlet was filmed in 1996, and Julie Christie wore this dress in the role of Gertrude. The film is the “first unabridged theatrical film version of the play” according to the poster and is set in Denmark in the 1800s.

Poster, click for larger version

The poster describes the costume as:
“Though the director set this Hamlet in the 1800s, Julie Christie is seen wearing a costume style of Fortuny designer Mariano Fortuny, who created in 1907 a “Delphos” gown inspired largely by Greek sculpture. This now legendary textile was first produced in the early 1900s and was made using a secret pleating process which is still not understood today. The fabric is incredibly versatile and has an almost mystical appearance. The costume designer may have taken a few liberties with dates, but the costume evokes the fluid lines of the artistic style chosen for Julie Christie and the timeless quality of Hamlet”. –note, I’ve taken some liberties of my own, because I didn’t shoot the poster in its entirety.

Hem of pleated gown

The dress appears to be shibori-like pleats, in hand-dyed silk in shades of green, gold, and rust.  By the way that the colour seems to bring out the pleats (depth) I have the feeling that the fabric was actually painted with dye after the fabric was initially pleated.

The dress is cut (and belted?) so that the hem at the front just touches the floor, while the hem at the back pools and puddles on the floor.

The belt is a thicker cord, while the cords at the neckline and sleeves appear to be nothing more than satin rattail cord.  I’ve successfully dyed this to match (it dyes a little lighter than the rest of the fabric) in the past.

Close up at neckline

Here at the neckline, you can see what could be very good hand stitching, or machine stitching at the neckline opening, as well as a close up of the cord that ties the neckline.  There is also a close up of the edge finish – it looks like either a very narrow rolled serge, or rolled hem with a buttonhole stitch.

Close up showing pleating and threads

In this close up you can see the tiny fine threads in between the pleats.  These were every here-and-there in the garment, and didn’t seem to be regularly interspersed.  Instead, it appeared as though the lines of threads were left in at key width points – meaning that around the bust, waist, and hips they were left in to ensure that the dress would stay at it’s desired measurement – while elsewhere the threads were removed, to allow the pleats to shape as they needed to.

Some additional links about Fortuny/Fortuny pleating:

Image from Sew Fancy. Click for original. Sorry if the image breaks in future.

I suspect that because of the small  threads left in the gown (which I imagine are silk, to make the least impact (ei: holes) on the fabric when removed) that the gown was pleated using a fabric pleater. I’ve only ever seen these in person in the small size, but on the Fashion Incubator page they have an illustration of a larger one.  The small hand-held pleater is basically a small roller (about the size of a rolling pin,) with a series of curved needles along it.  These are used for smocking (I found some examples at Sew Fancy) at home. You measure out threads slightly longer than your finished fabric, thread each of the needles and then feed your fabric into the contraption, turning the crank to feed the fabric onto the needles and finally the threads all at once.  You’d obviously need a longer piece of fabric than what you want it to end up being at the end.  (Just like with any other form of pleating.)

These small smocking pleaters are only good for fabric pleated in one direction, and only 12″ wide (or however wide the machine is).  You can fold thin fabric, but then you’ll end up with mirrored pleats rather than continuous pleats.

Alternatively you can do line after line after line of basting stitches (either by hand or machine) and then gather them all up by hand.  With this method you’re not as restricted to the width of the fabric you want to pleat, but at the same time, there’s a lot more work, and I imagine it would be a lot harder to keep the pleats perfectly even – you’d want to ensure that you always began and ended the stitch at the same point for pleats that would line up right.

A third method, which doesn’t use the threads (and thus, I don’t think is how they made this dress) and what I’ve done in the past is Arashi Shibori pleating.  This works on both fine natural and synthetic fabrics, but in different ways.  For instance, with synthetics, you can heat-set the pleats, and they are mostly permanent.  (They won’t stand up with ironing or anything like that… but you can very gently wash the fabrics.)  With silks however, you don’t heat-set them, and they will fall out if the garment is washed, pressed, and potentially even if steamed.

Above is a video I quickly found that gives a brief overview of how to do the Arashi Shibori pleating – you basically smoothly wrap your fabric around a PVC pipe (you can find these in Home Depot or Rona, etc) with NO folds or bubbles (they’ll show up in the finished product. (Ok.. you can have folds and bubbles, but they’ll show up and you can’t get rid of them… some interesting effects can result from this though….) and then tightly wind a very thin cord (I have used crochet cotton) in very narrow, even lines around and around and around the pipe.  In school we used a lazy susan (a turntable) to set the pipe on, and then just spun the lazy susan around and around, though in the video they do it old-school just holding it on their laps.  In the video they also have some machine to spin and steam, though I wouldn’t bother with this unless there was a LOT of yardage to do on a regular basis.

Once you have your thread wrapped, you push the fabric down, compressing it.  You have to do this really smoothly, to avoid any warping.  From there, it depends on what you want to do next…. if you want to paint the fabric with dye, you can.  (If you do this, make sure the inside of your pipe has all the holes covered with duct tape to avoid bleed-through) Use whatever dye you can paint with.  Don’t use fabric paint… you want dye.  Using this wet, you can get the lovely transitions in colour like in the dress above.

If you have silk, you get it wet, and then let it dry for a few days with moderate heat. (Like over a heating vent).  If you have synthetic fabric, you can dunk it in boiling water, and then just let it air dry (with or without heat, as you prefer).  You can even dry it with a hair dryer, though it might take a while.  The key is to not remove the thread until the fabric is 100% dry all the way through.  If you pull it off while the fabric is still wet, the pleats won’t set.

Once every thing is dry you unwind the cord (and if you didn’t dye with it – or heck, even if you did and think you might have an interesting effect – wind it back up again and save it for next time) and then slowly and carefully remove the fabric from the pipe, resulting in gorgeous pleats!

I’ve done this with synthetic taffeta, fine China silk, and polyester chiffon, along with other fabrics.  With the taffeta, I fused iron-on interfacing to the back of the pleats, squishing them, but also making them permanent, regardless of how I cared for the garment (well, as permanent as the glue on the interfacing!).  To store the silk and chiffon garments, I roll them up to preserve the pleats as much as possible.  It’s outstanding how many shapes and sizes the different pleated garments will fit – the pleats stretching to accommodate a larger size, and closing with a smaller size.

So, what do you think of the Gertrude gown?  If my suggestions for pleating sounded like something you would feel comfortable doing at home, would you want to make a gown like this?  Let me know (and send me links!) in the comments below!

Tea Crafty

For Xmas this year I gave away little tins of tea to my friends as gifts.  The teas I love the most and wanted to share with them, the teas that I didn’t love, but thought they would based on their preferences, etc…

I thought I’d share a quick photo now that that the holidays are over (no surprise spoiling!) of what I did…

I started with these small (2.5″ approx) tins with clear lids.  Now, usually you wouldn’t actually want clear lids for tea, because sunlight can have a negative effect, however with small sample sizes I think it’s ok.  Hopefully they’ll be enjoyed quickly! Plus, with the clear lids, you can see how pretty some of the teas are!

Green tea from Teaopia

I filled these with a selection of teas.  One friend really likes green teas, so the ones I gave her were mostly greens and oolongs…  another friend prefers rooibos and herbals so I stuck with mostly herbals and gently flavoured blacks and whites for her.  I love getting these little sample-sizes because it’s a fun way to try different teas that you might not otherwise buy… and it’s not a big deal if you don’t like something when it’s only a few cups worth.

I then found beautiful clip art frames on The Graphics Fairy, and selected a few that I really liked.  They have a vintage feel, and although they don’t print out totally crisp and clear, I’m cool with that to continue that ‘vintage’ look and feel.  I selected:

With each of these I brought the graphics into Photoshop and reshaped and resized them to fit the bottoms of each of the tins.  I had toyed with the idea of taking photos of each of the teas, and printing them out in colour, superimposing the tea names on top of the photos, and then covering the clear lids with the photo-labels, but once I found the vintage-feeling frames from the Graphics Fairy… I thought this would make a much nicer method.

Some of the teas I selected were:

  • Dragonwell – a well-known Chinese green tea
  • Secret Weapon – a white tea that’s toted as an immune-booster
  • The Skinny – an oolong that aids digestion
  • Pumpkin Chai – a different spin on a black-tea favorite
  • Vanilla Oolong – warm and soothing
  • Chai – black tea with spices
  • 6 Treasures – a sweet white tea
  • All the Purple People – a relaxing calm herbal blend
  • Get up and Go – an energizing herbal blend
  • Pomegranate Green Tea – Green tea with cranberry and pomegranate flowers

I then added in the names of each of the teas, and indicated if it was a White, Black, Green, Rooibos, or Herbal Tea.  I didn’t want to put much more information on the labels, just because it would get too crowded, and I don’t think any of my friends who I would be giving these to have food allergies that I need to alert them of.  Plus, when there are known allergens like almonds or things like that, with these loose-leaf teas, they are usually very large and noticeable.

From there I printed out the labels in black and white, and used double-sided tape to secure the label to the tin.  I thought about printing them on sticky label paper – but that would require another trip to the stationary store, and I doubt they’d have anything like 2.25″ pre-cut circles!  Plus, the double-sided tape should be easier to remove if they want to re-use the tins for something else.

The ones in the front have been 'painted' with the tea, the ones in the back are awaiting their 'paint'.

Then I steeped up a seriously strong mini-cup of plain old Orange Pekoe, and used a small paintbrush to ‘tea-dye’ the labels a softer, somewhat mottled shade of off-white, blotting excess with a tissue, and leaving them to dry.

Tins wrapped up and ready to wrap

From there, I wrapped them on up, made up the gift tags, and eventually gave them out to my friends!  I would have done a nicer job of wrapping and tags if I wasn’t still in the depths of reno-hell… it’s such a pain in the butt to know I have all of these beautiful papers and ribbons and stickers and things….. and not be able to access any of them because of these renovations.  I might add, this is JUST like last year when we were in reno-hell part one, and nothing could be found or accessed either.  Here’s hoping it will all be over soon!

If you got something like this – do you think it would make a nice, little gift?  Would you have wanted an ingredient listing (or even just the place where the tea comes from in case you loved it and wanted more?)?  Let me know in the comments below!  (And click the links above to see some of the teas!)

meal in a jar gifts too!

I also had a fun little get together with some friends before the holidays to make a few different “meals in a jar” – we made a whole host of things for next to no money, including the spiral soup mix, cinnamon pancake mix and peppermint hot chocolate mix pictured here!  It made for a really fun get together, and helped us create a bunch of really cute gifts, for very little money.  I even made cute little labels!  I had really ambitious plans for decorating the jars mind you, which didn’t really come through because with all the frivolity, we kind of ran out of time (and energy!).

P.s. I’m going to submit my blog post to the Graphics Fairy Brag Mondays – wish me luck!

A Steampunk in Tokyo

When I started thinking about my “Mysterious Sub-continent Steampunk” costume, I couldn’t help also think about an Asian-inspired Steampunk costume as well.  I thought about doing a bit of research to start off to see a) if there are interesting things already being done b) if anything appeals to me, and c) if there’s anything I really want to do…

From Fragile Whispers - click for original

To start off – one of the images that first got me thinking about this was from Fragile Whispers on Deviant Art.  I agree – I think this would be a sweet costume to make – though if I were going to make something like this, I’d make some significant changes for myself and my own body-type.  I like the colours (for Steampunk that is) with the golds/browns/creams/etc contrasting with the small touches of blue.  I like the corset and the bodice top, along with the bustle-like overskirt.  The front panel really does make it more Asian, along with the closures on the bodice, however beyond those touches it really requires the styling for the “Asian” element to come through. Still, what a great inspirational image!

From Laui Lashire - click for original

Next up, another image from Deviant Art, this time from an artist Laui Lashire.  I don’t think the art in this piece is as successful, though I really do like some of the elements she’s captured.  I love the kimono sleeves (with the banded top), the harness, the bustled overskirt/apron, and the wrap-front top.  This definitely feels more ‘modern’ steampunk vs. Victorian steampunk though, and I think I’m leaning more to the Victorian side of things…

This next one I LOVE.  It’s very much comic/graphic novel/illustration style though – more about the ‘story’ than what she’s actually wearing (which means that it’s often hard to interpret). This is from Mongrel’s Sister on Deviant Art. I think it’s the details in the image below that really work for me – the extra-large brass grommets on her tall boots with the embellished heel – along with the little peacock knot covers… the neck collar with the bow and cameo, the smoking headpiece with cogs and clock hands…  and despite the intense colour (which the artist says is slightly different from the expected Steampunk colour scheme) I adore the colours as well – the red looks so lush and ornate…  (I don’t totally dig the mis-matched eyeshadow or the bow tied in the front for the obi, but I digress…)

From Mongrels Sister on Deviant Art - click for original

Also from Deviant Art I thought I’d share a photo of a costume – I think this one is a little more on the nose than I’d like to go for, but I can appreciate the thought behind it. This is the Steampunk Kimono from Tanya.  Another that I found, but didn’t love enough to post an image (but still wanted to include for reference sake) is by artist Pooling Waters, and his Steampunk Geisha.

From O.F.A - click for original

Another image like the one above – where it’s more cartoon-y and less realistic is from the “Opium Fashion Agency” which appears to be clothing for computer game characters.  I only understand this in theory, having never played these games nor had any interest in playing… but nonetheless – cool costume!  I can’t say that I love the British flag use – though I can see this becoming a beautiful contrasting fabric instead. (Click here for a super-large version.)  There are some really cool details in this costume too – the little tiny hat, the tiny ‘Chinese lantern’ hair sticks, the neck corset, the gears/chain/keys embellished corset, the bustle…  There are also some elements I don’t care for as much – the bustle doesn’t seem to go anywhere -there are red bows at the sides for all of the pleating – but it’s nowhere to be seen in the front, and I don’t like the tiers of ruffles on the sleeves.  Still I think it’s a really interesting interpretation of the theme.

From Nerf Gun Bobbins - click for original

Next up… now this is really interesting!  From Nerf Gun Bobbins, a geisha costume from a contest.  I think it’s the strapping that really makes this one work… using a traditional kimono shape, with kimono fabric, and then adding the strapping and buckles to connect pieces and transform the overall structure into something quite different.  On the downside, as a Steampunk costume I don’t love the colour combination, but like the overall effect.  This too is a bit more modern than I think I would want to do – though I can definitely see how this could be adapted by making the length longer (my heart dreams of floor length, but the part of me that hates having my dress stepped on will settle for ankle-length), adding a bustle, perhaps doing something in the neckline area.. etc…

On Craftster there’s a costume (top) taking a straight jacket, cut in Asian-inspired brocade, and with a small bustle added into the ‘tail’ of the jacket.  It’s not what I want to do, but I thought it was interesting enough to include as well.

DragonFly Designs - click for original version

I would be foolish to try to put together any inspiration post for Asian-inspired Steampunk without including a photo from DragonFly Design’s Steampunk Geisha.  I adore pretty much everything she’s done here from the colour scheme (although I can’t say I’d be able to wear that golden-green shot dupioni silk corset!) to the cut, to the accessories.  It seems like a beautiful fusion of Victorian Steampunk and Asian.  With this outfit, it really is the accessories that sell it – though the costume itself is wonderful too.  Click the link to see more photos in-progress as well as lots of up-close photos of the accessories and back views with a beautiful bustle.

Years ago I found a post and some photos by a woman who made a Victorian Polonaise out of sushi-print fabric, and although this isn’t what I actually want to make, it certainly has some of the flavor of what I have in mind.  I hunted and hunted over the web, thinking I remembered it from the Great Pattern Review Truly Victorian page, but after not finding it there, and being curious about the other patterns, I finally found it on the Past Patterns page instead. The #904 – 1880’s Polonaise and Walking Skirt is near the bottom of the page – click the link for a photo.

So – jumping off from there, I think that Truly Victorian TV410 – 1873 Polonaise would be a good start for a pattern, and I love 1880 Split Pannier Overskirt… though I don’t know how it would look on me.  Ah.. I think sketching needs to come before patterns!

So… do you have any other ideas – cool photos or interesting links to share?  Please send them via the comments at the bottom of this post!

Book Review: The Complete Photo Guide to Ribbon Crafts

Photo of the cover

Another book I picked up (from my library- a great way of trying a variety of books before spending money on ones to add to my library) on my seemingly never-ending search for some instruction on how to make ribbon cockades for millinery is The Complete Photo Guide to Ribbon Crafts by Elaine Schmidt.  Unfortunately the link on Amazon won’t let me grab the cover image for you!  However, as luck has it, Google Books has a little bit of the beginning (all on bow tying I’m afraid though!) for free, so click the link to take a look inside!

Since I was specifically looking for books on ribbon cockades and flowers for millinery, I really thought that this book might be a bit TOO simple.  After all, who needs a book to know how to tie a bow, right?  However, unlike the other books I picked up, this one actually does have a few (albeit very simple 😦 ) cockades along with over a hundred other projects (some valuable, some much less so).

To start off, the book includes sections on:

  • The basics – different types of ribbons, working with ribbon, end finishes, etc.  (yeah, Yawn.)
  • Making bows
  • Ribbon flowers
  • Ribbon embroidery
  • Ribbon tassels, trims and rosettes
  • Ribbon weaving, patchwork and knitting
  • Sew and no-sew techniques
  • Ribbon accessories (taking all your ribbon bits and putting them in your hair, etc)
  • Crafting with ribbon (wasn’t that what we were doing with the other projects?)

The sections I liked the best were the individual-petal flowers (in particular a beautiful orange wired-ribbon day lily) and the cockade like ‘rosettes’ – namely the ribbon wheel rosette, petal rosette, and star-point rosette.  I actually started on one of the simple ribbon-wheel rosettes a while back, but with all of the renovation shuffle, haven’t been able to finish it yet! Boo!

Ok.. so here’s my plea to the readers of this blog… where should I look next for information on making beautiful ribbon cockades?  Help!