Sweet Insouciance

Books, Pies, Dresses and Thoughts

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Science of Beer is coming up, hopefully I can get this made by thursday for Science Girl, it’s been awhile since she’s made a real appearance. I loved the interesting gradient effect on their poster and wanted to emulate it. I’m also trying out a 3D modeler that allows me to see a dress concept without going to the expense and bother of actually sewing it. Its fun to play with! 

Pattern is Burda 122- Cap sleeve Godet Dress

Hops and wheat designs by Phillip Markel on spoonflower. 

The middle yellow has the chemical makeup of ethanol (like the second panel in the poster) and was “designed” by me for the purpose, as well as the pale gray with museum butterfly logo. 

Filed under science girl dresses beer ncmls burdastyle

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When I was startled by a unexpected book, and then decided to hate it

Outlander (Outlander, #1)
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I must say, I have never been so close to rage-quitting a book halfway through since I read The Courtship of Princess Leia. As I write this now, I’m only halfway through it, and I think the only reason I’m going to keep reading it is to find more things I can hate about it.

People have been recommending The Outlander series to me for many many years, and I’d just never bothered to pick them up. Well, I was out of things to read and figured it was about time I do so, and yes, I heard there was a TV series and I wanted to be a book-snob when I watched it. I don’t know how, but somehow I got the impression that the series was, well, weirder. Darker. Stranger. That it was about people who get lost in the cracks, lost in time, yes, but in the dark weird way of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, or Charles deLint novels. I thought the characters would be the outliers to society, people who are foreign wherever they go, who fit nowhere, and so created a land where only the strange was normal. You know…. London Below. Where did I get this impression? I honestly have no idea. Maybe I’m thinking of an entirely different series, and this one just fell into my lap instead.

Anyways, what I was not expecting was a harlequin romance with a lot of extra words and some real history written in as if to make me take it seriously. Even then, I probably would have been okay with it. I’m a big fan of saying as long as a book is entertaining to me, and enjoyable to read, I’ll call it a good book. I don’t necessarily need a deep philosophical message, or a darkly gritty cast of characters, or a unique landscape, or even any originality at all. I can be a big fan of trashy romance novels. I read, and even sort of enjoyed Twilight. That’s right, I’m saying it out loud. She lost me with the later sequels, and I’m not saying its a healthy story for teens or that it should get the attention it’s gotten. But I enjoyed parts of it, and it was not as offensive to me as this book.

Something about this story so far just sets my teeth on edge. I’m only halfway through it, and I had to stop to express my rage while its still this potent. Right, so the main character is Claire. She was living in 1945 with the husband she’d just reconnected with after WWII (he was a soldier, she was a nurse) when wham bam she falls through a time-hole in Scotland and is taken back 200 years. (view spoiler)[Where she generally makes trouble by not acting correctly for a woman of the time, and being a mystery in a politically awkward time where people hate mysteries. She finds out that her husband’s ancestor was pretty much an evil dick, and makes friends with a dashingly sexy scotsman who has his own dubious history and dramatic reasons he wants to take revenge on said husband’s ancestor. Whoops, under some very contrived circumstances she is suddenly compelled to marry this sexy scotsman she is so attracted to, to save her own life, of course, yes…. Right, I was totally with you up until that moment. Unbelievably contrived and classic romance novel, sure. Still, I can envision some great costumes, and there’s some fun sex scenes. Sure, the sex scenes make me uncomfortable, because, you know, SHE’S STILL MARRIED TO HER HUSBAND AND ALL. And she dithers, constantly, about oh she misses Frank (husband) but something keeps drawing her to Jamie. His animal magnetism. And, well, she couldn’t NOT have sex with him, they NEED to consummate the marriage or it won’t count and she’ll still be in danger!

But then, of course, given the first time she finds herself alone (really, the FIRST time, in the last three months, that she finds herself alone?) she realizes she can run back to the stone circle where she came through the weird time portal. So off she goes…. and gets captured by the English (and the evil ancestor of her husband). Where he takes her to his office, tries to find out who she’s spying for, and then proceeds to nearly rape her. When (drumroll please) the husband arrives to rescue her! Yipee! Whatever, I’m not entirely enjoying it, mostly because I was expecting something completely different, but it hasn’t lost me yet. My expectations don’t change what’s written, I just have to be in the mood for a romance, so I’ll read it as if I was…

Until of course, the new sexy scotsman husband takes her back to safety and proceeds to beat her. Because its good for her. And she needs to learn the consequences to her actions. Because as her husband its his duty to teach her to right her wrongs, and his men and the soldiers they’re traveling with expect it.

Um, excuse me, what? Oh, she’s angry that he beat her so badly that she couldn’t sit down last night, but then he tells her a story about how his parents beat him when he was a child, and it was very beneficial and helped him learn. And she forgives him, after all, she DID act a bit rashly (by running away from a marriage she was forced into) and she DOES need to think about consequences (like how it made HIM feel to watch her being nearly raped). So yes, she forgive him, for beating her. And then he says, “You should be grateful I went easy on you. I enjoyed beating you so much, I really wanted to have sex with you afterwards. You should be glad I didn’t demand sex from you right then as my husbandly right.”

And she says “Oh, I love you! But if you ever beat me again I will cut your balls off.”

At which point he swears upon his dagger that he will ever be loyal to her, and never beat her again in rebellion or anger (note that he can still totally beat her again if its for her own good), and will she please have sex with him now? (hide spoiler)]

And this is where I stopped reading, so enraged that I needed to get my thoughts down on paper and express my disappointment and hatred RIGHT NOW.

I will keep reading, at least to the end of this book, if not the rest of the series, on the bright side because I want to know if it gets better. After all, so very many people recommended it to me. And on the dark side, because I want to keep finding things to hate about this book.

So far though, I’m mostly curious that the internet has not raged about this book before now. I can’t count the number of hate-filled posts have passed through my tumblr about everything from Twilight, to Frozen, to con girls and costumes and all the rest. And no one has raged out about Outlander before me? Is it just because I wasn’t expecting this and everyone else just already knew about it?

View all my reviews

Filed under book review fantasy romance one star rage-review diana gabaldon outlander

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I rarely ever test costume/dress ideas before I just throw myself in full throttle. But I figured since this is one of my crazier ides, I might want to try some different effects out first. And as long as I’m testing things, I might as well document the process too. So, here’s some really crappy cell phone pictures of various bits of in progress tests for the betta fish dress. 

The first is a gradient (ombre) dye of some silk crepe de-chine. This will be a panel of the skirt which is, theoretically, pleated and then painted with other dyes in the green/teal range more towards the hem. 

The photos below that are of my home-made sunburst according pleating pattern. This is probably one of the most TEDIOUS PROJECTS I’VE EVER WORKED ON. Hopefully it will be worth it. Theoretically I will use this pleating pattern to pleat the full length of the skirt panel by folding the fabric within the folds of the paper and then pressing it. I will also be painting dye onto the hem at this stage, in hopes of getting some cool (sort of shibori, though really I’m making it up off the top of my head) dyeing effects. 

The bottom two photos are of some smocking tests to see if I want to use any cool fabric texture manipulations. The sea-green one is done using a shell smocking pattern drawn on the half inch. Then I hand dyed it, and dried it by ironing flat, to get the mottled uneven look to the dye. The white one is testing a panel with the “dragon scale” smocking that’s been super popular ever since it was used in the Game of Thrones Daenerys blue tunic costume. 

Filed under silk ombre gradient dye smocking pleating betta fish in progress

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The Dress That Should Have Had Pockets

So I was making this lovely skirt out of some yellow striped silk, following the Colette Zinnia pattern. And because it is silk, I decided I’d do all the right things. I’d take my time, measure twice, pin everything, even put proper french seams in it. And I got so into “being good” that I completely and utterly forgot to put in the pockets. And that was one of the things I am always most excited about. Oh well, lesson learned, don’t pay so much attention to the little things that you forget the big things you wanted in the first place. 

Regardless, this skirt is wonderful, and I quite like how it turned out. The pattern is simple and easy to follow, and workable in many different fabric types. It has twelve pleats around the skirt, and an invisible zipper and button closer in the back. It can have pockets, if you remember to put them in. 

I also used some of the scraps to make a matching headband for myself. I never used to be in love with the color yellow, in my own clothing that is. But I’m really warming up to this sunshine not-quite-orange but not-quite-mustard definitely not pastel color of yellow. 

Filed under Colette zinnia silk yellow skirts colette zinnia

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Faux-nthropologie (okay, maybe that’s a stretch…)


Get the Look:

So, I saw that beautiful tshirt with its elegant cutouts on pinterest, and I thought to myself “I could do that!” So I did. Then I thought to myself “I should share how I did this!” So I am. This is my present to all my faithful readers who are here at my 201st blog post. (Not really, actually, thats a complete coincidence. But still, 201! Holy crap.)

I made some minor modifications to the pattern for my own amusement which you can choose to follow, or not, as you will. I added a bit of flare in the back, and used a tutorial for petal sleeves. I also thickened the crosspieces, because the knit I was working with was pretty thin and I was worried that going too narrow would be just be difficult and annoying. That knit, by the way, I found at Joanns for $4/yd.

Feel free to go with your instincts, change things up, and make a shirt that YOU want to wear. 

For this tutorial, you’ll want to use a comfortable 4-way stretch knit, and contemplate using a serger, or double needle. You should also have a basic tshirt pattern that you’ve used before and know you like. (If you don’t have such a pattern already, I highly recommend this Deer-and-Doe pattern. Its free, simple to follow, and looks great on everyone!.) I used bias-tape made of the same fabric to finish all the edges in my shirt, but that’s not necessary. If you want, you can simply use a fold-over hem. This site has some great tutorials on a variety of ways to finish knit hems.

So, to make this shirt you’re going to want to modify the back pattern piece of a generic tshirt pattern. The front and sleeves will stay exactly the same. I’m going to use some pretty impressively crappy paint sketches to illustrate my points.

Trace the back pattern piece out on some large sheets of paper. If your pattern is a piece that is “cut on the fold” flip it over so that you have a full piece, exactly like the piece of fabric you *would* be cutting out for the back. Find and mark the center line of the piece.


Then, on one “half” of the pattern piece start at the shoulder neckline and draw a dip and a line that crosses the center line, and goes all the way to the opposite shoulder. Starting off parallel to that line, but a few inches lower (how much lower is up to you, that will determine the width of the crosspieces) draw another line that that crosses the centerline, and then curves back towards it to end in the middle of your back. If those words made absolutely no sense, as I suspect is the case, just look at this image:


If you want a more flared effect like my brown shirt, continue the line diagonally to end somewhere on the other half of the shirt pattern. If you want a straighter/tighter back to your shirt, just follow the centerline straight down. 

This is your NEW back piece. You’re going to want to cut out two of them (but mirrored, obviously.)


Next, I would recommend finishing the lower edge of the cutout and crosspiece on BOTH back pieces in whatever way you choose. It’ll be easier to do it now than later. I’ve highlighted the edge I’m talking about in purple below:


Then sew the shoulder seams together. You’ll end up with a funny kind-of T-shaped thing, with the crosspieces of each back pointed toward the center. 


Next, you’ll want to finish the edges of the neckline and the top side of each crosspiece. 


After that, you’ll want to sew up the seam in the center back. Go only as far as the bottom of the cutout curve. Also go ahead and put the sleeves on, or if you’re doing a tanktop finish the edges of the armholes.


Then, you’ll want to sew up the side seams. Go from the edges of the sleeves, all the way through the armpit (making sure to match the sleeve seams) and down the shirt to the bottom hem. Finish the bottom hem in whatever way you see fit. 


Finally, you’ll want to attach the crosspieces to the inside of their OPPOSITE shoulder seam. You might want to put it on and play with their placing for a couple of minutes. The angle at which you end up sewing them can make a difference. 


And you should end up with something that looks sort of like this:


image image

This whole concept is also pretty easy to tweak and customize and get creative with. As I mention, I also added some petal sleeves. (I used this tutorial).


You can also cut different shapes, or even do multiple crosspieces.


I haven’t been brave enough to try more than two crosspieces on each side yet, but I think you could end up with an incredibly complex and beautiful pattern. 

Or instead of the leaf-like oval cut-out at the bottom, I think it’d be pretty easy to make a shape more like a heart, or go with super straight lines and make a triangle. The possibilities are endless!

If you want to see some higher resolution shots of the shirts I made, check out these posts

Feel free to share your success and even your failures with me! I’m curious to see if anyone else has any luck with this.

Filed under tshirt anthropologie tutorials

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Yep, I’m having fun with cut-outs and tshirts. Here’s another one!

I tweaked the pattern for this one to have a double cut-out effect and the woven strips. It looks a bit like a celtic-knot to me, which I love.

Its also hard to tell in the bright light, but I top-stitched it with neon green. I like the contrast between that and the black and white. Its a lot of fun!

Filed under anthropologie tshirt stripes

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Remember that Anthropolgie tshirt I mentioned I was lusting over, and then attempted to copy? Yep, I did another. 

I took what I learned from the first test tanktop and created a shirt thats a little dressier and more “finished.” I found a soft brown knit at Joanns (on sale for 4$ a yard!).

I used a scoop neckline and added a little more flare to the back. The sleeves I added are “petal sleeves,” and consist of two layers that overlap to create sort of a tulip effect. I got huge compliments on them, they look fantastic when worn. 

This shirt was a huge success, and I’ll probably do several more. Also, expect an upcoming tutorial on how I did this surprisingly easy but attractive tshirt.

Filed under anthropologie tshirt

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So we got new desks at spoonflower recently. They come with little planters in the dividers between consecutive desks. Obviously they don’t have drainage holes, so anything that requires a lot of water isn’t a good idea. However, I’m hoping that I can keep some succulents alive for awhile. 

Also, check out the one on the far right (of the second picture.) Yep, that’s a venus fly trap. Killing off bugs digital and physical, where ever I go.

Filed under spoonflower succulent venus fly trap desk