Friday, March 27, 2015

Making a Linda Danvers costume - the S shield

Eesh, this might be a long post.  Feels like it will be a long post.

OK.  Making the S shield.  This felt like it took a long time to do because I did it over several weeks, in breaks, but in reality you could probably do it in an afternoon.

I found a tutorial for making the whole costume and spent what felt like several hour studying it.  I went and bought the material - stretchy yellow and not so stretchy red.  This turned out to cause problems.  Not buying a disappearing ink pen was also an error.
Once home, I soaked the material in warm water for about half an hour to see if the colours would run. They didn't.  Then I started studying the instructions again.

The tutorial was pretty good, but I did need to work some things out myself:

  • I used this template I found and printed it out on A4 paper.  Then realised I'd probably need more than one copy in case I fucked it up, so I traced another three copies.
  • I didn't use a cardboard, or posterboard or any of that stuff.  Because I didn't have any.  Instead I just cut out the shapes I needed from the template.  This is why you need at least 2 templates - one to cut out the bit that will be your red back, and one to cut out the yellow shapes, a la:
  • I amended the template slightly as my version of the shield wasn't going to need the topmost yellow bit.  So I just didn't cut that out.
  • Iron your fabric.
  • Draw the outline of your template onto the red material - I used a pencil and this didn't work great as you could still the pencil marks afterwards.
  • If you are going to follow this tutorial exactly it is really important that your shield material is the same stretch as your t-shirt, and that you match the stretch of the fabrics to each other and to the stretch of the t-shirt.
  • When marking out the interior outlines (where to cut) be really particular about your half an inch.  Make the half an inch the same on the red and yellow pieces of fabric.
  • Baste stitch means tacking.
  • When you sew the yellow bits to the red bits make sure your outlines line up.
  • It might be better to handsew the corners.
I didn't get as far as appliquing the smaller yellow bits on, because after I'd done the big yellow bits I ended up with this:
The tension affects how the thread goes in and if you are not good at corners you end up with creased, folded up red material.  That is unwearable.

Remember how I said it 's really important to get the half inch outlines accurate and lined up?  I didn't.  This happened:
The stretch on each piece of material don't match, so sewing them together on the machine was tricky.  It also led to the sewn in yellow bits being much larger than the holes in the red bits, which in turn means that the pencil lines are visible:
I know exactly what I did wrong and I knew it would be hard for me to fix it so I decided to try another way.

I used my template again, I cut out all the shape of the red bit and marked where the yellow bits should go.  I cut out the shape of the yellow bits.  I ironed everything again.

Then I got bonda web (it's a glue that comes in sheets that can be ironed onto fabric), cut out the templates of the yellow bits - you need to put the template on the bonda web back to front.  Then I lined everything up and stuck the yellow bits on the red bits.

To do this, you need to place your red fabric on the ironing board.  Take the paper backing off your bonda web pieces, place it on the right places on the fabric.  Place the yellow bits on the bonda web.  Dampen a tea towel, place it over your fabric and press a heated up iron over the tea towel.  Do not do ironing motions, just press the iron down onto the tea towel for about 30 seconds to a minute.  Gently take the tea towel off and poke at your fabric pieces.  If it's not properly stuck down, repeat.

Tips - when cutting out your yellow fabric place the template pieces on back to front.  That way your pencil lines will be on the side of the fabric next to the red material so you won't see anything.
Never place the iron directly onto the material you are sticking together - if you do that you'll destroy the iron and the fabric.
Try and line up the bonda web and the yellow pieces as accurately as possible, otherwise you may have a bit of glue seepage.  It's not a real problem as it's not reall ynoticeable, it's just that I'm a  perfectionist.

You should now something that looks like this:
Once the material has dried use your sewing machine to sew round the edges of the yellow pieces.  This will stop it fraying and if you do it neatly it looks rather nice.

Now you need to hem the edges of the red shield.  You'll need your iron again.  Fold the red fabric over where your pencil lines are, pin them and iron them flat.  Check you have ironed against the pencil lines.  If you haven't, adjust the pins and iron it again until you've got it right.  To prevent the corners being bulky and to help your machine go over the lumpy bits you can cut little triangle shapes out of the corner's a la:
Now hem the shield, keeping the sewing machine as close to the edge of the fabric as you can.  Mine ended up looking like this:
Close up of the stitching, first one including where you can see the escaping glue next to the yellow:

I'm pretty pleased with it.  Some of the stitching could be closer to the edges, and in that last picture you'll see where I didn't quite manage to go over the red stitching and ended up with 2 lines.  It's not a big deal.

For some reason I ended up with a lot of excess thread on the back of the shield, and at various times when finishing a line of stitching I ended up with 4 threads coming out of the machine.  I have no idea why.

Next up - sewing the shield to the t-shirt.  As per advice from my expert friend I put the top on, then placed the shield where I wanted it to sit.  When I took it off I noticed it wasn't sitting right in the middle of the t-shirt, so made adjustments.  This now means that when being worn the shield is slightly off centre, because my anatomy makes it so.  I should have taken more care that the t-shirt was on straight when I tried it on. le sigh.  Anyway, it's not a big problem.

You'll want to pin the shield on the shirt, then sew it on with your sewing machine.  Go slowly so the tension in the different  fabrics doesn't cause problems.  Your machine should have a platform thing which you can put the bit of the t-shirt you want to sew, onto, with the back of it underneath the platform.  As you are feeding the material through be careful not to sew the t-shirt together...
If you do this you need to carefully unpick it.  If you unpick it make sure you don't pull on the t-shirt too much (or you'll end up with holes in the material) and unpick it from the inside.

Eventually you'll end up with this:
Now feel very proud of yourself, make yourself a cup of tea and have a biscuit.  But don't spill anything on the t-shirt.

Next post will be a write up of the con with pictures :)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Making a Linda Danvers Supergirl costume - the black hems

As I said in an earlier post, I was under the impression that the black hems on this costume were called piping:
First lesson: they aren't.  As far as I know they are just called hems.

So, how did I do it?  The material was about one and a half metres in length, and about 30 cm in width, I think.  I bought whatever the minimum was.  As it has lycra in it it quite curly and efforts to iron it weren't successful.

We measured the circumference of one of the arms of the t-shirt and then cut the black material to the same length.  If you can, cut a longer length (by 5 or 6 centimetres) than what you think you need.

We laid the material out on the table and somehow managed to fold over the straightest edge by half a centimetre, then folded it over again.  We pinned it and sewed it, a la this:
So long as you sew close to the edge of your folded over bit (and not next to the hem_ you will catch both folded over layers when you sew.

When you're sewing it (and I'm assuming you are using a sewing machine) use black thread on both the bobbin and the needle and be as steady as you can.  If you go fast then slow it mucks up the tension and the needle kind of jumps around the fabric and can make it bunch up.  Not good.  It also pays to keep the edge of the folded bit as straight as you can - my machine has little lines on the silver bit you place the fabric on, which helps.  I imagine most machines have this.

Next, we measured how deep we wanted the black bit to be.  My t-shirt had capped sleeves which I thought would be really difficult to sew as there isn't much space on the bit under the armpit.  My friend pointed out we could use the black material to lengthen the arms.  A-ha!  This is why I needed help,,,

We decided 4cm would be a good length for the black hems.  We measured 4 cm from the bottom of our sewn hem (above picture), folded the material over and then pinned it to the outside of the t-shirt, so that the hemmed bit we'd done above had the folded over bit on the inside.  From the bottom of the hem to where we'd pinned it was 4 cms.  Like this:
The next bit is tricky to explain.  We'd pinned the black material on the tee so that the pins were on the inside of the black material.  We then flipped the material up so the bit that would be visible was inside out and we sewed on the inside of the material, against the t-shirt hem line.  When you've gone all the way around you flip the black material back over so that the edges meet, and you sew them together so that the meeting material is on the inside.  Then you turn the t-shirt (or just the sleeve) inside out and chop off the excess material.

If you're like me that last part will only make sense when you begin to do it.

One sleeve worked fine like this, but I ran out of my pre-hemmed material on the other one.  I was by myself by this point and couldn't quite manage to hem a new length of material by myself again, so I opted to sew on what my friend has helped me do, then sew in a patch.  The patch ended up being quite messy, partly because I hadn't put the first one quite straight.
I had trouble using the machine to sew the edges of each part together so ended up hand sewing them together.  If you look closely it's a mess, but as the patch is only under the armpit it's not really noticeable.  You cna also see where I failed to sew against the hemline... don't do that.

Lessons learned here are that tension matters even more when you are sewing one type of fabric onto another.

Next we did the hem on the bottom of the t-shirt.  We weren't interested in lengthening this so we measured 9 cm height of material and pinned it so that 4 cm were visible on the outside of the t-shirt, and about 1cm was folded over, so you didn't have a raw edge on display.  Et voila: 

 Then we pinned it and sewed it, trying to make sure we got the hem on the outside, and the black material on the other side.  It's fine to have a raw edge on the inside as no one will see that.  We hadn't cut the material quite the right length for his, so like the sleeves, there's a patch.  I managed to do this a lot more neatly than the sleeve, thankfully.

One thing you do want to be careful of us not bunching up the top you are sewing onto, because if you have to unpick it it is likely that you will leave little holes like this:

I think they'll close up in time but it's better to not do them in the first place.

The finished product:

It looked neater on.

Next post - making the S shield.  Twice.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Making a Linda Danvers Supergirl costume - the preparation

I will start by saying that I am in no way good at using a sewing machine, or good at working out patterns.  I am new to this.  Last year I made reusable wrapping paper and an apron.

Then I made (customised) this t-shirt for this costume, with copious help and advice from a friend:
This year I considered making a Captain Marvel maternity skirt but since doing the above t-shirt I expect that I'll end up just customising another maternity tee instead.

It took me a long time to build up to doing any part of this Supergirl top, because new things scare me.  I made a lot of mistakes along the way and I will try to share all of them so anybody else making something similar will hopefully not repeat my mistakes.

Choosing the t-shirt
I have been told by my friend that making tops is really hard as it's tricky to get the measurements across the shoulders, back, bust and waist right.  So I picked a white maternity t-shirt I already had, that I knew fitted me.  It's not exactly perfect. It should look like this:
I didn't want to wear another crop top so I'm happy with it being long.  I just could not find a white tee with a high neck.  The sleeves on mine are quite short, I think they are referred to as cap sleeves, and again, finding a white mat t-shirt with the right length sleeves was impossible.  So I settled for what I had.

Choosing the material
I bowed to the shop assistants knowledge here.  I went to Anglian Fashion Fabrics and explained what I wanted to do and the cotton/lycra mix of my t-shirt.  They sold me stretchy black fabric for the sleeves and hem, stretchy yellow fabric for the shield, and red fabric with barely any stretch.  As I'm a starter they said the non stretchy red fabric would be easier to work with as stretchy material curls and frays at the edges.  I think they were right.  They also sold me bonda web (a glue for material sold in sheets) to put the shield together.

I soaked the red and yellow material in warm water for half an hour to see if the dye would run.  I had to soak the black material overnight, and in the morning it was still leaking black dye.  I have no idea if it will run when I wash the finished tee, fingers crossed it won't.

Finding a pattern
I had no idea how to look up a pattern for the black bits, initially I thought they were called piping.  They're not.  But I did find a tutorial for sewing the S shield, here:
It is a pretty good tutorial, although not really aimed at beginners.  I found some parts of it confusing but I shall elaborate on that when I explain how to make it.  Given how nervy I get about doing new things I had to read it over and over and over and over before I felt comfortable starting.

Equipment needed
A good pair of fabric scissors, black, red and yellow thread, pins, iron and ironing board, a sewing machine, a ruler, a pencil (not ideal but what I used), a flat surface and lots of space.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pregnancy after stillbirth: 21 weeks 4 days

I want wine. I want a rich, deep, dark red, with layers of flavours and scents that I can sip slowly of an evening. Ideally by a roaring fire. I'd drink the whole bottle. I want wine.

I also want to stop being so damn hungry.  Today's indigestion has been especially unwelcome.  Hungry and unable to fit the food in because my innards are getting squashed.

I find it strange, now, when pregnant people talk about being excited to have a baby. Like they don't have one now.

I feel comfortable being pregnant again. I feel like my body and my bump and my ungainliness is right. I feel like I belong with other pregnant women. It's right for me to be this way.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Coming out in comics: Maxima

Supergirl 40 (the new 52) is the last in the current series.  The last few issues have had Kara at Crucible Academy. a training school for super powered folk.  There she met people seen in previous DC continuities, including Comet (not a horse in this incarnation) and Maxima, who previously had been known as the woman searching the galaxies for a suitable male to mate with, so that she could repopulate her home planet.

In Supergirl 40 she comes out to Kara:
I think it's great we have another queer character in the DCU.  Maxima not liking men changes her history and motivations and experience quite a lot, and I'd really like to see that explored.  I'm just a little bit sad about the way it's been done.  I'm not having a dig at the creative team here - I think they were constrained by the series ending and so only had one page to show this, and it's better to canonically establish that Maxima is queer than not.

However, given the circumstances and the brevity of her coming out, it reads more like she's coming out to further Kara's story.  Take the bottom left hand panel,, Maxima says:
'I know nothing can convince you to stay, but I wanted to tell you this because you've given me hope for my future.  And that I thought you should know'.

It reminds of 90s films with queer characters, like Threesome, where the gay or bi ones came out and had their friends accept them, but never got together with anyone.  I remember watching Threesome with my straight friends and they thought it was sweet that the queer guys accepted their sexuality and that their straight friends accepted them.  They thought that was good and made it a positive film.  It's certainly better than films that condone homophobia, or ignore LGBT folk.  I disliked it because I wanted the queer guys to have the same as the het guys - a loving relationship and the ability to be themselves without fear.

This page in Supergirl reminds me of that film.  What about Maxima?  If she truly likes Kara in a  sexual way I can't see her (or anyone) just thanking their crush for being around and giving them a hug and being happy to say goodbye to them.  It's all rather chaste.  Maxima says:
"You're exactly the kind of person I envisioned being with and I didn't think that person existed until now".
If Kara represents that to her then I cannot understand why she's being so accepting of Kara leaving.  When I've crushed on straight friends it's been heartbreaking for me.

So on one level this scene works for me and another it doesn't.  I really hope it can be explored further down the line, perhaps when the Supergirl title is brought back after June.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Flash graphic

Someone pointed me to this a little while ago when I was having a bad day.  I think the image motivates me more than the words to be honest.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pregnancy after stillbirth: 21 weeks 1 day

I've come to realise that one of the reasons I have absolute faith in my medical team is because I don't feel like I've got any choice not to have faith.  If I thought the quality of care was sub standard, I just wouldn't cope.

I see other people's reports of their care and it is different.  Care varies according to trust and your history so everyone's care plan is unique. But still, I see things that make me ask, briefly, why aren't I getting that, but then I push those thoughts down because I have no choice but to accept what I'm being given.  I am comforted by the fact that the Eastern region has the second lowest stillbirth rate and as I know we have some terrible hospitals I figure mine must be pretty good to balance that out.  Although I do wonder if perhaps we should move to the South West for the next few months (or Finland).  I am semi serious.

I realised that I am cheered by my midwife treating my pregnancy as normal and healthy, and acting like this baby will live.  It gives me a sense of perspective.  I don't want to be wrapped in cotton wool, I don't think that's healthy and I think it could increase my anxiety.  I need to do everything as normally as possible.

I remember this time last year, I was in the second tri, about to move into the third.  During the first tri I was incredibly anxious and scared as I was having loads of cramps, and some spotting, and was convinced I'd miscarry.  I the second tri my mood lifted and I was in a good mood for most of it (barring normal down days).  Then in the thirs tri my mood crashed and I'd be sobbing for no reason.  I wonder if hormones are giving me a positive feeling in this tri and if I will crash again in about 6 weeks.  I wonder how I'll manage if that happens.

I really want to compare this baby's growth chart with C's growth chart, but I'm too scared to go in his memory box.

In body news, when I sit at a desk my bump is getting in the way.  I am feeling distanced from the desk.  How odd, and how early.  I'm also getting regular, bad indigestion.  Boo to that.

Pregnancy after stillbirth: 21 weeks 0 days

The last week and a bit has been absolutely horrendous.  When I went in for the 19 weeks heartbeat check it took her ages to find it.  Then I went down to LSCC on Saturday, which was mostly really good fun but also felt strange as last year I was there pregnant with C so it got a bit emotional at times.  Also saw my (pregnant) sister afterwards and we talked about family stuff, well I ranted, and stuff has stayed with me since then.

Then Sunday was Mother's Day which was absolutely godawful.  Then Monday was also awful so I didn't go into work as I wasn't functioning very well (and it's been a long time since I was not functioning).  Went into work on Tuesday through to Thursday, and gradually got better throughout the week.

Had another heartbeat check on Wednesday, again it took her a while to find it, but I was a lot calmer because the baby was moving just before I went in.  Thursday was the 20 week scan and everything is fine, but the scan wasn't nice and my brain was refusing to make sense of what I saw on screen.  I cried through a lot of it.

Physically my back, hips and shoulders hurt.  I think this is mostly due to sleeping with the wrong sort of pillows though.  It's a constant experiment.

In my last post I said I was going to call the midwife to ask about a bit of pain - I didn't. I'm scared to. I spoke to her about it when I saw her on Wednesday.  She said the real emergencies, and when I need to ring delivery suite are if I have reduced movement, bleeding, extensive pain, my waters break or I feel really unwell.  Anything else I ring her.

I may write up my my notes from the consultant meeting after the 20 week scan and post them here.

16 weeks to go.

Pregnancy after stillbirth: 20 weeks 0 days

I'm going to ring the midwfie later as I've been getting pains in my bump area.  Not lasting for very long - a few minutes, 10 minutes at most, and they are just in one place, but they are near the front and I need to check that they are OK and normal.  I've been getting them for a few weeks but I've realised that in amongst the worry and fear over everything some things get forgotten about.