Monday, 7 July 2014

The Gods are in the Details

Never one to rest on my laurels, I have launched straight into the crossover top this week, following hot on the heels of the completion of the wrap skirt. With July's Midlands XenaFest fast approaching I wanted to get the costume finished as soon as possible and hopefully be able to make the suede bag and maybe a scroll or two.

The design for the crossover top is really quite simple, but the details are complex. The stripes around the neckline and empire line of this top have all sorts of fun things going on, as shown in this close up shot, courtesy of Secret Kabeiros of Xena Prop Treasures. This is probably about as detailed a shot as I was ever going to get of the embroidery and materials on this neckline, and it has to be said recreating this is something of a forbidding task to someone not hugely adept at detailed work:

The centre stripe looks to be plain, distressed linen or cotton in a cornflower blue. I was delighted to be able to pick up some pre-distressed blue cotton for £3 a metre at the Fancy Silk Store. It's perhaps a little dark and a little flimsy but it does the job beautifully.

Next, the outer stripes, which appear to be layered over the top. These are rather odd as they both appear to have frayed the same navy blue colour but one looks to be solid navy while the other is a brown/navy mixed weave. I debated how to achieve this - layering brown linen on top of navy, bias binding, ribbon, all sorts. It wasn't under I happened to have a clear out of my fabric box that I had an epiphany.


I had, in the bottom of the fabric box, the offcut from a pair of navy jeans I had shortened. The dark blue front and the off-white/navy blend on the back looked just right! If I could get some denim and dye or paint the white fibres on the back the right shade of brown it would work pretty well.

Fortunately some kind soul on ebay was flogging off 0.4 of a meter of denim for £1.40, so I bought that and cut it onto strips about an inch and a half wide. I frayed the edges, and stuck them through the washing machine to soften them up. Then I took two of them and with watered down fabric paint I applied a dirty brown hue to the underside, trying to match the colour on the photograph. The end colours look pretty close:

The navy of the denim has faded slightly but I can live with that. Makes it look authentic. Now for the tricky part - the embroidery.

The embroidery on the brown looks to be a simple linear machine-embroidered pattern, while the navy is more complex, and hand embroidered. I had, some time ago, purchased a 2m strip of embroidered ribbon in what looked to be a similar pattern, and the plan was to stitch this onto the navy strip and call it "close enough" but the revelation of the patterns and colours involved, thanks to the close up shot, made me wonder if I could do better.

So a discussion was had with fellow sewing enthusiast and more specifically embroiderer, that little known superhero Captain Transvestite. Captain Transvestite is one of my best friends, a fellow Xena fan, possessor of an embroidery machine, and the best ex in the whole world. They think nothing of hand-hemming a 5m circumference poodle skirt and embellishing it with individual appliqué/embroidery/beaded mutant doggies. (They are very pretty mutant doggies. CT is a fan of John Carpenter's 'The Thing' and decided the traditional poodle skirt concept would work better if the poodles were adapted into man-eating alien-dog hybrids. And who am I to disagree with that kind of genius?)

And so, with less than two weeks to go until Birmingham Xena Fest, the denim strips, along with carefully colour matched threads for both hand embroidery and machine embroidery, have been shipped up north for CT to work some magic on.

Fingers crossed they will come back just in time for me to wallop them onto the backing before next Saturday - probably next Friday afternoon. This gives me a week or so to work on.... something else. I'm not sure yet. But there's a suede bag and some other accessories demanding my attention so let's see what the week brings?
NB: For anybody who happens to be wondering where Captain Transvestite gets their name, look up and watch Eddie Izzard's 'Sexie' tour and have a good giggle.

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