Estelcon 2013

Yes, I’m still alive and still trying to recover from the past couple of weeks, during which a lot has happened, a lot was sewn, knitted, and I even got the time to get a new capoeira corda and to get ill twice. But this post is just about that Tolkien Society convention I’d previously mentioned. I wanted to write a couple of updates already before but in the frenzy of sewing and trying to finish our costumes I didn’t even find enough time to sleep enough (just to get ill, ha, apparently we always find time for that).

This was me just in the evening three days before leaving for the convention. As you can see I still need to attach one sleeve, finish and attach both oversleeves, sew some “silvery” details and hem the skirt. As I didn’t have a lot of time I decided to be “creative” and convert the muslin I’d previously made to lining. It’s cotton batiste, so the inside feels nice.

Please don’t look at all the clutter and rubbish around. I promise I put that silvery fabric away at the end of that evening.

Once I got the sleeves attached to the bodice I realized that attaching the oversleeves was going to be more complicated than I thought (yes, I was not very awake and the antibiotics didn’t help), because once the sleeves are sewn, how do you machine stitch something over it. Yes, my dreaded loathed simple technique: hand sewing. To keep the top from fraying I zig-zagged both lawyers and sewed it by hand while watching some Doctor Who Confidential. If I have to hand sew, at least I need to do it with something pleasant.

After attaching the oversleeves I machine sewed some silvery braids to conceal the join.

I am not sure if I’ve already mentioned it. I drafted the bodice using my personal block and I drafted the bottom using the Lonsdale skirt. I then modified it to remove the front seam, inserted eight pleats (four on the front and four on the back) and lengthened it. Now that I think of it, Cynthia’s dress didn’t have pleats, but when I was working on it I though it had. They give it a nice touch though. Matching them with the seams was extra work, but I think it makes the whole dress a little bit nicer (I prefer to think that since I realized about this too late).

I ran into the same issues as Cynthia due to the low neckline, and off course, I solved them in the same way as you can see.

Well, that was me finishing my dress, but I still had to make a little pouch for Koen and narrow his pants. This last think never got to happen. At least, in my illness, I had to skip a couple of classes, so that meant more sewing hours. Thanks to that I could complete almost everything in time.

The convention was in a village close to Barcelona, and we had a whole monastery for ourselves. The only downsides were the food, the rooms and the extreme cold. This picture was taken the last day we were there, after everything was cleaned up so the only thing you can see from the convention are the flags. It had been quite windy the night before.

There were multiple activities: a live role playing game, a tales reading, a musical with Queen songs adapted to Tolkien’s world, conferences, and writing workshops. We watched the movie Born of Hope, available on YouTube and Kate Maddison, the director was invited to give a talk. She also acted in the movie and later on she came dressed with the same clothes used when filming. At the end of the talk Koen and I were talking a bit with her, since I was curious about this whole subject due to my past working in the audiovisual sector. She’s working now on a new fantasy series for the web that looks very promising: Ren the series.

At the convention here were also workshops for the little ones. Some people have been attending this convention for years, starting when they were teenagers and now they bring their families with them. One of them was a girl nicknamed Goldberry. We met (over the internet) around 15 years ago, when I first heard of this Tolkien society and I was young. As I’ve already explained, I’ve planned to come then and I even bough some beautiful blue fabric to make a dress for the occasion. At the end it never happened, but while I was still convinced that I was going to make it I was in contact by email with this person. She could hold the title of Costumes commissioner if she wanted, because she helped so many people with tutorials and explanations. I think almost every single member of the society has made a cape based on her tutorial. She spent a lot of time with me, helping me to design a dress and she even made a tutorial especially for me based on a dress her grandmother had made for her many years ago. She even was so kind to send me that dress by mail so that I could see how it was built. And all that without really knowing, without meeting me in person a single time.

That’s why it was so special for me to see her in real life for the first time and meet her husband (her boyfriend back then) and their two sons. and we got a picture together to remember those years already past. She had the most stunning dresses and robes and I think she managed to wear like two different dresses each day. Off course her husband and sons were also appropriately dressed.

Then we got our picture with Kate, the director of Born of Hope. She was wearing here the same clothes she was wearing in the movie, that hadn’t been worn since then.

Here you can see more people at dinner. Those in the center were part of the organizers team.

And here you can see Kate again and also Goldberry with her oldest son ready to watch one of the convention traditions: the flans race.

As soon as Koen saw the flans and before really knowing the goal of the game, he said: “I would be good at that”. So when they asked for participants he had to be there.

This is one of the few pictures I have from the back of the dress. It’s not a great photo but I had to include it since it’s the best of them. I have to say that I got compliments from several people about the dress and the chain used as a belt. One came from the same Goldberry and value it immensely.

And now a couple of pictures to show several details that we forgot to shot during dinner, and also the dorms, which had 5 bunks each one. These two pictures are not very good (the first is indeed quite bad) but each one has something that I wanted to show you.

It was freaking cold in there. The past weekend the temperatures dropped considerably and we were at the mountains. With those enormous sleeves there was no way I could wear a normal sweater so the Thick Chill designed by Teresa Gregorio saved me big time.

I also wore the cape that I made 15 years ago following Goldberry’s instructions. It’s not great and as it’s made of elastic velvet so it doesn’t really drape uniformly, but the brooch is beautiful and I’m very fond of it. Sadly it was not really suited to those low temperatures and I had to wear the Thich Chill, my coat and the cape to go to the restaurant. And not only that, because people, I’m going to confess something here. As I’m not used to wear dresses in Winter and we’d prepared our bagage in a hurry, I didn’t pack tights with me, and again, it was freaking cold. So, even if you don’t see it, and only Koen knew, I was wearing my trousers underneath, my Thurlows to be more precise 😀

You can see Koen here after dinner (around 3 pm and very tired) without his vest. It’s the only picture I have where you can see the front cord. He’s in fact hiding our toothbrushes behind his back.

As I’ve said before the hardest parts of this convention for me were the extreme cold and humidity. I’m very allergic to dust-mites and have asthma, and I had lots of breathing problems all day long, especially in the dining hall (not the restaurant where we had the special dinner), the theater and the dorms. My asthma inhaler was my best friend during those days and if it wasn’t for that it would have been an almost perfect weekend. Because of that it was difficult to get enough sleep and in the mornings we were woken up with the sound of a blowing horn. Something like this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVbEswv6TVg

Another problem we had was that, as we were using common showers, some clothes got lost. Koen came out of the shower just to find that his clean t-shirt and underwear were gone. He had to come back to the dorm with just his towel and he was lucky that he had prepared an extra set of clothes just in case (he got dirty or sweaty).

We were quite tired most of the time due to being sleep deprived, but we had anyway lots of fun.

You can see our costumes here. Koen’s t-shirt is based in the Strathcona Henley and his pants in the Jedediah Pants. He chose the fabrics himself and you don’t want to see my face when he chose a knit fabric to make a warrior shirt. He wanted to be a plain warrior so he dismissed any thought about capes or ornaments.

About my dress I would say that the fit is quite good, although you can see some wrinkles here and there. I guess that with a little bit more of time I could have come with something a bit better, but I’m very pleased with what I made in very little time. In hindsight I could have lowered the waist one or two inches, I could have adjusted the neckline better and shorten the skirt by an inch, since walking was a bit difficult with this length. I used almost all the fabric I had bought 15 years ago and I’m very happy to have found finally a good use for it quite similar to the one I initially thought for it.

More pictures on my Flickr.

More than 15 years later

If you’ve been following me for a while you would think that after the Summer frenzy participating in sew alongs, it appears I’m suddenly doing nothing. It’s not that Fall has me completely paralyzed, it’s not that I have no ideas for future sewing projects. In fact I have a lot in my head right now, but I need to finish some projects for this month. Koen and I are attending a Tolkien convention at the end of this month and we need to be properly attired. That means that I have a lot of planning, designing and sewing.

My dress is more or less on track. I’m getting my inspiration from this wonderful Cation Designs project (hey, Cynthia, I hope you don’t mind) drafting the pattern myself and using 4.5 meters of blue sateen from that fabric by the kilo shop I’ve mentioned before. I think I bought that fabric more than 15 years ago, when I first had plans to attend this convention but finally couldn’t. Then life got in the way and here I am with that fabric more than 15  years later and finally going for the first time. I made a cape at that moment that I still treasure so I’ll wear it this time.

Picture taken from Cation Designs

And off course Koen wanted a costume too. He is such an easy going person that when we talk about clothes he surprises me because nothing is good enough for him. And off course no matter what I say and how popular capes are in the Spanish Tolkien Society, he maintains his no capes policy.

We browsed the internet a bit and we found these pictures as inspiration:

He also wanted a faux leather vest like the Zoe’s in Firefly, but with simpler lines.

As I wanted Koen to feel involved and happy with his costume we went fabric shopping together and he chose the fabrics for his costume. For the vest he chose a beautiful dark brown faux leather and for the pants a dark grey fabric that was ok. But for the shirt he chose a beige knit that is still giving me headaches. And off course, from the original design he just wants that open slit with strings, because he wants short sleeves and the general structure of a t-shirt; ah, and he wants to tuck it inside his pants, so the look will be completely different. That wouldn’t be a problem if he also wanted a regular t-shirt collar. I bought the Strathcona Henley from Thread Theory designs and I improvised some facings to imitate what he wanted (and which don’t want to behave properly). Now that it’s almost finished and he’s tried it on he’s just asked for a tongue like the one of a shoe to conceal a bit his chest. I’m still thinking about how to do that.

For the pants I’m planning to adapt his Jedediah but I’m getting worried because I don’t seem to be able to finish anything and I’m running out of time. I’ve cut the vest but I still need to see if it has the desired length and I’m still thinking how to resolve the stringy thingy he wants for the sides. Ah, and he also wants bracers and a pouch. We seriously need to sit down together this weekend to make this work out.