Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cosplay by McCalls Nov. 2017

New Patterns for November 2017

Looking for project ideas for this winter? Look no further, McCall's has released three new patterns for November. A Lolita pattern called "Charm School", a Fae pattern called "Pixie Sprite", and a Steampunk pattern called "Romantique." Shall we look them over?

Charm School
Jacket, Skirt with Suspenders, Necktie

I actually love this pattern. I can rarely commit that much affection to anything but I'm very impressed with this jacket and skirt combination. It's from their in house design team, and it's very well structured. I'm not noticing any glaringly obvious flaws or poor aesthetic choices, it just looks polished, like something we'd see in Lolita ready-to-wear. The only exception that I might make is that the armscye on the jacket looks like it could be very steep, and an armscye that sits too low will create tension across the back and problems when lifting the arms. It's obviously one of those fit issues that each individual will have to tailor to their specific requirements, but it is something to be aware of. This is what I want beginner sewists to take note of, when you look at a pattern be critical of how it fits the model because it can help you identify problem areas before you even start sewing.

Bed Jacket and Cami Tops

This is an odd choice, you can see the third top here, it's apparently like sleepwear/negligees for Steampunk enthusiasts?? I'm not sure why you'd be cosplaying as a Steampunk going to bed, but someone might find this of interest. The bed jacket is nice but it has a distinctly 1920's or 30's vibe to it. If it wasn't pictured on a saloon girl I wouldn't make the connection with Steampunk at all. The other two camisole tops do have a Steampunk vibe, they're pictured with bloomers from Prelude (M2082). The tank cami isn't terribly flattering but then again I don't find bloomers flattering either, so it's clearly a personal bias. If I had to choose between the two I'd go for the vest like cami, which I imagine (minus the flat collar) could even be paired with a sheer blouse underneath for every day wear.

Pixie Sprite

This is another design from Ichigo Black. There are good parts and bad parts. The underskirt is okay, there are rather large round circular tiers  (shown in white above) that don't fit with the handkerchief layering. I would omit them completely, it would look great without them. Likewise, the pleated overskirt just looks odd. I think what bothers me most about it is that I couldn't imagine a fairy wearing something as formal as a pleat. When we think of pleats we think about office attire, school girl outfits, structure, it just doesn't fit into the world of Fae. I'm not even sure what to replace it with, other than perhaps continuing the handkerchief layering into a yoke with a basque shape or an over-hip corselet, something with a hard edge to maintain a good contrast. The top is okay, I like the ruffled edge across the bust, I feel like there could have been more play with texture in the straps.


Overall not bad, I think I even like the Charm School jacket better than M2084 Papillion.
What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

New! Halloween Costumes from Cosplay by McCall's


I know that my last post was a bit dreary, I had to not only vent my frustrations but put a voice out on a subject that I think is being greatly overlooked. I've been reading hundreds of articles by economists and I'm floored with how incredibly naive some of these people are. Can you believe one woman defended the minimum wage raise saying that it'll work better for the economy, prices generally won't inflate at a quicker rate - except for housing. While she acknowledged that the housing/rental market will continue to balloon she somehow, mind blowingly, failed to make the connection that these minimum wage workers would continue to find affordable housing just out of reach. If people are spending well over half their income on their housing, and the hydro rates continue to climb, exactly when is it expected to balance out? Laughable, isn't it?

But you can rest assured, we're not in such dire circumstances that we'd take up residence in the mold infested college house we just looked at (with the body hair, the stench of weed and the ceiling peeling and crumbling). We'll sit and wait and hope for a break in the storm. Until then I plan on busying myself with many a sewing project. Winter will be upon us faster than we think and I'm in need of a new wardrobe.

And what better time than now with the release of four new Cosplay by McCall's patterns? Halloween is just around the corner and I've taken up my fairy costume once again (despite not having any plans). Perhaps some of these pattern might inspire your next costume?

Top, detached sleeves, skirt and belt.

Another design from Seattle Cosplay, although I'll be damned if I can tell you what it's from. Some kind of high flying Kung Fu film no doubt, but if you're into Wing Chun this might be the style for you. The costume features a top with keyhole front, frog closures and appliqués; detachable matching sleeves that also have appliqués and bias trim; and finally a belt and skirt. Overall the design is aesthetically pleasing. I like the asymmetrical cut of the top, dupioni wouldn't be my first material to choose from (more like brocade) but it's still nice.

Wings, stockings, hat

This is another accessories pattern, this time for a fairy. My first thought when I saw this was that I liked the organza skirt, however, it's not available in the pattern, bummer. I thought using a bustier for this photo shoot was an odd choice, it looks like a bra lol, like someone forgot to give the poor girl a top. The stockings are hideous. I don't get it. It's just some elastic trim carefully applied to some pantyhose, you could do this at home without needing a pattern, it truly feels like an afterthought. The pillbox hat is decent, I have seen better elsewhere, but this is the first of its kind in this series.  The wings are quite nice, but I'd be tempted to refashion the way it sits on the back, the exposed wire is rather home-made and unpleasant looking. It wraps around the shoulders and back around the waist. The selected material kind of works against it, if you view it from the side like here, it loses definition. Maybe organza would have been better? Overall it's an okay pattern, you'd really be buying it for the construction of the wings.

Bouquet de Fleur
Corseted top, apron, skirt and panniers

This is a really intricate pattern from J. Hart Designs. It's rated Advanced and we can easily see why. I love the choice of materials in this pattern as well as the trim and embellishments. Lolita girls I believe would adore this ensemble, although it might be a bit short and sexy for their liking. The top is made separate from the skirt, which is cool because you could just use it on its own. The overskirt and apron are attached as one, and the panniers made separately. This outfit is well constructed, it has boning in both the top and the panniers. Perfect for a Marie Antoinette costume, Queen of Hearts, exaggerated period costumery or Lolita. Well worth the money!

Vest, detachable hood and tunic

Ummm, another viking man costume? I'll assume it's inspired by Vikings, or GOT. Something I don't watch. This pattern features a vest with detachable hood and tunic. I'm surprised those boot covers didn't make their way in? They look easy enough, just some fur leg warmers wrapped and tied on, but still, easy enough to include? I guess I'm nit-picking, I tend to want an entire outfit when I buy a pattern, but I don't know the rules at McCall's, maybe that would've been slightly over budget? The vest has a lot of trim and embellishment. I'm not a fan with how open it is in the front, it doesn't have a smooth transition to the tunic and it feels bulky. It's just too wide and blocky, the small princess cap sleeves add to the weirdness of this design, and the choice of blue suede makes him look more like a gnome and not a badass viking warrior. My thoughts: ditch the damn cap sleeves, go sleeveless but keep the trim, make it in a more appealing colour, and redraft the contrast front to flow with the curve of the chest with a steeper angle as it opens outwards. The contrast also appears to cut too highly, in terms of practicality a warrior would probably want his belly protected and kept warm, I feel like it should be at least four inches longer. Overall it has potential, it just needs refining.


It's nice to see such a variety here. I know that men don't make up a huge percentage of home sewists but I'm always pleased to see men's costumery. I know I would love to make something for my husband and I can easily see myself using an amalgamation of all the Viking/fantasy warrior patterns I now have in my stash. I loved to see J. Hart Designs ensemble and I'm curious to see if they release any other collaborations with this designer in the future.

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, 5 August 2017

New McCall's Cosplay Patterns for Late Summer

New Cosplay Patterns!

McCall's has released three more women's costume patterns for your enjoyment; a women's harem style gypsy girl in BEDLAH BEAUTY, a sexy armored warrior in POWER BRACE, and unique headdresses for the mysterious evil villainess in HORNERY.

Bolero, Top, Belt and Skirt

I like that this gypsy costume features a whole lot of embellishment and texture. While I'm down with a cage bra I don't think it fits this ensemble, it's a little too contemporary to make sense here. The slouching midriff cut top has a 70's boho vibe to it, and the layered skirt comes across as very successful with it's mixture of textured fabrics, however, I imagine with that much velvet has some weight to it, which might not me the most practical choice for a character that dances.

Halter Top, Overskirt, Leg and Arm Armor

This makes me think of Mortal Kombat, although I don't know how comfortable you would be fighting in a full length underbust. The underbust comes in two sizes attached to a fabric halter bikini top. The overskirt fits over purchased shorts. The arm armor consists of two bands each with snap closures. The two leg armor accessories have corseted backs which look sexy as hell but I imagine are a bitch to put on. This one is designed by Seattle Cosplay. I like the aesthetic, the execution could stand some refinement.


Now serving Power Ranger realness, if you're looking to emulate the villainess, Rita, this pattern could be right up your alley! Pattern features two different styles of headdress and one cap with organza dreads! Let's get real here, I'm not feeling Look A, it looks like a hot mess, especially from the back with the sloppy hand stitching and the tubes going every which way. I'm sure it looked good on paper but execution wise it looks like a busted robot costume. I would appreciate it more without the weird silver ram's horns and dangly earrings. It's overkill. I'm also not a fan of the unicorn dreads which look too arts and craftsy for my tastes. However, I am interested in the handcrafted vinyl horns, they have a fetish ball feel to them and if handled by an adequate craftsman they could look pretty sick.


Not a bad set, nothing stands out as a clear favorite of mine, maybe some of the accessories in POWER BRACE. Overall it's interesting and definitely different than what we've seen before which is always welcome.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, 3 July 2017

Simplicity Does Lolita *AGAIN!*

Simplicity 8444 and 8443

It's true, you're not seeing things, Simplicity has yet again released two Lolita patterns. They get better every time they try Lolita, which I find very encouraging. These two patterns are adorable and well made. The fit, the finesse, when did they get so damn good? I mean, look at the preceding patterns, they've come a long way:


The model looks like a Lolita girl. Her makeup is right, her hair isn't a glaringly obvious wig, she's young and doll like. But can we get a hell yes to them using the right kind of printed fabric?! She looks like she stepped out of a Baby, The Stars Shine Bright catalog. My head is spinning!

Simplicity 8444

Let's get one thing out of the way, they made a boo boo, they refer to this as a Cosplay costume and yes, despite having placed the rather ugly Simplicity 8233 in their apparel category, they are yet again selling Lolita clothing as "costumery". That's a damn shame. This pattern features a number of items: a blouse with mandarin collar with corset fastening in back, in long sleeve or short; a ruffled underskirt; a jumper with over-skirt or a jumper with a full skirt, both with elastic shirring in the back, can be made with bows or lace and corset detailing. You get a healthy amount of quality designed pieces in this pattern, it is well worth the money. In fact, despite not being into Lolita, I'm probably going to buy this pattern at some point.

Simplicity 8443

Like the previous pattern, this Lolita pattern also provides you with a variety of designs. Two bonnets, three head-dresses (hair bands), two purses and three medallions. They look cute, well constructed and are in keeping with the Sweet Lolita aesthetic. 


Please gods, let this mean they're willing to try more alt fashion designs in the future, and to push themselves to the point of getting it right

What are your thoughts?


Cosplay by McCall's BlacMagic and Mysstic

Halloween in July?!

Why not? And with these fantastic costume designs you can channel your inner witchy woman! Let's have a look at what McCall's has brought out for the summer. 

Off the shoulder dress with lacing

This is so Morticia Addams. I thought the peekaboo cut out on the side would be nude but it has a modesty panel insert, which I think most people would appreciate. I like how it has an iridescent sheen to it. I'm not so keen on the fit of the neckline, it looks as though it's slipping down on her. Without having the instruction manual I can only guess at how it's been constructed, but if it does in fact lack adequate structure to hold it upright there's a trick that I learned from my 1960's sewing book to remedy this fit issue - you sew elastic into a catch-stitched channel at the sleeve opening. A great technique for any bateau/off the shoulder neckline. I like this piece, especially with the train, although I must caution that it's not great for parties, one misstep from your dance partner and rriiiiip!

Hooded coat and belt

This is an unusual shape and I like it for that reason, it's very different from any other cloak pattern I've seen from the major pattern companies. The pattern is recommended for use with crushed velvet, you can't get more Goth than that. It has almost a phantom like quality to it, especially with the looseness of the hood and the wide bell sleeves. I could certainly see this with a pair of skin tight faux leather leggings and witchy boots, or a raggedy long fishtail skirt.


Overall these are two rather glamorous costume patterns. They're simplistic in design yet impactful. 

What are your thoughts?


Monday, 12 June 2017

Cosplay By McCall's Hand-Eye Coordination, Foot Fetish: Gilded, Becoming Émelie

New Summer Releases 

I've been following the Cosplay by McCall's social media accounts intermittently. One of the trends that I've noticed in their followers' comments is the demand for accessories. This is something that rarely comes up in costume pattern collections, but handcrafting accessories is quite popular within the Cosplay scene itself. Accessories can be anything from handbags, gauntlets, wings, armor and weaponry. I'm pleased to announce that the brand has released three new accessory patterns. These will likely only appeal to those with feminine aesthetics but it's still worth mentioning. I'm going to do a reading on all three patterns together as there's not much to comment on individually, they're pretty straight forward.

Hand Eye Coordination - Eye Patches, Bracers, Gloves and Claws - M2095
Foot Fetish: Gilded - Boot Covers - M2097
Becoming Émelie - Hat, Flowers, Bag, and Capelet M2098

The first pattern is Hand Eye Coordination ...I don't know who names these things but what a mouthful. The pattern contains three different eye patch designs, gloves in two lengths, two bracers and claws. The claw bracer things are freaking cool. It was a solid choice to advertise them on the cover of the envelope. Immediately I was like, "Yeah, I wanna be a lady dragon!" Rad. The other stuff? Ennnh. I like the Steampunk eye patch with the buckle ...minus the weird jewel bit. But the other ones confuse the crap out of me. They're so over-embellished and over thought, it's difficult to tell what's going on to the point that you're questioning whether or not it really is an eye patch! The one with the ruffling and the dangly bits and the embroidered eyebrow (that's what I'm assuming it is) with the blanket stitch... it critiques itself. There are no words.

The second pattern is Foot Fetish: Gilded. Spats, who doesn't love 'em? But I have to admit the cover photo leaves a little to be desired. They look like Gladiator boots? Or at least someone's attempt at Gladiator boots without a reference photo. The other two designs are far more successful, the first looks like cardboard and doesn't sit flush with the boot. I personally like look A, the dainty gold covers, they're simplistic but impactful. I think they'd look really cute with a Marie Antoinette costume. Look B features ruched material and beaded trim with a corseted back. It's not a bad pattern, it's kind of cute.

Becoming Émelie, I'm sure Loilta fans would be quick to point out any flaws with this pattern, but as usual I'm appreciative of the attempt. It's good to see this sub-style getting attention. This pattern features the classic bonnet, a capelet and handbag with instructions for fabric flower embellishments. The flower embellishments look a tad gaudy and not well made, you can find better diy tutorials online. The capelet is quite adorable and the bonnet is well made. It's a shame the lace gloves in the promo photo aren't included. I'm excited to use the purse pattern because I want to make a knock off of this Banned Apparel bag. I feel like this is a fairly successful accessories pattern


It'd be interesting to see them tackle some more unisex, masculine designs, especially weaponry. A basic gun or sword pattern that could be adapted for various characters might be a neat idea, and I hope that they consider it for the future. These patterns did not disappoint, it's nice to have more accessory options when creating any kind of costume, especially things like boot covers because I can never justify purchasing costume boots.

What are your thoughts?


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

McCall's Women's Cosplay Patterns Eventide, Red Reign and Cloak: Phantasy

New Cosplay Patterns!

I think it's been awhile since we've seen a batch of three patterns released at once and I'm always excited for that because the more the merrier! Today I'm look at three new women's costume patterns from Cosplay by McCall's, Eventide, Red Reign and Cloak: Phantasy. Let's look 'em over!
Shawl Collar Jackets

In this pattern we're presented with one long and one waist cut shawl collared jacket. They're essentially the same jacket just modified for the shorter look in version 2 (right), which also features bell sleeves. I think it's painfully obvious that version 1 is the far more successful design. I dislike the shawl's reminiscent of some weird 80's high fashion that maybe Prince would've worn, but I guess it'd be cool if you're channeling your inner Ruby Rhod. The fit is off and I think it's exacerbated by the satin bell sleeves in version 2, while it looks more natural in version 1 probably because the material has more structure. You can see in version 2 there are diagonal wrinkles extending across the torso from the underarm area toward the apex of the bust, this is a fit issue, it means there is an excessive amount of material in this region and it would have to be pinned out. Switching between versions 1 and 2 there really is no apparent difference in the construction in this area, it seems that the material is working against it in version 2. In version 1, it's possible that the length of the garment is ironing those wrinkles out by weighing it downward, I also think the tabs on the waist help disguise these fit issues. Overall, I'm tempted to try version 1 but if I do, I'll be redesigning the collar and investigating fit issues in the bust and armscye.
Red Reign
Bolero Jacket, Corset, Skirt and Hoop
So the more that I'm exposed to her work, the more I realize that I don't like it. Ichigo Black and I do not meet minds aesthetically. Her first releases with the brand (Belle Noir and Belle Rogue) were promising but now I feel like she's regurgitating the same design elements only they're coming out far worse than before. The corset is the only successful piece in this pattern. The overskirt is fine if combined with a normal skirt. We all know that I loathe the exposed hoop skirt trend, I get that it's popular but I can't see how...It's not high fashion to me, it just looks like she's wearing scaffolding. As strange as it is to admit it's not the worst element in this pattern, the bolero is. The asymmetry on this piece is not successful. The eye has difficulty following the flow from right to left. The left shoulder appears deflated, and the sleeve is costumey and not in the cool way but the "I got it at Walmart on clearance" kind of way. The collar sits a tad high and the bolero itself lacks structure, but the worst offender is that back appliqué. I had to look at the diagram to understand just what is going on here.
Firstly, there are no back darts. This piece is in desperate need of shaping and back darts would eliminate that boxy effect you're seeing in the photo on the right. It's corseted but it's not functional. I normally don't find this problematic but I'm befuddled by the fact that they chose to place a lace insert underneath the faux corset closure, it confuses the eye and takes away from the detail of the corset back, which begs the question why have it there at all? Why not place the red fabric underneath it or leave it nude to add contrast? I don't get it. And to add to that, the ensemble has a corset underneath it, so why have a corset on top of a corset? And let's get to the most excruciating part, the bat appliqué. I only saw the front of this costume when I received the promo photos and I had that meh feeling about it, but to see the back...just, wow. It's pretty hideous. It doesn't flow with the contours of the shoulders and it looks super home made. It's like if you were eleven years old and wanted to be goth but couldn't figure out where to start so you glued some half-assedly cut out bat wings on to the back of your hoodie. Don't shake your head, you've been there.
Cloak: Phantasy

It's not printed on the envelope but according to the website this is is another Ichigo Black design, thankfully it's not as atrocious as that last piece but this one lacks oomph. I'm not sure if this designer is getting burnt out or what. Her designs have always lacked adequate construction and often times the details are sloppy or confusing. It's really hit or miss. :/ In this pattern there are two capes, one asymmetrical long cape and one shorter cape with a keyhole style draped back. The shorter version, version 1, looks decent on the front with a high collar that has hook and eye closures. The back has a rhinestone detail and embroidered appliqué but it's a little underwhelming and looks slapped on there. The drape on the lower portion of the cape is alright but there's something weird about the way it sits in the capelet. I don't know if it's been tucked, picked up or ruched, the diagram implies ruching. Perhaps this wasn't the most successful technique to employ for this design. The asymmetrical cape is cut well, I can't get a good look at the collar, it's difficult to tell if it's set correctly. The epaulet with the chains could look good with some tweaking. I dislike the bib. It's weird. Not a top, a bib, like half of an apron. I think it attaches to the cape itself? It would've been best to leave it out altogether because it's doing nothing for this pattern. It's also disappointing to see that the designer has yet again resorted to using a faux corset closure. Surely she's had enough of these things? Looking at historical clothing catalogs, I can see that exposed corsets weren't as commonplace as some people assume, it was mostly in their lingerie, instead their clothing had buttons. Whatever happened to buttons? You can do some cool shit with buttons.


I like the jacket pattern well enough and the cape pattern has its place, clearly I hate Red Reign and I'm not about to recommend it to my friends. It's always interesting to see what the new batch of patterns will be, like a Kinder Surprise Egg, sometimes you get the cool toy and sometimes you get that thing that looks weird and you have no idea what the hell it's used for so you give it to your sibling. What will the future hold? I'm always excited to find out. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Cosplay by McCall's Abigail & Hat Madders

Women's Fantasy Costumes

Another pair of patterns are emerging on Cosplay by McCall's website - unfortunately the website is currently down (?) but you can see them in all their glory once it's fully operational again. For now you'll have to settle for a sneek peak.

Misses' Dress

This is another pattern designed in partnership with Anachronism in Action. It features a fully lined vest and decorative trim on the seam lines and skirt. The package also comes with instructions and pattern pieces for a petticoat and a bum roll (don't laugh! that's the correct terminology, it's like a bustle but smaller and looks like a sausage wrapped around your waist), it also provides tips on underlining which is often a technique used in formal wear to add structure to a garment and stabilize fussy materials. I can only read this through the eyes of a non-conformist who doesn't have cable - I can't speak to it's popular culture origins, instead I can interpret it solely as a costume. It's nice. I like the vest, the gussets are a cool touch. I wish I could see the back of it or the sketch diagram to see what details I'm missing out on as it's difficult to critique it without the nitty gritty details. The fit looks acceptable and the construction is good. Overall, it's a pretty feminine ensemble and I could see this popping up at Renaissance fairs across the country.

Hat Madders
Costume Accessories

This is difficult to do a cold read on. The description I am provided with: "Pattern includes a unique Top and Bow Tie for any fractured fairy tale or mashup you construct. Also included is a headdress for your inner unicorn and a choker and cuffs to complete any steampunk or fantasy cosplay." We're only seeing half of this pattern by the sounds of it, I'd like to know what the headdress, choker and cuffs might look like but for now all we can go off of is the bow tie and hat on the cover of the envelope. The bow tie is...what can I say? It's a bow tie. It doesn't fail to convey it's bow-y-ness. The hat. looks. busted. I am not a fan of exposed cage anything, I know that it's been a popular trend among Steampunk enthusiasts and has appeared in many specialty alt shops as a skirt with bustle. I just view it as awkward and an inconvenience, and in this case rather unfinished. The whole thing looks unfinished. Surely Ichigo Black has done better than this before but this is...not her shining moment. The brim is buckling and flopping in a weird way, likely due to the selected materials. The skeletal framework of the crown is relatively well executed but it fails to impress me as it looks like a tomato cage perched atop the models head, swaddled by a scrap of duponi, or maybe it's taffeta? Regardless, the hat band is busted. And the name of this pattern? It's as though McCall's themselves weren't even taking it seriously. This is a missed opportunity. Folks, creativity madders, and I have seen many a comment on the Cosplay by McCall's blog begging for armor and fantasy style accessories. I can only hope the other half of the accessories contained in this pattern make up for the shoddy hat design, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. 


The headdress, choker and cuffs seen here are way nicer than the Mad Hatter cage hat, I'm not sure why they didn't make it on to the cover. You can also see in the photo above that the hat continues to look less than ideal from more than one angle. I just don't understand why the hatter accessories took center stage, I'd much rather see the unicorn. Maybe it's because it doesn't require as much sewing?? The unicorn accessories are nothing ground breaking, just some super embellished cuffs and a headband, but they look good and I can see Lolita fans wearing them.


I'm underwhelmed by the accessories pattern but only being able to see 50% of the contents makes this review unfairly skewed. That being said, I can't see any one buying the pattern for the bow tie alone! I know that it's a part of the branding to have a big glossy high fashion promo photo on the cover of each envelope, but when it comes to multiple looks or styles (in this case accessories) it could be beneficial to feature all of them on the cover, perhaps using two or more models interacting with each other so that all options can be viewed (the way it was done on the patterns Shapeshifter and Laced). I just feel like if I were presented with this picture in a catalog I'd skim right past it, expecting that the hat and bow tie is all that's inside the pattern.

I'm always curious to see the future of Cosplay by McCall's and I'd like to see more prop building and armor crafting in the works, but perhaps they didn't have as much success with their initial attempt, Flight.

What are your thoughts? If any of you are cosplayers, what would you like to see?


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Gothic Green Thumb: Growing a Goth Garden in Containers

Growing Flowers in Containers

What would apartment or condo dwellers do without potted plants? I have been successfully growing flowers in containers for a few years. Don't get me wrong, I'd love an in ground garden but right now that's not a possibility for me. There are times when an all container garden is better than an in ground one; the major benefit to a container garden is that it's easier to control the soil but the downside is that only certain flowers and plants will do well when grown in containers. Unlike a permanent in ground garden, you can move your containers around to change the look of your yard or deck. This is especially helpful if your plants haven't been getting enough sun, you can pick them up and move them into the sunlight.

 Here are some of my tips for gardening in containers:
  • Get a good potting soil. It usually has a mixture of soil, perlite or vermiculite, and peat moss. It's formulated to allow for proper drainage and nutrient retention. Not product plugging here but I use Miracle Grow Potting Soil or a mixture of it and an all purpose soil for my larger containers. I don't recommend all purpose on its own, it's too dense and lacks the qualities of a good potting soil. When I first started gardening I made the mistake of using purely all purpose soil and it compacted, killing my plants. Potting soil should have a light and fluffy texture to it. If you have something thick and sludgy it won't work well and likely won't drain properly. Also, I have to mention that knowing the PH levels in your soil is important for growing certain plants. If you want to grow a flower that requires more acidity you will have to look for a potting soil with that quality. There are often PH testing kits available but these are generally used for in ground gardens, with container gardening you have the benefit of purchasing soil that has the components/PH levels that you already need.
  • You don't have to use just annuals, I grow many perennials in my planters too.
  • Choose plants that can live together! Some plants are prone to choking others out. I once planted some morning glories in with my petunias. Big mistake! They choked the petunias to death. Likewise, petunias are prone to getting leggy; last year I had them in my planter box and they became horrid sprawled out things that killed off my pansies.
  • Similar to above, don't overdo it with your planting. Flowers need room to grow and the ones you buy at the garden center are often not at their full size. Each individual flower will have different spatial requirements and these can and do change when planted in containers. Sometimes the information will be present on the flower tag, other times you will have to look it up online.
  • Don't plant too little, either. My flower boxes looked way too skimpy a few years ago. I suggest using a filler, or what's called "groundcover", for the empty in between spaces. I might use something small and bushy like alyssum to go in with my pansies and snap dragons.
  • Some flowers will require shade where others need full sun, don't mix the two together. 
  • Don't assume that rain will give your plants enough water. Some people may believe this because they're planting in small pots and not great big gardens, but the truth is is that rainwater might not be sufficient enough. Unless you had a significant amount of rainfall, you should always check and make sure that your plants are watered enough. You also want to avoid over watering which will encourage root rot and kill the plant. All you need to do is stick your finger into the soil and if it's more than an inch dry you'll need to water your plant(s). If you find that your plants get dry too quickly they may have become root bound, this is when roots exceed the soil to root ratio and take over the pot, you would need to transplant the flower or flowers into a larger container.
  • Remember to fertilize; what kind of fertilizer and how much or often depends on the plant's individual needs.
  • If you purchase a larger container you don't need to fill it all with soil, you can insert floral foam into the bottom to reduce space (unless you need that extra space for roots for say maybe something like a small tree or shrub).

Photo from Dragonfly Garden Design & Build LTD

Selecting flowers for your garden

On your first visit to a garden center you'll likely be overwhelmed by the colorful array of flowers. You might be tempted to grab up as many "goth themed" flowers as possible but don't! If only planning your garden was that easy. As mentioned above there are different variables to factor in when choosing plants for your container garden. The most important thing is to understand the needs of each individual flower/plant. Consider the following:
  • What climate does it require? * Look for information about Plant Hardiness Zones, this is especially important when purchasing online. My government offers a full scale map that details what zone I'm living in and I use that as a guide for successfully choosing the appropriate flowers. I live in roughly a Zone 6 so anything above 7 is pushing my luck!
  • Does it thrive in full sun, partial, or shade?
  • How much space does it require?
  • How tall does it get?
  • Does it have any specific soil or care requirements?
  • Can it be planted with just about anything or does it do better with only specific plants?
Arm yourself with this knowledge and you can begin planning your container garden. Start by visiting your local garden centers. If you're lucky your garden center will group flowers by their sun requirements, full sun, partial or shade. I once visited a garden center that had created a condo friendly section where they carried potted flowers and shrubs, it was great! If your garden center isn't so organized you might want to ask a clerk for assistance. Compile a list of possible flowers and return home to research which ones can be planted together without issue, and which, if any, require special care.

Check out BHG's Plant Encyclopedia. I used this when I was trying to determine which annuals to look for and what would suit my gardening needs. The entries are very detailed and will often note what works well in containers. You can filter search results based on size, season and colour. The encyclopedia also offers detailed plans for creating cottage style gardens, gardens that could attract butterflies, red themed gardens and so much more. Have a look!

I hesitate to tell anyone to jump head first into gardening with colour as the primary focus. Colour is paramount but shape, smell and purpose can also be equally as significant within the garden. Consider height and space requirements first and foremost, then your zone, and then your colour scheme. If you want to prioritize using plants that are purposeful, like adding herbs or flowers that you can utilize, or you want to attract butterflies or birds to your garden, you might have to adjust your colour scheme accordingly. Amass a list of possible flowers and then you can choose which colours suit your taste.

Start a Book!

Notebooks may seem obsolete with today's technology but I personally find them to be quite beneficial provided that they're well organized. I try to keep my books divvied up; one for sewing notes, one for story notes, and one for housekeeping/gardening and all around home improvement notes. My home and garden book will contain information on perennials, annuals, herbs and soon to be deck measurements and planter building plans. I want to be able to pull this thing off the shelf and look up whatever I need to, like did I need a certain drill bit? Do these flowers go with those flowers? Who carried it for what price? Sure, I could record all of these details onto my phone but I find it's getting too cluttered with my writing and art inspiration notes! I don't need gardening notes all the time, it just takes up valuable phone space in my eyes, so why not fill my ordinarily skimpy looking bookshelf with books? It's sad to think that bookshelves will become obsolete someday...

So what will you put in your book? Whatever you like! But you can take some inspiration from mine. Try creating detailed entries about your favorite flowers. Ask questions like "in which seasons do they bloom? what soil type do they prefer? what are their uses or benefits?" You may choose to group flowers by colour or theme. Treat it like your own personal gardening encyclopedia! You can also use your book as a gardening journal to catalog your triumphs and failures and document gardening techniques that you found were most successful.

A few flowers to consider

(From top left to bottom right)
1. Ajuga
2. Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper
3. Plum Coleus
4. Halloween Pansies
5. Shadow Cat Dahlia
6. Black Petunias
7. Blackberry Heart Sweet Potato Vine
8. Tuberous Red Begonias
9. Joseph's Coat

What about roses?

You may know about the Black Baccara, the darkest and gothiest of roses. I would love to add it to my garden someday but not all roses are container friendly. Through my own stupidity I have purchased three climbing roses which are not meant to be grown in containers. As their title implies they are destined to climb and therefore should be planted in ground by a fence or arbor. Hence why we are forced to create a planter specifically for these roses. I think it's acceptable to start climbing roses in pots but they should make it into the ground by the following year. Now, I'm not saying that you can't grow roses in containers, it's just that many of the fancier varieties of rose will not be available to you. Miniature roses are usually the best choice. They're cheaper and easier to come across. Finding container friendly roses in your garden centers might not be easy. When I was shopping I saw few varieties. You may need to buy online. This site has a great list of roses that can be grown in containers, plus descriptions of the different colours.


The gardening experience can seem overwhelming but can also be a great deal of fun, don't be too intimated to try it. The great thing with container gardens is that you can start small and build your way up.


Friday, 24 March 2017

Gothic Green Thumb: Spring Garden Planning

Hooray for Spring!

Spring is upon us! And as I patiently wait for flowers to break soil I'm reminded that winter can have it's last say any day now. The weather has been a roller coaster, guiding us through warm bursts of sunny spring days and then punishing us with blasts of frigid arctic air. This has been one of our mildest winters to date and I don't think anybody complained (except maybe skiing enthusiasts). It's been torturous waiting for the weather to stabilize. We're finally entering double digits, today could reach a high of 20°C! I'm definitely going to get out and enjoy it, even if I am sick. XP Our low temps are just above freezing but I'm hesitant to bring out the rose bushes just yet.

I'm in the early stages of my garden planning. Last year, I would've already had my seedlings germinating (and if you're an avid gardener you probably started germinating in February), but this year I decided against it. You might recall that I had a very difficult time raising dahlias, they all succumbed to some kind of disease. I decided that they no longer fit our garden requirements and that I wouldn't bother with planting them this year. Last year I chose to plant perennials. This kind of flower lives for maybe two years at best, if its roots can survive the winter frost, and since most flower boxes get waterlogged - including ours - I don't expect to see last year's petunias or snapdragons re-emerging in my container garden. I knew they wouldn't last which played a role in my decision to purchase them. When we moved into our condo it was winter, so we had no idea whether or not our deck would get full or partial sunlight, or none at all! It's important to know these kind of things because each plant has specific needs. Some plants are more successful in shaded gardens while others require full sunlight to thrive. I'm still not 100% of exactly how many hours of sunlight our deck receives but it's enough to sustain partial sunlight plants.

Since I used mostly perennials my deck is practically void of any vegetative life! The only thing straggling behind are the icicle pansies which can live through winter, and my chocolate mint - no, not chocolate as in yummy, chocolate as in brown! There's also the Fuji shrub and the climbing roses that I housed indoors. I'm very excited to see the Fuji in bloom and it's already sprouted leaf buds. The roses can't be brought out until we're sure that the frost has buggered off, but more importantly we've decided that this year we'll build them their own personal planter box, complete with trellis and hanging candle holders. 
That is if we end up actually building the box! Unfortunately it's too early in the season to see what shops have to offer. It'll be a few more weeks before all the garden stores have their inventory out. I'm finding most of the containers/boxes available are too small and far too expensive for our needs. Raised gardens are insanely popular and they've been clogging up many a Pinterest feed for some time. There are a handful of DIY videos that explain how to build one from scratch, and it's looking like this might be the path to take. Most pre-made raised boxes have been too small and too deep for our needs. I'm working with an itsy bitsy deck and as you can see from my garden plan above it's cramped. The blue planter is the rose planter we're thinking of building. It'll be about 4 ½ feet in length. Depth is being debated but I'm thinking a little over 2 feet. We're contemplating building the trellis. Can you believe that the kind of trellis we like could cost us up to $300 pre-made?! I figure it's gotta be cheaper to do it ourselves. I don't want to buy the cheap traditional trellis most stores carry because it tends to come apart over time and it would block out the afternoon light that the roses rely on. I want the box to look more like this (on the right) only not as long and probably not as deep.

Pre-made this kind of planter box could cost anywhere from $700-$1200. That's a lot. Ours probably won't look as polished with the finials and all that shit, we want it to be basic and a lot cheaper. I'm going to paint it a beautiful turquoise colour to accent the roses, which are Climbing Joseph's Coat and Westerland roses. It'll be a tight fit so I probably won't add anything else to the box. I'd really love to be able to screw wrought iron hangers into the trellis frame and hang light weight candle holders from them. I'm torn between doing a shabby chic style with mason jars and sand, or maybe purchasing some Moroccan inspired candle holders with coloured glass. I found that I keep gravitating towards bright and fun colours which was not my original plan. I truly thought my garden would be more pastel, shabby chic Goth, with white, pink and black flowers. This year I think I'm just going to go with this instinctive need for colour and go balls to the wall tropical! We've got some funky orange outdoor fabric that I stashed and I'd like to incorporate that this year in the patio furniture linens. 

My ultimate goal this year is to maximize space and minimize containers! I had so many damn containers last year I didn't know what to think. We couldn't hang anything up and unfortunately all the over-the-rail style planters didn't fit our railings. So everything just piled up on the deck - ugh! It look sloppy, for sure. In the plan you can see in the bottom right corner there's a large container with flowers. This could change to a slimmer, two tiered planter, to reduce even more space. I like symmetry, so I might purchase a duplicate to the Fuji's container and do it as the plan suggests, it's just a very big container, but if I'm putting all my flowers into it kinda has to be! I'm planning on mixing in my mint and maybe some of my herbs into this planter, but I want to be careful not to put anything acrid smelling in there; that means that the garlic and green onions should be planted elsewhere. I should note that if you ever wish to use mint as a filler it has to be planted inside its own separate container, like the one it came in, otherwise it'll spread like wildfire! It also needs to be pruned often, but it smells AWESOME! 

This year I need to establish some rules for adding flowers to the garden. I'm thinking about bringing back pansies. I want to plant them around the outer rim of the container, and I do want to use snapdragons again because they're easy to grow, however, I need to put them behind the pansies. This is something I neglected to do last year and it was a huge mistake! Snapdragons and petunias should behave as "backdrops" for smaller flowers like pansies, otherwise they choke them out. I'm going to buy black pansies again and hopefully orange and hot pink snapdragons for the center of the container, then fill the remaining space with herbs and hopefully something that flowers every season. The colours need to match this year, as last year it was a bizarre hodge podge of madness! I want black, orange and hot pink. I think it will really pop with the orange and blue patio decor.

Last year's container garden madness!
It's difficult planning a garden on a small condo deck. There are so many rules, such limited space, but I don't want that to ruin the gardening experience for me. It's my hope that soon I'll have a lovely outdoor space to enjoy minus the backyard!

Do you have any gardening plans for this year?


Monday, 20 March 2017

Simplicity - New Batch of Alt Patterns

Rockabilly, Boho Goth and Steampunk

I haven't been paying too much attention to Simplicity's new releases and unfortunately it allowed a few new alternative fashion patterns to slip past my radar! It appears they've added a few new Steampunk accessory patterns, a Rockabilly pattern and a Boho Goth ensemble. Let's check them out!

Misses' Knit Tops, Cropped Pants, Skirts

This is a really neat pattern. Although I feel like the Rockabilly scene isn't as strong as it once was, this is a nice attempt at recreating some of the classic pieces. I don't think it's something I'd ever use considering I have a vintage stash of over fifty items! (I purged a lot too) >.<  But I feel that this pattern would be beneficial for those who don't want to pay the hefty price tag for authentic vintage patterns. I should note that not all vintage patterns are too expensive, I bought a classic rockabilly summer dress pattern for only $10 CAD. It all depends on preference and luck I suppose. If you don't want to have to wait and search for that ideal wiggle skirt or halter pattern it is easier to buy it new. 

What I appreciate most about this pattern is what it offers for plus size girls. I sell vintage patterns in my shop and plus size patterns fly off my virtual shelves like hot cakes! They are hard to find. This pattern makes up for that scarcity and allows fans of vintage to get the style and the fit they've always wanted. I like these designs but they're far from accurate. These are "vintage style" because they lack the classic construction lines of the era. Case in point, there are no waist or bust darts to give the tops the iconic cone boob look, and they rarely used knit during the 50's (yet they did in the 40's - I think cotton allowed for a more constructed appearance in the 50's). All in all, it's probably a more comfortable and accessible pattern than it's vintage style counterparts.

On a random side note, I hope I get reincarnated as a plus size girl with an arse like that!

Misses' Lace Blouse and Skirt in Two Styles

Another one from Karen Fleisch of Arkivestry. It's weird that some of the Simplicity patterns are designed by Karen while others are labelled Arkivestry. It makes me wonder who has their hands in the design process when the Arkivestry brand is used and if Karen has dropped the label and it's been picked up by another designer?? I really wish I could tell Simplicity to buy some more versatile shoes for their promo shoots. I cannot count how many times I've looked at the pictures and thought "what were they thinking?!" Those heels with that dress? C'mon, put that bitch in sandals! 

I admit I like this better than her previous designs. I got what I asked for - more lace and a chance at chiffon. However, these designs suffer from what typifies all of Karen's work: they're terribly dated. The gored skirts sit too closely to the body and come across as matronly to me. The longer skirt is not floor length and that shit drives me bonkers. I get that that style was popular in the 70's, like bell bottoms, but in these days they need to hit the ground otherwise they look like you're preparing for a flood. I'm also not a fan of how high the top is cut, my eye wants it to drape down past the hips, like a tunic. The biggest hit against these designs is that you should not, under any circumstances, create a garment in chiffon or lace that has TOO MANY SEAMS. This is couture 101. They've tried to mask them by stitching lace trim over every seam but it comes across as clumsy and poorly made. You want sheer and lace materials to speak for themselves, seams should be subtle and not detract from the delicacy of the fabric.

I like the shape of the bell sleeves and the concept as a whole, I just wish it had been kicked up a notch, to meet contemporary design standards, because these silhouettes are far too matronly. I wish it looked like this.

Misses' Hats in Three Sizes

Look! View C is pretty much the hat that I requested in Simplicity 0666! With the exception of that icky looking bow, make that in some black felt and you've got your wide brimmed fedora. This is another Arkivestry design adding to Simplicity's ever growing appendage of Steampunk patterns. They mimic hats that I've seen on Pinterest, and while the construction of the crown leaves a little to be desired, these hats could be ramped up with the right amount of embellishment. I would like to see someone craft a fedora using this pattern but I admit that around here the thick felt required for such a project is quite costly and I'm better off buying one ready made.


Although I'm not blown away by much of this it is encouraging to see them continue to try navigating the world of alternative fashion. The most successful piece here is the rockabilly pattern. I'd like to see some vintage repro swimsuits come up, I know they released a vintage play-suit and bustier patterns but people felt they were too difficult to sew. Alt and goth fashion are still so unfamiliar to Simplicity. I don't think they understand the aesthetic and it's going to take some time and experimentation before they get a solid grasp of the style. Let's just hope they can see it through and not just give up entirely!

If you look through their new catalogue you can see many items that can be adapted for alt fashion uses, but things that are explicitly alt in style (like bondage clothing and body harnesses) have yet to make an appearance. What will the future hold?

As usual your thoughts are encouraged and welcomed in the comments below.


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