Review #2

A few years ago I downloaded a few patterns from hoping that it would be as convenient as I hoped it would be. It took me a long time to fiddle with the website and get my patterns printed out… in that time alone, I could have gone to the store, bought the pattern, and have been done with it. In truth, I had only entertained to get my “instant gratification” fix… and boy, was it NOT worth it. The whole operation is barely functional, and printing out the patterns is a nightmare. All of the patterns I bought was wasted money: I will never try and print them again. Consensus on the web seems to be a resounding: never use So here’s why I think you should opt for the paper patterns instead:

  • I keep my paper patterns filed in plastic, waterproof bins. I never cut them, only use them to trace copies from in all sizes. This way I can use them over, and over and over again, alter the patterns, etc. I will trace onto wax paper or freezer paper. (Freezer paper bonus: you can use it as an iron on stencil, and buy the rolls inexpensively in bulk online.)
  • If the paper patterns start getting icky, or if I got them secondhand and they are cut/crinkled/full of holes, I will iron them onto a lightweight or medium interfacing. Fixed! (I learned this the hard way: if you are ironing interfacing or anything onto something with holes… the adhesive will seep through to the ironing board and/or get on your iron. I have taken to using waxed paper to protect everything!)
  • If the paper patterns are beyond repair, I will iron them out flat to the best of my ability and then trace them onto brown Kraft/butcher paper to keep.

Pattern problem: solved.


I lost my super-awesome sewing-on-the-go kit. It had lots of good quality stuff – never buy those pre-packaged “sewing kits” they are crap!

  • The needle threader included with those pre-packaged kits are only good for one use. Then they will break. This is an official law of the universe. Invest in a good one.
  • Buy thimbles that are super comfortable for your style. Do not skip this – do not learn the hard way with an ER trip for a needle through your finger.
  • Retractable tape measure.
  • Embroidery snips.
  • Regular scissors.
  • Glass jar of safety pins.
  • Bobby pins.
  • Extra buttons, elastic, hook and loop fastener, etc.
  • White and black thread.
  • Varied hand needles.
  • Ergonomic seam ripper, a really nice one. (This is my best friend.)
  • Extra jewelry findings.

So I will cheer myself up with some reminders…

Arctica’s Sewing Rules of Acquisition

  • Never buy trim from the craft store. Always buy in bulk.
  • Never buy needles from the store – always, always buy in bulk. Change needles with every project.
  • Clean machines and oil at least every week. Always buy thread in bulk, the best you can afford. Buy compressed air to help keep machines free of debris.
  • Never buy fabric from retail chain stores. Buy local from fabric wholesalers or online in bulk. Buy in bulk when the price is good and build up a stash.
  • In fact, stay away from retail chain craft stores, and buy in bulk.
  • Sewing supplies can be bought very cheap and in very good quality from cleaners/tailors/dressmakers suppliers.

Something About Passion, Creativity & Purpose in Life

Peek into the brain of a forensic anthropologist… gone designer… something…

Even if you know me, you may not know about the driving force behind most of my actions. Throughout my life, I have had one obsession, pushing me through my actions and consequences. My obsession is death. It’s pushed me to pursue forensic anthropology, and in the same vein, the theater. I’ve become passionate about costume and fashion design. The two have a lot in common actually. Death is a beautiful design. There’s no reason for our evolution towards a peaceful death – but it is there. It is a gradual process which can take months to complete. Our bodies are wired to make the transition pleasant. Or even in unnatural death – there’s a fascinating, grotesque process of making the transition from living to dead. On the other side of the coin, life has it’s own strange, complex design which I am still trying to figure out. But the theater brings clarity to it. It’s a pure, untainted catalyst for human soul, emotion, and experience. It’s timeless; a pristine design. The costumes are not only costumes – they are a vehicle in their own right, able to capture your consciousness and transport it through the narrow window of theater. It focuses you. It moves you. Life is its own facade, a costume we wear until our show is over. What we wear says unspoken volumes about us. How confident we are, our worldview, our character. It’s a vehicle of focus that enables you to hone in on life’s design. The ironic part of our costume is that it is a constant cycle of reuse and recycling. Life is a process of reuse and recycling. The business of death is really a business of life. I would argue that they are really one and the same.

Isaac Mizrahi sums it up best: “Style makes you feel great because it takes your mind off the fact that you’re going to die.”

Backstage Costumer

I have learned the hard way that you always have to have certain items on hand backstage.

What is in my costume designer backstage kit:

  • Baby food jar with safety pins.
  • Band aids.
  • Triple antibiotic ointment. (Neosporin.)
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Baby wipes.
  • Bobby pins.
  • Hand sewing needles.
  • Thread in white and black.
  • Mechanical pencil.
  • Retractable sewing tape measure.
  • Pony tail bands.
  • Small scissors.
  • Extra buttons and stick-on hook and tape closures. (Velcro).
  • Duct tape.
  • Small LED flashlight.
Organizational skills ftw:
  • Binder with:
  • Sheets for male and female measurements for the actors. Always write in centimeters because they will look and they will give you all kinds of comments.
  • Lined paper for notes.
  • Blank paper for sketches.
  • Plastic sheet protectors for everything.
  • Fabric samples.
  • Costume research.
  • Budget worksheet, receipts, records.

Project Updates

Dog and I will be spending the day cleaning out my sewing area and just – cleaning up in general. It seems to be the week for cleaning – Ron’s been tackling his house, and I’m tackling my own (half) house.

Finally got some new Dr. Marten’s (1460)! They’re my favorite shoes. I also want to get some boots from their Diva collection, but that will have to wait until I have more monies. I thought that maybe my boot phase was just a phase – but it apparently turns out that it’s a part of my human soul. I felt incomplete without my Dr. Marten’s.

In unrelated news, my next month is going to be filled with standardized testing. I’m currently hunting around for some night classes to kick off my grad school experience. I’m also looking for any sort of vet tech class since I feel like I don’t have enough experience. (Which I don’t.) My boss is rotating me around the hospital to de-sanitize me from human-pharmacy and familiarize me with veterinary-pharmacy. I’m also glad because it’s a great break from all my personal outside-of-work drama, and it’ll give me a chance to breathe a little.

Finally got a digital camera (found my old one after 2 years) so I can take pictures of my actual projects… Which are now housed in the theater, but you can see them on the promotional stuff. The only new stuff in the works that I will actually be keeping is just a bunch of new renaissance gear and scrub pants. (I vastly overestimated my waist size on my current scrub pants, so they just fall off all day.) To be honest, I’ve been doing a lot of pattern drafting & redrafting – much more than actual sewing. My sewing stuff has been buried underneath the carnage of moving. Anyway, the newest thing on the table are just classes that I’m taking for sewing, drafting, and reproducing historical costumes.

However, I did gain a dog in the moving deal – so I consider it a good day. It’s forced me to throw out a bunch of extraneous junk, which has felt great. My possessions can now be boiled down to half sewing, half books, and a pinch of essentials. (Sadly? Awesomely?)

New Projects & Stuff

I love my new job. It’s awesome. Been keeping me busy, but it’s been awesome.

Anyway, the only thing I’ve been sewing lately is scrubs. Love my new job, but I’m still too “financially strapped” (poor) to buy any clothes, and that includes scrubs. It’s okay though, because I just made a ton of stuff including these awesome khaki pants, which was a blast and a half to work on. Nike (my brother’s doggy, black lab and german shepard mix) hung out with me every step of the way, offering happiness, and lots of fur. (Oh, shedding season…)

The Renaissance Faire opens this weekend, and it got me thinking about all the time I’ve wasted with commercial patterns from Simplicity, McCall’s, and Vogue. I truly believe that if you want to do something, don’t mess around with modern adaptations which are very often more complicated than it actually is. These patterns capture the spirit of the garment, but with modern fit. Actual historical patterns will look a lot better, will come together more smoothly, and offer a lot of technique and experience to learn. There are many pattern companies out there that offer historically accurate patterns. It’s tough to pick out the historically accurate ones from the historically inspired, but a great place to go (where I love to go!) is Lost Cost Historical Patterns. I had a great customer service experience there, and the owner dealt with me directly. These patterns are very often way more expensive, but I believe that they are a great investment – you don’t destroy them if you trace off of it, and you can have it forever. I guess I just believe in time honored, classic quality, rather than lost hours of bittered frustration over a cheap imitation. I also hit up the Great Pattern Review and Sewing Pattern Reviews, which is great, but I always take it with a grain of salt. Each review varies depending on the person’s knowledge of historical garments, level of skill at historical tailoring techniques, and overall skill level. My take on it is to just pick out what I like, have a go at it, and if it’s hard – it’s a welcomed learning experience. (If only I could apply this to other areas of my life.)

So, I’ve been a bit busy. I’m still adjusting my schedule to full-time, looking for school (I’m falling in love with McGill University in Montreal), organizing my sewing stuff, and cleaning out. I’m super excited about the sewing space. I set up my dad’s old’s printer with my computer, and my new thing is tree-free paper: The Bagasse sugar paper ream is $6.99, a competitive price with tree paper.  My favorite papers are from sugar cane, kenaf, and banana – you’d never it’s not made from trees. My other favorite is made from elephant poo, but it’s not refined enough to go through a printer. But it does make excellent stationary. I’m excited.

If you know how to work it, it works beautifully. If the planets don’t align just right – it’ll never work. Google Chrome would not work for me, and Firefox was touch and go. I had to use the latest Internet Explorer and reinstall the FileOpen plugin (from the official website, to get the latest version). After that, everything was peachy.

I don’t recommend using (I bought downloads from, but if you like fiddling with technology, and it’s what you want, then go for it. only lets you use one computer to print from, and the printing allowances are very limited. You need to print the actual size, and it takes maybe 30 minutes to cut and paste the pattern together once it’s done. All in all, I think it’s worth it for SOME things, since it’s instant patterns, and I can print as many copies as I want.

As for printing, I would only recommend using a regular laser printer. Because the printing permissions are so sparse, it may be difficult to adjust for plotters, etc.

For the files themselves – they often are corrupted, damaged, etc. is a gamble.

Donations for Africa

I am kindly looking for donations of:

  • Cotton flannel
  • Cotton fabric, any color or print
  • Terry cloth (towels)
  • Thin cotton batting

I will use these materials to sew them into reusable cloth menstrual pads to send to the Sister Hope Pad Project. (

If you want more patterns for reusable pads, or want to get together with me to have a pad sewing party, leave a comment and let me know!

Why? Women in Africa do not have access to disposable items on a regular basis. When the aid money runs out, the pads and tampons run out as well. Plus, there is no garbage disposal system, and there are many social taboos about coming into contact with another’s blood. It is simply not a long-term, sustainable solution. Women and girls miss one week a month of school and work: 52 weeks. Reusable menstrual pads last from 5-7 years, and prevent women from using clay or rolled up newspapers as tampons to avoid embarrassment, missed school, and lost income.

Or, if you want to support the company with money, you can buy a bag of coffee from them which funds a micro-loan program for African women entrepreneurs.

My other project on the sewing table is scrubs. By June 1st, I need to wear dark navy blue scrubs to work. However, the ones you buy in the store are not made out of quality, long-lasting material. I want to sew up a few pairs for myself by then out of a soft, breathable cotton for the summer. They also need to have lots of pockets, since I carry a lot of pens, notes, etc.

Ron suggested that I just draft the pattern myself, which I probably would do if I didn’t have a deadline. Besides, I think that it would also be a good thing to have a graded pattern (of which I put zero effort into making) in case anyone else needs some scrubs. It’s not that big of a time and effort commitment to sew together a good quality scrub top. Super easy, minimal effort. I’m thinking about going out to tonight to pick out some fabric, but that depends on tired I am.

I’m pretty beat today: I just moved back to my hometown from college. The alarm went off at 5 AM and it started a 4 hour marathon of packing the car, handing in the keys, and playing a lot of car-Tetris to get everything to fit. Granted, I threw out a lot of things, but I’ve always been a pack-rat so it actually felt good to shed the extra weight. Today I filled up two (biodegradable) lawn bags full of clothes to take to the local Red Cross, and I’m still going! I’m trying to look at the big picture here: more room to sew now, less stuff to pack later when I move to wherever.

Something a little more pressing on my plate is what I am going to do for insurance. I’m not too worried about it, since I’m finishing up some applications for certification programs and whatnot. The panic will only set in if I get rejected from absolutely everything I apply for – then that is cause for panic. But for now, I’m enjoying my scholastic freedom.

The Search for Treadle

In honor of Earth Day and my own interests for living in a sustainable manner, I have already decided that when the time comes, I’ll get a manual treadmill. (Hate walking outside in bad weather.) But what I really want is a treadle sewing machine.

Janome makes a treadle machine for the Amish community, as well as Necchi – or I might break down my old electronic machine and convert it to treadle. It was my first machine, has a few basic stitches, and we’ve had a lot of mileage and memories together.

However, I’ve been looking around and have had difficulty finding a treadle cabinet to mount the machine in. Many people have dismantled antique treadle cabinets to make stylish tables, or scavenge for parts. And sometimes brands are not interchangeable, unless you want to haul out the saw.

I can imagine that for the Amish community they might make their own cabinets to mount the machines in, but I’m no carpenter!

A great site, geared for the Amish community and specializing in powerless home appliances and other essential things is Lehmans. ( They sell composting toilets! Home butchering supplies! I’m in heaven! Now, I’m not a real country girl, but I am… something you can’t smack a label on I guess. But even I can get super excited about composting toilets.

And check out the books and articles, explaining how to make and build things yourself. Half of the stuff I’m not sure what in the world it’s for, but it’s for something useful. Like “Anyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker Book”. Uhm, what?

Macbeth Muslin Toile

I just finished the muslin toile for the Macbeth production the other week. Everything went exceptionally smooth. The front panels and back are pleated, and with the addition of side gores the gown flows and drapes well. The hood is large and oversized, and I managed to incorporate it pretty smoothly into the hood. Vicki had requested that it be made as all one piece. This weekend it is being fitted to Mary, the actress, and hopefully it will get Carmen’s approval. (the art director).