Monthly Archives: November 2011

Give the Gift…

Give the gift of a MNSOC Membership this Holiday Season!

Single Membership: $25  ♦  CYBER MONDAY SPECIAL – $12.50

Couples Membership: $40  ♦  CYBER MONDAY SPECIAL – $20.00

Student Membership: $15  ♦  CYBER MONDAY SPECIAL – $8.00

Click Here to Purchase a Membership


Give an early gift of tickets to the Steampunk Christmas Carol!

Cyber Monday Special

Buy one ticket get one half off!

Click Here to Purchase Tickets

All Cyber Monday Specials End at 11:59 p.m. 11/28/11


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What are you doing this Dec. 3rd? Come join us!

Come join MNSOC in celebrating the holidays, Steampunk style!

Event:  A Steampunk Christmas Carol/Fezziwig’s Party!
Date:  Dec. 3, 2011
Time:  6-10pm
Location:  The Outing Lodge

Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter’s night…  There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was toddy, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer… When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr and Mrs Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas.“

                                                -Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol.”

Hosts:  Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig request your presence at their annual Holiday Party!

Attire:  Your best Victorian, Steampunk, Lolita, Gothic, Air Pirate, etc. clothing is admired but not required.

Need some inspiration? We have a few previous blog posts to help you get inspired:

Food and Drink:  Hors d’ouevres, dessert and punch will be provided.  Other drinks available for purchase.

Activity:  Dancing will commence at 7pm with music from our Time Traveling DJ.  A Caricature Artist will be available to draw your likeness.  Mr. Fezziwig’s personal photographer Mr. Jim Jordan will be on hand to document the party, and is available for individual posed photos for a fee.  Mr. Fezziwig will be judging the Costume Contest at the end of the evening with his lovely wife, and the winner will receive a free ticket to the next event.  If the weather cooperates, we will also have sleigh rides!

Lodging:  Rooms at the Outing Lodge have all been booked for the night, but we have found other places in the area if you need some where to stay for the night.

  1. Water Street Inn
  2. AmericInn Lodge and Suites
  3. America’s Best Value Inn
  4. Stillwater Super 8
  5. Lexington Inn & Suites
  6. Crossings by GrandStay Inn & Suites
  7. Lowell Inn

Tickets:  Admission to this grand event is $35.00 for paid members of MNSOC and $40.00 for non-paid members of MNSOC.  You may purchase tickets here.


Directions to the Lodge from the Twin Cities Metro Area can be found here.

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Laura’s 21 Top Tips on Measuring

by Laura Ulak

Having the correct measurements can make fitting an outfit a successful or agonizing experience.  These are some of the things that I do and recommend to others.

  1. Always make sure the person to be measured is wearing the correct undergarments.  I cannot stress this enough.  If you are making a bridal outfit, something for cosplay, a historical outfit, whatever – if the person being measured is not wearing the correct undergarments, you will not get the correct measurements.  If you are making a French gown, do not measure the person in their Elizabethan corset.  It will not give you the same measurements.  If the person is wearing “an old bra” that day that does not give them the same amount of lift, you will not get the correct measurements.  And it is OK to request that the person return wearing the correct undergarments to be measured again.  Also – if the person being measured is a woman, ask them when they had their last bra fitting.  If it is over 6-9 months ago, recommend that they have one as soon as possible.
  2. Make sure the person being measured is wearing the correct footwear.  If you are making an outfit for someone who will be wearing 2 inch heels or large boots, make sure they are wearing those shoes.
  3. Request that the person being measured arrives in a fitted top and pants.  Loose layers and skirts do not allow you to see the shape of the person properly.
  4. Take a photo of the person you are measuring.  You might have measurements and notes after your measurement session, but it is useful to have a visual of the person that allows you to take into account their actual body shape.  It is helpful to take photos during each fitting as well.
  5. Make sure that the person understands that they must NOT look down while being measured.  This will change the measurement of any lengths you are measuring, such as waist to floor.  I find this most often with children, but adults need to be reminded just as frequently.
  6. Measure both sides of the body.  This means both arms, both shoulder to waist measurements, both arms, both waist to floor measurements, etc.  No person is built perfectly symmetrical, and often there is a difference in hip height, back curvature, or shoulder heights.
  7. If there is a significant difference in measurement from one side of the body to the other, you will need to made adjustments to the garment to compensate for this.  For uneven shoulders, often a shoulder pad on the lower shoulder can make up the difference.  For uneven hips, skirts or pants should always be marked for hemming on the body.  You may not notice a difference while the person is standing, but after having someone walk in pants for a minute or so the pants will settle into place and you might discover that one side needs to be shorter than the other.
  8. Stand back and look at the shape of the person to be measured.  Often you will discover that people have built up muscle on one shoulder near their neck.  Usually this is the shoulder women carry their purses on, or where men carry their laptop bags.  You need to note this in your measurements, as this can affect the way a neckline will lay on the body and how a collar might fit.  If fabric is pulling on one side, or the person says they can never get their necklines to fit properly, this is often the reason why.  If a woman complains that her bra straps slide off all the time, a sloping shoulder can be the culprit.
  9. Make sure when measuring someone that you measure at their natural waist, not at their belly button, and not the top of their pants.  The natural waist is where the body naturally bends in when a person bends from side to side.  It is often right underneath the bottom of the ribcage.  Most people don’t understand that their waist is much higher up than what they think is normal.  However, garments will not fit properly if they are not fitted to this measurement.
  10. Note whether the person is long-waisted or short-waisted.  Typically short-waisted people have their belly button much closer to their natural waist and have long legs.  Long waisted people have a much greater distance between their natural waist and their belly button and have shorter legs.  Knowing this for the person being measured can be the difference between having a properly fitting doublet and having a bare midriff.
  11. When asking someone their measurements via e-mail or phone, ask women for their full bust measurement.  Specify that it goes over the fullest part of the bust.  A bra measurement is not the same thing as a full bust measurement.  Especially since 8 out of 10 women are usually wearing the wrong size bra.
  12. Recognize that for women, not all breasts are built the same.  Note if the person’s bust wraps around their body more, or is mostly on the front of their body.  This can make a difference in how clothing fits under the arms, and can help you to alleviate the pull marks that you see on clothing on the side of the bust in bustier women.
  13. When measuring men, make sure to get a waist measurement under the belly, as well as over the belly if the gentleman is large waisted.  Most men are wearing pants that are sizes smaller than they think they are, even under the belly.  Clarify with the person where they are going to wear their pants – at waist level, or under the belly.  This will make a huge difference in the amount of fabric needed at the front of the pants.  If you make it for over the belly and they wear it under, there will be a lot of fabric bunching in front.
  14. When measuring the rise (from the natural waist in front, through the legs and to the natural waist in back), note where the inside side seams of the pants intersect with the rise measurement.  It is helpful to know the measurement from the waist in front to the intersection and from the waist in back to the intersection.  In someone with a larger behind, the back number will be larger.  In someone with extra girth in front, the front number will be larger.  Make sure to adjust your pattern accordingly to those numbers so that any pants you make will not ride up or down.
  15. Most teenagers are very self-conscious about their bodies and are jumpy about being measured.  I usually remind them that measurements are just numbers, and that prior to 100 years ago people had their own clothing made, and there were no such thing as dress sizes.  That no measurement is bad or wrong, it is just the way the person is made.  Be careful not to say things like, “You have very broad shoulders” or “That is quite a difference in shoulder heights” to teenagers.  They are already fairly body conscious, and this can make them more so.
  16. Children usually find being measured a fascinating experience, or if they are particularly small, they don’t really want to be bothered, as there are other more exciting things to do.  I usually turn this into a game and also measure things like the width of their ears, or their nose to the end of their fingers.  I also allow them to measure some part of me, such as my wrist, or my pinky length.  Children are very hesitant to have their rise or girth, (which is from one shoulder, through the legs, and back up to the same shoulder, and is often used for measurement in dancewear) measured because they don’t want anyone near their private parts.  I will say, “OK, this is the SILLIEST measurement ever.  Are you ready for the silliness?”  And this typically relaxes children who then agree that the idea of a rise measurement is indeed very silly.  If the child is very small, it helps to have another person hold the child in place to measure them.  If this is not going to work due to the squirm factor of small children, measure some clothing that you know fits the child well and hope for the best.
  17. Occasionally you may discover a discrepancy in measurements that is alarming (such as an inch or more difference in shoulder height.  If the person is an adult, you may want to mention that they have a larger than typical (never say normal) difference in a particular measurement and suggest that they might want to let their doctor/chiropractor know in the event that they have any back pain, etc.  If you find this in a child/teenager, particularly a child who has not yet been scanned for scoliosis, you will want to mention this to the parent, again by calling the measurement not “typical” and suggesting it might be worth looking into.  The most extreme case I saw was a girl who had an almost 2 inch difference in her shoulder heights and her parents had never noticed, even though she was almost 10.  Unless people are having something custom made, most people don’t notice the odd little idiocyncracies of their bodies, or those of their friends or family.
  18. Many adults are also self conscious about their bodies and their measurements.  I do not ever announce a measurement that I am taking out loud.  I also refrain from saying things like “That can’t be right!  That is much bigger/smaller than it should be.”  Always keep in mind that the person being measured is a person with their own particular body concerns.  Even if the person seems to be very positive about their body they will still have something they are not happy about, and it is your job to help them leave the measuring session feeling good – not bad about their body.
  19. Make sure your measuring tape is long enough.  A basic measuring tape is 60 inches long.  If you are measuring a plus size person, this tape may not be long enough, and there is nothing quite as embarrassing for a person being measured as discovering they are bigger than the measuring tape.  You can find some longer tapes at your local fabric store, or in the hardware section of stores like Home Depot.  Make sure that you are also careful in measuring a larger person.  If you do not think you can fit your arms around them, do not try.  It can cause you pain by reaching, and it can be potentially embarrassing for the person if you can’t reach around them.  I will usually have them hold the tape in one spot and have them spin around.  This also allows me to make sure the tape is going to be lying in the correct spot.  People who are plus size can have rolls of flesh that can change the measurement of a part of the body you are trying to measure if the tape gets caught in the wrong spot.  Walking around the person to wrap the tape around them can make them again feel embarrassed that they are large enough that someone can’t just reach around them.  Spinning seems a little silly and fun, and not as embarrassing.  You can then walk around adjusting the tape, which is not as embarrassing- just let them know that you always check to make sure the tape is in the right spot.
  20. Take more measurements than you think you might need.  You may not plan on making pants this time around, but the person may change their mind, and if you already have the measurements that saves them a trip and you the time of having to work around another measurement appointment.  Better to over-measure than under-measure.
  21. And most importantly, make sure to have a positive attitude while measuring someone.  People find being measured to be slightly embarrassing and they are never completely happy with the results.  If you are unhappy about something, don’t take that feeling into the measuring room with you – people can assume it is a reflection on them and their measurements.  Be positive and affirming of their fabulousness and how great that final garment is going to look on them.  Everyone can use a little positive boost to their self-confidence.

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10 Reasons Why a Serger Just Might Be Your New Best Friend

by Renee Larson

1.  A serger is faster than a typical sewing machine.

2.  A serger can give you a more professional finish by cutting off your seam allowance and overcasting the edge.

3.  Stretchy fabrics work best in a serger – they will still stretch after sewing in a serger, and this is not always the case with a sewing machine.

4.  You can do all kinds of other stitches with your serger, such as a blind hem, and the seam is completely finished as well, saving you time.

5.  You can easily finish the edges of very delicate fabrics by putting in a rolled hem.

6.  Some sergers come with a cover-stitch which can be an easier finish than having to use twin needles on your sewing machine.

7.  Sewing with a serger is often easier than sewing with a sewing machine – it is a bit like driving a car.

8.  While threading a serger can look complicated, you can tie the old threads to the new threads and pull them through, making it easier to thread.  Most manufacturers also color-code their threading system which makes the process even easier.

9.   It makes your home-sewn clothing more durable and has a stronger hold than a regular straight stitch.  If you pop a thread in a serged seam it will still hold the majority of the time.

10.  A serger is an excellent second machine if you use your sewing machine for embroidery, etc.  You can never get away with not having a sewing machine, but you can get away with not having a serger.

Renee Larson is MNSOC’s Resident Sewing Pro.  If you have a question for Renee you can send it to MNSOC, or you can find Renee in person – selling, fixing and teaching about various sewing machines at the Husquavarna Viking dealer in Joann Fabrics in Woodbury.


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From Customer to Costumer: How peer pressure makes you creative again

by J.L. Smithson

The last time I sewed an article of clothing was when the movie “The Doors” came out. It was 1991 and I was so in love with the movie that I determined I was only going to wear tie-dyed clothes from then on. I made about three items and gave up. Even sewed my fingertip into a dress. That was the last time I used my mother’s archaic Kenmore sewing machine. There were several thoughts of starting up again: purchasing of patterns, contemplating fabric and getting mom’s old machine tuned up. But those efforts never went any further than that.

While I did not take a sewing class in high school, I am gifted in being able to take stuff apart, fix it, and put it back together. I got so good at assembling furniture that my grandmother rented me out to other seniors in her building to assemble their furniture for them. I figure if I can put together anything from Ikea from their bad patterns, sewing wouldn’t be that difficult. I did have a grandmother that patiently tried to teach me and my mother, the Home Ec major, augmented that tutelage.  I must have learned something from their lessons, because I was able to cut out and sew together rudimentary patterns. I did some shirts, shirts, tank dresses and pajamas. Not too taxing. If there was something that I wanted that I didn’t have the confidence to do, I sought a college friend that needed money to stitch the item up for me. Lined jackets, bridesmaids dresses, and anything with buttonholes; was crafted by people more talented than myself.

When I started working at the MN Renaissance Festival, I paid others to make costumes for me. There was no way that I was going to attempt a full-fledged costume with the minimal training I had.  Luckily, my best friend lived with a costumer that was happy to take my money in exchange for costume pieces. I had a sort of Garanamals for Festival wardrobe going, with everything mixing and matching so I didn’t have to wear the same thing twice in a weekend. After I quit Festival, I donated much of my wardrobe to the costume shop, so they could rent the costumes out to patrons and temporary staff.

I now find myself in a group of friends that all sew (no pressure!). While I am still willing to pay for costumes, I find myself in need of a hobby after completing one BA and two Master’s degrees in a short amount of time.  After many nights of school, studying, and a monster 50-page paper, I needed a way to relax and be creative that didn’t involve citing my sources.  I started slowly by making some small drawstring bags for a costume that someone else was making for me (old habits die hard).  I managed to find the power cord and pedal for the Kenmore, hooked it up and dusted it off.  I am surprised that I remembered how it worked! I remembered how to thread it, load up a bobbin, set the stitch size and actually create a seam. The first one looked bad with WAY too much jammed up thread under the stitch, but I continued. Got the bags done and threaded the drawstring to complete them. I then made cloth flowers for the back of the hat I was creating. They turned out well!

Now, I am officially addicted! Any hobby that requires me to purchase more stuff is fine by me! I bought a Brother 1034D serger (and a book to learn how to use it), a rolling & folding cutting table, and a 36×48 rolling cutting mat with a neato rotary cutter (scissors and I don’t get along well). I cleaned out my hobby closet, moved all fabric and patterns within easy reach, and made a place for my serger to sit on a shelf when I am not using it. The Kenmore from the Dark Ages is still upstairs, because moving it requires superhuman strength, but climbing the stairs will provide exercise. I am ready to sew up a storm! But, one question… where do I begin?


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