Archive for February, 2010

Ashes of Twilight

 Steampunk is about alternate universes.  Ashes of Twilight is a story about a society that went beneath a dome when Haley’s Comet came too close to the earth in the mid 1800’s.   After 100 years life has become stagnant and some want to escape it. 

I love the process of creating an alternate world and filling in the everyday details of life.  Where does the air come from?  Where does the fuel come from?  Their watersource?  What are the politics?  Where does my character live, what does she do, what does she want, who are her friends and her enemies?  Below is the beginning of Ashes of Twilight. 

            The Bible teaches us that the heavens and earth were made by the one true God.  I have heard these things all of my life but I dare not ask the questions that the lessons have created in my mind.  I am certain I know quite a bit about the earth, as I spend most of my waking moments within its clanking iron bowels. The heavens, however, are a mystery to me as my world is hollow and my sky is made of glass.  As I lie on my back and stare up at the thick dome that covers my world I still cannot help but wonder why?

            Our history is taught in two stages.  There is the before time, when man lived on the surface and roamed at will.  He built great cities and sailed the oceans and conquered kingdoms.  Then there is the after time when man created the great glass dome to protect all he knew from the mighty comet that came and burned up the sky.  It is the ninety-eighth year since the world became the dome and I spend all of my waking moments trying to find a way to leave it.

            Staring at the dome will not give me a way out.  I do it to justify my wanting to escape.  I am desperately seeking a sign that the earth has returned to what it was before the comet came.  I need to know for certain that I will not be burnt to a crisp when I do find a way out.  Occasionally, in the morning light, I see a shadow cross over, but the glass is too thick for it to be defined.  I never see the flames that are rumored to be out there and I often wonder if the flames are just an excuse to keep us within. 

            “Hey now, get on wit ya.”  I recognize the voice and know that it holds no threat, even though his words are harsh.  “It the filcher’s find the likes of you up here they’ll be throwing you in the fires for certain.” 

            I am not supposed to be on the rooftops.  Max is.  It is his job to clean this part of the dome from the constant build up of ash and smoke.  The rooftops are home to the gardens that supply the vegetables we need to survive.  They are closest to the light and also benefit from the condensation that builds up on the glass and then trickles down to give the plants water. 

            The scientists who designed our world were geniuses.  Unfortunately they are long gone and we have become victims of a sedentary government who will look no further than the dome that surrounds them.  Max is right about what he says.  I do not belong on the rooftop and if I am caught I will be punished.

            Max goes to work with his long handled mop.  I hear the squeaking of gears and see the men riding the baskets that will take them to the uppermost part of the dome.  Day has come to my world and it is time for me to sleep.

            I stand on my tiptoes and kiss Max on the cheek. “Thank you.”

            He blushes.  “I reckon I’ll see you in the morning.” I nod. “Be careful down there gel.”

            “I always am.”  I put my goggles over my eyes to protect them from the tainted air below. I could take the myriad of staircases attached to the side of the building down, but instead I head to the downspout.  It is faster, and there is no chance of me running into a filcher on the way down. 

            “Wren!”  Max came to where I’m propped against the building, my hands on the downspout and my feet braced. A sparrow swoops around my head and scolds me for being so close to its nest.   “There’s rumors of a runner afoot.”  Max said.  “Don’t let them suck you in.”

            A runner?  My heart pounds.  I need to know who but more importantly where?  If there is a runner, then how did he or she escape?  Max looks at me, his eyes expectant. He cannot see mine through the goggles. I have no choice but to lie.  “I won’t.”  I descended into the smoke.

            It is getting harder and harder for the fans to clear the air.  Some days are better than others.  This is one of the worst.  The government blames it on the coal, which means it is the shiners fault.  Shiners is a derogatory name given by the royals to those who work the mines.  They call us that because our eyes have a metallic cast to them. What they don’t know is that we can see in the dark, like a cat.  Years of living and working underground has changed us. 

            The coal is running out. Exploratory tunnels have been dug, spreading out in all directions like a spider web.  None have yielded anything so far.  Without coal we can not survive.  Coal creates the steam that powers the engines that keeps the fans going that circulates the air and keeps us from boiling beneath the dome.  An underground river serves as a source of water and a coolant for our air.  The engines are constantly going, their noise strumming through the dome and reminding all of us of the precariousness of our world.  If one thing fails, the rest will follow suit and the world within will end, toppled as easily as a strand of standing dominoes. 

            I believe with all my heart that it would be a good thing to happen.  It would force us to move, to look elsewhere, and to hopefully leave the dome.  But what I believe is not to be spoken out loud. 

            As soon as my feet hit solid ground the alarms sound.  “There is a runner.”  I give voice to my hopes and set out at a run for the promenade.

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I just got my book cover for “Bound by Blood” my upcoming paranormal romance from Lyrical Press. I may be a bit partial, but I think it is FABULOUS! It isn’t steampunk, but my heroine does wear goggles!

Mila Deluca is an immortal vampire powerful in magic with a quick trigger finger.

Bryce D’Angelo is a lethal warrior as sexy as he is deadly and pack leader to the Lycan clan.

Two equally powerful species, they are each other’s greatest enemies whose lives collide in the midst of a world filled with chaos.

As an uneasy alliance is formed to right wrongs and impart justice what begins as lust turns into something deeper even in the face of a dangerous evil.

They must become one before they face the enemy in a final show down that will decide the fate of the world

      To save the world they must become, “Bound by Blood” 


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Steamed: A Steampunk Romance
By Katie MacAlister

Dr. Jack Fletcher, a nanoelectrical systems engineer and Steampunk fan, and his sister Hallie, are a spirited to a parallel universe during a lab accident. They end up on the airship Tesla under the command of Captain Octavia Pye. It’s still 2010 but it’s hardly the world as they knew it. In this world Airships are real, aether is an element, and women captain ships in corsets and long skirts. Jack and Octavia are dawn to each other immediately. Sparks fly as Jack and Hallie are thrust into the adventures of the Tesla and their madcap crew as they try to deliver their cargo during a time of unrest as the Mongolians are at war with the Prussian Empire and the resistance known as the Black Hand will stop at nothing to crush the Empire.

I thought this was a very, very funny book and was frequently laughing out loud. Steampunk doesn’t have to be grim or depressing and I found this to be a very quick, fun read. I wasn’t bothered at all by the alternating first person POVs—in fact I found it refreshing and thought it worked for this story–but I’ve read a lot of first person books.

Now, if you’re a hard core Steampunker, this may not be the book for you. It’s not dark or gritty and a lot of the Steampunk elements are conventional. It’s also a romance novel and reads like a romance novel (versus an Urban Fantay with romantic elements like Gail Carriger’s Soulless), which means the central focus of the story the relationship between Jack and Octavia instead of action and steampunkery.

I enjoyed Steamed immensely. (It also has a great title, don’t you think?) If you’re interested in a romance novel that’s a little different, want to dip your toes in the pool that is Steampunk, or are looking for a good beach read, this is an excellent book to pick up.

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Hot topic steampunk jacketIs it a good thing that steampunk is popping up in so many very mainstream places? I found the jacket and the timepiece ring at Hot Topic which for hosting a plethora of goth/alternate clothing is beyond mainstream! I am a little on the fence about this topic, because I feel that steampunk is a very D.I.Y. subculture and feel it takes away from it when you can just go into a store and procure an entire “steampunk” outfit. On the flip side though, for those with limited time or are less than crafty this provides them with a way to enjoy steampunk fashion. I have seen it pop up everywhere, from store window displays to magazines to commercials all very mainstream places and so many more people have at least heard of steampunk. It is also catching on with the teen crowd. I do have to say as an author I am kind of stoked, because well when I contract my steampunk book I will have that many more readers. But after attending Steamcon 2009 and seeing the amazing effort people put into the wardrobe and how they adopted the mannerisms and feel of the steampunk subculture so well, I can’t help but wonder what this fabulous and amazing subculture is going to morph into as more and more people take it on. It has reached so far into mainstream that the lovely half-naked angel with the amazing wings is actually a model strutting her stuff at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show! For the record I want her whole outfit, wings included! I suppose what it really boils down to is we should be glad that so many people are able to find some joy in steampunk and we know that those of us with the love of steampunk firmly rooted in our hearts will still be standing after the fad has faded. And yes I will always be glad that this has informed so many people what steampunk is….it will make marketing so much easier! 🙂 So what are your thoughts, is it good, bad or ugly that steampunk has come barreling into the mainstream on a steam-powered locomotive? ~Elizabeth

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Short Post

I’ve been sick, so I’m keeping it short and sweet. A funny time travel comic from the folks at XKCD

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Happy Valentines Day from all the Lolitas at Steamed!

This comic is from the folks over at I Wish I Had A Penguin Friend

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  I have some very happy news to share! I sold my first book, “Bound by Blood” a sexy paranormal romance featuring Vampires and Lycan to Lyrical Press! This one isn’t steampunk, but my heroine does wear goggles frequently! I am so excited, but of course this has increased my already busy schedule to really busy! So today I just wanted to share the good news and update you on how my outfits are progressing…well that front isn’t so happy! I have things cut out, but the belt on my machine broke! I will have to break out the duct tape and fix it.. 🙂 While I am busy I wanted to share this totally fun and time-wasting site where you can dress up a virtual paper doll with amazing steampunk clothing from Clockwork Couture! Just follow this link http://anniestegg.com/clockworkcouture.php and let the fun begin! I will also put up the book trailer for “Bound by Blood”! I will be back next week with pictures showing progress on the sewing front! ~Elizabeth

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Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Valentine’s Day is upon us. Here’s some gift ideas for all budgets:

Under $25

This Brass Sextant from Harbor Freight will help your favorite  explorer get to where they’re going in style.

The perfect shirt for your Steampunk Angel–from the folks at Think Geek.

Inspired by the book Souless this amazing parasol from Clockwork Couture is covered in tentacles.

These  goggles from the great people at Clockwork Couture are both stylish and affordable.

Under $100

There’s a lot of great steampunk jewelry out there but I am in love with the stuff EJP Creations makes out of clockhands. This clockhand tiara (or any of their beautiful things) would make the perfect present for your steampunk princess.

For those who wish they worked on an airship Clockwork Couture has a great Airship Mechanic’s shirt.

What about some artwork from the amazing Jasmine Becket-Griffith ?

The Gentleman’s Emporium offers a wide variety of attractive pocket watches to fit all budgets.

The Sky’s the Limit

How about a custom top hat? I like the ones at Gypsy Lady Hats

and the ones by Silver Leaf Costumes

Or some fancy brass goggles from Neverwas?

Every Lolita needs a pretty corset. The Cameo Corset from Clockwork Couture not only is beautiful but is quite amusing with its skelton cameo in the center.

Top it all off with a Custom Jacket from Kato over at Steampunk Couture

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!

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The dress is finished, I got the tickets in the mail, the hubby’s suit has been found, and a babysitter for the tot procured.

It’s time to get ready for the ball.

While trying to iron the dress, I quickly realized why ladies of the time had ladymaids. It was a very daunting task, especially since I’m no good at ironing.

I couldn’t find a fall or a curly bun wig to borrow, so I attempted to curl my hair myself. Again, I wished I had a ladymaid. My arms got tired putting in the sponge rollers. I did my makeup (very simple, just a little black eyeshadow in the crease to accent the black and white dress), put all our stuff in the car, dropped off the tot and set off.

The ball was in Riverside–about an hour and a half from Los Angeles with no rain or traffic. Last year it took us about 6 hours to get there and we missed a bulk of the dance. This year we left at 3 and got there in time to get ready in a friend’s hotel room (I wasn’t about to ride in the car in full costume, lol).

We let the guys get ready first, then kicked them out. My friend laced me up and helped me make sure the hem of the skirt covered the hoop and didn’t look too uneven.

My curls didn’t quite dry in the damp weather, but they’ll do. Again, a lady maid would have come in handy. I wore black slippers, not heels–doing the Virginia Reel in high heels is a really, really bad idea. On went the black lace gloves the tot picked out and the black clockhand earrings, hairpin, and necklace I got from EJP creations  awhile back (I had ordered some gold ones, but the black went with better, so I’ll save those for another dress). I add my black velvet cape and a peacock feather fan. Viola! I think I’ll do.

Meanwhile, the guys keep calling to see where we are, so we make the trek from the hotel room to the venue. Bagpipes play in front of the venue,  as everyone arrives in full Victorian regalia. The guys have enjoyed, as they put it, “watching the parade floats go by.” The hubby looks dashing in white tie and tails.

We check in and are given dance cards. Worn on the wrist, they have a little pencil and list the dances that are done in each set. Gentleman go up to ladies and sign their dance card (with the lady’s permission, of course), thus reserving the dance. Most of my card is reserved for the hubby, but I have a few friends I agree to dance with. The hubby also gets drafted to dance. (In the Victorian times it is considered rude to deny other’s the chance to dance with your escort.) The first set is in full swing with a live band. The set dances are called, so everyone can join in even if you don’t know how to do them.

Right after we arrive, Queen Victoria and her retinue arrive. A few people are kinighted for their service to the crown. Then it’s time for a waltz and the grand march. One of my rose pins breaks in the very first waltz. The pin is holding the dress up, but one of my friends has a safey pin so we fix it. I’ll have to sew them on for next year.

The grand march is quite fun, giving you the chance to see everyone who’s at the ball and take a look at everyone’s dresses. There are many, many beautiful dresses. There are quite a few bustle-dresses this year (a little early for the Dickens era, but beautiful nevertheless.). However, many soon find that bustle dresses with trains are very hard to dance in.

There are four sets, each set consisting of 4-5 dances. In between sets the band breaks giving us time to socialize, look at all the lovely dresses, or get some refreshments. The ball is sold out and there are several hundred people there–all in costume. Most are in Victorian gowns. I see a few with Steampunk flair and one airpirate. There’s also a few regency and colonial dresses, and a few prom dresses. Those who don’t want to dress up but want to watch can sit in the observation gallery, which is also packed.

The ball attracts people of all ages, from teens to older couples. There are some families. There aren’t any small children, the youngest are around 9 or 10–all dressed up and well versed in the manners and dances of  the time, quite a cute and impressive sight.

The hubby and I waltz and polka. My slippers are too big and keep slipping off.I learn to Schottische. I feel good because I get a lot of compliments on my dress, fabric glue and drama aside. So, in spite of everything, I guess I did manage to pull everything off.

The most fun dance of the evening for me had to be the plain quadrille, which is quite possibly the longest set dance ever (and five sets, not four). It’s made up of four couples and we were lucky enough to be in a set with our friends. The hubby was a very good sport, going with the flow and trying his best. I was quite proud. My friends who sat the dance out thought we were quite entertaining to watch, especially since the guys are goofballs.

Finally the night drew to a close, finishing with the farewell waltz. The best part of the evening was just getting to spend time dancing with the hubby, though seeing old friends and looking at all the pretty dresses was nice as well. The ball has drawn to a close. We say goodbye to everyone and change out of our clothes for the long, rainy drive home. It’s been quite the fun evening and I look forward to going next year.

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Several of the Steamed! Lolitas have appearances in the next few weeks.  If you live nearby, come and say hello:

February 5-7, 2010 Temple Con, Warwick, RI
Leanna Hieber will be doing a reading and signing as part of Temple Con (“retro-futurist” gaming / fantasy convention) and she’s a panelist on the “neo-Victorian” panel.

February 12, 2010 Gateway Courtyard Mall, Fairfield, CA
6 – 8:00 p.m.
Shelley Adina will sign The Chic Shall Inherit the Earth in a Girl Scouts fundraiser at Barnes & Noble, Gateway Courtyard mall, Fairfield, CA, with fellow author JoAnn Smith Ainsworth.

February 13, 2010 Fremont Hub, Fremont, CA
4 – 6:00 p.m.
Borders Books presents a Valentine’s panel of award-winning authors: Shelley Adina, Christine London, JoAnn Smith Ainsworth, Jasmine Haynes, and Patricia Simpson. Fremont Hub, Fremont, CA

February 27th, 2010 Crossroads Writer’s Conference, Macon, GA
Emilie Bush will be leading several Steampunk panels including one that is part of the free literary festival. Folks in the area should drop by for Dr. Amazing’s Traveling Steampunk Literary Show-Live captive authors will be reading from their own works before your very eyes! One Show ONLY!

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Today we have a visiting lolita.  Lolita Kristen has a movie review for us on the recent release Sherlock Holmes.

Movie Review– Sherlock Holmes
by Kristen Roach

Sherlock Holmes always was a little before his time. He was an amateur detective before Miss Marple, a forensic expert before Gil Grissom, a criminal profiler before Fox Mulder and a violin-playing, pipe-smoking, cocaine-shooting eccentric before…well…actually, there is no comparison there. Holmes was one of a kind. So devotees of the character can breathe a little easier knowing that as the new incarnation of Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. more than lives up to the legacy…minus the cocaine. He (with a little help from a very handsome Dr. Watson) manages to put just the right amount of the 21st century into the 19th.

This Holmes is a rock star, make no mistake. He has all the delightful arrogance of a man who has become accustomed to always being right in the end. He lives a much rougher lifestyle than his literary counterpart: he drinks heavily, he dabbles in experimental medicines and he boxes men twice his size. Although he holds great regard for human life in general, he thinks nothing of taking risks not only with his own life, but with the lives of those who happen to be around him. Holmes tries the patience of everyone he knows with his antics, none more so than his long suffering best friend and partner in crime-solving, Dr. John Watson.

In this incarnation, Watson is not the shadow of Holmes, but his conscience, constantly trying to turn Holmes into a better man while still struggling to do the same for himself. He is a gambler who fights the urge to play. He is a bachelor who has decided to settle down with a good woman. And he is a reluctant adventurer, a man for whom it is as impossible to turn away from a mystery as it is to say ‘no’ to any of Holmes’ machinations.

Together, this mismatched pair has solved many great, impossible crimes for Scotland Yard, including the case of several pseudo-Satanic ritual sacrifices of young women that appears to be closed at the beginning of the film. But now Watson has decided to get married and move out of the 221B Baker Street flat that he and Holmes have shared…and not only isn’t Holmes happy about it, he’s going to do everything in his power to change his old friend’s mind.

Watson’s attempt to start a new life with his fiancée is really thwarted, however, by the resurrection of Lord Blackwood, an upper-crust villain with an arsenal of parlor tricks and a handful of Masonic-esque gentlemen minions who believe he will help them take over England and reclaim America. At first, it seems as if Holmes and Watson may be in unfamiliar territory. Black magic? Supernatural powers? Secret societies? Are they solving a mystery or investigating an X-file?

But just when it seems as though the writers have gone too far into the paranormal, Holmes explains it all with science, stripping away Blackwood’s mystique and exposing him for the fraud that he is. Of course, there are a few bumps along the way.

The biggest of these is–surprise, surprise–a beautiful woman. Rachel McAdams plays Irene Adler, a con-woman extraordinaire and a one-time paramour of Holmes who comes to him on the pretense of hiring Holmes to find a missing person, but in reality is being used as the puppet of a shadowed figure who wants to find out as much about Holmes as possible. The man’s identity is not revealed until the end of the movie, and although some of the audience may have guessed it early on, it’s a pleasant surprise for viewers who aren’t as familiar with the Sherlock Holmes mythology.

Does Holmes solve the mystery, capture the bad guy and save the Crown? Of course. He’s Sherlock Holmes. The more interesting problems, however, are personal and not so easily dismissed. Can he set aside his own fear of change and fear of loneliness long enough to let his best friend find happiness with a good woman? Will he ever get the upper-hand over the one woman who’s ever held his interest…and would we even want him to? And although he recognizes the underlying threat posed by Irene Adler’s shadowed employer, will he be able to overcome his own hubris in time to recognize that Professor Moriarty will be his greatest adversary and traditionally the man who brings about his death? It’s those questions that fuel the movie and will most likely propel the planned sequel.

But is this film an example of steampunk? In truth, there are only a few elements that could honestly be classified as steampunk-ish. Blackwood’s weapon of mass destruction, for example, and perhaps some of Holmes’s experimental toys. But overall, while some the costumes and hair styles might be a bit too slick and modern for the time period, the movie is definitely grounded in the Victorian age with most of its conventions and limitations.

Sherlock Holmes is a fun romp through history, a well-acted, well-directed and well-produced mystery-adventure-comedy that gives a fresh face to a beloved fictional character. This Lolita says that Holmes and Watson can inspect her gears anytime!

Thank you so much for visiting us, Kristen. What did everyone else think? Did you like it? Did you think it was Steampunk?  How did it compare to previous versions?

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It’s time to tackle the front of the ball gown.  That scares me more than the back, since if you mess up the back of the gown you can pull a Jo March and stand in the corner all evening.  But if you mess up the front, it’s pretty hard to hide.

Step One:  Not having a dress form or someone near my size available, I put the hoop skirt on a hanger and used ribbons to hang it under the dress to get an idea of how it looked. 

Step Two: I realized several things.  1.) The boning of the hoop shows right through the dress.  2.) The hoop skirt is too short.  3.) I never repaired the rip in the hoop that I acquired at Renn Faire last year. 

Step Three:  Time to work on the front. 

The first thing I do is cut off the white bows and replace them with black satin rosettes.

Step Four:  As it turns out the little panel in the front just doesn’t lay right–but I’m cutting it off anyway–off it goes.  Closing my eyes, I cut it off and pray I don’t cut the dress, too. 

Step Five: I can’t simply make a new panel because you’d see the black through the white dress, I’m going to have to stitch it directly to the ruffle.  Fun.  So, the white fabric I cut off the dress,I use it to construct a pattern.  

Step Six:  Taking the pattern, I cut the black brocade and make two panels. Spreading the blanket out on the floor, I hem the fabric with fabric glue.  As usual, the whole thing in uneven and lumpy.  The hubby shakes his head and vows to find the pedal to the sewing machine.  I pin the panels in place.  I must have bought cheap pins because they keep bending (either that or they don’t like fabric glue.) It’s still uneven and lumpy and as good as it’s going to get.

Step Seven:  The hubby drags me to Harbor Freight.  I walk next door to the fabric shop and buy netting and white ribbon in hopes of fixing my hoop skirt.

Step Eight.  I’m having major hoop shirt drama.  The ribbon doesn’t work and sewing the netting on to the skirt (to hide the ribs of the hoop) just seems daunting.  I bite the bullet and buy a new hoop skirt, an adjustable four-bone one that’s longer and has netting.  Moments after buying it, I discover there are such things as slips that go over the hoop and under the dress.  But the hoop skirt was cheaper, anyway.

Step Nine:  The hubby finds the pedal to the sewing machine.   I waffle between trying to use the machine, which is just scary, and hand sewing. 

Step Ten:  The new hoop comes in the mail and I try it on with the dress.  Oops.   I cut the front panels using the old hoop.  This hoop is bigger and the dress won’t fit over it.  But that’s an easy fix.  I just make the hoop smaller.  Yay for adjustable hoops.  But the tot gets red paint on the white satin.  Sigh.

Step Eleven:  Setting up the machine, I thread it.  The usual sewing machine foot has gone missing, so I use a different one–it’s all good?  Right?  I can’t get the machine to work.  So I hand sew the right front panel on.  I pick my thumb with the needle and bleed all over the seam. 

Step Twelve:  I try the dress on with the hoop again.  The right front panel is too short.  It had been fine when i tried it on.  I can’t figure out what went wrong.  Why, oh, why, did I decide to do this myself again?  At this point in time I can’t even get my friends to fix it short of buying more fabric, ripping out the pannel, and completely remaking it.  Sigh.

Step Thirteen:  I try the sewing machine again, using new thread.  It works and I sew the left front pannel on.  Much faster.  But my seam is not nearly as even as when I sew by hand (and that’s not even either). 

Step Fourteen:  I try the dress on again.  The left front pannel is much longer than the right.  All I can do is hem the left panel to try to match the right.  I’ll just have to deal with people being able to see my feet.  Next year I can make new panels that are wider–and longer.  The back is too long, dragging on the floor.  That needs to be hemmed too, but I hem it to the proper length, not the length of the front.

Step Fifteen:  I hem the left pannel and back, using the sewing machine, since I’m nearly out of fabric glue.  The sewing machine isn’t quite as frightening any more.   I try it on with the hoop again.  It’s going to have to work.  Using an entire roll of black taffeta ribbon, I tie it on as a sash and look in the mirror.  I have the tot take a picture with my cell phone.   This is as good as it’s going to get. 


Stay tuned for more…

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