I've always been far too uncertain of myself to enter before, as I actually have very little sewing experience. I’ve made less than a dozen corsets, and have next to no experience of any other garments either. I have far more knowledge from reading books than I have practical, hands on experience. I’d contemplated entering last year, but I was so impressed by other people’s talent, I convinced myself I was just not good enough – this time though, when 'insects' was announced, I'd batted around a few ideas, then watching a nature show on TV, I watched how the Jewel Wasp would sting a cockroach, 'zombify' it, barricade it into a 'nest', lay its larvae on it, which would bury into the roach, and eat the host alive before hatching out. I've always loved the weird, the slightly gory, brutality of nature and my mind was made up! Plus, I had the excuse I needed to buy some fabric I'd had my eye on for months but couldn’t justify buying; it was perfect for my idea.
I also wanted to have another go at cording. I’d tried it once before, and I liked how it looked so I wanted to incorporate that into the design. I wanted to try hip fins, which again, I have messed around with but didn’t quite work out. If I was going to enter this contest, I wasn’t going to tiptoe out of my comfort zone, I was going to bust through it screaming and really go for it: materials I’ve never used before, techniques I wasn’t familiar with, but hey, who cares if I am not as good as most of the others who enter, this one was for me to go nuts with! I tried to do a design flat, but I invariably wandered off the brief – I do that with drawing thought too, I can never quite ‘copy’ anything, I have to change it at some point!
At last, I can stop looking at other people’s work with admiration, that they had the courage to enter and say, “I don’t care if anyone else likes it, I know it’s not technically amazing, but its mine, I did it, I overcame my own insecurities and entered it anyway.” And I will do it again next year, and the year after that too.
The main fabric is a 4 way stretch 'oil slick' fabric by Yaya Han, which I was looking for an excuse to buy and have shipped over from the US, and this year's competition gave me the perfect excuse! This fabric represents the main body of the Jewel Wasp. The red metallic stuffed 'tubes' reflect the red pouches of the legs of the wasp. The red binding at the top 'balances' the look.
I had no idea, when I started, just how many needles this fabric would break - lifting the foot, with the needle down, to turn the fabric seems to break needles - I probably used around a dozen needles in this project. I think it is to do with the oil slick coating on the fabric possibly bending the needles when turning my work which caused issues! Very frustrating!!
I wanted to try out cording again. It took a long time to sew the cording in place, and I'm sure there is a better, more accurate way to do this, so I want to research that more as I love the 'armour' effect if gives, and it stopped the corset being too plain. I used a standard 2mm nylon cording. My main issue was that my new sewing machine doesn't have the narrow zipper foot that my old Singer 201k did, so I found it impossible to sew very close to the cord.
I've used a black coutil strength fabric. I flatlined the oil slick to the coutil, which I thought would be enough strength and prevent most wrinkling. It did not, and I now realise that I should have interfaced the fabric as well as flatlining. I am not that experienced with the various interfacings, so this has been a steep, frustrating, yet also interesting learning curve.
The hip fins were another aspect I wanted to try again. I like to think they represent the various sections of the bodies of insects. They also add a slightly 'alien' look to the corset. I tried fabric attached to craft foam (my machine hated that; the fabric is way too stretchy and it distorted as the foam got jammed in the feed dogs!) and coutil, batting & fabric which worked well and gave the structure I needed without the fins flopping down. I also used the 'Sew Curvy' Victoria pattern, which I adapted slightly at the bust edge and the centre front to give the insect body shape. I feel I didn't plan and toile enough on this piece, or experiment enough with the new fabrics, so next year I will definitely plan this aspect a lot better. I have learnt some very valuable lessons entering this year, and will be much better prepared for 2018!
Nerveracking!! Don't be put off by the amazing talent you see... treat it like an amazing opportunity to do something no-one will ask you to make! It's a chance to really go for it, regardless of your experience (or lack of, in my case!)