Gosh it’s hard to believe that I’ve let this site lapse so terribly.
The facts are these: I have been pretty busy. Especially with custom sewing work which is awesome and something I have been wanting to establish more. However, this means that when I’m not sweating over the iron on a tight deadline, I’m usually not in the mood to stare at a screen and import photos. It also means that usually I can’t stop to document the process as much as I’d like (sometimes I hardly get a chance to take proper photos of the finished items before they have to go out the door…) This makes for pretty lacklustre blog posts!
I have been posting to my Facebook page more frequently and Instagram is a much faster route to sharing makes with my peers/the wider world. I do like the longer format of blog posts, and have to consider what direction this site should go in. Perhaps it needs to serve a different purpose like research and nerdy sewing/theatre posts. Whilst I work that out, I will endeavour to update and post some lingering drafts that are still relevant. Since I renewed my site and hosting for 3 more years, it seems a waste not to keep things more active.
In case you are curious, here’s a roundup of client builds from 2016:
January: 6x oversize vintage style dresses (from vintage fabric) for a production of Billy Elliot the Musical. Performers were inside them looking out from the waistline. Underneath is a frame, custom built oversize hanger and foam ‘body’. We had custom printed mesh to match the fabric so that from stage distance it appeared to be solid, but the actors could still see out of them. I drafted giant patterns and constructed the base garments in my studio before finishing and tacking them onto the forms by hand.
Something we do a lot in theatre: re-cover existing/stock furniture. This chair got a custom fitted slipcover from this awesome blue pineapple fabric. With a large directional print like this it can be tricky to place especially with limited fabric.
A good friend of mine is a teacher and choreographer who produces award winning musicals at the high school he teaches at. In 2016 they did The Wizard of Oz. Instead of the usual movie-based costuming, he wanted to change it up and chose a 1920s theme. I was contracted to create the looks for the four main characters. The lion’s main (mane?) piece was a found fur coat with brown trousers, vest and shoes. I did some minor alterations on found pieces including modifying a vest to look more 1920s with a shawl collar and tacked up points. Scarecrow’s coat started as a more 1700s pirate, and was tweaked/broken down into a worn driving duster. Both characters also got custom painted shoes to match their outfits.
Tin Man was the most involved. A 90s silver vest was modified, shoes coloured silver, and black jacket/pants/Bow tie hand painted in a deco robot style inspired by Metropolis et al. An old lady wig was also transformed to a slick 1920s style but in silver tones. Dorothy had a 1920s day dress based on the iconic Adrian designed movie costume, with bias cut details and a big satin bow at the collar. I loved creating something instantly recognizable with a twist.
A quick project for an opera production of Of Mice and Men. I made over a provided stuffed animal dog to look and feel more realistic. The plastic eyes were removed and the lids sewn shut (newborn puppies don’t open their eyes for a while). Stuffing was removed and weighted pellets added. Ears tacked forward and painted to look more like a rottweiler puppy. Apparently it was quite convincing on stage.
Dance Season: I made a batch of these soft t-shirt knit faux hospital gowns for a dance group. The lower 2 ties are fixed and the opening is sewn shut to prevent any wardrobe malfunctions. There is an inner tie at the waist for adjustable shaping much like a waist stay.
Wedding Season: Built 12 bridesmaid dresses (6 each) for a couple of awesome ladies. Each bride had her own style of dress with opposite colour schemes. One group wore a teal cotton poplin frock with a gathered skirt and milk chocolate coloured linen sash, the other group rocked chocolate linen A-line skirt dresses with a back cutout, covered buttons and a teal sash. The latter group were all from out of town and arrived the day before the wedding so it was a whirlwind morning of fittings followed by a long afternoon and evening of alterations and finishing! All of the dresses have side seam pockets. I also made custom bow ties for adults and children.
A theatre colleague also hired me to provide wedding dress alterations, Bridesmaid outfits, flower girl skirts, groom and groomsmen neckties and pocket squares, and mini neckties for the ring bearers. The skirts and accessories were made from a dusty pink linen. Bridesmaids’ blouses are polished stretch cotton.
Late summer ‘last minute’ wedding dress for a friend of my mother’s daughter. She had tried on one that had some features she liked, but was not flattering to her. This is probably the comfiest bridal wear I’ve made. Lining is a sturdy knit fabric. Lace is bias cut to provide some stretch to the overlay. Godets below the knee give fullness and room to move. Cotton lace edging was tea dyed to match the ivory lace. I also made a super simple long tulle train that the bride’s friend appliquéd with lace pieces left over from the gown. Luckily I got some great photos from the day since it’s the type of garment that looks best with a real body in it!
Theatre Season: Fringe Festival saw me stage managing/production crew for a play that involved a character called Donkey Long Ears and a matching stuffed toy. The little version was based on a vintage Eeyore pattern from the 1960s. The human version was roughly based on a mascot pattern in my collection and modified to match.
Later in the summer I got a gig resurrecting props and costumes for a touring theatre show (a shortened school version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream) that I had previously stage managed and had issues with some the original pieces. It was a mixed bag of building from scratch and modifying existing pieces to better suit the production. The most involved project was building new Puppets representing the Faerie Queen and King. As per the director’s wishes, I modelled them after famous drag performers.
I was hired briefly by a regional theatre I’ve worked for many times in the Props department to string a giant chandelier. 120 strands of crystal beads were hand sewn to the top band with fishing wire, then draped and attached at two more points. Getting everything to hang evenly is tricky. I also built a replica royal cushion for the coronation scene in ‘The Audience’. Since the costume crown was fairly heavy, I had to make the ‘cushion’ secretly sturdy to help prevent it from tumbling off as an actor carried it in during the scene.
It’s always interesting re-living past projects! I will endeavour to post 2017 makes in the near future.