Friday, 15 May 2015

Eeek! There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza!

 Well, not quite! When we got home from the first Dead Silent show Brains casually announced  . . . "Oh, yeah, Mum, there's a hole in one of my ballet shoes! It's quite big!"

Indeed it was! Late on a Friday night, and not a chance of getting new shoes for Saturday's show. Because here in Wellington, NZ, getting shoes for a male dancer needs a bit of planning! It has usually involved a visit to a shop that sells ballet gear, then trying on shoes . . . generally girls pink ones since the shops don't keep a stock of boys white or black shoes. Or they may have some but not in the size needed. Then the shop orders them and . . . you wait. Sometimes up to 8 weeks!

Lately I've been able to order Brains' shoes from Sugar Plum Fairy dance wear in Palmerston North. Late last year I needed to get him some before he performed as Prince Charming up in Palmerston North so I popped into the shop there. His feet have stopped growing so I knew his size. I was pretty blown away when the shop owner said she could have them within a week and courier them down to us in Wellington! Awesome. But even that wouldn't work this time, not by Saturday's show!

So it was a fixer-upper job. Out came some leather, I found a scrap of a not-too-thick-black. Also out came the Weldbond. I wanted something that would hold well but also be flexible,


Image source


Got the first shoe fixed and it was okay that night - "A bit lumpy, but o.k," - was Brains comment.

BUT  . . . . the other shoe then got two holes!! Of course  :-o  No more black leather so I grabbed an old outgrown shoe, as suggested by an article I found online on quick fixes for Irish dancing shoes!




A pair of scissors and the glue and all was sorted. But white patches - not such a great look!




A bit obvious - a well worn, tired, patched up shoe, which was originally white! You can see the paint wearing off.




Thankfully I had a bottle of black shoe paint tucked away, half full, so I didn't have to go on a hunt to the shops for some. Because Murphy's Law dictates if I needed to find some I wouldn't!




A good coat of paint and they were almost like new. They held together for the last two shows anyway which was all we needed.  :D

Life is nothing if not entertaining!

Dead Silent!

Late last year I was asked to help with costumes for a dance show Brains was performing in. The show was going to be part of the New Zealand Fringe Festival, one of over 100 shows on during the festival. The show was choreographed and directed by Ariel Middlemiss and was performed at Bats in The Dome. Below is one of the posters that were put up around the city.

Photo Source

Although I've done costumes for dance recitals for years this is the first time I've done anything for a show in a public event like this. 

Some of the costumes were bought and needed tweaking, and a few I needed to make.

First up were Ariel's costumes. Ariel had purchased two identical dresses, and she (I think!) had cut the bodice off one and stitched elastic around the waist area. Green thread on black elastic - which you can see in the photo below. I did think about unpicking and re-doing it - but the thought quickly turned to, "Yeah, nah!" I pointed out that since they were dancing very close to the audience it was possible the stitching would be seen - and suggested Ariel apply a black sharpie marker to the green thread  :)


I applied black elastic to the identical full dress around the waist area so that when the top skirt came off the "look" would be the same. The photo below shows the back waist area. Excuse the differences in colour - lighting etc. The first photo shows the closest colour match to the dress.


The waist would grip o.k. but I needed a way to keep the two skirts together so that the underskirt wouldn't be seen and give an idea of what was coming up!


Plastic press studs. Ariel had supplied some velcro but I felt the colour was too different a red from the "blood". The press studs were clear, small and would not really show up. Especially since the dancers were almost constantly moving. The one above is on the inside of the top skirt.


It's mate on the top side of the underskirt with as close a match thread as I could get.

Once that was done it was on to the white dress Ariel wore under the other dress. This was a dance costume Ariel had purchased and a couple of things had to be done. Some cups needed to be stitched into the bodice, for support and - yeah, white, even two layers, can still be a bit see through - not a good look! The straps had to be shortened, and tidied up. Ariel had cut away the material between the straps but it needed a little tidying up - at Ariel's request - and no way could I have left it like that! 


The pins mark where the straps need to be shortened to.


A close up showing what needs to be tidied up. Teeny bits of fabric to get a grip of.


I wouldn't have thought this much would come off . . . but it did!


Next I had to create an organza overskirt for the back of the dress so I laid it out as flat as possible to take a pattern off it. It's lycra and asymmetrical.


I used the overlocker to make a rolled hem on the top edge, sides and hem. I stitched it on around the back waist and then hand-stitched it down each side so that it would mostly move as one piece with the white skirt.

All finished and ready to be worn.

Once Ariel's costumes were done I started on Brains'. The show was set in the 1980's and Ariel requested jean shorts for Brains as part of his first costume. Jeans and dance aren't that great a match - well not when a lot of movement and stretch is needed! I found a lightweight stretch denim that would work well. I used Kwik Sew K3504, shortening the leg length to just above the knee.

Image source
I haven't tackled jeans before, with all their top-stitching, so I made sure to go sedately and carefully.



The coin pocket and front pocket.


I used a lightweight cotton for the pocket bag/lining. I did mean to have the right side showing as the inner, but got a bit muddled when I put them in - since no-one will see them I decided to leave them as they were.


I was pretty pleased with the join of the back yoke and centre back seam  :)


One of the back pockets. It certainly adds definition to the seams when they are top-stitched.

The only thing I did find perplexing was the method Kwik Sew used for the fly fronts and zip insertion. It was different to the method I have done before. After trying to puzzle it out I decided to see what I could find on the internet. What should pop up but this post by Peter Lappin of Male Pattern Boldness using the exact same Kwik Sew pattern. Once I'd read it through I was able to make sense of and follow the Kwik Sew instructions more easily. The post was a big help  :)


The finished jean shorts from the front . . .


. . . and the back. Without a bum in them the seat of these makes me think of the Saggy Baggy Elephant, a character in a Golden book I used to read to my children when they were little!


For Brains' second costume I made some grey stretch shorts to tone in with the grey organza. I've since been informed by his dance teacher I should have either made these a lot tighter or made a pair of tighter shorts to go under these. It would have made for a better look onstage - something new I learned  :) 


I also made a white lycra sleeveless tee-shirt to go with the shorts.The binding looks a little tight but the wrinkles disappear when it is worn.


The other thing Ariel requested was a cape like effect to mirror the organza on her skirt. So this is what I came up with and attached to the back of the tee-shirt. After the first show we removed it as it made it difficult for Brains to come up from off his back in one of the sequences. It was too slippery.

A few shots from the show with the costumes in action!

Photo courtesy of Big Mark Photography

One of the reasons the jeans needed good stretch!

Big Mark Photography

Ariel wearing the dress and overskirt.

Big Mark Photography

The top skirt has come off . . . and the audience can see what it covered!

Big Mark Photography
The white and grey costumes . . . the idea was to give a ghost-like effect.

The show ran for four nights. I went to the opening and closing shows and enjoyed watching them  :D

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A Summer Dress

A while ago I made a dress for Mrs A, who had a design idea in mind. There was no specific pattern in the pattern books that I could use so I turned to my pattern draughting books.

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I've used Winifred Aldrich's books quite a few times now to draught patterns.



These are the completed pattern pieces: skirt piece, back lower bodice and back yoke, and the front bodice. This was actually the second version as the idea changed slightly from the initial design. Once the pattern pieces were done I made a toile out of calico so that I could check the dress for fit. Once that was done I was ready to go ahead.



I used the red tailors chalk I bought at Made On Marion since the white/beige I usually use wouldn't show up very well on the pale blue and white fabric.



I pinned either side of the chalk line to hold the fabric in place, help reduce the slipping and sliding that can happen with chiffon. I'm still not brave enough to try the hairspray method on a garment I'm making for someone else!



The red chalk shows up well  :)



All the outer fabric and lining pieces cut out. 



I used the walking foot when I was sewing the pieces of the dress together. The bodice and lining pieces I basted together and treated as one fabric. 



The completed dress from the front . . .



. . . and the back.



I added a small embroidery detail around the armhole edge.



Self-covered buttons, they're just decorative. I used plastic snaps as closures but swapped them for hooks and eyes.



A close-up of the binding around the neckline and bodice front.


Photo by @many_makers

The lovely Mrs A in her summer dress. The weather has turned cooler now but hopefully Mrs A will get to wear the dress again next summer  :)