Sunday, March 30, 2008

Found Him

Loverboy. Just buried him in the yard under the datura. Car probably hit him yesterday. That's why he didn't come when I called. I had asked for a time of peace before I buried another friend, two or four legged. I guess this is a test to see how much I can take before I curl up in a ball.

Stripper's Kimono Update

The 1920s style kimono is to the hand work stage. I should have had it finished by now, but everyday stuff got in the way. All the hems are done and I'm shooting for hand-stitching the sleeve linings and collar down. The bias tube for the kimono frog is made and will be applied - with beads! - after the finish work.

Also cut out a mini kimono for Cindy's daughter, Sky who's following in her mother's footsteps. She's one of the Hollywood Blonds in the play, too. Her kimono has trim of her mom's brocade and a purple satin body since there wasn't enough of the butterfly brocade to do a whole kimono.

I also dyed some stretch knit sheer for a pair of practice wings so Cindy can block her scenes. 'Blocking' is where the director places the actors in their spots on stage for each particular scene, runs them through the choreography and movement in relation to the scenery, props and other actors so that it looks smooth. Considering Cindy's wings are going to be quite the space taker, I thought I'd run up a pair of non-detailed surrogate wings while I work on the real thing.

I'm missing a cat since yesterday morning. Loverboy went outside after breakfast and I haven't seen him since even though I've looked and called. I miss him and wish he'd come home.

Also discovered that I threw away a cardboard box of writings from several years as trash. I'm in a delete mode around here but did not intend to do that. I'm philosophical about it since I really can't retrieve it. There's a message of letting go of the past here. I'm trying.

More pictures later on.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stripper's Kimono

Finally had to go with template to get everything on the page. I'm okay with it. Doesn't have the pop the first template had, has none of the probs the second one had, so I'll stick with it if it will stick with me.

This is Cynthia's kimono for the play. I've cut out the brocade and basted it together, sewed the seams I'm sure of as I cut and draped it. The sleeves are serendipitous due to two factors: The brocade we bought had sun damage along one end of the goods. I'd planned on cutting around and above these and then would use the balance for piping or bias. I added the sleeve extensions deliberately placing the fabric so that the satin changed the light with the direction of the grain fro a two-toned effect. I liked the color contrast so much that I thought that the sleeve lining could use up the lightened fabric. Starting to look like a 1920s stripper's kimono!

The sleeves are on, need a pressing and lining needs to be stitched down. The collar panel will go on today. I did not use the traditional front and side gores because I thought the effect over her show costume would make her look hippy with all the extra folds.

Note to brocade users: Serge the edges of every single piece or you'll end up with brocade fibres in your feed dogs, seams, stitching arm, George and your mouth. They're especially worrisome when there's static in the air!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Template Mucking

I loved the last template I used, but the problem is that the margins just were too huge and squished everything so that a portion of a side item would be missing. Bear with me as I experiment to see if I can fix it or have to go to a different style of template.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tessie's Costume From Gypsy: Hunting and Gathering

So. I'm retired. But I do take on the occasional project for one of my own. My own this time is friend Cynthia Miller-Ray. She's playing Tessie for all she's worth in a community production of 'Gypsy'. Would I make her costume? Absolutely. Said Southern style as I've said before....'Has a cat got an arse?"

So. What does a costumer go through when you take on a project?

  1. Step 1: Concept and Design. Here you study your character and discuss it with the director, stage manager, property and scene people and your actor. Who are they? What do they do in the production? Does their role have any special requirements like acrobatics, dancing, rigorous fighting? What colors or lighting effects do you have in your background? Should they stand out as a principal player or recede into the background as an extra? Think Meg Ryan in the red dress in a city street full of gray pinstripes and sensible shoe clad business women. You come up with sketches or mock ups and hash them over with your director, production staff and actors. Cindy approves my rough sketch. We've decided to stick with Tessie's 'Gotta Have A Gimmick' butterfly concept with wings, a body suit, headpiece with antennae and appliques in the fig leaf places.

  2. When the costume has been approved, you begin hunting down the basic ingredients of what you'll need to build the costume. In Cindy's case, I won't have to go through a huge amount of revisions, matching fabrics and colors with backdrops and pleasing the other production staff members. She trusts me and we've worked together for years so I know her style, what colors are good with her Titian coloring, turquoise eyes, and Amazon tall frame. We don't have to please any directors or scenery people in this case - one of the lovely things about working community theater rather than equity productions. They're mainly just tickled to have someone doing the chore for them.

  3. I hunt on eBay, the Internet, Etsy, through my own stash of fabric, for some baubles and trim. I make sure Cindy stands out in the crowd so I like to lavish on the glitz whenever I can. When we gather all our materials together we've got: About 2 pounds of various beads, rhinestones with rim sets, holographic textile glitter, stud sets and crystal in teal, purples and violets, and AB golds - thank you eBay sellers. We have an airbrush and propellant from Dick Blick so I can paint the wings and the skirts of her costume with butterfly markings along with basic paints to mix colors with and metallics in copper, gold and silver to highlight the markings. Two wooden dowels from the local crafts department are to channel into the upper edges of the wings so that she can 'fly' them. We got 12 yards of silk gauze for wings and skirts from Dharma Trading Company. And there's gorgeous oriental brocade in a purple with woven silk butterflies for a kimono from Joanne's fabrics. Her body suit is of a nude stretch net which will blend with her skin tone once it's all together.

Next we'll get on with construction. Stay tuned. Oh. And part three of the how-to tute is coming after I get up enough nerve to tackle the camera and construction again in a few days!

(Note: The pic above shows from left to right, top to bottom, sort of: Purple kimono brocade with embroidered butterflies, sketchbook, just above that the white silk gauze, to the immediate right of the silk, the basic airbrush colors plus opaque white and black, to the right of the basic airbrush colors is the beige power net. Just below the silk fabric, basic paints and power net are the two dowels for her wings, the bead assortment in the clear bead box, and Czech crystal heat set rhinestones and the boxes of rim set crystals. In the box on the upper right is the single action airbrush and components, CFS free propellant, metallic colors, and heavy grip textile glue.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Part Two Small Quilted Wallhanging Tutorial

I have a small fold at the top of my piece with a fabric header above it for visual interest. You don't have to use bias as I have. A different texture fabric than your main embellished layer would add a tactile element to your finished work. If you don't want to add a header, skip steps through and baste around the edges of the four layers.

5. Below, you can see I've folded down the beaded top and pinned a piece of 1 1/4" wide bias tape right side down towards the interfacing and batting.

6. The bias is dropped from the top edge about 5/8" to 1". Use a running stitch through all layers backstitching every few stitches to anchor your work.

The red dashes below shows stitch placement.

7. The bias is dropped so that when you fold it back and pin it, the top edge of the bias or fabric is even with the top of your batting, interfacing and backing. Baste the bias at the top together through the batting and backing.

8. When you turn the edge of your cuff back, you'll stitch through the bias just above the bottom fold for a clean edge and no inner layers showing.

9. The picture below shows the stitches hidden under the fold.

Part One Small Quilted Wallhanging Tutorial

This is a tutorial on how to make a small quilted and embellished wallhanging like those in my New Orleans Blues Fetish series listed on These small pieces are wonderful to brighten up a narrow wall space or hung in clusters.

1. Start your piece with a 4 1/2" X 6 1/2" top. I recommend using a sturdy fabric that can stand up to the weight of your embellishment and hold its shape after quilting. Your top can be pieced, embellished with beads or gemstones or collaged with fabric scraps, lace and ribbon. The first picture above shows the beaded piece ready to be quilted.

2. After your top is ready, cut a fabric backing, batting and interfacing the same size as your top as in picture 2 just below.

3. You'll stack your work with a layer of sew-in interfacing, batting and backing under it. The interfacing under the embellished layer doesn't show up well in the third picture. It's the edge of white just under the beaded top. Don't worry if your layers aren't exactly the same. You'll trim off the extra after they're all basted together.

4. Once together, pin the different layers together starting with the center and working towards the edges smoothing your layers as you pin.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Angel of Death

Just buried another friend today. Not Sally Jo. Her service was in Georgia last week. She has another one here in Tampa at the Sheriff's office mid April. I'm talking about my old outside tomcat, Skitty.

He's feral, had terrible manners in the house so had to live the bulk of his life out doors. The front porch was his domain. He had a house with a sleeping pad to stay out of the weather and he's been eating me out of house and home for the past few weeks. Then he started losing weight fast.

I found him on the ground unable to move and in a coma Monday. Put him in a box and sat with him until he passed. I buried him in one of his favorite sleeping spots and put a rock over him so the neighborhood dogs don't disturb his rest. I don't want to go into details because I'm still really upset.

I really need a break from all this passing and death. I need a chance to grieve one before there's another. So I guess I could call the last post "Three Funerals and A Wedding" now. I told friends that I'm feeling like the Angel of Death. The good news is that I'm fat and can't fly so I won't be visiting anyone's house.

(Note: The image above is "Field of the Slain" by Evelyn De Morgan, 1916

Monday, March 10, 2008

Two Funerals And A Wedding

No. I didn't get the title of the movie wrong. I just renamed it to suit my life. I just had my next sequal to the "Two Funerals" part as Sally Jo passed Monday, March 1st at 7:30 a.m. I'd been on the phone with her throughout the night talking into her ear as she was going through the mechanics of leaving.

Heavily sedated and in that coma we get to when it's close to time for the boat to leave, she could no longer respond, but she tried. Her sister Katy held up the phone to her ear while I cooed to her that it was going to be alright, that she could let go, and that I'd see her soon so save me a spot on the bench. Katy said she opened her eyes the first time I called when I told her I loved her and that she was a good friend. All I heard was Sal's moan.

I think she was trying to say, "EE-awk-eee!" It was our signal of hello to each other. I've had code words and signals with friends since being small. Always lets you know that the person outside the door really is of your tribe. Well. Sal's moan did sound a bit like EE-awk-ee! Or maybe she was just rearranging what was left of her spit under her tongue. She was pretty doped up. But the experts say that hearing is the last sense to go. I hope so. I wanted her to know that I was there with her in spirit and will continue to be.

The family had one service in Augusta. Another one will be held here. Sally asked if I'd write her eulogy the last time we had a phone conversation that made sense. I told her yes. Only I said, "Has a cat got an ass?" It's what she expects me to say as a definitive answer to the positive. I'm also getting some of her ashes to put on my altar down here at Dogpatch. I may have mentioned all this before. If so, forgive me. It's been a long month with all these life rituals going on and my synapses are fried.

The wedding part of the title comes in with a lot more joy. Longtime friend Jeannie Taylor asked me to 'do' her wedding gown. She brought me a traditional white 1980s number with a long chapel train, enormous leg-o-mutton sleeves, and 10 pounds of lace appliqués and beading. She wanted it emerald green. Dye is out of the question for acetate gowns as the fibers don't take it. So I got her to get some green pigment dye with a small jar of black pigment to drab it down from Dharma Trading Company. We both agree that it is one of the most gorgeous things I've ever made.

The dye streaked, pooled and puddled. It took heavier in some areas and on the appliquéd lace, tinted the iridescent sequins and glass pearls. You'd swear that fairy creatures imprinted themselves on it because I sewed bead eyes on them all over the skirts. I removed the damaged bead and pearl fall from the front and replaced it using some of the pearls removed and beads Jeannie had picked out.

There were three special strands: One for Shirley who was Jeannie's mentor and surrogate mother that had her star bead on it, one for me with one solitary vitrail teardrop I had for me, and I used real emerald beads and crystal for Jeannie. When she came down the staircase at the church, you could her an audible 'ah!' from everyone. She was just stunning! Her Cherokee coloring and wild mane of hair looked like she stepped from virgin forest into the room. I loved that she, along with her maids went barefoot. They also jumped the broom!

Her wedding theme was a Celtic one with her maids dressed in Renaissance Faire wear and the men sporting doublets and real Irish Claymore swords they used to salute. Jeannie carried a basket of ivy and herbs. I cried. I always cry at weddings.

The picture above is Jeannie at one of the fittings. I'll show you the finished project in a future post. All in all there are about 30 or more hours in the dress, hundreds of extra pearls and beads and several days of treating my skin to bleach to return it to my normal beige instead of cedar green speckles and blotches everywhere.

Suggestionss for reduxing a vintage wedding gown:

Think beads and embellishing for repairs and alterations. Instead of ripping seams and removing boning to take in the gown, see if you can pinch the seam up and anchor it on the outside with a beaded running stitch. Looks like it was built on purpose! I'll try to get some close-ups of what I did.

If the gown is too wide in the shoulders, try pleating over the very edge of the yoke towards the sleeve top and using the beaded running stitch to take it up. Hand sewing is diriguer because you need the control that can only be achieved by hand manipulating the ease of the fabric.

Instead of using the traditional method of removing the skirts and lining to shorten the gown from the waist, consider making a pleat in the bottom of the skirt or small, draped tucks and accenting them with appliqués or beads. Decorative hems are already a feature of wedding wear. You know my motto: If a little looks great, pile on some more!

The type of dyeing I did on Jeannie's gown is very eclectic and not for every taste. The color is purposely not evenly distributed and pooling and checking of dyes were wanted in this case. Don't consider dying your gown a different color unless you're into S&M, like having dyed skin and feet for weeks, have a huge yard or warehouse to do the chore in and at least 3 days to allow the dye to work and set. Oh. You'll also need a vat the size of a livestock feeder to accommodate the up to 24 yards of fabric involved. And a bottle of Advil for the backache of lifting and hanging 24 yards of wet fiber.