Sunday, March 29, 2009

sleeve pattern pieces

Just how many pattern pieces for a paned sleeve? I usually start with a basic one piece sleeve block. I then usually create a two piece sleeve and gusset from that so I have one ready.

A cuff or forearm pattern
A base under sleeve for the upper arm. This will keep the sleeve the correct length. It has a little ease where it joins to the forearm or cuff piece. It will also be a support for any netting we may use to keep the outer fabric in the shape we like.

A basic upper sleeve pattern reduced below the elbow to fit the forearm piece.
This will used to develop the panes. I lengthened this pattern an amount I thought would be suitable, then drew in the panes. You need to allow some space between the panes on the pattern because they tend to acquire a bit of bulk as they are lined and bound, and you want them to fit after you've done all that work. I then traced the basic panes onto another sheet of paper and shaped them. The reason we don't leave them as straight panels is that they look awful like that. All patterns should have graceful lines, and straight lines rarely belong on the body. Straight lines tend to look flat, uninteresting and sometimes after sewing, hollowed out or concave. If you need a straight line look, you are better off starting with a slight convex shape in your pattern. (rigidity, straight lines, overuse of rulers = my pet peeves.)

Lastly, a large pattern for the upper puff that is seen through the panes.

Friday, March 27, 2009

gold doublet questions

Yet another doublet. This one has a waist seam with separate skirts, and paned upper sleeves.
It will also have "slashes" in the front where I have pinned some muslin scraps. He will also get a big lace collar and fancy cuffs too.

There are many decisions to be made to get from this stage to finished, both design and technical. Let's see:
How will it close?
It could close centre front to centre front with hooks and loops and the buttons could be decorative. OR
It could have functional buttons and holes, but that may depend on what is chosen to trim the front and the skirts of the doublet, and whether there is a quick change.
What lining is to be used on the skirts, under the epaulettes/crescents and behind the panes?
What fabric will show in the front slashes?
What fabric is showing under the paned sleeve?
Are the edges of the panes bound and then trimmed- what is the binding, and the trim?
Are the skirt edges bound and trimmed or will they have flat trim as a banding detail?
What fabric shows under the arm if the actor isn't wearing a full shirt? How will that gusset be stitched in?
How will the lace collar and cuffs attach to the doublet - will they be removable for cleaning?
How will the sleeves close?
How will we finish the waistline of the body and how will we sew the skirts to the body?

These are just the immediate questions that come to mind. I'm sure there will be even more decisions to be made. Decisions for breeches, capes, dresses, boots, hats, wigs, jewellery, swords, firearms, helmets, armour, and quick changes. Multiply by the number of costumes in a show and it will make your head spin.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

making progress

I got in on Monday morning to find trim pinned to a few outfits including this doublet that I've been tracking in these posts.
Hallelujah! We were stalled again last week because we either need designer's decisions or fabrics or fittings. Or all three.
So, I found the judy festooned with trim and my notes with most of the answers I need to proceed.
Body Trim: A gold and black fine striped silk fabric to be cut on the bias, and made into banding that will define the front edge, and the skirts of the doublet. On the inside edge of that fabric, a gold braid. Set on the fabric band a black trim , carefully placed so that the "teeth" set into the spaces of the gold trim. Right on top of the black trim is another gold trim.

The upper puff sleeves will have the same trim but with a narrower width of the banding to show along the open edges.
The inside sleeve is a caramel/golden dupioni silk.
The lining for the upper puff is a black and silver and gold scroll work patterned fabric, which isn't shown here.
In the other photo you can a detail of the trim being prepped and applied.We got right to work on one of the fronts so that the designer could see a portion of it done and I could get a few more details sorted out before he goes away again.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Here's the jacket that I mentioned earlier, after its first fitting in the real fabric. Since I did a mock-up or toile, and it fit really well, we go ahead to this stage. The fronts are done: pockets in, canvas in, lapels pad-stitched, and fronts taped and facings finished. The linings are in, but basted in place, as are the collar and the sleeves. It really doesn't fit this stand, but I assure you that it fits the actor better.
The changes are minor- a bit more padding on one shoulder, and the sleeves need to be shortened just a bit. When the sleeves go in permanently, the excess canvas will be trimmed down, and a sleeve head put in to fill in the top of the sleeve. The under collar will get hand stitched on and I will mark the collar size and shape at the notch of the lapel. Then we cover the collar, finish the hems and lining, and lastly buttons and buttonholes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

one armed doublet

Here's a little something we made last year for The Taming of the Shrew. Petruchio's doublet, used in the scene where he is trying to drive Katherina mad. Everytime we thought it was done, a little more trim would manage to get pinned on it overnight. He was quite a sight in that scene. The doublet has only one sleeve, the leggings/pants were striped upholstery velvet, cut on the bias, quarter panelled,(seams down the front and back of the leg too) matching chevroned stripes at the seams and they laced all down the outseam with a panel of stretch velvet lycra behind.
Oh, and a codpiece too. And one leg in armour. With a helmet, and cape.
I should get them from storage and take a picture of them. Not something you'd make very often. A challenge to say the least.

Design credit: Santo Loquasto

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

more dresses

More dresses seen in progress while leaving for the day. These are being made in another workroom of the four work spaces that we inhabit.
There are five tailors including a junior tailor this year as well as 7 ladies wear cutters, including a junior, currently on staff right now, so that is 12 cutters, 10 with teams of 6 and the juniors have three sewers each. I think that makes 78 cutters and sewers right now, and lots of work going on.
There is so much work to do in such a short time line, with designers that aren't always in residence, and the rehearsals for the shows, that we often wonder if we're going to get through it all.
Yesterday, there were 28 costume fittings between 9am and 6pm, for 7 different shows,using 3 fitting rooms and the manager's office, 12 wig fittings, 2 boot fittings, and one millinery fitting. That left 57 outstanding fitting requests to be carried over to the next day(in addition to new requests on Monday). I don't know how stage management is coping.

Monday, March 16, 2009

1960's suit toile

Our designer on this show arrived this week, and rehearsals started as well, so we're off! I didn't have a chance to speak with him about the design before I started this, so I did a mock-up or "toile" in a heavy muslin. It a nice double breasted early 1960's suit for a man with quite a barrel chest so it doesn't fit as nicely on the stand as it did on him.
Whenever I make a muslin that fits really well, I kind of kick myself cause I think I should have just gone for it, and I wonder if the designer thinks "why did you do a mock-up?" Then I stop and think about the fact that the design was single breasted to start and a phone call with the design assistant resulted in a change to DB just as I was finishing up the SB pattern, and what if the actor shows up 2 sizes bigger or smaller? or the pockets looked off?

Anyway, there were minor changes, so this one is cut out and the trousers are made already and the jacket is in process.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


As I was leaving last Friday, I went through the props department, and piled up in boxes and on the tables were these.
All fake.
Every one of them.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Finally had a fitting with this doublet. (See: "First things first" post-I'm challenged trying to figure out how to link to my earlier posts)
The body is just in black duck right now and the sleeves were cut in the real fabric. We're going to raise the waistline to the chalk marks, shorten the skirts and change the sleeves a bit. I've pinned out a bit of the sleeve in the back, and I think the forearm "cuff" will close at the back of the arm and I'll lengthen the front of the "puff" so the opening opens up some more. I have a bit of fitting details, like adding a bit of padding at the back of his shoulders. The rest isn't bad, drop CF neckline and redo the collar to fit.
Now I need to alter my pattern, cut out the fabric for the body, mark the changes on the sleeves and body, get it ready for the designer to decide on the trim (all over), lining for the inside of the big sleeve, inner puff sleeve fabric, how its going to close at the front, buttons, etc. I also need to make a big lace collar but they haven't bought the lace yet, so that will be later. In the meantime I will take the pattern and make his second look from it and his third too.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It was a busy day today so I thought a couple of pictures from King Lear of 2007 might be nice to look at.
Lear entered through the house, down the main aisle of the theatre, and up onto the stage, so everybody got a good look at the cloak all spread out trailing behind him. He then walked up onto a raised platform where his throne was, and swished it all to the side and sat down. It was a great entrance.
He wore a gold long-sleeved under gown with lace cuffs(supported with Dior net and fishing line, if I recall) and the ruff, attached to the collar, and then the cape with a short over capelet, trimmed in graduated sized bands of gold lame and lines of gold soutache. Lined in gold organza to try to keep it lighter in weight. The reddish dupioni cross sash came from the under gown hip, cross the front and finished on his back right shoulder in a big rosette with tails. Then there was the chain of office. All of this had to be rigged so that everything stayed put, but also had to be able to be undone and got out of quickly.
Ann Curtis designed this show.

p.s fishing line-well, what we have found that works to support things like lace cuffs is the innards of rigilene polyester boning. It's made up of thick translucent filaments like a very heavy fishing line that you can cut apart and then zig over to give support..

Saturday, March 7, 2009

all in a day's work

This is what I did on Thursday last week.
I came in early and talked through alterations that one of the sewers was going to do on a contract job she had.
I connected with two of the three design assistants I am working with, touched base, confirmed when the designers were coming, what fabrics were being ordered, where everything was at.
I called 8 fittings for actors in all three shows for next week.
On my coffee break, I repaired the covers of one of my drafting books that had come apart. I admired the great job that one of my sewers did designing and pattern making, cutting and sewing the costumes for an aerial dance piece that was showcased last week in Whistler B.C. in preparation for next year's Winter Olympics (she did it all herself!)
I went through the trim placement and how to proceed on a doublet with a couple of sewers, conferred with a sewer regarding a jacket we're making for another team
I drafted patterns for a smoking jacket, waistcoat, and trousers, cut mock-ups for all three pieces(since I don't have any "real" fabric yet), and gave them to one of the other sewers to put together.
I did find an old draft for a smoking jacket, which was fun to look at but that was all I did with it. I like to see what general shape the patterns were- the characteristics of the period pattern; the position of the shoulder seam, underarm dart, how straight or shapely the back is, and then do my own thing from there.

Took these photos and went home, drove my lovely daughter to ballet, made dinner, blogged, then baked brownies for my daughter's fundraising efforts for school.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

cute dresses

Here are a couple of cute dresses that are being made on the other side of the room.
The cutters here usually specialise in either women's or men's costuming. Since there are many more men onstage generally, sometimes the ladies wear cutters get assigned period men's wear along with their usual type of workload. This is one of those years, so along with these and other dresses, Carol has a big chunk of men's costuming too.
All in all, it's nice to share the workspace with a team that does ladies wear, and we often share tips and tricks of sewing and cutting as well as moral support and the occasional baked treats.

I don't know how our job would translate in the US theatre or in the fashion biz, but here is a brief description for what it's worth.
The cutter receives a workload from the wardrobe office. This consists of the designer's sketches, and the budget sheets. The cutters then have meetings with the designer(s) about their assignments. The designers choose and purchase the fabrics and related items like trim and buttons, (we hope it is sooner rather than later).
We then get the measurement sheets and start drafting or draping to make patterns, interpreting the designs. We then either cut mock-ups/toiles or cut right into the fashion fabric, supervise a team of 6 sewers who construct the costumes, fit the actors, alter the patterns and cut or alter the costume, supervise the construction, and keep track of the budget sheets and time records.
Costumes will generally have two or three fittings that will include people from boots and shoes, millinery, wigs, bijoux, costume breakdown, and sometimes props.
We are a repertory theatre which means that as a department, we will work on many shows at once. At the beginning of the year that is usually eight shows, then they overlap with a few middle shows and then two to four later openers. Each cutter starts with three shows to work on at the same time.The wardrobe swells to about 80 people by March, and we inhabit 4 different work spaces.
It can get a little crazy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

mess jacket

Here's a pattern I made today.
It's for a military mess jacket. It will be red with black contrast. I'm hoping that they ordered barathea for it but it may be made in melton, if it doesn't come in the colour that the designer is after.
It has traditional frock coat seaming in the back, sits a few inches below the natural waist line and has a shawl collar, with contrast lapels, cuff details and epaulettes. The sleeve is a more modern pattern with the forearm seam wrapped to the inside rather than a "half and half" sleeve in which the forearm seam is more visible and the sleeve width is even from hem to elbow.
This will be a prototype, we'll be making a dozen or so of these.
Since we share our workroom with a ladies cutter, and team, it's nice for us to have a bit of colour to work with, rather than letting the women's wear have it all.