Friday, February 26, 2010


We had decided to approach this contract as a group, but in the end one of us had to sign the contract, and that was me. It was my first venture into being responsible for a project like this, and to be honest, a little nervous about signing on the dotted line. There were six cutters, including myself, who worked on it and although 60 costumes is not a lot of work for this many cutters, it ended up working out quite well as the timeline was very short. My nervousness was dispelled pretty quickly as we all got into the project- I have nothing but good things to say about everyone's commitment over the course of the project.

Once we had our meeting with the designer, (the very talented John Pennoyer) the producer chose three sketches to be the prototypes.The designs varied from contemporary looks to ethnic and period interpretations. We had no idea what the overall concept of the event was even though we were working on it. The important thing for them was to keep everything under wraps so the event would be a surprise on the day.
We rented the space to work in and proceeded to almost sequester ourselves due to the confidential nature of the work. This turned out to be a fine balancing act between obviously working in the building but pretending we weren't doing anything special, to papering over the windows in the doors, drawing the blinds and putting up "private rental- keep out" signs.
Three of the six cutters had the prototype sketches to do and since I was the organizer, I got to work purchasing thread and zippers and all the assorted supplies that we needed.

Every costume sketch had a volunteer performer assigned to wear it and we were given a full length photo of the person and maybe five or six really basic measurements. It wasn't a lot of information to cut by! We also wouldn't be the ones fitting or altering the costumes, and the onus was on us to get it right the first time both in fit, and design interpretation because they wouldn't have time to do much correcting after the costumes were shipped.

We shipped our prototypes off just before Thanksgiving and waited for the word to continue.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

a lot of quilted fabric

Our costuming journey this fall started in late April with preliminary discussions about the possibility of working on the costuming for the opening ceremonies, and over the course of the summer the possibility began to become a reality.
By the end of September, the reality arrived by transport truck. Five thousand pounds of reality in the form of our fashion fabric pictured here. It seemed to be a double loft in terms of batting and since we had not seen the fabric before we started, we needed to figure out how to work with it.
Well, first we needed to get it out of the boxes which took three or four of us to manoeuvre the stacked boxes, open them, and pull out the 50 metre rolls of fabric where we could unroll it as it was needed.

The loft of the quilt batting made it challenging to deal with. Drawing your pattern out on it and cutting it meant pinning the loft down to control it. Then we found that every stitch line and every serged edge needed to be compressed by machine stitching before sewing the garment or finishing the seam allowances. If this wasn't done, you couldn't sew accurately and in many cases the fabric would pucker and pleat under the presser foot or against the feed dogs of the machine. This meant cutting the pieces beyond the finished seam allowance, and reducing it after compressing it.
We also found that it was easier to work with if we loosened off the presser foot tension on the machines as well as sew with a toe up velvet foot (which is a very narrow machine foot for industrial machines).

We couldn't touch the fabric with the iron either. There was a layer of fusible on both sides of the batting, right underneath the fashion fabric, which would turn to a crispy texture if you put the iron directly on it. We solved some of the issue by using steam, holding the iron just above the fabric, and using our hands or clappers to open up seam allowances.

We also figured out ways of dealing with the hems and bindings. We received unquilted fashion fabric that we cut on the bias for binding. This fabric on its own was quite lightweight and we found that a fusible tricot was needed to give it some body and make it better suited for use as binding. The hems couldn't have machined topstitching on the outside, because it would look odd with the various quilted patterns so we solved that by using a fusible hem tape.
Obviously these costumes were only being worn a few times and the fusible tape worked remarkably well in this situation.

The first priority/deadline: the production of three prototypes that had been selected from our group of costumes, to be delivered one week after the fabric arrived.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Winter Olympics #2

Hymn to the North
I had a quick look around the internet and grabbed these two photos. I'm hoping that I will get some close ups at some point, but who knows....................
It was quite a process, similar to the way we work in general but very different in many ways as well. I've never worked on a project before that kept us in the dark regarding the overall concept. No complaints. It was exciting to watch and I did document much of the process and plan to show it to you as soon as I get it organized.

Thanks to the crew both here and in Vancouver.
Thanks to my friends who got me to a bar with a TV for the ceremonies.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Winter Olympics

Well, the project that I took on in the fall will be revealed today, February 12, 2010 at 6 pm P.S.T. in Vancouver British Columbia. That is 9 pm E.S.T for those of us in Ontario, and I think 2 am on the 13th for those in Great Britain, 1 pm on the 13th for those in far away Australia.
The opening ceremonies for the 2010 Olympics will be broadcast on CTV in Canada, and by AP in other countries.

I can't wait to see the final result of all our work. (We did a specific group of designs, not the whole thing by any means.)
Waiting is what I will literally have to do since I will be away on my annual cross-country ski week-end at a place that doesn't have a television!!!
I hope you can take a moment to watch.

Can't say more than this right now, except thanks to everyone involved, and I am proud to have worked on it.

update: it looks like our section will be close to the beginning-maybe the second performance piece after the athlete's parade in, but I cannot totally confirm this.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sleeve experiments

This year I will get to experiment with some odd sleeve shapes.
Asymmetrical outfits and sleeves with darting of the sleeve head in order to create angular shapes. The fashion fabrics for this are varied-some heavy (15 oz wool) and some tissue thin. It will be a challenge, no doubt.
I start with a basic one piece sleeve block that I can develop the other shapes from. In some cases I will need a two piece sleeve pattern for an inner sleeve, plus patterns generated for cuffs/fore arm pieces, a one piece pattern for the upper arm as well as patterns for panes.
I start out expanding my pattern by slashing and spreading for the volume I think a sleeve will need but it usually takes a trial in muslin to really see the relationship between the paper and the resulting muslin toile.
I also have to figure out how to support the shape- whether the fabric needs backing or some kind of netting on an under sleeve or both. The sleeve in the upper photo is backed onto a Nylon fabric that was used for shirt collars at one time. It also has a hoop of rigilene stitched in to keep the circumference held out. The sleeve in the lower photo is washed muslin stitch fused with stitch witchery to craft felt, also with a rigilene support.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Industrial machines

Industrial sewing machines are the workhorses of the wardrobe and of my studio space. They are heavy, will sew through virtually anything, and I can't imagine trying to work on anything else. I find that the best machines to purchase are the older ones with fewer bells and whistles. They have fewer things to go wrong. The first industrial machine I bought was this Consew straight stitch for $100.00. Best investment I ever made. It only goes forward-no reverse- so if you need to tack the beginning or end of the seam, you have to lift the foot pedal, pull the fabric back a few millimeters and stitch over your first few stitches.
I bough the industrial Pfaff zig zag machine when Steve from Pro-Sewing found one and told me about it. I cost much more than the Consew did, but in the costuming area, a zig is very useful machine to have and I feel that this is one of the better ones.

I also have a very old Singer overlock machine-I'm not sure of its age but it still works very well. I use it mostly for finishing the seam allowance of garments.
I have a domestic serger that I use for rolled hem edges and for stretch fabrics too. It has a useful foot that allows elastic to feed through it without having to manually guide the elastic along.
I have a more modern Mitsubishi straight stitch machine that has a reverse lever and Carol has a Mauzer overlock at the studio as well.
I managed to get all these machines moved with the help of my husband and a manual fork lift. (He hopes I am happy with where they are situated so I won't have to ask for help to move them again.)

The other heavy duty piece of equipment I have is my old (bought it used 16 years ago) Sheldon industrial boiler and iron. When the seal went on the glass tube (which shows you the interior water level), surprisingly I got my local plumber to fix it- It will produce 30psi of steam and you can run it all day without refilling it. The iron is a heavier weight model for tailoring. The unit needs its own electrical breaker and it sits on a dedicated ironing table, covered in wool felt and wide enough to iron 150cm wide fabric. When this iron stops heating its life will be over since it has asbestos batting inside the bottom plate and no-one is allowed to work on them anymore.

So all the heavy items are now in the space, cleaned up and ready for whatever project next comes our way.
In the meantime I am back at my regular job contract. I have three shows assigned right now, so a bit of 30's and 40's style tailoring and a few doublets thrown in for good measure. I will work with new designers as well, so it should be an interesting season.
The process begins again.