Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Busy days

Wow, today felt like a Monday, but it is already Tuesday!

Mondays are usually hectic since I've left it all behind on Friday only to come back in and find the same amount of work still waiting for me-no wardrobe fairies doing the work while we are away!

This is a very hectic time of year too, coming up to our deadlines- we have a quick change rehearsal on Tuesday next , then tech on Friday and the designer for the other show is in house beginning tomorrow and leaves next week, so he'll be expecting to have fittings and I think there will be designer/cutter meetings for another show next week too.

The balancing act is in full swing.
We've been waiting for some knitted "chain mail" to arrive so we can make a leather gambeson that is worn over the chain mail and under the armour. This garment is involved in the quick change rehearsal in a week and it finally arrived yesterday afternoon, just in time for a quick bit of begging to stage management to schedule a fitting for this morning.
The day went like this:
in at 8:20, answered questions, looked at the breeches that I didn't get altered on Friday, made a "to do" list, requested fittings, met a potential donor for the theatre who was being introduced to Lela, and basically checked with all the team members to see how things were going.
9:15 am : actor into tights and boots then the chain mail, which I needed to fit (and needs alterations), then the base of the gambeson that I had prepared, fit that, then props in with full armour, body arms legs, chain mail hood , a bit of discussion for them about a few more changes, then out of it all and back at my table by 10.

Had a cup of tea, answered questions about finishing another leather doublet and how I'd like the sleeves of a tailcoat prepped for fitting, discussed a collar for a frock coat, and made a list of priorities, met with Lela, estimated how long it would take to finish each outstanding garment for the upcoming deadline to figure out if we needed to do overtime, since we also need to get two of our 1830's costumes ready to fit in fabric for the other show, plus some stock fittings and Lela's toile for a child in the show.
I filled out a performance review for a new seamstress, met with her, dropped off the paperwork to my boss and briefly discussed the sewer's progress.
Altered the gambeson pattern and marked the changes, then had a technical fitting on the velveteen tailcoat I was posting about, as well as the shell for an overcoat just before lunch.

Ate lunch, cut all the leather pieces for the gambeson, discussed the options for closing it with the designer as the design shows it being laced up the back but they won't have time to do that so it will have to be faked- either with a zipper or hooks. I made a sample of how I thought the skirt tabs should be finished. I thought about how we would attach the embroidery pieces to the leather, but gave up on that for now.

Denise finished the baste up for the frock coat, so I handed her the gambeson, and discussed briefly how I thought it would need to go together as it will be quilted.
Needed to cut a gusset for another costume, so I cut that, remarked the armhole for a robe, and checked on the progress of the waistcoat that goes with the frock coat.
Got my call from my daughter telling me she was home from school, had fencing tonight, and was going to a friends house.
Had a laugh as Susy tried to bag out the neck and armholes of her costume but wasn't able to turn it no matter how hard she tried.
Cut all the strips of leather for the gambeson, put the scraps in a bag, hung up the pile of tights on my table, and at 4:55 pm got a phone call from someone who wanted to have a War of 1812 uniform made (but didn't really have a budget to do so).
Grabbed my things, packed my bag, helped Silvia with a trouser fitting for a client of hers and got home around 6.
Did I say it was busy?
Tomorrow we'll do it all again, and I just remembered I have to talk with Susan in bijoux about the chain of office for the quick change, and I now have to make a pair of leggings that no-one told me about, and they will be needed for Tuesday too. I hope they buy some fabric, and lets not even start talking about the codpieces that need support.

These are just the things I can remember off the top of my head from the day.

No wonder I feel tired tonight.
And there is still snow on the ground.

Friday, March 25, 2011

random pics

The weeks are flying by! Why is it that a week in February takes its time, but a week at the end of March when deadlines are beginning to approach flies by and you feel you cannot get enough done in a day?
Anyway, all I can show you right now are some random photos I took while wandering out on my way home.
All departments are in full swing and the first show will be in tech by April 8.

Today was Sitzprobe for the upcoming musical in the rehearsal hall next door to our wardrobe, so we had the pleasure of listening to the the whole orchestra going through the show music with the singers for the first time, while we worked.
Images from the top down: armour hanging in props, a suit jacket in a very napped, very slinky lightweight velvet in progress by Mr. S and team, a tray of "medals" in Bijoux, a patent leather corset by Miss B and team, and a fibreglass (I think it is fibreglass - not vacuform) casting of a head in props.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

another waistcoat

It is getting so busy that I can barely find time to take a few pictures as I work through the fittings and alterations. This is a nineteenth century waistcoat that I fit the other day. I went straight into fabric for this one, hoping the actor was the size his measurement sheet indicated.
Luckily he was and there weren't too many alterations to do to this waistcoat. It is in a very preliminary state, just tailor tacked, no pockets yet, a muslin back and the front edge and hems are just basted back.
It has a shawl collar that ends up with a very narrow stand and fall at the back neck.
I made the corrections and have a nice clean pattern now. I will just take the waistcoat almost apart so I can mark the changes needed and cut all the bits like the pockets and pocket bags, the facing and the linings. This lapel breaks below the seam of the neckline, and when it rolls into position, will cover up the dart that is in the neckline. The facing won't have the neckline seam at all, it will be worked over the lapel in one piece to the inside where it will be caught down to the canvas.
The lining will then be seamed along the front armhole, turned , basted into place and then hand stitched to the facing. This gives you better results in my opinion, as you can be sure that there is enough ease allowed over the roll of the lapel and shawl collar. It is one of those tactile things that I love about tailoring.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

step vent

The back vent of all/most body coats are open and traditionally have a type of vent opening that I call a step vent.
For the first fitting, or for a toile, I usually ask for both sides the vent to be basted back on the CB line, so I can judge whether the backs are hanging correctly- if they are, the two edges will hang straight edge to edge. If they are crossing over in the back, or pulling apart I can easily see it and correct it at the fitting.

The vent from the outside looks like the photo on the left. The left side of the centre back is sewn to form a "step" that sits on top of the right back.
The middle photo shows the inside of the coat as the lining is being put in.
You need to clip the seam allowance on the left back to form the step vent but we don't clip the seam allowance on the right back as it makes that point much weaker. We press open the seam allowance from the neck down to a point a few inches above the vent, then gradually allow the seam allowance to fold and lay all in the same direction.

A note about the back lining ...for years, I always cut the back lining in one piece, but it is a more complicated technique to install it, so now it is cut in two pieces and it will have a short horizontal seam in the end. It makes much more sense to do it this way because it saves time, is stronger in the long run, and is easier to put in.

I confess that I have to be reminded everytime to cut it like this, because my automatic tendency is to do what I've always done. I just need a few more years practice for it to become my new "normal".

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

1830's coat

I had to put aside the medieval for a moment while we wait for the designer to return for fittings so I finally had time to alter my pattern for one of our 1830's coats and cut it out. I needed some time to mull things over because it will be made out of velveteen and I wanted to be sure I was approaching it the right way because I don't want to be altering velveteen very much if I can help it.
One thing the designer wanted to see was the neckline of the DB coat opened up and curved outwards to follow the waistcoat's neckline, and to keep the neckline of the waistcoat visible even when the coat is worn closed.
Usually a DB coat closes up the fronts a bit by virtue of the way the roll line travels from the gorge to the top button of the coat. To get the neckline to open up required what is essentially a dart running parallel to the roll line hidden under the lapel of the coat. The dart pulls the neckline into a curved shape rather than a straight line.
I also had a seamed on lapel which is very typical of the period so I needed to combine these requirements and all I can say is I am glad this isn't plaid.

Once I had the pattern to where I thought it should be, I cut a half muslin and tried it on the stand with the waistcoat it is worn with. I made a few additional changes and then I started into the velveteen, which I have to say is a wonderful weight to work with, and a low pile, so I have high hopes for the end result.

One thing I do when cutting heavily napped fabrics is to mark and cut the pieces singly. It does take a bit more time, but it is better than fighting with the two layers of fabric laying on one another.
Sometimes the top layer will look nice and flat but the under layer has either shifted or the naps are gripping each other. I think it also makes it easier for the tailor to mark- either with a line baste or with tailor tacks.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

leather doublet pattern

One of the garments we are making this season is a leather (actually suede) doublet which I fit today. The pattern I made for it is shown here.
The doublet needed to have a soft rather than structured feel to it and it will be worn belted, but the designer didn't want a lot of excess material bunching up at the waist when the belt was tightened.
That meant that I needed to suppress the waist and I think that in leather, seams are so much better than darts. The seaming choice that I avoided because I really dislike it, is the men's version of a "princess" line, and I suggested to the designer that I could angle the seams off into the armhole, which is a bit more, well, angular and manly, if a seam can be manly.
The leather we are using is a good weight of sheepskin, sturdy enough to not require an interior structure to hold its shape, but soft enough that it doesn't look too rigid when belted.

People often think that leather is difficult to work with but I find it easier in some respects.
You do have to assess what the assets and pitfalls of the leather you are working with may be, does it stretch easily (control the seam before stitching) will you need a walking foot or teflon foot to sew it? (you don't want a line of stitching to perforate the leather) Can you take advantage of its non fraying quality and figure out ways of incorporating the raw edge (use a strip to bind an edge) instead of conventional binding or seaming? The possibilites are endless.

The hem will be "dagged" which again can be one of those design elements that are easy to get wrong. We need manly dags, not scallops like a 1940's window valance, something angular perhaps, so we will need to make up a few samples to see what works. The great thing about leather is that you can make use of its inherent qualities to assist in the construction, so in the case of the dagged hem, we will likely lay in a facing of interfaced leather behind, and then stitch the dag shapes through both layers and cut next to the stitch lines, leaving the cut edge as the finished edge.
Yes, you can interface leather and in some instances you just have to. This one will need a little help to stabilize it while stitching the dags. Another option is to glue the facing in place for stability and we will do a sample of that too, but we don't want a soft doublet with a rigid hemline, but we certainly will glue back our seam allowances and gently hammer them flat. we sometimes use barge but also use double sided rubber cement tape in some circumstances- just depends on what we need and whether the gluing needs to be more or less permanent over a period of time.

I barely got out of the fitting room before Karen had it back on her table for a minor alteration and to begin the process of finishing it. The whole team is in now and the work flow still hasn't stabilized from frantic to smooth, so I am barely keeping ahead of them.
Photos to come.