Wednesday, December 19, 2012

year end thoughts and photos

Year end? Where did the time go?

I had planned on doing some posting while I was guiding Lela through drafting and fitting body coats, but it fell by the wayside due to her mother's illness and subsequent passing. We did get through quite a lot of drafting and fitting but I didn't have the wherewithal to document it as I have done in the past.

These are a few of the last things we've been working on- the tailcoats with the Ballet gusseted sleeves- they don't hang as cleanly as a regular sleeve it is true but you can raise your arms! The fitting I did last week was for these checked trousers with a dark grey jacket. I don't know why I like the checked trousers so much, but I do! I guess they feel rather cheery and they stand out compared to the more sombre grey suits that we had been making.

On Friday, we collectively decided that it was time to put down the shears and needles for a break before Christmas. I have 76 buttonholes to do (by machine of course) so I got all those marked and basted and ready, planning on getting over to my colleague's place to have them done when I was just hit by fatigue and I gave in to it. They can wait until the New Year. I just need a break, so I am taking one, since it has been a very busy year so far.

I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2013!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tailcoat layout

I have been so busy these last few weeks. All I can do is check in here and show you what is keeping me so busy.

On my table is the last two of the five tail suits chalked out and ready to be cut.

I have an extension piece that is piano hinged to the length of my table so that it can be extended to allow 60" wide fabric to be rolled out flat. This is so helpful when cutting capes or other large projects. In this case, I am cutting five sets of tails so I can utilize the fabric better with it laid out flat. As you can see here, in one trouser length, I can also lay out the front, back and side panel of one tailcoat as well as the front of the next one. When I lay out the next pair of trousers, I can get the next tailcoat back, side and the skirts of two tailcoats. Once that is done, I can cut all the sleeves.

As of Friday afternoon, I had all five pairs of trousers bundled separately with all their components and all five coats in nice little bins awaiting sewing. I have all the period collar patterns made and cut out for the men's shirts, so for all intents and purposes, I am finished the major cutting work until I can fit again.

Monday I think will be a day off just to catch up with all the things I have been neglecting over the past month, then I have a week and a half of instruction with Lela to finish up her training. Funnily enough, we will be delving into body coats. I have a fit model lined up and think that a tailcoat and a frock coat are in order, as well as some period styling discussions. I am hoping we can document a bit of that process here.

That should take us into December and one or two more Ballet fittings before Christmas, then it will be after the New Year to fit all the tail suits before starting back at the Festival.

Where has the time gone?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Onto another project

 I haven't really been neglecting posting here on purpose, honestly!
I have been very busy finishing up the one project while getting onto the next one at the same time. It wasn't supposed to work like that, but it did and it was a bit crazy at the studio.

I have 9 suits and 5 tail suits to make and I had to get all the patterns made and everything cut into fabric and basted up for fittings in Toronto on Monday of this week.

So, I had Denise, Lela, Emma working on the first project and had to bring in Jennie to meet the deadline, with Silvia putting suit jackets together for the second project. As the first project wound down, the others joined in, and we got everything ready to fitting stage by Friday afternoon.

It is always a bit nerve wracking going into fabric based on measurements that you didn't take, and that can be over 10 years old! Really. It sometimes happens that a dancer is measured when they join the company as an apprentice, then as they mature, adjustments are made on the fly, but the measurement sheets aren't updated. I know it sounds like an easy thing to do, but it is often crazy busy, and well, it happens.

So sometimes I luck out like I did in my first fitting here, where the dancer was pretty close to the numbers on the sheet, just a bit bigger in the hips. I just have to take in a bit in the upper body above the waist and move the shoulder line in marginally. I have to tweak the trousers a bit for size as well.
Everyone of these guys noted how long the jackets are, which they are not for 1920, but in comparison to today's fashions they are.
I have to say that it is a pleasure to fit dancers- they have incredible posture and pretty ideal shapes overall. They usually have built up their trapezius muscles and lats, full seats and substantial quads, but even amongst those similarities there are still differences.
For instance I have a two dancers, both 6'2" one with a 35" chest and 27 1/2" waist and 37" hip,  the other is a full 42 chest with a 34" waist and 44 hips.
It makes for interesting and challenging pattern making.

Now that I am home from doing my fittings, I have to regroup, look at the measurements I took and go forward from here, taking things apart and remarking and getting all the linings cut.

 I plan to have Silvia, Denise and Emma back to sew next week so there is a lot to do in the next few days to get ready for them to return.

For tonight though, Happy Hallowe'en!

Friday, October 19, 2012

 The contract is done and shipped.

 I feel exhausted. Could be the wine.

 Could be the weather- we suffered through the cold before the  boiler turned on in the building and as soon as it did the   weather warmed up. Now we are too hot. Running the a/c in October!

What is it about small versions of things- they are too cute! This was the smallest size waistcoat. I hope they send me some photos of whoever they cast to wear it!

I think I will take the week-end off since I can hardly stand to make another pattern right now. I think I have made patterns for 8 suits and cut them out in the past week and a half while supervising the finishing of the project that just shipped.
One more week to prep for 11 or 12 fittings on the 29th and 30th.
I am not going to think about it now.
I'll try to get back to some kind of regular posting soon.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My busy week

I have had a very busy week. I am going to try to take as much time off as I can this week-end but I know I should get into the studio tomorrow to keep the ball rolling. I got back from Boston last Sunday night, went in Monday morning and started in on my week.

Boys tailsuits:

I have to finish altering my patterns for these tailsuits, so I can cut them out and get them going.
I was very happy with how they turned out. 
I basically made four sizes based on heights that I was given. 
All the body length measurements were spot on for the sizing, it is just that I made everything a bit big through the chest and waist for these guys. Well, better a bit big than too small I say.
It is so much easier to pin excess in than rip things apart to let out or worse, to guess how much more you may need. This is important because often the fittings are very short, I think I didn't have anyone longer than 25 minutes. It felt a bit crazy, but that is what we are up against sometimes.
I cut all the trousers on Monday and Tuesday and Denise has most of them together already, I have Lela on board cutting shirt dickies, then she and Denise will switch to making coats next week while I then cut the waistcoats.

For Mr. B: 
I fit his suit on Wednesday.
Here is the trouser pattern to go with the suit jacket that I was drafting here.
As you can see they do not require a lot of fabric, just a metre is enough.
This gentleman prefers to wear his trousers under the fullest part of his belly and you can see that I have cut the front waistline down to accomodate this.
He is definitely not and easy shape to fit and I have to make some more adjustments now that  we have had a fitting. I think I should make the legs a bit narrower now that I see the pattern with fresh eyes.  I still have to mark the alterations on the jacket for Silvia, who is making this. 

I also went in to Toronto on Thursday for a fitting with a 1920's suit on another project, which I was very happy with. I managed to shop there for linings for the boys tailsuits and waistcoats, buttons for the suit above and his next suit to come and dropped off fabric for covered buttons as well. I got caught in rush hour traffic on the TTC, and just barely made it to the train station for my trip home.

Friday was spent altering the tailcoat patterns, shipping fabric (which is a mound of paperwork), shopping for more supplies, and then updating and doing work on the computer.

Next week looks about the same. I think I will go and put my feet up and have a glass of wine.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Home again, home again

Margaret and I just got back this evening from our fitting adventure in Boston. It is always so interesting to go to different theatres and wardrobe departments and meet our fellow costume makers.
We even managed to see a few sights such as The Boston Public Library in the morning before our fittings started. In a city full of amazing architecture, I found this building and its decorative elements to be one of the highlights of the trip. I wish I had had more time to explore the city, but we were there to work, and work we did!                  
                                                                                                More about that later.
It is going to be an intense few weeks getting this project together and sent off all the while overlapping with  the next one and a private contract too.

These are pictures I took of the BPL, the ceiling of the reading room is amazing, and the other is a photo of the inner courtyard of the library- how perfect!

Absolutely stunning. Also stunning are the John Singer Sargeant murals on the third floor, the marionette display and room after room of the most stunning decorative architecture.
Well worth a follow up visit if I get the chance.

Luckily I was also able to squeeze in a visit with my brother too. It was a very busy but enjoyable time.

Tomorrow....onward to pattern alterations and a bunch of cutting.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Boy's tail suits are together!

It has been quite the week around the studio.
It seems that the fabric shipment I was waiting for had a month long vacation around the USA and it finally made it to Canada Customs on August 22nd where it was kept for a week because of a paperwork issue.
I was ready to give up, by then, but lo and behold, it arrived on August 29th, where it was quickly unwrapped and organized.

Luckily I had all my patterns ready to go, so I started cutting the next morning and I recruited Denise and Lela to help put things together so we could ship them back to be fit. Four tail suits for boys, and four shirt dickies too. Pretty good for a weeks work. I saved some time by just making mock-up sleeves, as I'd rather get the body fit first and not waste fabric.

That shipment went out yesterday afternoon at 3pm and has arrived safe and sound at its destination.
A big sigh of relief when I saw that.

Next week I follow, to do the fittings and then I will be tremendously busy making pattern alterations and then cutting and stitching all the rest.

     Today I managed to get the studio tidied and worked on the pattern alterations for the suit I drafted  here in the previous post. The fitting went very well, I was really pleased with the overall fit. Still needed a bit more length through the front to the hem, needed a bit more through the waist too, and an alteration for his shoulder that is distorted from a surgery.
Updated his trouser pattern too. Then I cut the coat out. I'll have to finish that tomorrow so I can get it to Silvia on Monday. I must remember to take a picture to post.
     On Monday I should be starting onto another project for another ballet company, and this time it is suits, yay!
     As I was in the midst of the rush this week, I had one of those moments where I stood there and realized just how much I enjoy the process of what I do. I like figuring things out -like that suit pattern- and that I can work with people I like and we work in a way that pleases us. We could spend time figuring out how to do things faster or with more shortcuts, or with less handling, and in some situations we do, but mostly we work the way that makes us feel gratified with not just the final result but with the journey of getting there.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

suit pattern drafting

 Well, I am still waiting for the shipment of fabric to arrive and I'll tell you, it is causing me stress!  It is also messing with my carefully laid planning ;-)
So I have started on another project or two while I wait.

Since I have just spent time making boys patterns, I was getting used to the small nature of the patterns compared to what I normally make. Then I made a shirt pattern for a friend who has a size 50 chest! It made my head spin to go from a boy's size 8 to that.
Once that was finished I started this project pictured here. It also took some adjusting to as it is almost boy's size but made for a difficult figure.

A few years ago I was asked to make a jacket for a client, which I did, and he now is asking for another jacket and trousers as well as a two piece suit. He cannot purchase anything off the rack with good fitting results. His height is 4'11" and he has had some surgeries that have resulted in a very pronounced belly.
I remeasured him and found that he was smaller all around now, so I thought it would be a good time to try a redraft.
This time I used a much more conventional approach rather than my usual draft and cut and tape style.
The draft is mainly based on my own system, but I read through the drafts in a German cutting book I have, and applied the drafting techniques there for a big bellied figure.
In the second picture you can see it cut out and laid out on the table.
Once I had it to this point, I still needed to apply the balance measurements I had taken, and I needed another inch and a half in length in the front, based on the nape to CF waist measurement I had.

I opened the front in a wedge as you can see in the bottom picture, and taped in some paper and corrected my lines.
Off I went to the local fabric store for a toile fabric, and I have sewn a mock-up and I am ready to fit it. I like the look of this pattern better than the old one, but fittings are what really reveals what works. I hope to get this fit next week sometime, before my shipment arrives.
If it arrives next week.
It better arrive next week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More pattern drafting

Well, I haven't meant to be so uncommunicative lately, but it is summer and I am busy trying to enjoy some down time as well as get a start on the next project.
I've been making patterns and more patterns as you can see here hanging on the wall, and this morning I finished the last sleeve pattern for the boys tailcoats, and then went on to other things that have been waiting to get done.
I am still waiting for my fabrics to arrive from the US, and last week I spoke to a freight forwarder in Mississauga who will handle the customs portion of the delivery. Textile shipping is very tricky! I know this from my colleagues various experiences, and the customs broker himself said it would probably be easier to import booze and cigarettes than textiles. I'm not sure of the whys of it all and maybe I don't really want to know. I just want and need the fabric to get here, so I can make up my 4 sample outfits, dickies, waistcoats, trousers and tailcoats, and get them sent back to the US for fittings.
I have to package the toiles up and freight them back so I am betting that is a week of transit and border delays. Believe me, I don't want to be flying with unfinished toiles in my luggage.
I also don't know what the fabrics are yet, so I can't even order findings and interfacing or even thread until the fabric arrives.
I am betting the fittings won't happen until mid September now, which only leaves a month of work time to get everything finished and sent back again. My other upcoming project is huge and I was hoping to get going on it as well, so that darn fabric better get here soon.

I must be delusional in thinking this was going to be a relaxed and comfy process since we started talking in May!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Boy's patterns

While I am waiting for fabric to make its way to me, I thought I had better get started on some pattern making and a toile, since my next project involves making costumes for boys.

Conveniently I have a neighbour with a seven year old who has graciously let me use him for a fit model. It has been a great help and I promised to finish the mock-ups for him for Hallowe'en- a win-win situation!

I haven't made a lot of costumes for children, the last time was for a production of Oliver! and strangely enough, earlier this year I culled a backlog of patterns and guess what I tossed? Yes, Many of the patterns I had made for that show. Why does that happen? Is there something in the air that senses the moment I get rid of something, I will have a nee of it within the next 6 months.? Does that happen to anyone else?

Anyway, I did keep a few of them but I started with going through my collected cache of measurements and trying to compare them with some standards from a variety of sources. I was looking at Metric Pattern cutting for Children, and I have some more historical measurement tables from tailoring books as well.
The costumes I make will be worn by different children over the course of the next few years and the children range in age and height between 7-13 years and 51" to 63" tall. I keep all measurement sheets and never throw them away! I am putting them on a spread sheet so hopefully I can compare them by chest size, height or age to get an idea about the average size ranges.

Having a daughter, now almost 16, I do have a sense of the strange proportions that children have at different ages, but when you start trying to make patterns, it looks so odd on the table that you start second guessing everything.

Some things I have made note of:
Children have big heads. Being a mother makes this obvious!

In adults you can safely estimate proportions by dividing the height into the ideal of eight heads. Doesn't work with kids. If I take Master H's height of 51 3/4" and compare it to his measured nape to floor, from the top of his head to the nape is 8 1/4" which is more or less proportionately the size of an adult  of 5' 6" in height.

Children have a bit of a belly even if they are slim and have great posture. The patterns need extra room in the front waist area, and front length which is evident in the photo above.

Their limbs are slim and long compared to their chest, waist and hip measures. I remember my daughter seemed to stay the same circumference for many years even though she grew taller all the time.

They tend to have larger feet than you would think they should have.

They grow. Sometimes a great deal in a short time. I think my daughter grew over 4" in height one year. Big hem allowances are needed!

Not sure about their shoulder slope. I thought most kids had squarer shoulders, but I might be wrong about that. Master H above has sloping shoulders and the children I am making for will likely have sloping shoulders as well since they are baby ballet dancers.

I'm trying to see if I can relate their nape to waist length to a percentage of their height, or nape to floor length just out of curiousity. Trying to make the process make more sense.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

random vacation photos

Today's post is not to do with tailoring or costumes or sewing of any sort, but rest assured I will be back at it in no time!
After finishing my contract (early this year), it has been a whirlwind of activity of sorting out potential upcoming work and getting away for a short vacation.
A week away with no calls, and no internet availability. Just relaxation. Night-time darkness so absolute, that you cannot see your hand in front of your face once the lights are out.

I noticed that the first time you go to a place you take lots of pictures and the second, fewer and after that hardly any. Since this is our fourth time on Manitoulin Island, I realized near the end of the week I hadn't taken any photos, so when we made a day trip to Misery Bay, I remembered to bring the camera along.
Misery Bay- not miserable at all- the name is misleading! A short hike through the forest on a hot day, on a lovely trail of pine needles and rock brings you to this sight. I think we saw only two other people in the distance that day. Yes, before you say it, that is a big dog, and she was happy to stand there and cool off after the hike.

Sandbars and shallow water, and a partial view of the wetlands (actually a fen),  and forest beyond.
       Looking south from the beach towards the open lake. 

One of the features of this place is the Alvar, with its accompanying lichen and mosses which we were careful to avoid walking on. In some places though, it was just the rock and sand and the interesting patterns left by glaciers in the rock.

A beautiful place to visit. I was impressed by the  visitor centre which is completely off grid, with solar panels for electricity and staffed by committed volunteers.

Back home now and getting organized for the next round of work, hoping this heatwave breaks with some rain soon.

It looks like ballet work is on my plate in the next little while,  so I have to get organizing!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

velvet cape is finished

 Well, the cape has been finished, and as far as I know, it has successfully stayed on his shoulders without needing any other hidden means of support such as a harness Hurray! Not that he could have a harness, for in the end he must take it off himself onstage so the chain of office has a large hook and bar closure on one side, and he does quite well with getting it unfastened. Whew!

The back has a suede red cross and studding details. I wasn't aware of the cross as part of the design when I first cut this out, and I put a pleat in the back of the cape, but I think we've made the best of it.

The idea of applying trim to velvet is always tricky and tends to involve drawing straws to see who gets to do it as well as some deep breathing exercises. This suede actually wasn't as problematic as we thought it would be. Deep breathing always helps!
The suede cross needed to be hand sewn to the cape. Hand sewing a cut, raw edge of suede needs a bit of preparation.
I wanted to create stitching holes along the edges to make the hand sewing easier, and to reduce any possible distortion of the edge that would occur. I created the holes by stitching the edge with an unthreaded industrial machine with a large needle set at the longest stitch length.
I also found it helpful to mark the cut edge, create the stitching holes, then cut on the line. This allows the suede to feed evenly through the machine and eliminates any rippling that would occur if I had cut first.

The studs went in fairly easily. I just created a circle template of the correct diameter, and divided it up into 18 degree angles (I did mention to my daughter that geometry is used in real life) to mark the placement.
Susy had the idea to put a piece of Styrofoam in between the velvet and the fur, and that allowed the studs to press in through the velvet or suede, into the Styrofoam, and it was a simple thing then, to lift the velvet carefully and press the prongs of the studs back with pliers.
And so is my season here. Early this year, but I have some work coming up in August so now is the time to relax if I can in the 36 C degree weather we've been experiencing. No air conditioning either.
At least I can wear something lighter than this cape!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to all!
A beautiful sunny summer day here. Swimming, family and friends arriving for dinner outdoors on the deck. The Canada Day parade to watch and as darkness closes in, musical entertainment by our friends The New Boys, blankets and chairs spread out to watch the fireworks display, then the walk home with what seems like the whole community around us. A late night glass of wine to toast the day.
Thankful for living where we do.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012


One last fitting to go. For a pair of leather pants that weren't quite ready last Thursday. 
Which will add up to 85 fittings since January.
Not 85 costumes, mind you. Way way more.

As a point of interest, here's a list of what I fit on one actor, in one fitting, on Thursday and all the people involved, and sometimes all in the room at the same time.
90 minutes.
One actor, Me (cutter), Susy (first hand), Paul (designer), Jenna (design assistant), Bradley (wardrobe manager), Connie (boots and shoes), Rebecca (Bijou), Eric(props), Lisa (costume breakdown).

A.Velvet jeans, under bodice 1 and sleeves, gambeson 1, belt 1, gorget 1, velvet cape, boots.
B. Same jeans, under bodice 2 with chain mail sleeves, gambeson 2, steel gorget, hooded cloak, steel breastplate, pauldrons, gauntlets, grieves, belt 2, sword, worn in various combinations.
C. Same jeans, under bodice 3 with sleeves, gambeson 3, gorget 2, velvet cape again, belt 3.

Last fitting (with fingers crossed) pair of leather pants. One actor, me, Susy, Paul, Jenna, Connie  and Bradley.

Well, I never did get a fitting proper, so I checked the fit backstage in the dressing room. Just me, and the actor wearing them.
I'm happy, they look good, and he can do everything he needs to in them, so that's done. Cross it off the list.
Now for the understudy. More fittings are coming my way.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

gambesons and gorgets

 I think we are finally getting to the finishing stages of our work on this show.
All kinds of decisions have been made such as the decorative trim closures for this black velvet gambeson, and its accompanying suede gorget.
Now we just have to make a strap for the closures to be sewn to, that enables the actor to quickly get in and out of the costume, so that will be a suede strap with snaps. I still have to cut an under placket for it, and get the real belt when the boots and shoes department has it ready.
 This gambeson and gorget are also getting closer to completion. The leather thonging still has to be attached, and the straps for it have been prepped but still need to be riveted to the garment, and all those decorations will need to be properly placed, marked , holes punched and then riveted on as well.
We also have to attach the gorget to the gambeson, so it stays in place while being worn.
This gorget is also almost done. This one has the boot liner leather base that is pictured here. The pieces of belting were a bit tricky to position, and we have scored the back of them in order to get them to bend a bit more into the shape we want. Now we need to trim them and attach lacing as well as figure out how to attach it to the tunic that is worn under it.

I fit the velvet cloak on Thursday, so Denise is working away on it. Luckily no changes were necessary and it stayed on his shoulders very well. It still needs a fair amount of work to finish it, the hem alone is about 7.5 m and the hem allowance has to be trimmed down to 2" width, and hand cross stitched. Then there will be the same amount of fur hem to be dealt with, as well as catching the two layers together. Oh, and decoration and there is quite a lot to do still.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

leather gorget part 2

We are further along in the process of making this leather gorget but still not finished.

There are so many decisions to be made and each decision often causes more questions to be asked and processes to be figured out.

In this case, I had started out thinking that we would mount the leather on the felt base. The pattern I made was for the felt and I had to calculate by trial and error how much bigger to make the leather that would cover the felt since the circumference is greater. The pieces were joined edge to edge to reduce bulk and decorative strips of the embossed leather were stitched on top of the seams. The wide strips with the acorn nuts were backed onto boot leather for strength, which made them a certain thickness, so that meant I needed a longer screw to go through the thicker leather and still have enough space left for the leather thonging to go under the acorn nut. I had to order longer brass screws which led to a 10 day wait due to  an ordering fiasco of failed faxing, minimum order fulfillment and shipping errors.

By that time, I realized that trying the bind the top edge over the felt was making it all too thick, so I ditched the felt, re cut the inside structure out of boot weight leather, and reconfigured the outer layer of existing work to fit. I also then changed the opening to the centre back since it is now a quick change item and I don't have to worry about how to make the front opening (which is more visible) functional.

We also wanted the decoration strips to not be caught in the binding at the top and bottom, but have the screws go through the strips and the top layer of leather to hold them together, but not through the lining leather.

Sometimes it is so frustrating when your finished product is your prototype.

Everything is so plain to see in retrospect, don't you think? 
The second and third versions will be much better I'm sure. In fact, I started a gorget for another character using boot liner leather. This I seamed for rigidity, as the leather that is on the outside is a bit softer than it should be. It also has similar decorative strips with acorn nuts but the strips are made of belting leather, which is almost  1/4" thick!! So even if things are the same (gorget) the materials we are given for each specific item change the game in terms of construction methods.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

velvet cape progress

Here is the fake fur lining all stitched up and ready to be basted into the cape which is made out of velveteen.
I cut the cape to have a wide standing grown-on collar, a centre back inverted pleat, and a train.
There is some structure in the collar of the cape. I cut an inner yoke of hymo, that extends into the collar and the collar section is reinforced with a layer of heavy white shirt fusible, which we laminated using stitch-wichery and then machine stitched the layers together to prevent any delamination in the future.
The hymo extends down the front edges of the cape, to provide support and stability which we will need when we get to the point of attaching the fur to the front edge.
This is the velvet being laid out on the fur in the other room where there is a free table.  

Denise started at the top and basted the two pieces together down the centre back and along the neck before attempting to baste the fronts. It is really hard to manoeuvre all this fabric around, so she will do what feels right on the flat then double check it on the stand. We will have a fitting with this, when the designer returns, so it will likely have to come apart, although I wish there were some way to not have to do that. The hems needs to be checked, as I am sure that the fur lining has lifted the overall length, and we have to make sure the actor feels okay with the length, especially at the front, since we don't want it to be a tripping hazard.

Here it is at the end of the day today (Tuesday), basted together and on a stand. The fur needs to be re-basted on the left front as you can see there is too much length there. Overall though, I think it is looking good. I should make a harness for it just in case, because it is heavy and slippery too.

Now we wait. Our designer returns on Monday so we should have a meeting, talk with the props department about the state of the armour, bijoux for placement of some decoration, boots and shoes to see if the boots they are making will be ready to fit, and then arrange the last fitting for all the costumes this character wears.

Finally today, some much needed supplies came in, and a few decisions were made so I can move forward with a stalled portion of the project.

Monday, June 4, 2012

fake fur and chain mail

    Well, I managed to get the fake fur cut out by 5 p.m. on Friday.
Susy even found some time to do a couple of stitching samples for me beforehand, just to see how it would behave at the machine.

The best way to seam this fur is to cut it on, or just inside the pattern sewing line and carefully pin then zig the raw edges together. This eliminates bulk at the seams, and is surprisingly strong- we both had a go at trying to pull it apart and couldn't. The zig stitch should actually fall over the raw edge, and if the tension is adjusted properly, you can almost pull the seam flat.

Once the seam is done, you can pull the fur out of the seam as needed with a yarn needle or even a plastic nail brush.

The cloak has bias to bias seaming over the shoulder and a straight to bias seam at the side back. In the velvet, the bias seams went together as cut, but, as you can imagine, the straight to bias had to be hung up to let the bias drop and subsequently the bias side dropped a good inch.
I don't know if a similar thing will happen with the fur, so I guess we will find out tomorrow as it is being put together.

The other thing I have to work out is how to best attach the chain mail sleeves to an under bodice that we made. I think it will entail a fabric strip with metal eyelets that is then sewn onto the bodice so the chain mail can be linked into the eyelets. Then we deal with what happens at the wrist and whether to link the chain mail to a cuff or a drawstring, because there is an armoured gauntlet glove to be worn but possibly taken off onstage.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

leather pants and velvet cloaks

Last week seemed to be all about leather. Leather pants, leather gorgets, leather straps, altering old leather tunics and breeches.
This week has been a bit of a blur of fittings and figuring things out, chain mail sleeves and skirts and gambesons, and last but not least, the cloak.
The cloak of not enough fabric, the cloak of fabric that was then ordered last minute, from England, and the lining of fake fur that just arrived this afternoon. Finally.
Now it is just a matter of cutting it out.
It takes a bit of time to cut large cloaks out, partly because I am interrupted often almost continually during the day and also because I have to lay everything out in order to make sure the pattern fits in the yardage I was given, and then I have to cut it out singly, piece by piece. I have an extension for my table that I can use to make it 60 inches wide which helps a lot, but is very difficult to manoeuvre around.
This cloak has a centre back wedge shaped pleat with a trained hem and a partially grown on collar, so the centre back piece is about 86" long.

This is going to be fully lined in fur. Yikes! I'll have to weigh it when it is done just out of curiosity.
These guys have a lot of heavy costume to wear with armour, chain mail, cloaks and helmets and swords.
Quick change rehearsal should be interesting!

In case you were wondering how much yardage it took....they bought me 9 yards (8.3m) and I only used 7.2m!
      Tomorrow is for more fittings and to cut the fur lining, mask and knife at the ready.
I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

stooped back pattern adjustment

In response to Heidi's comment, I am posting the changes I made to the pattern for a stooped back.
In the top picture is my initial draft where I opened up the centre back a full 2.5cm (1inch) as well as adding 1cm at the armhole. This was the pattern I used for my toile in muslin.
The lower photo shows the original pattern laid on top of the adjusted pattern after the toile fitting. I have added more length in the back right across the pattern as well as some extra on the CB line.
I don't think I laid them out for the photograph as well as I could have. I wanted this for my own records in case I have to make something else for this gentleman. Next time I will try to get a photo of the whole back to show all the changes. For instance, I had to adjust below the waist for a flat seat so there were many small adjustments at the fitting, that may not be reflected in how I lay this out for the picture. I didn't take photos of the pattern fronts, although I did keep the pattern for future reference.

Nett on the patterns means no seam allowance. I will often remove the seam allowances when drafting a figure like this, as I find it easier to lay the pattern pieces seam to seam to check the seam lengths and to make style line adjustments.
It was a challenging figure to deal with. I wish I had more time to finesse things, but we are pushed for time and I had only a toile fitting, then one fitting for each outfit as a baste up in fabric, and I don't think there was time for another after that. It is a bit nerve wracking at times. I did pad up a stand after the toile fitting, to reflect the changes we made, so that helped quite a bit in the process.

Friday, May 25, 2012

shoulder dart in suit pattern

 A while ago I posted about putting a shoulder dart in the back of a suit jacket and I finally took a couple of quick pictures to show you the changes to the pattern.
You will have to forgive me for the rough state of the patterns. They are working patterns, encompassing my thinking process as well as the changes that come from a fitting. I rarely have time to correct my patterns after the fact. I make the changes on the cloth and sometimes make a few notes if I can. I just don't have the time to redraw and cut out clean versions.
Anyway, we made two jackets for this individual. One was a black barathea cutaway coat and the other was the fine grey beige striped wool. On the top you can see the the back pattern for a black cutaway coat and on the bottom the changes I made to the pattern for the striped wool.

Men's jackets generally have a hidden dart in the shoulder seam.
This means the back shoulder is longer than the front shoulder. The jacket must be big enough to go over the prominence of the blade. Above the blade, you then have excess fabric that need to be handled somehow. What do you do with it? Well, usually some of it is taken care of by easing it into the shoulder seam. Some goes into the armhole where it could also be eased a bit or filled by shoulder padding.
The amount of ease depends on the figure, the style of the jacket, and the particular fabric you are using.

In this particular case, I was dealing with quite a stooped figure, and rounded blade and shoulders. The period (Edwardian) didn't call for large shoulder pads, so I had a larger amount of fabric to get rid of over the blade in addition to the stooped back.
In the top picture, for the cutaway coat, you can see that I transferred some of the excess shoulder ease into the curved frock seam, and since the fabric was plain black, I could keep the curved centre back seam and no one would notice.
In the bottom picture, which was for the striped fabric, I made changes to the pattern to straighten the CB seam, and in doing so created even more ease in the back shoulder seam, which had to be turned into a dart.
This dart was placed alongside a major stripe and is much less noticeable than the bulls eye effect that would have happened down the centre back seam if I left it like the pattern for the cutaway. I did gain a bit of extra length over the blade in this manipulation, but it seemed as though that particular fabric needed it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

khaki uniform

 We made quite a few uniforms this season! Karen was just finishing up a jacket for an understudy who didn't fit into any of the existing uniforms that were originally pulled for this show.
This uniform is made of a cotton duck from Carr textiles. It was overdyed slightly, and I really like the feel of this fabric. I don't know the fabric weight, but it had a nice hand, not too heavy or light. It was just right for what we had to make.
Here it is on the stand in process. I cut right into fabric for this, and made a few minor changes at the first and only fitting I will have with it.

In this detail picture you can see the finishing treatment we used on the pockets and flaps. The pocket pleat is stitched closed from behind, and then the pocket was bagged out with silesia. We finished the top edge with a narrow bias binding of the same silesia. The pocket was then topstitched onto the front. The flap was interfaced and then bagged out with silesia and topstitched. The top edge was serged, then stitched in place before being folded down and topstitched along the top edge. 

The sleeves have a grown on gusset for specific movement the actor needs to do onstage. The green cuffs are interfaced, then the top edge is faced back with silesia, then joined in the round and slipped over the sleeves. The hem of the sleeve and the cuff were then joineed together and turned as one to the inside, and finished, then the lining was brought down and hand finished in place. This does allow easier alteration in that the cuff isn't stitched into the sleeve seam. If you want to maintain the proportion of the cuff and lengthen or shorten the sleeve in the future, you don't have to unpick the sleeve seam.

This was a different technique to the wool uniforms. The wool uniform cuffs and sleeves were too bulky to turn together at the hem, so the sleeve hem was cut raw at the finished length and the cuff hem allowance wrapped over that raw edge to the inside, where it was hemmed and finished by hand.

Here it is all finished and ready to go. He will wear a Sam Browne with this, and it will sit in the belt hooks provided, and the fabric epaulettes can be unbuttoned if needed to put the strap through.