Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Random slice of December sewing -- circle skirts

This year most of our December was sucked away by White Christmas performances.    Annabeth was Susan, and this version of Susan is heavily into circle skirts, mostly because circle skirts are just a matter of math. 

Version 1 was some doubleknit red plaid (Susan apparently loves plaid, or maybe that's Susan's seamstress) that I found for $1.39 a yard at Hancock.  Bonus on using a knit -- no need to actually hem!
In the show she wore white tights and ballet flats.  She wore this with a red sweater with 3/4 sleeves, found at Goodwill, and a black cardigan, also 3/4 sleeved, from H&M.  The leggings-barefoot look is how she wears it around the house now that the show is over.

Version 2 was pink plaid wool-poly blend from JoAnn super-discount area, seen here in the green room:

I actually hemmed this one.

Then more of the $1.39 knit, but this time in green, and with a bodice added to make a jumper.  I used the bodice of a Simplicity pattern, but made it into princess seams, made the neck a V, and added those little belty things at the waist, which are bias cut mostly because I think bias cut plaid looks snappy.  Using knit fabric meant I could skip facing the sleeves and neck -- I just folded them over and stitched them down.  Again, no hemming.   People loved this jumper, which is sort of funny considering it was slapped together from cheap fabric and worn over a Goodwill blouse.

If you're familiar with the stage version of the show you know that Susan has a bigger role than the movie,  including a solo.  It's still sort of mind-boggling that she had so many costume changes.  Still more to come.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November's Performance

Annabeth was cast in a ballet and modern dance performance last spring; the performance itself was just last weekend.

Part one was a fairly short (20-30 minutes) rendition of the Israelites fleeing Egypt, Waves of Mercy, which was modern dance.  Annabeth's character was named Jael, although, much to her regret, she didn't pound a tent spike into anyone's head (she DID tell the other dancers in her group that she was in charge of pounding the tent spikes in when they set up their tent, because, after all, she was Jael). (Digression for an observation:  When joking around about Jael and tent spikes, it's a crapshoot as to whether a Protestant will have any idea what you're talking about, regardless of how much they talk about studying the Bible.  On the other hand, Catholic moms always know.)

They started out in Egypt (which had a really nice pyramid gobo which you can see if you enlarge the picture)

and then fled through the desert with their tents; the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire went before them.  This is the pillar of fire:

They reached the edge of the Red Sea (which had some really cool wave action going, by the way)

which miraculously parted for them to pass through.

Then Pharaoh's army started to come through the water, but was drowned.  And Miriam took out her timbrel and led all the women in a dance.

My contribution was making the sashes for the Egyptian soldiers, and helping bind the edging of Red Sea so it didn't unravel.

After intermission, the main event, which was Pinocchio.

Annabeth was Figaro, the cat, who you can see in the background above.  She based her facial expressions and general body language on the Disney cartoon.  

I helped make her costume.  The director supplied a black body suit, and I added fur.

The ears are on metal barrettes -- the director didn't want a headband.  The tail is on 1/2 inch elastic that belts around her waist and fastens with a small parachute clip.

The toughest part was figuring out how to put the fur around the ankles, but still allow her to get in and out.  We experimented with different methods, and ended up sewing one end of the strip to the inside leg seam, and then putting velcro on the other end.  Part of the issue is that she has quick changes to become a bad guy -- Gideon, shown in the middle here:

Gideon had baggy short trousers, and big coat, tambourines on a scarf around his neck, and tap shoes.  Gideon is silent in the Disney cartoon, and the director wanted to go with the opposite effect by making him the loudest character in the ballet.  Annabeth played him like Harpo Marx, although she was apparently unaware of it at the time.

The ballet followed the Disney story arc, with Stromboli, 

a visit to Pleasure Island, going under sea to find Monstro the whale,

and even a Wishing Star, and the Blue Fairy.

Thalia ran the light board during Waves of Mercy, and worked backstage during Pinocchio.

The director/choreographer does an AMAZING job of fitting the choreography to her dancers' abilities.  Overall, it was a great experience for the dancers, and a fun show to watch.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

October's Performance

The other day I realized we're doing a performance per month for three months in a row.  That's really a bad idea, in case you wondered.  Especially if you're trying to do college applications at the same time.

Anyway, October was The Legend of Sleeping Beauty.  Thalia was Malicia, who is equivalent to Disney's Maleficent.  Annabeth was Theda the Turtle, part of the cohort of Forest Friends (because, you know, princesses living in woods always have forest friends who can speak human language).

The director had purchased a Maleficent costume, but it was made out of thin fabric and cut fairly skimpy. (The hat was also purchased, and is totally awesome.) I ended up making a new version of the costume using some black crepe suiting from JoAnn Fabrics.  It's essentially just a giant poncho:

That center stripe hides a long zipper.  The stripe fastens over the zipper with velcro.  You can see in this photo that there's a seam across the shoulders -- that helps provide some structural integrity to keep it from stretching out so much.  The purple is some cheap not-really-stretchy knit.

I sewed purple fabric to the inside of the outer edges.  Then I sewed up the "underarm" area by making a long vertical line of stitching starting several inches from the top, but leaving the purple exposed.

Then I chalked on the flame-y side pattern, offsetting the front and back to maximize the amount of purple showing.  I serged the cut edges with purple and black thread so it didn't become a mass of ravels by the end of all the shows.

Then the hot pin insets -- I just made giant slashes in the bottom fronts, and inserts hot pink knit.
I hemmed the outside of the front (the part past the inset towards the purple "sleeves")  shorter than the middle of the robe since the fabric hung lower when she lowered her arms. On the back I just slanted the hem towards the edges.  There's so much fabric involved that no one really notices WHAT you do to the hem, as long as you make the outside edges shorter.

The collar is pleated to fit onto the neckline.  I just made that freestyle based on a mental image of what collar pieces usually look like, and included a bunch of stiffening.  I used the heaviest Pellon I could find, cutting it into vertical strips.

The divine Theda the Turtle, ruler of the universe, is wearing a hoody from Ottobre 1/2011, #34 Sporty Goodies. I left off the pocket.  Ottobre has hoodies in every single kids' issue, so it's a great choice if you're looking for a hooded pattern.  I liked the invisible zippers on this one.

 It's made from some dark green interlock.  The leggings are also an Ottobre pattern -- I can't find the issue right now, but it's the one with all the long underwear, tshirts, and other practical things.  Annabeth loved these items, and started wearing them around as comfy clothes as soon as I finished sewing them.  (I've made another pair of the leggings for her in another color, and have requests for more.)  The turtle tummy is fleece which was quilted and then drawn on with oil pastels.  It velcros to the straps that are holding her shell on.  The shell is fiberglass, and was made by the dad of another performer.  It has an old backpack glued into it to provide the straps, with the green interlock sewn over some of the straps to help hide them.  Here's a shot that shows the actual shell:

Their makeup is mostly Ben Nye Lumiere powder mixed with Liquiset ... this was a HUGE deal to figure out since Annabeth reacts to most makeup.  We're happy to report that Liquiset plus powder does  not cause any problems, although the Ben Nye creams turn her skin red and itchy.  Annabeth's turtle makeup changed practically every performance and every rehearsal, mostly because they were messing around trying to decide what looked good -- they mostly went with a snake/reptile style that wasn't turtle-ish, but still looked "other", since the mostly-green-literal-turtle (seen above backstage during a rehearsal) didn't look that great from the audience.

A couple of more random pics of the goings-on.  It was a very colorful, fun show, in spite of the rather twee script.  Annabeth was an awesome turtle -- she played it with a southern drawl (think Pogo Possum, although her character was more Miz Beaver in personality than it was Churchy LaFemme).  And Thalia was an imposing Malicia/Malifecent, as you can see:

She was cast in the role based on her ability during the audition to do such a loud witch cackle that small children in the auditorium were covering their ears.  It helped that she had been the Wicked Witch of the West a couple of years ago.  Really, though, if you want someone to imperiously command people around, she's a great choice.

I've tried to select photos that don't show much of the other kids, but Malicia's minion is going to be famous some day, so I think we're okay with this one to give another closeup of makeup and costume:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013

The concept:  Since the weather forecast calls for rain, find a slicker and be Kathy Selden.

The live action version:

The pumpkins:

The candy:

Thalia and friends dressed up and distributed candy to those coming to our house.  I only managed to get blurry photos of them.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dance Leotard

Annabeth only had one leotard for dance classes this past year.  When we signed her up for the dance intensive we decided we needed another so that the laundry didn't get too crazy.

We asked one of the teachers, and she said that it was okay to have a solid color that wasn't black.  Annabeth decided she wanted bright red.  She chose fabric from JoAnn Fabrics swim-and-dance knits section.

I considered getting a Kwik Sew pattern to make the leotard, having browsed their catalog online, but when I went to JoAnn Fabrics they had a very skimpy collection of Kwik Sew patterns (I've since figured out that Hancock Fabrics keeps more of the Kwik Sew patterns in stock, so if I'd gone there I might have had better luck).  I ended up ordering a Jalie pattern, #2792.

By the time the pattern arrived at our house we were on a compressed time frame to get the leotard done.  I traced view B.  Annabeth's girth is a size P, but her width is a smaller size.  I decided to make it narrower by laying the front and back a bit over the fold of the fabric -- not the best way to alter, but spandex on a skinny kid is forgiving of fitting quirks.  As I worked I realized that the pattern has enough negative ease that I could've just made a straight size P without fiddling with trying to make it even smaller.

The biggest problem I had with the pattern was attaching the bands around the neck and the back.  When I read that I should baste them I assumed I needed to use a long straight stitch, so I kept sewing in little wrinkles at every straight pin.  I tried to fix that by putting in even MORE straight pins, figuring ... well, I don't know why I thought that would help.  It didn't -- I just ended up with more wrinkles.  Eventually I caught on that I needed to baste the bands on with a wide zigzag.  It's moments like this that I know I'm not a very advanced seamstress, you know?

I got it all sewed up, having attached the bands, picked the bands back off, re-attached them, etc., and Annabeth tried it on.  Oh, oops, the fabric was way too sheer.  But, aha, I had purchased extra fabric.  I cut out a new front and back, took those off of the yoke, and sewed them back together (noticing that I had forgotten to tweak how I laid it on the fold line, so the lining was bigger than the outer shell, but I just whacked off any extra because at this point we were on Day 1 of the dance intensive).  I simply held the lining plus shell together, zigzagged around the edges to baste them together, then treated them as one piece.  I left off the crotch lining piece, figuring we had enough layers, flipping the seams so the crotch seam is totally incased by the lining.

I left the yoke a single layer.

If you look closely you can see some of the zigzag basting showing on the main body just underneath  the yoke.  I try not to think about it.

The back hook is sort of mashed into place in a very inelegant way.  By the time I got to that bit I was DONE with this project -- she needed it right away, plus I had a boatload of Shakespeare costumes to make.  It's workable, but could be much nicer.

Actually, "workable but could be much nicer" is sort of a summary of the project.  It's a simple pattern, assuming you don't make the sorts of mistakes I did.  It looks nice when complete, fits comfortably, she's very happy with it, the other dancers liked it and asked if they could have one (no, I"m not going into business).

I've already used the pattern again to morph into a swimsuit.  More about that in a future post.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Camps

We scaled back a bit on the summer camps this year.  We wanted to have time to sleep in, read books, just hang out, maybe even be bored.

Thalia started the summer with Choir Tour, which involves her choir traveling for a week, singing at various locations.  This year they headed north to Michigan and Wisconsin.

At the end of June she had the 2 week Shakespeare camp, which involved putting on As You LIke It.

Right now she's in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip.

Annabeth attended a one week dance intensive.  They worked on ballet, modern, and aerial silks.  I"m pretty sure the silks were her favorite part of the entire affair.

After that she switched over to the Shakespeare camp, attending the second week of that.

And, that's it.

Well, Annabeth is taking private ballet lessons once per week.  And rehearsing once a week for a ballet performance that will take place in November.  But other than that we're footloose and fancy free.  Woohoo!

Monday, July 15, 2013

As You LIke It

The kids attended Shakespeare camp in June, and put on As You Like it on June 29th.  This is a random sampling of photos.

Thalia (to the left) was Rosalind, which is a whacking huge part to learn within 2 weeks.  She was amazing. Both are wearing new costumes made by me during the camp; Celia is wearing one I made last year.

Annabeth was Touchstone(to the right -- that's Thalia again to the left).  I have no idea what she was doing in the above photo, but we were all quite charmed with it, particularly her facial expression which is visible if you click on the picture to enlarge.

She was peeved about getting the role of Touchstone, but spent her time figuring out who to emulate from the list of British actors she admires.  She sort of wanted to do it in the style of Tom Hiddleston's Loki.

I was quite fond of  watching Phoebe chasing Silvius around with a broom. I made both their costumes, too. Also, a new shirt for Oliver and a vest for Amien, plus pants for Duke Frederick, and some other things I can't recall. I hope we eventually get to the point of having enough clothing for this thing, because all this speed sewing is getting old.
"And I for no man!"

Thalia spent most of the Friday evening before the performance nailing down the epilogue.  Again, Rosalind is a crazy huge part to learn on short notice. Skirt from Scarlet Pimpernel last March.

Final bow.

And I planned to then take picture from the other side of the audience during the second performance, having spent the first performance noting things I really, really wanted to get shots of.  Except it started POURING down rain during the first act.  Alas, we didn't even make it to Jacques speech (All the world's a stage).  It really, really sucked, after all that work.  The kids struck set in the rain, and then a bunch came to our house for a cast party (that semmed about 50/50 cast and other random people).

So, probably their best play yet, but the most distressing performance due to weather.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Coming Up for Air

It's June, which means we're in the middle of Shakespeare camp.  Last year I made a boatload of costumes for this occasion.  One would think with all of the sewing we did last year we wouldn't need many new items, right?  Except that the director doesn't want people wearing the exact thing they wore last year, some of the kids outgrew last year's costumes, they're doing As You Like It which means  Rosalind and Celia need "disguises" ... blah blah blah, much sewing ensues.

Silvius needed a new shirt and pants, Oliver needed new pants, Amiens needed a new vest, Phoebe needed a new skirt, top and vest, Rosalind needed a shirt and some "girl" clothes, the Duke needed pants (still no clue what happened to the pants from last year).  And Touchstone also got a revamp:

(She's wearing it over a red leotard and sporting cat whiskers because she'd just done a few scenes as the Cat in Seussical.  Also, she should be wearing tights and shoes, but it was about 100F and she was doing a quick change on the lawn. Also, it's weird that Touchstone is played by a girl, but she's probably the best in the cast for the part.)  Shirt is Kwik Sew 3274, lengthened a random amount.  Great pattern.  Vest is Simplicity 1786, which is a Learn to Sew -- super pattern for a beginner.  The knickers are from  McCall's 6143.  All fabrics scavenged from the backstage department.

More later.  Performance tomorrow, and I need to clean the house for the cast party.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Mostly random photos of the Cat in the Hat, because, why not?

Mayor and Mrs. Mayor discuss issues while Cat snarks behind them:

If you know the musical you sort of know what all of these scenes are, as a matter of fact.

And if you don't know the musical, it's pretty much not going to make much sense regardless of what I say, except that it hits highlights of several books, including Horton Hatches the Egg, as shown below.  A recap of the plot is here

Painting Mayzie's fingernails on Palm Beach.  Cat sounded like a cigarette girl in an old movie, and had the little hat perched on her head.

Dr. Dake by the Lake.  She wanted the doctor to be based on Dr. Hackenbush from the Marx Brothers, but figured few people would get it.

The Cat is often played as rather ditzy.  Annabeth played it as more maniacal, and a rabble rouser who stirs up trouble.  We discussed that this possibility was open to her since she's a relatively small girl -- her facial expressions sometimes bordered on Jack Nicholson in the Shining, but it worked since she's small and had whiskers painted on.  It would've been really disturbing to see a grown man play the part that way.

And we had an actual baby elephant bird, with Mayzie's feathers plus an outfit like Horton's:

Replay of the final bow.  The Things (the stagehands who bring props on and off) all ran out to the middle of the stage carrying her like this:

An absolutely awesome show, and my only complaint is that the place wasn't sold out.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


We have one more performance to go this afternoon, but here are some peeks at what's been going on:

 I made that giant curtain the bubbles are attached to in the photo above.  The Powers That Be had to really search for a stage with enough fly space for this show, by the way.  The sets are amazing -- and, yeah, they're mostly built by kids.
 This was the part that we discovered that Annabeth could imitate Louis Armstrong. 
In the course of the show we also discovered that she can do a one handed cartwheel while holding a military school brochure. 

Amazing show,  and if you're in town you should come see it.