Thursday, April 23, 2015

Counting the weeks:14 and 15 with an overcoat update

It was getting kind of crazy around the work table over the last two weeks. I put in many more hours than I would have liked to, but the work has a deadline and we do strive to make it work!

That cape in front- will it ever get worked on, and will it ever get out of my line of vision? Soon, I hope someone will be free to work on it.

I included a shot of the wall behind my table just to give an indication of how many patterns I have churned out in the past 14 weeks. I don't make separate patterns for linings or facings so these are just the basic pattern pieces. 
For the 18th century show, I have to cover the builds and stock costumes for 8 different actors. I have 5 skirted frock coats, 6 pairs of breeches, 5 waistcoats, one shirt, 2 capes, one sleeved casaque style cape, and cut, make and finish 9 stocks/cravats. Repair and or renovate three coats, 3 pairs of breeches, 3 shirts, 2 new waist coat backs on old waistcoat fronts, reline a old cape and sundry other things like changing buttons, repairing linings, adding pockets...... washing and ironing 5 new does go on!
Anyway, it adds up in the pattern drafting department!    

Here is an overcoat update. I documented the toile version of it here along with the waistcoat, which has turned out quite nicely. The coat is going to get a removable capelet, and I still need to tweak the set of the sleeves but it is turning out very well- We have also constructed it slightly differently than usual, and I will get some more photos detailing how it was made this week.

That's it for today. 
I have to switch gears and get a pattern for a 1970's "ish" suit drafted up and to be honest I need a day to wrap my head around the change from 1760 to 1970! Maybe I will do that on Saturday when I will have fewer distractions at work.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

week 13 going on 14

The weeks are starting to feel as though they are running together!

We made it to our first deadline easily, which for the first show, is the quick change rehearsal.

We were able to get our actors changed from one costume to the next in a matter of 90 seconds at the rehearsal, and it usually gets faster as the season progresses. Yay!

Sometimes though, at QC rehearsal, it can feel like bedlam backstage- especially when you have many actors changing at the same time. I have seen traffic jams of chorus girls, who all entered a dressing room to change, only to get stuck getting out because their costumes and headdresses took up so much room.

The next deadline after quick change is rack check, and for this show I believe there were 10 or 11,  8 foot long rolling racks of costumes. The dresser sheets contain every actors track, detailing their costumes and the changes they make through the show. Two people from the running crew come in and check off every item of clothing for every actor and every costume change.
A sheet for an actor would read something like this:
white t-shirt, nude dance belt or underwear, black dress socks, formal wing collar shirt with quick change front, black wool trousers, white pique waistcoat, black wool tailcoat, white pique bow tie, gold wedding band, onyx cuff links, black patent lace up dance oxfords.
They would change into:
white singlet, underwear as in #1, navy blue argyle socks, blue and white striped dress shirt, blue wool trousers, blue wool waistcoat, blue wool SB jacket, navy and red striped tie, grey overcoat, gold wedding band as in #1, silver cuff links, watch with leather strap, oxblood lace up brogues, dark grey fedora, chamois gloves, grey woolen scarf.

So it takes two people four hours to get through the rack check. Then there is always the list of what is missing and when it will be ready and after all is accounted for, we get to watch our work onstage at the tech dress rehearsal. This is the first time the actors will run their show with all the technical elements together, so there is a lot going on.

Back to the table though. I have a new show to discuss with a designer on Tuesday and although we are in pretty good shape with the next show up, I feel very behind for the third show. That is our 18 century show, and you can see that I am cutting one of the coats in the top photo and after a long day yesterday with the tech dress, I was in this morning cutting another coat out for that show, and piling up the work in baskets on my table.
I like to feel that I am ahead, but it worries me when costumes sit there in pieces for more than a day or so.
Monday then, I think we will make a group effort to get at least one of these put together and that will give me a sense of relief.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Week 12 at the cutting table

Week 12 at the cutting table, and I am trying to get the last few pieces figured out, and hopefully into someones hands pretty soon.
I have fittings from 6 weeks ago from the third show I have to work on, that I have not had time to deal with, and the sooner I can get back to those the better work will progress.

So one of the last costumes that needs extensive figuring out is this one with the red cape.
Luckily the design assistant found a cape in stock that fit the design quite well, so all we have to do is trim it up! Well that sounds easy, but putting trim on a finished velvet garment means lots of hand sewing.
You might think that it would be faster to machine it, but if you have ever sewn velvet, especially sewn velvet to a non velvet, you might end up on the floor in tears if you tried to machine it.
By the time you unpicked the lining and made it possible to get to at the machine, then fought to keep it from looking like a dogs breakfast when finished- and the trim would have to be basted in place anyway, you might as well save the drama and stitch it on by hand.

The trim is wide and it travels around the back neck so there will be some careful manipulation and cutting of that trim to make it work.
The bijoux department will also be adding jewels to the trim, so it has to be placed symmetrically on the right and left sides.

The garment underneath is basted together so we can get an idea of the spacing of the gold trim it needs.
So I have pinned it out and send off a photo to our designer, and well, I found out that it needs to be set closer together.
I still need a black fabric for the centre front detail, and this black will go around the hem with more gold trim on the edge and more inset jewels.
There is a lot left to figure out, but it seems in hand, well on Thursday it still felt in hand, but we will see what Monday brings.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A fall front variation

We make a lot of period clothing, so that means quite a few fall front style trousers and breeches.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, a fall front is an alternative to a fly closure for trousers or breeches.
The front of the trousers can open close to or right along both of the side seams in which case they  would be "broad falls"or "whole falls" or you can make a narrower front panel that would be called  split falls. There is an under lap which includes the waistband, and then the trouser front is closed by lifting up the fall and buttoning it onto the waistband.

We most often make split falls as they were very common from the mid 18th century through to the Victorian age. They were certainly still used for "court" dress into the 20th century, and used for sailor trousers into the 1970's if I recall correctly, and still used on Lederhosen for instance.

Anyway, there are many ways of cutting and making split falls, the most commonly used technique has a visible placket and the placket is quite often plain and straight.
For one pair of our 19th century breeches I cut a split fall with a variation of the usual placket shape.

These have a curved placket that is cut on the bias.
I like to inset the seam for the under lap so when the fall flap is closed it is hidden, but these also would have worked if I had cut them so the end of the placket was more like the end of a welt pocket.

Here you can see what it looks like underneath the fall front. The waistband and under lap still need buttonholes and buttons. You would close them first, then the flap will have buttonholes and it will button up and close as in the first photo.

The placket itself was a plain bias piece which was fused with bias fusible, then shaped into a curve at the iron. Once that was done, the pattern piece drawn out on it, then sewn to the fronts. I cut a separate flap facing which was then used to finish the top and the edge of the curved placket. 
The under lap is composed of the fabric layer and finished on the inside/lined with silesia. 
I didn't take a photo of that, sorry! The under lap piece is deep enough that the placket is secured from the top through all the layers and the silesia extends right across to the side seam giving support for long term wear and tear.

Variations on the theme make work interesting! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

weeks 10 and 11 plus waistcoat update

Week 10.
Unbeknownst to me ( I obviously need to get out and read the posted calendar updates) one of my designers was returning but only for a short period of time. So in the midst of preparing for the other designer who would only be here on three specific days this week, I had to drop things and switch over to the other show to get ready for fittings that I had though could happen a little later.

I only got one of the three fittings I had been rushing to get ready. Blah!
Week 11
I got all three of the other fittings with my other show on Monday, and this is my table after coming back from one of them.
I also had a fitting with my third show which will be on stage first, so I am still trying to juggle that one so it doesn't get left behind.
Those beige trousers on the table were not a happy fit, I need to have a good look at what I did wrong there....maybe too many things going on and I forgot to make a change from the toile...who knows but arrrggh it bothered me looking at the photos later.

I was able to fit my corrected pattern for the waistcoat I showed you earlier.  Sorry about the photo quality, but it was taken on the fly in the fitting.
I didn't put the pockets in and it was no more than a baste up in the real fabric. Much improved, although I can still see a bit of tension above/over the chest- which I made a note of -and will try to correct that when I take it apart to mark alterations. I will try to take a photo of the pattern to show you what I did, when I have more than 5 minutes to think.

We don't have a lot of time in fittings as there is so much to do and so many components beyond the clothes to be fit. That fitting included armour so the props department shared the one hour we had.

There was debate about whether we needed to make a coat for this gentleman, so finally it was Ok'd and I quickly put together a toile of a great coat seen below.

I am going to leave it here for now as I have to go and have a glass of wine and put my feet up so I can do it all again tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

work table weeks 8 and 9

Time is flying by.
Week 8 saw the delivery of a missing fabric.
This jacket was based a bit on this reference, below.
Menswear is interesting because there are many options to play with, but for many people the details elude them because, lets face it, they are subtle. The changes are more easily seen over the decades rather than the season or the year. If you delve into it though, you are rewarded with many interesting details, and I have fun with these details, encouraging designers to consider incorporating them into the suits they want me to make.
 Nowadays- everything looks the same, whereas say in 1938 as this catalogue page shows, there are more "sporty" or casual models available. Still a three piece suit but a different vibe than one for business wear. The one on the left offers a two button, notch lapel, patch pockets, the bottom ones with flaps, and the back view has an expansion gusset, as well as a bit of fullness pleated into a half belt at the waist. The one on the right is a 2 button, semi-peak lapel, three patch pockets with inverted pleats, lower pockets with flaps and the back pleated into a half belt. Both have top stitching detail. We are going to go with the one on the right but with the plainer pocket style of the one on the left.

I have been given a nice blue plaid flannel to work with. I had a devil of a time getting it all laid out nice and square on my cutting table, so in the end, I had to cut the yardage in sections then block it at the iron table, using my metre stick and a square to then press it properly just to get it in a better shape to cut out. It literally took me most of the day to cut that three piece suit. 
Here is the back, just ready in week 9 with a fitting yesterday. 

Yesterday, week 9 also looked like this (below). I managed to cut out the shell of a velvet coat, cut all the bits and pieces needed for a pair of breeches that I fit earlier in the week, I cut out my last 1840's waistcoat and trousers, and switched back to the eighteenth century today so I can call fittings next week when that designer is back in residence. I cut another cloak and made a coat pattern and cut it in muslin. The I will have to flip back to my 20th century things, have a few last fittings, and cut some of the final bits like top collars and mark alterations. 

Tomorrow is already Thursday! I have so much to get done and I really could use another pair of hands- not so I have four myself, but another set of sewing hands. We have a lot to get done.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

week 6 and 7

I meant to get last weeks table posted on the week-end but life ended up getting a bit hectic so this week you get another two for one special!
Last week:

a view from my side

This week:
I had a technical fitting with this jacket, so we were able to move forward. The technical issue was the amount of shoulder padding needed to achieve the shoulder line that the designer was after. I didn't have quite the right profile in the first try so I needed to make sure my alterations were correct before moving on. Today I cut the sleeves so it can be finished. Yay!
Here's a little detail SA stitched at the top of the back pleat.
The frock coat mock-up in last week's photo is cut in real fabric and bundled up on my table. The waistcoat that I was about to cut out in last week's photo is almost put together, and I have also managed to draft up and cut in toile one of the 18c costumes- breeches waistcoat and coat and got another 18th c coat toile cut out and stitched up, and am awaiting fittings at the end of this week. I have SW working on the trousers for the tailcoat she put together, KM on the military frock coat, SA and DB on the modern suits. One more stitcher to arrive on Monday so we will be pushing ahead and making lots of progress.
I have lots of pattern alterations to do on the rest of my 1840's costumes as I had all my toile fittings as of Friday. I am still waiting for fabric on a few costumes yet, but I think we are making progress.