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.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

week 5 with a waistcoat fitting

Table- taken at a random random time during week five.
Well, it is getting busier! was surprised to get two major fittings on the first day of rehearsal as  that day is usually eaten up with meetings and a read through of the play.
Those costumes are hanging on the left of the picture. I fit two suits on our leading man- he came in a bit smaller than the last measurements I had. It is better that the costume is too big rather than too small, but, it does mean a bit of extra figuring out time.
I confess that cutting right into fabric is not my favourite thing to do, it certainly doesn't save time or money. It is much more efficient to cut a quick mock-up or toile- especially when you are not sure of the details of the design or the measurements of the actor.
The toile in the foreground is a waistcoat for an actor I have never had to build for up to now. Well, I lie, I made him a shendyt last year, but now I have to put him into some nice early Victorian clothing.
So I made a toile mostly because I thought he would be a challenging fit. He has a 45+ chest and a 34.5 waist and a 47.5 inch hip. Actually, the chest measure was incorrect, as I found out in the fitting. He really is 47 inch chest, so making a toile was a great idea, as I had to make more changes to the pattern than usual.
When I put the toile on him, I could easily do it up at the CF waist. right on my drafted CF line. As I pinned it closed in the front I could see that it would not be lining up on my line, the further up I pinned. So I just pinned it where it wanted to sit, and had a look at what was going on.

This is the fitting photo, in profile and you can see that he has a very prominent chest. Please note the drag lines from the full part of the chest towards the side waist. This was the second big hint to remeasure his chest. This is a really good example of why it matters where the fabric is distributed around the chest, and especially where you make the waist suppression. I need to make sure that the waist suppression happens where he needs it which is directly underneath the fullest part of the chest. Now in this case, I would end up with a very large front dart, so I will split that dart up and rotate it elsewhere, likely a little into the armhole (which will be eased in) as well as through the neckline dart which will be hidden by the lapel of the waistcoat.
If I released the side seam and let the front hang there, I could pin out a larger dart pointing to the chest and then if I re pinned the side seam where it lay, it would have swung downwards and towards the front, adding the amount taken in the dart fabric back at the sides.

This is a good example on why you cannot make the waist fit better just by taking in the side seams.
You will see this on Internet gentlemen who keep trying to get rid of fabric at the waist of their shirts. Usually these drag lines appear in the back, where a dart would better serve the purpose, but on a gent with a very full chest, taking in the sides aggressively will give you this look too.

That is it for now, I must get outside and contend with the snow which seems to be relentlessly falling! I cleared three inches from the sidewalks and drive this morning already, but more has fallen. The good news is that it is great for cross country skiing. I can walk out the door, put the skis on and go, which I did already today!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

the work table week 4

Week 4! How does the time go by so quickly? As you can see, I have made quite a few patterns already- I have all the patterns done for the musical, and in fact this week I finished making all the patterns for the early Victorian show and also cut toiles for them.
One of our musicals starts rehearsal on Monday and that means the actors are in house and available for fittings! Yay!
I will have three tailors to keep gainfully employed next week, and four the next, so bring on the fittings.
Now I am onto my eighteenth century show and will try to get a lot of those patterns done before it gets too crazy around here.
One issue that I am struggling with is that some of the measurements are quite outdated, and/or seem off, or photos are missing or just bad. I think if an actor haven't been measured in four years, it is time for an update.
         Things I hate to hear: oh, you know Mr.X - he never changes size-

I am a stickler for taking accurate measurements. I cannot stress it enough. The measurement that seems to be most often off is the chest measurement- it is easy to let the tape sag or drop slightly and poof! an inch or more is gone. I experienced that today when the actor  I tried a mock-up waistcoat on had a 47 inch chest not a 45 3/4 inch chest. Good thing I didn't cut right into the expensive fabric.
The trick is to be careful and consistent and use a waist tape- we have 1" wide fitting belts made out of webbing with a hook and bars at one inch increments that we put on the actor's waist. This stays in place and gives a defined place to take measurements to and from. It also stays in place for the photos we take. Regarding the photos, it is not useful for the person to be wearing an oversize untucked shirt over baggy jeans for these photos.
     It makes me wonder what people are thinking the photos are for if you can't see anything!
I recommend giving the actor a white t shirt in a size smaller than they would normally wear, so you can see the outlines of their shape. White t shirt, dark fitting belt, photo in front of a contrast wall or door.
Ok that is the end of my mini rant, and I will be able to show you some works in progress next week.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The weekly table

I thought a weekly table photo would be interesting, and dutifully took a photo last Tuesday. I have made a bunch of patterns, in fact almost all the patterns I need for one show, and I have cut straight into fabric for three suits.
I have to wait on the military frock and the tail suit as I do not have the trim for the trousers yet. It will be good to get these things on the actor and know how they fit so I can go ahead. That should happen in a week and a half.
In the meantime I have quite a bit of eighteenth century costumes again, and some nice 1840's early Victorian pieces to make.

Here is this week's table picture- I started on some research for the Victorian waistcoats, and drafted one up, making allowances for the actor's shape.
I drafted it up and then cut one half out of some scrap muslin to see if It felt right.  I think I should reduce the height of the shawl collar stand. I think this is going to be made in a brocade, of which I fear there is not enough.....I think I should raise the crossover point too, as the drawing shows the waistcoat showing when the DB frock coat is worn buttoned up.
I do have the cloth for the frock coat and it is very, very nice- maybe even a bit heavy- I can't believe I am saying that - but after getting paper thin fabrics, the real deal feels more than substantial!

So progress is being made, but what I would really like is a fitting, as it all feels so speculative until you put it on a body. That should start to happen in another week and a half or two, so I am trying to forge ahead in the meantime.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Beginning. What a weird word. Beginning. Maybe I have been translating too much recently. I start to look at words and wonder what the root meaning is.

Anyway, it is a new year, and I am soon to be back at my regular contract gig. It feels a bit like September used to feel as a student. The beginning of a new session.

Here is my table all fresh and newly covered, binders with show info and budgets organized, ready to begin.

Speaking of beginning and beginners, I have been thinking a lot about beginners and how people view or assume to begin to learn tailoring. Beginning, the words gets stranger on the page the more I write it!

One was a personal experience with a student who had graduated as a designer, and the other a random Internet guy who had decided that he had an interest in clothes and wanted to become a bespoke tailor as a profession. Neither had actually ever sewn anything, never even bought a commercial pattern and made themselves a basic shirt.

Now I am someone who learned both from skilled individuals in a hands on environment as well as through books and experimentation without guidance.

I like to see people with initiative and a drive to get to their goals but in some cases it makes me wonder  about the disconnect between an idea and achieving it.

I am reminded of a friend's child who seemed to be addicted to video games and not much else. He especially loved the hockey videos, so much so that he asked to play for real and his parents signed him up.
What a shock he had! It was not the same as sitting in front of the monitor making things happen with the push of a button. It was cold, he had to wear a whole lot of gear, he had to actually skate which meant moving around and being physically active. The puck hurts if you get hit with it and the ice is cold and hard when you fall down on it. He wanted to drop out but his parents made him stick it out for the season. I wonder now 15 years later what he thinks about that experience?

I tell you this because wanting to become a bespoke tailor with no real sewing experience is going to be a bit more of a process than you may imagine and requires a bit more than a burning interest in fashion.

I won't begin another rant, but my advice is  - get some hands on experience. Start now. Buy a commercial pattern to start, make a drawstring bag, a placemat, a Christmas stocking- anything really. Look for a beginners sewing class to take. Look for a basic machine, basic materials to start. you don't need a lot of tools nor anything fancy, but you do need to practice making things. Not thinking about making things, really making things. Make these things over and over and gradually you will get better at making these things. Then build up your experience by making more complicated things, and do it again and again. Enjoy it.

You have to start there. Not by trying to drafting your own jacket pattern before you can thread a sewing machine. Not by talking about it, or reading about Savile Row, but by actually doing it.
You have to get out on the ice!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A postcard

I finally managed to have a moment to get the photos off my camera. I didn't really take very many as I was so busy just being there.
But I thought I would share a few visuals of my time in Montreal.

The wardrobe shop with a costume for Brighella underway. You can see the trial muslin sleeve.  We just had barely enough fabric so I didn't want to make decisions that would be unchangeable.

A pattern for a coat pinned on the stand. The eighteenth century seems to be stalking me lately. This was a pattern for Lelio, the Liar himself.
The view from my window. At night the cross is illuminated. 

One of Montreal's iconic exterior staircases.

Architecture at McGill university and a light installation outdoors at Place des Arts.

I had such a great time. I went to the Défilé du Père Noël, the Musée des Beaux Arts, a great Bach Magnificat and the François Barbeau exhibit at the University of Montreal, among many other things.
Ahhh, well, it is good to go away and experience new things, meet and work with new people but also good to get home too.
Bonne soirée, a bientôt!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Back home

Je suis revenu a la maison!
I had such a wonderful time in Montreal, I was very busy building the show but I had time to walk, walk, walk around the city and go to museums and visit with friends too.

The time went by so quickly and now here I am almost halfway through December with no Christmas preparation yet and the next work season is looming in the very near future.

Before I get reorganized here at home I want to encourage any of you who are in Montreal, or will be this week, to
GO and see the show at the National Theatre School. It is only $9.00 per ticket, and the bigger the audience, the better.

Other links here and here
Seeing these young actors in this show was such a breath of fresh air to me. I hope you think so too.