Sunday, May 1, 2016

checking things off the list

Today I got to check one big thing off my list!

The studio has been moved. Ten adults, two kids, two truckloads and 4 and a half hours later, done. Thanks to all my friends who helped.  Terry for providing a truck and Jeff who fixed the hydraulic lift switch at the new place, so unloading was a breeze. The kids had what is likely a fairly rare opportunity to ride up and down on a very old freight elevator- the ones with the pull down wooden gates and the kind where the operator (me) has to manually stop so the floor levels are even.

Of course the new space is not set up, and we need to do some work on it first, so everything is stacked and under wraps for now.
But one thing is off the list.
Now we can pack up the car with our daughter's belongings and move her tomorrow. I am missing a day of work but there are only so many things you can do on one week end.

I had a tech dress yesterday until 7pm and thankfully they got through a very technically demanding show. That is one more thing to check off my list as well.

I don't often list my workload here in full, but all of this list making makes me think I should let you in on how much work we have produced since mid January. This is me pattern making and with four tailors plus one extra set of hands for three weeks.
so here goes
Show 1: 1940's plus fantasy costumes- (all this built from scratch)
9 jackets
6 waistcoats
5 trousers
1 pair pleated shorts
5 long sleeved shirts
3 unitards
2 medieval gowns
2 velvet capes
2 fur capelets
1 wolf in fake fur including a tail and all supports structure
2 centaur costumes
1 bodice for a tree
1 pair of trousers for a tree (stilt walker)
1 lion cape
1 lion cowl
2 sets of leather spats with fake fur trim
2 sets of protective gear for wearing a prop
1 cowl and hood
a variety of stock costumes including 3 trousers made into shorts, 4 wraiths, a witch's footman, shirts collars, and more that I cannot think of right now.

Show 2: 1940's (all this built from scratch)
2 three piece suits
2 shirts
1 two piece suit
2 pair trousers
altering a variety of stock jeans t shirts and puchased clothing

We are already behind for the next show, so I am not sure how much spare time I will have in the next little while to post but we will see.

How often do you get to make a tree? A theatrical tailor's life is quite varied for sure!
Kudos to Heather in props who really made him into a tree. Great work!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

a man in wolf's clothing?

It has been quite hectic here with all that is going on. I think I say this a lot don't I?
I mentioned in a reply to a comment that everything is happening April 30th!
We need to assist our daughter to move out of her university digs and into a sublet in the city she is in, and I have a tech dress rehearsal on the 30th too. I guess my studio is moving on May 1st, and therefore my dear husband is on his own for the big city/daughter move. Whew!

I believe that I have been able to secure a new spot for my studio -knock on wood- but I am waiting for confirmation and a few more small details to be worked out. It is a relief, and just in time because I have more than enough stress with work and life in general.
I still need to hire a truck and finish packing up in preparation. I will also need to do some painting and flooring work before I can set things up, so I don't think I will be set up and functioning right away. Oh well, at least there is a light on the horizon.

So I actually have two shows going into tech in three weeks, one on the 28th and the other on the 30th. Then I have a small window to get a show together for the mid May period. The pace is not going to get slower for a while yet.

Here's one of two costumes that I fit yesterday, which I am quite happy with. This is an example of what I term "there is no formula" for doing the work we do. Trial and error  experience and adaptation. Or flying by the seat of your pants way of working!

This is the wolf.
This has been in limbo for a few weeks while we were backed up with other priorities. The tail was ready though! There was a lot of pattern making to do for this costume.

The base layer to this costume is a stretch legging and a long sleeved stretch top that zips up the front.
I think it should have been a unitard and it may still get joined together but for now it is two pieces.
Pattern number one and two- actually, I had to redo the patterns as I was given a fabric to use that had a different stretch factor, but there wasn't enough of it in the end to make the whole costume. So ditch those patterns, get new fabric, recalculate the stretch and make new patterns!

We also needed a pattern for the basque that supports the tail. That pattern I developed from a skirt draft. ( I am not actually following a specific draft, merely the concept of it here).

The next set of pattern making involved the fur layer.
The fur does not stretch. We have a few hanging stands in the wardrobe, but the one with a good size for the torso has legs only to above the knee, and the stands with full legs have short stocky bodies.  I decided to trust my flat pattern making skills to figure it out rather than draping something on a stand.

I then needed to draft for the fur layer and figure out how it could be manipulated to fit closely in the body and allow the actor full movement. He demonstrated some of the fight choreography (full lunges in armour) in the first fitting, so that informed my subsequent thinking.

The fur on the wolf's tail was applied in sections to allow movement, and I applied the same principle to the leg area.
I drafted up a trouser pattern outline, and then modified it to be closer fitting, then I figured out the areas of overlap.

My actual pattern is so marked up with thinking lines that I drew a little diagram of what I did.

I didn't need to cover the areas of the body that are covered with armour, such as the lower legs which have greaves, and a knee piece - what are they called?   Poleyns, I believe.

The thigh area fur is cut in four pieces. It is seamed up the back of the leg and shaped to follow the contours of the thigh and buttocks. It has an inseam and outseam, and a seam up the front of the leg where I left adjustment room- extra seam allowance.

The over layer is like a pair of short shorts.
I reduced the girth a bit as I am working off a trouser draft, which is too roomy in general. I also darted out from the CF and CB lines to the hem of the shorts in order to get a closer fit there.

The basque was made of duck and corseting and is heavily boned with spiral steels in order to support the escutcheon for the tail.
We found out that we need to shorten the spring inside the tail as you can see! Move the escutcheon piece upwards as well.
The escutcheon piece has holes drilled in it so it can be sewn on. It needs to have some kind of keeper as well, because the tail is very bouncy and popped out of the holder. Well that is what the fittings are for- figuring stuff out- what works and what doesn't.
We will then cover the basque with fur.

In the course of talking this through with Susy- who put it all together, we found that we could sew an elastic to the edge of the fur, and use that elastic as a means to attach the fur to the leggings. That means the thigh piece can be a little bigger than the thigh measurement, we can ease the fur to the elastic, and when it is attached there is still some give for muscle expansion.

The same principle with the shorts- the lowered waist can be eased onto elastic then attached to the stretch legging. This leaves the fur shorts free to move independently from the fur on the thigh. and also still be a pull on garment.
I had a lucky guess in how nicely the pieces worked together. The fur is bulky so the over layer needs to be bigger than you might think, and all our layers worked well together. you couldn't tell they were actually two pieces.

We did a similar process with the chest and armhole and sleeves. The fur elbow to upper bicep in one piece, the fur upper sleeve attached to the fur armhole facings/chest area, but left loose over the upper arm piece.
We will leave the armholes and sleeve of the stretch and fur separate so the fur pieces just float over the stretch. That should allow the most freedom of movement-  I hope it does anyway. Seemed good on the day anyway.

The other fitting was for a suit- which I guess i will talk about later as this post has gone on and taken me most of the day to get together.


Goodbye to our friend, Paul "eggs" Benedict, sound engineer extraordinaire, and all around lovely person.
2016 has been difficult- losing so many people we have had in our lives.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Carry on!

I thought that I should follow up on the thoughts about structure. This won't be that post as I am finding myself with no spare time these days.

I have been trying to get photos of this dress and all its underpinnings, and I keep missing the time when it is on the dress form in its most basic form, but I will get them!

My colleague Carol, is making three dresses in this style- talk about needing underpinnings to support a shape- I think it is one of the most extreme shapes of women's fashion don't you?
Here's a link to the V&A museum which describes a dress of this type they have in their collection.

For my part, last week, among other things, I made a pair of trousers for a tree.
Yes. I am still working out the structure to support the form, and the actor, designer, and choreographers and coaches are working out whether the stilts will be set at a maximum of 48 inches from the ground or whether that is too tall!
It made me a bit nervous at the fitting watching the actor work at 28 inches up so I cannot imagine walking around four feet off the ground. We will see.

I have not had any luck so far finding another studio space but I am trying to be hopeful but also to plan for the possibility of putting my equipment in storage for a time.
There just are not enough hours in the day or week to work 40 hours, eat sleep and track down landlords and property owners and set up times to view locations.

Anyway, carry on! as they say.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Such a week!

All my plans kind of went out the window this week.

I woke up Monday after a great week end, with this strange heaviness over me. I was walking to work and wondering why I was feeling that way. "Carry on!" as they say, but at 9:30 am  I received a phone call from the building manager where I have my personal studio/workspace.

"This cannot be good" I thought,  and it wasn't. The factory where I am situated is evicting all its tenants because they need the space.

We have quite a history in the furniture business here.
It is an old furniture factory, built in 1900 and 25 years ago the building had a lot of unused space and they started leasing space to artisans who were grateful to have a reasonably priced place to create. There have been woodworkers, potters, cobblers, artists and yes tailors and cutters all clustered on a floor or two there.
Recently the business has been storing a lot of product there as the storage of wood products was grandfathered into the system, and they need their space back.

There is a potter and woodworker whose livelihoods are made by what they produce there. Myself and my colleagues - another cutter and a theatrical milliner and a wig maker are slightly better off in that we work part of the year for a large theatre and use our space to generate income for the time we are "unemployed" laid off. We can rent at the theatre but it is not guaranteed to be available when we need it and for some of us, our freelance projects overlap slightly with our "employment" and the rentals stop once the theatre staff start work. Which is totally reasonable.

Our situation is complicated because we had reasonable rents which meant we could absorb the rental costs into a partial year of earning potential, but these days, it is so difficult to find light industrial space at all, let alone at a reasonable rate. I see so many places that are empty (sometimes for years) but the landlords would rather they stay that way rather than reducing the rent and having a tenant.
There must be some advantage to them doing so I just don't understand it.

So we have to go. Where? I don't know, but the search is on and it is proving difficult so far.
We have banded together to look for another location and I guess I will have to put some extra projects on hold while I try to work this out.

So, that is my tale of woe.

p.s. a Facebook page has been set up for those of us who were members of the Cutter and Tailor forum, please visit it and lets keep in touch. I hope to see you there. If the link doesn't work check the comment section two posts back.

I am off for my annual ski week end (no wifi) and will come back refreshed and energized, ready to take on the real estate world!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tail tales

So here we are further along in the process of making the wolf's tail.

The props department has provided us with a way of attaching the tail to the body. The tail gets this metal button end that screwed into the spring.
This then will slot into a metal plate that looks just like a large escutcheon/ key hole. The metal plate has holes drilled into it so we can sew it to the basque. When we get to that point, I will take some photos of it.

Before we get to that point we started to cover the tail with the fake fur.
Beginning at the end of the tail, I cut a piece to try out. The darts are cut on the lines and zigged together, then we tried it on the form, made some adjustments, and sewed it to the net fabric at the first segment.

The trick with cutting fake fur is to not cut the fur, just the backing fabric. I often use an exacto blade, or use just the tips of a very sharp pair of scissors. Wear a mask while cutting and sewing and have a sticky roller nearby so you can go home not covered in fibres!
Even with careful handling, the fibres get everywhere, just the same as glitter does!

There is a separate piece of fake fur cut for each segment, to allow the segments to bend. 
Each of these pieces overlaps the previous one, and needs to be loose enough to allow movement.
You cannot predetermine the segment sizes as overlapping the fake fur adds quite a lot of bulk. After conferring about the process, Silvia happily took on the task of figuring out the best size for each segment, and attaching them to the base.

The loose edges of each section are cut with jagged edges so there is a not a defined line between them.
Here you can see we have added a darker covering fabric close to the base of the tail where a lot of the bend will happen. If there was ever a glimpse underneath one of those layers, you will not see the white or pink of the structure.
We covered the tail up to the button, and are now waiting for a fitting of the costume base and the basque.

It is fun to have a chance to createsomething different every once in a while!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cutter and Tailor forum?

As you can see in the comments recently, many of us are wondering what has happened with the Cutter and Tailor forum. It just stopped being accessible last week and attempting to access it results in an Internal Server error message.
Some of you with whom I have interacted with there have emailed me through the blog to ask if I knew anything about this.

I am sorry to say that I don't know what is going on. I have been unable to contact Sator -  the owner of the forum. I have been in touch with one of the moderators, SG, and he seemed to be as surprised as we all have been about the sudden changes. He also does not have the means to contact Sator, so here we are.

I sincerely hope that the site has not been shut down intentionally. I would have liked the chance to help support its existence, if money for hosting was an issue. I found the information to be quite informative, and the knowledge within quite useful. I also enjoyed the connection with other like minded people pros and amateurs alike.

I know there were discussions recently amongst the professionals who did post, about what the purpose of the site was, and what it should be. I believe the purpose of the forum was to facilitate communication amongst professional tailors, but strangely,  many professionals were members but never contributed.
I am not sure why that is, maybe people are too busy or too unwilling to share their processes, the field is quite guarded after all.
Many thought that too many amateurs were trying to access information and assistance with processes far beyond their knowledge or capabilities, and yes that did happen, but on the other hand, you cannot expect otherwise in a public forum.

Myself, I am at the point in my experience that I don't need stacks of information to do my job, but I like having it around. I like to see other ways of construction past and present and I enjoy learning.

The bigger concern in my mind,  is for the up and coming people interested in the field. I know a lot of what was on the site is available if you google hard enough, but the site was an invaluable resource  of accumulated materials all in one place.
I miss it.

I have contact with a few members from the site, and if I do hear any news I will post it here. Likewise if you know what is going on please let me know.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

structure: pool noodles and springs

Okay, we are heading off into other territory here, definitely away from tailoring, although I do have some nice 1930's and '40"s suits to make this season. More about those later.

So what the heck is this on my table?
Any guesses?
Well it is going to be a wolf's tail. Yes indeed.
Many years ago I worked on a production of Wind in the Willows at The Grand Theatre.
If you know the story, it has animal characters and they are often charmingly portrayed as animals with human characteristics, wearing Lovely Edwardian clothing. It was a fabulous production, the actors included Douglas Campbell as Badger, and, well, if you know who he was then you can imagine his presence in that role.
The costuming was properly Edwardian and the characters had tails which emerged from their velvet breeches or wool trousers.
The tails were made by a very talented woman, Elaine Ball, and I was recently asking her about how she made them (as I could only remember snippets of something we did almost 20 years ago-wow).
Strangely enough, she was in the midst of teaching this very thing to a class of costumers.
She graciously shared some photos that jogged the old memory. I shared these with Kim my colleague who made the prototype as well as the structure above.

So, the tails are made of pool noodles, shaped and tapered a bit as you can see, and each pool noodle segment is separated by a large wooden bead.
The base of the tail uses a door spring, that feeds through the first few sections, as well as a heavy elastic shock cord which goes through to the end section.
We will construct a snug fitting basque for the actor to wear, and it will have an attachment plate at the back for the tail. The tail here still needs an attachment at the end of the spring-but the spring allows the tail to sit flush against the basque and hang quite naturally.

This tail has had a mesh fabric applied over the segments in preparation for covering it with fake fur.

I hope I will get to that task next week, cutting out fur sections as well as making the basque and getting the whole thing together, including another unitard that is worn with this. Oh and there's armour too.

I will also post about the suits as I have a couple of challenging figures to make for and they all need to look the same. Interesting challenges this season for sure.