Shiny New Sewing Machines…

I’m a sucker for shiny new objects, especially when they’re sewing machines I’ve never seen before. Yesterday, I went into a local sewing machine shop (Central Sewing Centre in El Cajon) to see if they had a sleeve board. My old sleeve board was a cheepo one made of particle board, and of course it quickly snapped in half. So I wanted something good. I also wanted to see if they carried Wooly Nylon.

So I walked in, and the sales pitch began… But golly, these machines are neat!!

The first machine I saw was what they call a “Sashiko” machine. Blanket stitches. Oh my goodness it was beautiful!!! Talk about regular spacing and even stitching… I was stunned. Of course, I don’t really have much of a need for it, but it was fascinating to say the least.

ProdEMB12

And then they walked me over to their “Embellisher” machine, which I probably have more use for… I can’t even describe what this was doing–it was totally creating textures, needle felting, and melding two pieces of fabric together, and affixing yarn and ribbon and silk to fabric, and making flourettes–all with 12 needles and no yarn. It was stunning. I want this machine… And they had it on sale, but it was still out of my range… Good grief it was awe inspiring… The things I could do to my creations…

So my trip to the sewing shop was really quite useful. And I got my sleeve board ordered and picked up some Wooly Nylon to boot. And I’m putting this Embellisher machine on my Christmas list.

Things at La Jolla are still comin’ together. I will probably be there for another week on Bonnie and Clyde, and then my job will come to a close as the show opens. I’ve been told it’s quite good, and it’s selling out. I”ve had my head buried in assembling two pairs of matching men’s suit pants for a scene where Clyde’s brother, Buck, is baptized by immersion. Wouldn’t do to walk around in wet clothes for 2/3s of the play…

I guess that’s it! I’m heading out to my garage this afternoon, and finishing reading up a script for my next Design experience: Moxie Theatre’s “Expecting Isabel”. It’s a cute show thus far!

Ta ta for now! Live life with Relish!

Costume-ology on the First Week of Bonnie and Clyde

Good grief I have become so lazy… This last week, I was getting up at 6:00am in order to join a carpool to work at 8:00, whereupon I’d work until 4:30pm, then carpool back home.

And I am so tired. Ha! No good excuses, except to explain that I have developed some horrible habits since my job at my former university ended, and screwing up my sleeping habits was high among them! By the time this last Friday came around, I was so tired at work my coffee was no longer effective, my eyes were watering, and it was all I could do just to keep quiet as I continually yawned…

But I have to say, I am having a blast!! I love this experience so far! The small group of people that I am working with on La Jolla Playhouse’s Bonnie and Clyde are really great–there were 6 costume technicians sewing in the shop–and we laugh and joke and debate together but we don’t waste time. Every one of us truly loves what we’re doing, and it’s fun to make things together, but we know we must remain diligent and on task. It’s truly a professional group of folk that can have fun and still get things done.

I’ve been hired as a Stitcher. In costume-shop-terms, that’s the member of a “cutting team” who is responsible for actually sewing the garments that have been previously patterned and cut out by other people. I assemble whatever pieces of the costumes I’m told to, as well as help complete the myriad of alterations that are needed on clothing already built.

Usually, a cutting team involves a Cutter/Draper as the leader. She translates the designer’s picture into reality, developing the pattern and cutting it out of craft paper. Then this person hands off the pattern to her assistant, also known as a First Hand who cuts the pattern out of the chosen fabric as well as all the linings & interfacings and such. Then it gets handed to me (the stitcher), and I assemble those pieces under their supervision. There may be several stitchers or first hands on a team, depending on how many costumes are assigned to it and the nature of the construction.

My experience in this shop is unique, since there are so few of us that there is really only one team. This week, we did mostly alterations, but toward the end we cut out some of the garments from the fabric that had arrived for us from New York City, chosen by the designer and his assistants who are selecting it from the plethora of options there in NYC’s fabric district.

At this point in the process of Bonnie and Clyde, the designer has already conceptualized what the costumes look like, drawn pictures, and had fittings with the actors using “mockups” (cheap versions of the costumes, usually out of muslin) that were altered and adjusted as needed. Now, the patterns have been tweeked and we’re actually assembling the garments for real out of real fabric.

The Costume Shop.  Sorry for the blurriness...

The Costume Shop. Sorry for the blurriness...

We have a lot to do… I’m not sure of the exact number of garments we have to build, but it’s somewhere between 9 to 11 different dresses and several miscellaneous pieces in about 3 weeks… All of them are period representations of 1930’s dust bowl fashion–charming and simple on the surface, but complicated and precise when you scratch under the surface. The colors chosen by the designer are in the sage greens, dusty roses, and rich browns that lend themselves to the antique feel of yesteryear. It’s going to be quite beautiful when it’s all done!

And so we press forward! This week, I helped repair several men’s suits from a rental house that were literally rotting away and in horrible shape, switched out a decrepit vest back for a new one, significantly altered a thick wool vest completely bound in knit ribbing, helped cut out two dresses (one of which was a linen-look asymmetrical plaid that was cut on the bias–ugh–which sadly had to be done twice because I messed up the first time), and assembled some mockup slips.

And I’ve listened to “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown on audiobook, as well as falling in love with the completely and totally enchanting “Inkheart” By Cornelia Funke (& read by Lynn Redgrave) that I am in the middle of and can’t recommend enough for bed-time storytelling to young girls. Any other suggestions for good audiobooks? Hard to find one on sewing…hehe…

And so. This coming week will be another adventure, and I will update you all on what I’m doing, with some pics and such. Relished Artistry is still coming along–not much to say on that front. I have to earn money to buy some lining to move onto my next projects. I am trying to figure out what I can make that’s more in the “affordable” range–$10-20, but haven’t hit upon anything yet. Perhaps I will stumble upon something soon.

Take care! Talk with ya soon! Live life with Relish!!

Some Opinions Sought and Some Futures Found

First off, some of you may/may not know that the blog you are reading is actually a duplicate of another blog. I have two with the exact same content: one on Blogger, the other on WordPress. I’m not sure if it’s helpful or not, but in my explorations it’s harder to subscribe to one or the other depending on your experience, and there are those that simply don’t know about the different feeder services that make it easier to do so… I figured, why not? It’s not like I’m doing to separate blogs with totally different content–they’re both the same.

The one downside that I’ve discovered is the comments–it’s sad that comments made on one blog aren’t available to the other, but it’s worth the trade off for easier access, I feel. Perhaps I will stop posting on one in the future, but I would prefer to do that when I develop a website of my own for Relished Artistry.

I’d be interested in hearing from others if this is a good idea, and what blogging platform seems to be the most useful for those in the crafting/art fields. I’m limited in my understanding of how RSS feeds work and “readers” and the like–and I’m sure that if I am somewhat baffled, there are others out there that are just as daunted by the whole thing as much as I am. Thus, two blogs to make it easier for everyone.

Secondly–and this is a totally different topic–I have accepted a position at La Jolla Playhouse as an overhire stitcher on their newly developing musical “Bonnie and Clyde“.  bonnie-clyde-lgI’ll be working in an auxiliary costume shop with a one of my former supervisors, Ingrid Helton, who is the shop manager. She’s depending on me to work my fingers to the bone, and I’m excited to follow through. I’ll be working with some technicians from my past in a familiar structure that I’m used to, so it’ll feel like old home week!

The employment will last until mid-November, so it’s coming at the right time for me, monetarily. Ingrid and I go way back to 1995, when I first started at the Old Globe as a costume technician, and I worked on her cutting team for several years. She taught me everything I know about men’s tailoring, and for a while I was her assistant cutter. It will feel good to stretch my skills again.

So as a consequence, I’m going to be splitting my efforts for a short while–working on Relished Artistry after work and spending my days at LJP stitching as fast as I can. In the past, working in costume shops has had a tendency to have an “all-encompassing” effect on me and my mental state… It is difficult to “keep it a job” when the amount of focus and concentration is mentally exhausting. It is good on the one hand, but emotionally frazzling sometimes. I spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks on my iPod and podcasts to keep my mind in check. It would seem silly–“It’s just sewing!” But when one cares a great deal about quality and precision, and the entire team is invested in a high standard, it can be a bit daunting. I can anticipate that this will impact my ability to keep up with my business, but I am hoping that it will also spur me on in some ways to delve deeper into Relished Artistry.

So, I’ll keep you all updated on what I’m working on and what’s happening as I go along! This should be interesting!  Live life with Relish!   🙂

Project Runway Thoughts

I just saw the premiere episode of Project Runway on Lifetime.  I’ve watched it for several years now–never regularly, though.  I caught an episode here and there, and I recognize the designers from past seasons.  The “All Star” 2-hour special that preceded the premiere was really interesting.  Seeing all those old designers come back and meld seasons was trippy.
But I have to say, the television show is so far from reality that it’s laughable…  Having some experience in clothing construction, I know what it takes to make a garment actually work, and the time constraints they are put under are ridiculous.  That’s not design, that’s “what-can-I-get-done-as-fast-as-I-can”…  I shudder to think of the quality that’s sacrificed simply to staple things together so they can be worn down a runway for 30 seconds (if that).  I laugh when I see them struggle to try to rethread a serger or change the needle…  Good grief, what world have they been living in that they don’t know how to operate the machines they’re working with?
I am the first to say that I know nothing about the fashion industry.  I blissfully developed what skills I have without having to dip my feet in that cesspool.  And I call it a cesspool with respect–it’s a damn vicious one where survival of the fittest is the rule of the day.  But life is more than that.  Theatre taught me that.  Life is more than how you look and how you give that first impression.  It’s more than letting your clothes dictate your “cool factor”, or dressing “appropriately” for the job.
Underneath all that industry is a world of real people who buy what comes out of the fashion factory.  And the people that I live and breath with, that I value, that I admire and that I ultimately want in my life… well…  They’re not the people that drive the fashion industry.  They’re the multitudes of people that wear clothing 3 and 5 years out of fashion.  They’re the masses that don’t pay attention to the latest line arriving at Sax or Nordstrom.  They’re the average every day joes that have to put two cents together to come up with four.
Fashion is not “the new”.  Fashion is belief in one’s self.  Fashion is confidence.  Fashion serves whatever purpose is required by the wearer for whatever situation they are in.
It’s not slamming together a dress in 24 hours with a bunch of carpet from a restaurant.
That’s simply thinking on your feet.  And the industry may have an element of that, but it certainly isn’t everything.
I would urge you to take Project Runway with a grain of salt.  Speed and ingenuity will always take a back seat to heart and care.  Real fashion isn’t about the designer at all, but how it makes the person wearing it feel.  And if they feel good in what they’re wearing, that’s all that’s important.
And the people in my world understand that.  They don’t want Mr. Blackman judging them on a best/worst dressed list…  They don’t need him to dictate what “looks good.”  According to whom??
Wear what you love.  Express yourself, and the people who should matter in your life will respect you.  If others don’t, then they don’t deserve to be in it anyway.

I just saw the premiere episode of Project Runway on Lifetime.  I’ve watched it for several years now–never regularly, though.  I caught an episode here and there, and I recognize the designers from past seasons.  The “All Star” 2-hour special that preceded the premiere was really interesting.  Seeing all those old designers come back and meld seasons was trippy.

But I have to say, the television show is so far from reality that it’s laughable…  Having some experience in clothing construction, I know what it takes to make a garment actually work, and the time constraints they are put under are ridiculous.  That’s not design, that’s “what-can-I-get-done-as-fast-as-I-can”…  I shudder to think of the quality that’s sacrificed simply to staple things together so they can be worn down a runway for 30 seconds (if that).  I laugh when I see them struggle to try to rethread a serger or change the needle…  Good grief, what world have they been living in that they don’t know how to operate the machines they’re working with?

I am the first to say that I know nothing about the fashion industry.  I blissfully developed what skills I have without having to dip my feet in that cesspool.  And I call it a cesspool with respect–it’s a damn vicious one where survival of the fittest is the rule of the day.  But life is more than that.  Theatre taught me that.  Life is more than how you look and how you give that first impression.  It’s more than letting your clothes dictate your “cool factor”, or dressing “appropriately” for the job.

Underneath all that industry is a world of real people who buy what comes out of the fashion factory.  And the people that I live and breath with, that I value, that I admire and that I ultimately want in my life… well…  They’re not the people that drive the fashion industry.  They’re the multitudes of people that wear clothing 3 and 5 years out of fashion.  They’re the masses that don’t pay attention to the latest line arriving at Sax or Nordstrom.  They’re the average every day joes that have to put two cents together to come up with four.

Fashion is not “the new”.  Fashion is belief in one’s self.  Fashion is confidence.  Fashion serves whatever purpose is required by the wearer for whatever situation they are in.

It’s not slamming together a dress in 24 hours with a bunch of carpet from a restaurant.

That’s simply thinking on your feet.  And the industry may have an element of that, but it certainly isn’t everything.

I would urge you to take Project Runway with a grain of salt.  Speed and ingenuity will always take a back seat to heart and care.  Real fashion isn’t about the designer at all, but how it makes the person wearing it feel.  And if they feel good in what they’re wearing, that’s all that’s important.

And the people in my world understand that.  They don’t want Mr. Blackman judging them on a best/worst dressed list…  They don’t need him to dictate what “looks good.”  According to whom??

Wear what you love.  Express yourself, and the people who should matter in your life will respect you.  If others don’t, then they don’t deserve to be in your life anyway.