And So It Goes…

I must lead one of the most boring lives of everyone I know. This last couple of weeks have proven it to me. I go to work, I come home, I watch TV, listen to my audiobooks, and then go to bed. Then I get up and do it all over again. Pretty repetitious.

But the end is in sight–my day job as overhire at La Jolla Playhouse is coming to a close very soon, and I will be returning my attention to my own business. I feel like I’ve neglected Relished Artistry a bit–but I’ve still had a couple sales, so that’s been exciting! I know that I could be spending some more time on it, however, and I’m actually looking forward to creating some new things. Fleshing out my “stock” is the first thing on my priority list, and I have a list of items that I am going to make.

I think my time at La Jolla has taught me a lot–I have a new understanding of knits now, so I’m excited about making some new knitwear. I had done a couple samples of some women’s tanks with a cute little rose in the center front by the neckline, and now that I know how to hem them and sew them better, I’m less hesitant to take the leap. We’ll see how it pans out, but I anticipate I’ll have some cute little black stretch velvet tops soon.

I’m also going to investigate some menswear in the form of smoking jackets… Higher quality, lined, with some masculine embellishment on the center back (maybe a silhouette of a bird? Skull? Tree? Scorpion?), but I need to find the right image first. I’m leaning toward using tribal tattoos as reference and inspiration. The challenge is painting crisp, sharp lines on a velvet pile…hehe… Not the easiest thing in the world…

And I’m going to put together a “fantasy” cape with a piped collar and leaf embellishment along the hem. We’ll see how a more overtly “costume-ish” item is received.

I have yet another coat to put together that I am working on, ready to put in the sleeves and the lining. It’ll be done very soon, but until then it rests on a dressform in my studio until I get the “gumption” to finish it off. Having energy to continue sewing at night after sewing all day can be a bit difficult… But I won’t have to worry about that soon.

Alrighty! Another post soon! Live Life with Relish!


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.


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!

Workin’ Overtime…

Work at La Jolla Playhouse has reached the “overtime” phase as we approach closer and closer to the preview performances. For the last two days, they have been “tech-ing” the show, from the beginning, bit by bit. That means they’ve had all the actors in their costumes, and slowly coordinated the lighting, projections, and set in order to merge everything together.

We’ve had a handful of notes that have been required, but they’ve mostly been fitting notes and such. I’ve been hard at work on the pants portion of a mens three-piece suit that we have to make doubles of–this particular actor gets wet during a full immersion baptism, and so wearing the same suit throughout the show would be a tad bit uncomfortably squishy. : )

So I’ve been assembling welt pockets and side pockets and such, stuff I haven’t done in a very long time. I so rarely actually make stuff for myself–I don’t know why… Portions of the mens wear process is quite familiar to me, but there are gaps in my knowledge. The only way I’ve learned to fill those gaps is to practice, practice, practice…

I saw a special on TV last night about Bill Cosby receiving the 2009 Mark Twain Comedy award, and there was a clip from the Cosby Show that had one of the characters wearing an awesome vest from the 1980’s. The back simply continued down into a set of “tails” that flowed gently behind the vest, all in satin. I was enchanted! I have to do that next! It looked so elegant and so flashy at the same time, yet it was incredibly complimentary to the form of the woman who was wearing it. I think that may be one of my upcoming projects! I also want to try a men’s smoking jacket, and a women’s trench, but we’ll see if we get to that.

I have accepted a design position for an upcoming show at the Moxie Theatre for their production of “Expecting Isabell”. It’s about a couple’s journey when they decide they want a child, and how things get almost ridiculous on the way… It’s a comedy, and while I’ve only read about a quarter of the script so far, I am tickled pink! It’s cute, and charming, and poignant, and sad and hilarious all at the same time. I anticipate this will be a big success!

Alrighty! More soon! Live life with Relish!

Merrily we stitch along…

I’m still at La Jolla, working as overhire on their show, Bonnie and Clyde. It’s going very well for me–we are getting a lot done and I am learning a lot about working with materials that I haven’t had much of a chance to develop skills around.

We’ve been making women’s slips and period bras, dresses and tops, as well as working with china silk and silk georgette, stripes and plaids… I must admit, I sometimes feel like I’m all thumbs when I try to work with delicate materials that don’t have much body to them… I am used to working with wools and such, doing menswear. Those kinds of materials are much more sturdy, with a weight and feel that allows for a heavier “hand” when manipulating them.

But these soft, flimsy fabrics require a much gentler touch that’s almost excruciatingly mind-numbing… Even the smallest needle in my sewing machine irreparably damages the pieces I insert under my machine’s presser foot, and the feed dogs of my machine seem to simply chew up the materials regardless of how attentive I can be… I am learning to handle the gossamer fabrics with a graceful hand but it is not coming easily…

Im also learnin a bit about knits… I’m not sure, but I think that the refined knitting that we wear today (like jersey knit and t-shirt knit) is a relatively contemporary invention when it comes to clothing… Those kinds of small weaves simply weren’t possible in the past by hand. As a consequence, since most of my sewing is in historical reproduction, I don’t have much experience working with knits–most clothing throughout history has been done with weaves. So stretch fabrics, and the techniques required to sew them are all very “alien” to me. But with this show, I’ve been able to play with some knits and learned some new stuff that I can’t wait to try at home.

Ever heard of Wooly Nylon?  wooly_nylon_web Oh my goodness what an invention!!! I was able to sew with it on my regular Bernina home machine (a 930), and a regular straight stitch suddenly became a stretch stitch! I couldn’t believe it! No special settings or equipment–it hit me that now I can actually sew knits at home with my regular machine and not have to switch a bunch of settings and such. Can you say “ecstatic”?? This opens up a whole new world for me and what I can produce now.

On top of that, the home serger that was in the shop at La Jolla is the exact same model that I have at home: A Juki MO-735. So I was able to learn about chain stitches and cover stitches while getting paid for it! I was using what I was learning on the garments I was building, and storing that knowledge for use later at home. I am so excited for this new potential! What an awesome experience this has been!

Anyway, I go in to work today at 1:00pm to assemble some mockups for some menswear we are building (finally, some familiar territory), and finish up a 1930’s diner apron that we are slamming together. I am listening to Robert Jordan’s “Eye of the World” from his Wheel of Time Series, and (being the typical male geek that I am) I’m really enjoying it. Boys with swords. Yada yada yada! : )

Okay back to work!  More later!  Live life with Relish!

Costume-ology, Part 2

My experiences working in the Bonnie and Clyde costume shop at La Jolla Playhouse are really turning out to be quite remarkable! We’re all hard at work sewing together several 1930’s outfits, mostly for the women, and doing alterations on several rented items for the men.

I took some more pictures, so I think I’ll just comment on them.

Women's Clothing Rack

Women's Clothing Rack

The above picture is a shot of some of the costumes for the women. Many of the items that are being used in the show already exist, being rented from various rental houses like Western Costume. La Jolla has a stock of items already, and the goal is to use as much as we can that’s appropriate from pre-existing garments, but sometimes that’s not possible when the garment is too fragile or there are specific requirements in the script that prohibit their use (like getting wet, etc.). This rolling rack is chock full of garments that have already been tried on and decided upon, either for a media shot for promotional materials or in the show itself. We’ve worked our way through most of these and repaired the holes and tears that were in them or adjusted them for fit. Notice all the shoes in the bottom–Actors Equity (the actors union) requires that the cast have new shoes specific for each actor (who wants to spend a month wearing someone else’s icky shoes?), so there are lots of pairs for the actors waiting to be tried on. Shoes can be a pricey expenditure, especially when you’re trying to find something that’s not contemporary… And believe it or not, sometimes the period look is defined by the footwear!

Patterns, Patterns, and more Patterns

Patterns, Patterns, and more Patterns

The above picture is of the rack that holds all the patterns for the costumes we’re actually building. Each hanger holds the paper pattern pieces for a different specific costume. As you can see, there are a lot of them! In the front, you can see one of the designer’s renderings. This is what the Cutter uses to draft or drape the pattern to the specific actor’s measurements, just like Project Runway!

Slip Mockup and Photocopies of Renderings

Slip Mockup and Photocopies of Renderings

This is a pic of the different designs we’re building, along with a mockup of a period slip. Can I just say we’ve got a lot of work to do? : )

Sometimes I get asked, “Why don’t you just use real vintage garments?” Well, we can’t for lots of reasons. For one, people are much bigger than they were back then… You’ve noticed how basketball players seem to get bigger and bigger, and teenagers always seem to grow taller than their parents? Well, our contemporary bodies rarely fit into vintage garments anymore–we’re just too big! And those garments that have survived are rarely of a size that’s actually useable because in order to survive they’ve rarely been used. And that usually means they aren’t the “typical size”, as those garments that were useable back then were probably used often, and haven’t lasted long enough to make it through the last 80 years… As fashion has changed, our wardrobes have been discarded so there’s not much left anymore… The average man in World War II had a 38″ chest. Today the average is 42″. And the average men’s shoe size has gone from an 8.5 to a 10. Our bodies are just different…

On top of that, when was the last time you wore a garment 8 times a week and physically exerted yourself?  Costumes have to be very durable to meet that stress–they get much more wear and tear than a normal, every day piece of clothing.  Vintage garments simply can’t handle the strain…

Anyway. More pics and Costume-ology to come!

And I finally finished my audiobook, “Inkheart” by Cornelia Funke (narrated by Lynn Redgrave), and I’m lookin’ for another one to listen to… Any suggestions? Sure makes the day go quicker! : )

Take care, ya’ll, and 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!   🙂