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!

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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 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!   🙂

“Getting to know you! Getting to know all about you…”

Alrighty. It’s been almost a week since my last blogposting, and that’s far too long for my taste. I have a lot to update you on, and some observations that I have gleaned via my “travels through the blogosphere”.

Remember how I had to set aside that ebook I had been reading, Creating a Blog Audience by Sister Diane? I had reached a point where I didn’t want to progress further until I felt confident to answer some of the questions she was posing. At a certain point in the book, I realized that I didn’t know enough about the blogging communities that I was posting my blog for– art, craft, and business–and I really needed to do some investigating.

Well, I can say with absolute certainty that’s easier said than done. The blogosphere at this point is rapidly increasing, and the more I felt I was visiting “the community”, the more I realized I was simply scratching the surface… I felt (and still feel) that I had reached the outskirts of a major urban hub, and said to myself, “Aha! My community!” when I actually should have waited and read some more signs to realize I had a long way to go… I think that getting to know the community you are writing for as a blogger is a never ending journey… I could visit blog after blog and post comment after comment, but I’ll never reach the end. 2 or 3 years ago, perhaps, there was a finite nature to the whole experience that implied there were edges to the blogosphere community that one could reach, depending on your interest. Not so much today. It’s like saying, “Get to know your internet!” Hah! See ya in 5-10 years when that’s done…

OBIT  KERR

So at this point, I have endless numbers of bookmarks and doubled my blog subscriptions. And I have 30 open browser windows on my Mac’s dock, waiting for me to get back to read them. I keep finding great stuff!!!  The book did exactly what it was supposed to do: make me think about what it was I was putting out there, for whom, and how it fit in.

And that’s led me to realize there probably isn’t much I can add to the fabric of the blogosphere, really. What can I do but what everyone else is doing–“spins” on information that’s already been explored in depth? How many purse tutorials can a person read? Redoing what others are doing is not what I’d like to do…

So. I’ve decided to continue reading Sister Diane’s book, and hopefully I can progress forward on posting information that’s interesting to a specific overlap of my chosen communities. The book has profoundly opened my eyes to the concept that I need to recognize what my niche is. It’s made me realize that my particular “spice” that I add to the recipe of information that I post needs to be uniquely my own. It’s finding and recognizing that niche that I have to think about. And the more I explore the blogosphere, the more I realize those niches are very very hard to come by.

I find a lot of similarities (in my head) between the blogosphere and reality. In the rush of globalization that’s been made possible by mass and social medias, we’ve moved beyond embracing the whole and turned inward a bit. Our instinct is to pull in and find our diverse uniqueness that separates us and makes us distinct. The Handcrafted/DIY movement is part of that, I think. Our individuality as people was lost in the emphasis on our individuality as a culture, and now we’re trying to get it back through our creative expressions. Yes, we need and strive for social connections, but now we seek them not through our identification as part of the whole (by doing/believing the same things) but through our uniqueness that demonstrates our variation on the identifying culture. We want to belong, and yet we celebrate our distinctiveness.

Being part of any blogging community presents a quandary: belonging on the one hand, being different on the other. Being just enough alike, but not a copy.

So I’m going to move forward. I’m realizing I will never see the larger whole of my communities in the blogosphere, never truly grasp how they all fit together, who are the movers and shakers, who are the followers. And I think that means I will never really know if my blog is distinctive from the larger whole that it’s trying to identify with at the same time.

But I guess that’s ultimately like the business, art, and craft worlds, too, isn’t it? Someday, I may find someone doing what I do and doing it much better, or realize someone’s taken what I thought was my own uniqueness and is using it for their own. “Like business, like blog,” I guess.

But I can’t let that stop me, can I?

E-Books and Pondering

I’ve been reeling from a particular e-book that was recently released, written by “Sister” Diane Gilleland of Craftypod fame (www.craftypod.com). It’s called Creating a Blog Audience. It’s the “sequel” to another e-book that she published called Making a Great Blog, and when you put the two together they pack a mind melting whollop that has really made me sit back and ponder stuff. (Incidently, I don’t know why she calls herself “Sister” Diane, but it works. She’s preachin’ good stuff, lemme tell ya!)

First off, let me say that I’ve listened to all of the episodes of Sister Diane’s podcasts, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I was raving to a colleague about it one day, only to learn that she actually listened to Sister Diane, too! My friend isn’t into the podcast universe as much as I am, so to learn that she had actually heard of it was a real surprise! I download it off of iTunes (I have a Mac computer) and listen to it while I work in my studio. Makes me feel like I’m multi-tasking with the best of them, and actually getting twice as much done!

When I heard that she was releasing this book, I pounced on it and downloaded it and the other blogging book she wrote. Both come with extra “workbook” sheets that let you complete her exercises that she outlines. And those exercises have been incredibly interesting to me.3878035847_8b44d88b8d_o

I read the first book straight through, and loved it. Just to help explain the impact it’s had on me, I now have a poster on my wall by my computer that lists the “reasons I write on my blog”. It’s quite useful in maintaining my focus! I’m now measuring everything I contemplate writing about against those reasons, and it helps me figure out appropriateness, validity, and usefulness.

But the second book really made me sit back and think about stuff, and I’ve had to actually set it aside for a bit because it’s made me realize I have a lot of self-educating to do. In the second chapter, it poses a question: “What kinds of crafts do your ideal audience members like to do?” And that perplexed me. I realized very very quickly, I had very little idea of the kind of crafter/artist I was writing for. I was just “putting it out there” without any real thought behind who might actually be interested in any of it.

And that led me to realize that I don’t spend nearly enough time actually reading other people’s expressions. If I am going to write anything that is relevant and interesting to anyone, I have to know what else is being said, what they’re interested in, and provide a reason why they should read my blog in the first place.

empowering-orthers-to-achieve-successWhich led me back to my reasons on my poster. And it’s slowly starting to sink in that my reasons for writing the blog are rather “self-oriented”. I started this blog to help promote my wearable art business, and I’m coming to see that simply isn’t enough. Who wants to read a blog full of self-aggrandizing advertising? I certainly don’t.

So from here on out, I’m not only going to update you on what I’m working on, but I’m also shifting the focus away from me and more toward things that are interesting in a more practical sense. Philosophy, tutorials, interesting links… Since I’m not teaching theatre anymore, I might as well use that “bank” of resources and share them with you. Things like costume history, pattern drafting tutorials, online costume resources, material resources, small business advice, theatrical crafting materials, period styles and ornament, clothing accessories, theatrical movements, philosophies, art history… I’m excited about making this blog my classroom.

If I can help my blog audience relish their artistic capabilities through lessons, advice, examples, projects, and juicy discussions, then this blog will serve a purpose beyond simply being a tool for me. It can be a tool for you, too.

And somehow, I feel really empowered by that, you know?

Poiret Preview

Today I am proud to preview my latest experiment–a recreation of a 1923 Poiret Cocoon Coat! I have yet to get the button closure on it, but I am terribly excited about where this is going… I have longed to do something elegant and drapey like this for a long time, and think that my floral painting might look really good on it, especially around the hem up to the sleeves. This was made out of black velveteen using a pattern: Folkwear #503.

Front

Front

There are some adjustments that I would like to make to the pattern, as well as some alterations and piecing that I would like to do… I am not thrilled about using someone else’s pattern for things–I’d like to adapt it to my own, so I’ve got some thinking to do… If you had your druthers, what would you do? I’m thinking there is a way to make it more contemporary. Just haven’t hit on it yet. : )

Side

Side

But here it is, sans center front closure. I would love to have some feedback if you’re willing… Perhaps some vertical panels in the front and one in the back? Hmm…

Sleeve

Sleeve

Until next time, Live Life with Relish!