Thursday 19 January 2017

Beauty And The Beast Costumes

So as per usual I didn't take photos of all my costumes made for the production of Beauty and the Beast at Lincoln Drill Hall, or of the ones made for the production of Peter Pan that was over in Skegness and Retford. I am usually just sick of them by the time I have finished, and things never look quite as good on a hanger as they do on a person, and I certainly don't fit into them haha!

As luck would have it I managed to get hold of some of the professionally taken photos from the dress rehearsal.

Beauty and Percy Peapod
So I made Beauty's blue pinafore dress which was made to look like the existing villager girls' costumes but in the iconic blue colour. I made the yellow overalls, two of the dark green shirt, and appliqued the hat for Percy. The shirt pattern was a men's Simplicity pattern but the rest of the costumes I made from my own patterns, or by taking measurements from the existing costumes. (Beauty's, a few of the Peter Pan costumes were copies to make up the correct amount of costumes needed for the set.)

I can't SIA where I'm going!

The SIA inspired costume, which I dubbed the "Moo moo Muu muu" was a swing dress shape, with wide sleeves, self drafted. The sleeve hems and the dress hem had plastic boning in to exaggerate the shape. The bow on the wig wasn't properly attached in these pictures, but in the proper performances it stood upright completely.

Be Our Guest

Other than Beauty's dress, I made the dress for Dame Dusty Doorknockers, we dubbed it the "Liquorice dress". It is from a basic princess seamed block I have made up specifically for lovely James (Dusty), and the consists of a striped yoke (front and back) with an overlaid shaped ruffle hanging over the bust. The main body of the dress is in the lilac polka dot with sleeves and ruffle in pink. The pattern piece for the sleeves is huge! You really do have to gather  down a lot of fabric to get that exaggerated puff sleeve (which you can't really see in the action shot). The apron has a functional pocket and ties in a delightfully large bow in the back.
I am incredibly pleased with the way this dress came out, it fit perfectly, looks exactly how it was imagined to, and really pops on stage.

You can't kill a beast without a cape!

Pictures are Gustave and a villager wearing capes, I made a lot of capes for this production! Gustave's is a longer cape pleated onto a collar, Luke's cape is basically a hi-low hem 3/4 circle with a drafted hood. I made 4 of the hooded capes, and two children's ones that were the 3/4 circle without the hood. All of them were fully lined in a "gunmetal" grey colour, the ties were a mixture of ribbons and twill tape. They would have all been twill tape but I forgot I had it when I made the first few!

So very unexpectedly I made the waistcoat and trousers for the character of Marcel due to the original costume provided turning out to be much too small and beyond the scope of alteration. I adapted a Simplicity pirate costume because I was very time limited and did not want to mess around drafting crotch curves and taking a billion measurements. The actor was larger than the patterns went up to but since I used them only as a rough base it wasn't hard to increase the measurements. The waistcoat is lined and I did it in a bit of an arse about face way because I was rushing and didn't sit down and think it through first. The trousers are cuffed with elastic, and are purposefully baggy as requested because of "trouser acting" apparently....I just did as I was told!

Ruddy mysterious in these parts!
And here we have Marcel again sporting his cape. It was made in the same fashion as Gustave's and is white because it was involved in a blackout sequence with lights to make it glow. The hat was trimmed with white twill tape for the same reason.

So as far as original costumes are concerned, this was pretty much the lot for Beauty and the Beast, although one of my own dresses was used for Dame Dusty (a strawberry print dress I had made for Tea and Tents festival in 2014, I was going to give it to the charity shop but offered it to JMP as it had more of a costumey feel to it). I also did the usual alterations, adjustments, re-jigging, and repairs but no pictures bar a couple of rubbish instagram shots.

It is a bit weird thinking about the fact that thousands of people have seen my costumes on stage, yet this is not a career I have worked or studied for, it is just my hobby! I guess it is a nice counter to my own garment sewing of black wardrobe staples!

Disclaimer: None of these photos belong to me, they are just being used to document my costume work to the 3 people who look at the blog ;)

Saturday 14 January 2017

Sewing And Weightloss

As mentioned in my last post, I have been having a lot of thoughts about sewing and weightloss as I have lost some weight recently, and hope to lose another 3, 4 or 5 stone depending on how I feel further down the road (I cannot set a goal weight because I am unable to visualise what I will look like at an arbitrarily set number on a scale, I will know when I have lost enough for my own preferences - I'm always going to be a curvy lady!!).

I am not the largest member of the online sewing community, but I was/am not comfortable in my own skin. At risk of type 2 diabetes, and being easily out of breath, and struggling to paint my own damn toenails, I knew things had to change.

Left me, right my sister, taken in May 2016 but at roughly the same weight as when I started WW
So in the picture I am wearing a dress I made for an event in September 2015 (obviously unblogged because I am an incompetent blogger!). I made it from my own sundress pattern, from fabric I carefully selected, buttons in my choice of contrasting colour, and hemmed by hand using some pretty lace. The nature of the pattern placement of the hearts was forgotten about hence the weird bit in the middle, and the armscye could do with a 1/4" scooped out. In no way is this dress perfect. But it is mine.

The same feelings go for the rest of my imperfect, but specially curated wardrobe. It is small, I do not have provisions for all seasons, it consists of 75% black clothing, and the rest made up from navy, grey, and the rare pop of a gingham or olive green. My clothes have meaning, each has its own story, and the small amount of items mean I really do remember when it was made and why. The only way my clothes could be more personal is if I wove the cloth they are made from (which is unlikely to happen!).

So now I am two stone lighter, and they say I should feel healthier! They say I should really feel the difference! They say I should be "#so proud"! They say I should see the difference! Happy happy, joy joy! Well spoiler alert, I don't. I can't see the difference, I don't feel healthier, I can paint my toenails a bit easier though.

I know through the evidence of the scale, and through the fit of my clothes that it is happening for real. I see my clothes looking sad and baggy. I live in leggings and a sad baggy tonic tee if I am not leaving the house. My embroidered Ginger jeans are so far into droopy arseville that I can't even go there with them any more. My dearly loved polka dotted blouse is now a sad saggy sack. But I should be pleased by this so they say.

The reason I kept my wardrobe so small is because of my preference for a sustainable wardrobe. I hate waste, I hate throwaway clothes culture, and I love having only things I enjoy wearing. I understand my views are the minority here, no hating on those sewists who have a large bounty of handmade clothing in their closet, "To thine own self be true" after all. Growing out, or should that be shrinking out, of my clothes whilst they are not worn enough to be worn out and too worn for the charity shop is causing me anxiety. I feel wasteful.

The personal nature of my relationship with my clothing is making me miserable. I can't bring myself to make some new items to tide me over the next 2 stone loss to go through the feeling of waste again. I don't even feel like I can re-purpose the fabric from any of my existing clothes into only temporary garments. I get that this is not a normal way to think about ones clothing. Buying new in a size smaller is one of the thrills most women get to boost them on their often long and hard journey, I don't even know what size dress I would pick up off the rack it has been so long since I got anything but bras and those stretchy saviours keeping me from wandering round in just my knickers.

I'm sure that for many sewists this sound like the ramblings of a madwoman, and for those who do not sew it surely sounds madder still! Perhaps I am too sentimental, too obsessed, too neurotic...but I would never choose to again have that impersonal relationship with the things that are literally, albeit not figuratively, closest to me. Sewing has taught me patience, responsibility, mindfulness, confidence, and made me aware of all those little body quirks that you would never know if not for taking all those measurements.

There is more to life than clothes, no shadow of a doubt on that one, but clothes are the reflections of life, and I for one value them deeply.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

What Do You Call A Sewing Blogger Who Doesn't Sew Anything And Posts About Books Instead?

AKA My 2016 review post!

So 2016 was a mixed bag of a year, it didn't start off so brilliantly, but really picked up as it went along and on the whole it was generally a pretty good one, bucking the general trend there!

I didn't really sew much, but I have been up to the usual variety of crafty bits and bobs, terrible photos courtesy of Instagram!

So from left to right on the top row - I made a super romantic valentines cross stitch of our little family, it is pretty small but still took ages, cross stitch is a real marathon! I also started a temperature blanket, it is bigger than the shown picture, but I have about 8 months left to do...which I will probably take the whole of 2017 to do. I also made a little felt badge with the most incredibly rudimentary stumpwork(ish) bee on, this was for a climate change awareness project done through the WI, with the idea to make a green heart with something written/illustrated/created on it that would be at risk from climate change.

Middle row is a hungry caterpillar headband made for a friend for World Book Day, some banana split truffles made as a gift, and some crochet roses I turned into a headband for a camping weekend I went on.

Bottom row is some beeswax candles made at a workshop at the above mentioned camping weekend, my first attempt at the good ol' granny square, and one of the birthday cards made throughout the year.

On the sewing front I made barely anything for myself, I didn't take any good photos either! Not pictured are my Sophie swimsuit and Morgan jeans tester garments (they were not beautiful, and neither one got made into a final personal garment so no photos there either), and also a black linen dress that was a bit of a disaster and I don't want to talk about the waste of my hoarded nice fabric...

So from the top - a summery blousey thing made from my sundress pattern which was sewn up in some fabric which had serious static issues. It actually frayed apart after washing in a small spot and I decided that rather than fix it, I would be better off without it! Next to that we have a chiffon peasant top - Simplicity 1162 worn with my skull pocket Ginger jeans cut in 2015, sewn 2016. S1162 looks a bit fug in some of the variations they decided to put on the envelope, but I was after something that would make a casualish top and use up the various lengths of chiffon I seem to purchase periodically which I have little call for. It's a nice top once you get going, although it is a bit shapeless round the middle, hence the belted look.

I also finally made up the sunhat I carefully drafted a pattern for following the instructions over at Weekend Designer and it is everything I need to re-enact my AHS Coven style dreams. I think there is room for improvement, but certainly a very good first attempt!
The best project of the year was my giant pants, two pairs made from the Rosy Lady Shorts pattern with the waist extended to hit the waistline.

I also made a questionable gingham sundress, Frank likes it, but I'm not so convinced.

Finally I made a steampunk costume to wear to the annual steampunk festival held in Lincoln each year, and at which my WI holds a fundraising bake sale. I have wanted to join in the fun ever since we moved here 7 years ago, and I dipped my toe in with a steampunk inspired costume rather than a full on affair. It took ages, I wasn't overly pleased with how it turned out, and the proper photos I took make it look more ugly than it really is. But the day was a lot of fun, and I got compliments on my attire so it clearly wasn't too awful.

The top photo here was taken at the camping trip mentioned - Tea and Tents. It is a WI member only camping weekend that I attended once before in 2014. My scarf has cats on it. It is hiding the nasty sunburn I got...
The bottom photo was taken at the Steampunk festival where I also got sunburned...not a good year for my skin, I got burned in April too.
I really love being a part of the WI, and I hope that these pictures dispel a few common misconceptions about it being full of middle class ladies in twin sets and pearls  (not that there is anything wrong if you do fall into this category!)

So as well as the crafty business, and the book reading, it was also a good year for other things - I did a talk about craftivism at my WI (very nerve-wracking) which is something I would never have considered doing in a million years before I joined. After the talk I arranged for us to make our own craftivism piece - all members were tasked to make a piece embroidered with their food waste pledge which will be joined together to make one large display.
I also volunteered throughout Oct/Nov for Cards For Good Causes, they set up across the country selling cards for charities (national and local), and a whopping 80% of the price of a pack goes to the charity they are for which is so much more than the charity cards sold in supermarkets etc. I met many lovely people, and also got to volunteer twice with my friend Jo who introduced me to the CFGC charity as she ad volunteered previously.
I organised a Christmas carol concert for a group of local WIs including Lincoln, and was completely bummed out to find I couldn't attend due to panto commitments. It went well though so I was pleased.
Like the madman I am, I signed up with Weight Watchers in the last week of October, and have been doing pretty well at it, although I did find it hard missing out on all the Christmas treats. I'm almost two stone lighter now, and it brings up a lot of thoughts and feelings for the sewist with an almost entirely hand made wardrobe which I am going to post about separately.

Well there was a very long brief round up of my 2016, and I will have a separate panto post because it is sewing related, but to add more to this post was going to make things rather silly!

I know this blog isn't very well read, but for those that do, I hope that you had a good 2016, and have a better 2017!

Wednesday 21 September 2016

How Do You Choose Yours?

Hello folks,

Today I just wanted to post about my book sourcing methods, and to be nosy about how other people find their next books. I have a few different ways, but I know there must be others!

1 - The Public Library

Lincoln Central Library, aka the Mothership
Ok, so most obvious first! Sometimes I go in and browse the shelves to see what jumps out at me. Other times I search the library catalogue online (last week I went through all 1700 new books that are spread between all the libraries in Lincolnshire because that's how I roll). I also order in a lot of books that I find elsewhere as I don't earn enough to buy all the books I read, and I'm a huge advocate of using your public library to ensure it doesn't get shut down!

2 - Pinterest

Because I pin my read books to keep track of them, Pinterest throws out loads of recommended pins based on what book I have pinned, and about reading in general. This is how I find list of books on Buzzfeed etc, and I often find good choices there although my library doesn't always have in some of the book that I think are maybe released primarily for a US audience and haven't quite made it over the pond yet. Super annoying when that does happen!

3 - Amazon

When I do buy books I always check out the "other people bought" part of the page,and can get truly lost down that rabbit hole for hours! It is my number one strategy for buying my OH books (and DVDs) that are by authors new to him. He says he loves the unknown books, and has started to offer up far less in the way of suggestions around birthday/Christmas time. So next time you're ordering check out other people's purchases, it really throws up a lot of good books!

4 - Podcasts

I listen to a great reading podcast called "What Should I Read Next" by the Modern Mrs Darcy.
Even when I am not interested in the type of books being discussed (think JoJo Moyes etc), I actually just get a big kick out of hearing people talk about reading. Sad? Maybe. But most of my IRL friends are not into reading in such a big way so I enjoy it. Best book I have discovered so far is "The Girl With All The Gifts" by M R Carey, and it also got me interested enough to read "The Martian" by Andy Weir which I was a bit on the fence about.

5 - Book Groups

I was part of my WI's book group, but due to a change in employment I now can't attend. May be a bit harsh but most of the books chosen were not my thing at all, and others were just plain crap! I did read Oryx and Crake as a book club choice which opened up the world of Margaret Atwood, but the good definitely did not outweigh the bad.
I am/was a participant in an online book group where the choices were around sustainability/environmental issues (Non fiction) but it seems to have fizzled out. I guess the problem with online book groups is that it is easy to forget to be logged onto Facebook at the right time. Hopefully it will rise like a phoenix out of the ashes, but I will have to wait and see.

So those are my methods of book hunting, do you have any to add? I am quite keen to expand upon my podcast library, so any reading or sewing podcasts, or even just really great podcasts about other stuff that you can recommend, I would be super grateful!

Sunday 18 September 2016

July Reading

July was an 11 book month! 7 proper books and 4 graphic novels.

 But MORE importantly.... I REACHED MY 52 BOOK TARGET!!! Book 52 was Nailbiter Volume 3, and it was something I had been waiting to get my hands on for a while so it seemed like a fitting choice for #52.

On to the reviews -

Beloved Poison by E.S. Thompson - This was a random choice from the library, and not as much of a winner as previous random choices. The story is based around a hospital in 1850(ish) England where Jem Flockhart is a resident apothecarist with a secret, who uncovers a secret as the planned demolition of the hospital takes place. I probably mentioned earlier in the year when talking about The Devil In The Marshalsea that I'm not a fan of historical fiction. Beloved poison was a much better story, and I enjoyed the presumably accurate portrayal of an apothecary's work, but the Victorian setting was a dampener.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - A classic piece of fiction that lives up to it's reputation in my opinion. I loved it from start to finish and found the descriptions of the characters and their world to be incredibly effective in creating a vivid immersive story. I only wish I could have followed Offred and her story for longer. I would highly recommend reading this, and perhaps you too will wonder if Atwood was being mildly prophetic with her tale of female slavery at the hands of a fundamentalist christian male dominated new world order...

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin - I should imagine everyone is familiar with the term Stepford Wife, but many perhaps less familiar with Ira Levin's fantastic book. A thematically fitting follow up to The Handmaid's Tale, and no less sinister! I have only seen the recent remake of the film (and love it), and I believe the original follows more closely to the book with the fate of Joanna Eberhart being somewhat more unfortunate, and Walter not such a nice guy either. A short book which I read in one sitting, but still very enjoyable and didn't feel too short either.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio - This is a uplifting but tear jerking story about a boy named August and his horrific facial deformity which makes starting high school somewhat more difficult than it is for the rest of us. Told from the perspectives of different characters it is refreshing to address the negative feelings of the "normal" sibling alongside the feelings of the main protagonist, and it was dome in a relateable and sensitive way. We all know children are often tactless and sometimes cruel, but I think everyone reading the book will be that little bit kinder to everyone they encounter, disfigured or not.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare - I read this 10 or so years ago, and probably enjoyed it more the first time around. I don't particularly go for plays, exception being Euripides whose work I am rather fond of, and it just seemed a little more drawn out than I remember. I may try re-reading others which I enjoyed in the past to see if it was just that story in particular.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn - A garishly covered book containing one of the more odd stories I have ever read. Based around the life of a family of circus freaks in a traveling circus, the book explores the messed up realities of the human condition as told by the albino hunchbacked dwarf Olympia. Where the book could have simply been a peek at the grotesque, it really makes you question life, love, and the universe. Much more profound and insightful than one could predict from a book titled after someone who bites the heads off chickens.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey - This was a book which caught my attention on the "What Should I Read Next Podcast", and I was fortuitous in picking it up from the library when I did as it has been made into a film due to be released soon! It was quite a long book, but it kept me captivated from beginning to end. Set in London/Outer London after a fungal virus has turned most of the population into zombie like 'hungries' who only spring to life when a uninfected human is smelt, the book revolves around a girl called Melanie, her teacher Miss Justineau, a scientist, and two military men thrust into a dangerous situation in this dangerous world. The ending was unexpected and made for the perfect dystopian novel, I would very much recommend it!

And now for the graphic novels which were the last 4 that I read, although it would have been a nice way to break them up anyhow.

Nailbiter Volume 3 by Joshua Williamson et al - The third trade paperback installment of one of my favourite comics, and the plot thickens! With plenty of time spent with the enigmatic Nailbiter himself this had me delighted and desperate to know what happens next. The fourth volume is out so hopefully it won't be too long before I find out more about the real reason for the Buckaroo Butchers.

Outcast Volume 3: This Little Light by Kirkman and Azaceta - This volume did not seem to move the story on in a significant way in my opinion, compared with the first two anyway. I am curious to watch the TV show but also do not wish to spoil the story!

Postal by Bryan Hill - A new to me story, and one I really enjoyed, about a town called Eden which is basically populated by criminals, and there is a zero tolerance attitude to any illegal activity as the town is meant to be the second chance that serious criminals would not otherwise be able to get. The character of Mark (not a criminal, the mayor's son) is in charge of the postal service, and his position on the spectrum drives him to great lengths to solve the mystery of a murder that happens in Eden. I am very interested to see how this story develops, and am enjoying the frank but sympathetic portrayal of Mark.

Saga Volume 6 by Vaughn and Staples - My favourite of all the graphic novels I read, and the sixth volume did not disappoint. *Spoiler Alert* The Will getting fat was probably the funniest part of the story! I love the bizarre and unusual characters and the bizarre and unusual situations they find themselves in. But more Lying Cat next time please!

So that is July all wrapped up, August's books will be on the way soon.
Have you read any of July's books? What did you think? Or maybe you are considering picking up one of them - I would love to know!

Monday 8 August 2016

June Reading

Nearly caught up now thank goodness!

June was another poor month for books quantity wise, but I did enjoy them!

In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware was a book I saw on a Buzzfeed list I think, probably in the vein of 'if you loved Gone Girl then try...' and whilst it was no Gone Girl, it was a decent thriller, I hadn't worked out the ending before it happened which is always good! Some of the characters are a bit annoying, and I didn't entirely warm to the protagonist Lee/Nora. The basic premise of hen party in the middle of nowhere may be a little bit eyerolly but where else would you make it so ruddy mysterious....

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson (told you there was more S J!) was a brilliant story, again with the house as a character. Didn't predict the twist, and I shan't spoil it! Jackson really exquisitely paints the characters of the two sisters and their senile uncle, although you do forget that Merricat is supposed to be 18, perhaps because of a combination of intentional child like characteristics, but also because 18 year olds today are much different.

Make Some-Thing Up by Chuck Palahniuk really does contain things you can't unread. The book is a collection of short stories and one in particular, Cannibal, is stomach churning. The new "Guts" I should say. I actually had to put the book down for a while after I read it which is not really something I do! Overall a good assortment of stories but I really prefer his full length stories.

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk was, in contrast to Make Some-Thing Up, a light and fluffy read! The story revolves around a 13 year old girl called Madison, who dies and goes to hell, and whilst in hell decides to take over and rule it. The book is insanely satirical and funny, and if you have ever been a 13 year old girl you will cringe at how well it captures the slightly narcissistic nature of teen girls.

Sometimes The Wolf by Urban Waite was a library random choice. I was drawn in by the McCarthy comparison which obviously it did not live up to because McCarthy is God... It was a bit of a slow starter but it was good once it gained momentum. I think it would make a good film, in the style of No Country For Old Men. The wolf part of it isn't really as much of a thing as you would expect given the title.

Well there you go, that's June wrapped up. I know that there is barely anyone who is reading my posts, but I wondered if it would be preferable to include more of the story of each book as well as my thoughts and random ramblings? I'd love any feedback readers have the time to give, and thanks in advance!

Friday 5 August 2016

Patchwork Elephant Cushion For MIL

Towards the end of last year I made a cushion for my MIL (I also entered it in a "just for fun" competition at WI since it fit with the theme of "Indian Summer") which incorporated a badly patchworked elephant design appliqued onto a sun design, which in turn was appliqued onto a turquoise cushion cover. I found a perler bead design for an elephant on Pinterest, and converted that into the patchwork design.

 I had originally planned to make the sun patchwork too but it was too much hard work ha ha.

I cut out loads of utterly piddly little squares from scrap, decided I must have been slightly insane to think it was a good idea, then decided I was actually insane for continuing on with it!

It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be and soon enough had a vaguely elephant shaped design.

As you can see it is quite honestly a terrible job. I normally choose EPP for a reason ya'll ;) Next step was to attach the elephant to the sun, and add some sparkly accents to give it a bit of a special touch. And an eye, just to stop it looking more  weird.

I then attached this to a turquoise fabric which was then sewn into a cushion cover with some velcro to secure it closed.

I can't find a picture with the cushion pad inserted but it probably shows the design better like this anyway. Despite it being incredibly poor patchwork, my MIL was thrilled with the cushion as she loves elephants. I'm not in a hurry to repeat the mini patchwork experience but I was pleased with how well the design translated into fabric.