Gathering Queen

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Well, I survived! Two weeks making real costumes for a real theatre company going on a real stage (and just in case you don’t believe me, you can check out the details here)! Ok, well, most of what I made was just for the fitting stage, so the only things I did completely from start to finish were an apron and a floppy bonnet. I nearly finished a second floppy bonnet, but I had to leave early yesterday and was on the second-to-last step when Liz (the supervisor) brought out a bouquet and some cake as a thank-you for my hard work.

So, it appears I have made a positive enough impression to be missed next week. I really would have liked to do the full three weeks (and possibly into tech week as well), but we leave for California on Monday (eeeeee!). Here’s a comprehensive list of what I worked on throughout the last two weeks:

  • two aprons
  • dungarees (plackets!)
  • pinafore (lots of gathering)
  • two floppy bonnets (more gathering)
  • taking up a petticoat with a tuck (might have gone a bit wonky, that one)
  • taking up a skirt hem
  • bunny rabbit dress (even more gathering)

Most of what I made up had to be taken apart and adjusted after the fittings, but oh well, at least it wasn’t me having to deal with readjusting loads of gathers!

All in all, I’d call the last two weeks a success. Huzzah!

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Dungarees

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The journey to the costume shop was far smoother this morning – I was there by 9.30, hurrah! Good start, good start.

Proceeded to spend the day making up some black suedette dungarees for Moley (did I mention the show I’m working on is Wind in the Willows?). They’re nearly ready for the fitting – just need to bag out the straps and tack them on tomorrow, attach the big front pocket, et voila, dungarees! Again, probably something that one of the regular girls could have knocked up in a couple of hours, but let me point out that this costume has not one but TWO plackets. Yes, two plackets! Which I attached successfully on the first go! Even the fiddly middle bit!

Wait, I just remembered that I forgot to put the elastic in the back casing. Must write that down so I can do it without being reminded tomorrow.

Otherwise, so far so good. Fiona (the head cutter) seems pleased with my progress, and said I ask all the right questions. So far no one’s said anything to suggest that I’m working too slowly, which is really my main concern… but the general consensus from the girls is that I should take my time and ask questions if (when, more like) I get stuck.

Hopefully Moley’s dungarees won’t take too long to finish up tomorrow morning, and then it’s on to the next thing!

Oh, Brother

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Apologies for the crap pun – it’d make a lot more sense if I had thought to include a photo of the industrial Brother sewing machine that I got acquainted with today, on my first work placement day at the Library Theatre in Manchester! My placement is for two weeks, so I shall do my best to update regularly during my time there. But remember: no news is good news, so if my posts are few and far between, then assume I’m getting on just fine.

Today started off horribly but rapidly improved once I actually got to the workshop. The new and complicated commute to residential Manchester was half the reason this work placement has filled me with trepidation for the last few weeks, and I proved myself right. Despite kindly requesting that the bus driver give us a shout when we were at Whalley Range, I ended up about 3/4 of a mile off and ended up wandering around, cold and alone, trying to read the Google Maps app through my tears (only a slight exaggeration there). Fortunately I had to good sense to 1) ring up the costume shop and find out how to get there (“Help! I’m in between a Hindu temple and a soccer field!”), 2) find the far more useful Navigation app to supplement the directions I got over the phone, and 3) set off this morning with plenty of time to spare in case it all went horribly wrong (which it did) and arrived a mere five minutes late.

So I wasn’t exactly in the best of states when I finally got to the workshop. Relieved to find it yes, but also stressed and anxious about what I’d be expected to do once I got there. I got shown the rack full of alteration notes and nearly ran away to hide in a corner. I almost said to the supervisor, I’m sorry, I think there’s been a mistake, I am going to ruin everything so I should just go home now (which is actually a pretty self-involved way to think, isn’t it?). But I didn’t. Instead I drank the tea so kindly brewed for me, and then timidly asked about this apron I’d be making.

Pleat it up at the front, ok, I can do that. Finish the sides and the hem, that’s fine… Waistband, check… and hey presto, an apron! Gosh, that makes it sound like I should’ve had it finished in five minutes. In actual fact it took three-and-a-half hours which, seeing as I was back on an industrial machine for the first time since college, I don’t think is that bad. (There was the carnage of a broken needle to deal with. You should see the state of the pin I sewed over. Pretty grim). Sure, it probably would have taken anyone else an hour and a half, but the fact is, I FINISHED A GARMENT. Eeeeee!

Next I made a start on some suedette dungarees – didn’t get that far, but I did mark up a few pieces, cut some new strips for the plackets, got the placket bits pinned in place, and got the machine all sorted out (which, when you have to change the thread and get the tension right on an old industrial, is not a five-minute job).

Oh, and I met the company’s resident designer!

So, what started off as a terrible day ended up being pretty great. If every other day goes like today, then I will consider my first placement a complete and utter success. Fingers crossed.

The Final Products

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I suppose it’s only fitting that I got around to writing this post after (finally) adding those last two snaps onto my 40s dress and extracting the two pins I had unknowingly sewn into the cuff of Ben’s jacket. It’s about time as well – just about a month since the exhibition!

So without any further ado, here are the photos of my finished costumes from the shoot:

I’m a little disappointed with how the Liberty silk looks on camera – a bit washed out and murky. But hey ho – that’s something to consider for future projects.

And then, the exhibition! This is what my space looked like:

You can just about see my (nearly) finished tutu at the back.

The exhibition was a success – I had 50 business cards at the start and 25 at the end, which I think is a good sign. Had a few CVs picked up as well, so we’ll see what happens next.

So, what exactly have I been doing for the last four weeks, you wonder? Dressing at the opera, of course! Also sending a lot of emails, working at Eureka!, and catching up on sleep. Though it’s going to get busy again soon – in November I start a three-week work placement at the Library Theatre in Manchester, working on the Wind in the Willows. Stay tuned!

The Great Cover Button Battle

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If I may quote myself, this was the state of my bodice to-do list by the time it was meant to be finished (i.e., the Friday before 1940s toile week):

1. slip-stitch bias binding around armholes
2. slip-stitch piping bias around cuffs
3. slip-stitch bias binding of front panel
4. slip-stitch collar of front panel
5. hand sew 36 hooks to bodice
6. hand sew 36 14 bars to front panel
7. cover 42 buttons
8. sew on 42 buttons

As I didn’t have any more time to do the work at home, my plan of action was to work on the bodice until about 10.30 every morning before cracking on with the 1940s dress, and then going back to the bodice in the evenings. Sewing the last of the bars on wasn’t so bad, but then came the time to, *gulp*, cover buttons.

That first evening, I spent about two-and-a-half hours messing around with cover buttons. Guess how many buttons I covered, and rather sloppily at that? Three. Yes, three buttons in nearly as many hours. With 39 more to go. I was not a happy bunny.

But, as ever, I was determined. I accepted defeat that first night, and resolved to come back the next day and tackle those buttons with fresh eyes and a good night’s sleep behind me.

And lo, by about button #5 the next day, I had cracked it! Once I got the hang of button-covering it became more of a stop-and-go project, a few here and a few there in between making the 40s dress. Eventually I had 42 covered buttons.

At that point I left the bodice and focused on finishing the dress, which I did by the end of the day on Friday before the photo shoot (I think). Actually, those last two days have gone kind of blurry in my mind, but I seem to recall getting 18 buttons sewn on by the end of the night on Friday and going in on Saturday afternoon to sew on the other 24. In the end, I had my last button sewn on by 8.30 Saturday evening, an entire 36 hours before the photo shoot! Et voila:

 

And that was that. Coming up: the photo shoot!