Wednesday 26 March 2014

Book Review #2

Another one!

I'm having a slightly stressful day, work-wise (meaning that there is nothing more I can do until people return my many, many and email....grr...but I digress.)  So I decide that while I wait, I might as well do another book review post!

2) "Costumes for the Stage:  A Complete Handbook for Every Kind of Play" by Sheila Jackson

I love a book that makes my job look so easy.  It makes me believe that I might be able to do it!

Like the "Elegantly Frugal Costumes" book, this one goes point by point through the process of designing a show.  It's very simple, laid out chronologically, with illustrated checklists for recommended supplies and how to measure actors.  And like the other book, it goes through the timeline of history with drawings of the changing shapes of the clothes.  But where this one gets extra points is in the patterns. Accompanying each chapter are some pages of graph paper with scaled down patterns which can be photocopied and enlarged.   It's so very helpful.  It's amazing and I love it.

Towards the end of the book, it goes more in depth about the design process (well, as in depth as a 149 page book can be!).  It goes over a lot of points that a first time designer might not consider right away - or might not know how to tackle.  Colour schemes, working with the set, meeting with the director, and drawing your designs are all discussed.  Further on, the book covers ways to work with what you've got - stenciling/painting fabric, adapting hats, using trim, making easy accessories, and so on.  Everything is simply described and well planned.

The last few sections are devoted to specialized types of plays - musicals, pantomimes, pageants and school shows.  The tips for costuming children are useful for every kind of show!

Rating:  4/5 stars.  While the "Elegantly Frugal Costumes" does a better job of covering the whole design process start to finish, the patterns provided in this one are so easy to follow and so multi-purpose it gets the extra stars!

Friday 7 March 2014

An Unexpected Hatting

My sister came over last night, to drink tea and watch Bomb Girls.  If you haven't watched Bomb Girls yet, YOU SHOULD.  It's a fantastic Canadian series about the women working in a munitions factory during World War Two.  The writing, the acting, the directing, the cinematography, the costumes, the hair, the's a fantastically well put-together show.  If you start watching it and you're not too sure about it, I beg you to keep it up - I wasn't sure at first either but I was so glad I kept watching, because it grew into itself in amazing fashion.  Check out the trailer for season 1:

And as usual when I'm watching a show set in a particular period, I drool over the clothes.  It's been depressing me that I haven't been feeling well enough lately to do a big project, so what could I do that would satisfy my need for glam 40's wear but be easy enough for me to create without too much effort?  A HAT.  Because lawks a'mercy, the hats in this show!!  They're beyond phenomenal.  So a hat it was.  Karin decided to make one too, so we used a plate to trace and cut two circles of buckram (I soooo love buckram) and got to it.

I chose blue satin to make my hat, along with some bead trim that I got from someone else who was cleaning out their sewing kit.  And some black feathers.  Just to be fancy.

Circle of buckram.
Plain white fabric for lining.
Black beaded trim.  I love it!
The top - blue satin gathered, with a small blue satin puff in the middle and the bead trim covering the seam.
I never worry about the creases in the buckram.  It's such an insanely magical material - just a little bit of steam and it melts and reshapes however you want it to look!  It's so much fun to deal with.

Once I had the top part looking how I wanted it and the lining cut, it was time to put them together with the buckram in between to hold the shape!

Creating the buckram sandwich!
Arranging the satin over the buckram how I want it...

Tucking and pinning it all to the lining....

Stitching away...
Hand sewing, as long as there isn't huge amounts of it, is very calming and relaxing and enjoyable.  After too many hours on a single project it can get kind of tedious and painful for your arm (RSI from sewing isn't the most badass injury you could end up with but it is totally a thing), but a couple of hours on a hat is quite lovely!

Add some feathers for panache and joie de vivre...
 It was a great project, a couple of hours, and I was very pleased with the results!  It ended up looking possibly more 18th century France than 1940's Canada, but now I guess it could be good for multiple costumes, 

Sewing is fantastic for calming me down and improving my mood so that was an added bonus.  And fancy hats make me feel pretty which is always good too!  It made me realize how much fun and how many things you can do with hats.  I need to make more of them.  In fact, I think I'll sign off here and go make another.  Au revior mes beaux! 

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Books, books, books!

It is a universally acknowledged truth that the internet is a grand and glorious place.  But it can be very overwhelming when you go looking for advice on sewing and costuming, with so many blogs and sites with varying opinions and levels of expertise.  Sometimes, old school is the best way to go, and the library is a fantastic source for costume books.  I have never been without a library card.  I love the library.  I currently owe them about $35 because I love their books TOO much...but that's another story.

The Ottawa Public Library has lots of excellent books about costumes, so I thought this evening I would kick back with a glass of wine and share one of my favourite sources with you.

1) "Elegantly Frugal Costumes:  The Poor Man's Do-It-Yourself Costume Maker's Guide" by Shirley Dearing

Long title, but a very short and readable book.  The layout is excellent - the first chapter, "where do I start?" talks about all the places like thrift shops where you can get the basics for costuming, as well as effective ways to research historical costumes.  From there, it goes through the eras and nationalities that are most commonly seen on stage (basically, the info the reader is most likely to be looking for).  Along with notes on how the clothing was worn and sketches of each piece they talk about (including hats, shoes, and underwear!), they have tips on how to take modern-day clothing and transform it into a fairly accurate costume.  The last section of the book has tips on sewing, aging costumes, and how to be a designer for theatre, walking you through how the process works, from first meetings with the director and cast to the costume parade and dress rehearsal.  There's even a section on how to handle doing the cast makeup if that's expected of you, and how to dress a chorus if you're doing a musical.

Rating:  4/5 stars.  Explicitly for those who are just starting out designing for community theatre or school plays.  The author draws heavily on her personal experience on stage as well as behind the scenes, which is always good to read - her tips and tricks may or may not help the reader out greatly, depending on their experience level.  Also - the glossary at the back (from "cowl" to "windsor tie"!) is very good!

There will be more of these book reviews over the next little while, so if this one doesn't seem quite your tankard of grog, check back soon - you might find the next one more helpful!

Tuesday 4 March 2014

New Year, New Leaf?

Happy 2014!

My new year's resolution of one blog post a month is off to a bad start (obviously) but I hope to pick things up as things go along!  There are a lot of things I look forward to sharing with you all over the coming months.  Here are a few highlights:

- I have become a part of Silver Stag Entertainment!  Check out their website and their YouTube channel!
- I have a show on the Silver Stag channel called "The Sewing Table" in which I document my sewing (mis)adventures.  Only one episode so far - as I work on an "Elsa" dress! - but more will come, if/when I can solve my technical problems.  Check it out here.
- I bought a dress at Value Village this weekend that I'm planning to upcycle into an Edwardian era dress.  That will be fun...
- It can be really hard sometimes to know where to start with costume design, but I'm here to help!  A review of several costuming books will be coming soon!

Writing it out made me realize I actually have work to do.  Time to get going!