Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fail ><;;

Damn it, right when I get into the Christmas (and thus, blogging) spirit. I've been editing all the photos that end up on this blog using the wonderful Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2, but alas... my free trial has just run out.

Until I decide whether or not to buy the full version, I'm reduced to the oh-so-lovely process of moving my photos from my netbook to my desktop, futzing with them in JASC Paint Shop Pro 9, then moving them back to the netbook and uploading them here. Because the netbook is my on-the-go blogging apparatus, and thusly must be the home of all my photos, especially those that are craft-related. So say we all!
However, the hat is finished! All I need now is a good wig to perch it on -- or a much rounder head.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Short skirt, short post

To give myself a little break from the fingertip-killing handstitchery of the Basilietta Hat (I'd actually planned this before I started on the hat, but the hat became a higher priority very quickly due to its increased "win-tential"), I began and completed work on a short petticote for myself out of a lightweight muslin from my local insanely-cheap fabric store. I also picked up some silkier fabric that'll be used for another petticote that I can layer with the first one or wear separately. At this point I'm not sure if I'll make it longer or shorter, or wear it above or below the first, or if it'll even certamente end up as another petticote, but I'll work that out once I rescue the fabric from its holiday basement banishment and see how much I actually purchased.

So, the petticote. Take a few yards of light muslin, with very useful selvages (no hemming! YAY!), add a whole motherload of gathering, a bunch of handstitching and some final machine-sewing for good measure, and voila, a simple but hopefully effective petticote.

(Voila: Simple petticote. Lost the ribbon for my corset, which is why I'm holding it shut)

I made it shorter because I figure it wouldn't be too noticeable under a longer gown, and I can pass myself off as young enough to wear a shorter skirt on occasion. I'm working on a short overskirt and vest made from some curtain fabric, which I think will work with the petticote the way I have it now. I might end up taking up the length a little, and I'm leaning pretty heavily to adding a bit of lace trim around the bottom to make it look more decorative when peeking out from under my skirts. I figure I can deal with both tasks at once if I decide to do either.

Will add pictures as soon as I take them -- just want to get this stuck safely up on the web for now. I distrust auto-saves. <<;; >>;;

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wow, a costume! : The Basilio(etta) hat

Now for the first bit of actual costuming in this supposedly costumial bloggish enterprise (pardon my speechisms, I've been listening to far too much Goon Show). In the infinite wisdom I tend to acquire at 2 a.m., while "functioning" on about 6 hours of sleep, I decided that my first costume project should and would be... a hat. Smart, no? Nyah.

Well, it's not as insane as you might think. I found an excellent tutorial at americanduchess.blogspot.com on how to make structured hats. I didn't follow the directions exactly, but when I saw some needlepoint plastic (which as I reread the tutorial I see might have worked better as canvas - whoops!) while out shopping for petticote fabric, I knew I had to make some sort of silly hat for myself. I couldn't have done this without the tutorial - thanks, Ms. Reeser!

And here's the haberdashical inspiration:

(That's two inspirations stacked on top of each other, on top of a harpsichord.)

The side and front views

Back and front

And more from the front. Pardon the awful image quality, the only images I could find were screen captures from low-quality YouTube videos.

This hat design will never cease to make me giggle whenever I see it. For those not as geeky as I am, that's Don Basilio (and "Don Alonso") in the Met Opera's latest production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Hence, this hat will be referred to as 'the Basilietta,' literally a 'little, feminine Basilio' (or 'little Basilia,' if you want to be technical.)
After messing around with the needlepoint plastic for a while, I caved in to opera geekery and the fact that I couldn't think of any other type of hat to make. Really, this hat is so huge that it leaves no room for other ideas inside one's head - and so wide that the actors had trouble fitting through the doors on-stage. (I love that production of Barbiere! Ha!)
I intend to scale down the brim a bit and make it not out of felt, but a nice, thick, grainy-type satin or silk and add plumes, ribbons, pins, etc. That way I can pass it off for a respectable ladies' hat at any costumial gatherings I may attend, while giggling to myself about the idea behind it all. Also, I've got some friends who might appreciate the epic win of this hat -- or the equally epic weird. Either or, I still love the idea.

My production of the hat:
I started off with two sheets of needlepoint plastic, some sheets of felt a friend had given me when she cleaned out her old house about a year ago, some leftover fabric from one of my mother's sewing projects (she uses patterns - pah!), and a bunch of 20-gauge wire.

I cut a roughly head-shaped circle in the center of a sheet of the plastic, and cut felt to the size of the circle and the remaining plastic, which would become the brim. After threading numerous lengths of the 20-gauge wire lengthwise through the edges of the hat that were to be curled upward -- and destroying my fingertips in the process -- I stitched the first piece of felt to the circular piece and gave the brim a little test-curl.

All the materials, sewn crown, wired and curled brim.

Just the stitched crown and wired & curled brim, with a barely-readable ruler for size comparison. (No, my skull isn't octagon-shaped. I fixed that later.)

At this point, I realize that after the hat's covered in felt and fabric and stuck on my head somehow, there's no way that the brim-curling will stay put with measly 20-gauge. While I anxiously await the morning, work, and the after-work wire hunt, I get the rest of the felt on the brim and all ready to stick a bunch of wires into. It's starting to look something like a hat now, which is awesome. Oh, and I got the band together (knew I was missing something) using part of the second sheet of needlepoint plastic and a bit of incongruous scrap yarn.

A trip to the local hardware store and a bit more fingertip-destruction later, I've got some 16-gauge wire to run between the felt and the plastic, and stitch securely to my brim. Those curls ain't goin' nowheres.

Now there's just the problem of the wires poking out from inside the felt whenever I test out curling the edges a little, but that's easily fixed by stitching little folded squares of felt over the corners, where the wires could pop out of either end of the brim.

So, after getting the wires in and covering the whole thing with felt, this hodgepodge is starting to appear distinctly hat-like in form. Yay!

None of it's stitched together yet; that'll come after I cover the whole thing in fabric. Then we get to the tricky part: attaching the crown and band to the brim (and making that whole transition appear seamless.) (Har, har.)
To be continued -- once I finish getting this petticote together! I tend to take photos of a project and then wait a week or two to post a blog entry about it, so by the time I'm done posting about something I'm ready to take a break from it and work on a different project for a while. But I promise (to myself more than anyone else, as I doubt this blog's been seen by really anyone at this point) that this hat will be finished -- and hopefully before the New Year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Interlude: crochet and shameless advertising

And at the dawn of time, before costumes, before sewing machines, before fancy hats and opera reviews, there was... crochet.

I've marketed custom amigurumi crocheted dolls on a few websites, but only took custom orders through e-mail, for a few reasons. Business tapered off, and so did the production of dolls. However, with a newfound love of opera comes new ideas.
Is it possible? Openly marketable merchandise of a somewhat well-known character without any copyright infringement? Gadzooks! Apparently, it is!

Lo and behold [my ultimate geekyness] - Cherubino!

Yes, the sprightly pageboy (a trouser role) from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, now in plush form!

Well, with characters whose appearance can change so often, as with operatic roles which vary from one production to the next, how does one know how to costume a doll of one of them?

Simply: whatever the customer (in this case, me) desires. I based this version of Cherubino on the character design used by this season's production of Figaro at the Met Opera. It was the first time I'd seen the show live, I loved the character and the way the actress portrayed him. Hence, immortalized in plush form.
I've also done plush versions of the band Dethklok (including Dr. Rockso) for myself, and Spiderman's Venom character as a gift.

Shelf of plush:

Here's a bit of shameless self-promotion -- I take commissions! Just about any character will do, though copyright laws must be observed. For any commission, I need the name of the character, and at least a full front and back photo. A list of details would also do nicely - the more information you give me, the more accurate the characterization. Prices vary based on level of detail. For this Cherubino, I'd charge about $25 plus S&H.
My current specialty is classical opera characters, as their copyrights generally expired many, many years ago. Any fellow opera geeks up for an adorable (and affordable, as far as customized, handmade-to-order things go) plush of their favorite character?

That's all the rambling and merchandising for now, the next post will introduce my current project: the Basilietta hat.

Ahoy fellow bloggites

How best to begin? I'm a singer turned singer-slash-costume designer, and off-and-on seamstress in my spare time. There's a possibility that I may get paid to costume a small theatre company a few times a year, and along with scouring thrift stores for bargain pieces that could somehow fit whatever show is in production, I've offered my services as a seamstress for any hard-to-find costumial bits that need to be custom-made. But there's a little catch, here: I've done my own costumes before, but I'm one of those insane people who prefers to work with their own measurements and a few wads of fabric rather than with a pattern. I thought it might be in my employers' best interests for me to gain a bit more knowledge of the field I'm shoving myself into, and good for me to have a bit of fun in the meantime, so a few weeks back I stumbled around the internets until I found myself at a number of 18th Century costume blogs. That's my favorite historical period, and I've since spent my nights perusing the web, looking for tutorials, ideas, etc. Thusly, most of the costumes, etc. on here will have nothing to do with the shows I'm supposed to be costuming, but little flights of fancy in case I can ever find a good 1700s reenactment group or society in my area.

At completely random intervals, or when I get bored, I'll break up the posts on costumes with one or two about another craft, or a mildly well-informed opera review. And, that's something I should mention: I'm a total opera geek. Half (or more) of the things I post here will be inspired by a production I've seen at the Metropolitan Opera or elsewhere, and I'd be interested to see if anyone notices my little references. The first one should be pretty obvious to anyone who's seen this particular production - but I'll post that soon. You've been warned, read the following posts with the knowledge that anything could start me referencing - or singing.

Oh, and the name of the blog? Well, though I can sometimes feel at home in a giant, froofy skirt, I feel much more comfortable with the freedom of motion given by a pair of breeches (after 9 years of martial arts training, it's frustrating not to be able to roundhouse-kick at one's leisure). I've got a soft spot for trouser roles in opera, and I'll probably end up channeling quite a bit of that influence into my costumes. I figure if I can pass myself off as a page or a girl in boy's clothing at a reenactment or two (and anyone who's seen me will vouch that I probably can), it'll be worthwhile - and it'd be much easier to wear a frock coat around this city on a daily basis (I like making my costumes multi-task) than to wear a robe Polonaise or panniers. ^^