Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Operatic Costumes

I've had my debut as Costume Designer for Lyric Opera Productions! I've worked in Wardrobe with them for a year and a half and now I've been entrusted the bigger job of creating the "vision" of who wears what. Not only that, the programme notes that I am also Wardrobe Supervisor. My skill levels are being tested to the maximum!
The opera is Tosca. Not a difficult one to costume. In the National Concert Hall. Two shows done, one show to go on Tuesday, 20th May 2014.

Act one: Congregation (chorus)

 Act I: Ecclesiastical procession

Act II & III: Tosca

Spoletta, Sciarrone, Jailer

Clasp purses

Moving on from my experiments with zipped and boxed pouches, I finally wanted to grapple with clasp purses. You know those ready made purse handles that can be bought in haberdasherys?
I had saved a tutorial from the Village Haberdashery for this project: Emily's frame purse tutorial. I now see that it was written over two years ago! This is how long it takes sometimes to get around to doing projects!!!
I can't remember exactly where I bought the clasp I have, but I quickly realised it was a different style to the one Emily uses in her tutorial :(
See? Mine has holes in it whereas the other clasp has a groove where I assume the fabric gets squeezed in. I think I remember at the time I was buying it, that I had a notion it was more "authentic" to sew a purse on to the clasp than to "squeeze" the fabric in between the grips... sigh.
Ok, so now I don't have a tutorial to follow, but there was a sheet of directions with the clasp. Multilingual directions.
The English is translated from German by someone who doesn't sew, for example "stitch the left edges of both bag pouches together" - they mean "wrong sides of fabrics facing". Also the English says "Layout has a 1cm seam allowance all around", again, from reading the German, and also the French, I conclude that the pattern doesn't include this allowance but that it must be added!!!
So I get some beautiful velvet and some beautifuller satin and I set about cutting it as per the pattern instructions on the sheet.
I don't succeed with the purse. The fabrics are too unmanageable, especially considering this is my first time grappling with this purse clasp :(
Also, it appears that the clasp would be visible on the inside of the purse, that the lining wouldn't conceal it.
I decide I need to use fabrics that don't fray so I'm not dealing with turning inside out etc... This is a new thing I'm exploring in my sewing-life... fabrics that don't fray! I'm planning on making more babies bibs and they would be made much easier if I could avoid turning inside-out etc, but that's a different project!
So I go to my stash and find some oilcloth and some fleece. Oilcloth for the outside and fleece for the lining.
And I try to sew these shapes on to the metal clasp, threading through the holes.
Can you sense my frustration with this? Ok, so the thread I have looks flimsy, but when I tried to use a thicker thread (it was wool actually), the larger needle I had to use didn't fit through all the holes - the holes at the bend of the metal are squidged and misformed and smaller :(
But I persevere... and end up with this... (yes, I know it's turned inside out around the body of the purse, the non-fray concept comes into its own at the point where the fabrics touch the clasp)
The pattern cutting instructions were just not helpful, they should have addressed something about the section around the hinge. There was no help for cutting the fabric to take account of the hinge, what they said was "complete the bag pouch at the line ends as required".
So I think I need to go back to the Emily tutorial, and follow her steps for drafting the purse shape and hope that it will then fit in with the different metal clasp that I have.

Why is it so difficult?! Should the clasp manufacturer not provide an instruction booklet if it proves to be so useless? This is why we need to go to classes, to learn from each other, to share experience and avoid all this frustration.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Box zipper pouch

Following on from my experiments in zipped pouch making, I wanted to follow a tutorial posted by Pretty Modern for a fully lined zippered box pouch.
The fabric is black and glittery and was bought in Pivitsheide in Germany, the shop is called Alles Besonders Gut. I've mentioned them before. It's near where my brother lives and the woman of the shop knows myself and my sister-in-law now and jokes to other customers that her shop is so well renowned she has people flying over from Ireland especially to make purchases! And she's not wrong! We love visiting the shop together when I'm over. The fabric is an oilcloth, though I don't think it would ever be intended as a table covering. I think it is a crafting oilcloth.
I didn't copy Pretty Modern's instructions exactly, in that I only put the puller/tag on one side... I'd recommend putting one on both ends as she instructs!
I like the box shape but for my immediate need (a few nights abroad) the size of the large pouch using a 30cm/12" zip with the boxed bottom is the most appropriate because it will carry my toothbrush, hairbrush and other bathroom essentials and can stand up on a sink. In fact, it might be a bit deep/large considering I can't transport containers larger than 100ml and my hand luggage is limited.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Zip zipper zipped

Zipper pouches are everywhere. Craft stalls, christmas markets, homemade shops... invariably there's a zipper pouch for sale. Cool patterns, cool coloured zips. Looking so easy to make. Sometimes lined, sometimes badly finished inside. But always instilling the "I could do that" feeling in me.
lovely examples on

Until I give it a try... and I am just not happy with the edges of the zip, or the general standard of finish.
So today, I tried to take it on myself to tackle the problem. To get top grips with the zips.
One of my Christmas presents, a book called Handmade Gifts includes instructions for an "Oilcloth Wash Bag". It suggests - as does a cushion tutorial I found - to add a little strip of fabric folded over on each end of the zip. I suppose my end result turned out fine... maybe I'm just being too picky.
I kept going and made another two zipped pouches:
I really like the fabric! It's an oilcloth I bought in Murphy Sheehy in Dublin. Oilcloth is usually meant as a tablecloth!
Only the largest purse of the three I made is lined. I used the same lining fabric for the end-strips at the zip ends (it's blue)... but would prefer in future to use fabric that matches the zip. Well... it would depend on the project I suppose but for the middle purse, I used a purple zip and purple fabric for the ends and I like how that turned out.
I like the purple zip but I think I was right to also use purple thread for it. I top-stitched that purse which I didn't do with the others, the machine really struggled to walk the oilcloth through, I had to tug it along.

Learn from experience

Use the length of a zip you have as your start point. Too often patterns and tutorials say "use a 12in/30cm zip" etc. And invariably the zips you have won't be in the right colour or the right size.
So the zip I had is 7"/18cm in length.
The tutorial recommended cutting the fabric to exactly the same length as the zip. I did this for the largest pouch and I didn't like how it ended up. So this time around, I decided to make the fabric a little longer than the zip... after all, I'm gonna use those zip end strip things.
Tip: if you have one, use a set square to draw the lines exactly perpendicular to each other. I don't do this enough with my sewing projects, expecting the edge of the fabric to be straight and therefore perpendicular to the edge and hoping(!). So to avoid blind hope, use a set square.
Zip is 18cm, standard seam allowance tends to be 1.5cm (although not for such small projects but anyway, it made sense to me as I was doing my calculation), plus a little .5cm - so add 4 in total. Fabric to be cut at 22cm (ignore the " symbol in diagram). And I randomly chose 15cm as the height - based on my eye judgement! Often the most useful calculator!
Then I found a scrap of fabric - jersey as it happens - to match the zip colour - and cut a strip as wide as the zip:
As per the recommendation in the two tutorials I was following, press the edge of the strip, about .5cm
and fold a strip each around the ends of the zip, then continue as normal! It just extends the zip, I guess. And makes it tidier.
I was so unconvinced, that I made the third pouch without these zip ends.
But it does actually make for tidy ends.

Tip: When sewing the sides together, be very careful to line up the top edges, especially if the zip has been topstitched.
I didn't and these two examples show how badly finished my pouches are
From a distance, the purses look good!