Saturday, November 20, 2010

One more costume

I made 7 of these in one afternoon, QUITE UNDER PRESSURE TO FINSIH THEM!

Here's one more costume that I made, 8 of these for the school girls in "The Children's Hour" for Clayton Community Theatre. I also made some logo patches, and the current costumer made burgundy vests, she sewed the logo patches on to the vests. They looked very much like school uniforms.

Update on "The New Rug"

I posted on Oct. 17 that I got a new rug, a new front lawn. I want to update that the rug is growing, is green and beautiful and lush, after many many gallons of water poured on it. It has been mowed once, and hopefully will make it through the winter. And here's hoping that it will look good next summer.

Where have you been?

Sorry, I've been busy!
Vintage patterns for 40s play, "The Children's Hour" opening Nov. 12.
Alice in Wonderland characters, two MadHatters and the Queen of Hearts
Ariel, the mermaid, complete with outrageous red hair!
Wolverine The dog chewed his belt apart, I had to make a new one for Halloween!

Where have I been? Here at my house, working on various costumes for the last month.

Several years ago, my local theatre group did the play "Oklahoma". In that show, Ado Annie sings a song, "I'm just a girl who can't say no". I'm so surprised that this has become a mantra of my life, especially when given the opportunity to make costumes. So, I had failed to say "no" to many opportunities to make "just one or two" costumes, but all of a sudden, the jobs piled up one on top of each other.

First a bride-to-be had asked me IN AUGUST to sew a jacket for her to wear over her wedding dress. She showed me a prototype jacket she saw on the internet, which would have cost her $275 to purchase from this vendor. No way, Jose! We worked together back in August to make a muslin to fit it on her, and she told me she was going to find the fabric for it and get it to me.

September passed, and I thought the jacket idea was dead, because I got no fabric from her. But, lo and behold, 1 week prior to her wedding, which was Oct. 16, she pops up with the fabric. Yikes, by this time, I had not said no to 3 other costuming jobs, all due within the next two weeks! One was to make Halloween costumes for my family, next was to sew for a church show for my parish, and the other was to make 2 dresses for my good friend Dr. J for a show she was to be in. Both of these shows opened Nov. 11, so they closely followed Halloween in their deadlines.

Youngest daughter decided to throw an adult/kid Halloween party, and invited all to dress up. I have made my grandchildren costumes many years in the past of their young lives, so this year we decided on Wolverine (superpower guy with claws) for the boy, and Ariel for the girl. The daughter wanted to be a Ghostbuster, and I decided to be the Queen of Hearts. There were various deadlines for each of these, but I got them all done. It was noon on the day of the party, but they were all done.

Then the darling oldest daughter, MonkeyGirl, a self-proclaimed world class procrastinator, came to my house with hubby in tow at 1 p.m. that day, wanting to browse my costume collection for something to wear that night. We rustled through things, threw together two simple costume pieces, they modified our selections at home, and when they showed up at the party, they were magnificiently dressed as twin Mad Hatters. Mr. MonkeyGirl was a stunning rendition of Johnny Depp's character from Alice in Wonderland. I couldn't take my eyes off of them, they were so cute!

The church show had been in the works for almost a year. It was called "Heart of Oak", which was the translation for the French word Duchesne, This was a biographical portrayal of the life of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, who is our church's patron, namesake, and once, long ago, a person who actually walked the soil of our city of Florissant, MO. It was originally scheduled to be put on stage in June 2010, as a part of our parish's 5th anniversary celebration. It would have closely followed the yearly parish variety show, which is done in late April. Since the producers, directors and writers of the variety show were too busy to work on two shows that overlapped, the Heart of Oak project got put on hold. They rescheculed it for the anniversary of Rose Philippine's feast day, which is November 18.

I was very glad to have the show rescheduled, because I wanted to work on it. But, had it been in June, I wouldn't have been able to work on it, because I was knee deep in working on "The Producers", and believe me, I couldn't fit in one more thing during that time! So, we had a production meeting for the rescheduled show in early October to discuss costuming the Heart of Oak show, and I came away from it with the commitment to making the nuns and priests costumes.

I had 2 nuns costumes from my costuming job last year, and 2 priests cassocks. My commitment at this time was to provide 5 nuns costumes and 3 priests cassocks. Sounded very doable. Funny thing though, the play wasn't completely written or staged at the time of our meeting, and somehow that number grew and grew! By 2 weeks prior to the show, it had grown to 9 nuns and 5 priests! Now, I was in serious trouble!

This costuming gig was shared by several seamstresses, and several ladies on the team came to my rescue. One lady came over to my house the week before the show and we knocked out 3 nun's costumes in a night. Then she came back several more times, and took stuff home, like sewing 20 buttons on the priest cassock, something I absolutely hate to do! We agreed to bring the costumes up to the church hall the Sunday before the show.

One by one, the 9 nuns came back to try on their outfits, and we adjusted hems and sewed snaps on their belts. After all the costumes had been doled out, a young lady came back and said, "Where is my costume?" She was playing young Rose Philippine Duchesne as a professed sister! There were no more costumes left for her! My worst nightmare was coming true, MORE NUNS COSTUMES NEEDED! Then a couple more came back, and we had to dig into the cheap costume shop black dresses! I'm not exactly sure how many we actually ended up costuming, because they shared and improvised, but I think there were at least 13 nuns in this show. At least the priests ended up with only needing 4 costumes, so we managed to put that together with making one cassock for the bishop, and improvising and sharing for the rest.

The Sacred Heart nuns, of which Rose Philippine Duchesne was a part of, had a unique white ruffle around their face as part of their veils. I made two prototypes, each of which took about an hour to pleat. They didn't exactly look right. So, some very creative person suggested the ruffle that is found in cake dec stores, attached to the cardboard bases that are used under tiers of a wedding cake. They are pleated ribbon, exactly like what we needed. They came off the cardboard very easily, and were perfect in the way they looked. So that dilema was solved easily, I made the 9 veils in a very short time, and they looked fabulous on stage.

We got that job done on Nov. 9, and the show started Nov. 11--whew! It was a challenge, but it turned out OK.

IN THE MEANTIME, my friend Dr. J needed 2 dresses for her play, which opened Nov. 12. I finished her two dresses, from vintage patterns ( see picture above, play set in the 40s) for her before Halloween. Her original deadline was Nov. 1 to accomodate the director's decision to have a costume parade that night. I met the deadline. Dr.J tried on the two dresses, one fit perfectly, but the other one was tight. I had enlarged it from its original pattern configuration, but not quite enough. She felt strangled in it, but thought it would work. In the meantime, the theatre group had contacted two different costumers to do the rest of the show, and one by one, they dropped out. The costume parade didn't happen on Nov. 1, because they had no costumes! (Dr. J had hers, but nobody else did.) They found another person to costume the show, but then she had only one week to pull things together. They borrowed heavily from the Hawthorne Players costume stash, and worked it out. But, they needed school uniforms for 8 girls in this show. I felt so sorry for them, I said I'd put together some uniform skirts for them, and I got them squeezed in the weekend prior to the show. In the meantime, Dr. J told me she just couldn't wear the one tight dress, so we needed to start over on that.

On Nov.9, I finsihed Dr.J's third dress, I delivered it and the 8 skirts to her at 5 p.m., and then all my costuming was finished. All that was left to be done was to attend the shows and enjoy the look of my work. And say, Thank God it's over! And make a vow to say "no" the next time I'm asked to make things with deadlines all during the same week! I'm sure I'll forget that promise, but I need to be more careful about it in the future.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The New Rug

Here's my new rug, and a story to go with it.

What do you do when you feed and water your front lawn for years, and it ends up looking like this? Well, you hire the Bobcat to take it away and start over!

Bobcat had just begun to work digging up the old weedy, dead grass that comprised my front lawn. Every year it looks worse and worse, feeding and watering just did nothing this summer. Of course, it was extremely hot and dry this summer, so many lawns began to look very sick by August. I hired someone to rake it, aerate it and over seed it. He just looked at it and shook his head.

This gentleman had worked on my neighbor's lawn earlier in the summer, and had replaced a bad patch of lawn, and that looks quite nice now. So, I got an estimate for doing my entire front lawn like that, and the price was right. He began the next day digging up the old weeds, dead grass and invasive grasses, to start the project.
After digging all day, and hand shoveling many parts, they had the entire yard cleared out. Then they started to lay the new sod.
They had worked til 8 p.m. the night before and got this much done. What an improvement!
One more day, and it looked like this! Hooray, finally my lawn isn't the shabbiest on the block. In fact, it might just be one of the best looking lawns right now. Lots of watering is needed to get it going, but I'm committed to having a big water bill to protect my investment. Here's hoping for a much better lawn year next year and for years to come!

Hello Blog Readers

September Birthday Presents, from me to me!
Beautiful and big, Janome Horizon works like a dream!
This is the previous model, I kept it because I have a specific purpose in mind for it!
Since the Janome Horizon does everything but cook, I had to get this to supplement that part of the daily activities!
I like red, and many of my birthday presents are red, to match my covertible!

If there are any blog readers left reading this, I am still alive. Don't know why the blog writing stopped during September, but it did.

September is always my favorite month. It's the month of my birthday, and I have many friends who share this birthday month with me. It is also an anniversary month for 2 of my children, and my BFF. This one was a month of birthday surprises, some from my family, and some were treats from me to me. It was also a month in which I really wasn't feeling that well. But things are OK now.

At the end of August, I was invited to attend a working sesson at my store where I had bought many of my wonderful sewing machines. This session was a glorified sales pitch, where we were invited to make a beautiful appliqued pillow, using the newest machine on the block, a beautiful, gleaming red and white Janome Horizon. This newest model is an upgraded model from my favorite sewing machine, the Janome 6600. Both of these machines cater to the quilter, as they have a very wide opening from needle to mechanics, letting the quilter stuff huge pieces of fabric in that opening to do the machine quilting. Most machines have about a 6" opening, but the 6600 has a 9" opening, and the Horizon has an 11" opening. Of course, this makes the machine very big. So I fell for it, and bought the Horizon, which came with its own table and accessories! Birthday gift #1.

My son, wife and 3 grandkids came to visit over Labor Day. I was the designated hostess for them and a family get together for my birthday. I dusted off the old Weber gas grill as I was readying myself for the weekend's festivities, and found that it would not light. So I went to the store to get a different gas bottle, and tried again, still no go!

I do love to grill, and must admit to passing by the new grill aisle at my local store, caressing the stainless steel, opening and closing the lids, and wishing that I could replace my old grill, which is 12 years old this year. I've replaced parts, and have gotten the old one going many times in the past, but realized that I'd have to replace the whole thing sooner or later. It looked like that time had come!

I thought maybe the new grill would fit in my RAV4 so I could bring it home myself. The guys at the store scoffed at that idea, telling me I needed a pick-up truck to transport it. The only pick-up truck in my family was out on a Labor Day outing, so that wasn't going to work. So the guys at the store said they would deliver it, ON TUESDAY! That would not help my dinner to cook that evening, so they arranged, rearraged with the guys at the store who were available, and managed to find someone who could deliver it for me that day for $20! It was a deal I couldn't pass up! So, we grilled that night, and it was fabulous. Birthday present #2.

The party was fun, but exhausting. On my birthday, I came down with a terrible upper respiratory infection that laid me low for weeks. The only thing I wanted to do was sleep or sit. I did drag myself to work, but came home right after my classes to sleep. I managed to fall into the chair while out of bed, and use my computer to keep in touch with my buds. Well, the virus transferred to the computer, because it got a nasty virus too! Guess I wasn't up to date on my virus protection--which the computer was trying to tell me, but I was sure it was wrong! So it went belly up, I couldn't get anything to run. So I bit the bullet and bought a new laptop computer. Nothing fancy, just another Dell Inspiron, which I've had 3 of so far. So I guess this was Birthday present #3.

Got a visit from my sis and her husband at the end of the month, which was enjoyable, but they only stayed with me 1-1/2 days out of their 5 days that they were here. They came for the husband's neice's wedding reception (the neice got married in Jamaica over Labor Day). That was fun!

So the month was full of family visits, new purchases, and some nasty viruses. Somehow, I'm glad it's over! Sounds like an expensive month so far, right? Yes, it was. October is a fun month full of tax bills, insurance bills, so that is what I face now.

All I can say is, Happy Birthday Jean, you had a great 67th birthday, didn't you!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Some more Producers pictures

Here are some more pictures from "The Producers". These were taken by my daughter, see more at The Production Team, Roger DeBris (Alan Agualar), choreographer (Tim Grummich), Carmen Ghia (Ryan Cooper) Costumer (Jim Merlo), set designer (Barry Luedloff.)
Franz Liebkind and his Birds (Robert Doyle) These birds scared my friend who is afraid of birds when I showed her the cage backstage, they were very real, and could actually salute to the furor on cue!
Max (Kent Coffel) and one of his favorite backers, HOLD ME TOUCH ME (Rosemary Wall)
Beautiful Girls wearing nothing but Pearls with Leo (Dominic Windsor)
Roger DeBris (Alan Agualar) wearing his Chrysler Building dress

What's the buzz? Tell me what's happenin'!

More comments about "The Producers", presented by the Hawthorne Players, July 30-Aug. 8,2010.

The big production that I spent the majority of my summer hours working on is over. I still have some costumes to clean and put away, but the majority of it is stored in our costume warehouse.

The latest buzz was the third of a series of wonderful reviews by local theatre critics. We have a local arts radio station that reviews all manner of theatre events, from the highly polished shows that come to the Fox Theatre, to local community theatre events. They reviewed our show in several different versions through their radio and internet programming.

The first review was sent to us through FaceBook, so I can't exactly find where or when it was posted. The various aspects of our production were highlighted, including costumes, regarded by this reviewer as OFTEN GLITZY. If only he knew how many yards of sequins I used to create that glitz! I should count that up some day!

One aspect that was really brought out was the set design. This was truly a professional level design, with the movement off and on the stage planned to the last nano-second! There were lots of flying set pieces and movement in and out of large wagons. One wagon was a huge file case, and it had doors through which came 6 dancing girls! That one was always interesting as it had to go in quickly, disappear for a dance number and then reappear! Genius!

When I first saw the sets that our designer Ken had created, I panicked--would those costumes I made show as professional of a level as the sets? After all, my first 8 shows that I costumed were for elementary school kids, and at times I felt like these costumes hadn't progressed much beyond that level. I was in a great deal of self-doubt until the entire thing was put together on stage during tech week. The costumes did show up OK, and I got plenty of compliments on them, but the sets were still the outstanding feature of this show. However, the sheer number of costumes was something that impressed many people, there were hundreds of them, all with multiple pieces to bring them together for complete ensembles. That was the biggest challenge for me!

The second review came in during the week off between shows, and it was glowing. You can see this by going to and checking current reviews, Hawthorne Players "The Producers". More compliments for the entire show. One recurring theme from local professional critics as well as "man on the street" kibitzers has been "Could a community theatre group actually do justice to this show?" It requires a great deal of technical support, which translates into dollars put into it. The reviewer said, "Yes, Yes, Yes!" as an answer to that question. This was a gamble for our theatre group, because they knew they would have to put big money into producing this show, and if there wasn't sufficient ticket sales, it could be a disaster. We had modest ticket sales the first weekend, and it got better and better as the shows progressed, to close to a sell out on the last Sunday show. (In a theatre that holds almost 600). But, I don't know if we broke even, even with that number of tickets sold.

The third excellent review came on Aug. 10, when "Two On The Aisle" was aired. This is a local internet based video show, done twice a month, in which 8-10 of the best local shows are critiqued and videos of portions of the shows are shown. These reviewers were extremely complementary, mentioning the costumes more than once.

The actors, Kent Coffel, who played Max, Dominic Windsor who played Leo, were always characterized as appropriately playing their parts to give the characters some real depth. This is a show in which stereotypes are played to the hilt, and our leads really did that with a great deal of personal interpretation, which made it just hilarious. Ryan Cooper is always outstanding, and his Carmen Ghia interpretation made every one howl with laughter, even down to the flick of his little finger! You had to see it to get the full impact of that comment, words just wouldn't do it justice! Alan Aguilar, who played Roger DeBris, was over the top, especially when he first appeared in his "Chrysler Building" dress. I was given credit for creating this, but I only created the canvas, my assistant costumer, Emily Stroble, created the details, and it is truly a work of art! Great job, Emily!

Set design, costume design, lighting design were always mentioned. Our poor sound designer got left out of the critiques. I guess you take sound for granted, unless you can't hear. That wasn't the case for this show, except when some cantankerous wireless mics decided to wield their quirky heads and not work properly.

Another consistent aspect of the positive reviews was for the orchestra. It was just great! The local junior high band teacher led this group, and there were many music educators and well-known local artists in that orchestra. It was just a pleasure to listen to them, lots of interaction between the orchestra leader and singers! He kept it moving along quickly, and provided hilarious musical interludes between scenes. Very good work!

If we can withstand the financial aspects of this, we do have the satisfaction of knowing that we produced an excellent, entertaining show, destined in the opinion of many of being award winning. I guess that made it all worth while, giving up that big piece of time and money to produce it. After all, as Max repeats over and over again in the show, "We Can DO IT!" That was a mantra I had to play over and over in my head to get to the finish line, and we did prove to all, WE DID IT!

Monday, August 2, 2010

German Icons on display

What better way to display those crazy German icons than to attach them to a beautiful girl? Here are how the headdresses looked on our showgirls.

Cutie J displays the German sausage, or "wurst" if you are truly speaking in German terms. I gave her the job of creating the sausage links, she had a ball doing that during one rehearsal. Making the head sausage was not quite so much fun!
Cutie S got to wear the pretzel icon. Our talented set designer made the pretzels for me using spray insulation foam to form the shape, then he carved them into good pretzel shapes and faux painted them. Yum, Yum!
Cutie R is the Valkarie. Perfect type casting, because she is heading off to college in a few weeks, majoring in music. She has a gorgeous voice, fitting for a Wagnerian character! We added the swastika Thursday, she needed some more "stuff" hanging off her cute body!

Cutie G gets the "piece de resistance", the beerstein! What could describe Germany more clearly than a big stein of beer,frothing over with foam? This one was fun to make, and was the first design that worked out well in the implementation. Whew! It proved to be top heavy, which made taking a bow at the end of the show somehwat of a challenge to keep it balanced on her head. Especially since she has a quick change right before the curtain call, and we had about 1 minute to secure it to her head.

These showgirls got big applause every time they walked on stage, and they were fun to create. I had wonderful "raw materials" to dress up, and they certainly were good sports about donning the entire costume.

Our set desiger also designed and built the hip tables for the pretzel and beer steins. He also carved and painted the beer steins. What a master of stage decorations and costuming he is! A master with styrofoam and his trusty carving knife! Thanks, K!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Germanic Icons

Beer and pretzels, brats and Wagner--all are icons that might pop into your head when you think of Germany. I know if I went there, I'd definitely want some beer, although I hear they serve it warm. And sausages and various types of "wursts" would also be lingering on my taste buds.

Mel Brooks, ever the non-subtle writer, takes this to the hilt in his show "The Producers"

Here are some of the images of Germany, shown as headgear worn by show girls as they enter to the singing of "Springtime for Hitler" during the show within the show.

German Opera certainly is focused on Wagner, with his Valkarie woman singing her ridiculously high note! Here is our Valkarie headgear, certainly the easiest one to create, as I found the basic hat at Party City in the clearance bin. Thanks to my friend NC who decorated it to bring it to showgirl status.
This one was the most fun to create! Used a 1 gallon pitcher for the basic shape, covered with silver and gold poster board. Found the hair at The concept came from a picture of another version of this show, with the curly hair pouring out of the stein to give the illusion of foam, falling down on the girl's head. This got a lot of attention as she walks out, actually applause on opening night! Quite a bit to balance on a head!
Pretzels, we love to eat them! How about balancing them on your head? Made from spray insulating foam sprayed out on paper, then cut and shaped and painted to look like a pretzel. This cute wig is actually very small (costume wigs are not notably consistent in their sizing, they can run very small) so we had to buy another blonde wig which she puts on first, and then this wig is fitted over it. Our girls who are wearing these have a lot of their own hear that needs to be covered, so this is the way we solved that problem

This is the one that made me cry! I had a wonderful huge sausage all ready to go on the hair piece, and it worked when I first built it. Then in taking it apart to glue the elements together, it would not balance when I refit it. This was Tuesday afternoon, and when it fell to the floor from being off balance for the 4th time, I broke down in tears. Just left it on the floor in disgust! Then on my way home, trying to figure out what on earth I could put on this girl that looked like a sausage, I got a brainstorm, MAKE A LEANER WIENER! So from a 3 foot sausage, I scaled it down to an 18" sausage. Still got the point across but much more manageable in size!

The basic form for keepinng these icons on the heads was this:

I made a helmet of buckram shaped over a styrofoam wig head. Then I used one or two desktop spindles (like you put your notes or reciepts on) through the helmet. I glued or sewed the spindle bases to the helmet. Then I fitted the wig over the helmet mit spindles. Then I attached the icon to the spindles. I had to secure the beer stein by using some fish line as guy wires from front to back, side to side, threaded through holes in the stein and then down and through the helmet. Curly hair was also fastened with fish line. A little dab of Gorilla Glue helped the whole thing really stick together. The beer stein is the most secure as a unit, but is very top heavy, so we do a lot of pinning to keep it secure in one spot on her head.

Next post, showing the finished product on the girls.

Addendum to "Last Hurrah"

That handsome creation of a coat for the Storm Trooper Tenor? Looked great, fit well. BUT, the coat was never used, and here's why. In the light of regular indoor lighting, the coat appears to be black, but it is really very dark navy blue.

THAT WILL NEVER DO FOR A WELL DRESSED STORM TROOPER! So, the coat is back on the bone pile of rejected costume pieces!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Last Hurrah!

Don't turn me in as an unpatriotic American! This is not my new political preference, for sure. It is the last costume completed on the afternoon of opening night before "The Producers" go on stage for the first public performance!

The play within the play of "The Producers" is the supposedly worst play ever written, called "Springtime For Hitler". The producers realize they can make more money by putting a flop on stage than a hit, and try this carefully crafted scheme by finding the worst script, worst director, and worst cast for their venture. Things take a different turn when "Springtime For Hitler" turns out to be a critically acclaimed show!

The beautiful song "Springtime for Hitler" is sung by the German officer. It is quite a pretty song, if only the subject of the song wasn't such a despicable person! This jacket is what the German Officer tenor will be wearing, with his sparkly swastika armband. His beautiful $75 hat is the crowninng glory of this costume! (See June 22, 2010 post "Achtung!" to see the hat.) And he truly sings beautifully.

I knew that this costume job was going to be a challenge. About 3 days ago, the challenge was almost ready to break me! I definitely shed blood (how many pin pricks did I endure, with some evidence on several of the costumes), sweat (even though I am using new deodorant, I gave it quite a challenge because the day started about 5 in the morning, and often ended after 10 p.m. and I didn't smell that great!), and tears ( I shed many on Tuesday when the 4th attempt to do headdresses failed and fell on the floor!)

My frieds called me crazy, my daughter says "don't call me to do this again", my neighbors have had to look at a very shabby looking yard because I've done very little outside work this summer. One professional costumer said to me, "I'd never agree to costume that show!" I guess I now know why. But I do enjoy challenges, and this one was certainly a challenge. On Monday, I felt like it all looked like crap, but as the mood got better, the objectivity returned, and now I'm pretty pleased with the results.

My perennial bio for programs is "I like to dress talented people who enjoy looking good"/ And that is why I do this.

When I get some professional shots of the various scenes, I'll share them. But right now, it's raining cats and dogs, the sky is dark and I'm very tired, so the only thing to do in a case like this is to TAKE A NAP!

See for ticket information or call 314-921-5678 for tickets.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Girls In Pearls.

Leo Bloom, mild-mannered accountant, dreams the dream of getting out of his hum-drum world and doing something exciting in life. His friend, Max Bialystock, tries to convince him that the life of a Broadway producer is what Leo should try, lettig Leo break the chains of a boring life. Leo, timid and carrying a piece of his blue blankie from his youth as his security blanket, sits at his accounting desk and dreams of being a producer, and what he would experience.

Poppinng out of the background of the office furniture, 7 beautiful ladies dressed in pearls come to dance for Leo, so in his dreams, he IS A PRODUCER, and he sings, "I Want To Be A Producer" as they dance.

Here's how those costumes evolved.

Concept without much embellishment, modeled by darling CB! Lots of promise here, for both the costume and the actress!
Back view of bustle with roses
Close up of the pearls after they were applied to the top.
The finished look
This box was full of pearls. Originally, I had intended to put 20 strands on each garment. For various reasons, that didn't happen, these are the leftovers--I see a lot of pearl necklaces in my future of jewelry making.

Beading these garments takes anywhere from 6-10 hours to complete. There are 7 of them. I've spend days at the kitchen table, working with other little beaders, to complete them. I think the beads are sewn on securely, because my worst nightmare is that one of the strands breaks off and scatters pearls all over the place. NO, NO NIGHTMARE PLEASE, GOD OF COSTUMES, PLEASE BE WITH US ON THIS ONE!

They are almost complete, need to gather the remaining garments from other seamstresses today, and hopefully they'll look gorgeous on stage.

This is the WURST!

Iconic, stereotypical, expected...these are some words that come to mind when thinking about what was going through Mel Brooks wild and crazy mind when he wrote "The Producers". Basing his premise on a crazy notion of putting on a show featuring one of the most despicable men who ever lived (Adolf Hitler), Mel tries to show us a crazy stereotypical view of a world that we might not envision. The fun side of a dark side, that is how I would characterize this show.

Some of the iconic images are shown as showgirls parade in, Las Vegas style, to show parts of Germany, as they sing the theme song, "Springtime for Hitler". A beautiful song, about something we don't often think of as beautiful.

Here's one of the iconic images you might have about Germany--WURST! When I think of German food, of course, I think of sausages. Put that with beer, pretzels, and you have Mel Brooks crazy theme that lets us know about his chosen topic.

Funny thing, the showgirls wear these on their heads as they come in!

These were totally fun to make, just like stuffing real sausages! Made me want to get out the buns and mustard!
German engineering needed here to make this work, but I think I have something going here, with a little more work!

It will be a fun show, the cast was on stage for the first time last night, and things looked good so far. Sets are great, costumes are still needing some help, but maybe we'll make it. Only a week until opening night!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


We've been working at our projects, seeming to make slow progress toward finishing the costumes for "The Producers". I've had helpers during the last 3 days, and although certain projects aren't fully completed, we are a lot closer to being done than we were at the beginning of the week.

Monday--SB and her darling talented daughter C, came and worked. S and I have costumed together in the past year, and we do well together on the costume team. She helped me design the Prisoners of Love skirts, and took them all home to finish them. C did a cutting job beautifully, of course, and she was our model for the previous post photo of the prototype costumes.

Tuesday--not much done today on costumes, except to purchase some potential garments for the Streetwalkers. Try ons at practice, which was successful. Had to go to work twice, which was non-productive, both with costuming as well as getting any work done.

Wednesday--Seemed like the wheels were spinning in mud today, but ES came up and we worked on a officer uniform that is for a dazzling gay guy, it will be bedazzeld with sequins and other jewels, befitting of his character. Finished the pants, but not the shirt, and other than that, not much else got done. Wearing out!

Thursday--spent 5 hours in the morning cutting various sets of costumes. This is the task I hate the most, I could sew all night and day, but cutting requires thinking and it is difficult for me to make myself do it! Got one Prisoner of Love bodysuit done, plus a muslin for Roger DeBris' Chrysler building dress to try on at practice. Fitting went well, now I have a plan for tomorrow.

Friday--had a whole studio of artists working together today. Got up early to finish a body suit for the pearl sewer, finished hemming the bottoms of that set of costumes. Made Roger DeBris basic dress, which will be changed into something spectacular by another artist. Daughter SH came and started sewing pearls on the I Want To Be A Producer costumes, and she was doing a great job of getting them straight and sewed on very securely. I was impressed. ES showed her ability to draft a design and then make a pattern for her decoration of the Chrysler building dress, Very excellent work. And GW came, measured, cut, serged my Little Old Lady skirts, so we can put in the waistbands. Plus, she and I worked on completing a prototype of the main showgirls gold lycra bodysuits. I was very glad she was there, because it needed a great deal of altering to make it fit correctly. She was willing to strip down a half-dozen times to get it to fit correctly. It is almost OK, if I get a chance, I'll make another one for her. I think I have enough fabric.

MHS, my other darling daughter, brought her finished project to my house, 8 pearl chokers and darling cameos that she created for two numbers.

My friend Dr. J and I went to see our model CB in a production called "Lepers", a staged reading production. CB is only 13 but is already showing great promise as a strong character actress. SB, CB's very proud mama, costumed the show, AND finished my Prisoner's of Love skirts that she took home Monday, which I picked up last night after the show. Happy day, one part of one production number finished!

The theatre is a small space in a mall that has only one retail store left in it, but the arts community has convinced the owners to rent out the empty stores for studios for dance, acting, and various visual art forms. It also has one restaurant, which we ate at, and found the food to be very good! If all the places in this mall were open at once, it would be a very interesting space to visit. But I've been there several times, and you could only salivate over what was locked up in the closed storefronts. I would like to go back when some of the studios were open. If only I could figure out when that was.

Today, my friend SE is coming up from my Smalltown in Mid-Missouri, and she will be bringing some completed things that she has been working on at home, and we will work today on various projects, myself on bodysuits and show girl costumes, she on a uniform or two. Plus some finishing jobs that need to be done.

So, I guess projects are being worked toward completion, I still wish all my bodysuits were finished, wonder how many I can finish in two days? I want to be done with them by Monday. 7 Prisoners of Love, 5 I Want to Be a Producer tops, and 4 gold lycra body suits. I ought to be pretty good at making them after all that practice!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Day the Music Died

I am listening to the last 15 minutes of music that is broadcast on my favorite radio station, 99.1 KFUO-FM, St. Louis. This station has been a part of my life for the past 65 years. My parents always listened to this station, and it fostered my love for classical music.

I remember my father never missed the opera on Saturday afteroon, which has been broadcast on this station. As my father aged and in his last years, listening to the radio and this station ONLY was one of his greatest pleasures.

When I was a teenager, and others were listening to Elvis and the Everly Brothers, I was listening to Ravel, Debussy and Gershwin. I remember to this day a memorable day in which not "Rock Around the Clock" was playing in my head, but Gershwin's "Concerto in F". How wierd is that for a teenager?

All through my adult life, classical music has been my favorite, always been on the car radio dial. My grandson asked me once, "Grandma, what song is this?" He hadn't ever heard that kind of music before!

They choose Beethoven's 9th Symphony as their last recording to broadcast. They are singing the choral part right now, so it won't be long until they pull the plug.

The station was owned and operated by the Lutheren Church, Missouri Synod. As costs increased and budgets grew tighter, the church decided it had to sell the station, hoping some entity would keep the classical music format. But no, someone bought it and it will be Christian music as of tomorrow morning.

Beethoven just finished and there is nothing but dead air now. For me it is the day the music died, and I lost a piece of my past with it. I am sobbing right now at the loss.

We are all poorer when the arts cannot be supported and nurtured as this station did for the last 65 years. With all the art lovers in this town, why couldn't someoe save this for us? Christian music has its place, but there are plenty of Christian music stations in the area, but now no classical music stations, unless you have a satellite radio.

Now, static, it is gone forever. I am extremely sad.

Guess I'll be calling XM Sirius tomorrow. 99.1 will no longer be on my radio dial. Someone told me that the NPR station, which gave up classical music decades ago, may recosider and dedicate a portion of their daily programming to classical music, that will be something for us to look forward to.

The grind goes on

These are the prototypes of the costumes I've designed for "The Producers". Each of these will be part of the big chorus numbers in the show.

Little Old Lady Land--14 costumes for this number. They dance in using walkers, and by the end of the number they are kicking up their heels big time!
German military outfit for women--men will be dressed similarly, but will wear black pants. This is the big number, "Springtime for Hitler"
I want to be a Producer--girls in pearls--7 of them the bodices will be covered with pearls.
Prisoners of Love--8 of them are dressed like this, the men are in prisoners costumes.

I haven't posted in a while because most every waking moment has been spent in the sewing room producing! I hope I don't run out of time, right now, it looks scary to think if I will possibly get finished in time!

Wish Me luck.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tie One On!

In Springtime for Hitler (The Producers, Hawthorne Players, July 30--Aug. 8, 2010), the chorus all needs to dress in German military uniforms. I found the shirts last week, found the insignia for the hats and shirt pockets, and made some other insignia. I designed the skirts for the girls and the men are wearing black pants. The director is making the arm bands. I bought leatherette for "Sam Brown" belts, and then needed to get the ties. The number of cast members on stage at this time is about 25. At least 15 of them will be in uniforms, and all the uniforms need black ties.

This has led to quite a search. Google is my friend, but in this case, I didn't come up with any ties that weren't crazy expensive. My search at stores has yielded nothing, until today. My favorite store, JC Penney outlet store, had all the black ties I could want. Exept that they were $10 each! Now, for 17 cast members, this is quite budget buster! The shirts didn't even cost that much!

So, Plan B was to try to make ties. How hard could they be?

I remember doing it years ago, and it seemed to be a very complicated process, and the result wasn't that great. But I did purchase raw materials for ties, and so I decided to go ahead and try my luck.

Here is the pattern. I absolutely love Kwik Sew patterns, especially for men's wear, they are practically the only pattern company that carries men's wear patterns. Every Kwik Sew pattern I've bought has been excellent. The only problem is that they are expensive.

The cut out tie, including the interfacing--very important!

My first attempt was not that great, I tried to do without the interfacing, but it was twisted and couldn't be pressed to lie straight. So I tried once more and followed the directions for installing the interfacing and that made all the difference, I was amazed at how good it looked, and how easy it was! Absolutely no hand sewing, HOORAY!
Finished project, looks good!
Here it is with the shirt and hat and some of the insignia.

So, I did save the group some money, it always comes down to time or money. In this case, it is probably worth the time because it would have cost an awful lot of money to get ties for everyone.

Now, I have one more trick in my bag of tricks!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The big number in "The Producers" is Springtime For Hitler, requiring many military looking outfits. My desire for the show was to have everyone looking sharp wearing one of these caps, but at $75 each, that wasn't going to happen. So the next best thing was to make them.
Here are 12 of the 14 military hats I made, I even found the insignia online that matches the expensive hat.
Our original concept was to make paper insignia, and it didn't look too bad, but it would be LABOR INTENSIVE! This was cut on MonkeyGirl's Cricut machine, slightly modified from an American Eagle to a German one.
I about smashed the paper insignia trying to pin it on to the hat, really another way would have been better!

In "Springtime for Hitler", the big production number, a German tenor comes out and sings the song. Then the showgirls, chorus and finally Hitler enter. Hitler looks authentic, but his persona is quite different from the original furror! (Don't believe I've ever spelled that word before, is that how you spell it?)

The chorus is all dressed up in military garb, the girls in somewhat abbreviated version of a uniform! I'll show you pictures of that once I have a full working concept costume!

More to come!

Look at Costume Maniacs for insignia if you are trying to do something like this.

Little Old Lady Land

Kiss me, bite me! No, I'm not really that bold, just a line from the show!
The Little Old Lady hat
Concept design for the costume

One of the biggest chorus numbers in this show is Little Old Lady Land. Almost every female in the show is part of this number. That makes a LOT OF LITTLE OLD LADIES!

The concept is that they come in using their walkers, but kick up their heels later in the number to show there's still some life in those old bodies somewhere! Of course, since this show focuses on stereotypes, and many little old ladies dress in a similar manner, each of these will be dressed exactly the same. That's a LOT OF LITTLE OLD LADIES costume pieces, each will wear a skirt, blouse, jacket, hat, gloves, brooch--which will be built by our costume team.

One wonderful person who is a college trained theatre production member (and a fine actress herself!) volunteered to make the skirts, which I am extremely grateful to her for volunteering to do. She is squeezing this project in between work, teaching classes at night and an out-of town trip, plus she will be our stage manager. I could just kiss her! But not bite her! Save that kind of talk for Max Bialystock!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Progress...slow, but still progress

With all the admonitions of experienced directors, costumers, and friends, saying things like "Are you Crazy, that is a huge show!" the daunting task of getting the costumes ready for "The Producers" has begun. Why am I not panicking?

I'm not sure. I do have a lot of raw materials, which in itself is a very time consuming part of the job. I think I have most of the materials I need to make costumes, and the patterns and designs in mind, but still have some purchased and rental garments I need to arrange for.

I designed my Little Old Ladies costumes to have a plain skirt, a boucle jacket, a jacquard design blouse, hat and gloves. Since there are 15 LOL's dancing with walkers, we had a pretty big fabric purchase to make them all--in this show, they are all dressed alike. I didn't know where I would find enough fabric to make all the outfits, but I did find some boucle that matched perfectly with some other fabrics I found that was so cheap, under $2 a yard. When you need lots of fabric, often you have to pay a premium price for it, but this was on the VALUE FABRIC table at various Hancock stores. Hooray for Hancock!

I did 5 skirts so far, really 6 because my prototype was made Sunday, and after I tried it on one of the dancers, it seemed too skimpy. So I enlarged it. It is an 8 gore skirt with 6 godets at the bottom to make it fuller for dancing. I think it will work out well.

The fabric for the skirts is from my special bag of tricks. When I need lots of cheap fabric, I look for sheets. I am famous for sheet skirts. They work so well for period shows, just sew a casing and a hem, and you have a great colorful skirt in about 15 minutes. These took about 30 minutes to do, but still very simple. I think they will work out well.

I had a few ounces of creativity left after the 5 skirts were made, and back spasms hadn't set in yet, so I made a prototype hat for the LOL's, I think it will work OK. It's a little circle of velveteen with a huge ugly flower attached. Should be very funny.

So 5 skirts and a hat for a night, if I can keep this up, I'll be OK. It is just keeping on track and making myself meet my short term goals that I need to focus on. I hope to get my 15 sheet skirts done by this Friday.

Wish me luck!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rearranging the furniture

The annual parish garage sale is just around the corner. I'm not interested in buying stuff from it, but I sure am happy to donate stuff to it! I filled my entire RAV4 today up to the ceiling and took it over there for the sale.

One of the things I deposited with them was a very nice toddler bed. Seeing as our toddlers are now school age, I figured it was time to say goodbye to the little bed. Miss M thinks of it as "her bed" and begrudgingly lets her cousins from Iowa sleep in it when they come in twice a year. But she likes to jump on the bed, and I knew that someday soon, she would go crashing through the slats, they were not made for jumping on! Especially not by a 5 year old!

Several months ago, I scoped out new daybeds at my favorite bed store, The BedRoom Store. I've bought quite a few beds from them in the past 25 years. My son's first waterbed came from there (when he was a teenager, and he's now past 40!) Next came a beaufiful waterbed for the Mr. and I, the frame is still in use as a mattress holder in someone's basement. In 2005, I bought a really pretty daybed for myself when Hubby and I had to move into an apartment while he was being treated at the University Hospital.

When I bought that daybed, there was the prettiest daybed bedding set on the bed. The colors were perfect, a crimson red and a deep forest green, plaid on one side, and floral on the other side. I loved it. I inquired how much for the bedding set, and the answer was $500! That was a little out of my price range. So I went online and found the same thing for much less, I bought it, with pillow shams, throw pillows, valances, the works.

When we moved to this house, the daybed became the main bed in the guest room, and also Little Mr. M's bed. It shared the room with Miss M's princess bed. It is very comfortable, and nice to look at.

So my current plan began to develop. I would buy two new day beds, move the one that I already own downstairs to the bedroom down there, and get more bedding to match what I have for the second day bed for Miss M.


I had purchased that bedding 5 years ago, and in the meantime, nobody else must have liked it as much as I did, so they stopped making it. My plan to get a second set did not materialize. Nothing showed up online, from any of the sources I could locate.

Today, after delivering the toddler bed to the garage sale, I decided to move ahead with the plan for buying two daybeds, and I would figure out something about the bedding later. As I strolled around the store, I spied that old original daybed set that I had fallen in love with 5 years ago! Still here! A little shopworn, so who would want it? ME!

I begged the manager to sell it to me, and he reluctantly agreed to sell it to me for-----ta-da!---$50. That's right, not $500 but $50!

Small things make me happy and this really made my day! Now I can go ahead and rearrange the furniture, put my two daybeds in the same room and have the bedding match. The plaid can be for the boy and the flowers for the girl. No, it is not pink and purple, Miss M, but I hope you will like your new bed all the same. I'll find some princess sheets to put on the mattress to make you happy, and grandma will love the new arrangement of furniture. And my school age grandkids will have taken another step toward becoming all grown up!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Procuders---first steps Part I

Last summer I was asked to costume "The Producers". In a weak moment, I said yes. (I'm just a girl who can't say "no"!) So, I've had a whole year to think of it, and now it is showtime for me!

So I've started gathering fabrics. Some of them I found in March, but with the end of school and my Galapagos vacation, I haven't done anything more until this week.

Here is the result of a frenzy of activity with coupons, sale flyers and many miles from one end of town to another to find the stuff I needed. Luckily, my favorite stores came through for me and I found a lot of great fabric for a very reasonable price!

I'm showing you the raw materials, and the potential costumes, then when they are all finished, you can see from whence they came..
Here are all the costume fabrics I have so far, set out for the director with patterns and pictures of what I want to create. He came over last night and liked what he saw, and we worked out some of the final details.

Ulla is the main female character in the show. She is a very classy and well built blonde, who wears white in the first scene, then she paints the whole room white! Later, she shows up in blue. She dances and looks fabulous at all times.
The first big show number is "I Want To Be A Producer" and 8 beautiful girls come out in Las Vegas style costumes covered in pearls. I ordered $200 worth of pearl strands last week, they haven't come yet. This coral will stand out on the stage, and I think it will look great on the girls. Each outfit will be embellished with yards and yards of pearls.

So the work begins. I have a plan for making kits, cutting out the fabrics and hopefully finding some helpers to sew them. Nothing of the costumes that we need a lot of are difficult to make, except for Roger DeBris's Chrysler building dress, and making the headgear for the showgirls.

I will have to dress the men in suits, and I need uniforms for the Nazi dancers, Hitler, and the Storm Troopers. I'm going to buy or rent that stuff.

So, that's the plan, here we go!