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Our upcoming show at Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club is an adaptation of Pinocchio in September and I said I would help with the costumes. My first task was to turn a floppy black felt hat which was styled like a classic musketeer’s hat into one for a carabinieri. The director provided me with a picture from the internet and I made a start.

First I had to unstitch all the ostrich feather plumes and steam the hat to get it back to a neutral shape. It had a nasty hole near the crown but I managed to mend that by needle-felting some black fleece into and around the hole. Then I could stitch both the back and the front of the brim to the crown and make start on the rosette.

The rosette on the front was created from lengths of red, white and blue grosgrain ribbon which I stitched onto individual card circles and then layered together.

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Yes, I know the colour of the inner ring is wrong – in my defence, it wasn’t a close up shot and it looked like blue to me! And having finished it before I realised my mistake, I was not taking something which is only a stage costume for a minor character to bits, so it will have to stay (and annoy me for not having checked my facts before I started…).

The flaming grenade in the middle is made from a picture of one of the cap badges which I stuck onto card and then added layers of gesso to give the impression of something more 3D before finishing it off with silver sharpie. Behind it I used an oddment of silver braid which was a brilliant last minute find at the point where I thought I was going to have to layer several other ribbons and braids together and use the silver sharpie again to get something similar.

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I was able to cut up and lash together two of the original ostrich feathers to make the plume, which is nowhere near as fluffy as the real thing, but again, will be close enough on stage.

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The director was delighted and the guy who will be playing the role was even more pleased that it was a good fit!

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Not sure I’m cut out for making stage costumes. I think I’m too much of a stickler for nailing the sort of detail that you just don’t see on stage. I’m pleased enough with it though, and very pleased that I managed to do it all from stuff I already had!

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I went back to Tolethorpe Hall again last Friday evening to see Macbeth and Shy Bird came too. There wasn’t a massive amount of time for stitching before the performance but I did get a bit more of his head done.

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He didn’t enjoy it as much as The Tempest – the witches were seriously creepy and there weren’t as many laughs. However, I thought it was one of the best and most powerful versions of Macbeth I’ve ever seen and the costumes were stunning.

The next day was National Stitch Day and to celebrate, Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild had a beautifully staged little exhibition of crewel work both stitched by members and also samples from one of the Guild Folios of handling pieces in the local library. Several of us came along for all or part of the day to do some stitching and Bird, of course, came too, as did my youngest.

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First of all I finished his head. I added yellow and cream highlights over the split stitch as per the original and highlights in his eye to bring it to life.

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Then his breast, which was more split stitch in the variegated Needle Necessities that I had used for the yellow highlights on his wing and head.

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I’d only used the golden yellow section of the variegation for the wing but using whole lengths, dark brown shading through gold to beige, tied the colouring of his breast into the rest of him, but made it lighter, which is the effect I wanted.

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Last of all, his legs. The one behind was stitched in the brown crewel wool I used for his head, tail and wing, and for the one in front I used the lighter sections of the variegated thread. With the detail added over the top in a darker brown and my monogram in the corner, he was finally finished!

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It was a lovely relaxed day’s stitching in the library and although we didn’t have many people showing interest, those that did were lovely and we all had a great natter anyway!

The theme set by the main Guild was leaves, so there were leaves to stitch: felt ones for any children who turned up and wanted a go and hooped up shapes on fabric for any adults.  My youngest embroidered her own leaf and then after having beaded it, decided she wanted to add an ant, which she stitched freehand. I think  he worked out beautifully.

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Shy bird thinks he looks delicious…

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The final person in our group was Christina and her piece was entitled ‘Plenty More In The Sea!’

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Unlike my other contributors, Christina’s inspiration had come from a piece of glorious fabric first with the sea element second. That’s not a complaint, just my delight in the glimpses these books have given into other people’s creative processes.

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It must have been fabulous too, by what you can see in the bodies of the fish.

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Hand embroidery stitches to enhance the fish shapes and seeding and french knots to texture the background.

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It’s really made me want to play with reverse appliqué a bit!

The show I’m currently directing – ‘Cheshire Cats’ – is in theatre next week so there should be time for sewing back stage even if the week is probably going to be crazily busy. Fingers crossed for enough audience for us to make a profit. Even a small one would be nice!

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As well as doing the costume for our panto last week, I was also the dame’s ‘dresser’. Those elaborate costumes can be difficult to put on, especially with hoops underneath some of the full-skirted frocks, and constant changes of wigs, shoes, jewellery etc. so we always have someone whose specific job is to help. This, naturally, means being at the theatre for every performance.

Spending every evening backstage for a week is a bit of a long haul after a full day’s work, but there are advantages. Firstly, I was on hand for all the last minute costume tweaks and any mends that became apparent over the course of the run and secondly, in between costume changes and when there was no mending, I could actually get on with some of my own work.

First of all, I finished off the second strip of James’ patchwork cushion. Here it is, alongside the first.

Blue crazy patchwork strips 1 and 2

And then I started the feather stitching on the third strip:

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Blue crazy patchwork strip 3 close up

Blue crazy patchwork strip 3 butterfly end

I also finally finished off the second denim cuff book (the one with lazy daisy flowers) with a beaded spine.

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Denim cuff books

Denim cuff book beaded spine

Denim cuff book 2 open

More to come, including a birthday card I can’t unveil until the weekend!

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Sorry, everyone, but Panto just happened in this neck of the woods and this year I volunteered to costume it. (My middle one was Principal Boy and is the tallest one in the middle of the shot (between the princess and Puss In Boots) with the dodgy medieval hat and my little one is the kitten closest to the camera on the left)

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Even though I’m lucky enough to belong to a club with its own premises and huge stock of costumes, it was still quite an undertaking. Back in November, shortly after casting, I was creating a costume plot, liaising with the director to come to a shared vision of what these characters would look like on the stage. In this scene, the dame is cleaning, so I wanted to make a costume that reflected that. She has a duster bow on her mob cap, washing up sponge/scourer buttons and rosettes of j-cloths with pan scourers centres around her skirt.

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Then there was hunting out and finding/sourcing and making. Luckily I didn’t have too many costumes to physically make, but the 17  children in the cast had 46 separate costumes alone (variously villagers, fairies, kittens, ghosts and skeletons) and they all needed hunting out of stock and fitting.

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Since Christmas it has been crazily busy, and last week I sewed solidly for 4 days,  making accessories and altering a whole load of costumes including this massive and very heavy dame’s dress (which had to have the pink modesty panel stitched into the front as well as a large insert in the back)

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and a boiler suit for the dame’s Ghostbusters costume.

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Unfortunately this is the best of several very poor shots of it – a friend of mine made the most amazing ‘screen-accurate’ proton pack complete with ‘gun’ to wear on the back and with heavy duty elbow pads, the Ghostbusters logos (which are on the tops of the sleeves) on full view, and marabou trimmed heavy gloves in the belt, it looked amazing.

Last Sunday was the get in – two trips from our Guildroom to the theatre to transport all the costumes and three plus hours steaming them (an alternative to ironing). Then I spent all week backstage mending and being the dame’s dresser until the get out last night.

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Normal service will be resumed very soon. Surprisingly enough I’m not sick of a needle yet!

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…has a knob on the end, according to Terry Pratchett’s Nanny Ogg! So that’s exactly what I’ve been creating for the wizard to carry in Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club’s up-coming panto, ‘Puss in Boots’. I started with a fluorite sphere…

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…and then used copper wire to create a claw setting for it. First I worked the heavier gauge wire into a five-pointed star with branches, doubling over the ends for safety and holding them together in the middle with a wrapping of finer gauge wire.

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Then each ‘branch’ was wrapped with the finer gauge wire…

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…and the sphere placed inside.

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I carried on weaving some of the ‘branch’ points together to encase the sphere.

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Finally the free ends were curled into interesting shapes.

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The staff is a long sturdy stick that my middle one picked up on our holiday in the Lake District last Easter. I’ve given it a couple of coats of black wood stain and then it will be polished with beeswax. The broken bit at the top is going to be shaped into a curve to hold the orb cage.

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And then an unexpected bonus. We discovered the fluorite naturally glows in the dark.

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How perfect is that for the pantomime villain?!

 

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I finally finished sewing Errol’s wings on the morning of the get in and here he is in His dressing room.

He shares it under sufferance with the orang-utan and three other males, but knows that he is really the star.

The reception those mournful eyes have had every night has reinforced that!

We’ve had some very appreciative audiences and the show has given everyone involved the chance to shine, not just the actors.

So, last night tonight. In ten hours this will just be a pile of wood and memories.

But what a ride it’s been. 😮

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