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Posts Tagged ‘pantomime dame’

It’s been a bit of a miracle but we’re successfully out the other side of panto week.

How we didn’t have an outbreak of Covid in the cast and/or crew I really don’t know, but it’s all done and dusted for another year – well apart from the four massive bags of washing that are currently dominating my hall.

The cow print dress was a huge success and I actually remembered to get a photo of our dame wearing it over a hooped petticoat. As you can see, he’s a big girl!

I spent most of the Saturday get-in darning a j-cloth…

The cleaning costume I made for the Dame in Puss in Boots in 2015 has a gingham skirt decorated with rosettes made from gathered j-cloths and pan scrubbers.

But it wasn’t until I got it into theatre that I discovered that one of the rosettes had suffered a bit over the last seven years in storage. As the j-cloths have faded a bit I couldn’t easily replace it, so I had to go for the mending option.

Luckily it turned out really well and not only lasted the week, but I think if I make sure it’s stored properly this time, could easily do another panto.

There is usually some mending to do as the show goes on but this one was quite mending heavy. One character had a major failure of all the seams on her trousers – the costume was so old the thread had simply worn out so I spent most of the opening night frantically hand stitching all the seams every time she came off stage. Then it turned out that the Velcro I’d used for the back of the cow print dress was either ancient or very poor quality, as after three performances, all the edges started to disintegrate so I had to restitch all the stitching to hold it down and blanket stitch it all the way round to contain the fraying edges.

So unlike 2020, when I had the opportunity to do plenty of my own embroidery, I did very little this time. But I have chosen and made a start on my January 2022 Project – my print to stitch Medieval tiles pieces. I created the printed fabric at a workshop with Jan Dowson in February 2019 and started the stitching on it in October 2020, so compared with some of my other projects it is a relative newcomer!

This is as it stands at the start of its session. Two of the six ’tiles’ have completed spiral kantha stitching and I’d ground to a halt on the third as I’d run out of thread. As usual I have absolutely no idea what it was, beyond stranded cotton, and as I’m trying very hard to work within what I already have, I hunted out a couple of possible replacements and discovered in the process that I am very short of tan/orangey-brown threads.

The printing and the hand dyed fabric both vary in colour so I am trying not to mind too much that the new thread is a bit darker.

I’m also not that taken with the spiral kantha – it feels like there is too much of the motif in the way for it to work well. Also, there isn’t enough of the new thread for me to be able to stitch spirals round the last three ’tiles’ so at the moment I’m thinking I might go with a completely different thread to tone with the slightly darker prints and go back to simple seeding.

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After a very grey and wet Christmas period it was great to finally get out for a bit of a leg stretch yesterday along the beach at Withernsea. Since I first went last September to see the Pebble of the Day exhibition at the lighthouse, it’s become a firm favourite for a seaside walk and beachcomb. I love the massive variety of pebbles you find on the beach due to the underlying boulder clay and I was lucky enough to find a few fossils. I especially love the little one in the middle which looks like it has a set of tiny teeth!

I always seem to find really big chunks of sea glass at Withernsea. The slab of safety glass is an unusually large inch and a half by an inch and there are at least two other pieces of a similar size.

I also found a few nice pieces of beach china, of which at least two will be perfect for china pots for woven feathered chain stitch plants.

I’ve also been thinking about the direction I want to go in 2022 and I’ve decided that I’m going to focus on unfinished projects; revisiting them to see if there is anything to be gained by moving forward. So my idea is to pick one project a month and focus on it around other things that need doing. At the end of the month I’ll hopefully know whether it’s worth continuing with or not, rather than setting myself a potentially unrealistic goal of finishing it. A finish is a bonus but even if that hasn’t happened, I should have moved it on.

There are some very tempting projects in my box: buttonhole rings, Blackwell House of Arts and Crafts sycamore keys and some Casalguidi work…

…embroidered book covers and crazy patchwork…

…and a few kits from various places.

But first, it’s panto costume time (oh yes it is…) and the big item I’ve been putting off. This:

…needs to become Dame Durden’s opening dress for Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club’s 2022 panto Jack and the Beanstalk. Opening on the 11th January – hopefully, Covid cases and restrictions permitting. Time to bite the bullet and set scissors to fabric.

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Being the Dame’s Dresser in pantomime involves nice quiet periods in between bouts of frantic physical activity where I am trying to haul one costume (including wig, jewellery, shoes etc.) off a huge burly bloke while trying to simultaneously shove him into his next frock and wig. So once I’ve tidied up the chaos and returned the changing room to a temporarily Zen-like place of calm, I get to stitch.

Ribbon roses at the beginning of the week for my Stitch Zone ribbon embroidery workshop the next Monday. As I was working under dressing room lights the colours aren’t great, but it’s purples and lilacs on a indigo dyed scrap of cotton.

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Then ribbon stitch leaves around the french knot buds and closed fly stitch leaves.

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Finally completing it with some tendril-like stems at the ends in split stitch and a couple more fly stitch leaves.

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At the end of the week I moved onto mushrooms! When we did the Bayeux Stitch workshop at Embroiderers’ Guild last July I was working on the baby leaf-tailed dragon, but I did have a sudden desire to stitch some big chunky mushrooms in Bayeux Stitch. I started by sketching a simple design freehand and then traced it onto some calico.

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The light in the changing room is good to stitch by but not to take photographs by and the green cap is really more of a teal.

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Salmon-pink spots, not red!

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And tan gills.

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Stalk in a darker brown which I think might have been vintage mending wool – it kept breaking.

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And then the outlining.

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A lot of fun to stitch. I’ve still got the gills to put in and the rest of the outline and highlights to do, but I’m really pleased with all the stitching (even the ubiquitous mending of seams, buttons and various fastenings etc. of show week) I got done during panto this year!

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To paraphrase Sir Steve Redgrave, the British rower,  “Anybody who sees me volunteer to costume a pantomime again has my permission to shoot me!”

You would have thought that after the last minute dash to get two World War 1 era evening dresses made for Blackadder Goes Forth in October that I would have had more sense, but no. No sooner had the curtain gone down on Blackadder then I was straight into costuming Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club‘s 2019 pantomime, Dick Whittington.

I did think I was on top of it nice and early, but I had stalls at a couple of Christmas fairs/markets which meant I needed to keep making stock…

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…and our Christmas challenge for Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild which was to make a Christmas themed brooch to fit in a box we were given in September (silk thread and sparkly blending filament crocheted into a snowflake shape and beaded) …

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…the Christmas meeting which was making temari balls with Hazel…

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(my attempt has got no further than this, but I did learn that rayon thread, however shiny and pretty, is a very, very bad thing with which to wrap your temari ball)…

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…and of course, all the extra work that Christmas causes meant that I had very little down time over Christmas. Although I had been working on the costume since October, starting on New Year’s Day I sewed, altered, mended and generally worked like something demented for eight days straight. There are some odd photos of my labours but most have been taken as afterthoughts very late at night so apologies for the randomness and poor quality!

As the dame (Sarah the Cook) was a big lad at 6′ 3″ and build accordingly, most of our stock didn’t fit him so I ended up making a lot of it, starting with a baking themed skirt to go with an existing floral top. The skirt was plain cream and I made some felt gingerbread men and cup cakes to go around the hem.  They are roughly A4 size so they really stand out on stage.

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The sequins caught the stage lights beautifully.

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Then there was an existing red and green skirt but the top didn’t fit, so I remade that using the bodice pattern from the dress pattern I planned to use later. Have to remember to add the length to the sleeves for taller men.

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As it was for the scene where the dame serves in the shop, I added a rosette of medieval silver pennies and tickets to the matching mob cap.

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The main dress was for the ship/shipwreck part of the story and had to be made from scratch. I used a commercial broadly 18th century dress pattern which had a very full skirt to go over the traditional dame’s hoop and was open down the back – ideal for a Velcro fastening and quick changes. I uncovered some ‘Finding Nemo’ fabric in our club store which was ideal and used it for the sleeves and back of the skirt.

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The bodice and front were in two types of toning blue fabric (trying to use up what we had and not buy any more) but I broke up the bodice with a triangle of the Nemo fabric with extra fish added in the spaces and then created a set of felt signal flags to go across the skirt. They actually spell out something and no, it isn’t rude, although I was sorely tempted!

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It was worn with a ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hat before the storm and a very cute octopus (here modelling a miniature prototype bycocket hat for Dick) …

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…who was attached to a head band with crocheted seaweed for after the shipwreck!

We splashed out and bought a sparkly silver and blue walk down costume but when the headdress I had found in stock didn’t fit, I ended up the morning before opening night making a steeple hennin from very stiff lampshade fabric, more Finding Nemo fabric and the floaty veil from the original headdress. I am not ashamed at this point to confess that I used more glue than stitch!

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Instead of a good fairy we had Neptune, but the director didn’t want an old man in a toga, so I ended up designing a more military costume. The basic garment was a tunic created from some fabric that looked watery and amazing but as the crescent moon pattern was created from  a layer of loose threads between two layers of organza it was a nightmare to stitch and I ended up fully lining it with some left over fabric from one of the Blackadder dresses.

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It was worn with scale patterned leggings, tribal style tattoo sleeves with some amazing fantasy style leather armour on one arm, a scrim sash to look like a fishing net and a faux leather apron belt which was a cross between Greek and Roman and based on one worn by a character from a computer game! I had an interesting time cutting it out by eye, hand stitching it to look like separate pieces of leather and then making a medieval ring belt to go over the top.

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I wish I had some photos of the full ensemble. :o(

I also made bycocket hats for Dick…

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…an extravagant turban for the Sultana of Bungahie…

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…based on a 1970s turban hat and dressed up with oddments of pleated metallic gold and blue fabric stitched over the top.

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And a proper chaperon for Captain Cuttlefish to wear in the walk down. I made it as per the real thing, so it can be worn as a caped hood with a liripipe (long tail)…

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…or turned…

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…and worn with the head through the face hole and the cape and liripipe hanging down on either side.

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Another one that I had to cut without a pattern following an image on the internet, but I am delighted with the effect.

The show went very well and the costumes were much admired. Now all I have to do is to wash them all, and put them all away in the right boxes. Fourteen characters with between one and four costumes, each made up from a number of different elements… I might possibly be back before Easter!

 

 

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