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Fairy Update

20 May

Please note the lack of fail in this update! That’s because the fairies are going well!

To be quite specific, the Red Grape Fairy is going well. I’m using it as the experimental costume and taking copious notes on what works, so that when I’m finished I can bang out the White Grape Fairy in the day or two left to me at that point. For those keeping track at home, there are 13 days before these costumes need to be finished. Three of those are performance days, at least one day must be packing and cleaning day, one day is Driving Home All Day day, one day is set aside for the Wing Making Party, and one day I’m going to the GA faire in civvies. I also lost a great deal of today to being miserable in a distinctly feminine way, and before I leave Texas I have a lot of friends I’d like to spend at least a little time with. SO THAT BEING SAID, I should stop thinking up flimsy excuses to watch 30 Rock and really buckle down, right? Right.

So let’s talk about the work I’ve been doing.

The only thing I’ve finished is the undertunic:

Much better

Much better

I use the word “finished” loosely, in that it still needs trim (to line the neckline), but that is waiting ’till I get home. Of my two sewing machines, I only brought the Battlestar Galactica (the workhorse) to Texas, and I want to use decorative stitches, which I only have on the other machine, which I’ve tentatively christened the Delicate Fucking Flower.

Since this picture, taken on Thursday, I’ve dropped the neckline about an inch, and removed the measuring tape from around my neck. I have not, however, changed my jeans.

The undertunic is made from the Elizabethan Smock Pattern Generator, slightly modified. To wit, I shortened the sleeves and made the side gores smaller, and  obviously modified the neckline, using a complicated process I liked to call I Drew Some Random Measurements On Tissue Paper And Then Prayed It Would Work When I Cut It Out Of Fabric:

Now I’m working on the sheer overskirt. My first attempt was a four-panel skirt of rectangles, which didn’t have the swoosh and drape I wanted and bunched at the waist, so I tore it apart and am remaking it into a six-panel skirt of trapezoids. I’m going to leave the panels unconnected on the sides and finish the edges with ribbon in the contrast color. It will go under a simple belt/waist cincher of cotton canvas covered in the matte and sheer fabric, with a bit of boning at the sides, front, and back to help it keep its shape, and some grommets at the back once I figure out where I put the Bodice/Corset Supply Box.

I’ve just finished stuffing my face with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and perhaps because of this, I’m feeling pretty optimistic. We shall see.

I made a thing, and it turned out really well

10 Apr

I’ve wanted a collared bodice for a long time. I like the way collars frame my face, and the back of the neck is an enormously awkward place to put sunscreen.

I finally got around to making one.

I’m so proud of it I could poo.

esp 2013

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On sewing successes

29 Jan

A little before Halloween 2011, my Gma (my mother’s mother) was diagnosed with brain cancer. I wrote about my her sewing machine shortly thereafter. Shortly before Christmas 2012, she died.

For a number of of the 14 months between her diagnosis and death, mr. biscuit and I cared for her while she went through treatment. She had a round and a half of radiation. The first was shortly after her diagnosis; the half, towards the end. She had monthly chemo, which she took in pill form. It never gave her any problems. Radiation made her progressively more tired and her scalp tender, but she reacted well to both treatments. To be perfectly accurate, the tumor reacted well. It didn’t do much changing for months and months, and even shrank a little, leaving her free to rebuild her strength and dexterity over and over again.

The tumor’s effects were progressive. Initially, it (probably) caused Gma to lose her balance, fall, and break her right hip. Since Gpa was already in a wheelchair due to a succession of knee injuries, this is when mr. biscuit and I entered the picture and became their caretakers. It was supposed to be a short-term thing, and indeed, Gma recovered quickly from her broken hip. She was walking again, and even driving, when something weird happened and she began to  lose control of her right foot. This was initially diagnosed as drop foot and chalked up to the back problems she’s always had, or her hip surgeries, or God know what, I don’t really remember, because it got progressively worse, traveling up her leg, and then it affected her right hand and arm. She started having painful, horrifying, seizure-like tremors in her leg that she couldn’t control or predict or stop. More than one night I wound up standing beside their bed, massaging the inside of her right leg with my big, strong hands because everybody was terrified and nobody had any idea what else we ought to be doing.

In my memory, this downturn happened within the blink of an eye. The space of a few weeks, at most. Is that true? I don’t know, and I haven’t the fortitude to dig through my social media records to more accurately reconstruct a timeline. It feels like a very short time had passed between the time she and Gpa went off for a drive on their own and the day I sat beside her at an appointment with her orthopedic surgeon that was supposed to be a routine followup, and he all of a sudden looked alarmed and said that her symptoms were indicative of something in the brain and sent us to the ER.

While we waited in the cold, very white ER, I entertained her. Impromptu jokes, clever wordplay, silly voices, teasing, riffing on the terrible night-time TV, literally whatever I could think of. No need to be modest: I was on fire. Gma, meanwhile, laughed at my antics, told me to stop making her laugh because laughing made her hip hurt, and flirted shamelessly with the young male nurse who asked her if she was warm enough (her response: “why don’t you come lay down with me and then I will be?”). I called her a shameless hussy and she seemed a proud of the label. Meanwhile, she got a CT scan. Her doctor ordered the scan to look for evidence of a stroke. Instead, they found a brain tumor. Ta-da!  And so she was transferred by ambulance to the bigger, urban hospital, about half an hour away. I followed in the car, but first I stopped at Sonic for my third dinner of the evening. I had chicken strips, mozzarella sticks, and 44 ounces of sweet tea. I wasn’t hungry, but I was starving.

From there, hospital visits and uncomfortable phone calls, MRIs, the entire family descending to sit in the waiting room for an early-morning brain surgery that revealed her brain tumor was the worst case scenario, my other grandmother succumbing to MS after fighting it to a stalemate for five decades. At some point, I bluescreened. Life became a constant battle against everything and everyone, including myself. I cried all the time. I swore even more than I usually do. I ate crap, and a ton of it, drank too much caffeine, picked fights with mr. biscuit. I also wrote like a demon, dashing out fiction in a desperate attempt to keep a grip on myself, but it’s all unreadable.

Gma got out of surgery, recovered in the hospital, went into rehab. She had lost the fine motor skills in her right hand, but worked like hell to get them back. She excelled in physical therapy and occupational therapy, perhaps because she was stubborn as hell and uninterested in her own weaknesses. By the time she left rehab, she could transfer into and out of the car and the wheelchair, write clearly enough to pay the bills out of the ancient hatbox where she kept them, tell when she was being bullshitted, all the usual.

Because I was so tired of failing, and so deeply weary, I never really posted about last spring’s struggle to construct my bodice. It was a long and terrible struggle. I tried to work with piping, I tried to do a trick with velcro to make it a back-lacing bodice I could get into by myself. It took me a solid month and three fully constructed failures to get it mostly right, and even then I wasn’t completely happy, just out of time. I finished it with 36 hours to spare before I had to perform at Scarborough. I did some corrective work before CRF this fall, and was a lot happier with the results, though I’m still not satisfied. Errors in the construction led to more wear and tear than should be showing after only two faires. The back is sloppy. The straps are either too short or too long. I don’t even like the style anymore–I want a doublet-style bodice. It’s just not right.

We left Gma and Gpa in the care of my cousin in August, after 13 months of caring for them. We were unemployed, but a friend had a spare room in a newly purchased townhome, so we we were able to get by with a little fudging, a bit of temping, and a lot of luck. The two of us hunkered down and tried to deal with the guilt, depression, poverty, and lingering emotional trauma of the past year. I hid in bed a lot. I cried a lot. I thought fixedly of nothing, and I did it a lot. Then, in October, our luck turned. I started at Carolina, where I did really well. Around Thanksgiving, the seventeen thousand applications and resumes mr. biscuit had sent out every week finally paid off, and he got a job. I also got a job–a steady one I actually enjoy, unlike the crappy, very sporadic temp work that had kept us afloat. We stopped hibernating. We started to feel like things were going to be ok.

Things were not going so well for Gma, When the family gathered for Thanksgiving, she had trouble with complete sentences and had all but lost her hard-won ability to transfer in and out of the car. From there, her decline was rapid. She couldn’t move much, even when she was uncomfortable. She couldn’t remember words. She couldn’t tell you what was wrong, or if indeed anything was wrong. The last time I saw her, in the nursing facility that I had long since come to love, despise, and fear, she spoke maybe twice, and that to say “mhm” for yes when I asked her very specific, easy questions. When she wanted to say “no,” she would give me a very pointed look and I would laugh and say “OK, OK.”

That last time we saw her, I brought her a selection of faire costumes I had made so she could see them and touch them. I had shown her pictures, but I wanted to really show her what I’d made with the two sewing machines she had given me over the years–the one she bought for me, and the one that had been hers.  A lot of what I brought her was new: the caul I made out of gold organza, black lace, and Swarovski crystals, the black velveteen and light yellow fleece cloak I’d finished only a couple of weeks before. I brought her my hat, and when I put it on her head she smiled a bit.

I also brought her my bodice.

When I picked my bodice up off the pile to show it to her, her intake of breath was audible. It had narrow gold sleeves (also new) still attached; the gold satin of the (old) hanging sleeves reflected the overhead lights. I helped her lift up her good hand so she could feel it, rub the velveteen and the satin between her fingers. mr. biscuit laced me into it so she could see how it looked on. As she held it, I talked a little bit about my struggles to make it, but eventually I ran out of things to say and just let her hold it.

She held onto it for a very long time.

The last time I saw my Gma, she was hugging mr. biscuit goodbye. She looked at me over his shoulder and waggled her eyebrows suggestively. She died about a week later, three days before Christmas.

Later, I learned from my mom that Gma had learned to sew from her mother. They made patterns out of newspaper for the suits, prom and wedding dresses, and various commissions that they made. Gma was, I’ve been told, an excellent seamstress. The only creation of hers that I know I’ve seen is my mother’s wedding gown. The last time I saw that gown I was in high school and had no idea what I was looking at, but in my memory, it looks bespoke. Which is to say, it is beautiful, elegantly constructed, and sturdy, and though far too small for me and sort of itchy with old lace, it was a pleasure to wear. I’ve never sewn with my Gma, or my mom; only with friends, whom I pity. I am a vicious hellbeast when sewing. I swear and cry and throw things and make a gigantic mess, and I hate every second of the whole stupid process. I thought, while I was making it, that stupid bodice was going to be the final straw that drovee me insane. It didn’t, but only just. And honestly, when I was done with it, it was fine. In the end, when I could put a little bit of distance between myself and the horrific events surrounding it and its constructions, I even made it better.

I didn’t think it was beautiful until it made Gma gasp.

bodice

gma me caitie big smiles

Building the Post-Apocalyptic Avengers

6 Sep

As promised, a post about the construction of the Post-Apocalyptic Avenger costumes which mr. biscuit and I constructed. This is long and wordy and boring and FULL OF PICTURES.

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Dragon*Con 2012: Pictures

4 Sep

Dragon*Con 2012 has come and gone. I got home yesterday about 6:00, took a shower, got into bed to decompress with kitties, cereal, and video games, and fell asleep before I could manage to brush my teeth, take my clothes off, or even finish the level. I don’t even remember what level I was playing, nor if I saved before I cut it off. I feel like I got hit by a bus full of geeks, booze, and glitter.

When I said that the first time, my friend Elisabeth immediately responded “So you got run over by Priscilla, Queen of the Desert?” And…yes, basically.

Anyway, you’re not interested in my lingering hangover, Gentle Readers; you want to know about costumes! So let’s talk about costumes.

I had ambitious plans this year. As I mentioned very briefly, two of my three planned costumes fell through. Which two? The Gryffindor Pirate and the Southern Oracle. The only two I blogged about. Naturally. But we moved this summer, and I started temping, and also I must spend a great portion of each day sleeping lest I lose my phenomenal cosmic powers. So. I didn’t get those done. MY BAD.

I did, however, finish The Secret Project, and I whipped up a last-minute costume, so let’s talk about that!

The Secret Project was a group of Post-Apocalyptic Avengers. Popular characters inserted into other genres (Steampunk Scooby Doo, Renaissance DC Heroes and Villians, whatever else) has become fairly popular in the last years, and my friend Daniel, of Journey into Awesome, came up with the idea shortly during the 2011 con. Ten of us got together and worked on it for several months:

Back row l-t-r: Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Iron (Wo)Man, Ms. Marvel, Thor, Captain America. Front row l-t-r: Black Widow, Spiderman, R2-D2, who, tragically, isn’t ours. Not pictured: Echo, Moon Knight.

I picked the Scarlet Witch after a quick googling of “Avengers members,” and after a lot of me trying to convince him to do The Vision, mr. biscuit picked Spiderman. I also whipped up a Loki head-on-stick, because it just felt right. The two of us (mr. biscuit and I, not Loki and I) angsted and worried and argued quite a bit, but in the end we got it done, and I’m pretty stoked at how these costumes turned out, especially as part of the whole.

The last-minute costume was the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater.

The fake blood was surprisingly tasty and remained gloopy and fresh-looking for several hours, but was super itchy.

I only wore this for a few hours, due to not feeling super great, so I only have the one picture, but the people who got it were pretty enthusiastic about it. I was also pretty pleased; I think this will go in the Emergency Costume Stash*. It was, again, very last minute, but since most of my wardrobe is purple, it was pretty easy. Dress is My Favorite Dress. Crinoline, horn, eyepatch, foot, and gloves from Costumes, Etc. Tights I already had, from…something, I don’t know. I told you most of my wardrobe is purple. They are We Love Colors. Shoes are Chucks. Wings are from Eddie’s Trick Shop. Bloomers were from a ren fest court gown many years ago (fun fact: I was playing Anne Boleyn pre-queen years. They have a big heart that says “Henry” on the butt). I did some fun stuff with makeup, but didn’t get any real pictures of it. Blood is Mehron stage blood, and again, it remained fresh-looking for hours.

I also don’t have a lot of Avengers pictures yet. They’re trickling in, and we have a photoshoot on the 23rd, so I’ll post more when I get them. In the meantime, here’s what I have. A post about the construction will follow, because it’s getting looong. For now, pictures!

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I Am An Actor (TM): in which I make a paper mask and it kind of sucks but that’s OK

18 Jul

My absence from Ye Blogge is partly due to rehearsals for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which I’m playing a female Bottom*. Also I’ve been watching people I know do amazing things and supporting my Pride In Them in its eternal war with my Bitterness and Jealousy (Pride is winning, but some days it’s a tough call). But mostly the rehearsal thing.

This is one of those shows with a costume designer. Which is standard, I realize, but not in most of the gigs I’ve had in the last couple of years (to wit: ren faires). Plus, I hear she’s a good costume designer, which puts this show leaps and bounds ahead of the last show-with-a-costume-designer I was in (which I won’t talk about except to say that my costume was hideous and mostly constructed from hot glue WHILE I WAS WEARING IT). So I’m pretty stoked. Not having to worry about what I’m going to wear is a nice change. But since I have nothing to post about on this front, and I’ve been working on The Secret Project pretty much exclusively, I’m kind of at a loss. I mean sure, I could format and post any of the dozens** of Dressing the Character profiles I have hanging around the ol’ hard drive, but I don’t like to be predictable, so I don’t do what I’m supposed to do. Which in turn becomes predictable.

Anyway.

Last weekend we had a rehearsal that was full of the Artsy and the Fartsy. More the former, though I attended a bachelorette party the night before, so there may have been a little of the latter. I’m not at liberty to say. One of the activities we did was character mask-making. I am…what’s the word? Oh, right. BAD AT ART. But after the blind sculpting exercise, which I hated for reasons I can’t quite determine, this was actually pretty enjoyable! Here’s the mask I came up with:

Elmer’s Glue is black now, BTW. The bottle said “Dries clear!” The bottle lied.

Full masks make me feel a little like I’m going to suffocate at any given second omfg get it off get it off, so the director cut me a quick half-mask out of construction paper. I was a little confused at first, because what do you mean what does Bottom look like? Bottom looks like me, except when Bottom looks like a donkey, which I’m trying not to think about because Bottom doesn’t realize she’s a donkey. But I plunged ahead, picked up a brown marker, and started to color some hair, and was suddenly struck with inspiration. My Bottom is a wannabe social-climber, a pretender to knowledge and talents she doesn’t necessarily possess. Her beauty ideal would be the same as that of the court! So I dove into my knowledge of Elizabethan makeup and came up with what you see here.

I was so glad the construction paper wound up being pink, because it allowed for a really obvious attempt at white face (made with scraps from the masks of the higher-status characters). I finished coloring the brown hair, then colored the red over top like a bad dye job. The eyes are lined in kohl. I did my best to give the impression of a high forehead, but I obviously can’t draw, so that didn’t happen as much as I would have liked. Then I found one of those stamp markers in the shape of a castle, put four of them on the front of the mask as representations of dreams, and went to town on the back. Also, stars. And hearts. Because Bottom is dreamy. But I forgot to take a picture of the back. Even my lack of any sort of ability to make good art wound up working, because Bottom is a creature of enthusiasm, not talent.

Ultimately it was an interesting and helpful exercise. To be honest, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it and how much it helped me learn about the character.

*I can’t wait to see what this does to my search results
**exaggeration

The Renaissance Festival Sewing Project from Hell: 2012 Edition

9 Apr

After several months of sewing, I finished most of Esperanza’s garb on Friday.

All those people have been rendered unconscious by the amazing persistence I have displayed throughout this project. Or perhaps the sight of JGL in a suit and tie. But I prefer to think it's the former.

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