Friday, January 27, 2012


It's Hairspray!
My kids are fortunate enough to attend a high school that has a vibrant performing arts department.  The Miller family has attended many chorus and band concerts.  We've sat through many football games just to see the marching band.  We've enjoyed talent and art shows.  Most of all we've had the privilege of being involved in some wonderful drama productions.  The musical is a highlight every year, and this year we teased our hair and got out that giant can of HAIRSPRAY!

Of course I jumped right on the chance to help with the costumes and I was honored to be able to provide pieces for Edna Turnblad herself.  As soon as I was given my assignment I headed to the one place I knew had a plethora of authentic late 50's and early 60's clothing.  MY MOM'S CLOSETS!  I love my Mom,  but I don't think she's ever gotten rid of anything she ever wore.  Add to that the closets full of clothing that belonged to my Grandmother that she's held on to and you get enough stuff to costume fifty Ednas.  I loaded my van full of polyester double knit, cotton floral prints, taffeta and tulle.  It was amazing.

I had to start out by making our Edna a suit to plump him up a bit.  Not only did he need the normal womanly additions (a.k.a boobs) he also needed the traditional luxury woman features.  Plainly stated, he needed some junk in his trunk and some flab on his abs.  The young man that played Edna was a dream to work with.  He sported a bra like a champ and I think he was better at putting on tights that I am, since he only need one pair for the whole run. 

Edna, Tracy and Wilbur
I fashioned Edna's look after my Grandmother.  It was pretty easy since most of the clothes I used were hers.  The first time Edna slipped on this pink house coat, he pulled some tissues out of the pockets.  They were unused, all soft and linty with age, and smelled just like my Baw-Baw.  In one of the other outfits we found a grocery list she had written and I tucked it away in my keepsakes.  It was lovely.  Anyway, I digress. 

Edna with Tracy
I come from a long line of luxury women, so all the pieces fit Edna's figure perfectly.  She had five costume changes in total.  One was a quick change that required the addition of a long strip of hook and loop tape in the back of the blue cotton dress. That  let Edna slip the dress down over her booty while the next costume was slipped over her head.  You just wouldn't believe what happens backstage during a show.

You're Timeless to Me
The show was incredibly fast paced and it was so exciting to work backstage.  Nothing brings the Miller girls together like working on a show and since the eldest Miller was home on break she was able to join us. She helped out backstage and painted some of the bricks you see over Edna's shoulder. Hairspray played three nights to huge crowds and rave reviews.  I'm woman enough to admit that I cried when it was over, I had so much fun!

Friday, September 30, 2011

What's an arachnophobic to do?

You don't have to know me very long to figure out my biggest fear.  Like so many other people, I am arachnophobic.  Big spiders, little spiders, hairy spiders, jumpy spiders....I'm giving myself the creeps just thinking about it.  I've always hated them, but I'll admit that it's gotten worse as I've gotten older.  The other day, in front of a group of high school students,  I grabbed hold of a young man and demanded that he step on a rather large specimen that was scurrying across the hallway.  I may have been hysterical, screaming and very close to tears.  And when  refused  I may have told him that HE was the MAN and he needed to KILL IT!  I ended up having to step on it, nearly passed out and was consoled by my very own 16 year old daughter. Not a stellar day in my career as an adult. 

So when fall arrives and the spiders begin their last battle before being killed off by the cold, I try to stay away from places that the creepy hairy things might take up residence.  This includes outside doorways, low hanging branches and my own front porch.  But a gal has to let the dog out some time and the other night in the glow of my driveway light I saw the silhouette of  a rather large spider on a giant web off the side of the porch.  I went inside and when the dog wanted to come in,  I opened and shut the door as quickly as possible. 

I stepped out this morning to enjoy the crisp air and my spider buddy was still there. I took a deep breath, held it and gave that spider a good long stare.   I have to admit that his web is pretty impressive.  The shutter bug in me is extra impressed by his composition.  So I took some pictures.  I used the zoom, of course.  He never moved. I think if he had my little experiement may have ended with him covered in bug spray.   As it is, I've returned to the saftey of my living room and I locked the screen door to make sure he couldn't get in. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hey, what's the football team doing on the marching field?

My kids are in the marching band.  That means that from August 1 until early December I spend a good chunk of time watching them.  It really is great because the band is like a family.  A loud family.  With instruments and lots of bodily functions.  But seriously it's pretty great.  This is my fourth year as a Band Mom but for the past two years I've worked in the uniform department.  This year I narrowed it down to the color guard uniforms.  Color guard uniforms involve four main components...
  1. The unitard.  Ours are black.  The girls lovingly refer to them as trash bags.  They are made of Lycra so they are super stretchy.  They require hemming.  It is a huge pain.  They also make everyone feel bad about the way they look.
  2. The tunic.  That's the sparkly part.  They are sleeveless.  They aren't bad.  I'd kinda like to have one. They are also 70 bucks each and require hand washing.  So I freak out if I see someone eating something while wearing one. 
  3. The shoes.  This may be the most important thing.  These girls are no joke.  They are running across that field, flipping flags and doing splits.  Sometimes the field is wet.  Sometimes it's 30 degrees outside.  Good shoes = good guard.
  4. The hair and make up.  I don't have words to explain how important the hair and make up is to a guard girl.  I mean it's a team of 22 girls. That should sum things up.
My job is to fit all 22 girls in unitards, tunics and shoes.  Everyone tries everything on.  Every pant gets hemmed and pressed.  Repairs are made.  Garment bags and rain coats are labeled.  Things are ordered and labeled and organized.  It's quite the undertaking. But really, the uniform closet is the best place to be.  The best thing I've learned....stretch the fabric slightly as you send it under the needle.  It's really the only way to get a good hem in there.

This past Friday night was the first night we rolled out in full uniform.  GLORIOUS!  Every hair in place.  Every tunic washed.  Every shoe laced.  Every girl (okay band too) looking like a million bucks.  Those kids have worked so hard for so many weeks and they looked SO SHARP!  Since my kids are juniors I only have one more season to be a Uniform Mom.  I'm not sure what I'll do with my Friday nights.  Or my Saturdays.  Or the other days of the week either.  Is the a home for band less Band Moms?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why do dogs look so miserable while you're giving them a bath?

My dog is the best dog in the world.  Really.  She never gets mad at me, she's always happy to see me and she'll give me kisses even if I have bad breath.  She is my constant companion and even sleeps on my feet while I sew.  Her only flaw is that she loves to roll in anything stinky she might find in the yard.
Something about all those extra olfactory senses makes what the deer leave behind in the grass smell so good to her she just wants to coat herself in it.  I don't get it, but I love my dog so I buy lots of doggy shampoo. 

This morning Mae went out to chase an intruding squirrel out of her territory and came back with the most lovely aroma attached to her.  I pointed and she walked herself right into the bathroom, hopped in the tub and looked at me.  She looked so miserable.  She knew what was coming.  She accepted defeat.  As I turned on the water and tested it to make sure it wasn't too warm, she feebly licked my face. Just once.  It was like she was forgiving me for forcing her to go through such an ordeal. 

Why yes, that is my white couch!
That's pretty sad all alone, but it really does get worse.  While she's standing there in the tub soaking wet, tail tucked between her legs and her ears all slicked back, I kinda want to cry.  It gets a little better when I put the soap on her.  I mean, I don't think she's happier, but who doesn't laugh at a dog who is covered in soap bubbles?  The fur just sticks out in all different directions and you can put it in little mohawks.  The smell is gone and the dirt is coming off.  Those are good times right there. 

The rinsing comes next, then a good shake.  It's at this point that Mae starts to feel a little bit better.  She can see the light at the end of the bath tub.  She knows it's almost over.  I wrap her up in a towel, she rubs her face on my pants and then she's free!  She runs through the house.  She rubs herself all over my couches.   Yes, she's allowed.  I feel like she's earned it.  Plus, she's clean.  She just gets so excited and is so happy it's over.  The cat looks at her like she's an idiot.  She gets to have her favorite treat.


Now she's laying around getting dry.  Sometimes when I look at her I think she's planning what smelly thing she's going to roll in next. I mean, why can't a dog want to roll in chocolate?  Or cinnamon and apples?

Friday, September 16, 2011

No DOUBTS, just great costumes!

I haven't been a theatre consumer for a terribly long time, but one of the first shows that I fell in love with was a one act play by John Patrick Shanely called "Doubt".   Set in the Bronx in 1964, Doubt has a four person cast and an engaging story that leaves you wondering.  You may have seen the movie adaptation, which was written and directed by Shanely and (in my humble opinion) expands and improves the plot.  It doesn't hurt that it stars Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, two of my all time favorite actors. 

I was so excited when Stagedoor Productions decided to add this show to the line-up this season.  I pulled out my copy of the script.  I studied the parts.  I went to the audition.  I was not cast.  I cried.  And just when I thought I would have to move on, the DIRECTOR CALLED AND ASKED ME TO DO THE COSTUMES!!!!  Let's face it, that's where I'd rather be anyway.  SO, not only is it a period piece, it's a religious period piece.  Best of all, it's a religious period piece WITH HATS!  Hang on, I have to catch my breath.

Father Flynn, Sister James and Sister Aloysius
 So the Nuns in this story are from an Order called The Sisters of Charity.  Yes, they did wear bonnets, not the traditional habit you're thinking of.  Originally the Sister's bonnets were more in the style of a traditional Italian widow's bonnet.  But they evolved and eventually became much more like the Wenger bonnet that is worn by current day Mennonites.  In a historically correct world the bonnets would have had a wide, stiff brim that would closely frame the face.  Nice in theory, do-able on film, impossible on stage.  My bonnets had a longer brim, but after the first dress rehearsal we ended up folding that back.  I think making the bonnet was my favorite part.  I used a pattern (McCall's 4548), since I've never made a bonnet before. The fabric is a pretty decent quality cotton.  I have some printed fabric that I would love to make a few of those bonnets out of , but who really wears a bonnet these days?  The pattern also had the great dress with it, which I made in a lightweight cotton/poly blend so that the ladies wouldn't be too hot under the stage lights.  I think it moves pretty well, and it's been surprisingly wrinkle resistant.    

Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn
The capelet is made from the same cotton/poly blend and is fully lined. A capelet is a pretty easy thing to make, but I used a pattern.  Let's face it, when you can get a pattern on sale for .99 cents, it's just easier than trying to draft something yourself.  I believe the pattern was McCall's 3880. Please pay no attention to our good Father Flynn.  These pictures were taken at an early dress rehearsal and I wasn't finished with him yet.  

Finally, was Mrs. Muller.  I didn't make any of her pieces, I was lucky enough to find a fabulous coat in the high school costume closet.  I think the same coat has been worn in both a production of Annie and Foxfire.  The skirt I found at the Goodwill. It's wool.  I like the texture, which may not come through in the photo.  The little fur hat I also found in the closet, but the handbag is the property of one of the nuns.  She has a stash of costume pieces you wouldn't believe!

Mrs. Muller and Sister Aloysius
I still have three more shows left in this run.  I get to run the sound effect during the show.  Yes, it's just one.  It's a crow sound, and it's very important.  I think it's pretty crucial.  What's next?  I'm working with the same group on a production of Still Life With Iris.  Another great show.  Life is good!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

And Underwater Adventure!

I get the most interesting things in my e-mail.  Facebook updates, reminders from the dentist and every now and then a note from a friend.  Okay, so I wish I heard more from the friends and less from the dentist.  Anyway, I am also subscribed to just about every site that will send out a free pattern.  Sometimes it's a free pattern for a tea pot cozy and sometimes it's a cool pattern like the one I received yesterday for an under the sea playhouse made out of a card table and some felt.  EXCELLENT!!!!

A playhouse is a wondrous thing.  It can be as simple as a cardboard box with a door cut in it or as complex as a tree house.  Having a kid sized place to day dream, read a book or tell secrets to a friend in is magical.  A playhouse that you can fold up and put away is a mother's dream and a rainy day boredom buster.  The pattern is pretty straight forward and includes the templates for the treasure chest, seaweed and all the animals.  Have the kids help you trace and cut out the shapes!  Make one for a birthday present, or get an early start on your Christmas presents. 

Watch JoAnn's for a sale on felt, you can regularly find it on sale for $2.50 a yard.  Or you can always use a coupon.  The whole project can be made for under ten bucks!

Under-The-Sea Playhouse & Fishing Game : sewing & embroidery : Shop

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Zipper Accomplished!

When I was young I took for granted that my Mom could create just about anything out of cloth. She sewed dresses and pants, shorts and skirts. She made Halloween costumes and uniforms. She repaired things. She could even use the satin stitch on her sewing machine to make the little OP symbol on a pair of K-mart shorts. No one ever knew the difference. She made it look so easy.

When I started sewing I had all the confidence of someone who had watched a master for hundreds of hours. I thought just because I had seen it done, I could do it too. Basically what I'm trying to say is, I really wasn't that good in the beginning. As a very wise friend once said, "Everything I do looks good from 50 feet away!" That's why stage costumes and Halloween costumes are so wonderful. No one really looks at them closely. You can get away with all sorts of things. Best of all you can substitute hook and loop tape for zippers. If something doesn't fit right, just take a couple of darts of the back, no problem. That dress too small? Put some grommets in the back and make it a lace up. Of course those tricks don't go very far in the world of fashion sewing.

I've come a long way since then. I'm a decent seamstress. I'm good enough that I trust my skills to make a garment that someone can wear in public without having to worry about it falling apart. I can add boning to a strapless dress, line a bubble skirt and alter a neckline. But I still have one fear. There's still one sewing chore that causes me to shake in my wee little booties. The zipper.

Not to be intimidated, I vowed to make my eldest daughter a dress to wear under her graduation gown. We searched high and low for the perfect pattern. It had to be just right, not to short and not to long. It couldn't be strapless. The neckline couldn't be too high or low. We had lots of rules, but I managed to find a decent pattern. I settled on Kwik Sew 3682. If you'd like to see it you can find it here...

The only problem was the 20 INCH ZIPPER! It only took me a day to find the material, cut out the pieces and put together this dress. But then it was time for the zipper. Oh no. No. No. No. I managed to do everything to put off that zipper. I spent days in the yard, I cleaned under the fridge and stove and did all the laundry. Graduation day was coming faster and faster, but I still managed to put it off. Of course I finally had to put it in or Em would have nothing to wear. I sat down and put that zipper in. I was so excited. It looked pretty good.

Too bad, when Em tried the finished dress on it was too big. I'm not sure how that happened, but it was. She wore another dress that we had purchased from the store. Sigh. So now I have a lovely green satin dress in a size four. Oh well. I'm sure this one will find a happy home.

I think it looks pretty good on the middle Miller child, but curse her petiteness, it's just not the right proportions for her. Sarah was a good sport to model it for me though. Thanks Sarah! If your interested in trying this lovely number on, let me know. I'd love for it to find an owner that loves it.

About Me

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I am wife to Mark and mother to three teenage children. That puts me right in the middle of a teenage wasteland. Someone help me now!