May 27, 2013

Meet Mr. Spenalzo

My main contribution to this weekend's Thin Ice Theater production of the classic "Arsenic and Old Lace" is the creation of a life-sized doll to be the two dead bodies that are called for in the script.

Sometimes he is Mr. Hoskins and sometimes Mr. Spenalzo.  We're hoping there will be time for him to have a super quick costume change.  It's tricky, since he won't be very helpful with the changes.  Another thing he will be called on to do is lose a shoe in the process.

We didn't want to spend gobs of money on fiberfill, so decided to use fabric from the bins of fabric that we inherited along with our wonderful costume collection.  This turned out to be a super good filler, because the fabric gives the body so much more solidity and weight.  He is much more realistic and much less like a poufy pillow.

I started with a t-shirt and added knit fabric tubes for arms to the torso.  His hips and legs were made with some of my daughter's old dance tights.  Mina, who helped me get started, made a folded pillow shape for the chest and rolls of fabrics for the arms.  I stuffed the hips and made the legs with two rolls of fabrics each so he has bendable knees.

I stitched the two parts together at the waist with several rows of stitching, as well as some stitches that connect the stuffing fabrics inside.  I really don't want him to come apart!

In retrospect, I would not recommend the dance tights for this purpose.  They are too tight, making them hard to stuff to a life-size look.  So at this point, he had pencil-thin legs that looked really weird.

I folded and wrapped on lots more fabric outside the tights, and stitched them on.

Here he is, at least here is as much of him as there was at that point, dressed in his shirt and pants.

We decided to change him to a solid-color shirt, and then I stitched around the pants waistband twice to keep his pants up.

For his hands, I traced a glove, widened the fingers a bit, sewed and stuffed them.  I used little bits of fiberfill in the fingers, and more folded fabric in the palms.  I decided against making the hands like actual gloves, with the finger side pieces which I learned are called "fourchettes".  Mr. S. is only going to be seen in very dim, nighttime lighting.  So his hands came out kind of odd and lumpy, but I figure he probably has arthritis.  I cut the wrist really long to slide on the forearms, and stitched the hands on.

For his head, I used a wig stand that we have, plus a full-face mask.

I didn't want the pink of the wig stand showing through the eye holes, though.  At first, I made a little blindfold shaped piece to wrap around the head, but it didn't stay put very well.  So I made this face cover which ties on with three ribbons.  To me, it was the creepiest-looking part of making Mr. S.  I plan to rub a bit of make-up on the fabric that shows in the eyes, to get them to match the mask a bit better.  The base of the wig stand buttons into the shirt collar and miraculously stays on very securely.

Next, feet.  I wanted the ankles to be strong enough to hold a shoe.  At first, I thought of inserting some L-shaped wire pieces, but that seemed hard to attach.  My friend Julie suggested shelf brackets.  Perfect!  Much stronger, and they have holes just right for stitching them on.  I stitched them to the top of the foot and the front of the shin.

Then I added some more fabric to the top of the foot, and pulled on a pair of my husband's old socks (after mending the holes in the heels!)

Mr. Spenalzo's shoes are currently being resoled.  They are a pair of old golf shoes, getting new, un-spiked soles.  One needs to stay on and one needs to fall off, but with these feet, the shoes always fall off.  So when the shoes come back, I'm going to try a couple of ways to keep one of them on with an elastic loop.

Here he is, lounging on our couch.

And here's Mr. S. at the theater, watching the construction of the set.

Here he is, hard at work during the play, secretly stashed in the window seat.  

Here's the celebration portrait I took upon his completion.  Just call me Mrs. Frankenstein.

May 25, 2013

I Know This Puppy

I was searching for vintage fabrics and came across an ad for a children's fabric.  It's actually a reproduction print, not a vintage fabric.  But the designs used are vintage.  A couple of them are identical to appliqués on a 1940s child's quilt that I helped bring back to life.  And couple of others are similar enough, that I'd guess they came from the same original pattern set.

The full story of the quilt and its repair is on my post here.  It's quite a heart-warming story.

You can get info on the fabric by Robert Kaufman here.  (I've got no affiliation with Kaufman fabrics......)

May 22, 2013

Quilts in Outer Space

Image credit: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Doesn't this sound like fun?

Astronaut and quilter Karen Nyberg is going to combine these two activities when she joins the space station crew in a couple of weeks.  Read more about her quilting plans here.

I hope she publishes photos of her space quilts when she gets back to Earth.

May 14, 2013

Being Organized

So.  What do you do when you have 26 young actors wearing 56 costumes and different sets of parents helping out on different days?  You get organized.  You get super organized.  Organizing the dressing room became nearly as big a job for this show as creating the costumes themselves.  

Thin Ice Theater's "The Phantom Tollbooth" is in tech rehearsals this week, with performances this weekend.  Here's the grand scheme in the dressing room.  I'm happy to say that it is working like a dream, knocking on wood and all that.

Each character has a designated accessories box.  Each box is labeled with the actor's name, the character's name, the items it contains, and a list of the larger items for that character that are on the hanging racks.  The boxes are arranged in alphabetical order by actor's name.  56 characters = four tables of boxes!

Here are the four hanging racks.

Each hanger has a hang tag labeled with actor, character, and item.  These are arranged alphabetically by actor also.

At the end of every rehearsal and show, anyone can easily check the labels and make sure that everything has been properly stowed away.

Each actor also has a labeled grocery sack.  Many are wearing a base of black clothes that are their own.  The black clothes stay in these bags overnight, and the actors' street clothes stay in the bags during the rehearsals.

On the wall, I posted lists of what order the costumes are worn in, and also my costume sketches.

I must admit to spending way too much time on these little sketches.  I really enjoy them!  I posted them a while back, while things were still a bit in flux.  Here is the final version.

Our show plays this weekend.  I'll post photos of the performances soon after. 

May 9, 2013

Kids and Toys

Here's a sweet fabric in a quilt that was brought to me for repair.  I think it's quite a bit older than the other fabrics in the quilt.  It may date to the 1930s or so, or is a clever reproduction fabric.  I think it's vintage, though - at the time this quilt was made several decades ago, I don't think reproduction '30s fabrics were in vogue as they are now.  There are just 3 triangles of this fabric, making it seem like a special scrap.

When I asked the quilt owner for permission to publish the photos here, he told me that the quilt was made for his mother-in-law, and that she was very involved in early childhood education. So he wonders if this fabric had been included in the quilt to represent that part of her life.  Cool!