Monday, May 30, 2016

Surrealist Steampunk on Parade: Cirque du Soleil's Kurios

An entrance which is on a train is a good entrance.A world created by imagination is a fascinating world.  A world populated by the artists of Cirque du Soleil is simply fantastic.

Cirque's Kurios is a wonderful addition to their repertoire. In a moment (between 11:11 and 11:12, according to their clock) a man with unicorn hair creates an entire world from his imagination, filled with the very best of acts. We have tea parties that happen both on the ceiling and on the ground simultaneously and symmetrically, fishermen and fish trampolining together through a net, letters delivered by bicycles in the air, airplane pilots with mad balancing skills, and surrealist puppet shows.

The whole set is very steampunk, with gears and phonographs.  The cast arrives via a train pulling onto the stage, and exits with amazing hats, llamas on sticks, and all other things necessary for good steampunk fantasy.  The musicians were a particularly wonderful touch, decked out as they were in fantastic hats, and having a tendency to drum on people's luggage. One of the drummers is from Georgia!  Given the national reputation of Georgia, I am always pleased when Georgians are seen to excel in artistic pursuits.

Before the show, members of the audience with close-toed and heeled shoes are invited to walk across a shaky suspension bridge on the stage. This bridge serves no other purpose than to welcome the audience to this surreal world prior to the show, and I love that touch.  I have also never before regretted my fondness for beaded and bedazzled sandals.

I actually saw this show twice, thanks to a corporate outing sponsored by the company I work for, and having witnessed it from two different places, I was impressed by the choreography for presenting the acts to all sides.  Also, something I was really looking at this show, were the waiting moves.  What does a Russian Cradle flier do while waiting for her partner to chalk up?  She does pretty stylistic poses, that's what.  I go to circuses to learn things about performing as well as to be entertained.

Overall, this is a show that hangs together as a cohesive work.  It's charming, it makes sense, it has its own world with a consistent style throughout.  I loved it.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Caturday Post: Things I Regret Teaching My Cats

1.  fussing at windows causes windows to open
2. the words "cheerios" and "no"
3. screeching at the bottom of a set of stairs will fetch a human to carry you up the stairs
4. freshly fluffed fluffy towels for sitting are an inalienable right and will appear in all the best sitting spots
5. humans can be herded and bullied into bed to take naps with
6. if you are bored with your current toy, squawk obnoxiously and make the humans try all the toys until
     they find the one you want
7. cuteness brings forgiveness of all sins

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: Final Fantasy X Lulu's Corset

I do not recommend aerialists to wear corsets.  The old-fashioned, boned, restricted breathing and no bending in the middle sorts are obviously bad news unless you are an unusual person.  The modern padded varieties for steampunk and other genres can be used, but you must make sure they are secured to some sort of undercostume and flexible enough to move with you.  Otherwise the first time you stretch out, you will stretch and the corset will not, and whatever was supposed to be underneath the corset will pop out.  (I profit from watching other people's costume malfunctions here.)

But Lulu wears a corset-ish bodice:

My thought is, since it's supposed to be that form-fitting, why not just make this as a leotard?  All one piece, flexible, breathable, much easier to make than an actual corset.  And that is precisely what I did.       

 Step 1: basic leotard construction.  Anywhere Lulu is showing skin I will be using nude stretch mesh to protect against friction burns and give the costume better stability and structural integrity. 
 Step 2: cut long strips of stretch gray fabric
Step 3: and iron the long strips into double-fold bias tape (since it's stretch you can cut on the grain instead of the bias; I just want all the raw edges tidily enclosed.  Also since it's stretch it won't iron very well, but I got enough of a crease for a guide until everything was stitched down.)
 Step 4: top stitch your long strips to your leotard bodice in your desired pattern, using long stitches.  Remember to leave the side seam allowance free.  Below is my bodice front:
I had some trouble with my layers of slithery stretch fabrics slithering and stretching and especially moving at problematically different speeds under the presser foot.  In future, I will make sure to leave an extra margin of the top fabric beyond the seams, and trim after I finish a seam.  But the mistakes were small, so I'm crossing my fingers and telling myself they won't show from any distance.  You can't see them in this photo, for example.  

Treat the back similarly.  I faked lacing with more gray strips, since lower back lacing is in a very bad place for aerial fabrics: a lot of wraps go there, including sliding wraps, and you emphatically do not want your costume getting caught in your fabrics.

Next time I write about Lulu, you'll get to see everything come together.  I'm really happy with how well this costume is going!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: Almost the Full Rainbow

I have from roughly 700 nanometers (10-9 meters) to 470 nanometers here (violet is around 380 nanometers).  Aren't they pretty? Any guesses as to what I'm going to be making?

More on wavelengths of visible light here, courtesy of NASA. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Shimmy Mob: The Improved Edition!

Last year, I was a dancer for Shimmy Mob, a group of belly dancers who work to raise funds for women's shelters.  It was terribly run and pointless, so this year, I ran a team.

My goal was to be better than last year in a few specific points: 
  • Have rehearsals be accessible.  Last year the Atlanta team was run out of Roswell, and all rehearsals and events were at 6:30 on Fridays. No one who actually lives in Atlanta can get to Roswell at 6:30 on a Friday because of the way traffic works.
  • Dance in better venues than empty parking lots.  Because really.
  • Have a sign indicating what we are doing.  Otherwise, even if we leave the empty parking lots, we are a bunch of random yahoos doing a flash mob and no one cares.
  • Raise funds for a shelter that is interested in having us raise funds for them.   Last year, the recipient for all funds raised was a shelter in the middle of a move, and they said they couldn't actually take any money from us.
Being better than this may seem like, and is, a low bar to stumble over, but we did it, in all particulars!

  • We had rehearsals Wednesday evenings and sometimes Thursdays and everyone who was going to participate showed up at least once. 
  • We danced in the Decatur square, in the middle of the Marta courtyard, and in the courtyard of a coffee shop.  People saw us.
  • We made a sign!  I love our sign. So much bling and blinkie lights.  

More importantly, carrying around a sign, we look sort of official-ish, and people actually asked what we were doing.  We told them, gave them fliers I had printed off with a list of safe house addresses and numbers and asked people to post them in public restrooms, because that's a great place to leave things to help people who might be in trouble. People also gave us some donations at the actual event.  It was in the tens of dollars, but I don't care.  People were willing to just hand me spare cash they had in their pockets to support the shelter.  Speaking of:

  • We raised funds for the Women's Resource Center to End Domestic Violence.  They sounded excited when we talked to them. They can accept donations, and if we can ever get it scheduled, we may be teaching a free class to some of the women they serve.  Lesson: scheduling anything takes forever and should be started many months in advance.  That aside, not only are they willing to accept donations, we raised $2111.50 for them. 

That is how you do charity events.  It's not enough to just decide that something, anything, is worthwhile, take pictures of it, and post the pictures to Facebook.

Which is not to say we DIDN'T take a picture for Facebook.
 I'm proud of myself, and proud of my team of dancers.  We stepped up and created an event for a shelter that was interested in getting funds, we raised a nontrivial amount of funds for them, and we had some community involvement.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: Final Fantasy X Lulu's Skirt of Belts

The wiki article mentioned that Lulu's illustrator likes to give his animators a challenge.  Hence her skirt of belts:

If my Lulu were a ground dancer I could just make and weave the belts as shown.  (Which would be fun, and maybe I'll make a ground-only version another time.)  For an aerialist, that presents too much danger of snagging on the equipment, as well as being rather heavier than one wants to wear while doing inversions, not to mention the near impossibility of making such a loosely woven net of belts hold its shape under varying gravitational pulls. 

So I need to create the illusion of belts, but on an unbroken panel of fabric, and without buckles to snag on anything.  The skirt will be floofy pants, with the belts occupying the two center front panels.

Invisible nude mesh is my choice for the panel backing.  It's tough for its weight, but still very lightweight fabric, making me somewhat hesitant about using fake leather for the belts.  But my closest fabric stores didn't have any fake leather in the colors I needed, so I was saved the choice.  Instead, I did find a box of various raincoat fabrics.  I cut long strips, arranged them to my satisfaction, pinned the heck out of them, sewed them all down (tedious, very tedious!), and used grey dimensional fabric paint to draw "buckles" on them.  I have pictures of the first two steps:
first draft, before the strips were ironed
pinned and almost ready to stitch; just have to cut the strips that cross both panels.  That's my grandfather's old extra large lap desk underneath, being drafted into sewing-room duty. 

 More pictures when I start assembling the various parts of this costume. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Say Yes to the Dress: I Don't Actually Know, I Just Want it Edition

This was part of Biltmore House's Fashionable Romance exhibit.  I don't recall what film it is from, but I adore it.  The lighting is a little odd, so the inset is actually grey, and the sparkles are more sparkly, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: Final Fantasy X Lulu's Trim

Gentle readers, I have once again decided that my aerial partners and I shall dance as characters whose costumes, while representing an apex of sartorial splendor, are vastly unsuited to anything but virtual reality.  My job is to render these clothes to a reality suitable for aerialists.

In this post I deal with the lacey trim on Lulu's sleeves and train:

Ideally, I would do this with lace or embroidered iron-on applique.  However, this lace pattern is not, to my knowledge, made commercially, and I do not make my own lace.  I prioritized the pattern over the material, and chose to do the trim with fabric paint.  I used Tulip dimensional slick paint: it does dry flexible, as advertised, and it won't be entirely flat, but I can easily control the thickness.  

Step 1: make the pattern with pencil and paper.  Take the time to make sure you are happy with what you have, because after this it will be all tracing what you've made.  Lulu's trim is all two-part mirror image, so only draw half and then flip and trace the reverse for the second half.

Step 2: ink your pattern.  Sharpie markers are best, as you want the pattern to bleed through the paper for purposes of flipping and tracing the mirror image, as mentioned above. 

 Step 3: use temporary fabric marker to trace the pattern onto your fabric.  This is dark fabric, so I had to improvise a crude lightbox to be able to see the pattern through the fabric.

Step 4: fabric paint!  Get a bottle with a narrow tip to avoid the aggravation of brushes.  Make sure you have waxed paper or waxed cardboard under your fabric.  Work from top to bottom and from your non-dominant hand side to your dominant hand side to lower your chance of smudging your work.  Below is one sleeve:

I got both sleeves done today.  It took about 1.5 hours per sleeve, not counting making the patterns, which I did yesterday.  The (divided by necessity) skirt portions still needed some finishing before I applied paint; I'll do those later this week.  

 While scowling at my various image files of Lulu and sketching my patterns, I wondered about the possibility of writing a program that could take an image file of something like Lulu's trim, folded and curved as it appears on clothing, and apply transformations to turn the relevant portions into a linear strip with the correct proportions, magically increase resolution from frequently blurry screenshots, and print out a pattern.  My guess is that the first part is possible.  The second part, not so much: obtaining good resolution stills of the parts of the costume I need to study has always been a problem for my cosplay work.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

Say Yes to the Dress: Murderous Queen

This is the dress worn by Gertrude in the 1996 film adaptation of Hamlet. It is currently on display in the Biltmore House, as part of the Fashionable Romance exhibit. If I were going to aid and abet in the murder of my husband, combine the funeral with the wedding of my new husband, and then try to get my son assassinated, I would absolutely wear this.

What do you think, dear readers?  Is this just the thing for a queen needing to change husbands, or is it too purple?