The Faux and the Furrious

Oh har-di-har.

I cut into that decadent swathe of Lisa Ho faux fur the other night.  It pained me, but it needed to be done.  In the process I have learned the following things:

1) Sticky tape is good.  It keeps the fluffies at bay.  Don’t inhale the fluffies.

2) I can’t remember whose blog I saw it on now, but some very clever lady advised using a silver sharpie on the back side of the fur to mark your cutting lines.  I had one but it ran out after about three cat-paw outlines.  I went to four different stores in search of another, but success was not forthcoming, so I’ve taken to using white eyeshadow and an angled brush.  It’s not as quick, but the effect is much the same.

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4) A stanley knife would be useful.  Embroidery snips make cutting out slow.

5) Bella the cat doesn’t like it; she sees it as a usurper and expressed her displeasure by attempting to upchuck on my sheet music this morning.

Other than that it’s gone together rather quickly.  Because it’s really low-pile fur it doesn’t seem to catch in the seams, so the curved seam across the face looks fine.  Because Sissy-poo’s cat Rupert is an exotic shorthair, I thought she’d appreciate it if her hot water bottle looks somewhat Rupert-esque, so I’ve squashed up the nose and sewn it down.  Means I don’t have to stuff the face either.

??????????????????????Ruppie in an old suitcase.  Pity the faux fur didn’t come in orange.

All in all it looks a tad creepy, but in a hipsterish sort of way.  Or maybe it was a bad idea to watch the Blair Witch Project and sew at the same time…  At any rate I need to buy new velcro before I can finish it.  I didn’t realise the stuff I’d got was self-adhesive velcro.  Not great in a furry water bottle context.  Perhaps I’ll go with buttons and loops instead.  I never liked velcro.

I’m pretty proud though, so just in case anyone’s crazy enough to want to make their own shonky hot water bottle cover in the shape of the world’s creepiest cat, here’s how I did mine:

You need about a third of a metre/yard of low-pile faux fur, and the same of (I’ve now discovered that I should’ve used 100% polyester for the lining rather than the cotton I had, but I’m going to test it and see how well it deals with hot water bottle heat.  Logically it should be fine.  It gets exposed to much higher temperatures when ironed, so a comparatively low temperature over a period of time shouldn’t be too bad.)

For the pattern, you basically just trace around the hot water bottle at a decent distance like so:

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You add ears, of course.

For the face, I just cut it in half and added the same curve to the centre of each half.  I kept it pretty shallow.  Feet and tail at your discretion.

Pattern Pieces Front

Here are the front pattern pieces (not to scale or anything)

Pattern Pieces Back

And here’s the back.  Overlap for the flap, green lines where the tail and legs will go.

Then I cut out and put together the feet and the tail.  I stuffed them a little to make them less boring. Then I did the lining, (sans curved face and CB seam). Then I cut out the front pieces, sewing them together at the curved seam.

On the back you need a horizontal, overlapping flap  to get the bottle in and out, and a vertical CB seam on the bottom half so you can put the tail in.  I did the CB seam first, putting the tail in as I went, then attached it and the back of the head to the front pieces with the legs sandwiched in between.  Then I got jiggy with making the face cuter, put in the lining to finish the raw edges on the back flap (which sort of worked.  I was flying very much by the seat of my pants here) and would’ve added the velcro if it hadn’t been the wrong kind.

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Et voila!  A super creepy/hipster cat hot water bottle.  The eyes are mesmerising…

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I’m trying very hard to like it…

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…But the creep factor.  Oh the creep factor… it’s like a witches’ familiar.

Speaking of witches, the other night was also the premiere of a new work called Weird by a friend of mine, the Suave Composer, which was basically a massive chamber song cycle about witches.  The Suave Composer always had this grand vision that it would be very theatrical, almost like some kind of operatic monologue, so some kind of crazy get-up was required.  I spent a few hours watching all the Pixiwoo costume/creative makeup tutorials on Youtube.  They’re hilarious and awesome.  She says things along the lines of ‘you’re probably watching this thinking woah that’s crazy, I’d never wear that’ or ‘bear in mind this isn’t meant to be a wearable look, I’m just having fun experimenting’, while she’s busy putting eyeliner on her lips or blusher as eyeshadow or using a stencil to achieve a Spock-like eyebrow, but I was sitting there going ‘YES.  THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE LOOKING LIKE.’  Cutting loose and going completely crazy with stage makeup is oddly fun. I went as far as to copy the eyeliner-as-lippy and blush-as-eyeshadow tricks.  The light is terrible in this photo, but the effect is probably about the same as people would’ve got in the audience:

Photo_00021blog size

*sleazy eyebrow waggle*

And the hair ended up way bigger and more spherical, like mad scientist frizz and a Georgian hedgehog do went and had a terrible baby together.  My hair’s good like that.  It teases up into an absolute haystack but brushes out quite easily in about 5 minutes.  It’s about the only respect in which my hair is good.

Anyway.  I’m off home for a couple weeks sabbatical.  (constant access to a piano only steps from my bedroom door… excellent…) Expect blog silence.

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Clothes for the Recital that I’m So Glad is Over.

Do excuse my recent lack of postage.

I FINALLY did my first Masters recital; the evil one; the one that got postponed last year because I had a month’s worth of the flu and pharyngitis; the one that I’m so so so glad is finally over, despite the fact that I had a cold and had to keep dashing off stage to blow my nose, much in the manner that more normal sopranos might dash off to swig from glasses of water.  I thought putting the tissues on the piano would be a bad idea, though it was mighty tempting.  Then maybe my level of professionalism would be on par with the con’s; they managed to bugger up my program notes, which I had given to them formatted to a tee after adhering to all their pernickety editing suggestions.  Fancy that… a red squiggle.  Wordpress doesn’t think pernickety is a word.  It keeps suggesting ‘pumpernickel’. Which is a great word too, don’t get me wrong, but not so relevant in the context.

And I actually managed to finish my skirt and top ensemble.  At 12:15am the night before, admittedly, but yes.  Finished.  Now I have things to wear when performing in winter.

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Ta-daaaa! A blurry photo.  Excuse the general mess.

The skirt took about a week, partially because I was working around loads of practice and trying to maintain some semblance of contact with other humans, but mostly because my Janome is to the lovely Fabric Store silk as hot wax strips are to Wolverine: not exactly as Kryptonite to Superman, but it’s still not a fun combination, and the result doesn’t look very attractive.  I should’ve known, because I’ve used this particular kind of silk before when I made my lace crop-top back in the mists of time (*cough* last year *cough*) and my machine has horrible memories of needle-breakage associated with it.  But in the lead-up to my recital, soprano-brain was a bit of an issue and I figured that last time I’d been trying to flat-fell chunky seams and use bias binding (ie: more layers), so if I used a brand-new, sharp-as-a-psycho’s-scalpel, small-as-I-could-get needle and set the thread tension very very carefully, what problem could a mere two layers possibly pose?  (OH THE STUPIDITY)

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Exhibit A: Nasty buckly seam.  In centre-front of all places.  😡

Doesn’t seem to matter how fine a needle I use or how few layers I have or what my thread tension’s set as, I end up with a buckly seam.  So I thought, stuff you Janome, and hand-stitched the rest of it.  What can I say?  I’m a control freak who likes to watch things while I sew.  Many, many episodes of Buffy later, I have a rather nice skirt.  The buckly seam thankfully hangs in a fold, hiding its shameful buckly nature from the eyes of good citizens.  Then I just stitched the silk over the top of the foundation layer of the waistband with backstitch so you have these little lines of topstitching, which the silk will eventually fade around so it’ll look a bit interesting.

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Pinned and ready to go.

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Little backstitches are prettier than buckly machine mess, anyway.

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Then it was slipstitched over the pleats.  Hot-damn I’m proud of that neat curve.

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Okay, so the inside’s all messy.  But it’s secure and there’s no chance of fray-age and I could not give fewer damns.

The skirt ended up being a circle skirt cut to twice the length of the waistband and then pleated on (haphazardly).  The zipper was set in with a pick-stitch, because I HATE sewing zips on the machine.  Hate hate hate, like stompy eye-pokey-outy hate.  Only on the morning did I notice that on me the lining hung more crooked than it did on the dressform, and so I had to emergency-tack it up a bit, but it’ll be an easy fix for The Weekend That Never Comes.

The top was my first foray into jersey-land (aka Mordor.  Stretch fabric is clearly the work of Sauron), negotiating the perils of Twin Needles and Clear Elastic Stay Tape of Doom.

MordorHere dwell the dreaded jersey fabrics.

via lotr.wikia.com

I cut the pattern off a skivvy I had that fitted nicely (though I ought to have gone a little roomier because my jersey didn’t stretch quite as much as I thought), and it sewed up relatively quickly.  I couldn’t figure out how to do a drapey bit at the front, so I improvised one on after and covered the joins with some bows cut from the remnants of my silk.  With a singlet under it, it was *just* warm enough in Melba Hall.  A friend of mine the Best Baritone I Know nearly froze to death in his exam the other week, so I thought it’d pay to be cautious.  Boy did it ever.  My poor accompanists… it seriously looked like a scene out of Dickens backstage with them huddled there in their coats with their hands under their arms.

Now, Clegs doesn’t normally hold much fascination for me with the Fabric Store to compare it to, but when I went down there the other day to pick up the twin needle and the elastic, they were having a remnant sale.  Remnant sales are very dangerous.  I had to be prudent, but when they’re getting rid of just enough of just what you’re after for about 1/4 of the normal price per metre, you must strike, strike like the bargain-cobra.   Now I have enough silk crepe satin to cover my stays when I finish them (I would use it for something else it’s so nice, but that colour really doesn’t suit me unless I’m fancy dressing as a zombie.  My skin cells wouldn’t know what melanin was if some came along and bit them on the endoplasmic reticulum), and half a metre of the most airy and delicious silk georgette which is going to be a nasty beast to sew, but I’m not intending to make anything super fancy from it… maybe just a fichu for my as yet hypothetical georgian costume…???????????????????????????????

So pretty!  It’s like if soufflé could be a fabric.

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Guaranteed to make me look about 5 days dead.

And then there’s sissy-poo’s kitty-shaped hot water bottle cover.  The toile (do you call it a toile when it’s clothes for a hot water bottle?) is assembled, but I’m still trying to work out if the vaguely 3D face is going to work in practice when darts aren’t meant to be a thing you do with faux fur.  I guess the pile’s not too deep, I figure I’m going to treat it pretty much like velvet and see how it goes, unless somebody warns me off it in the next 24 hours.  There’s enough faux fur that I could probably make two or three attempts before I throw in the towel.???????????????????????????????

There will also be legs and a tail but I didn’t bother to pattern them.  I’m not sure how I’ll do the nose and eyes yet, but at any rate, this is the look I’m going for:

kittynoface

Via au.catsadoptions.com.  KITTY WITH NO FACE NAWWWWWWWW!!!!

It beats doing tax.

Too Good at Voodoo

Firstly, I couldn’t resist filling a title with ‘oo’s.  Secondly, I’ve been pinning things to my dodgy dressform, which pretty much equates to voodoo: sticking pins in a large stuffed copy of myself.  I feel fine… apart from the shooting pains…  Perhaps I have some latent talent for the black arts.

Anyway.  I’ve got two things sort of on the go at the moment, one of which I can’t show you because it’s a birthday present for my sister.  She requested a hot water bottle with a cute animal-shaped cover (kitties being highly preferable), so I can tell you that much, and having trawled the interwebs and the cute stores and I couldn’t find anything. Well.  Nothing nice.  So I figured I’d study my leopard-shaped one and work out how they did it.  And hopefully optimise the design because while the leopard is mighty cute, he doesn’t quite fit over the bottle anymore.  So I’ve started patterning, and I’ve got some absolutely lustrous faux fur (Lisa Ho faux fur, no less!  This is gonna be one high-end kitty-hot-water-bottle) which I’ll bag out with a sturdy cotton lining.  The ones from Big W are completely made of crappy polyester, so I figure high-quality faux fur lined in cotton will be safe.  Safer, even.

???????????????????????????????I can’t resist one picture of that faux fur.  Mmmm, pettable.  

The other is a skirt.  I decided I need something different to wear in my recital seeing I’m spending half of it sitting down so I don’t look like some kind of evil soprano hulking like an overbearing heavy-breather over my hapless guitarist.  Also it’s June.  The chances of Melba Hall being comfortably heated are laughable, and most of my performance gear is either backless or not made of particularly insulating fibres.  So I’ll make a long-sleeved but fancily-draped merino top (eventually.  Hopefully)  and pair it with this skirt I’m making, which is going to be a big-ass thing that fancies itself as a Dior New Look late ’40s/early ’50s silhouette.  Which is going to be a damn sight comfier to sit in than a wiggle dress.

???????????????????????????????Here be the design sketch.

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Here be what I have so far.

I’ve only got the bare bones yet.  The foundation layer for the waistband, boned at the seams to stop it collapsing on itself, and one lining layer of very thin synthetic net stuff that my housemate the Adorable Folky gave me after she cleaned out her gran’s hoard of stuff.  There’s more of it.  Like, metres more.  So I can go nuts with the friffiness.  And once again my patterning is slightly too big, but this time it’s deliberate so that I won’t bust a zip with a big breath.   After years of trying to breathe properly, I finally got the hang of it, and now get accused of taking ‘Wagnerian’ breaths in Donizetti by my teacher.   I’m pretty sure it’s just a normal breath that looks big on me.

Then I pinned on my nice crispy new black silk to see how it’ll look when I cover it.

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Not bad…

Then I got massively distracted with pins.

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 Exhibit A: ‘So what if I save a metre and make a matching bodice…’

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Exhibit B: ‘So what if I buy 3m more and make an awesomer bodice…’

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Exhibit C: ‘What if I just get a heap more fabric and make a whole other dress…’

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Exhibit D: Ridiculously carried away by this point, envisaging asymmetrically-draped confections, requiring more yardage than I can afford…

And now I’m in a world of pain.  I should probably take those damn pins out.

A Sojurn in Toontown with Alexander the Great

And here we go with the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? references.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go and watch it this instant.  It’s the best.

However it’s not Roger that’s inspired me back to my (old) tooning ways, but Hark, a Vagrant, which is also the best, and is even better if you’re a massive history nerd.  Now back in the day, I took Ancient History in high school, and spent most of the time up the back with my two other Ancient floozies, drawing reams and reams of cartoons.  Mostly of our diminutive Canadian teacher getting eaten by mooses (Meese?  Moosi?  What the sam hill is the plural of moose?!), but also of Alexander the Great, who is such a card.  Seriously, he got so drunk at a party at Persepolis that he BURNED THE PALACE DOWN.  So I started a series of cartoons entitled “Alexander the Not Great”, wherein he tries his hand at many things and discovers he’s not great at anything other than hitting stuff with swords.  The older ones are on the Book of Face (I might transfer them over here one day), but here are my fresh batch!  Straight out of the oven, by which I mean my brain.   Enjoy!

*I am aware that probably only my Nixon people will really get the Alexander the Not Great at Opera one.

**I apologise for the poor scan quality.

Alex not Great at DirectionsAlex not Great at KnittingAlex not Great at OperaAlex not Great at FB