Opera and Cosplay Duke it Out

When I last posted I had this vision that a heap of things were going to be done by now.  I was going to be finished the Junketsu and I was going to have worn it triumphantly at PAX.  I was going to be churning out shirts and skirts and things for summer.  I was going to have finished all the performance dresses that I stupidly started right before comps and concerts.  Hell, at one point I even thought I would make a gown.

Haha, NOPE.  It’s a crazy story.

So I entered the New Zealand Aria the night before entries closed.  Then I realised that it was on at the same time as PAX so there was no point finishing the Junketsu (wrong, but we’ll get to that in a minute).  Then I cut out two Man Repeller-inspired ruffled shirts for My Wardrobe S/S 16, but sewing the pleather for my Attack on Titan cosplay had killed the tension wheel on my Janome and it went off to be serviced.  Two weeks of waiting for it to come back and consoling myself with fan art later…

Kyojin_Con

I tend to only ship characters with musical instruments.

…I should have done all the finishing on the fuchsia performance dress then, but stupidly I chose to binge on Noragami instead.  Then I did an audition for Opera Australia in Sydney.  Then I got a callback, so I had to cancel on New Zealand SO THE MORAL OF THAT STORY IS IF I’D JUST FINISHED THE DAMN JUNKETSU I COULD HAVE GONE TO PAX ANYWAY.  I was sad and happy and confused so then I entered the Diamond Valley Eisteddfod (again the night before the damn thing.  Noticing a pattern?). I hand-hemmed the fuchsia dress at the venue on the day, and then I won the aria section.  Then I found out I had the job with OA.  Then I didn’t sleep for about 48 hours.  Now I’m doing weird random procrastinatey sewing things instead of finishing the summer clothes that I know I’ll need up north.

Like how I suddenly decided that the arm and pocket badges on my AoT jacket look wrong and need to be fixed.  The method I’m  using now (just appliqueing on a big general wing-shaped cut-out and then zig-zagging the lines on over the top) is a lot quicker and easier than the first method I used, and I think it reads better too.

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Way better, right?

I’ve started on one of the summer shirts, but I’m currently baulking at the buttonholes because my machine is still a bit hit-and-miss with buttonholes.  It’s just the frumpster shirt pattern with the sleeves cut in further, and a ruffle on a strip of bias binding added over the top.

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If it looks like it’s spent the week scrunched up in a corner, that’s because it has.

The Junketsu has now been hemmed.  Behold it in its shortness if you dare, along with my best attempt at a faux-fringe (which really just ended up looking kind of vintage.  Oh well.  Satsuki’s kind of a pin-up anyway).  I ordered a wig online yesterday, taking my chances with a random cosplay wig shop on AliExpress.  The shipping times are so variable that I just put in the address as my parent’s place in case it takes a month and I’ve moved out of the sharehouse, so Mum, if you get a very long blue wig in the post please don’t get a shock.

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As if getting a wig in the post could be any more shocking than the length of that skirt.

I have decided I’ll attach the sailor collar with snaps, but the ones I have in my stash are tiny, so I’ll zip out to somewhere and get bigger ones.  I’ve glued  I-don’t-know-what-you-call-thems on the boards.  They’re the bits that you pass epaulettes through to button the boards on.

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They don’t look very nice because I glued them on and used Fray-Block to finish the edges.

I will add epaulettes to the Junketsu and then the boards can button or snap on.  I was worried that the boards were too big, but even just pinned on they look really good.  The scarf tie things are another story though.  I’ll take them off and make them smaller and pointier.

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With both boards in dynamic pre-transformation pose

I’ve also ordered the white stretch-PVC for the boots, and I’ll put them together on my friend’s serger, because I really don’t want to be servicing my poor old machine twice in as many months, and comparing my sewing machine to Sergei the serger is like comparing an elderly lady who’s still ok walking the dog with some kind of super hardcore Russian SAS person with muscles on their muscles.  Then I’ll get a pair of op-shop heels and glue them over the top.  The PVC was a bit expensive, but there’s really only one place in Australia that had it and I only need a metre for my scrawny pins so it’s not that bad.

Then the only thing will be the sword, Bankuze.  It’s basically a big white katana with a fancy cross-bar (no idea what you call that part on a katana, and behold my apparent inability to google it).  The internet has many which are expensive, not super great-looking and of dubious customs-passability.  I’m contemplating how hard it would be to make a passable Bankuze-like-object out of cardboard or papier mache or plastic or something.  Satsuki doesn’t even usually bother to unsheathe it unless she’s fighting Ryuko anyhow.

 

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Any Excuse Will Do…

As in pretty much any excuse is good enough for me to make a dress.  And a very, very long post, so schedule loo breaks now, ladies and gentlemen.  This is an actual transcript of the conversation that happened between Logic Brain and Soprano Brain:

Logic Brain: Liederfest is coming up.

Soprano Brain: So it is!  QUICK!  TO THE SEWING MACHINE!

Logic Brain: Errr……. shouldn’t that be ‘to the practice room?’

Soprano Brain: Oh poor foolish Logic Brain.  Surely you realise that there’s no point in practicing for a competition if I have nothing to wear.

Logic Brain: But you do have things to wear.  Why not wear that dress you wore last year?

Soprano Brain: Because I wore it LAST YEAR, duh.  How passé!  The reek of bad technique clings to it like the stench of burning rubber to a smoke-tainted wine.

Logic Brain: Stop it.  You’re getting carried away.

Soprano Brain: This year’s dress shall be bold!

Logic Brain: Are you even listening to me?

Soprano Brain:  It will necessitate an extravagant trip to the Fabric Store!

Logic Brain: You can’t really aff-

Soprano Brain: IT WILL BE LIKE THE ARMOUR OF A VICTORIOUS KNIGHT AND SHINE AS A TESTAMENT TO MY AWESOMENESS!

Logic Brain: Fine, whatever, I’m not talking to you when you’re like this.

Now really, I’m sort of on Logic Brain’s side here. I only have nine days to whip this thing up in, and I will not be sacrificing practice time to do it (seeing it’s Liederfest, not Seamstressfest).  I have other dresses I could wear.  The main problem is that I made a massive rookie error on my break at work the other day and spent most of it drooling over the Christopher Esber website, oogling masterfully-cut, ridiculously beautiful garments I will never be able to afford.  I also rummaged through my wardrobe with a friend deciding on clothes for photoshoots the other day, and was palpably disappointed at the lack of badassness therein.  Everything’s a bit frumpy, or a bit dainty, or a bit vintage, or just too… safe.  Which I know is what adjudicators-of-a-certain-age/the Opera Police* tend to go for, but it’s not how I want to represent myself, and I want to have the sort of stage wardrobe where I feel like I can grab anything that’s weather-appropriate and just feel right in it, Opera Police be damned.  If you don’t feel like you’re offering up yourself on stage, you can’t expect the audience to feel a genuine connection with you.

So I had a think.

lefouImafraid

Le Fou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking…

I examined my current daytime performance dresses with a critical eye. There’s a grey cuoprene/silk Alpha 60 dress for summer, a black Viktoria Maine for winter and a rust-coloured Victoria Maine for in-between.  The rust one’s pretty stained and gaps badly at the CB neckline (also I feel about 40 in it, which isn’t how 24 year olds generally want to feel), the black one is nice to wear but a bit underwhelming, and the Alpha 60 one requires tape (which isn’t great when you go to put it on and then realise you can’t find the tape, and then have to rush around madly in the 40 minutes before your Masters recital trying to find something else that you can wear to perform in 35 degree heat without flashing anybody.  True story).

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Classic case of party at the back. Super-deep-cut armscyes, ergo tape.  With a slip it looks suspiciously like some kind of dressing gown.

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This is the one I wore last year.  It’s inoffensive enough.

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I used to like this one.  Now I think it’s boring.

What I gathered from this sartorial navel-gazing were these lessons:

-No boob-tape-dependency.

-No more frumpy/underwhelming.

-Fit is paramount.

When proper designers design things (I imagine, at least…) they think things through carefully.  In each collection, there’s almost a character in their mind; their girl; their muse.  Who are my muses?  What qualities and features and traits do I like?  Who is my girl these days?  I had a look back through my sketch folder at my recent fan sketches, looked at my bookshelf, at my favourite movies and shows – in short: what I’m interested in because I actually like it, not because I feel like I should, or to prove a point – and I noticed a trend.

Basically it boils down to this: my muses are almost invariably Fierce Armed Ladies (and gentlemen).  Buffy.  Anita Blake.   Katniss Everdeen. Shaun Mason from Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy (fights zombies, busts conspiracies) Sabriel, from the eponymous book by Garth Nix (has magic bells). Nimona, from the eponymous web comic by Noelle Stevenson (turns into things, including a SHARK.).  Mr Virgil Tibbs, from the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night (not just a fearsome dude, but also possibly the biggest crush I’ve ever had).  Pretty much every character from Norihiro Yagi’s manga Claymore (the basic plot is: genetically-altered ladies hit monsters with swords whilst questioning their humanity).  Even the characters I invented in highschool to indulge the rather niche combo of rococo fashion and dragons now help to fuel my love of rococo fashion… and zombies.  The dragons got dropped at about year 10.

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Princess Sharianne slays zombies now.  My boss thought I was a tad disturbed for drawing this on my break.  And now, dear internet friends, you have the opportunity to find me disturbing too!

Hell, even the singers I like best have an element of steel to them: Billie Holiday is still my favourite singer ever, and she was one fierce lady.  There’s no amount of Edda Mosers singing die Hölle rache that will ever replace Billie for me.

So the dress must reflect these influences whilst still being appropriate stagewear and not tremendously offensive to the Opera Police.  So the list of direct influences had to be narrowed down a bit, and mixed in with some proper fashion.  The final cut was:

– Christopher Esber, for this shape:  It’s like a rococo waistcoat and yet somehow armour-like.

Esber

From his AW13 collection.

-Dion Lee for the futurism, and how his designs remind me a lot of the wetsuits from Catching Fire; there’s a sort of action/functional look to them (even though body-con dresses are never really very functional).

dion_lee_1 dion_lee_2

Also via the website. Watch out, the homepage makes noises.

-The suits from Claymore.  I’m nicking the CF and CB seams, because they’re quite distinctive and not often used in these sorts of dresses, and also the colour scheme.  I want my dress in grey/white/silver.  Plus a bit of emphasis on my gigantic man-shoulders probably wouldn’t go astray.

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From my very own copy of Vol. 4.

This is the design I arrived at:

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After a bit of sleeve editing and fiddling, I got the toile to the following stage, over a RTW pencil skirt (the skirt’s going to be the easy part, I say flippantly now, probably to my later regret).  It looks very wrinkly and wonky mostly because I had to pin myself into it with great difficulty.  In the real deal there’ll be a CB invisible zipper, which I can do now because I FOUND MY ZIPPER FOOT!!! HOORAH!!! As far as actual flaws go, the collar needs more building up, the ‘shoulder protectors’ need reshaping (it’s my first attempt at a raglan sleeve; once again I’m trying to run before I can walk), and so do the front and back waistcoat tails, and the bust darts need moving.  But hey, it’s a toile.  Corrections are what they’re for, right?

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I’m also very proud of my new shoes.  They’re pointy.  And taxi-coloured.

*Opera Police: a friend of a friend recently used this term to refer to the stuffy, usually middle-aged and older self-appointed gatekeepers of operatic validity, taste and propriety.

Like knitting.  I’m knitting a jumper.  I have the back and about a third of the front.

Or the late 1920’s style dress I’m making for my Flutey Kayaking Friend who has the PERFECT 1920s haircut and she’s going to make everyone think Louise Brooks has come back to life and turned up at their college party.

Or possibly what the hell I’ve finally decided to do with that measly 1.2m of chartreuse silk seersucker that’s been sitting in my stash for nigh on 9 months (can I call it my baby now?)

Now I’m going to go into a particular peevy peeve of mine.  THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING TO TURN BACK. HERE BE RANTING.  IF YOU JUST WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE FLAPPER DRESS, OR IF YOU RESENT SKINNY AND/OR FAT PEOPLE SINGING STUFF AND/OR HAVING OPINIONS, MOVE ALONG AND FIND THYSELF OTHER INTERWEB-PASTURES NOW.  

I’ve been researching for my postgrad presentation, and it‘s made me angry and ranty.   Mostly, people are very caught up in how big/small opera singers are rather than how they sound.  I just want to get something straight: FAT LADIES AND SKINNY LADIES AND IN-BETWEENY LADIES ARE ALL ALLOWED TO SING OPERA. THEY ARE ALLOWED TO BE WHATEVER FACH THEY HAPPEN TO BE.  JUDGING PEOPLE ON WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE WHILE IGNORING WHAT THEY CAN DO IS SO FREAKING PRE-FEMINIST AND DOUCHEY.

Sometimes large lyrics come in little packages, and sometimes light cols come in big ones.  I’m not saying it happens all the time, but I wish people wouldn’t get so freaked out when it does.

Said as a decent-sized lyric who’s frequently accused of being too skinny (no, it is in no way deliberate), with many dear friends who get accused of the opposite.  It’s horrible either way.  Some people can have personal trainers and nutrition and weights and still be big, just as I will still be small no matter what I eat or how much exercise I do. If I didn’t have the scrawny genes, I would probably have already died of several heart attacks with the sheer amount of fromage I consume.  It’s horrible to hear of my friends getting fat-shamed or concern-trolled when they’re either way fitter and healthier than me, or they’ve been trying to lose weight and it’s really hard, or they honestly don’t care what size they are, they know the risks, they’re grown-ups.  It’s like sometimes people actually think someone’s going to turn around and go ‘REALLY??? OMG I NEVER NOTICED I WAS 130kg BEFORE YOU POINTED IT OUT, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!  I’LL JUST WAVE MY MAGIC WAND AND BECOME A SIZE 12, SHALL I???  JUST SO YOU CAN HAVE THE GLOWING HOLY SENSATION OF KNOWING YOU WERE THE ONE WHO HELPED ME FIND THE GLORIOUS LIGHT.’  Conversely, it’s also horrible to hear people walking behind you on the street saying to each other ‘omg she’s way too skinny!  That’s so unhealthy!  She’s probably got, like, an eating disorder.  Skinny people are so freaky, amiright?’  Come on.  I know there’s a particular summer dress that makes me look like a hat-stand with a little natty table-cloth draped over it, but SOMETIMES IT’S 37 DEGREES AND AN UNDERWEIGHT GIRL JUST WANTS TO WEAR A DAMN DRESS THAT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE IT JUST FOUND ITS WAY HERE FROM 1835 WITH ALL ITS FREAKING PETTICOATS, JUST SO THE GENERAL PUBLIC WILL BE SPARED THE HEINOUS VIEW OF HER STANDY-OUTY RIBS.  

Just like sometimes a girl is a size whatever and has the goods to be an opera singer.

Body policing is such a bitch.

And I was going to post something happy…

Circus Daks and Angry Ladies

I got a commission!  Yay!  I’m making a late 17th/early 18th century sailor’s outfit for a circus friend.  Because of the nature of ropes acts, there have had to be some compromises accuracy wise, but the effect is going to be pretty cool, I hope.

There’s a shirt, made to the standard rectangles and triangles pattern that was common in the period, only, it’s made of a vile 2-way stretch cotton that’ll be soft and breathable to wear with plenty of give for acrobatics, but has a faint stripe in the weave that gives it the appearance of linen from a distance.  That’s from a distance.  That stuff was an absolute son of a bitch to sew, even with every trick in the book, like using paper under the seam, and it’s full of little wibbly-wobbly-seamy-weamy things.  *unsubtle doctor who reference*  I’m currently baulking at sewing in the final sleeve.???????????????????????????????

Or we could just cut an arm off my circus friend…???????????????????????????????

Because wibbly-wobbly-seamy-weamy.

There’s also a waistcoat, which will be brown linen, very simply cut and with fake buttons painted on (because real ones can result in nasty bruises when combined with ropes acts).

Finally there’ll be a set of breeches, also stretch for flexibility – but not stretchy enough to qualify them as the Breeches of Satan – gathered to a cuff below the knee, again to avoid rope burn.  I haven’t started on those yet.

I reckon the overall effect will be quite good, but the primary concern is functionality.

And while I was off buying fabric for that, I got some to make a petticoat and jacket!  The fabric for the petticoat is a lovely soft white silk twill (I’ll make other cotton petticoats to go under to boof it out a bit), and the jacket  fabric is a beautiful honey-coloured stripe, which I keep forgetting to photograph in daylight.  I’m dubious about my stripe-matching ability, but it was so pretty I couldn’t pass on it.  If the bodice goes well, I’ll just pop down and get a little more and lengthen the skirt to a full on robe.  If there’s any left.  The sales assistant was eyeing it off too like a seagull after a chip, so I might have to suck it up and get it soon.

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Pretty.  It’s more white with honey-stripes in daylight.

I couldn’t find any linen or cotton I fancied for a chemise or these fabled other petticoats, so another day I might pop down to Cleggs or *shudder* Lincraft and have a trawl through their selections.

But in the meantime, I’m having lots of fun rolling around in my new voice like a dog rolling gleefully around in a pile of poop.  It just feels so right.  I’m now an official card-carrying member of the fach of Angry Ladies, which is great because I am an angry lady.  Anyone who thinks otherwise just hasn’t seen me pissed off yet, or perhaps has been reading this blog. Gushing about robes a l’anglaise is calming.  Many, many things are angry-making.  Like the assumption that being tiny means I only have a choice of singing Zerlina or Susanna and that’s it, ‘kay thanks.  Not that they’re not great, but if you’ve heard me sing vedrai carino recently… it’s something like trying to use a chainsaw to cut a sponge cake.  Comical, but overkill.

Anyway, I have compiled a glory reel of angry ladies singing pissed-off arias, some of which I have the incredible good fortune to be learning, and some of which I’ll probably never do but can’t resist putting them on the glory reel:

Ahoy Diana Damrau as Konstanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail getting pissed off at the Pasha Selim (who always looks like Max Brenner in every production ever for some reason).  He’s just threatened to torture her if she won’t give in, betray her lovely man Belmonte and do him, so her reaction is pretty fair.

Laura Aikin, upon whom I have the biggest lady-crush ever, as Alban Berg’s Lulu, who’s fed up with being used and objectified by everyone and their dog and is about to shoot the man on the floor, who is one in a string of jealous, controlling husbands.  Twelve-tone coloratura.  That’s right, bitches.  You do not get more hardcore than that.

Miah Persson as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Her anglaise could use a bum-pad and some extra petticoats, but her triplets are insane and I think she looks a bit like Tara from Buffy. (Plus there’s surtitles on this one)

Edda Moser, as the Queen of the Night, my other giant lady-crush.  Oh.  Mein. Gott.  This is what voices like mine dream of growing up to become.  If anyone ever decides to write Anita Blake the opera, she has to be like this.

Birgit Nilsson as Puccini’s Turandot.  I will never ever sing this, but she is just a gun.  Calaf looks dismayed because he knows she’s walking the crap all over his sound in her steel-capped-boot high Cs.

I could keep going, but after Birgit you have to let the eardrums rest a while to recover from the magnitude of her awesomeness.

Chrome Sea Urchin

Yes, it is I, back from my sabbatical to annoy you further.  I had a week of intense study with my Yoda while I was away, and we discovered that not all was as it seemed fach-wise.  I thought I was – a coin I termed myself – a loloratura; a sorta crappy not-quite-lyric-but-not-quite-coloratura who cracks bad jokes.  Turns out to my and Yoda’s surprise I’m actually a  lyric with a high extension, a coloratura function, and a very metallic edge; or a whapping big chrome sea urchin, as I am calling it.  I just sounded bad because I was trying very very hard to force it into a little box made of society’s expectations of what a lass of my age ‘should’ sound like, and ended up with an over-manufactured, tension-filled, back-heavy sound.  Sort of like if you try and cook sea urchins and actively turn them into something, you end up with what looks like unexciting turds on a plate. So we cut the baggage and worked from the natural sound.  Sea urchins are naturally beautiful.  Technique renovated.

sea-urchins08-sea-urchin_17935_600x450Sea urchins are pretty and fun to image search.  This one’s from ocean.nationalgeographic.com, and it is what my sound looks like.

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This one’s my high register. via

redseaurchin

This one’s my low register via

cool sea urchin

This one’s just cool. via

cooked sea urchin gross

And this is a cooked sea urchin.  Not as pretty as an alive sea urchin. via

That was a whole twenty minutes of tangential distraction right there.

So now I’m trying out a stack of new rep that I never expected I’d sing, not even in 20 years, and not just that but it’s comfy and easy and enjoyable.  I’m aware that it’s not normal, but I don’t want people to try and shoot me or my Yoda down over it.  It’s my voice, I am the judge of what’s comfortable, and if the Lied der Lulu is way more comfortable than Vedrai Carino, I have to run with that.  I trust my Yoda and I know he wouldn’t lead me astray.

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been told to do is cut myself some slack.   So I went to the Fabric Store as soon as I got back (seeing as they were having a sale) and got a mountain of fabric.  Then I started working too hard and wearing myself down again, so I’m now looking at the Met Costume Institute website for some 18th Century inspiration to coax my stays across the finish line, and I have deliberately shut my book of Mozart arias while I do so.

Now, I’m not making a Française.  I know my limits.  But boy oh boy this one’s fun to drool over.  So the silhouette is dishy, 1778-85 they say on the caption (ohhh the narrow back pleats….), but the stripe matching and placement are what really does it.  Not only are the stripes matched from the bodice onto the shoulder straps, but they’re centred on the back pleats.  LIKE RACECAR STRIPES!!!  It’s like an old-fashioned racecar and a robe à la Française got together and had an improbable yet sexy lovechild.  I want to call it a robe a la transformers.

Met_1788-85_francaiseVroom vroom!

via

From the front this one’s a lot closer to my inspiration, and her fichu is a dead ringer for the weight of the silk georgette I have set aside. The only difference is I want to make a robe à l’Anglaise.  This one’s a proper full-on Polonaise as opposed to just an Anglaise with the skirt hoiked up.

met_1780_polonaiseWhen it comes to chewing shoes, Fido obviously prefers moving targets.

via

Then there’s the awesome thought of interchangeable bodices and jackets.  I’m just thinking it might be a good idea to make a jacket before I make a dress, in much the same way that one has single-celled organisms before one has vertebrates.  And then, much like single-celled organisms, if the jacket works then it can still be useful, and I can progress with confidence/trepidation/terror onto the complexities of a dress.  If it doesn’t work, then I haven’t wasted loads of fabric.  This one’s so kooky it’s almost modern, like something you’d find in Kinki Gerlinki.  Then you turn it around and it’s like WHAM POW FANCY COLLAR!  Like a subtle take on the well known mullet adage: business at the front, party at the back…

met_late_bodice_frontBusiness at the front…

met_late_bodice_backBATMAN AT THE BACK! 

via

I am having waaaay too much fun here…

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.

???????????????????????????????Does the job.

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:

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*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.

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:

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

It beats doing tax.

The Peplum of Irony Sees a Countertenor

The Peplum of Irony is done!  The lining is finished!  The hems are all bias bound and tacked invisibly! The yards and yards of beastly pink basting has been removed!  And it has had its first outing, to the MRC to see the French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky ( for the uninitiated, a countertenor is a guy who sings mostly Baroque music in a very very high voice.  It’s weirdly hot.  I personally prefer a more brutto sound to Philippe’s melty little milk-and-honey tones, but hey.  His sound is actually harder to achieve, so credit where it’s due.), who I think at one point had the most views on Youtube of any video not featuring fluffy kittens or something like that.  He seems to control his pitch exclusively through his right shoulder, so the more florid the line, the more he gets his funky little coloratura-dance on.  And boy was there some coloratura.  If he could convince someone to pay him per note, one aria would have him set for life.

So my peplum is looking a bit squashed from having been sat on for hours.   But please ignore the squash-squash, and my grumpy food-deprived face (I was unlucky enough to not have time for anything after breakfast today), as I ignore Philippe’s funky shoulder.  And the light makes it hard to see my wonderful mustard-coloured stockings.

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And yes, my cello wears a scarf and two hats.  What of it?

The Sewprano Sings Too? Never Would Have Guessed.

Which is mostly to what my lack of bloggery lately has been due.  Also partially to it being very hot again.  The sewing machine and the iron just don’t go on when it’s over 32°C as a matter of principle.

But a lot of singing is being done because it’s that time of year when you’ve got to start thinking in competition mode, and I intend a sort of merry sweep through as many of them as I have the time/energy to do properly.  I have some absolutely scrummy Wolf lined up for the first cab off the rank, then it’s going to be aria central for a while; if I actually learn any arias that is.  I’m not renowned for being the most aria-obsessed soprano who ever lived, so I begged some suggestions from my effin’ awesome teacher this afternoon, who started with: it’s better not to leap into the big warhorses, it’s best at your age to start off with smaller simpler stuff; and then promptly rattled off some suggestions including some Lucia di Lammermoor and Peter Grimes.  Did I hear someone say simple?

Chamber’s still my happy place, so I have some stuff in a concert tomorrow – Shepherd on the Rock (the appropriate response is to chuck out some horns and bang your head around – it is unassailably awesome), some Spohr, some Roussel, and some Michael Head.

Now, don’t let me get started on Michael Head. Oh whoops, I am started, and now I’m probably going to offend somebody, but hey, this is my blog. His parents should have named him Richard.  His writing is so twee and sugary and pointless that it makes Dulcie Holland look like the next J.S. Bach. IF YOU’RE GOING TO PUT SO MANY GRATUITOUS RALLENTANDI AND AD LIBATUM-I (ad labotomy more like, in this case) INTO YOUR MUSIC, THEN WHY BE SO DARN NITPICKY ABOUT NOTATING EVERY INANE LITTLE RHYTHM? By default anything he writes is So Not My Fach.  So why am I bashing my larynx against this fluffy, poorly-constructed brick wall?  Because societally-conditioned-nice-girl brain was first to the consent buzzer. Now we see how feminism and singing intersect… But that’s another story.  Now I’m doing this damned piece and my [admittedly lovely] instrumentalist mates get to be on the receiving end of what happens when sopranos step outside their fach, and it ain’t pretty.  Once I’m done with it tomorrow I am no kidding going to take the sheet music out to the backyard and burn it.  Probably involving some kind of feather-waving, goat-sacrificing ritual so that it can never come back and make me sing it again.

…Unless I keep it to use for sewing patterns, that is.  Despite having the sewing machine off I’ve still been doing a lot of sewing, just mostly by hand while watching Buffy downstairs because I think it’s still below 30°C downstairs and my favourite housemate and I went halfsies on a box set of Buffy for Christmas.  So far I’m about a third done with an acetate pleated tulip skirt made from some acetate I picked up at the UMSU Theatre garage sale, and it’s going to be very poufy at the top but sort of nipped in at the bottom like an upside-down ’80s bubble skirt (I know it sounds ugly, but this is just like when the girl behind the counter at the deli at Vic Market questioned me buying 150g of goat cheese for a cheesecake,  TRUST ME. It’ll work, and it’ll be gloriously A/W 2013.  The cheesecake was great too, if you’re wondering.  I can’t find where the original recipe I used went, but this one’s fairly close, the base of mine was mostly butter and digestive biscuits… or what was left by the time I made it. They’re too moreish for their own good.  Damn it, now I want some, but it’s too hot/I’m too lazy to ride to the supermarket).

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What is the top doesn’t look like it in the pattern… and a bad photo of the pleats and the waistband.

Also I’ve been working on a toile for a pair of 18th Century stays as a totally gratuitous romp to refresh my mind after too long staring at my Nixon in China score.  Also to improve my hand sewing.  I look at amazing blogs by incredible people like Before the Automobile and Diary of a Mantua Maker and I get all inspired and then my hand sewing is more crooked than a medieval Pom’s teeth.  But the shape is generally looking on track and the fit (as much as I can extrapolate at present) is good, and also I guess there aren’t many people who memorise Nixon and make stays.  Even super wonky stays.

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For your viewing delectation, my abominable hand-sewing.

Once again, check out my illustrations in the next edition of Farrago, available from A Fair Few Places on the UoM campus, and COME TO CLASSICAL REVOLUTION AT OPEN STUDIO IN NORTHCOTE TOMORROW AT 5!

If I Find That Goddamn Bloody Murphy I’ll Kill the Bastard.

Referring to the Murphy of the proverbial Murphy’s Law, of course.  I don’t think I know any actual Murphies, but if you are one, please don’t run around in fear of your life.  Unless you are THAT Murphy.  In which case, hide.  It’ll make it more interesting when I come after you with a chainsaw.

But I digress…

Remember the little black lace rib-hiding crop that I spent ages lovingly hand-sewing stubborn polyester ribbon on like bias binding?  Remember how it was designed specifically to go with a dress that I was so absolutely certain that I knew exactly where it was that I would have merrily staked the lives of thousands of fluffy kittens on it?  Turns out, on the morning of the Gala, that it was not where I thought it was, in fact, it wasn’t anywhere at all and in a hypothetical universe lots of hypothetical little kittens may have lost their lives because of my memory-hubris, may they hypothetically rest in peace.  The only explanations I can think of are: 1), I accidentally bagged it up and sent it to Savers in the massive wardrobe purge I did earlier this year; or 2) the House Key Snatching Poltergeist has expanded his operations beyond just house keys.

After much hyperventilating and general panic, my mum, who was down for the Gala, came to the rescue by suggesting that we (gasp!) BUY A NEW DRESS.  I was horrified.  I am someone who Does Not Buy Dresses.  Unless they pass the studentine frugality test, the construction test, the fabric test and the style test (picky?  Who, me?).  Mum had spent the morning indulging herself down at Peter Sheppard, so she was all warmed up to the idea of spending the equivalent of almost two months worth of my rent on what she saw as An Entirely Necessary and Not Outrageous Because Aren’t We Lucky To Find Something In Your Size Long Black Dress by Bianca Spender.  It’s lovely.  I’m tremendously grateful.  But then I spent 3 hours cutting and doing a rolled hem on the damn thing because I have stunted legs (I swear one day they’ll do my autopsy and find Harris lines in all my long bones.  Self-inflicted, of course, because when I was a kid I wasn’t picky about clothes, but I was damn picky about food), and, it being made of some very stubborn very floaty silk georgette, my hands didn’t stop twitching for about half an hour afterwards.

Then the end bit fell off the heel on my favourite performance shoes.  Then I ran two minutes late to chorus warm-up, and had to do the Scamper of Shame to the end of the row and suffer Accusing Scrutiny.  Lucky that having a memory for music like a bear trap meant that I had everything off the book just because that’s how my brain works, and I could then weather the Accusing Scrutiny with the Smugness of Having Been Able to Pick Up Where They Were From Outside the Room and Continue on Without Having to Either Ferret in My Bag for My Score Or Read off the Person Next to Me.

To change topics, my most recent adventure in Sewing Land!

The other year I got a black lace skirt from Savers, with a mind to (what else?) bolstering my collection of performance blacks.  It was Jigsaw, but it was a bit too big, and it was a frumpy mid-calf length that made me feel about 40 whenever I put it on.

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And here it is, complete with pins to mark how much I’m taking off the top.

For some reason I hung onto it.  Boy am I glad I did, because not so long ago I excavated it from the roof cavity and noticed that the lace was quite nice.  Sort of like a slightly lighter version of last year’s Collette Dinnigan dresses.  Then I got inspired by a skirt from Lover A/W ’13; a black lace skirt lined in white to really show the detail of the lace.  Inspired, I had a gander to see what my skirt might look like if I were to say, re-line it in white:

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… Not bad at all…

So with the aid of some cheap unknown content synthetic that I had in my stash, I shortened the skirt to non-frumpy length from the top to retain the nice bottom edge of the lace, and re-lined it in the white synthetic, which wasn’t too bad to work with, it just needed the darts flat-felled because it didn’t iron super-crisply.  Unfortunately I had a little screw-up on the zip side that makes the top edges a bit un-matchy, but hey, it’s a good effort for me!  The lining is entirely flat-felled so that no little synthetic fray-beasties have the slightest chance to escape, and the lace looks a treat now that you can really see the detail.

… Which you’re going to have to wait until I find my camera again to see.  The Key Snatching Poltergeist has snatched my camera.  Sorry.