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.

blackspikyseaurchin

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.

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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! 

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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:

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.

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!