Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Came All This Way....To Sew Uniforms?

LOL!  It's the job that never ends!  REALLY!

I'll bet you missed me, didn't ya?  I've been on the road since Wednesday with my son and the Fountain Valley High School percussion unit, in Dayton, Ohio for the WGI Percussion World Championships.  We just got home about five hours ago and boy, what a ride!  Our students won the bronze medal in their division and brought home a humorously large and heavy wooden trophy (don't pay any attention to me whatsoever - it was actually a stunning trophy) to show off a little.

Okay, a lot.

I don't know how much I've mentioned this in the blog before, but I've been working on the uniforms for FVRR (the Fountain Valley Royal Regiment) for years, and it is one of the most rewarding volunteer sewing jobs I've ever done.  The kids are awesome, and no matter their personal differences or difficulties, they always seem to pull together and get the job done as a team.  It's been a real honor to have worked with them all this time and I have no regrets.  My doctor does, however, since I've developed arthritis in my spine.  She put her foot down recently and told me NO MORE UNIFORMS.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. 

I've gotten to work up some really fun goodies over the years, in addition to fitting, hemming, cleaning and repairing approximately 125+ uniforms a year.  (Oh, don't look so shocked.  You could do it too, if you had as handy a squad of volunteers as I've had.)

Fancy drum major cuffs I worked up for Fall 2009's Silk Road show.  Incidentally, that's my older son playing the flute solo there.  

Extreme close-up of the hand-painted drum major cuffs I designed and painted for the 2009 Silk Road show.  I was originally going to do cutting and piecing of all that black, there.  I even bought the laminated black fabric.  I just wimped out, thinking of all the ways that piecing could go horribly wrong in a short amount of time.

The Fantastic Color-Change Baldrics for the Fall 2007 Fusion show.  Some day remind me to tell you about all the work that went into planning, designing, engineering, and production of 110 of these presto-change-o beauties.

Preferably after I've had about three glasses of good wine.

Fast-forward to this spring, when the percussion unit goes into gear for their spring season (culminating in the aforementioned Dayton trip).  Here I am, sad that I'm not going to be working on band uniforms for too much longer...but since he's in spring percussion, I can still do measurements for them, right?  Uniforms sight unseen?  You betcha.  I measure.  They order.  We wait.  And wait.  And they perform the first two competitions in t-shirts and jeans.

Sigh.  What can you do?

The uniforms arrive.  They are snazzy.  They are edgy.  They are dark.  They fit the theme of the show.  THEY ALL FIT.  (That was a first -  score!)  The kids are totally stoked.  They start planning how they are going to up the ante.  The girls start doing wild hairstyles and striking make-up.  Eventually, at least three other percussion groups on the circuit copy the new hairstyle.  (Bet our girls didn't know they were such trend-setters.)  The makeup & wild hair overflows to the boys as well, though not quite so prominent.  Confidence and scores go up.  Audience reaction improves.

My younger son.  You gotta picture him looking up like this with all kinds of black kohl eyeliner underneath and black streaks all over his face.  The whites of his eyes stood out and a few parents were a little freaked out by it during warm-ups.  It was awesome.

I would be one of those parents, by the way. 

And then, the darn uniforms start to have problems.  We'd already repaired at least six of them before we left town last week.  Buckles in awkward spots.  Exposed zipper teeth that were cutting the arm of one of the lead cymbal players.  Hems that were too long.  And one pair of pants for a snare player that had paper "fabric" over the knee, that kept ripping through the stitches as he did his lunges & squats in the program.  If it weren't ridiculous enough to have PAPER FABRIC on uniforms (this rendered them pretty much unwashable), it was utterly ludicrous to put it over a major stress joint.  I think altogether I sewed that patch back on about six times.  And here we are in Dayton, and after hand-tacking the blasted thing right before prelims, he comes up to me again after the show with the fabric dangling around his knee.

So I pulled out my secret weapon.

My phone.

My brother and his wife & family live in the Dayton area, so after prelims are done and the instructors take the students to a local laser tag place to burn off some extra energy, I call my brother.  "Hey, does your wife have a sewing machine?  Can you come pick me up & take me to your house so I can do some repairs on some uniforms?"  Talk about intrusive.  My brother, however, was more than willing to make the extra half-mile trip (the laser place was right down the street from his house, as it turns out), and soon I was winging my way to his house to tend to things.  I also brought two jackets that were sadly in need of a haircut.  Apparently someone at the design house thought it would be a gas to put cheaply "embroidered" stretch fabric  on the long sleeves of every member who leaned on or rubbed against anything.  The thread "beards" were about two inches long.  I'd already done two jackets at the arena, and here were two more.  Ever the welcoming hosts in spite of the late hour, my brother and his wife looked bemusedly on and kept me company as I repaired the pants knee for what I insisted on being the last time.  I wish I'd taken a photo of the stitching, because it made all the parents laugh when I brought it back later on.  I zigged up and down, up and down, up and down until the whole stupid thing was like some weird fabric incarnation of Frankenstein's monster.  And then I got to the shearing of the black lambs.  At about 11 pm I needed to get back to the group - I said my thanks and my good-byes to my brother & family, wishing that we could have spent better quality time together.  And then it hit me.  I couldn't believe I'd traveled all that way only to end up doing the very same thing that I've been doing for years here at home.

Some things were just meant to be, I guess.  And it was totally worth every moment of it.  I can't help wondering, though....what would it have been like if they had arrived before the season started?

Our World Championship bronze medal winners!  

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