Friday, May 10, 2013

A Floral Trip Down Memory Lane

Prom season.  Usually, I have a ton of dresses to work on during this time of year.  This year was an exception - the only dress I worked on was for my oldest son's girlfriend.  She inherited the dress from a cousin, who had had it redone by her mother at some point.  It wasn't the best alteration job, so most of what I needed to do was repair the work that had been done to that point, and to hem it and take it in just a smidge for her.

The saddest thing about it is that my son doesn't even get to attend her senior prom.  She's 18, but he's 21.  Too old to be an escort because he is of legal age to buy alcohol.  Never mind that my kid doesn't drink (and most likely never will).  The school has to do what it has to do to try their best to prevent tragic accidents that you read about in the papers every year.  But it was still a little sad for the two of them, since this is her senior prom.

She decided that she was just going to go with a bunch of girlfriends who also didn't have dates (a move that I heartily applaud - I wish we'd had that option when I was in high school - it sure would have beat the stigma of not being asked and not having a date...).  While doing the final fitting on her, it occurred to me that since none of these girls would have dates, that maybe none of them would have corsages.

You can't go to prom without a corsage.  You just can't.  I think there's a law about that on the books somewhere.

I asked her if her parents were buying her some flowers, and she was pretty sure they weren't.  Then I asked her if any of her girlfriends were getting flowers from their folks, and with one exception (she was takin' herself to prom, so she's buyin' herself some flowers, darnit!), none of the other girls would have corsages, either.

A brief conversation with my son later, we figured that since he'd be working while they were going out to dinner, that he might as well at least buy her and her friends some flowers.  He actually wanted to learn how to make the corsage himself (and he's not that bad with flowers, remember?), but there just wasn't enough time to teach him how, with him working all day and going to class at night.

Heck, I didn't even know if I could remember how to make a wrist corsage, much less teach someone else to do it.

Off to the local floral/decorators warehouse I went.  Wrist corsage bands, check.  Floral tape, check.  Floral wire, check.  Ribbon in colors to match all three girls' dresses, check.  Up to the register, check.  Oh, wait - they don't take checks.  Cash.

When he got home from work last night, off to the grocery store we went to check out their floral department.  I usually go to Trader Joe's to get the flowers that I put into arrangements for tables (you can hunt through my posts for anything labeled floral and you can find some examples), but last night they were just about wiped clean.  So off to Ralphs grocery store we went.  Luckily, they had a little more than T.J.'s, but still not very much.  He finally settled on some purple striped mini carnations, some white roses, and some baby's breath.  No greens available there, but my neighbor had gifted me with several cuttings of her leather fern plants years ago, so no worries.

Until I got home and realized that my husband had just that day decided that he needed to cut all the plants back, nearly to the roots.


We don't have any more ivy (too many places for rodents to hang out and party hearty), so I cut what I could from what was left.  And decided to use ribbon accents.  Lots and lots of ribbon accents.  (LOL)

Dark blue ribbon, to match the girlfriend's dress.  I only made this photo large because I was so proud of myself for actually using the macro properly.  

Dark purple and gold ribbons to match the other two girls' dresses, plus the blue one (to the upper right).
Sure hope they can tell the difference tomorrow night when they put them on. 

I love roses.  I just wish I could grow them.

And off to prom they go.

The prom this year is being held at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.  Attendees are allowed to go into the ballroom where the dance & food will be, but they also get to wander through about three floors of the Queen Mary and see some of the displays & rooms.  Hopefully, no ghosts.  If she ever gets a copy of the photos they take there, I'll post a photo of the finished dress - we didn't have time to take a shot while she was here and I like them better when they're all dolled up for the dance anyway.  :)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Do Rhomboids Dance?

Crazy.  Busy.  I can't believe I haven't posted since February - I'm sure my absence sent the blogosphere into a frantic tizzy. Just kidding! - but my disappearance was mostly due to MY being in a frantic tizzy for about 4 months.  Let's just say that my Sanity-Meter was tipping precariously toward "In-" and leave it at that.

I may have mentioned this before, but this is my younger son's senior year of high school.  Originally, he was planning to participate in the marching band in the fall, and then instead of doing percussion in the spring, he wanted to take a break from the constant rehearsals and competitions and move over into the Wind Ensemble instead. Things didn't work out that way, though, so we just got finished grinding through another spring competition season, which culminated in an incredibly jam-packed trip to Dayton, Ohio for the WGI Percussion World Championships.  Which meant mom was plenty busy measuring for drumline uniforms & measuring for custom drum covers, followed by plenty of pattern drafting, manufacture, and repair work thrown in for good measure.  Add in driving to competitions (some of them were nearly 100 miles away, one way), providing meals on the run, a sudden (and most welcome) upswing in client orders, one custom wedding anniversary dress, another VW bus refashion, sewing for charitable needs, and one of the most unusual costume requests I've gotten in awhile, and you have one very busy seamstress.  (Disclaimer:  You are not permitted to ask about housework.  Just sayin'...)

Obvs, I can't write about all of it at once (or you'll fall asleep at your desk or wherever you happen to be picking up my sudden reappearance in BlogLand), so I'll keep it to one topic for this post - and bring you up to speed a bit at a time.

Because I know all 9 of you have been fretting worriedly about my sudden drop off the edge of the Web map.  (Here there be monsters - right?)

The percussion ensemble up at the high school was bumped up into the World Class category recently, which is saying a LOT - these are very talented, very dedicated kids that take their percussion work very, very seriously.  And their spring show provided an insight into just how dedicated these students are - the theme was derived from the last 10 miles of railroad track that was hand laid in preparation for setting the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, UT in 1869 (an amazing and - to date - unparalleled track-laying feat that you can read about here), creating the first transcontinental railroad.  The indoor percussion show required a costume that would be reminiscent of the "coolie" type clothing that a lot of the chinamen wore during the track laying - but something ephemeral and slightly ghost-like as well.

Front Ensemble members with their instructor, after World Championships.
The drummers and the cymbal players out on the floor mat were required to hit the floor - literally, as well as figuratively - and often on their knees with a bit of a twisting motion.  You can probably guess what was coming down the pike, since these uniforms were made of a cotton muslin that was thinner than Osnaberg.  Most of the time at a competition is spent NOT competing, but rehearsing parts of the show, over and over, usually in an outside lot.  Without the floor mat.  Loosely translated, this means that these kids are now on their knees, twisting & grinding the fabric into asphalt.

And yes, they were all wearing knee pads under the costumes.  That helped to keep them from getting injured, but didn't keep the fabric of the pants from shredding.  It would have been nice to have ordered the costumes with that in mind (reinforced knees, anyone?), but sometimes at the beginning of a season you don't always know what all is going to get thrown into the show at a later date.  

By the end of the season, nearly the entire drumline had patched up knees that looked like this:

Dude, this knee isn't going ANYWHERE now.  Well, unless you count the one bass drum player whose knee ripped RIGHT NEXT TO all the stitching you see here.  The day after I had just repaired it.  Sigh.

Luckily, the thread immediately picked up the dirt & grime from the asphalt they were practicing on, resulting in a patch job that more or less resembled the spray paint that had been applied to the costumes in the first place - even with the newer "color," it all still blended in with the overall aesthetic.  Works for me.

We almost decided to just leave the holes in the pants, figuring that the students would look more and more like the original coolies that had worked almost non-stop on that historical day.  You know, they wouldn't have had a seamstress standing by back then to repair their it would have made historical sense NOT to repair the knees.  The only problem with doing so would have been that all of their kneepads would have shown through the huge holes in the knees - and they weren't all wearing the same color pads.  Black or buff would have posed no problem, but some of them had bright blue ones - that would have been a distracting jolt of color out there.  When you're in World Class, sometimes competition scores come down to the hundredths of a point difference (yeah, sort of like Olympics scores), and that's when the visual effects scores can make or break your ranking.

To make the repair job blend in and last as long as possible, I ended up fusing two layers of tight-weave muslin fabric together.  Then I applied more fusible web to the outer edges of the resulting patches (or used fabric glue - it depended on the shape and size of the original tear) and adhered it to the wrong side of the pants material.  After turning it right-side out again, I used the darning/mending stitch on my Viking machine - a thing of beauty, once you get the hang of it.  For some reason, the programmers opted to have the darning stitch sew a continual 14-row darning patch, after which you can reset the machine to start where the last group of stitches left off. Only each row in that 14-row group moved diagonally up and over a few stitches.  Which meant that you ended up with a rhomboid of stitches (yeah, sorry - hopefully that term's not dredging up nightmares of high school Geometry tests - you can look it up here) - and that makes it a little hard to match up the next group of stitches, especially if your tear isn't as symmetrical as the programmers seemed to think it should be.  If you look closely at that repair photo, you can see about a dozen rhomboids dancing across the knee.

Do rhomboids dance?

The Sewing Assistant SO does not care if rhomboids dance. 

Patchwork on the knees held up through World Championships - thankfully - because it would have been a bit difficult to get my sewing machine through TSA...although I will admit to packing a patchwork repair kit, complete with a travel iron, on board the semi before it drove off to Dayton.  Just in case.

Next Post:  How many calculations go into making a whole set of custom drum covers?  Or, Why I Suddenly Needed To Renew My Painkiller Prescription.  (Hint: it has something to do with headaches.)