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.)

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