Saturday, April 16, 2016

It's Been So Beary Long!

My smirk-y buddy.
This is me, in bear-form.

 Today's post has been a very long time in coming, and believe me, no one regrets that as much as I do.  Life has been like life always is - random patches of super busy-ness (especially before Christmas - something about that time of year almost always makes people think of giving something hand-made/sewn/embroidered - at the last minute), dotted with periods of Oh eM Gee, I think I need to find a job elsewhere because WHERE HAVE ALL MY CLIENTS GONE?
(Extra bonus points if you sang that in your head to the tune of "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?")

But things always seem to balance out the way they should.  My home can get rather messy during the peak seasons, and I go into a panic when I have large stretches of time when the work is sparse (instead of thinking, "Yay! I've got free time so I should get caught up on housework!" - do people really even think that way?  I must be missing an internal Suzy Homemaker switch or something).  I've thought about working outside the home, giving up on sewing altogether (which happened immediately after working on the most difficult bridal alteration I've ever encountered - and it's the only time in the last 40+ years of sewing that I've ever entertained the notion, if you'll pardon the seamstress pun), but even after a day or so of not sewing, I seem to navigate back to it in short order.  Must be in the DNA or something.

I've also been working all this time, bit by bit, on learning to better my photography.  I've been told (by sources that I really admire and appreciate) that my skills have vastly improved.  Part of that was due to purchasing a new-to-me camera last summer.  Part of it was due to buying a couple of how-to manuals that stressed that the main thing about learning to be a better photographer involves taking a TON of photos - then deleting most of them.  Thanks to the digital age, this isn't as painful as it sounds.  The majority of it is due to just getting my rear in gear and getting the camera out as often as possible, even for seemingly random and unexciting shoots.

Product shoots count, you know.

The writing, though - that took a back seat behind figuring out what, if anything, I was qualified to do outside the home should I be able to find work at all.  And then nursing my son back to health after he broke his foot in a motorcycle race.  And still working on sewing client jobs while trying to sort out the homemaker/employee/nursemaid thing.  Add in several recent deaths, both in the family and among friends.  In other words, Life happens.  I have missed writing - I think I just lost my mojo for awhile.  And I never really know if anyone is reading or not, other than by stalking my pathetic blog stats.  I figured that since this post so strongly related to my last post, it would be a good way to re-enter my little corner of the blogosphere.  So here is today's story:

I was approached recently by a booster parent of our high school's color guard team.  Every year, the team gets together and honors the soon-to-be graduating seniors and team captains by giving them a farewell luncheon with gifts, usually during what they call final retreat at championships.  This year, the girls had the idea to have replica outfits made for some stuffed bears to give to the seniors.  They chose the outfit they liked the best from one of the previous seasons, and asked if I could duplicate the dresses for the five bears.

It's not every day you get to practice draping skills on a stuffed animal.  But that's how the process starts.  The booster parent borrowed one of the original dresses; I then took some leftover draping scraps from my most recent foray into draping/pattern drafting (a wedding job that I might put in my next post) and proceeded to fashion the bodice for the bears.  This takes some effort and thinking - mostly trial and error - especially because the bears are so, well, squishy.  But that's actually a good thing, as my drafting mistakes are less evident because the bears have a tendency to give.  In a squishy way.

Draping the front bodice, while someone whispers sweet nothings in her ear...or gossips.  You never know with bears.

Next step: drafting patterns from the finished draping/fitting process.
Choosing the lace, fabric, and trims that would most resemble the out-of-stock original fabrics. This was the most difficult part of the process.  It can't match exactly, because it's so small scale.  But it can't be too different, either - because then it's not reminiscent enough.

The original dress (in the background) with the first draft.  This draft was a big nope - other than the color and the scale of the lace being okay - but not acceptable as is, since now I notice that the circle skirt that I cut for the bears doesn't look enough like the gathered skirt of the original. Looks more like a t-shirt or something - needs more gathering.  This becomes a problem, as the original lace was stretch lace, softer, and draped much more than the only lace in town that was the right color match - it wasn't stretch, and wouldn't softly gather the same way.  Argh.

Round two: after consulting with the client, then drafting a semi-gathered skirt, the miniature dress is starting to look more like the original.  And cuter, besides.  More like a dress, less like an oversized muscle-shirt.  Much less argh.  And then on to cranking out the other four dresses, assembly fashion (that's another seamstress pun - just in case you didn't pick up on that).

One of our five finished, lovely friends, modeling the back of the dress.  The zipper was purely for show, to resemble the original dress.  Ever tried setting in five  six two-inch zippers?  Because - whoops!  - I got a frantic text the day these were all due, looking for a sixth costumed bear to round out the selection.  The girls decided to give one to the coach they'd been working with for several years, even though he had moved on prior to this season.  Nice gesture.  Just means rearranging my calendar a bit.  And diving into the leftover scraps, hoping against hope that there will be enough to duplicate one more skirt...a few more panels than the others, but with all the gathering it was ultimately unnoticeable.  (And no "argh.")

The sixth bear, happy at the top of the pyramid/bear pile, 
and finished just in the nick of time.  Fully skirted, too.

Client was very happy, and she went out and bought presentation boxes like you'd find a collectible in at the toy store.  Pretty snazzy - hope I can get a shot some day of the finished packaging!