Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Hello again!

Holy cow, a lot has happened. Thanks for being here while I get caught up.

Joaquin backstage,  getting ready to Stick it to the Man.
 Photo credit Claudia Ward

The most exciting thing to happen in a LONG time has been my involvement with the production of School of Rock at the Curran Theater in San Francisco. What an amazing show that was! Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber granted the premiere amateur production rights to local public school Oakland School for the Arts. This means that, while the Broadway production was happening, a lucky bunch of West Coast middle and high school students were able to also perform this show. 

As if that wasn't fun enough, a select group of talented and dedicated students in my Production Design department at OSA got to design the sets, lighting, sound, costumes, hair, and makeup! This was truly a case of life imitating art. 

Makeup Assistant Lead Michaela, Costume Assistant Lead Tenzin, Costume lead Georgia, Costume Crew Asha, and Hair and Makeup Lead Emma - part of my crew!
Photo credit Claudia Ward.

The absolute highlight was working at the Curran Theater, which was built in 1922 and has been home to some of the most amazing performances and actors of our time. 

Governor Jerry Brown and wife Anne Gust, OSA Executive Director
Donn Harris, and Carole Shorenstein Hays on opening night.
Photo credit Claudia Ward.
Eight-time Tony winner and Curran owner Carole Shorenstein Hays graciously extended an invitation to OSA, and the rest was magical. I led a team of eight students focusing on the costumes, hair, and makeup portion of the show, and the looks on their faces the first time they entered this glorious theater were priceless.
Hair and Makeup lead Emma keeping everyone shine-free.
Photo credit Claudia Ward.
These 15-17 year old kids were able to speak to, and learn from, true industry professionals and work in a high-level environment. The folks at the Curran couldn't have been nicer or more supportive either, even when surrounded by shrieking, giggling, dancing pre-teen actors. 

Horace Green Academy students. Photo credit Claudia Ward.

Opening night crew. Photo credit Claudia Ward.

Breanna is the Hair Assistant Lead and also the queen of blending.
Photo credit Claudia Ward.

Assistant makeup lead Michaela painting a custom tattoo on Snake (aka Max).
Photo credit Claudia Ward.
My students gave up their weekends and after school hours to design, cut, and sew costumes, plan makeup and character transitions, and source wigs. They created and hand-painted custom tattoos, built specialized costume components such as a specific walkie talkie for a cop costume, and devised creative solutions to multiple issues that popped up along the way. All told, we had 35 actors, 75 costumes, and so many concurrent quick changes that it would make your head spin! It was definitely hectic and overtook all other aspects of my life, but working with these students and seeing them grow and face challenges is an experience I wouldn't trade for anything. 

Dewey Finn & Ned Schneebly rocking out. Photo credit Claudia Ward.

Somebody always splits their pants opening night. Me and my trusty Janome.
Photo credit Claudia Ward.

Hanging with sound design student Kipper in the star dressing room at the Curran.
Photo credit Claudia Ward.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Free Needlecushion Project

I'm sure this has happened to all of us at one point or another: You swap out your regular needle on your sewing machine for, say, leather or denim, and then cannot remember what's in your machine! And I don't know about you, but even with my glasses on, I can NOT read the tiny print on the needle shaft. So, here is my scrappy needlecushion to the rescue!

This is super easy... so easy in fact, that I'm not even sure I need to give pattern dimensions. I simply made a small heart template out of cardboard, and used it to cut hearts out of different sorts of materials from my scraps. You may have guessed it… I used some leather, some denim, some knit, and the base of the cushion is made out of medium weight cottons. When I pull out a specialty needle, I will simply stick it in the heart that corresponds to its recommended fabric! Genius, yes? :) You can thank me later, but for now...go pick up your scraps and get busy!

I used a medium weight mini gingham for the top and lightweight denim for the bottom, stitched them wrong side together (doing all the appliqué hearts first!) and leaving a gap. 

Note the gap!

I then turned it right side out and stuffed it like a holiday goose. Being of a thrifty nature ( because it's not hoarding if you actually USE it, as I tell my husband frequently) I happen to have a lot of cashmere scraps around from my upcycling business. 

I used these scraps to stuff my cushion, being extra careful to pop out those pesky little corners first. 

Here you see it filled to overflowing with odds and ends - this pincushion is 100% scraps inside AND out!
When it's stuffed to the gills, do a quick little hand stitch to close the gap up. My stitching wasn't pretty, I must confess. I wanted this sucker DONE!

Yes, folks, that's MY stitching, not my daughter's. I'm so proud. Not. it is, my scrappy little needle cushion dumpling!

Please feel free to share and re-post this, as long as you credit my blog and link back here. Thank you! :) Romy

Friday, September 20, 2013

Coming soon to a store near you!

Well... only if you live in the Berkeley area, but still!

I've been hard a work upcycling more fabulous old cashmere sweaters into these one-of-a-kind fingerless mitts. They will be available at 3 local stores in about a week; names, addresses etc. to follow. I will also have a selection up on my Etsy store.

I will also be offering reusable coffee mugs with cashmere cozies, PVC-free sandwich bags for lunch boxes, and leather wallets upcycled from old coats. 
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jam Day

Making jam with Audrey and Rosalie today, because you always need helpers on jam day. 

We had SO many plums this year! My tree is still full. 

Pulled out all our canning supplies, plus the cute new 'vintage' Mason jars I found at the hardware store. 

My little helpers, in homemade aprons. 

I've never been quite so thankful that my husband installed a pot-filler by the stove top. This made things SO much easier!

Tea break, with my favorite thrifted teacup in my (small so far) collection. 

Our plums are so tiny, the girls used a cherry pitter and worked for quite awhile on our first 4 pound batch. 

I had time to hand stitch the collar facing down while my minions stirred the pot!

The return on our investment - not bad for a morning's work! Note to self: you can't actually see the cute blue glass when the jars are full of jam, it just looks like a mysterious black substance inside. Oh well!
I still have about eight more pounds of fruit to go...perhaps I should invest in another cherry pitter?!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Vintage Roses and Pattern Give Away

This is my favorite piece of fabric, which I found while doing birthday shopping at a fabulous vintage fabric store in Point Richmond. There was only an odd-sized remnant, roughly 1 1/3 yards on one side and a bit longer on the other. 
Today is the day I muster all my sewing mojo and finally cut into it! It's going to be my third version of Gertie's Bow Tie blouse. I found great vintage buttons to match in my stash, from a scavenging trip to the Mysterious Button store. Wish me luck!

In other news, I revisited my abject failure, otherwise known as Simplicity 1692. Whoever drafted all those godforsaken pleats needs a firm talking to. I ripped the Sleeves Full of Poof off and added bias facing, after which I detached the collar and took out all the Random Boobie Poof by stitching down all that excess fabric. 

I basted vintage lace to my black bias facing prior to attaching it as the new collar. Then I added a buttonhole and a self-covered button for the back closure. 

And here it is, MUCH improved by a day's worth of judicious editing!

Please ignore my messy studio, I tend to throw everything around when I'm working!

Would anyone be interested in a vintage pattern giveaway? I have a LOT of patterns and want to share the wealth. Do you have suggestions of what types of patterns should be included? I have a lot of fit & flare dresses, sheaths, coats, skirts...

Friday, July 5, 2013

A year later

My ever-patient little brother asked me for a custom shirt. A year ago. He has trouble finding shirts that fit, as he is 6'3" with broad shoulders and long arms from years of surfing and a slim build. Off the rack shirts fit his shoulders but billowed around his middle, or he always had to roll his sleeves to conceal how short they were. He was dutifully measured, questioned, and sent to buy fabric. Did I mention he has fantastic and expensive taste? He came back with yards of the softest white Egyptian cotton from Britex in SF, thinking it would be such a treat for me to sew such otherworldly fabric.

Uh....the receipt fell out of the bag when I was unpacking his fabric, and I had a panic attack. He wanted me to cut into THIS?! Oh good grief. I was scared to touch it, for fear of making a tiny mark and just general fear of screwing the whole thing up. Also, once I mustered up the courage to try, ALL my chalk marks were visible from the right side and I was fearful that they might not wash out all the way afterward. This is SERIOUSLY sheer cotton! And even though I had made a muslin, there were enough fiddly bits to alter that I was, shall we say, a bit nervous.

So it's not a surprise that this project sat for a bit, oh, say thirteen months or so! He gave up asking about it after six months, nice guy that he is. Meanwhile, the guilt was killing me! So, just in time for his birthday on June 26th, I bought the Colette Negroni pattern and used some blue cotton oxford cloth I has thrifted months earlier and whipped up a shirt for him in about ten days. I used his earlier measurements and did some alterations (without fear, I might add, as I have about two yards of fabric left over). The sleeve packets were a bitch, but I religiously referred to the Male Pattern Boldness sewalong and made it through. 

Anyway, here it is. Sadly, I don't have photos of him actually wearing it, yet, but I hope to post one soon. It fit great, although it was a little long for his taste. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fun at the Hardware Store!

Being obsessed with sewing, I can find inspiration just about anywhere, including the local hardware store! On a recent trip I found the following items that will be so useful in my sewing studio:

First, I picked up fine grade sandpaper for all of 87 cents so I can sharpen my scissors. I just make small parallel cuts so that my snips are sharp and crisp. 

Next I grabbed big rolls of craft paper for $2.79 to trace my patterns. I keep my paper patterns rolled into old cardboard tubes from toilet paper and paper towels, with details written on the tube to make everything easy to find. 

This is one of my favorite tools. It's a retractable piece of string that is pre-chalked. You simply pull it out, line it up, and give it a little flick. It then deposits its chalk on the straight line. Fantastic! It makes tracing vintage patterns so much easier, at least all those with straight lines! The metal canister is refillable and chalk comes in red, blue, and yellow. Test your fabrics to ensure it washes out first!

I love love love these flat round washers for pattern weights! They are 45 cents each and are easily stored in an old yogurt container. I always pick a few up each time I'm at the store. 

This cushy sticky plastic is great for under my serger, so it doesn't walk itself off my table when it really gets going fast! Shelf liner also works well for this purpose. 

And finally, good old fashioned clothespins are wonderful if you're sewing leather and don't want pin marks left behind. I also use bobby pins sometimes to hold my delicate fabrics together without pinning them. 

I hope this has been a fun and useful trip to the hardware store! Does anyone else have untraditional tools to share?