Marionette Show: Covering Everything In Velvet

The Project: Cover everything that isn’t part of the visual magic in black velvet for the Fair Park marionette show Captain Kid’s Theater


Several curtains, 3 scaffolds, and up to 10 marioneteer costumes had to be covered in black velvet so that they would all blend together in dim lighting. The thing about sewing velvet together to make it invisible, though, is that the seams would catch light. So seams had to be minimized.

I moved all the seams on the shirt and pants to the back. Starting with a commercial pattern for a loose tunic, I cut up the original pattern and taped the pieces together in a different order.

Then tested my idea out on some crappy fabric that had gotten a burn down the center seam:

It worked out great, so I made a second prototype out of velvet. Which was unfortunately narrower than my first test fabric, so I had to add a panel for width in the back:

Then I took the sleeves down a bit to be able to squeeze them in tighter on the narrow fabric. I was still annoyed by the wasted fabric triangle between them, but later realized that the pants, wide as they were, were not wide enough to go around the slippers they were to be sewn to. Adding a triangle godet on the back seam saved them.

They were intended to be one-size-fits-all for people up to a relatively tall/large male, so I tested the first outfit on a large male:

The sleeve cuffs and bottom of the shirt were hand sewn with a blind hem stitch so there wouldn’t be any visible seams.

The nap of this velvet is very subtle. While most velvet seems to be detectable up and down, I could only detect this one side-to-side, and each time I checked the direction, it took several pets before it was apparent. If I had sewn anything upside-down, however, it would have been very apparent:

The outfits wouldn’t be complete without hoods with dark eye cutouts:

The hoods also needed a blind hem around the bottom edge.

And finally, finished outfit, attached slippers and all. I added an elastic finger loop so the marioneteers could raise their hands without their sleeves sliding down.

Without the hood, it’s a pretty sharp outfit for the hip man-about-town:

Or maybe for the man-about-town who wants to get a hip replacement after he gets hit by a car for walking around in this at night.

I added numbered labels so that no one would have to share hoods and breathe in each others’ velvet.

Anything that had any size differences was mentioned on the label:

So much for the costumes. On to the side tent drapes.

These are 14 feet long, get attached to the sloping ceiling, and have to have invisible seams.

This was another project for the Atrium. I stair-stepped the panels, sewed a couple panels of the backing fabric together first, then attached each panel of velvet one by one. The velvet panels would get spread out flat, pinned in place, stitched to the lining, taken back to the Atrium and pinned with a little fold over the seam. Every time the narrower velvet panels caught up to the width of the backing fabric, I added another panel.

Then the folds were hand-sewn in place.

Repeat this multi-step process for each seam, upstairs, downstairs, one shoe off and one sock on. Or 2 socks and 1 butterfly.

And then:

I made an angle template using the height to the point and the length. That is: a-squared + b-squared = c-squared.


I also made a couple large screens that could be transported around the stage to cover anything that needed covering as other objects were moved.

A last-minute realization that a giant triangle needed to come down from the peak and stretch to the side curtains gave me a couple days to get it done. Of course, this also coincided with my phone’s battery, and thus camera, going on the fritz, so no pictures of the 20′ triangle. .

Covered buttons and fabric strips to be used as handles on some foam items that were covered in velvet:

The other big velvet-covering things were 3 scaffolds. I was also going to cover some outriggers (feet) that would project out the front. The side slits were designed with those in mind, but were rendered pointless once the decision was made to keep all the outriggers on the back and leave the front flat.

This part of the project took some planning:

After most of the sewing was done on them at my studio, it also took about 8 hours to install on location.


I couldn’t really get any good shots showing the individual black-velvet-covered items or curtains, which was kind of the point:

A couple entrance/exits were added to the side curtains after they had been hung. Since they couldn’t be taken down, they had to be pinned then cut while hanging from the ceiling. I balanced my serger on the top ledge of a 5-foot ladder and put the foot pedal on the platform below. I also got to do some no-taking-down-the-curtains sewing on top of the scaffolds. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a picture of any of this, as my camera had started working again after last time, then went on the fritz for most of my on-location sewing.

Anyway, the door that is hidden by the pirate ship in this picture had to have a flap put over it so it would remain invisible when the ship moved, so I made a panel with the seams wrapped around to the back and hand-sewed it to the top by the ceiling.

You can see, just to the right of that bunch of palm trees the edge of the side curtain. To the right of that are the scaffolds, creating an effect like that secret wall in the Labyrinth.

You have to listen to the worm–

D Magazine Write-Up

The line I sewed for the local boutique, Factory Girl, was written up by D Magazine. Yes, that’s right, I said D Magazine, folks.

Here is the link:

And a screenshot:

Here it is mentioned again as a “Most Wanted:”

Poodle Topiary with Birds

I worked on a handful of aspects of a photoshoot with Jocelyn M. For starters, pulling the wings off of birds. One final bird gazes at his de-plumed brethren:

They were painted brown and their beaks, wings, and tail feathers were replaced with scored cardboard.

Alas, I apparently didn’t get a shot of a finished bird, but here are the birds with beaks sitting amongst piles of prepared wings and tails:

There was also a felt butterfly and some clouds, but by the time we finished with the poodle, picture-taking’s priority was somewhere behind going home.

Jocelyn made the wire frame and figured out the doormat-sized swatches of leaf cover:

The wire legs started out thicker, but the denseness of the foliage necessitated squeezing them down to peg-thin.

The tail required a reinforcing heavier wire. And until we decided that more of the heavy wire had to be added to the legs and neck/head, the lazy dog spent the day leaning every chance it got, just like a real dog.

I seem to be developing a specialty in covering 3D objects with stuff. That and topiary-related business. This is kind of how I got into skirt-making, which I could now do in my sleep. I’m not sure I want to be able to do topiary-related things in my sleep. Despite Jocelyn and I going on about how awesome a giraffe would be, I’m not sure I would actually want to follow through on that. Especially when I’m supposed to be sleeping.

Jocelyn is pretty amazing at sculpting. Look at that posture! Look at that dog butt!

Finished at last:

Luckily, the dog and I have the same prescription.


Emergency Curtains

The Project: shorten 8 curtains by 1 inch and add pleats for a D Magazine photoshoot the next day


The easiest way to quickly shorten it was to fold the top down. It also had come with some tabs, but as they were going to be hung with clips on rings, I pulled all those off.

I finally obtained a replacement bulb for the impossible-to-find Janome 3022, and simultaneously learned what the “Plus” means in “Batteries, Plus.” It means light bulbs. It would probably be less confusing for everybody and generate a lot more sales if they would just change their name to “Batteries and Light Bulbs.”

I was pretty excited to be able to see what I was doing on this project without having to angle a lamp in, and The Princess was excited to be able to advertise again. Now you can tell it’s a Janome without prior knowledge.

I realized that I am not willing to postpone making an ironing table any longer. The very next day I ran out and bought the materials needed to turn a hollow door into a giant ironing board, despite the lack of a sale or coupons.

Of course, then another emergency sewing project came up and now the materials are sitting on my work table waiting to be stapled together.

Airline Headrests

The Project: copy an airline headrest, then sew 9 of them for a photoshoot


So here’s the sample:

The thing is, it needs to be done in charcoal grey vinyl/leather, with the light grey strip redone as burgundy, and it has to be copied without taking the original apart.

Day one was about locating the fabric locally. It can surely be ordered online, but that doesn’t do any good when there is about 3 days lead time. Hancock Fabrics tends to have random colors of vinyls on their scrap pile.

I managed to find a roll of grey in nearly the same shade, albeit a bit shinier. There was a single piece of burgundy vinyl in the store, a scrap that was about a foot wide. Other than that, there was red or purpley maroons.

Day two involved making a pattern and a prototype, then waiting for the go-ahead. The headrest is so 3D and has so many curves that I couldn’t pin it to paper to make the pattern.

This thing helped:

But not as much as you might think.

Anyway, after some geometrizing:


Things like this are generally made by car upholsterers using specialty machines. There are machines that sew with those extra thick threads you see topstitched on either side of most seams. If you try to use that weight of thread with a home sewing machine, you’ll get a few stitches in and then have to stop and take your machine to a mechanic to be realigned. Or get the timing adjusted–whichever way you want to say it. Even hand quilting thread can foul up a sewing machine’s timing.

The reason for this is that as the top thread is swung around the bobbin case, it goes through a tight area. I’ll give you these visuals and let you figure out the final condition of the things involved in this process:

The way for a home-sewer to fake the look of heavy-duty thread is to run two threads through the same needle; they come out doubly-thick, but they have enough give to slip around the bobbin without damaging anything, machine-wise.

And I managed to get 4 hyphens in that last sentence. Talk about squeezing a lot of something into a small space!

I couldn’t locate more than one dark grey spool of thread and didn’t have the time to look for more or run out and buy it, so I stuck a nearly-empty small spool on the bobbin winder and rolled myself a second spool.

Getting the curves right and topstitching over lumps on a very stiff fabric is not what home sewing machines are designed to do. Have you seen Kinky Boots? While the main character did not approve of burgundy, they did have the machines that would have made sewing this a snap.


Here are 7, which was what happened on day three:


On Saturday, I finished the last steps of the final 2, though I didn’t get another picture of the whole lot, as they looked the same as the first seven. On Sunday I rested. Not really, but one of these days, that might be nice.


Fabric Folding

So I’ve been randomly tossing fabric up into my fabric storage area to get it out of the way, but it’s been pretty much impossible to find any specific thing.

Looking down the pathway:

My roommate Candice brought in a cleaning organizing friend, also named Candice, to help me with sorting everything out. To the right of the above picture, you can see where she’s started.

I sorted all the fabrics by type and she folded. Most people who don’t deal with fabric–and even many who do–have a hard time figuring out how to fold large yardage or how to get it to fit onto specifically-sized shelves, so I was impressed when she knocked the whole thing out in a few days. Including slinkies, stretchies, and silkies.

Now I can see how much room I have for more fabric! I’m going to win!

Floor Art

I recently went to a Star Trek convention down the street (with ubiquitous time traveling Steam Punk):

It was pretty much a big advertisement for the Texas Lottery, targeting people who have aspergers AND are bad at math, so I’m not sure who they think their audience is. But they sponsored a chance for people to dress in Star Trek costumes, so you can’t really blame them too much.

The plan was to make a world record for number of people in costume in one place. It was not beat, but William Shatner did break the record for shortest celebrity appearance, so it goes.

And dancing did ensue:

All of my pictures of the event are either lousy or pretty much lousy because the enormous wall of windows made it impossible to focus.

Then we walked around the corner and discovered some incredibly elaborate floor art:

Upon closer inspection, there are all sorts of tiny metal strips and various colors intricately worked in:

These little, seemingly random thingies are spread out at various increasing distances as they get farther away from the above-pictured spiral, even tucked away in corners and behind things.

Some of them of identifiable objects:

And so forth:

We found what appeared to be a key, but could not decipher it:

Even when we found the . . . solar system being eaten by snakes? . . . we were still stumped:

Behind Brent:


This one has a device installed in the ceiling whose sole purpose is to keep a red laser dot on the eye of the snake, and to shift it slightly:

Also, it has the dotted line of a horse head around it.

Snake set:

The planets were also highly detailed:

Probably Saturn:

There was geometry everywhere, some of it more obvious than in other places:

Looking it up later online, we were able to verify the year this stuff was done, but no further information about it:

There was a bird pulling a worm through a wormhole:

And a giant mosquito:

Plus the best police badge ever:

A lovely quote:

And some other stuff:


I tried doing various image searches, but Google was no help:

Yes, thank you Google, this is very similar to a scorpion constellation built into a floor:

Our AI has not yet caught up to Max Headroom.



New Wardrobe

I have a client I’ve been sewing for for years who only wears floor-length skirts, and they have to be busy. She is the kind of person who can take a clown costume and make it look subtle and elegant, so she recently started going through her wardrobe and updating everything that wasn’t interesting her anymore.






After, other side:

I also made several originals in various color combinations in her current favorite design:

And one shirt:


Two of these garments are pictured with a backdrop of my wall hanging of the petroglyph of Powerful Woman by Ty Albright, commissioned to replace the door to my laundry room with something more interesting.

Catching up on the Little Things

So I’ve been busy sewing instead of blogging, and it’s not going to get any better for my blog for another two weeks, but while I’m still too awake to sleep and too tired to sew, I’ll catch up on everything but the big project that’s taking all my time right now.

That one doesn’t get any updates until after it’s finished and open to the public; the press event is on the 3rd of next month, so by force everything we’ve been working on will have to be done by then or else. And I’ll finally be able to catch up on the other clients I’ve been juggling on back burners, as well as probably start an etsy store. Or, because there’s not much I hate more than listing keywords and filling in forms, get my roommate to start an etsy store for me in exchange for various goods and services, including turning all this accumulation of grey into a decked out bedroom lounge area:


Here are a few of my recent smaller projects . . .

A customer wanted to buy these earrings, but I had lost one, so I copied the earring I had to make a complete pair:

I did a handful of minor alterations, including adding a snap to make this vest into a shirt:

Which means that I got to have a hand in reimagining a garment by my favorite designer:

I took this complicated dress in by about 4 inches in the sides (which included a zipper and multiple seams) and the shoulders:

It was a very hot little number, but I don’t have a mannequin or dress form with small enough shoulders to give a full visual image of how tailored this dress is.

I turned these fabrics:

into these 2 shirts, 1 dress, and repair of damage to the original:

I took this bridesmaid dress in in the front so the boobs didn’t pouch out, then let the back out by 4.5 inches using some of the lining fabric:

I was invited to the upcoming bridesmaid-dress-burning party, as well as got to meet this odd, hooded cat who has a beard and socks:

This picture doesn’t do his surreality justice.

I made a number of garments for the local boutique and will try to make more in time for their trunk show later this month:

While replacing the buttons on this dress, I discovered some further damage:


Sweater holes–




There are 3 repaired holes in this shot, if you can find them. Otherwise, there are none:

And to replace some worn-out elastic in a casing that is too small for a bodkin, I stitched the elastic to this tool. It would have fit through the eye, but that made it too bulky to fit through the casing: