Making Neimans Plastic

The Project:

4 curtains with casings at the top and bottom, all of them 10ish feet high by 10 to 20 feet long


While we set up the Christmas display, we’ll be keeping the windows covered with plastic. I glued the sides down and kept them weighted with a drill as I was working. One of my cohorts came by to claim the drill and replaced my weight with a different drill. I think it’s the second one that’s pictured below:

Sitting on a box and sewing on plastic!:

That is a lot of plastic:

But it folds up small:

Photos of plastic in action coming soon!


Shaman in Training

There is a class in Denton taught by a–well, I was going to say “shaman,” but he’s technically not an official shaman. If anyone calls him that, he’ll correct them. But to a layman who doesn’t know much or even knows a medium amount about shamanism, you’d have to be told he’s not one. The term he uses to describe himself doesn’t quickly clarify to the casual listener how similar he is to a shaman and how many shammany things he does, so I’d say he’s effectively a shaman, or close enough to one for government work.

So there’s this class in Denton taught by a shaman, and as the students progress, all the mini-shamans need certain items for ceremonies and so forth.

Here are a couple wraps for accoutrements:

Wrapping a pipe requires red fabric against the pipe itself:

A closeup:

As I’ve already called a non-shaman a shaman, I can at least clarify one thing correctly in this post: many people will call the pipes used in Native American ceremonies “peace pipes,” but they have a lot of further uses in many different types of ceremonies. At least some traditions will have separate pipes for different occasions, such as personal pipes that are used privately or are not to be smoked by anyone besides the pipeholder and pipes that are used in a group and smoked by everyone participating.

The reason we call them peace pipes is that the only times white people saw them for many years was during the signing of peace treaties. Since no one who honors a pipe would ever cross the agreements made in a pipe ceremony, this added to the confusion Native Americans felt when every treaty made during the growth of the United States was broken. All but one, that is! Between Commanches and German settlers:

You’re Doing it Wrong

I came across this this morning:

An article on yahoo about people who think that their jobs make the world a worse place. (Topping the list percentage-wise was fast food workers; yes, they know.)

Who said fashion designers had to hurt people’s body image? You’re doing it wrong. Clothes, done right, should help people feel better about how they look. Yeah, I know, a lot of fashion designers don’t see it that way. Watching Project Runway challenges in which the designers have to make something nice for a “real person” (cause skinny people aren’t really people, right?), they whine in the sewing room, and half the time they come up with something that would only be flattering on a thin person and apparently decide it just doesn’t matter how someone over size 8 looks in their clothes.

It’s easier to sew for the “ideal” body shape because if you put a burlap sack on a beautiful girl, she makes the burlap sack look beautiful, too. That’s why fashion shows can get away with outfits that look straight out of Zoolander‘s Derelicte show. I knew a fashion student once who complained about how expensive it was to make the outfits for her classes; she was buying yards and yards of gorgeous $12/yd fabrics. I directed her to the discount table where things could go for $1-2/yd. “Yeah, but this is prettier.”

I always think of the line in Just Shoot Me, where the photographer is going on about how good of a job he does on the photos and David Spade’s character says, “Oh, yeah – you’re a genius. You took a picture of one of the hottest women in the world and somehow made her look beautiful. What’s your secret – are you using some kind of film?”

Just about anyone with a sewing machine can make expensive fabric look at least passable. Just about anyone with a size 8 knockout can make her look great. Fashion designers who think they’re making the world a worse place are just stuck being lazy. Go into Lane Bryant and make something that doesn’t look horrifying. Millions of women’s lives and self-images will be better for it.

Emergency Tablecloth Round 2

After leaving the Sally Beauty convention, I headed home to make another tablecloth for the local jewelry designer whose website I really need to get ahold of and put into one of these blog entries.

This tablecloth is larger than its otherwise similar predecessor, but so is the fabric. Luckily I didn’t bring a regular yardstick or measuring equal 45″ sides from the center seam would have been a much bigger hassle.

I used the curve template again for the corners:

A Couple of Bags


Last year, Sally Beauty Supply had two dancing ornaments; I had just started with the design crew, so someone else sewed them and I added some jewel bling. This year it was to be shopping bags a la 1950s cigarette girls.

Larry made one frame and sent it home with me to make a prototype that could test and be tested by some leggy models so they could start the selection process.

Cheap fabric pinned to the frame; obligatory bathroom picture:

Here it is again, not in a bathroom:

The printed fabric arrives at last!

I cut down the middle of each black side to make the fold and armhole. It was so tight there wasn’t much room for seam allowance and no room for error:

This is what an error looks like. It gets etched into this fabric:

I wound up using a combination of two different black fabrics due to the high stretch and density of the knit I wanted to use for the sleeves. Sewing a curve on the super-stiff printed fabric was a tad awkward.

I taped the bag to the frame to test it before finishing off the top and bottom. In the background, you can see a triplet of Big Texes painted by local artist Ty Albright. Big Tex burned down this morning after 60 years of greeting fair-goers. :”-(

There is no arm movement to be had in this bag. I tried several yoga moves to see my phone screen while wearing the bag all the way, then had to pull one arm out, and it was still tricky.

I put my machine up on a box to be able to get the bag around the base and keep it flat.

Attaching the bags to the frames:


Carlos, Denise, and I had big plans of putting the bags on and running around in the parking lot for an impromptu photoshoot, but they finished their work before I got the frames attached.

I discovered after I had put it on the frame that I had forgotten to wire the handle of one of the bags, and had to thread it in afterward. Near-disaster averted!

Next, to work on the “tissue paper.” I tested a scrap, serging wire into the edge as I went, bending at the corners.

The edge came out looking too home-made, and that was as tight as the stitches would go.

Trying again with woolly nylon:

I quilt-basting sprayed a sandwich of fabric and packing material.

Once it was edged, all the spray-glued areas had to be pried apart so it wouldn’t look like that foil weather-protector stuff some people put up in their windows and leave up year-round.

I have any number of woolly nylon spools in various colors, but only these two black ones, and one of them was low. I kept one eye on it the whole time I was sewing, hoping I wouldn’t run out at 11 o’clock at night when Joann’s is closed and we’re supposed to be attaching them to the bags before the weekend. Wooly nylon is puffy, so there’s even less here than it would appear:

Testing the bags and one sprig of “tissue paper” with Melissa, in town from Austin:

Two sprigs!:

On second thought, the tissue paper turned out a little too high. We cut it more or less in half, then gave four short pieces to each bag instead of two big ones. My small spool of woolly nylon DID run out, with about 6 inches left to edge, so I wrapped it with some from the larger spool by hand.


Everyone at the convention was thoroughly impressed with the outcome. Apparently, bag costumes had been done before, but printed on plastic sheets, making them look more like boxes; the arm holes had been cut wide enough to show the girls’ leotards, ruining the illusion of living bags that had sprouted limbs. People actually asked if we had used real Sally’s bags. A wardrobe malfunction would certainly have ensued from that.


What Size is Alejandro?

The project:

4 Egyptian-style men’s skirts made from terrycloth; costumes for the entourage of a Lady Gaga impersonator


Having only tried the skimpy little men’s skirt on a plastic dress form that is not going to have to walk in it, I felt it necessary to test it on a live model. At my age, I am realizing, it starts getting harder to dig up a guy with a 30-34″ waist on a moment’s notice without having to think really hard.

Luckily, one of my cohorts who does a lot of the non-sewing end of various productions was working downtown and could drop by to try on the prototype.

The catch to this project was this: we had no idea who the guys were, just that they would be bodybuilders. Our best guess was that they would be shaped approximately like Launchpad McQuack, with shoulders out to here and no waist to speak of. We guessed 30″-34″ish. As the prototype was a little tight on Carlos, I figured I’d make the next three several inches bigger, then bring my sewing machines and be prepared to take them in.

When I arrived on location, I wandered in the basement for a bit before finding the crew, and came across this door:

Seriously, guys? Really?

The small outfit works great on The Littlest Bodybuilder. I thought that would be a great name for a musical; I kept thinking of “The Littlest Christmas Tree” from 1st grade when I did NOT get to play a Christmas tree. He wasn’t actually little; just the only one shaped much like the Launchpad McQuacks that had danced in our heads.

The next two weren’t great fits, and one of them was just a little too small, but they weren’t bad. I figured some pins would probably make it work. Then the fourth guy shows up. He’s not the littlest bodybuilder.

I was able to stick the costume on him for the dress rehearsal thanks to my ingenious multi-size elastic button loops, but as you can see from the picture below, that wasn’t going to work for the show. I didn’t have any extra whole towels, and there wouldn’t have been enough fabric between the decorative end thingies anyway. (Yes, that’s the technical term.)

The shirts and white boxer shorts are for the dress rehearsal. Can you spot the costumes that don’t fit?

Good! I knew you could!

I had brought the scrap terrycloth more as padding for transporting my sewing machines than anything else. Once I collected all the costumes–except, ironically enough, for the prototype, which fit perfectly–I set up my sewing machines.

I added a cornucopia-shaped panel, as well as multiple buttons so that it wouldn’t have to be exact. This plan hadn’t occurred to me before the event, because I thought it would be too pieced-together looking. Once I saw the scale of the event and the dim lighting, it seemed it would be fine; and once I’d done one, it actually didn’t show up much even close-up and in good light.

Some makeup stains or something had gotten on one skirt, so I went ahead and zigzag stitched some tiny scraps on top of the marks because it blended in so well.

I had used contrasting-colored velcro anywhere that it was definitely not going to show, thinking it would be nice to have very-visible closures while I was working so close to strangers’ junk.

The inside of the front panel, all done in beige:

Turns out, that wasn’t necessary; there is no room in these costumes to be looking at stuff. Let’s leave it at that.

So I get everyone dressed, and since it’s going to be awhile, I leave off pinning til later. I’m sitting around waiting, start realizing I’m getting hungry. Then realize that everyone else had gone to lunch while I was sewing; I had been so uncertain about how long it would take to fix and how long we had until the Lady Gaga number that I had done the repairs right away.

I wandered into the service hallway, hoping they hadn’t thrown everything away. Some used-looking food seemed promising:

No sign of lunch, but there was quite a bit of continental breakfast left.

Oranges, melons, mixed-filling danishes, grapefruit juice, coffee! Muffins, too, but I’m often wary of muffins. Don’t know why; always have been.


Head back the way I came . . . the door I’d left through had locked behind me. All the other doors went straight to the event. I finally walked out through the middle of the food-staff people having a meeting in a kitcheny-looking area, trying to look like I belonged there and knew where I was going.

I straightened out everyone’s flaps and got the sides pinned in in place.

Lady Gaga kept everyone entertained while we waited.

Me and Gaga:

There were a lot of great shots, but the lighting was pretty much impossible. Here, you can see the two matching bags in the reflection. They’re hanging out not in their shopping bag costumes, but I still like calling them bags, as they aren’t girls who are likely to get called that very much:

The entourage asked them, “Wait, which one of you is the blonde? . . . You could have reintroduced yourselves as different people and we wouldn’t have known.” The one on the left was then renamed Veronica. I think.

Standing in the lobby, waiting for the musical cue:

Here is the bathtub, designed by Carlos (a different one than the previously pictured), and the hand towels I had previously narrowed. When given the task, I had thought it sounded unnecessarily specific, but whatever. It becomes clear now why they needed to be no wider than 14″.

A close-up of Carlos’s solution for permanent bubbles:

Lady Gaga alternately lay in the bathtub and stood up to dance while her entourage carried her to the stage. Carlos made it sturdy and ultra-light.

My phone camera literally could not handle the awesomeness. Below, you can see a man in the center right attempting to shield himself from the glare of fabulous. My camera simply cut Lady Gaga out of the picture and left a blank spot where she had been to stave off implosion.

So much better than the dress rehearsal:

The bags came out to dance for the finale.

After the show, Lady Gaga came up with the idea of mingling with the crowd.

Encouraging Sally’s people to show their teeth:

Doing a Harpo Marx impression (what? wrong generation?):

I think someone said this was the president, but I don’t want to repeat that without either verification or a wishy-washy “I think” to remove responsibility for faulty information.




To see the rest of the pictures I didn’t include in this post and also didn’t delete for being too blurry or too poorly lit, go here.

Egyptian Entourage

How to Measure a Man’s Hips at the Widest Part:

This was partly inspired by accidentally getting caught in Regretsy’s “self gratification” category and by trying to get myself worked up to make some Egyptian-style terrycloth men’s skirts for a Lady Gaga impersonator’s entourage after a 14-hour day of Tyler Rose Festival sewing and Cartier velcro strip edging. Yes, I just typed that.


The Project: make this 3D:

I started out on the periphery of this project–Lady Gaga was to be carried in to her performance while riding in a bathtub that was hoisted by an entourage of men. The towel accessories were too wide and I cut them narrower and finished off the new edges. This was terribly exciting, and I couldn’t wait to tell my Lady Gaga fan friend. Then I heard that it was to be a Lady Gaga impersonator, which was somewhat less exciting.

Now the entourage needs outfits. Aside from the fact that terrycloth-by-the-yard is fabulously expensive (it would probably be cheaper to buy the towels you need, burn them, then buy the towels you need again than to make your own), it’s also a lot thicker and denser than would look good as a men’s skirt, so I got a set of white towels to cut up.

I’ve decided to put off finishing the project for the night until I get some more feedback on the current stage in the process, since I can’t un-cut a towel:

Velcro, velcro, velcro, and more velcro

It’s that time of year again! Velcro strips! There is a long, multi-person, multi-step process to creating and assembling the deceptively simple-looking panels that adorn Cartier store windows and interiors. Part of that is stitching sticky-back velcro onto rectangles of fabric.

My part of the process is longer than would be obvious due to periodically having to stop and rub alcohol on my needle. With needles that have a groove on the back and not just the front, this has to be done every couple panels, and quite a bit of glue can/has to be scraped off with a fingernail twice per panel. I found a brand of needle with no groove on the back, which stores significantly less glue, but all that glue has to go somewhere. And that is into the machine and along the bottom of the presser foot. So I need to pull apart my machine and scrape all the glue and sticky lint out at least once and probably twice whenever there’s a complete panel-changeout for all stores.

All those thin boxes stacked in the back left are different stores (though some large stores have two boxes).

This is about half the stores we do, done ones on the right, to-do on the left, under the cat:

Several hours later:

Woman, 14, Strangled by Coyotes While Pinned by Afghan; story at 10

I clicked on a link for “fur is back big!” and this is one of the things that is coming down the runway. A long, shapeless knit sweater-jacket with a ginormous fur collar.

The only thing that makes this garment work is the Batman-level determination of the model. She is resolved to wear that. Look at her face. That is the face of someone who is resolved. I would not resolve to wear that. I would try to wear that. And I would fail.

On anyone else, in any other situation, and with any less makeup, this thing would look frumpy. Hmm, the word “frumpy” doesn’t completely cover the no that goes into wearing this under any other circumstances. Even if this model herself wore it on the street or if she had any other expression on her face, this thing would hiss, cower from the light, and show its true identity of mom-of-the-seventies trying to dress up with a pelt her secret lover shot for her.