Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In store for a busy weekend

Dana's dance studio's annual June Showcase is this weekend. For me, this means a lot of driving back and forth from our house to the Campbell Heritage Theater. For the first time I'm seriously considering getting a hotel room somewhere nearby.

I must say, as hard as it might be on parents shuffling kids to and fro, South Bay Dance Center does a phenomenal job with their showcase. They create wonderful opportunities for dancers to get as much stage time as their experience allows. For example, the very young dancers (3-5yo) are only in one program, put on stage at the very beginning of the show, and parents are allowed to pick them up backstage right away. If you've reached a level 1B (usually 9-12yo), then you perform on stage in at least two programs. If you've reached a level 2A or higher, then you're on stage for all 5 programs. Yes, there are 5 shows over the two-day weekend. And IF you're like my daughter, where of the 8 classes she took this year, 6 of them are "performing" classes and of those 6, 3 are level 2 or higher, THEN you are on stage a whole lot.

See what I mean.
Each column represents one of the programs and lists the order of the dances. The pink highlights are when she has to be on stage. There are a few situations (like program 1) where she has to have her hair half up/half down and then within the span of 2 dances has to change costumes and put her hair up in a ballet bun and then again within 2 dances change and take her hair back down to half up/down. They have lots of backstage help but even so, She's in for a challenging weekend!

Welcome to the world of theater daughter! You'll do great! Love, mom

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Annual Shearing Day

Don't Take My Picture!
The girls at their new digs. This is their version of "Don't Take My Picture!" Kay on left, Bliss in center, Murphy on right.

D holding Bliss
Since Bliss wouldn't cooperate and show us her lovely coloring, we had Dana catch and hold her for us. The 'funny' lighting is because they're standing in between the sun and the shadow of a tree. Click on the pic for a larger version.

Shearing day is a bit of a double-edged sword: it's fun but it's hard work. At Foothill Alpacas where our animals are agisted, we use a table for shearing. To shear an animal, you need:

1 shearer
1 green guy (so called because he holds the head and gets covered in green slime when the 'pacas get upset)
1 toe nail clipper who also helps get the animal onto the table
2 fiber collectors - one for prime and another for neck/leg
2 people to catch - one of those two also blows out the animal
and at least 2 extra people.

The shearer is the boss. Everyone else is there to help him/her in any way they can. The fiber collectors also put the names/dates on the bags and, if desired, pull the fiber sample that gets shipped off for micron testing. The catch people also blow out the animal's fleece (while it's still on the animal) to get rid of any hay bits and dirt. While this does disturb the lock structure, if you're shipping the fleece straight off to processing, it doesn't matter. In fact, the shearer will appreciate it because shearing with all that excess dirt dulls the blades really fast.

The two extra people are in case someone gets hurt. We had 2 shearing days at Foothill this year and had injuries on the first one. That left us a bit short-handed so we made sure we had enough help on the second day.

The FUN part of shearing day is gawking at the 'pacas after their shorn. They always look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book! My favorite books are Dr. Seuss books!

Here's the "after":creatures from Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Designing a garment by draping

Draping is a method of garment design by where you drape fabric, either a muslin-type or the actual fashion fabric, over a dress form to create the design. Once it is complete on the dress form, the fabric is removed, a paper pattern is created, the paper pattern is trued, and then the final cut of the fabric is made.

I've been sewing all my life. I was lucky enough to have a mom who sewed and taught me at an early age. I've come to understand now that not everyone was so lucky (Thanks mom!). She taught me how to use commercial patterns and over the years I figured out how to mix and match pattern pieces. But designing a garment from scratch was out of my realm.

So in January when I found out the boss I worked for part-time was moving away and I would have some free time, I decided to take a class in the most-excellent fashion design program at West Valley Community College. I had taken classes from the other nearby community college with a fashion design program, Canada College but WVC is muuuuuuch closer. As I'm really a "hands-on" person when it comes to design of any type, FD-060 Professional Draping, really sounded like something up my alley.

In case anyone out there is thinking of taking this class, I won't sugar coat the experience. It was brutal. I expect it would have been less rigorous had I not had prior obligations of chauffeur and chess club coordinator so that I could have gone to lab during the limited hours (that darn Law of Physics - why can't you be in two places at once?). As it was, I could only go on Tuesday and Thursday after class and occasionally on Thursday evenings. Because this class required the use of a dress form, and it couldn't be any ole dress form - it had to be one in the lab, you must get the work done during class or lab. Sewing could be done at home however it consisted of a small portion of the overall work.

At any rate, I can expand on the class's requirements in another post. In this one, I want to skip to the end and show off my final project! But first, let me walk you through the design process.

I wanted to do a jacket. Searching fashion websites turned up these:
The one on the left is nice but not really "me". IOW, it wasn't something I'd normally design. The middle one appeals to my engineering side. I suspect it would take updating all of those skills just to figure it out and frankly, I didn't have that kind of time. The one on the right would look absolutely lovely in a gradient color scheme moving from light to dark top to bottom. But that meant hand-dyeing fabric, and again, not enough time. Then I saw these:
I really liked the shorter sleeves in the one on the left and I loved the collar on the right. The gathered waistline in the left one was going to be a problem though - my dress form was not the skinny-minnie size 6 (which translates to RTW size 0 or 2). I had a size 12 (RTW 6 or 8). All that fabric at the waist would not look flattering. But I could manipulate the fabric into darts (the basic principle of draping). OR..... I could manipulate it into pintucks. Now there's an idea!

The final project required designing a complete outfit: a dress, a shirt and skirt, a jacket and skirt, etc. Since I chose a jacket, it meant I had to figure out a "bottom". Pants weren't covered in this class so I had a choice of a dress (no thank you) or a skirt. I went with a 6-gore skirt as it was something I hadn't worked on in class. It was taught but I ran out of time and never got to that drape. So without further adieu....

The skirt has a flare overlay lined in the same fabric as the collar. That side seam also has piping covered with the collar fabric. I originally put piping in all of the seams but took out all but one because they didn't fit with the overall design. On the other hand, leaving that one seam with piping drew attention to the flare nicely. In the jacket, the sleeves have a "cuff" that has pintucks at the top. If I did this jacket again, I'd leave those off. The collar is folded 3 times on itself - similar to the inspirational design.

Click on the photos to get a closer look!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Long Lost Bamboo Towels

This morning someone on the weaving at yahoogroups email list asked about weaving with bamboo as warp. Last Fall I did a series of huck towels in bamboo on my counterbalance. It was the last thing I wove on that loom before moving it to the garage for storage. (As much as I'd love to have two working floor looms available to use, there are three other people in this house and they deserve room to live too.) But a search for my post on these towels came up empty handed. I guess it was one of those things "I should write about" that never made it to "Publish Post". I'll have to fix that!

Here is a picture of 2 of the towels. The one on the left has been wet finished but not ironed. It does 'grow' a bit once it's ironed. The one to the right (and half of it is under the one on the left) has been turned sideways and is not yet wet finished.

I used UKI Bamboo (aka Bamboodle) from Village Spinning and Weaving as warp and weft. It's quite thick - listed as a 5.24/4 yarn. I sleyed 16 inches set it at 12 epi. My notes say the warp was 3 yards long but it's likely a bit longer than that - rounding up is a good thing to do with warps so that I have enough room to do some samples. My plan was for 4 towels at 22" per towel plus loom waste. Turns out I got 5 towels out of the warp.

The pattern is a traditional huck lace from Davison's "A Handweaver's Pattern Book" on page 94. I played with the pattern and found I could get a plain weave selvage. I also discovered I could change up the huck pattern by changing the treadling. This was a welcome discovery because it meant I could make every towel a bit different.

So, for the final stats:
on loom: 16" wide by about 22" long (depends on the pattern I used)
off loom: 13" wide by 20" long (for one specifically)
wet finished and ironed: 11.5" wide by 14.5" to 15.5" long

The concerned individual wrote to the group worried about abrasion - would commercially spun bamboo hold up as a warp. My counterbalance loom has wire heddles and in the past has shredded novelty, handspun yarns. Thankfully the commercially spun bamboo was completely unfazed. So yes, bamboo works very well as a warp.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Upcoming posts

I've got two posts that I'm dying to publish but can't.

The first one covers that Professional Draping fashion design class I took recently. The final project is done, submitted, graded, and returned. It looks just lovely! But since it's a gift for my sister and she's not seen it yet, I have to wait until her package has been delivered to share the photos with everyone else. USPS tells me it'll arrive on Thursday.

The second post is about shearing day this past Sunday. Our girls were shorn at their new home. I always get a chuckle out of the before and after photos. Dh is away on a business trip so I have to wait until he returns and edits the photos to get them for here. The biggest difference is Bliss. Wait until you see her!