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I Swear By My Pretty Floral Bonnet, or How I Became Seamstress for the Band (part 1)

Posted in Projects by unboundpage on April 30, 2012

When we last left off, I had just delivered a super-quick Jayne hat to the dress rehearsal and photo shoot for Firefly: The Musical.

It will surprise absolutely no one, but that was not the only costume piece I created for that show.

I made a pretty floral bonnet.

…and a shawl.

…and I retrofitted a shirt.

…and I made a starship console.

I’ll start with the bonnet.

While waiting for the Firefly: The Musical dress rehearsal to start that Friday, I learned that the cast was unable to procure a pretty floral bonnet, a critical prop for the opening scene of the show. (If you’ve seen the episode of Firefly, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the episode, you will have no clue what I’m referring to. Just know that a main character wears said bonnet to great comedic effect, then references it later for greater comedic effect. It is a seriously critical prop.)

Naturally, I hop on Twitter to ask my two best seamstress friends (Dear Roommie and her previous Dear Roommie) for help putting together something that could pass as a pretty floral bonnet.

Dear Roommie, naturally, had a bonnet and matching apron stashed away in her costume collection at home in San Antonio.

Dear Roommie’s Dear Roommie tweeted instructions for a possible bonnet design. Four tweets. Full instructions.

I love both of these women more than I can possibly say.

I ran home after the rehearsal and put together a bonnet mock-up from the muslin that I just happened to have on hand – because I am apparently getting serious enough about this sewing nonsense to have a muslin stash.

Even in its thin, floppy state, it looked like an actual bonnet.

I took it to the tech rehearsal Saturday morning, and the stage manager nearly kissed me.

After rehearsal, I ran out and purchased the gaudiest floral calico print I could find. I made a few adjustments to the design, including fusible interfacing in the brim (because I keep that on hand now, too – wow, I feel like a grown-up seamstress, almost), and about an hour later, I had something that actually looked like a pretty floral bonnet.

In case you want to make your own pretty floral bonnet, here’s a brief explanation of the construction:

I think my favorite part is how much more hilarious it is than the bonnet used in the original show. Brown frilly bonnet with dainty flowers? Pfah! I want to hear that bold, flowery print screaming from the back of the theater!

I hadn’t slept a whole lot in the last week, and had to get up pretty early for that Saturday rehearsal. Then I constructed a pretty floral bonnet during the time I’d initially intended to spend napping to make up for that lost sleep, so I was pretty loopy by the time I finished construction and headed out to watch a truly amazing musical improv extravaganza that evening. I think I showed that picture to everyone I saw Saturday night. (Sorry about that guys – it really was the sleep dep talking.)

Needless to say, the squeals and hugs from the cast and director when I showed up with the actual bonnet at Sunday’s rehearsal were well worth the lost nap time.

Aside from the ego stroking involved in having a dozen talented actors and crew ooh and ahh over my creations, this has actually turned out to be a good educational project.

I don’t think I’ve sewn anything completely without a pattern before, so mentally designing and then just making a frakking bonnet has been a good creative exercise. I feel a good bit more empowered to design future projects, rather than be completely dependent upon expensive and confusing patterns.

Putting together the bonnet has also just been good practice with the sewing machine. I’m still not as skilled at putting stitches right where I want them to be as I’d like. I have difficulty making straight lines, and I’m even worse at making curved lines that move the way I want them to. It basically comes down to a dexterity problem, and the best way to overcome coordination issues is to practice. But you can only practice so much when materials aren’t especially cheap and can’t be recycled as easily as, say, beads or yarn. I generally only pull everything out when I have an actual project, at which point I’d rather it look right when I’m done. While I was madly assembling the bonnet, it dawned on me that because stage costuming doesn’t have to look perfect up close, it actually makes for ideal sewing practice!

So, friends, if anyone needs something ridiculous sewed/crafted for a show, you know where to find me.

…and I have now said “bonnet” in person and text more times this week than possibly the rest of my life.

Bonnet.

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Surprise! Jayne Hat

Posted in Projects by unboundpage on April 27, 2012

So remember when I said I was going to finish projects?  What I meant by that was finish projects before I start other projects.

I failed.  Like, the day after that post.

I spent the better part of two months engrossed in one massively involved sewing project that I should have been finishing that week, but a friend needed a Jayne hat.

For the uninitiated, Jayne Cobb is a big, tough-guy character on Joss Whedon‘s tragically short space western television series Firefly.  In one of the final episodes, he receives a comically uncharacteristic care package from home, complete with a hat hand-knit by his mother, which he obviously loves, because it’s from Ma Cobb.  It is the signature costume piece from the series.

So I woke up to the follow inquiry from an improviser friend of mine:

Now, we’re going to skip over the bit where I was the first person he asked and get right to the important bit.

I *have* a Jayne hat.  It’s a very nice Jayne hat, made with lots of love by a wonderful friend from college who was just learning to knit and happened to make two while she was learning the pattern.  She just up and handed over the spare when I said I loved it and would like to have one of my own one day.  (Clearly, this was from my pre-knitting days, as I didn’t just ask for the pattern and make one myself.)  I’ve worn it as my primary winter hat every year since.

But you see, the colors aren’t quite right.

And the friend who needs the hat is actually playing Jayne in a local production of Firefly: The Musical, and we already knew we’d have a lot of fans out to see it, so I just couldn’t bring myself to put him out on stage with an inaccurate hat.

So I made another one.

Seriously – he asked at 10:00am on Tuesday, and I was in the HobLob by noon, and knitting by 12:30.

Yes, it’s a sickness.

No, I’m not getting help.

I’m (more or less) using this pattern, because the girl who wrote it obviously obsessed over all the details the way I would have, if I had that sort of time.  Frankly, she deserves a medal for doing all this work and putting it online for free.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the definitive Jayne hat pattern.

Actually, stop reading my post for a few minutes, and peruse that blog entry.  You need to see it.  I’ll wait.

Now back to my hat!

I used Vanna’s Choice yarn in Brick, Rust, and Mustard, on size 10 circular needles.

I started with 68 stitches, because my Jayne has a large-ish head.  As I finished the main portion of the cap, I discovered the best part of this pattern:

There is no decrease.

During her many pained hours carefully examining the original hat as seen on the show, she found that it bunched at the top, which means that the hat is made by forming one big tube, then just drawing up the top like a bag.

Fun fact: Making a giant tube and gathering the top drawstring-style makes for a really stinkin’ cute hat!

Final dress rehearsal and photo shoot was at 6:30 on Friday.  I finished sewing in the ends during lunch.

The hat was going to be a complete surprise, but I was working on it at a show on Thursday night, and took the opportunity to ambush my friend and check the size. The surprise turned out to be instead that the hat he saw half-finished at 11:30 on Thursday night was done the next afternoon.

Rather cunning, dontcha think?

What have we learned from this project?

I am:
a) not above buying the love of my friends with ridiculous hats
b) a hopeless geek
c) addicted to knitting (again)
d) really pleased to return to my old role as the go-to gal for crafty things.  Go on – ask me to make something.  No, don’t – I have other projects to finish!
e) All of the above

The Hatting Success of Webcomics Rampage 2011, or Sorry, Mom…

Posted in Waxing Philosophical by unboundpage on December 14, 2011

Finally, finally, I can safely post the sketches I collected at Webcomics Rampage.  It only took three tries!

Seriously though, this was a banner year.  Let me back up a little bit to explain.

(Warning: Thar be fan-girling ahead!)

In the beginning…

Three years ago, Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy here in Austin decided to put together their own mini-con just for web comics.  They invited a bunch of artists to talk at panels, sell merch, sign pretty nearly anything that’s handed to them, and generally be the wacky, wonderful people that they are.

That year, three of the invited guests were creators of comics I was reading regularly – Scott Kurtz of PvP, Joel Watson of Hijinks Ensue, and –gasp! faint!– Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content – as well as Randy Milholland of the infamous Something Positive, which Dear Roommie has been reading since before webcomics were cool.

These were the comics with which I papered my dorm room door.  These were the guys that helped me procrastinate for hours that should have been spent doing schoolwork (sorry, Mom).  These were the guys that put ideas in my head about one day doing my own comic.

The Boy heard about the event and took me, so I could be an embarrassing fan girl in person.

I was particularly stoked to see Jeph.  Someone turned me on to QC midway through college, and I’ve been reading it religiously ever since.  It’s not just that the comic strikes just the right balance between ridiculous and relatable, but he’s really open about his process and inspiration, and has fearlessly let the internet at large watch as his art and character design evolved into really good, dynamic art from the glorified stick figures of his first strips.  He has become a rock star in the webcomics community, and yet that first year, he still seemed to be surprised by the ridiculously long line at his signing table at the end of the panel.  “What?  People read my comic?  How’d that happen?”

I had the bright idea of getting the artists to sign the few empty pages left in my trusty sketchbook.

Sadly, I ran out of pages before I ran out of sketches, so I had to ask Randy to… err… piggyback on someone else’s sketch page.

Now, I try to keep this blog in the realm of PG-13.  While all involved found the resulting sketch pretty wildly entertaining and predictably juvenile, it is sadly not exactly blog-friendly – hence, the censor bars (…sorry, Mom).

Rampage II: The Rampaging

The next year, Dear Roommie tagged along to see her old buddy Randy (there was something about forums and a party… it’s generally best not to ask how she meets people).  When we both pulled out our respective knit/crochet projects, he actually suggested I should make my comic about crafting, and my day was made.

I came prepared with pre-drawn sketch-starters featuring some of my own characters, and the artists all graciously played along.  I even branched out and got sketches from two artists I wasn’t following yet; Danielle Corsetto of Girls With Slingshots, and David Willis of Shortpacked, et al.

Once again, the sketches were not exactly fit to print.  In fairness, I completely brought it upon myself that time, but it was a whole lot of fun (sorry, Mom).

In fact, it was so much fun that I came home and immediately started following the whole lot of them on Twitter, then started shotgunning entire comics archives.  I made it through Girls With Slingshots in three days.  Then I started in on Something Positive and Willis’ insanely large body of work and… well, I’m not quite finished yet.

Now back to this year’s Rampage!

I came super-duper prepared.  First, I decided it would be fun to let everybody deface the same sketch page together, so I bought a nice big drawing pad, added a few of my own doodles, then let them all at it.

All the fun character sketches are from Randy, Danielle, Jeph, Joel, and David.  I had specific requests for Danielle and Randy, and as I expected, everyone else just piled on, playing off of the previous sketches.

That stunning nude holding a cute smiling thing up in the top right?  That was the creation of Nicholas Gurewitch of Perry Bible Fellowship.  PBF is one of The Boy’s favorite comics.  It is terrifically clever and twisted and punny, and the art runs the gambit from minimalist cartoons to elaborate, whimsical watercolors.

Getting to meet him was really a treat.  I’m not sure what I expected, but he’s just this super-chill geeky guy with longish hair and suspenders.  I didn’t get over to ask for a sketch until right before the final panel, when everyone else was sitting at their tables, fighting off the post-dinner coma.  But he was very enthusiastic, and just nonchalantly started drawing something free-hand with an insane brush pen.  He was most of the way through sketching when he paused, looked up, and asked, “Is it ok that I’m drawing a naked woman?  I don’t really know why I did that…”  I managed to pick my jaw up off the table long enough to tell him that yes, it was absolutely fine – better than fine, even – damned impressive.  Then he went back to shading while he and The Boy chatted about… honestly I can’t even remember what.  There was some discussion of carrots and donkeys.  Then Boy bought the print of the one with the awful, awful visual pun.

The panel was fun, the sketch-collecting was fun, merch-buying was fun, but the very best part was the success of the hats.

I started a Choo-Choo Bear hat for Dear Roommie’s birthday back in March.  I finished it… last week.  Since she was sadly unable to get out to Austin this weekend, I took the hat with me to get Randy’s blessing:

I am pleased to report that his beard did not eat the hat, and Rommie will be receiving it soon.

Then!  Then…

Remember the Magical Pink Unicorn Hat?

I made another one.

I gave it to Danielle.

She loved it.  I got a hug and everything!

Then she wore it to panel.

image

Then there was a question about gifts from fans, and she whipped out the hat again and said, “Have you SEEN this HAT?” and gave me a quick shout-out, and then I pretty much suffered a geek-gasm right on the spot.

I suspect I will be riding this comics-and-hats high for the rest of the week.  I feel invigorated!  I’m itching to get started on some more crafting projects, and I have ideas for the comic that I can’t wait to make happen.

Tiny Basketball Cap!

Posted in Projects by unboundpage on December 10, 2011

I have a cousin who has managed to mold a lifelong hobby into a legitimate career.  He has lived and breathed basketball, as far as I can tell, for his entire life, and now he’s a sports writer who follows all his favorite NBA teams, watches every game, and interviews the players and coaches for a living.  (Obviously, lately he’s been following more legal shenanigans than actual games, but… that’s really not relevant to the post.)

It seemed only natural, when I learned he and his wife were expecting a little girl, to make something special and basketball-ish.

Possibly I was a little too literal?

In all seriousness, I actually put a good bit of thought into the design.  I could have gone for the plain old beanie design, thrown some stripes on and called it a day.

“Hey, cuz!  Check it out!  Now your kid’s head is a basketball!”

But baby beanies are just so… common.

Furthermore, I wanted to add some element of fashion, because my tiny victim’s mother is a dance teacher who somehow even manages to add some style to her slouching-around-the-house clothes.

Clearly, I needed some kitsch.  Something hip.  Something that says, “I look at fashion trends at least once a year… y’know… when I’m bored.”  Clearly, a newsboy cap was the way to go.

As an added bonus, I knew the smaller size of the hat would drastically reduce the problem I usually encounter with brimmed hats.  Specifically, the brims tend to get… floppy. It’s a simple matter of physics, really.  The kind of yarn I want to make a hat out of tends to be very flexible, and then the design of an adult-sized hat would call for a brim that is a good six to eight inches long, and more than an inch wide, at which point the flexibility of the yarn will cause the piece to droop.  Since I am generally far too lazy to do something as involved as conjuring plastic inserts, I just very rarely make brimmed hats.

This is especially sad because I love brimmed hats.

As usual, any excuse will do, and I made a tiny brimmed hat with a tiny brim for my tiny new cousin!

 

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Mom why?

Posted in Don't Quit Your Day Job by unboundpage on August 27, 2011

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Just Keeping My Options Open

Posted in Don't Quit Your Day Job by unboundpage on June 18, 2011

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

What do you get when you mix a baby, a silly hat, and a camera?

Posted in Don't Quit Your Day Job by unboundpage on June 4, 2011

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

 

The magical pink unicorn hat still belongs to D. Corsetto, who I love dearly for making that ridiculous thing exist.

The adorable one-year-old belongs to my brother, who I love for pretty much the same reason.

Hazards of Hat-Making

Posted in Don't Quit Your Day Job by unboundpage on May 14, 2011

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I hate my brain.

Posted in Don't Quit Your Day Job by unboundpage on March 12, 2011

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Once again, the magical pink unicorn hat is lovingly borrowed from D. Corsetto.  The magical pink unicorn is voiced this week by the Boy.  Everything else is a very unfortunate byproduct of my under-napped brain.

Touched by his noodly appendage, or just touched in the head?

Posted in Projects by unboundpage on February 22, 2011

As Dear Roommie sits weeping over creepy pictures of Justin Bieber on the internet (it’s really best not to ask), I have at long last finished the next entry in my new line of Very Silly Mythical Creature Hats:

The Flying Spaghetti Monster!

I may have finally out-sillied myself.

The tentacles are made using basically the same principal as the Secret Santa Squid. Everything else is pretty self-explanatory. Eye stalks are crocheted in the round, meatballs are uncut pom-poms.

The sad part is how many tries it took to get the bottom part finished.  Because it’s not intended for arctic winters, I had to find a way to keep it relatively open, so half the bottom is an open mesh pattern, then the last part that flips up is a single crochet made with a size N (as in, “No really, I want a HUGE stitch!”) hook.

Fortunately, I have a very good idea what I’ll be doing with this one.  If offers made at ultimate frisbee parties still stand two weeks later, I have a buyer for this bit of ridiculousness.