‘Fear’ of sewing and other things to get over.

I’ve been thinking about this for far too long so I’m taking a break from the usual drag and costume posts to exorcise a few things. Specifically ‘fear’. I found myself saying I was a bit ‘scared of sewing with PVC’ and I really need to stop this kind of thinking. It pops up a lot online – fear of sewing with knits, fear of cutting into good fabric, of zippers, fake fur, silk, armholes, lining, facings, FBAs, SBAs. Really? WTF.

These are not things to be afraid of, these are things to be challenged by. Why convince yourself you’re afraid of them before you’ve even begun? There are loads of things you learn to do which, if you think about it, are far more frightening and likely to cause you damage. Drive a car? Cook? Cross the road? Possibly pretty terrifying when you’re learning if you think about it too much. But we persist and through trial, error and advice, we usually figure it out.

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Fabric. It’s terrifying.

The point I’m trying to make is that the way we speak about things influences how we perceive them and using words like ‘afraid’ when we refer to knit fabrics is no good for us. Then we end up with cognitive distortion and convince ourselves we can’t sew with knits or whatever. When I teach (language) I hear a lot of ‘ooh it’s difficult’ and yes that may be true but I usually try to encourage my students to use the word challenging. Difficult has passive connotations, challenging sounds much more active, as if the speaker is actively engaging in overcoming the obstacle.

The more we talk about fear of these things the more it spreads to others. Remember that Facebook experiment where they manipulated news feeds so some people had loads of positive stories and others more negative ones? It’s kind of like that. That’s not to say I’m not for open and honest talk about difficulties we have with various aspects of sewing and learning from each other. It’s just the references to scary FBAs, ooh frightening maths equations for circle skirts (calculator and google, anyone?) and being scared of threading a bloody overlocker. These things, at worst, are A Pain In The Arse but not truly scary. And yes, I get the idea of exaggeration for, say, comic effect or writing style but that’s obviously another intention.

I’m not implying that the aspects of sewing I’ve referred to are easy. They can be a pain in the arse, annoying, frustrating and really, really challenging. Many times I’ve had long, expletive-filled arguments with a zipper that won’t go into metallic foil lycra or got into a fight with sequins over a hem but the only thing I’ve been scared about is stitching my finger into the garment.

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Sewing the Sink the Pink Summer Ball 2015. Joan Oh in Pineapple Chiffon

Here’s a fun bit of costume sewing – better get your sunglasses, Joan Oh glows in this frock!

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This was one of the costumes I designed and made for the Sink the Pink Summer Ball, held in June this year. That’s Raven Mandela on the right and yes, that’s me in the middle. Bear in mind, it would’ve been about 2am by the time this was taken. Considering the amount I’d been sewing the weeks before, the fact that I’m upright at that stage of the evening is an achievement in itself (claims that I fell asleep shortly afterwards are unproven. Lies, damned lies).

But really, who could sleep with all this beauty and colour?

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The intended inspiration for this was a Gloria Estefan type look. Somewhere along the line I inadvertently made Joan into a pineapple.

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The dress is a basic halter with a mini-length skirt. The choreography was quite intense so the sides are attached via strips of elastic. I wanted chiffon overlay detail so there’d be good movement and experimented a bit with placement (the pic above was a rejected method) until I found what I wanted.

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Finishing the all edges of the chiffon by singeing was probably the worst part. Not because it was difficult but because it was so boring. So boring, but given the only exciting part of singeing chiffon is the possibility of setting it on fire, boring suited me just fine. Singeing rather than hemming gives the chiffon a bit more texture, the edges contract in an interesting way and won’t fray. It’s just a matter of hovering the fabric over a tea light candle but I’d definitely advise doing this in a well-ventilated space and having a bowl or tray of water nearby to throw the fabric in if it catches on fire. That stuff burns fast, don’t take any risks.

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You may recognise the Flamingotits costume I made for Amy up there too. After singeing the chiffon strips, I attached them by hand to the skirt. The bodice was all done by machine and I had one chance to fit the dress on Joan on the afternoon before the show. Turns out, (my) tits aside, we’re about the same size. I have the body of a man ten years my junior, who knew?

I wish I’d taken more photos of this dress on the night but I’m consoled by the fact that Sink the Pink have released a run of t-shirts of Joan Oh in this frock. I’m just waiting for mine to be delivered! Pretty gorgeous, yeah? Inside and out, Joan’s wonderful. Plenty more of Joan to come in future posts, I love making things for this one!

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The bride wore Nude Power Mesh and Tulle. Sewing for Sink the Pink

I had loads of fun sewing this catsuit for Sink the Pink’s Wedding themed night. As ever, my muse and collaborator on this was Glynfamous.

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This was made around the middle of April and I think I’ve only just managed to put the memory of all that gathering of tulle behind me.

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12 inches is enough, right? ; )

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My output has been pretty literal lately – chickens, Flamingotits, pineapple dress, Divine, Diana Ross (haven’t posted some of those yet) – and these bring me a lot of joy, to the point that I end up laughing to myself and startling the cats. But this look was one of the more conceptual costumes I’ve made this year. I really wanted to make it beautiful.

Glyn started by emailing me (two links maybe not safe for work, transparent dress = nipples. The horror etc) this with a preference for ‘preferably peach, maybe nude’. Here’s another pic. So the inspiration was only Alexander bloody McQueen. Something like this had to be nude-toned, and to make life more difficult for myself, I decided to make the shoulder detail symmetrical. Because, obviously, I like to hate myself.

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Not quite symmetrical here but you see where I’m heading. The tulle was folded once lengthwise, then I ran it through my overlocker on a gathering setting. The tension wasn’t quite high enough so I held one of the threads down as it fed through to increase it – just thinking about that makes me wince for my poor old loyal Janome. Sorry girl, I put you through so much, sequins, PVC, fake fur… and you never let me down. Rather than piss myself off and stitch the tulle directly on to the cat suit, I stitched it to a power mesh panel and hand stitched that to the cat suit.

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I hand stitched the zip at the back and it was finished but not quite ‘done’. A few beads, later and I was finally happy with it. I like a bit of movement and it breaks up the colour.

So, there is is. McQueen-inspired wedding cat suit. Although I think I may have been subconsciously channelling my parents’ chickens.

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This is one of my favourite photos of Glyn ever, on stage being piggy-backed by Steph of The Bethnal Green Working Man’s Club. I’ve taken this from the Sink The Pink Instagram account – NSFW.

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I also made a little something for myself, more on the cat print dress later…

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Chicken costume for the win. Sewing for Sink the Pink & Glynfamous

That’s right, chicken dungarees for Sink the Pink. We’re into surreal sewing territory here. Fluffy, messy, faux fur forever everywhere . I had to do these fairly quickly so I didn’t have time to think too hard about wtf I was actually doing with my evenings.

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Sewing faux fur can be a massive pain in arse but that’s mainly because I hate hoovering and I worry about clogging up my machines. There are a lot of tips about using faux fur about, some I found useful, some didn’t apply to this project. Things like, ‘Shave the seam allowance’ – sounds fun but not worth the bother.

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‘Keep the nap or pile going the same direction, cut through the backing rather than the fur and allow for the bulk in seam allowances’ – these are all good pieces of advice. That and, ‘clean your machine as you go’. The main thing to keep on mind is not to be intimidated, it’s going to be fine. Much like the advice I see on sewing with stretch fabrics, it’s not ‘OMFG so scary’, it’s fabric. It’s not the boss of anyone. Go slow, enjoy it.

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I added a little chicken tail at the back here to really chickenify the look, Glyn styled it perfectly with red heels, hat and wig. Chicken winner! It even looked good free range outside a few weeks later.

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I wish I had a clip of the performance this was used in but you’ll have to click over to this clip of Wang Rong Rollin and their chicken song. It’s batshit enough as it is but imagine a gang of drag queens crowded onto a stage and flapping their wigs while it plays.

I rolled out my cat dress yet again for that show, don’t judge. But, let’s face it, noone is that likely to notice my repeating looks against the backdrop of drag chicken J pop. Besides, I love that dress. More on that one later

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Sewing the Sink the Pink Summer Ball. Let’s talk about Flamingotits

With the most humility I can muster…how cute is Amyzing in this?

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I banged on about it enough on Instagram so I think it’s obvious how much I loved making this

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I was aiming to translate the joy and celebration of the poster for the Summer Ball into lycra form. That’s what I told myself but I was having so much fun adding sequins, beads, eyelashes that it just took on a life of its own.

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I’d never appliquéd anything before but it was surprisingly easy. As long as everything was tacked down first, it worked fine. The fact that this piece is symmetrical created a rod for my own back but there was enough time to do it right. There will be many more of these in the future!

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The back looked a bit plain so I added a heart at the base. Luckily, the feather bustle started just under it so it was still visible. The feathers gave me a bit of a dilemma, all those dead birds. I consoled myself by buying second-hand boas to minimise the cruelty. They’re stitched onto hip pads with can be detached, which means they can be stored separately and won’t fall apart so quickly. This extend the lifespan of the piece and the lifespan of the feathers. Once the bustle is off, the leotard has a little skirt made of lycra ‘feathers’ so it can be worn like that too. It’s very ‘Dancing on Ice’.

The eyes took ages to get right. I kept changing my mind, the flamingo looked angry, sleepy, sneezy…all the seven dwarves. I’m still not convinced (maybe longer eyelashes?) but there’s so much else going on, it works ok.

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I didn’t get many pics of the pineapple dress next to it but I’ll post about it shortly.

One more. This was lifted from the Sink the Pink Instagram account and taken at the after-Pride pool party hosted by STP. Drag queens in a pool – this is both a terrific and terrifying idea. Mascara waterfall. I made the PVC number on Glynfamous too but that’s another story.

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Pineapple headpiece by Ciara Monohan

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Sewing the Sink the Pink Summer Ball 2015 – part 1

The Sink the Pink Summer Ball was so full of love and fun. And safety pins and many, many sequins. With the ball, Pride, Glastonbury and other festivals it’s basically camp Christmas round this time of year. I’ve been pretty flat out swearing at PVC, feathers, glitter, chiffon and loads of lycra. At last count I’ve made about thirty pieces in the last three months. I think. But I’ll limit this to pieces I made for the Summer Ball.

First up, 6 outfits for dancers. The brief was ‘sexy, voodoo-esque, nature-loving, hippy’. The choreography was fairly intense so no headresses or anything that would impede movement. I didn’t want to make it too dark so I ended up with this.

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To be completely honest, I couldn’t settle on the design for these for ages. I toyed with using neoprene and making huge neckpieces but it wasn’t working out. Once I decided on that teal colour and started slashing the tops and pants, it became easier.

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Of course I had finished these a week before the show but in that week I decided I hated them and took them apart only to remake them exactly the same way. What a twat. What a mess

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I was lucky enough to dress Chester Hayes, Aimee, Laura, Brooke, Raven Mandella and Ted Rogers. I love these guys. They could make anything look good. They’re super fun and very professional. Love them to bits.

Go check out Chester – (that’s a safe for work link) and the rest of the pics on the Sink the Pink Facebook page….might not be SFW.

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I’ll get round to posting the rest soon

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Sewing drag for Sink the Pink

I feel like I’ve barely stopped sewing for those beauties at Sink the Pink. It feels like I’ve run away and joined the circus.

Clockwise from top left;
Shay Shay for the Glory’s LIPSYNC1000 competition last Wednesday, what a face! An amazing show, very high standard and wide-ranging variety of drag from all competitors.
Glynfamous in purple/yellow catsuit for Radio 1 party.
Joan Oh as Divine – her life may be filth but that look is fab. Red dress and hip pads. For Sink the Pink’s Bad Taste Ball 21st March
Glynfamous – silver/black cat suit and shoulder piece. Bad Taste Ball 21st March

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And ….

Glynfamous in Nun’s headdress (habit? Veil? All that Catholic school and I still don’t know). Bad Taste Ball. Made after getting a 1:30am text the morning of the show ….
Clown Romper for photoshoot after original costumier was injured. Really, poor guy – protect your hands people. From scratch, no pattern, no measurements. Sheer force of will and swearing. Waiting for publication before I go into detail.

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I made a couple of things for myself but I haven’t had the time to look in the mirror, let alone take photos!

My laptop is still out of action so I’ve improvised with arranging these pics, excuse the haphazardness.

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