Calm Your Tits – and let’s be done with it.

I have a scar on the top of my head. At five years old, I split my head open and ended up with six stitches right on the top of  my head. It still makes me wince if it gets poked with a hair grip and I have an immense and perfectly reasonable fear of head injuries.

Age 3ish with nonno. That shed in the background was the venue for my interpretation of Carrie.

 

Splitting your head open sounds pretty dramatic, I was really, really lucky to not have any infections and my skull and brain were OK. Apart from the stitches and terrifying my mum and nonna (sorry, sorry), I was fine.

I learned a few lessons that day though.

Listen to your instincts, avoid the drama. I got my scar via a massive piece of wood toppling onto my head. Before any judgement of my parents come in here, I was completely to blame. The wood was all stacked up and I wanted to use a piece to sit on, I took the bottom piece and the inevitable happened. I’d seen the Sesame Street animation of all the cans falling once the bottom one was displaced but, in my 5 year old wisdom, I KNEW WHAT I WAS DOING OK?! I’ll be fine etc,  I didn’t need to listen to my friend’s warnings. Bah, I’d tested it and it wasn’t holding anything up. As far as I could see.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky and have enough people around to help, you can get patched back up. I’d passed out  and my friend (thanks Angela) went running into the house screaming, “Vanessa’s dead!” (again so so, sorry mum). Your head and scalp bleed A LOT if they get even a superficial cut. I remember nonna calmly telling mum to go and change out of her white bloody t-shirt and into something darker, to prevent me from freaking out I remember being pretty calm though (or maybe in shock).

Things can be fixed. It takes a while and, in the case of stitches in your head, you may have to lay off the handstands for a few weeks but it’s not the end of the world even if it really fucking hurts.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot those lessons but I had a chance to be reminded all over again almost exactly 2 years ago today. But not via something as visceral as a bleeding head but rather a more banal and no worse or better than the everyday heartbreak and betrayal (let’s call it what it was) everyone faces.

In all honesty, I was sad through the last part of 2014, pretty lonely in 2015, and broken-hearted-sitting-in-the-bath-listening-to-Nick-Cave’s-People-Ain’t-No’Good for much of 2016. I’m not going to dwell on the details, I’d rather go the scorched earth route but, really, it suuuuuuuucccckkkkeeeddd. And continued to suck and get worse until about this time last year when I had no more time, patience, heart, money or anything else to sacrifice.

In summary,

…..what a fucking waste of my time.

When I’m down, I can’t talk about it. I even go so far as to lose my voice. I’ve gone past that bit and through the talking it out stage and onto the next part. Looking back, I’m so grateful for all the support I got, sometimes directly, indirectly and sometimes without people even realising they were helping. So thank you friends, family, new, old friends, kind neighbours, strangers at parties, twitter pals, really old friends, cats, that sweet couple in Victoria Park with the dog, the security guy at my old work. I’m pretty optimistic about people but I had no idea the world had so much compassion. I hope I’m able to put some of it back in.

Being able to completely lose myself in creating costumes is such a privilege and a source of comfort. Being part of something joyous and uplifting and happy (like the shows, the scene, the community in London, the Sink the Pink family and online) is something I held onto. It wasn’t a crutch by any means, it just offered an open door, another way of living. At that time it was a place where I didn’t have to be “heartbroken ex” and go over the same shitty story. And it made (and still makes) me so happy. I don’t buy into the “miserable artist” trope, it doesn’t work for me. When I’m happy, I make good work. Making work makes me happy. It’s chicken and egg and chicken.

When I really couldn’t concentrate, I crocheted. It kept my hands and head busy. And I crocheted a reminder. Human beings like ritual, I guess, and this was mine. Like that “Stop Smoking” book where you’re supposed to keep smoking until the last page then quit (which worked for me btw – sorry again mum), I decided I’d be done with this part of my life once this was finished. And I finished this over a year ago. .

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One of the cats absolutely loves it. Ironic really, as he’s the one with the long-running war with RocknRoll (poor peaceful RocknRoll) . I did this the hard way and figured it out as I went along and I feel like it’s more of an accomplishment than having followed a pattern (I have no patience for crochet patterns anyway). I now know that crotching an A is more difficult than an S and I’m fine with the A not sitting exactly centred.

I found it hard to revist this blog in 2016 and 2017 and see old posts. I’d look back and think “oh yeah, I remember dropping those costumes off and then having to leave halfway through rehearsals to have a cry”.  But things have changed quite a lot and it feels long ago now. 2016 was when things became clear but I was passive in this, things happened to me and I was reacting. 2017 is when I took control, made decisions and made things happen.

This last year has been wonderful. It feels like it’s both gone so fast but been so full. And I’m happier than I have been in ages. I want to start 2018 with the past tied up, done with and behind me. Articulating this is a big part of it.

In conclusion,

Listen to your instincts.

Remember that people can help.

Things get better.

Calm your tits.

Make it up as you go along.

 

 

 

 

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Sewing the Sink the Pink Summer Ball 2015, a retrospective in lycra foil.

Back to lycra again and I’m not complaining. These are from way back December 2015 and the Heroes and Villains Ball for Sink the Pink. I was really into this shiny lycra foil back then it seems. That, and for some reason every look needed a cape.

Unsurprising on the capes really, the theme was Heroes and Villains so capes go with the territory. I put the dancers in super shiny metallics and pinks for this. I wasn’t that rapt with the capes and would have like a heavy fabric but budget and practicalities eventually catch up.

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Fun behinds in a behind the scenes pic with Finn. Accidental photo bomb bum from Georgie Bee. I wish I could remember the conversation going on in the background on the right. The details in the background of pics, have a whole narrative of their own (9 times out of ten, there’s a bum or two, each with their own stories to tell).

 

I also made this leotard for Rudi.

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That leotard was a lot of panels but so worth it, getting those corners clean and sharp is a bit of an arse, especially with this sticky fabric. Most of the online advice I’ve seen relates to overlocking corners (two identical pieces rather than an inner and outer piece). As far as I can, I try to construct in an order that avoids this. Trying to explain what I do in words is almost impossible so I think I’ll film myself next time I do this (for my own benefit). This is the stuff that I like though, I enjoy the way my brain has to work a few steps ahead. It gets to a point that if think it through too much I can’t do it. Like when you suddenly notice you’re walking and if you actually think of the stages involved in walking, you trip and fall on your face.

Gah, looking so fresh-faced half-way through a rehearsal!

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Sneaking in another look I sorted for Rudi, a modified beaded dress which I cut and turned into a leotard in Feb 2016. This was a triumph of patience and careful fussing with beads rather than any great artistry on my part. Looking at the pic, it’s also a triumph of legs really.

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But back to the lycra….

 

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This kind of lycra foil fabric can throw up problems. It’s murder on the cutter on my overlocker, it also sticks to itself and the sewing machine foot. A teflon foot helps a bit but I did this all on the overlocker so I managed to avoid that. The main issue though is the print rubs away. It dissolves in the wash, it dissolves when it gets sweaty, it rubs off (between thighs etc). It may just be the unavoidable nature of the fabric because I’ve had such mixed results from the same sources. Sometimes it last, sometimes it fades away. It really kicks my arse though, especially after all that work. It even gets a bit transparent, which is kind of fun but only if it’s intentional.

We shine but briefly, I guess. Unless we want to stay unwashed and find a way to stop sweating. Or find a better fabric supplier…open to any and all suggestions!

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Shirts and why I can now identify people by their laundry powder.

In some ways I’ll remember 2016 as The Year I Learned What Other People’s Laundry Powder Smells Like. I’m pretty confident I can recognise a number of people by their laundry powder smell, give me a shirt to sniff, I’ll tell you who’s been washing it. In fact, I’ve got a costume that’s here for some repairs and every time I come into the room, I keep thinking Glyn’s here. This talent has become one of my sewing-side-effect Super Powers. But, rather than 2016 being the year I went round sniffing everyone, this came about because I’ve done quite a bit of using basing garments off existing ones. Very, very clean and freshly washed garments too, it seems.

It started with Jono. He’d been given some fantastic fabric and by the magic of mathematics (and making the shorts short) I squeezed a shirt and shorts out of it. (I then took a pic with my phone at Jono’s leaving do. He’s now it Barcalona and (amongst other choreo and dance work) running a club night, Pluma.

Yes, it’s blurry but on the plus side, you get Jono’s lovely face).

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No Jono but at least this one’s in focus.

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They turned out very cute and it also sparked my obsession with print matching, something I’ve really got stuck into in 2017.

Another fun set of shirts and shirts came via these I made for Scottee752

The print matches better than the pic shows, honestly! I should have pulled the shirt inot alignment but who has the time?!

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Being able to work with woven and with ease was a nice change from the lycra and sequins that have dominated the last few years but I’m nowhere near being done with all that.

Shirts kind of intimidated me for a while because of the precision they involve; sharp corners on collars, lining up collar stands and the annoying burrito-ing necessary to attach the collar…it’s the collars really, the idea of collars used to get on my tits. But, you only get better by doing so I just did it. Maybe they aren’t perfect but, from here, they look fine. Besides, with all that amazing print, who’s scrutinising my top-stitching? And even if they were? Meh, get a hobby.

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A quick retrospective

My poor neglected blog. I’ve really missed writing these posts and I’ve got so much I want to catch up on. Like….

The looks I made for the December Sink the Pink Ball. I think there were 20 costumes in all because I like to punish myself.

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And all these for TOYS, back in March. I lost count of the trolls, Care Bears, Clowns and cowboys in this.

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And June’s Children of The Revolution – many, many children. In many, many looks.

And a few things for myself.

But all that will have to wait because I’m on my way to the Great British Sewing Bee Live to do an alteration challenge in front of people. After that I’ll be spending the evening putting together the remaining costumes for the next show, with an audience of cats judging my stitching.

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Sewing for Raven Mandella. Death drop and high-kick proof leotards

Last year’s Valentine’s Day was fairly unconventional (yet worked out as rubbish as everyone else’s so, solidarity) and I pretty much skipped it. Much like I skipped the queue for Heaven when I delivered these leotards to Raven Mandella. Sometimes I think I’m way too old to be messing about in clubs but there’s no age limit on dancing and having a good time. Besides, I’m there for “work” right?

Werk*

(* I’m still relevant, I know my werk from my work)

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This one though. I love the bones of this human. Look at that death drop, how the hell these looks (and those shoes) manage to hold up, I’ll never know. but you see the kind of stunts I have to keep in mind when choosing fabric, designing and sewing. Most of my texts are “are you padding? Are you wearing foam boob? Breastplate? Any death drops, splits, high kicks?” …I should probably stop asking Raven the last bit.

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L-R Jono Kitchens, Laura Reeve, Raven Mandella, Brooke and …..I’ll have to check

This one-sleeved leotard was for a Beyonce-inspired show at Heaven and has been worn at G-A-Y and at the Sink the Pink New Years Eve show. I wish the fabric was better represented here but it’s a printed metallic lycra and it has a broken shards of ice illusion. And it’s durable! Thank you, you patron saint of textiles!* This kind of fabric is everywhere in performance but it can be a gamble in regards to quality. It’s frustrating because the print can “crack” if it’s stretched or the underlying material can ladder. And then when it’s washed, the print can rub off, this has even happened just through sweat and it irks me no end. Still, I’m trying to look at it as a learning process and remember where and when the better fabrics are sold.

The second look was a massive fail on my part, which I saved in the end so Raven didn’t end up naked on stage, sorry patrons of Heaven. I completely messed up with fabric choices for the original idea and a lack of time to fit meant it just didn’t happen the way we’d planned. But, I whipped up this purple leotard and we were good to go.

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All the glamour of backstage there. What you can’t see is the five suitcases of exploding drag, wigs, make-up, eye-lashes, shoes and the dog that belongs to the owner/manager (?) of Heaven wagging his tail and charming everyone. Incidentally, Raven has some magical power that involves causing a bag to open in an explosion of sequins and fishnets and managing to pack it all back in just as quickly as it flew out. I’ve seen this happen a few times, once all over my living room floor. It was incredible, stuff everywhere for a few hours, then I blinked and suddenly it was all packed again. I was convinced I’d find a boob or something behind my TV but no, everything disappeared.What sorcery is this? And how can I learn it?

Not much to say about the leotard, I’ve had to work and rework my leotard pattern to fit people with male bodies. I’ve used a commercial “leotard for men” pattern but it’s so roomy, you get that saggy balls look, which is fine if that’s the intention. There’s also some magic angle when cutting leotard legs at the back. I once made a batch that just all went straight up people’s bums but I’ve broken that habit and I think I can tell by looking if a leotard will cover someone’s bum or go up it. Of course, you need to account for different bums but that’s another train of thought I can’t get into right now.

Link for Raven’s full performance here

*There actually is a patron saint of tailors, I looked it up, so much for all those years in Catholic School. Going way off on a tangent here but I fell down the patron saint rabbit hole so I’m taking you with me. St Homobonus then, seems a pretty generous guy, gave to the poor and all that, patron saint of tailors, shoe-makers (obvious connection) and business people (wtf connection but we’ll roll it). Anyway, transpires that good old Homobonus, philanthropist that he was, has now become quite the thing in the corporate world and little statuettes of St HB were/are being sold as executive toys. Like the opposite of what he was about. (disclaimer, I’m not religious, just always curious)

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Sewing the Sink the Pink Summer Ball 2016 Part 3. Freakshow, red paint and circle skirts.

It seems contradictory given how messy some stages were but this is one of the cleanest costumes I’ve ever made (in terms of design and construction).

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This is a custom-made two-piece costume for Glyn to wear whilst hosting the Sink the Pink Summer Ball, Freakshow and again at Halloween. There was practically zero waste too! It’s a full circle skirt and fitted bodice with high neck (zip at back)…gloves too but that’s mostly paint. There were a couple of scraps left after I’d cut the circle out so I took a bit of artistic licence and added hip pieces to the bodice to give it a bit of interest and balance the point at the front. I worked some boning into those hip pieces for shaping. 181

It’s a lot of skirt. I developed a new found love for circle skirts, especially full length circle skirts. They’re impractical in a city like London. It’s a lot of fabric, a lot of possible hems dragging on the floor or being stood by the person behind you as you descend into the Underground. But SO DRAMATIC. I remember finding a electric blue velvet one in a charity shop in the 90s. I loved it so so much, I think I wore it even on summer evenings in Perth. Circle skirts, eh? This one I made a while back for ShayShay might have been the skirt that re-ignited my interest in them. They’re the quickest way to drama that I know and I predict more of them in my future.

Painting it was a lot of fun, the couple who live next door are now pretty familiar with what I do but the newish ones upstairs were a bit confused as to why I was throwing paint at a “wedding dress”.

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Given the early part of 2016 was so incredibly fraught for me for so many reasons, this was very, very therapeutic. But not as easy as it looks. At the risk of TMI, you need to be very careful not to make this a “oops my period came early, better tie a jumper round my waist” reference (which would be a perfectly valid aesthetic but not the one I wanted). You also don’t want to have small stains that won’t read – or be able to be hidden by that jumper round your waist.

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The paint took a bit longer to dry than I thought so I had to bring her into the kitchen. Happily, she pretty much embodies how I feel about housework. Plus, I got to scare the crap out of myself when I got up in the middle of the night for water and had forgotten she was there. My own private horror film – and I’m not just talking about those piled up dishes.

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I may have appropriated that bobbed wig and it might still be sitting on the dress form across from me now.

Most of my posts lately have been all Sink the Pink costumes. I’ve made regular clothes too, sometimes even for myself! I really don’t know what I would have done without the STP family, especially this last year. I’m lucky, so lucky to have this outlet and this love from and for my friends. Especially this ratbag (pictured. Also pictured, yet another hand-me-down wig)

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Summer Ball part two

Summer Ball part one (CLOWN WARNING)

 

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Margiela on a budget. Sewing the Sink the Pink Summer Ball 2016 Part 2

I think I ended up refering to this as “Conceptual Muppet Show”.

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SINK THE PINK AT THE TROXY LONDON 2016 ©polskey

I wasn’t entirely sold when Glyn sent me the original reference but when am I ever going to turn him down? Especially when it’s this level of batshit. It’s so nonsensical, it makes perfect sense. The idea is based on this Maison Margiela Artisanal Fall 2009 number, my research only turned up a few mentions to this and refered to it as a Caterpillar Coat. It’ll come as no surprise that I’m a massive fan of MMM, the bonkers the better. Working this out on a budget was the biggest challenge.

Sink the Pink FREAKSHOW

SINK THE PINK AT THE TROXY LONDON 2016 ©polskey 

Using marabou would have been the obvious choice but I’ve found I don’t like new feathers anymore (or feathers at all if I can help it) plus it’s very £££££. I got around this by using 25 of those expanding scarves. You know the ones, they can stretch to become a cowl or a (very small) strapless dress. The guy in the shop was so curious as to why I wanted so many and in these colours, I ended up drawing him a picture. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone in there with an obscure shopping list, they’ve become an important part of my “network”, not least because they always say “are you sure you don’t need gaffa tape?” and I ALWAYS need gaffa tape.

Once I had these sorted I could start working out the frame. It’s basically a rucksack with the bag part cut off and a curtain rod.  I make that sound like it was obvious and I had it done in an hour but no. The scarves were a bit heavier than I anticipated so it took a few tries with bamboo rods (too weak), wire (too bendy) until I settled on the metal curtain rod.  To secure it to the body, I considered using a wire frame that sat over the shoulders but it seemed too much work when a rucksack did pretty much the same job. Yes, it looks ugly but it was covered by yet another scarf so who would ever know?

The rod attaches via wide loops of calico on the rucksack. To stop the rod slipping right through the loops, I hammered the part in the loop flat once it was in and made a stopper of tape where the rod exited. The scarves were stitched onto a 2 strips of heavy calico, one for each side, with one row of stitching attaching the scarves and another creating a tunnel for the rod. It’s easier than it sounds. I ran a row of stitches closer to the fold for the rod to pass through. Then I opened it up, placed the ends of the scarves onto the edge of the calico strip with a good inch overlap, then folded the calico back over and stitched that down. The second part involved a lot of wrestling with 12 scarves, trying to get them to stay put while convincing the cats that this was not a fun game I’d forgotten to invite them to play.

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After all that, I fed the calico onto the rods, hand stitched them to the rucksack at the loops and other strategic (random) points. I covered the rucksack with a scarf, handstitched that in place then had a drink. The concept of a frame like this isn’t entirely new but after this, I have a lot of respect for anyone tackling these shapes. Bob Mackie’s Gone with the Wind-inspired curtain dress for Carol Burnett is pretty well-known and references to this pop up quite a bit. In fact, at the December Ball *Tracey Ermine turned up in this …..

*Margate-based performer and all round great human being.

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Needless to say, after all my faffing about with this Conceptual Muppet Show, I was extremely precious about anyone touching it and how to transport it (lack of sleep probably had something to do with this too).Sink the Pink FREAKSHOW

I was really lucky to have photographer Polskey with me during this show and have her to thank for the pics of this look (and more) onstage. Thank you Olivia!

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