Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday. Here’s your tip!

Zipper sewing needs a zipper foot.

I have heard people insist that one can sew a zipper using a regular machine foot, and while it is not impossible, it is also not recommended. A zipper foot is like half a regular foot, so you can sew close to the zipper without actually going over the teeth (a bumpy situation) while still keeping proper tension on the fabric.

The foot on my machine (pictured) can slide to either side of the needle, to easily stitch on both sides of the zipper. It’s also a great foot for sewing piping and beaded fringe. If you don’t have one for your machine, it’s a worthwhile addition to your arsenal!

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

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Published in: on 22 September 2017 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Zip!

Dear Constant Reader,

I’m bringing back an old number (one of my first!) for Cover Girls on September 30th and the costume needed a little upgrade. This is an unusual act for me in that I wear trousers. In the past, I just took them off, which can be kind of awkward, so I wanted to get a new pair that I could make break-away.

In the past I’ve used Velcro and snap tape, which require a sharp pull and I wanted a slower remove. Clearly, it was time for zippers. I’ve probably told you this before, but when you’re stripping, you don’t want just any kind of zipper. Forget about metal teeth or those “invisible” zippers. You want chunky plastic teeth — the kind of zippers found on winter jackets.

I was fortunate in my shopping. The black pants I found at Primark rang in at three bucks and my local fabric store had two (and only two) yard-long separating zippers in black. The store has an amazing selection of stuff when you go in with an open mind, but if you’re looking for something in particular, it’s hit or miss, so I lucked out. They’re two-way zippers, which is a feature I didn’t need, but shouldn’t get in my way.

I started by opening the seam on the outside of the legs (someday I’ll tell you about my amazing seam ripper) from cuff to waist. Before buying the pants, I had made sure that they had a seam which went all the way up through the waistband. Then I laboriously pinned the zippers in place and carefully tried on the trousers. Then I realized I had put the zippers in upside down and redid all my work. Just keeping it real, folks.

My vintage Singer made short work of sewing the zippers in place. Because the fabric had a lot of stretch, the zippers kind of undulate, but it’s not noticeable from stage. But I tell you these things, Constant Reader, so you know I’m not as perfect as I look. : )

I tested the zippers at rehearsal last night and they work very nicely. The only thing left to do is add an extension to the waistband at each side so I can put in a single closure at each hip. I don’t want the unzipped pants falling off until I’m ready!

You can see them on and off me at the end of the month!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 18 September 2017 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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From my Closet

Dear Constant Reader,

Summer is winding down here in New England and it never got terribly summery, but I’m glad I made these shorts.

They’re 1940’s-style high-waisted chorus girl shorts in crisp linen, like these I made years ago.

The big difference is that I put in pockets. It really makes me crazy when women’s clothing lacks pockets and they’re pretty easy to add. Such a big improvement!

Also, the originals have a button closure in the back. I was too impatient to try out the buttonhole attachment for my vintage sewing machine, so I just added a flat hook & bar. I’ll replace it with a proper button and buttonhole eventually. Yeah. Eventually.

I’m particularly pleased with these because it’s been quite a while since I sewed any everyday clothes for myself. I really should change that. maybe I’ll have another Dress Me contest (although the previous two have not had the most stellar results on my part).

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 5 September 2017 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I’m at the ABurlyQ! Burlesque & Sideshow Spectaculár, but I would not forget your tip. I can’t believe I never shared this one before, but apparently not…

Attach a tassel or other decorative item to your zipper pull to make it easier to grab.

At the right you can see Devora Darling illustrating this tip (see it up close and personal at Cover Girls tonight in Salem and tomorrow in Dover, NH). Of course, it doesn’t have to be a tassel; you could use ribbon, trim, bits of jewelry. You’re just trying to make it easy to find by touch.

The other advantage to this is that you are extending the zipper pull, like those extra-long pull-cords on overhead lights for us short people. You won’t have to reach up awkwardly high to pull down the zipper — a boon for dresses with a high back.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 18 August 2017 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! This is my 300th tip!

Plan to decorate your costumes in stages.

We often don’t have the time or the money to realize our costume dream all at once. If you plan out how you are going to decorate in phases, you end up with a coherent design that looks good at any time. Create an over-all plan, which you can break down into stages.

For example, you’ll start with a spattering of rhinestones on the cups of a bra, but you’ll place them so you can add additional stones in other colors and sizes later. Next time, you’ll add some fringe, which is easy because you made sure to keep the fringe area clear of rhinestones in your first phase. Then, some more rhinestones, which integrate into the ultimate rhinestone pattern. Later, some swags of beads. More rhinestones. &c ad infinitum.

The bra to the right, isn’t the best example of this, but it’s the one I had to hand. And I know how much you love pictures. I think it took 3 decorating sessions, with performing in between, to get to this point. Betty is really terrific at this form of incremental decorating.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 7 Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 21 July 2017 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip:

When working with slippery, slithery, or otherwise difficult fabrics, baste them in place first.

Yes, it takes extra time and thread, but you’ll thank me later. I make these mistakes so you don’t have to.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 12 May 2017 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I’ve been working on a new costume piece for The Big Time and that reminded me of this tip:

Canned food makes great pattern weights.

I like to use short cans, like tuna (I always get the kind with the mermaid!), pineapple, or water chestnuts.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 28 April 2017 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Other Pasttimes

Dear Constant Reader,

Besides making costumes, I also indulge in embroidery and other handwork. When I have time. Which, sadly, is not as often as I’d like. I have a big basket of unfinished projects, and every now and then I buckle down and complete one, as I did last night.

Ta da!
Trapunto tea cozy
A trapunto tea cozy!

A what?, you ask. Trapunto is an Italian quilting technique that involves extra stuffing in the design elements to get a dimensional effect. It’s very time consuming. This is the front, which was hand-quilted and stuffed. The back is a simpler version of this design, which was machine-quilted and has no trapunto work (it was never going to be finished if I had to do two sides by hand).

A tea cozy, for those poor unfortunate souls who have never been to a proper tea, is like a winter coat for your tea pot to keep the contents nice and warm. This is a traditional style of cozy that sits over the pot, like an over-sized hat.

cozyTo the right you can see a different style of cozy, which was knitted by my doting mother. One can pour the tea without taking the cozy off. Sometimes it’s known as a “bachelor’s cozy”, presumably because men are too busy or lazy to remove a cozy or that’s a woman’s job or some other Victorian nonsense.

One project down! Many more in progress. However, The Expo and other events loom close and I fear my embroidery time has come to an end for now.

M2

Published in: on 4 January 2017 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Costume in Search of an Act

Dear Constant Reader,

Before I was a performer, I was a costumer. Thus when I am creating an act, the first thing I think is “what will I wear?” and that often dictates the choreography.

Sometime I make or acquire costumes and I have no idea how they want to be presented on stage. Case in point, this beauty.

Untitled

When I joined the costume presentation “Victorian Secret“, I told myself I’d have to reuse the corset in a burlesque costume (I decided the chemise and drawers were exempt). Since then I’ve added a bra, garter belt, and side-tie panties. A skirt is in the works. Possibly gloves. Maybe a headpiece. It’s going to be stunning, if I do say so myself.

Except I have no idea how to use it. Nothing is coming to mind. No concept, no music, no hook. Nothing.

Alas. I shall keep working on the costume in hopes that inspiration strikes. However, soon I am going to have to set it aside in favor of costumes for Wrathskellar Tales.

M2

Published in: on 23 August 2016 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader.

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Sticky zipper? Lubricate it!

UntitledIf your zipper is not gliding smoothly, rub the teeth with a lubricant (but not that kind…). There are various kinds of commercial zipper lubricants for sale, but there’s really no need to spend the money. You can use a candle, a bar of soap, a crayon, even lip balm, as long as it’s waxy. If the zipper is metal, you can also rub it with the lead of a pencil. This trick also works for a key if a lock is hard to open.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

Published in: on 5 August 2016 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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