Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday again! Today is a special guest tip!

My brilliant and creative friend Rae Bradbury-Enslin has come up with a super efficient method to sew Deaconess-style masks. You can find the original post on her FB, but here it is, step by simple step.

Instead of cutting all the masks to size, cut or tear your fabric at 12” lengths, fold over with right sides together, and sew the long seam (1/4” seam allowance) creating a tube. (If you’re using different fabrics for front and back, this works as well. Just cut the pieces a smidge larger and sew along both long edges.) Flip the fabric and press the seams flat. You should have a long tube about 6” wide.

Cut tube in 9” segments.

You will end up with several mask rectangles that are open on both ends.

Fold both ends inside about a half inch, press flat.

Iron in your pleats as demonstrated. [I can’t get the video to play on my site — go here for now]

Once your pleats are ironed, you should be ready to sew without needing pins.

Insert one end of a 7” piece of elastic at the top corner and sew down. Double stitch for strength.

Begin to sew the pleats down, inserting the other elastic end at the bottom corner as you go. Double stitch at the corner.

Start the next mask immediately, with no space. Repeat the process above with next mask

You can do as many masks in a chain as you’re comfortable with.


Flip your chain over and repeat process on other side. Note that you will be sewing against the pleats, so just make sure they’re feeding under the foot properly and they should be ok.


Chain of finished masks!! Just snip in between and they’re ready to go! 😊

Feel free to share this very efficient method, Dear Readers, but please give the credit to Rae Bradbury-Enslin.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 3 April 2020 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday!

I’ve been posting weekly tips here for over 8 years! I want to start creating video tips as well, but, as I realized when I tried to film one this week, I am sadly in need of better equipment! I had a holder for my phone and I had a tripod, but it turns out they’re not compatible! Fortunately, I am an experienced MacGyver (I was once even nominated for a Golden Pastie in that category) and with some painter’s tape and other things I found around the house, managed to mate them long enough to film, but it was really awkward.

If you would like to see video Tips and tutorials, consider becoming a Patron! With more Patrons, I can splurge on some better equipment and maybe even have someone else involved, which will make for *much* a better quality product. The videos are going to be Patron only!

And now for your tip…

Sequined fabrics require special treatment when sewing.

First off, the sequins will dull your scissors, so don’t use your best fabric shears to cut out your garment.

They’ll dull your needles too, so remove all the sequins from your stitching lines. Sequins add bulk, so also remove them from the seam and hem allowances. And they’re scratchy. You’ll be just as happy not having them on the inside of your garment.

Removing sequins is a little tedious, since you don’t want to snip the threads holding the sequins in place — you’ll lose all the other sequins on that thread. Instead, snip the sequin itself (again, not with the good scissors!). Put down a dropcloth before you start because this will get messy! You’ll also need to do the same thing if you’re working with beaded fabric, but you can just smash the beads (lightly!) with a hammer. Wear eye protection!

When sewing the fabric, wear the above-mentioned eye protection as well, just in case you strike a sequin by mistake and your needle breaks.

When pressing sequined fabric, always use a press cloth to protect the sequins from the heat of your iron. They’re only plastic and can melt or discolor.

Save your fabric scraps, so if you lose some sequins on your finished garment, you can harvest some from a scrap and sew them on the bald spot.

Go forth — sew your sequins and sparkle smartly!

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 28 February 2020 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Coffin Gift Box

Dear Constant Reader,

One of my sources of inspiration and creativity this winter has been Christine McConnell. As a Patron of hers, I get access to exclusive content and in November that was how to make the coffin-shaped gift box she packaged her aprons in.

Betty Blaize, although she famously doesn’t enjoy cooking, has been spending more time in her kitchen, cooking healthy food, so an apron sounded like a way to encourage her culinary efforts. I ordered her a cute one, but then I got an email that the seller canceled the order (it’s complicated). I panicked a little as it was getting close to Christmas, but Scratch pointed out that I could whip up an apron in no time flat. I found some cute pink cotton with big white polka dots and made her a chef-style apron that could actually be worn and washed without fear (and has pockets). Of course, the cute apron wasn’t actually cancelled and arrived the next day, so she got both.

Back to the box. I used the template pattern Christine provided Patrons at my level, which made things go much faster. I ended up using FOUR different kinds of glue on this project — spray adhesive, fabric glue, hot glue, and a glue stick. I’ll probably never work with spray adhesive again. I thought it would be easier and more accurate, but it was so messy. Since I wanted to keep the spray adhesive far away from Albert, I took everything into the basement and set up on top of the laundry machines. Not an ideal work environment, but needs must. Part way though I bemoaned the third-grade craft project look of the box and decided to give up. Scratch convinced me to see it through. And he was right. Once I starting decorating it, it began to look more polished.

I covered the outside of the box in pink satin and lined it with the same polka dot fabric I used for the apron. I had *just enough* of the polka dot fabric to line the box, but that meant I had to use a piece with a stain on it. I couldn’t gift it looking like that, so I glued a couple of white lace butterflies over the offending spot.

I trimmed it all with two styles of black lace, some black lace appliqués, and both pink and black ribbon. I had to buy the pink satin for the exterior and the narrow pink ribbon that covers the seams, but everything else came out of my stash. My only regret was that I couldn’t find the black silk roses I know are hiding somewhere in my atelier.

One of the finishing touches is to add a drop shadow behind the cut-out on the lid. I got a piece of black posterboard to make the shadow and discovered it was bright orange on the reverse! It was also too small to cut out the entire shadow, which serves to finish the inside of the lid. I glued the orange side to it a piece of larger white posterboard and cut the whole thing out as one. A little black Sharpie was needed to touch up one spot where I miscalculated the alignment, but you can’t even tell.

The final step was to add a window of thin acrylic, which makes the box more finished-looking and strengthens the lid. I could not find a piece of acrylic both thin enough and large enough at any store. I was starting to get concerned when I found a cheap poster frame lurking behind the door of the library at the Manor. Whatever purpose it was supposed to serve before, it was a coffin widow now. The edges were just a bit raggedy in places after I cut it (I probably should have changed blades in my utility knife at that point), so after I glued it in place, I went around the perimeter with cloth tape. It looks nicer and there’s no chance of damage (to the window or a person).

And voila! The final product!

You can get a closer look with this little video. I’m still learning iMovie, so I’m grateful to Scratch for editing help.

I’m very pleased with how it came out and I hope Betty is happy with it!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 28 January 2020 at 6:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve been having a lovely time, however you chose to celebrate this season. This is your last tip of 2019! Thank you so much for reading my humble missives this year.

Secure your bead fringe.

A lot of bead fringe is strung on a single long thread, so when you cut it to the right length, the beads fall off the end. And keep falling off…

I like to sacrifice one strand of fringe to get a piece of thread long enough to tie a knot. Tie a tight knot right up against the next bead and then dab some glue on the knot for extra security. Then I grab a needle and take a few stitches with the thread into the apron of the fringe and knot it again.

If you would like a tutorial on making your own beaded fringe (which is much more secure than commercial fringe), leave a comment here!

Your next tip will be next year! If I don’t write before then, have a wonderful New Year’s celebration!

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 27 December 2019 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

When making tear-away cup bras, use two bras.

It may seem like the logical thing to do is cut the cups off a bra and then reattach them to the bra with fasteners. Trust me on this, you are only setting the stage for sorrow.

In order to have a good structure, you want underwire on both the cups and the frame. So, get two bras. From one cut the cups from one just below the underwire — these are going to be your cups. From the second cut the cups just above the underwire — this is going to be the bra frame. I know it’s a bit wasteful, but you want both pieces to have that wire. I salvage the straps and hardware from the now-cupless (and useless) frame for other projects, so it doesn’t all go to waste. If you’ve got other ideas of how to use the leftover bits, I’d love to hear them!

If you want a little extra lift, or you need to conform to decency laws that prohibit underboob, instead of cutting away the entire cup, you can leave part of it attached to the frame. Don’t forget to finish the edge! A little bias binding works great for this.

Attach your fasteners (I use snaps) so the underwire of the cups sits on top of the underwire on the frame.

Have fun tearing away!

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

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 27 September 2019 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Tale of Two G-Strings

Dear Constant Reader,

Ever since I realized it was okay to wear G-strings (both that I was pleased with how I looked and that it was legal in our venues) I’ve been making my own.

Mostly I make what I call the “Old-school G-string”. This is the type worn by Legends in the ’60s, which I learned how to make from Dusty Summers, Las Vegas’s Only Nude Magician.

It’s a simple, but very clever, design and has minimal material requirements. You get barely-there coverage, especially in the back. Because it’s not made from stretch fabric, I always recommend taping this style of G in place. It’s easy to adjust or change out the elastic. Despite the small amount of surface area, you’ve still got a good space for decorating. The other thing I really like — I can knock one of these babies out in no time.

Here’s one in action, both sides!

     

Mina Murray Mina Murray

Photos by Kenneth Ingham at ABurlyQ 2017

You can learn how to make your very own in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming. I’m thinking of putting together a video tutorial for my Patrons. If I get four more Patrons, I will!

Last night I made an adjustable G-string as designed by Christina Manuge of Manuge et Toi. You’ve probably seen her stunning costumes on performers like Roxy Dlite and Kalani Kokonuts. Through her Patreon, she’s been producing video tutorials called Tips on Tap. They are so worth the subscription!

The videos are only available for a short time (for the Patreon tier I support), so I watch them several times and take copious notes. This tutorial was accompanied by a downloadable pattern (for personal use only) and a second video on how to adjust the pattern to fit you.

Unlike my go-to G-string above, this one required some specialty material, like rings, siders, and lingerie elastic, all of which I got from a bra supply vendor. The only item that came from my stash was the black stretch satin. It took me an evening (having previously created my pattern), and that was working slowly, so I didn’t screw up, and with frequent breaks for cat snuggles, dinner, and other important things. Stitching the elastic took the longest and required the most precision. I learned some great little tricks along the way. I’m sure next time it will go faster. I particularly like the straps and how they adjust, just like bra straps.

Here it is! (no back view because I couldn’t get a good shot of my own butt)

It fits perfectly!

It’s quite a different look from the old-school G-string, but there are certainly advantages to each one. I expect I’ll be incorporating this style into my costuming repertoire as well.

And here’s a side by side of the two styles. I think you can figure out which is which…

Do you make your own G-strings? What’s your favorite style? Do you buy them? Who’s your favorite designer?

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 3 September 2019 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Stripteaser’s Education

Dear Constant Reader,

I performed “The Stripteaser’s Education” at Hot in Topeka’s fundraising show in June. It’s an act that’s been around for a long time and seen some changes.

It’s adapted from Gypsy Rose Lee’s famous talking act. Rather than do a strict recreation, we changed and updated some of the wording. She references people and places that wouldn’t mean anything to our current audiences. Our version has changed over the years and we’ve thrown in a few New England references. For example, Gypsy used to say she’d attended Sweet Briar; I say Wellesley. Neither statement is true.

When I performed it in Topeka, I checked with the producer about using some local references. She gave me some suggestions and I worked them in. Instead of Wellesley, I used Washburn University plus a few other references specific to Topeka. From the cheers, they went over really well.

When I first started performing the act, I just wore gowns and gloves from my wardrobe, nothing special. In 2011, we gave the act to Devora for Madame Burlesque. We had a costumer for that show (our first tour!) and she made a lovely costume for D.D. based on a photo of Gypsy.

        

I used mostly the same costume when I did the act (we had to make a matching bra to fit me).

When I got the word I was going to do this act in Topeka, I decided to upgrade the costume, really make it match the photo. I had asked for advice in finding a hat like that when I learned, to my shock, we’d been laboring under a false assumption. That wasn’t Gypsy! It was Burgundy Brixx *as* Gypsy! Clearly our costume designed hadn’t done her research very well, but I admit, I hadn’t looked closely enough.

Well, there was absolutely no reason to recreate someone else’s interpretation of Gypsy. I went back to photos that I know were actually of Gypsy and picked out some of the hallmarks of her costumes — full skirt, modest blouse with a big collar, stockings, wide-brimmed hat.

The skirt came from The Wrathskellar. It was sort of inspired by a saloon girl look, with alternating panels of black lace over black jacquard and embroidered green lace. It has matching panties and a bra, so I figured I would use them. I also had a garter belt that coordinated nicely. The next challenge, the hat and the blouse.

I didn’t want to use the hat D.D. is wearing above. It doesn’t fit me very well and it doesn’t pack easily. I wanted to do this trip with just a carry-on and I also wanted to be able to have my ubiquitous sunhat. After some fruitless searching, I was in Emporium 32 and they had the perfect hat! Big brim, black straw, good price. I decided I’d give my signature leopard-print sunhat a break (I’ve been wearing it every summer for almost 20 years) and make this my new everyday hat, as well as use it in this performance. If I’d had more time, I would have added some big white roses and a new hat band for the show.

I looked all over for a blouse with the right look and just found nothing. I ended up grabbing the blouse from my “Li’l Red Riding Hood” act, but while it has the right shape, it’s a sturdy white cotton and didn’t blend so well with the lacy skirt. Fortunately, I still had some of the two kinds of lace I used to make the skirt. I used it to make a big collar, like Gypsy had in some iterations of her costume. It helped tie things together, and since it was just pinned in place, I can easily transfer it to a more appropriate blouse once I find or make one.

Lastly, I upgraded the pasties. They had just been black brocade with a ring of green rhinestones around the edge. Good for The Wrathskellar, but not exactly projecting glamour. Some radiating lines of more stones and they had sufficient sparkle.

And here’s a bit of the act on stage at Jayhawk Theatre.

Photos by Sarah Kietzman

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 7 August 2019 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! And happy August! Here’s your tip!

Make your own bias tape.

Bias tape is great for finishing work on costumes, especially where you don’t want much bulk, like the edges of corsets. Its ability to smoothly curve makes it perfect for binding necklines, armholes, and hems.

Sure, you can buy it, but there’s a limited range of colors and most are a polyester-cotton blend. I think having a perfect match to your fabric makes for a more polished look.

It’s not as hard as it might seem with a couple of simple tools.

  • A rotary cutter, mat, and ruler. Use these to cut the bias strips. Make sure you’re cutting on the true bias, diagonally across the grain. Sometimes very slippery fabric shifts around making this s difficult process. You can read about a solution for that problem here.
  • A bias tape maker, as seen in the photo above. This simple little tool is the key to easy bias tape. The most tedious part of making your own tape is pressing the tiny little seam allowance under. This tool folds the long raw edges under for you! Feed the bias strip through the wide end and then pull with the little handle along the strip. Neatly folded tape comes out the narrow end!

    Tape makers come in multiple sizes for most standard widths of tape. Pictured is a 1/2″ tape maker. I also have a 1″, and you can get 1/4″, 3/4″ and 2″ as well. These tools make single-fold bias tape. If you want double-fold, you’ll need to make a tape twice the size of the desired result and then press it in half length-wise.

  • An iron. As you move the tape maker along the strip, press the tape as it comes out the narrow end to set the fold.
  • That’s it! You’re all set to make yards and yards of tape in no time.

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

    These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 2 August 2019 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! This week I’ve got another sewing tip for you!

    A little wax can smooth your way.

    When you’re sewing through thick fabric or using multiple strands of thread in your needles, it can help a lot to wax the thread. It strengthens the thread and holds the strands together which helps prevent tangles and fraying. You can buy wax in a cake, like in the picture, which comes in a plastic holder with notches to run the thread through (I took it out of the case for the photo — too much glare) or in pretty shapes. or you can just use a candle end.

    To wax the thread, just hold the thread against the wax and pull it the whole length once or twice. Some people wax their thread first, but I prefer to thread my needle, knot the thread, and then run it through the wax.

    I wish you smooth sewing!

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

    These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 28 June 2019 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Many of those in the burlesque world are off at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend. I hope you’re having fun, drinking lots of water, and maybe even getting a little sleep.

    I’m so excited to share with you a tip (my 400th!) from the brilliant Betty Blaize. It’s so simple and so clever.

    When you’ve got a tear-away cup bra, it’s important to make sure you attach the cups on the correct sides. There’s a subtle, but important, difference between the left cup and the right, but they look so similar. Betty, ever the engineer, came up with this simple solution.

    On one side of the bra, sew the male halves of the snaps on the cup and female halves on the frame. For the other side do the opposite.


    Here’s the bra she just made for Devastasia. I know it’s hard to see the details, so there’s a close up below.

    You can see the female snap on the cup and the male snap on the frame. It’s exactly the reverse on the other side. It’s impossible to snap a cup onto the wrong side!

    This works for detachable panel skirts too! Sew the snaps one way for the front panel and the other way for the back.

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

    These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 7 June 2019 at 2:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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