Nov 09 2013

El Gran Triunfo

As I slowly return to a life lived without nasal spray (though not without decongestants, cough syrups, mucous conquerors, and anti-itch drops for eyes that didn’t want to miss out on the Super Viral Fun*), I am finally able to return to the day when we unleashed the fruits of one month’s labor upon the world.

I shall dispense quickly with my costume, which is yer basic pirata and easy to assemble. I had most of the components to hand after many years of buckling swashes and suchlike. This year, I acquired new boots, as the old one’s toes were out, purchased a snazzy new tricorn, and retired the cutlass in favor of something a little more streamlined. I’d have gone as Captain Jack Sparrow, but since I wanted to wear the bodice I’d sewn from instructions on the internet, I opted for Captain Jackie Sparrow, his little-known yet even more piratical sister.

Captain Jackie Sparrow

Captain Jackie Sparrow

You might recognize the sash from last year. The best costumes are modular. I suspect bits and pieces will be coming together again in various configurations for years to come.

Captain Jackie, buckling a swash or two.

Captain Jackie, buckling a swash or two.

The bodice didn’t turn out badly for a first-time effort. And being a bit rough, it worked for piracy. All-in-all, I’m quite pleased with it.

But as you all know, the real effort went toward making B into a bloody great wizard.

B the Blue, Wiz., Esq.

B the Blue, Wiz., Esq.

There is, I have to say, a certain satisfaction in not only delighting the person you made the costume for, but his cats as well – he’s been wearing that outer robe round the house, and the kitties gambol round his feet beneath it. It’s tough enough to stand up to their shenanigans, happily – although I’ll have to wrestle it away from them all in order to continue work. You see before you only Phase I. Phase II will make this look a bit understated.

Obviously a battle wizard.

Obviously a battle wizard.

One thing that’s very rewarding for a writer who’s just spent a month being a costumer is having people literally gasp when they see the character you’ve created. At work and at the pub afterward, I got to witness countless people glance at B, suck in a little astonished breath, and just stare a moment before breaking in to smiles. And that was before they learnt this entire thing had been sewn by hand without benefit of machine, mind you. Including that puffy black shirt under the tabard, which was thrown together frantically in the last two days before Halloween as a sort of oh-hell-why-not. They had a sale on patterns, y’see. And we had training, which meant my hands were free to work. So I had the fun of watching one of our coworkers watch me in astonishment as this thing came together from pattern piece to finished product. He was amazed.

Well, to be honest, so am I. Sewing machine weren’t invented until the early 19th century, and didn’t become really practical until the middle. Until then, it was all hand-stitch. And the things people created sewing by hand were incredible. Think back over the centuries, and realize that every scrap of clothing, from peasant shirt to queenly coronation robes, were sewn entirely with handheld needle and thread.

The Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1600-1602. Photo of portrait by Marilee Mongello courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1600-1602. Photo of portrait by Marilee Mongello courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

I have a new respect for that kind o’ work after having shoved a needle through fabric (and sometimes me) tens of thousands of times over the last month.

The stick is courtesy of the Pacific Ocean, and was collected from the Oregon Coast by one of our friends. It is now living a second life as a wizard’s staff, complete with spiffy quartz crystal topper. We’ll snazzy it up with some runes and improve the bit at the top over the next few months.

Staff and hat guard the booty. The pirate was busy elsewhere.

Staff and hat guard the booty. The pirate was busy elsewhere.

We’re also going to stiffen the hat brim. You’d think something marketed as a hat stiffener would’ve been stiff enough, but no. But it worked out well enough for Halloween, and that’s all that matters.
I owe a definite shout-out to the folks who posted instructions for making one online – we looked into buying a hat, and the things on offer for wizards are ridiculous. Or prohibitively expensive. Turned out making one was simple! And now I can add milliner to my résumé.

This is all thanks to my mom, who showed me how to wrangle a pattern and herd needles. Like so many things, it’s not actually that difficult once you’ve learned how to do it, and just about anyone could do the same, had they the training. Even the hat. And trust me when I tell you that you can accomplish with glue what you’d find daunting with the needle. They make this liquid stitch stuff now that’s simply amazing for dealing with recalcitrant hat bands and suchlike. There’s also that fabulous iron-on hem tape that allowed me to cheat my way to a finished shirt. So yes, it was a lot of work, but very much less than what the astonishing professionals of the past could achieve with so little.

Soon, I’ll put up some of the artsy-fartsy photos we took with the iPhones we were experimenting with in class, and show you how bloody amazing Starspider is when you give her an internet meme and a craft store to work with. And in a few months, you’ll be seeing the completion of B’s costume, along with my own sorceress outfit, which is already giving me a whole new level of respect for the people who designed and executed women’s fancy clothing prior to the 20th century.

Oh, and there will be rocks. Many. Rocks. Including some on my costume. Woot!

For now, I’m going to go back to pouring a pharmacy down my throat and sleep for another ten thousand years. See you in a bit, my darlings!


*This is a virus incubated in daycare centers and raised to maturity in call centers. Our on-site clinic tells me it lasts a full three weeks, and is vicious. But the cat likes it a lot. It means we’ve had lots of quality cuddle time.


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  1. 1
    Al Dente

    The pirate costume came out particularly well. The bodice is good and I particularly like the hat. Also I’m impressed that you could do the queen costume along with everything else. Sewing lace is particularly difficult.

  2. 2

    Wow. I am very nearly speechless with awe.

  3. 3

    You two really, REALLY, REALLY need to wear those to the Snohomish Hurl and Faire next year!

    As an addition to the staff, how about a little LED light under the crystal?

    1. 3.1

      Yes. With pictures.

  4. 4

    Gorgeous costumes!

    I think we have the same virus. Two weeks and counting, uuuunnnngh.

  5. 5

    I’m with heliconia – nearly speechless.
    Amazing work, and without a machine – but there is a reason they’ve been invented. That whole time-saving thing… Considering gowns could take years to finish. ;)
    Congratulations, my dear, on some fabulous threads (and yes, the outer wizard cape is probably the best single item – though your ensemble suits you to a T). :)

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