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.

Scenes From the Costuming Life

Only three sewing days until Halloween! I’ve been frantic, but fulfilled, and it seems we’ll have a wizard ready just in time. Gotta few pictures for ye, which doesn’t make up for my absence, but at least gives you a little something.

This is Misha’s idea of being a big ol’ help:

Misha on the robe.

Misha on the robe.

She loves that robe. She’d always take up station upon it whilst I was sewing other bits of it. She’ll be thrilled to bits when she learns I’m making one for myself out of the same fabric.

My current supervisor fell in love with the robe, too, and decided he must wear it awhile.

Mah supe in costume.

Mah supe in costume.

He wandered round the call center talking about being a pimp wizard until he got too hot and had to take it off. And guess who gets a wizard’s robe next? Ja you betcha. I’m shopping for the most obnoxious fabric I can find, because he wants it so loud it’s screaming. Suggestions welcome.

When I’d finished the initial bits of the robe, tabard/tunic thingy, and the hat, we stuffed him into it for a fitting – he’s close enough to B’s size that he works as a stand-in. But I didn’t really need to see how everything fit together at that point so much as wanted to see mah supe in the full get-up.

Mah supe in the outfit.

Mah supe in the outfit.

He decided the point should point the other way, the way in which you should go: a wizard GPS, if you will.

Wizard GPS

Wizard GPS

So that’s the basic thing, and I’ll be done with some of the extra bits, and we’ll have a respectable wizard costume going on soon. Yay!

Got stuff for me own costume, too. After a billion years of the really ugly and unwieldy cutlass, it was time for a new pirate sword. B decided to test it on Luna.

Off with her head!

Off with her head!

And she’s all like, “Whaa??!”

Off with mah who wha nao?

Off with mah who wha nao?

And we learn why some pirates have only one hand:

Hoomin fingers is finger-lickin' good!

Hoomin fingers is finger-lickin’ good!

I’m not going to wear the hook, it just came with the set, and now belongs to the kitties.

Kirby and Luna got a good nap in with B’s brother’s costume.

Sleepy kittehs

Sleepy kittehs

He went as Jareth, and hopefully will give me permission to plaster his mug all over the internets, because he looked awesome. Even though he asked me to do his makeup, and really, what do I know about doing makeup? But he was a hit.

Back to work for me. I’ll soon return with moar photos! And then we’ll get on with the actual substantial blogging thingy. I’ve missed you, my darlings!

9 Billion Hours of Sewing Succeed

The Information Twins were a definite hit. In fact, we’re thinking of doing it again next year, with some improvements in the costume department. Not being able to stuff poor Captain TMI into his Superman suit in order to do a proper fitting led to some issues, but we made it through.

Captain TMI and Golden Silence, ready to fight – um, whatever. We actually don’t know what our superhero schtick is.

I’ll have more pics later. For now, I’m going to eat, watch teevee, and not sew a stitch nor paint a prop. I’m tired beyond belief. Arglebargle. How the fuck does making costumes take so much out of a person? Oh, right – no sewing machine. I’m glad most of you who were making costumes had sewing machines. Soooo much easier with a machine.

I’ll have some geology for you later. Which do you want first: the next installment of Rivers, or the final stop on our OSU Geo tour?

I hope my east coast of North America readers are safe and well. I’m sorry Sandy fucked up your Halloween. And if your cell service is down, rest assured we’re fixing it. Even whilst wearing costumes.

Prepare For… All Hallows Read [insert scary ghost noises here]

Neil Gaiman’s trying to own Halloween. I intend to help him. This is a tradition I’d very much like to see become as much a part of Halloween as the costumes and candy and strangely-carved pumpkins. The premise is simplicity itself:

That’s it: just give someone a scary book. Last year, I gave my intrepid companion the book Why Buildings Fall Down. Buildings falling down are fairly scary, and it’s a book appropriate to his interests. See how that works?

You can give a book to kids, adults, undecideds… anyone you like.

And, if you’re in the Seattle area, you could give them their scary book whilst taking them to Frankenstein, which would be double the awesome.

Whatever you do, just have fun. Halloween’s all about the fun. And the scary stories we tell each other with the lights off and possibly some peeled grapes at hand for props.

Don’t mind those Zombie Rights Campaign folks moaning about All Hallow’s Read. Moaning is just what zombies do. Give them a nice scary book. That’ll make them feel better.

Insert Clever Post Title Here

Sorry.  My darling Aunty Flow finally showed up.  Wetware nonfunctional.  But I couldn’t let Halloween end without posting Brian Switek’s awesome cat-o-lantern:

Love it!  Of course, it’s got stiff competition from Silver Fox’s Jack-o-Breccia.  If you haven’t seen Jack yet, you really must go say hi.  Bonus: considering what he’s made of, the neighborhood hooligans might hurt themselves should they try to smash him.  My kind o’ jack!

For those who’ve been waiting patiently all month, Accretionary Wedge #28’s up at Matt’s place.  It’s all tricked out, too – nice Halloween touch, there.

Hopefully, in the next day or so, I can show you what I did with my Halloween before Aunty got nasty.  I’m pretty sure I’ve got permission to post the photos, but everyone was rushed and so I don’t want to put anything definitive up until I’m sure I didn’t shoot something that shouldn’t have been shot.  We were testing the camera in low-light stage conditions, y’see.  Some of them came out brilliantly.  It’ll make you want to go see the musical, only you can’t, because it was the last show.  But there’s more where that comes from, and I might even have sneak peeks, and those of you who don’t live in Seattle will end up wishing you did.

Best thing about today: giving my intrepid companion his All Hallow’s Read.  He’s always doing superbly thoughtful things for me, rescuing me from computer ruin, chauffeuring me around whilst I car shop – it was nice to finally take him by surprise with a little something.  (Why Buildings Fall Down, in case you were wondering – All Hallow’s Read’s about giving a scary book, and, well, that’s grownup scary and interesting.)  Five minutes in a bookstore, people.  That’s all it takes to make someone happy – as long as you go in having a good idea what they might like.  Next Halloween, give your own intrepid companions the gift of a scary book they don’t expect.

Next best thing about today: watching Jesus hand out communion wafers while saying, “Body of me.”  Awesome!

And you, my darlings – what did you do to celebrate the best holiday of the year?

Give Someone a Good Scare

So, Neil Gaiman’s started a new Halloween tradition I can definitely get behind: All Hallow’s Read.  Give someone a scary book today.

Look, I know it’s already Halloween.  That’s no excuse.  The bookstores are open.  You’ve got five minutes.  Just do it.

Now to think up something scary to give.  Romance novel?  Something from the self-help section?  Glenn Beck’s latest – ah, no, I want my friends to survive the fright, and preferably without projectile vomiting.  But maybe a little something by …. Richard Simmons.

Mwa-ha ha!