labricoleuse: (mee)
In Bill Brewer's designs for Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, her second look has a very specific stripe to it. He'd found a swatch of fabric at a New York vendor which he loved, but there were two problems: the vendor sold out of the fabric before the swatches were approved, and in order to match the fabric up the center front in this inverse chevron, one half of the skirt would have had to be cut inverted, which creates a visual anomaly in textiles with satin weaves.

Concept slide and design rendering by Bill Brewer

Image of silk yardage - the fabric we couldn't buy

In order to achieve this look, my assistant and first-year grad student Erin Torkelson took the above research image of the fabric Bill liked, rendered the stripe as a TIFF, and uploaded it to Spoonflower. We ordered sample swatches of it in a couple different substrate fabrics and Bill chose the fabric he liked best (the poly satin). He also elected to change the stripe to feature more whitespace. Then, because the stripe design is not a balanced mirror of itself, we had two versions of the stripe printed so that the skirt could be cut with that matching chevron up the front with the directional nap accommodated for.

Lovett Stripe
Lovett Stripe Reversed

Pretty cool, eh?
labricoleuse: (mee)
Last week, i had the good fortune to attend the book release party for The Spoonflower Handbook: A DIY Guide to Designing Fabric, Wallpaper, and Gift Wrap, by Stephen Fraser, Judi Ketteler, and Becka Rain.

A sitting area in the Spoonflower facility, love the upholstery!

I bought the book (as one does at such things) and have since been poring over it with the intent to write about it here, and i suppose that i should begin with a few disclosures, as i am hardly an impartial reviewer.

Spoonflower is a local company with offices literally just up the street from my house. I count more than one friend (and one alumna of our graduate program) among their employees, and have been a customer and designer of theirs for years.That said, i don't have any affiliation with this book and its authors beyond being a fan of the text.

So, what's the book like?

One could argue that it is a book-length infomercial for Spoonflower, which i suppose is technically true, in that there's a lot of information about how specifically one can use the company to produce textile designs, wallpaper, and gift wrap (the three products they print). But on a general level, there's an enormous amount of useful information about the basics of print designs--everything from how to use both analog and digital tools to create your designs, to how one might create a seamless repeat in a range of different configurations. The book does touch on some of the more "pro" programs for digital design, but also illustrates techiques and methods that are decidedly low-tech and non-intimdating for those who have no proficiency with, say, Photoshop.

The first section is a sort of overview of textiles and design--discussions of everything from types of fabrics one can print on (knits/wovens, fiber contents) to the definition of digital design terms like raster and vector based image files, hex codes, dpi, and so forth.

The structure of the second half of the book is project-based, with specific how-to craft projects, each of which addresses a different technique or medium. So, an example of a simple project for working with a digital photograph is the Doppelganger Dog Pillow (which involves printing a photo of your pet and making a pillow out of it), whereas a project addressing working with text involves creating a repeat for the Typographic Wrapping Paper.

Overall, it's an excellent book for demystifying digitally-printed textiles (and papers), which will appeal to hobby crafters, fashion designers, costumers, prop artisans, interior decorators, scrapbookers, and sewing enthusiasts. In terms of its specific appeal to theatre professionals, it's a good book to have in your arsenal, though it covers little new ground not already addressed by Kimberly Kight's Field Guide to Fabric Design.
labricoleuse: (mee)
My graduate students presented the next round of projects in dye class today, the focus of which is use of resist to create surface design on fabric. They decide upon a method, a fabric, and a dye to use, and must create a substantial length of fabric (the minimum requirement is 4 square feet, but most choose to do more surface area than that).

Take a look at what they created!

PRC Costume Technician Sam Kate Toney made this batik of a traditional tattoo design using soy and parrafin wax for her resist, and fiber-reactive cold-process dyes on a yard of cotton fabric.

Second-year grad Erin Abbenante made this batik of a nautical allover design using soy wax (and an anchor-shaped tjap!), using fiber-reactive cold-process dyes on a yard and a half of cotton fabric.

First-year grad Max Hilsabeck made this dress from an engineered batik of palm fronds, using fiber-reactive cold-process dyes on cotton fabric.

Second year grad Katie Keener used gutta as a resist to create this Bakst-inspired yardage with acid dyes on 2.5 yards of china silk.
labricoleuse: (CAD)
My current gig is to serve as the costume shop manager for the Summer Youth Conservatory at Playmakers Repertory (the company for which i serve as the crafts artisan throughout the regular theatre season). The conservatory is our summer program for middle school and high school students, a five-week program during which we rehearse, open, and run a show with the full support of the theatre's resources--costume stock, Equity stage managers, the scene shop, etc.

This summer we're doing Hairspray with a cast of 30 kids, and I'm running the costume shop with a staff of four students in the Theatre Tech section of the conservatory (these students staff our shops and run the show itself as their conservatory experience). In the first week of the production process, one of the things we did was to take a tour of the locally-based, internationally-known custom fabric printing company, Spoonflower--they generously donated some fabric that we're using for some of our costumes and classes. I've taken our graduate students on tours there in the past, but not since they've moved to their new, expanded location, and i've got some great photos to share from our tour!

Read more... )

Our theatre tech students really loved seeing how they run things at Spoonflower, not only the print rooms but also the heat-setting rooms, the cutting stations, the pack-and-ship department. I couldn't take photographs in those places though because of copyright ownership issues with the fabric prints in those parts of the factory. But, Spoonflower is happy to book tours of their facility if you find yourself in the area!
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
There's a second part to the surface design adventures of Jen Caprio's costume design for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: hand-painted appliques! (The first part of the process, the digital textile design of the collection of twelve background fabrics, was described in this prior post here.)

Recall if you will Jen's design for the coat, inspired by the stained-glass artwork of Marc Chagall:

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (CAD)
So, i've been working on a pretty exciting extracurricular project lately, for my friend and colleague, costume designer Jennifer Caprio. I've worked on several shows for Playmakers with Jen, including the currently-running Private Lives, for which we painted that fantastic Schiaparelli-inspired silk crepe.

But, clearly as a successful and nationally-known costume designer, Jen works on multiple shows for a variety of venues, all in different stages of development at any given time. So when she asked me if i'd be interested in a freelance gig doing a series of digital textile prints for the titular costume in the upcoming national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, i jumped at the chance!

Jen's design concept for the Dreamcoat is inspired by the famous series of twelve stained-glass windows which Marc Chagall created for the Abbell Synagogue at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. Created in the 1960s, each of Chagall's windows represent one of the twelve tribes of Israel. In Jen's vision of the Dreamcoat, it's an ankle-length frock coat, the skirt of which is cut in twelve gores, each corresponding to one of Chagall's windows.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
Recall if you will the super-exciting project we have in the works, the creation of custom silk crepe for our upcoming production of Private Lives at Playmakers Repertory Company.

I wrote the first post a while back, about the sample-creation process in which we determined techniques and media to use to get the results our designer, Jennifer Caprio, wanted for the gown. The second post, back before the winter break, covered digital manipulation of the artwork in order to prepare it for our process. And in this one, we really take it from 2D to 3D.

The draper on this production, third year graduate Leah Pelz, carefully laid out and threadmarked the pieces of the gown onto lengths of 4-ply silk crepe. She also threadmarked a lot of guidelines--where the floral pattern needed to travel, where darts would be sewn into the bodice, etc. We wound up having two lengths of fabric, each of which would need to be hand-painted with the lily pattern.

Recall that at the end of the sampling process, we had decided upon a resist technique using a thinned gutta resist and a combination of silk paints and acid dyes. In order to get the most crisp control for this sort of process, you have to stretch your fabric on a frame, kind of like a canvas for a painting. In my dye studio, i have a large steel table, 4' x 8', with a removable stretcher frame made from 1"x4"s that we bolt together and fit into the table. But, we needed to border our silk pieces with strips of muslin in order to stretch the fabric on the frame--partly because the crepe was not wide enough for the frame without them, but also because we didn't want to damage or waste part of the silk by stapling or tacking through it to hold the fabric on the frame.

Check it out! )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
In Part One of this series on some hand-painted silk we are making, i got as far as the sample process, in which my assistant and i created a whole range of surface design swatches to show our designer, Jennifer Caprio, how we might create the fabric. Once Jen chose the sample, our next task was to get the image onto the fabric, a rich 4-ply silk crepe.

Recall that the inspiration for the dress was a 1935 Schiaparelli gown in the collection of the Museum at FIT. Because Jen wants the lily motif to be the guide for our own fabric creation, i decided Photoshop would be the best tool to make our template.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
We've begun a really exciting surface design project for our next show at Playmakers, Noel Coward's Private Lives, in which we are making some fabric yardage inspired by this 1935 Schiaparelli dress in the collection of the Museum at FIT.

For the character of Amanda, costume designer Jennifer Caprio dreamed up a glamorous dress clearly influenced by the Schiaparelli gown but without being an exact copy:

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (CAD)
I mentioned in my last post that we're now working on the final show of the season at Playmakers Repertory Company, Kander and Ebb's Cabaret. Today's post is the second in a series about the surface-design projects being headed up by my co-crafts artisan, second-year graduate student Candy McClernan. Candy has a particular interest in computer-aided design and the application of digital technologies to costume production, and this show has provided her with quite a few projects in that area.

This post concerns the creation of a custom Deutschmark-print fabric for the Kit Kat Klub's show costumes for the "Money" number.

Read more... )

If you like this fabric, much like the zeppelins, you can find it on Spoonflower here!

And, don't forget, you have until 6pm on Sunday to get yourself into the drawing for a free copy of the Resurrection Engines anthology featuring my story, "Tidewrack Medusa."
labricoleuse: (CAD)
We're hard at work on the final show of the season at Playmakers Repertory Company, Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, and even though the show's only been in rehearsal for a week, in the costume shop we've been at it for a month already.

There are so many crafts projects in this show that i have a co-crafts artisan, second-year graduate student Candy McClernan. Candy has a particular interest in computer-aided design and the application of digital technologies to costume production, and this show has provided us with quite a few projects in that area for Candy to troubleshoot. This post is about the first of several, the creation of a custom zeppelin-print fabric for the character of Sally Bowles.

Read more... )

Want to make your own zeppelin dress? Candy's fabric is available on Spoonflower here!
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
We are currently hosting a short residency with renowned Broadway costume painter Margaret Peot in tandem with the release of her new book, The Successful Artist's Career Guide: Finding your Way in the Business of Art. In addition to the freelancer's workshop I announced in a prior post, she is also conducting workshops and classes with our graduate and undergraduate students yesterday and today here on campus.

Yesterday morning, she led our costume production MFA candidates in a specialized advanced workshop exploring aerosol and airbrush techniques using acid dyes on nylon spandex and silk fabrics. This is not a workshop she can do most places, because it requires students who are respirator-fit-tested due to the type of airborne dyestuff the techniques create, but because we have a respirator program in place here, we could host it! Exciting!

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (milliner)
One of the many things i'm up to this summer is furthering my education. A big component of costume craft artisanship can be learning on-the-fly, teaching yourself how to do what's needed to achieve the effect required. The more you know, the smoother the job goes, so i'm always up for learning new skills and related information.

In the course of my career, i've always keenly felt the presence of scientific aspects of costume creation--the geometry of pattern drafting, the chemistry of dye processes, the physics of fabric behavior in a bias-cut gown, and so forth. When i discovered the Textiles Off-Campus Program at North Carolina State University, i was overjoyed--a chance to learn more about the science of textile production, from one of the best Textiles programs in the country!

I've been taking their courses since fall of 2008, one per session--first their basic Intro to Textile Science, then Polymer Chemistry, and now i've just finished Yarn Production and Processes in the first summer session. I'll be taking a dye chemistry class in the fall, as well, in pursuit of their Textile Fundamentals Certificate, which is a program designed to augment an existing bachelors degree.

The courses are actual undergraduate and graduate level full-semester classes, with lectures delivered online via streaming video. You fax or email your homework to your professors, and take tests via a proctorship (so, if you want to take TOP courses, you need a colleague or coworker to agree to administer your exams and vouch for the fact that you didn't cheat on them).

I've really enjoyed the courses i've taken thus far, though the subject matter is challenging--best know your math!--and you have to have a pretty healthy dose of self-discipline, organizational skills, and sticktuitiveness to work within the structure of the online-delivery format. Me, i'm good at math (though the last time i studied it was to take the AP Calculus exam in high school, 20 years ago) and i do well in the online-delivery format, so i'm loving it!

I'll get to the second half of that quilt symposium review this weekend, i hope--the pix are edited and uploaded, i've just got to find time to write it! Of course, i've been otherwise occupied with studying for the final in my Yarns course, writing some forthcoming posts for [ profile] nicknickleby, running samples at Tumbling Colors, and working on some exciting hat commissions TBA soon... Oh, and buying a house, so i imagine soon (i close July 31st) there might be some veering-toward-offtopic home decoration posts about upholstery or something.
labricoleuse: (safety)
If you are just joining the blog, you'll want to check back to the two previous posts to catch up on the first two days' worth of this symposium, which has been hosted by the Center for Dramatic Art at UNC-Chapel Hill and at which i've been assisting and participating in some of the courses.

Day one covered the first session of four different fabric modification technique seminars.
Day two consisted of tours of three area fabric industry facilities.

Here's a quick refresher of the order in which i observed the classes:

1.) Screenprinting with EZ Screen, taught by Jeff Lieder.
2.) Devore and discharge printing, taught by Colleen Muscha.
3.) Rubberama (silicone caulk techniques on spandex), taught by Janet Bloor.
4.) Arashi Shibori, taught by Lori Hartenhoff.

I should note too for those who are new to La Bricoleuse--my photo policy is pretty free and laid-back. All images, unless otherwise credited, are copyright Rachel E. Pollock and property of me, but you are welcome to take and use ANY of them for educational presentations or publications. My only requirement is that you credit me as the source, and if it is appropriate to do so, mention that they came from

So, if you see any pictures you want, have at them! You don't HAVE to do so, but i'd like it if you'd drop a comment or an email and let me know how you are using them (i.e., tutorial PowerPoint, work-related scrapbook, what-have-you).

more pix and technique overviews! )
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
Today was the second day of the symposium; while we waited for our output from yesterday's classes to cure/dry/etc., we toured three companies and organizations in the Carolina piedmont whose work is of related interest to costume professionals.

The first stop of the day was a non-profit development and consultancy company called [TC]2. They do a huge range of research and development of technology for the apparel and textile industries. One of their ongoing projects is body-scanners and related software. They market it in a variety of areas (the ImageTwin website being one example, and the online resource archive Tech Exchange), and they are apparently taking a body-scanner to SIGGRAPH this year as well. They also have developed a lot of new products and equipment for the digital textile printing industry and are the folks who conducted the landmark SizeUSA study of anthropometric measurements across a range of USA demographics.

The second stop was at the offices of the non-profit advocacy and development group, Cotton Incorporated, a resource and research organization that furthers the development of the international cotton industry, and the third stop was the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University.

Photographs and more info... )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
Today was the first full day of the USITT Costume Commission's Fabric Modification Symposium, a three-day extravaganza of classes, presentations, hands-on activities, and more hosted by UNC-Chapel Hill at our Center for Dramatic Art. I thought that i was going to be an assistant to one of the presenters, but it turns out that instead, i got to be a "floater," checking out all of the first day's worth of classes! I took a ton of behind the scenes photographs and even participated in some of the seminars.

Thirty-five costume professionals from the US and Canada are attending, and we divided up into four groups, which rotated through the series of four different classes. The classes are taught over two days, with a "break" day in the middle (tomorrow) to allow some of the projects to cure/set/etc. So, today was the first day, and we'll do a second day worth of work on these things on Saturday.

The classes are as follows (i'll list them in the order that my group went through them):

1.) Screenprinting with EZ Screen, taught by Jeff Lieder. Jeff is a costume designer, a professor at U-Wisc Milwaukee, and has served as the Costume Director of the Utah Shakespearean Festival for the past 18 years.

2.) Devore and Discharge printing, taught by Colleen Muscha. Colleen is a costume designer and head of the Costume Design MFA program at Florida State University.

3.) Rubberama (silicone caulk techniques on spandex), taught by Janet Bloor. Janet is head of the NYC-based costume studio EuroCo Costume Company and co-author of the book, Rubber: Fun, Fashion, Fetish.

4.) Arashi Shibori, taught by Lori Hartenhoff. Lori is a fiber artist and Costume Director at Northern Illinois U.

pix and technique overviews! )
labricoleuse: (history)
I'll be arriving in NYC tonight, and I will most likely be beginning work on Monday at an as-yet-undisclosed location. (I need to find out whether i have their permission to cover anything about the job in the blog or not.)

On the drive up, i stopped in DC to visit some friends and catch a couple of exhibits at local museums. (I'm posting this from there--DC that is--before heading out for the rest of my drive.) The first one i'll talk about is BLUE, currently running through September 18th at the Textile Museum.

BLUE is a followup to the museum's 2007 exhibit, RED, and is similar in theme--it collects together the work of five artists currently working with blue dye as a medium, along with a historical section featuring a range of garments and textiles from various historical periods, cultures, and traditions, all in the thematic hue.

I think my favorite of the modern artists featured was Shihoko Fukumoto, who had several pieces shown. My favorite was Morning Mist 1999, a tea ceremony room made of indigo dyed linen on a delicate frame. It just looked like the most peaceful space to sit inside of.

Some of the highlights from the historical section were the 19th-century Japanese fireman's coat, essentially a large indigo-dyed quilted garment kind of like a kimono, and a tiny preserved piece of cloth dyed in indigo with a horse woven into it from the 5th century. (Many of the historical pieces are depicted on the website's image section, actually.)

At the end of the exhibit was a film room showing sections of a documentary on indigo, which was fascinating.

Upstairs from BLUE was another exhibit of accessories and clothing from Bolivia, including some really cool embroidered and beaded hats, and a hands-on informational section for "textile novices" explaining common vocabulary terms used when referring to textiles, including samples of different kinds of fiber before and after processing, and different styles of weaving.

In the Bolivia exhibit, aside from the beaded hats my favorite thing was a finely-woven shawl depicting both with traditional figures like horses and chickens and more modern images like airplanes and guitars. They also had some really amazing embroidered coca-leaf bags and some extremely finely-knit caps, pouches, and tiny dolls. Honestly, these things must've been knit with like, toothpicks.

The Textile Museum also has an extensive library on its top floor, but by the time we got through the exhibit, it was after hours. I'd love to go check it out next time i'm in DC, though! I did get to make a run through the gift shop, where i bought a couple of Maiwa Productions' documentaries, one on indigo production and one on natural dyestuffs. There was of course a huge amount of amazing fiber art and books and other publications, but i figured i'd invest in the videos, in case i decide to use them in the dyeing class i teach in spring. Students often ask about natural dyeing and indigo, and it'd be cool to have some footage to look at on those topics instead of just book-stuff. So far i've watched part of the indigo documentary and it's really fascinating, showing harvesting processes and the vat setups at indigo farms that have been around for centuries over in India and such.

Also, if you hit the Textile Museum while in DC, i recommend taking the metro and walking--the walk up S Street takes you past a lot of foreign consulates, some of which have really amazing architecture, landscaping, and sculpture outside!

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