Monday, December 7, 2015

Mother Ginger or as I like to call her Mother Beast!

Better photos of the costume in action, literally!
The 3 strings are taped to a PVC pipe wrapped in red electrical tape. A plastic candy cane is also there as a prop.

Dancers emerge.

Mother Ginger can move a lot!

More rock 'n rolling!

Here's the final reveal (well almost I want to put a bow above the buttons)! As you can see the frame did want to bow despite the hula hoops' support.

The dancer is standing on two stacked 18" boxes. I made a false petticoat and added striped tights to cover the front of the box since it can be seen by the audience.

The tights were sewn on both sides of the slit in the white fabric and then a gathered strip of fabric was sewn over it to make it look more like a petticoat. Given more time I would have ruffled the entire white piece.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Modifications to Mother Ginger

This Monday after school is tech where the performance is lighted, etc. I'll go in early to put the cover back on the frame. The cover is off now so I could bring it home to work on it over the weekend to add more ribbon (there was just too much white), bows to the top of the ribbons and most importantly add 2 more pulls to the front so the whole front will come up. The original string broke, I'll experiment with ribbon and a multi strand synthetic string.   Be certain when you thread the ribbons/ string through the rings that are being used to pull up the front that they do NOT go over the circular hoop orit  is much harder to pull up the front.

The new rows of ribbon are being hot glued to the white, it's quicker and in some places the ribbon that was adhered with iron on fusible is starting to come away from the white muslin. The bows will probably be sewn and glued.

The circular frame is taking a bit of a beating being on it's side so much. The PVC ends need more duct tape and the center square for the dancer is no longer a right angles. It's not much of an issue but unanticipated. The bolts might be loosening. The straps over the dancer's shoulders kept moving towards the center so we screwed the strapping right into the PVC pipe. A safety pin was still used on the straps as an added measure of safety.

A relative sent me a link to a Tacoma ballet school's production of the Nutcracker. it shows the frame work for their Mother Ginger is made of metal. She told me a friend who works with the group said it was made of airplane metal so it's sturdy but light.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Quick Peek and Mother Ginger

Here's a quick peek at the Mother Ginger costume, 1st fitting.
There are things which need to be altered but here's the basic look!

The dance teacher wants the front to lift more because the dancers do not come out one at a time but in rows (not like all the videos I watched on U-tube, of course!) And then go back in! Twice! The string I used through the roman curtain rings broke from all the rubbing on the rings. I'm going to sew plastic rings on the bottom, middle and top of the two strips of ribbon to either side of the buttons. Three cords going through them will join in the center on the top outside and the dancer will pull one bow that will bring up a larger area of the hoop. At least that's the new plan! I settled on a plan to use a candy stick (PVC with red tape)  to pull all three strings/ribbons up. It works better, but I don't think it will ever lift as high as the teacher wanted. The opening for the strings came through the top as far towards the front as possible. The length of the dancer's arms was the limiting factor.

There is way too much white but I think the only thing I will be able to do is add bows to the top since I had a project date moved up and the Nutcracker is next Thursday. This is also the same time as my husband's annual Nativity play at church for which I do all the alterations.
Storing it sideways to keep people from accidentally walking on it but it's not great for the fabric or the frame.
 The column is to keep it from falling forward. You can see the dancer's center position.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mother Ginger A Few More Bits 'n Pieces

Here are the buttons sewn over the roman shade tape, not a great representative of how it works but that will be shown better when it's on the dancer. I'm going to add a couple of large wrapped candies, made of fabric of course, to the top of the skirt. One of these will have the cord attached to it so when it's lifted the front will lift up.

Because the edge of the skirt is white and collects dirt and there was a lot of red ribbon left over I attached it to the bottom of the skirt in a slightly ruffled manner. 
There's a pretty good chance this costume is going to look like a huge cake!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mother Ginger Photos-Bits 'n Pieces

Here are the photos of the items I mentioned in the last post. Unfortunately there was a miscommunication and the skirt did not get on to the frame as hoped, it will have to wait until November 30th.

These are the cross straps, one side is zig-zaged to the over the shoulder strap but the other will remain free until the dancer puts it on for sizing. It may need padding on the shoulders. The original idea was to use backpack straps but the jute straps were so much cheaper and longer.

This is the triangles of fabric that were inserted to give the cover skirt, on top of the white large skirt, more circumference.
I used a serger but the top point was a bit of a problem.

Here are 3 photos of the top, also waiting for the dancer fitting. I'm thinking of adding a white lacy fabric to the end of the 3/4 length sleeve for 2 reasons: to bring some of the white upward and to cover more of the male dancer's arms.
Mother Ginger top with upper skirt sewn to it.

Close up of cinch

The cinch is to give the character some kind of waist since the actual waist will have to go around the straps that are attached to the 20"x20" PVC square the dancer stands in. 
Not much else will probably happen on the costume until November 30. There will be a few posts about embellishments but the big reveal will have to wait :-(

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mother Ginger's top

It's been a few days between postings because other things have come up and I've been working on Mother Ginger off and on. However there has been progress!

My idea was to use a dress or  blouse for the top of Mother Ginger and make a short circular skirt that would cover the area where the skirt comes to the waist. The straps that go over the shoulders to the PVC frame need to be covered as well as the gathers of the skirt. This is going to make the dancer look like he has a huge waist but nothing can really be done about that.

I found a red on red stripe satin-like dress at the Salvation Army, cut the skirt off, cut the back open and sewed Velcro along the back opening. A wide black waist, similar to a corset, will be sewn to the waist area of the blouse.  I'm using black because the fabric I chose for the upper skirt is red with black polka dots. There was so much white it seems like a good idea to tone it down a bit. There was too much red and white stripe everywhere.

To minimize the amount of red and black fabric needed it was cut at 5 different intervals and a triangle shape was inserted with the wide end toward the outside, this was to give it more circumference, making it more like a circle.  (Should have photographed that but maybe I'll do a demo later.)

The jute straps were also had a Velcro treatment to attach to the center piece for the dancer to hold up the under structure. Either it was cheap Velcro, which is likely if it came from Walmart, or the structure is too heavy because it didn't hold. For now large safety pins are also used.  The other issue with the straps is they wanted to move on the PVC so a 12-14" piece of the jute strap will be added perpendicular to the straps joining them.

The frame goes to school today! I'll definitely have photos of that!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Big Momma Needs Big Buttons

The front of the Mother Ginger skirt needs to be raised up for the dancers to run out from underneath. I used roman shade tape with the built in rings up the center front from the bottom hoop to the top one. After a trial it is better to not use the ring at the bottom hoop. If I had thought this through I would have sewn the tape in before joining the panels, at this point it was easier to hand sew them down.

Last night more candy cane swirl strips were added to the skirt and a ribbon rose hair piece was made from the same ribbon.

With rain expected today the under structure was taken down from the ladder and the next photo of it will probably be when my husband tries it on for me. But that doesn't mean there aren't some photos to look at.

A big Mother needs big buttons! These will go over the spot where the rings are on the front of the skirt.
The base is a circle of corrugated cardboard, batting and floral wire put through 2 slits to make a shank for sewing it onto the skirt.  The wire is twisted along it's self under the batting/
The material is a stretch confetti dot (because the teacher loves shine). I could have added a red solid fabric underneath to make it more red.  Hot glue batting to cardboard, 
fabric to back of card board and there you go!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Mother Ginger Tent

The first photos of the under structure completed and with a cover!

Looks more like a helicopter than anything else. The ladder is set to a few inches above 6'.
Igloo? Circus Tent? Giant Marshmallow?

It was a wrestling match to get the white muslin on the structure, so when I discovered it was inside out I wasn't going to try to turn it around. The straps are supports for the bottom channel with the Plex Pipe tube. They act more like a stabilizer for the bottom edge than a support.

We continue to get bowing along the outside so I'm thinking of just incorporating that into the design. The one on the left is more severe than the others.

Even though it is white it gets rather warm inside the skirt so I'm going to work on securing the outside straps to the bottom edge and then will probably mark the top of the straps and take the fabric off the structure to put the red ribbon on.

After taking the cover off the jute straps were sewn to the bottom and the top edge (marked with safety pins while on the structure). The straps are on the inside and a 3 ribbon stripe covers the shadow of the strap on the outside. I didn't really want to try and stuff all the fabric through my machine and was concerned it wouldn't stay straight so I decided to fuse the ribbon to the white muslin.

Using what I had on hand, Heat n Bond Lite Item #3521, seemed okay but it says on the wrapper if you're not going to sew the fused fabric down use HeatnBond UltraHold.  JoAnn's only had Pellon 735 heavy Duty Wonder-Under Transfer Web so most of the ribbon is fused to the muslin with this. I had some trouble with the release paper coming off in jagged strips but that's more likely user error.  Be sure to let it fully cool so it can bond.
  The ribbon actually goes over the edge of the straps so the edges have to be pressed extra along the edges. The ribbon in the center is a metallic open weave and not really fusing well. it might need a bit of liquid stitch to anchor it. If I had a choice to do it over I'd choose a cloth ribbon.*Part of the problem with fusing was probably the surface the fabric and ribbon were on. I was pressing with the laminate cutting table directly under the strap, muslin and ribbon. When I used a thick pressing cloth called "The Ultimate Pressing Cloth" by Yarn Tree in Ames Iowa, AND used steam with the cotton pressing cloth on top of the ribbon, it seems to fuse better. The Ultimate Pressing Cloth is sort of like a combination chamois and felt.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mother Ginger Jute Straps

The jute straps, furniture webbing actually, are 3.5" wide. The photo shows the strap wrapped around a piece of Plex Pipe (L) and pinned to the hem (R). The hem is 1.5' deep for the bottom Plex pipe to thread through. That's actually deeper than was needed for the pipe but it will probably come in handy for attaching the strap. The hem was a straight stitch with a multi-zigzag stitch over it for strength.

The circle is complete and is sitting on a ladder outside but it was too dark to take a photo.
Tomorrow the skirt will go over the structure and it will really look like a skirt!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ribbon for Mother Ginger Skirt

A lucky find at Costco today! Candy cane stripe ribbon in 50 yard rolls. I also picked up the sparkly solid red ribbon. We decided to make Mother Ginger a Candy Cane lady.
Today's task was to join the 3 panels using my serger flatlock stitch. I haven't really used the serger much but figured this was a good time to start. I used the 2 thread flatlock since I can't find the spreader that's needed for a 3 thread flatlock. It came out pretty good. The third panel had to be two  pieces because the bolt came in 10yds and that's not evenly divisible by 3, this panel will be placed in the back.

The top of the panels is folder over 1.5 inches twice, on this edge are the grommets and button holes. I ran out of grommets and since my machine does automatic button holes I figured it would actually be quicker to do the button holes. The 1.5" hem was stitched down near the folded edge farthest from the top and then the button holes were done. They were pretty small but it just needs to be wide enough for a cord to go through, right now I'm using a shoe string.

Here's a look at the fabric while I"m pressing up the 1.5 hem for the bottom Plex Pipe to feed through
If you're not careful it can pick up everything from the floor!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mother Ginger Costume by the numbers

Tonight is cutting of the muslin so no pictures but here are the my calculations.

The top hoop is 10' by 9' but I'm just using the 10' measurement.
10' x12" = 120" minus the 20" center for the dancer=100" diameter divided by 2 = 50" This is the amount needed from the edge of the hoop to the dancer.

From the edge of the hoop to the floor is 6' x12=72"

I'm adding 1" for fabric curving over the PVC
4" at the bottom to attach the hem to the bottom hoop (this might be a Velcro strip)
3" at the top to fold over and put in grommets to thread a cord through and gather up the excess as the fabric comes into the center.

50" for radius at top
+72" from hoop to floor
+1" for the curve over the hoop
+4" for attaching to the bottom hoop
+3" for the top edge grommets
=130" or 10'10" for each panel.

120" wide white muslin means I'll need 3 panels.
(Circumference of the circle is diameter 10' x 3.14 which in this case is 31'.
Times that by 12 for inches =372"
Divide that by the width of the fabric =3.1 panels. This is a bit over 3 panels but the back isn't shown to the audience and if needed a strip of fabric could be added.

Final analysis: I will cut one panel of 10'10" and experiment with the top and bottom margins possibly making them a bit shorter if less is needed at the top or bottom attachment.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Due to the size of Mother Ginger's skirt the only viable cheap option was 120" wide, white muslin. I had to go to 2 JoAnn's to find enough, 11 yards plus a bit more. Walmart was an option but at JoAnn's I could use a 50% off coupon. The total was still $54.00. The photo is of an unwrapped bolt of fabric plus about 2 yards. To keep the crispness it won't be washed.

The current idea is to use red ribbon down the side for a candy cane look. The ribbon would hide any shadowing from the straps that will hold the hoops together. There is a lot of great ribbon available at Hobby Lobby. 

The third topic of this post is the hula hoops. Toys-R-Us had hula hoops that light up for $10.00 each. I bought them just in case I can't find other ones but it looks like a local shop has the plain ones for $7.00. They have to be 36" across.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mother Ginger Plastic Structure

Having the weekend with my husband to help with the building of Mother Ginger's skirt is great!

I've agreed to try the plastic pipe in hopes of doing away with the wooden support structure and making it lighter for the dancer to just use straps to hold up the skirt. Using a plywood platform for the top of the skirt would be easier to construct but more expensive.

We bought:
4- 1 inch schedule 40 pipes (schedule 40 is thicker) ($17.50)
4- 1/4 inch 4 inch machine round head, screws with nuts ($2.10)
100 feet of 1/2 inch white Plex pipe ($28.52)
Plex pipe connectors ($4.82)

What we had on hand:
duct tape, 2- 36" hula hoops

 After being screwed together the crossed PVC was placed on a cart to start temporarily attaching the Plex Pipe. The screws needed to be very tight so the center section would remain a box and not an angular parallelogram. 
 After duct taping the Plex pipe to the ends of the PVC there was significant bowing in between the cross beams. Spying 2 hula hoops in the garage I suggested we attach them to the Plex pipe and the center cross beams. This worked to some degree but adding the hula hoops were still not stable. Adding a cross piece diagonally near the center of the crosses did the trick. If you look closely you can see the cross piece goes underneath the PVC but is on top of the hoops.
We need 2 more hula hoops before we can secure the Plex pipe to the ends of the PVC supports.
This is actually shown from underneath.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Re-thinking the structure

I'm re-thinking the materials for the skirt for Mother Ginger, officially called Mother Beast now.
Going to the big box hardware store to see how PVC would work as the 4 cross beams to reduce the weight. We're going to try making the skirt frame and see how much it weighs, maybe the actor can wear it without the structure underneath.

Bough 17 yards of upholstery webbing for the straps. At 98 cents a yard it's the cheapest, widest and most durable thing to use. It's made of jute. Hopefully there won't be an issue with the red stripe in it.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A terrific set designer and friend, Brian Redfern, is checking the physics of my design.
Last night I had the idea of reducing the weight of the platform by substituting the circle plywood platform with 2"x2" crosspieces on which a wire circle could be attached.

Two 8' length 2x2s would be attached (screws?) to the center structure going front to back and then 2 would be attached in the opposite direction, side to side. The material for the circle would be attached to the ends of the 2x2s curving between them to form the circle.

Currently there are 2 options for the circle, 12 gauge wire or 1/2 Plex pipe. PVC pipe has been suggested but I'm not sure it can be in a circle without heating it which would be a longer process. It might work since the circle is large, 9', the bottom hoop might not have to be perfectly round...hmmm.
The idea is something like this photo of another production of Nutcracker, less circus like though.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


This morning I unrolled the paper pattern we did yesterday with all the dancers standing together as they would under Mother Ginger's skirt. Side to side it is 9 feet, back to front it is 8 feet. The tallest girl in the ensemble is 6'2". Mother is a guy who will be on a riser of some sort, probably a box built into the foundation structure. Here's a few images...

The paper pattern has Sharpie markings, it's more oval than the paper but it gives you an idea of the scope of the project. The next photo is of a plastic plumbing pipe (Plexi-pipe?)someone used for a hoop skirt. I'm going to check out options at Home Depot today.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Nutcracker Mother Ginger Build

Well, this adventure warrants a new series of blog posts. I agreed/ volunteered to make a Mother Ginger costume for Canyon Crest Academy's performance of the Nutcracker. In my naivete I figured I would just use a light gauge wire for the bottom rim and gather fabric to the waist. Then I found out there are about 20 teenagers suppose to fit under the skirt!

Searching through Google images this is going to be a bigger task than the life size urn I made for 
Figments. The guy in the middle will be on a ladder or something similar to raise the height or the skirt to 6 foot.

If I use PVC pipe instead of metal it will have to be curved. Then I realized it will need other circular supports in addition to vertical straps if we use the concentric circles. Oh boy!
 Here's what's on the web for images...


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October has mostly been posting costumes but Halloween is almost here and the pattern selling has slowed. Here are some of the Holiday patterns you'll find at FashionSew, my Etsy shop.
Holiday Doll Decorative Pattern, Winter Banner Pattern

Santa Costume                                                                                                         Father Christmas Doll

Primitive Harvest Pattern