Monday, 28 February 2011

Felt Skull Cap

Due to the expense of all the pre- made millinery products I decided to make my own felt skull caps as felt is rather inexpensive in itself. I have backed the felt with a heavy weight black interlining to strengthen the fabric. To make the caps it involved using the steam iron to gradually soften and stretch the felt around the shape of the head block and pinning it in place. Each cap does take quite a bit of time and patience as each section needs to be heated up and stretched around the head and securely pinned into place. It is not possible to try and by-step certain parts of the processes, for example not putting in as many pins, as without each step it is impossible to get a perfect finish.

Felt Stiffened with Interlining
The interlining stiffener does make the process a little harder as it takes longer to work the felt around the head. It also makes it more difficult to completely smooth the gathers of the fabric out around hem of the felt, but this is nothing a little perseverance cannot overcome. 

Head Block Mannequin
Pinning the Felt around the Head
Once the felt had been moulded into place I used a strip of binding along the hem to prevent the felt from shrinking back to its original shape. This was tacked and then sewn in using a zigzag stitch on the sewing machine; the excess felt can then be trimmed off. Each hat has been an individual learning process in itself. Determining how much fabric to use was the biggest challenge, as it is not until the hat has been fitted round the head that one knows how much felt is actually needed. I finally worked out that each hat uses around a 12inch square of felt to allow enough excess for it to fit. As the skull caps purpose is to purely maintain the shapes of the headpiece they do not need to fit tightly to the head, so the different sizes of peoples head do not need to be taken into account as the caps are just placed onto the head.

Pinning the Felt
Binding Tape 
Finished Skull Cap

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Fabric Shopping

I have been making some further test hats around the hat block, as I have only been tying them around my own head. Tying the Geles around a detached object was quite different as the hat block does not behave in the same way as a human head. However the block meant that I was able to pin some of the fabric in place and overall created a neater finish. Once the prototypes had been made out of calico, we discussed the idea and it was agreed that the fabric should be in an African style patterned fabric rather than a plan white. The plan white had originally been chosen as the play uses multimedia projections which they wanted to be picked out on the costumes, however a folded piece of fabric is unlikely to show up any projections also the patterns and styles of the hats instantly suggest African women.

Example Gele
 I made a mock up hat using some patterned fabric found in the faion shops. I backed it with some heavy calico which i tacked together to hold them in place. the two layers of fabric made the whole piece a lot firmer which will be good when I come to make the finished pieces. I also really liked the two toned affect of the pattern and the plan, so I will be maintaining that for the final pieces as well.

Patterned Gele

Back of the Gele
A shopping trip was arranged to sample fabric and the options available. I looked at the patterned fabric in John Lewis of which there was only a select few, these all came in at around £10.00 a meter with each hat using 2 meters this would have been a costly choice. I then went to the fabric shops in Shepherds Bush which had a wide range of patterned cotton where I bought 8 meters of patterned fabric at £2.50 a meter. Some of the fabric has quite a stiff waxy feeling to them; as they off cuts from pre- cut fabric which is used to made traditional African and Asian clothing, so will need little starching and will hold well when it is are folded.


Whats that now ... Plan G?

For the last week I have been playing about with the construction of the Geles. Although tying them is relatively simple, they are not designed to be worn several times without re-tying them. This means that in order for them to be used for several performances they need to be more sturdy/ substantial around the head band as the fabric begins to unravel once it is taken off the head. I have been exploring ways to strength the part of the Gele that ties around the head. One option is to use a Sinamay product which is a stiff, straw like material that is weaved to make hat bases, mainly used for fascinators and are around £5.00 each. Notwithstanding this products uses, it does not work in this situation as they are only 5 inches in diameter, whereas, I need something that will start at the back of the head and cover all over to the forehead. 

Sinamay Hat Base
A further option is to use a felt hat base that can be steamed over a hat block into the desired shape and then cut to size. I did some Internet research into these products and also visited two millinery supply shops, Milliner Warehouse and Macculloch and Wallis, in London to see firsthand what products could be used. I found that a Wool felt cone hat base was around £6.00 and a Velour felt cone was £21.00, so even using the cheaper product 12 hats would add up to over £70.00 which did not include the rest of the fabric to make the Gele. This was TOO much ... especially as we don’t have an extensive budget. 

Felt Hat Base

Plan three was the possible use of wire/ corset boning or similar to make a head band that could be inserted into the headdress or manipulated to make the size skull cap that would be needed. The final decision taken was to buy some black felt; that in itself is relatively cheap, that can then be steamed into shape over the hat block. When these have been prepared the fabric can then be stitched to the base and built up around it to make a sturdy head piece that will last the course of all the performances. 

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Gele

I have been trying to make a mock up example of a possible headdress. I have found that starching a heavy weight calico works really well and easily allows the fabric to be wrapped and tied around the head, but still be stiff enough to hold its shape. There is, however, a draw back with this method as once the headpiece has been removed it does not hold its shape and begins to fall apart. This means that they would have to potentially be re-tied for every performance. A few solutions could be making the fabric stiffer with an inter webbing between two pieces of calico and then sewing parts of the piece in place. Another could be to stitch in some wire or flexible boning along the edges to make it more sturdy. These are all things I am hoping can be discussed with the group during the tutorial.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

African Chief

At the Presentation to Walk Tall  there did not appear to be any designs or ideas for the African Chief costume, so I have gathered together a few images of possible outfits. When the brief was first given there were a few ideas from the producers about either a more traditional African costume or military dictator. A few of us discussed some ideas when we got back to uni after the presentations and thought that a dictator may be a little too sinister for a children's performance so decided to look into the more traditional African clothing. Designing the costume after meeting the actors has made this process a little more simple as we were able to picture the man who would be wearing it and build it around him. We talked of a loose fitting Kaftan style shirt and trousers with a round hat. These costumes are called Dashiki and the small brimless hats are Kufi's.



Friday, 11 February 2011

Walk Tall Presentation

We met up with the Walk Tall charity organisers who are producing the performance at Manor Primary School to present our designs and discuss further the ideas for the show. All the designs were placed on the stage so the organisers were able to look over all the designs and research and discuss with us how they could be translated into the really thing, what would be feasible and what they would like to adapt.  I was pleased that they all liked my designs for the African children and the ribbons/ wings for their arms, which had been requested by the parents involved, as I was not very confident in my work to begin with. They also liked a poncho design for the children as these would be easy and cheap to make, but also really effective, so we are now going to look into combining the ideas together. This would mean that the leader of each element group (fire, water, air and earth) would have the more complex costume and the other members of the group would have the poncho.

Designs for the African headdresses/ Gele were also well received, as they are quick and cheap to make, but also will have a real impact on the performance. For this a few prototypes need to be made, it could be that a starched piece of calico or cotton would work, or it might have to be made of layers of fabric with a stiff interfacing.

All the designs were then shown again to the children and parents who are performing the show. Some of the parents had a few reservations about the adult African costumes as they were a little different to how they had imagined. However, I think it is important to stay away from stereotypes and what we think African wear, but rather base things on sound research and knowledge.  
Overall as a team we have further subdivided into two sections one group will be working on the African costumes and the other on the Victorian. We will still meet as a whole team and cross over where the help is needed.

Element Costume Designs

I drew some further designs for the Childrens elements costumes just to give a greater variety and possibilties of what could be produced.





Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Gele

During a tutorial we discussed further the idea of the African headdress or Gele. Through my research I have discovered a few videos that show how to tie one, but also I have found that the fabric used is of an almost plastic material and very stiff to allow for the cloth to be arranged once in place. We have mooted the idea of using a disposable plastic table cloth which are used at parties etc with another stiff backing or inter-webbing, to emulate the head pieces. I am very interested at looking into this and having a go at trying to make one. Although the traditional ones are merely tied around the head, for the purposes of a performance the piece can be pinned or sewn in place, so they survive for an extended period of time.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Costume Design

I have drawn up two possible designs for the African womens dress. I have taken my main inspiration from the Church Elder outfits. This style of dress would be relatively easy to adapt into a Puritain dress by merely tucking the top into the skirts  and adding an apron. Also if the whole outfit is made up of nutral colours than an accent shawl or scarf in an African print can be added to give the piece an extra accent. The headdress also is quite a strong indicator of nationality, so even with a plain top annd skirt it is clear that they are African.

Costume Designs

African Textile

Although the top half of the African Ladies costumes need to be white to allow for Multimedia projections, I have been looking at African textiles and patterns that could be incorporated into the skirt to inject a bit of colour and personality to the costume.

African Clothing

This production also includes adult roles, so part of the brief was to design some costumes for African Women. I have begun by doing some research into African clothing as peoples ideas and concepts of African clothing varies from person to person. I have alsready looked into the Afican Gele head piece as a statement item to show that the ladies are African. Another of the main ideas talked about was a simple top and skirt. I have found the for this kind of clothing the internet has not been particularly forth coming with good examples of clothing, luckly my mum has been to Zambia a couple of times so I asked her to send me some pictures of people in traditional dress.

 A side part of the brief was if possible the costumes could be reused in a production of The Crucible which is set in the 17th Century. I found that the African Church Elders outfits below have a Puritain look about them with the large collars and the overall style of the clothing.

Church Elders

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Designs for Childrens Costumes:

I have been drawing up designs for some child friendly costumes that can be made quickly and cheaply and versatile so they can been worn on a one size fits all basis. The foundation of the designs is African style clothing that embodies elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth.

I began by researching into symbols and motifs that represent the four elements, so I could use them as a start point o basis my designs around.

Element Motifs

 I wanted all the costumes to follow a similar theme, but with subtle changes in colour and style. The basis of all the costumes is a T-shirt and drawstring or elasticated shorts. Part of the design requirements were to have coloured ribbons trailing from arms, tied around the wrists and sewn into the sleeve of the T-shirt. 
The Fire element costume has a base colour varying in shades of red, orange and yellow with a black printed fire motif on the breast and thigh. Both the top and shorts have an irregular jagged hem line to suggest the movement and shape of flames. I decided that the ribbons show also be of irregular lengths and varying in colour to again suggest flames.

Fire Costume

For the design for the Air element costume I wanted to try and capture an element of wind and the lightness of air. I gave the costume an A symmetric hem along the bottom of the T-shirt and the shorts. I also used a line of smaller air motifs that could be printed down the outfit. These possibly need to be more dramatically placed around the body to greater enhance the idea of wind and movement. I also gave the arm ribbons and irregular curved hem line.

Air Costume
 The water element costume is based around quite a loose free flowing theme with a curved hem and a large printed motif across the chest. I choose curves to suggest waves and flowing water which I used in both the hems and the ribbons. I found this element quite a difficult one to design as water is so free and my style of design is so controlled I find it hard to be loose and flowing with my drawing.

Water Costume
The earth costume I based around solid lines and squares to show the stability and strength of the ground. I similarly wanted to show this through the colours. The earth motif is bold and square, so I wanted this to emulate out with the hard lined strips of colour, straight hems and ribbons.
Earth Costume

I also thought that a transfer printing technique that we used in Blood Sweat and Tears could be used on the base colours of each costume. Where a dye is painted onto a piece of paper and an item placed between the paper and the material under a hot press transfers the dye whist leaving a silhouette of the items. So the costumes have a subtle pattern.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Costume Research

The initial part of the brief that captured my attention was the ladies African Headdresses. To start I have been doing some basic research into the different styles and head pieces commonly used in African clothing. The main scarf style headdress is called a Gele and consists of a length of stiff or starched fabric which is very simply tied and pin in place around the head.

 I have also been looking into how these Gele are actually tied. I found a couple of useful video demonstrations on youtube. This video shows you exactly how the Gele is tied:

There are many very exotic materials used for gele, here are some of them

• Brocade material which is 100% cotton material that usually comes with the outfit. This material is usually soft and sometimes not big enough to do the creative styles. 

• Hayes original- These are beautiful hard material sold as a piece specially to wrap the very creative styles. It is usually very colorful and does not come with a shawl 

• Damask- This material is usually used for special occasions like weddings, damask comes with its shawl called ‘iborun’ and can give any outfit and the wearer a million dollar look. 

• Aso-oke- These are hand woven materials made usually with silk. Kente is a very popular type of Aso-Oke . Aso-oke comes with the shawl and are also very colorful. They really add beauty and style to the outfit