Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | April 22, 2010

Digging out from the lint pile!

Betcha were wondering where I’d gone…I’ve been buried under a pile of fabric, lint, seam binding, bias tape and spools and spools of thread!

The Eastern pile of fabric

At the end of March, I volunteered to help with the costuming for the San Leandro High School version of Les Miserables.  I needed something constructive to do with my time while looking for a job.  I thought I’d be simply helping  the teacher.  I planned on lending some items and doing a little thrift store shopping…

Wrong.  Oh, so wrong.

I found out that there was no one working on the costumes.  The teacher, Mr. H, was new to the school and seemed a bit overwhelmed.  I know that the kids work hard on the plays and always struggle with costuming. So I stepped into the breach.

Silly me.

For 4.5 weeks I’ve been hitting thrift shops, sewing, collecting donations, getting stuff on Freecycle and Craigslist.  I’ve turned my living and diningroom into a sewing studio.  Husby and Daughter have had more convenience food dinners than normal.  On Easter Sunday, my friend Jay helped me sort zippers.  I raided my ren faire garb to loan some basic items.  I got to know the volunteers at a local thriftshop where every week they let me go through their sortings and take what I thought we could use.  The cast and crew have repeatedly emptied my pickup truck of bags and boxes of costumes and props that I accumulated weekly or even daily.  I’ve written a ton of emails to Mr. H, the parents of the cast, the United Parents president, and my cohort in crime, Ms. Jane.  I’ve had people over to my house to sew on weekends.  I’ve sewn at 7:30 in the morning and 11 at night.

I can’t take all the credit.  There was a core support group that I’ve named The Sow’s Ear Sweatshop/Costume Shop.  There was

  • Ms. Chantay, who sewed 6 men’s lined vests, Eponine’s boy outfit, Cosette’s street dress.
  • Ms. Melody, who sewed 6 bloomers, 5 convict pants, 3 sailor’s pants.  AND SHE DIDN’T HAVE A KID IN THE CAST OR CREW!  Major kudos to her for her community spirit.
  • Ms. Wendy, who called in the final weeks and said she couldn’t  sew but was willing to do anything.  She cut patterns and fabric when I just couldn’t squeeze it in.
  • Gee, my mom.  She came over for weeks and did straight sewing, knit sewing, bias tape sewing, crazy sewing.  We had some serious bonding over designing the crazy Baroness Thenardier dress.

    This dress started as a curtain and a sheet.


  • Ms. Maria, who hand sewed all the handkerchief hems on fichus and sashes.
  • Miss Hali, the student Costume Manager, who doesn’t sew but ironed open seams and cut a zillion patterns out on the floor of my livingroom.
  • And finally, Ms. Jane who is a powerhouse when it comes to costumes.  She does it professionally at UC Berkeley.  She knows people and knows where to find things…like the frock coats  and military jackets that can’t be found at thrift shops, like a wedding dress to fit a size 0 teenager, like the “flying nun” and top hats, like revolutionary rosettes,  like 19th century pistols and extension cords on opening night.  And the woman can sew so beautifully…in a space of 3 x3 ft, standing or sitting.  I am so inspired by her.  I want to sew like this woman!  Give me 20 years and I may get there.

So…this has been a lovely diversion from the ongoing job search.  It has helped me feel productive while unemployed.  It has helped my community.  It’s been fun (mostly).

So here are some parting shots to show the fruits of my labor.  Enjoy!

Aunt Magaidh

A sampling of costumes...sorry for the blurriness!

Cast and Crew of SLHS Les Miserables 2010

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