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by Laura Ulak
The Thrift Brothers are Minnesota Costumers who are well known for their love of costuming. From super heroes to cartoon characters to the Steampunk Doctor Who Tardis and Dalek that they wore to CONvergence this year, they are an inspiration to other costumers in a variety of genres.
Name: Yancey Thrift
Name: Damon Thrift
City: Waverly, MN
1. How did you get into costuming? Did you do any schooling for it?
Yancey: I started sewing in college. I was required to put in hours for my intro to theater class. I continued to work in the college costume shop. That’s where my love of costuming started.
Damon: I got into costuming in college (1986-1989), I was into making props and I did some work on several shows. I started helping out in the costume shop at Mankato State. I helped redesign and make a new, friendlier MSU Mavericks mascot. The summer of 1989 I worked on Sesame Street Live at Vee Corp in Mpls. I did a few costumes after that, my Joker, a fantasy costume with a muscle suit, then a clown costume, which I later turned into a Simpsons Krusty the clown costume. I stopped for 10 years and started back up after going to Marscon in 2007.
2. Do you do this for a living?
Damon: No, I work retail.
3. Historical or Fantasy?
Yancey: Historical with some fantasy thrown in to shake it up a little.
4. Within Historical or Fantasy, what is your favorite genre or time period?
Yancey: I don’t really have a favorite. I like many genres and time periods.
Damon: Most of my costumes have been super hero related. But after we made our Steampunk Doctor Who costumes I am really loving the Victorian inspired Steampunk stuff.
Yancey: A “renaissance” pair of breeches and shirt. Donated it.
Damon: I made a Tim Burton Batman Joker costume. It is in storage.
6. What is your favorite costume you have made? Your least favorite?
Yancey: I, of course, like them all, but I think my favorite might be my Music Meister.
Least favorite? I guess, I would have to say my Hank Venture/Venture Bros. but Damon and I bought pretty much everything for that.
Damon: I love them all, but I really love the last costumes we made, our Steampunk Tardis and Dalek.
Least favorite from me, the first costume we made was my Green Arrow, not that I don’t like the costume, we just chose the wrong fabric, polyester and it was hot and scratchy. The polyester parts have since been remade in a nicer fabric.
7. Hand or Machine Sewing?
Yancey: Both, whatever the task requires.
Damon: I like both, depends on what I am doing.
8. If machine, what kind of sewing machine do you have?
Yancey: A 27 year old Kenmore.
Damon: My old costumes from 20 years ago were sewn on an old machine my mom had, I have a sewing machine, I have no idea what it is, it is in a box. I rarely use it, I do 99% of my sewing at Yancey’s on his machine.
9. Do you have a dedicated sewing space?
Damon: No, I have a work area in the basement I work on props and I use the garage and driveway in the summer for working on the props. All my sewing I do at Yancey’s house.
10. Where do you store your costumes/wigs/accessories?
Yancey: A closet in my spare bedroom.
Damon: Either at Yancey’s house or in the upstairs bedroom.
11. Do you attend any Cons?
Damon: Yes, Marscon was my first con 5 1/2 years ago. Then CONvergence that same year. 3 years ago I started going to Dragoncon in Atlanta, the best costume con I’ve ever been too. Yancey is finally coming with me in 2012.
12. Where do you get your inspiration for costumes?
Yancey: Many sources…movies, television, comic books, action figures, books, the internet.
Damon: Cartoons, action figures, movies.
Yancey: Dangerous Liaisons. I personally don’t have a costume from this period, but have made them.
Yancey: The Fifth Doctor from Doctor Who.
Damon: I’ve always wanted to make an Optimus Prime Transformer costume.
15. What costuming won’t you do?
Yancey: Anything involving spandex.
Damon: Spandex, lol
16. Is costuming about the character for you, or about dressing up?
Yancey: Both, but mostly dressing up.
Damon: Dressing up mostly, but you do tend to feel like that character when you are dressing as them.
Yancey: My brother Damon. He does most of our designing.
Damon: Movies, comic books, Action figures, the internet.
18. What are your favorite sewing tools?
Yancey: I have a 4′x8′ cutting/work table that makes my work go a whole lot easier.
Damon: I do all our props, I couldn’t live without my Dremel.
19. What is your favorite fabric store?
Yancey: SR Harris, but I go wherever I need to, to hopefully find what I’m looking for.
Damon: SR Harris, but go where you have to find what you need.
20. What are you currently working on?
Yancey: A cosy flannel bathrobe for myself. I know, not very costumey.
Damon: We are in the design stage for Steampunk Wonder Twins from the Super Friends.
21. What do you like best about costuming?
Yancey: It’s great when you do something that a number of people have a big reaction to. I also like that it lets me spend more time with my brother.
Damon: I really love searching for fabric and working with my brother Yancey to create the costumes. I love the creative process with him. Then it is the cherry on top to wear them together and show them off.
22. What is the one thing you’ve learned over the course of your sewing life that would have saved you a ton of time had you known it from the start?
Yancey: If at all possible, pick the right fabric for the job. You can make a garment out of most any fabric, but the degree of success will depend on your fabric choice.
Damon: I’ve learned give yourself more time then you think you are going to need, it always takes longer.
$40 ♦ CYBER MONDAY SPECIAL – $20.00
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All Cyber Monday Specials End at 11:59 p.m. 11/28/11
Come join MNSOC in celebrating the holidays, Steampunk style!
Event: A Steampunk Christmas Carol/Fezziwig’s Party!
Date: Dec. 3, 2011
Location: The Outing Lodge
“Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter’s night… There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was toddy, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer… When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr and Mrs Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas.“
-Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol.”
Hosts: Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig request your presence at their annual Holiday Party!
Attire: Your best Victorian, Steampunk, Lolita, Gothic, Air Pirate, etc. clothing is admired but not required.
Need some inspiration? We have a few previous blog posts to help you get inspired:
Food and Drink: Hors d’ouevres, dessert and punch will be provided. Other drinks available for purchase.
Activity: Dancing will commence at 7pm with music from our Time Traveling DJ. A Caricature Artist will be available to draw your likeness. Mr. Fezziwig’s personal photographer Mr. Jim Jordan will be on hand to document the party, and is available for individual posed photos for a fee. Mr. Fezziwig will be judging the Costume Contest at the end of the evening with his lovely wife, and the winner will receive a free ticket to the next event. If the weather cooperates, we will also have sleigh rides!
Lodging: Rooms at the Outing Lodge have all been booked for the night, but we have found other places in the area if you need some where to stay for the night.
Tickets: Admission to this grand event is $35.00 for paid members of MNSOC and $40.00 for non-paid members of MNSOC. You may purchase tickets here.
Directions to the Lodge from the Twin Cities Metro Area can be found here.
by Laura Ulak
Having the correct measurements can make fitting an outfit a successful or agonizing experience. These are some of the things that I do and recommend to others.
by Renee Larson
1. A serger is faster than a typical sewing machine.
2. A serger can give you a more professional finish by cutting off your seam allowance and overcasting the edge.
3. Stretchy fabrics work best in a serger – they will still stretch after sewing in a serger, and this is not always the case with a sewing machine.
4. You can do all kinds of other stitches with your serger, such as a blind hem, and the seam is completely finished as well, saving you time.
5. You can easily finish the edges of very delicate fabrics by putting in a rolled hem.
6. Some sergers come with a cover-stitch which can be an easier finish than having to use twin needles on your sewing machine.
7. Sewing with a serger is often easier than sewing with a sewing machine – it is a bit like driving a car.
8. While threading a serger can look complicated, you can tie the old threads to the new threads and pull them through, making it easier to thread. Most manufacturers also color-code their threading system which makes the process even easier.
9. It makes your home-sewn clothing more durable and has a stronger hold than a regular straight stitch. If you pop a thread in a serged seam it will still hold the majority of the time.
10. A serger is an excellent second machine if you use your sewing machine for embroidery, etc. You can never get away with not having a sewing machine, but you can get away with not having a serger.
Renee Larson is MNSOC’s Resident Sewing Pro. If you have a question for Renee you can send it to MNSOC, or you can find Renee in person – selling, fixing and teaching about various sewing machines at the Husquavarna Viking dealer in Joann Fabrics in Woodbury.
by J.L. Smithson
The last time I sewed an article of clothing was when the movie “The Doors” came out. It was 1991 and I was so in love with the movie that I determined I was only going to wear tie-dyed clothes from then on. I made about three items and gave up. Even sewed my fingertip into a dress. That was the last time I used my mother’s archaic Kenmore sewing machine. There were several thoughts of starting up again: purchasing of patterns, contemplating fabric and getting mom’s old machine tuned up. But those efforts never went any further than that.
While I did not take a sewing class in high school, I am gifted in being able to take stuff apart, fix it, and put it back together. I got so good at assembling furniture that my grandmother rented me out to other seniors in her building to assemble their furniture for them. I figure if I can put together anything from Ikea from their bad patterns, sewing wouldn’t be that difficult. I did have a grandmother that patiently tried to teach me and my mother, the Home Ec major, augmented that tutelage. I must have learned something from their lessons, because I was able to cut out and sew together rudimentary patterns. I did some shirts, shirts, tank dresses and pajamas. Not too taxing. If there was something that I wanted that I didn’t have the confidence to do, I sought a college friend that needed money to stitch the item up for me. Lined jackets, bridesmaids dresses, and anything with buttonholes; was crafted by people more talented than myself.
When I started working at the MN Renaissance Festival, I paid others to make costumes for me. There was no way that I was going to attempt a full-fledged costume with the minimal training I had. Luckily, my best friend lived with a costumer that was happy to take my money in exchange for costume pieces. I had a sort of Garanamals for Festival wardrobe going, with everything mixing and matching so I didn’t have to wear the same thing twice in a weekend. After I quit Festival, I donated much of my wardrobe to the costume shop, so they could rent the costumes out to patrons and temporary staff.
I now find myself in a group of friends that all sew (no pressure!). While I am still willing to pay for costumes, I find myself in need of a hobby after completing one BA and two Master’s degrees in a short amount of time. After many nights of school, studying, and a monster 50-page paper, I needed a way to relax and be creative that didn’t involve citing my sources. I started slowly by making some small drawstring bags for a costume that someone else was making for me (old habits die hard). I managed to find the power cord and pedal for the Kenmore, hooked it up and dusted it off. I am surprised that I remembered how it worked! I remembered how to thread it, load up a bobbin, set the stitch size and actually create a seam. The first one looked bad with WAY too much jammed up thread under the stitch, but I continued. Got the bags done and threaded the drawstring to complete them. I then made cloth flowers for the back of the hat I was creating. They turned out well!
Now, I am officially addicted! Any hobby that requires me to purchase more stuff is fine by me! I bought a Brother 1034D serger (and a book to learn how to use it), a rolling & folding cutting table, and a 36×48 rolling cutting mat with a neato rotary cutter (scissors and I don’t get along well). I cleaned out my hobby closet, moved all fabric and patterns within easy reach, and made a place for my serger to sit on a shelf when I am not using it. The Kenmore from the Dark Ages is still upstairs, because moving it requires superhuman strength, but climbing the stairs will provide exercise. I am ready to sew up a storm! But, one question… where do I begin?
by Laura Ulak
You have exhausted your attic for inspiration for costuming. You have used your old wedding dress and formal outfits, leather coats, and those old Christmas tree ornaments. Where else could you possibly find raw materials for use in costuming?
The linen closet.
The great thing about linens is that they are essentially great big pieces of material, usually with no seams or rips or buttons to get in the way. There is no issue as to sizing, and you are generally assured that they aren’t going to shrink after sewing them, as they have already been laundered multiple times.
Sheets, duvet covers, quilts, curtains, pillow covers and placemats are all excellent sources of fabric. Want to have a fancy beaded stomacher on an 18th century French gown, or as cuffs on an elaborate frock coat? An embroidered pillow cover is an inexpensive and quick way to add bling and luxuriousness to an otherwise plain project.
For instance, the sleeves on M’s gown below were made using fabric scraps from her gown and pillow covers that were already beaded and pin-tucked. She found fabric that coordinated with this beaded fabric for her underskirt and added beads to it herself to match the sleeves.
Erin used a rather different sort of textile for her outfit – a towel. The towel and coordinating table runner were woven by St. Croix Weaving in Erin’s family tartan, MacDonald of Glencoe. Erin decided to use the table runner as a shawl, and turned the smaller towel piece into a bodice. Luckily Erin is a wee thing, so the towel was large enough to use for both the front and back pieces of her flat front bodice.
Erin also found a fur pillow cover at Joann Fabrics and had visions of fur cuffs and collars that she could make out of it. At 70% off, it was far cheaper than buying faux fur yardage at the fabric store. Erin used part of the pillow cover to make cuffs for one costume:
And the rest to make a collar and cuffs for another costume:
What about bed sheets? I used a vintage white bed sheet I had sitting around for my I Love Lucy Elizabethan apron, and the bows in my hair and at my neck.
The award for most creative use of fabric from the linen closet goes to Carol, who combined regular fabric yardage with a bedskirt. The bedskirt had a beautiful pattern on it that Carol used as bodice fabric, a large hem guard and for gauntlets.
By far the most common item people think of using from their linen closets are curtains. Usually large in size, they offer huge swaths of yardage that can quite often be less expensive than purchasing the fabric outright.
Ikea has been a great source of fabric for members of the Wench Posse over the last several years. In their Scratch and Dent space they often have curtains that were used as display marked down significantly, or they will have shopping carts filled with linens, chair covers, etc. for $15-30 for the entire cart. My best find was one of those carts for $15, and I got a heavy canvas curtain I have used for interlining, several cotton curtains I have used for petticoats or regular lining, and 5 sets of full length velvet curtains that have become various Renaissance style gowns.
A set of red velvet curtains from Ikea were used by Cheryl to make her fantasy Italian courtesan gown that was inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean:
The same style was made for Ashley using dark blue Ikea velvet curtains:
And Carol used a set of teal Ikea velvet curtains to make her Venetian courtesan outfit:
Used curtains can work just as well for costuming, although you do have to check for sun fading on the fabric. Sometimes this can work to your advantage, depending on the affect you are going for.
I used an old set of purple curtains (which had originally been yardage of purple taffeta from Joann Fabrics) to make this Elizabethan outfit, as modeled by K:
And some old burgundy curtains and valances were used to make an underbust corset and bustled skirt for Ashley for a Steampunk event. The curtains had fringe already sewn to the bottoms, which saved us the time of having to add trim. Ashley paired these items with an old Gunne Sax gown of her Mom’s from the 80’s.
But by far my favorite use of linens goes to My Faire Lady who turned three shower curtains into a stunning gown in a mix of Elizabethan and Venetian styles. Added bonus? It can get rained on!
The next time you are feeling frustrated by the lack of fabric in your house, try checking the linen closet. You might be surprised to discover that what you needed was right there the whole time!
So stop looking in your closet with frustration and start looking in there with inspiration! Please post any additional ideas, tricks or tips in the comment section!