Saturday, 28 July 2012

Bread of Heaven - Feed Me til I Want No More

Watching the filming of the Only Kids Aloud Choir on Rhossilli Beach
I stayed up really late last night watching the most amazing show on earth - London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.  I don’t normally watch the Olympics - but my son was in the Welsh children’s choir - Only Kids Aloud - singing Bread of Heaven, so we all sat down together to watch the bit he was in at least. 

The videos of the children's choirs from all corners of the British Isles were lovely - they sang really well with loads of enthusiasm. And Only Kids Aloud - you did Wales proud - gorgeous sound with fantastic harmonies. 

Update and blatant plug here - all the the children's songs  Jerusalem / Flower Of Scotland / Danny Boy / Bread Of Heaven are Track 2 on the Isles of Wonder compilation album.  This track has reached Number 2 in the classical singles chart and the whole album has also reached Number 2 in the compilation album charts!

However the whole show was all incredible so we carried on watching. I rather liked the cutesy rural scene - I loved all the different cameo scenes and the geese were brilliant. But when they started on the Industrial Revolution I was hooked. I thought the attention to detail was brilliant and I loved the way they incorporated the removal of the grassy scene into the ripping up of the earth. Living in South Wales, this was such a powerful reminder of the way the Welsh Valleys were torn apart in the search for coal to feed the ugly beast of progress.

Working in the Health Service, I was especially delighted by the NHS scene - I loved all the references to children’s books and thought that the flying Mary Poppins were fantastic. I also loved the scene with the Queen and James Bond, and I thought the cycling doves were brilliant.

Danny Boyle’s whole show was a blur of zany, mad, touching and wickedly funny. I appreciate some of the references may have baffled some of the world, but the spectacle was very much a tale of the British Isles and I’m proud to be British as well as Welsh. 

The show also made me think of our wonderful heritage of industry and invention and how modern crafters are blending the old skills and techniques with new ideas to create their own unique styles…. 

So I'd like to share with you a feast of wonderful creations from just a few of the wonderful crafters from the UK and the rest of the world that I’ve met through CRAFTfest. Oh and sorry, I just can't seem to get Danny Boyle’s ideas out of my head.....

Olympic flame or Glastonbury Tor?

This gorgeous green fluorescent candle from The Wax Worx seems to be glowing already, even before it has been lit.

Ok, so your construction project may not be as big as the Olympic Stadium, but here is a great mug warmer from Kosmic Dreams to keep your builder's brew warm.


I just love the craftsmanship in this beautiful writing slope by Norfolk Woodcrafts. Beautiful reclaimed mahogany wood with boxwood stringing and inlaid centre.

I haven't checked my Lottery ticket yet, but if I'm one of the 100 millionaires from last night, I'll be buying this!

And finally, I can't forget the corgis. 

This cute pet bed has been designed for cats. However, I'm sure that if the Queen asked nicely, All Things Blankets & More could design a dog bed fit for the palace.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Lost in Space

My 11 year old son and I watched a fantastic programme a couple of nights ago about the universe which got me thinking about my little travel play mats. These are quilted fold-up mats with appliqued and embroidered play scenes and have little toys hiding in a pocket. They are a perfect size for using on a child's lap or a plane or train table when travelling.

Each of the travel play mats I've already made has a different theme - the first one was Dinosaurs, complete with cave pocket. This play mat was bought by a lady who was sending it out to Australia so her grandson could play with it on his first airplane trip to Britain to see her. I've also made a Fairy Cottage scene which went to Germany and an Under-The-Sea scene complete with fearsome sharks.

So, back to the TV programme which reminded me that I'd bought some fantastic fabric that was just perfect for a space themed play mat. It just had to be started there and then! 

With lots of critical advice from my son - who is a bit of an expert on matters in the sky - I cut out a slice of the moon, a world and an orange planet and laid them on this gorgeous starry fabric. I started adding some chain stitching to the planet, but got carried away so you can't see the felt circle!

Update September 2014: 

I have recently re-launched my range of travel playmats with a Safari Zoo Play On the Go © Play Scene.  I'm currently creating a farm scene version, and working on designs for fairy castle and pirates themes too.

Made by hand in limited numbers for each theme, my playmats are available for sale on my Folksy and Etsy shops.

CE tested and marked - my play mats have been tested and meets the European toy safety requirements. Recommended for children aged 3 and above.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Making the Costumes for Seussical the Musicals – Part 5 - Money Around

Over the last 4 blogs you have met nearly all the cast and their costumes and although I have a few more for you, we haven’t reached the end of the first half of the show yet.  So here is a whistle-stop tour of the rest of the plot.
In Monkey Around, Horton’s clover is stolen by a group of mischievous monkeys, the Wickersham Brothers, and lost in a large patch of identical clovers in Chasing the Whos. Mayzie LaBird finds Horton desperately trying to find the right clover and persuades him to sit on her egg so she can take an afternoon off - however she doesn't return. As winter approaches, Horton is captured by hunters and although Gertrude tries to rescue him in Horton Sits on the Egg, her huge tail means she can’t fly. 
The second half opens with Horton being auctioned off to the Circus McGurkus where he sadly sings about a magical world called Solla Sollew. Back on the Planet of Who, Green Eggs and Ham shows us the cadets fighting the Butter Battle when Jo-Jo declaring the war is wrong and deserts the army - only to be blown up in an explosion.  The rest of the Whos are enjoying a very special visitor in the Christmas Pageant - The Grinch, dressed as Father Christmas - when A Message From The Front tells Jojo's parents about his death. All is not lost though - The Cat in the Hat shows that Jojo is not dead, but lost in a dark and scary place, and tells him to follow your hunch back home in Havin' a Hunch.  
More good news in All For You - Gertrude has had her huge tail plucked, found the clover and flown across the world to free Horton who finally falls in love with her. However, the Jungle Animals drag him back to face trial on Nool for the crimes of "talking to a speck of dust and loitering on an egg “. The People Versus Horton the Elephant shows Gertrude and Horton trying to make the animals believe in the Whos, but Yertle the Turtle orders the clover to be boiled in a kettle of beezlenut oil. The Whos shout to prove their existence, but they can’t be heard until Jojo comes up with a "think": the word "YOPP". Finally the animals believe, and on Who, Jojo is hailed as "Thinker Non-Stop". The show ends with the hatching of the egg and Horton and Gertrude find themselves proud parents of an "Elephant-Bird". And join the whole cast in telling the audience to keep on thinking in Oh, the Thinks You Can Think.

The Wickersham Brothers (Copyright Peter Cook)
The Wickershams Steal the Clover 
“Ha, Laughed a Voice! Ha, laughed some others! Ha Ha Ha laughed the Wickersham Brothers!” These three are the villains of the piece - stealing the clover and helping the Sour Kangaroo capture Horton.

Brilliantly cast, this trio, Emma, Kia and Imogen strutted, cavorted and aped their way around the stage, switching between menacing, frustrating and hilarious. 

With a nod to 1920s gangster style, the Wickersham wore pin stripe suits and Trilbys. The dark suits set them apart from the other brightly coloured jungle animals, and the rolled up sleeves and trousers together with a riotous mix of fluorescent vests, braces, socks and hats added a shot of fun.

The Cat laughs as Vlad Vladikoff the Eagle drops the Clover 
Vlad Vladikoff the Eagle (Copyright Peter Cook)
Bradley, who played Vlad Vladicoff the Eagle, did such a fantastic job flying around the room with the clover in rehearsal that the whole room fell about laughing and couldn't sing anything!

I made him some silver and black wings which looked great sewn to the sleeves of a large black satin shirt - he looked a little like Elvis. The Eagle look was completed with a silver and black Mohican wig and Ziggy Stardust style silver stars on his face.

Circus McGurkus Acrobat (Copyright Peter Cook)
Circus McGurkus Magician
The Circus McGurkus performers were played by some of smaller Jungle Animals and Whos.

I needed some very quick changes here so kept the costumes simple and just added accessories where I could, such as Magician’s cape and hat.  
Alex, who played a Flamingo in the Jungle of Nool doubled up a Circus Acrobat simply by taking off her peach and yellow tutu to show off a gorgeous sparkly acrobatic outfit. I used a lovely disco dance outfit I got from eBay comprising of shorts and a crop top in foiled lycra - it was rather bare round the midriff, so I sewed a peach lycra leotard to the top and she wore ballet tights. Alex performed the most amazing flips and a lovely ribbon section in the Circus Animal’s Solla Sallew dance.

The Grinch (Copyright Peter Cook)
The Whos' special Christmas visitor, The Grinch was played by Gareth who stepped into Seussical especially for this part. He was delighted with his costume which was a cosy red Father Christmas coat to which I had added lots of green and white fur edging. A silly spiral Christmas Hat, green velvet trousers, boots and lots and lots of green make-up finished the look! 

Fabulous scowl Gareth, but at the Christmas Pageant the Whos describe how the Grinch’s heart grew 3 sizes that day!

Jo Jo Follows his Hunch (Copyright Peter Cook)
Havin a Hunch was one of the favourite scenes of a lot of the cast. It needed to be scary and weird so we went for UV lighting and some flashing hair bands and gloves I picked up at a rave party shop! The UV picked up the white stripes on Jo Jo and The Cat perfectly and the flashing accessories were amazing - everyone wanted to try them.

Having a Hunch (Copyright Peter Cook)

The Hunches were played by some of the Whos and a Jungle animal and I was hoping they could just wear their own costumes as the stage was blacked out.

Not so Scary Hunches - where are your gloves!
However, at the first dress rehearsal it was clear that the audience would see the bright lycra outfits.  They didn’t have time to fully change so I had to quickly run up some “Black-out” costumes overnight - I made huge long sleeved tops and added old jazz trousers and black socks that they could pull over their main costumes.

This costume change was really difficult as the Whos were in scenes immediately before and after the Hunch scene - we had mums and other cast members behind the wings in an assembly line waiting with t-shirts, trousers, socks, gloves and headbands - thanks - you were brilliant.

Yertle the Turtle (Copyright Peter Cook)

I had great fun making the costume for Yertle the Turtle - I thought this would be difficult, but it was rather easy.
I started with a lovely dark lime green velvet jacket (again from eBay) with an open waterfall front. I added an oval shell shape on the back and created the turtle shell pattern by hand-sewing on an outline in red sequin braid. I popped a really pretty Indian dress in yellowy-greens under the jacket - the sleeves looked a little like turtle flippers. 

Jade who played Yertle added some black leggings and stern glasses, and we gave her a hired judge’s wig for the court scene.

Giraffe & Zebra (Copyright Peter Cook)
Finally our costume story come to a close with some more fantastic Jungle Animals.

Lucy wanted to be a Giraffe, which was perfect as she is very long legged and elegant.  Not easy finding giraffe print fabric (apart from fur and I doubt she would have been too impressed!) In the end I bought a dull gold catsuit and hand-painted a giraffe pattern using a stencil I cut from cardboard. It looked very boxy, so I cut away the left side and added a beautiful velvet panel with a pretty net skirt just on the one side. 

Dayna chose to be a Zebra. Luckily zebra print was pretty fashionable last year so I picked up a great pair of leggings.  I cut away a shoulder from a long sleeved black leotard and used some zebra fabric to add a diagonal insert across the front. Dayna fancied a tutu (which seemed to be very popular with the jungle animals) so I found an old white kids net petticoat and cut it short and sassy.

Blue Cats (Copyright Peter Cook)
Alice played a Blue Tiger - I bought a sparkly Leopard catsuit which looked ok with an added fluffy tail, but wasn’t quite as “interesting” as the other animals. I promised I would try to customise it after I had finished all the others. Luckily I had time and inserted diagonal panels from old black leotard and cropped the legs. I also used one of the leg offcuts to make a long-sleeve cuff and added a sparkly tutu because Alice really wanted one!

Ginni-Beth was a Turquoise Leopard, and I used a foiled lycra dance costume I had previously designed for my daughter. The hotpants and cropped jacket fitted Ginni-Beth perfectly and I only had to add a fluffy tail and black cropped tights.  Simple but stunning.

As Alice and Ginni-Beth were also doubling up as cadets, they needed to make sure their hair and cat-stripe make-up also worked for the battle scenes. The costume change was easy - just Schmitz t-shirts with red and blue lycra jazz pants like the Who boys.

Well, that the end.  I feel a bit sad now we have come to the end of the story………

Never mind, rehearsals for next year’s show start in September - a slightly different approach this time, a montage of 3 different musicals to showcase all the different age groups. I’ve already started thinking about costumes - The Sound of Music - easy - nuns, sailor suits and curtains! Les Miserables - again easy - lots of suitable stuff on eBay - already picked up a lovely blue military style jacket for Javert! And finally, We Will Rock You - not so easy but great fun - just think of the costume opportunities here from futuristic to rock!

Until then, I’ll leave you with a final look at the whole Seussical cast.

Louise Ryan Vocal School Presents Seussical the Musical (Copyright Peter Cook)

The Old Button is more than happy for you to use these costume ideas as inspiration for your own production. 
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