All / Originally Posted on Skirt

Sewing Red

Late Friday night I found myself with a handful of red fabric in my hands, swearing under my breath and sewing furiously.

I’d agreed (under a tiny amount of duress) to perform at the final Saqarah hafla in its monthly format. (There will be more Saqarah, just not monthly.) The performance was the following night, Saturday. And I had done something really, really stupid.

The costume is made of lycra, a glorious baladi dress I bought from a friend a couple of years ago. It is red with tartan trim (belly dance and globalization, anyone?) It’s also been sitting rumpled up in the bottom of a suitcase for…oh, about a year.

It was a bit wrinkled. Now, before you say anything, I knew I had to be careful with the fabric because synthetics have a tendency to shrivel up if you treat them badly. Nevertheless I decided to iron it on a low setting.

I nearly cried when I saw that I’d MELTED PART OF MY COSTUME.

It wasn’t melted through, but there was a big, iron-shaped mark right on the front. The parts that touched the iron were now sheer. It couldn’t have been in a more conspicuous place.

I realized that I didn’t have time for gnashing my teeth and pulling out my hair, which is definitely what I wanted to be doing. Time for some quick thinking.

I wriggled into the costume. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I first thought, because the costume actually bunched up right where I ironed it, so you could only see part of the mark. I had three choices: cover it with something (rhinestones, a big flower…anything), patch it with some of the same fabric, or fold it up and hide the melty bits.

I decided to go with option number three and put in a big dart over the damaged cloth. A dart, for those of you who are not the Tailor of Gloucester, is a big fold in the fabric that is sewn shut. It’s kind of like a seam, but it doesn’t go all the way from one end of the fabric to the other. It’s used to make things less square and more close-fitting.

This costume did not need to be any more close-fitting. However, I was very lucky that I did my damage only in the bunched-up area, and not in a spot that was unalterable. I was furious with myself for doing it in the first place, of course (SCHOOLBOY ERROR), but at least I could attempt a recovery.

I am not, however, the world’s most accomplished seamstress. A good seamstress would have a marking pencil, ruler, some straight pins, tape measure, a good worktable, and preferably a dressmaker’s model. I had some safety pins, my thumbs to measure with, and the line of the iron to guide me for a straight edge.

The trick was sewing up as much of the melted bit as possible without stretching the fabric too much. Also, I realized I had to provide a MATCHING dart on the other side to make everything fall evenly. To top it off, I’d been planning to practice my song that evening. Now I was under-rehearsed AND trying to repair a wardrobe malfunction.

As I sewed I pictured myself the next day onstage, too tense to move, standing there in my gimpy costume like a block of wood. A very dense block of wood. That’s about when the swearing started.

Cut to the next day. I’m onstage, in the costume. Nobody appears to have noticed it is damaged. I am dancing to one of my favorite songs. The audience is in the mood to be entertained–it’s effectively closing night for this venue, and there’s some of that old theatre magic in the air. It’s been a long time since I’ve danced, and the end of the song finds me wanting more. The audience too, I think. Which is exactly how the end should be.

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