A bit of a project from hell this week - I did some custom stuff for a faire performer I know from waaay back. He needed a new jerkin and pants that work with his acts (juggling, slack-rope, close-up magic), and had a particular color scheme in mind. Of course, as a performer it was really important to keep things on a budget. He was off the road for a while but now that his kid is 13 he can do more traveling again.
He gave me a pair of pants to copy for size, a hat to match/coordinate the color scheme, and a pattern for the "secret magician thingies" that the vest needed, which helped immensely. He wanted teal, yellow and burgundy, and we talked about the physicial needs of his performances (wide armholes for movement, size and placement of pockets) as well as the look he wanted (dressed-up peasant style rather than faded-down nicer style). Since I've been out on circuit more recently than he has, I was also able to identify another variety act for him that uses yellow/burgundy as their primary colors (The Tortuga Twins) and make sure that his jerkin was teal with the other colors on pants and trim.
I had a homespun-looking upholstery fabric that I'd been given at one point, with multi-colored threads in the weave. I cut the jerkin out and overdyed the pieces with teal in a pot on my stove. The lighter colors mostly picked up the dye like I wanted them to, while the darker ones are just enough to provide a nice depth of texture. Some of the colored threads didn't take dye at all, so there are hints of other colors in there as well. It really came out nice.
It took longer than I'd estimated - which was entirely my fault. Partly because I screwed up the lining at one point (working in the secret magician stuff) and it tore while I was fixing that, so I had to hand work a patch over it. He's leaving Tuesday morning for Florida, so re-doing that section just wasn't an option. Also partly because I slightly misunderstood how the secret magician thingie worked and didn't realize that there was another piece in there that also needed to be inserted by hand. But I am chalking that up to a learning experience and also figure that the knowledge of how that works to be part of my pay.
Its REALLY hard to talk about this project without getting specific about that thingie!!! But I'm trying to be respectful, so I hope this makes sense.
He came by this morning to pick them up, and I watched him "vanish" a roll of tape so we know it works. The pants have pockets exactly where he wanted them for props. I used a fabric with a bit of stretch even though they are loose-fitting so that there is no danger of them binding anywhere, and cut them to exactly where he wants them for his rope-walking. He definitely has the clown look he wanted, but distinct and not at all modern, with a bit of texture rather than flat swaths of color. Since part of the goal of this trip is to get updated photos and video, I'll post them when I get them.
I find this kind of work really satisfying. I have a pretty odd and specialized skillset, and this job played to that. I was able to give him exactly what he needs to do his job, and so that he doesn't have to think about his clothing while he works. Everything is precisely where it needs to be - the pockets sit exactly where his hands naturally fall, and are big enough to hold what he needs them to. He has the look he wants and that can't be confused with anyone else currently working (at least in the upper midwest). I was up too late, and have needle-fingers, but I'm really happy with the way it came out.