Birds of a Feather: A Costuming DIY
Hobbie looked up from the homework he was checking on Serren's datapad. "What costume, Sweetie?"
Nia Klivian rolled her eyes and wondered how her father, one of the New Republic's finest fighter pilots, could be so absent-minded. "Daddy, Mistress Yelanam told you when you picked me up from the rehearsal for our play that the costume needed to have the feathers added. Don't you remember? She handed the red boas to you herself along with the costume." Hobbie noted that Nia did not take a single breath through the entire scolding she gave him.
The memory of the conversation popped into his head, and with it panic, although he strove to keep it from showing on his face. "Uh ... sure, Sweetie. I remember. Didn't Mom do it before she left on her assignment?"
"No, Daddy. She left that morning. That's why you picked me up, remember?"
"Oh. Right." Hobbie's mind started to race. How could he get the work on Nia's costume done? He could barely manage to hotglue a hole in his sock that morning, and his wife wasn't due home till opening night, three nights away. "Don't worry. We'll get it done, Sweetheart. "
He stood up from the table. "All right, Serren," he assured his son, "I think this looks good now. Remember not to rush through the problems and recheck your work on the quiz tomorrow and you'll do fine. Go get ready for bed and I'll be in in a minute to say good night. You too, Nia."
As soon as he heard their doors close, Hobbie grabbed for his comlink.
"Whoa! Slow down, Hobs. What's this you're babbling about feathers?" Wes looked at his comlink and wondered if his best friend had somehow completely lost his mind.
"I said," Hobbie began again slowly, "that Nia needs to have these red feather things attached to her costume for the school play." Panic started to creep back into his voice as it never had in a cockpit in the heat of battle. "The dress rehearsals start tomorrow, and Sela won't be home till opening night. What am I going to do?"
Wes smiled to himself before answering. "Relax Hobs. There's nothing to it. You must have a glue gun around there somewhere. Just glue the feathers right onto the costume."
"No, we can't do that. The director provided the costume and she explicitly said that glue would damage it. You're the only one I know who can sew! Help me, please, old pal? For Nia's sake? You know how much she loves you, and how disappointed she'd be if her Uncle Wes let her down ..."
I can't believe I'm doing this, Wes muttered to himself. "All right, Hobs. I'll be over in a little while. You find Sela's sewing box. I'll show you what to do, but you're going to do it. And I expect to be fed and compensated!"
"Thanks, Wes," Hobbie gasped in reply before signing off. He ran off to the store to get lomin and snacks for his friend.
The costume pieces were laid out before the two heroes of the New Republic. "What is she supposed to be again, Hobs?"
"A very garishly colored domestic mynoch."
"Are you sure these feathers can't be glued on? It would be so much faster."
"No, we can't wreck the material. It's not that sturdy to begin with." Hobbie held up a piece he'd tried to glue already, to show Wes how badly the delicate piece had disintegrated.
Heaving a sigh, the still baby-faced Wes Janson prepared to demonstrate his unexpected skills with needle and thread. "Okay, Hobs. The first thing you have to do is pin the feathers in place." He picked up the feathers and realized that they were in fact already strung together.
"Hey! This is good. These things are already on a boa. Reminds me of that dancer on Sal Sagev who ..." Wes stopped when he saw the panic on Hobbie's face. "Uh, yeah ... maybe I'd better not be remembering that ..."
"So, with the rope the feathers are strung into as your guide, hold the rope against the fabric of the blouse and use the straight pins to hold it in place. No, don't cut it yet. Pin the whole length right to the blouse so you don't accidentally cut it too short."
Following Wes's instructions, Hobbie pinned the feather boa in place around the neck of the blouse low enough for the lace collar to be able to protect Nia's neck from directly contacting the scratchy feathers, but with many muffled curses before the task was done.
Handing his friend some bandaids to cover the pin pricks on his fingers, Wes offered encouragement, "Good job, Hobs. Now all you need to do is whipstitch it. It's simple. Pull off a good long length of the red thread and thread the needle with it. See? The thread whips around, thus whipstitch, get it?"
Wes watched his friend stick his tongue out and close one eye in concentration as Hobbie aimed the tip of the thread through the eye of the needle. He almost took pity on the hapless rookie seamster, but Hobbie finally succeeded.
"Now tie a knot at the end or you'll never get anywhere with the sewing. Good, that's it. See? You can transfer the knot tying skill you have for your shoelaces to sewing," Wes said and laughed at the dirty-yet-pathetic look Hobbie shot him.
"Now ... Use the thread to hold the end of the boa in place by sewing in the same spot and through the rope several times before moving on down the length of the boa. Good. Next start moving your stitches down the length of the rope, but don't make them too big."
"Like this?" Hobbie asked showing Wes his work after a few stitches.
"Yes, that's great. Be careful not to let your thread get knotted or twisted up. You'll never untangle it with those feathers in the way."
Hobbie doggedly worked his way around the neckline of the blouse, finally reaching the other end.
"Good job, Hobs. Now sew in the same spot over and over and through the rope to make sure it stays attached. Tie a knot close to the fabric to finish it ..."
Using his teeth, Hobbie severed the thread, and sat back in his chair. He had been hunched over with all of his muscles tightened. Stretching and twisting his head and neck was momentarily painful, but he felt satisfaction at completing this first stage of the task.
"Now, do the same thing for each sleeve," Wes told his friend. He almost offered to sew one sleeve to speed up the process, but realized that they would be pulling on the blouse in opposite directions and poor Hobbie had enough to deal with.
Anyway, how did he get this far not knowing how to sew? To keep himself from feeling sorry for his friend, he helped himself to another lomin and chips.
The sleeves did not take as long because the lengths of feathered boa to be attached were shorter and Hobbie's growing confidence and experience increased his speed.
"That's great, Hobs! Looks like you've found yourself a trade for when we retire from the squadron."
The somber-faced pilot mouthed a suitable malediction at his friend, then turned his attention to the next costume piece. "How do we put the feathers on the hat, Wes?"
Wes screwed up his face, "Surely we can glue the feathers to the hat. You can't use the 'it's too dainty' arguement here!"
Hobbie's famously mournful face looked even more sad. "But that would permanently damage the hat ..."
"Oh, for crying out ... okay, okay! We'll do this the same way, pal. Here, let me take a look at it." Wes took the hat and examined it closely.
"Well," he said at last, "It can be done the same way, but it's going to be harder. You definitely want to pin it first. And you'll want to use a double strand of thread for extra strength. The part of the hat that you can sew through is really stiff so you will need a thicker needle."
Hobbie looked back at him dubiously, but pinned the boa in place around the crown of the hat; then prepared the doubled length of thread and the thicker needle.
"You have to be extra careful to not tangle the thread on this. It will be tough because you have to work your way around the crown whipstitching from the inside and it's a tight fit. What are you waiting for? Get going!"
Letting out a deep breath, Hobbie got to work attaching the feather boa to the crown of the hat. It was harder than the blouse had been and his fingers were sore from the many pin pricks.
"Hey, look," interrupted Wes, as Hobbie was finishing up. "You could've used a thimble to help ... then you wouldn't have put so many holes in your digits, boy!" Cutting the excess thread, Hobbie jabbed the needle toward his friend, who swerved out of the way of the weapon.
Wes took the hat from Hobbie, put it on his head and puckered up his lips and batted his eyelashes. Hobbie couldn't help himself. He burst out laughing, but quickly clasped his hands over his mouth not wanting to wake the children up.
Keeping the hat on his head, Wes reached for the red silky fabric on the table. "What's this for?"
Hobbie took the sash. "It's supposed to have the feathers sewn across the ends, and tie in a bow at her back to be her tail feathers," he said putting the sash around his own waist to demonstrate.
Wes laughed. "Red tail feathers suit you, Hobs."
Hobbie bunched up the fabric and threw it at his friend.
Wes grabbed the fabric out of the air and held the length out in front to look at it. "Two things we have to do here, Hobs. First, you have to iron the sash. Nia can't wear it wrinkled, and thanks to your temper, it's all scrunched up! And see here? The ends are all uneven. It has to be cut straight across." Matching words to action, he trimmed off the ends of the sash.
"Now you'll have to hem each end, Hob. If you try sewing the boa on like this, the fabric will come unraveled. Go get the ironing board and iron and I'll show you how to press a hem into the material. That'll make hemming it go a lot faster."
Once the sash was pressed and hemmed, Wes continued his instructions. "The double folded hem will be able to take the weight of the feather boa being sewn on and tied and untied for the performances. All you have to do is pin on the boa, cut off the right length, and then whipstitch it just like on the blouse. Piece o' cake, old pal."
And it was. Both ends of the sash were feathered and finished much faster than his earlier efforts.
Now that the task was done, Hobbie looked side-long at his friend, "And how is it you know so much about sewing? Were you working off an outstanding bill at a brothel?"
His friend snorted and tossed the hat at his friend. "You know perfectly well I've never had to pay for ..." A soft rustling sound caused Wes to stop and look past Hobbie to see young Nia shuffle into the kitchen.
"Good morning, Nia," he said with a smile. "After all the work your dad and I have put into this costume of yours, I hope you're planning to invite us to the show?"
Nia grinned and ran over to give him a hug. "Of course! I want all of you to come. You will come to the show, won't you?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world!"
She turned to hug her father. "You were up all night working on my costume, Daddy?" She gave him another squeeze. "You kept your promise!"
The audience was on its feet cheering happily. The enthusiasm was understandable, since their children were up on the stage and they were inclined to a modicum of bias in their opinion of the performance. Hobbie and Sela were among the proud parents on their feet clapping, but the erstwhile seamster felt slightly detached as he recalled the last three days of rehearsal.
"Oh, Major Klivian. I'm so glad you're here!" the director Mistress Yenalam said coming up to him. "I was wondering if I might impose on you for a favor?"
"Of course. What can I do for you?"
"Well," she said turning and sweeping her hand around to indicate the youngsters who were running all over the rehearsal hall, "I need to be working with smaller groups among the children to get the blocking for the show right now that we have our sets, but the others need to be kept in order and quiet till it's their time to work. Could you stay at the rehearsals for the next couple of nights to do that?"
What could he say? Looking into the proud, imploring eyes of his daughter, he replied, "Yes. I'd be happy to help." And he did. He ended up doing a little bit of everything from helping to assemble the set to wiring the sound system to reworking the neckline and sleeve ruffs of Nia's costume when it turned out that those had to be removable for one song in the show.
In his reverie, Hobbie was only half listening as one of the children began naming a number of adults including the director and music director, the costume coordinator, the props coordinator, and several others.
To his confusion, Wes and Sela grabbed Hobbie by the elbows and propelled him forward toward the stage. It took a moment for Hobbie to realize that his own name had been called to go onstage to accept a bouquet of thanks from the show!
Best of all, he was able to accept them from his daughter, who was holding the flowers out toward him. But rather than taking the bouquet, he swept her up in his arms, flowers and all.
Nia giggled at her father, for some of her feathers had fallen off in his exhuberant embrace and were now sprinkled all over him. Wes and Sela noticed the feathers, too, and everyone laughed when Wes hollered over the applause, "Hey look, they're birds of a feather!"
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