September 8, 2015 by New Capel Street: Fabric Division
…okay. As far as fabric puns go, that’s pretty weak. (Where pretty weak = GET IN THE CHAIR, NIAMH) But it’s my blog and I’ll make weak puns in the context of writing about LARP sewing if I want to. One of the key draws of Live RolePlay is the opportunity to create an immersive environment in which to play. In Nordic LARPs that’s not so much a physical as a carefully negotiated ephemeral thing, but the mud-and-beer style of play that I am accustomed to usually takes place in an environment where physical representation is more the norm. Physreps for short, this term can encompass everything from the face paint and prosthetics that someone playing an orc, or some creature with gills might wear, to the weapons they carry, to the set dressing and props that decorate their in-character area. It’s a real rabbit hole, and can be more than a little addictive. Some people find themselves hooked on making them, others on using them.
One of the really fun things about playing as part of a group is putting together a group ‘look’ and identity – and creating a space in your field that shows that as much as your costume. In the case of my group, it’s a little canvas awning with some chairs, a fire pit and some storm lanterns. Oh, and a hollow skull that we fill with sweeties and flying murder bastards (This may translate roughly to ‘wasps’). There’s a guy in the wider group who even makes wooden chandeliers. They have sockets carved into them to sit tealights or imitation tealights, pretty designs pyrographed into the wood, and are circular so that they can be hung around the centre pole of a bell tent. They’re beautiful, a real example of a simple idea executed well. Best kind of design in my book.
I still have a scar on my hand from my early forays into carpentry, and nobody should trust me with burning implements. But sewing? That I can do. And one of the easiest ways to IC up an area, to really communicate a group idea or theme, is a good banner. Or an ugly one. I’ve done both! For the Silver Court tent, I made a couple of banners to go with the rough and ready aesthetic we’re currently playing with. I used a couple of scraps of corduroy from making my old-man-corduroy-pants and a couple of lengths of hessian and fabric paint. Nothing too exciting, but the shapes doodled on the hessian are broadly speaking similar to the markings we use to represent fey glamour in our costumes. I taped a length of cling film to my cutting mat to protect it from stains, and then stippled the fabric paint on in layers – 1-2 layers of colour in most places.
Did I forget to take a picture of one? Of course I did. But here’s one of the pair:
Pretty simplistic, right? Well, there’s more where that came from! But bigger, cooler, more..beads?
A friend asked me to make another banner, this one to be a physrep of a magical banner called the Wonder of Light. I’d explain, but if you don’t play in the Lions in LT, it won’t make much sense and would be boring as shit. Long story short, wibble wibble wibble, magic banner.
I’d made a prop along those lines before, in sky blue silk yoinked from an old pair of fisherman pants, and a white Tesco tablecloth. With those auspicious materials, small fucking wonder it immediately disappeared without a trace. This time, I had had two years of experimenting with techniques, and access to nicer fabric. And three tubes of beads that had been sitting in my trimming box for five years, and a head full of couture videos. Chanel 2015/6 has a lot to fucking answer for right now. Because I decided that this banner would be made of a lightweight silver brocade. With reverse applique of electric blue (stretch!) satin. And beading. And chiffon ribbon to hide the raw edges of the cutwork. Oh yes. I’m that smart. After a day of traipsing around looking for beading needles (thank you The Cloth Shop for that!) I cracked on. And I interfaced the shiftybastardsilver. And did the cutwork, which went surprisingly well. And then I beaded up and ribboned a letter. And started swearing.
Because the genius idea looked like a fucking cupcake. Eventually, I stopped, and remembered all those 1980s fantasy movies. Sparkle and chiffon all over the shop. Clearly, it was an homage. And in honesty, I couldn’t bear to rip out the work I’d already done. So I was actually quite surprised to like the result!
I really liked the finish, though. I blame the girls at By Hand London entirely for this, but I’m after falling heavily in love with a good hand finished hem. And clever things done with points. Just look at that back side (hurr!)! Look at those lovely hems!
I guess, as much as anything else and possibly more so, LRP is what you make of it. Whether that’s spending an hour discussing character points of view and webs of connection, or filling bowls with LED fairy lights disguised as silk roses to light your tent, it’s a hobby that you generally can see the impact your efforts make across the field. And that’s reason enough to keep at it. Bragging rights when someone says “HOLYSHITYOUMADETHAT?!” totally help too.