My most recent gig was a production of Antony and Cleopatra (designed by Paul Tazewell), with lots of overtime hours put in. Normally this would be wonderful, but I was given a lot of what we in the industry call "nun sewing". You know, the tiny, precise projects in difficult fabrics that call for lots of handsewing. The ultimate is when you're sewing black on black, because of the potential to go blind. I didn't have black on black, but I had a whole lot of beading.
This is my favorite piece I worked on, a beaded suspender belt, but also the cause of my three weeks-and-running neckache, from hunching over it late at night with a desk lamp. Now, I didn't individually bead all this, thank goodness, it was mostly pre-beaded trims that I was hand sewing. To give credit where it is due, I did the beading and lining, the draper actually patterned and built the base.
The front side was a different story. It looks sad here because it had already been worn a few times so there are beads missing. It also doesn't fit the mannequin well, which means the beads don't butt together correctly. The real fun is that a lot of those beads in the middle section had to be hand done because they were space fillers. My eyeballs hurt just looking at it.
This was Cleopatra's drape. I did all the hemming (they changed the length three times!) as well as tacking down the final draping and attaching the shoulder jewelry. I learned how to machine hem sheers, which is great to have in my arsenal of skills. Using a very small needle, like a 9, you baste a line 1/4" from the edge, fold over at the line of stitching and then do a 2x3 or 3x3 zig over the folded edge, which pulls it all in nicely. Then you trim the excess away with applique scissors.
This "armored" dress was also a project I assisted on. Again, all hand sewing! I did some of the gold overlay fabric, beaded two large tabs that act as a sort of loin cloth look and also overlaid that sequined fabric to the side panels. That was the worst part. It had to be pinned on to the corset base on the bias and then stretched as you worked so as she moved it wouldn't strain. On the other hand, you couldn't have excess fabric while it was relaxed so it was a delicate balance. To sew it down, I had to remove all the beading from the seam allowance. Each row was individually beaded. If I had half a row in the SA, I had to unpick the half that needed to go and secure the other half. One way to save time with this is to break the beads and snap the sequins with pliers. However, these sequins were flexible and just bent and the beads were glass so when you crushed them it made itchy glass dust. That's not acceptable in a costume so it was only unpicking for me.
Normally I enjoy hand sewing, but I am glad these are done! I've not really returned to my personal sewing yet since leaning over the machine just causes my neckache to persist but I did bust out a t-shirt and my knitting is going full speed. Maybe I need one of those lavender neck warmers?