Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 256th Birthday

sewing costumes
Elli posing as MaryAnn Mozart to celebrate her brother Wolfgang Amadeus' 256th birthday.

Elli was asked by her school music teacher Tatiana to help celebrate the 256th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Elli would be his sister MaryAnn. So two days before the school celebration, Elli asked me to make her a dress, not just any dress, but a time period dress of the eighteenth century! I looked up at her without a smile on my face because I wasn’t sure how I felt about this task. On the one hand, I haven’t been into sewing lately and this was going to be a lot of work but on the other hand, I love creating costumes and I didn’t want to miss a chance to be “a good mom”.  I squinted my eyes at Elli and gave her a “we’ll see” response, a non-commital-I’ll try, but don’t get angry if it doesn’t happen answer.

time period dress
Handing out candy at the Mozart birthday celebration

I tried to get into the mood to sew a  gown from the 1700’s, so I turned the radio to a  classical music station, looked up costumes from the 1700’s  and I cleaned up my studio so that I could find everything I needed. I vowed not to buy one single thing to make the dress since I have so many supplies left over from my store; I also decided to break the job up into two parts so it didn’t feel like such a big endeavor. I had made a wig that fit the time period from a previous project and I had an petticoat sewn together already, two important pieces that I didn’t need to make! The first day, I slid the plastic covered metal boning into the grooves of the petticoat; this made the dress “poof” out. I dug out a roll of fabric and other sewing supplies to make the dress. I made a pattern to fit Elli and I cut out the pattern pieces from the fabric. I basted it all together so I could fit it to Elli when she got home from school in the evening. I was having fun designing and sewing the Mozart dress, I guess I had missed this work more than I thought.

costumes
Cinched, back detail of the Mozart dress.

The only fabric that I had enough of at home was a pretty cotton print with tiny pink roses and grey stripes. I think the cotton fabric made the costume more of a day dress rather than a fancy “occation” dress.

ruffled bodice detail
The ruffled bodice detail of the Mozart dress

On the second day, I made alterations to the bodice, I made the bodice lining and sewed all the pieces together. I had Elli try on the dress again after she got home from school……it fit! In the evening, the day before the event, I sewed lace around the neck, sleeves and along the bottom of the petticoat I sewed the ruffles on by hand because the metal boning (rods) prevented me from sewing it on the sewing machine. One of the harder parts of finishing the dress was ironing it; it consisted of 6.5 yards of cotton that the cat tried to pounce on every time I adjusted the dress on the ironing board. Voila, it was finished.

sewing
cotton and ruffles

The morning of the event, as the girls were getting ready for school, I was organizing everything to go.  I was planning on going to school to help Elli into the costume and wig and to “of course” photograph everything. My oldest daughter asked me what I thought I was doing, she tried to pursuade me not to come to school to help Elli. “But why not?” I innocently asked her, knowing full well that a parental presence at school was taboo, an unimaginable embarrassment to all teenagers. “Don’t worry” I told her, “I’ll wear one of my felted masks and no one will know it’s me!” “Oh Gawwwwd Mama, she whined.

sewing costumes
Elli is acting the part

I continued to gather everything we needed for the Mozart event. I had the wig, the ruff (fancy neck-piece) for Mozart himself, Elli’s shoes to go with the costume, the petticoat, my camera….I asked Elli where the dress was. “I put it in my bag” she said. She had stuffed the giant dress, all 6.5 yards of cotton and lace into a  4″ x 12″ bag. I screamed, Oh my God get the dress out of the bag NOW! I pulled it out quickly and thankfully it hadn’t been in the bag long enough to wrinkle too badly, I lovingly placed it in a garment bag. I was now ready to drive to school to help Elli get ready, document the Mozart event and embarrass my girls to death!!!

reading at Mozart event
Mozart (Nir) and his sister MaryAnn (Elli) reading in French and Hebrew at the Mozart birthday celebration.

At the Lycee Franco Israelien school, my girls pretended not to know me as I photograph the short but cute celebration. I’m glad that the school’s music teacher Tatiana Potapeiko is so passionate about music and makes the effort to try to pass on her enthusiasm and knowledge to the students! Merci Tatiana!

sewing costumes
MaryAnn Mozart handing candy to Lili Levitas.

Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , born in Salzburg, Austria (part of the Holy Roman Empire at the time) (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), was a composer of symphonies, concerts, chamber, opera and choral music of the classical era.  Talented from an early age, he entertained royalty and composed over 600 pieces; his work was very influential to Western music.

celebrating Mozart's birthday
France Bessis (the director) thanks Tatiana Potapeiko (the music teacher), Elli Levitas (MaryAnn Mozart) and Nir Kaner (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) for the Mozart birthday celebration.

Pretty Needle Felted and Sewn Mushrooms

needle felting and sewing
Pretty Mushroom and Bunny

My 2012 New Year”s resolution is to do something new with my art, to push the boundaries of needle felting and sewing. I’ve been needle felting exclusively for a few years now because I love this medium, but I miss sewing and the textures and patterns of fabric. I’ll now be experimenting with combining the art of needle felting with the art of sewing because the two mediums can compliment each other to produce stunning results. The pretty mushroom is needle felted, the base mushroom shapes are covered with cotton, silk and velvet and sewn on in a variety of ways.

costumes
Felt Renaissance Neck Ruff and needle felted pig puppet. The precise folding and sewing of the Renaissance neck ruff is an example of a beautifully sewn costume accessory; this one is made from felt.

For me, the costumes that I used to make in my store were the gateway to learning about fancy sewing, French sewing techniques and all the different ways you can manipulate fabric. Assembling the costume pattern pieces like a puzzle never interested me as much as how you can control the fabric and the interesting and beautiful results that can be achieved. My seamstresses and I researched Renaissance costumes and sewing techniques, the fine art of sewing ballet costumes and the secrets of constructing a garment to make it stand up, drape or bounce; this is what really fascinated me.

mushroom polka dots
Fresh water pearl are used as mushroom polka dots

The top of needle felted Pretty Mushroom is adorned with red velvet, quilted on with small stitches all over the mushroom cap and covered with fresh water pearls for the mushroom polka dots.

hand embroidery
Hand embroidered eyelet cotton

I went into my vintage fabric stash and found some hand embroidered, cotton eyelet fabric. For special pieces, I like to use vintage fabric with elaborate hand embroidery, something I don’t have the patience to do myself. I quilted this vintage fabric onto the needle felted mushroom stem.

mushroom gills
Gathered silk mushroom gills

For this pretty mushroom, I gathered silk around the stem to make the gills (underside of the mushroom). I had a little previous experience with this technique last year when I made giant mushrooms  (6 and 7 feet tall) for an Alice and Wonderland themed birthday party, you can see those mushrooms here.

needle felting and sewing
Wool, cotton, silk and pearl mushrooms

In the end, I have beautiful, 100% natural mushrooms from wool, cotton, silk and pearls (Waldorf style, but an adult version) to brighten up my sofa or an empty corner.

Fairies, Elves and Sprites!

Little Elf hat

I think this is my favorite costume that I’ve designed for my store. The little elf works for all ages, boys and girls. The funny hat can be worn as a costume as well as a winter hat and the elf shoes make great house slippers! The kids love all the magical and make-believe costumes.

Little Elf

Can’t you just see the sun rays streaming through the tall, green trees and far below, on the mossy forest floor, a little elf  is sitting under a big, red mushroom. There are fairies, sprites and elves luking in the nooks and crannies of this beautiful world.

Magical Mushrooms

Oh! Look! Here are the big red mushrooms of the fairy forest.

 

Our imaginations can take us anywhere we’d like to go, just notice your children and listen to their private, play conversations. No one can see these fairies, elves and sprites inside their little worlds. Elves, fairies and sprites are free to do as they please;  This is why they are sometimes cheeky and mischievous.

Elf and his pet frog

Fairies are easy to find if you know where to look. Outside, in the trees, in the tall grass, inside the flowers and blooming vines, look very closely. Sshhhhh!

Beautiful Fairy
Flower Fairy

Making dolls and puppets

The first dolls I ever made were made from vegatables from our garden, then I started making dolls from my mother’s fabric scraps. As I grew older, I had to take home economics in school; I learned how to follow a pattern and this allowed me to make rag dolls. As time went on, I started making dolls from paper mache, wood, clay and mixed media. After we moved to Israel, the girls were little and I made puppets for the girls to play with. My fabric puppets, evolved into mixed media puppets and now I;m making mostly felted puppets. I taught myself to neelde felt a few years ago. Needle felting is like sculpting, its additive and subractive like clay.

 

fabric handpuppets

 

mixed media bride doll
rag doll mermaid

 

dolls for boys

 

small felt dolls
bundle baby doll