Friday, March 27, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Tanning Lotion Shouldn't Linger

Today's tip is a quick one, but one I wish I had been aware of earlier.  While self-tanners and DHA are a good way to tan for competitions, do not use old lotions or sprays.  Pay attention to and take care of your skin.  Some people are allergic to self-tanners, and even if you aren't allergic, they might irritate if they've gotten old.  About a year and a half ago, at my first competition after a couple years' hiatus, I gave myself a nasty rash on the inside of my elbows with some Super Tan.  I assume that that particular bottle wasn't good any more, but I switched to a new brand anyway.

My current favorite is the Rude Nude shown above, available through DSI.  A bottle lasts me through about six competitions, or about six months.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Projects

To judge from this blog, I have done nothing this year but sew the jade anna dress, and make a few potholders.  While it sometimes feels like that is true, there have been other new projects plugging along.

For example, this is my transit knitting, and it will be a hat.  The pattern is Ellinor by Maria Naslund, and I am making it the Amiral colorway of Cheval Blanc's Bamboulène.  This is yarn I received last year in the June Geek and Nerd Swap, and I am happy to be putting it to such a beautiful use.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Tanning+Lotion

Ah, the tanning . . . one of my least favorite parts of competition prep.  However, it is necessary.  Most competitions having some form of stage lighting that does wash out natural skin color and leave everyone looking odd.  Mostly, though, tanning shows that you care.  I have seen events where I could predict that final placings based on the quality of the ladies' tans.  That does not mean that the tan matters more than the dancing.  Attention to grooming details like tanning normally means attention to details in producing the best dancing, so yes, the winners are virtually always impeccably groomed and nicely bronzed.

There are three main ways of getting tanned up for an event: UV exposure, auto- or self-tanning creams, and paints or stains.  I am naturally pale and tend to skip from white to red without stopping anywhere in between, so I don't try tanning under the sun or in a tanning bed.  That leaves slathering my skin in something.  The paints and stains are a quick way to get really dark, so they are a mainstay of Latin dancers in particular.  However, they are messy and easy to sweat off, and I dance ballroom and don't need to be mahogany brown.  I stick with the auto-bronzers.

All of the auto-bronzers I've used have dihydroacetone, or DHA, as the active ingredient.  This stuff turns brown when interacting with skin (particularly dead skin cells, if I remember correctly) over a matter of hours.  Because of this, patches of drier skin, like elbows, wrists, hands, and knees, tend to get much darker than the surrounding skin when tanned this way.

I've found that you can even out the color by applying normal moisturizing body lotion to those areas shortly before rubbing on the tanning cream.  It seems to prevent the skin from absorbing quite as much tanner, and then as long as I rub in my tanning cream really well, I get much more even coverage.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ballroom Sewing: Is it worth it?

Is sewing my own ballgowns worth it?

I have asked myself that question a lot while frustrated with the jade anna dress.  In one way, the answer is always yes.  Around here, a new, made-to-measure ballgown will cost between 1500 and 3000 euros.  Some portion of that range depends on how the dress is assembled, as multi-layer skirts with lots of bias-cut pieces eat up expensive fabrics at a rapid pace.  The majority of the difference though comes from the decoration of a dress.  Appliques, fringes, sequins, and rhinestones are typically hand-applied to a gown, so the dress price reflects the hours someone spent gluing individual pieces of fringe or rhinestones to the dress.  It isn't a task that requires a high level of training, so the basics of decorating are not hard to learn, and decorating a costume yourself in one area in which you could save money.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Covering Numbers, part 2

Despite the ease of the number-covering method described last week, several of the open dancer boys I know, including my husband, don't use page protectors for their numbers.  Instead, they cover them in packing tape.

The procedure is to cut a strip of clear packing tape longer than the number, then slowly and smoothly lay it across the number.  Wrap the excess around to the back.  Repeat with additional strips, slightly overlapping them so the card stock is completely covered in the front.

As the person typically trying to pin these numbers to a tailsuit, I can attest that covering them in packing tape makes them strong.  It is also time-consuming, so it might not be practical if you arrive late to an event or have multiple numbers to keep track of.  But if you want a shiny number that will last through several rounds, bring the packing tape.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Covering Numbers, part 1

Today's tip focuses on competition, and is aimed a bit more at the men, as they spend competitions with these attached to their backs:

The number is a couple's official identity for the duration of a competition, and as such it should be readable.  Too bad that often numbers are made in flimsy cardstock, pierced with safety pins, easy to bend, easy to rip, and easy to sweat through.

One solution is to get some cheap clear page protectors.  Bring those and scissors to the competition, and then trim a page protector to fit the number.  You can pin the page protector to the guy's back, then slip the number inside.  The number is now attached and protected.  You can of course reuse the sleeve between competitions, assuming it doesn't get too mangled.  Furthermore, if a guy has multiple numbers during an event, numbers will be easy to swap out since no repinning is needed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Finished: Lord of the Rings PotHolders

This particular project gave me a small host of problems, which is part of the reason I have been lax in reporting on it. I was excited for the January 2015 Geek and Nerd Swap because the theme was Imaginary Worlds and I love those in my fantasy. I had gushed about Lord of the Rings in my introduction to the swap, and since I knew January was going to be a busy month I started pre-planning hat and fingerless mitt projects around LOTR cultures and places.

Then I received my partner assignment, and found that while she would love to visit Middle Earth, she was more interested in home furnishings than accessories. That derailed my planning, because as the observant will have picked up I primarily make accessories. My home décor projects are limited to the occasional afghan and those potholders I made for my mother. So it was back to the drawing board for me.