Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Costume Considerations, part 2

Last week, I started talking about things I consider when creating or evaluating a ballroom costume, and promised that I continue with talking about evaluating colors this week.  I find color is one of the first things I consider when coming up with a potential dress design.  In my head, certain colors only work with certain designs; something that would look elegant in royal blue is going to give a different impression in hot pink.  That is probably a peculiarity of my thought processes, but I would still say that the color of a dress deserves careful consideration.  At the very least, fabric cost is almost always independent of color, so I consider color choice as the cheapest way to add visual appeal to a dress.

I stated in my previous post that I felt one of the tasks of a competition costume is to attract attention.  The color of a dress can do this by contrasting with the surrounding colors.  To know what colors contrast, consider a color wheel.  A color wheel displays relationships between primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.  The three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue.  The secondary colors are produced by mixing two primaries and are green, orange, and purple.  The tertiary colors are made by mixing secondaries and primaries, though exactly what shade you get depends on the proportions mixed; yellow-green, orange-red, and so on fall in this group.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

October Swap Gifts Received

If I have given the impression that my swap partner has been irresponsible, I apologize.  It was neither my intention nor reality.  The post office sent me a note to pick up a package last Thursday, which I picked up Saturday.  A job interview prevented me from gloating over my goodies online until now.

As a side note, I think coding job interviews must always feel awful to all involved.  I had ninety minutes in which to throw together a project that really needs several hours and a few iterations before it would be considered a decent prototype of anything.  Meanwhile, every typing error caused error messages to spew across the screen for all to see.  It was embarrassing.  At least I did know how to do everything I was asked to do.

Anyway, on Saturday I took possession of this lovely parcel.
 It was opened to reveal these mysterious packets.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Costume Considerations, part 1

Today's tip is going to be the first of a few I post about competitive costume considerations for ladies.  Our dresses are expensive, and it hurts to put the time and effort into acquiring a costume only to find that it doesn't quite work for you.  In this series, I'll detail some of the considerations I think through when I'm cooking up a dress design or evaluating if a dress is working for me.

Of course, in fashion every rule and guideline can be broken to great effect under the right circumstances.  These are my guidelines only, and should be taken as that.

I take a fundamental principle that a competition dress has two purposes.  First, it should make you look good.  Good is obviously a vague word that can be replaced with the adjective of your choice: sexy, elegant, flirtatious, regal, etc.  Whatever you want to look like, your dress should contribute positively to that goal.  Second, your dress should attract attention.  I do not necessarily mean it should be outrageous by breaking conventions, though of course what is outrageous is also subjective.  I mean that if your dress makes you blend into the background, it doesn't matter how flattering it is--it's not working for you as a competition dress.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Finished: Starry Night Project Bag

As mentioned previously, I took up the challenge to make items for the October 2015 Geek and Nerd Swap, and was assigned to find ways to interpret Gothic architecture and Impressionist paintings into handcrafts.  A knitted scarf took care of the Gothic side of things, so Impressionism was to be the inspiration for another handcraft.

I should point out that the specifications for the swap do not include two handmades.  A swap package is to include one handmade item, one fiber arts item (such as yarn or stitch markers), an edible goody, and a non-edible goody.  I like making two handmades because I sew as well as knit and crochet, and I think a handmade project bag, notion pouch, or needle case is an excellent way to translate a theme into a beautiful, useful item.

So I spent time staring at pictures of Van Gogh's "Starry Night," my swap partner's favorite painting, and sketched out the major elements of the image: the exaggerated moon, the hilly landscape, the church tower, and the swirling winds.  I then looked up the dimensions of the bags produced in this tutorial, and converted my sketches into panels of the correct dimensions on parchment paper.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Finished: Gothic Arches Scarf

At the end of September, I made a perhaps foolish decision.  I signed up for the October edition of the Geek and Nerd Swap on Ravelry.  The theme was Art and Architecture, and while that is not my area of expertise at all, I was unemployed and so in theory had lots of free time, if not a lot of money.  It seemed like a good project that would require a bit of research and give me something besides job applications to think about.

When partners were assigned at the beginning of the month, I found mine liked Gothic Architecture and Impressionist paintings, with a particular affection for Van Gogh's Starry Night.  She also lived in a warmer part of the US, so accessories had to be on the lighter side.  I ran with the Gothic Architecture theme in knitting.  This style is known for its emphasis of vertical elements, use of pointed arches, and bracing walls with flying buttresses.  Pointed arches and flying buttresses allowed the stone buildings to be built taller than had been possible before with stone, adding to the vertical emphasis of the buildings.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Learn Your Partner's Part

Lady: "You know, I think the problem we're having getting to the right alignment is because of the slip pivot."
Gentleman: "What slip pivot?  There's no slip pivot."
Lady: "Yes, there is.  But it isn't working well and we aren't getting around enough."
Gentleman: "There's no slip pivot in that figure."
Lady: "Yes there is.  Watch." Lady demonstrates her steps, which include a slip pivot.
Gentleman: "Oh, you have a slip pivot.  Let me try something."
They dance the figure again, the gentleman accommodates the lady's slip pivot, and they land on the right alignment for the following figure.

I recently got a new section of foxtrot choreography, and I think I've had this conversation twice this week.  Today's tip is to learn your partner's part, regardless of gender or style.  In standard, a man needs to know when his partner has heel turns as leading them correctly requires he control his rise and fall in a specific way.  Slip pivots always require the partner on the inside of the turn wait/demonstrate a lot of sensitivity to the partner's location.  Weaves from promenade require the man to get in front of the lady, and it would help him if she didn't take a monster-size step while he does so.

Feel free to include latin-specific examples in the comments.  The principle still applies.  Not only while being aware of your partner's part help your dancing; it will also make you a better partner.  I have always been hugely impressed when I dance with a partner who knows what my weak spots are and leads to help me overcome them.  It is not a common trait in a partner, but a much appreciated one.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ballroom tip: Consider Ankle Exercise

Today's tip is perhaps a simplistic one, but it was a revelation to me and I'd like to share it in case somebody else could use it spelled out.

The particularly eagle-eyed among you may have noticed from my modeled photos of finished socks that my ankles are not the same size.  My right ankle is a bit larger than its twin.  This is due to a nasty interaction between that ankle and a trampoline when I was 18, and to this day that ankle is more prone to twisting and collapsing if stressed.

In ordinary activities, this is not important.  Walking and running don't stress my ankle.  Dancing, however, does stress that ankle and I have had it buckle in competitions when the muscles became over-tired.  The best solution, according to my doctor and my physical therapist, was to exercise the ankle so it could correctly handle the effort.  I prefer exercises like this, particularly the releves.

The eventual up-shot was that my balance has really improved  This is particularly evident in waltz, since I can lower with much more control. So, in case you'd also like to improve your balance and avoid ankle injuries, consider adding a couple minutes of ankle exercise to your day.