Miss Mina's Blog

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Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!
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Burlesque is a great reason for travel and travel is a great reason for burlesque.

Out-of-town burlesque shows and festivals are a great way to visit places to which you might not otherwise have gone. And if you’re traveling for some other reason, see if you can get a gig while you’re in town. You’ll probably meet some new folks and certainly be exposed to a new audience.

Right now, I’m on my way to Winnipeg, a city I probably never would have visited otherwise, to teach and perform.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Sewing in July 

Dear Constant Reader,

At the end of June, I decided July would be a sewing month and I was going to work on using up my stash. How did I do? Well… not so great.

July was terribly hot and it was frequently stifling in my atelier, so I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped. I only made 3 garments, all lingerie.

First was a vintage-style net bra, which I made from some black netting embellished with gold that I had recycled from a skirt I made ages ago and never wore. No photos of this one yet. Maybe you’ll see it in my new book, hopefully coming out soon. You’ll definitely learn how to make one!

Then I made a bra top and French knickers from And Sew to Bed: 20 Vintage-Inspired Projects for the Boudoir. I used some luxurious black silk and some fun red buttons from my stash for these. I think I had to buy the right width elastic for the button loops on the bra, but everything else I had already. Artsy shot by Scratch.

The bra only turned out okay. I didn’t make a muslin first, so it was in progress that I realized the back band was going to be too long and shortened it. After the whole thing was finished, the cups didn’t fit well, so I made some hasty darts, which I don’t love and that tightened up the back band as well, so there’s a gap now. Lesson learned. Anything involving boobs really should get a test fit, but I was feeling lazy.

The French kickers (aka tap pants), however, are lovely. They’re cute and comfortable and I love the little red buttons on the side. They should have been much quicker, but I was a total perfectionist here. The waist and leg openings are bound with bias tape and even though the tape is turned to the inside, I just couldn’t bear to use commercial cotton-poly tape. Instead, I made bias tape from the silk. Making your own bias tape isn’t hard with the right tool — a widget that you pull the bias strip through and iron as it comes out with the edges folded under. My problem was that I couldn’t cut a nice, neat bias strip to run through my widget because the silk was so slippery. Scratch, because he’s clever this way, got me a yard-long, inch-wide piece of flat steel and painted one side with grip paint. It held the devilish fabric in place and gave me a nice edge against which to draw a chalk line for cutting.

The big win the whole month has that I can finally make buttonholes on my sewing machine. I have an amazing 1958 Singer Slant-O-Matic 403 Special that does everything I need — except buttonholes.

I mean I could make buttonholes, but it involved a lot of fuss, constantly changing the needle positions and the stitch width and they never seemed to come out evenly. I often resorted to making buttonholes by hand and once to hiring Vixens Ahoy to take care of the many, many buttonholes on a blouse I made.

A friend tipped me off that Singer made a buttonhole attachment back in the ’50s and I easily acquired one on eBay and it sat in a drawer for a long time. Now I had to learn to use it. It’s really clever! There are little cog-wheel templates that move the needle in the shape of whatever buttonhole you want. And the set I bought not only had all the original parts and the instructions, but extra templates and even a sample strip the previous owner had made of all the sizes. I’ll admit my buttonholes weren’t perfectly positioned, but they looked great and work just like they are supposed to. My next goal is to learn to use all the other sewing machine feet and attachments that I’ve never tried, like the ruffler.

Not a great month in terms of churning out stuff and winnowing down my stash, but I do have some really decadent French knickers. I still have some of that black silk and I want to make a camisole to go with them instead of the less-than-lovely bra top. More importantly I have some new tools and new skills.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Strive to improve your art whenever you can.

Last night I had the incredible opportunity to watch the Cirque du Soliel show Luzia from backstage. Well, not actually backstage-backstage, but in the lounge area of the Artists’ tent. We could see the performance on a monitor, but the real show was all around us — the artists preparing. Sometimes that meant stretching or lifting weights, but mostly they were running their acts, sometimes over and over. Even after their set some of them continued working. During intermission I could watch the contortionist in an inhuman over-split while the strap and pole aerialists ran their moves on their respective apparatus and I could hear the juggler working just behind me. (The equipment set up in that tent was AMAZING!)

It was inspiring (and intimidating). And made me realized how much down time I waste when I could be using it to enhance my performance.

A big thanks to Lady Pepper Blossom for giving us the chance to see the circus from such a unique vantage point.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

This Guy Walks Into a Bra… 8/4/18 

Dear Constant Reader,

This show was a little different from our usual fare. Instead of having Scratch between each act, we did some vintage burlesque comedy sketches. The show was very fast paced and a lot of fun.

Burlesque comedy is rather challenging. Much of the original material is problematic in various ways. First off, most of the lines were meant to be delivered by a Straightman and a Comic, although some sketches had even more male characters and some had a female role or two. We only have one guy, so the sketches had to be adapted for women to play some of the roles. Unlike the 1940’s, no one is going to think it unlikely for, say, a straightman cop to be played by a woman.

The real problem is that much of the material is incredibly offensive to a modern audience. It’s often horribly sexist, basically misogynistic, it’s racist, it’s violent (many sketches end with one character shooting the other), and sometimes the humor is so dated that a modern audience just doesn’t get it.

Scratch searched though tons of authentic burlesque and vaudeville comedy bits to find stuff we could edit and adapt. Sometimes the characters were made all female (as mentioned above). Sometimes the language needed updating (but not too up-to-date; we didn’t want to lose that vintage feel). Sometimes Scratch pulled bits from several different routines and strung them together into a single sketch. And occasionally he stole bits from later sources (like Airplane and Laugh-In).

Something else we did differently for this show — title cards! Back when we did Madame Burlesque, we had title cards for all the acts, which the stage kitten would place on a lovely easel. We wanted to revive that, but it starts getting expensive to create new cards for every act. Devastasia had a great idea — chalk boards. So Scratch took a bunch of thin board covered with chalkboard paint, cut them to size, and Devastasia went to town with her chalk markers. She made these beautiful cards for each performer. The cards add a nice vintage touch, but for this show they Served a practical purpose. We didn’t have traditional MC introductions before each act because of the comedy sketches, so the cards gave the performers their due credit.

The show itself was quite lively and our audience, though small, was enthusiastic, despite the heat. I don’t know about them, but we were all wilting backstage. We got. A lot of nice compliments, but none better than the woman who could only stay for 15 minutes but said she couldn’t miss the chance to see The Boston BeauTease. Perhaps we’ll return to Brattleboro, when it’s cooler.

Next up, I go to Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival to perform and teach and The BeauTease present The Bananaz Variety Hour at Deacon Giles Speakeasy Lab!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Tomorrow we’re off to Brattleboro to present This Guy Walks Into a Bra…. I hope to see some of you in the audience!

And now for your tip!
Your signature is an extension of your stage persona.

Develop a signature that suits your personality and practice it so you’re comfortable signing it. You never know when you’re going to asked for an autograph!

For a famous example, here’s Dita Von Teese’s signature. It’s pretty distinctive — the encompassing D, the curviness, the fact that she only signs her first name. It’s also very compact and could probably be signed over and over again in a fairly short time.

 

A little closer to home, here’s Devastasia’s signature. I think it perfectly sums up her personality:

Don’t be too intimidated — she’s a graphic artist and letters are her playground.

For your signature, do you want it to be curvy? Angular? Have lots of flourishes? Be bold and simple? Do you want to use a particular color of pen? How about incorporating a little doodles, either as part of the name or before or after it (a heart, a smiley face, a pastie, a fan, &c.), if you’ve got the skill (sadly, I don’t).

And finally, if you’re signing an autograph, do you just sign your name or do you include a little catchphrase (like “love and tassels” or “keep shimmying” or just “best wishes”).

Play around with it!

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Upcoming 

Dear Constant Reader,

July was a quiet month, but things heat up in August.

On Saturday The Boston BeauTease will be making a rare appearance in Brattleboro, VT with our new show, This Guy Walks Into a Bra. We’ll be performing striptease, magic, and singing as usual, but we’ll also be adding in some old-fashioned burlesque comedy sketches. We’ve been describing it as “modern women and vintage comedy” and we’ve been having a lot of fun with it. You’ll see all your favorite BeauTeasers plus our apprentices stripping *and* talking.

Next I’m off to the Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival!

I’ll be performing Friday night and teaching “Who’s Who in Classic Burlesque” Saturday afternoon!

If you’re not going to be in Winnipeg on Saturday the 18th, why don’t you join the rest of the BeauTease for The Bananaz Variety Hour at the Deacon Giles Speakeasy Lab? There will be bananas, singing, dancing, comedy, magic, bananas, and more. (Due to my well-known hatred of bananas, I’ve been forced to flee the country.)

I hinted about something fabulous that I was given at our last show. This picture is just a tiny taste of the glorious ensemble. I may blog about it someday, but for now you can see pictures of the whole thing and read all about it at my Patreon page if you are a Patron, of course (and why aren’t you?).

B.A.B.E. will be back in session in September after our summer break! Devastasia will be teaching Introduction to Burlesque and I will be showing the intermediate students fabulous things to do with a boa. In October, I’ll be teaching a bewitching choreography that’s perfect for Halloween.

I’m sure there will be more to come!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! It’s the last Friday in July and here’s your sewing tip:

Avoid sewing when you’re tired.

I know it’s tempting to work late just to get the darn thing done, but when you’re tired is exactly when sleeves get sewn inside out and gussets are inserted upside down. You’ll spend more time fixing your mistakes that you would have gained by sewing while your concentration is drifting from weariness. Do I speak from experience? Oh yes.

The rule of thumb I was taught is not to start a sewing project after 10pm. This of course only works if you keep a schedule in which 10pm is getting late…. By all means, if you’re fresh and alert at 2 am, sew away! If you get fuzzy, step away from the fabric, get some rest, and pick it up again when you’re refreshed.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your sewing tip!

Avoid sewing over pins.

I know it seems like it’ll be faster if you sew first and remove the pins later, but you risk hitting one of the with the needle. This can nick or bend your needle or, worst of all, cause it to break and perhaps fling a tiny shard of sharp metal at your face. (you are wearing your safety goggles, right?). It’s especially tempting if you’re one of those people, like me, who inserts the pins perpendicular to the seam line.

If the fabric is so slithery or bulky or otherwise badly behaved that removing the pins as you go makes things go awry, consider hand basting with the pins in place and then removing them as you sew on the machine. It’ll be extra secure!

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

In the Kitchen: Mocha Marlow (1953) 

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s been rather hot so far this summer. A perfect time for icy-cold treats! The other day day I made some delicious mocha marlow. “Marlow?” you ask, “What’s marlow?” Like its equally obscure cousin mallobet, it’s a frozen dessert made with a marshmallow base. I’ve definitely dated this style of dessert back to the 1920s (Clara Bow contributed a recipe for Vanilla Marlow to a 1929 movie star cookbook), but it may go further back to the earlier days of ice boxes. These desserts were still being made into the midcentury, but seem to have then died out completely.

Both marlows and mallobets are made with melted marshmallows. Marlows get their fluffiness from whipped cream, while mallobets (marshmallow-sherbet) contain stiffly beaten egg whites. You don’t need an ice cream maker for these concoctions, which was part of the appeal, I think.

I made this marlow on a terribly hot day and I must confess that cooking everything over boiling water was torture, but the end result was worth it.


Start by cutting 16 marshmallows into quarters. It’s easiest to use kitchen shears or a knife dipped in hot water. Don’t substitute mini-marshmallows because you’ll end up with the wrong ratio of cornstarch (which coats the outside of the marshmallows) to marshmallow.

Set a saucepan over boiling water and melt the chocolate. Then fold in the marshmallows and a cup of strong coffee and a pinch of salt. I don’t drink coffee so I never have any just hanging about. I made instant espresso instead. Keep folding the mixture.

When the marshmallows are about half melted, take them off the heat and keep stirring until they completely melt. Make sure everything is well combined and let it cool. I stuck the pan into a bowl of ice water to help it cool down faster on such a hot day.

Then whip cream until it’s stiff and fold into the cooled mocha mixture and add toasted nuts. I think toasting nuts before using them is always a good idea; they just taste better. The first time I made this I used slivered almonds since that’s what I had on hand, but hazelnuts add a lovely Nutella flavor. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like bits of stuff in their ice cream, you can certainly leave the nuts out.

Spoon the mixture into a container — I recommend a metal loaf pan — cover it, and stick it in the freezer. When it’s about half frozen (use your best judgement), give it a stir.

It will take a couple of hours to firm up enough to serve.

Mina’s Mocha Marlow

1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
16 marshmallows, quartered
1 cup strong coffee
pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup chopped toasted nuts

Melt chocolate over boiling water. Add marshmallows, coffee, and salt. Fold mixture continuously over and over until marshmallows are half melted. Remove from heat and continue folding until mixture is smooth. Cool. Whip cream. Add whipped cream and nuts to mocha mixture. Pour into metal loaf pan, cover, and freeze until firm, stirring at least once.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Friday Tip 

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Continuing with my costuming theme for July, this week’s tip is about keeping your sewing machine in good shape.

Keep your presser foot down when your sewing machine is not in use and keep a scrap of fabric between the presser foot and the throat plate.

There are a couple of reasons for doing this. Keeping the presser foot down relieves pressure on the spring that raises and lowers it. Also the presser foot lever can’t get knocked down (say, by a curious pet wandering around your work table) so that the foot suddenly drops onto the feed dogs. The scrap fabric is to provide a little cushioning so you don’t have metal resting on metal. It’s also a good idea to lower the needle into the fabric, especially if you are transporting your machine. This protects the needle and also lowers the feed dogs.

That’s my machine in the picture and the scrap is from when the repair shop tested the stitch disks the last time I had the machine serviced.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.