“Board stitching” by Dale Armitage – May 2013

PictureDale Armitage

For our May meeting we had a most interesting  talk by one of our Guild members, Dale Armitage.
Dale was born and brought up in  South Africa and while she  was at school had the opportunity of going to the State Theatre in Pretoria, one of the  biggest in the southern hemisphere.  

PictureSome of Dale’s treasures

This early introduction sowed the seed for her love of the theatre and later she got work experience in their dyeing department.  Her first job for Bernina gave her a good grounding in sewing techniques for what was to come so she was well prepared when a position became available in the costume props department at the State Theatre. The theatre put on operas, ballets, musicals  and plays and all the backdrops and costumes were made “in house”.   They had wonderful stores of materials available and even their own wig and tailoring departments.

PictureDon Carlo costume

Dale explained that a designer would draw each costume for a  ballet, opera or musical and then she would be presented with a big plastic bag  of materials, braids, buttons, beads, feathers etc to enable her to make up the costume. 

PictureMaterials for Don Carlo costume

To begin with it was a big challenge but in time she grew in  confidence and was making masks, hats, tiaras, dresses and even “walk about”  character costumes.  Dale explained that her finished work would be checked thoroughly to make sure it was sturdy enough for rough treatment on the stage and she often used glue to secure her work.

Ballet costumes and tiaras
Dales workroom, full of action!  A feather head dress, a top hat and some tiaras.

Picture“Walk about” character

Dale felt she was a small cog in a big wheel and  was learning all the time but she obviously enjoyed her four years with the theatre before getting married and moving to the UK.  
What a talented lady and are very grateful that she shared her experience with us.


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