Updated: Oct 25, 2021
Recently Sandra Barrett’s daughter, Florence, was the costume designer on a Lifetime Movies production called The Christmas Yule Blog. Early in July she called her Mum to ask her to bring her supply of pre-felt from her felting studio in Fernie to Kelowna. This is about a seven hour trip. Sandra was kind enough to share with us the blog posts written about her experience on set.
Florence needed help in a hurry. Kelowna has just re-opened to the film industry after the Covid-19 shut down. The Executive producers had flown in from L.A. and quarantined for two weeks, now the costume department was ready to start.
Sandra is an authorized reseller of DHG materials, so she had a good selection of felt and materials such as viscose, tussah silk, sari silk, sliver, ramie, and angelina to bring as well.
She says she “packed up a pop-up shop of various fibres” and was soon on her way.
Florence’s suggestion to use felted pieces was a big deal. These were to be the first custom felted pieces for a movie of the week ever made. So this was an opportunity for Florence and Sandra to introduce everyone to a new craft.
On July 9th Sandra was given two days work creating pre-felt motifs which would be sewn onto blankets, tree skirts, and Christmas fabric. Though the film was being made in Kelowna the actual setting was supposed to be Christmas time in New Mexico.
As Sandra went to work making the themed pieces, her coworkers scoured Kelowna and Penticton for Christmas decorations to be glued onto about 30 additional background ponchos. They also had to buy Christmas costumes for the cast. “Not the easiest task, Christmas shopping in July,” says Sandra. Most of the thrift stores in the area had just reopened and they certainly weren’t ready for Christmas.
Thanks to Florence and her team’s persistence, they managed to get access to Christmas supplies hidden away for the season. Of course, due to the Covid, many of these items needed to be quarantined.
Things had to be done quickly. Cayla the steamer worked hard to keep up with the pace as the ugly Christmas ponchos were being shot on Day 2 of the three and a half week shoot.
Sandra kept up the pace as well, felting motifs such as a Santa wearing a sombrero, Christmas trees in bright unseasonal colours, Mexican style piñata snowflakes, a cactus with a Santa hat. “It felt like speed felting,” she says. “Some characters’ stories reinforced the visual narrative. Viscose on the sombrero, rose fibre on the beard and an Angelina nose gave Santa distinction. I enjoyed making spikes for the cactus to add another technique to the basic felting process.”
Soon two days of work turned into four. On the third day she gave Cayla a felting lesson so she could give Sandra a hand, and get a break from endlessly steaming garments. Together they made a snowman couple using a merino/soybean blend for the bodies. This enabled Cayla to grasp the basic techniques of making felt. They used a hot glue gun to add instant embellishments.
The costume buyers for the production found it challenging, especially after an outbreak of Covid in the area. Of course, this added to the normal stresses of pre-production. The 15 minute waiting time outside each store before being allowed to enter made it 30-40% longer to shop.
On her final day Sandra worked on a Poncho Santa and gave a colleague a felting tutorial. About this experience she says, “I had a wild, amazing, exhausting time and returned home having gained an insight and different perspective into how an indefatigable costume designer and great costumes make such a difference to a film. I’m proud of you Florence for introducing fibre art to a new audience.” She was able to share her experience with us as she didn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement for this movie.
Sandra encourages everyone to look for “The Christmas Yule Blog” which premieres this Christmas in Canada. She sends special thanks to Alex Coscas, Executive Producer, for his hospitality. Also she wishes to thank Florence Barrett for her energy, enthusiasm, and willingness to try something new. Also a shout out to her team of local Kelowna people and to the stores for opening up to the film industry again with strict Covid-19 protocols in place.
We would like to thank Sandra for sharing her experience. We deeply appreciate it. This post was adapted from her blog.
To learn more about her visit: https://www.fernieforge.ca
Florence is pictured here rocking it in ugly ponchos in progress.