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The Inventor’s Notebook #12 – Sew What?

The Inventor's Notebook #12
Sew What?
Karl Rabe

What are the skills that can most benefit someone who wants to make their own magic props? A few readily pop to mind. Woodworking, Metal Working, welding, Arts & Crafts, Electronics, etc. One of the skills that I have found to be surprisingly beneficial and often overlooked is the ability to sew.

That is right, sewing. And sewing using a sewing machine, I would add. You might initially chuckle or scoff at the idea, but if you stop and think about it, there really isn't a good substitute for joining material together. You can do things with a sewing machine that you just can't do well any other way. Sewing is something that is fairly easy to hire out. Alteration shops are everywhere and not too expensive. The problem if you are inventing is that the cost can add up, and the typical wait time is not very convenient. There isn't a lot of room for experimentation. You need to go in knowing exactly what you want.

At the entry level there are two basic types of machines, mechanical and computerized. On mechanical machines you turn dials to set the type of stitch and spacing. They are limited to a dozen or so variations. Computerized machines are more sophisticated. You punch in codes to determine the pattern and there are way more options. They also cost more. A decent mechanical machine is not very expensive. About 5 years ago, I picked up this sewing machine new for about $100 and I have used it enough to pay for itself.

My first project was for a routine I call "Go Blue - Go Green". Unfortunately the camera was not zoomed properly when I shot this. I sewed a large color changing silk set that changed from Maze & Blue to Green & White. That took a lot of experimentation and I would defy you to provide instructions to a seamstress. I also sewed a belt mounted pack for the final production flag.

The next project was for "Bill, Lend me a Hand". I sewed the gimmick arm and lab coat as well as the various add-ons to the lab coats and a fake sleeve for the box. I am reworking this routine into a Star Wars Light Saber theme as I have come to realize the below is uncomfortably similar to Kevin James' stage routine using the same gimmick arm (which I did purchase from Kevin as part of his Freaky Body Illusions).

Other projects where sewing came in handy...

  • A double sided bag for palming a watch for our Nest of Boxes routine. (left)
  • A nylon case for my pizza oven that looks like one of those delivery bags (right)
  • A custom Devil's Hank made from Wilson golf towels (lower left) for our Tennis-Sphere routine.
  • A custom fake leather slip case for my Lefler Supreme Slate of Mind (not pictured)
  • For those that have seen it, my 3-foot inflatable bunny from hat required a fair amount of sewing to rework the rabbit. (not pictured)

So if your spouse sews, or you don't mind paying and waiting for a seamstress maybe your sewing needs are covered. But if you are like me, you just might find a $100 investment opens up a new area of creativity with control over the building of your props. I hope I have sown a few idea seeds by publishing this article.

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