Monday, March 30, 2009

Crystals: Are They Necessary for Figure Skating Competition Dresses?

Be sure to read the comments for this post. Many are from judges and give great insight into the world of sparkle and dazzle.

Flip, an ice dad, left me a comment about the influence of crystal-encrusted dresses on figure skating judges.

From Flip:

I didn't realize that there was a sparkle section on the judges’ scorecard. In my opinion a kid can skate in a burlap sack and as long as the criteria is there and they skate better, then why shouldn’t they win?

Flip makes a good point and I’ve been asking everyone I see for their opinions.

Here’s the consensus: Flip, you’re right. Good skating rules the day.

However, you should follow your daughter’s coach’s recommendations because she has your daughter’s best interests at heart. Let me give you an example from my past teaching career:

I taught high school and advised the student newspaper. Every year the guys on the basketball team would complain because Coach wanted them all to have short hair. They whined all the way to the barber and then for days after the shearing. I asked Coach why he did it.

Here’s what Coach said: I don’t want my boys to be memorable except for scoring. No piercings, no tattoos, no long hair. I don’t want the ref looking at some kid’s hair, making a judgment, and penalizing the team. I don’t want one of them sticking out and the ref to think, “Oh, that kid again.”

It made sense to me, but I still encouraged the kids to stop whining and write an editorial about it. They refused. It turns out, none of them wanted to stick out for special treatment from Coach. Freedom of speech issues aside, that’s some beautiful irony, isn’t it?

Anyway, crystals are a figure skating dress expectation, not a requirement. So, you’re right, Flip, but I think you should pop for the crystals anyway. Here are the reasons I’ve gathered from rink parents and coaches:

  1. Ice is very, very white. Crystals help audiences see the skaters better against the bland surface.

  2. Performance. At higher levels, programs have a performance component. Dresses should reflect the music.

  3. Judgments. Judges who rank kids in Basic Skills competitions often make little notes so they can remember which kid is which. Maybe a judge writes ballerina or blue dress next to your daughter’s name. Just be sure the judge doesn’t write burlap sack.

  4. Crystals are fun. So is sparkly hairspray. So is skating. It’s all recreational spending.

  5. Confidence. Your daughter will see that her dress matches those of the other skaters. Minimize the distractions on competition day. You don’t want her worrying about how her dress looks; you want her to focus on her program.

  6. Spend $30 or less. You can pick up some hotfix crystals cheap at JoAnn Fabrics – about $12 for a container of 200 or 300 Tulip brand crystals with glue on the backs (less if you have a coupon). You can use an iron to affix the flat back crystals to the figure skating dress, but I recommend using the hotfix tool (BeJeweler is best - $19) because you have less of a chance of ruining the dress with its focused heat.

  7. Coach said so. Part of the unspoken contract between parent and coach is that you will trust her judgment and allow her to guide you and your daughter through skating. You’ve paid her good money for her expert opinion; you should follow her advice.

I’m all for logic. I’m all for cutting costs. However, I’m also for spending money to make my daughter not just sparkle on the ice, but shine.

Best wishes for success, Flip!

Ice Mom

Update: Aaron over at Axels, Loops, and Spins wrote a great commentary: To Sequin...or Not to Sequin.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Figure Skating Money: Trust Fund or Lessons?

A 26-year-old single friend of mine from work said something that’s been nagging me for weeks. Here’s what she said:

Why don’t you take all that money you’re spending on skating, put it in an account, and give it to Ice Girl on her 18th birthday?

She went on to say that Ice Girl could make do with school-sponsored sports. Her glum expression would clear up, Single Friend promised, when I presented her with this nest egg at graduation.

It’s not like she’s going to the Olympics, so why spend all the money?

I imagine you’ve heard similar comments from friends and that you’ve lain awake at night wondering if figure skating is the right place to spend thousands of dollars in this uncertain economy. I’ve talked with Ice Dad, Ice Grandma, and Ice Girl about Single Friend’s comments. Here are our responses:

  1. From Ice Grandma: It’s clear Single Friend doesn’t have children. What parent could refuse a child an opportunity to enjoy a sport she so clearly loves?
  2. From Ice Dad: We’re paying for self-esteem and drive. Ice Girl is a different kid than she was just a year ago. She has goals and she is determined. And she’ll always have a life-long love of fitness and the sport.
  3. From me, Ice Mom: The Olympics is not the goal of every kid who has ever played high school basketball or swam in a pool. Yet, as communities, we support these programs with our tax dollars. Why? Because kids benefit. They learn to strive for something and they are active. Studies show that athletes do better in academics and later life.
  4. From Ice Girl: I wouldn’t want that pile of money. I want to skate. Now. Is there any walk-on freestyle ice tonight? Can you call my coach for an extra lesson? Watch me try out my axel. No, no. Watch me again. Hey, Mom, check this out…

That, in my opinion, is worth its weight in diamonds.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ice Mom's Blog is One Year Old Today!

Ice Mom's Adventures in Figure Skating is one year old today!


Here comes another year of blundering around ice rinks and sharing my cautionary tales!

I have some plans in the works for a blogging upgrade, so keep checking in!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Accessory Review: Figure Skating Tights

This post is for the newbie ice mom who sends her daughter to skate in the same tights that she wears to Sunday services. Hey. We were all that mom.

Buy warm. Purchase Danskin, Mondor, or GK tights, not L’eggs or Hanes. Some of these tights are like sweaters for skaters’ legs and they’re durable, too.

Buy footless. You can choose from footed, footless, and over-the-boot tights. Here’s why I buy the footless tights:

  1. Your skater will blow out the toes on the footed tights. That’s $15 down the drain.
  2. The sweater tights bunch up in the boots and cause blisters.
  3. The over-the-boot tights will look good only as long as they’re in the package. The minute you put those puppies on, they have holes. Everywhere. That’s $25 down the drain. Of course, if your skater’s coach insists on over-the-boot tights, buy one pair and keep it for competitions.

Buy nylon trouser socks. Have your skater wear these on her feet. Replace ‘em as needed.

You can find these at stores like Target and Wal-mart. I buy the tan ones that come three to a package for $5 – 7. Ice Girl likes the thickest ones I can find. Make sure they’re like thick tights, not real socks. The object of the game is to have the skater’s foot move smoothly against the boot and have the boot absorb sweat, not the sock. You want the sock smooth so your skater doesn’t get blisters.

Buy one pair for competitions. Buy a nice pair of tights just for competitions and keep it in your skater’s garment bag. These shouldn’t be the heavy sweater variety, but a smoother tight that looks nice for competitions and only competitions.

Buy a spare pair. I hide Ice Girl’s spare pair of tights in the bottom of her competition hair bag – the one with the sock donut and lacquer hair spray. The spare pair is still sealed in its package, but it’s there for emergencies.

Update: Here's a such a great tip for holes in over-the-boot tights that I'm just in awe. Thanks for your comment, Anony.:  If your skater puts a hold in them at a competition. PUT A FLESH COLORED BANDAID ON HER BOOT WHERE THE HOLE SITS. Instant Fix and no will ever know.

Update: This smart tip makes it less painful to spend money on those stupid over-the-boot tights that Ice Girl loves. Thank you for your thrifty tip, Ju-Li. You are a genius. I bow to your superior knowledge and cheapness: Here's a tip for those who have "over the boot" tights with holes in them... This is what I do : I cut off the "over the boot" part, and simply put an elastic at the bottom, this makes a new pair of footless tights. My way of making them last long.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

How-to: Make a Hair Bun with the Sock Method

I want to thank C.L. and her daughter, E.L., for their help with this post.

My friend C.L. first introduced me to the sock method of doing hair in November. I'm terrible at hair, just terrible. But, if I can do this, I think almost anyone can be taught.

Photo one: Cut off the tube part of a large tube sock. Toss the foot part; keep the tube.

Photo two: Roll the sock into a donut shape.

Photo three: Cut off the top part of a nylon trouser sock and use it to encase your tube sock donut. This makes the donut smooth and easier to work with.

Photo four: Make a ponytail. Look at E.L.'s gorgeous hair. *sigh* C.L. finger-combed this ponytail into E.L.'s hair. No brush and it still looks great.

Photo five: Place the donut around the base of the ponytail.

Photo six: I call this move the fountain. C.L. has asked her daughter to bend over so the ponytail falls over her head and neck. You can already see the bun taking shape. I use a hairnet at this point to wrangle everything into a bun and catch stray hairs. C.L. works without a net, though, and gets great results.

Photo seven: Trap the hair with a hair tie to create a bun.

Photo eight: Industrial-strength hairspray needed - no bobby pins. Bobby pins, unless put in the hair so they cross, will fall out on the ice. You don't want to be the mom whose kid sprinkles bobby pins or coins on the ice. I know this from experience.

Photo nine: No bobby pins! C.L. just blends in her daughter's stray hair with the hairspray. You can hardly tell! Me, I jab those bobby pins in (cross ways) to catch stray hairs, but I might try this instead. You can see the decorative scrunchie that C.L. has put around the bun in this photo, too.

Photo ten: The final look. Isn't E.L. cute? Look how well those blended stray hairs look - no bobby pins! And that hair color is natural.

Update: More on the sock bun method can be found here:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How-to: Clean Figure Skating Dresses with Vodka

You can skip sending the sequined and beaded figure skating dress to the dry cleaners or hand washing it: spritz it with – get this – vodka instead.

Yep. Vodka has other uses besides martinis. Who knew?

Guy Rehorst, founder of the Great Lakes Distellery, the makers of the award-winning Rehorst vodka, confirmed that vodka has the makings of not only a good drink, but a good cleaning agent, too.

“[Vodka’s] basically 40% ethanol and 60% water, so it will have some solvent qualities to it,” Rehorst wrote in an e-mail. “If you're going to try it on an outfit, I'd test it first to make sure it doesn't do any damage; alcohol could weaken some man-made materials. Of course there are probably other, better products for this and I'd rather drink vodka than pour it on my clothes.”

I learned about this little trick on Tuesday at the rink from a gal who volunteered one Nutcracker season with the Madison Ballet (thanks, K.R.). She told me that the ballet company put vodka in spray bottles and asked volunteers to spritz costumes, especially around the necklines, armpits, and nether regions.

Gretchen Bourg, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Madison Ballet, confirmed this practice.

“We most certainly do use vodka to keep our costumes fresh between cleanings!” Bourg wrote in an e-mail. “Many of our costumes are very fragile—our company’s Cinderella costumes are probably 25 years old—and we try to minimize the exposure to harsh chemicals for such precious works of art. In fact, the practice of using vodka to freshen both costumes and wigs has been around for hundreds of years.”

I can’t confirm how long people have been cleaning with vodka, but I can tell you that the alcohol in the vodka would kill off odor-causing bacteria very well. The alcohol evaporates as it dries and the garment is fresh and not boozy at all.

Bottom line: Am I going to use this trick? You bet! I have $50 or more in crystals on some of those dresses and I’m not eager to weaken stitching or fabric with excess cleaning. I think I'll buy a cheap bottle of vodka for the cleaning and use Rehorst vodka for mixing. However, I will not mix the vodka with orange juice until I’m finished spritzing. You have to spritz responsibly and all that.

Thank you very much to Guy Rehorst of Great Lakes Distillery, Gretchen Bourg of the Madison Ballet, and K.R. for their help with this post.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Review: Blinkerz hard blade guards

You like the look of this beauty? Try buying eight of them for those darn Blinkerz blade guards – you know the ones: they have flashing LED lights.

Ice Grandma recently bought Ice Girl a pair of those cool, flashing Blinkerz blade guards for about $25. We all know that I’m way too cheap to buy them myself; I’d prefer to spend $9 - $13 on the plain ol’ plastic variety blade guard and toss the remaining $13 at the ice. But Ice Grandma loves the sparkle and so does Ice Girl.

Flashing. These puppies flash, which is great when Ice Girl is walking, but rotten when she’s not. A car ride with the Blinkerz will cause them to flash almost constantly, which wears down the batteries and the driver’s nerves. Ice Dad kept thinking he could see a police car’s flashing lights in his rear view mirror, but it was just those guards.

Batteries. The pair of guards takes eight CR2032 batteries; that’s two in each half. Our batteries lasted maybe two weeks. Order them online from and you can get a package of 10 for $14. Buy them at Walgreen’s and you can spend $20 for eight. Can you hear my wallet’s silent scream?

Weight. Geez, these guards are heavy. Nearly every time Ice Girl wears them, that’s what she says.

Quality. Something fell off the battery compartment when I removed it from the guard. Removing the battery compartment is pretty easy if you have a tiny screwdriver and you can keep track of the microscopic screws. However, a piece of something fell off when I removed a battery compartment. It looked a lot like a bit of hot glue. Other battery compartments had the hot glue in tact, but this bit just fell off. I shrugged, replaced the batteries, and hoped the stupid things would still flash. They do, but I worry that the lump of glue was necessary for…something.

Performance. They protect the blade just like their cheaper, non-flashing cousins.

Bottom line: Would I buy these again? Nope. Yeah, they’re cool, but they’re costly – not just up-front, but in long-term maintenance, too (unless your dad is Battery Bob). If you’re Ice Girl, though, you’re going to have to resign yourself to non-flashing, heavy guards. No way is Ice Mom shelling out $13 – 20 for batteries every two weeks.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Review: Chinese Figure Skating Dresses on eBay

Ice Girl’s friend, Ice Friend, has bought two figure skating dresses from China via eBay. Both were less than $50 each, including shipping, both arrived in about a week, and both fit well.

New Exclusive Figure Skating Dress (217-3). That’s the one in blue with the colorful appliqué and trailing ribbons. $24.99 plus $23.00 shipping. Includes a matching scrunchie. Sizes vary from tiny to big; use online size chart or send measurements according to instructions.

Seller: ice-dress0010, eBay member since December 2, 2004. As of this writing: 1448 sales, 99.8% positive feedback.

Fit: the dress fits Ice Friend well.

Quality: the dress is lined and well made with lots of crystals outlining each sewn-on applique. One of the bottom ribbons fell off last weekend, but a quick tack down with a needle and thread repaired it. It’s not the sort of problem that comes from poor construction, but rather it comes from use. The construction is good.

New custom figure skating/competition ice dress C04. That’s the red and black one with the appliqué. $8.00 plus $25 shipping. Sizes vary from tiny to big; use online size chart or send measurements according to instructions.

Seller: yibei_shop, eBay member since April 18, 2005. As of this writing: 431 sales, 100% positive feedback.

Fit: the dress fits Ice Friend well.

Quality: the appliqué started to separate from the rest of the dress, so Ice Friend used super glue on it. I know, I know. I offered to stitch it for her, but I don’t think my needle can make it through there anymore. The quality isn’t bad, but it’s not fabulous, either.

Bottom line: Would I buy one? Yep. You know me: I’m cheap. $50 for a dress with crystals? You can’t sew one at home and put crystals on it for that. By the time you purchase the fabric, pattern, and thread, you’re at $50 without crystals.

The quality that I saw was pretty good, with the exception of the separating appliqué. I tell you: I’ve seen worse sewing in a local dance/skate dress shop than these two dresses.
Don't worry: I'm still going to sew Ice Girl's competition dresses. But for a practice dress? You bet. And if you don't sew, this is a great option.

Update: From reader Skater's Mom: Ordered first dress. It was a little too small, but it was ok to wear one time for a competition. Ordered second dress a size bigger to make sure its not small -- and it was way too small. Emailed the seller, they asked if I could sell the dress and purchase another dress from them.

I will never buy from them again -- will still to American seller instead.

Update: A size problem from reader Cathy: We did try ordering a dress from China, but not a big success....the dress is on the small side (wearable, but not without a lot of complaining from my skater), even though we ordered 2 sizes larger than I thought my daughter needed based on size charts...and they are throwing up lots of excuses for why we should just keep it (ie the $25 shipping on the $25 dress), so I imagine that will end up being donated to the silent auction at the skate club!