Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ask the Expert: Jenny Hall, Former Ice Show Figure Skater

This guest post comes from Jenny Hall, former show skater and author of Ice Charades: Penguins Behaving Badly and Other Follies From the Road (use discount code CLFZ9MCH  to save 10%). You can also visit her popular blog, Ice Charades. If you'd like to read reviews of her book you can visit Ice Mom's review of Ice Charades or's Jo Ann Schneider Farris and her review.

So your son or daughter wants to join an ice show.  They are turning 18 pretty soon and you’re wondering if you’re crazy to let them do it.

I don’t think so.

Perhaps you’re thinking that your kid needs to go to college first because they will never get ahead in life without a college degree.  That’s probably true.  But the cool thing is you don’t have to pick one at the expense of the other – your son or daughter can do both.  Although usually not at the same time.
The most important concept I thought of when writing this post for Ice Mom is that parents may feel by joining an ice show their son or daughter will be exposed to all things evil:  weigh-ins, promiscuity, drinking and/or drugs, lack of safety, backstage cattiness, insufficient funds, injuries, or insecurity in themselves.  Yes, they’ll probably face all of that and worse.

But it won’t be because they joined an ice show as much as a result of turning 18.  It’s part of what happens when they leave home.  They can face the same challenges in college, the office, or if they become a coach at a rink.  Granted, dealing with all of those evils at one time in a far-flung location can be overwhelming, but in my case, it forced me to mature on my own and later I was glad for the challenge.

So, let them give it a try, tell them they can always return if they don’t like it, and tell yourself that you may get to visit them in an exciting, exotic spot of the world.  One mother I spoke with spent two weeks on a beautiful Scandinavian cruise for free.

Another plus is your kid will be earning money for skating instead of you paying for it.  Not bad.

So, let’s walk through some of the basics for your son or daughter:

  • For their best success in ice shows, they may want to join right out of high school at their physical peak.  But they don’t have to.  I had two years of college before I joined a show at 20.  While it was true, I lost the conditioning of my senior freestyle program in my legs and in my lungs that I had at 18, I was still okay for the show.  I rose to the occasion, skated on a lot of practice ice and improved my skating in other ways.  And I was more mature than I would have been right out of high school.  I continued to go in and out of ice shows and college for the next thirteen years and stayed in good shape until I was 35.  I also think I was a better performer because I mixed office work with the skating world and tried to enjoy the best of what each environment had to offer.  So it is not too late to start somewhere in their 20s.
  • Do your homework – talk to show skaters if you can.  No two ice shows are the same but certain shows will have certain set environments.  Let’s just say that Holiday On Ice gives the skaters more independence – which also means less supervision.  Disney On Ice has more hand-holding.  Touring shows will have more variety than a park show, but also more uncertainty.  I was drawn to traveling, so starting with a big touring show was the right choice for me, but someone who is more interested in their skating should look at the show’s caliber of skating first.  That may be the Royal Caribbean cruise ship show or Disney.  If a skater plans on making this their career for a while, a long-term show is best for steady income.  Stick with a touring show or a cruise ship show that’s going to be around for a while.  If it is more about having fun, try a summer amusement park show.  They are several of them in countries besides the U.S. 
The nice thing is ice shows are still a small world and once a skater finds work in one, they will find it pretty easy to get the scoop on others.  The Professional Figure Skaters Cooperative (PFSC) has made it even easier to get all the casting notices in one place and they even have a seminar in beautiful Sun Valley, Idaho open to younger skaters to hear first-hand what ice shows can be like.
  • Don’t play down the physical attributes of skating in ice shows.  I took it for granted until I was retired how beneficial it was to have a job that required movement rather than sitting at a desk or standing by the boards.  If a skater can stay away from injuries and eating disorders and stay healthy, their skating will pay dividends long after they put away the false eyelashes.  There will be plenty of time for more sedentary jobs, but move when and while you can.  I firmly believe having skated in my twenties and thirties will keep me healthier when I face my fifties.
  • While college is largely about planning (as in planning to graduate and cash in on that expensive degree), ice shows are more about living in the moment.  When you are performing, that is the only thing going at that very moment.  You’re not stopping during the pinwheel to check your Blackberry.  You don’t leave during intermission to pick up your sick child at daycare (well, if you did, you probably wouldn’t be allowed back).  From the time you walk into the dressing room at half-hour to the time the curtain goes down in Finale, you have one purpose – to skate the show.  Maybe you have the goal to skate it well.  (But maybe it’s a Saturday matinee and you’re only putting in a C performance – ask someone from Ice Capades).  The flipside is when the show’s done, you’re done for the day.  It is not to say skaters don’t have goals in ice shows, but they can have the freedom not to.
  • Realize that ice shows won’t be in their life forever.  The reality is few in the chorus in Capades, Holiday or Disney went on to have careers in ice shows.  There are jobs in production, choreography, costumes or sets to move into once your legs stop moving, but they are few and far between.  Luckily, I think most chorus skaters want to move on from ice shows and into permanent housing, relationships, and jobs anyway.  Hopefully the skater will enjoy the traveling, the costumes and the performing while they can.
So if you’re still nervous about your son or daughter running away to join the circus an ice show or have any questions, please send me a comment.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Synchro: No Way. We Need Ice Dance, Too?

This guest post comes courtesy of Synchro Mom, who will be blogging at starting this Saturday, April 3.
Mom decided one day her daughter needed to try a sport! Not having any sports ability, we just decided to put it out there. First we tried softball, no good: Mom took a ball to the face.

O.K. let’s try volleyball, no good: Daughter took a ball to her face.

Much dental work and many oral surgeon visits later, Mom with her swollen face decided that Daughter would try ice skating. Off to the rink, which, lucky for us, is almost in our backyard, to begin our journey. At our rink, Daughter loved the ice and the sport! YAY!

At our rink, synchronized skating is HUGE and I mean HUGE! We have several teams at different levels and skaters with competitive spirits that skate daily to win! Synchro Girl watched in awe as the skaters linked together and covered all areas of the ice.

She wanted to join immediately; that was not to be the case. First, she had to participate in a three-week synchronized training session in the spring and then tryout. She was placed on a preliminary team and we were off and skating sync.

Through the years, she has skated her way up to different team levels and is having fun and working hard. Please join us in our journey to see what the synchro world has to offer. It will be fun-filled and I hope useful. I’ll also explain the use of white bobby pins for competitions! (Please Ice Mom: let me keep blogging, I promise to be good!)

Many of us Synchro Moms sit in the stands at the end of each night, frozen, yet smiling merrily as our skaters glide by. We’re just waiting for the Zamboni buzzer to go off and our skaters to exit the rink until tomorrow. Isn’t it funny, how even frozen to the core, you still have some of your senses? I can pick up a conversation, down three rows, from one end of the bleachers to the other.

I’m sitting all alone, trying to read, when I hear something I haven’t heard in the four years I’ve been warming that stupid bench.

I looked up from my book and shouted, “What? You need ice dance, too?”

After four years of synchro-skating where did that come from?

I moved down the bleachers. O.K., I ran down the bleachers so I could listen to the other Synchro Moms discuss the benefits of synchro-scholarships and how ice dancing is a requirement for many of the college teams.

So we will now add ice dance to Synchro Girl’s lessons and I will explore the requirements a synchronized skater would need to be eligible for college synchro-scholarship. (Should we just say watch for this blog posting as I want to list all or many of the colleges that offer scholarships?) Thoughts?

What do you think, Synchro Moms? Should Synchro Skaters take Ice Dance? Do you recommend anything else? Heard any rumors about Synchro-Scholarships? Let's share our knowledge!

As always, if you have some brilliant idea for a post, please let me know! If you have any questions for me, the Ice Moms, Ice Coach, Ice Girl, Synchro Mom, or anyone else, I'll try to lend you a hand. If you're an expert, you can be my new best friend if you consider posting for the Wednesday Ask the Expert feature. Just send me an e-mail!

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Monday, March 29, 2010

How-to: Make Your Own Figure Skate Deodorizer

I’ve spent $25 in the past on cute Stinkeez odor absorbing thingies. They’re made of colorful fleece and come in fun shapes like sharks and lizards. The idea is to stuff the Stinkeez in the figure skating boot to absorb foot odors and moisture.

The Stinkeez is filled with silica gel, which is a desiccant. You know those little paper packets that come in purses or shoe boxes? Those are filled with silica gel. You can find silica gel in bulk at craft stores. Crafters use it to dry flowers.

You can make a home-made Stinkeez very cheaply using single socks and cheap ingredients.

  • Two clean, mismatched socks - with tops (not little ankle socks)
  • A desiccant: baking soda or white rice or cornmeal and borax or silica gel (You just need one of these, not all of them. So, if you choose baking soda, you don't need rice, etc. You'll get the best results with silica gel.)
  • Wide-mouthed funnel or a rolled-up piece of paper or  a narrow drinking glass
  • Optional: scented oil (peppermint, etc.)
I'm sure you see where this is going. Using the funnel or a piece of paper that's been rolled up into a funnel shape, fill each sock with the desiccant, stopping about three inches from the top. You can also use a narrow drinking glass for this purpose. Put the sock inside the glass and fold the sock's top over the edge to hold the sock open. Spoon in the desiccant.

Add a couple of drops of scented oil and tie off the sock's top with an overhand knot.

See? Cheap and simple. If you want to go fancy, buy some funky toe socks or holiday socks.

Update: From Advisory Board member S.F.: One of the best ways to combat stinky skates is to remove them from the skate bag so they can dry out. It also  prevents them from rotting. My daughter had a pair of skates rot last year because we never took them out of the bag when we got home. We have been removing them religiously every day and they no longer are smelly.

I also would like to comment about laces. I change laces frequently because white laces get dirty pretty fast. My daughter's ice coach likes clean skates and laces on test days and competition days.

Do you have a good idea for keeping boots dry and socially acceptable? Let us all know!

Have a question for Ice Mom or the Advisory Board? Do you have an idea for a post? Would you like to write a guest post? Awesome! E-mail me at

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Ask the Ice Moms: Where Can I Find an Adult-Friendly Figure Skating Club?

Today's question comes from a frustrated adult figure skater. Here's what she wrote:

I am an adult skater who started skating about a year ago. However, I am really into it and want to compete eventually. I am finding it hard to find a coach who takes me seriously! It seems to be all about the younger skaters. I mean, I understand that they are the ones with "potential," but I am giving them money too. And I want to give MORE money. Every time I try to join a class or get an extra lesson in, the younger skaters come first. Three times the adult classes have been canceled because "not enough signed up." I don't understand why I cannot just skate around with the 13 year olds. Are there any rinks that are more adult friendly? I just graduated college and I'm willing to try to find a job near better rinks (as long as I like the area, etc). Or is there some way I can be taken more seriously?
From PairsMom, the mother of a pairs skater. She lives in USFSA's Southwestern Region.
Maybe get on the USFSA website and contact the Adult Skating rep. for her region (area) and they can put her in touch with a coach that is teaching adults or at least be able to tell her which rinks offer adult classes. This would be a relatively simple thing to do and probably a good starting place.  
From Ice Coach, who is in the Upper Great Lakes Region.
This tends to be the case with a lot of rinks/coaches. I know specific coaches that will only take younger kids because they feel older ones are not going anywhere. As in a lot of cases you have to find a coach who will work with your goals. There are some coaches out there that have their own goals & agendas (getting kids to Regionals/Sectionals or higher) that they don’t really bother with adults or people that don’t fit with that goal.

 I think our rink is the most adult friendly I have seen. It seems like if you get a couple of adult skaters and then more will gravitate towards that rink. J.C.U had the adult only session Thursday nights last year and that was very nice. The only problem was filling the ice, but I know the adults really appreciated it. As far as Learn to Skate, I never have a full adult class, but I also will never cancel a class if one person signs up. What usually happens is the one adult will tell another and then next session I will have 4 or 5 adults in class. Plus many of them like to learn along w/ their kid. I hope that helps.
From Xan, a figure skating coach who started as an adult. She blogs at Xanboni! and lives in the Upper Great Lakes Region.
Absolutely a rink should be friendly to adults, and if an adult class gets canceled, most rinks will  let you skate around with the kids. I have never heard of a rink that cancels an adult class and then just tells the adults they can't skate. Every day I hear some new insanity. Some rinks manage to develop better adult programs than others, usually because there's a coach that's into them. This skater should just start skating at every rink she can reach, during any adult skate time (often noon public skates) and just start talking up the adult skaters she sees. She'll soon find the rink with the great program.  As far as relocating, the Chicago area has lots and lots of adult skaters. Come join us! :)
From S.F., who also lives in the Upper Great Lakes Region.

I forwarded this to my ice coach. This was her advice: 
LTS classes may be canceled due to low attendance at any level.  Interview coaches and talk to them about your goals. Choose one that wants to help you. 

I personally see quite a few adults on ice at our rink. They work on MIF/Freestyle and dance. They usually aren't on the ice after school gets out but usually skate in the early afternoon or during the adult freestyle that we have at our rink. Adult freestyle ice is Sat am 7 to 8 and Sun pm 5:30 to 6:30pm. 
 We recently had a test session where a club member took her adult pre-bronze MIF test and she is in her late 70's early 80's. We also have an ice dancer in her late 40's that has been skating about 4-5 years and is working on Pre-gold dances and just tested her prepre and prelim MIF. So I believe that ice coach is right. Interview coaches and talk to them about what the skater wants to accomplish and see if they are willing to help the adult skater achieve their goals.
From Kel, who lives in the Upper Great Lakes Region.

I really feel for this skater. It is difficult to "break in" as a new skater as an adult. I would strongly ask around and find a coach that is interested in taking on an adult student. This will allow her to advance more quickly, as I'm sure she's willing and interested in making the extra effort to practice the skills she's learned.  Finding the right coach is key -- I'd suggest she ask around. Once she finds the right coach, she'll fly. 
From J.C.U., a competitive adult figure skater who won a silver medal at last year's Adult Championships. She is also a figure skating coach who lives in the Upper Great Lakes Region.

Certain clubs and rinks have more opportunities for adults than others. A few that come to mind are Cincinnati OH, Grand Rapids, MI, Minneapolis/St Paul MN and most of the clubs in the Skating Council of Illinois. The adult figure skating population is the second fastest growing group, second only to synchro. I think adults are often not taken as seriously as the youngsters because of the demand careers and families make. Adults tend to take breaks from skating more often than the kids. Instead of looking for group lessons, I'd encourage you to find a private coach who is coaching or who has coached other adults. Ask the potential coach if they've had any students compete at Adult Championships. Your money will be well spent in one-on-one lessons with the right person. Be sure to have "trial lessons" with any coach before you commit. Good Luck! 

These responses are heavily weighted to the Upper Great Lakes Region, but only three are from the same rink area.

Readers? Can you help this skater? Do you have a vibrant adult program at your rink? Please share the knowledge in the comments. Naming rinks or clubs is a very nice thing to do.

Do you have a question for the Ice Moms? Do you have an idea for a post you'd like to see? Are you an expert and want to share your knowledge? That's terrific! E-mail me at!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Announcement:'s Grand Opening on Friday

Please note: Ice Mom does not accept funding for posts like these. All advertising is separate from editorial content.  I'm posting this because I think that Ryan Jahnke's is a great idea that benefits buyers, sellers, and clubs.
I’ve written it countless times: figure skating is expensive. I’ve also written that Learn to Skate is the only bargain in figure skating.

Turns out, I’m wrong.

U.S. World Team Member (2008) and PSA Master Rated Coach Ryan Jahnke launches on Friday, April 26. It’s an online figure skating bargain hunter’s paradise. You’ll be able to shop for used figure skating items and see listings from all over the world. Jahnke has also partnered with some vendors who will sell new skating items.

You benefit because you save money on figure skating purchases. Your figure skating club can benefit, too. If your club registers with, a percentage of every purchase you make will go to your club. Click here to read my complete review of

Save even more. As an Ice Mom reader, you can receive a 50% off of all listing upgrades if you list items for sale on in the next week. Basic listings are completely free, but listings can be upgraded to show on the front page and at the top of the item's category for enhanced visibility.

Just type this code in the discount box provided at the end of the selling listing form: MSM

Ask your figure skating club to register. Clubs can benefit from sales at It’s an easy process and a painless fundraiser. Five to 90 percent of every purchase raises money for the skating club or team of the buyer and seller. Skating groups can benefit from every purchase and sale their members make! It is completely free for skating clubs and teams to register at!

Good luck with your site, Ryan!

Have any of you tried What did you think? Did you stop over there to browse? What was your impression? Share your thoughts and suggestions about how to make that site better in the comments. (I'll forward them to Ryan.)

Do you have a question for the Ice Moms? Are you a figure skating expert who would like to appear on the Wednesday Ask the Expert feature? Do you have a marvelous idea for a post? Excellent. Please e-mail me at

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Ice Mom’s Guide to Sewing: All about Cutting

This post is part of Ice Mom's Sewing Guide.
Other posts in this series: All about Patterns, All about Fabrics, How to Dye Silk for Fabric Skating Skirts, Altering Your Growing Skater's Figure Skating Dress, Laying out the Pattern.

Like adjusting the pattern and laying it out, cutting is one of those unglamorous steps that you shouldn’t rush.  I have my cutting table in the center of my front room, a movie in the DVD player, two stools, one on either side of the table, and plenty of good light.

If you haven’t copied, adjusted and laid out your pattern yet, you need to do that first. Instructions assume that you’ve done that.

Make sure your shears or rotary cutter is sharp. Never let your kids or husband run off with your sewing scissors to cut paper, plastic, or sheet metal. I buy a ton of cheap scissors and plant them in every room of the house, sometimes two pair. This prevents anyone getting the ridiculous idea of using my good Ginghers for anything. I even keep those cheap scissors in my sewing room's scissor drawer, just in case anyone gets the very dumb idea of grabbing my Ginghers for something. I buy the scissors at the back-to-school sales in August, when they're at a deep discount. Ginghers, however, are never cheap.

If you don't remember the last time you've had your scissors sharpened, it's time to take them in. Call your sewing store to find out who does them and how long you'll have to be parted from your scissors.

  • Sharp shears
  • Rotary cutter and cutting mat (optional)
  • Sharp snips
  • Tailor’s chalk or disappearing fabric marker

  1. Make sure everything's flat. Fabric and pattern pieces need to be as flat as possible against the table. If they’re not, unpin, re-adjust, and re-pin. You’ll be wasting your time if the fabric is lumpy. It won’t fit right.
  2. Cut along the pattern cut lines. If you’re using shears, keep the bottom blade as flat against the table as practical. Try to cut very smoothly and do not lift up the fabric as you cut. If you’re using a rotary cutter, make sure your mat is under your pattern pieces. Roll the blade like a pizza cutter along the pattern’s cut lines.
  3. Cut notches. When you arrive at a notch, stop. Using your snips, snip along the triangle and up past the triangle’s point. The idea here is that you’ll extend the triangle’s side to about double its size. Come from the other direction to cut the other side of the triangle. You’ll be making a big X in the fabric. The reason you’re doing this is so that you won’t have to lift the fabric. If you need room for your shears to cut along the rest of the cutting line, use your snips to cut a few inches. Those inches will give you room to use your shears. (Note: sometimes seamstresses will cut through the notch and make a little snip into the seamline at the center of the notch. I do this in regular garment sewing where I have a more generous 5/8-inch seam allowance. With skating dresses, I rarely have that much of a seam allowance, so I just cut the triangles instead of risking cutting past the seam allowance.)
  4. Leave it on the table. When you have your piece cut, don't move it yet. Remember those marking holes you reinforced with paper tape when you adjusted and traced your pattern? This is a great time to use your tailor’s chalk or disappearing fabric marker to mark the spot. If you’re using the marker, remember that you can’t iron over the mark because it will become permanent.
  5. Unpin the pattern piece. I usually fold the piece and the fabric in half and stack them in order according to the pattern piece’s number or letter. That way, they’ll be in order when I want to sew them and I can refer to the pattern piece if I have questions.
  6. Finish cutting all pieces. Mark, unpin, fold, and stack.
  7. Keep some of your scraps. You’ll want them to practice on when it comes to sewing seams. If you have a serger, they’re great for running through the machine to make sure that your loops aren’t too loopy. I keep just a few scraps and throw the rest away - unless I so much fabric that I might be able to cut out a skirt panty, skirt, or extra pattern piece if I mess something up.
It’s pretty straightforward, but I want to encourage you to take your time. Rushing this or the other preparation steps will make for a poorly fitting garment.

Next time: sewing seams.

I have many talented seamstresses among my readers. Double-check me, please! Did I miss something? Do you do it better? Please comment so we can all benefit!
New seamstresses: leave your questions in the comments, too!

Do you have a question for Ice Mom or the Advisory Board? Terrific! Send me your questions! 
Are you a better seamstress than I am? Wonderful! Please e-mail me about writing a guest post.
Do you have some other question or concern? Great!
E-mail me at

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ask the Expert, Annette Thomas: Is Ballet for Figure Skaters Worth It?

This guest post comes from Annette Thomas, classically trained dance teacher and choreographer. Thomas is also author of the book Fundamentals of Alignment & Classical Movement for Figure Skaters. You can also visit her Web site at Readers who would like to purchase her beautiful, thorough, well illustrated manual can buy it at Five percent of every purchase through My Skating Mall will be donated to the purchaser's figure skating club.

Ice Mom: Why should figure skaters take ballet?
Annette Thomas: There is no other single off-ice conditioning class that has as much to offer the figure skater as classical ballet lessons. Classical ballet lessons provide strength & flexibility training, body awareness, balance techniques, mental focus, discipline, musicality and aesthetics all wrapped into one lesson.

Ice Mom: Is it worthwhile for recreational skaters to take ballet?
Annette Thomas: It is always worth taking classical ballet no matter what level of commitment a skater has or what their ultimate goals may be as classical ballet enhances the quality of the experience of movement itself.

Ice Mom: If I have a skater who is a Regional competitor, how many hours of ballet should she take each week?
Annette Thomas: Normally Regional competitors take 2 to 3 ballet lessons per week (meaning technique lesson which are 1/ ½ hours long and not in conjunction with practicing dance recital pieces.)

Ice Mom: If a parent is watching the family budget carefully, would you recommend that she spend her figure skating money on ice and coaching or cut back on those two and include ballet?
Annette Thomas: It depends on the skater and the coach. If a skater has an aversion (or thinks they do!) to ballet obviously this will be a waste of money to try and force a skater into “doing ballet”. Many coaches are skilled at much more than just teaching skating technique and I believe that a lot of skaters miss the complete picture of what their own coach has to offer them aesthetically. Having said that, taking a regular classical ballet lesson can only help to improve the value of all that the skater does on-ice.

Ice Mom: How should figure skating parents choose a ballet instructor, or will any ballet instructor be a good fit for a figure skater?
Annette Thomas: Choosing a ballet instructor is just like choosing a coach. As a parent you should try to observe a class with your skater, discuss the lesson with the instructor afterwards and then privately discuss with your skater what you and she/he felt about the lesson and the teacher. Very importantly there should be a true curriculum based on a syllabus and no practicing of recital pieces during the lesson time.
Please see my web page for further answers to this question:

Ice Mom: Is there a question I should have asked, but didn't?
Annette Thomas: Yes: “Is all ballet created equal?” Note that I have used the phrase “Classical Ballet” throughout my answers. This is because all ballet is not created equal. Taking lessons at recreational studios which are geared toward recitals more often than not teach ballet as choreography not as a method of technique. Teachers who teach ballet by observation (meaning just as they were taught in class as opposed to having had lessons in pedagogy) will only have a minimum of positive effect. Lyrical ballet will not help the skater at all because there is very little if any refined technique to it and there is no emphasis on strength training. Classical ballet has a true methodology which takes into account the training of the entire body, head, eyes, hands, torso, etc. in incremental portions which ingrain movement and musicality into the muscle memory. It takes into account the importance of the lower back and core muscles as the “fulcrum” of the body which needs to be trained slowly and carefully for maximum potential in both strength and flexibility. Classical ballet technique forms the body from the inside out so that the technique is safe and the dancer/athlete can be secure and confident in their actual abilities.

Questions for Annette Thomas:
Readers are invited to write questions for Annette to answer in the Comments section of this post. Annette has agreed to reply to them there. Some readers have sent in questions in advance. Those questions appear here.

Reader: When a mid-level skater has limited funds, how should it be distributed between on-ice, off-ice, and dance?
Annette Thomas: Distribution is a very individual consideration which you and your primary coach would have the priority in deciding as you discuss your skater's particular needs and what is available in your area.  Also the distribution should take into account the temperament and age of the individual skater. On-ice practice is obviously the main priority for a figure skater, but people categorize off-ice in many different ways; most often it boils down to “sports oriented” (strength training, plyometics etc.) and “artistry oriented” (ballet and other dance forms). If you have an excellent classical ballet school in your area and the teacher is willing to work carefully with the skaters’ needs, I think this is the best off-ice training available in one package. If not, you may have to distribute your off-ice time and funds between something such as Pilates and a ballet or modern dance class at a local studio (just opt out of the recitals if at all possible, because that can get very expensive!)

Reader: Why is it that some ballet teachers dislike it when their students start skating? I see that a lot in my rink and often the teachers will ask the skater to stop skating or ballet. They are serious about ballet, but not to the extent of making it a career. What do you tell the ballet teacher?
Annette Thomas: Like most teachers and coaches, ballet instructors want students whose main interest is their “subject.” Children today are often involved in so many activities that long-term focus and commitment are hard to find. Skaters usually take ballet lessons for their own agenda (to improve their skating), which can cause the ballet instructor to feel as though they are not in control of the learning process. Plus, skaters often have a very different sensibility when it comes to timing and movement in general, so it can be difficult for the average ballet instructor to work with skaters in the same class as non-skaters (this is why it is so important to have a ballet program at the rink). And finally, since both ballet and figure skating require tremendous amounts of commitment, energy and hard work, a ballet instructor may feel that they do not want to invest all of the mental and emotional energy required if they know that the student is more devoted to skating. It may sound selfish, but it is just human nature. I know coaches who feel the same way; when one of their skaters’ decides she likes gymnastics and wants to take it  more often…it can be frustrating to the coach as they now not only feel like “second fiddle” they also know that their skaters energies and time will be divided making it much harder for them to teach. It is a difficult situation on both sides as the teacher wants to teach in what they feel is the most productive manner possible and yet the student should never be felt to be rejected or “wrong” for choosing other things. I always tell my students “pick one or two things in your life and try to achieve excellence in them.”

As to what to tell your ballet instructor, you might try to interest him/her into working more “one on one” with your skater (via choreography, working at the rink etc.) so that they feel as though they are more a part of the process. 

Reader: My daughter is a young skater, just starting out, but has been taking ballet/dance since she was two. What should, if anything, we do differently now that she's skating? Should we be paying more attention to certain parts of dance? Will certain moves help more than others? Also, between ballet and gymnastics, which do you think helps with skating most?

Annette Thomas: If you, your daughter and your primary coach are satisfied with your daughter’s progress, I’d say to just continue with what you are doing. Gymnastics can be extremely hard on the body and I never recommend it (to dancers or skaters). It loosens the lower back and can permanently damage joints. Classical ballet will help your daughter strengthen her body as well help her to progress more quickly in her skating endeavors. If you can find a classical ballet studio that also teaches Character Dance, this would really be ideal to include in her studies.

© 2010 by Annette T. Thomas all rights reserved. Annette T. Thomas's answers are used with permission. 

 Want to take ballet or movement classes with Annette Thomas? She'll be teaching at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee this summer. (Artistry & Movement classes are for learning character dance/music appreciation and style.)
Her schedule: 
Tuesdays: 9-10 am medium/high ballet JUNE/JULY only, 10:15-11:15 am medium/high movement June/July only, 9-10 am low ballet AUGUST only, 10:15-11:15 am medium/high ballet AUGUST only, 11:30-12:30 medium/high artistry and movement AUGUST only, 3-4 pm medium/high artistry and movement, 4:15-5:15 pm low artistry and movement
3-4 pm medium/high ballet, 4:15-5:15 low ballet
9-10 am low artistry, 10:15-11:15 am medium/high ballet

Do you have a question for Annette Thomas? Take this opportunity to Ask the Expert! You'll find her replies in the comments.

Do you have a question for the Ice Moms? Have you been thinking of a post you'd really like to see? Are you an expert and would like to contribute to the Ask the Expert feature? That's great. I love e-mail, so please contact me at

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It’s Magic Glove Season. Stock up for the Summer

Happy spring! It’s time to walk Ice Dog outside again without worrying about slipping on the ice. It’s time to do yard work, Ice Dad. And it’s time to shop for magic gloves. At our local discount retail chain, those cheap, one-size-fits-all stretchy gloves – magic gloves – are 25 cents a pair. I bought 20 pair for $5.

If you’re new to figure skating, you’re thinking I’ve once again lost my mind. After all, that’s one big pile of gloves, Ice Mom. Well, kids lose gloves all the time. The gloves get holes. Figure skaters lend them to other figure skaters and they leave forever.

If you’ve been through a summer at the rink, you know that the only places that sell gloves in July are figure skating stores, and they’ll sell ‘em to you for $4 – 8 a pair. Let's do the math. 20 pair at $4 each is $80 worth of gloves. For my money, I'll take the ones on clearance, thanks.

When you find the gloves on sale, buy black ones. Resist the temptation to buy pink, purple, or patterned gloves. Yes, they’re cute, but when your skater loses one pink glove, she won’t have another one to match. Buy all black gloves and then losing one isn’t a big deal. Just match it up with some other black glove.

Black gloves are good, too, because they don’t show dirt like white gloves and your figure skater can wear them on warm-up ice at competitions.

So, happy spring, everyone! Don’t forget that this is your last time to buy gloves at a reasonable price for the next six months. Well, that is if you don’t live near me. I'm pretty sure I cleaned out the shops around here.

Update: From reader Jillybean, who offers a caution: You really shouldn't be borrowing other skaters' gloves because they might be wiping their noses on them.

Do you have a question for the Ice Moms? Do you have a great idea for a post you'd like to read? Are you an expert and want to write something for everyone's benefit? Wonderful! Please contact me at

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Monday, March 22, 2010

How-to: Tie Figure Skates

This guest post comes to you from Ice Coach. My blog, Ice Mom's Adventures in Figure Skating will move to on Saturday, April 3. Joining me in blogging will be Ice Coach, Ice Girl, and Synchro Mom. Together, we'll try to give you honest answers and occasional laughs as we look at figure skating from different perspectives. This guest post will give you a little introduction to what you might find on Ice Coach's blog.

Tying figure skates correctly is important because improperly tying skates could lead to injury and bad habits. The biggest issue of tying skates is making them tight. I have repeatedly seen new skating parents not tie skates tight enough. Their child gets on the ice; his or her ankles are falling inward and not supported at all. I also know of parents who thought they needed new skates or blades remounted because their child was having difficulty skating. When it came down to it, the solution was simply tying the skates tighter.

No socks. If you’re a competitive skater you should not be wearing socks in your skates. Socks can lead to blisters, which are no fun. What’s worse than socks? Bare feet. Bare feet lead to blisters and smelly skates. Skates should fit as snug to your foot as possible leaving little room for your foot to slide around. I recommend trouser socks; they are form- fitting and thick enough to wear multiple times without getting numerous holes. You can even get moisture wicking trouser socks.

Untie your skate all the way. (See photo above.) I have seen many people untie the first couple holes only. Make sure the laces are loose enough to easily slip your foot inside the boot. Start tightening the laces at the toe and work your way up the boot. Tie the skates tight, but not so tight they cut off your circulation. I always tie my skates as tight as I can pull and never have an issue with numb feet, and I always have enough bending room. New skates are a different story. You might want to only lace the top three hooks on new skates so you have room to bend.

No skate lace tighteners. Does anyone like these things? They seem like more of a hassle.  You can tie your skates faster and tighter by using your fingers.

Cris-cross the laces and wrap them around the fourth hook, the one closest to the lace holes. (See photo above.) I prefer wrapping them over the hook rather than under it, but you can go under to over, too.

Wrap the laces. (See photo above.) On the third hook, when you cross your laces, wrap them around each other a couple of times to keep them from slipping. Do this on the first hook as well.

Bunny ears. (See photo above) On the first hook, tie a bow. Take the bow’s right “bunny ear” and hook it around the first hook again and tighten it; do the same with the left “bunny ear.” Your skates should not slip.

Never wrap extra laces around your ankle or boot. If your laces are long enough to do this, they are too long. Buy a shorter pair. Skates should bend at the ankle; if you wrap laces around the top part of the boot it will prevent this.

Lace materials. If your laces still slip and you’re using 100% cotton blends, try a nylon/cotton blend. I personally prefer them and think they slip less. But I have others tell me that the cotton ones slip less. It just depends on what you like.

Tying your skates well will help prevent injury and is the first step to proper skating technique.

Do you have a suggestion about tying skates? Do you have problems with it? Let Ice Coach know what you're thinking in the comments! If you have other questions for Ice Coach, you can put them in the comments or e-mail her at

As always, if you have a question for Ice Mom or the Advisory Board, please send it to me. If you have an idea for a post you'd like to see, let me know that, too. Are you an expert? Wonderful. I'm looking for figure skating experts. E-mail me if you'd like to write a guest post. 

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Ask the Ice Moms: Dealing with Figure Skating Burnout

I’ve written about figure skating burnout before, but I think it’s a big topic that deserves a lot of text.

Here’s the reader’s question:

Just wondering if you have any advice for a little girl who still love skating and wants to skate every day, but is not her usual self on the ice (tired with some tears, missing her usual enthusiasm, no more smiles). I’m thinking of removing her from the ice for a week or so despite her coach’s unhappiness about it. Any help would be most appreciated!

From Pairs Mom, the mom to one-half of December’s Junior National Intermediate Pairs gold medal winners:

I have seen this happen among many skaters of all ages and levels. Does you have access to any type of club ice events or "team skating" such as Theater On Ice or Synchro at your rink? Sometimes when they are put in a group situation it changes the whole dynamic of a normally "individualized" sport. I have seen the enthusiasm come back in the singles skating because of the "group" skating.
Is your skater having to give up being involved in some other activity in order to be at the rink training? Girl Scouts, church activities for youth, school sports or clubs, choir, etc.? If so, then try to work out a compromise so she can be involved in both for awhile even if it means cutting back a little bit on the skating. On the other hand, it could be over-stimulation of being involved in too many activities that makes her too tired or stretched to enjoy her skating.

Get her to talk about it with you and just listen.
From Xan, figure skating coach, mom to a show skater, and blogger at Xanboni!

There are lots of reasons a child might lose enthusiasm for skating that aren't related to burn out. She might have had a bad fall and gotten scared; the coach might have said something coach-y to her that she took too much too heart and is now afraid of displeasing the coach. There might be issues with other skaters on the ice, or it might be entirely non-ice related. Talk to her classroom teacher at school and see if there are any issues there.

The coach is unhappy? Who cares? Has the coach expressed concern about the child's well being (I certainly hope so.) Maybe this family could exchange one or two practice sessions a week for one or two on-ice play dates with friends for a couple of weeks or a month, no practice or lesson required, so the little girl can find the joy in her skating again. Nationals are over, lol. We call this "early off season" and it's exactly the time to get back to the why and forget about the what and the how for a while.
From Kel, mom to a 9-year-old skater:

Instead of removing her from the ice for a week or so, I would decrease her weekly hours for a month or so. Hopefully she would be more anxious to get on the ice when she is there. Depending on the age, I would include the skater in filling out the next month's contract. I'd ask the skater what she wanted to do -- give her some control of her skating. Too bad the coach is unhappy -- I would hope that all coaches would want happy skaters.

From me, Ice Mom

As an education writer, I talk to all kinds of education experts about teaching and learning. In February Nathan Eklund, M. Ed., visited my office to record a series on teacher burnout. He used the clinical definition of it to explain that people can recognize the symptoms, treat them, and avoid burnout.
Eklund sited Herbert Freudenberger, who wrote in 1974:
 “Burnout is a state of exhaustion that results from working too intensely and without concern for one’s own needs”
What can I add? Freudenberger says it’s a clinical condition. I say take the time off that you've been considering and make sure she has a life outside the rink
What about you? Do you have advice for this mom? Should she give her skater some time away from the rink? How do you deal with figure skater burnout?

Hey! Do you have a question for the Ice Moms? Are you an expert and would like to guest post on the Wednesday Ask the Expert feature? Terrific! E-mail me at

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

10 Ways to Become Unpopular at the Rink

Friend and advisory board member R.H. once told me something like this:

The only people who are popular at the rink are those with no money and no talent.

Ouch. That seems harsh, R.H. However, I know people who have no money and kids with marginal skills who have made themselves wildly unpopular at the rink. I’m sure you know them, too.

  1. The future Olympic parent. My basic skills figure skater is going to the Olympics. I can tell. My skater is amazingly talented and dedicated. Athletic ability runs in our family – we’re all gifted and we have our own trophy room. Well, yes, my figure skater’s been in Basic Skills for five years, but she’s pacing herself. Level Four is very, very challenging.
  2. The solicitor. I hate to be the one to tell you, but as your friend, you should know that your skater’s figure skating coach doesn’t have good skills. She’s a low-level coach. If you’re serious, if your skater is ambitious, if you have a brain, you’ll switch to my daughter’s coach. You know, my skater’s figure skating coach passed her senior level whatevers and is rated a master fabuloso coach. All of her skaters go to nationals, at least twice. If you switched coaches, I’m sure your skater would have that jump by now. But, if you want to throw your money away, go ahead.
  3. The golden ager. Back in the day, things were just great here. The sun was always shining outside, the ice was perfect, our figure skating club had so much money, everyone loved one another, and skating was practically cost-free. Ah, yes. Those were the days.
  4. The expert. Judges, coaches, figure skating competition organizers don’t know what they’re doing. My skater is truly amazing, but the judges are against him. I tell you, judging is corrupt here. They’ll take just about anyone and give them a score sheet. Our figure skating coach is nice, but I don’t think that my skater has a tough enough program. I mean, he’s an advanced reader at school and in with students two grade levels above his. The coach should put my skater two levels up, too. He’s smart; he can handle it. And these figure skating competition organizers. Why would they set up the groups this way? Don’t they know that all of these kids are skating down? Didn’t they notice that kid at the last competition? I know he skated at a higher level. They’re stacking the deck on purpose so kids from their club win everything.
  5. The club critic. If I were on the figure skating club’s board, things would be different. I can’t believe that the board wants us to pay more, volunteer more, and attend mandatory meetings. Isn’t that why we pay club dues? I pay for this, so I shouldn’t be expected to do anything further. That’s for the little people to do. I don’t have time for this. I need to get my nails done.
  6. The parent of a gifted child. It took my figure skater just one lesson to land an Axel. Isn’t my skater fabulous? She’s only been skating three months and look! She already has her Axel. She’s working on her double Salchow, but, sadly, she only landed six last practice session. Your skater’s been working on her Axel, what? Eight months? Hmm. Yeah. Well, everyone at their own pace, you know. Not all kids are as talented as my skater. But, you know, she comes from a gymnastics and dance background. She was born at the barre, did I tell you? Funny story…
  7. The agent. These low level figure skaters keep getting in my skater’s way. She can’t land her triple-twisty thing because of all these little kids. You know, she’s the only one who has ever landed that jump in the history of this club/this rink/this region/the world. We should have ice just for her because she’s so amazing. She’s the reason that all these little kids are joining the club, you know. They want to be just like her. The figure skating club should subsidize her skating because she brings so many of these annoying low-level skaters to the rink. She’s put this club on the map.
  8. The rink stalker. So, who is your figure skater? Let me check my spreadsheet of all the skaters my daughter has ever competed against. Was she at this figure skating competition? Oh, yes, I see. It was last fall, No Test, and your skater placed third. Her scores were: 3, 3, 4, 3, 2. My daughter placed second out of eight skaters in that group. Want to see the photo? And two years ago, at that same competition, your daughter placed fifth in Basic 5. That time there were only five kids in the event. Oh, and here’s the photo. See? There’s my kid on the stand…
  9. The sidelines parent/coach. Get your arms up, skater! Pull your legs in. That’s it. Now drop and give me five sit spins. Alright. Do your program. Quit wasting time! That program was terrible. Do it again. Watch me. This is how you should move your legs. I don’t care if your coach said something else. This is my money we’re talking about. Don’t whine to me about your pain. Wipe your nose, toughen up, and get moving.
  10. The dream-on parent. Look, coach, I want my figure skater to place first at the figure skating competition next month. My skater should have new music and move up a level, too. No, no. I don’t have time to bring my skater to the rink for more lessons and practice. We can only get here every other Thursday, but this Thursday won’t work and neither will the next two. 
Wait! I forgot one!

The blogger. My husband has zero taste in music. Can you believe he wants our kid to figure skate to horror movie soundtracks? I should blog about him. My kid won't wake up. She's passed out in the van and people in the rink are waiting for her. I should blog about my kid, too. And you? Yeah, you in the blue. Don't tick me off, lady, 'cause I'll blog about you, too!
    This isn't the definitive field guide to unpopular rink parents, but it's a start. If you can identify others, let's start a taxonomy in the comments!

    Would you like to submit a question to Ask the Ice Moms? Do you have a question for Ice Mom, Ice Coach, or Ice Girl? Are you an expert and would like to share your knowledge? Want me to blog about you? E-mail me at

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    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Ice Mom's Sewing Guide: How to Airbrush a Figure Skating Dress

    It is my great pleasure to introduce this guest post from reader C.R.H., who responded to my request to explain how to airbrush a figure skating dress. Thank you very much, C.R.H.! Technically, it's also the first Ask the Expert post, too.

    I’ve sewn for my kids for years and in the past six years, most of the local skating club.  Everyone wanted the dip-dyed skirts that one of the fancy dressmakers did.  However we heard of the $400 or more price tags, whispered through the stands, and most of the parents felt it was an expense that wasn’t worth it. The skirts were silk, another cost. They’re really nice dresses. I would have liked one, but I made my own dress and bought freeskate lessons instead.

    I had a chance to talk to that dressmaker about dip dye. Of course she wouldn’t tell any of the process involved, but did say that she made a lot of garbage before she got the technique down. I left it at that, and besides, I had boys in skating, so I wasn’t personally driven to figure it out.

    A few years later, a dressmaker at another rink that I was at experimented with dying. I again heard of the rumors of disaster and messes, and she had some limited success, mostly with painting on the dye.

    Then I met a parent, whose husband had a workshop. She made her kids’ dresses because she wanted to and they had airbrushing on them. I asked her how. She said, very directly, “I went out to the shop and put paint in the gun and sprayed the pieces.” Like we would all naturally go out to the shop and put paint in the spray gun but, that’s exactly what you do!

    Quickly, difference between dip dye and airbrushing: 
    • Dying: The fabric is immersed in the dye, and depending on the fabric (synthetic vs. natural cotton/silk) there is complete color change on both sides of the fabric. Some dyes make a very solid band, mostly with synthetics, others make the gradient effect, most noteably on silk. Chemicals are required with synthetics to set the dye and dye is very good for entire color changes or the edge of a skirt. There is not much of any change of hand of the fabric. (Note from Ice Mom: a fabric’s hand is how it feels.)
    • Airbrushing: The dye or paint is blown onto the surface of the fabric and doesn’t entirely soak through the fabric, so the original color remains on the underside.  It can be applied in different areas of the garment easily and can be over sprayed or painted. Heavily applied paint can make for a stiff fabric. And lastly, airbrushing is LOUD.
    So I’ll quit talking about dye because I don’t really do that.

    Part 1: Materials

    What you need for airbrushing, in order of expense:
    • Air
    • Brush
    • Paint
    • Something to spray it on.
    Air: The thing that took me the longest to figure out was air. My friend with the body shop? She used the huge compressor in the shop. Lotsa Air. Big Air is Good.

    Textile paint is thick and has big particles (they’re really tiny, but in paint terms they are big). Imagine trying to blow a large pea through a little straw, it takes a lot of force. So it takes a high consistent pressure to blow textile paint. The amount of pressure that works for me is about 40-45PSI.

    Don’t even consider buying the cans of air. Not enough ooomph and they freeze up in a minute.

    When you look at airbrushes, and there are tons of sites on the internet, they show airbrush compressors that are these little small things. They are great for artists and thin art paint. Their PSI is not so big, but they are quiet. There is big air that is quiet, but it’s expensive. I am cheap, er, thrifty.

    Chain stores sell compressors for the shop that blow up to 100 PSI for about $70. Or less. They have tanks on them. Big tank is good but takes up too much space.   I have something like this with a 3-gallon tank:

    It’s bigger than a breadbox and smaller than a Zuca bag. It was also on sale for $65. Remember I said LOUD?  The drawback is when this thing runs to fill the tank, it is like a JACKHAMMER. I wear earplugs. Once you start airbrushing, after about five minutes the tank has run out of pressure so the motor runs to fill it up and you jump when it kicks on. Basically, the motor runs a lot. If I had a big 25-gallon tank model out in the shop, this would not be a problem, but I don’t have a shop nor the space for something the size of a horse. So, I wear earplugs.

    Bonus point: Men don’t seem to complain when you buy a compressor.

    Brush: I use a Paasche H series. Airbrushes come in three sizes, 1, 2, and 3, meaning the size of the swath they spray, and most importantly it has a single-action siphon feed with a cup. The major airbrush makers are Paasche, Iwata and Badger. Badger also has a single-action siphon, and so does Iwata, but the surplus store had a Paasche on clearance, so that’s what I have. They also had no-name airbrushes for $12.95, so I have one of those, too. It sprays like a $12.95 airbrush.  Buy a name brand brush, and make sure it has a siphon feed.

    You could read lots about airbrushes and I recommend you do; in particular, search out T-shirt airbrush painters. Here’s the difference: there are single-action and double-action airbrushes. Single action sprays a defined width of spray that is adjusted by twisting a ring on the tip. Double action can adjust the spray by toggling the spray button. Double action mixes the paint with air in the brush; single action does it at the tip. Single action can also handle bigger paint. Since for dress hems, we’ll mostly be cranking up the air and spraying a swath, single action is perfectly fine, and quite inexpensive, but the cheapest starting price is around $50.

    Paint: I recommend using specialized fabric paint. Createx and Jacquard are the two name brands that will work perfectly fine. There is also Setacolor, but it is more expensive.



    Jacquard makes a few lines of paint. I use the Textile Colors because I can water them down for airbrushing or use them directly for painting. They are sprayed on, let dry, then iron to heat set it into the fabric. There is an additive that you can put into the paint instead of heat setting. I’ve never tried it, and would be curious to hear if anyone out there uses it. These paints feel like they’re part of the fabric and not sitting on top of it. They will soak into the fabric, so use that as an effect; it's difficult to get a hard edge, unless you use a stencil or a shaper to cover or redirect the spray off the fabric. (Google: airbrush Frisket) These paints and colors are acrylic paints, so they’re thinned with water and clean up with water. There is an extender that can be used to thin the paint, but I use water. Createx paint can be used right out of the bottle. Jacquard makes an airbrush paint, but I use Textile Colors and thin it down, almost 50% (20% is the recommendation) and spray more layers. I like using the textile paint instead of the airbrush colors because I use the same paint for silkscreening onto fabric and/or handpainting and stamping. (another topic for another day)

    I’ll throw this in here: These paints are acrylic.  You can spray any acrylic paint onto fabric and it will stay because it stays on my clothes when I accidentally spray paint myself. I’m not convinced that heat setting is necessary; sometimes just letting the pieces sit for a few days works. I’ve tried the craft paint from the dollar store and it sprays just fine, but it sits on top of the fabric and doesn’t sink in, so it's stiff. It might work for the bodysuit, but not a skirt if it's sprayed heavy for a deep color. Depending on what you are spraying and the budget, consider this a thrifty option for cases where you need 30 carnival pumpkin face costumes. The airbrush manual will warn not to do it, it’s up to you, thin it down and try some samples. It’s all about the particles of the paint fitting through the needle of the brush. If you jam the brush, there are a lot of YouTube tutorials of how to disassemble and clean the airbrush.

    Anyway, a big set of Createx colors is around $30.

    You could spray with dye. I haven’t tried it, but if anyone has, I’d like to hear from them. I imagine that spraying with dye on silk would be amazing…or not? It would have a huge soaking in factor. One day...

    To summarize this section, if you’re my friend with the workshop husband, she had all the tools; she just had to buy some fabric paint to put in the gun. (She has since bought a real airbrush.)For the rest of us, after buying a compressor and a brush, and a couple of bottles of paint, it’s about $125 or more. Add in the ear plugs remember. And fabric for the dress, too.

    Now go buy a roll of paper towels, find a big cardboard box, and 2-3 yards of white Lycra, and maybe 2-3 yards of chiffon or georgette – whatever you like to use for skirts. If you just want to do a skirt, then stick with the chiffon/georgette. Polyester is fine; this paint sticks to everything.

    Stretch velvet? You could try. I did. It feels like I painted the cat. It might work if I wanted some crazy effect involving painted cats, but I wouldn’t plan on airbrushing stretch velvet. In dresses on the market with airbrushing, you will find airbrushed Lycra and mesh in the bodysuit and chiffon/georgette for the skirts, nothing else. It leads to a bit of a conundrum, because some skaters love stretch velvet for its matte look and want airbrush effect on the bodysuit. Which leads to part 2, making samples. When in doubt, make a sample.

    Part 2: Practice

    Cut 18-inch or thereabouts square pieces of whatever fabric you’re going to use. A meter of 60 inch Lycra will get you six 3x20x18-inch squares. This is the time to make samples of what works and what doesn’t. Pin these to your spray wall. Spray wall?

    The cardboard box is your spray booth. Spray wall is more like it. Although it seems natural to spray on something lying flat on the table, the spraying works better when the fabric is vertical. Cut open the box and find a place where you can attach it to a wall. I have a big cardboard that I’ve covered with brown paper, which I change occasionally. It doesn’t have to be entirely vertical. Think of it as an easel. Pin the squares to the spray wall. Pin them tight, but not stretched. That 45 PSI will blow wind at them and cause them to flutter around if they’re loose.

    Attach the airbrush to the compressor. Wait for everyone to leave the house, turn on compressor (follow their instructions) and psssst, hit the button on the brush. Prepare the paint by either using Createx from the bottle, thinning Jacquard textile colors, or using airbrush paint straight.

    I’ll have to digress here. There’s the airbrush bottle and the siphon cup. For now, pour your paint into the bottle and attach it to the brush. Take those paper towels and make a thick pad out of some of them and holding the brush level, spray into the pad until paint starts coming out of the end. You’re ready.

    Starting off the edge of the fabric, push the button, start spraying across the fabric without stopping and take your finger off the trigger once you’re off the fabric. It’s basic spray painting. Did you like the effect? Change the spray width on the nozzle, test, stand closer, stand further, play around with this for a long time until you’re confident you’re comfortable with the brush and how it sprays. You will get sputts and splatters, it’s either related to the air or the pressure on the trigger. Occasionally it can be because the paint was not thinned properly and a chunk has gotten stuck in the nozzle. In that case, spray it out into your paper towels and/or rinse out the nozzle and try again. There’s a lot of YouTube videos about specific techniques. How to spray flames on the hood of your sports car can work out to being flames on a man’s bodyshirt. I just need a man who wants a flaming bodyshirt... Anyone?

    Let the samples dry, heat set them by either ironing them for a few seconds on the reverse side (I use a teflon sheet ) or throwing them in the dryer. Then wash them and dry them just for good measure to see what happens. This is overkill, but it’s a good idea to see what happens with your combination of fabric and paint. Washing it also takes out the stiffness that can build up.

    Some airbrush sites say to spray on paper to learn technique. I say use fabric, because the paint does soak in and it's something you need to learn how to deal with. It doesn't have to be white Lycra actually; it could be that yard of ugly that's been in your stash for years. Just use a very contrasting paint. Knowing how the paint covers on color fabric is also something to learn.

    Do not skip making practice samples. Here are just a few of mine, with different paints, fabrics and lots of splatters.

    Part 3: Doing It

    Cut out whatever you want to spray. Pin the pieces to the spray wall. Put the pins where the seam allowances will be. Make sure they’re tight, but not stretched.

    If I’m spraying a bodice and a back, I line them up side-by-side so that I can spray across both. Sleeves would be the same. For skirts, pin them so that the bottom edge is at the bottom obviously if it’s a full circle, put lots of pins at the top, and you could angle your spray wall flatter.

    Think about what direction the pieces will go when they are put together.  If you're spraying a sleeve, and you want the spray to be horizontal, it might mean spraying the sleeve sideways, or even a U shape.

    Here is a sleeve where I decided to add a purple effect, after the fact. Neckband, and the right sleeve. The pattern is somewhat raglan, it's actually a test of a new pattern draft and I decided to do two tests in one, sew it out of white Lycra for pattern test and then airbrush the heck out of it. I think this is the way that the purple will line up:

    Then once all the pieces are done, I lay them out to make sure I've got it right before sewing it together. In this particular case, I didn't like the way the left sleeve had the purple on it, so I discarded it and cut a new sleeve and sprayed again.

    Getting down to the details:

    Prepare the paint. If I’m doing a multicolor effect, I use the siphon cup and keep pouring the paint in as it empties. It makes a nice color change doing gradients. This is a bit advanced and you’d work it out in practice on samples. For now, try a color effect on a hem.

    Pin up the skirt. Starting off the hem, begin spraying with the center of the flow on the edge of the skirt. This puts the most solid color on the hem. Sidenote: I hem the skirt afterwards. Spray another swath overlapping that one and continue upwards. If you angle the brush upwards, you’ll get a thinner effect as you get closer to the top of the skirt. (You worked this out on samples, right?) Let it dry (it probably is already), and then go back and layer that same color on top until it’s evenly thick. It’s common to get a lined effect. You want solid.

    To add another color, start with the second color where you want the transition and spray a swath and continue upwards going overtop where you left off with the first color. Go back and deepen the color when it looks like you should. Let it dry and then look again.

    For a white hem:

    For a skirt, start at the waist edge and spray a circle. Do the same on the other side if it’s two pieces, or if it’s one (pinned up circle) make sure you keep consistent pressure. Do more circles outwards until you’ve reached how far you want to go. I am assuming that you’re going to have a white-edge hem. Then, starting back at the waist, develop the color layers by spraying on top. The paint will dry very quickly. I prefer to water down my paint and make many, many layers. Keep spraying until you’re happy with it, and let it dry. If matching the skirt to a bodysuit fabric, let it dry, compare the color, and possibly respray. It’s tricky to color match an airbrushed piece to an existing Lycra or stretch velvet. Tip: I don’t try to match the Lycra, I cut the entire garment of one color and spray the whole thing. Velvet is easier to match “close enough” because of the shading in velvet.

    Perfectionist moment: Because the paint stays mostly on the top of the fabric, if I think the underside is ugly, I’ll turn it over and spray the underside. You could try to spray more densely on the top so that it soaks through, but the soaking is inconsistent. It all depends on the fabric. With the crepe georgette that I use, it soaks right through and looks like dye. With Lycra skirts, the paint sits on top.

    Take the fabric off the spray board, heat set and sew it into the garment. After you sew the garment together, you might find that the sides don’t match up evenly or it needs a little extra, like one of the spots where a pin was. You can touch it up by holding the dress over your arm with your arm inside the dress. If you pin it back on the board, made up, make sure you put plastic, or a piece of cardboard between the front and the back in case of soak through.

    I'm deciding how to rhinestone the top and I'm still not happy with the transition to the purple. Can you see that the purple in the armpit doesn't match up to the back of the sleeve? That's partly because of trying to draw a new pattern and not sewing it up yet and not thinking out where everything goes together. I will overspray this to touch it up. There is also a dot at the center front of the skirt from a pin that needs to be touched up.  The bodysuit pattern in this particular dress didn't work out quite the way I wanted it, so it's been great to use for airbrush practice.

    If I could offer just one piece of advice, this is it: Less is More. Airbrush is a great effect and a little goes a long way.

    Thank you, C.R.H.! If you have questions for C.R.H. this is your opportunity! Leave your questions in the comments.

    Do you have questions for Ice Mom or the Advisory Board? No problem! Send me an e-mail! Are you an expert like C.R.H. is? Terrific! Contact me about writing a guest post. E-mail:

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    Tuesday, March 16, 2010


    PSA Master-rated coach and 2003 World Team Member Ryan Jahnke has been working hard on his new online concept: It’s not just another online retailer. This is one that gives back to local figure skating clubs. will be the link between buyers all over the world looking to save money on gently used figure skating gear and sellers who want to clean out their closets. The best part? Five percent of the sale goes to the buyer’s home club. Sellers must donate at least 2.5 percent  to their figure skating club, but they can donate more of the sale amount, too. Users must be 18 or over to join the free online registration. Jahnke is very careful to make the site family-friendly. He includes a video of himself explaining that users should report inappropriate content so he can remove it from the site.

    Until March of next year, listing figure skating items for sale on the site won’t cost you anything. After that, listings cost a flat $1 for an entire year, or until the item is sold. Sellers can improve their listings with low-cost upgrades like title bolding, featured listing, and better placement. All transactions are done through PayPal, so users will need a free account at that secure site. also has online retail partners who sell new figure skating items. You’ll recognize names like Lauren Downes’ Sk8Strong off-ice DVDs, Annette Thomas’s, Champion Cords, Sk8Mix music, and Brad Griffies custom skate outfits. Jahnke is still searching for online stores as retail partners, so the list grows all the time.

    As of this posting, the site is in testing. However, individuals can visit the site and poke around to see how it works. In addition to the sales, you'll find a blog, videos, and links to informational figure skating sites.This is a terrific time for figure skating clubs to sign up their club to benefit from their members’ sales and purchases, too.

    I plan on telling our club’s board all about and asking the board members to promote the site in the club newsletter. I’m for anything that saves me money as a figure skating parent and brings down my ice costs at the club. Great idea, Ryan! I wish you success!

    Ryan's full site launches on Friday, April 26.

    Have a question for Ice Mom or the Advisory Board? Do you know a figure skating expert who would be a good fit for The Wednesday Ask the Expert feature? Have a suggestion for a post? Awesome! E-mail me at
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    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Announcement: New Sites Coming - plus - Ask the Expert feature

    Three new sites. On April 3, if the techno gods favor me, I’ll be launching my new site at Also launching on April 3 are and These two blogs will cover figure skating from the coach and student perspectives. I receive a lot of great questions in my e-mail box that are better suited to a coach or skater to answer, so now everyone will be able to share rinkformation at all levels of involvement.

    All three of us will post on Mondays starting in April about the same subject from different angles. One of these joint posts we have planned is about the process of running a competition. Ice Coach is going to cover securing judges and setting it up, I’m going to write about strong-arming volunteers, and Ice Girl will talk about being a runner and how to have fun in a high-pressure situation.

    We’ll also have a contest to kick off the launch with fabulous prizes. Not millions – we’re in figure skating. But you’ll like the contest – it’ll be funny, I promise.

    Ask the Expert.
    On Wednesdays, I’m starting a new feature called, Ask the Expert. Each Wednesday, I’ll try to invite someone who knows way more than I do to write something and answer your questions in the comments.

    Wednesday, March 24, Annette Thomas, a classically trained ballet instructor, will post about ballet. She wrote the book Fundamentals of Alignment & Classical Movement for Figure Skaters and she’s very knowledgeable. My questions for Annette were along the lines of: is ballet worth it? So, start thinking about what questions you’d have for a classical ballet teacher who knows a lot about figure skating, too. You can also send in your questions in advance to me ( and I’ll store them up for Annette to answer. Of course, you can also add them to the comments on March 24 for Annette to answer that day.

    I’m lining up more guests: a former show skater, coach Xan of Xanboni! and Ice Coach, soon to be of, will answer questions about USFSA/ISI, and Allison Scott, Jeremy Abbott’s mom, will talk about interacting with judges.

    As always, advertisements are independent of editorial content. These aren’t ads, anyway. They’re an opportunity to ask questions you’ve always wanted to ask of people who are really knowledgeable. Should be fun!

    If you have a suggestion for an expert or you are an expert, e-mail me at  I’d love for you to let us know more about figure skating.

    Also, if you have a suggestion for post ideas that you’d like the three of us (Ice Mom, Coach, and Girl) to write about, that would be fabulous! If you have other ideas for us, too, hey: we’ll take ’em! E-mail me at

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    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Can You Help This Mom? Inappropriate Figure Skating Music

    This question comes from, um, a friend. Not me. A friend. Let's call her, um, Mice Mom, er, Nice Mom.

    So. Nice Mom's husband wants, um Nice Girl, to figure skate to some music that Nice Mom and Nice Girl think is just...wrong.

    Ice Dad, I mean, Nice Dad says that we spend so much money on figure skating that he deserves to pick Nice Girl's figure skating music just once. This is something we have to, I mean Nice Mom and Nice Girl have to really consider because Nice Dad deserves a voice in her music, too.

    Help me. I mean, help my friend.

    Suggestion #1: Theme song from Curb Your Enthusiasm.

    For those of you who are not familiar with the HBO show from Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm is about a clueless idiot, Larry, who says naughty things to nice people. He is socially inappropriate and not a role model, Ice Dad. I mean, Nice Dad.

    Click here to listen to the theme song. It's heavy on the tuba and is just...wrong...

    Suggestion #2: Theme song from Dexter.

    Showtime's TV show, Dexter, is about a serial killer who kills serial killers. Despite the violent theme, I really, really like this show.

    However, Nice Dad, that does not mean that a serial killer's theme song should be used as your daughter's figure skating music!

    Click here to listen to the theme song and watch the opening credits.

    Suggestion #3: Theme song from Halloween.

    Halloween is the scariest horror movie of all time, in my opinion. I don't watch horror movies, but just listening to the music completely creeps me out.

    Click here to listen to the theme song.

    So. Help me out here, people. I mean, help out Nice Mom. We all know that these songs are not appropriate figure skating music. Let's come up with a ton of reasons why Nice Dad is totally wrong. Please.

    Have a question for Ice Mom or the Advisory Board? Know more than Ice Mom and want to write a guest post? Have an idea for a post? E-mail me!

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