Sunday, 22 March 2015

World Book Day Costumes

Our school is one of those enthusiastic ones that goes in for fancy dress on World Book Day. Now, I know the cool parent response is to roll my eyes at being asked to come up with an outfit, but the fact is, I *love* making costumes, although having been a working parent I appreciate that finding time to do it is always an issue.

And never forget that you can get canny and develop a range of 'costumes' which are basically normal clothes plus some accessories. Step forward Charlie Bucket (t-shirt and jeans plus a golden ticket) and honourable mention to Harry and his Bucketful of Dinosaurs (t-shirt and jeans plus... well I think you can fill in the rest). Last year I'd primed youngest child to go as Little Red Riding Hoody, minimum effort from me, only to be disappointed when the school decided they weren't 'doing' WBD that year...

This year we had a theme, which was SciFi or Superheroes. Oldest is really into Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy at the moment and gave consideration to being Zaphod Beeblebrox, but this was dismissed for practical reasons of having to manage an extra head and arm during the school day. So instead we went for Han Solo, which I refuse to be apologetic about (there are Star Wars spin-off books, deal with it). Mainly though, I think he looked pretty cool. He wore his jeans with red bias binding tacked down the outside seam, with a white long-sleeve top from H&M (which I did buy specially, but he will wear again). I then made a little waistcoat from black cotton twill fabric, with a few pocket and loop details. Husband made the belt out of brown leatherette fabric and duct tape, decorated with Sharpie pens. He also made a blaster out of cardboard, and I tried not to be all liberal hand-wringing about my child playing with a toy gun.

Youngest was keen to be Catwoman, and to be honest the choices for female superheroes are a little limited, some of them are a little bit on the sexy side for a six year old. When she was younger my daughter spent quite a bit of time 'being' a character called Red Cat, so anything feline was always going to be popular. I made her a little velvet top with stand-up collar and an over-the-head mask complete with ears stiffened with cardboard. I have to confess that I mucked up the top a little. The zip was supposed to be at the back of the garment, but when Youngest tried it on it was just too tight across the shoulders (even though the velvet had a bit of stretch to it. But when we flipped it round so that the zip was at the front it was a much better fit, and even looked quite cool that way round.

I like making costumes because of the freedom it gives me to create, but also I often find I learn a new technique which helps in my other sewing. This time for example, I created my own bias binding to finish the neckline of Han's waistcoat. And Catwoman's costume taught me some useful things about accuracy in measuring and making patterns (ahem), as well as more practise with accursed zips.

And now that World Book Day is safely out of the way for another year, I can focus my efforts on sewing for ME! I've got a few projects on the go and will update soon...

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Make a Pencil Skirt

So being unemployed does have its compensations, more time for sewing - yippee! I have made a bit of headway with my unfinished objects basket (finished off a denim pinafore for my daughter) been knitting squares for a blanket, plus getting costumes ready for World Book Day. So now time to start blogging about what I've been making...

I made this pencil skirt for my birthday night out in half term. These are definitely *not* the shoes I wore for the night out, that was a plenty of pints on the sticky floor kinda venue. But they look good with it I think.

So I started off by googling 'make a pencil skirt' and there are lots of great tutorials, this one on What the Craft particularly appealed to me How to make a Pencil Skirt.  Then I took my measurements. First my 'natural' waist - bend sideways as if you were singing 'I'm a little teapot' and that's where your natural waist is, seems quite high doesn't it? Then 'low' waist, which is sort of level with your belly button. Then hips, at the very widest part. Then I measured around my knees and added a little as I didn't want to be actually hobbled by this thing (more on that story later). Final measurement was from natural waist down to the point I wanted the skirt to finish, for the length of the skirt.

I made a basic paper pattern using these measurements (adding generous seam allowance) and then used this to make a practice skirt out of cheap lining material. Which was very fortunate, as the prototype turned out a little too snug (translation: it wouldn't go over my arse). So I let out all the seams equally (thanks to the generous seam allowance) and had something that basically fitted. I ended up needing to adjust it again over the hips as they then came out too big. But finally I was happy with it.  I then ripped the seams of this skirt and used them as pattern pieces for my real skirt. I found that I didn't need to add any darts.

The front is one piece and the back is in two pieces, as I needed to put a zip in as my fabric wasn't stretchy. I also planned a slit in the back for walkability reasons.

There is an invisible zip in the back of the skirt. I don't have an invisible zip foot for my machine, and although Youtube tutorials told me confidently that I could use a normal zipper foot, it didn't seem to work for me, so I ended up sewing the zip in by hand so that it truly was 'invisible'. I also machine hemmed, which I wouldn't normally do on clothes I make, because I think hand-hemmed looks nicer. But time was getting short and that red fabric frayed like a bastard...

To make the slit at the back I simply stitched around the seam that ran up the centre of the back of the skirt, up to the point I wanted the slit. Then I popped the seam up to that point with my seam ripper and removed any loose threads.

And there we have it, one party skirt, that I can walk in, and dance in.*

*but not as it turned out, go to the loo in, stairs also presented a bit of a challenge