Sunday, April 29, 2012

Happy Halloween

Time to get caught up on posting the things I've been making.
October was a crazy month, full of sewing for the kids - well 2 of them, anyway. Halloween costumes at our house are always an "all or nothing" kind of deal. I always feel compelled to make something even more fantastic than the year before. This is good for my sewing skills but not always good for my sanity and certainly doesn't always mesh with my time constraints. But I persevere. Fortunately, this year Gwyneth made the wise decision to dress as Cinderella and I already had a costume that I'd made for Maeve, back when she was 4. Okay, I kinda urged Gwyneth to wear the Cinderella dress so that I didn't have to make a full-on Belle dress. But she agreed that it was a good idea and now she has decided to wear it for her birthday party in a week. Then, naturally, I'll have to take it to the cleaners. But I digress.
So first up this year we have Tallon as an elephant. I'm exceedingly pleased with the way that this turned out, if I do say so. The fabric was a genius choice, imho, because it really looks like elephant skin. This was a happy accident. I'd gone into JoAnn's to find some faux-suede for the costume and right next to it was this faux suede which had been treated in some way so that it looked like distressed leather/skin. The moment I saw it I knew it was the right choice. And it turned out that I was able to recycle an old french terry sweatshirt of mine that was barely worn by using it as the hood lining.
The pattern went together surprisingly well (McCall's 6105) although I did make some modifications to it. As this model contains patterns for 4 or 5 different animal costumes, it only comes in 1 size, rather than the standard multi-size range that most modern patterns come in. Tallon is a big kid. Last year I made a size 2 of the lion from this same pattern and length-wise it was a perfect fit, with little extra room. The hood portion of the size 2 didn't even come close to fitting his head, something I discovered after I'd made it. Anyway, in order to avoid this problem I sized up, thinking that I could always shorten the legs and arms. The hood ended up still being a bit too small, but that wasn't a hug problem the way it was last year. The genius in sewing the size 4, rather than the size 3 he wears in street clothes, is that I was able to use elastic and gathering stitches in combination to hike up the legs and achieved a really cute 'wrinkled elephant knees' look.
The other modification I made was to leave off the soles of the feet. The pattern was meant to have feet like a sleeper but really - how practical is that for a 3 year-old who will be outside trick-or-treating? Not very. So I simply attached the hoof pieces, backed with some sturdy foam that is used for headliners in cars. It was left over from another costume project from Maeve's toddler years (Blue from Blue's Clues) and was just the right weight and stiffness to keep the shape of the feet while still allowing Tallon to be able to wear his shoes. In this photo you can see the modified feet, as well as the "wrinkled knees" effect.
T was thrilled with the whole thing and went around stomping his feet -"walking like an elephant" - and trying to trumpet. He pretty much got rave reviews at every house we stopped.

For Maeve, the planning of the next Halloween costume usually happens the day after Halloween. So I was surprised that September rolled around and she still didn't have an idea. Her friend, K., was going on and on about how she wanted to be an "Irish Dancer Vampire" and telling Maeve to be a "Ballerina Vampire". I guess anything is a Halloween costume if you tack the word vampire onto the end of it. I convinced Maeve that this was not a good idea, since it usually lends itself to people asking "What are you supposed to be?" and then a puzzled look when you tell them. If it requires explaining, it's generally not going to work as a costume. I wasn't opposed to the idea of a vampire, though, since it's a traditional scary costume that requires no explanation and can look cool when done right.

After perusal of the Chasing Fireflies website, Maeve determined that she wanted to do an 18th century vampire costume, with a dress à la Marie Antoinette. The costume on the website was about $150 and didn't include the accessories - no way was I going to buy something for Halloween that cost that much when I could make a similar costume for a fraction of that. I searched for a pattern that was similar and then we went shopping. This was also a McCall's pattern, 5731. The problem with this pattern is that it's sized for girls up to a size 8, then it skips on to misses' sizes. I had to take the womens' size small and then cut it down, which required making a muslin of the bodice. I probably would have made a muslin anyway, just because the red brocade fabric was kind of expensive and I didn't want to buy more. So, a purchase of red and black poly/rayon brocade and some wretched black acetate taffeta was made, along with some black net lace and red scalloped lace trim and I felt like I could start the costume.
In all it went together pretty smoothly, with the minor exception of the bodice 'lacing', which I forgot to sew on prior to the bodice construction, in my haste to get started. An easy fix, though. I simply did it afterwards, and then covered the raw ribbon edges with the trim. When it came time to put lace at the neckline, we opted for a double-layer lace trim, since the neckline seemed a bit low for someone Maeve's age. Then we added a choker made from velvet ribbon and a cameo from Michael's jewelry section. I'd wanted a more traditional cameo, with a woman's profile, but couldn't find one that was the right color. Then I saw this one with the lilies and thought it was perfect, since lilies are often funeral flowers. Last, but not least, a Marie-Antoinette-style white wig with curls. It was only $10 online and I couldn't resist. I think it really made the look. My only regret is that I didn't have time to make a petticoat so the skirt would stand out better. Better pictures here, here and here.
They all got lots of compliments on their costumes, and that always makes me feel good. People went crazy over T's costume because he's just too darn cute anyway, and as an elephant he was hilarious, trumpeting all the time. They didn't get as much candy as in years past, but that's not really what it's about. It's mostly about dressing up. Interestingly, Maeve's friend decided to just go with a standard vampire costume and when she came to the door and saw Maeve's costume the jealousy was apparent to me, if not to Maeve. Maeve chose not to go with K. but do go out with me and the small ones, which was fine with me. K. is a nice kid, but she kind of gets ignored by her parents (she's the youngest) so she often resorts to telling whoppers in order to feel special and impress her friends and that makes me sad. Maeve recognizes this, so she often ignores the fibs. But I think she realizes that she has it pretty good when it comes to parental involvement compared to K. In all, they had a great time and really enjoyed themselves. The plan for next year? A full "Alice in Wonderland" deal, with Maeve as the Queen of Hearts, Gwyneth as Alice and Tallon as the White Rabbit. Scott has suggested that I make myself a Cheshire Cat costume but I'm vetoing that.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Showers Bring... a new list of projects

Well, I definitely didn't get as much crossed off my list in March as I would have liked to, but I got some of it done. Let's recap:

1. Red Beignet skirt - didn't get to this one. It's high on my list for this month, though.

2.Finish baby quilt for my niece. I'm so close to being done! I hope to have it finished by the end of the week. I put the binding on yesterday and just have to do the quilting in the borders.

3. Quilt top for Lindsey's baby - haven't gotten to this one yet, but my machines have to go in for a tune-up this week, so I plan on cutting it out on Wednesday or Thursday.

4. Olive corduroys for T - didn't get to these yet, either, but since it's Spring Break and I have nothing much scheduled, I hope to get these done this week.

5. Pumpkin-colored sweatshirt for T - DONE!!!! And he loves it.

6. White shirt for Maeve - didn't get to it.

7. Denim skirts for Maeve - got the pattern traced, but that's it. It's a start, right?

8. Kiwi pants for T - DONE!!! They're a bit baggy and there are a few things I'd do differently, but overall they look great.

9. Denim pants for T - These are cut out and much of the edges are serged for the pockets. They're next on the list to do.

10. Brown corduroys for T - didn't get to them.

11. Spring jacket for T - got the pattern traced out. I'm debating over whether I should use the fabric I have and try to waterproof it, or if I should buy some waterproof fabric from Seattle Fabrics.

12. Navy lawn Jasmine blouse - the lawn came the other day, but other than that, no progress.

13. Bathrobe for T - the pattern is traced and the fabric is pre-washed.

14. Redo my first version of the Chantilly dress - didn't get to it yet, but that's low on the priority list. Really low.

15. Hot Patterns Mighty Aphrodite shirts - this wasn't even traced this month.

So obviously, I wasn't as productive as I wanted to be. Not remotely. April's list will probably have fewer items, and most of them will be from the March list. I'm happy that I got 2 things for T done, and I'm really happy that I'm almost done with the quilt for Fenna. I'll post photos later.