A Quick & Dirty Kilt

A few months ago my son, a high school senior, was debating trying out for his school’s production of Macbeth. He wasn’t actually in Shakespeare class but he had an independent​ study block that hour so it would work. I encouraged​ him in this venture as it would be something new and different for him; an experience. And for once he actually listened to me. He did it and got the part he tried out for; I’m still not even sure which. It’s a small one with just a couple lines, something just big enough to say he did it, that he was there, and just big enough to require a costumes. A kilt preferably, my almost man-child informed me over a month ago. Low and behold this week it was time to make the aforementioned kilt. Past time, really, since dress rehearsal/tech week had snuck up on us. It wasn’t just a case of my normal procrastinating ways that pushed the kilt making to the very last minute, this spring has been remarkably busy with multiple graduations in our family (mine, this kid’s, and my daughter’s 8th grade) and my return to working full time mixed in with the usual end of school year chaos and spring activities.

Naturally my first course of action was to Google “How to make a kilt”. As it turns out kilt making is a very specific age-old art. I did not have the time (or the funds for nine yards of plaid) to make an authentic kilt. And thus the Quick & Dirty kilt was hatched.

My Google research lead me to a wikiHow site which had comprehensive instructions on measuring, calculating yardage, and making proper pleats that I skimmed over and proceeded to follow only loosely. For example, instead of measuring my son’s waist and hips and calculating the pleat width to determine how much fabric I’d need to buy I went off my sons pants waist size, asked to see what two yards of the potential kilt fabric looked like and deemed that Good Enough. In retrospect two and a half yards would have been closer to ideal.

In keeping with the theme of in-authenticity I selected a lime green and navy purple-ish shirting flannel. It’s soft but not baby blanket soft. The main criteria was color (not traditional green or dark blue) and price. I didn’t want to break the bank on a one-time quick costume.

The fabric was about the right length straight off the bolt which made my life easier. I kept it folded over at the top (which became the waist) to give it a little more heft and thickness. After cutting a five inch strip off one end of the fabric I set to work making pleats. The instructions recommended a 16-20 inch flat front panel followed by pleats and some excess fabric to wrap under the front.

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I started with 17 inches for the flat front (but ended up pulling one more pleat over) and pinched about an inch of fabric to bring towards the front in a pleat. I think making the plaid look right on the pleats is more important than having a specific measurement for each pleat. For this particular plaid the pleats ended up covering the navy lines in the plaid.

Once the pleats are all folded and securely pinned ironing is a must. Spray starch would have been helpful here too but, alas, I didn’t have any on hand.

With the pleats all pressed in place I straight stitched across the top of the pleats and then down each one ending with a short diagonal that covered the width of each pleat. My original plan was to sew a line across the top parallel to the waist and then another about six inches down and call it good but after running the top line I didn’t think that was going to secure each pleat well enough. I was going for quick & dirty here not super crappy and likely to fall apart.

Now that all the pleats were all sewn down and in place it was time for the waist band. Remember the five inch wide strip I cut from the end of the fabric way back at the beginning? That was to become the waist band.

Basically I laid it out on the emergent kilt to match it’s width and make sure the plaids weren’t totally off before trimming it up to get semi straight lines. Then I employed the fold-press fold-press waist band construction method. What, you haven’t heard of that? Yeah, probably because I just made it up. It’s exactly as it sounds: Fold the band in half (wrong sides together) and press it good and hard. Then fold whatever seam allowance you’re going to use up on one long edge and press that. Repeat with the other long edge and tuck the raw ends of the short edges under. Press those too while you’re at it. And, voila!, a waist band.

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To attach the waistband pin it right side down along the top edge of the skirt part. Sew that down then flip it over, press everything flat, and fold the band over the other side of the top edge of the skirt part. This is wear all that pressing pays off. It should lay nicely with the midline press of the band at top and the pressed under edge over the part you just sewed. Pin it all down, press it (for good measure) and run your stitch across it.

Now all that’s left is the finishing touches. After making a button hole on the edge of the waist band and attaching a couple buckles I had my son try it on to see where the closures needed to be. It turns out the bottom edge of this kilt is a little sparse but he’s planning to wear shorts under. Again, we’re not aiming for authenticity here. Between that and a bit of velcro I think we’ll avoid unintentional flashings.

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kilt finished back

Check out those pleats!

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The Quick & Dirty kilt.

From start to finish this took about two hours to make. As you can see I did not hem the bottom edge. If it’s getting out of control I’ll go back and do that later…or maybe I’ll take the pinking shears to it. We’ll see.

kilt on side 1

It even matches his socks.

kilt on side 2

Apparently the flat front could be more narrow but overall not too shabby!

kilt on back

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Princess Anna Cloak

Just before Christmas I went on a project planning (and supply buying) binge. I bought yarn (of course) for hats meant to be presents, yarn for my daughter’s soon to be quilt, yarn just for fun, Sytherin cloak fabric, lovely print knits (that will eventually be shirts for my mom), and some fleece and felt for my niece/Goddaughter’s birthday present, a princess Anna cloak. You’ve heard of the Disney movie Frozen right???

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Of course you have. You don’t live under a rock.

My almost three-year-old niece had gotten an Anna doll from another of her aunts. Her mom mentioned that the tiny girl already had a dress that matched the doll but wouldn’t it be so cool if she had a matching cloak too? (I’m pretty sure I was chosen as her godmother mostly so I’d make cool stuff for my niece.) Yes, yes it would be cool. Felt and fleece happened to be cheaper just before Christmas than any other time of year and it looked like I was going to have some free time the first week of January. I could totally whip up a small cloak before my niece’s January 17th birthday…

Naturally I did not make the cloak before her actual birthday. Instead I started it the night before my family’s semi-monthly birthday dinners and finished it the morning of.

I found a free downloadable pdf pattern complete with tutorial at FleeceFun.com and for the most part I followed the pattern, except instead of just using fleece I layered felt and fleece. I wanted the cloak to have more stiffness than just fleece would have and I liked the idea of a two tone layered cloak with a cut out design along the edges. I cut the pattern pieces out of the felt first and then used the actual felt pieces as a pattern guide for the fleece. The plan was to just sew the magenta felt directly on top of the purple fleece and follow the construction guidelines of the pattern.

Both felt and fleece are fun to work with. They don’t slide around and neither fray so hemming isn’t necessary. However, fleece stretches and felt does not. This resulted in needing to trim the edges of the fleece under layer in a couple places after they were sewn together. For the scalloped edges we (well,my teenage son) drew the half circles around the border of the caplet and the bottom cloak with a purple Sharpie and then (I) cut around them. Originally I was going to cut out the half circles leaving the dark purple to show through but my scissors were not sharp enough for that level of detailed cutting.

I assembled the caplet (top cape thingy) layers separately first (sewed the front and back together at the shoulder seams), put the felt over the fleece with the seams facing inward (so they wouldn’t show), and sewed around the edge and through all the layers at the top of the shoulders to keep them in place. For the bottom part of the cape I just sewed around the edges of the two layers.

Attaching the top caplet, bottom cape, and collar was the most challenging part of this project. Apparently six layers of thick fabric is too much for my sewing machine to handle especially when two of the layers are gathered..

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As you can see the machine kept skipping stitches. My solution to this annoyance was to go back over the areas it skipped until they were fully stitched. That’s right, machine, you’re going to sew through those layers whether you like it or not!

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I decided not to mess with the binding that’s supposed to make the inside of the collar layers look neater and just trimmed the many layered seams.

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The closure is a hook and loop that I had purchased for a skirt that was going to be steam punk but ended up being a basic costume skirt (so no metal flair). It could be prettier but I didn’t think velcro would hold and I was not about to try a button in that thick mess.

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would  definitely will make at least one more of these cloaks…I way overbought on the fabric. There may even be enough left for two more and this was very easy to make. I would even recommend it if you have only very basic sewing skills. The Frozen fan in your life will be very impressed!

Accidental Cosplay Cowl

I had one skein of this Bernat Mega Bulky yarn that one of my sisters gave me for my birthday and was trying to find something to do with it. Ideally it would be a project that only used this one skein which should not have been too hard considering this stuff is HUGE. It is the biggest soft yarn I think I’ve ever seen. It really is soft too.
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I haven’t done much with bulky, let alone mega bulky, yarn so it’s difficult for me to gauge how much yarn a project might need. Yes, I know, there are usually guidelines for this mentioned in most patterns. Isn’t that kind of like cheating though? I mean, it’s just too obvious and simple.

The picture on the label of the yarn showed a small cowl and said that project only requires one skein of this gianormous stuff so I figured a cowl might be a good way to go. Off I went to the wonderland that is Ravelry to peruse whatever patterns the search terms “bulky yarn” and “cowl” brought up. As always there were plenty of options. I wanted something that had some holiness to it and didn’t cling too close to the neck. I get extremely uncomfortable when things feel like they’re pressing on my neck.

This “Antique Grey Loop Scarf” seemed like a good choice so I downloaded, printed, and started giant crocheting. A short while later (and after some adjustments to account for the hugeness of the yarn) I had an almost cowl.
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I could’ve kept it like that. It wasn’t terrible but the solid rows along the bottom were missing and it was just a tad too short to lay right. Luckily I have a yarn stash (Does any knitter or crocheter not?). I pulled out this soft, charcoal grey stuff left over from a scarf last winter and added the solid rows around the bottom…plus a row of single crochet at the top for balance.
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As I was finishing the bottom row of single crochet (by then I had deviated from the pattern a bit) I realized this cowl had a familiar look to it.

Exterminate!

        Exterminate!

You know you’ve achieved a special level of nerdiness  awesome when you unintentionally make cosplay pieces. It does lose some of it’s essence of Dalek when it’s being worn but I still know it’s there and it makes this quick little project all the more fun because of it.
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Life Adjacent to the D

I live close to Detroit. Depending on who you ask my town could be considered a sub of Detroit. Detroit makes the news for all kinds of reasons most of which are not so good but have you seen the articles about it making a comeback? There are some really great things to do in Detroit and this weekend was full of them. It was decided we should take full advantage. My boyfriend & I, both second shifters, set the alarm for 6am. I can’t tell you the last time I saw 6am from the right side. It’s usually because I’ve been up all night.

The Sunday after Mother’s Day is flower day at Eastern Market. Eastern Market is basically the best farmers’ market you can imagine and today it was being taken over by flowers.

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Unfortunately we were ill prepared for what we would encounter. At 7am it was already packed with people and wagons. That’s where we went wrong – no wagon. Therefore anything purchased had to be carried a couple blocks. Whew. I only purchased a couple Azaleas and called it good. It was really great to walk around and see everything though. I’ll go back to Eastern Market this summer when it’s not flower day to get all sorts of goodies.

Also happening this past weekend was the Detroit Comic Con which we attend almost every year. It actually doesn’t happen in Detroit at all but about 30+ minutes away at a convention center. My boyfriend enjoys these things and the shopping. While he shops I people watch and  snap pictures.

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I love that people get so into nerdy things. I wore a Doctor Who tee-shirt and enjoyed the scene. I also bought some prints from artists’ alley. I would like to get them framed and hung in the very near future. One of my favorite artists is Tommy Castillo who is common to see at these kinds of events. Between my boyfriend and I we have an embarrassing number of his prints.

All in all it was a crazy busy weekend. I spent too much money and had boatloads of fun.

Anime Cosply Fun

Welcome to February…Yes, I know it’s been around for almost a week now but lately I’ve been a slackety-slack-slacker at least on the blog front (okay, a little bit on all fronts actually…let’s not lie to ourselves here.)

That’s not to say I haven’t been busy, of course I have, but there’s been a few late nights of craft beer drinking and Netflix watching followed by grossly unproductive mornings where I find myself running out the door to get to class barely on time. My earliest class starts at 12:30, people, so really there is no excuse for this. I’ve just been slumping lately. I had a rough couple weeks in January and, though there has been some improvement, its been a struggle to pull myself up out of this slump.

Maybe it’s a February thing. It’s a cold month and we’ve (FINALLY!) had some snow which makes it hard to run regularly, that doesn’t help I’m sure. (Even though I reallly love the snow and am still hoping to get my hands on some snow shoes so I can go out and trek around like the polar, winter loving fool that I am.)

Even amid this funk there have been some fun things, well things at least, going on including an actual start to finish sewing project…That’s right, a complete garment that I made AND actually finished. As that dress sitting on my project pile that I started last March can attest, that hasn’t happened too often around these parts lately. I had a deadline for this one though, that always makes a difference.

My daughter asked about having a “small” birthday party this year and we thought it would be super fun to have a Fandom Cosplay themed party. I was excited about the prospect of putting together some costumes, maybe a Doctor Who character or two or A Katniss Everdeen (my daughter can really pull that look off with all her dark, long hair not to mention her pretty awesome cowl.)

You get the idea.

You get the idea.

Side view...this IS my daughter.

Side view…this IS my daughter.

That is NOT my daughter...but isn't he a great model?

That is NOT my daughter…but isn’t he a great model?

That was back in November and I thought I’d have more time in January…I have a bad habit of thinking I’ll have time later. Somehow I never do. I should have this figured out by now but where’s the fun in that?

As the birthday got closer my girl decided she wanted to dress up as an anime character. *sigh*

My older three have been watching a few animes lately and really get into them which is great…for them. I’ve never really delved into the world of anime and manga so when they talk about their favorite characters or expound on costume pieces and accessories they want I’m a little out of my element. Luckily Google can usually enlighten me but it’s just not as fun as making a character who I know and enjoy. But, whatever, it’s her birthday and the dress she wanted was pretty and looked like something I could definitely do…So I did. Here’s what she wanted:

It's a pretty dress...even if I don't know who the heck that is.

It’s a pretty dress…even if I don’t know who the heck that is.

Since she’s twelve my daughter is at that weird between kid and “junior” sized phase and there are no patterns for a dress like that. It was time for a pattern mash-up. Luckily Jo-Ann’s was having a 5 for $5 pattern sale that week.                                                  anime pattrn pic

I combined pieces of these three patterns using the actual dress of the one in the center and the sleeves and collar (with some modifications) from the other two. The sleeve from the ridiculous costume pattern on the left was the right shape but the wrong length and size. I folded the pattern paper to make it a bit thinner and added six inches to make it a full length sleeve.

Sleeve extension modification.

Sleeve extension modification.

One problem I had through this whole process was sizing. I made the colossal yet classic mistake of just guesstimating my daughter’s size instead of actually measuring her. I thought I knew roughly what size she was…I did not know. I underestimated just how much the girl had grown over the past six months. She’s almost as tall as I am now (not that that’s really saying much). I downsized the bodice a bit from the smallest size on the pattern but then realized when I saw the skirt and bodice together that it was going to be too small. Aaaand it was. I ended up taking out one of the back pleats on each side of the skirt and adding a two inch panel in each side of the bodice (for an extra two inches total). After that the fit was perfect (as it probably would’ve been if I just went with the smallest size on the pattern.)

What’s that saying? Measure once cut twice?…No, measure twice cut once. Yup, that’s it.

Luckily the size adjustment panels blended in pretty well but the zipper got a little off. I think this is the worst zipper install I’ve done since I was maybe thirteen. Ugh! I was finishing it the morning of the party though and at that point it was all about just getting it done.

Here's the added in back panels...and the WORST zipper ever!

Here’s the added in back panels…and the WORST zipper ever!

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And ,really, when it was on her the bad zipper was not visible. In person the dress is spot on. Now I just need to get her to put some shoes on and find a Comic-Con to take her to.

This much work deserves another occasion to be worn! Of course that’ll probably require me to make a few more costumes but you won’t hear me complaining about that. Blogging maybe, complaining…definitely not!

finished cosplay dress               finished dress

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Maskhats

I’d like to start by saying I’m not quite a nerdy or geeky girl. I’m like a pseudo-nerd or a surface geek.
I can look the look and talk the talk but I don’t actually walk the walk.
I ‘m not saying I’m too cool to walk the nerdy walk, no, no, no, I’m saying I’m not quite cool enough.
It’s true.
This might tie in later but then again it might not. There’s some sleep deprivation going on this week so who knows.
Cohesive thoughts are challenging. 
I was starting to think my life is spending the week trying to kill me but I’m pretty sure it is only terrorizing me.
It’s like the two preschoolers who were tearing through my house yesterday.
One had a mini-Nerf gun the other a small plastic squirt gun, the kind you get in four packs at the dollar store; they’d run by asking things like “Where’s that cat?” & “Did the cat go by here?”.
Don’t be too alarmed, neither gun was loaded and the cat was doing a good job of avoiding them.
Then they’d run back upstairs one saying to the other “I’ll beat you to the top of the coconut tree!”
Four year olds & their literary references.

In this analogy I am the cat and life is the preschoolers. They’re not trying to kill the cat but she is getting a run for her money for a short bit.
It’s just one of those weeks.

Even though I was working all weekend, driving my kids to and from friends’ houses, making sure they were fed & and didn’t kill (or seriously injure) each other while also trying to spend some quality time with them I managed to work up a quick hat.
Don’t be too impressed this is only possible because I have crochet down time  at work.
And there was a little financial incentive.
That’s right, I was hooking for money.
In April I gave my eighteen year old brother this hat for his birthday.

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This is not my 18yo brother but the hat does fit him.

A friend of his liked it & asked about getting one too. Of course I was happy to oblige.
Almost nothing gives me more satisfaction than doing something I love doing and getting paid to do it.

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Quite a while ago, maybe around this time last year, I was thinking about character hats. There are lots of fun crochet patterns for all sorts of character themed hats out there. So what did I do? I ignored them all and winged it…or wung it? Probably winged. Whatever.

My intention was to make at least four turtle hats for a complete set. Well you know what they say about good intentions. I made two then got distracted by shiny objects.
My little guy wore the Leonardo hat but Raphael sat in a drawer until the aforementioned sibling birthday.

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Basically these are just normal beanie hats with a few extra rows of an alternate color and eye holes. They can be worn as mask hats like so:

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Or tipped back to look like a normal hat like so:

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Remember the cat/preschooler analogy? I snapped those pics just before going to bed for the day, my night, if you can even call 4 hours a night of sleep.
I put on some lipstick (yeah we’re getting fancy up in here!) but I’m not sure it helped.
I read somewhere once that if you just dab on a little lipstick or blush it’ll brighten you up and help you look less tired. At this point that’s like trying to squelch a house fire with a garden hose: it’s not hurting anything but it’s not really making much of a difference either.
Ah well I tried.