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

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..

anna-cloak-4-collar-layers

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.

anna-cloak-finished

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!

What to Wear to the Masquerade

Between running a half marathon the same weekend, prepping for the DAT, trying to get my kids through the end of their school year (which is still yet to happen), and cramming dental shadowing hours into my already crazy schedule I forgot to share about the super cool coat I made my oldest son for his Junior prom that happened back in May.

prom 1

The prom theme  was “Masquerade Ball” (It was that or Under the Sea…or Knight of Enchantment..prom themes are known for their originality. AmIright?) so my son and his date thought it would be fun to take the prom theme literally and go to in costume, fancy costume.

It all started with a Clockwork droid costume and a ponytail. My son thought his hair looked colonial when he pulled it back into a ponytail and my kids are slightly obsessed with the Broadway musical Hamilton. So naturally he wanted to go to the Masquerade prom in a colonial type costume like the one I had made a couple years earlier for a Halloween costume.

He thought it would be simple, he’d just wear the coat from the Clockwork Droid costume I had made for my second to oldest son a couple years ago.             wpid-IMG_20131031_182317.jpg

I had to explain that he could wear a costume to prom but it had to look and be nice so as to pass as formal wear. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I have to explain the rules of appropriate dress to a teenage boy.

I approached this project the same way I did the costume and started with a large men’s suit coat. I think this one was a 42 though I have no idea how sizing of those things works. For the prom coat I paid more attention to the structural details of the jacket, I wanted it to actually fit my son well. With the costume coat I just made some large darts down each side of the back which brought the shoulders in a bit and shortened the sleeves while creating that sort of fit-and-flare silhouette. On the prom coat I actually took the sleeves off, took it in a couple inches at the sides, and then made pleats at each shoulder. Instead of sewing down the pleats I tacked them down at the shoulders and the waist and pressed the shit out of them in hopes it would stay in place.

prom back pinning

The back pleats gave the coat it’s colonial-esque shape and helped the previously giant suit coat fit my very thin teenager.

prom back coat

After I had the basic shape figured out I took the sleeves down in width and reattached them. It sounds pretty simple but that was probably the most difficult part of the whole remake, getting those dang sleeves back on in a way that didn’t look goofy. Remember, I took in the sides of the coat. I took in the sleeves too but it wasn’t by the same amount so they didn’t quite match up. At first I tried gathering the sleeves across the tops of the shoulders but that looked pretty funky. Plus there are about fifty layers of fabric, interfacing, and odd stuffing like material in the shoulder of suit coats. I had no idea there was so much in there until I opened up this coat. After two or three attempts I finally got one sleeve right. There was some random tucking and easing and more than a little luck involved. Then I had to get the other one to match it. Symmetry is a bitch sometimes.

Once the sleeves were reattached it was time for some trim. This, of course, was started the day before prom and finished day of. That’s just how I roll.

I got the good, expensive trim this go-round, like I said, I wanted this one to really look like a nice, fancy dress coat. On the costume coat I had glued the front bar trim on. It worked for a costume but the glue showed, that wouldn’t do for this. I did glue the ends of the thicker gold trim to prevent fraying but it’s all sewed down with straight stitches in yellow thread on the top and bottom of each bar. It surprised me how well the stitching blended in. I could have been a little more precise when sewing down the red ribbon trim but it’s not too noticeable on the finished coat.

prom front coatWe pairedprom side coat the coat with a grey vest and suit pants, dress loafers with tassels, a white button up, the ruffle collar I made for the Clockwork droid costume, and masks made by my son and his date.

My son’s prom date rented her dress from a costume shop. They looked awesome…but as we pulled up to the door of the country club they both hesitated to get out of the car. The girl said “I think I might be a little overdressed.” (She was the only girl at prom wearing a crinoline.) and the looks on their faces said “What did we get ourselves into?” It takes a fair amount of courage to go to prom in costume when in all likelihood no one else in your school will. For a few minutes their fun, creative idea was looking somewhat less appealing. I reassured them that they looked super cool and the outfits would be a hit but the teenagers still would not get out of the car until they confirmed via text that friends would be arriving in the next few minutes. Luckily I was not wrong and everyone was impressed with their unique and literal interpretation of the prom theme.

 

prom two

These two, they might be weirdos but they’re MY weirdos.

prom group

Don’t forget the obligatory group selfie.

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!

almost finished anime dress anime dress back

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