Sharks and Kilts

Shortly after writing my most recent post (yes, that one that was published months ago) I started working on a sewing project. I was pretty excited about this one; it had been in the works for almost a year, realistically probably more than a year. I’m kind of bad with time. (Understatement of the year right there!) I was on a school break and my kids were about to go on a trip that this particular project needed to be on…

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It’s a shark dress for my shark-loving teenage daughter; my kids (and two of their cousins) were going on a road trip with my parents and they would be seeing the ocean for the first time.

As I said, this simple retro dress took a long time to materialize. Not because it’s complex or anything, when I actually got to the making of it it only took a couple days, but because the fabric and pattern had been sitting on my sewing table for months and months waiting to be made into something cool, fun, and totally unique. Back in late December, over Christmas break, I had thoughts of constructing this for my daughters upcoming 16th birthday. Obviously that didn’t happen but there I was in late March with a teensy bit of time for sewing and a deadline. Deadlines make things happen!

I picked up the vintage Simplicity pattern at a garage sale years ago. At the time it had no specific purpose but when I saw it in my excessive stash of patterns I knew it was perfect for this material. The clean cut style compliments the size of the material’s print, the pattern’s darts give it a lovely fitted shape, and it’s got pockets. Actually the pockets are probably my favorite part of this dress. That and the coilar that’s made from a remnant of formal dress material; I think it contrasts the simplicity of the cotton material and it matches the blue in the print so well.

My daughter loved the dress…but, much to my disappointment, she did not end up wearing it on their trip. She did get to see a couple real, live sharks in the ocean though.

This second project, a kilt as the title of the post suggests, is another school break project. Currently I am on my longest break of the year, I’ve got most of the month of May off school. While I’m enjoying dental school the pace of it is intense and I’m happy for the chance to take a break, regroup, and get my house in order (literally get my house in order…the place is a disaster). And after the last two months of driving two plus hours a day to sit in a classroom for hours then coming home and trying to cram as much studying in around the never ending parenting and household duties I was ready to make something fun. Really I was ready to make anything… I miss having time to be “crafty” and create things when I’m amidst the craziness of end-of-semester-dental school.

I made a very costume-y kilt a couple years ago when my oldest son was in the high school Shakespeare class production of Macbeth.  It was made of cheap, colorful flannel plaid and, while it was very fun, it was not what one might call quality.

After seeing the quick and dirty kilt, my brother-in-law (who has some Scottish heritage and a last name that actually has a plaid to it) asked about making him a kilt. It’s something that had come up a few times since then but any decently authentic kilt material is crazy expensive.  I had been keeping my eye out for a good price on some MacGregor plaid but had not come across any so this idea stayed in the realm of hypothetical ideas for quite a while.

Almost a year ago (11 months yesterday to be exact) my sister, this brother-in-law’s spouse, unexpectedly died. There’s not much of anything positive that can be said about that and we’re all still just trying to cope with the loss. BUT my sister was a smart, pro-active woman and she had life insurance and a will and trust all set up. (She was a lawyer and had a side business doing will and trust work for individuals.) With that and the fact that her student loan debt died with her, my brother-in-law is in a pretty financially secure situation. He decided to treat himself and finally bought the good stuff…Authentic kilt wool!

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Coincidentally I was planning on making this kilt over my spring break back in March but the shark dress took precedence and I had to set this aside until this May break.

20190507_122727.jpg20190506_133328.jpgSince I’ve only ever made the one kilt I was quite nervous to cut into the fabric, especially knowing how expensive it is. I spent a day Googling “how to make an authentic kilt”, measuring and folding the fabric. It was helpful but I knew if I was going to get this thing done I just needed to cut and go for it.

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I had measured my brother-in-law’s waist and hips and then, for good measure, wrapped the green lining material around him and cut it directly to fit. That was very helpful in the end because it reassured me that I was, in fact, doing this right and making something that would fit.

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Turns out my fretting was unnecessary and I DO know what I’m doing (a little bit). The kilt is awesome. He came and picked it up yesterday and, other than a little tightening at the waist, the fit was perfect. One of the great things about the really nice material is that it had a finished top and bottom edge so I didn’t have to hem this thing. (Yay!) I had to cut the finished top edge to make the kilt the right length but I was able to use that cut edge for the waist band and enjoy the benefit of not having to fold that under again.

The last detail of the kilt is probably my favorite part of it: the buckles. My brother-in-law asked that the kilt be as authentic as reasonably possible but I was having a hard time finding authentic buckles and straps for it. Neither of us wanted to wait for something to be shipped so I made a trip to the local fabric store and came up with this. 20190509_092738.jpg

 

A couple clasps and rings and some leather scrap.

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I cut the leather into strips and used the thing that looks like a plug (but should definitely NOT be inserted into an outlet) to punch holes in the leather. The holes functioned like stitch markers; using quilting thread I stitched it all on nice and tightly.

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I really love how the fasteners turned out. They’re my favorite part of the kilt and if/when I make another I’ll use this method again.

 

So there you have it, sharks and kilts. I’ve realized that when you have very limited opportunities to make things you should choose to make the things that you are excited about. 

The Price of Being Cheap 

I am thrifty frugal cheap. It’s one of my best worst qualities. Or maybe one of my worst best qualities. Either way, it’s a quality and I possess it. Usually it’s not a bad thing but every once in a while my cheapness comes back around and bites me in the ass. The Wonder Woman accessories I recently made for a niece of mine are a prime example of said cheapness and ass biting…

Along with most the other sewing stuff that was in my home growing up (including one of my favorite sewing machines), I inherited this 1978 girls super hero costume pattern. I don’t ever remember her sewing, but apparently my mom made the Bat Girl costume for one of my older sisters. The hood and cape, in all their turquoise broadcloth glory, were residents of our Halloween costume bin. It came up in conversation not too long ago. My oldest sister remembered the costume, I told her I still had the pattern our mom used to make it. She then asked if could I make some Wonder Woman accessories for a special costume themed reading day at her daughter’s school. She happened to have some gold fleece leftover from another project. Apparently cheapness runs in my family.

Of course I said yes. She didn’t want a whole costume, just the crown, belt, and cuffs. That was a forty-five minute project, max. I could squeeze that into my insanely busy schedule.

So I obtained the leftover fleece and pulled out the old pattern. Lo and behold all the Wonder Woman pieces were missing. Well, all the ones I needed (aside from the cuffs which are meant for Bat Girl) since I wasn’t making those cute little shorts. My first instinct was to draw the pieces I needed but seeing as my printer actually had ink I decided to splurge and print some off the internet.

It didn’t take me too long to find a printable pattern for the crown, emblem, and a few stars and then it was time to get this party started. (I don’t remember which ones I used but, seriously, just Google Wonder Woman costume pieces. There are tons to choose from.)

As suspected this was a quick make. Other than those bastard stars. Cutting small, precise shapes out of flimsy sequins fabric is not as easy as one would think. At least I wasn’t sewing them on as I had also found some fabric glue in my sewing supply stash. I always felt like fabric glue was cheating, not for people who knew how to sew, and stuff like that but it was super convenient to just stick all that sparkly adornment on. I got the stars glued before setting it all aside to finish in the morning.

The next morning I threw together a sparkly logo.

I both glued and sewed it to some scrap denim from an old pair of jeans.

And then sewed it to the fleece belt. Things were going well (even the back looked cool); all that was left was the Velcro.

I scrounged around and found a strip of Velcro, slightly sticky on one side, that I had saved from some packaging a while back. I don’t remember exactly what but I distinctly recall seeing Velcro adhered to a box or envelope that was going to be thrown away and thinking “I could use that for something!” Psh, who would just throw away perfectly good Velcro? Not this girl! I pried it off the package and set it aside. Sure it was stiff and a bit goopy but on the Wonder Woman gear it would be on the exterior or at least away from skin so it was no big deal.
I could even use the stickiness to help hold the velcro in place while I sewed it down.

But for some reason my sewing machine was not happy about this particular little bit if sewing. It kept skipping stitches and jamming up resulting in a hot mess.I changed the needle and checked the bobbin. It still wasn’t working and my frustration level was rising. I switched sewing machines because clearly that one just wasn’t working. Ugh!

The same thing kept happening with the next machine. I changed directions for a minute and sewed the ends of the crown together. Well that worked. Then I tried the Velcro again. More jamming and mess.

Finally, finally, it dawned in me that the sewing machine wasn’t the problem. The Velcro was. The sticky stuff on the plastic side of the Velcro was gumming up my needle and causing problems with.. well, everything!

After that realization I dug up some fresh, brand new Velcro, pulled out the gross stitches, and threw the reused stuff away.

It took maybe five minutes to finish the set after switching Velcro. By that time I had spent upwards of half an hour messing about with sewing machines not working…all because I thought it was a good idea to re-purpose a strip of Velcro.

Sometimes it does not pay to be cheap!