Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Costume Machine Gets In Gear (Babble)

We have a lot going on in October, and the kids wanted Halloween costumes just unusual enough that I decided I’d better start early this year.

Aden, Mona, and Quinn must have changed their minds about what they wanted to be about two dozen times, and each of them surprised me with their final decisions.  The decisions are truly final once I buy fabric, because they know at that point there are “no backsies” (as Mona puts it).  This year they wanted to be: a porcupine, a crocodile, and and thirteen-lined-ground-squirrel.

For Aden there was lots of fretting about which species of porcupine to be, until I finally pointed out that at my end it was irrelevant.  She was going to be a dark brown creature with quills, so stop talking to me about African this or that compared to North American something or other.  It’s all fascinating, but not to my sewing machine.

I’m not sure when/why/how Mona settled on a crocodile, because that idea seemed to appear out of nowhere after lots of talk about being a dragon a squirrel or a bat.  She wants the mouth for the costume to actually fit over her own mouth which is causing problems, so hers is the trickiest thing to figure out this year.  I’m still pondering parts of it, even though the body is essentially done.

Quinn has been talking for several months about being a bunny until we spotted a thirteen-lined-ground-squirrel this summer.  No one outside of a few professional naturalist friends are going to know what he is, and will likely mistake him for a spotted chipmunk as he trick-or-treats, but thirteen-lined-ground-squirrels are incredibly cute, so I can’t blame him for choosing it.  His outfit was a bit labor intensive, but less so than the blue jay costume last year.

So how is it all going?

Well, production starts like this with a pile of fabric, thread, zippers, and cushion foam:
(I treated myself to new scissors since it doesn’t matter how many pairs I buy they just end up dull, or they vanish.)  The fabric for Quinn’s and Aden’s costumes is fleece.  I like fleece.  It’s warm, it’s forgiving, it was on sale….  Mona’s fabric is a faux suede that we couldn’t resist because it had an attractive lizard print on it.  It’s been hard to work with for me, and I’m not even convinced it was worth it because unless you are looking at it up close you can’t even see the print, but it makes Mona happy so I guess that’s all that matters.  Here’s a shot of her tail so you can see the print:
My biggest problem is I don’t really sew.  My zippers end up goofy, I don’t know how to use a pattern, and I just make things up as I go.  I have to have my kids lie down on the fabric so I can trace them:
The porcupine costume actually sounded the easiest to me.  I made Aden a basic loose jumpsuit of dark brown fleece with a hood, and a detachable piece for the back and tail to put the quills on.  I figured if we could take the quills off, the rest of the costume could get washed if it needed it.  (Plus, now, if she wants to, it’s easy enough to turn the costume into something else like a bear or a bunny or any dark brown animal she can think of.)
Aden’s original vision for her quills was to use wooden skewers.  I told her that was too dangerous because we have to make sure she doesn’t kill anyone if she backs into them, so we went with cushion foam which will hold its shape but still be soft.
I drew lines onto the cushion foam…
Then cut it out on the bandsaw:
I think once we paint the quills we can just hot glue gun them to the detachable back of the costume.  We’re not up to that step yet, so we’ll see!
The only costume that’s completely done is Quinn’s.  He was not very cooperative during his last fitting so most of my photos came out like this:
But at least he seems both happy and comfortable.

Here’s a shot of his spotted stripes as I was working on them:
The spaces in between count as stripes, so they really do come to 13.  If we’re going to have to explain to everyone over the next few weeks what a thirteen-lined-ground-squirrel is, I really had to make sure the count was correct.

And here they are on the back of the costume:
So that’s where we are at the moment.

I love making costumes!  It’s always fun for me to get to make something just to see if I can.  And as I’ve written in the past, it’s worth the effort because my kids get such a ridiculous amount of use out of their costumes.  From Mona going off to choir in her kangaroo outfit to her still using her swan wings on a regular basis, she wears things until they wear out.  I like that on random afternoons Quinn will show up as a blue jay to lunch, and Aden still pulls out her dragon costume.

I love that my kids can think of me as a costume machine.  (Weird how that doesn’t help me make progress on any of the violins I’m supposed to be building, though.)

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