Mad Hatter Costume

Like I said, as part of our family costume my husband decided to be the Mad Hatter. Honestly, I mostly put his outfit together from pieces I bought– a velvet blazer, some plaid golf pants, a pair of argyle socks– but some items I just had to make myself.

First and foremost was the hat. You know me, I’m the queen of decorated top hats, so while I bought the base hat on Amazon I knew I’d be going to town on the embellishments.

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The hat itself is huge– not just tall (which it totally is, unlike many of the dinky little so-called “top hats” you find at the lower price points), but also big in circumference. My husband has a pretty big head, and this hat literally fall down past his ears, it was that big.

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Painted 1920s Shoes

I can’t believe I never got around to posting about these shoes back when I was making the rest of the outfit! Okay, so these aren’t really 1920s shoes. They’re actually ballroom dance practice shoes– specifically, these:

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I’d been looking for a pair of Oxford-style shoes that I could wear with my white 1920s dress to a lawn party, since it appears that the style was popular at the time.

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I’d had my eye on some ballroom dance shoes because I liked the shape and the perforated leather and thought they’d look great with my outfit, but I couldn’t justify spending the money to get a new pair. Then, by sheer good fortune I found a used pair at my local Goodwill for $6 (basically a 1/10 of the original price), and they were exactly my size! I knew they’d be perfect, if not for one thing– the color.

I didn’t want black shoes– they wouldn’t go well at all with my summery white dress, and I was looking for something light and sporty. But they were so cheap and comfortable (can’t beat ballroom dance shoes for flexibility) that I decided that I would give paint a shot– after all, the shoes were inexpensive, they were leather (which meant they ought to be paintable), and it would only take an evening to finish the project.

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Belle Epoque Wisteria Gown, Part II: Dyeing Hug Snug

When I decided on wisteria as my theme I was hopeful that I could find some pre-embroidered appliques to use on the dress. Sadly, this was not to be– for some reason, wisteria just isn’t popular enough to make appliques out of. Next I looked for some embroidered wisteria decorator fabric, hoping to make my own appliques. No luck– there was some gorgeous fabric out there, but it was something like $300/yard. Not going to happen. Machine-embroidery would be too expensive to commission, hand-embroidery was out of the question due to time constraints, but then I thought of silk ribbon embroidery. It was a lot faster than regular embroidery due to the width of the ribbon, and it would look lovely and dimensional. Right?

Unfortunately, silk ribbon is SILK, and therefore prohibitively expensive when one is considering making life-sized wisteria blossoms all over the skirt of a ballgown. And regular (cheap) satin ribbon is just too thick to really use for embroidery, especially when embroidering onto a tightly-woven satin base. But then it hit me– Hug Snug seam binding. It’s extremely light and thin, it comes in a million different colors, and it’s CHEAP. I could get a 100-yd. roll for about $10, so I bought two rolls– one in “Orchid Pink” and one in “Moss Green.”

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Why pale pink, when wisteria blossoms are various shades of purple? Because I didn’t feel like buying multiple colors of purple and then switching back and forth in the middle of a wisteria spray. Instead, I dyed the whole spool in variegated shades of purple using Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow. It’s actually really easy to use, and unlike regular dye it doesn’t require a long soaking/boiling time to set. Here’s how I did it:

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The Grey Lady, Part XI: Accessories

While I’m waiting to finish up the dress, I’ll need to acquire some accessories.

I’d always planned to have a belt on this dress, but while the sewing pattern had an option for a fabric sash it just looked kind of boring. I wanted to find something made of metal or thin chains– kind of a veiled reference to the traditional “ghost = chained to the earth a la Jacob Marley” thing. A little searching online revealed that what I really wanted was a “concho belt,” traditionally worn in the Southwest and made up of silver medallions. The one I bought arrived looking pretty shiny, but I painted on some black acrylic paint, waited for it to dry a bit, then wiped most of it off with a paper towel– the paint stayed in the cracks (hard to see in the picture below) and gave it a nice antiqued feel.

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Spring Watercolor Cookies

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The other day I was hanging out with my daughter and she asked if she could paint something. Now, I could’ve gotten out the craft paint and the paper (and boy, do we have a lot of both), but for some reason that didn’t appeal. So I decided to bake cookies.

How do these two things relate, you ask? Why, we were going to paint on the cookies, of course! Continue reading

Vanessa/Ursula Costume, Part IX: The Accessories

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So, back to costumes… the dress is finally done, but there’s still plenty to do before the costume is completely finished.

First up is making the veil and headpiece. The veil in the movie actually looks to be opaque, but I don’t like the look of that so I ordered a 6′ long, single layer veil in ivory tulle on eBay for just under $6 (including shipping, which cost more than the veil). It came wrinkled, but nothing that a session in a steamy bathroom didn’t cure. It ended up being a hell of a lot longer than 6′, though, so I trimmed it to about 12″ off of the floor. This way it won’t get tangled in the tentacles, and no one will step on it.

The movie scenes showed that the headpiece was the same color as the ruffles on the dress, so I cut two tiara shapes out of a manila folder, one of them with tabs on the bottom edge (more on that later)– and covered them in fabric. To do that, I painted a thin layer of glue onto each cardstock piece, then smoothed the fabric over them. Once they were dry, I cut the fabric about 1/2″ from the edge of the cardstock (clipping the curves), folded it over, and glued it down on each piece. Then I sandwiched the pieces together, fabric on the outside, with hot glue. I also inserted two twist ties between the layers to help with stiffness, though in retrospect that wasn’t necessary.

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I folded the tabs at a right angle, bending the twist ties to help keep things in place, and used hot glue to attach them to the inside surface of a black headband so the tiara sat directly in front of it. I’d originally planned on gluing the tabs on top of the headband, but the extra 1/4″ in height makes the tiara sit unnaturally high on my head (and I don’t have poofy Disney princess hair to make it work), so I’m going with this instead. Then I just hot-glued the veil to the headband, right behind the tiara.

(UPDATE 3/25/15: after I tried on the veil I decided it wasn’t draping as well as it could have, so I stitched a 1/2″ strip of white horsehair braid into the hem to give it some body. Looks much better now.)

My original Ursula costume used a cardboard cutout painted to look like a golden shell for Ursula’s necklace, but for this costume I wanted to go with the real thing, so I sourced it out to Etsy. The shell came painted gold, and I touched up the shadows a bit with darker paint just to make them more visible from a distance. Here’s the before and after:

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It looks great and probably doesn’t cost much more than I’d have paid anyway for supplies. I did consider trying to find one of those recordable mini-chips that they put into greeting cards to record Ariel’s voice and play it back at appropriate times, but the chips are surprisingly bulky and wouldn’t fit inside the shell.

Finally, while there’s nothing like this in the movie I do need a bag to keep things in at the convention, particularly since I’ve had to forego pockets in the dress. I like to make bags from leftover dress fabric (helps the bag blend in to the skirt during photos), but my dress disaster took up almost all of my extra fabric in the repair. Luckily I put my patchworking skills (already honed from earlier) to good use on the scraps and managed to whip up a reasonably-sized drawstring bag to carry with me. It’s not gorgeous or anything, but it’ll do.

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Hey, does this mean that I’m done? Like, DONE done? And with two weeks to spare! Amazing! Pictures of the whole outfit put together coming up soon…

Tips:

1. If you’re going to make something to attach to a headband, make sure that you cut it to fit your head, not just the band. Since the headband will be bent into a different shape when you’re wearing it, just tracing it as-is onto paper won’t give you the right curve.

2. When gluing fabric to things I like to use tacky glue rather than white glue. It’s stickier and less likely to bleed through. Also, I brush the glue onto the non-fabric surface and let it sit for a while to increase the stickiness before smoothing the fabric onto it. If you don’t do this step, the glue just soaks into the fabric and nothing sticks.

3. On the other hand, when you need a fast, strong bond, hot glue is definitely the way to go. I used it for all of the structural parts of the tiara. The only reason I didn’t use it for the fabric was because it’s too dimensional to get a smooth surface.

Velvet Pumpkins

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This is one of the projects that my husband will roll his eyes about. Truth be told, I roll my eyes at myself, too, because it was just such a useless project in the end (and I spent way too much on supplies). Here’s how it went:

Every fall, the artsy boutiques start putting up displays including these velvet pumpkins. They look amazing all piled up, with all the different colors and sizes, and they’re oh-so-touchable and soft. And so easy to make! It was a classic “I want these! I could make these! Let’s buy ALL THE SUPPLIES!” thing for me.

While these really were genuinely easy to make, a few problems arose. The first, of course, is that you need to make a big circle of velvet to gather up into a pumpkin, so you can’t just buy a regular quarter-yard of velvet– it’s too narrow (a fat quarter would work, though). You need to buy at least a half-yard. And the dinky brick-and-mortar fabric stores near me didn’t stock stretch velvet (regular velvet was too expensive and only came in three colors there), so I had to buy online, which basically meant that any orders under $20 weren’t worth paying shipping for, so I bought more. And it’s kind of weird to just make one pumpkin, you have to have at least three or four to make a nice display, and they can’t all be the same color, and the colors have to go together but not be too matchy-matchy… and before I knew it I had 16 different colors of stretch velvet in my fabric stash. Continue reading