A place where a wee Scot can talk about the stuff she bores other folk with. Sewing, The Beatles, cats, and zumba may feature...

Monday, 10 November 2014

Christmas costume project: Mrs Santa and Little Miss Elf

Even though I've fallen in love with sewing this year and dressmaking in the past few months, it's a bit of a problem for me cos I'm not really that big into wearing clothes. That is, I wear them for practical, law-abiding reasons, and I am interested in fashion as a creative art, but I'm just not that into how things look on me. So I'm really excited to begin working on a lovely project making a pair of costumes for someone else. A friend has asked me to make a Mrs Santa for her colleague, and for herself she would like a reproduction of one of Buddy's classmates in Elf: specifically the girl in blue here.
I am just giddy about all the wee details in this elf costume alone, which I'm going to try to replicate as close as possible. The matching hat, the little snowflake appliques under the fur neck trim, and the little silver petticoat peeking out from the bottom of the skirt. I don't really see this as a costume, so much as a cute wee outfit.
Looking at this photo, the girl's dress is possibly made from wool, but one of the things my friend asked for is that the dress be multi-sized so that other colleagues can also wear it in the future. So after lots of research involving stroking and stretching fabrics at the three fabric stores in my town, I've settled on using stretch velvet for both Little Miss Elf and Mrs Santa. I'm also using these pictures as a reference,which I found on a costume hire website:
The website says that these costumes will fit waist 28"-36" waist and up to 42" bust, so that's the sizing I want to achieve too, and hopefully by using stretch velvet this will have plenty ease, and by using a belt, the waist can be cinched in for smaller sizes. This is what I hope anyway!
The costume hire pics also remind me very much of the Lady Skater pattern from Kitschy Coo (an independent pattern designer who lives in Edinburgh), which I bought during the summer and started to make a dress from. I never finished it and it still remains with skirt and sleeves unhemmed (it also needs what I've since discovered is called a swayback adjustment. This is to fix a big pool of fabric at the bottom of my back where the skirt attaches to the bodice. But I'll talk more about that another time).

Suffice to say, I've used the Lady Skater pattern before (and will definitely be making myself more dresses from it) and I think it's what I'm after. I have also toyed with the idea of using the Colette Moneta, but even though I have this pattern I haven't made anything from it yet and I think the Skater shape of skirt is what I'm after for this costume, more than the Moneta gathered skirt (the velvet might be too bulky to gather?) A lot of this is guesswork right now as I'm still such a novice sewer!
Love this velvet dress from American Apparel - great if you're 17 years old and a size 0!
American Apparel also have stretch velvet skater dresses in store right now and even though I'm not making it anywhere near as form fitting, the basic shape is the same as what I want.

With type of fabric now settled on, I had to go about getting it! Luckily my no.1 favourite fabric shop in Victoria (actually it's in Langford, just outside of Victoria), the Cloth Castle, had the exact red stretch velvet which would be perfect for Mrs Santa, and it also happened to be on sale when I popped in last week. Score! They did have the same in navy blue, but it was more like a midnight blue and practically black (only showing as a dark blue when the nap was running the wrong way).

After trips to the other two fabric stores, I've struck out trying to find blue stretch velvet or I would have even settled for panne velour but there was none of that to be had either. So fabric.com it is! I'll be ordering tonight and should receive it by the end of this week. I could have got it cheaper on ebay, but the delivery won't be anywhere near as quick as fabric.com (one of the things I love about that website).

And today I braved the metropolis of Fabricland and actually made my first ever purchases from there! This is by far the biggest fabric shop in terms of square footage and the majority of their fabrics are apparel and home decor, with a smaller quilting cotton section, which is the reverse of the Cloth Castle and Gala (although they both have good apparel sections but not nearly as much as Fabricland).
Obligatory  shot of Bonnie on top of material
Netting, faux fur, and silver bias binding, wooh! Fabricland, I am now yours
So far I have found Fabricland incredibly daunting: I couldn't work out the pricing structure (you get discounts if you have a membership card); had no idea what the types of fabrics were or how I would use them; and generally just felt like a big old fraud going in there.

But today I made a list of exactly what I needed, stuck to it (apart from not getting the blue stretch velvet), asked for and got assistance at the cutting table and an explanation of what the membership benefits were (basically 20-50% discounts, much of which I was able to take advantage of today), and generally felt like I know what to do with everything that I bought. That is a huge step for me in the learning curve, and I feel quite buoyed up about it now!

Even though I'm nervous as feck about cutting into the red velvet, I do feel like all my planning is coming together and there's nothing I haven't considered or fully researched. All that's left is to actually do it, and with a little luck I'll get the resulting dress shape I'm hoping for!
Red and green stretch velvets
I also came up trumps at the weekend with a fantastic find at my local flea market (where I also had a stall during the summer) of over 3m of 60" forest green stretch velvet. An amazing amount of material and it only cost me $5!!! This is almost a tenth of what it would cost to buy 3m of the equivalent online or in a fabric shop. Couldn't believe my luck! (I must remember to thank the lovely lady who has been organising the market for 20 years, and is an amazing supporter of vendors, as she actually led me over to the stall where the fabric was)

The lady selling it had a bin full of fabrics, and comes every week, so I must pop in again soon. I also got a 3m length of a very drapey cotton from her, which I think I'll use for the Sew Over It 1940s Tea Dress, when I get some time to try that pattern out. Again, the fabric was only $5, so it's no biggie if I muck it up.
Over 6m of fabrics for 10 bucks, still patting myself on the back for it!
When I asked the lady who sold me the green velvet what it was, she said she thought it was a type of silk/poly velvet. The funny thing about it is, that it is so soft it feels almost like suede. And looks very different to the red stretch velvet (not as synthetic, it almost looks like a fur).

The one thing I want to improve most about my sewing is knowledge of fabrics. As I am quickly discovering, it is so essential in making your final garment sit and fit right. Picking the wrong fabric for the wrong pattern is self-sabotaging before you even pick up your fabric and cut. And if you are truly ignorant about it, it's very frustrating as you can wrongly blame bad fit on your sewing skills, faulty measurement, or even your own body (that way lies danger). These are the times when I wish I had a pal or two close by (even though I try to pick my pals back home brains as often as I can) to help navigate me through the marshy swamps of the world of fabrics.

So anyway, I'm going to use the green velvet for a toile/test dress, and hope to make it all tomorrow. I'll possibly baste on the faux fur I bought today, so that I can remove it after and use it for one of the real dresses. I'm still a bit unsure of the technique I'll have to use to attach the faux fur so that's why I want to practice with it first. Worst comes to worst, I'll leave it attached to the toile, and buy more for the real versions.

I've got a deadline of delivering the finished dresses (I'm also making some elf ears, elf slipover shoes, elf and santa hats, and a tulle petticoat to go under each dress). I was possibly going to make the belts too, but having spent a lot of time online today researching how to do it (quite easy if you make a wide elastic cinch belt), it seems that by the time I buy the buckle and elastic, it will be cheaper just to buy a belt.
A Scotch and Wry classic character from scottish comedy legend, Rikki Fulton
Even though I am really a bit of a bah humbug about christmas and definitely more of a Rev I M Jolly than Buddy the elf, I have had Santa Baby going through my head all night, so that's a good sign!

This is not what a feminist looks like - but it is what dominates the type of xmas costumes available for women. Yuck.
And then of course there's the two new christmas adverts for the two biggest UK department stores which are showing on British telly right now. The ads are not only mushy and sweet (I might not be the most christmassy person around, but even I'm susceptible to penguins and cute weans) but each one features a solo Beatle tune, yay! Paul's overlooked and often slagged off (completely unmerited in my opinion) We All Stand Together is the soundtrack to the Debenhams ad and John's beautiful Real Love (sang by Tom Odell, whoever he is, yeah I know I'm an old fart) is being used for the John Lewis ad. But my favourite beatle-related christmas song has to be this:

I'll post more as I progress, wish me luck cutting into the velvet!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks dear! Amazing how nervous you can get about making something. Thing is, it's not the making of it, it's the cost and possible risk of wasting the items you've bought. Do you find the same in baking and cooking?x

  2. Congrats on braving Fabricland. It is absolutely my most-visited fabric store. In my area, there are only quilting stores, home decor stores, a special-occasion fabric store (organza, satin etc.) and Fabricland. I like to touch my fabric before buying it, so I prefer to go there rather than buy online most of the time. Plus I've been hit with terrible brokerage fees when importing from the states, so I am now scared to order from them. At least Joann's tells you the extra fees when you order.

    Anyway, I can't wait to see the final outfits!

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