Walking the Plank

After DragonCon, the month of September left me little to look forward to.  So instead I looked ahead to Halloween – yet another excuse for a costume!

Those of you who know me know which side of the eternal PvN debate I am on.  YAR!  In fact, I already owned a pirate costume, purchased over the years.  But that did not interfere with my desire to make a new one for this Halloween.  I had recently visited the local Hancock fabric store and decided on Simplicity 3629:

Instead of going for a slightly more traditional pirate, like the top center picture, I chose the top left (Pattern B) – a bit more like a swashbuckler.  I will admit, the idea of a cool hat with a feather was appealing as part of this costume.

Boy was this costume complicated compared to my skirt!  There would be a ton of firsts for me as a seamstress:

  • First use of fusible interfacing
  • First zipper (invisible!)
  • First use of elastic
  • First use of bias tape
  • First “fitted” piece
  • First buttons
  • First attached trim

Whew!  Time to “walk the plank” as it were …

I think one of my favorite parts of sewing is picking the color scheme and fabric for my projects.  For this I went with a creamy beige color for the poofy sleeves and a deep turquoise for the skirt.  I had a hard time picking a vest fabric, but wound up with a mottled green/blue turquoise pattern that made me quite happy.

I attacked the top and sleeves first.  The fabric I chose was a very sheer silky one (guess what – I still don’t know the names of all my different fabrics!).  It was such a fine weave that I was paranoid you’d be able to see the marks where the needle went through while I stitched!  This was my first opportunity to understand the need for different sized needles – since this fabric was so thin, I used a ballpoint size 9 needle for the sleeves.

The first really scary part was the elastic.  Which also coincided with my first use of bias tape.  Basically, the pattern called for me to stitch the bias tape to the underside of the shirt to form a casing, through which I would insert the elastic.  I could not match the bias tape exactly to the cream color of my shirt – I wound up buying pale yellow bias tape.  But in the end, even with sheer fabric you could not see the difference in color.

It is really important to attach the bias tape by stitching as closing to the edges of it as possible, otherwise your elastic might get stuck when you try to put it through the casing.  Make sure you leave a small opening on one side of the bias tape to insert the elastic through.  Apparently there is some trick you can do with a safety pin to insert elastic, but to be honest I did not even try it.  My friend mentioned an elastic threader to me – BEST $4 I have ever spent.  Once your elastic is inside its happy casing, pull the two ends outside the casing and zig zag stitch them together.  Worried about your elastic twisting?  You can buy “No-Roll Elastic” easily, and I haven’t had any twisting issues.

The elastic was the only difficult part of the “underdress” part of this project.  I moved on to the much more daunting task of working on the fitted vest.

For the vest, I had to apply the fusible interfacing to each piece of the pattern.  Which meant it was time to break out the iron.

Side note – I hate ironing.  BUT I have to admit, it is beyond useful in sewing.  Everything looks cleaner and more finished and polished.  I have grudgingly learned to respect ironing, even if I don’t love it.

OK, where were we?  Fusible interfacing was ironed on.  Now to attach all the outer vest pieces.  Only problem was they did not really appear to fit together well – curves didn’t match up, etc.  Boobs – nothing but trouble I say!  Ultimately I found that attaching the vest pieces properly involved a SUPER SEKRIT PINNING TRICK.  I would line the fabric pieces up, right side to right side, at the top, pin a little ways down until they no longer “matched”.  Then I pulled the top piece of fabric to match the bottom one and pinned.  This generally meant the fabric was no longer sitting flat on the table – the pinned curve was slightly off the surface.  Generally once the curve was pinned, the rest of the edges matched back up (unless there was a second surve, in which case, rinse & repeat).

Once the vest was pieced together, I attached the inner lining.  I used the leftover fabric I had from my skirt piece as the lining.

Then I made my first real mistake.  I feel that this was the pattern’s fault – pattern instructions are eternally confusing!!  I got it in my head that I needed to sew the vest together at the back where the zipper would go, and then later on I would slit the fabric to insert the zipper somehow.  Nope.

I had visited my mom in September and brought most of my recently purchased patterns with me.  We decided to copy my pattern instructions so that I could call her and she could help me understand them when necessary.  After I incorrectly stitched the vest completely together, I was pretty glad we had made those copies.

Several phone calls to my mother and at least an hour of seam ripping later, I had undone the seam at the back of the vest and was ready to install the zipper.  This was   not so bad, and a few minutes later I was wondering why I had been so afraid of it.

Next, I hand sewed the buttons onto the front of the vest.  I know there is a way to attach buttons using my machine, but I have not explored this yet.

The final step was the trim.  The pattern used trim in a lot more places than I wanted to.  I decided only to line the collar and bottom edges of the vest with it, as I did not want it to be too flashy.  I used a zigzag stitch with thread the color of the vest (turquoise) and basically one side of the zig zag started outside the trim while the other side landed inside the trim, binding the two together.  It was not hard to do, but I did not finish the ends well enough apparently because when I washed the costume later on, the trim strand began to unravel a bit.

The finished costume:

Like my hat?  I got it here.

Overall, I learned a LOT and was quite pleased with the outcome.  Walking the plank wasn’t so bad – maybe the waters weren’t shark infested after all …


2 comments for “Walking the Plank

  1. Wendell Allen
    February 2, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I loved reading about your frustration into sewing. It made me laugh and reminded me of my first attempts at sewing. You do great work. Keep up with it.

  2. February 8, 2012 at 9:08 am

    This costume is pretty much the best thing ever. Quite an achievement – I’m jealous!


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