Thursday, September 24, 2015

How to Adapt a Regular Sewing Pattern into a Costume

Our busiest season is upon us—Halloween!  This is one of our favorite times of year, because we really get to help our customers get creative with their costuming and decorating.  We've been busy stocking our shelves with fun novelty fabrics, colorful felt, sewing-alternative glues, sparkly trims, and of course, costume patterns!  This year, we have great new patterns for superheros, Cinderella, Ninja Turtles, Minions, and more.

While the major pattern companies make a ton of costume patterns, there's no way they could make a pattern for every single costume.  So what if you can't find a costume pattern to fit your idea?  And what if you don't want to spend the money on a pattern you'll only use once?  Why limit yourself?

There's absolutely no reason you can't use a regular pattern to make a costume!  You may already have a suitable pattern, or you can buy a pattern that you can actually use again.  Many sewists get intimidated by the idea of using a pattern for a purpose other than its intended, but it's not that scary, we promise!

Check Out That Line Drawing

Sewing patterns will include a line drawing, showing the style lines and basics of construction from the front and back.  These are also called "flats."  This image will be the starting point when picking a pattern.  It's easy to get distracted by pictures of the completed garment, which can hinder our ability to re-imagine the pattern done in a different way.  But the line drawing gives us a blank slate on which to add our creativity!

Basic = Better

A lot of moms have made their little girls' costumes from the Fairy Tale Dress pattern by Oliver + S.  It's a beautiful pattern with a classic silhouette, making it super easy to customize.  And, since it's a great basic dress pattern on its own, you can use it again!

Just choosing the right fabrics alone can make this dress a perfect costume!  Blogger Dasha made this adorable Dorothy outfit for her daughter using a blue gingham.

You can customize this pattern even more with a few simple alterations.  Queen of the Flies shows us how by just changing up the skirt and cutting the hem as shown, this makes a perfect Tinkerbell!

This dress pattern is super popular for costume making, and we definitely recommend checking out Oliver + S's flickr and Pinterest to see more!

Bodysuit Customizing

Coveralls and bodysuits make good starting points, since you can easily add design elements.  Again, thinking of the pattern as a blank slate helps.  We found pictures of an awesome Boba Fett costume using Kwik Sew 3389, which is an coveralls pattern.  The costume creator added his own armor and a number of pockets to make this Star Wars costume great!

Here's a perfect example of how a simple pattern can become something fantastic:  this perfect Storm costume from Kwik Sew 3052.  By eliminating the sleeves, appliqueing the gold parts, and adding a cape, this costume is spot on.


Cut and Paste to Perfection

You may already have a pattern that could work for your costume idea, and you might not even realize!  Sometimes all you need to do is add or subtract a few details.  Blogger Deb used a number of Oliver + S patterns on her daughter's pirate costume, but she got really inventive with the pirate vest.  Rather than buy a vest pattern or go to all the trouble of drafting her own, she used the basic shape of the Sleepover Pajama top, which was such a smart choice!

Deb also used the Class Picnic top pattern and the Badminton skirt pattern.

Sometimes you have to "Frankenstein" your pattern a bit and combine some elements.  Sewist Shelley made quite the show stopper for her boy—this amazing Evel Knievel outfit!  Using The Nature Walk Pullover and Knit Pants pattern from Oliver + S, Shelley combined the top and bottom to make a jumpsuit.  By making the collar larger and adding the front zipper, this jumpsuit got some 70's flair.  So cute!!

Hopefully this helps you start your costume making process!  Whether you're making your child a quick costume they'll only wear once or you're making an intricate piece you plan to use for multiple cosplay events, there are patterns out there for you—and they aren't necessarily costume ones!

What are you planning on making this Halloween season?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Three Brushed and Napped Fabrics We'll Be Using This Fall

While most shopping is visual by nature, there is something wonderful about the tactile aspect of fabric shopping.  We love to feel the slubby threads in our handwoven ikats, the cool fluidity of a rayon challis, or the cushy thickness of a wool coating.  And who doesn't love a soft, brushed flannel or a smooth, luxurious velvet?  These kinds of fabrics may be the softest to the touch, but this also means they are dealt with differently in our sewing.

Velvet is a prime examples of a fabric with a "nap," which refers to the direction in which the "pile" goes.  Pile refers to the fibers that are upright or raised from the base cloth.  Think about a sueded jacket or a velveteen couch:  if you brush the fabric with your hand one way, it will be soft and smooth.  But go the opposite way, going against the grain,  and the fabric will feel rougher, while also looking different.  The easiest way to see this is with a high pile fabric, like fur.

The top portion shows the faux fur brushed with the nap, along the pile.  It looks smooth and feels soft.  The bottom half shows what happens when you brush against the nap.  The pile of the fur stands up, and you can see more of the undercoat and backing.

What kinds of fabrics have a nap?

Velvet, corduroy, velour, velveteen, moleskin, flannel, flannelette, and suede are all fabrics that are napped and/or brushed, and these are all fabrics we are loving these days!  After a long hot summer, we can't wait to cuddle up with soft and fuzzy fabrics.  Here's what we're excited about working with right now!


Velvet may be more luxurious, but velveteen is not without its perks!  Since it's usually 100% cotton, sewing and caring for your projects will be easier.  It has a shorter pile than velvet, so it's not so delicate or tricky to work with.  And it's not just for garment sewing; velveteen lends itself beautifully to home decor.  We're loving these beautiful Lush Velveteens, both for their soft hand and rich colors.

Lush Velveteens in Cabernet, Gold, and Celestial


We haven't seen a lot of moleskin out there for awhile, but it's having a comeback!  And it's not hard to see why.  Moleskin is a 100% cotton fabric with a very short pile, so its nap is almost imperceptible.  It's super soft but simultaneously has a great weight to it.  This densely woven fabric makes amazing bags, and we're dreaming up how we can use it for garments too.  A boxy coat or a jeans style skirt perhaps?

Cotton Moleskin in Moss, Tan, and Coffee

Plaid Flannels

Cotton flannels don't exactly have a nap, but they are brushed, which makes the cotton soft and fuzzy.  Unless there is a very noticeable nap, you can work with flannel like any other woven cotton.  Just keep in mind that it shrinks a lot!  We all love flannel pajamas and robes, but we're also thinking about making the men in our lives some cozy flannel shirts.  Or maybe even lining a coat in flannel!

Mammoth Flannel - Adventure, Mammoth Flannel - Evergreen, Primo Plaid Flannel - Harvest

So how does this affect my sewing?

Napped fabrics actually affect your planning and cutting more than anything!  It's important to cut a napped fabric with all the pattern pieces in the same direction, or else your finished garment will look and feel "off."

Cutting Napped Fabrics

Some patterns may have different fabric requirements and cutting layouts for napped fabrics.  You may see stars or asterisks indicating these differences.  Ultimately though, it's about making sure the nap is going the same way on all the pattern pieces, as shown in this diagram from a great Threads article on pattern layouts:

See how the tops of the pieces (the shoulder seams and sleeve cap) are all facing the same way? 

In More Fabric Savvy, Sandra Betzina recommends to use a single thickness, rather than folding in half, when cutting out velvet.  She also notes that cutting in the direction of the pile will lead to smoother cuts.

Pressing Napped Fabrics

Pressing napped fabrics is also done differently, so as to not crush the pile.  In general, avoid ironing on the right side, which has the pile.  Ironing on the wrong side is usually enough precaution to take with low pile fabrics like velveteen or moleskin, but further steps should be taken with higher pile fabrics like velvet, corduroy, or velour.  Using a velvet or needle board will allow you to press seams or darts without crushing the beautiful pile.  A velvet board is comprised of a bunch of dull needles, which gives your pile room to breathe while you iron the wrong side.

With the right side down on the velvet board, you can be more confident in pressing higher pile fabrics.  You can also try using a thick fluffy towel.  And it's always a good idea to use a pressing cloth or a piece of organza between the wrong side of the fabric and your iron!

Sewing Napped Fabrics

If you've been careful in your cutting, you're in good shape for sewing your napped fabric.  You may not run into any problems with low pile pieces, but again, the higher the pile, the more caution you should take.  We recommend using thin, high quality silk pins or no pins at all, since some holes may not come out.  Try using a basting tape instead!

Using a walking foot can be very helpful here, so that the fabric evenly feeds while sewing.  (If you're unfamiliar with this foot, read our earlier blog on presser feet!)  It's best to sew in the direction of the pile, and you may want to raise the presser foot every few inches to allow the fabric to relax as you sew.  Topstitching is not recommended, and it's easiest to use sew-in interfacings since ironing these fabrics can be tricky.

Is it Fall yet??

We'll be posting more blogs with our fall favorites and tips for sewing them.  Keep an eye out for a blog on boiled wool and wool coating coming up next!

What fabrics and patterns are you planning for your fall sewing?