Last minute Halloween: rainbow skeletons and fairies gone bad

I feel like I should confess something. I don’t like sewing costumes. I’m also not used to celebrating Halloween. But I’m nothing, if not prepared. I snapped up three out-of-season witch costumes on Ebay a few months ago, breathed a sigh of relief and hoped that I was off the hook. I’m a pretty good saleswoman when I want to be. What, you want to be a tiger, not a witch? Well, let’s put the striped top on underneath the witch dress and you can be an extra scary witchy tiger, yeah!

Middle child wasn’t playing this game. The day before Halloween, she decided that it was absolutely imperative that she become a skeleton. I told her that this need could be met, but only if she could make the costume herself. I helped her a bit. First, we drew some bones on white denim fabric scraps.

 

Then Miss Four coloured all the bones in with fabric dye crayons, which I ironed to set the dye. We have rainbow skeletons in the House of Iles.


Miss Four cut those bones out very carefully. It was a great exercise in practicing dexterity with the scissors. I then very hastily, and very roughly, basted those bones onto a pair of tights and a top that she already had in her wardrobe. Some of the stitching was done by machine and some had to be done by hand whilst watching the final season of True Blood. Admittedly, some of the bones are attached a bit wonky, but overall, the costume was a great success. It was worn for 24 hours straight.

 

 

My costume was a little bit more last minute. On the day of Halloween, while the little peeps were having a lunchtime nap, I suddenly had an idea to turn the muslin of my Dior knock-off coat into a Malificent inspired gown and cape. The fabric (if you can call it fabric) was the perfect colour for a fairy gone bad. I purchased the purple textile from Jo-Ann, specifically to muslin a coat. It was $2/yd, the price of cheap calico, but it had a sturdy, structured feel that I felt would give me a better idea of how the coat would drape. It was also 100% polyester, recycled from plastic bottles.

 

 
 
 

I’m nearly finished my real Dior knock-off coat, so you will soon get a better view of the coat beneath the cape. But for this costume, I simply gathered up the remainder of my purple polyester into a cape, and stitched on a big dramatic collar over the top. I cut a separate tie for the waist. None of the seams are finished because the fabric doesn’t fray. It’s like cutting felt. Perhaps I should have tried to iron it though!

 

TBT: Japanese pattern book wool cardi coat

Let’s talk about fabric shall we. Now I am definitely not an expert in textiles. Everything I’ve learnt has come from my experience with sewing. When my youngest was just a baby, and I was just learning to sew, we were living in Sydney, and not too far from what is historically known as the garment district. Anybody who has a small baby knows that mums need to get out of the house. Once I moved beyond foraging at Spotlight (the equivalent to Jo-Ann here), my favourite weekly outing with bubs became a trip to Tessuti Fabrics. Every now and then, I threw in a trip to the Fabric Store for good measure, but my regular haunt was Tessuti’s, and not just for the fabric, but also for the great staff, and of course, their most fabulous of fabulous remnants table.

I didn’t always walk away with a purchase, but I would walk up and down those walls of fabric, dreaming, feeling and learning about amazing textiles. I also spent a fair bit of time rummaging through their remnant table to find fabric gems that are were discounted by 40-50%. I picked up LOADS of amazing remnants during my time in Sydney; the softest wool jerseys, silks, printed linen, and lots of ponte knits. I also picked up this heavy-weight, striped, pure wool knit that I turned into a coat for Miss Six. 

 


 
 
 

I made this coat more than 18 months ago, well before I started blogging. I took these pictures a few days ago. Past Debbie didn’t know much about interfacing or turn of cloth so the collar could certainly be improved. But even so, the jacket has withstood the test of time. I used a pattern from one of my Japanese Pattern Books (Neat and lovely girl’s dresses by Yuki Araki). It is such a lovely design and Miss Six simply adores it. It’s probably the absolute favourite thing that I’ve ever made for her. She wears it every day in cool weather. If it weren’t so cute, I’d be sick of the sight of it by now. 

I wash it on a gentle machine cycle, as infrequently as possible, and it still looks and feels as good as new. The fabric wasn’t cheap but it is clearly robust enough to withstand the activities of a school kid. It hasn’t pilled like a poly blend wool. It hasn’t faded, felted, shrunk or stretched out of shape. It’s in such great shape that it will likely be passed down to my middle girl next. At nearly $60 a pop (or should I say metre) the price of this wool fabric will make some people cringe. I was lucky enough to pick it up for about half this, but it would have been worth every penny at full price too.

 

So thinking about this coat had me thinking about how I evaluate the cost of fabric. I’m going to disregard quilting cottons for a minute, because they are always going to be fabulous value for wear. I’ve also experienced some great longevity out of budget corduroy. But when it comes to knits and wool fabrics, there is something to be said for purchasing quality, natural fibers. Yes, they cost more, but in my experience, they are a lot more comfortable, they look better for longer, and they are often well and truly worth the amount spent. 

I’m still seduced by cheap synthetic blend fabrics on occasion and I probably always will be, but I mostly live to regret it. Sure, I might get a few wears out of the item, but within weeks it’s often terribly pilled or felted, and ready for an early retirement (in our house, this means they get sent to the dress up box, my clothes included). I can’t stand pilled clothes. I did a little stocktake recently and sadly, these dresses are already out of commission.

 
I’m guessing there’s at least $60 worth of fabric in all those dresses combined. If it weren’t for the enjoyment the dress up box brings and the fact that I enjoy sewing, I’d be thinking that this time and money could have been better spent.