Sunday, July 28, 2019

Turning Mice into Horses for Cinderella

Well, I did it again, even though I swore I wouldn't after last year. I costumed a children's play in a two week time span, while working full time at my normal nanny job as well. Thankfully, this year was way less stressful than last year.

Last year, the two week children's theater camp play was Mulan. There were 25 kids in the play and I made about 90% of the costumes from scratch. It was an exhasting, crazy, stressful, two weeks. The end result, was absolutely fabulous.
This year the play was Cinderella. There were 17 kids in the play, and I only had to make a small percentage of the costumes from scratch, plus alter a few others. The two weeks passed with minimal stress and exhaustion, and the end result was still fabulous to see on stage.

When all was said and done, the only costumes I had to make from scratch were the rag dresses for the Cinderella's (the roll was double cast), a tunic for the king, a tunic and cape for Prince, and four mouse costumes, which could easily be converted to horse costumes with the appearance of the Fairy Godmother.

The Mouse to Horse costumes were probably my favorite, as they required the most creativity, and end result was absolutely adorable! 
*A quick note that most of the following pictures were taken at dress rehearsal before the set was completely finished and not all actors are in full costume and make-up.* 

Saying I made the mouse costumes from scratch, might be a bit of a stretch. I actually began the costumes with plain white T-shirts, which the actors' mothers provided me with. The one exception to this was the "Mother Mouse", who had been a rabbit in last-years performance and wanted to re-use that costume.

I sewed pink bellies onto the front of all the white T-shirts and removed the rabbit-ear hood from the tunic which was being re-used from last year.

Onto the back of the T-shirts and tunic, I attached mouse tails, made from some gray cord I found at Hobby Lobby.

The tails were quickly sewn onto the shirts, a few inches above the hem, using a zig-zag stitch on the sewing machine.

Bellies and tails attached, next up were the ears. These started with white felt, pink felt, and a package of headbands from the dollar store.

I free-hand cut large mouse ear shapes out of white felt, then smaller mouse ear shapes out of the pink felt. I layered the pink ears on top of the white ears and top stitched the pink in place using the sewing machine.

Then I sewed a white square of felt, about the same width of the bottom of the ears, to the base of each ear. These pieces of felt would be used to attach the ears to the headbands for the kids to wear.

Once the ears themselves were assembled, I laid a pair face down on a table and laid the head band on top so the base of the ears themselves were flush with the top of the headband and the squares of felt were underneath the headband. I positioned the ears so they'd look right when the head band was worn, then pulled out the hot glue gun.

I put a bead of hot glue on the back of the ears, then wrapped the square of felt tightly around the headband, gluing the loose end to the back of the ears. I could have sewn the felt around the headband, but hot glue was quicker and easier. And, as I had 8 sets of ears to make, quick and easy it needed to be.

Thus, the mouse ears were made! Four sets of ears later, I was ready to move on to the next four sets of ears -  horse ears this time!

I would have loved to figure out how to make horse masks or heads for the kids to wear on stage, but there simply wasn't the time for that project. Thus, horse ears on a headband it would be! Ears alone, however, do not make a horse. Tails and manes are also required.

When considering how to construct these manes and tails, I decided yarn would be the most cost-effective option. As I didn't have any white yarn at home, I took a trip down the Hobby Lobby yarn aisle. And on the yarn aisle, I found this "Scrub-ology" stuff:

It's apparently a "yarn" intended for making dish-scrubby-things out of. It's kind of shiny and sparkly, and thicker, with a different texture, than regular yarn. It was just the thing for making magical horse tails. I used two full skeins of this shiny, scrubby, yarn to make tails and manes for four kids.

The tails were quite easy to make. I wrapped the scrubby yarn around and around a book the way you do to make yarn dolls. Once I thought there was enough yarn wrapped around the book I tied it all together at the top, and cut it straight across the bottom to get it off the book.

Once the yarn was off the book, I tied another piece of yarn around the top of the bundle of yarn to make a tail "head" - just like you do to make a rag doll head, only the tail head wasn't stuffed with anything.

So the tail could easily be attached to the costume when the mice became horses in the middle of the play, I sewed skirt/trouser hooks to the "head" of each tail.

I sewed corresponding bars to the back of each T-shirt just above the mouse tails.

When it was time for the mice to transform, the horse tails could easily be hooked into place by a stage hand, hiding the mouse tails.

This worked splendidly, the mice were able to be quickly transformed and the hooks proved to be "secure enough" as no horses lost their tails on stage!

Dress rehearsal - The carriage looked more like a pumpkin and less like a Chevy for the actual performance.
The manes were a little more time consuming to make than the tails were.

For each mane I cut a length of ribbon twice as long as I wanted the manes to be. I folded the ribbon in half and sandwiched loops of scrubby yarn between the two layers of ribbon.  I pinned the first few inches of looped yarn in place between the ribbons, then began sewing down the middle of the ribbon with the sewing machine.

As I sewed along the middle of the ribbon I continued to loop the yarn back and forth, back and forth, between the two layers of ribbon. After the first few inches of mane, I found it easier to loop the yarn as I sewed, rather than loop it all ahead of time and pin it in place. I ended the yarn loops about 2" from the end of the ribbon.

I wrapped the the ribbon ends around the very top center of headbands and hot glued them in place.

Once all the manes were glued to the horse headbands, they were ready for ears!

I was less confident in my ability to free-hand horse ears than I was in my ability to free-hand mouse ears. Thus, I took to the internet in search of a horse ear pattern. I figured there had to be a free one out there somewhere! And I was right.

"Out there somewhere" I found the Free Unicorn Pillow pattern by Rebecca Page Patterns. After looking at the picture in the pattern listing where a child is holding the unicorn pillow I decided the ears would be just about the right size for the kids to wear. So I downloaded the pattern, printed out the ears, and set to cutting the large ear piece out of white felt and the smaller ear piece out of pink felt. Then I top stitched the pink onto the white, just like I did with the mouse ears.

I folded the ears in half to give them the right shape then stitched a square of felt to the bottom, just like I did with the mouse ears.

And the ears were ready to attach to the headbands!

One ear on either side of the mane.

A little bit of hot glue.

The square of felt wrapped tightly around the headband and glued to the back of the ear.

And with that, the horse ear headbands were done!

16 ears, 8 tails, 8 headbands, 4 manes. All put together this gave us 4 little mice.

Who turned into horses.

And took Cinderella to the Ball in her Pumpkin Carriage!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Making a "Hooverette" Dress From the "Dottie Angel" Pattern

There was a recently acquired piece of fabric in my fabric stash which I had prewashed, and was ironing flat before folding it neatly to be put away. As I was ironing this length of plaid fabric, it hit me that this material just had to be turned into a 1930’s style wrap dress, or “hooverette”. This thought became a minor fixation on 30’s wrap dresses and soon I was scouring the internet, looking at pictures of vintage 30’s dresses and reading blog posts about making dresses similar to what I had in mind.

A day or two later, I had a wrap dress for myself cut out and ready to sew together. By this time I’d changed my mind about the fabric I wanted to use for the project. I’d put away the plaid for a different project (my 4th of July dress to be exact) and instead pulled out a floral quilting cotton from my grandma for this 1930’s inspired wrap dress.

As I read about "Hooverette" house dresses and looked at 1930's ads and patterns for these garments, I learned a few things. Many of them had cut-on sleeves, though set-in sleeves did appear on occasion. The skirt and bodice were typically cut as one, from shoulder to hem, with no waist seam. They could close with either with ties or buttons, but ties appear to have been most common. The front skirt generally boasted a patch pocket because all good dresses, especially house dresses, have pockets. And finally, the front could be wrapped both left over right, and right over left. If you were to stain whichever side was on top, you could just flip flop the wrap so the stain would be hidden under the opposite side and nobody would know

With these features in mind, I set about finding a pattern to use. After a quick look through my pattern stash I decided to use Simplicity 1080, which is apparently known as the "Dottie Angel" frock pattern. This pattern featured cut-on sleeves and no waist seam. Plus, it already featured cute patch pockets. Thus I decided it would work well for my "Hooverette" base pattern. I just needed to make a few, minor, changes.

I lengthened the sleeves a bit and didn't cut the front on the fold. Instead I added about 6" of width to the center front skirt, and cut the front bodice at an angle from shoulder to the newly widened waistline. This would give me the wrap front I wanted. I drafted a front facing to match.

I added some width to the hem of the back panel, for a little extra skirt fullness. As originally drafted, the skirt was straighter than I preferred. After cutting out the back panel, I discovered the back neckline was lower than I would have liked, so I added an extra little panel to raise it to a "normal" back neckline level. Low back necklines can be a fun design element, but I didn't think it suited this style of dress.

I traced the shape of the original back neckline onto a piece of paper, then drew in where I wanted the new back neckline to be. 

I then used this piece of paper as my pattern piece to cut out the fabric to fill in that low back neckline.

This extra panel of fabric is definitely noticeable on the back of the finished dress, so we'll just call it a design feature. There are worse things in life than pieced together dress backs. If I ever use this pattern again though, I'll remember the back neckline is low and fix that prior to cutting if I want it otherwise.

Now, as far as the "intentional" design features go. . .

The dress fastens with fabric ties and can be closed either right over left or left over right - fully reversible in that regard.

I left a 2" opening in either side seam at waist level for the ties to be threaded through.

The ties wrap around the waist and get tied securely in the front

The skirt and the bodice both have enough of an overlap that I'm not concerned about wardrobe malfunctions.

I added patch pockets to both sides of the front, so there's always one visible, and one hidden, no matter how I have the dress wrapped

I trimmed the pockets with green rick-rack to make them a little extra visible.

The neckline too is trimmed in green rick-rack to draw attention to the wrap feature of this dress and keep the style lines from being hidden in a sea of print.

Speaking of the print, I really do love this fabric. Yellow isn't generally a color I gravitate toward, but this fabric caught my eye because it reminds me of sunsets, and fall leaves, and all sorts of pretty things. I think this dress might be the only yellow garment I own, and it is a welcome addition to my wardrobe. Perhaps everyone needs a yellow dress.

All in all, I'd say my attempt at a 1930's inspired wrap dress was successful. I would up with a garment I like and wear regularly. 

Are there things I wish I'd done differently? Of course! The skirt, for one thing, is too short for the 1930's. I wish I'd cut it a few inches longer.

The sleeves are almost, but not quite, tight. So, I wish I'd cut those fuller.

These, however, are just little things. Little things to keep in mind for next time I suddenly decide I need to make a 1930's house dress right away.

Because, knowing me, there may very well be a "next time".