Monday, June 27, 2011

The First Wicked Costume

The first costume of the Wicked trio is "the cabbage". The crazy tutu-like skirt is where I am starting, as I have no idea how to make it. I have collected quite a pile of green tulle and net to make the skirt. Since I didn't know where to start, I began researching the construction of a pancake tutu. This skirt will need to stand out straight from the body, similar to a tutu, and has gradually decreasing widths in the layers of ruffles.
"The Cabbage" from Wicked
For tutu information, I found the Ballet Talk blog on Live Journal and These were by far the best resources for construction tips. You don't want the no-sew tutu videos. The main pointers I learned were: use the right fabric - stiff net made for tutus; plan to put many, many hours into the construction; a hoop layer will likely be needed; press each layer after it is gathered and before you sew it down.

I did not buy the tutu fabric. It was cost prohibitive for me as this skirt requires much more fabric than a tutu. I'm going with tulle and nylon net that I bought at JoAnn and Hancock Fabric. I hope it works out. I tested various spray starches, homemade starch, and fabric stiffener to see if I could make the fabric stiffer. Nothing worked well enough for the trouble in the initial phases as a flat piece of fabric. I have read in the blogs about using spray starch on constructed tutus, so maybe it works better after the garment is made. Gathering and pressing the layers seem to improve the stiffness. I used seven different fabrics in four colors of green: 3 colors of tulle and 4 colors of net.
A stack of layer pieces
I knew I would need a base to sew the layers of ruffles, so I made a simple straight skirt out of cotton. I made a draw-string waist since the frills would start about hip level (wouldn't have frills above the hip area) and I didn't want an opening in the back of the skirt for a zipper or such. This way, the skirt should go over the hips well enough and the gathering at the waist from the drawstring will be hidden by the peplum of the bodice. After the base skirt was constructed, I drew lines at 1-inch intervals, starting from the waist, that I will use as a guide for sewing the frills. The lines aren't perfectly even at the sides due to the flare of fabric at the hips, but I don't think it will matter in the end.
Base skirt with 1-inch guide lines
Based on standard widths of pancake tutus, I decided to cut the top layer at 13 inches. One-half inch will be lost as seam allowance to the base layer, so the top layer will end up being 12.5 inches. I cut each layer of fabric at 1/2-inch intervals from 13 inches down to 5 inches. 13, 12.5, 12, 11.5, ... 6.5, 6, 5.5, and 5. And to make matters more complicated, many of the layers do not go all the way around, so I added 5 additional layers to fill in and made some layers shorter than others. Some of the layers are also at angles rather than straight around, so I'll probably end up drawing some additional guidelines on the skirt to incorporate slanted layers.

To calculate the length of material needed for each layer, I measured set lengths of fabric before and after gathering. Once I picked the tightest gather I could get on the ruffler foot, I used that ratio to calculate how long each layer should be. For instance, if a 60-inch strip of fabric was reduced to 8.5 inches after gathering, I would use a ratio of 7. I then measured the actual cirmcumference of the base skirt along the drawn reference lines. Each frill layer would need to be the circumference measurement multiplied by the gathering ratio. So if my skirt circumference was 45 inches, the frill would need to be 315 inches.
Frill layer going through the ruffler foot
Each layer was about 5 or 6 pieces sewn into one length, with each piece cut across the width of the fabric rather then the length. I found the cutting easier this way. Since I wasn't overly concerned about perfect width for each layer, I opted for an easier cutting method for the tulle and net. I would fold the fabric in half along the length, then fold in half two more times to make a narrow length of fabric to cut. Then I would measure the width of the frill layer as I cut. Not very accurate, so don't cut this way if you don't want slight variations in the width of your frills. This tulle and net was difficult to line up and cut, so I chose sanity over perfection. Most of the frill layers are 5-6 pieces sewn together. I labeled each layer so I could keep track easily.
Pile of frill layers prior to gathering
I decided to add a ribbon edge to 4 of the tulle layers. I used satin ribbon folded over. I ran 10-lb fishing line inside the ribbon as I sewed as this helps the edge of the tulle stand out.
Satin ribbon sewn with fishing line inside
Ribbon trimmed tulle (pressed on the right and unpressed on the left)
I used bias tape on 3 layers to use as a hoop casing. The upper most hoop layer is the 5th from the top (which is the 11-inch layer) and the outer edge of the bias tape is about 8 inches from the inside edge of the frill layer. I sewed the casing on before I gathered the frill, as I thought this would give the layer the most volume. I've read that some people use strips of net as the casing, but I thought the net was more difficult to pin and sew. I've also seen instructions to sew the casing after the frill is gathered. That may be more appropriate if you want your frill to be flatter. The second hoop casing is on the 8-inch layer and the third is on the 6-inch layer. Each casing layer used 3 packs of 4-yard, single fold, bias tape, so 9 packs in total. I have no idea if I will need 3 hoop layers, but I know it would be easier to add the casing now rather than later.
Bias tape pinned to net for hoop casing
Gathering the frills with the ruffler foot was super fast and easy. After they were all gathered, I pressed each layer. Now they are ready to sew on to the base skirt.
Pressing the frills, which are pinned down to the ironing board

Pile of pressed frill layers ready to sew to base skirt

No comments:

Post a Comment