Saturday, December 6, 2014

Creating a Dandy(lion) Hat

As promised, here is a post about the dandelion hats, inspired by the animated movie Epic. The hats are definitely the most interesting part of the costume. And the most challenging to make and wear. It's fun seeing peoples' reactions when I tell them how they are made. So finally the mystery will be revealed for all to see. I don't know if there is a better, faster way to make the hat but after a few experiments (and with a keen sense of "Safety First") this is what I came up with.

Three purdy flowers

Final materials list: straw hat, plastic canvas circle and rectangle, kid's foam construction hat from dollar store, bamboo skewers, brown and white acrylic craft paint, white floral tape, fashion eyelash trim, white school glue, brown bias tape. There are 80-100 sticks per hat. Over 5 yards of the eyelash trim was used on each hat. I did not track the amount of materials very well. The trim was the most expensive part and had to be ordered online since my local stores didn't restock it after I bought it all!

These are difficult to transport

I started with a circular piece of plastic canvas – the kind used for yarn work. I used a paper pattern to figure out how to turn a flat circle into a head shape. I cut slits in the circular plastic canvas piece and overlapped each edge of the slit, to make the circle into a dome shape. I used twist ties to hold the edges together until I could sew them together. I then cut strips of the rectangle canvas and sewed them into circles of 2 different diameters (to account for increasing diameter of the human head from the top down as well as the thickness of the canvas). The smallest circle was attached to the bottom of the dome shape. The larger circle was attached to the bottom.

Three canvas pieces (L) and final piece sewed together (R)

Each plastic canvas “hat” was sewn inside a purchased straw hat. I had to cut down the brim of the hat first.  The canvas needed to be very close to the hat, so the stitching had to be very tight. (My hands hurt like mad after sewing these all down). I used brown thread and a heavy duty needle.

Canvas base sewn into straw hat

"Eyelash" fashion trim
Each stick was cut to size from bamboo skewers, leaving the pointy end intact. For the fluff, I used white eyelash apparel trim.  After “detangling” each section of trim for maximum fluffiness, I cut the trim into 1-inch pieces. The trim was then wrapped around the stick and secured with white floral tape. They were then hand painted brown and white using acrylic paint – 2 coats each. We had “stick parties” for cutting the sticks, applying the fluff, and painting the sticks.

Sticks ready to be painted

The sticks were then inserted into the straw hat and through the holes in the plastic canvas. After a small area was full of sticks, I would trim the pointy ends and apply white glue at the base of each one and allow to dry before working on the next section. While the sticks are very snug in the canvas, I didn't want to take the chance of driving a stick into the head of my sisters or me.  

Starting to insert sticks into hat

Adding some white glue for additional security

To make the hats comfortable, I cut down a kid’s foam construction hat and inserted it into the straw hat. It makes our heads sweaty, but keeps the stick nubs from hurting our heads. I hand stitched brown double-fold bias tape around the inside edge of the hat to secure the foam hat and hide the messy edges. I don't have a picture of that detail since DragonCon was looming and I couldn't afford the time. Here's a pic of the hat on my foam man-head.

Feel free to ask questions if you plan to make one of these. Keep in mind that they are hard to transport and store. It's a challenge to get 3 of these into a hotel room with a bunch of other costumes! And beware of headaches as ours are pretty snug. Maybe next I'll take on a daisy hat!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dandelion costumes that won't make you sneeze (much)

Screen shot of dandelion
These dandelion costumes were inspired by the animated movie Epic. They were not a major part of the movie so it was hard to get a good screen shot. I made these to wear to DragonCon in 2013. I made three costumes so my sisters and I could be a fun pack of weeds. I started experimenting with materials and methods in June, although I had been researching and saving ideas for a while. I finished these costumes in the hotel Thursday night at DragonCon. (Familiar story, right?)

Pack of weeds

The full costume consists of 1) purchased hoop skirt, 2) 2-layer petal skirt, 3) underbust corset with petal "peplum", 4) undershirt with elastic neck and arms, and 5) dandelion hat. I built the hats first, since I knew they were going to be the hardest. I will discuss the hat construction in the next post. The base costume was made from Kona cotton.

The skirt includes a simple upper base where the lower leaves attach, and one additional layer of leaves that attach at the waist. There are a total of 3 layers of fabric leaves that decrease in size and length from bottom to top. (Two layers in the skirt and one layer from the bodice.) I added a pocket in each side seam of the skirt, which hides nicely under the other layers of leaves. A simple drawstring waistband was added for adjustable fit.

Base skirt with lower layer of leaves
Two-layer leaf skirt

I made three leaf templates from craft paper for each layer of the costume, varying the total width of the leaf and shape of the jagged edges so they didn't all look the same. There are 3 different leaf shapes for each layer for a total of 9 paper templates. 

Templates used to cut fabric leaves
I decided to use craft paper since I had to make 3 skirts with these patterns and didn't want to risk ruining delicate pattern paper. (Some of us are not always very accurate with scissors.)  Since the craft paper is much stiffer than pattern tissue paper (thus no pinning the pattern to the fabric) and I didn't want to cut into the templates while cutting all those curves, I traced the shape of each leaf on the fabric before cutting.

Traced leaf pattern
To make a more natural edge and to keep the cotton from fraying, the edges of each leaf were “painted” with a fabric glue and hand “rolled” while wet to give them some depth with a curled edge. A center vein was added to each leaf by using a satin stitch over a piece of yarn. I used wooly nylon thread so I could cover as much yarn as possible with the longest stitch length. If the stitch length was too short, the fabric bunched in too much near the yarn. 

Wooly nylon thread over yarn for the leaf vein
The bodice is an underbust corset pattern (Simplicity 1819), modified with a layer of leaves on top that extend over the skirt. Steel boning was used in the corset since I wanted this costume to last a while. I also made bias tape from the cotton fabric to bind the corset layers. 

Back side of corset before lining was attached
The leaves are attached to the bodice only at the top, so they hang down past the waist. I used fabric glue to keep the corset leaves in place since I didn't want any stitching to show or the under part of the corset to show. 

Fabric glue used to keep the top leaves in place
The shirt is a simple ren-style blouse with elastic around the neckline and bottom of the sleeves. I set the elastic about an inch or more from the finished edge to create the ruffled look.The total fabric yardage for skirt, leaves, undershirt, and corset was around 5 yards.

I bought really cheap hoop skirts to go under the skirts. Really cheap. The bottom of each hoop skirt was painted with matching green acrylic paint mixed with fabric medium. The fabric medium keeps the cheap hoop fabric from being stiff and crunchy. I only painted the lower portion of the skirts, so white still shows through sometimes when we move around. I found that the leaves needed to be tacked together to keep from fluttering. Although a little bit of flutter is pretty neat.

For a little added flower power, we wear white feather eyelashes purchased from Amazon. We add white and/or green eye makeup if we feel like it. The eyelashes get almost as many compliments as the hats!
Funny sister face

The finished costume is fairly comfortable (aside from the hat). Stay tuned for details about the dandelion hats.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Been a while, 'eh?

I told myself I would update this little blog for my own sake. Documenting my costumes really helps me see how far I've come. So this will be a place holder to remind me to add some stuff. Most notably, I intend to post pics and process descriptions for my dandelion costumes. I also plan to share about my never ending obsession to collect, sort, categorize, and document. I love an excel spreadsheet for tracking my mounting stash of fabric! So I hope I will hold myself accountable and document this amazing adventure.

In the meantime, here is a picture of the dandelions!
From DragonCon 2013