I’m not quite sure where the burning need to make Amazing Costumes for our offspring comes from.
My mum had six kids and I don’t think she slept for at least 20 years, let alone took a quiet five minutes for a cup of tea and a chat on the internet (Internet? Pfff! I am OLDER THAN THE INTERNET!) But I remember always having the most incredible costumes for dress-up days when I was at school.
Whether it was a Holly Hobby style stripy skirt and mob cap for our special ‘Olden Days’ open day or a bright pink boob tube and gingham rah rah skirt for the school production of Joseph And The Technicolour Dreamcoat, she pulled it off, somehow. (Yes, somewhere there is photographic evidence of me as an Adoring Girl. No, you don’t get to see it. Ever. Some things are best kept hidden from the world.)
So when the lovely Julie of Tilly Flop Designs reminded us all that next week is World Book Day (Thursday 3rd March, specifically) I was filled with dread.
Could I live up to my Mum’s amazing creations?
Would Orlaith agree to wear what I made? What the hell would my eccentric child want to wear for World Book Day anyway? She has somewhat… eclectic taste in books and I could see her asking for something completely undoable like a Captain Biceps outfit or Herb The Vegetarian Dragon or something. I have no idea how to pull off a dragon costume. None.
In the end it was fairly easy. One of her favourite books is Captain Flinn and The Pirate Dinosaurs which was a much treasured perfect birthday present from Alex and Scott (I seem to recall). We’ve subsequently acquired and devoured each new episode in Flinn’s fantastic adventures. They’re hilarious, full of swash and buckle and just the right amount of naughtiness. Dinosaurs and pirates are two of Orlaith’s all consuming passions in life, so the books are just perfect.
And of course, she wants to be Captain Flinn for Book Day. (So proud my daughter is continuing my own penchant for cross-dressing on Book Day. I remember going dressed as Prince Caspian at least once. Gender, schmender. Swords are cool.)
Flicking through the book I realised with dread I was going to have to make an actual *gasp* garment. A pirate coat, no less.
It sounds silly to be so daunted, but you have to remember that it’s been almost a year since I last made anything that wasn’t a knitting bag or a sun hat. I haven’t made myself any maternity skirts and I’ve never ever made a top, let alone a whole coat.
Still, armed with my trusty tools, I went to work with a will. I took Orlaith’s measurements and we sketched out what she wanted the coat to look like.
Look! I drew something. And it actually looks like the thing it's meant to represent.
I started out by looking at her existing coat and trying to figure out what I would need to do to adapt that shape to be more… piratey. SarahAbroad suggested hitting up the thrift shops and finding a jacket to modify. And then I remembered my handy stash of Sew Hip contained in it, somewhere, a pattern for a duffle coat. I hunted like a pig for truffles and sure enough, there it was!
The kid in the photos is just so cute.
I used the pattern pieces for the lining as a starting point. One of the best tools you can get, if you’re going to be working with templates or patterns is a tracing wheel. Looks a bit like a tiny pizza cutter with little bumpy bits all over it and you can use it to copy pattern pieces without having to ruin them by cutting them out.
I traced the lining pieces, then I modified them.
Always, always, always write down what your pattern piece is.
Mark which bit is the neckline, armscye, hem etc. Really important to transfer any markings as well.
Not sure if you can see the markings too well in the photos, but I took Orlaith’s collarbone to ‘waist’ measurement, marked a line at that point on each of the pattern pieces, then basically extended the line of the bottom of the coat, to make it into an A line shape. Effectively, I added an A line skirt onto the bottom of her coat. Sort of.
DIdn’t need to alter any of the sleeve pieces so after that it was time to cut it all out and get sewing.
Sleevish! The funny looking bit at the top is where your shoulder goes.
All pinned together. Pinning is super important when making a garment.
Make the recipient try it on before you sew, scratchy pins and all. It will save you much heartache.
You can kind of see the new shape, no? Slightly swingier from the waist down.
I didn’t take any photos while I was sewing. I was too busy swearing at the thread for breaking and sweating over things like pocket placement and so forth. I roughly followed the instructions from the pattern in the magazine which were really nice and clear. I’d definitely make the duffel coat based on the pattern instructions. One of these days…
Anyway, skipping over the hours it took me to actually sew the things together – interspersed with breaks for taking people to the potty, making lunch, reading stories etcetera – here’s the finished product, like magic.
Ta dah! Pirate jacket, with dinosaurs. See what I did there?
(Um, Alex? I may have been forced, forced I tell you, to raid the stash on the table a little. Sorry about that. But the dinosaurs say they like living on Orlaith’s coat and they really wanted to be pirates rather than knitting supplies anyway.)
Best of all, are the buttons. I am so happy about the buttons.
Jake bought himself a lovely coat earlier in the Winter – I think it might be a pea coat? – but the buttons were sewn on very badly. I repaired them three or four times in the first week or so he had it, until he finally got sick of not being able to wear his shiny new coat and we cut all the buttons off and replaced them with plain navy ones.
Not being one to throw anything away (Random birthday cards from when I was 6? Still at my Mum’s house somewhere.) I held onto them, just in case I should one day have a need for nautical themed buttons. And lo, I looked upon them and realised they were good. Oh yes!
I bound the cuffs with some offcuts of satin ribbon leftover from making drawstrings for our yarn pouches:
It took me all blinking day and most of my evening to put it together. But when she saw it this morning, it was all suddenly worth it.
She has yet to remove it for more than 5 seconds at a time and she and Esme have constructed a pirate ship on the armchair.
I’d like to think my Mum would be proud.
Captain Flinn and Pirate BicBic
Of course, the only problem is that now I have to make one for Esme. She’s already picked out the fabric. A mum’s work is never done…
PS Stay tuned later, we should hopefully have an Unravel Preview Post for you…