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I absolutely can't pick just one picture for this post.  Seriously.
I absolutely can’t pick just one picture for this post. Seriously.  Although I really wish there had been a stand the right size and height at the school – this one is too short and plump.

And by done, I mean the headdress and costume are done and delivered, the masks for Laura, the fabulous, are done and delivered, I’ve caught up on my grading and made my students sad, and the fabric/supplies are put away.  *phew*

Kids, don’t try this one at home.

Actually, no, I take that back: make sure you try it while at home, not while are dog/house sitting.  Because your stuff will never be at the right house, and dogs do not understand “Hush, you, I’m working!” the way cats do. And also they have an amazing ability to wait with a face of infinite, guilt-inducing sadness.

Seriously - can you san no to this face?
Seriously – can you san no to this face?

So, the headdress will get its own post because it was a process.  “Make this headdress!” was not one of the labors of Hercules, but I kinda feel like it should have been.  Creating the textile for the blue underskirt will as well (both the time -consuming couture-y way and the sneaky-cheater-why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-first?! method, which might be more accurate).  This one was definitely a materials challenge.

The whole purpose of this post is for me to warn you about this costume.  I don’y scare off too easy when it comes to tackling a costume.  This is one, though…  Honestly, the whole process was such a comedy of errors that I’m pretty convinced there’s a curse on it.  It may be the “Scottish play” of costumes.

It started out well enough.

Mom was in Europe, so I got to use the whole entire living room to drape it.  Good thing, too....
Mom was in Europe, so I got to use the whole entire living room to drape it. Good thing, too….
That train pretty much takes up the whole entire living room.
That train pretty much takes up the whole entire living room.

A little over a week later, my brain clicked on something I’d seen on the really excellent Padwan’s Guide page that Laura sent me off to.  In this detail picture of the sleeve, it looks like there’s a teardrop shaped inset at the bottom of the body-side of the sleeve.

The left side of the image shows the sleeve with an inset.  The left shows the sleeve without.
The left side of the image shows the sleeve with an inset. The left shows the sleeve without.

The inset prevents the sleeve from collapsing to flatness if arms are moved.  It starts in a point at the bottom of the arm slit, and ends in a round at the bottom of the sleeve.  Mine was about 4″ wide at the widest.  Orignally – we’ll get to that.

Right now, timeline-wise, we’re not quite to the end of September.  I was feeling pretty good – the majority of my fabrics were  arriving, I had (I thought) a strong plan for the headdress, and I figured I’d be home full-time in 9-12 days.  (Do you know what they say about assumptions?  Yeah.)

There’s the issue of the infamous greek key fabric –  Stephanie had found here on Etsy a while back.   The seller, ShopMyFabrics, was lovely.

Underskirt of serger magic.
Underskirt of serger magic.

The red/blue underskirt should be a cross-woven chiffon, which I didn’t realize at the time.  I have an acetate-y situation there.  The texture is created with an overlock, and the key is to have the front of the skirt on the bias.  Set the differential feed on your serger to maximum-stretch, and serge folds on the outside of the skirt.  A 2-thread overlock would have been a nice touch, bit the fabric I was using was really, really inclined towards fraying.  I couldn’t find a red-blue chiffon for less than 15$/yd, and that was a silk that was too narrow to bother with for a bias technique on a tall client.  I found every other color combo of cross-weave under the sun, mind you…

My part of the sleeves was to block fuse silk to black interfacing, tract out the pattern, then thread tract it to get it to the correct side.
My part of the sleeves was to block fuse silk to black interfacing, tract out the pattern, then thread tract it to get it to the correct side.

Then I sent them and trim on their merry way and stopped worrying about them.

It’s still pre-October by a couple of days.  I was feeling good.  I was shooting for turnover before my birthday.

I gave up on finding the blue fabric premade.  I was orignally convinced it was a silk-wool matlisse that had been felted down.  Um….  You can’t buy that.  Except in a sort of suspect seafoam green arrangement, which is Italian, ergo stupid expensive and not guaranteed to work.  Laura dug up a mention of Floral Cloque Organza that is close to the right texture for the overlay, but needs a little work.  I felt like if I was going to have to do work, then I was going to be sure it was in the color of my dreams.

Hubris and optimism – mistakes #1 and #2, right there.

But one of the most striking things about this costume is its weight.  It’s heavy and it’s sad.  It’s literally dripping with responsibility.  All of the colors, collectively, aren’t 100% committed – each of the fabrics expresses a sense of sadness and questionable self-identity.

Look at me, talking all like a designer.

But since we’ve already shifted out the greige of the original for a color that Stephanie actually looks good in (craziness, I know), getting the right color between the grey kimono and the red/blue underskirt was really important to me.

So I needed to make the blue fabric, and the headdress base.  This was fiddly handwork, but I figured that doing it while house-sitting would actually help me by removing many distractions.  Like, the internet, which I could only access through my phone.

Mistake #3, folks.

It took longer than I expected.  You have less working time when you have to cook for yourself.  (I used to just eat spaghetti-Os straight from the can when I was working fast.  That was before la vida gluten-free.)  And that headdress….   Ooooohhh, that headdress!  That little booger refused to consent to be made.  I dunno what happened, because I consider myself the reigning queen of gimme-two-coat-hangers-and-some-craft-foam millinery, but day-um.  “Dey it ain’t!” happened quite a few times before “dey it is.”

Mistakes #4 – 47, if I recall correctly.

One week before Halloween, I was finally home full-time.  Ah, home!  Except I also had a new class starting that evening, so I didn’t get to hang around longer than what it took to drop off most of my stuff, then I had to drive an hour north to get stitches out (10 minute procedure), drive home and get class stuff, then eventually drive home to sleep in my own bed!

Oh, home sweet home….  You know, where my sewing machine and my Metallica and ALL OF MY TOOLS are.  And that headdress got MADE because I could finally work for more than 3 hours at a time.  I made FedEx pack it for me.  (“How do you want me to pack this?”  “I have no idea.  You are the shipping experts.”)  It was worth the 30$ for the 45 minute show alone.  They wanted $521 – 498 to overnight it, though, so against all better judgement, I 2-dayed it.  It arrived, intact.

So, then, with very little time remaining, I just had to sew up the kimono and find some way to make the fabric for the underskirt.  But I figured, that’s ok, because I can sew.  Really fast, actually.

On tuesday, the majority of sewing happened.  The kimono sleeves went together (interlined with felt – double layer on the big piece, quadruple on the inside piece.

Started flatting the Kimono silk onto flannel (because that is what you do when you need silk to hang nicely), realized I was short on flannel.  Got flannel.  Did some more cutting, realized I’d never actually made up a pattern for the facings and lining.  Made patterns for those.  Cut facings without a seam allowance, which is such a newbie mistake it’s not even funny.  At least I remembered to pre-hem the lining.

So there’s mistake #48.

That is when I realized that the sleeves had shrunk.  Well, ok, the big piece of the sleeves had shrunk, or the little bit grew, but one way or the other, they were no longer the same size.  Harumph.  I’m not one to be defeated by little things, so I made it work.  My sewing machine was a little sad about it, but it was told to shut up and deal.

Built the body, popped the lining in, and went to set the sleeves.

That is when I noticed that the front embroider was on the back side of the Raglan, and the back embroider was on the front.  Important, because raglan sleeves aren’t symmetrical at the top.  (This is on me – Laura asked, and I said something vague about it being marked, I was pretty sure.  Should have gone into more detail….)  This was a 5 minute fix – hours ago.  Right just then, it is a tragedy of Wagner-ian proportions.  I allowed myself a full 15 seconds of “WHY GOD WHY?!!” fist shaking, then decided there were more constructive uses for my time.

Fortunately, it worked out to a really tiny adjustment when I put it back on the stand.
Fortunately, it worked out to a really tiny adjustment when I put it back on the stand.

The sleeves weren’t happy about being set, but set they got.  At this point, this costume is getting unwieldy – those felt interlined sleeves actually do stand on their own, so when you try to flip things over in the sleeve setting process it gets a little violent.  Normally I beat fabric into submission.  I am not used to fabric wanting to return the favor….

For lack of any real plan for finishing the lining by the sleeve, the ugly got covered in bias.  Sometimes that’s just easier.  More sleeve-pummelling happened, but I was kind of learning to dodge.

The blue undersleeves got made up and lined.  And that was when I realized that I’d set myself up to attach a standard sleeve head into a raglan sleeve.  That’s not normal.

Mistake #49.  Shoulda thought that one through a little more at the start of the project.

Expedient, if dodgey, hand stitching happened.

But there’s still that blue underskirt….  I tested a somewhat suspect theory I had that definitely falls on the shady side of costumer tricks while making the neck band.  It worked.  I finished the other neck band, set myself up for the underskirt, and took a nap.

Mistake #50 – I should have gone with the 1 hour refresh instead of the 3.  This one might have changed the ultimate outcome.   You can always take another nap later.

Bright and ugly the next morning (we’re talking 4am), I got up and went to work.  The blue underskirt got made, the collars went together. and I was thinking that somehow, this was going to work out.

I took the costume in to class.  It’s not technically related to history of costume, but it actually got my student’s attention and got them thinking about fabrics as a starting point instead of a finished product, so that was good.  I needed to hem the silk part of the kimono, and make an obi.  And I had an hour long movie planned, and three hours between the end of class and a meeting….  What could possibly go wrong?

Movie, hem nearly accomplished.  Awesome.  Class over.  And then, for no obvious good reason, students who never show up outside of class were in.  And they wanted love and encouragement and help and junk.  I did something I rarely do, and told them point blank that if they could not bring their problem to me, I wasn’t helping because I was not technically there.

Mistake #51 – should have shut the doors to that room and turned off the lights.  This, too, might have changed things.

I went to sew and couldn’t find an industrial that was working.  This is technically no one’s fault but my own, because I’m supposed to take care of the machines.  Grrr!

I screwed up sewing the Obi.  Now, this is two rectangles and four pieces of velcro.  My brain just wasn’t working and people kept wanting to talk to me.  A colleague who happens to be a former teacher wanted to remind me to iron and consider a different technique.  (Once a teacher, always a teacher….)  I just went stupid.  I mean, I got it. But not in time to FedEx it before a meeting that I was supposed to go to and take notes at.  And that meeting ran long.

I missed the shipping deadline.

Mistake #52, and the only one that really matters.

I called the nearest FedEx, and asked the woman on the phone how I would get a box to Ohio tomorrow.  She laughed and said “Start driving.”  Normally, I have a sense of humor….

Called UPS.  At least they didn’t laugh.  The fellow suggested I could drive it to their depot, maybe, but he wasn’t sure and didn’t know who I would talk to.  I seriously considered driving, but then I remembered that I was working on very little sleep and that was probably a bad idea.

I asked the interwebs, because I seem to remember same day shipping being a thing.  I mean, like, in the 80s, even.   Aha!  I can same-day with FedEx.  I signed up (which requires two accounts, btw, and a credit card), filled out the special form, and got an error page.  There is nothing I can do until the morning, when I have to call a Real Live Human Being(tm).

Oh, and mistake #53 – I should have taken the costume back out of the box at home and put it on the right stand to get better pictures.  I was feeling somewhat defeated and focussed elsewhere.

It turns out that same day shipping is no longer a thing, unless you’re an established customer.  It’s something about the TSA and Homeland Security.  Frankly, this does not make me feel more secure – just annoyed.  I suggested, somewhat curtly, that if it was not possible for a new customer to ship same day, then there shouldn’t be a new customer sign-up process for same-day shipping on their site.  Call me crazy.  I found a same-day freight option available, for the low-low cost of $800.

So I called Stephanie.  I offered to drive it out.  (I’d already cleared the idea of a road trip for lunch in OH with mom.)  Being significantly saner than I am, she said no, it was not worth that because a) it was a halloween costume, and b) they were expecting lousy weather.  (Not gonna lie – I almost did anyway.  Mom talked me down.)

So it was overnighted via FedEx, and arrived around 2 hours to0 late, and apparently spent the day sitting in the rain with a hole in the side of the box.  (This is technically better than the fate of something that was FedEx’d to me around the same time, which was involved in a fire and destroyed.  They didn’t contact the shipper about that.  I don’t mean to be all harsh on FedEx, but seriously?)

And then there were the masks.  Laura had asked me to send pictures of the templates for them earlier in the week, and I was like, “You’re a funny lady.”

How much does missa hate embroidery?  Two mice, two bunnies, a dodo, a turtle, and a Cheshire worth.  Yep.
How much does missa hate embroidery? Two mice, two bunnies, a birdies, a turtle, and a Cheshire worth. Yep.

Those got made and overnighted on Tuesday.  They went USPS.

Then an epic grade-a-thon and some cleaning had to happen.  I was going to clean more this weekend.  I took time off instead.  Judge me not too harshly….


  1. Laura
    Laura November 17, 2014

    Oh dear. This was quite the ordeal. Thank you for making those amazing masks. The kids loved them.

    • missa
      missa November 18, 2014

      De nada – thank you for the embroidery!

  2. Stephanie H.
    Stephanie H. November 18, 2014

    What she said: Oh, dear. This was quite the ordeal. Thank you for making that amazing costume. I love it!

    (And FedEx was kind enough to leave the costume on my covered porch, so the hole in the box and the wet skirt happened somewhere before it got to me. I can’t figure it out but my current theory is that they dragged the box *behind* the truck down the highway in the rain at some point.)

    • missa
      missa November 18, 2014

      I am glad you love it! :) This shouldn’t have been a greek tragedy. And yet….. (And that’s a good theory – I’m surprised I’ve never seen that while driving!)

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