how to make a squirrel costume

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The household's been crazy this past week with Halloween coming up. So far we haven't had a Halloween with store-bought costumes. It's one of those things I cling to from my childhood in the '70's. My brothers and I would scrounge the house a day or two before and manage to make something with a little help from Mom's rag bag and craft supplies. So we've been in a tizzy deciding what the kids want to be and executing the costumes.
Since we have so many squirrels in our yard and a taming program underway by the children, my boy has decided on being a squirrel. He thought he might want to be a cat again which he's already been twice (and my daughter has been 4 times), but I pointed out to him all the different animals he could be using the same trusty McCall's 8953 pattern. Of course there's no squirrel variation to the pattern, but we can improvise!
I sketched out a tail on some project paper to find the right proportion, keeping in mind it will appear smaller when stuffed.
Then I added a generous seam allowance and cut 2 out of some really squirrelish-looking faux fur. Before you sew the fur, it's a good idea to give the seam allowances a hair cut so they are not too bulky to sew. Have a vacuum handy- it's gonna be a mess!
I quickly realized the tail wasn't going to stay up on it's own. Some kind of suspension system would be required. I thought of fishing line attaching the tail to the body somehow. The hardware store had this clear picture hanging wire that I figured would definitely be strong enough. I sewed some through a button (so the fabric wouldn't tear under pressure) on the inside of the tail
and out through the other side.
I thought I would attach the other end of the wires to the body, which I made out of fleece, in the same way with a button.  The tail was too heavy though, it just pulled on the body too much. A harness inside the suit would be necessary.
Harness, you say, too complicated! Not really. Some elastic scraps cut to loop around the upper arms and held together by a short length of tote bag strapping were a snap to assemble. Just measure the pieces by fitting directly on the child. I tried the suit on my boy first to make sure the attachment point was in the right spot. Then I threaded the wires through the body and attached them through a button to the harness and secured with a knot and leaving the ends long for future adjustment.
Some other modifications to the pattern were to the hood part. I changed the direction of the ear placement like I did last year for the bat costume and eliminated the hood lining. I used the smallest ears which are supposed to be for the lion and lined them with contrast fabric. I also don't bother with the spats or mittens that the pattern includes (this saves about 1/2 yard of fabric).

Trick or treat!

autumn morning in the brandywine valley

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Went for an early drive this morning to take in the beauty of the Brandywine at its peaceful best.
frosted field
barn in the mist
my favorite abandoned farm house
hay bales
the "belties" of Centreville
We are very fortunate to have so much open space and preserved land so close to the city of Wilmington. Have a great weekend!

making frame purses

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm pretty excited to say I can make frame purses now! This will be a great way to upcycle the precious scraps from my vintage tablecloths and feedsacks. On my last trip to the NYC garment district, I picked up some purse frames to play around with. Then I read up up about how make purses here. Lisa Lam's directions for making your own patterns and assembling the bags worked great. She's not kidding, don't drink wine and then try to glue your purse into the frame. The gluing part is a little touch-and-go, but overall, it's very satisfying to make a frame purse.

Oh, and a word about glue. You can't just use any glue. The first glue I tried was Goop and I don't recommend it. It worked OK for gluing fabric to metal, but it didn't have the fine nozzle you need to get the glue neatly into the frame and it stank to high heaven. The first little purse I made still reeks over a month later. A little research revealed that all the pursemakers use Guterman HD2 which is not available in the US. You can order it from Lisa's company, U-Handbag and several suppliers on Etsy. It stinks at first, but dissipates relatively quickly.
Once you know the basics, it's not hard to customize patterns for different frames and bag shapes. I decided to try a rounded gathered shape. To get the gathering, I did the "slash 'n' spread" patternmaking technique we learned in 1st year apparel design class. I kept the lining flat and only gathered the shell.
Interfacing is important in bag construction. Lisa's example bag has a flat bottom and is meant to stand up on its own , so she recommends very stiff, heavy interfacing. For the gathered bag, I didn't want to lose the drape, so I went with  tricot interfacing- Stacy Easy Knit by Pellon- on the wrong side of the shell. It's the same silky, soft fusible I use as a backing on my appliquéd onesies.
Then I made some appliquéd coin purses. For these I used a lightweight interfacing - Pellon Feather/Midweight- to stabilize the shell for appliquéing, then applied Pellon Fusible Fleece. The fusible fleece is a thin batting that gives the purses just the right structure.
I've been making these initial purses for birthday gifts and they've gone over well, so I decided to add them to the shop. My little models loved playing with them at the photo shoot. And they're not just for kids if my sister-in-law's squeals are any indication!

ramsey's farm

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's not October without a visit to the local pumpkin patch. At least when you have kids it's not. I'm not sure I would think to go to a pumpkin farm if I didn't have kids. But that's the great thing about having kids- they make you get out there and rediscover the world.
Beloved Ramsey's Farm, in North Wilmington, is in full swing this time of year. They are open to the public from September 25 through October 31st for pumpkin picking, educational programs, school field trips, fun stuff like hay rides and corn mazes, and birthday parties.
Today we were there for a little friend's birthday.
The kids really got into the pumpkin painting craft.
A nice change of pace from Chuck E. Cheese.
And the corn maze was fun too.

Happy Fall!

crafty bastards 2010: fall fashion

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Crafty Bastards, it wasn't easy getting to you this year, but thanks to a good GPS and some perseverance, we made it. The fair took place on October 3rd, the same day of the Obama ralley. The Memorial Bridge was closed and traffic was snarled, but we made it!
printed & appliquéd felt headbands by Casey Dywer of Candy Thief
Mom came along again as my side-kick because we had such a good time last year buying Christmas gifts. If you care about supporting the arts, handmade, shopping local and finding unique things, you will really enjoy the new craft fairs out there today. The indie ones, like Crafty Bastards, have unexpected, quirky, and up-to-date items. If you go to one, keep in mind some general craft show etiquette. Don't go into someone's booth and say "I could find that cheaper at Target" or " I could make that myself". Have some common sense and manners! A lot more goes into designing, making, and presenting the work than you think. I guarantee you none of the artists is getting rich doing this. Support them. BUY something!
Malagueta by Rachel Sherman
As usual, there were many choices of jewelry, screen printed tees, bath & body, stuffed toys, and paper goods. I focused on fashion items this time. There is such energy and innovation going on in the indie world as you can see in this meticulously executed cut-out applique skirt and asymmetrically rouched top by Rachel Sherman of Malagueta.
Malagueta by Rachel Sherman
Vibrant appliqué and machine topstitch embroidery on another skirt from Malagueta. Rachel's skirts are all one-of-a-kinds.
So She Sews by Brooke Helfen
These clever tops are upcycled from sweaters by Brooke Helfen of So She Sews. The bottom rib of the sweaters now form the tops of the camisole. Ruffled rosettes are fashioned from the excess.
Supermaggie by Maggie Kleinpeter
A stunning face-framing felted scarf/wrap by Maggie Kleinpeter of Supermaggie.
 "Moths" by Supermaggie
In addition to felted scarves, Supermaggie screen prints images of nature on dresses, tees, and hoodies.
Rocks and Salt
Hats are back! Phil & Sara of Rocks & Salt rock the jaunty newsboy look. Hit their online shop for a taste of Brooklyn.
Eve Van Dalsen
Eve Van Dalsen's booth featured bags and belts made from remnants of leather that might otherwise have been discarded.
Eve Van Dalsen
Because of this, most of Eve's pieces are one-of-a-kind, and she carries a huge variety of colors and textures.
Lily Thayer Derrick and Coralie Meslin of Coralilie
Cheerful, one size fits most, wrap-around jumpers by Coralilie. Cute over a tee, they were almost sold-out before lunch. What the heck- it's still warm enough! Coralilie is Lily Thayer Derrick and Coralie Meslin of Baltimore.
Candy Thief by Corey Dywer
In addition to the pretty headbands at the beginning of this post, Corey Dywer of Candy Thief makes these happy pieced skirts that include vintage fabrics.

See you again next year Crafty!

rosemary luckett's altered terrain exhibit

Monday, October 4, 2010

I happen to have a very talented mother, Rosemary Luckett. We just got back from the opening of "Altered Terrain", her first solo show at Touchstone Gallery since it moved to a better, brighter, spiffier location on New York Ave in Washington, DC. It will run until October 30th.
Touchstone Gallery
Rosemary is an innovative contemporary fine artist working in the conservative Washington DC area. No easy feat. Her current work is about the radical changes man has made to the land and makes connections between the altered terrain and the often absent people who transform it.
"Slipping Away" and "Eden" by Rosemary Luckett
She has worked in many media over the years, but the work in the show is primarily collage, drawings, and assemblage sculpture.
"Robot's Cradle" by Rosemary Luckett
My daughter actually named this one when Rosemary was stuck for a title: "Robot's Cradle".
Emma pondering "Lost" by Rosemary Luckett
Kids really respond to the work.
Initially children see the ducky imagery and think its funny, but when the contrast of the man-made and the natural is explained to them, they actually get the point. My daughter is only 9 and was captivated by the show and seemed to understand the metaphors.
"Halo" by Rosemary Luckett
Even my little guy who is not quite 5 yet wanted to get in on the action. He didn't seem to be into the exhibit at the time, but the next day he begged to be taken into grandma's studio to make some art.
"Wood" by my little boy
This is what he made.

It is a challenge finding your niche whatever it is you make. I read somewhere that when you make something unique, you don't want to try to reach thousands, but reach those very few out of a thousand that resonate with your work. Being in the generation I am in, my first instinct is to go online, have a website, use social media, etc. My brothers and I have helped set Mom up with a website, Etsy shop, and Facebook page. Mom, however, prefers showing in galleries, having open studio once in a while, and sending mailings to people who sign her guest book. It is true that it is very hard to sell fine art online. Nothing beats seeing the work in person. But if you can't be there in person...

I would love to know what works for other fine artists. Feel free to comment!