Friday, July 31, 2009



Designed and made by multi - award winning designer, Renay Lawrence of -J-i-g-g-l-e-

I had known about the order for Kara's white dress and hat, and had the plan and the materials ready for at least three weeks. So I cruised on through the making of it about a week before the deadline. Four hours, as planned, to sew it up. I decided that Trevor should wear a matching tie, and whipped that up too.
Kara and Trevor were both pleased.

What I didn't know about or expect, was a last minute order from Mel for the same party...

Originally about a week before the deadline Mel decided she wanted a Naughty Fairy mini skirt - which I had almost finished by the time Kara's dress was done......

The party is on tonight (Saturday), and on Thursday Mel changed her mind about the naughty fairy and decided she wanted a "Naughty Elf" costume instead!

AND a much harder one than the fairy skirt!

She had printed out a picture off the internet of a costume she liked and wanted, and sprung it on me that she would prefer me to make this one instead!

I grumbled a lot, and told her that it was not going to be an easy job, it would take me hours to do and I was not particularly happy about the fairy skirt.... but said yes I'd do it anyway.

Mel bought the fabric for the costume previous to letting me know she had changed her mind - which of course made it harder to say no as well.

The fabric choice was lovely I must admit: a slightly stretchy green velveteen, and a creamy white fur. Being a non - sewer, though, Mel wasn't to know how hard the white fur is to sew.
(The white fur used in Kara's dress was the cheaper variety, and therefore has a thinner backing and is easier to sew - the more expensive creamier fur is much thicker both in the backing fabric and the pile)

I modified the pattern for the bodice from Kara's white dress pattern, without too much trouble - at least for the pattern making. Haha.
I simply shortened the dress pattern to hip length, and as the pattern already has the underbust line pencilled onto it, I was able to shape the bra pieces from the dress top quite easily. By drawing two design lines from underbust to hem in place of the centre darts on the front piece, I was able to measure and place the ribbon crosses in the front panels.

I think perhaps the easier way to do this would have been to buy a pre- made strip of some sort - I know some laces come wide enough and with binding - like edges for example - and sew them instead... ALTHOUGH, whether these would come pre - shaped also to taper towards the top I just don't know.....

Starting with the bound edges, I ironed a wide ribbon in half and folded it over the edges of the green fabric and sewed it down. I then cut, measured and pinned each piece of ribbon and placed them before sewing them into place to create the criss - cross effect.

Also while doing this I learned of a better way - instaed of cutting all the pieces of ribbon to length and fiddling with small, very moveable pieces - I realised that to make this easier I would have folded and ironed the ribbon into the crosses and then sewn it on. The crossed ribbons turned out nicely regardless of how I sewed them. The green fabric panels have just enough stretch in them to pull tight and make the ribbons (with no stretch at all of course) sit nicely down the ribs and stomach.
I traced the bra - trim pattern pieces onto the back of the fur, making sure the pile was running in the correct direction (always with fur running down the body) - with pencil as this will rub off with wear.
When cutting fur it is important NOT to cut the pile (the fluff on top). Often places like Spotlight will just cut straight across the fabric and not pay any attentin to this tiny, but very important little hint.
The "correct" way to cut fur (and only leading teddy bear suppliers MAY know and do this trick) is with just the very tip of your scissors, UNDER the pile.
If you hold the fabric fur - down, and cut from the wrong side of the fabric, this is easy to do. You can feel the backing fabric with the scissors, and aim to only cut the backing, pushing only millimetres of the tip of the scissors under the pile before cutting.
Taking such tiny snips, it IS a time consuming procedure, BUT in the end result is so much more quality - looking bears and garments that you will never just hack a piece of fur again!
Knowing how tough the white fur is to sew I hemmed the top edge of the bra trim pieces before sewing them onto the green bra cup pieces.

After years of making Collectible Artist's Teddy Bears, I also still have my fur brush; and brushed all the seams in the fur as I went. As you sew the fur, some of the pile will tuck under the stitches. For a quality finish, this must be plucked or brushed out of the seams... it really does make a big difference.....

Happy with the bra pieces and the front panel, I cut out the back panel, slightly slimmer than the dress pattern to allow for the stretch of the velveteen.

I pinned and sewed the darts in place at the back anyway - despite being stretch fabric and not necessarily needing it - as I think this will make a more quality - looking finished garment - The front panel has the tapered ribbon section, so darts at the back will carry through the slight tailoring over the whole garment.

Mel had said she wanted slightly wide shoulder straps so she could wear a bra underneath, and therefore wanted the straps wide enough to hide her bra straps.

I simply cut two strips and sewed them in half and turned them inside out for these.

Once all the separate pieces for the bodice top had been sewn I started to assemble it.

I started by sewing the bra cups onto the front panel, matching the ribbon panel with the front dart in the cups.

I met the two tips of the fur bra trim at the centre front of the bodice panel, and later realised I should have overlapped the tips of the fur edges instead; as being stretch fabric, the velveteen gap between the fur of the bra cups would eventually stretch. Overlapping the edges a little would mean the green fabric would be unable to stretch apart at the centre front.

The pieces all went together with no problems.

I used a million pins each time I sewed a seam. Hand tacking would have also sufficed, but pinning is much quicker.

Without a million zillion pins the velveteen will slide as you sew it. (In fact any fabric with a pile will do this). Of course if the fabric moves when you sew it your finished garment will not be the size you were hoping, as each tiny bit it slides gives an extra millmetre or more to each seam - in effect adding several millimetres or worse to the overall size of the garment.

(Imagine your bodice has four seams, two at sides and one front and back - each seam slides 2 mm as you sew it - that's actually now 8mm larger around than you wanted... now imagine that in centimetres!!! You get my point.....)

As well as this, sliding seams can mean twisted garments.... with stretch fabric each slippage when sewing a seam, causes a different area of stress on the fabric when stretched. If the sliding is uneven this can cause the finished garment to look twisted and warped.......

Easier just to pin a million pins!

By sewing a ribbon horizontally across the bottom of the crossed section, I created a fake hemline in the cut - out panels at the front, so that the bottom hemline of the bodice would sit flat and not stretch further apart and / or ruin the ribbon crosses.

I simply overlocked and turned up the remaining bottom hem and sewed it down with one row of matching thread. (Any fabric with a pile becomes too thick for a double hem).

Final touches on the bodice included placing the shoulder straps - this required a fitting to ensure they were just right for Mel - and a red ribbon bow at the centre front.

The skirt was all too easy after designing and working out the bodice. Mel wanted an elastic waistband that could be hidden under a belt, and a nice thick row of fur at the bottom of the skirt.

The skirt was cut out and sewed up within an hour of starting it...........

and WOOHOOO!!! we have a "NAUGHTY ELF" COSTUME!!!!

Compared to the original picture from the internet, I think I have done a swell job of reproducing this outfit.

(internet print out of the costume Mel wanted...)

(Mel's costume...)

I charged $90 for the joy of making it for her, and have requested photos of her wearing it tonight..... stay tuned for the photos of Mel as a "naughty -J-i-g-g-l-e- elf" and Kara and Trevor in their "winter -J-i-g-g-l-e-land" costumes as well.....

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