Monday, November 5, 2012

Pattern review: Martha Stewart octopus costume


For someone who loves any excuse to DIY, and especially one that involves sewing, I've been surprisingly unmotivated about homemade Halloween costumes in the past, content to hand my girl a headband with ears and let her be a cat for the third year in a row.

But this year she said she wanted to be an octopus, and I found a pattern that looked doable, a free download from Martha Stewart, so I decided to give it a whirl.

I'm so glad I did.

The pattern is a basic cape, with the bottom shaped into eight arms. Using a polka-dot printed cotton for the inside of the cape gives the effect of suckers on the underside of the octopus's tentacles.
 

You stuff the arms and in between the layers of the hood with fiberfill, turning the project into a delightful hybrid of clothing and softie.



I'd been prepared to hate the pattern. I think Martha Stewart's material is often aesthetically pleasing but impractical, and unnecessarily complicated. (I've been burned by a couple of her recipes before.) At first it seemed this project was heading in the same direction when I downloaded the pattern and discovered a single sheet of 8.5x11 paper with instructions to enlarge by 400%. A free pattern that requires a $10 trip to Kinko's is...not so free anymore, is it?

But things improved from there. The further I got into the project the more fun it was to sew. I was grinning when I finished and floated on the high all evening.

Best of all, my girl wore it happily (sadly never a given with hand-mades). It still seems a shame to do all that work for an item that only gets worn for a half-hour or so (we are not big trick-or-treaters; when the girl announces "I think I have enough candy" we don't argue). So I'm thinking a trip to the aquarium, in costume, is in order sometime soon.

Man, I really need to work on my photo-shoot skills.

Ah well, the octopus is known to be a shy and moody creature.

As well as being highly intelligent.
 Here are some more specifics about the project:

The sources:
  • Pattern by Martha Stewart Crafts.
  • Red ultrasuede/moleskin (sorry, I can't remember exactly what it was) and polka-dot quilting cotton (DS quilts line) both from Joann's. (I was so tickled when my girl chose the fabric designed by Denyse Schmidt--it was totally her independent choice, I swear! She just has good taste.)

The pros:
  • As a science geek, I really appreciate the accuracy of the design--the shape of the head really is octopus-like.
  • It's also quite practical--a simple, one-piece costume that is easy to put on and easy to wear; it doesn't restrict a child's movement.
  • The use of bias tape to enclose the seam between the cape and the hood is a really nice feature--it makes for a clean finish and the bias tape extends into the ties that keep the cape on. I'm guessing this isn't a groundbreaking technique in cape construction but I appreciate those little details. 



The cons:
  • The aforementioned trip to the copy shop. Come on Martha, practically every idiot with a Blogger account knows how to make a tiled PDF these days. (Well, you know, except for this idiot. But Martha has no excuse, she has staff!)
  • There is an error on the pattern sheet. The back pattern piece says to place on the fold and cut 2 of each fabric. In fact, you should only do this if you want an octopus with 12 arms. (Cut 1 on fold, is what it should say.)
  • I don't think this is really a pattern for beginners. The instructions only have words, no diagrams, and there is a bit of spatial reasoning involved in putting the cape together. But that's not a con so much as a caution.
  • The hood did not stay on my girl's head when she was wearing the costume. I know, that's a pretty major drawback, isn't it? But it may have been partly my fault, because I used a slippery ultrasuede/moleskin type fabric for the hood, rather than the quilting cotton called for. I would recommend using quilting cotton, which would be a bit grippier on the hair, at least for the lining of the hood. It's also possible that the hood should have been stuffed more firmly, and/or that it just didn't fit my girl's smallish noggin very well (when I wore the cape--come on, it's totally normal to try on your kid's Halloween costume--it stayed up much better). 
What I did differently:
  • My girl requested button eyes instead of the two-layered fabric applique that the pattern calls for. I think that actually makes for a more true-to-life appearance. At first I placed them pretty far back on the head, then I moved them up to try to make the hood a little less back heavy (it didn't fix the hood-falling-off problem, but in any case, that's why you can see eyes in two different places in the pictures).
  • As mentioned, I used an ultrasuede/moleskin fabric for the outside of the cape and both layers of the hood. Again, score a point for scientific accuracy in capturing the octopus's velvety skin--but this probably wasn't the best choice for the hood lining.
  • The instructions say to baste one layer of the bias tape together with the hood and cape portion to join the costume together. What I did was to baste the edges of the hood together, then baste the edges of the hood together, then the hood and cape to each other, and then--only then--baste the bias tape to the garment. As you know, I hate feeling like I'm fudging when I'm sewing, and this enabled a nice, smooth, accurate sewing experience. Ahhhh..... I think my new rule is to only join two layers of fabric together at a time. The extra work seems totally worth it to me.

2 comments:

  1. The costume is so awesome thanks for sharing and reviewing. I wonder if I can size it up for an adult costume?

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  2. Yes, you can! the pattern sheet says to enlarge by 460% for an adult costume (and extend the arms if you like). Additionally, I am 5'3" and the child-size costume was passable on me--no, I wasn't engulfed by octopus, but I could wear it without embarrassment. :-)

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