Monday, March 5, 2012

Current Project: Easter Genie

My current project is one of the most challenging sewing endeavors I have ever taken on.  I am making 3 costumes for my church's Easter play, called the Passion Play.  

I've been working for just over two weeks, and I'm about 60% done with costume #1.  Here's the pattern:
Oh, you don't remember a genie in the Easter story?  Well, I'm actually sewing costumes for three women who will be playing Herod's harem. 

This is a challenging task for so many reasons:
  • The pattern is not the correct size for my actors, so I spent one week adjusting each and every individual pattern piece (20 pieces) to add to all sides of each piece.  
  • The fabrics are super silky and slippery, making them difficult to cut out and difficult to sew.
  • The fabrics cannot be ironed the same as cotton fabrics.
  • The fabrics show pin holes sometimes, so I have to be very careful how I pin them.
  • I have to somehow make this costume "church appropriate."  (cover the belly, make the straps wider, etc.)
  • This is one of the most challenging patterns I have ever attempted, even if I wasn't adjusting the size and style as I go.
  • This outfit is very fitted in most places, so I have to get all the measurements correct or it won't fit properly and is not easily adjusted.
  • The costume is fully lined, which basically means it's twice as much work.
I have been working on this project every single day whenever possible.  I get the Mom of the Year award for letting my kids watch TV so I can work on my sewing.  I also work on it every evening after they are in bed.  I have already sacrificed their nap time for the sake of exercising {yuck}.

So let me show you what I've done so far.

First, I compared the actor's measurements with the pattern measurements to figure out how much I needed to add to each part of the costume.  This required math, drawings, a lot of erasing, taping extra paper to each pattern piece, measuring, marking, cutting, and wishing I could curse.

Here's just one of the 20 pattern pieces that I adjusted:
You can see that I had to distribute the extra width on all sides of the pattern piece so I could keep the general shape of it.

In addition to adding size, I also had to change some of the style.  For example, I added length to the bodice so it would cover the actress' belly.  Also notice that the top of the pants is a V shape, which reveals her belly button.  So I adjusted that part of the pants to be taller and straight across.  These are the pieces that will become the top of the pants:

I have done as much work on the costume top as I can for now.  Next I need to fit it to the actual girl who will be wearing it so I can adjust the strap length and add the back closure so it fits snugly (you know, "church" snug).  Here's what the top looks like now:
I made the straps extra wide, which meant that I had to add the trim to each side rather than down the middle as the pattern instructed.

The top of the bodice consists of the darker blue silk that's very fitted, complete with darts for the bust shape.  Then there's an overlay of gathered aqua sheer fabric.  Gathering that stinking sheer, slippery fabric was a monumental task.  

The bottom part of the bodice is just the darker blue silk with decorative beaded trim and gold metallic braided trim.  I sandwiched the beaded trim between the main fabric and the lining so the beading would hang down.  Then I added the gold trim and machine sewed it in place, which was a new and not exciting experience.  

When I got to the point of joining the bodice bust (the part with the gathered overlay) and the bodice bottom (with the fancy trim), they were not the same size.  Sigh.

The bottom portion was bigger, so I just added two small pleats in the front and two small pleats in the back.  I hope I'm not making this poor girl look pregnant because I miscalculated my measurements. 

I also hope that it fits her well because it is fully lined and will therefore be difficult to adjust at this point.  Here's a shot of the inside of the top:
You can see the darts in the top, the pleats just below the bust line, and where I was able to use my serger to finish off the seam in the middle there (just below the bust).  I only have black thread and white thread for my serger currently, and it was already threaded with black.  Since I didn't have three hours to rethread it, I just went with the black.  

How nice to have a serger though!  These fabrics unravel terribly.  My husband is constantly picking blue threads off my clothes.  I find them all throughout my house.  Serging the exposed seams makes a huge difference, and this is only the second project I've ever used my serger for!

The little sleeves were more time-consuming than you might think.  Each top and bottom had to be turned under twice and pressed (fold, measure, iron, fold, measure, iron, fold...).  Then I sewed each side to form a casing for the elastic.  I've never run into this problem before, but since the fabric is sheer, you can see the elastic.  I only had white elastic, so I used an aqua fabric marker to color the elastic.  Just trying to think on my feet here.

Yesterday I reached the point I have been dreading.  The overlays on the pants.  If you look at the pattern again, you'll see that the pants have long strips of sheer fabric laying over the silk pants.  There are 8 long panels to be exact.  I have to take each panel to my ironing board {prison cell}.  For each long edge, I have to fold it over, measuring as I go, and press.  Then fold it again, measuring as I go, and press.  So twice on each long edge...two long edges per panel...eight panels total...that's 32 times that I have to fold, measure, and press.

And did I mention that as I fold the slippery fabric over, it stretches and warps and I can't figure out if I'm folding over the correct measurement?  {insert hideous face here}

Once the edges are pressed, they have to be sewn in place.  Once they're sewn in place, I have to sew gold metallic ric rac near the seam.  Last night I finished 4 of the 8 panels.

I can't count how many times I have said, "No one will ever know how long this takes or how much work went into this."  

My encouragement through this project has been Colossians 3:23-24.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
After all my whining, I'm thinking maybe I should focus on Philippians 2:14-16.
 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
It's a privilege to help the talented people of my church put on a play to tell our community what Jesus did for all of us.  I can't act or sing.  But if I can spend weeks working my hiney off in order to create costumes that will be seen for maybe 90 seconds on people who don't even have speaking parts, well then I need to offer up my skills as a sacrifice to my Lord. 

I have a choice of working to please people or please God.  I often unknowingly make the choice to try to earn the approval of people around me.  Now that I'm aware of the choice before me, I know which way I'm choosing.



  1. Wow! The costume looks GORGEOUS! I am in *awe* of your skills and talent. And ridiculous patience. Cooper lost a button off his sock monkey hat, and I've been telling myself that a one-eyed monkey is kind of 'cute' (it's not) just to avoid sewing it back on... haha. Indeed God sees each stitch, press and fold. And He loves to see you doing something for Him. Can't wait to see it all together.

    1. You bring me that sock monkey. I have needles and thread, and I can either do it or show you how to. We'll restore the monkey for Cooper. :)