We’ve been talking about getting a sewing machine for some time. Curtains! Hemming jeans for my short legs! Hemming shirts for RocketMan! Cute clothes for RocketBaby, maybe? We put it off for months until September rolled around, and suddenly, I caught the bug that infects every parent, every fall: Halloween costumes. Specifically, homemade Halloween costumes.
Oh, sure, I put my order in to my mother: a tiger or a lion. I figured she’d want to buy a costume, and I figured making a request wouldn’t be such a bad thing. But I couldn’t help but think of all the costumes she made for us as kids (Princess Leia, Martha Washington, Betsy Ross… she’s an American history fan), and Dottie of my favorite blog, ModernKiddo.com, has been a constant source of creative inspiration for me. Not to mention the awesome Super Crafty Halloween Contest at SFGate’s The Poop blog. So when the adorable store-bought tiger arrived, I cast my eyes to the book I’m currently reading and knew I had no choice.
I would have a hobbit for Halloween.
I did some research online. I tracked down sewing machines all over downtown San Francisco, and the only place that had them in stock (Mr. Wei’s) he didn’t take credit cards, and the prices were in Chinese, so when I asked for a price, he quoted one that was higher than I wanted to spend on a new machine, no less used. So I ordered a Brother CS6000i from Amazon and waited an excruciating week for it to arrive. I made the mistake of attempting to set it up while the baby (toddler now, actually) was still awake.
I should say: I haven’t successfully sewn anything on a machine since the seventh grade. I did some cross-stitch in high school, and I’ve mended buttons, but a machine? For a costume? With no pattern? Going to Britex Fabrics was like walking into a hardcore comic book shop to find the latest issue of Buffy Season 8: I expected, at any moment, for the employees to drop their measuring tapes, point their scissors at me, and shout, IMPOSTOR! GET THEE TO A HALLOWEEN SUPERSTORE!
But I made it home with two pieces of fabric I rather liked: one for the vest, one for the cape.
I lie awake at night imagining how I might assemble the costume; thanks to the internet, I knew I could use newspaper for a pattern, but my freehand sucks. Perhaps I could one of her bigger onesies as a guide. For the cape, I imagined I could just hem along the edges, fold down the top for a “hood,” and be done with it.
Alas, patience is not one of my great virtues, and on the day I decided I’d do the cape, I left work too late to pick up green thread; all I had at home was white. Ah, well, I figured–the machine has all kinds of fancy stitches, so I can just make the white thread into a kind of trim, right? After sewing one line–and breaking the needle in the process–I realized my stitching looked like nothing less than a cautionary tale from sophomore health class. Fortunately, I had some leftover rickrack from an abandoned nursery project, and from a distance, you almost can’t see the evidence of my hallucinatory error.
The vest, surprisingly, was easier–partially because I had some confidence after the cape, and partially because I had time to buy brown and yellow thread. And also extra sewing needles. Of course, the inside looks just awful (I kept mentally apologizing to my friend’s late mother, who always said “The inside should look as nice as the outside”–really, I’m sorry, Mrs. Murphy). And I had to cut an extra-long slit down the back when I realized her melonhead would never fit through the neckline I’d sewn. But all in all, not too shabby.
Next: the Leaf of Lorien. “Not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall” is one of my favorite lines from the series, and I was determined to make a leaf worthy of Galadriel’s craft-elves. (Come on, people, I’m making my 15-month-old daughter into a hobbit. It’s not like I don’t know I’m a geek.) I found a velvety set of leaves at the fabric store, and some just-right silver trim; I broke out the green thread, and within 20 minutes, had my elvish brooch. Alas, all the closeups came out blurry, so you’ll have to believe me: it’s not too terrible-looking.
Lastly: pants. That was the easiest part: I found a pair of brown knit pants and cut them off at the calf. Thanks, Carter’s, for including a bonus pair of stretchy pants with every shirt purchase!
After some nap wakeup time, a bottle and a reasonable confidence that Eliza was in an agreeable mood, I assembled the costume. David walked in the room and burst out laughing, which, in our family, is an excellent sign. He even supplied the finishing touch: a pipe. We took dozens of photos, but due to the gray weather and split-second timing of a toddler’s feet, only a few came out focused and happy. All in all, though, I’ve been patting myself on the back all morning. I, Jody of San Francisco, Daughter of Lorraine, have handmade my first Halloween costume.