Spectra Spec-tacular: Part 1 (plus piping mini-tutorial)

Almost two years ago, I completed my first cosplay: Luna Lovegood’s dress from Bill and Fleur’s wedding in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. You can read all about the (rather haphazard) construction here. I picked that dress because it seemed simple, and I though I had quite a bit of sewing experience, I was only just wading into the world of making my own patterns.

Looking back two years later, I can hardly believe how far I’ve come in such a short time. Two years ago, it was the coat that scared me away from Luna’s iconic outfit from Half-Blood Prince. I knew that if I did that outfit, I would want a coat as similar to hers in shape as possible, and I definitely didn’t trust myself to make that pattern up. Now that I’m doing it, I’m glad I waited. I don’t know how I would have done the construction then, but I know it’s better now!

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I stared at pictures of this coat for a long time, and watched the scene it appears in over and over. There is never an unobscured shot of it. She is always holding the Quibblers, or has her arm up, or the shot is too close up to see, or it’s dark. Luckily, when she finds Harry on the floor of Malfoy’s compartment on the Hogwarts Express, she holds the magazines enough to one side that you can get a pretty good idea of how this all goes together. After all that, here is the quick sketch that I came up with:

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It’s basically a little bolero jacket with a pleated skirt portion attached. The placket for the buttonholes is part of the same piece as the pleated portion. It has a large collar and sleeves that have a gathered cap which is tall, rather than full. I assume that the pocket flaps are false, since They seem to flatten the pleats along the bottom edge more than they would if they actually opened, and I have no idea why anyone would decide to put actual pockets through three layers of pleated coating.

I draped the body on my dress form, then used those pieces to make a quick mockup. It fit quite well right out of the gate (not that it’s a particularly fitted garment). All I had to do was adjust the front placket and the shape of the center front edge of the bolero portion just a smidgen so that the closure wouldn’t gape between buttons.

I spent a long time staring at pink coating fabrics before I picked a pink, white, and burgundy wool blend from Mood Fabrics. The threads are a bit larger than the ones in Luna’s coat, but it was the only fabric I could find that had all three colors I was looking for that wasn’t a regular pattern like plaid. I thought about going with a plainer pink fabric, but I figured with Luna, always err on the side of more out-there. Even though it’s not exact, I also love the addition of the sparkly bronze bits in the weave as well. Makes it a bit more magical?

The lining is a deep purple linen/rayon blend from Joann.

I had to think long and hard about the order of operations on this jacket, since the construction is a bit odd. The bolero and the pleated skirt aren’t sewn together by a normal seam, but by the zigzag detail about an inch in from the edge of the bolero.

So, up to a certain point, I needed to prepare the two sections separately. I started by sewing the skirt fronts and back together, and pressing the bottom and center front edges of both the lining and fabric under. Then I placed the lining on the fabric, slightly offset, and slip stitched the two together.

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I then folded the pleats and basted them in place ,and the skirt portion was ready to go.

The bolero is a bit more exciting: its edges get piped with patterned piping! I scoured Joann and found one that had a pattern with a lot of the same colors as Luna’s piping: purple, coral/orange, and white.

But before all the fun, I had to put the pieces together. It is very simple: no darts or anything, just one back piece and two front pieces.

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Because the edge of the bolero will over hang the skirt portion a bit, it needs a facing so that if the underside is ever seen, it looks the same as the outside. This is where the piping comes into play:

Mini Tutorial: Piping

Step 1: Cut fabric into bias strips. I only cut mine an inch wide, but to be on the safe side, I would recommend cutting 1.5 inch wide strips. Bias strips are cut at a 45 degree angle to the grain of the fabric. Since fabric stretches more on the bias, this allows the piping to go around curves without bunching.

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Step 2:

If you need lengths of piping longer than the strips you were able to cut from your fabric, you will need to sew some together. The best way to sew  bias strips together is to to it at an angle–you may have noticed this if you’ve ever paid attention to the seams in your commercial bias tape. You will do this by placing the diagonal edges of your strips right side to right side at a right angle as shown below. The pointy ends will hang over on each side.

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Sewing the seam like this means that you are sewing with the grain of the fabric, which will help the seam disappear. Since the seam is at an angle once you open up the pieces and press it, it also distributes the bulk of the seam allowance, making the join more, well, seamless.

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Step 3:

Fold your strip in half around a piece of cord in whatever size you would like your piping to be. For garments, I usually opt for ordinary butcher’s string/kitchen twine. It’s a good size, it’s very flexible, and best of all–it’s extremely cheap!

Make sure that from the bottom of the string to the raw edges of the fabric is at least as wide as your seam allowance–I had to offset my edges to make sure of this, but that’s ok, because none of this will show in the end!

Using the zipper foot of your sewing machine, stitch through the fabric right next to the cord but NOT through it. I always move my needle as close to the cord as I can get it by adjusting the “stitch width” setting. The closer you can sew to your cord, the neater your piping will look and the happier you will be!

 

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When you have sewn all of your piping, put a ruler of measuring tape up right against the bottom of the cord and make sure that your seam allowance portion is the same as the seam allowance your are using for your project (1/2″ in my case). Trim off any excess. This may seam tedious, but I promise you won’t regret it!

Inserting the piping:

Step 1: Take one of the two pieces of fabric that will form the seam where the piping will sit. Pin (or Wonderclip!) your piping to your garment. Because you’ve trimmed your piping seam allowance to be the same as your garment seam allowance, this means you just need to line up your piping edge and garment edge just as you would if it were two pieces of fabric. The bottom of your piping will automatically be right at the seam line.

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Now, at this point, you could just sandwich the other piece of fabric on top and go to town, but I find that if I do that there’s always at least one spot where the piping shifted slightly and went under the needle by accident, meaning you’ll have to either live with wonky piping or tear that portion out and do it again. But, this can be avoided! Follow these next three steps and you can have perfect piping every time!

Step 2:

Still using the zipper foot, sew the piping to your one piece of fabric (in the case the outer fabric of the bolero), still keeping the needle as close to the cord as possible, right on top of the stitching that holds your piping together.IMG_2848.jpg

Step 3:

Pin the second piece of fabric (in this case the bolero facing) to the first, just as you would if you were sewing the seam as normal without piping.

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Step 4:

Turn the work over so that the seam that holds the piping on is facing up. Sew right along the same line. (My fabric was so heavy that the zipper food became awkward, so I switched back to the basic foot. You may find that continuing to use the zipper foot works best for you.) Doing this ensures the piping sits exactly where you wanted, and never either gets squished in the seam, or extends too far out, forming unsightly lumps and bumps.

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Perfect!

As long as I was piping things, I also made the false pocket flaps. In addition to the piping, these get a row of decorative zigzag stitches about an inch in from the edge. Once they were on and I stepped back, I realized that just one row of zigzags didn’t show up much against such a busy fabric, so on the collar and the bolero, I ended up doing two rows right on top of each other.

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And then I draped the collar, since I was too lazy to do that back when I was makign the rest of the mockup.

The collar is made in the same way as the pocket flaps, with piping and zigzag details. When it was made, I basted it to the neckline of the bolero.

I was running low of fabric when I did the collar, and worried about having enough for the sleeves, so the underside is more of the crazy fabric from the piping!

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So, both the upper and lower parts of the coat were basically ready (minus the sleeves–I decided that it would be easier to attach sleeves to the full coat than to worry about them getting in the way while I tried to attach the two halves.

After doing one row of the decorative zigzagging around the edge of the bolero, I pinned the lower half inside of the upper one, making sure that it overlapped the zigzagging completely.

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And then I simply sewed a second row of zigzags right on top of the first, which made it much more simple than if I had wanted just one row of stitching!

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Nearing completion!

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I drafted a sleeve pattern and then tested it several time with alterations in between until I was happy with this one:

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When the sleeves were on, I sewed a lining for the upper portion of the coat. I machine sewed it to the neckline, with the collar sandwiched between, then pressed it down and anchored it with a row of stitches below the collar. Then I just turned the jacket inside out and folded the edges of the lining under and slipstitched in place.

Finally, I made a pair of decorative bands for the ends of the sleeves. After attempting one, I realized that if I piped them the same way as everything else, I couldn’t turn them back right-side-out. The piping made them too stiff, and the fabric was so thick, but so loosely woven, that I ended up with an unraveling mess when  I tried! So, I sewed the piping to one piece (I used a quarter inch seam allowance), then pressed the seam allowance to the wrong side and covered the raw edges with a piece of bias tape sewn along the back of the strap.

The straps are sewn down, and the buckle is entirely decorative, since the finished straps were far too thick to be able to go through the buckles twice!

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After that it was just buttons and buttonholes:

And a bit of top stitching to smooth out the edges and the pleats:

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And we’re finished! Now I just have to get the rest of the costume finished in time for Lexington Comic and Toy Con this weekend!

Now back to sewing, painting, knitting, (and, of course, hunting wrackspurts) to make everything as magical as possible!

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