Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto.

Today's the day.  The day I finally share THE Halloween costume tutorial.  It's been forever since I left you that teaser (like 2 years???) and for some reason, the tutorials just never got written.  But I'm ready.

You may remember from past posts that I actually kind of love making costumes.  

And I especially like it when our family matches.  Like the Batman themed costumes when the kids were little. 

And the Mario themed costumes from about 3 years ago.  Though the best was probably before bug even turned 2 and I was pregnant with mini.  That kid looked awesome.  

So when bug requested a robot costume I was actually pretty stoked.  I was positive that if I started early enough, frequented the thrift store, brainstormed and took my time I could come up with something crazy awesome.  I even sketched out some designs, patterns and specific ideas.  Now, something I want to warn you about is that these pictures are not stellar.  This was before the awesome camera and it is impossible to take good pictures AS I am sewing since I sew in a dungeon.  (No, literally.  There's chains and shackles and everything...)



I'll be sharing this costume in bits and pieces - we'll tackle the main body, helmet, accessories and then the girl version I made for mini.

Here we go!

First off, for the main body, you'll need:
1 mattress pad (I used a queen and got two robot costumes out of it)
fabric for lining
batting (like for a quilt)
1 long zipper (coat zipper is best)
1 small square of tulle or mesh
12 metal grommets 
1 mini Christmas tree light necklace, tiny battery operated with a small on/off switch
3 small (thick) glow sticks
6 large buttons
3 extra large buttons
felt scraps in multiple colors
embroidery floss
needle and thread

First off, let's talk about the separate pieces you'll need to cut:
Top picture: two large rectangles for the body, two skinny rectangles with a curve cut out of one end for the sides, two small rectangles for shoulder straps.
Middle picture: These pieces are for "robot shoes".  Two rectangles with a small curve for the ankle, 4 skinny rectangles for the sides of the shoes, 4 small rectangles for the fronts and backs.
Bottom picture: Felt "gauges" to embellish the body.  I actually looked up pictures of vintage robots to get an idea about how the gauges used to look.  (I know, I'm ridiculous.) 
For the circle gauge: I placed the white circle on top of the aqua circle and used gray embroidery floss to sew the marks around kind of like a clock face.  That was the only thing holding the two together, but it worked out great.  I placed the tiny green felt circle in the middle, used red embroidery floss to sew it on with an "x" and then sewed a small arrow with a line on the back.  
For the rectangle gauge: I used black embroidery floss to sew the tiny red felt strip to the white felt trapezoidal piece at the edges, using small stitches that chained together, and continued that stitch to the edges of the white piece - making a black box to indicate the number window of the gauge.  I used the same floss to make the small and longer markings all through the window area, and a long arrow coming from the bottom of the white piece to the marks.  I sewed the white trapezoid piece to the yellow rectangle with white embroidery floss, then the aqua circle to the bottom with aqua floss.  In both cases I just hand stitched around the edge.

I'm not sharing a pattern or anything, because you have different sized kids than I do, so I'll share how I measured my kids and you'll be able to customize your robot pieces!

Piece 1. A - from shoulder to shoulder
              B - From shoulder to however long you want it to be... I chose upper thigh.
              Cut two pieces.
Piece 2. C - from the front of the shoulder, around the arm to the back of the shoulder.  
              D - from armpit to however long you want it to be... for me, upper thigh.  (same 
                    length as B above)
              Cut two pieces.
Piece 3. E - from next to the neck to the shoulder
              F - from the end of the collarbone over the top of the shoulder to the back of the
                   shoulder at the top of the shoulder blade.
FOR 4-6 USE A SHOE to measure, NOT A FOOT.  These are made to wear OVER SHOES.
Piece 4. G - from left side of shoe to right side - straight, not curved. Add a half inch.
              H - from heel to toe. Add a half inch.  For the curve - center it and cut enough for
                    ankle to comfortably fit through.
Piece 5. I - from top of shoe to bottom of sole.  Add 1/4 inch - 1/2 inch.
              J - from heel to toe. Add a half inch.
Piece 6. K - from top of heel to bottom of sole.  Add 1/4 inch - 1/2 inch.  (should be the 
                    same as I)
              L - from left side of shoe to right side - as with G above - then Add AN INCH.
Piece 7. M - the aqua circle is about 3.5 - 4 inches in diameter.
              N - White circle is about 3 - 3.5 inches in diameter.
Piece 8. P - Height of rectangle is about 3 - 4 inches.
              O - Length of rectangle is about 5-6 inches.

Phew!  Now that that's done...

Cut a mattress pad piece, a batting piece AND a lining piece for every single part of the robot body and shoe.
I used a thick mattress pad for two reasons.  1, I liked the quilting detail.  I thought it would look like imprinted metal.  2. I needed something thick and able to keep its shape well.  This way the robot would be soft and pliable for kids' movement, but also boxy and stiff looking.  This is also why I added batting to every piece.  3. It was free.  I got it from someone who didn't need it anymore... and free is the best price for fabric!

FRONT.
1. Cut a small square of tulle (or mesh).  This is a pocket for the glow sticks (or fluid/fuel indicators, if you will) so make it tall enough for the glow sticks and wide enough to fit three across.
2. Pin the felt pieces to the front body mattress pad piece.  I lined them up vertically, but you can do it however you want.
3. Pin the tulle rectangle to the same piece of mattress pad.  I pinned it across from the circle gauge horizontally, but it's your choice.  Each glow stick will have it's own little compartment, so place pins to mark where you will sew down the tulle for pockets.
4. Sew around the outer edge of the two felt gauges.
5. Sew from the top left corner, down, across the bottom, up to the right corner.  Then sew straight down in two spots to make the three see-through pockets.

Now your font piece is ready, and we can start construction!
1. Cut out your lining pieces and batting pieces.
2. Place your front mattress pad piece and front lining piece right sides together and sew up one side,
3. Across the TOP, and down the other side.
4. Leave the bottom open.  Turn right side out.  Insert your batting.
5. Sew across the bottom.  (I was careful to use selvaged edges so I didn't need to hem this.

NOW - I didn't take pictures of this entire process, but you need to do that with every single piece.  Just put right sides together, sew, turn right side out.  Insert the batting.  Sew the opening closed.  For EVERY PIECE.

Some notes:
 1.  Cut the back piece in half FIRST, before lining and stuffing it.  Just cut up the back - halving it vertically.  Line and stuff and sew up the two halves.  Then sew on the exposed zipper.  Just pin the zipped up zipper to one half, sew it on, then pin along the other half and sew.
2.  Topstitch anything that won't be sewn directly to another piece for added stability and a more finished look.  So, top stitch the long sides of the shoulders, 
3 and 4. and topstitch the curves of the side pieces, but leave the side edges.

 Here's a closer look at the zipper functionality.  If you are sure to cut the back in half and line, stuff and sew up the halves separately BEFORE adding the zipper, there will be finished edges inside and the zipper won't get caught on any unfinished batting and threads hanging out (see pic. 3)  I love the look of the exposed zipper - more industrial, I guess.  If you have a coat zipper, that is awesome because the whole back will open then.  I didn't have one, so I just added a normal zipper that stops at the bottom.  It opens all the way down to the bottom, which is more than enough space for bug's shoulders and arms to get through.

Once you've sewed your details to the front piece and your zipper to the two halves of the back piece, then lined, stuffed and sewed every single piece, you can put everything together!
1. Pin the shoulder piece to the top corner of the front piece.  Place the short end against the top edge of the front piece and the long edge along the side edge of the front piece with right sides together.  Sew straight across the TOP.
2. Do this with the other shoulder piece on the other top corner of the front.
3. Pin the side piece to the front piece.  Place the long edge of the side piece against the long edge of the front piece with right sides together and sew it down.  Then repeat with the other side piece on the other edge of the front piece.
You should have a front piece with two rectangles flopping off of the top and two long rectangles flopping off the sides.
4. Now connect the side pieces to the back piece.  Just line up the long edges and make sure to sew right sides together.  Do this with both sides.
5. Sew the shoulder straps to the back piece at the corners.
6. The back will look like this when unzipped.

A few detail shots:
1. Once everything is sewn together, the whole body should be able to practically support itself since you used thick mattress pad PLUS batting AND lining for every single piece individually.
2. I sewed a "vent" to the bottom of the front mattress pad piece.  I thought it added detail and it also made the front stiffer and boxier.  I just sewed parallel lines about 3-4 inches long and about 1/2 inch apart.
3. I sewed the points of the side pieces - the pointy parts of the curve for the arms - to the body at the front and back at an angle after sewing up the sides.  This reinforced the connection there which added some stability, but it's not entirely necessary.

Now, let's give it some color!
 Yes, I realize that if I had painted it first and THEN sewed the stuff on the front, I wouldn't have had to tape them off, but I wasn't thrilled about shoving painted fabric through my machine at the time, though now I realize it probably would have been ok.  Ah well.
So, tape off anything you don't want silver - the two felt pieces and the zipper in my case.
Then spray away!  
The bottom picture is after one coat - I did three total.

One last important note.  And I mean super duper duper important.  Use normal, indoor/outdoor spray paint.  Like Krylon.  READ THE LABEL.
Do NOT - NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT - use ENAMEL spray paint.  Right now you're thinking DUH.  Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, a mom made a robot costume.  She put a lot of thought, time and effort into it, and because she was only a moderately good sewer, she was very excited for how it came out, despite the amount of time and deep thought that went into every decision and every stitch.  Finally, the day came to make the costume silver.  She had silver spray paint in the garage, ready and waiting, and it was a beautiful, shiny, sparkly silver she had meticulously picked out - not realizing there was a difference between types of spray paint (you see, she may have been a moderate sewer, but was a spray paint novice.)  She sprayed and sprayed that robot costume until it shone and she was very happy.  An hour later, she went to check the costume, which she had finished a week ahead of schedule!  Curiously, it was still wet with paint.  Perplexed, the mom figured spray paint would simply take longer to dry on fabric and left it overnight.  In the morning, she check it again, and it was STILL wet!  Confused, the mom read the spray paint can and in horror realized she had bought ENAMEL spray paint, instead of the normal stuff.  Being completely unsure if the enamel paint would EVER dry on fabric, she nearly collapsed in despair upon realizing that she had ruined her lovingly created costume.  A day later, when it still was not dry, she set to work making a new one - which involved buying a new mattress pad, re-creating the felt gauges and other hand-sewn details, lining, stuffing, sewing, zippering, sewing, detailing, and FINALLY painting the costume once again - this time with NORMAL EVERYDAY SPRAY PAINT in normal silver.

Can I tell you the worst part of that story?  Yes, it's true.  But that's not the worst part.  The worst part is that I decided to sew up both bug's and mini's costumes and THEN spray them all at once.  Which means I ruined not one, but TWO costumes and had to re-create not one, but TWO costumes.  In a week.  AHHHHH!!!

Now, you will understand why the costume looks a little different from here on out... I changed the positions of the details and gauges on the front and was a little more careful with sewing the details - plus I had to use a different lining fabric, since I was all out of that awesome polyester I inherited from my grandma.

On the upside, I think I'm forever an expert on making robot costumes.

Ah, yes, to finish the body, all you have to do is:
Use a scissors, hammer and the grommet tool that comes in the grommet package to place 12 grommets in a grid on the front of the robot suit.  Cut a little hole through ALL LAYERS (easier said than done...), stick the grommet pieces through, use the tool and smack with a hammer.  DONE.
Use the little Christmas Tree Lights necklace to light up the grommet holes.  Place the necklace inside the suit, then make sure to stick lights out of the grommet holes.  There will be more lights than holes, that's ok.  Just makes sure all the holes are filled.  Then hand-sew the necklace into place with embroidery floss.  Secure it to the suit in many places - I sewed the necklace to the suit at each grommet to make sure the lights would stay in the holes - and I only sewed into the back layer - the lining fabric - not all the way through.



A note: I realize the Christmas Tree Lights Necklace may not be so easy to find.  I happened upon mine at Menard's - a local hardware store.  If you can't find one, THIS is the EXACT necklace I used and it's only $5.99 on Amazon.  Also, I was planning on using normal white battery operated Christmas tree lights.  I would have sewn a little pocket to the inside of the suit to accommodate the bulky battery pack.  So that's an option too.

Tomorrow: The helmet!





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