Monday, October 6, 2014

A "SUPER" kind of gift.

Well, I don't want to draw this gift it series into ANOTHER month - since it was supposed to be finished in August, you know.  BUT, I did want to share just one more "super" cool gift I worked on in collaboration with a friend of mine.


So, last year my friend Kim contacted me by email and asked if I'd be willing to help with a project.  Her partner was turning 30 and she wanted to throw him the biggest, awesomest birthday party around.  After considering her options, it was clear she needed to combine his two greatest loves: free diving and Batman.

(I should probably mention that at the time they lived in the Cayman Islands (is that cool or what?) so diving was not an uncommon hobby.)  

Her plan was to invite his buddies for a birthday free dive in the coolest setting ever - but not just ANY birthday free dive.  NO.  A SUPERHERO free dive!  She wanted to present each participant with a rashguard made to look like their favorite superhero, then capture the whole dive with some underwater photos.

She asked me to design and create the rashguards.  Naturally, I said yes - because it seemed like the coolest idea ever and also, I'd never created superhero rashguards (has anyone?  I mean, that's not like a common request, is it??) so it was an intriguing challenge.

And thus began my superhero rashguard extravaganza.  Kim polled the guys for their favorite heroes, then purchased rashguards in appropriate colors and had them shipped to me.  This was a whole lot better than me trying to find rashguards since I know nothing about them or about diving in general.
My job was to figure out the best way to get the superhero logos on the rashguards.  I considered I few different options - hand-sewing something like felt that wouldn't fray, iron-on transfer, and freezer paper stencil were contenders.  In the end, I decided to make appliqués out of nylon knit and spandex since that's what the rashguards were made out of.  I was afraid that the other options would not handle stretching well and could quite possibly fall apart under water.  Plus I wanted them to look really professional, and while freezer paper stencil would have looked nice under normal conditions, I thought the logos would warp when the rashguards were stretched out while wearing.  
Oh, yeah, I also needed to make some capes, and I knew the knit nylon would be best for underwater capes.  I didn't have to make any of the masks, since they'd be wearing diving masks.

I bought red, white, yellow and black nylon knit with spandex in it - found in the dance/swimwear section at JoAnnes.  I also purchased heavy duty heat n' bond.
My general steps were as follows:
I found the appropriate superhero logo online and resized it how I needed to.  I printed it off on cardstock for a pattern.  
I cut the logos out, then laid them on the knit fabric I'd bought and drew around with a marker.
I cut squares around the logo, then ironed the square of fabric to a square of heat n' bond.
I cut the logo and heat n' bond layers out simultaneously since they were already ironed together.  It made cutting the knit fabric so much easier since the heat n' bond was sturdy and kept the fabric from stretching while I cut.
Once they were all cut, I used my iron on a medium setting with no steam to iron the different pieces onto the rashguards.  For some I had to stack the different pieces onto each other.
I used a stretch stitch with a walking foot to machine sew each piece down onto the rashguards.  (I didn't bother with zigzag stitching the appliqués because they're knit, so they won't fray.)  Fortunately there were no unfortunate "sewing the front to the back" moments - which I often do when adding something to a pre-made garment.  Phew!
I created the capes with the knit fabric and sewed a gathering stitch across the top to make them bunchy.  I added velcro pieces to the sides and the middle, then also to the rashguard at the back of the shoulders and right under the neck - wrong side of the cape, right side of the rashguard.  This way, the divers could easily detach the capes if they needed to.
I did this with much less bulky capes in red for Superman and black for Batman.  I just cut the capes narrower and more triangular.  

Some costumes were easier than others... here's what I did for each superhero:

cut - a yellow oval, a black oval with the bat symbol cut out of the middle
iron - First I ironed the yellow oval over the rashguard brand in the center of the chest.  Then I ironed the black oval/bat shape over the yellow one.
sew - all around the outside edge of the black oval and all around the inside edge of the bat shape (which also sewed down the yellow oval since they were stacked.)
create cape - cut a long trapezoidal shape that was 1 and 1/2 the width of the rashguard from should to shoulder and approximately down to my mid-calf.  Cut the bat wing points at the bottom of the cape.  Gathered the top edge.  Folded above the gather and sewed it down.  Attached 4 squares of black velcro to the underside of the cape and the outside of the rashguard (at the shoulders and neck areas).

cut - a yellow diamond-y shape, a red diamond-y shape with the block letter "s" cut into the middle
iron - I first ironed the yellow piece down, then the red piece with the "s" on top of it.
sew - I sewed all around the outer edge of the red piece, then on all the inside red edges as well.  There were some small areas that needed to be sewn, I just made sure that any red edge was zig-zagged down.
create cape - cut a long trapezoidal shape that was slightly shorter than the Batman cape and just as wide.  Gathered the top edge, then folded above that and sewed the raw edge down.  Added 4 velcro squares to the cape and rashguard - the same as the Batman cape.

cut - Two large white circles, 4 medium white circles, one long skinny yellow rectangle that was the width of the rashguard about 4 inches from the hem.  Three small rounded rectangles (each slightly smaller than the last) plus a circle and a "T" all out of yellow.  This is the Thor symbol for the belt.
iron - the two large circles across from each other at the top of the chest, then two medium circles about an inch lower, then the "belt" (or skinny rectangle) across the shirt at belly button height (or so) and then the last two medium circles below that.  Iron the 3 rounded rectangles touching each other, biggest to smallest vertically in the middle of the belt.  Then the circle on top, centered, and the T on top of that, centered.
sew - around each circle and the outside of the rectangle.  Sew around every edge of the smaller belt pieces as well.
create cape - Thor's cape is huge and billowy in pictures, so I made his longer than the other two, more rectangular than trapezoid, and about 2 and 1/2 times the width of the rashguard.  Gather it at the top, then sew down the raw edge to the inside of the cape.  Then I attached the velcro differently, to create the puffiness of Thor's cape at the top.  I sewed the velcro to the OUTSIDE of the cape (the right side that you can see when worn) in 4 spots.  Then, the cape is is kind of rolled under at the top to attach to the velcro pieces on the rashguard.

Green Lantern: 
cut - A white circle with the green lantern shape cut into the middle, a smaller white circle to fit in the very center.
iron - the large circle first, right in the middle of the shirt.  Then iron the small circle in the center.
sew - around ALL white edges.  The big circle, the middle circle, the inside weird shape, ALL.  

cut - A large black spider shape
iron - a large black spider shape
sew - all around the outside edge of the spider (and the billion skinny legs...)

cut - 8 long skinny black diamonds, 2 of which were slightly bigger and 2 of which were slightly smaller
iron - Fit the smaller diamonds with the middles right at the shoulders and the points going down the front and back.  Iron the medium diamonds across from each other just under the armpits with the middle at the side seam, the largest diamonds across from each other about 3 inches lower with the middle at the side seam, and the other medium diamonds about 3 inches under THAT with the middle at the side seam.
sew - around each diamond.

Lion-O from Thundercats (and you better know what that is because it's pretty much the single greatest cartoon of my childhood.  Seriously.):
cut - one white circle, one red circle slightly smaller, one black thundercat roaring cat symbol thingy.
iron - the white circle in the middle of the upper chest, then the red on top of that - centered, than the black cat symbol coming from the right side of the circle.
sew - AROUND EVERY EDGE.  around the white circle, the red circle, the black cat - everything.
(I didn't want to cut the belly off of rashguard to resemble the real lion-o costume, and I was back and forth about making the logo appear down on a "belt" around the waist of the shirt or just putting it up on the chest like the others.  In the end I put it on the chest because I wanted it to look more unified with the other rashguards.)

fortunately does not wear a shirt or have a logo, so I was spared!

Like I said, this was kind of a long process, but I actually had fun figuring it all out and making it work.  

Kim hired a professional photographer for the occasion and had these awesome underwater photos taken.  ALL of the water photos and ones with the actual heroes were taken by Heather Holt. There are lots more photos of the superhero dive here. You can find Heather Holt Photography here.  She does all kinds of photography, not just underwater:  family photos, weddings, kids, etc. and her stuff is gorgeous so check her out!
(These are copyrighted photos, so please don't steal them, mmmkay?)  

I really love how the capes look underwater and I think it's particularly cool that it looks like the flying superheroes ARE flying as they glide through the water.

The name of the shipwreck they were on is the USS Kittiwake.  

It's just off Grand Cayman's Seven Mile beach and is only a 5 minute boat ride from shore, which makes it popular with divers.  Plus look how clear that water is!  

Here is the birthday boy, AKA Batman, in his underwater, saving the universe glory.  

They had some fairly epic battles.  Unfortunately, I don't know who won.  Perhaps it was a stalemate - they are ALL superheroes, after all.  It would be a pretty even match.

Kim told me the guys had a great time and all saved their rashguards to wear on later dives as well.  I'd call it a successful gift!

It would be pretty easy to alter this idea to fit t-shirts for Halloween costumes!  Otherwise, think ahead to summer and make your kids some hero rashguards to wear to the beach!  My son would love the Batman one.  I may have to get on that.

OR, even better... go to the Cayman islands RIGHT NOW.  It's been cold enough here lately that I am DREADING winter.  So a trip to tropical isles sounds pretty perfect!

*Be sure to check below for all the fun parties I link to!*

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