Monday, November 2, 2015

Little Lion as a Lion- Simplicity 1767

Wow, if I knew what I was getting into when I decided to make Leo a lion costume...

... I'd do it anyway!

How difficult could it be, I thought? In searching for a pattern, I found Simplicity 1767 and noted the next pattern sale date at my local Joannes (fortunately, later that same week-- this was around the last week of September). But that's where the easy going ended! When I perused Joannes for an appropriate fake fur, I found NOTHING at all that looked even vaguely lion-like. A sympathetic Joanne's employee suggested that I try dying some fur... but then noted that there wasn't even any fur that was the right color and texture for dying. I figured if there wasn't a fur, there would at least be a nice fur-like minky or sherpa fleece type thing... but no, nothing of the sort. Really quite a sad selection for Halloween-time! I probably should have given up there.

Instead, I did what any crazed costume-focused mom would do-- I trawled the internet that very night, while the kids were asleep, and ordered some fake fur, sight unseen, from the internet! Thank fortune, the fur that I ordered from which seemed to be just the right shade of gold, did indeed turn out to be just the right shade of gold. That's the body fabric you see above.

The longer fur I ordered for the mane from Etsy turned out to be not quite so fortunate of a choice... what had appeared to be a lovely gold mongolian fur in the photograph turned out to be a sort of ugly shade of greenish-beige. My husband suggested dying it. I duly researched poly-dyes, and it did seem like it might be possible using iDye Poly, but I'd need two packets of the stuff and a dye-pot. I was not enthused- not only did it seem messy and risky, but seemed an expensive prospect since the original fur was only $10. Then it occurred to me that I might be able to pick up the dye on a planned trip to NYC, thereby bypassing shipping fees from Dharma. And then a totally wonderful idea occurred to me-- skip the dye and go buy a new piece of fur! As one might imagine, the selection of furs at Mood was fabulous, and I found one that fit my idea of a mane within minutes. Unfortunately the smallest cut was a yard (the fur was $30/yard!), but at this point, I was so committed to this costume and thrilled to have a fur of the right color that I just went with it. I guess I'll just have to make a fur trimmed coat in the future, such a sacrifice!

As for the Simplicity 1767, it worked well enough, with some degree of fussing. Having sewn a simplicity kids animal costume pattern previously (For Little Bug's Max/Wolf suit costume, Simplicity 2506), I suspected that the torso length might be short. I measured the pattern pieces before cutting, it seemed that this was the case, so I cut the Large, even though little Lion's measurements put him in the Medium. I sewed the micro fleece lining first, in lieu of a toile, and the torso length was perfect. The arms and the legs had to be dramatically shortened... I took about 4 inches off each leg, and about 3 inches off each arm, but this was pretty easy to do since it is a very simple pattern. The hood was also huge, I probably should have cut the Medium, but I ended up just pinching out the ease and thereby shaping it to his head.

I nearly had a disaster on my hands with the zipper-- the only thing that saved me was the fact that I added the bib in front in a scrap of white sherpa fleece left over from the Max costume. You see, the pattern called for fleece, and it totally didn't occur to me that putting a zipper in a costume made of fake fur was just asking for disaster! Not to mention the fact that I had gone with an invisible zipper... even worse. I would suppose that you would have to have some sort of baffle to keep the fur away from the zipper in a fur costume... but I haven't really researched this issue. You could probably also bypass this by putting the closure in the back and just using hooks or something-- but in a pattern designed for fake fur, I doubt that a center front zipper would be called for. I did manage to get it unzipped and zipped a couple of times down past the fake fur, but it was an effort to keep the fur out of the way of the zipper, and it was not really feasible when trying to put the costume on a squirming 7 month old. My solution was to stop the zipper at the end of the bib part of the front of the costume... I just sewed a couple of bars over the zipper to prevent accidental zipping into the fur. It turned out that this was plenty of room to get the costume on and off.

Before shearing...

After shearing...!
 The other big hurdle was the length of the fur. I got the suit sewn, and it looked more like a Yeti than a lion! In perusing lion pictures, they actually have pretty short fur, except for their manes. I tried cutting the fur with scissors to a better length and not only did it look terrible, but it took forever to do a tiny patch. Once again, I turned to the internet, and it turns out there is a whole industry of people who work with fake fur... making those Furries costumes. I'd seen those, but hadn't really considered the people who make them... anyhow, people were using hair clippers. I didn't own a hair clipper... but I had thought about it, since I'm pretty darn sure I'm going to get good at giving haircuts with two kids. So, I purchased a Wahl clipper on Amazon. It worked beautifully! So easy. I used the number 1 guard to do a first cut, then used the blade unguarded to get a bit closer. The change doesn't look so dramatic, but it totally changes the feel of the fur-- it is less shaggy, and more furry. It looked much more lion-like after I was done.

The mane was pure improvisation. I really wanted someone to tell me how to do it, and looked all over the internet and found lots of yarn manes and felt manes. The closest I found was an Instructable for making a lion costume for a dog, which wasn't quite the same thing, but did give me the idea of pleating the fur to get a bit more volume from it. I ended up cutting 4 inch strips of fur and hand sewing them to the hood with 1 inch pleats about every 8 inches. Initially I had three layers of overlapping fur, coming right to the edge of the hood, but when I tried it on Little Lion, he was lost in all that fur! So then I went with two layers, slightly overlapping, with some of the golden fur of the hood showing in front around his face, trimmed with the Wahl clipper so that it was pretty short. The fur is hand sewed on, there was pretty much no way that I was going to get all that thickness through my machine.

For the ears, I cut out the rounded ear from the pattern, then made it about 50% larger. I wanted it to be large enough that it wouldn't get lost in the mane, but not so large that it looked like a mouse ear! I made the center out of sherpa fleece, and the back out of the golden fur. I just a hole in the mane, then pushed the ear through and hand sewed it to the hood.

The paws are made to be little fold down mittens, with velcro to keep them out of the way. I made the pretty large, because I thought it would be cute... oversized paws seem kitten-ish to me. The pads on the paws are a brown fake-suede fabric (from at Joanne's). It is hand sewn onto the white sherpa-fleece, with a bit of poly-fill padding stuffed in to give dimension. The backs are golden fur, left long.

The tail is a strip of the lining, sewed into a tube and stuffed with poly-fill. The tip of the tail is a scrap of fur from the mane, hand sewed on.

Mom the Lion-tamer with my Little Lion! I made my costume too, but that's another story!
There isn't a lining in the Simplicity pattern, but it was pretty easy to do. I didn't want the scratchy fake fur backing against Little Lion's skin. I made the lining out of the thinnest fleece I could find. I used the same pattern pieces, then machine sewed around the hood and down both sides of the zipper. I left enough of a hole at the bottom of the zipper to turn the costume, then hand sewed the remainder. On the sleeves, I hand sewed the lining to the fur, and skipped the elastic and mitts that the pattern called for.  I tacked the lining to the seam allowances of the fur at the feet with a couple of hand stitches to keep the lining in place when taking the costume on and off.

This is definitely a costume for a pretty immobile baby. Little Lion is crawling, but is pretty new at it, so he's fairly content to sit around all cozy and watch the action. Halloween for a 7 month old is pretty much just that-- observing the action from a stroller or a lap, and he was totally happy doing that all covered in fur. It wasn't super cold this year in NY, but it was on the verge, especially when sitting outside on the porch for hours, admiring the costumes of the trick-or-treaters and handing out candy, which how we spent most of the evening. We counted about 550 trick-or-treaters! Little Lion got lots of compliments... mostly people got that he was a very cuddly lion, but there was one visitor who asked if she could pet the dog!

My Lion, big sister the Leopard, and mom the Lion Tamer.

No comments:

Post a Comment