Millie is really into vampires these days. She draws pictures of the whole family of her friends, but as vampires. If she draws a person in a picture, they will often have fangs. So for halloween, she drew a picture of the vampire outfit she wanted to wear.
She told me it would be a black cloak, over a red vest and white shirt, black pants, and plastic fangs. I said I could do that. I took some measurements and made up a tube of muslin, from which I pinned down some seams and gradually modified to fit reasonably.
Here is the sketch with body measurements I used to get started on the vest.
Kind of a rough pattern to semi-draping approach I suppose.
For pattern development, the cloak didn't need to fit tremendously well and it is simpler, so it went fairly quickly. The waistcoat got more time since it wanted to fit more closely. Millie wanted to do her own fashion sketch on a scrap of muslin.
The muslins got taken apart and used as patterns for the real fabric.
I didn't really want to buy new fabric for this project, and I have a mental problem wherein it is difficult for me to do something quick and shabby, even when that is the right thing to do. Not doing a project in a quality way makes me feel a little bit like my soul is being torn. This drives my wife nuts, and does impose extra costs in many situations. Anyway, in the case of this project, this meant making full linings and finished seams, and using high quality fabric. I hate the feeling that I'm spending hours and hours working diligently on a project using poor materials.
I like to keep some nice black wool or cashmere suiting weight fabric around, to make skirts, pants, etc. Last year I tried out a piece of super 130s cashmere/wool blend flannel from this vendor on ebay. It is extremely nice stuff. I probably used $30 of wool on this cape, which is bigger than it looks if laid out flat.
For lining, I have a stock of 19 momme silk charmeuse. It is an absolute bear to sew with. It slips around against itself and the machine, easily working pins out of it (which leave visible holes unless using fine pins). It stretches wildly with the slightest force on the bias, but is hard to stretch at all along the weave directions. It snags on any little burr or splinter, and ravels ultrafine fibers off cut edges. But it does make a lovely lining if you can get it cut and sewn into the right shape.
For the red elements of this project, I bought a pack of acid dye from Dharma Trading, in Fire Engine Red.
I've never used acid dye before, so it was fun to try it. We followed the directions and used my big stainless dye pot on the stove. Here I am straining the predissolved dye slurry, to eliminate chunks.
Millie and Buster were eager to help.
It is amazing how the dye binds to the fabric to such a degree that the bath becomes almost clear again.
In retrospect I should have gone with a more crimson type color, but that's what you get for not doing a test piece first.
The lining for the cloak and the outer layer of the vest were cut from this single length of dyed silk, after it was washed, hung to dry, and pressed.
The vest lining I cut from silk Fuji Broadcloth, which is a joy to work with and I felt would give more stability to the flimsy charmeuse outer fabric.
The wool sewed up beautifully, as excellent wool always does.
The charmeuse caused me no end of headaches. After finishing something with it, I try to tell myself to remember NOT to use it anymore, but I inevitably go back to it when I need a lining.
The fit was tested a few times during assembly. I drafted a ridiculous vampire collar in paper and we tried a few variations before Millie gave the go ahead on one. This was made with the black wool on the outside and black silk satin on the inside, with sew in interfacing in between. Came out pretty well.
Unfortunately the lining was cut too big and so was drooping down below the hem line. I tried to take some of it up at the top seam (hand sewn). But I overshot and now in a couple places the cloak hangs on the lining rather than the wool, giving the wool a slightly hitched up look. Grrr. Charmeuse..!
Next time I would put it together a little differently. I tried to take some shortcuts so as not to have to hand fell stitch around the whole hem of the piece. But what I should have done was to sew the inner wool hem bottom piece to the outer, with a fold where it was going to meet the silk liner, hand fell the silk lining at the collar, then hand fell the wool inner hem piece down over top of the silk, above the hem. Ah well, can't win them all. I could always go back and fix it...
I added buttons, a closure tab on the cloak, and a tiny bit of embroidery.
Buster doing some sewing on a scrap, before we set up the buttonholer on the singer 99.
Cutting the waistcoat pieces.
Sewing a bias strip on to finish the armholes of the vest.
Back view of the finished vest over the white shirt.
We used the white shirt I originally sewed for Violet for Revels, which Millie has now inherited. The vest and cloak went on. Teeth were put in, but didn't last long because they were uncomfortable. Millie was very happy with the outfit. Here she is with Buster, who was pleased with his boughten Darth Vader costume.
Millie enjoying the spoils after trick-or-treating
I suppose this one may not be that useful as a general purpose garment, but it turn out pretty well.