Rey Costume (The Force Awakens)

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Is it a belated Halloween post? My preparation for the premiere of Rogue One? Or just my warrior outfit for the challenges that lie ahead?

How about all three?

Wow, 2016. What can I say? Are you as exhausted as I am with the onslaught of awfulness?

Despite everything, playing Rey for a day was wicked fun. Once again, this costume is a mish-mash of altered thrift store finds. The trickiest part was finding the right fabric for the drapey scarfy thing that goes on top. No, that curvy thing behind my head is not part of the costume. It’s a lizard made from a seed pod (a gift to us from friends).

For more not-exactly-from-scratch costumes, click here.

Watching: Recently finished The Crown on Netflix. So, so good if you like period stuff about aristocratic/ royal types. Reading: Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates, a light-hearted history of early New England colonists—amazing how resonant many of the issues still are today. New-to-me blog: Blue Collar Red Lipstick –fashion by a  professional and classy yet quirky dresser who relishes a good thrift find.

 

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Dog Costume

Homemade Dog Costume

I meant to photograph the finished version of this, but I ended up being too distracted to do it. This was for the church spring play, and the final included a tail stiffened by a sliver of milk jug inside it.

The ears here are just pinned on, but I swear I did actually sew them to the headpiece.

The costume is made up of Goodwill items: leggings, T-shirt, with light brown T-shirt spots, plus a balaclava-type “hat” out of more T-shirt pieces. The headwear is very similar in concept to the knight helmets and ninja “hats” I’ve made in the past.

For the ears, I just made two tubes with rounded edges, then sewed them on the balaclava pointing up so that the stitching is tucked unseen just under the ears. This detail gave them just a little bit of oomph so they hung well, with a lot of personality.

My little model here was in the play but wasn’t actually the dog. Our friend who did play the dog totally rocked it out. Everyone worked so hard and did a wonderful job. I was proud to contribute and to have two young actors in the family, as both my kids were in it this year.

For more simple costumes, click here.

Low-Sew Halloween

It’s time for the yearly round-up of costumes, in case you need some ideas. What are you dressing up as? Last year, I was the Prancercise Lady, but it’s going to be hard to top that one. The kids want to be a diva (10 year old) and a bald eagle (7 year old). We’ll probably get started on costumes this week. This always starts with a trip to the thrift store. Our costumes are of the slapdash variety—-altered rather than sewn from scratch, with not too much (okay, almost no) emphasis on perfection.

Here are a few from years past:

Fireman Costume

Fireman

Turtle Costume Front

Turtle Costume

Green Ninjago Costume

Ninja (Ninjago)

Anastasia costume

Anastasia Romanov (Russian princess)

Knight Costume

Knight Tunic and Helmet

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Princess

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Marco Polo

So glad to get my copy of the Budget Bytes cookbook the other day. If you haven’t yet discovered the Budget Bytes blog, you’re in for a treat. The recipes are on the simple side—weeknight friendly, for the most part, but not boring in the least. As the title suggests, the recipes are wallet-wise, but beyond that, they’re just appealing, and in many cases, less-meatarian, which I love. Also many are gluten-free or easily adaptable to GF. I checked the book out from the library and liked it so much I had to buy my own.

Discovered another new-to-me podcast for children’s and YA lit enthusiasts. It’s called First Draft, and it’s interviews Sarah Enni conducted with authors during a cross-country road trip. Good stuff, food for thought.

What about you? Discover anything good lately?

Marco Polo and the Explorer Book

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At the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Catherine!) I bought Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air for my six-year-old boy for Christmas. It’s a beauty of a book, written by Stewart Ross and illustrated by Stephen Biesty (of Incredible Cross-Sections fame). Each chapter follows a different explorer and includes a gorgeous fold out map and diagram of the explorer’s route and travel style.

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 I highly, highly recommend it. Reading it straight through from beginning to end isn’t something my son is ready for (the text is geared toward a slightly older audience), but he likes to pick a small section for me to read at a time, and he always chooses a fold-out to study. He wants to read every label for all the parts (not unlike his fascination with Richard Scarry’s books).

I love that feeling of just sort of soaking in the book, meandering through and getting to know it bit by bit, landing on favorite parts and coming back to them again and again on a nonlinear journey. It reminds me of my own love for the Oxford University Press story collections as a kid. Beautifully illustrated by Victor Ambrus, they were these great kid-friendly versions of the Canterbury Tales, the great ballets, and King Arthur’s tales, among others. Sadly, they look to be out of print now, but I think I’ll have to chase down some copies to have as our own. Click here for a few cover images from Victor Ambrus’s website.

I didn’t understand everything about those tales at the time, but when I re-encountered them later in school, it was thrilling to realize I already had a framework in place. The stories were familiar and felt like they were already mine. I’m always hoping to give my kids some experiences like that, and I hope Into the Unknown will be one of them.

The elementary school had its book character parade last week, and my son wanted to dress like Marco Polo. We didn’t find a picture of him in the book, but we found an 18th century illustration online:

 We found a silk jacket at the thrift store (100% real! reversible!), along with a faux fur shrug we could use for the hat. I made the hat (two U-shaped pieces sewn along the curve) from an old T-shirt with a double-thickness of sweatshirt underneath for body. I tacked the fur band around the bottom.

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Marco Polo costume

Since I’m working on a nonfiction children’s book myself, I have a new appreciation for just how much research goes into something like this. I can’t imagine how long it must’ve taken Mr. Ross and Mr. Biesty to create this handsome book. Bravo!

Speaking of nonfiction for children, I just ordered a couple from my favorite local indie, Park Road Books. Amy Karol of angry chicken recommended two comic-type books, one about the presidents and another about the Greek myths: Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunder, and Where Do Presidents Come From? They sounded so good that I called up Park Road right away. I’ll be there tonight for the spring author line up, sponsored by the local chapter of the Women’s National Book Association.

For more posts about books, click here. For more posts about costumes, click here. (Boy! I seem to make/ assemble a lot!)

P.S. Family: I’d like to get this book (Into the Unknown) for the oldest nephews, so I’m calling dibs now. Sorry!

Anastasia Romanov Costume

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I had to whip up something quick for my daughter’s Wax Museum Day at school. This is a grade-wide project where the students read a biography, dress up like their historical figure, and prepare remarks to present to visitors.

The students are supposed to stand still like wax figures until a parent gives them a ticket. Then they animate and introduce themselves as “so-and-so.” It’s so totally cute I can’t even tell you. I’m partial to the costumes involving mustaches.

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Little Miss wanted to be a princess, of course, so she chose Russian princess Anastasia Romanov. We went to the thrift store and chose some pieces to alter.

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The key elements, we decided, were a white flowy dress with a square neckline, plus pearls. I flipped the blouse backward, sized it down, and made a square neckline using a tutorial I can no longer find. It wasn’t as difficult as it might sound—-actually pretty easy. The skirt I just sized down but left otherwise as-is.

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Then I added, at her request, a sash made from blanket binding. It was once a part of this costume but got accidentally ripped off. I also made a little medallion from lightweight cardboard and sequins.

She did a great job with her presentation and is now reading everything she can about Anastasia. I guess we should try that movie that was made in the 90s, although I’m sure it’s more fiction than not.

Did you go away for spring break? We visited family in California and went skiing. It was a blast, but coming back to East Coast time is not. Oh well, it was worth it!

* The Anastasia image is from Wikipedia.

Green Ninja Costume

I’m just a teensy bit late with this Halloween post. Our little man just had to, had to be the green ninja from Ninjago. It was a bit of a trick figuring out how to make up the costume, especially the sword-holding thingy in the back, which, according to my son, was absolutely essential.

I bought cheap green jogging pants and used gold fabric paint (the kind you squeeze out) to make the little gold shapes on them. On the figure they’re actually silver but, whatever.

The top is a green fleece I refused to paint on since I wanted him to be able to wear it plain later. I did add black cardboard-and-toilet-paper-roll epaulets on the shoulders, tacked on with thread. These were only semi-sucessful. You can see them hanging off his shoulders. We probably should’ve skipped them.

The headpiece is another simple balaclava I made like the ones for the knight costumes, only with a silver piece sewn on. The green is a thrifted sweatshirt and the silver from the same thrifted sweater that I used for one of the knight helmets.

The black belt is actually Daddy’s bathrobe sash. Ha! And the sword-holder-thingy in back (sorry, no picture) I made by cutting slits in a small cardboard box that I painted black. Four slits for the swords, then some small holes for the ties cut from sweatshirt material. We then tied the ties around his chest to hold the box on his back.

It’s not fancy, but it worked. This is kind of my costume philosophy—-I want them to be comfortable and re-usable but inexpensive and quickly slapped together. Thrifted knits are great for this.

For other low-sew costumes with thrifted parts, check out our fireman suit, knight, and turtle costumes. Oh, and here’s a princess for good measure, with maybe a little more sewing involved.

In other news, I’ve been doing some development work on secondary characters in my novel, using this questionnaire. The questionnaire was originally written for role-playing gaming, but totally works for novel-writing, too. I’ve been surprised at some of the interesting things that are coming from it. Hope I can put them to good use.

Northern friends, I hope you’re not stuck in the snow, or at least if you are, that you’ve got power, food, and board games.

Simple Knight Costume

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I made four of these after one of our nephews asked for a knight costume like the German Waldorf one our son has. I figured everyone should have one!

The “tabard” (red drapey thing) is basically a round-cornered rectangle with a hole for the head, finished with bias binding. I machine-appliqued letters on the front of each.

The “helmet” my son has is crocheted with silvery yarn, but I don’t crochet and knew I couldn’t knit anything fast enough, so I came up with a balaclava-type answer.

The first nephew got one made from a thrifted silvery sweater (picture #2). The sweater wasn’t big enough to make more helmets, though, and I knew the other three nephews (brothers) would be happier if theirs were all the same.

So, I made theirs out of a thrifted grey polo, with the added bonus of the bottom edges  already being finished (parts of the sleeves or bottom hem of the shirt). I added a “visor” of sparkly thrifted fabric and added pewter-look buttons to each side as the bolts.

I thought they turned out really well. Also, the time invested ended up feeling appropriate. Know what I mean?

I hope my little knights will defend their aunt when necessary! Although I look kind of Joan of Arc-y myself, don’t you think? Maybe I should’ve made one for me.