Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Santa Chronicles: Part Five

Santa is ready for a bright red, fur-trimmed jacket and matching hat. The fabric choice revealed itself quickly. Several years ago I bought a boiled wool jacket at my favorite outlet for $20. It fit pretty well and was trimmed with loopy red yarn around the neckline, down the front, and around the cuffs. I couldn't pass it up because the fabric was worth more than the price. However, every time I put it on, I felt like a clown. Removing the trim didn't help—I just don't wear true reds very well. I took the jacket apart by cutting along the seamlines—no need to take time removing the stitches—and thought I might fashion Christmas stockings from the pieces. That didn't happen.

While searching my stash for red velvet, it dawned on me that the jacket pieces were the perfect choice for Santa's costume! First I had to draft a pattern for the jacket. The only way I knew to draft a jacket pattern was to place Santa on paper and trace around his general torso shape, then draw oversize shapes for the jacket front and back, based on my tracing and my knowledge of basic pattern shapes. I drew the shapes on my favorite pattern-fitting tissue, gridded Perfect Pattern Paper by Pati Palmer and available at I also backed the paper with her Perfect Fuse sheer white knit fusible interfacing to make the paper more like fabric so I could pin-fit it to Santa's shape.

These are the shapes I used for the first pin fitting. Notice how the shoulder and side seams are pinned with the pins parallel to the stitching line for fitting.

I tried the pinned jacket/front back on Santa and then moved the pins until the pattern was a pretty good fit. As I worked, I trimmed away excess tissue around the neckline. Because I was using boiled wool, which doesn't ravel, and because there would be fur trim and Santa's hair and beard would cover the neckline, there was no need for a neckline or front edge seam allowance on the pieces. I allowed for an overlap at the center front, plus 1/4"-wide seam allowances at the shoulders, side seams, and center back and the cut away any excess tissue in those areas. I also adjusted the pattern so the pieces were 3/4" longer than Santa's body because by that time, my husband had made a platform for Santa from 3/4" plywood. You'll see that later.  There was no need for a hem allowance at the bottom because the fabric doesn't ravel.

Using the adjusted pattern pieces, I cut two fronts and two backs. Then I machine-basted the pieces together, ready for the fitting.

I tried the jacket on Santa wrong side out , so I could pin in any necessary adjustments. 

Because my Santa has sloping shoulders, I fashioned multi-layered shoulder pads from scraps of the boiled wool and fit them inside temporarily.

After finalizing the shoulder and side seams, I permanently stitched the shoulders and center back seams and trimmed them to 1/4" wherever necessary. They were pressed open. I marked the side seam stitching line, trimmed the seam allowances to 1/4" and then removed the basting so I could use the  armhole as a guide for drafting a sleeve pattern. I made the pattern plenty large and then cut it from the boiled wool.

After several attempts at fitting the sleeve cap into the armhole, cutting the cap flatter and flatter until it fit the armhole curve, I set the sleeve into the open armhole, like you do for a man's shirt. Then it was a simple matter to stitch the sleeve underarm and side seam in one step. Next, I tacked the little shoulder pads in place.

As I did for the boots, I cut strips of fake fur, stitched them into tubes and then sewed them to the neckline, the wrist edge of each sleeve, and the left front edge of the jacket. I also made little patch pockets for the jacket and stitched them in place.

When I tried the finished jacket on Santa, the back was just too big, so I pinned in and then stitched darts to get rid of some of the excess fabric. Also note that Santa has a belt—made from a scrap of Ultrasuede and a silver buckle from my button box.

To complete the jacket, I sewed the right front edge to Santa's body, followed by the overlapping left front.

Before I could fashion Santa's hat, his wig had to be glued in place. I used the Fast Grab Tacky glue and coated his head and the inside of the wig with it. Once positioned, I pressed down firmly to make sure it was adhered all over and set Santa to dry while I worked on his hat. It was the easiest part of the process. I cut two large triangles from the remaining boiled wool, basted them together, and turned up a wide hem that allowed for a turned-up brim. I adjusted the fit, then permanently stitched the seams and the hem and trimmed it with a  fur tube—on the turned-up brim.  Next, I fashioned a ball of fur for the tip of the hat and sewed it in place.

 Keeping the hat in place posed a challenge as I didn't want to glue it onto the mohair wig. Instead, I used small safety pins in several locations underneath the brim to keep it in place by catching some of the mohair.

Now that Santa was completely clothed, I could attach his beard with the tacky white glue. I positioned and glued only the section on the chin area and allowed it to dry thoroughly, then attached the sides in the same manner. The Fast Grab glue was a lifesaver through the entire process of assembling Santa.

I'll keep the completely dressed and finished Santa a secret until the final post, which is about the finishing touches, toys, stand, and label.

To be continued…..

No comments: