This year, World Book Day was so much fun. For the past couple of years my daughter has dressed up in shop-bought costumes – I think she’s been a fairy and Snow White. They weren’t the most imaginative costumes ever, but she was happy enough. This year was different.
On the 1st of January I made some sewing goals; one of them was to actually make a costume for WBD.
Now, a couple of weeks ago I asked my daughter what her favourite book is. She replied with “Cinderella.” Hmm. That could be true; we are looking forward to seeing the new film in the cinema soon. But, like Snow White and fairies, it’s not very original. She has a nice Cinderella dress in her dressing-up box. I guess I could have made her an outfit for another character from the story, but I had a different idea…
Elmer. [Image pinched from Google Images!]
I’ve not met a child who doesn’t like Elmer. Did you know it was originally published in 1968? And there are now nearly 30 spin-offs!
Elmer is a colourful patchwork elephant. He is the joker in the herd, but he wants to blend in with the other elephants. However he comes to realise that his colours are what makes him him, and that his friends love him in spite of his difference in appearance. It’s a sweet tale; I’m not sure that my eldest ‘gets’ the underlying message, but she enjoys the colourful pictures and humour.
So, I made an Elmer costume – here she is!
Are you thinking ‘OH MY GOODNESS HOW CUTE!!’??!
I LOVE it, and luckily so does my daughter. She was so excited to wear it. And didn’t seem self-conscious at all… I’m not sure I would pull off that trunk!
So, how did I make it? I totally made it up as I went along.
I wanted some kind of dress, but I just dove in and started sewing together squares to make a big piece of patchwork fabric. I just guessed about the size – I kept going until I had a feeling that I had made enough!! I thought I could make a tabard sort of thing – a piece for the back, a piece for the front, and two tabs at the sides holding it together, but…. I should have bought a Lotto ticket that day because I made just the right amount of pieces to make a rectangular shape that could be turned into a tube and wrapped around my daughter. I did just that and thought – aha! Pillowcase dress!
So I sewed the sides together and cut curves out of the edges to make armholes. I totally winged it; I didn’t use a pattern, but luckily I cut them about the right size!
That’s the only in-progress photo I have – I was far too busy to stop to take any more!
I sewed some bias binding round the armholes, and made casings at the front and back for a strip of ribbon to run through. I hemmed it, and it was finished!
The construction of the actual dress was really straightforward – it was the piecing of all those squares that took forever. I did have a little helper who was passing the squares to me to sew. I also had a little monster who kept walking aimlessly through the carefully laid out pieces on the floor…
I was very aware that I was making it for one day’s wear so didn’t stress about matching the squares exactly – which was just as well, really. Also I didn’t finish any of the seams, so I’m glad it came home from school clean as it’ll probably fall apart in the wash!
The night before dress-up day I realised that the elephant dress was missing a vital part – a tail! So I grabbed a strip of fabric (a red piece just the right kind of size was at the top of the bag!) and folded, sewed and knotted to make a cute little tail. I unpicked a hole at the back of the dress and
stuffed neatly sewed it in.
Next up: ears. This was a job for my glue gun. I literally glued squares of felt on to both sides of pieces of card that I had cut into big ear shapes. I also glued tabs in loops on to the card, wrapping them around a hairband. I finished by handsewing some little stitches on the tabs to tighten their grip on the hairband.
The ears are big and floppy – a bit heavy, perhaps; my daughter didn’t wear them all day, but I couldn’t make a funky elephant costume with small ears!
And finally – the trunk. Made out of a kitchen roll tube, of course! At this point, I’d had enough of cutting fabric squares out. So I got the kids’ felt tips and did some colouring in! I cut a curve at the top for nose space; it tilts down a little instead of sticking straight out like Pinocchio’s nose!
My colouring is quite shameful but in my defence the pens were running out!
I punched a couple of holes, tied some elastic on and that was that…
The costume was complete!
The icing on the cake was the fact that my girls got a free Elmer book with the £1 voucher.
If you didn’t know about Elmer before – you do now! :)