Sewing Halloween Costumes

My mom made most of our Halloween costumes growing up. It was so normal for us, I never thought much about it. My mom is a talented maker in general, and she more or less taught herself to sew in the 1970s after a couple of basic home economics classes in high school.

There are all of these gorgeous pictures of her wearing handmade clothes– embroidered shift dresses, long calico and plaid hippie gowns with laced bodices and puffed sleeves– or standing beside her creations. She once made an actual couch. Not just upholstered, but like a modular tube pillow type thing that was low to the ground and weird and amazing.

When my sister and I were little, she’d ask us what we wanted to be for Halloween, and then she’d put it together.

A princess and a “flower fairy?” No problem….

My sister on the left, me on the right, circa 1988

A doll and a pink unicorn? Okee doke…

1989 (Can you tell my sister was a born actress?)

I wish I had had the good sense to sit down with her and really learn to sew before I left home. I was stubborn, impatient, and easily-frustrated, so our sewing sessions were usually short and short-tempered. I just wanted to hurry up and finish a project, which meant I didn’t see our time together in the context of skill-building.

Now that my daughter is a bit older, and I’ve muddled through various sewing projects on my own, I can really feel the gaps in my knowledge. I want to learn how to use a serger, sew a zigzag stitch, use my machine’s embroidery settings. I want to know the difference between types of thread, and which to use for which project. I want to learn to sew darts, work with elastic and seersucker, and quilt a basic baby blanket. I’ve been known to curse at my machine, a Janone Home with a really finicky bobbin loader. I only very recently sat down to actually read my machine’s manual, since my style has always been to just figure things out as I go. Turns out those things are pretty useful.

Despite my shortcomings, I managed to make Sky a firefighter costume this year.

My little firefighter, 2017.

I used a tutorial from Pinterest (which now won’t load for some reason, so I’ll update with the link later) to make a pattern from a pair of Sky’s pajama pants, then cut out firefighter pants from a scrap of brown woven cotton I had used to make Lyle a case for his iPad. I had juuuust enough for the pants, which took me four hours to sew (!).

I gunked up my machine’s needle sewing the duct-tape reflective stripes into place, and had to replace it, but otherwise it was mostly uneventful. Just slow. I used adhesive felt and a white cotton pajama shirt for the top, found an insulated firefighter raincoat at a consignment store, and a plastic hat at the Goodwill for a dollar. We put her rain boots on and she was ready to take on the big world.

We played in the leaves, went to a Halloween craft party at the library, and attended a 2-and-under costume party at a local kids’ toy store. She kept telling people she was “a fire engine for Halloween,” but I think she’s starting to catch onto the idea of costumes and dressing up. It will be interesting to see what she wants to be next year.

The elastic waist and adjustable straps make the firefighter pants easy for her to put on herself, so we’ll use them to start a dress-up clothes stash for her. And I’m hoping her baby brother will get some use out of the costume when he grows up, too.

Happy belated Halloween! Did you make a costume this year? 

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