21-JULY-2011 This year I’m once again nervous yet honored to be making one of Jill Pantozzi’s costumes for Comic Con International at San Diego. She picked another character that I was completely unfamiliar with like last year’s Ravager. This time Jill chose CYCLONE, a descendant of the classic character Ma Hunkel. It’s an adorable character design and reminds me of Jingle Belle. We’re skipping the hat but including the monkey.

I thought this green stretch off-the-shoulder dress wouldn’t be too difficult. Then I started working on it… Like always, stitches were ripped out, pins were flicked and I kept apologizing via text messages in case this wouldn’t fit. I’m not a formally trained seamstress and I despise following other people’s instructions so I end up making things up as I go along. Instructions in commercial patterns never make sense to me. The fabric layout diagrams don’t even make sense. Even the “simplest” looking designs end up being a challenge. I estimated 2.5 yards of fabric which was just enough and why we didn’t extra to make the hat.

What I do is take a commercial pattern and modify as needed. I read the instructions through once. Cut the tissue paper pattern pieces. Lay that pattern out on something else like muslin, scrap spandex or even wrapping pattern to create a more finalized set of pattern pieces. Sometimes I’ll even make a mock up out of the same kind of fabric to get an idea for stretch and fit but I didn’t do that in case and I probably should have. Caico of course, helped in the pattern design.

My first attempt came out way too small and for some reason, the pattern pieces weren’t laid out in the proper direction of the stretch which was according to the Vogue instructions. One of the many reasons I hate following someone else’s instructions. The dress would not need to get longer but wider with movement. It was fubar although I hope it can be sold someone exceptionally small like a size 2 or 4.

Jill debuted her Cyclone outfit July 21, 2011 at Comic Con International in San Diego at one her panels. I finished it July 13.

The 1st column is the FIRST attempt at the dress. It came out way too small so I was lucky to find green knit at Fabricland in Plainfield, NJ and start all over. I altered the pattern to have more swing in the skirt with slits up the sides and less of a peak.
FIRST TRY: We decided on this Emerald Green cotton micro knit from Denver Fabrics and I had scraps of red jersey knit in one of my boxes for the logo. The one issue I have when working with knits is that raw edges curl; that's a "better" problem than fraying like with silks but it's still something to address. I added stabilizer to this along the bottom hem and to the front yoke.
I used this Vogue pattern (7997) as a basis and created a muslin pattern to extend the yoke and the length to it would be longer than a blouse and more like a tunic length; plus with a points in the front and back. The pattern was also for a size larger than the customer so I made the muslin pattern pieces an estimated size smaller and have to hoped it would fit; of course it didn't because of the stretch being in the wrong direction.New pattern pieces created:
Zig-zag stitched the logo (also with stablizer) to the yoke. It took three passes with the zig-zag stitch to give it a better embroidered look.
The collar/yoke was stitched together. There was a front piece and due to conserving fabric, the back was two pieces stitched down the center. I figured, it's the back so perfectly acceptable. Elastic was inserted as directed by the pattern instructions. Then the collar piece was hemmed.
The front was stitched to the back at the sides. Initially this came out way too long and would have been clear passed the knees. I shortened it by about six inches. Then zig-zag stitched around the raw edges.
The collar was attached to the main dress.
To try and keep the raw edges from curling, I tried to overlock stitch them and then hem. This was fine in small places like the sleeves but not in the skirt. Then the sleeves were zig-zag stitched together with a 5/8 inch allowance and finally attached. Attaching to an off-the-shoulder design for the first time was confusing.I skipped this in the 2nd version. But added another step of inserting elastic around the top of the sleeves because I couldn't figure out how the sleeves would stay up comfortably.
Alterations to the sleeve tops. Excess fabric folded down and casings stitched.
Sleeves with new elastic tops were stitched into the dress.
The basic assembly is complete at this point. Alterations needed to be done at the waist and hemline.
Alteration markings in chalk.
The final steps were to attach the yoke to the dress. Then hem the bottom of the skirt. That's where I found I needed stablizer to keep the curling under some control.
View of the side slit that was added to the final design.
MONKEY!!Making a little vest for a small stuff monkey was harder than you might think. It's pretty hard to stitch small pieces together with allowances less than half an inch.
I ended up making two of these also. The first one was just a bit too small in the front panels. With the 2nd attempt I also abandoned the idea of a lapel.
Of course I was sure I had peacock blue thread so I didn't buy any. Got home & there wasn't any but I found five spools of baby blue. *eyerolls* so that's what I used for the basic stitching.
The broadcloth was fraying and driving me insane. Like I said, I couldn't possibly make such tiny hems all over so I applied Fray Check on all the raw edges which dried clear.
I added some fun embroidery stitches in different colors like gold and green. Then added snaps. The side of the snap that would be on the top panel were glued in place so no extraneous stitching would show; the bottom snaps were hand stitched in place.
Here's the vest on the monkey's first fitting.
Since this is a flying monkey, wings were needed! I opted to use this craft dove/pigeon for wings.
His noble sacrifice was duly noted.
Black feathers were added to the wings for a better wingspan, texture and color.
Luckily when the wings were plucked from the bird, there were nice wire and paper tabs that I could use to insert into slits in the vest. Then glue the base of the wings to the vest.
The monkey was finished!
PHOTO BY CHRIS TREVAS