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DIY - Textiles - Harlequin Fabric

It's been a while since we completed the month long project for our clients performing at The San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Three performers, needing costumes for three different acts. It was a massive undertaking. We designed, dreamed, found fabric and started on the journey to costume perfection!

Act one included two of the performers on stilts presenting as the Ice King & Queen. We made stilt pants, shoes, cummerbund, fitted grey top, crown, and ice leaf cloak for the King. For the Queen, an extension for her hoop skirt, stilt length petticoat & skirt, shoes, fitted blue and grey blouse, ice ghawazee coat, and crown. We made the third performer his own pairs (two different styles) of stilt pants so he could interchange between Ice King and bounce stilt performer (as pictured above).

Act two included the three on foot as harlequin clowns, juggling, hooping, and balance. We made three sets of harlequin costumes. Each performer had a neck ruff trimmed in one of three colors of silk ribbon. The two gentlemen clowns had jodhpur pants made from the harlequin fabric. The lady clown had a double layered bubble skirt made from the harlequin fabric.

Act three was fire and the three of them wore black & red.

We found all fabrics we wanted to use for everything, except for a worthy harlequin fabric. That is why we decided to make our own. That's right, I'm a little crazy. Nine yards of harlequin fabric that our studio handmade. The design was so worth doing itjustice with just the right fabric.

This is how we accomplished making our own textile. We started with six different colors. Shopping took place in the LA Fashion District, post here.

We cut the yardage that we had of each of six colors into strips. We cut them 1/2" wider than the width of the squares we wanted to end up with. If you want a 3" square, you will cut your strips 3 1/2" wide. Use the width of your fabric as the length of your strips. We had 60" wide fabric, which was ideal, but if you only have 45, 55, etc. it will still work.

We sewed together the strips as randomly as we could accomplish, to make 45" wide panels. Just grab from each pile as randomly as possible. We grabbed 15 at a time, or however many it takes to create the width you want your fabric to be in the end. We had 3" squares (finished square size, our strips were 3.5" wide), so we needed 15 strips to equal a finished width of 45". Try to avoid dark, light, dark, light. Maybe more, light, light, dark, light, dark, light, dark, dark, light...and so on. The next set, do it different. We created 7 different sets.

Once you have your sets sewn, you get to cut them into strips again. We cut them into 3.5" wide strips, so that our finished size would be 3" square. Then you sew together your new strips. We kept them in piles by set, which meant we had 7 piles to pull from. Again, you want to sew in a random fashion. We laid them out 3-5 strips in a row so that we could see if we needed a different strip. If we had multiples line up of the same color, we chose a different strip to avoid this. Sometimes it was impossible to avoid. Just do your best and don't be too hard on yourself. Another tip, don't stress the edges too much, because you will eventually cut our your pattern pieces for sewing your garment. The edges often end up being scraps, un-used. We sewed as many strips together as it took to make a yard long section. This helped keep it from being bulky and hard to manage in the sewing machine. You can help yourself line up the square corners by pinning. We just took our time sewing and making sure the next corner lined up before sewing to it, once we just barely passed that corner, we made sure the next one lined up, sewed to it, and repeat to the end of your strip. This was a little less time consuming than pinning. Whatever works best for you. Another tip, take a lot of breaks.

We set up a schedule for our studio to accomplish this. Cutting strips, and sewing them into sets, day 1. Day 2 was to cut the second strips and sew 1 yard of fabric. Each day following was 1 yard of fabric for each of our seamstresses (i.e. me and one other). It took us 5 days from start to finish. Don't stress it if this process takes you a long time. Remember me saying that I'm a little crazy? Just take your time.

Once we sewed all of our square strips together, our fabric was ready to use. We laid out our finished harlequin fabric and put the pattern pieces down. To be sure we had enough, we laid out every pattern piece before cutting. For the skirt, we had to sew two of the yard long panels together to have enough area for the pattern pieces.

The finished products were so beautiful and made for amazing costumes.

We wish you the best of luck in your textile making endeavors! Happy Sewing!

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