High impact, low cost nursery

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Welcome to Virginia’s fun and whimsical nursery! It is said that a baby’s true “work” is play. Through play, babies are learning about complex ideas that we as grown-ups take for granted.

I wanted to create a comfortable and fun space for Virginia to do this very important work that she needs to do, but to be perfectly honest, I also wanted a space that would be comfortable and enjoyable for myself to spend time in too. Lucky me, this is the second nursery that I got to design for Virginia! (Check out her first nursery here)

Why two nurseries you may ask?  For the first six months of Virginia’s life we were living in an apartment, but in January of this year we moved into our very own home! The first time around I had the luxury of time when working on getting the space just the way I wanted it.  Something that was in much shorter supply 6 months later!  Luckily, we already had the furniture and some of the decor elements made, it was just a matter of creating and installing the new decals, a process that was much easier the second time around.

So without further ado, let’s take a tour shall we?  To give you a sense of scale let me just say that this room is about 11 feet by 8.5 feet.  We’ll start with what you see first when you first walk in the door.

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The statement piece is the floor to ceiling stylized deciduous tree on the opposite (west) wall, along with the adorable and over-sized woodland creatures.  Like in her previous room, this tree was made by cutting out shapes of contact paper and sticking them to the wall (for further information on this process, check out this post).  What I really like about these new decals is the boldness and simplicity of the white against the dark brownish gray wall.  It’s a wall color that I would never choose myself normally because I like really bright rooms.  but by adding so many decals, it really lightened and livens the room up.  To the left (out of view) is a bookshelf and to the right (also out of view) is her dresser.

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As you turn to your left (toward to south wall), you will see the 3 dimensional foam core butterflies that my husband made for Virginia’s first nursery.  These are adhered to the wall with simple, double-sided tape.  I like that it looks like they are flying through the window in a swarm and out the door of her room (just out of frame to the left).

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Although we didn’t have a very large budget to create this nursery, my husband and I don’t like to sacrifice style.  We love searching for the perfect pieces on Craigslist and at thrift stores.  Some items were kept from my childhood and are ready to have another life with our daughter.  Though this does keep our budget in check, it also goes along with the values of our family, which we hope to instill in Virginia from the start.  That goes not only for the furnishings and decor, but toys as well.  With very few exceptions, nearly all of Virginia’s toys are either handmade, vintage, hand-me-downs, or second-hand.

Now we’ll turn 180 degrees to face the north wall and the crib. To the right I created a little reading corner under a hanging lamp. This is also a favorite spot for evening snuggles and nursing. The folding disc chair (which I’ve had since my college years) replaced the rocking chair from the previous nursery for a couple of reasons. First, there just wasn’t as much room this time around, and second, we use the nursery differently than when Virginia was a newborn (she is 10.5 months now). Now that she is more mobile we spend the majority of our time in this room playing on the floor (as opposed to nursing).  As far as nursing goes, we mostly do that in our bed where we can lie down and have some quiet mommy and Virginia time, away from distractions.  I LOVE the rocking chair, so we moved that to the living room where it can get plenty of use.

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This corner is still a work in progress. I plan on making some very shallow shelving out of recycled shipping pallets to display/store some of Virginia’s books along the short wall between the window and the closet door. The lamp shade, along with the one pictured on the bookshelf, were crocheted out of white cotton yarn.  Even Virginia’s crib sheets were handmade from vintage full bed sheets.

And making our way full circle, Virginia’s dresser is nuzzled perfectly between the closet door (left) and entrance.  Her impressive book collection was mostly acquired through the local library’s book sales, or as gifts from family and friends.  The owl fabric collage is one that I made a couple ago.

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And when looking for the perfect container for Virginia’s collection of wooden blocks, this vintage Du Pont blasting cap crate which housed my record collection for years, seemed to be the perfect fit, proving that toy boxes can take many forms.

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So how low-cost was this nursery?  Not including books and toys I calculate the cost just under $225!  Here’s how it breaks down.

Decor
Two rolls of Contact paper (to make decals)- $11
Foam core $5
White Lamp base, Goodwill $4
Cotton yarn for making two lamp shades $8

Furnishings
Vintage book shelf, Craigslist $25
White dresser, Craigslist $30
Crib (without mattress), Craigslist $100
Organic crib mattress, Target $80 (gift from grandparents) our cost $0
Disc chair, already owned for several years $0
5×7 Handwoven wool rug originally from World market, Craigslist $40
Child’s table and chair from my childhood $0 (table was handmade by my grandfather)

 

**This post has been added to Make it Pretty Monday on the Dedicated House, so go check out some other great links there!

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Sneak Peek for Crafty Mart Show Tomorrow!

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So if you are reading this post and are in the Cleveland/ Akron area, I’m just going to assume that I’ll be seeing you tomorrow at the Crafty Mart; School’s Out Show right?

If you do make it to the show, here’s what you can expect to see from zween…

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Some very lovely Plarn handbags and messenger bags with recycled handles.

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Some Plarn Owl Wristlets.

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And there will even be a few Owl Weeble Wobbles as well.

When you come to the show, make sure to participate in the charity raffle, that will benefit the Heaven Can Wait, volunteer-run animal rescue center. Below is the Owl Shoulder Bag that I’ll be donating for this charity raffle. It’s a good cause, so buy some tickets! See you at Crafty Mart!

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PS- If you’re NOT in the Cleveland/ Akron area this weekend, or are reading this post after June 1st, 2013, you can still shop for zween products at my new Etsy shop!  That’s right everyone, I FINALLY opened my Etsy shop!!!  So please go here to check it out 🙂

This post was linked to the Dedicated House’s Party “Anything Blue Friday” for the picture featuring my Sarah Grace handbag with the blue handles and medallion decoration.

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Plarn; a labor of love?

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I am making new, durable objects out of something we think of as worthless trash while transforming it in such a way that most people I have come across don’t even know that these were once plastic bags.  But, reflecting back over my long history with plarn, I sometimes wonder, “is it worth it?”

To say that crocheting with plastic bags is labor intensive is an understatement quite frankly.  If you are unfamiliar with the process allow me to break it down for you.

First, I collect the plastic grocery sacks.  Simple right?

That is step one, and already I have hit my first obstacle because I do not have the opportunity to procure bags in the normal fashion.  I’m not saying that I don’t accumulate plastic bags because I am a canvas-bag-toting-saint.  I am saying that my husband works at a Trader Joe’s and does all of our grocery shopping.  He should use reusable bags exclusively but he doesn’t.  Instead he usually uses the paper bags that Trader Joe’s give out (and reuses them over and over until they wear out).  In fact, I didn’t know that TJs even had a plastic bag option until Jon prof read this post.  But I digress.

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So where do I get all my plastic bags you wonder?  A couple of places.  First, I have a number of friends and family members who save up their bags and give them to me.  This is how I get the majority of my bags.  But since most of my closest friends and family members try to use reusable market bags whenever possible (which is a good thing!) it can take quite a long time to accumulate the quantity of bags that is necessary to create the products that I make.

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The other way that I obtain bags is a little more tricky.  I go to super markets and take the bags that other people bring for recycling.  Yes, you heard me correctly; I steal plastic bags.  Now here I will rant a bit because this bothers me.  Why should I be made to feel like a criminal for taking something that nobody wants (plastic bags) and recycling it?  Once, I went to a local grocery store (the Giant Eagle on W 117th, Cleveland) and I wanted some used bags.  My husband was with me and for some reason he decided that he wanted to actually ask the manager if it would be all right if I take the bags.  To our surprise his answer was NO, it was not all right!  At this point I told him why I wanted the bags and his response was, “well how am I to know for sure what you will do with the bags?  For all I know you could take them and throw them in the lake!”  I kid you not, that is what he said.  Then I went to another local super market (Marc’s in Lakewood, OH).  The first time I went I asked the person at the customer service counter if I could take their recycled bags and was relieved when the man said “of course.”  I did this on a couple of occasions until one day I went in and the bin where the bag are returned was bolted shut!  I now only resort to “stealing” bags when I am particularly desperate for a certain color, or my supply is non-existent.

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The next step is sorting the bags.  Above is a particularly good haul of plastic bags that my mom and brother collected over several months and gave to me all at one time.  Each bag is checked for cleanness and sorted by color.  Below I have made small bundles of like-colored bags, which breaks them into more manageable amounts when I go to make them into plarn.

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After I have at least 30 or so bags of one color I’m ready to make a ball of plarn, which involves cutting each bag, one at a time, and looping the individual pieces together, as shown below.  For a more detailed explanation of this process you may want to read my tutorial on how to make plarn.

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ball of plarn from kroger bags

Wow, that was a lot of work!  But wait, I haven’t even “made” anything yet!

Next comes the fun part, crocheting the ubiquitous grocery bags into handbags, durable messenger bags, baskets, and cute little owls that sit in your home and make you happy.  This is the part that reminds me of the classic children’s story, Rumplestiltskin.  Instead of turning straw into gold I am transforming trash into…

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some lovely purses…

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owl wristlets…

plarn chevron messenger bag

a chevron messenger bag…

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acorn baskets…

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and cute owl decorations.

I enjoy coming up with different crocheted designs and finding old purses past their prime to take apart and use their zippers, buckles and handles.

But what about the question that I pose in the title of this post; is plarn a labor of love?

This is something that I have been thinking about more and more in the last few months following my participation in the Last Minute Market.  I had a wonderful time at the show.  It was the largest show that I have ever done to date and it was also the first time that I showcased ONLY my plarn items (as opposed to a hodge-podge of upcycled items).  The lowest price point at my table was $25.  To me this was all such a big risk.  What would people think?  Would I even sell enough to cover my table fee?  Three hours into the eight-hour show without a single sale I was beginning to have serious doubts.  But I didn’t give up.  The entire day I stood next to my table and engaged each and every person who walked by and gave my work the slightest side-ways glance.  I greeted them and asked them things like, “do you know what these are made of?” motioning toward my table.  To my surprise, most people couldn’t guess that everything on my table was made from plastic grocery bags.

That’s when I would bring them over to my table and show them the poster below as I briefly explained the process.  As I did so I could hear the excitement in my voice about how I developed my technique over the past seven and a half years, and how when I started I barely knew how to crochet at all!

plarn recycle poster

Inevitably they would come to the same conclusion and ask the same question, which were, “this must take you a long time!” and “how many bags does it take to make one of these?”

Though I do my best to estimate how much time it takes me to make one of my purses and how many bags I use, the truth is that it is impossible to calculate.  Okay, maybe it’s not technically impossible, but it’s not the way I want to spend my time, making plarn and crocheting take long enough as it is!

However, what I suspect is at the root of their questions and comments is this, “is it really worth your time to do this?”  Excellent question, and one that I’m trying to figure out for myself.  It’s a question that a lot of craftspeople face, which is, ‘can I really charge what I would need to charge to pay for my time’ (because let’s face it, in my case that is all you are really paying for since the materials are mostly free).

The answer is…

No, I could never really charge enough for the individual items that I create to make my time worth it.  Yet I still keep making them.  I make them because it really is a labor of love; it’s something that I need to do.  I need to make these things with my hands.  I need to share them with other people.  I need to photograph them and write about them and talk to other people about them.  I need them to leave my home and live their own lives with other people.  I need them to be made out of trash, because it is the act of making something out of nothing that is attractive to me.  Plarn gives me an avenue to design and invent while appealing to my sensibilities toward the environment.  And now that I’m a mother, I want to pass on the ideals about reusing, recycling and resourcefulness to my daughter.

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If you have liked this article I invite you to follow zween on Facebook.  You may also like to check out these previous blog posts that I have written about plarn specifically:

Crocheting with plastic bags; a six year journey
Toot Tuesday; Making Plarn
Wise Owl Plarn Wristlets
Cheveron Ombre Messenger Bag

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Crochet Egg Cozy for Easter; Free Pattern!

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Just in time for Easter, some fun bunny shaped egg cozies to dress up your holiday baskets!  A couple of years ago I made these cute little hens, made from this pattern, and now they have some new friends to keep them company!  The following is my first ever published crochet pattern, so I apologize if there are any mistakes.  If you do find a mistake, or if you find any part confusing, please write a comment below and I will try to address it.

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Gauge
Gauge is important for this project because the cozy will need to fit around your egg. Because the size of eggs very, as well as your own personal crochet style (do you crochet more tightly or loosely?) you may need to adjust your hook size to accommodate these variables.  I use two different hooks to create these cozies; US size G and F.  If you are using the same or similar yarn as me (see below) try using the same size hooks as I do to start.  After about the 9th row or so of making the body, try it on your egg and make sure it fits well.  Adjust your hook size accordingly if this is not the case. (The photo below shows a cozy after completing row nine and my G hook.)

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Yarn
All cozies pictured here have been made with Caron Simply Soft. If you do not have this yarn available or if you would like to use a different yarn, it is labeled as “medium 4” yarn (worsted weight?) on the package and the recommended hook size is US H. If you do use a different yarn I would recommend sticking with a 100% Acrylic, as you will not have any unwanted stretch.

Supplies

Yarn (Caron Simply soft in any color or other similar 100% acrylic yarn of your choice)
Size G and F hooks (or size to obtain gauge, see above)
Tapestry needle
scissors
small safety-pin or stitch marker
fork

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abbreviations
st            stitch
sts          stitches
sl st        slip stitch
ch           chain
sc            single crochet
hdc         half double crochet
dc           double crochet
FPdc       front post double crochet

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Now lets begin the pattern!

Body (make one)
The body is worked from top to bottom in joined rows. The chain stitch (or stitches) at the beginning of each row does NOT count as the first stitch of the row.

With size G hook (or the larger of the two crochet hooks that you will be using to obtain gauge)
make a magic loop
Row one-  5 sc into loop, tighten loop, sl st into the first sc of the row (5 sc)
Row two-  ch2, 2 hdc into the first sc of the previous row and each remaining sc of the row, sl st into the first hdc of the row (10 hdc)
Row three-  ch2, 1 hdc into the first hdc of the previous row and each remaining hdc of row, sl st into first hdc of the row (10 hdc)
Row four-  ch2, *2 hdc into the first hdc of the previous row, hdc into next hdc,* repeat from * to * until the end of the row, sl st into the first hdc of the row (15 hdc)
Row five-  ch2, 1 hdc into each hdc of the previous row, sl st into the first hdc of the row (15 hdc)
Row six- ch2, *2 hdc into the first hdc of the previous row, hdc into next 2 hdc,* repeat from * to * until the end of the row, sl st into the first hdc of the row (20 hdc)
Row seven-nine- 1 hdc into each hdc of the previous row, sl st into the first hdc of the row (20 hdc)
Row ten-  with size F hook (or one hook size smaller than you used for rows 1-9), ch2, 1dc in each of the hdc of the previous row, sl st into the first dc of the row (20 dc)
Row eleven & twelve-  ch2, *1dc into first dc of previous row, 1dc in next st, 1FPdc in each of next 2sts,* repeat from * to * to end of row, sl st into the first dc of the row (20 dc)

leaving a six-inch tail, snip yarn, tie off and weave in the end.
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Ears (make two)
The ears are worked from top down. The first three rows are worked in a spiral, while the remaining rows are worked back and forth. Mark the first stitch of each of the first three rows using the safety pin or stitch marker so that you know where the rowed begins.

using size F hook (or the smaller of your two hooks to obtain gauge) make a magic loop
Row one- 6sc in loop, tighten loop (6 sc)
Row two- *2sc in first st, 1sc in next st,* repeat from * to * twice (9 sc)
Row three- 1sc in each st (9 sc)
Row four- flatten the bowl shape that you just made and work 4sc across, connecting the two sides, ch1, turn (4 sc)

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Row five-eleven- 1sc in each st, ch1 turn (4 sc)
at the end of row eleven, sl st into the first sc of that row (creating a fold at the bottom of the ear), leaving a 10-12 inch tail, snip yarn, tie off, make second ear, position both ears on body and attach.

The photo below shows the completed ear before folding the bottom in half and slip stitching into the first stitch of the last row.
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Tail (make one)

Using your fork and the tutorial found here, make a tail and attach it to your cozy.

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Your done!

*** Feel free to make these cozies for your personal use.  You may also make and sell egg cozies from my pattern locally (not online).  Please do not copy this pattern and claim it as your own. Please do not re-publish photo’s as your own.***

If you make an egg cozy I’d love to see it!  Post a picture on the zween facebook page or link to your blog post in the comments below!  Speaking of Facebook, make sure to keep up with all things zween by following me there as well as on Pinterest.

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Polaroid-Style Christmas Ornament

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Since this will be Virginia’s very first Christmas, my husband and I wanted to celebrate it by making photo ornaments of her to give to close family and friends.

If you would like to make your own Polaroid-style ornament, just follow along with my tutorial below.  There’s still enough time to make a nice DIY Christmas ornament with just the right amount of a retro flair!

Materials:
Here are the materials that I used.  Most can be substituted with things that you already have on hand.

wallet-sized photographs
ruler
Exacto knife/ cutting mat
bone folder (nice but not necessary)
heavy white paper (I used Reeves BFK)
ribbon
glue (I used a glue stick)
plastic sleeves to protect photo (again, nice but not necessary, I happened to have these laying around)
type writer (or just a pen if you want to have something written on your ornament)

Tutorial:
First choose the photo that you want to use and get it printed in wallet size. We ordered ours via email from Walgreens and they were ready for pick up in about an hour.

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You will then trim your photos so that they are 2″ x 2″ squares.
Next, cut out your paper to 2.5″ x  6″ using an Exacto knife and mark the “window” where your photo will be, as well as a center line at the 3″ mark with a pencil as a guide (this will help you line up your type if you are using a typewriter, though in this photo the type has already been added to the ornament).  There is a 1/4″ border around the window on the top and sides and about 3/4″ border along the bottom, giving it a Polaroid-like appearance.  If you are making several ornaments, as we did, it is easiest to make one and use it as a template for the rest.
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Now you can feed your paper through your typewriter to make your label. It is easiest to do this before you cut the window out.

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Carefully cut out the window using an Exacto blade and a ruler.

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Using your bone folder to make a nice, clean, crease; fold the paper in half, width-wise.

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To help protect your photo and make it look a little more Polaroid-like, insert it into a plastic sleeve, cutting off the extra plastic.

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Now spread glue all over the back of your ornament, sandwiching in your now-protected photo as well as your length of ribbon.

Your done! Now we’ll just have to explain to Virginia what a Polaroid and a typewriter is when she gets older!

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Happy crafting and Merry Christmas!

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Getting Ready for Market

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The Last Minute Market is right around the corner!  It’s hasn’t been easy with a little one underfoot (well, attached directly to me actually), but somehow I managed to take a ridiculous amount of plastic grocery bags (saved from the landfill!) and turn them into plarn in a rainbow of colors…  (a big thank you to everyone who collected and delivered bags to me!  This wouldn’t have been possible without you!)

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…It hasn’t always been pretty and my dining room table is still buried as I write this but…

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Looking over my small army of owl wristlets, which is currently at 11, I have to say I feel a curtain amount of satisfaction.

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Although the majority of my inventory consists of purses (owl and otherwise), I will be selling one lone Lorax made of plarn, which is my environmental mascot really.

the Lorax in plarn

Below is what my table will look like when you come to see me on Saturday!  Make sure to check out The Last Minute Market’s website for all the details but in the mean time here is what you really need to know;

When: Saturday December 15, 2012 10am-6pm
Where: The Screw Factory
13000 Athens Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio (My table will be on the 3rd floor)

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To keep up with all things zween, including special offers, make sure to like my facebook page.

This post has been added to the link party Make it Pretty Monday on the Dedicated House.  Make sure to go check it out and see what other crafty people are up to!

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DIY Ewok Costume for Baby

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Although Return of the Jedi is my favorite of the Star Wars movies (which just so happens to feature the Ewok species), growing up in the 80s, it was the made for T.V. movies about the Ewoks that I was really drawn to, specifically the star Ewok, Wicket, and his young human sidekick, Cindel.  I can’t even imagine how many times I watched my VHS copies of Caravan of Courage and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.  Now, 28 years after the Caravan of Courage debut, the Ewoks have found their way into my life again.

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The seed for this costume idea was planted this past summer when I found the brown furry fabric remnant (shown above) at a yard sale.  It was not a complete piece, but still had some good-sized sections remaining. The woman selling it said that her mom was a seamstress and that this fabric was most likely left overs from a coat lining. I couldn’t argue with the price either ($1).

I was still pregnant at the time but as soon as I layed eyes on it I knew I had to have that fabric.  Jon was with me, and being the voice of reason that he is (he hates clutter) said to me,  “What would you ever do with that?”  After a beat or two I proclaimed, “I’ll make an Ewok Halloween costume for the baby!”  And so, about 5 months later, here we are.

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To be honest, when I first came up with the idea I had serious doubts that I’d be able to pull it off.  It seemed a little too ambitious and out of my sewing capabilities.  I didn’t even know where to start.

Eventually I decided that my first plan of action would be to deconstruct a pre-existing sleeper in Virginia’s size to come up with the pattern for my Ewok suit, made out of the before mentioned fur fabric.  This is pretty self explanatory.  Find a garment in the size and style you want, take it apart, and use the pieces as a pattern for the new garment that you want to make.

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You’ll want to keep in mind that your “pattern” wont have any seem allowance, so just add that on when you cut it out. My original deconstructed sleeper was assembled with a serger.  If you have one, great!  Mine does’t work, so I utilized the zigzag stitch on my Plain Jane sewing machine and called it a day.

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The only parts that I omitted completely from the design where the cuffs around the arms and neck.  The neck area will be covered by her hood, and the sleeves could be covered by mittens.  I was going to make mittens, but because of my daughters’ age (3 and a half months) and the fact that she would just be putting them in her mouth constantly, I skipped this detail.

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Above was my first fitting after constructing the suit. You may notice that there is a fit issue around her left foot. Oops!  I ended up removing that section, cutting out a new leg/foot piece and re-esembeling it. Then I realized that the new section that I just made was for the RIGHT foot! Oops again! eventually I got it all worked out so that she could have a decently fitting right AND left foot. Below is the completed Ewok suit.

Work in progress; Ewok costume!

Now all I had to do was make a hood.  For this I found a medium-sized men’s shirt at a thrift store (shown at the top of this post) in the perfect mustard yellow to contrast with the brown fur.  I wanted the neck opening of the shirt to become the face opening of the hood, so I cut off the sleeves and up the sides of the shirt as shown below.

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Now all I had to do was shape it. In the back section of the hood I sewed in a small piece of elastic to help make the hood more snug. This is not how Wicket’s hood looks, though many other Ewoks sport this hood style.  Though I did try the hood on Virginia periodically to see how it was fitting, I mainly used a small pie pumpkin to shape the hood.  Not only did the pumpkin stay perfectly still, I could actually sew the hood while on a form.  The hood was mostly hand sewn using brown embroidery floss so as to stand out and look very tribal, much like actual Ewoks look.

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Overall, I’m really happy with how this costume turned out.  Seeing that this is Virginia’s very first Halloween, I figured I’d go all out with making a sweet costume for her.  She’s too young to go trick-or-treating, and we don’t have plans to attend any costume parties, but I still had to get in the spirit and make an outfit, if only to share with close family and all of you on the world wide web.

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Thanks for stopping by.  I hope that if you have been inspired if you are planning on tackling your own Ewok costume.  If you do I’d love to hear about in the comments here!  As always, you can keep abreast of all things Zween by following me on Facebook and Pinterest.  Happy crafting and happy Halloween!

This post has been added to the linky party Made by You Monday on Skip to my Lou.

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