I thought that making G. a panda costume would be a good idea. She loves them and she is still little enough to think dressing up as a panda would be fun. So I bought I pattern that looked as though it would be fairly simple to change into a panda and started looking for some fabric. Then a bit ago, I discovered on one of my many trips to Vogue (I live just a few blocks away and just run over anytime I need a sewing notion... which seems to be a lot) I happened to notice that minky fabric was half off.
You know minky fabric, right? It's that super, super soft fleece that many baby blankets are made out of. It's the fabric, that when you bring your children to the fabric store, they stop and pet the whole time you are looking at other fabric. It really feels good to touch it. And wouldn't a panda made out of minky be just so soft and cute? I thought so, so I bought a bunch of black minky and white minky.
Those of you who have actually sewn with minky fabric before can see what's coming already, can't you? I really had no idea. I thought it would be like sewing with any other fleece fabric. Ha! It's too soft and too stretchy and too fuzzy to be able to work with easily. It's only plus is that it's nice to touch as you swear at it while you are sewing. At least I tried sewing a sample before starting on the actual project and alerted me to the difficulty of the task I had set before myself. Googling 'sewing with minky' turned up some good hints: pin a lot, like every inch; do NOT iron it; use a walking foot; pin a lot; keep the minky fabric on the bottom if sewing two different types, and so on. I will add that it's not worth it to try and serge it. I did try... on a scrap and it was just too difficult. My other tip would be speed. The faster your machine goes, the easier it is to feed the fabric through.
Having figured out the technicalities of working with the fabric, I was ready to start the costume. I sewed and sewed and sewed. Did I mention that the fabric also sheds along the cut edge to an amazing degree. By the time I was done it looked as though a panda has exploded all over me. I was covered in black and white fuzz. I also had the body of a costume... that looked like a backwards skunk.
I should have known something was wrong when G. was watching me sew and couldn't figure out what I was sewing. Black... white... it seemed as though it should be pretty obvious. I should have also listened to that little voice inside my head that said, "Why don't you actually go and look at the dozens of stuffed pandas in the room across the hall just to be sure you have the colors correct?" Did I listen? No, of course not. Sometimes my self-confidence is a little misplaced. After I finished the costume and looked at it and realized that other than the colors there was nothing about even remotely panda-like I decided to actually look at a panda.
Be impressed that I neither ripped up the costume or burst into tears when I looked that the pile of stuffed pandas across the hall. I held in my hands an all black costume with a white circle on the tummy (yeah, I know, I don't know what I was thinking) when the pandas all had completely white middles with black necks, arms, and legs. Just because I didn't burst into tears doesn't mean I didn't want to.
At this point I finally did a smart thing and put it down for a while. I had to go pick-up my children from a friend's and decided to try to fix it later. When I came back to it, I was a little more balanced and had a plan. I took the extra white minky fabric that I had and cut a new middle section and just sewed it right on top of the costume. About the only good think about the fabric is that you don't have to finish the edges (they eventually will stop shedding... I hope) and you can sew right on top of the fabric and not see the seem. It's the only thing that saved the costume... and my sanity.
It worked well enough. I just hope no one looks to carefully at it and G. certainly doesn't care. It has to be the worst construction job I have done in the past several years. But it fits, G. loves it, and she is very, very soft in it. Here's a really bad picture of it: