I am a tad late for a post about costumes. While we were eating pancakes on Tuesday, the Rhine-region in Germany, which is where I’m from, celebrated the last of five days of dancing and drinking in the streets and pubs: Carnival. It’s no surprise that I love costumes and dressing up. I was born in Cologne after all. For me costumes should be handmade to be extra special. I remember a lot of the creations my mother made for me and my sister when we were little, especially a full-body squirrel outfit with tail! (I must dig out a photo one day.)
Last year, I decided to make costumes for both my niece and my nephew. I will show you my nephew’s birthday present later but today it’s all about the little three-year-old girl that loves pink and unicorns – what else?
What else? Well, it seems obvious now but when I started planning her birthday present, I had no idea that unicorns were so high up on her list of favourite things. The previous Christmas it had been Minnie Mouse and my brain was already sketching the cutest-ever polka dot dress. Luckily, I stopped myself from buying patterns and fabric at that stage and thought: I better check with my sister if Minnie is still ranking that highly. Good job I did because I was told that this year was the year of the unicorn. My heart sank, I must admit. How on earth does one make a unicorn?
Creative brains are a law onto themselves and I think mine went through various options before deciding that it would have to be a hat or cape rather than a full-blown horse suit. This is because I know that my sister has managed to pass on our love for dressing-up to her children and the two of them run around the house in costumes on a daily basis. And in my niece’s case I really mean ‘running’. So while a fluffy fleece full-on costume would have been great for those five days in February when everybody around Cologne spends hours standing in the freezing cold watching parades and eating sweets, it probably would have caused some serious overheating on any other day of the year. Best not risk it. I couldn’t let go of the fleece idea though so I decided a unicorn-hat was a good compromise.
I found the ideal pattern on Etsy. It’s the All In One Hooded Scarf by Heidi & Finn. The great thing about this pattern is that it comes with a selection of ears and other details allowing you to make a range of animals. It doesn’t include unicorn horns or ears but I felt the pig ears looked the part. (Who would have thought?)
The hat is still too big for the little head but I wanted her to be able to wear it for as long as possible. You know, just in case this unicorn-obsession isn’t just a phase. Bearing in mind the child’s energy levels, I made the traditional open scarf-version (there is also an option for a buttoned-up cowl) which holds the hood in place nicely. I have to credit my sister with the idea of wrapping the scarf around the chest. She clearly has more experience in dressing children. And it looks super-cute!
The pink and white fleece came from myfabrics.com. They have a huge selection of all sorts of fabrics so it’s a good one-stop-shop. Having said that, their tulle was quite expensive so I went to Goldhawk Road (can’t remember which shop, sorry) and got half a metre each of pink and baby blue tulle (with glitter!). While I was in that shop I also spotted some discounted silver stretch fabric. I’m not surprised no one else wanted it but it was just right for the horn. Being a sucker for details I also got some expensive rainbow thread by Gütermann, which I used to wrap around the horn to create the twisted effect.
I made the horn with the help of Kelly’s tutorial. (My brother-in-law was so impressed with it, he asked where I’d bought it. I’m not sure there is one but there so should be a shop for unicorn-spare-parts!) The construction is simple but so effective. You sew a cone, stuff it, anchor a thread to the top and wrap it round the cone. I made a few stitches on the way down to hold the thread in place.
Construction was simple. The scarf has a seam starting at the front and going all the way down the back of the hood. That’s where I inserted the mane. I folded the tulle to get several layers out of my half metre and sandwiched it between the fleece before sewing up the seam. I then cut into the folded tulle to create the “strands of hair”. The pattern also has a seam along the front of the hood making it easy and tidy to attach the ears. I only had to sew on the horn by hand.
Sewing for children still scares me. An adult recipient of a handmade gift will always pretend it’s the best present they’ve ever got; most children won’t (or can’t?) disguise their dislike. So the pressure was on. Not only was this a present for a little girl, who only half a year earlier had refused to wear a lovingly made headband, it was also supposed to look like their favourite-ever mythical creature! So I was relieved when she unwrapped the hood and immediately put it on her head screaming “I’m a unicorn! I’m a unicorn!”. Success!
I’m told the costume got a lot of attention during carnival – but to be fair, my niece is usually the cutest girl in town with or without unicorn costume!
As we say in Cologne: Alaaf!