This weekend, I took a little break from my usual quilt making to sew Halloween costumes. My fiancé and I decided to dress up as gummy bears (well, I decided and he has somewhat reluctantly obliged), so I stitched up some very basic hats and bought us orange and green outfits to match. As I tried to maneuver fake fur ears through my sewing machine, I remembered speaking several months ago with Diane Marie Chaudiere, the profiled artist in the April/May 2010 issue of Quilting Arts (her quilts have also been featured in past Quilting Arts calendars and are in our 2011 calendar). At the time, Diane shared some of her costume making adventures with me and I found myself longing for her three-dimensional sewing skills, which are evidenced in her art quilts as well as her amazing costumes! Luckily, I caught up with Diane again and got her to share some of her Halloween stitching tips and experiences.
When we first spoke several months ago, you mentioned that the primary way you kept up with sewing for many years was by making your sons’ Halloween costumes. Is Halloween a big deal in your family?
I have two sons (now 14 and 15). Yes, Halloween was a big deal in our family, until the boys grew out of the “trick-or-treat” age. The costume making was a major event and took up all our spare time in October. That month was set aside just for making them.
Do you think these years spent creating 3D costumes are part of the reason why your art quilts are so dimensional?
Yes. With costumes, I always had to think and create in 3D. That was the challenge I enjoyed the most, particularly without the use of patterns. It all came from what I could envision dimensionally. Then I’d find the materials and manipulate them into my vision.
How is sewing costumes different than creating art quilts (besides the obvious)? Or do you find that the techniques and processes are relatively similar?
For me, the technique and process are very similar, though there are some differences. One
difference is costumes require wrapping my dimensional fiber work around a moving, 3D object (my sons), whereas my art quilts are an extension of a flat surface. Similarities are that both require designing in 3D, sketching, searching for materials (fiber and mixed media), and a lot of hand assembly and sewing.
Which are your favorite costumes that you’ve created? Which were the most challenging?
My favorite costumes are the two Saguaro cacti, the two fish (Puffer and Angler) and the penguin.
I have specific challenges for each costume, but I also had challenges for making costumes in general. The costumes had to be comfortable (to some extent), I had to take into consideration how they would be taken off and on, how the costume would stay on the kids and be safe for the boys to walk in, and how it would stand up to our northwestern rain. With much objection from my boys, being able to sit down was not a requirement.
The lobster costume was tough since I used vinyl stuffed with foam, which was very thick and difficult to sew. I broke many needles and the costume would tend to slide off my sewing machine, especially as it got larger and heavier.
What were some tricks you discovered when creating more challenging costumes?
When creating the puffer fish, the challenge was creating a round shape that wasn’t solid and too heavy. The solution was to use one of those plastic toy expanding spheres and cover it with fabric.
For the saguaro cactus, the challenge was creating the dimensional ribs of the cactus. I used 3" foam and cut it into long triangular strips that were glued to an inner cylindrical form. Fabric was then laid over the foam and hand stitched down each valley between the ribs.
Do you have any advice to share with your fellow art quilters on making costumes?
Have fun. Think out of the box and let your imagination and creativity loose. There are no rules and no entry requirements to restrict what you do. You don't need every detail worked out to get started. There will be unforeseen challenges and obstacles. Just start doing and the process will unfold. Solutions are found by being creative and having an open mind.
Thanks, Diane! Are any of you making Halloween costumes this year?
To see more of Diane's work, visit her website.
Quilts (from top to bottom)
“Relish the Moment” • 12" x 12" (Featured in the 2011 Quilting Arts Calendar)
“Lookout” • 39" x 14" x 1¼"