I’m going to be the first to admit here that this blog would be SO MUCH BETTER if I included pictures of my children’s amazing faces, but I just can’t let myself do it, so I apologize in advance for the fact that today’s pictures will not be what they could be. OH, if I could just show you the full effect here. Oh well. Moving on to the tale of a tail:
I was getting the next post ready for the doodle dress sew along (coming out on Wednesday so stay tuned) when my four year old daughter (the doodle) came and sat next to me with her legs inside a pillow case. The following conversation then took place (I’m paraphrasing):
Me: “Um…whatchya doin’ doodle?”
Doodle: “This is my mermaid tail. Mommy, I want a real mermaid tail. Can you make me a real mermaid tail?”
Me: “Well, mermaids are not real, they’re just pretend, but I’ll bet I can make you a pretend tail.”
Apparently what she heard me say was: “Sure, Doodle, I will get right on making that mermaid tail immediately and I will not sleep until it is finished.”
This seemingly simple, harmless conversation was the catalyst for the doodle’s obsession with obtaining a mermaid tail RIGHT NOW AT ALL COSTS.
Now is where I should tell you, or maybe you have been following this blog and already know, that I only just started sewing this year, and up until this year, I have always wanted to be the kind of mom who could whip out a fun costume for her kids when the mood strikes. The problem was, the mood had struck the doodle, not me. I had a million things on my mind that I wanted to accomplish.
No worries, though, I thought, because there is no way for me to even get my hands on the kind of fabric I need for a mermaid tail anytime soon. I’ll do it for her next week, after I have checked a few other projects off my list and I am able to make the long trek to a store that will have more than pre-cut quilting cotton. I pinned a few mermaid tail pics and moved on.
I kid you not that for the next two days straight, the words, “mermaid tail” were uttered, on average, every 3 seconds. I explained that we didn’t have the fabric necessary but she insisted we could just go get some at Walmart. You have to understand, the nearest Walmart is about 30 minutes away and it really doesn’t carry much fabric. Not like the ones you might be used to, this Walmart has one small aisle devoted to sewing which includes some pre-cut fabric, all the notions they stock, and the sewing machines.
So we went to Walmart (we needed a few other things – we didn’t just go for fabric) and I told her we would look (thinking surely we wouldn’t find it) and yet there it was. Sparkly, sequined stretchy polyester blend fabric. And she saw it.
And just like that, my entire day’s plans changed.
Why not just tell her no? Why not use this to teach her patience? Because I would have been doing that for me, not for her sake, and that seemed selfish. There have already been plenty of days when she’s had to wait for something she wants, and plenty more will come. And believe me, she hears “no” quite a bit. But most of all, this was it. My chance had finally come to be that mom. The “mommy-on-the-spot” mom who can whip up a pretend play costume like it’s no big deal.
So without any plans, without a pattern or tutorial, and without worrying about making it perfect, I set to the task of making the tail, and this is when I wish I could show you the smile on her face. Totally worth it.
Again, this whole project and blog post being unplanned, you will see the pictures are not as organized and you’ll get a glimpse into what the sewing table looks like when I am not preparing it for blog photos! There are definitely things I would do differently if I were to make this again, and I’ll tell you what they are, but here are the steps to making the tail you see on this happy doodle:
- Stretchy, sparkly fabric (amount will depend on size of the tail you need)
- 1 1/2 inch wide elastic fit to the child’s waist (with about an inch overlap)
- Some type of harder material for the inside of the fin. I used Pellon 808 Craft Fuse because it is what I had, but honestly, you could use cardboard or some of that foam poster board, I think.
- Ball point needle and thread for your sewing machine (because we are sewing with stretchy fabric).
- Poster board or paper for making your tail and fin pattern
Lay your child on some poster board and trace from the waist above the belly button down both sides of her legs to her ankles (which should be together) to get the pattern piece for the tail. Add about two inches on each side and cut that out and use it to cut two tail pieces from your fabric. My pieces looked like this:
Arrange the two pieces pretty sides together and, using a zigzag stitch, sew down each side. On one side, sew from the very top down to the bottom. On the other, leave about two inches open at the top. Make sure you back stitch. It looks like this:
Roll the edge of the wide top (the waist) down and sew it (like you are hemming it) then roll it again and sew it so that you have made a casing for your elastic.
As in the above picture, insert the elastic into the casing and pull it all the way through to the other side. An easy way to do this is to attach a safety pin to the elastic. You can feel the safety pin through the fabric and inch it along. Make sure you don’t pull it so far that you lose the elastic on the side you started with by the time you get to the other end. Once all the way through you can sew the elastic into place at the point where the two ends meet and overlap a bit. After the elastic is in, it looks like this:
Trace out the shape of a fin (a little bigger than the size you actually want it) and cut two from your fabric. Cut one from your harder material (cardboard or pellon craft fuse or whatever works – it should be hard enough to hold its shape but soft enough to bend through a smaller opening). Here are my fin pieces. I did some trimming to get the shape more to my liking after this picture was taken but you get the idea:
Pretty sides together, sew the two fabric pieces together along the edges and bottom, but not the smaller top opening. Turn them right side out and insert your harder fin piece, which you will need to fold a bit to get in there and then you can adjust it until it opens back up and fits the way you want it to. Mine looked like this:
This part was a little tricky. Hem the bottom of the tail. Sew the fin to the tail by putting it pretty side under the hemmed tail bottom. I had to get all that tail from the waist to that point over on the right side of the needle since the tail bottom was already sewn shut. Looking back, I may have actually just made the tail and fin one piece. I think you could just insert the hard fin insert in through the waist area all the way to the bottom and adjust it. Feel free to give that a try. This worked out fine and the doodle had no complaints!
Here she is getting ready to go for a swim! The ruffles at the top are part of her bathing suit (but that would be awesome if you added those)!
I hope you enjoyed my tale of a tail! If you did, don’t forget to share with your friends and if you haven’t yet – subscribe for my weekly newsletter! Next up is post #2 of the doodle dress sew along so meet me back here on Wednesday, coffee in hand!