The Wizard in My Shed: Costume for Simon Farnaby

 

Simon Farnaby wearing bespoke Merdyn costume

And now for my next magic trick . . . !

I’ve worked as a graphic designer – advertising, marketing and publishing – for more than 30 years now and its fair to say that some of my most fun jobs have been sewing ones, such as this apron for Ellie Simmonds and Laura Ellen Anderson’s Amelia Fang outfit.

Last week was a busy one and typical that I should get an Emailed request for another costume with precious no time to spare.

Poised to turn it down, I looked to Dan in despair that I was about to say no to such a lovely job and he said, “Say yes. And we’ll make it happen!”

We? I thought. And how?!

But his face was doing that convincing thing. I’ve seen it before and he’s always been annoyingly right. So I replied to that Email with a yes and a gulp!

The original brief was for a hat and a cape of sorts fit for Merdyn, the main character from The Wizard in My Shed, the debut children’s book by Simon Farnaby. And it was needed tout de suite so that Simon could be filmed wearing it for a Blue Peter appearance the following week. Eek!

The Wizard in my Shed book cover

We don’t do things by half-measures at House of Ooobop – Simon was going to get a proper Wizards robe! So… no time to panic, I set about sourcing some purple fabric and Dan took charge of the details.

Have you ever wondered just how many purples there are in the world? I haven’t until now, that is. mostly because it’s my most unfavourite colour and generally only gets called upon reluctantly when I’ve run out of colour choices for a series of book cover designs!

But seriously, I walked the whole circle of Goldhawk Road fabric stores before I found not just the right shade of purple but also the right fabric itself – I needed 7.5metres of something drapey with a touch of structure. Something vaguely natural in fibre to account for studio lighting and prevent slow-roast simulation… oh and nothing too shiny or fancy-dress-like.

It took a while but patience persisted and I ticked all the boxes with a what I believe was a viscose twill and in the meantime, Dan came up trumps with some lovely muslin pieces in muted colours for the embellishments. All very carefully considered.

I started with the hat. Very simple pattern pieces but a very stiff fusible interfacing was key here. It created an authentic crumple in all the right places once I turned the main pointy section the right way out. It was quite tough sewing to the covered brim but once that seam was clipped and trimmed it sat beautifully. And I added a cotton muslin lining so it wouldn’t be so sweaty to wear under the lights.

Merdyns hat

Dan, meanwhile hand-coloured the spots on the scarf that was to be tied round the hat. Total dedication to the cause. He used the fabric sublimation crayons I bought from Wear Your Art at The Stitch Festival earlier this year and they worked a treat. Believe it or not, red dots on a yellow fabric is as hard to find as the right colour purple!

I can’t lie, I was dreading the next stage – cutting out the super long pieces of the robe – as I don’t have a table anywhere near long enough and it transpires my living room floor was only long enough to cut a single piece at a time. Boy was that a test of my knees! Also fingers crossed the whole time that the measurements had been taken and sent correctly. So much apprehension when you don’t get to take them yourself.

And do note the sophistication of pattern weights here.

robe pattern pieces pinned

Whilst I was finishing up on yards of seams, Dan was fusing the sleeve detail sections and the patches of stars. Two heads and two pairs of hands were definitely key to getting this done – just when I thought I couldn’t love him more!

The Wizard In My Shed Costume

Wee hours of Wednesday morning came and we were trimming threads adding ties and sewing in the labels. I only ever add an ooobop label when I’m happy with my work.

ooobop label being sewn into the garment

Only thing left to do was to package our prized project ready for the courier. Something else that had to be considered. A regular dress cover was no where near long enough so Dan’s quick thinking brought some super long dust sheets to the table which I whipped up into a custom covering… of course!

I was a little bit sad, waving it goodbye especially after we cleared up the devastation. It was like nothing had happened.

We weren’t allowed to post pictures until after its appearance on Blue Peter. But boy was it worth the wait, Simon Farnaby in it and a Blue Peter badge on it. How cool is that?! So grateful for Dan’s faith in me and the trust of Lucy and Emily at Hachette Children’s Group for putting this amazing project our way.

Simon and Lindsey on set

I’m not being careful what I wish for any more. I totally want more of the same!