Saturday 20 July 2013

Orca Hat Tutorial

Who knew that there is a pleasant way of getting feasted upon by an orca...

I think orcas are some of the most incredible sea creatures.  Their artful, strategic cunning never fails to make my jaw drop in awe.  They are like the rebels of the oceans, completely chromatophobic in their appearance.  They would probably be fans of Nine Inch Nails.  A few years ago I saw a mum orca and a bub orca exploring the harbour, very close to the rocky shore.  I'd just gotten out of the sea where I was collecting mussels, and to my great amusement I watched a diver blast out of the water and dash for the shore in a cartoon-like manner.   He had probably filled his wetsuit in fright at the sight of the grinning whales so close to him.

Zaika's first birthday was on the horizon, and I was trying to think of a theme for costume that I wouldn't mind wearing.  I.e something black.  At some point a light bulb [an energy efficient LED] went off in my head, and all the party planning puzzle pieces positioned themselves neatly into place.

Among the guest list of ornamented octopuses, owls, Optimus Prime and orange-clad octogenarians, we were a family getting devoured by a family of orcas.  Delicious.

Meanwhile, not far from a seal colony...
Firstly, a disclaimer that this undeniably genius costume idea wasn't 100% my own.  I was inspired by this knitted shark hat.  I nearly hyperventilated with excitement when I came across it last year.
Inspiration: credit where credit is due
Right, so time for the hat making process.

Mine was somewhat convoluted, i.e a typical design process.  I started by doodling a bunch of orcas.  This was followed by more doodling, this time stylised and scaled correctly for the hat.  I used one of Zaika's well fitting beanies to guesstimate the size.  Once the doodle satisfactorily addressed the balance between proportions, orca appearance and assumed fit, I traced the individual parts to pattern pieces.
1:1 orca hat doodle
Then I sewed a quick toille from some scrap polar fleece.  It's not like I'd want to make anything wearable out of the camel coloured fabric.  Offensively hued fabric scraps are great for mock-ups.  I think I even have some baby blue polyester somewhere.  *shudder*
Genetically aberrant albino orca
The toille attempt was adequate, so after a few of tweaks I had the final pattern for Zaika's hat.  I had to make two more patterns to fit the two adult heads, which meant going back to the doodling phase, although the repeated process was a lot more efficient.
Nemo's purpled himself with fright.  He doesn't stand a chance.
After the jump is step by step tutorial for the making of the orca hat:

For this project you will need:
  • Black polar fleece.  I'm not sure how much because I used various scraps and an old, hideous jacket
  • Not much white polar fleece
  • Some stuffing, such as Dacron.  Or you can cut up your polar fleece scraps into little squares and use those instead of filling your rubbish bin with more fabric waste
  • Wiggle eyes or buttons.  I think wiggle eyes are more hilarious.
  • Thread
Orca stuffing: cut up polar fleece and Dacron
1. Cut out the pieces.  In this instance, with polar fleece, I didn't pay too much attention to grain direction, but you'd want maximum stretch around the head.

2. Sew the fins leaving gaps for stuffing:
Stitch around the shapes with the machine set to the longest stitch length

Trim and clip the seams, especially around corners

3. Turn the fins the right way out and stuff them, but don't make them too bulging.  Leave the gap seam allowance clear of stuffing.

4.  Pin the body pieces together and insert the fins into the appropriate seams.  Make sure the fins are facing in the right direction.  Polar fleece isn't exactly thin, and sewing through all those layers requires patience.  Or better yet, an industrial sewing machine.
Pin the fins into the seams securely
Leave the bottom seam open for now

5. Sew on the white spots.  I eyeballed the placement, instead of doing it properly with pattern marking.  Mmeh, it worked.

6. Sew the belly seam.  I paid extra attention to the part of the seam where the white meets the black at the tail.  It's better to sew over the side seams opened flat to reduce the bulk.

 7.  Sew the jaw facing

8. Pin and sew the teeth onto the facing, with right sides together.  The sewing step is optional, but it helps the keep the layers from shifting during the next step.
Bottom and top teeth have a small overlap

9. Attach the jaw
Pin the facing and teeth
Sew all the way around.  When sewing across seams, keep them opened flat.
Turn the right way out
Top stitch around the seam to keep the facing in place
10.  Attach the tail flipper by sticking the end of the tail into the gap of the flipper and sewing across.  Alternatively you can hand stitch right around the gap to keep the tail rounded.
Orca skin
11.  Sew on the eyes.  They are hilarious. 

12.  Bear Grylls would wear an orca skin like a wetsuit.  I'm not Bear Grylls, so I packed this black and white floppiness with some stuffing.  First I stuffed in the polar fleece scraps and then added the Dacron on top to keep the scraps from falling out.  And then the hat came to life...
Nom nom nom, feed me some stuffing
13.  Wear the hat to work, supermarket, Greenpeace gathering, opera, friend's wedding.  You will surely impress all around you.


Tech Teacher said...

This orca hat is AMAZING! Thank you for sharing your creativity & fabulous talent. I am a teacher in the USA and would like to make this. Would you be willing to share your full-sized pattern (adult hat size)?

Chromatophobic said...

@Tech Teacher Thank you kindly for the great compliment! I would love to provide you with a pattern, but unfortunately I don't have have an accessible copy. I'm not being greedy, but we're doing serious house maintenance, and everything is in a disarray. You're welcome to blow up the layout in the post and eyeball the measurements. Good luck!

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