Here's a tutorial of how I designed and made this spacesuit for my 16-month-old son. Since he's a toddler, I cut some corners with proper finishing. If this is something you plan to use multiple times, I would suggest you serge the inside seams or add a lining.
This is a somewhat advanced sewing project, so don't feel bad if you get very frustrated trying to make this. I've been sewing for years and I still get flustered. With that said, I'm going to assume whoever is reading this has some experience using a sewing machine, so I won't get into the nitty-gritty about how to sew. This tutorial is more about the process of taking an idea to fruition.
Step 1: THINGS YOU WILL NEED:
Your tools are very important and will help you achieve a professional finish with less headache. I say "less" because there's always room for error when you're doing something for the first time. The photo above are the tools I like using. Your tools may vary based on what you can get a hold of. So don't worry if you can't get the exact same tools I have photographed. I color coated the tools roughly based on the different steps in the process. You'll also need a sewing machine. It's not photographed.
PATTERN DRAFTING TOOLS (HOT PINK COLOR):
1)PAPER SCISSORS (These can be any ordinary pair of scissors laying around your house. I just happened to liked the sharp pointed ones.)
2) MEASURING TAPE
3) PAPER (I'm using dotted pattern drafting paper. It comes in giant 48" rolls and you can get it off Amazon or pick it up in the Downtown LA Fabric District. If you don't plan to do these types of projects often, then you can tape newspaper together or use whatever large sheets of paper you can find.
4) CLEAR RULER
5) NECKLINE RULER
8) BOX CUTTER (l like cutting my patterns out with these. You can use scissors if you like)
9) SEAM RIPPER (You will need this to take apart an existing onesie that fits)
10) CUTTING MAT ( I actually use a giant cutting mat, but for the photo, a smaller one fit in frame better)
12) PATTERN NOTCHER (This tool helps you mark out the registration marks on your pattern piece and helps make it easier to transfer the marks onto your fabric when you're cutting. You don't need it, but it's one of those convenience tools. You can always manually cut out slots in the pattern piece.)
13) SHARPIE MARKER (This is for the shoe portion)
14) 2" MASKING TAPE (This is for the shoe portion)
CUTTING (LIME GREEN COLOR):
15) ROTARY BLADE ( Not mandatory. You can always use fabric shears. There's just more pinning if you decide to use shears.)
16) FABRIC SHEARS
- SILVERY WHITE FABRIC
- NEON ACCENT FABRIC
- LEATHER (Optional. I had scraps laying around. You can substitute with faux leather)
- SHINY SPANDEX
- 4 WAY STRETCH KNIT FABRIC (This is for the gloves)
19) 1/4" THICK FOAM (You can get this at your local Joann's Fabric store or buy it online)
20) WHITE CHINA MARKER (I like using this to mark on leather but you can use a silver sharpie or chalk)
21) FABRIC WEIGHTS (These are used to keep your pattern and fabric from shifting while cutting with a rotary blade)
22) INVISIBLE ZIPPER
23) REFLECTIVE PIPING (Purchased off AMAZON)
24) REFLECTIVE RIBBON (Purchased off AMAZON)
25) REFLECTIVE HEXAGON TAPE (Purchased off AMAZON)
PREP AND SEW (TEAL COLOR):
26) IRONING BOARD (I use a regular sized ironing board. This was just to fit in the photo)
28) METAL SCULPTING TOOL (I find this easiest to spread Barge with)
29) BARGE CEMENT
- NEON THREAD
- BLACK THREAD
- SILVER METALLIC EMBROIDERY THREAD
31) SEWING NEEDLES (You'll need the hand sewing ones for the gloves, but you'll also need ones for your sewing machine. Universal needles work well with this project, but you might want leather needles for the shoes if you choose to use leather.)
32) SPRAY PAINT (This is for rubber soles of the shoes)
33) AWL (Used to poke holes in the spandex for the rivets)
34) HOLE PUNCHER
36) RIVET SETTERS
Step 2: CONCEPT DESIGN
I wanted to design a sci-fi looking space suit for my son and to use mostly fabric scraps I already had in my sewing room. I found a front and back view of a baby off the internet and did some quick comps on it in Photoshop. They're quick and dirty doodles, just to block out my ideas. I never show people these thumbnails because they look terrible, but since this is a tutorial, here you go. During this part, you want to think about how one pattern piece will flow into another so when you draft it, you won't have sections that are random.
Step 3: FINDING a PATTERN BASE
Since this was a quick turnaround project, I didn't go through the trouble of drafting the onesie base from scratch or make muslin drafts to check the fit. I went directly from patterning to the final product. BIG MISTAKE. If you have time, always do a test fitting before you go into your final. My son was on vacation with his grandparents when I was working on the patterning. I just grabbed one of his onesies and took it apart. I had forgotten that onesies aren't form fitting at all so I had to take it in later when everything was already sewn. More of a pain to do.
For form-fitting suits* I suggest finding a body suit that fits you like a glove to deconstruct and draft the basic block from there. You also want to make sure that the bodysuit you're drafting from isn't stretchier than the fabric you're planning to use. If not, you'll have fitting issues.
- SEAM RIPPER
- BODYSUIT OR ONESIE
Step 4: PATTERN DRAFTING
Trace the onesie you've taken apart to make the basic block template. Once you have the overall block down, you're going to draw in your design lines. Example, shown in the first image. From left to right, you have the sleeve, back bodice and the front bodice of the suit. You want to make sure you label all your pattern pieces because it'll get very confusing otherwise when you go to piecing it back together. I personally like to keep the original template as is and trace the pattern pieces onto another sheet of paper so I can always reference the original template. This is also where you would be combining your pattern pieces if your design requires it. For my design, I had to combine the side seams on all the patterns. Once you've traced all the pattern pieces, you're going to add seam allowance to it and cut it out. A general rule is 1/2" all around and 1/4" on inclosed seams like necklines and cuffs. Those guidelines can change based on your design or if you're from a different country. When you're done adding your seam allowance, cut the pieces out and make sure all your patterns are true. Truing up your patterns or walking them is the process of aligning pieces that will be sewn together to check if they will sew together correctly. It allows you to see if you have excess length on one pattern piece or not. If you do, then you're going to have to correct it, either by increasing the length on the opposing pattern piece or by finding the difference between the two. During this part, you also want to notch your pattern pieces. Notching is the act of putting visual registration marks on your pattern piece, so when you go to sewing it, you have indicators to align the seams. When you're done, it should look something like the picture with all the pattern pieces laid out on the floor.
If you're new to sewing or if you're using very expensive materials, I suggest doing a test run in muslin or a cheap knit (only use a knit if you're final design requires a stretchy material. If not, use muslin.)
Step 5: CUTTING
This part isn't exciting or fun, but it is what it is. Place your pattern pieces out on your fabric and cut it out. If you're not using a rotary blade, pin your pattern pieces to your fabric and cut. If you're using a rotary blade and have pretty good control, you can just put a weight on the stack and cut it out without pinning. As you can see, I have a giant cutting mat. If you're using a smaller cutting mat, the lazy man's version of cutting out patterns won't work if you're trying to cut out pieces that are larger than your mat. Pinning and using fabric shears is still effective if your pattern pieces are very small or oddly shaped. The rotary blades can't get into small corners. And most importantly, don't forget to notch your fabric.
Step 6: PREP, SEWING, FINISHING TOUCHES
Here is where the magic happens. The prep work consists of cutting the piping to length and sandwiching it between your seams before you sew and gluing the padding on the leather before sewing in the lines. When purchasing your reflective piping you want to make sure the seam allowance is the same as the allowance you're using for your pattern pieces. If not, you'll run into the same problem I encountered. I had ordered the piping after I had drafted all the patterns so my seam allowances never matched up. It added an extra step in the sewing process. I had to baste the piping in the correct place on the fabric leaving a 1/8" gap from the edge of my fabric to compensate for the shorter width on the piping seam allowance. Then you sandwich your fabrics together and sew it like you normally would.
For the padded details, you're going to spread a light coating of barge on the leather where you want the padding to go and then place the foam on it. I'm on the impatient side, so I don't always wait for the glue to dry before attaching another piece. If you want to glue the proper way, you should spread a light coat on both sides, let it dry, then attach it together. For pattern pieces I'm going to sew together, I don't really bother with the proper adhesion process because once you sew it together, you have the strength of the glue and the thread. The proper glueing technique comes in handy later when you're making the shoes. So once everything is glued in place, you're going to be running it through your sewing machine in the pattern you desire. I like to sew with the foam side up so I can draw a pattern on the foam as a guide.
ADDING ON DETAIL
After you have the basic pattern pieces sewn together, like in the third photo example, it's time for you to add on the padding detail and rivets. You can make a placement template to ensure your shoulder pad details are symmetrical or you can eyeball it. For a template, you'd trace the shape of your base pattern piece and cut out the negative shape of the pattern that will be adhered on top, so when you place the template on your fabric, only the spot showing is where you will align your detail piece to.
For this particular design, I chose to set the rivets in before I topstitched the shoulder pads on. Normally it doesn't matter the order you do it, but I didn't want to punch a hole in the spandex underneath. If you puncture the spandex fabric, it has a tendency to stretch over time and your rivets may come undone. What I did was punch holes in the leather and I used an awl to stretch a hole big enough for the male end of the rivet to go through. This way, you don't cut any of the fiber strands in the fabric, you're just relocating them.
Riveting is very easy. You have a male and a female part. The male end goes into the female part with the fabric sandwiched in between. Your setters may look different based on where you purchase them. Mine have a small circular concave metal disk and a small metal rod with a concave end. The rivets go in between the concave parts. Then hammer away.
Here is where you inset your sleeves and put in your invisible zipper. If you're going to get fancy, you can add a lining or a facing.
Step 7: SHOES
No outfit is complete without the perfect pair of shoes. Here's how I went about making these little darn sneakers. I purchased a small pair of shoes off Amazon as the base. Little man is still learning to walk, so the soles of the shoes were very important. I needed them to be light enough to walk in and have enough grip not to slip.
Step 8: PATTERNING YOUR SHOE
Once I got these shoes from Amazon, I made a fake ankle out of a paper towel roll and wrapped a foam sheet around it. Then covered it up with masking tape. When you're making your fake ankle, you want to make sure it's the same circumference as the ankle of whoever's foot is going into the shoe or you'll have fitting issues.
Here's where you mark out the cut lines on the masking tape. You want to think about how shapes flow into one another.
TRANSFERRING YOUR DESIGN
Now that you have your design drawn out on the shoe, you're going to carefully remove the masking tape off the shoe by cutting a seam in the tape. Be sure not to be heavy-handed with the blade or you'll destroy the shoe underneath. When everything is removed, you're going to notice your pattern piece is formed to the shoe, so you're going to have to make some more seam cuts for the masking tape to lay flat on a sheet of paper. Then you repeat the same steps you did for drafting the suit. Trace, add seam allowance and notches and walk your pattern.
Step 9: PREP WORK AND SEWING
I wanted the shoes to be all black so I masked off the fabric part of the shoe and spray painted it. While I was waiting for the shoes to dry I did all my sewing. Same principles apply with the shoes as the body suit. Once the spray paint is dry, you can remove the masking tape.
ATTACHING THE COVER
Here's where you have to do a proper barge gluing technique as I had mentioned earlier. You should spread a light coat on both sides, let it dry, then attach it together. This part is tricky and involves some finesse. Since both sides have dry cement on them, once you touch the two together, it'll get very sticky very fast. You're going to have to make sure you have areas aligned before you mount them together or you'll have a hard time prying them apart. Worst case scenario you'll have to repeat some steps depending on the damage.
Step 10: GLOVES
These little things are adorable but now I know why people don't make tiny gloves for babies. These were a pain to make. They were so small and the fabric was so soft that I couldn't run them through my sewing machine without the fabric getting chewed up. I ended up hand sewing these.
Step 11: HOW TO MAKE THESE
I got my son to give me a handprint (Very difficult to do. I had to coat his hand with baby safe ink and stamp it on a piece of paper. Sounds easy but little man likes to do his own thing. All he wanted to do was grab the ink pad and my pen. It took forever to get him to open up his hand), which I traced and made this pattern piece off of. I chose to use a 4-way stretch knit fabric because it was super stretchy. This meant I didn't need to pattern gussets. Gussets are the pieces sewn between the fingers to give the glove finger width. Due to the stretch of the knit, I only have to draft the top and bottom. Then I cut it out, and painstakingly sewed the tiny gloves together by hand.
So there you have it. Hope you had fun reading this.
Second Prize in the
Halloween Contest 2018