I have a Honey, and my Honey has a particular affinity with Hobbits. So, when the first of the Hobbit movies came out, of COURSE he needed to have himself a new costume. We collectively latched onto the idea of the dressing gown. Him because it was quircky and awesome, me becaue I could turn my head to the side and go "How the f*** did they make that?" One of the things that I love about this hobby is figuring things out bit. I've not seen a lot of people attempt this particular project, so I really wanted to put what I learned out into the world. Hopefully, it'll help someone else.
In one of the early sequences of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we Bilbo settling down in his tidy dining room to eat his dinner in peace. As Tolkien fans know, Bilbo’s dinner (and his life) are interrupted by a company of dwarves. During this key sequence of the movie, Bilbo is seen wearing a quaint and cozy patchwork dressing gown.
The dressing gown appears to have been made out of a patchwork of velvets in a variety of solids colors and prints. The patchwork appears to have a random pattern. It has a solid burgundy velvet collar, cuffs and belt with piping on terminal edges that is light (but not white or ivory) in color and appears to have a very small pattern on it. Looking at the screen caps from the back, it appears that the back of the dressing gown could possibly be from three pieces with princess-style seams, which would give the garment a bit more of a fitted look. However, I could just as easily reason in my head that those were folds in the fabric. Seeing as how working with the quilting was going to be a challenge enough in it's own right, I went with the easier interpretation and went ahead and made the back a flat piece with a straight line seam down the center. Any fitting was then done at the side seams.
The pattern I used as a launching point was Butterick 3648 Making History: Dickens St. Nicholas/Ghost of Christmas Past. I chose this for simplicity's sake: I already had it on hand and it was 'close enough". I figured a bathrobe couldn't be that hard to cobble together. So I adjusted the sleeves to be a bit more tube-like and the robes shorter and less full.
I made a muslin mock up out of an unremarkable cotton print from my stash. It was important to keep in mind that heavy fabrics will stand out more and this was taken into account in the fitting. Hem allowances for collar, cuff and bottom hem were taken into account. Grain lines were marked onto the mock up pieces, which was critically important for matching the patchwork layer.
The muslin mock up was disassembled and laid out as a guide for assembling the patchwork layer so that I wouldn't have to quilt any more of the velvet than absolutely necessary. It appears that the dressing gown is made of quilted velvet, sewn together in squares and rectangles to form a completely randomized pattern. The next step was to sort out what, if any, sort of pattern was used in the organization of the quilting. A couple of black and white prints of the costume helped me focus. I used the base of Bilbo's ear as a size reference and then outlined all of the places where I could identify the shape, then extrapolated from there.
This is what I could come up with as far as a recognizable pattern. A few of the 8-square blocks had a repeated pattern and I could identify four distinct arrangements. For each block, I penciled in what color/pattern arrangements were present.
While it was impossible to find the exact fabric patterns that were used in the movie, we compiled a set of fabrics to give the same impression of texture and color in the original. Some fabrics were used in the form in which they were purchased; other pieces of fabric were dyed into one or more colors to create more variety in the final piece.
When choosing fabrics, I wanted to stick to natural fibers. This gave the benefit of breathability, and also the opportunity to adjust the colors of some basic light colored solids to increase variety. Choices were further weeded down by systematically ignoring all stretch or panne velvets that were available. I was left with the choice between cotton and silk, and went with cotton because of the appropriate prints I could find and relative affordability. While a few of the patches in the final garment are presented in the exact color in which they came, many more were dyed to that color by Michelle and I. I purchased large quantities of solid colored velvet in light blue and ivory, then cut them into 1/8 yard pieces and dyed them in small batches using Dharma Fiber Reactive dyes to yield a stunning array of blues, greens, golds, reds and browns.
All of the velvets and lining material for this costume were purchased online from Denver Discount fabrics. They did not have the appropriate color of burgundy for the trims, so that was also dyed by hand using the Buttercream velvet and Dharma Fiber Reactive dye in Burgundy. The 100% cotton chambray lining was originally purchased in peach, but the fabric was a poor match for the velvets and was also thrown into the burgundy dye bath. The cotton print for the piping was pulled from my stash and was originally a pale lavender. To help it blend in with the earthier tones of the velvet patchwork, the print was dyed with a mix of maroon and brown Rit dye, giving it a much more muted color.
My honey was conscripted to help with the cutting and labeling of squares, in addition to doing much of the ironing which had to happen to every seam. Trying to keep the nap going in the same direction for all pieces was a pain in the rump. What we ended up doing was to use chalk arrows drawn on the back of each piece.
|SO many little squares and rectangles.|
A plain cotton muslin was dyed a dusty rose and used as lining. Once each of the body and sleeve pieces were fully quilted, I used the lining pieces to cut out the pattern piece from the quilting. The lapel is made from two 3" wide strips of velvet that were tappered to 2" at their terminal ends, then attached to a cotton backing with piping along the seam. The cuffs have velvet on the inside and out, with piping along the terminal seam. The belt is simply two long strips of velvet sewn right sides together, then turned right side out. The hem was turned up and sewn by hand to avoid obvious stitch lines on the velvet.
|Photo by official CC30 photographer, Richard Man.|
|Photo by official CC30 photographer, Richard Man.|
The hairy feet, Honey did all by himself. I had nothing to do with that, beyond the generous tip left for the housekeeping staff for cleaning up the dusting of curly dark hairs off of our bathroom floor. We entered the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Masquerade at Costume Con 31 (May, 2013) where it received a Workmanship Award for Best Journeyman. Such a well dressed hobbit.
As a fun side project, I made up a small quilt to use up the leftover materials. The quilt is made exactly like the robe, with lining and piping scraps pieced together for the backing, and rows of piping along both edges of the burgundy velvet border. It's too small to be a lap blanket, but it should look lovely hanging on the guest room wall.