Introduction: Rock Lobster Tail
School plays and dress up days often require children to dress as unusual things, like sea creatures. These Lobsters were originally made for a school production of Little Mermaid, costumed by Beauty and the Beast Costumes, Chattanooga. When another school called needing Rock Lobsters for Alice in Wonderland, the director was thrilled to learn that we already had those. Unfortunately, the current group needs more of them than we had in stock, so I had to pull out the old pattern and make some more.
The original pattern was drawn up using a few requirements. First, I measured from the waist to the floor on my smallest child sized mannequin, assuming that no one smaller than that would be in school. The next restriction was that it couldn't be more than 1/4 the width of my fabric to conserve materials.
Starting with a piece of craft paper cut to my size restrictions then folded in half. I sketched out the basic 'lobster tail' shape. I cut this out with the paper folded then punched holes through the segment lines to duplicate the wavy decorations on both sides.
Once you have a pattern, open it up and trace it onto thin foam or lightly pin to light quilt batting. (I'm using automotive headliner foam, but that isn't always available. In fact, I bought several sheets of it at a thrift store and wish that I could get more of it.) Cut out your padding.
Step 2: Cut Fabric
Pin pattern to your pretty, top fabric. I'm using Panne' Velvet as it is inexpensive, has a nice sheen to it, it's washable and it's actually pretty durable. I need to make four of these tails, so my fabric is folded lengthwise to make four layers. Using a ruler, measure 1/2 inch all the way around the pattern and draw your cutting lines. Cut through all layers.
Use the fabric tail that you just cut as a pattern to cut out a tougher lining. I'm using a light woven polyester. A heavy cotton would also do well.
Step 3: Stack, Pin, Stitch
Stack up all your pieces. The pretty "top" piece should be on the bottom with the shiny 'Right' side up. Next comes the tougher underside fabric. The padding (Foam or batting) should be centered on top.
Pin all shaped sides together, leaving straight top edge open.
Sew as close to the edge of your padding as possible along both pinned sides and bottom.
Step 4: Clip, Turn, Press
Clip all the curves and angles of the fabric up close to the stitching line. Little V shapes cut into the rounded sides will help ease the curves when turned.
Turn the tail right side out. Put your hand inside and run your fingers along all the edges to push them out. Use a straight pin to help pick the bottom corners out.
Press with a medium steam iron on the TOUGH lower side. Do NOT put a hot iron on Velvet.
Step 5: Pin, Transfer, Pin Again!
After pressing, pin the curves and inverted points on the edges to stabilize and hold the piece flatter.
Place pattern back over the shiny top side and adjust to fit as closely as possible. Using a soft lead pencil (#2) transfer the rib marks to the fabric by putting the point of the pencil through the pre-punched holes and making little dots on the fabric. If you are not good at playing connect the dots, you may want to cut little curve templates and trace the curves onto fabric.
Once all the lines are drawn, pin, pin, pin!
Step 6: Stitch It!
Using a narrow zigzag, tight stitch, sew along the pencil lines to make the segments of the tail.
THESE ARE VERY IMPORTANT!
You want to work on the top side of the fabric just in case the bottom layer shifts or folds, the mistakes will be on the side of the tail facing the wearer and won't show. The lines of stitching are not just decorative. They hold all the layers together, keep the padding from shifting and keep the clipped notches at the sides from coming lose and tearing holes in the fabric.
Also run a line of stitching across the top about 1/2 inch down from the top. Be sure to catch the top of the padding in the stitching to hold in place.
Step 7: Add Waist Band
Measure a piece of gross grain ribbon long enough to go around the waist and tie a bow. Find the center of the ribbon and pin to the center front side of the tail. Make sure the top edge of the tail is just below the edge of the ribbon. Using a wider zigzag stitch, sew along the top to hold everything together.
On the front side, look for any pencil marks that are showing more than just to make a 'shadow'. Remove these with a commercial spot remover like Greased Lightning.
Step 8: Finished!
Tie tail to child like a belt.
Costume can be a red t-shirt over pants or, as shown, over a Christmas Elf tunic.
Hat purchased from a costume store like Beauty and the Beast Costumes, Chattanooga.