Introduction: Star Trek Female Uniform Casual Pullover
Replicate this fine garment by modding some casual wear with a Star Trek TOS (the original series) look. Suitable for a cosplay mashup or just for lounging around.
This ible is really to show you a lot of simple sewing techniques used in making costumes or sewing in general and no better way to learn than to apply the newly learned techniques to a project. Get inspired.
Disclaimer: I do not cosplay but do have a lot of fun making cosplay-worthy or applicable stuff.
Step 1: Stuff That Materializes...
One day while taking Caitlin on a shopping trip to the outlet mall, we were in a store where we passed by the overstuffed clearance rack in the back. For some strange reason, this red and orange color of something buried on the lower rack caught my attention. Upon further inspection, they were these women fashion pullovers, sweater-sweatshirts made of a super soft stretchy terry-cloth fabric with an ombre color fade pattern. Cool texture and cool looks. And me, having the straight eye of an engineer guy, hmmm, I can make something super fabulous with this. They were on clearance and sized too big. They were marked down to 5 bucks each so I had to snap them up. You never know what you are going to find.
I could turn them into Star Trek shirts and add them to the other geeky stuff I made for Caitlin to wear at school. The gold yellow colored shirt was perfect for Captain Kirk's or the command shirt. The red colored shirt was perfect for Lieutenant Uhura's or the engineering/support shirt.
The internet is full of reference materials to go by, including excerpts from the official Starfleet manuals, if you already don't have a copy.
To complete the transformation I needed to get some braid for the sleeves, insignia patches and something for the black collar. At the fabric store I got a piece of a black ribbed knit material to make the collar and some gold metallic braid trim.
Step 2: Patch It Up...
You could purchase pre-made insignia patches but hey, we can make them ourselves.
I do have an embroidery machine but haven't really used it because I haven't found a good simple open source digitizing embroidery program to start embroidering custom designs.
So plan B is that you can "embroider" with a zigzag stitch if you have that capability on your sewing machine. The patch design is not too complicated so we can get away with just doing a few straight and curved lines.
I had a scrap of this shiny smooth satiny fabric which will be used for the base of the patch. Since it was gold yellow color and what we need for the field of the patch, this will save us from needing to embroider a large area of the patch. When you sew fabric, it will pucker and shift due to the needle and thread going through it. When you embroider, you are doing this multiple, even hundreds of times. To minimize those problems, the fabric base can be stretched and mounted in a hoop and the fabric made stiffer and sturdier by gluing on another layer of fabric. That is called the interfacing and it comes with a hot glue layer so you can iron it on to your base fabric.
I was going to attempt making the insignia patch by freehand embroidering it so I did not mount the interfaced fabric in a hoop. A hoop may also be bulky and get in the way of maneuvering the fabric around in a regular sewing machine.
I had marked the design on the fabric so I would know where to embroider. I started with outlining the chevron patch in a fairly wide zigzag stitch. I then went over it in varying stitch widths to build up the threads to resemble a thick embroidered edge. On my sewing machine I could also vary the stitch length. It took 3 passes to fill in everything. I suppose I could have started out with a wide close stitch to complete the embroidery in one run but that might jam up your machine as a big thread ball builds up and clogs the feed dogs. Take your time to make the turns or pivots and keep consistent on which side of the line you are sewing on. Be careful with your fingers as you get in close to guide the fabric.
Some machines let you disengage the feed dogs or the teeth that grip and push your fabric through the sewing machine. It makes it easier to do the more freeform movement but I didn't disengage the feed dogs since I was able to let the machine sew the lines that comprised the star and the squiggly line detail design.
Once you have finished all the embroidering, trim all the excess threads.
On the back apply something like a coat of glue, hot glue, or caulk to further stiffen the patch and to lock in all the threads. The glue should cure water-resistant so you can wash the garment later. I had a bottle of some 3D glow-in-the-dark fabric paint handy so I used that. The bonus is the patch will glow in the dark after it has been charged sitting around in a bright room.
After that back coating dries, trim the patch to size, cutting close to the embroidered edge as possible. Coat the thin edge with glue too so that the fine threads from the fabric base don't fray and give you the fuzzies later on.
Step 3: Roll With It...
At the discount fabric store, they had this really fancy metallic gold braid that was a $1 a yard. It was super detailed with lots of wound metallic threads but also super hard to work with. Once you cut the end, all the threads start to frizz out and undwind. If you want to make it easy on yourself, go with a plainer design braid or something not as 3 dimensional and thick.
The fabric store has stuff called rick-rack or fancy trim, found where the bias tapes are displayed which could also double as the sleeve braid. Use iron-on heatbond tape to attach the thinner and flatter braid if you don't want to sew it on.
I need to sew my braid on to make sure it is attached well.
The second problem is that a good metallic or matching color thread is expensive. I thought I had a spool of transparent thread around the house somewhere but I couldn't find it. I did have some medium yellow thread that was not really noticeable in the end so I used that.
I looked at my reference to see where I should place the braid. I wanted to mark off a straight line with tailor's chalk to make a guideline to sew by but the tailor's chalk did not rub off into the fleecy fabric.
I did have a few marks from the chalk to go by but attaching the sleeve braid was still a bit wonky.
Having a free-arm sewing machine is great for when you want to sew things like hemming a pair of pants of doing cuffs of sleeves. You can pop off a partial table attachment to reduce that sewing surface to something you can slip the sleeve over. If your machine is not capable of this conversion, you have to bunch up and wrangle the sleeve fabric so you can sew on what seems like a donut of fabric.
Unfortunately the free arm was still a tad big so I had to stretch the sleeve over it and had to constantly nudge and rotate the sleeve around before it jammed up the sewing machine.
Since the fabric was all stretchy, you will find working with knits is always a challenge, I did my best at keeping the braid straight as it went around. I did a stretch stitch seam on one side of the braid to tack it down and then a stretch stitch seam on the other side to pin it all down. I folded the ends of the braid under itself to secure the cut loose thread ends. I had to go back to sew all of the perpendicular end seams to lock the ends and everything down. You have to moderately stretch out the material as you sew so you don't end up with it gathering or being too taut sewn to the braid.
The Lieutenant rank has one row of sleeve braid. The Captain rank has a two rows of sleeve braid with a segmented row in between. The segments are supposed to be shaped like a rhombus but the braid was too thick to fold the ends under like that.
Step 4: Ring Around the Collar...
Since the idea that this was a piece of casual wear to just throw on or to be used as a top of a layered look, I would need to open up and relax the crew neck collar.
The official uniform design has a banded collar that comes to a point on the upper chest. That is where the insignia patch is sewn.
One detail I did leave out were the 3 radiating seams or darts that emanate from the point of the collar. I think a more formal piece would have needed it to look proper.
I took a guess at where the point of the collar should be and then trimmed it away with the original collar. I think the lesson is to try on the garment first and then mark where you want to cut. Since this garment was extra large, it might have been better to cut closer to the original collar. Remember, once you cut away, it is harder to add back in.
Use a black rib knit material to form the new collar. It should stretch to make the opening bigger, not up and down. The folded over strip of material will be sewn to the collar opening forming a tube that will be the new collar. Think of it like making one of the stretchy knit cuffs on a sweatshirt so the "ribs" or grain will be oriented along the length of the sleeve or body.
Mock up the collar so you know you will have enough material to go around the collar opening. To make the point of the collar, you can overlap the pieces and sew as is. The more elegant way is to cut down the middle of the intersection of the overlaid pieces and seam them back together. Removing the excess material reduces the pucker of the collar flopping outward.
I started by attaching the back portion of the collar first. Sew on the inside edge with the fabric pieces aligned so you end up with a finished seam on the outside when the collar is flipped up. I used a serger because as it sews, it trims and binds the seam into a nice finished edge. You can also sew with a regular sewing machine and go back over with seam tape or another fancy edge stitch. The professionals use a cover stitch machine to do the flat seam that you find on T-shirt collars.
The crossover point for the collar band will probably change after you start sewing and everything stretches. When you get close to the collar point, line up your crossover pieces to actually do the cut. Remove the excewss material. Seam the V shaped cut pieces to form a continuous collar band. Fold back over and continue to finish attaching the rest of the collar all the way around.
After a first test fitting. the collar was too wide to keep the shirt from falling off the shoulders. I went back to tailor it at the shoulders so that I trimmed off a piece of the collar, seamed the collar back to one continuous piece, stretched it to fit the cut opening and reattached the collar. The final product has the shoulder material gathered a bit at the collar.
Since the thickness of the collar varies around the opening, it was easy to do the alteration without changing the look of it too much.
The final detail was to sew on the custom made insignia patches. Yeah, I should have pinned it in position before I sewed but it ended up in mostly the right place.
Step 5: Boldly Go...
Here are a few more of my Star Trek themed ibles in case you want to make some accessories:
Star Trek Enterprise Composite Shelf to store your tchotchkes from where no one has gone before
Star Trek Enterprise Turbolift lights to add cool running lights to your decor
the original Star Trek uniform redshirt that fires lasers
and the best seat in the universe...