Friday, May 21, 2010

You Asked, I Answered: How to Make a Mermaid Tail

Ok, yes.  I concede that this is a somewhat random type of request.  But I am the answer man.  Or answer woman.  Or I wish I was.  Or something.


I got an email from a mom needing help to make her daughter's 5 year old mermaid birthday party dreams come true.  She writes:

I am soon to be planning my sweet middle's birthday party. The theme has now been switched from fairies to mermaids. And she wants mermaid tails. Yep, mermaid tails. I can see them in my head, but I am wondering if you have seen anything anywhere resembling a pattern for such a thing. In my head it is made similarly to a cape, except with a taper in shape (instead of taper out) with a fin on the bottom. What do you think? Could it work?
The short answer: YES!

You wanna know how I know?

Because my little sis was a mermaid for Halloween WAY back in the day.  My mom used a pattern which I actually have sitting in my stash here at my house!

In the spirit of everyone at the party being able to get in on the fun, however, whipping out legit mermaid costumes a la McCalls Mermaid and Princess Pattern M5498 or Simplicity Pattern Mermaid Costume 4043 seems a wee bit on the EXTREME side.

Here are a few modifications I think could be made ahead of time for any reasonable number of guests SANS store bought patterns.  The good news is, I think you could repurpose some old bedsheets to make the fabric cheaper or if you must buy you could get away with some of that cheap $2.49 fabric that is sold in a variety of colors at Jo-Ann, Hobby Lobby, you name it!  With this kind of project you could make it as elaborate or as simple as you want.

[Here's the part of the post where I tell you that I don't have time to actually try this because I've already packed up my sewing stuffs for the move - - yes, we close on our house TOMORROW!  Woot!  But, I am nearly certain that these instructions are goof proof.  NOT that the asker of this question is an goofus mind you.]

Welcome to HOW TO MAKE A MERMAID TAIL by looking at VERY BAD DRAWINGS I scrawled on a piece of scrap paper!  (You know you love it.)

So, you've been approached by your dear sweet child who wants to be a mermaid.   

OF COURSE she does.

What is she thinking?

The way I see it, you've got 3 choices.  All require a different level of commitment both in time and quantity of fabric.
The first is the bootleg approximation of that Simplicity pattern.  This is the one I'm recalling from my childhood when my sister morphed into the Little Mermaid for Halloween.

Here are the basic steps:
  1. Lay your child down on some butcher paper, poster board, tissue paper or something large enough to make your pattern pieces.  Come to think of it tissue paper could go either way in being useful.  If you've got hardwood floors it should work ok, just use care when tracing so it doesn't rip.
  2. Leaving about a half inch or so to give room for a seam allowance, draw around your child's legs from the waist to the knees and then make the rest of your pattern in the shape in the drawing.  
  3. Cut 2 pieces of this pattern out.
  4. Sew right sides together up to the tail cut off on one side and where you need the skirt to stop on the other side.  Make sure you sew all the way around the fin area  Don't sew the top of the fin closed!
  5. Sew a casing for your elastic OR if you really can't be bothered with it, you could try sewing your elastic right to the inside of your waist opening after you hem it.  Hem the raw edge on the bottom of the skirt (or just use some bias tape to seal in the edge from fraying.)
  6. Turn it right side out.  Stuff the tail with some polyfil or make an insert with posterboard to help maintain the shape of the tail.
  7. Sew the opening of the tail closed.
  8. Attach ribbon or invisible thread to the fin and wrap and attach the other end of the string to a bracelet (a shower curtain ring could work in a pinch!)
Option 2 is more of an homage to the McCalls pattern named above.  For this one you will have 2 pattern pieces.
  1. Same deal with tracing around your child to get started.  This one should go pretty much floor length to get the desired effect.  The main pattern piece is going to be shaped just as you see on the drawing.  Cut 2 of those.  The side flares on the bottom are basically 2 wide triangles that will fit into the space between the front and the back when you turn the sewn main pieces on their side so the hem is facing you.  Cut 2 of those.  You could switch it up with the colors here or go for darker shades of your main fabric.
  2. Place the main pattern pieces right sides together and sew down the 2 long sides.  Leave the top and bottom open.
  3. Reconfigure the main skirt part so one of the side hems is facing up.  Lay one of your large triangle pieces right side down and sew along the top 2 sides.  
  4. Repeat this on the other side.
  5. Sew a casing for your elastic waist.

By FAR your simplest option (and the one I *think* that was being eluded to in the question) would be to make a cape for your little one that will sit around the child's waist.
  1. Draw your basic tail shape making sure it will be long enough to brush the floor (you may not want to make it TOO long so the kids don't step on each other's tails, but that's your call.  It could either be good comedy for the adults or LOTS of bumps and bruises for the little people.)
  2. Cut 1 piece.
  3. Hem all the way around.
  4. Make a casing for your ribbon (make sure it's long enough to get around the child's waist and still have length to tie it)
  5. As I scribbled on the drawing, you could consider doubling the pieces and sewing them right sides together and then stuffing the fin so it has some weight to it.  Otherwise, you might not get a super great effect with the tail just flapping behind the kids.  
Then again . . . most kids don't need things to be super realistic to use their imaginations!

Well, I'm sorry this was a bit bootleg, but it's all I could do while the sewing stuff is all packed away.  I hope at the very least, you were able to find some humor in how terrible of an artist I am.

Have you got a question?  Send an email to skooksplayground[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll do my best to make you laugh get an answer for you!


CraftyMummy May 21, 2010 at 2:27 AM  

You are such a generous blogger! To create all of that post on the back of an email asking for help!! Am filing for when my little one thinks I can do anything :)

Skooks May 21, 2010 at 2:35 AM  

LOL. I'm sure you could pull at least 1 of these options off!

P.S. I'm sure your kiddo thinks you can do anything. Isn't that why Mommy's kiss on a scraped knee makes the boo-boo all better?

Anonymous,  May 21, 2010 at 9:56 AM  

That was super fun--I do especially like that hand drawings! I'll be sure to let you know how it works out!

Anonymous,  May 21, 2010 at 12:05 PM  

Skooks--you rock! That's why I keep asking you things. And because you have super sweet illustrations! What more could be asked for in a friend? Thanks! S

CraftyMummy May 21, 2010 at 9:13 PM  

Hi Skooks. I've awarded you a special blog award :) You can pick it up here

Leah May 24, 2010 at 6:41 PM  

Forget sewing; be an artist! It spoke to me.

Being that I am the aforementioned younger sister, I can add that the first option was (if I remember correctly) a little challenging to walk in. So allow for that give.

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