Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Halloween a la Beatrix

I've heard it said that children's obsessions are passing fads. New toys or ideas may be all the rage shortly before they are set aside; Picky little ones will eagerly gobble up apple sauce every meal for a week, then completely refuse it for a month (sound familiar, Eli?). And why not, I suppose, when there is so much in this world to explore? Who can blame them for throwing themselves so wholly into something as if to inhale every bit of it, learn as much as they can from it, then move on to another unknown (for there are so many when you are young - and more, even more as we grow). But some things last. Things that little ones (and big ones alike) hold onto dearly and for longer than thought possible.

I don't know if Ava's long term love of Beatrix Potter books speaks to her personality or the quality of the works themselves; probably both. But for one reason or another, Ava has been an avid reader of Potter's collection for over a year now. She knows the exact shelf upon which they reside at the library, and when we arrive she immediately veers off toward it murmuring something like, "maybe we can bring home a new Beatrix Potter book." 'New' meaning 'one we don't currently have at home', since we have read most of them. At some point we realized Ava wasn't just listening to these tales at story time but actually memorizing them word for word. It's impossible not to chuckle when I overhear her from the next room 'reading' to her dolls, "It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is soporific" or "Mr Drake Puddleduck advanced in a slow sidewise manner." Speak a word incorrectly - or worse, omit a sentence - and you will be corrected. 
Illustration by Beatrix Potter from The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Ava's appreciation for Beatrix Potter's books has piqued my own interest in the life of Ms Potter and, as such, I've been doing some of my own reading. Not one to usually read biographies, I must say I've really enjoyed being submersed in her world during short intervals while baby Eli is nursing. Interestingly, her books originated as picture letters she wrote to children, and these picture letters are currently on display at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. A review of the show ran in the New York Times a couple weekends ago. Peter Rabbit was originally conceived as a picture letter to a boy who was ill and needed some cheering, and was based on the adventures of Potter's real beloved rabbit Peter Piper, whom she took with her everywhere she went. Also of note, Beatrix specifically requested that her books be small in size so that they would be easily handled by children, a feature Ava particularly appreciates.

Sorry for the blurry picture, but I couldn't resist this moment. This is not orchestrated.
I found her this way - and often do.
So it was with little hesitation that Ava decided we would all be characters from Beatrix Potter books for Halloween. For herself, Moppet.
Illustration by Beatrix Potter from The Tale of Tom Kitten
Whenever Ava said she was "Moppet" for Halloween people heard "a Muppet" and confusion ensued. I took to carrying around The Tale of Tom Kitten just to point out who exactly Ava was talking about because, you know, these things are important to particular little girls - and (let's be honest) their mamas too. Moppet is the grey kitten in the middle of the illustration above. 

I modified the cozy winter hood pattern from Liesl Gibson's Little Things to Sew to create Ava's Moppet hat (I blogged about the making of the hat in this post). I found her pinafore at Hunt & Gather, a vast antique store in our neighborhood that reminds me of several friends back in Ann Arbor who I know would absolutely flip over the place.

I drafted a pattern for the tail out of the same wool fabric used for the hat and stuffed it with wool batting. The grey sweater and leggings were items she already had in her wardrobe and were layered over various articles to make sure she was toasty warm without having to cover up her costume with a coat (a crime in my book).

The paw mittens were a last minute addition, both to keep her hands warm and to bring a bit more felinity to the whole ensemble. In the end I was so glad I finished them in time, as I think they really added to the costume. I used the mitten pattern from Little Things to Sew (the same I used for these) and added circle appliques to create the paws.

There was no confusion when Ava told people who Eli was for Halloween. I used the same pattern to create Eli's Peter Rabbit hat that I used for Ava's Moppet hat (it is also blogged about here). I created Eli's rabbit tail by lightly felting some wool stuffing into a ball and attaching it to his pants.

The piece de resistance of Eli's costume was his jacket, which had to be just the right shade of blue and "with brass buttons, quite new." I used the Out on the Town Jacket pattern from Sewing for Boys, which produced such a lovely, well made piece of outerwear that it would be a shame if he only wore it during Halloween week.

I was lucky to find the perfect fabric for the jacket while checking out a new (to me) sewing store in the area. I used a fine light blue corduroy and lined it with a blue and brown plaid. I searched through a huge bowl of vintage buttons in the store and found this mismatched set. Really, it couldn't have turned out more perfect.

The booties were knit by Mimi (for Ava when she was itty bitty). I intended to sew up some slippers for Eli since they, too, play an important role in the story. It didn't happen. So let's just say this little Peter Rabbit had already lost his slippers in Mr McGregor's garden.


  1. A fun Halloween for sure. I can contest that the kids loved their costumes this year. Nice work Mama! Love

  2. Adorable costumes---and children!

  3. Hi Alyssa, I work for Penguin Kids and we love this Peter Rabbit costume! Is there a way for me to connect with you about possibly featuring your costume on our Penguin Kids social channels?

    Please let me know! My contact info is below.

    Erin Henry
    Penguin Young Readers Group