Before I ever saw the movie Frozen, when I just saw the song Let It Go, I immediately thought of my fiber-optic fabric for Elsa’s sparkling snowflake cape! Add some snowflake appliqués and iridescent glitter fabric paint to translucent blue iridescent crinkle-texture shimmer fabric hanging over fiber-optic fabric, and it would be perfect!
I had used the translucent blue iridescent crinkle-texture shimmer fabric several times before, for fairy wings and crystal ball filler, so I knew it would be the perfect base fabric for color, ice texture, and light refraction. Sure glad I bought my fabric in January when I did, since by March all my local fabric stores were sold out of that fabric since everyone was buying it for Elsa capes…haha!
My cape could have been much longer and wider to be accurate to the movie, however I intended to wear it at Disneyland for Halloween and didn’t want it trampled and destroyed, so I compromised with a shorter train and a single width of fabric. I had already cut some of my blue iridescent to laminate to the aqua satin to make the ice shingle fabric, so the just under 4 yards that was left folded in half was a perfect 5 foot 8 inches long to hang off the back of the dress bodice. A single layer of the translucent fabric is so sheer that I decided on a double-layer so it would give a little more blue tint and hide the edges of the fiber-optic fabric better. I left the top as a fold, but I machine-stitched around the edges so the shape would hang as a single piece. I didn’t want any inside hem doubling the sheer effect, so I topstitched where I knew I would be painting the scalloped border.
I originally thought I would use my high-density fiber optic cloak that I made for the Glowing Ghostly Guardian Halloween costume in 2012, but when I tested the high-density cloak vs. my normal-density shawl under the blue iridescent cape fabric, the shawl was a better sparkling snowflake effect because the points of light are spread farther apart. The cloak is awesome to make an entire person glow, but it was too much consistent light instead of individual sparkles. You probably don’t want to know how much fiber-optic fabric costs, but it sure looks fantastic! For details about working with the fiber optic fabric and the different options available, see this previous post.
These photos were taken with the lowest lamp setting across my living room, and with the lamp on full you couldn’t see either one so there’s no point in turning on the fiber-optics until dusk or a lower-ambient light room. For how expensive the fiber-optic fabric is and with the best effect only visible in dim light when the rest of the crystalline sparkles won’t show, I wouldn’t purchase it just for this costume, but since I already had it, I might as well take advantage! The fiber optic shawl is not as wide as the snowflake cape, but the cape is more gathered at the top back and won’t spread too wide since I made it only a single width of the fabric, about 45″. Proof of concept testing was a success, so it was onward to the cape construction…
I’ve seen the Cricut cutting machine for years, but my research was that there was no way to design your own shapes to cut, so it was of limited use to me. I recently had to buy a new edible printer, and in my search I found an edible images company reselling the Silhouette brand cutting machines to cut frosting sheets, and after more research, I found that it can import any .png file…voila! The larger Silhouette Cameo that cuts 12″ wide was my birthday present from my parents & grandmother, so I’ve been experimenting. It took some trial and error, but I finally got it to cut the main cape snowflake shape I specifically designed from looking at the movie, then for the smaller snowflakes, I used some of my free online store package credits for other assorted snowflake shapes. I tested on some of the ice shingle scraps and the shimmer fabric cut fine when on the interfacing as a stable base, so I thought my plan would work. I set up the files with as many assorted size snowflakes crammed into 12″x12″ areas so I would use up all my scraps as much as possible, then I was ready to let the cutting machine do its magic.
Since the cutter width is 12″ but it loads from the front and moves the cutting mat back and forth as it cuts, you can leave longer lengths of material or paper intact as long as it’s not too heavy to pull off the sticky cutting mat. This leaves less waste since I just kept trimming the next top edge away from the previous bottom cut edge. I used the same clear double-adhesive fusible interfacing as I used to make the ice shingles for the dress bodice ironed to the back of the white iridescent translucent shimmer fabric for the three main vertical snowflake “arms” down the back of the cape, then that left enough for a 12″ wide strip a full 3 yards long, and another 8″ wide strip slightly shorter, and let those cool. Sometimes I needed a second pass of the iron to be sure the adhesive had glued to all the fabric, but it’s hard to tell where it really stuck until after it has cooled. The iridescent fabric is a crinkly texture, so it didn’t stick well enough to the cutting mat for the interfacing side to be facing up. I did try one sheet by peeling the plastic backing off the interfacing before using the cutting machine, but the slightly tacky interfacing against the sticky cutting mat was too much to remove from the mat intact, so the first two nights I cut them with the plastic backing still attached. The larger the snowflake the easier to peel, but the smallest snowflakes were almost impossible to remove the backing from the fragile fabric without tearing the delicate shapes so they required glue to attach to anything else. However since the cutting mat had acquired so many fabric threads and was pretty chewed up after two evenings, I scrubbed it with water and let it dry overnight. The next evening the mat was less tacky but still usable, so I could peel the plastic backing off the interfacing before cutting and actually get enough of the snowflakes off the mat completely intact to iron onto my cape…thank goodness for custom iron-on snowflake appliqués!
Part of the movie cape design looks like the cape was a giant snowflake in the center, so the “arms” of the flakes hang past Elsa’s waist. I designed my “arms” no wider than my cutting machine, but the angled end designs were too long for the machine, so I cut them by hand after drawing them so they would match each other. In only a couple glimpses, you can see those have snowflake shaped holes cut out of the “arms,” so I used the cutting machine for those, saving the snowflakes for use elsewhere on the cape. Since the “arms” were too long for the cutting machine, I aimed the points where the snowflake holes should be, then carefully cut across the strip to have a clean line for the next section. The wider center “arm” got snowflake holes all the way up on both strip sections, but I thought the smaller side “arms” were fine with only the 3 snowflake holes cut closer to the bottom points, leaving the cut strip portion solid at the top. After all the sections were cut, I made sure the edges matched exactly when ironing to the cape, and no one was the wiser!
Since my maximum cutting size was only 12″x12″ I made the largest center bottom border snowflake that size, then the other large border snowflakes slightly smaller from the 8″ wide strip. The tiniest snowflakes were cut at the same time to use up the leftovers as extra accessories to go with the two girl-sized Elsa capes I was making for my friend’s daughters.
By the time I was done with evening three of cutting 124 fabric snowflakes (boy it seemed like more!), too much stickum was gone from the mat, so I had a couple chewed up snowflakes as the fabric moved while the blade was moving. I made it through my last cuts trying some spray adhesive on the mat first which helped enough to get everything cut, but now I think this mat is already toast…but it sure looks pretty!
I spread out the cape on my living room floor so I could place everything while seeing the entire cape at once, using two large beach towels over my hardwood floor as a giant ironing board. I positioned the 5 main border snowflakes and ironed them using a presscloth as instructed, but any extra adhesive made the presscloth stick so when I pulled it up, it pulled up some snowflake with it. I kept going without the presscloth, carefully using my iron directly, especially the very point of the iron to anchor all the small snowflake details. Since the fusible interfacing was clear but added a slight cloudy layer, just one layer of the white iridescent was plenty for the snowflakes to show up over the base blue fabric, and I grinned with glee that it looked so perfect!
Next I placed the snowflake “arms” while ironing extremely carefully to match up the seams where I had to cut them apart to fit in the cutting machine. There was no way I could have matched them so accurately while blind under a presscloth. Can you even spot the seams anymore? I can’t and I know where to look! I’m so glad that worked so well!
The snowflake “arm” designs from the movie had large stars at the bottom that were not attached, but to keep the relative distance and positioning accurate, I cut them with small strips leaving them attached to the rest of the “arm.” When I ironed, I carefully did not iron those sections but made sure enough of the stars were anchored in place, then I cut away the strips and ironed the rest of the edges.
Unfortunately right as I was ironing the last “arm” star, my trusty teal iron that has seen me through over a decade of projects literally fell apart in my hand! It was only attached by the electrical wires, but I very carefully wiggled the iron hot plate into position to get the last bits attached, then there was no way I would be able to use it anymore. At least I didn’t ruin any fabric or burn myself, but I couldn’t continue working on the cape until buying a brand-new iron the next day!
Thankfully a quick trip to Costco was all that was needed to acquire a new iron, an upgrade from what I had before, and also TEAL…hooray! The cape was still in place on the floor mostly undisturbed by the kitties (thank goodness!), so I placed all 60 more assorted snowflakes in position before I started ironing. I kept making some aesthetic adjustments until I was satisfied with the overall look, then after a temperature test on a fabric scrap with the new iron, I was back in business. The ironing in total was one of the quickest parts of the cape project. Good thing too, since that much squatting, kneeling & bending to work on the floor was all I could take in one evening.
After everything was ironed in place, I couldn’t resist adding some iridescent glitter fabric paint too! I ironed on the floor but my knees, back and elbows couldn’t take it any longer, so I moved the cape to my drop leaf counter instead. Unfortunately that means the first section had to dry before I could scoot it to paint the next section so it took a little longer, but at least the kitties usually leave projects in that area alone. Since my counter is smooth and fabric paint and hot-glue peel off fine, I didn’t even use any paper that might possibly glue itself to the paint seeping through the fabric, but that ended up a moot point because the second layer of fabric was enough to prevent any paint from gluing to the work surface. I used dots for points of sparkle to accent the snowflake designs, plus the edges of the adhesive doesn’t always stay glued, so the dots also help keep the appliqués attached to the cape.
I had sewn the border so the layers would stay together, so I painted the bottom scalloped border over that seam. I used the clear glitter paint first which sealed the edges over the stitching line, but after that dried, it was too clear where it ideally should match the white opacity of the snowflakes. I used white acrylic paint thinned with lots of water brushed over the dried glitter border, and that came out just the right shade…and it even still sparkled through the thin layer of white paint!
I was using the glitter paint to help seal the cut edge of the cape, so I didn’t trim the final edge until after all the paint was dry, cutting as closely as possible to the paint. Painting a raw edge is much more difficult, especially with all those scallops at the bottom, so I thought trimming afterwards was a better plan. I had also used a thick layer of the glitter paint in hopes it would weigh down the border for more elegant draping.
After all the decoration was complete, I needed to attach both the fiber-optic fabric and the cape to the bodice. I couldn’t use anything too large since it would be on the inside when wearing the coronation dress, so I decided that several small sturdy white metal hooks on the cape that hooked into matching eyes on the bodice would be best. Five hooks on each side spaced evenly until about 3 inches from the lacing holes was enough. Gravity and the weight of the capes should keep them hooked while wearing.
Since I needed the top of the cape to gather but I didn’t want a million hooks, I used the fold at the top of the cape to sew a thin casing and use thin pale blue ribbon through the casing to gather the cape in place after it was hooked to the bodice. I sewed a matching ribbon tie to each of the front eyes on the bodice. Once the gathers were to my liking, I could tie the ribbons together to hold the gathers in place, and tuck the bows inside the bodice.
After I knew all the hooks, eyes and gathers would work together, I decided to paint the eyes and white thread just in case I ever decided to wear the bodice without the cape. I used the same aqua shimmer fabric paint as I used to seal the top edge of the bodice. Yes, I pay attention to details.
I didn’t want to permanently alter my fiber-optic shawl, so I just safety-pinned it to the inside of the cape at the top and bottom, and that could also be a separate decision when to wear the lights. The battery packs for the fiber-optics are at the top and bottom hems, so the top one either needs to be turned on before wearing, or someone needs to turn it on for me, since I can’t reach the middle of my back myself. I also tried some single LED balloon lights in the center of the 5 bottom border snowflakes to disguise that the fiber optic fabric stopped before the scalloped edge of the cape. They need to be turned on individually so I can decide on the spot how much light I want to use, but I least I can reach all of them by myself.
One problem with this costume is that this entire outfit needs assistance to put on! I can’t lace the bodice tightly enough by myself, and it’s much easier to attach the cape after the bodice is already laced tightly. In a pinch I could attach the cape with their hooks, gently flip them over my shoulder, and reach around to pull the lacing the best I can, but I sure hope I’ll be able to find help to dress me each time I wear it.
Now I’m all ready for Saturday’s singalong Frozen showing up in San Francisco! Stay tuned for the final full magical ice ensemble reveal after the weekend!