35. A Halloween Mini Episode – The Asian Sewist Collective Podcast
Patterns & Designers mentioned
Lowland Hoodie by Lowland Kids
Moss Jacket by Helen’s Closet (pattern was gifted with no compensation or expectation of review)
Marlo Sweater by True Bias
Fabric Stores mentioned
Sister Mintaka, UK-based, carries Purple Haze Ottoman Knit
Check out Cindy’s potatoes video:
Sareena – @dresslikeanonion
Sareena’s children’s costumes, including Machamp:
And bonus Bowser & Sky from Paw Patrol:
Ada: My partner got sidetracked by Pokemon cards at the checkout line. He is an adult man.
Sareena: What does he need them for? He doesn’t.
Sareena: That’s what he needs them needs for!
Ada: Welcome to the Asian Sewist Collective Podcast. The Asian Sewist Collective is a group of Asian people from around the world brought together by our shared appreciation for fibre and textile arts, and our desire to see more Asian representation in the sewing community. In this podcast, we explore the intersection of our identities and our shared sewing practice as we create a space for Asian sewists and our allies.
I’m your co-host, Ada Chen, and I’m recording from Denver, Colorado. Denver is the traditional territory of the Ute (yoot), Cheyenne, and Arapaho peoples. I’m a second generation Taiwanese American entrepreneur, and I started a natural skincare line called Chuan’s Promise, that’s C-H-U-A-N apostrophe S. Most importantly for this podcast, you can find my sewing at @i.hope.sew on Instagram.
Normally Nicole would introduce herself now, but seeing as she’s a bit busy with work, today we have a special guest co-host. I’m excited to welcome Collective team member Sareena Granger to the pod! Sareena, can you please introduce yourself to our listeners?
Sareena: Hello, I’m Sareena. I use she/her pronouns and I am in Western Canada in Treaty Seven territory. I was born on the West Coast of Canada and my parents are from Seychelles via Kenya and India via Uganda. I am a semi-retired interior designer and knitting tech editor, a twin mom and a general enthusiastic maker. You can find me at @dresslikeanonion on Instagram and Ravelry and Sareena on the Making app.
Ada: Welcome Sareena. So happy to have you on this week because we’ve been chatting about this topic for a bit. And listeners. As you already might know, we are currently in between seasons and still getting ready for season four of the podcast. But we did want to release this mini episode about Halloween now because well, it’s October, which means pretty much anybody in North America is thinking about it or being hit in the face with it anytime you walk into a store. Or you might be working on a costume. And Sareena was actually the one to come up with the idea for the episode. So before we dive into our special Halloween episode Sareena, can you tell us about your current sewing or knitting project?
Sareena: Okay, I’m always impressed that you guys have like one or two things because I have whips all the time. But I just finished knitting a vest for Leila of Muna and Broad and I put it in the script so that I would put it in the mail so it is in the mail. That is a little self accountability. Thank you. I popped it in the mail yesterday and I’m excited for her to wear it and to see how it fits. And so next I will be drafting an Eevee costume for my eight year old daughter and usually I start with like sweatpants and then I add stuff to it. So I got a pattern from Lowland Kids. I don’t know how it’s gonna work out but we’ll see I’ve printed it out and I will be taping it today. What about you, Ada? What are you working on?
Ada: Hang on before I tell you what I just finished okay, Eevee, Eevee like the Pokemon character? Yes. Okay. For anybody who doesn’t know Google E-E-V-E-E to get an idea of the creature, Pokemon, the Pokemon?
Sareena: I think, see, I always think it’s a cat but it’s like a canine. So ears and a tail. Right? Like it’s not complicated, but last year, okay, going off piste. My son was Machamp. Do you know what Machamp looks like?
Ada: I do not know what Machamp is. I’m a bad millennial.
Sareena: Okay, so it’s blue and it has four arms. And it’s like oh muscle bound four armed Pokemon. So I had to, it was intense, make prosthetic arms. Super fun.
Ada: That’s why we’re talking about costumes today.
Sareena: Eevee’s fine. So what are you making?
Ada: While my dog growls, let me and we’re leaving it in because this is just a quick episode. I just finished a cardigan slash sweater slash swacket because I realized I’ve…
Sareena: Swacket, I’ve heard jacket but not swacket.
Ada: It’s definitely more of a swacket than a jacket and I will explain why. Okay, I own tons of like jumper type sweaters which is just like the sweater you pull on. It’s just a top and I don’t have a lot of cardigans. Which is ironic because they used to be like a staple in my wardrobe when I was going into an office like that was my formula. Cardigan, t-shirt or tank top, jeans. Perfect.
Enter the Moss Jacket from Helen’s Closet, which we were gifted, and it’s a woven pattern meant for light to medium weight fabrics. But Helen’s blog did mention that she wanted to try it in a stable knit. And that’s what I did because I went to the UK recently and I met up with Sandeep from Sister Mintaka and I purchased some fabric from her, so I got this amazing stable knit. It’s called the Purple Haze Ottoman Knit made with Lenzing EcoVero so I think that’s just tencel fibers. And it’s like a pretty wide, I think it’s like a 54 inch almost width and it doesn’t really stretch. It stretches and it recovers but it’s not really like a shifty knit. And so I squeezed a pattern out of two meters, even though I think the recommended is like 2.5. Because I omitted the pockets and one of the yoke pieces because it’s double sided. And so I finally finished it yesterday. And it’s just like a nice layering piece for fall and I get four weeks of fall here. So I’m going to enjoy it and then it will be solidly winter and I will continue enjoying it. Yeah, not quite as exciting as a Halloween costume but it is a lilac purple sweater.
Sareena: When I think cardigan, I think buttonholes and I hate making buttonholes. So I avoid cardigans.
Ada: There’s that Marlo sweater pattern from True Bias that has the buttons that I considered, but I was like, I don’t know. I don’t really feel like sewing buttonholes or making like…
Sareena: Finding the right number [of buttons] that match that I like, I don’t know…
Ada: I know! So yeah, it is not as exciting as a Halloween costume. But with that, let’s dive into the episode. So Sareena, can you tell us a bit about why you wanted to talk about Halloween?
Sareena: Okay, so I’ve always said that Halloween is my favorite holiday. And my husband teases me and he says it’s not it’s not a holiday. It’s like a day of the year. So what’s the deal? I mean, I grew up with all the North American holidays, and then two sets of cultural and religious holidays that were separate. Like my parents had two separate cultural holidays and two separate sets of religious holidays.
But I’m a maker and I think Halloween is like a maker holiday, right? It’s for whoever wants to dress up. And I love the excitement and pride that you feel when you want someone to notice your mermaids, right? You’re like, somebody checked me out, right? So on Halloween is everybody doing that? Everybody’s like, look, I came up with this idea. I put this stuff together. What do you think? And I really did that. And I don’t I don’t costume anymore. My kids do it. So I spend a lot of time and energy making stuff for them. And they give me their sketches really early. Like in June. They’re like in the middle of lunch. “Hey, you know what, I’m going to be this mom.”
Ada: I love that they give you the sketch so far in advance, like you told them to do that. Or they were like mom’s gonna need some time.
Sareena: I do give them the caveat, like you can’t change your mind. Right? Once I start cutting fabric. You can’t change your mind. Until then you got time, but we don’t want to waste anything.
Ada: Once the scissors have come out, no. I totally feel you on the North American holiday plus cultural holidays. It’s like, no matter what time of year, I always feel like I’m either forgetting or missing a holiday or behind on something. And usually what reminds me is going into like the grocery store or Target.
And for me like Halloween was never a big holiday at home, kind of like what your husband said it was just another day. And so we would celebrate at school and we would get candy. But my parents were really big on letting us trick or treat. And when we did get to dress up, I think there’s like an interesting timeline progression of where my mom maybe made two or three costumes ever for us. They weren’t quite as involved. Some of them did involve sewing but mostly hot glue and felt nice. No shade to that, like hot glue will hold for a day if you need to do but the most memorable one is probably this Mulan costume that she made one for me, one for my sister because you’ve got to be ‘fair’. And I don’t think there was any sewing involved in that one. But it was quite a lot of like different pinks and the blues. Like it’s the dressed up Mulan when she’s going to the matchmaker. It was a lot of cutting. I mean, I think she just was folding rectangles and like kind of putting them places. I don’t think I have any pictures of this but I have good memories of it. I don’t think a picture would help.
I think after that year, we would get costumes like in the springtime from our dance recitals. And my mom would just be like, like that was made. Those were made by a professional costume maker. It’s a lot of tulle, leotard sewn to things. She would just be like, wear that if you want a costume like and you know, because I was the older one, we would hand them down to my sister. So my sister had like an abundance of tutus to pick from but it’s not really a surprise, like as the older one was like, “Well, I’ve run out of costumes, because I’ve outgrown them all and so”. But I think the world’s kind of changed a lot since then.
Sareena: I get that I mean, enter social media, right? I mean, not only do we feel we have to compete with people who actually know what they’re doing with a sewing machine, or with like a pan of makeup, dance makeup. We won’t even talk about that and huge budgets, but then there’s poor decision making and to put it bluntly hate, like some of us are dreading what comes next last few weeks of October, or Pinterest searches as disposable props and costumes, I mean, there’s eggnog in my grocery store. So it’s not just Halloween costumes, we got eggnog and Christmas trees up already. But then there’s the sketchy makeup and the colored hairspray all of which is probably not good for your skin. I’m sure you have opinions about all of that. And the bad decision making that will steal attention from costumes that have been created by well meaning folks who just want to enjoy the day.
Ada: Right, and those well meaning folks like we’re definitely not bounders or cosplayers or financial experts like those magical individuals who know what they’re doing. And we will shout out a few later in the episode deserve all of the praise and all the recognition and this time of year, we just kind of want to help the casual Halloween enthusiast costume responsibly this year. And there are a lot of ways that we can be more sustainable and respectful and creative without being a hateful jerk in expressing our Halloween costumes or costumes generally. So you will probably see why we’re saying that in a few minutes. So let’s start with some tips on how to costume responsibly.
Sareena: Okay, so start planning now in order to avoid last minute purchases. Start thinking about if and when you might need a costume: shop your closet, your junk drawer, craft and fabric stashes. Lots of the Collective members who responded to our survey about how they celebrate or enjoy Halloween don’t actually make anything new for Halloween. And they combine things they already have in new ways.
Ada: Right if you think about materials and sustainability, a good place to start considering kind of factoring all that in is the weather or and how comfortable you are, whoever’s wearing the costume is going to be when they’re wearing it, and they’re carrying around whatever various props you’ve organized into the whole costume, right?
Sareen: I mean, when I was a kid, we had to wear our costumes in the classroom, but then on top of a snow suit for trick or treating because there’d be like a foot of snow on the ground. And then you’re carrying whatever your prop is your candy bag and then you’re like waddling along in your snow suit. It’s a lot after dinner.
Ada: And if you’re going to be in your costume for a long amount of time, like the whole day, how is your makeup going to hold up your colored hairspray? If you have a tail or extra arms or a large hat? How’s that all going to interfere with you not only moving around, but also enjoying your day and evening? And might I add going to the bathroom?
Sareena: Yeah. Or if you’re walking your dog at the same time.
Ada: Oh my gosh, yeah. Where’s the leash gonna go? Yeah. I mean, I’m a very comfort first kind of person, like I think about how am I going to go to the bathroom in this and this doesn’t have pockets before I make something. So I will prioritize pockets in a costume. Having a bag or having something integrated, where I can put my phone or comfort will impact what shoes I’m going to be wearing. Or what I’m carrying around. For example, I’m just going to keep going back to your son’s extra arms.
Sareena: I will send you a picture. It was intense. And that’s gonna be amusing. Yeah, the other thing to consider is deconstruction. Are you able to take the costume apart and use the pieces for something in the future? Can you pass it on to a friend or use it again? Are you the person that has the tickled trunk of costumes that people will phone and be like do you have five extra arms I can borrow?
Ada: And our Collective team member and resident costume expert Cindy @cationdesigns says “Giving myself the parameters of not buying new forces me to be creative with what I have in my closet or recycle bin. It forces me to be serious about my commitment to not financially support a wear once throw away culture and exercises my creativeness, my creativity, trying to find new ways of seeing what I already have to work with.”
So Cindy suggests using materials that are otherwise going to be trash for your props like chopsticks, wooden paint stir sticks, plastic shoe hangers, wire dry cleaning hangers. Basically anything in your closet that isn’t already hanging on something. Those can be the structural basis she says for one to swords, horns, crowns, etc. I’m going to add lightsabers there. As hack packing paper, paint, tape, hot glue, all of those things go a long way, especially when you lay your tape on top of them or paint sorry, and those props can then be reused for play year round.
Sareena: Cindy also suggests using clothes that you already have or thrift and clothes to wear again and accessorizing, capes, ribbons, belts, these can all be found in your fabric stashes.
Ada: And on the topic of making new costumes or making new things in general, Cindy suggests if you’re making new – make it into items that can be reborn as a not costume or not Halloween costume, either because it’s comfortable or generic enough. So she said that her son wanted to be a zebra when he was three so she made a fleece zebra kigurumi that he then wore as cozy house clothes for the next couple of years. We will try to dig up photos to share those with you.
So if you’re making new, Cindy suggests sourcing materials secondhand instead of buying them new from a fabric store so you could go and thrift some tablecloths, curtains or sheets to use his yardage. She also suggests if you are doing a children’s costume to use an existing garment, and then adding, like a fancy dress, for example, and then adding bits to communicate who the character is, in the case of whatever costume you’re working on.
Sareena: Those are all great tips. I’m very intrigued by all the wearable toiles the Collective makes, and I bet there’s costume potential there, maybe, maybe not. So continuing on with how to costume responsibly, I think it’s important to consider what essential items clearly identify your costume. Okay, here’s the big one. One of the big reasons I wanted to do this episode, sometimes we get caught up in how the media portrays something, let’s try not to do this. It’s not hair, or skin color, or body type or shape or size that makes a good costume. My culture is not a costume. Clothes have no gender. We don’t want to have to repeat that.
Ada: And I just want to reiterate what we said on episodes one and six about cultural appropriation. Cultures, not costumes. If you don’t belong to that culture, it is not a costume. It is not your fancy dress up. And if you need a refresher, we highly recommend going back to listen to those episodes. And if you’re putting on a costume this Halloween, or in general, and you’re having an icky, “hey, is this okay for me to do this” kind of moment? It is probably not okay. Or at minimum, it’s worth sitting down with that feeling and digging into it a bit more before you head outside and that costume or garment. And it’s probably best if you’re feeling that way. Maybe don’t wear it that day.
Sareena: Yeah, if there are two or three elements, which will clearly tell people what you’re supposed to be focus your energy, time and money on those. If you have a fish tail and a human body. Everyone will marvel at your merperson costume. If you have a Ghostbusters patch on your sleeve. Awesome. You don’t have to make yourself look like Bill Murray. If you have a paper cone hat and a wand with a star on it, congratulations, you’re a princess, tweak it a bit and you are a unicorn. Just stretch your mind a little bit. It’s okay.
Ada: Similarly, I see online sometimes that there are more in the cosplay and historical costuming communities, people of color, especially Black makers who get hate for dressing up as a character from an anime for example. And that is not cultural appropriation that they’re doing there. They are dressing up as a character, that is a costume. Their skin color does not have to match the skin color of the character. It’s a fictional character. Sometimes they’re not even human.
Sareena: Like hobbits.
Ada: Yeah, that’s a great one with all that. Well, that’s been in the news recently.
Sareena: It’s been in the news recently, and I want everyone to do themselves a huge favor and check out see I thought it was cat-ion designs because she was a science teacher. And you said “cay-tion”.
Ada: Oh, maybe I’ve been doing it wrong. Sorry, Cindy. [Editor’s note: It is pronounced cat-ion-designs]
Sareena: That’s okay. We will check with Cindy. Because if you don’t know you ask questions and we figure it out. So anyway, you have to go check out her kids in their Hobbit costumes with, they’re amazing. They’re amazing. Did you see it?
Ada: They just have this really cute reel!
Sareena: Oh, super cute. We will have that in the show notes. Clearly hobbits there’s no white face paint. Clearly hobbits.
Ada: So yes, don’t wear a culture as a costume. Cultures are not costumes and don’t give hate to people portraying mythical or fictional characters and beings.
With that, let’s talk about a few costume ideas, so you are not scrambling on the weekend of Halloween or October 30. Or worse panicking because you have two hours before you are going to a party. Remember, participation is not mandatory. And we the Collective don’t really want to tell you what to do, but we do want to support creativity. So we have a few thought starters for you to consider when you’re stepping into your closet or your wardrobe or your craft space or maybe even looking in your junk drawer for inspiration.
Sareena: Random pop culture, books, movies, sports, they’re all great places to start as characters are generally designed with signature accessories. Or you can lean into your cores! Do we still say that? Cottagecore, Hobbitcore, retro, vintage, dark academia, gamer. I think Cindy and I both have kids in the Pokemon phase right now.
Ada: And I can’t say that Pokemon is a phase, I know I’m a bad millennial and you know I lived under a rock basically like we didn’t get Pokemon, we didn’t have cable. But I was in Best Buy the other weekend getting a phone screen protector and my partner got sidetracked by Pokemon cards at the checkout line. He is an adult man.
Sareena: What does he need them for?
Ada: He doesn’t. Capitalism.
Sareena: That’s what he needs them for.
Ada: But you know, I was never into Pokemon but like I said earlier when we were growing up, my mom went by his costumes and after a while, we you know, we kind of just reused what we had and we would be miscellaneous fairies and elves based on whatever still fit and how much glitter was on the tutu.
Sareena: More glitter better or less glitter better?
Ada: Honestly, I think it was more glitter out of the house better because it required less vacuuming.
Sareena: Nice nice. My mum did this too, dance costumes, team and sports gear. You could be a golfer, a jogger, a tennis player. Yeah, so think about how long you want to carry around that tennis racket. Shilyn suggested, another member of the Collective, suggested a lot of costumes aren’t really about the little things. A black dress and braided pigtails can be Wednesday from the Addams Family. A couples costume she does in a pinch is Cosmo and Wanda from Fairly Oddparents, I had to google that. They are a green and pink shirt, cardboard crown and cardboard wands.
Ada: I bet you Shilyn just has those shirts like in reserve too.
Sareena: Yeah, every year.
Ada: I, one time, printed a big Beanie Babies like TY heart. And I put it on my pet’s collar. Voila. Mochi became a Beanie Baby dog. And in some cities owning certain costuming gear is pretty much like a cultural norm. So for example, when I lived in San Francisco, really big on costuming for Bay to Breakers, which is an annual race like running race across the city during which lots of people dress up and lots of people do group costume so I used to have a tutu on hand and not the same ones I grew up with. But I would have one I could wear because there would always be something like either themed around that race or the race itself. And like I had a onesie on hand for the same reason and so consider if like your city or wherever you live does something like this year round and it makes sense to have that but I will also note that while we’re talking about group costumes, please don’t let anybody volunteer you to make costumes for a large group nobody likes to be voluntold to do something and if you follow at @canyousewthisforme, you will know sewists are constantly getting volunteered for these types of projects.
Sareena: I love that Instagram. So good. I know the teachers at my kids school usually come up with a costume every year but what happened in offices over the pandemic on Halloween? Do you know? Was there waist up Zoom costuming happening?
Ada: I’m trying to think back because I wasn’t really working in an office at that point. But from what I understand from my sister and my friends, it was kind of more subdued, like some companies sent out care packages of candy. But people who were into it were into it on Zoom with their backgrounds or with their decorations, or maybe they costumed at home. I know that’s super inspiring.
Sareena: Well, you don’t want to be the one person that shows up to a meeting and a costume, right?
Ada: Yeah, I think that’s definitely one of those like, clear it on your team chat first and then coordinate. But it’s interesting how costumes kind of come up and as part of dressing up and forced dressing up come up in like corporate office culture and maybe how being online more has kind of changed that but I digress. Anyways, you mentioned sharing some inspiration for folks. So how about we share some love for the costuming folks that we love?
Sareena: So first of all, Cindy at @cationdesigns on Instagram. She is a Collective member and I would call her a costume superstar. She has Middle Earth costumes, BTS outfits, Mulan, Bridgerton, Hanfu Ariel, and that’s just her highlights. She’s amazing. She is the science teacher I wish I had when I was a little kid. And then of course there is the Hobbit potato reel that you have to check out and then her daughter has a bat costume and I think I’m actually adding those bat wings to my make list for this week because they are awesome.
You can also check out @Cosplayparents, @ourshieldmaiden, @mcnerdymakes, and @freshfrippery.
Ada: Don’t forget that there are lots of internet and meme related costumes that I’m sure you’ve been seeing on Tiktok and Instagram reels. You’ve got the corn kid, for example, who was like “it’s corn!”. And his discovery of corn has inspired lots of corn on the cob costumes, which seems pretty easy based on the tutorials I’ve seen of a yellow shirt and a green sweater.
Ada: And then you’ve got t-rex costumes, shark costumes all of those year round or playing with their company or sports team mascots. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about. And wherever you’re getting your inspiration, we hope that these tips have helped you costume responsibly and enjoy dressing up for Halloween or whatever your occasion you are celebrating this year.
Sareena: Thank you so much for humoring me on such short notice, Ada. I know you have a lot going on right now and I do appreciate your time.
We would love to see your costumes but even more, I would love you to have fun on Halloween and make something or try new material or skill. Be encouraging and be safe.
Ada: And watch out on our stories and our highlights for past costumes and support or share your favorite bounders, cosplayers and costumers with us.
Thank you so much for joining us on this week’s episode of the Asian Sewist Collective Podcast. We’ll be back for season 4 in a few weeks, so stay tuned and make sure you subscribe, so you’ll be the first to know when we release new episodes.
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Sareena: All of the links and resources mentioned in today’s episode will be in the show notes on our website, that’s asiansewistcollective.com.
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This episode was brought to you by your co-host Ada Chen and guest host Sareena Granger. This episode was researched by Sareena Granger, Cindy Chan and Shilyn Joy, produced by Ada Chen and edited by Henry Wong, with marketing support by Kossoma Kernem & Ada Chen. Thank you so much to the other members of our collective who made this week’s episode a reality. This is the Asian Sewist Collective Podcast, and we’ll see you in a few weeks.