Costume refashion: Umbrella to parasol

I know. It’s been months. Again. The whole summer, in fact. I like to take surprise hiatuses, can you tell? Mea culpa, for those of you who care. But I didn’t have a lot of time to make quality posts for a while, and I’m very strongly of the view that posting just to post is everything that is wrong with the internet. Much rather have infrequent, higher quality posts. Plus, I have a better camera now! Not quite professional grade, but really heavy duty and just all around nicer than my old one.

So anyway! Back to it. Today’s post is about how to turn a cheapo umbrella into a beautiful, dainty parasol. I like steampunk props. They’re fun to build, fun to hold and play with, and can really make a costume or photo. I also went to Burning Man for the first time this summer, and needed some portable shade. Skin cancer? NO THANK YOU. Didn’t get burned at all, by the way, so it worked out great.

I started with a foldable umbrella. You know the type, right? Little, black, you buy them for $20 and use them for one summer, lose them and buy another until one day you open your coat closet and they all come clattering out, along with a very confused Mr. Tumnus? You can find lots of them at thrift stores, sometimes for under a dollar.

Then, I grabbed a few yards of lace at JoAnn’s (40% off, baby!) and set to work. Unfortunately, a lace parasol doesn’t actually provide that much shade. So I had to take it apart and line it. Sadly, lining it after the fact means that the lining and the lace don’t quite fit together perfectly. But that doesn’t matter so much. I really like the idea of having a portable shade to share with people. For now the important thing is that it folds up and fits neatly into a small backpack. It’s very pretty, and will give some element of motion to my costumes.

As a side note, every time someone comes in and sees me working on the parasol, they asked, “but does it work?” Funny how umbrellas are only functional for rain nowadays! My usual response was that it kept all the rain off me at Burning Man. (The fact that it didn’t actually rain while I was there is beside the point.)

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, despite the lining tribulations. I loved the lace look, but ultimately went for practicality and portable shade over the dainty flower look of the lace by itself. Ultimately, that’s just a little more “me,” anyway — pretty is nice, but form follows function, not the other way around.

There’s a kajillion parasol covering tutorials out there, so I’ll keep mine brief and picture-heavy. As a side note, I chose to use bridal satin for my lining because a.) I have a huge wedding dress lying around, and there was tons of it. b.) White was the closest thing I had to the off-white lace without buying more fabric. I also had pink satin, but the Compatriot said it looked like a Georgia O’Keefe painting, if you catch my drift. And c.) Shiny fabric provides better sun protection. Seriously! So although it’s not very Victorian, I went with it.

The basic steps: Unscrew the top cap and take the fabric off of your umbrella frame. You might have to cut some stitches along each rib, and a few around the center hole. See how the fabric is just curved triangles seamed together? Use one of them as a pattern and cut out number of triangles that your umbrella has. Sew them together into a circle. Drape the circle over the center top cap, with the seams running along the spidery metal limbs. Take several stitches through the little anchor holes to secure the circle covering, and replace the cap. Yay! Good job. If you’re lining the umbrella, you’ll want to choose a non-fraying fabric or make french seams (otherwise, your lining seams will show through the lace, and that’s not pretty). If you attach lace trim, you don’t need to worry about finishing the outer edge hems. Just stick the fabric together, wrong sides facing eachother, and hand tack the lining and the shell together in a few spots, and maybe around the center hole, so it doesn’t shift around. Then, just attach like normal.

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Plain black umbrella

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Slightly stiff lace

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Umbrella skeleton, spray-painted bronze (Note: Moving parts will scrape off the paint, so if you have a folding umbrella the moving pieces will revert to chrome quickly)

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Anchor holes. Hand sew panel seams to these.

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Draped pieces, starting to sew.

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As soon as I set it up to take pictures, the cat flopped down under it. Poor, neurotic crazybeast knows what a parasol is for!

As soon as I set it up to take pictures and attach the lace by hand, the cat flopped down under it. He may be neurotic and self-harming, but he knows how to lounge.

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Pinned lace. Then it was just a matter of using a mattress stitch (I think… I’m not super good at the terminology) and sewing the trim to the parasol as invisibly as I could.

When I finally got around to doing a real photo shoot today (didn’t take all that many photos at Burning Man, and most of those are somewhat inappropriate), my outfit morphed into less of a steampunk vibe and more of a Blade-Runner-meets-Hunger-Games-Capitol-citizens vibe. I was feeling it though, and just kind of rolled with it.

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White shows all the seams. Otherwise, I’m incredibly happy with it. (Oh, and white doesn’t show the playa dust so much.)

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Parasols bad luck inside? Well, so is being seen outside taking pictures of yourself in the middle of the day by your neighbors who you’re trying to get to know before dropping the freak flag on them. (My backyard is not fenced, so I chickened out after one photo.)

Also, I have a mohawk now. Opinions may differ on this (I wrote a whole post about cultural appropriation a while back) but I think it’s culturally insensitive the same way that kimono sleeves and a wide belt are offensive to kimonos; in other words, I think it takes a lot more than a vague nod to become offensive. Plus, I really like it, though it’s probably not the most flattering style ever.

Have you used a parasol? Did you like it, or was it a pain to have an extra thing to carry around?


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