Blending in

posted in: David Lucas | 1

As often happens in this house we read a book by one author or illustrator and then the girls want more of the same. So having re-read Whale we had to get Halibut Jackson, also by David Lucas, down off our shelves.

Halibut Jackson was shy.
Halibut Jackson didn’t like to be noticed.
Halibut Jackson liked to blend in to the background.

To ensure that he is never noticed Halibut Jackson makes suits for himself which match the background of where-ever he is – they essentially provide camouflage. For walking in the park he has a suit made of fabric printed with grass and flowers, in the supermarket the pattern on his coat looks like the apples stacked up in the fruit section, and even at home he has an outfit made out of the same material as his armchair. One day Halibut Jackson receives an invitation to a party at the palace in celebration of the Queen’s birthday, but this puts him in a quandary. Much as he longs to see the palace made of silver and gold and covered in jewels, Halibut Jackson, being rather shy, and not wishing to be noticed, finds parties rather difficult. Fortunately, a night’s sleep presents him with a solution – he makes a suit to blend in with the palace, a suit of silver and gold, covered with jewels. “Now nobody will even notice me,” said Halibut Jackson”.


A twist of fate, however, ensures that everyone at the party does indeed notice poor blushing Halibut Jackson. But as it turns out, all is far from lost, as the guests are amazed by Halibut Jackson’s suit and ask him to make suits for them, including one of silver for the Queen and one of gold for the King. His special skill is finally recognised and rewarded – Halibut Jackson is able to open his own shop selling the most magical clothes one can imagine, and with his recognition and success Halibut Jackson’s self confidence finally begins to blossom.

This heart-warming, beautifully told story is *often* re-read in our house. The simplicity of the text is a perfect foil for the stunning, detailed and humourous illustrations. M and J love to “search” for Halibut Jackson on each page – to uncover his camouflage, whether he is wearing his book suit in the library or brick coat when walking amongst the city buildings. At the end of the story we pretend we’re customers in his shop ordering clothes from our imagination, for example clothes with leaves on which we would wear when climbing trees, or a coat of cakes for wearing to the bakers. As a fledgling seamstress myself I love the story for the fabulous fabrics and ideas for outfits. All in all a surefire family winner!

When we first read the book last year M requested her own “Halibut Jackson outfit” and seeing as I had just made my first pair of curtains, we used some material left over from that to make her a “lazy days” skirt using the free pattern from Oliver and S.


This is a fantastic pattern for newbie seamstresses and tailors and one that has become a firm favourite of mine as the skirts are so easy and quick to make – M can also help with the sewing and elastic threading. The material I used for the curtains and skirt comes from Zimbabwe and is available at The African Fabric Shop.

This week’s Halibut Jackson related activity, however, was more exotic than left-over curtain fabric – a silver and gold and bejewelled suit worthy of a palace party was requested…

We raided the box of fabric scraps we have as part of the family dressing up cupboard for all the silver and gold material we could find. To this we added some tinsel (after all, the shops here are already well stocked for Christmas so why not!?), and for jewels we bought some embellishments from an indian fabric stall at the market. First M, with only a little help from me, sewed the “jewels” on to a gold dressing-up top.


Then we made a couple of no-sew skirts using strips of the gold and silver fabric and tinsel.

1. We tied a knot in a piece of elastic just a couple of centimetres bigger than each of the girl’s waists.

2. We took strips of fabric/tinsel about twice the length of the girls’ legs and folded them double.

3. We placed the fold in the fabric strip underneath the elastic waistband and then fed through the two loose ends of each strip, over the top of the elastic and through the loop, pulling it tight to fix it securely to the waist band. Here’s a not very professional looking attempt to explain what I mean!


Once M had been shown how to do this she was able to do it all by herself which gave her a great sense of accomplishment.


4. I made a headband for each of the girls using a short strip of elastic and some of the fabric embellishments and then it was time to dress up, and have a wonderful (garden) party!


The skirts were just brilliant for whirling round and round in and we all had so much fun sparkling in the autumn sunshine!


Whilst we were making our palace clothes and dancing in the garden we were listening to The Sewing Machine (from Annie Get your Gun) sung by Betty Hutton, The Sewing Machine Song by TR Kelley and Don’t be shy by Cat Stevens.

M would love it if I now went on to make some more clothes to match those that Halibut Jackson wears. If I could somehow find the time I’d like to use this fabric for the apple suit, this fabric (if I could find it anywhere) for the brick outfit, and perhaps this fabric for the library suit (Thanks to Cindy from Random Charm for the tip, via the forum at Sew, Mama, Sew!).

Other Halibut Jackson inspired activities that I’ve got my eye on for doing with the girls include:

  • Just about all the ideas for hand sewing with kids collated at (again!) Sew, Mama, Sew!
  • Lots more dressing up! And probably getting out Millie’s Marvellous Hat once more from the library as it pairs up so nicely with Halibut Jackson.
  • Another no-sew sewing project, but with a difference, from Kimberley of You Can’t Diaper their Faces, guestposting at No Time for Flashcards. This would be particularly good to do with the youngest of children who can’t yet manage a needle and thread.
  • the-big-picture-logoI’d also like to recommend The Big Picture – nothing to do with sewing but rather a (UK) campaign which promotes picture books. I came across this organisation last year when they announced their list of the 10 best new illustrators since the turn of the millenium, and it was through this list that we first discovered David Lucas. This interview with him on The Big Picture is fascinating! Lucas’ latest book, Cake Girl, is already out in the US and is due out here this week – I just can’t wait!

    Update: I reviewed Cake Girl here!

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