Monday, March 1, 2010

Cheap, Easy Homemade Big Bird Costume

I made a Big Bird costume from scratch and it didn't cost much nor did it take much time. I am only considering actual costume material and not clothing that will have use afterward for Lee. I feel that money that becomes tied into costumes alone is wasted money, because there are only so many times one can wear a costume, but parts of a costume that are reusable as items of clothing take away from the costume price and can just be added as general clothing expenses.

Lee dressed up as Big Bird. This costume looks quite time consuming, but in fact took less than an hour to make. (It would have taken less time if I would have managed to make it without needing to hold a fussy Spike. As he was in my arms nearly the whole time I was making the costume, the prep time ended up taking longer.)

Necessary Materials:
Yellow hooded sweatshirt, preferably too big- $5 (I could have done this for cheaper if I had gone to a thrift store to look for the sweatshirt, but I had no energy to do so. I also could have borrowed a sweatshirt for this costume and given it back unblemished, as this costume, as well as the Cookie Monster costume were made fully reversible so all the materials would be reusable. )
Yellow visor- $0 (borrowed from my sister)
A large piece of fake satin yellow fabric- $2 (1 meter by 1.5 meters. I don't have the mental energy to figure that out in feet.)
2 ping pong balls. $.25 (I bought a package of 6 for 50 cents and used 2 for my Cookie Monster costume.)
1 needle
A length of yellow thread (already had in the house)
Permanent black marker (already in the house)
Permanent blue marker (already in the house)
Fabric scissors
Stripey socks/slipper socks. $2. (Preferably pink and orange socks with thick stripes. I used my artistic license and bought blue and yellow slipper socks. These slipper socks will become part of my son's wardrobe.)

Total spent on the costume- $2.25
Total spent on clothing that will be reusable afterward- $7

Take the yellow fabric and cut out teardrop shaped "feathers". This doesn't really need to be exact. It can be oblong, oval, egg shaped, teardrop shaped. You just want one end skinnier than the other and for at least one of the ends to be rounded. You want these feathers each to be roughly the size of a lemon. If your scissors are decent, you should be able to fold over the fabric and cut out 4-6 "feathers" at one time.
Draw "pupils" on the ping pong balls with the black permanent marker. Draw a semi thick blue band around the circumference of the balls with the blue permanent marker.

Turn the sweatshirt inside out to protect it. You're going to be making a costume from the sweatshirt, but if you want it to remain usable afterward, keeping the sweatshirt inside out can make it be reusable even after costume season is over.
Using a needle and thread, using the method described in the Cookie Monster costume, sew these two balls together. (I didn't do this until after sewing them on to the sweatshirt and because of that, my Big Bird ended up semi cross eyed. I also did this step in a different order, but I suggest doing it now instead of when I did it, after attaching some feathers.)

Sew the eyeballs onto the hood of the sweatshirt. You want the eyes to be above the child's forehead and as close to the edge of the hood as possible.

Take the sweatshirt and lay it out on a flat surface. Lay down the feathers on the sweatshirt with the narrower side facing downward. You want these feathers slightly overlapping on another.
Losely stitch them onto the sweatshirt. You want to be sewing down the wider, upper part of the feather so that the bottom can be free to flap and be "feather-like". I suggest sewing these on by hand as this makes it easier to take them all off once you're finished with the costume, and then you have your sweatshirt free and clear. If you have less time or don't care to keep the sweatshirt for normal usage, you can attach the feathers with a sewing machine or glue.

Layer more rows of feathers onto the sweatshirt. You will want to be putting the feathers so that they overlap like scales, with each narrow part of the feather hanging over the wider part of the feather below. If you sew this by hand, this will go very quickly. Each row took me approximately a minute or two to sew on by hand.

You'll want to cover the entire sweatshirt with feathers like this. I don't have any more pictures of the sewing on process, but what I did was this:
First I sewed in the feathers on the back, all the way until the hood started. Then I did the same on the front.
I then did the hood, starting near the drawstring in the front, working across the back, and to the other drawstring (be sure not to sew through the drawstring if you want it to work). I worked my way up the hood like this until I got near the eyes. I then sewed the feathers in a circle around the eyes, with the larger parts framing the eyes and the narrow parts hanging down over the edge of the hood.
I then sewed the feathers on the sleeves. I didn't bother sewing the feathers all the way around the sleeve- I was running out of feathers and felt it would be unnecessary. I ended up using rows of 4 across, all up the sleeves.

When the sweatshirt is entirely covered in feathers, have your kid wear the sweatshirt. Check, are there any places with missing feathers? Sometimes while wearing the costume, the feathers will shift and you'll see bald patches. Take note of the location of these bald patches and fill them in with the extra feathers.

To complete the costume, put blue pants on the child. Put the slipper socks  on top of the pants so that the stripes are visible and go up the legs like leggings. Have him wear the yellow visor and put on the hood. Close the drawstring and make sure that the hood is drawn around the visor so that only a yellow "beak" is showing.

Here are the final results. I think they look quite Big Bird-esque.

Now that I have no more need for the costume (our party was a few days ago), I just snipped the threads and pulled off the feathers. We now have a sweatshirt, some slipper socks, a visor to return to my sister... and a little bit of trash.

Have you ever made homemade costumes? What costumes did you make? Were they reversible, or did the costumes remain costumes permanently?

This post is part of Creative Jewish Mom's Craft Party Sunday.

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