Chipping Away

I’ve now finished most of my Kowl costume. The head, which I had forseen being the most difficult aspect (and was correct in my assumption), is finally all together. It actually came together a lot faster and better than I originally thought it would. I was rather surprised at how well the felt went on, and how well the seams blend at the moment, before the distressing.

The first layer of the inner ear.

Kowl’s ears took a bit of manuevering, and a good deal more planning than I had first thought they would. First, getting the shape and size of the ears right was a bit tricky. My Kowl costume is actually not entirely properly scaled. In order to do that, the ears would have to be even bigger than they are now. However, traveling to and from Atlanta, GA with giant foam heads and big floppy ears is going to be difficult enough as it is. With at least three people – and all the costumes we’re taking – in Maggie’s Green Man, I knew I needed to try to conserve as much space as possible. Hence, the removable quality of Kowl’s ears and the smaller size.

That’s not to say, however, that the ears are small. Believe me, they’re big enough.

The ears went together in pieces. First, I blocked out the desired full size of the ears, using the brown felt that I was using for

The white shape you see is the freezer paper template for the second layer

Kowl’s body and head. The brown pieces were going to be the back of the ears. Then, I traced the pattern on the piece of blue broadcloth that would form the basis for the front half of the ear. I set a large piece of butcher paper – also called freezer paper – over top of the blue layer and blocked out the size and shape of the next layer. When I was satisfied with the size, I went ahead and adhered it to the yellow broadcloth. Freezer paper, in case you didn’t know, is shiny on one side and regular paper on the other. If you put the paper on fabric with the shiny side towards the cloth and run an iron over it, it’ll stick to the paper, providing a little bit of stability when you go to applique one layer of fabric onto another. It’s a technique that’s often used in quilting. When you’re finished stitching the two layers together, the freezer paper just peels off, leaving no residue on the fabric. Tada!

Appliquing the second layer

I wanted the different colored layers of the inner ear to blend in to each other as much as possible, so I wanted to avoid making big, noticeable stitches when I sewed them together. For that reason, I used the same type of hand-applique stitches that I would use in applique quilts. If you look really close, you can see them on the front, but they are (in most cases) almost invisible to casual glances. If you were to peel apart the inner ear layer from the brown felt, you’d be able to see the stitches, but they’re currently hidden inside the finished ear.

The applique stitches, seen from the back of the inner ear

Once I had the three layers of the inner ear stitched together, it was time to move on to the next challenge…sticking them on the head.

One of the concerns I had was how I was going to make the top ridge of the ears stand up at attention and extend to the full width I needed. I had two little wire antennae poking out of the top of the head, as seen in earlier photos. I knew I was going to need to fashion the ears with some way of slipping them over the wire. The solution came in the form of hard (yet slightly flexible) plastic tubing purchased from Home Depot. I cut the tubing to the desired

Ear tubes!

length and sewed the front and back of the ears together. I added a little flap to the top edge of the ear. When the finished ear was turned inside out, The flap stood out from the section of the ear where the tube needed to go. I folded it over the tubing and stitched it down, creating a sleeve for the tubing to rest inside. The tubes then slip over the wire antennae, and VOILA! Ears!

At the moment, the ears droop a little to the side. I need to string a piece of fishing line between the two ears. Once that’s

It's a koala! No, it's an owl! No, it's both!

done, they’ll stand up just fine.

Kowl’s bottom jaw was a bit of a challenge to figure out, as well. It needed to comfortably envelope my own lower jaw, and attach in such a way that I could still talk while wearing it, but it also had to fit easily into the space below the main part of the head. At first, I tried to make a jaw with plastic canvas and wire. It didn’t work out at all. I ended up taking a few scraps of the foam that I had used for the head and fashioned a nice lower jaw. I used leftover white terry cloth from my old Po costume for the white section of the lower jaw, and used more foam to make the lower half of the beak. After covering the beak with more of the bright purple fleece, it was time to attach it to the lower jaw. The sides of the jaw have little elastic hair ties attached to them. At the moment, they slip over my ears and allow the foam jaw to move with my jaw easily. I’m going to change it a little, though, and make a strap that will go up over the top of my head, to make the jaw more secure.

I’ve also finished the body for Kowl, but I don’t have pictures of those at the moment. After all, it’s hard to take pictures of yourself in a full-length suit with a small camera phone. I’ve started work on the feet already. Maggie and I were down in her workroom yesterday. She was sewing her Castaspella costume and I was gluing foam to wire. I tried on what I had so far and giggled. When she turned to look she started laughing. I take that as a good sign. I’ve got some changes to make, but they seem to be coming along nicely so far.

Ears!

As further proof that I have actually been doing costume work – in addition to running about visiting friends and getting a crash course in binary – I’ve got pictures of the Orko costume I’ve been making for my sister. Maggie and I have divided the work for this one. I was in charge of making the robe and the scarf thingy, and she was going to make the hat. I’m happy to say that I’m still keeping up with my list of tasks, and both of my parts of the costume are done, except for the final hem on the robe. I need Heather for the final hem.

Orko’s robe was ridiculously easy to do. I used a pattern, kind of. The pattern was mainly to make figuring out the sleeves easier. I hate drafting my own sleeves, and so will use other methods to avoid doing so. The pattern I based the robe on was a simple medieval-style tunic. I added some width to the lower end of the pattern, and added a triangle inset to both sides, to allow for even more flare in the robe. The sleeves are extremely long, as the ends need to fold up several times to form wide, puffy cuffs. I had some black felt left over from making my Potter Puppet Pal head way back when, and used that for the giant “O” on the front of the robe. Like Kowl’s ears, I used an applique stitch to sew them on.

To do the scarf, I first built a wire form – I sure am doing a lot of wire work this time around. I formed two wire circles, making sure that they were a good

Building the wire base

deal bigger than my head, as I was going to be putting a layer of foam around the inside. Once the circles were done, I built up some little wire supports. Putting the foam on was a rather big challenge. I put the inner layer on first, using that old stand-by, hot glue. Then I had to pull the foam over the top circle of the wire form and down the outside. The only problem with this is…foam has a tendency to stick to itself. It took a good deal of pulling, but I finally managed to pull it down and line the edges up. Putting the fabric sleeve over top the foam actually wound up being the bigger challenge, as I had to make sure the edges matched up, while dealing with adding in little pleat-type things. I know there’s probably a more technical term for that, but I’m not going to bother looking it up right now.

For now, I seem to be making good progress on the long list of Dragon*Con costumes. As I said, my part of the Orko costume is finished. I’ve got just a few things to finish for Kowl – the feet, simple gloves, and tying the ears together. The Popple needs little things like snaps on the front flap, and I still need to sew the tail on. My Jedi is finished, though I might substitute pants for my skirt this year. And I’ve GOT to find my lightsaber. I’ve got to make a new shirt for Kaylee, and I have to switch the patches over from the old mechanic overalls to the show-accurate flight suit. The only big thing left to do is make Heather’s jumpsuit for her Barf costume. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find many good screen captures of the costume, so I’m going to have to go through the movie with the pause button and do some sketching. I have a general pattern to base part of the costume on, which I hope will help.

Peekaboo!

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