How I created Toothless and Hermione costumes
There’s a certain smugness about me today. Entering the school grounds with both my children in costumes that I created made me feel really good and serves to remind me why, when I’m stressed about it in the future, I do it. Because they love having something created by mummy and it makes me feel like I’ve done my ‘good mummy deed’ of the month….oh and I actually really enjoy letting my inner child loose to create these costumes.
If I’m honest sewing isn’t my forte. In fact I think I’m rubbish at it, but I’ve been on somewhat of a voyage of discovery throughout these particular creations and have come to the conclusion that I am not rubbish at sewing, just rubbish at following a pattern. Ask me to sew a pinafore dress or a pair of pyjamas to a pattern and something won’t fit right. But give me the challenge of creating dragon wings using just a few images and I can do it. I find this particularly odd as I think I’m better at crochet yet I love, and in fact prefer, to follow patterns for crochet.
Anyway I’m not writing this blog today to show off (honest!). I’m actually writing this to help those in the future who want more of an idea how to create these two costumes. All I had to go on were some images either from films, fan sites or others creations on Pinterest.
Firstly, and most importantly, you must know that I cheated a little. I bought the base clothes for these costumes. The black hoody and trousers were £5 each and the grey school jumper a mere £3 from a well known supermarket.
This was supposed to be the easy costume. Merida already had the skirt, tights, school shirt, shoes and black cloak already in her wardrobe so she basically needed embellishments on a grey jumper and a Hogwarts tie. Being a big Harry Potter fan myself I had no compunctions in buying the tie and an iron-on Gryffindor badge. These I got from Amazon for £6 altogether. So really all that was needed from me was a bit of sewing on the collar and waistband of the jumper to create the Gryffindor gold and burgundy. This should have been easy….but I made a terrible mistake.
I had thought I would sew some burgundy material I had in my scraps box on to the collar with some gold thread embroidering the middle and it would be quick and easy. Well it was and quite effective (see photo below) the only issue was that the weight of the material was too much for the lightweight jumper and it pulled the collar down. I tried it on Merida and she complained it wasn’t comfortable. Ok so just machine embroidery then. I removed the material, but as I’d used an embroidery stitch to put the material on in the first place it took me a while to unpick. I had to be really careful not to rip the jumper as I went. It took me two hours (!!!!) to unpick the collar. Well that’s a mistake I will never make again!
Once I’d fought with this and cleared all cotton I proceeded to embroider using my sewing machine. This was much lighter and as it was the machine doing the hard work all I had to do was steer. The only issue was with the waistband. Unfortunately it puckered a bit, possibly due to the elasticity of said waistband but the effect wasn’t ruined. All that was left was to iron the badge on and put the different pieces of the costume together. For this I made the iron nice and hot and put a tea towel over the top so as not to burn the jumper and it was a good badge so stuck really well.
The day before I washed and plaited Merida’s hair which when released the next morning became lovely and frizzy, true to Hermione’s look. My daughter then picked out a spell book, The Tales of Beedle The Bard, a wand and a picture of our late ginger cat who was then renamed Crookshanks for the day. She was ready to go.
This was a little more complicated and time consuming than Hermione. I’ve included a lot of pictures so you can see how I did it. As I said I’d looked up ideas on Pinterest and using the hoody was the best idea on there. Not only was it practical with having the head of Toothless attached to the body but it also looks quite cute.
I had the black hoody and trousers and bought some thick black felt. I bought two metres but depending on width you can get away with less. I like having a bit of excess as it gives me room to go wrong! I also got smaller amounts of red and white for the different tail fin and some iron on vilene to help stiffen the wings and fins.
I started with the wings. It was the most difficult and technical part and also the part that needed most material. I drew the shape with my taylor’s chalk leaving room for seems. Then I folded the material so it was four layers of the felt and used my amazing seamstress shears to cut out the shape. I also cut out the two middle fins that sit halfway down Toothless. I used the shapes I’d already cut as a template to cut two layers of the vilene; one for each wing and fin. I placed the vilene on to one layer of one wing, used my tea towel so as to not burn the felt and ironed on the vilene. In fact every time I ironed any of the felt I used the tea towel.
With wrong sides together I sewed the top of the wings together, then turned it in the right way which created a sort of vilene sandwich. I sewed a line of stitches about 2cms down in the body of the wing, following the line of the seem. This forms the ‘bone’ of the wing and creates a hollow tube which I then stuffed with lightweight stuffing. I used the stuffing from half a pillow that I had (don’t ask). I stuffed it quite tightly so it was rigid. This saw this effect on Pinterest but wasn’t sure how it was created. I was pleased with the result of my guess work and it kept the shape of the wing well. I then sewed lines from the points of the wing to the bend in the bone the body. This helped show the folds of the wing. I repeated this for the other side and put the wings to one side knowing they needed to be sewn on the hoody last. With the rigidity of the wings now set any sewing using the machine would be difficult even though they could still be folded.
The middle fins I sewed in a similar way. I ironed on the vilene and created the sandwich again (felt, vilene, felt) and sewed the edges together (but not the curves at one end) and the line of stitches to show the folds. Then again put to one side.
The spikes on the back were one of my biggest cheats. As the felt was quite stiff itself I decided to make a double layered triangle for each spike. I sewed the bottom of this spike together but directly on to the hoody. I only sewed the bottom of the triangle. Part of the reason was so that the spikes could be singular or doubled. In the first ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ Toothless has single spikes but in the second he is shown how to have two spikes running parallel along his back. Keeping these spikes unsewn at the point meant Finn could decide which film he was from and either keep the spikes single or double them up. I showed him this and he loved that idea.
The ears and horns were simple shapes, doubled up and sewn together round the edges before being sewn on the head. Once the spikes, ears and horns were sewn on the the hoody I ironed them so they would stand up more. Without the vilene they don’t stand rigid but this works quite well as Toothless uses his ears expressively and it meant Finn could either lift them or let them lie flat. The eyes were just ovals with black bits of felt in the middle. I used an image straight from the film to imitate these. If there’s one thing I’d change its the eyes. I’m not happy with the final effect and I think this is mainly due to the green being jersey as opposed to felt. The sewing is rough. If I do his costume again I shall get some green felt.
Finally for the hoody I attached the wings and middle fins. The wings I sewed on from the shoulder blade area and up in a triangle reaching right up to the shoulder seems of the hoody. It means these are firmly attached and stay more rigid. Also, the bend in the bone of the wing sits on the child’s shoulder so is in a comfortable place. I tried this on Finn at several points making sure it sat comfortably and kept the wings out.
The middle fins I attached to the top of the waistband of the hoody.
For the tail I wanted one thing above all else: to keep it light so it didn’t pull Finn’s trousers down! To achieve this I made it out of a hollow tube of felt. I cut out a shape which had a strip along the top in order to velcro the tail into the waistband of the trousers. Once I’d cut the shape I sewed the sides together but not to the top of the tail, I left a bout a 10 cm gap. I turned this in the right way and then sewed the spikes on to the tail and finally the hook part of the velcro to the tail. Finally I attached the tail fins having made them the same way at the other fins. One of these was red for the right effect. I also cut out the pirate/viking white piece to go on the red part of the tail. This I ended up cutting blind as every time I drew it it looked awful. I then sewed the loop part of the velcro (the soft bit) into the back of the trousers. This was so the trousers can be warn just as trousers if wanted and also practical as I know how dirty a five year old can get!
The costumes were ready. Finn tried his on and instantly wanted to play in it. A positive reaction I thought. The next day Merida and Finn became Hermione and Toothless and were very eager to get to school. I received lots of compliments from various parents and teachers and felt decidedly smug.
The big test for me was whether the costumes would still hold together at the end of the day. As I said I’m not the best sewer so if the costumes held I knew they were a success. Not only did they hold but held really well. Hermione’s embroidery was still intact and the only bit of Toothless that wasn’t as it was when we left home was the tail. This is purely because it reaches the floor so dragged along and got a little dirty. That’s the only trouble with felt: it attracts everything from twigs to dog hair!
All in all I was really pleased with the effect and, most importantly, how the kids loved their outfits for World Book Day. I’m sure they will wear them again and again. The true mark of success.