Here are some pics of my daughter’s Halloween costume.  It’s a little late for this year but I decided to go ahead and write up a tutorial for how to make one. Happy belated Halloween!

Anyway, I used fabric I had lying about the house so it was absolutely free.  That’s right, stuff left over from projects past equals nada dinero!  Since it was made for my six month lass and the “feathers” are small, it lends itself well to using leftover scraps or using up old clothes, sheets, etc.  The brown front, backs and sleeves required a bit larger canvas.  You could really save time by instead using a shirt or even a stained onesie you have and don’t mind sacrificing.  I made the hat out of the same fabric so you would need some fabric (I used a knit for stretch) for the hat.  If you had a large t-shirt and very making this for a small child, you could probably squeeze the hat pieces, as well as the front, backs and sleeves from it.

One more warning.  The tutorial for this one is not very picture-infused.  That’s because I did not take any pictures while I made it.  I am hopeful I can explain it without many pics so if anyone would like to attempt something and is confused by my lack of a decent tute, please by all means comment.  And by this I mean ask questions, not let me have it….

Please also contact me with any pics if you execute this, as well as any tips for using up some leftover “feather” shapes.  I’m seeing lots of fabric flowers in my future and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that yet.


What you need:

  • Main fabric (I used a knit to allow for stretch; or you could use a shirt or onesey that fits you or your child).
  • Feather fabrics (be creative here and use what you have on hand).
  • Fabric scraps for owl eyes and beak
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine (or needle if you are brave and want to sew it by hand!)
  • Scissors
  • Snaps or velcro for closure, or even ribbon or bias tape for ties to close
  • Paper for making your patterns
  • Hat and shirt/onesey/sleeper that fit the person you are making this costume for

How to:

  1. Gather and press your fabrics.  Make your pattern for the body pieces.  Fold a shirt (I used a sleeper) in half widthwise.  Trace around this on your paper, leaving about a 1/2 inch border (for seam allowance).  Do not trace around the sleeves; instead remove the shirt, then connect the shoulder and underarm using an arc that mimics the way the sleeve lines look on the shirt, also giving a 1/2 ” seam allowance.  This will be your pattern for front and back, cut on the fold.  Cut two of these from your main fabric (on the fold).  Once cut, fold the back piece lengthwise and cut in half.  You will be sewing it up halfway, then zigzagging the two raw edges so you can sew on snaps and make it possible to put this costume on!  You should have one front piece and two halves for the back pieces.
  2. Next make the sleeve pattern.  Measure out the length of your sleeve from your shirt or longer.  I made mine cover my daughter’s hands due to a). the Halloweens in my neck of the woods are normally a bit chilly and b). to look more like wings.  Of course, it might not be something an older child would either tolerate or be safe with.  Measure out your desired length on paper adding 1/2 ” for the seam allowance at the armhole.  As I was also working with a knit, I knew I would be zigzagging (or serging if you’re fancy) the cuff area but if you are using something prone to fraying (cotton, linen, canvas, etc) you should add another 1″ here for the hem (so you can turn under to the wrong side).  After measuring your length, make a big gentle curve on the opposite side.  My pattern looks like half of an oval. This pattern will be cut on the fold, so your fabric will end up being an oval shape, sewn in half widthwise to make the wing.    Cut two of these on the fold from your main fabric.
  3. Now it gets easier!  Take a hat that fits well and use it to measure out a squarish shape for your hat.  My pattern measured 7 x 7 1/2″.  I would advise using a knit fabric here (t-shirt would work as they are generally knits); this will give you the stretch needed to sit on the head rather than fall off.  If you have no hat to measure, I would measure the head of your child (or adult…) and subtract 1/2 to 1 ” for the pattern.  This, with the seam allowances, will give you the negative ease these hats are worn with.
  4. Now make some circles for the eyes.  Basically, grab some round objects around the house to make a big circle, medium circle with a “pie piece” cut out, and a small circle.  My smallest circle (pupil) was a dime; other circles were a spice jar and stem of a glass.  Make a triangle for the beak (you could really just eyeball it when you cut it out ).  Cut out two scelerae (white parts of eyes, biggest circles), two irises (the colorful part so find some fun fabric for this part) and two pupils (should be darker than iris but a contrasting or even glow in the dark might be fun here too).  Cut two triangles for the beak too.
  5. Now make your feather pattern.  It might be good to use a stiffer paper for this one as you will be tracing it over and over.  Cardboard would work; just hit your recycle bin.  Don’t recycle?  Then too bad and I hope you learn your lesson!  Mine measured about 2 3/4″ wide, 3″ long and I folded it in half to clip a curve in.  I probably cut about three until I got one that just looked right.  Once your pattern is complete, cut lots of feathers!  I used three fabrics and probably cut at least 25 of each color, plus two more for the owl ears.  I also had lots leftover though…
  6. Okay, lay out your fabric pieces together on a large surface.  Place your feathers where you want them.  I decided front of sleeves and a “tummy patch” on the front looked good but you might want to do the entire wing area (front and back) with feathers oriented to the length (I oriented to width).  I did fronts only because my daughter isn’t walking yet and would be carried.   Be creative and see what you like.   I also placed three feathers near the butt for a tail.  Reserve two feathers for your owl ears.
  7. I sewed the hat first.  I figured if it looked crazy I wouldn’t need to go further.  I used a zigzag stitch and sewed the medium circs to the white felt biggest circs, then sewed the pupil to the iris.  You can really play here too to make your owl expressive by where you place the pupils, making eyelids or eyelashes, etc.  Sew together your two beak pieces, wrong sides facing, leaving side opposite point open for turning.  Turn right sides out, finger press the raw edges inside the triangle and pin onto right side of hat front with the two eyes.  Sew eyes and beak to hat with a zigzag stitch.
  8. Fold two feathers reserved for owl ears in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and sew closed leaving the bottom open for turning.  Turn right sides out.
  9. Place hat, right sides together, and sandwich ears between the pieces near the top corners of the hat, leaving the unsewn raw edges sticking out at the top.  The tops of the ears will be pointing downward inside the hat with the bottoms poking out at the top to encase the bottom of the ears in the top seam of the hat and the   Pin together and sew up one side, across the top and down the other side, leaving the bottom open.  Clip seams and turn right side out.  Zigzag around the hat bottom to finish raw edge.
  10. Now for the hard part.  I zigzagged every blasted feather’s raw edges.  My reasoning was a).  I knew we were going to be in costume for at least three events and b). with a baby, any one of a myriad of bodily fluids could end up on the costume which would need to be washed.  If you are not going to use this much and for your sanity, you would just rather let it fray, by all means! You could also use fray check too but as I didn’t want that chemical around my baby and didn’t want to spend a dime if I didn’t have to…hello zigzag.
  11. Ok now it’s time to sew the thing together.  If you’ve made it this far, relax, this will be comparatively fast and easy!  I sewed the feathers on the front of the tummy first (after arranging feathers in a pattern I liked).  I just pinned the lowest row, then sewed straight across at the top edges of the feathers.   Repeat with next row as many times as you prefer there to be rows of feathers.  I then sewed the back two pieces, right sides facing, together halfway up along the straight edge (not the sides with the armholes)–this will be the center seam up the back.  Clip seam, serge or zigzag to finish (optional if using a knit fabric).  Open; serge or zigzag the two remaining raw edges up the back to the neck edge.  Place and sew feathers for tail onto right side of back piece.  Place front and back piece right sides together, pin.  Sew tops of shoulders together (leave armhole area open, do not sew yet).   Clip seams, finish raw edges (again optional if using knit fabric) and turn right side out.
  12. Place and sew feathers on the sleeve pieces.  When sewing feathers, be sure to sew with the oval-shaped sleeves open and not folded or you will sew the sleeve piece closed.  Make sure also to leave room for sewing the armhole edge to the armhole “socket” on the body.  Don’t sew your feathers too close or they will get stuck in your seams!  Once feathers are assembled, place sleeve armhole edge into the “socket” on the body.  Turn the body pieces with wrong sides out and pin the middle of the sleeve armhole edge to middle of the top shoulder seams on the body piece. Then pin around each side to make a nice smooth curve.  Make sure your feathers are tucked inside the right sides away from the edge you will be sewing!  Sew this curve, clip, and finish edge (again optional when using knits).  Then fold the sleeve right sides together on long edge and sew to the wrist edge; this will be the curved edge or bottom of the wing (the tube to cover the arm!).  Make sure the feathers are tucked inside and will not be enclosed in this seam! Then sew from the bottom of the armhole to the bottom of the body (the bottom hem).  Clip and finish this seam.
  13. Repeat steps in 12 again for second sleeve.
  14. Turn right side out.  Try on; I clipped the front neckline a bit to make it more comfortable to wear.  Just fold in half widthwise and clip a curve.  You can also adjust for length of the sleeves and body here too.
  15. Zigzag around neck, wrists and bottom of body to finish.  I pulled the fabric a bit as I sewed to create a ruffley edge to these hems but certainly don’t have to if you like a plainer look or it feels to femme for your sensibilities.  Also, this will only work with a knit fabric.
  16. Sew on some snaps to close the back.  Or iron on some velcro.  Or maybe you were so smart you already sewed on some ties when you were finishing those raw edges back there, Mr. or Ms. Smartypants, you!
  17. Try it on your victim (aka loved one) and admire your work!  In turn you might also declare a percentage of the trick or treat booty for your efforts….

One thought on “Backtracking…

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