Friday, October 31, 2008

The chipmunk costume how to, part 1

As promised, here is how I made the chipmunk costume. This is heavy on the details, so for those not interested in the nitty-gritty, just take a peek at the photos. Esme is pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

By the way, If you've stumbled onto this via a google search on how to make a chipmunk costume, I'd be happy to help if you have questions or need to see additional photos. Feel free to drop me an email.

How I made the chipmunk costume: I couldn't find a pattern for one, so I started with something close, a skunk. I used the McCall's pattern 8938 by Tom Arna.

First, the materials: I used four different types of faux fur, including fake fox, and three colors of fake rabbit, which I got from (While I was working with this stuff in the studio, I had to reassure our pet rabbit, Mr. H, that it was indeed not from a cousin of his.) For the ear details, I used some tan Ultrasuede. Unlike Ada's costume, this one has a conventional muslin lining for the hood, which makes it much softer to wear, and makes it less flimsy. The interior of the fur isn't scratchy, but not soft, either.

Next, the modifications to the pattern:
The stripes were the most obvious thing to change. Of course, I had to make it chipmunky, which meant piecing together very thin strips of fur and making a long piece to put onto the back. I used faux fox for the middle part of the stripe and the various faux rabbit colors for the edges. I decided to use the stripe as a cover for the zipper. I attached half of the stripe on one side of the zipper, and the other half attaches with velcro. I lined the stripe with muslin to makea better ground for the muslin and to reinforce the pieced stripe. Also, instead of making a separate stripe to sew to the headpiece when finished, I integrated it into the headpiece itself. Again, it's sturdier.
The tail attaches with two buttons attached to the end of the stripe. I omitted the foam the Arna design calls for, and the tail is much softer and more flexible.

I also added "wings" to the sides of the costume, to mimic the flaps that rodents seem to have under their arms. I drew a pattern for them based on how high she normally raises her arms to reach for something. The idea was that there would be slack when she was standing, and she wouldn't be constrained by them no matter what she did. To get the right effect, I figured out that I needed to sew the wings together at the outside edges, and then attach them with handstitching--one side to the belly, and the other side to the back. It's sort of like a pillowcase with one side of each opening attached to the body of the costume. I love the overall effect, and they are really cute when she moves, as she is showing in this blurry photo.

The belly and arms are modified from the Arna design as well, which calls for a single white patch to be sewn onto the belly. For a more realistic feel, I sewed the belly in sections of color, and then matched the wings and arms to it accordingly.

Finally, the ears: I used bits from all the furs together and then handstiched them together to get the idea of a more natural ear. It's rougher than I would like, but it works for a costume. Can you tell this was one of the last things I did to finish it?

A few cautions: While it is clean after being sewn, faux fur REALLY sheds while you are sewing it. I found myself coughing and wheezing while I cut it, and I had to get a dust mask to continue.

Faux fur is also tough on needles on the machine. I went through 5, even with the machine on half-speed and without needle basting.

The end result? It feels pretty chipmunky to me. And it is warm and snuggly enough for a New England Halloween. Esme wants to keep wearing it (the bottom part, at least) after she gets it on. And it's huggably cute. Success.

Part two is by request from the grandparents--just some cute shots of Esme as the chipmunk.

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1 comment:

paperwaits said...

I adore this costume and I'm kinda jealous! :D

Could you make them for adults as well? I know some big kids who would honestly love it.

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