Friday, November 01, 2013

Tutorial: Upcycled Finds into Wild Kratts Costumes for Less Than $35

This.  This right here.  This is why I love Halloween so much.  What could possibly be better than dressing up and exploring another identity for a day?  Especially when that identity is someone you think is cool!  

The kids embraced it with their usual verve.  They were awfully proud of themselves as they bounced around the neighborhood pretending to be the Wild Kratts pretending to be various creatures.  :) I'm pretty proud of myself, too.  I've made the kids some cool costumes over the years including last year's Toothless dragon and shark costumes, but this is the first year I've managed to do it for so little moolah!
See Part 2 of this tutorial series here.
See Part 3 of this series here - the last step!

All in all, I made both costumes for around $35, if you don't count the few things they already had, like the khaki shorts.  I also don't really count the boots either, because we bought them mainly for working outside with Daddy.  Living in flip-flop land has its perils, especially when they decide to help him build something in the garage or do yard work.  Still, even if you count the boots, they came in at a comfortable $13 per pair.   

Wild Kratts roars with PBS Kids Go
My boys pretty much nailed this pose for their pre-Trick-or-Treat photo.
More gratuitous kiddo pictures!  They had no problems performing for the camera once they got their vests on...

Show me: FIERCE!

Bitty should've had a "squirrel power" disc given how well he squirreled away all that candy.  Of course, as a baby he would squirrel away peas in his cheeks with regularity.  Two hours after mealtime, we'd see a flash of green swishing across his tongue. 

If you aren't familiar with the Wild Kratts show on PBS, here's what the boys are wearing:  

Wild Kratts

These funny-looking outfits allow the Kratt Brothers to turn into creatures thanks to creature power discs engineered by their friend Aviva.  (The kids asked me to dress like her for Halloween.  Thank goodness she's a pretty normal-looking gal.  A ponytail, wide leg jeans and a zip up fleece...all set! )

Since I took about a thousand photos of the process (okay, maybe just 80, but still), let's jump right into it!

This year, I wanted to try upcycling instead of buying lots of new materials, so we first visited the local thrift shop.  Here's what you'll need:

For One Vest
- 1 yard knit fabric in black *Thrifty alternative - Knit sweater or sweatshirt, V-neck if possible
- Scraps of green or blue knit fabric for side & shoulder panels *Thrifty alternative - Thrift store t-shirts in the right colors that you're willing to cut up

Creature Power Disc Pocket
- Fat quarter quilting cotton in matching green or blue for creature power disc pocket background and binding *Thrifty alternative - another piece of the thrift store t-shirts, though I really prefer a woven for this part instead of a knit
- 5 x 5 inch piece of vinyl

- Black knit gloves *Thrifty alternative - Upcycle an old pair by shortening the finger length
- Scraps of matching green or blue fabric to make the finger and palm pads on the gloves *More of those thrift store t-shirts!
- Glow in the dark fabric paint in matching colors

Creature Power Discs
- Heavy cardboard or wood circles
- Animal shapes
- Black and green or blue paint (SuperHusband used spray paint, but you could do this with any craft paint.)

- A green or blue t-shirt to go under the vest
- Khaki shorts
- Hiking or work boots

In our case, the main body of the boys' costumes came from two sweaters and two t-shirts, all purchased from the thrift store for less than $12.

Today let's tackle the main vest construction...

We found a fleece sweatshirt just a few sizes bigger than my Big Boy.  The opening at the collar fit him great, so I bought that one, cut the sleeves off and threw it over his head to measure how much to take it in at the sides and off the bottom.  I used chalk to mark it and then to give myself some "rough-in" lines.

I wanted the hemline to be higher in front and lower in back like the real Creature Power suits.  I cut out the vest according to my drawing.  (Be sure not to accidentally cut the back as high as you want the front!)  Here's how it looked all cut out:

I set this one aside and started on Bitty's.

Unfortunately, none of the thrift store sweatshirts came anywhere close to Bitty's size, so we had to take a different approach.  I purchased a nice, huge knit sweater.  (It was a Roundtree and York that looked like it had never been worn!)  For just $3, the men's XXL henley-style sweater provided plenty of room to cut Bitty's vest at a fraction of the cost of a nice knit fabric.

Having already cut Big Boy's vest from the fleece sweatshirt, I used it as a pattern to cut the vest from the sweater.  Since Bitty is a little smaller than Big Boy, I decided I didn't need to add seam allowances.  I just traced and cut around Big Boy's vest.  After cutting out both layers, I cut the "V" in the front piece for the neck opening and raised the hem on the front piece just like on Big Boy's vest. 

I also cut off the nice, neat hemline of the henley to use to make the collar in Bitty's vest.  No need to make my own binding when it's already right there!

The first step was to create a "V" in the collar so it would fit the v-neck opening on the front of the vest.  I did that by folding the binding onto itself and then seaming it at a 45 degree angle.  If that's unclear, just pinch off the shape that you need, pin it, and seam it along the line that you pinched to accomplish the angle you need.

Next, I laid the vest front over my new collar and turned about 1/4 inch under from the top edge.  I pinned everything in place from the top side.

Knits have a lot of "give," so I was able to manhandle it into place, even around the point of the V, until I had it all pinned in place.  Sewing a collar in this way with a woven fabric would've taken a slightly different approach.

I used a walking foot on my machine and small zigzag stitches to topstitch the vest front onto the collar.  Keep in mind, this collar has to stretch around the child's head, so the seam has to have some give.  If you straight-stitch this seam, you'll regret it later.  (Ask me how I know...)

Can you see those tiny little zigs and zags? 


Once the collar front is in, it's time to do the back.  The back is a little different.  I started by seaming the binding (or collar piece) right sides together to the vest back.  It won't lay flat in the direction you want it to just yet.  It should be laying against the back of the vest.

Once it's on, flip it up and pin it in place.  Now topstitch it in place and it should look like the front.  


At this point, with the right sides together, seam the shoulders, making sure the pieces match at the seamline, not along the edge. 

Yes, that's my gnarly bent pin and my marked up cutting mat.  I'm a real person with well-used and well-loved sewing supplies.  :)

I serged off the seam allowances in there after seaming the shoulder, but if you don't have a serger, you could just overcast it with a zigzag stitch.  With many knits, you don't necessarily need to finish the inside edges off at all, but I knew these costumes would get regular wear and use, so I wanted to do as many nice finishes as I could.

Alright!  We're caught up to the first vest.  Doesn't that collar look great!  Saving all that time by using the hem off the sweater makes me feel all tickley and happy...

From here on out, the instructions will be the same no matter how you started, so read on to find out the next steps!

Time to stitch up the side seams...

...and to fold the bottom hem under and topstitch it.  Remember to use that zigzag stitch for stretch!

It's not your imagination.  The vest in the photo above (Bitty's) is not the same as the vest in the photo below (Big Boy's).  The black-on-black process photos were a little hard to shoot, so I just used the ones that turned out the best.  

If you have a lot of excess seam allowance hanging around in there after topstitching your hemline down, you might want to trim it off relatively close to the seam.

Do the same things for the arm holes...

And you're done with all the major construction on the vest!  Everything else is embellishment...and boy is there embellishment!  Stick around for Part 2 to see more of how to create these costumes, including the awesome window pockets for Creature Power Discs!

You can find Part 2 of this tutorial here! 
Find Part 3 here!

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