Costumes, Historical Knits & Crafts, Holiday Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts

DIY Halloween costume ideas

It’s almost Halloween, and you know what that means: COSTUMES!

If I had my way, every party would be a dress up party. Because when I was a little kid, every birthday party WAS a dress up party, with a theme, and with costumes. Occasionally I have continued this tradition, as I did this year with a reprisal of my Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party:

2nd grade Alice
2nd grade Alice
21st grade Alice
21st grade Alice

Now that it’s October and more people are looking at my Halloween costume post from last year, I figured it was time for another round of crafty costume ideas. Lucky for you, I’ve done my fair share of costuming in the last year! This time I’ve organized them into individual and group costume categories for you. But I realized they could just as easily be categorized as “weird takes on famous individuals” and “characters from well known novels.” Enjoy!

(edit: There’s now a 2014 DIY Halloween costumes post as well!)

INDIVIDUAL COSTUMES

Historical Women With a Twist: Radioactive Marie Curie and Ballerina Annie Oakley

So I’m a fan of DIY historical costumes, especially for women. Whether it’s one of these bizarre vintage costumes from days of yore, or one of these awesome new interpretations from Take Back Halloween, I’m all for it. The latter website makes a great point that the vast majority of store bought women’s Halloween costumes fall into the “Sexy ______” category, limiting your options. But if you make a costume yourself, it can be whatever you want it to be.

And for me, that means adding a twist to famous historical figures. Like being a glow-in-the dark version of physicist Marie Curie for Halloween last year.

Marie Curie

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Marie Curie was a Nobel Prize winning scientist who did groundbreaking research on radioactivity at the turn of the century. Her papers are still radioactive and she literally described seeing the tubes of radioactive material glow in the dark. Which meant I got to get all kinds of creative with my costume. First, I found this awesome black dress at a thrift store. I have no idea what it was in its past life, but the poofy sleeves and the full skirt were perfect for the time period. Next, I bought an attachable white lace collar on ebay and sewed it to the neckline of the dress. The clothing part was complete.

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I actually wore this costume on two separate nights, and I did the make up and accessories a little different for each. The key was to make as much of me glow in the dark as possible. First, I needed my own test tube—I picked one up from a campus resale store, used glow-in-the-dark paint on the inside of it, and labeled it “radium.” For the rest of me, I used glow stick necklaces, glow in the dark face paint and green glow-in-the-dark nail polish. My recommendation is to get the nail polish at the drugstore if possible and the makeup from a Halloween store—the Halloween store version of the nail polish that came with the makeup in a kit was so clumpy it was unusable.

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Seen here with Melisandre from Game of Thrones (see below for more of those costumes!), you can see that I had a thick line of makeup near my forehead. The make up has to be thick to show up, so I ended up just outlining the circle of my face instead of pasting it all over. I also recommend you have someone help you if you want a design on your body using the paint.

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My dress had a dramatic open back so I had friends do designs there. The first night I went for a skeleton-like rib design and the second night I had the brilliant idea of using the radioactive symbol! It’s quite tricky to photograph these things, but we tried:

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IMG_1870I had so much fun in this costume, especially when I found a blacklight!

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Annie Oakley

Making the Marie Curie costume for Halloween inspired me the next time I was invited to a costumed dance party several months later. I had far less time to make this one happen, but I wanted to keep with my theme. I l also needed something I could dance in this time. So I came up with Ballerina Annie Oakley.

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Annie Oakley was a famous sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the late nineteenth century. But I wasn’t about to bring a real firearm to a party. So I did the next best thing: I found me some gun tights.

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You can get these on ebay for about $5. They totally made the outfit. And since they were tights, I figured, why not wear a tutu? So I borrowed this black leotard and tutu combo from a friend, who found it at a clothing swap. I already had the cowboy boots and the bandana, so all that remained to get was a hat and a western shirt.

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Both the hat and the shirt came from the thrift store, but believe it or not the shirt required a fair amount of alteration. It was the best one they had (it even had snaps instead of buttons!) but it was a size or two bigger than me. So I took it in on the sides and a little in the seams and then tied it above the tutu to get the fit I wanted. It was worth it! And surprisingly I still wear the shirt quite a bit. Perhaps I’m a cowgirl at heart after all.

Lady David Bowie

Sometimes, the clothes simply make the costume. Other times, it’s all about the makeup. Especially when you are invited to a David Bowie themed birthday party. I present to you two female David Bowies.

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This is David Bowie circa 1973, where we recreated the lightning bolt makeup from the Aladdin Sane album cover. You can buy Halloween makeup, but I used bright pink lipstick, dark teal eyeshadow, and black eyeliner. It stayed put really well, but be forewarned that your face may have some residual pink the next day! Not included but recommended: leather jacket and a bad ass expression.

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This is David Bowie circa 1972 as Ziggy Stardust. The key to this look was a really good cream eyeshadow in gold, which I used for the circle as well as my lips. For my eyes I used the reddest blush I could find and some black eyeliner. There was no way I was going to be able to recreate any of Bowie’s amazing clothing from this era, but I did find a gold leggings/shrug set at a thrift store and a gold sparkly top that matched it.

GROUP COSTUMES 

Game of Thrones

If you have a group of people who all want to do the same theme for Halloween, there are tons of great things you can DIY. Earlier this year, my friends and I did a team bike event that required having a group theme and costumes to go with it. We decided to be Team of Thrones.

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From left to right: A wilding woman, Tyrion Lannister, Asha (Yara) Greyjoy, a Stark bannerman (with banner), Arya Stark, Khal Drogo, Danerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Viserys Targaryen, Ygritte, and the Three Eyed Crow.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock/north of the wall this year, you’ve probably heard of the HBO show Game of Thrones, a TV show based on the epic fantasy novels of the Song of Ice and Fire series  by George R. R. Martin. The best part about this show is that there are so many characters that you can get as obscure and outlandish as you want with your character and costume.

We obviously made some adaptations to be able to ride bikes on a rather hot spring day, but I think there were some rather creative costume elements here. To name just a few examples: the crow has little messages tied to her legs, Tyrion has little half shoes strapped to his knees, and Viserys covered her bike helmet with that giant golden crown.

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I went as Asha Greyjoy (Yara in the TV series), Theon’s sister. I already had the black top, shorts and boots, all from thrift stores. I also happened to own a studded belt, sailing ship earrings and an octopus necklace…don’t ask me why on the last one but it worked beautifully. The little dirk knife and shield came from the dollar store, and I taped the Greyjoy sigil and motto, “We Do Not Sow” to the front of the shield. Also recommended: putting on the hardened face of a ironborn sea captain. (Showing off the forearm scar you got as a child helps too.)

Gatsby Girls

Not up for fantasy novels? How about celebrating the Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby with some roaring 20s costumes?

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There’s plenty of inspiration in the new movie adaptation, but there’s actually quite a range of outfits that work for this era. All of the above dresses came from thrift stores, from the light pink drop waist dress with lace (it originally had long sleeves that she removed with a seam ripper) to the bright pink sequin flapper dress.

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Accessories really help make these costumes work: among these four costumes we’ve got gloves, long beaded necklaces, hats, sequined headbands, feathers, flowers and even a cigarette holder (oh and the gun tights yet again!). Equally important is hair! You can’t really see it here but we’ve used two hair tutorials to get the styles of the 1920s, one that shows you how to fake a bob hairstyle if you have long hair and one that shows you how to create finger waves, which is a bit more challenging and works best with hair that already has a curl to it:

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I tried to do the finger waves on myself, and I didn’t quite achieve the full look. I would really recommend that you have a friend who is good with hair do this on you. The nice thing is that both hair styles don’t require much in the way of equipment—for the fake bob you need a clip, a pony tail holder and some bobby pins. For the finger waves, you need gel, a comb, and bobby pins. That’s it! Combine with 1920s style make up, especially the “cupid’s bow” lips, for the full look.

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Alice in Wonderland

Last but not least, we have the Mad Hatters Tea Party!

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Let’s start with Alice. I made this a low key costume since I knew I’d want to be comfortable all night. I used this strapless blue and white dress because it was a hot June evening, and paired it with these thigh high stockings that had card suits on them I got from a former roommate. The black Mary Jane shoes, red rose ring, and bow hair clip are things I’ve had forever, but they added a nice touch. I wanted to make a black bow out of ribbon, but I ran out of time.

I did, however, make the apron. To be honest, I didn’t use a pattern—I just tried on the dress, measured where I wanted the apron to come to, and used those measurements. The most similar free tutorial I’ve seen for how to make one like it is here. I used plain white muslin and a wide white ribbon instead of fabric to save time. I decided it should have rounded edges to match the top of my dress, and I think the effect worked nicely.

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If you’re willing to take it a step further with face paint and/or prosthetics, you can go this route. The Dormouse combined mouse ears and a tail with Halloween makeup crayons to recreate the mouse face. The Cheshire Cat sewed his ears onto a hat, and used pink and purple face face paint for the stripes, but also attached some pretty awesome prosthetics.

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Seen here with the Queen of Hearts, you can tell that this is a much more advanced costume project. But doable if you are adventurous! There’s actually two prosthetics, a cat nose and a grin, that he attached. He used spirit gum to attach the latex prosthetic to his face and liquid latex to blend the seam—you can get an idea for how to actually do this from this prosthetic nose tutorial. The effect, as you can see, is pretty remarkable.

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And that’s all my costumes from the last year! I hope these can inspire you to come up with your own clever ideas—if they do, I’d love to see the results!

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Costumes, Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Tweaks & Alterations

Top ten nerdiest crafts that I have made

Two nights ago I finished my custom fit raglan sweater! Ok, so I still have to weave in the ends and steam block it, but basically it is done. It’s definitely the best fitting article of knitting I’ve made so far—pics to come! Now, of course, I’m trying to pick a new craft project. Crafts are how I unwind after doing work, so although it is counterintuitive, I need them more when I’m busy than when I’m not.

In looking back over what crafts I’ve already made, I began to notice a pattern—I love to craft nerdy things! That’s right—if you’d find it on Geekcrafts, I’d probably want to make it.  Fantasy, sci fi, video games, tech, or obscure pop culture, apparently I’ve dabbled in it all, either in crafts for myself or for someone I know. I have enough that I can actually make a list of my top ten favorites. So here they are, in order from “aww, how dorky is that” to “LOL I can’t believe you actually made that.”

10. Pokemon’s Ash Ketchum gloves

The only reason that these are number ten is because, by themselves, fingerless two toned green gloves can look pretty normal. But if you add a certain red and white hat…

Then suddenly, you gotta catch ’em all.

I made these for Keith’s Halloween costume the other year (nerdy costumes I’ve made could be a whole post by themselves). I bought the slightly stretchy dark green fabric from JoAnn’s and used light green felt and black velcro from my sewing stash.

Improviser that I am, I didn’t look at any glove patterns. If I had, I’m pretty sure I would have discovered that its easier to make a separate thumb piece rather than putting in darts in a whole piece. Oh well. I thought the velcro cuff part was a clever way of using the felt in a way that require it to stretch over the hand.

9. Apple logo iPod cozy

This was one of my first successes knitting with a chart—and it was a chart of the iconic apple logo. As you may be able to tell by the iPod in the picture, I made this a number of years ago—one of my early geek knits! I wanted to take a better photo but alas, I don’t know where this cozy ended up. It was the perferct size for the older iPods. You can see the button hole at the top of the photo—on the back I added a retro green fabric covered button. I didn’t use a pattern for the cozy, but I did check my gauge to make sure it would fit. Knit on straight size 1 needles I believe. Pretty sure I learned kitchener stitch (video link) to sew up the sides.  So many memories!

8. Bjork’s swan dress

Out of all the costumes I’ve made, this replica of Icelandic singer Bjork’s 2001 Oscars dress is the one I am most proud of.

Perhaps it’s not typical nerdery, but let me tell you, it’s usually a pop culture junky who is the first to figure out who I am at a party (since Bjork wore it over a decade ago, it seems to have fallen away from public memory somewhat). I have now worn it on at least three separate occasions—the photo above was the most recent, at a Rock Star costume party (with bonus Pikachu in the background!) Below are some previous Halloween photos:

I made this audacious avian outfit from a $10 thrift store dress. I suppose it might have been a wedding dress, though I suspect it was a quinceanera dress. It was strapless and had seven tiered layers of white tulle. Seven! I chopped off the bottom ones and used that along with polyfill, black foam, orange cotton and a black button to fashion the swan top. Finally, I sewed a pale colored camisole that matched my skin tone to the top.

My mom helped a lot on this one—there were so many layers to sew through!

7. Game of Thrones house sigil coasters

My newest strain of crafting nerdery has been influence by all things George R.R. Martin —in this case, the HBO series Game of Thones.

This Christmas I made my brother coasters depicting the sigils and official house words. I used this awesome craftster tutorial to learn how to use the paint pen on ceramic surfaces—heat set them and the paint won’t wash off! Plain white tiles with felt feet on the bottom make nice coasters that don’t scratch tables.  I only made two because my paint pen was running out. If you’re an architecture nerd, you may like the Frank Lloyd Wright designs I did on coasters for my mom even more.

6. LOL Cat baby blanket

If you thought I would bypass internet meme geekiness, think again!

This is one of my favorite modifcations. I used the free pattern for a bunny blanket buddy, but I shortened the ears. Then I used a crochet hook to write “O HAI” on the front, in a true, I can has cheezburger style. I wish I’d know about duplicate stitch then, because I think it would have lined up better for the words, but on the whole I’m pleased with the results. I did this as part of a craft swap, so to go along with the blanket, I made magnetic poetry with the kind of words you see in lolcat images using my printer, thin magnetic strips, and laminated cat photos for refrigerator meme action.

5. NES Controller stencil shirt

I love me some old school video games. And so does my brother. Which I why I made him this shirt.

Every so often I get the urge to learn a new craft, and this was one of them. I used the excellent tutorial from stencilry to learn how to mix acrylic paint with fabric medium use it on a disposable freezer paper stencil. Like the coasters, you can heat set the paint so it is washable. I’m pretty sure I downloaded the Nintendo controller image from the same website’s gallery of stencils, but I don’t know what folder it was in so if you want it you’ll have to hunt around. The hardest part of this was doing those red A and B buttons—getting the red paint to fill in those circles evenly was challenge. But then again, so was sharing a Nintendo with my brother back in the 90s! I still have it, by the way, and it works.

4.Drogon the Dragon Game of Thrones scarf

Another Song of Ice and Fire craft!  This one is wearable, but you do so at your own risk.

(Spolier alert if you haven’t read the books or watched the series!)

Drogon is one of Daenery’s three dragons.  In the books it says that when he was little, he perched on Dany’s shoulder. So of course for my Halloween costume, I had to knit a dragon scarf. What a pain in the neck (pun intended). I used this dragon scarf pattern because it was free, even though many ravelry reviewers said it was fiddly. They were right—you knit all the pieces separately and then sew them together. Ugh. And, since my scarf was black, it was really tricky to see where to sew. Also, all the cool patterning on Drogon’s back gets lost in all that black. However, I am proud of some parts. I used a drop spindle to ply two different color red yarns together to get the exact shade I wanted for his mouth. Also, I had Keith cut the eyes and teeth out of felt for me. The original dragon eyes and mouth look dopey, but this little guy is positively scary. It’s great if you are Daenerys, but if you are a regular person wearing Drogon, I’d keep an eye on him.

3. Flight of the Conchords stencil shirt

This t-shirt makes it into the top three because not only is it from song by the kings of  nerd-dom,  New Zealand duo Flight of the Conchords—it’s a shirt that is only featured in the music video version of their song “Business Time.” You won’t get the reference from a different version of the song. And even then, you only notice it if you look closely about halfway through the song (I’ve cued the link above to the correct moment. I guess I should add a NSFW warning if you chose to watch it past the 2 minute mark, even though they blurred  things out…)

I made this t-shirt at the same time that I made the NES controller stencil. It was a birthday/Christmas gift for my friend Ali. I even made sure to get the font as close as possible to the original, which is a nice touch. And of course, it’s a baggy gray shirt just like the one in the video. The only thing I didn’t do was put a stain on it like the lyrics described (you can only take these things so far). As I recall, she thought it was pretty sweet.

2. A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin book safe

Yet another George R.R. Martin craft? Oh yes it is!

                            

This was a graduation gift for Keith, and it was really two gifts in one. First of course, was the craft you see above: a hollowed out book dressed up to look like the latest from the Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. In order to get a large enough hard cover book to make it realistic, I went to the thrift store and bought a Tom Clancy novel when their books were on sale (it was about 50 cents). Then I hollowed out the inside using this tutorial as a guide. It wasn’t too bad, but it did take a while with my wimpy exacto knife. I printed out a copy of the cover for A Dance with Dragons on some printer paper to make the dust jacket—it fit rather well if I do say so myself.

The second part of the gift you can see from the folded paper inside the hollow book—a receipt for the order of the real A Dance With Dragons book. When he graduated, the book was not due out for another month or so. I thought this was a clever way to present a tangible gift when the actual gift happened to be on pre-order.

1. “Bake it So” aka the Star Trek TNG oven mitt

Of all the geeky crafts I’ve made, this one takes the cake—and it literally could pull said cake out of a hot oven.

This oven mitt is a pun on Capitan Jean-Luc Picard’s famous phrase “Make it So” from Star Trek: The Next Generation (now streaming on Netflix, fyi). I was a kid when that show was on the air and I totally loved it. When I re-watched some episodes with some friends many years later, we decide that if Captain Picard ever had any kitchen accessories, they would have to say “bake it so” on them. So of course, I had to make an oven mitt with the phrase.

The mitt is exactly what it looks like—dark blue letters cut from scrap material, zig zag stitched onto the front of a light blue oven mitt. I remember that I had to rip the seam of that oven mit from the bottom up to the thumb in order to get it to fit over the arm of the sewing machine. If I had it to do over I would have probably added interfacing to the letters to keep them from fraying or getting out of shape. But overall, I am really proud of my extremely nerdy accessory.

And that’s the end of the nerdy craft list—now, on to find some new geeky projects!