Tag Archives: Costuming

Costumes: Sheep

It’s October, so it’s time for costumes!  Last fall, I made sheep and wolf costumes for a performance of the Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre that was called “Sheep/Wolves/We The People”.  I made 6 sheep costumes for the apprentice company, which they used in several numbers throughout the work.  Above, you’ll find the video of the Sheep/Wolf Rap.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any still shots of someone wearing the finished product, but a video is also helpful.  Note that these costumes took quite a bit of abuse – several dress rehearsals and three performances!

Here’s how I made them…

Loosened cotton balls glued down

For the shirt, you’ll need HEAPS of cotton balls, hot glue, and a white men’s undershirt tank.  The shirt needs to be a size or two larger than you (or the person who will wear the costume) would normally wear because once you’re done gluing on the cotton balls, the fabric won’t stretch as much.  The procedure is simple.  First, stretch out the shirt a little.  Next, I found it helpful to loosen the cotton balls.  The are made of cotton sheets wound up in a spiral, so if you loosen them up, they get bigger so you need fewer of them.  Finally, glue them on.  You’ll need to find a balance between too much glue and not enough.  An X across the cotton ball would be a good way to secure them.  Occasionally, I didn’t secure the middle of a cotton spiral, and they came out.  In the video you can see some dangling.

A finished sheep top

For the hat, you’ll need a fabric marker, snaps or velcro closures, black felt for the ears, and white felt for the hat part.  To make the shape of the hood, I traced another person’s head profile and cut it a little larger to allow for the seam and some extra room.  You can always sew the seam tighter, but it’s hard to add fabric once you’ve cut it.  I also made a tab of fabric that goes around the neck.  You’ll cut out 2 of the white hood shapes and sew them together along the top and back of the head.  Add your snap or velcro to the neck tab.  Finally, cut out 2 matching black ears and attach them, and you’re done.

The hat for reference

Sheep costumes make excellent beds for older kitties too!

A Treatment for Leotard Seam Disease

Side Seam Hole

Drat! It's wearing thin and it's getting holes! But it's not even that old!

Your leotard getting that tell-tale mark of age: the side seam hole.  You know the one.  It starts either at or just below where the shelf bra attaches, and if left untreated will progress several inches lower until the whole side rips open.  The worst part is, you often don’t notice them until right before something important, like a show, when there’s no time to get a new leotard.   Here’s how I stabilize them.

Scrap Fabric

Cut out a section of a discarded leotard to use as a patch.

1.  Cannibalize a leotard that has succumb to the side seam disease.  Cut out a section far from the side seam in a section that is in good condition.  I’ve also used bias tape.  Match your patch color to your leotard or the color will show through the holes and thin spots.


A patch with rounded corners

2.  Cut the patch larger than the affected area of the leotard you are trying to save.  Round the corners so they don’t curl up and peel off.

Heat and Bond with the Patch

Heat and Bond cut to the size of the patch

3.  Cut fusible webbing or heat and bond strips to the size of your patch.  This is important.  We’re not sewing this on.  When the glue melts into the fabric, it will stabilize it and keep the holes from getting worse.  Sewing is what caused the hole in the first place.  We don’t need more of it.

Cover those weak spots.

4.   Transfer the fusing material to the leotard, making sure to cover up all the weak spots.

Make a stack with the leotard, then the fusing, then the patch, and then iron.

5.  Put the patch on top of the fusing material and iron according the the instructions that come with the fusing you’ve picked.

6.  Wash it like you normally would, but make sure it stays out of the dryer or the patch will peel off.  You don’t dry your leotards anyway.

This is a treatment that will only delay the inevitable; it’s not a long term fix.  I’m sorry friends, once you see the signs of wear, it’s going to end soon.  It’s kind of like when you see your fish start to swim sideways.  You’re in denial for a while and think it’s going to get better, but it never does.  But the good news is that you can at least keep your leotard a little while longer, unlike the fish.

Do you have a better way to fix side seam holes?  I’d really like to hear more ideas.

Clothes Pins Keep Me Sane

For most people, costume season is at the end of October.  For those of us in the dance world, it’s now and several other times of the year.  Unlike Halloween costumes, dance costumes often need to be made in large numbers and as similar to each other as possible.  For example, I’m making (among other things) 12 horse-tail-shaped tulle bustles, each with four pieces of tulle in two colors and a long ribbon for the waist band.

How do you keep all those cuts of fabric organized?  The answer is with a clothes pin.  I cut all the fabric at once to avoid time wasted  moving between steps.   When I finish with one color of tulle or cutting ribbon, I make piles of materials that belong to each item to be made, then clip them together.  Then, as I work on the item, I can use the clothes pin to attach the unfinished bits to the piece.  For example, the first step in the bustles was to attach one row of pleated tulle to the middle of the ribbon, so I clipped the remaining three layers of fabric to the end of the ribbon I didn’t need to work with.

So there you have it.  A simple tool to keep your sewing projects neat and organized.  What household items have your re-purposed to make your life easier?

Digital Paper Dolls

An Inkscape file used for picking costumes.

As a kid, I never had much interest in dolls, and as an adult I have even less, but this kind of doll serves a purpose.  I’ve been working on costuming for an upcoming modern dance company show.  We’ve been back and forth with ideas, drawings, and prototypes, but there are so many details to work out.  There were several clothing options and each could be any number of colors.

I thought about drawing out a bunch of different combinations, but that was a lot of work and potentially very frustrating.  Then I thought about paper dolls made out of real paper, but again, that was a bunch of work.  Finally, I decided to draw it out in Inkscape.

Using Inkscape allowed me to make one of each article of clothing and simply change the colors digitally.  Using layers made things a lot easier.  The background and the doll are in locked layers so they can’t get in the way and be accidentally moved when you try to select a piece of clothing.  The clothes are in their own layer, so they are movable and the fill colors can be changed.

I brought the file to the studio and we played with different options and colors until we found the combination we wanted.  It was very helpful to have a visual representation so every knew exactly what the decision was.  No surprises later.

So now I’ve made my own little digital costume aid.  I have a feeling this will get used for many other costumes as well.  The image above, is not the actual costume options, by the way.  I drew some quick clothes to demonstrate the idea because I’m not going to post the actual costume decision until the piece has been performed.


The dance company I dance in is always looking for inexpensive, but good, costuming.  The result is that we make a lot of what we use.  For this piece, we needed an edgy look, so I made black and red tutus from tulle, grosgrain ribbon, and hooks for the closuPinned Tullere.  As you can see from the photo, it’s not complicated.

  1. Just measure your waist for the ribbon length and add a couple of inches so the ends can overlap.
  2. Cut your tulle about 3 times as long as your waist measurement.
  3. Fold the tulle length wise.
  4. On the folded end of the tulle, fold the tulle over about 2 inches.
  5. Now start pleating the tulle and pin it to the ribbon.  You want to attach the tulle “upside down”, so that the fabric folds over the seam as it hangs to give the skirt some fullness.
  6. Then just sew it down.

My tutus have 2 rows of tulle, but you can do as many as you like.

Modelled Costume