Introduction: Cartoon Violence (The Costume)

This is an update on a the Teddy Bear Assassin costume I made last year (this can also be viewed on Instructables). I had a little more time this year to improve the mask and create a more durable base. These instructions will also work if you want to build an inexpensive bear head and costume, or mascot. This is a moderately difficult costume, and cost around 25 dollars for all of the supplies.

If you want to view an easier way to make a similar costume, see the previously posted Teddy Bear Assassin costume.

Things you will need: 

- 2 wire hangers
- regular and needle nose pliers
- duct tape
- 1 bag pollyfill
-  hot glue gun and bag of glue sticks
- 1 regular kitchen sponge and 1 large kitchen sponge
- 1 pair children's black knit gloves
- dark colored felt
- light colored felt
- about a yard of fake fur fabric
- black permanent marker
- black quilting thread and sewing needle
- 2 ping pong balls
- small piece of cardboard

optional (for mallet)
- oatmeal container or similar cylindrical shaped object
- large sheet of cardboard (at least 18 inches in length)
- black duct tape


Step 1: Building the Base

The first step to any of these masks is to build your foundation. This will work for any type of full-head mask that you want to make. The idea is to get a shape that will fit on your head and then work around that. I don't make masks to cover my face in part because I wear glasses and also because I don't to constantly have to remove my mask to talk or eat (I wore this to a costume party).

I found out last year that a simple cardboard base doesn't tend to hold up, so this year my goal was durability. This mask started with a wire frame made from wire hangers shaped to fit around and along the top of my head. There are two parts (see the attached photo), one that fits right on my head, and the other extended beyond the height of my head. This is because I wanted the mask to be much higher on top of my head. The top of that second, higher piece represents the top of the bear head. That is how high the mask will be.

To create this wire frame, begin by unraveling one of the hangers and shaping it in a sort of oval form. It should be big enough to fit around your forehead, but leave a little slack. The second part runs from the forehead to the back of your head. The third piece runs from the top of one ear along the top of the head to top of the other ear. Attach the second and third piece to the first piece, and you should have something like a half dome shape. Because you're working with a wire hanger, it is sometimes hard to perfectly cut and shape the pieces with the pliers, so wrap the connecting points with duct tape so you don't cut yourself.

When you finish the half dome, add the longer strips over the top to form the top of the mask head. I added the piece of sponge in between for comfort because once you complete the costume, the bear head tends to add a little weight between the top piece and the part resting on your head. In the end, it really wasn't necessary because when you add the Polyfill padding, it rests gently against your head and is comfortable.

Step 2: Covering the Base

Because most of the head is stuffed with Pollyfill, there needed to be a piece of fabric just under the fake fur to hold it in place. I covered the wire frame with black felt and attached it to the frame using the black quilting thread and needle. By a remnant of felt (maybe 1/2 a yard?) rather than the felt squares, since those will be too small. You should find this in a fabric store.

You could really use any kind of thick, dark fabric for this step. Felt tends to be sold cheaply, doesn't have that much give, and provides a thin layer of support between the fur and the Polyfill, so it's comfortable when resting against your head. If you do use a different fabric, avoid those made with spandex. You don't want something that stretches too much when you're trying to fill the head with Polyfill.

In the picture, notice that the pieces of felt are not cut perfectly. It's hard to eyeball the shape of felt pieces you need is hard to eyeball. It doesn't have to be exact - it can work like patchwork. You won't see it anyways, it is only meant to keep the Pollyfill in place.

When you complete this, start to cover the felt-covered wire frame with the fake fur. Sew it to the felt seams that run halfway along the mask (the part that sits above your ears). Look at the first picture in this Instructables. Notice that the fur hangs down in the back. It should be cut to be longer in the back, and only about a 1/2 below the wire frame in front. This makes it particularly ideal for wearing the costume in cooler and colder temperatures because it shields the back of your neck. The other reason is that I can create a jaw and extend the mask downward in the future should I want to, using the flap of fabric in the back to attach it to.

For this costume, I bought a more matted fur, which made it much better for hiding the black thread as well as making mistakes less conspicuous.

Step 3: Filling the Head

The reason that the fur is sewn only along the side seam of the felt-covered wire base when you start to cover the mask is that you want to be able to stuff it with Polyfill underneath. You will close it up along the bottom of the frame at the end of this process. Filling the back piece is easy - there are no features, so you simply stuff it with the Polyfill and shape it as desired. If you pull apart the Polyfill into smaller clumps, it will be easier to shape it.

The front will be a little different, you start to stuff a little at the top, but then you have to do some sewing along the frame to account for the features that will be added.

When you finish sewing your pieces of fur to the wire frame, stuff the back entirely as you want it and sew the fur along the bottom of the wire frame so none of the Polyfill will fall out. Rather than using the hot glue gun to attach it to the base (fake fur tends to be temperamental here and you risk burning up your fingers trying to hold it in place), use your needle and thread and sew it to the felt piece underneath. You can easily detach it if you make a mistake and need to pull the fabric away from the base. 

After the back of the head is stuffed, add some Polyfill to the top of the front of the mask and decide where you want to place your ears. While not shown here, it is is similar to the technique used in the Teddy Bear Assassin costume - you cut a frame, then a piece of fabric that is slightly larger, stuff it with Polyfill and then both glue and sew it along the top of the head as shown. In the Teddy Bear Assassin costume, these frame pieces were cut from cardboard (they're the shape of the ears that are slightly smaller than the actual size of the ear and are meant to hold it in place), and could be done in this case as well. However, because I had some wire left over, I used it to make the ear frames instead. Then I cut out my fabric. You have to cut to pieces that will be sewn together, but when you sew them, you flip the fur side so that the fur side of both pieces face together. When you flip it inside out, the ear should look right. You cut it larger than the cardboard or wire frame shapes you cut for the ear because you have to account for the seams. Sew these rather than glue them, and stuff with Polyfill. For this project, I used a stretchy fabric, so it had a little more give than you might with other fake fur fabrics. Attach small pieces of dark felt to the front of both ears.



Step 4: Adding the Features: Nose and Mouth

After having added stuffing to the top part of the front of the mask and attaching the ears, sew the fur fabric about 1/3 of the way down the middle of the front so that it is attached the felt covering of the wire frame. This will be a dividing point for stuff around the eyes and also marks the placement of the nose. Take the large sponge and cut it in half, gluing one piece with the hot glue gun above where the eye will go (it creates something like a bone structure). The other piece will go on the other half of the face, just above where the eye will be. Sew these down to the felt, making sure that it sticks because it is a porous material. Then pull the fur down and sew it to the sponge pieces. These are square pieces and to give the rest of the top part of the face a more natural shape, stuff the areas around the sponges with Polyfill. Adding the eyes will be the hardest part, so start by adding the nose and mouth first.

To create the nose and mouth, cut one circular (nose) and one U-shaped piece (mouth) out of cardboard. The nose is made from the darker felt, the mouth from the lighter felt. Cut the fabric for the nose and mouth the same way you did the ears. Two pieces of fabric for each shape are cut slightly larger to allow for the seams, then stuffed with Polyfill.

The nose will lay flat on top of the piece for the mouth with the curved part of the U-shaped mouth facing the mask. Attach the nose to the top of the mouth (play around with these for the look you desire) and attach both parts directly on top of the wire frame in the middle. Make these as exaggerated as you want. Pull the fur over so that it somewhat covers the edges of the mouth.

The nose and mouth can be attached to each other with a glue gun. But when attaching to the fur, attach it in parts with the needle and thread even if you decide to use the hot glue gun. The glue gun is tricky sometimes on fake fur and it can make a mess if you're not careful. The needle and thread will be a good backup for holding things in place.

Step 5: Adding the Features: Inserting the Eyes and Creating the Teeth

The eyes were a tricky part to making this costume. In my Teddy Bear Assassin costume, I just cut circles from a light colored piece of felt and sewed it to the face, but this year I wanted something 3D. I wound up using ping pong ball and drawing the pupils on with a permanent marker. They were inlaid into the fabric, and the only problem here is that it is hard to see in the final project, so it's probably better to go with a larger shape or to create some boundary between the hole and the eye so that it sticks out of the hole slightly rather than being laid completely inside of it.

To create the area for the eyes you are essentially trying to create eye sockets. Sew the parts of the bottom of the sponge, but leave some space so you can continue to stuff with Polyfill. Then pull fabric under the place where the eye will go and begin to attach to the base and stuff. Don't close everything up entirely because as you lay in the eyes, you may want to use Polyfill to lift them out a little bit. Here, they sit right up against the flat of the mask with no Polyfill underneath, only around it. Attach the eyes with your glue gun.

This part really works on trial and error and I wound up improvising it myself, not being too sure by that point what kind of eyes I would be adding, but knowing that I wanted more of a mascot head style.

The eye brows are just strips of black felt.

The teeth are an easy step - cut one piece from cardboard and glue it just underneath the mouth. I covered these in white duct tape before cutting them out and then painted the edges with red. For this costume, I originally intended to splatter red paint over the face to represent blood, but decided against it later. If you wish to do that, I would recommend using paint instead of fake blood as fake blood fades and turns the fabric pink.

Step 6: Finishing the Costume

This costume consists of a mask, sleeves, and a mallet. The sleeves are simply lengths of the fur fabric cut to fit your arm. They are held at the top under the shirt sleeves like a garter and for that, you can either cut some elastic and sew it under the fabric or, as I did here, just use one rubberband for each sleeve. If you do choose rubberbands, remember to keep a spare pair, as sometimes, they break. At the bottom of the sleeve, you will notice the gloves. These were children's black knit gloves (they only cost a dollar) that were sewn just underneath the end of the sleeve.

The mallet is optional and, given the cartoon violence theme, might be better if constructed to be more exaggerated. Nonetheless, it's fairly easy to make - the cylindrical top is an empty oatmeal container and the handle is just a rolled piece of cardboard. It is taped in black duct tape.

Unlike the Teddy Bear Assassin costume, I left out the t-shirt accessory which was supposed to be a happy looking bear stenciled on a blood-splattered shirt.

One flaw to the final costume is that the mask sat so high on the head, it was hard to see the face. The other is that people kept guessing that I was the mouse from the Mousetrap game. I blame that on the reluctance to apply the splattered blood effect. Nonetheless, I was pretty happy with it in the end.

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