We like to go to the local reinassance fair and some of our group dress up when we go. This was going to be the first trip with our one year old son, so we wanted to make it special. I had seen several versions of wagons and carriages for kids out at the fair or on the internet, but wanted to do our own version of a dragon wagon. My mom and dad helped out with this project so I have to give them props on the final product. They also helped keep my kiddo entertained while I did a lot of the cutting, pinning and sewing of fabric. It took us a total of 3 months working off and on to make 2 of these. The first one was a lot of trial and error, but once we had a pattern and idea of what we were doing, the second one came together very quickly. I haven't seen one like what we created anywhere and hope you like it.
Step 1: Supplies
We used a radio flyer comfort wagon model that has a canopy for the base of our build. My parents got one brand new for about $160.00, but I found mine for a steal on craig's list for $45.00. I had a lot of the fabric on hand and frequent the local thrift stores and get lucky finding all kinds of sewing items. I had the paint and brushes on hand and my parents had the high density foam leftover from fixing their couch. We got out on the cheap for this project, but if I had to guess a ballpark cost it would be about $100.00 each cover.
Our prototype was the green dragon, and we had a lot of trial and error. But here are the supplies we used. I think I got them all in the pictures, but may have left off some items. You can probably find all of these supplies at your local craft store. I used upholstery and heavy canvas fabric to make sure it would be durable and survive some wear and tear. The wire and spray paint I got frome Lowes.
5 1/2 yds top color fabric
5 yds contrasting bottom color fabric
2 sheer curtains or 4 yds sheer fabric similar in color to contrasting fabric
2-3 spools matching thread for top fabric
2-3 spools matching thread for bottom fabric
3 yds 1/2 inch elastic
3 yds 1/4 inch elastic
good pair scissors
yard stick or metal ruler
lots of pins
seam ripper, in case of mistakes
4 ft X 3 ft piece of cardboard
no fray glue
2 pieces of 10x16x2 Inch high density foam
Serrated knife & smaller pairing knifes
paint to match colors of body, acrylic & spray paint
various size brushes
pencil, sharpies and paint markers
Roll of butcher paper & newspaper
pallet to mix paint colors
shoestring or yarn, 4mm gage wire
Step 2: Design
It is helpful to sketch out what you hope the end result will look like. From there take measurements of your wagon to be covered. The wagon was roughly 120 inches around and 20 inches high on the body part of the wagon. we raised the bottom of the pattern above the wheels where needed. We measured the handle (29 inches) and estimated the diameter of the neck to hold the foam he head in place to the handle. I did a search online to try to find a stuffed animal pattern for a dragon to help with creating a pattern for our project. I found a great pattern for inspiration by Katy A on deviant art here: http://katy-a.deviantart.com/art/How-to-Plush-your-Dragon-161986356
Thanks Katy A! We used the butcher paper to create a pattern to follow by wrapping it around and gave a 1/2 on all of the pattern pieces to allow for a seam. We layed out the full body pattern and determined where the break would be halfway up the sides and the width in the front where the neck would be for the underbelly and neck contrasting fabric pieces. Some of the pieces, like the tail and feet we altered from her pattern and increaed the scale of it on a computer. I don't have pictures of the creation of the pattern for the body but you can see our concept drawings and measurements from our sketches. We originally designed the wagon with legs that attached to the wheels, but because the wheels on the wagon turn a full 360 around we scrapped the idea since they may get twisted up. The wing was a little tricky at first, but pretty simple once we figured out how to make it with a frame that was slid into the fabric then sewn closed.
Step 3: Carving Te Dragon's Head
We decided to split our tasks between the three of us. Dad would work on carving the head out of foam and later work on the frame for the wings. Mom would help cutting out patterns, pinning pieces together and entertaining my son. I did all the sewing and most of the design and layout. For the head, we started with the high density foam since it would hold it's shape well and not smush when carving. Starting with one piece of foam 10 in X 16 in X 2 in, we drew the basic shape of the head. Next we carved out the shape on one side only with a serrated knife and a pairing knife for smaller more detail cuts like the scales, teeth, eyes and ridges on the horns. Next we traced the same shape on the second piece of foam from the original and again cut all the detail. Once cut out, both head pieces were glued together with a 3m spray adheasive to make it thicker. Because the foam is black we had to spray paint it white so the acrylic paint colors would show up better and not soak in as much which help cut down on the drying time. We tried spray painting the colors on, but they were too light. We went over it with the acrylic paints and paint markers to get more of the detail. Once it was fully painted and dried, we sealed it with a clear spray acrylic to seal it.
Here is my safety disclaimer. ********Be sure you are in a well ventilated area when using spray paint.********
We added a shoestring that we pierced through close to the base of the neck to hold it on to the handle which made it more secure.
Step 4: Cutting Out the Pattern
Once I had the pieces figured out and designed the pattern it was time to lay it out on the fabric. On the main color of the body(red in the pictures), there are 3 pieces for the tail, the main body ( which can be one or two pieces depending on whether you can situate it on a fold or not), 2 wing pieces and 2 pieces for the neck. On the fabric for the contrast fabric or underbelly portions (these are grey fabricin the pictures) there are 2 wing pieces, one neck portion, the underbelly (again 1 or 2 pieces depending on if it is on a fold), 4 spikes on the tail and 5 spikes for the neck. The shear fabric is only 2 pieces for the membrane of the wing. Since we were stumped on the wing design, those were the last thing designed and made for both wagons. Because the finger like pieces on the wings would shift on us, we would lay the pattern piece for the wing membrane to keep it in line while pinned the wing pattern to the fabric.
Step 5: It's All in the Details! Sewing the Body, Adding Belly Scales and Elastic
On the underbelly and neck portions done in the contrasting fabric (grey) after cutting out the pieces, I added an embroidered line to simulate belly scales to the fabric. I used a spare piece of foam that was 6 inches x 4 inches wide as a guide for the width of my scales. With a pencil I drew on the wrong side of the fabric lines that curved where it met up with the top portion of the body. Using the setting on my machine for a thick stitch, I sewed the scales lines onto the pieces where I had marked. I had to sew the underbelly on this one with two pieces by putting the right sides together and allowing for a quater inch seam using a thin zig zag stitch. Adding the embroidered scales helped to hide that seam a little.
I then sewed the top body fabric to the underbelly fabric pieces after pinning th right sides facing each other using the same thin zig zag stitch. Now that they were sewn together, they resembled a very wide tube. Keeping it inside out, I turned down a 3/4 inch seam to allow for elastic to be run trough on both the top and bottom edges leaving a 1 inch hole to run through 1/2 inch elastic through both. This helps to keep the body tight to the wagon, but allowing it to slip on and off easily. Before cutting the elastic, we fit the body on the wagon to determine the right amount of give on the elastic. Because we were using a heavy fabric, we had to use less elastic to keep it tight. Sew the pieces of elastic together and cut off the extra.
Step 6: Sewing the Neck Together, Adding Spikes and Elastic
The spikes are 2 inches on 2 sides, and 1 inch on the bottom for the neck. After cutting and pinning two sides of the spikes with the wrong sides together, I used a thinner version of the wide stitch used to do the belly scales to sew together the spikes to give it some stiffness to stand up. We used poly fill stuffing to fill out the spikes.
Take the two top neck pieces in the main fabric color (red) and pin the spikes in between the two pieces right sides facing together spacing the spikes evenly about 2 inches apart. Make sure to pin the spikes far enough down for the stitch to seal the spikes. I used a small zig zag stitch to sew all of the pieces together. Once the top of the neck was sewn together with the spikes, I pinned and sewed the bottom neck piece to the top one right sides facing each other. Next I turned over a quarter inch seam on the bottom of the next piece and stitched it. At the top, I turned over a half inch seam and stitched all but an inch closed. Next I fed though the hole piece of elastic that was a 1/4 inch wide. It helps to pin a safety pin to the end of the elastic to feed it through. Sew the ends of the elastic together once you determine how much give is needed or go around the neck of the foam head and the handle of the wagon to keep it snug, sew the elastic together and cut off the excess.
Step 7: The Dragon Tail
There are 3 pieces of the main body (red) fabric plus 4 spikes that make up the tail. Pin the top two tail pieces to the bottom piece right sides facing each other and sew using the thin zig zag stitch. Sew the 4 tail spikes like you did for the spikes on the neck. Stuff the spikes to make them puffy. Next, sandwich the tail spikes in between the top two tail pieces making sure the spikes are far enough down to be sealed. We started the spikes closer to the base and stopped them about 6 inches from the tip. Using a thin zig zag stitch, sew the pieces together. Once it is sewn together, trim the excess fabric at the tip of the tail. This will make it easier to turn it right side out. It helps to use a long stick or you can improvise like we did and use the end of a spatula to push it right side out. Use the poly fil to fill out the tail. Use your tool from pushing it right side out to push the poly fil to stuff the tip of the tail. Leave about 1 1/2 inch from the base of the tail to be able to fold toward the center. With the body piece still on the wagon, determine the placing for your tail and pin it on. Remove the body from the wagon and hand stitch the tail to the body.
Step 8: Making the Wings
Once we determined how we were going to make the wings we drew out the pattern. We wanted them to be stiff, but flexible and decided that making a base out of wire wrapped with newspaper and masking tape to fluff it out instead of trying to use the poly fil stuffing would be easier. We traced the pattern of the fingers of the wing on a 4 ft x 3 ft piece of cardboard. Using pliers we bent the wire into the shape of the wing taping it onto the cardboard to keep it from slipping. We reinforced the bends with a second loop of wire to keep it from loosing it's shape. Next we rolled pieces of newspaper to fit in between the fingers of the wire frame and wrapped it masking tape to make it more durable & water resistant in case it rained. This also made it easier to slide into the fabric as well.
After laying out the pattern for the wings it helped to put the pattern for the wing membrane over it while pinning to make sure the fingers line up with the wing. Cut out 2 wing finger patterns of both color fabrics. Next pin and cut out 2 of the wing membrane patterns from the sheer fabric. Once done, take one contrasting finger pattern (grey), one main color finger pattern (red), and one wing membrane. Next with the wrong sides together, you will sandwich th sheer fabric in between. Pin the pieces together and sew all but the outside curve at the base of the wing. It didn't worry about turning under the edge to give it a cleaner look, but it still looked good. Now slide in the wire frame into the fabric and work the wire down into each of the fingers. Now, pin the opening closed and sew it shut. I was able to do this on the machine depending on how thick the frame is and how much fabric you allowed you may have to hand stitch it closed. You can add the no fray gel to the edges of the fabric on the fingers and the wing membrane to prevent it from fraying too bad.
Now that the wing is closed, we held it up to the canopy to determine we're the ties to hold it on would be. We marked 3 spots with a pencil on the contrasting fabric side and hand stitched 3 ties onto the wing. We used scrap pieces of the same fabric about 12 inches long by 1/4 inch wide to allow for a bow. You can also use ribbon if you want and have it. We opted no to secure the wing to the body since it will make it easier to assemble. The also allows for you to wash the neck and body if it gets dirty. The wings can be spot treated so you don't bend it out of shape or mess up the inside newspaper stuffing.
Step 9: Some Assembly Required
The pieces should be easy to attach, but make sure the canopy is off to make it easier to put the pieces on. Slip the neck piece over the handle, elastic end toward the top. Slip on the body to the wagon making sure the belly scales and tail are facing the right way. Next, tie on the foam head blow the handle and pull up the neck over the bottom of the foam head. Add the canopy back onto the wagon and then tie the wings onto the canopy. The wings were dual purpose to help shade the kids from the sun, and could be adjusted if necessary since it was a wire frame and to just look cool.
Tada.... You can now cruise around to show it off. Perfect for the summertime outings to the park, going to ren fairs, Halloween, or just around the block. Enjoy your new dragon wagon. I know we did. Make your own variation and colors. I would love to see what others come up with if you do your own.