Introduction: How to Make a Sam the Eagle Costume

Picture of How to Make a Sam the Eagle Costume

At work, our Chief Product Officer has endearingly been compared to Sam the Eagle due to some similarities in his facial expression and that of the Muppet's. Tom, the CPO, has a good sense of humor and he is open minded in such a way that, when I asked him whether he'd wear the costume if I made him one for Halloween, he eagerly said, "Yes"!

I recruited my coworker Savannah who likes DIY projects and is very crafty, and we worked for several days to make it happen.

I'll walk you through our process for making the two-piece costume, consisting of the head piece and the cape.

Things You'll Need

Materials:

  • Blue or white baseball cap
  • Blue foam sheet
  • 1 Styrofoam sphere
  • 2 yards of blue fleece
  • 2 bags of white feathers to be dyed
  • Black feathers for the eyebrows
  • Rit dye in Denim Blue
  • Blue t-shirt

Tools:

  • Hot glue gun with glue sticks
  • Sewing machine
  • Hack saw or blade for slicing the Styrofoam sphere
  • Bucket or pot that can hold close to boiling water & dye
  • Gloves to handle the dye
  • Tape measure for measuring the wearer

Pre-requisite Skills

  • None, really. Though, there will be sewing involved.

Estimated Time Required

  • At least 8 hours or more, so that feathers can be dyed and dried

References

  • Who is Sam the Eagle? Check this Wiki page that traces his evolution in the Muppet world through the years.

Step 1: Gather Materials

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You can buy most of these materials at Michaels or a general craft supply store. The fabric can be found at a fabric store.

Why are some of the pieces white when they are supposed to be light blue? In the next steps, you'll be dying them with fabric dye. You could save time by buying materials that are already in blue. But it can be difficult to find feathers that are exactly dyed the soft light blue of Sam the Eagle. If you're lucky, you might find pieces in the color you need.

Given that there are many parts that come together to form this Muppet costume, it's quite important that their colors are unified to convey authenticity and classiness - qualities that a haphazard combination of colors would not convey.

If you are making this as a Halloween costume, I'd encourage you to go shopping at least a week or more in advance so that you don't find the store shelves sold out a material that you need.

If you are making this costume for someone else, make sure to take some measurements of their torso, arms, and shoulders, before going to get materials.

Step 2: Dye Feathers and Cap

Picture of Dye Feathers and Cap

This will take an evening or about two hours, but is really fun because you get to watch things change colors.

Following the instructions on the dye bottle, heat about half a gallon of water, pour into a bucket, and mix the dye. The water isn't boiling but is close to it. Check the material of the bucket to make sure that it's heat proof.

Soak the feathers until they appear slightly darker than you need them to be. Then fish out the feathers and dry them flat on paper towels. The feathers will look bunched up and slim when wet. Don't worry- as they dry, they will naturally fluff up. You might have the urge here is to pull apart the fibers to reshape them before they are dry, but this is unnecessary and can tear the structure of the feathers. Blow drying the feathers could also damage the feathers, though I didn't experiment to see for myself.

Also dye the cap and line dry over night or over a day.

Step 3: Construct Head Piece

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Sam the Eagle's face is built on top of the baseball cap that was dyed in the previous step.

The alternative would have been to make a mask, but it has the potential to be impractical for all-day wear at an office, which was the setting for this costume to be worn. The baseball cap head is great for comfort and wearability.

The challenge here was to alter the silhouette of the cap to be more beak-like, and to make the eyeballs stand up. We prototyped the shape of the structure using paper and tape, then went to work with the foam sheet and cap. The beak structure is created by folding the foam, and glueing the sides to the cap. The eyes were propped up by more folded foam sheet and glue on the back.

Step 4: Make the Cape and Attach Feathers

Picture of Make the Cape and Attach Feathers

To create a body that would look like an eagle's, we created a cape that would be attached to a t-shirt. The t-shirt makes it easy to construct the cape, as you don't need to really know how to build a piece of clothing that fits and moves with the body. Here, the cape is made by folding over fabric to create sleeves, then adding two rectangular flaps at the shoulders and chest to cover that of the shirt for a better look. When constructing the cape, first pin the flaps and seams along the edge, and try it on for fit.

Use the glue gun to attach dry feathers to the cape, along the arms and around the neck. To mimic a natural bird's plumage, glue the feathers in the same direction- slanting them down and having the curve face the same direction.

Step 5: Trial Fitting

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Since the costume was going to be worn by Tom for the first time on the morning of Halloween, we tried it on ourselves to test the shape and fit.

Step 6: Watch Sam the Eagle in the Wild

Picture of Watch Sam the Eagle in the Wild

Tom immediately wore the costume and was pleased. He attended important work meetings in the costume and we were pleased about the reviews around the office, as well as the fact that the costume remained wearable throughout the day.

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