Introduction: Popeye

About: Build.Share.Destroy.Repeat. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man,
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.
I'm strong to the 'finich'
Cause I eats me spinach.
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man

lyrics by Sammy Lerner

Sound argument. Who am I to argue?

In case you've never heard, Popeye is an iconic cartoon sailor popularized in American culture from 1919 until present day. The usual setup saw Popeye on a wacky adventure with his friends, which usually ended up in a sea-themed conflict resulting in Popeye finding himself in trouble. Popeye is no ordinary sailor, he gets stronger when he eats spinach; which he undoubtedly acquires no matter what situation he finds himself. The adventure wraps up with Popeye defeating the foe and saving the day (maybe a kiss from Olive Oyl).
What a hero!

To make this costume, I relied on Popeye's key memorable distinctions:
Popeye fact: Popeye has had a long and distinguished history, in which he joined the Navy during an American WWII war propaganda campaign. During the campaign, Popeye's traditional costume was replaced with the classic white American Navy uniform, complete with sailor's cap. For some perspective: Popeye joining the war effort then, would be like Dilbert inciting an en masse office-revolt against global management oppression now.
It would blow. your. mind.
As a  result, this alternative costume is almost as iconic as his original outfit.

This costume is based on the traditional Popeye cartoon.

Well blow me down, let's makes me a Popeye!

Step 1: Tools + Materials

All of the materials required were found at the thrift or dollar store.
Total cost was around $15.

I originally had a slightly higher budget but had loaned some money to that darn Wimpy, who said he would pay me Tuesday for a hamburger today. I'm starting to think I'm not going to see a payback anytime soon.

  • tunic
    • needle + thread (or sewing machine)
    • scissors
    • pins
  • pipe
    • drill
    • 12-14mm (1/2") drill bit
    • 5-9mm (3/16-15/16") drill bit
    • 4mm (3/8") drill bit
    • hose clamp
    • saw
    • metal file
  • can
    • can opener
    • metal file
    • utility knife
    • glue gun
    • printer
    • straight-edge
  • other
    • seam ripper
    • oven
    • marker
  • tunic
    • 1x black polo t-shirt(thrift store)
    • 1x red t-shirt(thrift store)
    • 1x light blue t-shirt(thrift store)
    • 3x large buttons (thrift store)
    • black yarn ($dollar store)
  • arms
    • 2x ladies stockings (support or thick weave)($dollar store)
    • 1x ladies tights (sheer) ($dollar store)
    • pillow batting (thrift store)
  • pipe
    • corn cob
    • 25cm (12") bamboo garden stake
    • salt
    • plastic baggie
  • can
    • green foam ($dollar store)
    • spinach can label
  • other
    • sailor hat prop (thrift store)
    • yellow belt (thrift store)

Step 2: Sailor Tunic - Part 1

Popeye's sailor tunic is very basic: black shirt with light blue trim on the sleeve-cuff, a red kerchief, and novelty-size buttons on the front.

blue trim:
Cut the blue shirt and create two fabric strips approximately 13cm (5") x circumference of sleeve opening. Measure extra fabric in your circumference to allow for adequate material, you can trim excess after.
Wrap blue trim over sleeve edge and sew inside circumference. Then , fold over top edge and sew upper circumference.

red kerchief layout:
Cut away the sleeves and the lower portion of the red t-shirt. The rough shape will resemble a rectangle with the neck opening in the middle.
Turn the red t-shirt inside-out and align the red t-shirt neck opening with the inside collar seam of the black polo shirt. The red shirt needs to be attached deep enough inside the polo shirt neck opening to hide the attachment seam when worn.
Pin in place and sew the back and sides of the neck openings together. Leave the front unattached.
Since Popeye's tunic had the kerchief following the v-shaped outline on the front we need to cut a slit on the front of the red t-shirt to match the shape of the polo shirt underneath.
Once slit has been cut, fold back the red t-shirt and finish attaching the necks of the two shirts.

Step 3: Sailor Tunic - Part 2

trim red kerchief:
with the necklines attached, trim the front of the red t-shirt to resemble the shape of Popeye's kerchief. Leave a little extra material to allow you to fold back the fabric and create a finished edge.

kerchief trim:
Using black yarn, embellish the kerchief with trim about 12mm (1/2") from the finished edge.
This trim goes around the entire kerchief.

Find 3 large wooden (or yellowish) buttons, and attach to chest of tunic.
This first button is placed where the v neck terminates. This works well for the costume as the kerchief attachment to the polo shirt may look a little haggard here. The button covers this up nicely.
Sew buttons about 10cm (4") apart.

Step 4: Corn Cob Pipe - Part 1

The official history tells of Popeye (along with many other sailors) using corn-cob pipes. This is a functioning pipe, so no glue was used. The mouthpiece is friction-fitted to the cob.
First thing is to gobble up some corn on the cob.

dry cob:
Dry cob in oven at 100°C (200°F) for 4 hours, leave the oven door open some to allow moisture to escape. Check every hour to ensure your cob doesn't burn.

bowl opening:
Once your cob is mostly dried it's time to drill the bowl opening.
The size of your opening will depend on the girth of your cob. To prevent the cob splintering I attached a hose clamp around where the bowl opening while drilling.

Bowl opening was bored using a 12-14mm (1/2") drill bit to a depth of about 40mm (1.5").

cut to length:
After bowl opening is drilled, cut the cob about 5mm (3/16") from the bottom of your bowl bore.

dry again:
You may notice the core of your cob is still not dried. If this happens fire the cob back into the oven at 100°C (200°F) again for about an hour. For good measure, after the second round in the oven I immersed the cob in a bag of salt for a few days to wick any remaining moisture.

Step 5: Corn Cob Pipe - Part 2

Now that your cob is dry, we can attach the mouthpiece.
I wanted this pipe to function, so no glue was used. Careful measurements were taken to ensure the bamboo would friction-fit into the cob.
If you don't care for having a working pipe you can just bore the opening for the bamboo and glue in place.

mouthpiece opening:
The mouthpiece opening was drilled using a 5-9mm (3/16-15/16") drill bit just above the depth of the bowl bore.

bamboo mouthpiece:
I used a bamboo garden stake, cut to a length of about 13cm (5").
The center of the bamboo was drilled out with a 4mm (3/8") drill bit.
The bamboo is then inserted into the cob.

After assembly the pipe exterior was smoothed out with a metal file.

Step 6: Spinach Can - Part 1

Since Popeye is nothing without his spinach, it was an important prop to include with the costume.
But why stop there? This spinach can also doubles as a drink koozie.

In the cartoon, Popeye opened a can of spinach by squeezing the can until the top ripped open. I wanted to stay close to the original, but didn't want sharp edges to hurt anyone.

Using a regular can, opener open the side of the can instead of the top. Using this method I was able to leave the majority of the sharp edges on the vertical plane of the can, which we deal with in the next step.

Once open, smooth any sharp edges or burrs on the top of the can with a metal file.

Step 7: Spinach Can - Part 2

With the top of the can finished, we can turn our attention to the details and the sharp edge left from our opener.

inside of can:
As this can is intended to hold my drink as well as act as a prop, it is important to insulate the inside of the can. I used foam sheets from the $dollar store, and since the inside of the spinach can is not going to be seen you can use whichever colour you like. Add a small glob of glue to the bottom of the can when inserting the liner, this will keep everything in place when you're switching out drink cans later.

Next, it's time to add a label. After some research I found that there is a brand of spinach with Popeye on the label. Unfortunately this product is rare outside of America, so I made my own label.

*label available to download as PDF below the pictures on this step.

sharp edge (spinach cover):
To cover the sharp edge left by opening the can I used some cut green foam sheets to look like spinach was overflowing from the can.
Selectively cut the foam sheet to look like spinach, make sure you leave the text of the can visible.

Step 8: Crazy Arms

I was able to make my Popeye arms from a few pairs of ladies stockings and some pillow batting. Wrap forearms with batting and hold in place with masking tape.
Some finesse is required to ensure your muscles aren't lumpy. Tape up arms to hold the batting in place, then cover forearms with stockings. I used two stockings for each arm to help hide the masking tape and white batting.

Use a marker to draw on Popeye's famous anchor tattoos on each forearm.

Step 9: Well Blow Me Down!

After putting it all together, you're sure to be the talk around your local scuttlebutt.
That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!

Happy making :)

Halloween Contest

Participated in the
Halloween Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Lamps Challenge

      Lamps Challenge
    • Puzzles Challenge

      Puzzles Challenge
    • Rice & Grains Challenge

      Rice & Grains Challenge



    9 years ago on Step 5

    I'm not sure how it works, but the Missouri Meershaum Company makes their corncobs using glue (not in a way that reduces functionality of course). I just wanted to say that its possible :)


    11 years ago on Step 5

    Can you actually smoke out of this pipe? Seems like it should work, but since this is for a costume, I just wanted to make sure.


    Reply 11 years ago on Step 5

    Yes, the pipe actually worked. We mashed up cigarettes and pipe tobacco and used it during a Halloween party.

    If you intend to make a corn cob pipe and use it I suggest friction fitting the pieces together rather than using glue.

    I'd love to see your version if you make one!


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for this wonderful post. We used this design to help us with our Popeye costume. We ended up winning our costume contest at work!
    Here is a picture ouf our completed costume: http://bit.ly/9Lb7qb


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Great job on the costume!
    Looks like you had some competition for your work costume contest, congratulations on winning!


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! Your props are awesome! Can't wait to eat that cob of corn I've got in the fridge so I can turn it into a pipe!!!

    Prisma Nova
    Prisma Nova

    12 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, that is excellent! And I particularly love the solution for the big arms.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome!! So much fun. I've been a huge fan of Popeye since I was little. I would have killed (not literally) to have a Popeye costume like this as a kid. You've rekindled the flame, my good man!! Next year for Halloween I'll be eating me spinach.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    What would be really great is a video of you singing that song!