Introduction: Saguaro Cactus Costume

I love the saguaro cactus. Interesting facts: the super tall ones are around 200 years old, and it can take 10 years for a baby saguaro to grow one inch. Cacti aren't in a hurry, and I like that about them. In honor of the noble saguaro, I decided to dress up as a cactus for Halloween this year.

However, this idea only came to me about a week before Halloween, so unfortunately, I did have to hurry to make this. But I'm happy with the results. It's a very comfortable costume to wear, especially on a chilly night, because it has long sleeves and a hood. Also, you've even got a front pocket for storing your money and whatnot.

Step 1: Supplies

  • Green sweatshirt
  • Off-white elastic ruffles
  • Off-white thread
  • Off-white matte ribbon, about 1" wide
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing needle
  • Dressform (optional)
  • Sketches of your grand plans (optional)

As you can see, I had planned to make more elaborate flowers. I had even dreamed of sewing a little stuffed Gila woodpecker companion, to sit on my shoulder or on my head. They are commonly found nesting in the holes of saguaro cacti, so I thought it would be a nice touch.

Step 2: Pin Ruffles on Hood and Body

Saguaro cacti have vertical ridges, so I used ruffles to simulate the look.

Wearing the green sweatshirt with the hood up, I began pinning the ruffles on the top of the hood, starting on the front right and working all the way down the hood and the right front of the sweatshirt. I wanted to plan ruffle placement and spacing with the sweatshirt on so I could get a better sense of how it would actually look. It's a bit challenging to pin straight-ish lines of ruffles on a garment you are currently wearing, so if you're having trouble, enlist the help of a friend.

After I pinned the right side hood and front, I took off the sweatshirt and mirrored the same ruffle spacing on the left side. The job went more quickly when the sweatshirt was flat on an ironing board.

Step 3: Sew, Sew, Sew

You can use a sewing machine to sew a few parts of this costume, but I ended up sewing nearly the entire thing by hand. I alternated between a really basic straight stitch and a back stitch.

Be especially cognizant of the front pocket. If you're like me, you don't want to carry around a bag all night on Halloween, so take advantage of the built-in pocket and make sure you don't sew the top layer of the pocket to the bottom layer.

At a certain point, someone pointed out to me that my thread was pretty thick. You don't need thick thread for this project! It just slows down the sewing process.

Step 4: Pin the Arms

Now that the hood and body were fully (or mostly) sewn on, it was time to work on the arms.

I found it really helpful to use a dress form for this part. After I finished the right arm, I could quickly hold it up for comparison when pinning the left arm.

At this point you might be a little tired of pinning. A beverage of your choice and some awesome companions can help make the somewhat tedious process a lot more fun. Pictured here are some of the other folks at the Pier 9 workshop who were working alongside me to get their costumes completed. Making Halloween costumes with other people is a lot of fun!

Step 5: Sew Some More

Finish sewing those cactus ridges on the arms, and you're almost done sewing. Almost.

Step 6: Make Saguaro Blossoms

For those dressing as a saguaro cactus, you either want to add accents of red fruit or flowers. I chose flowers. As I mentioned in Step 1, I had grand plans for creating a very realistic-looking flower, with pistels and stamens. But in the interest of time, I scaled back my design to a simple gathered ribbon flower.

Gather together the ribbon in a way that looks appealing and stab the needle and thread through it, sewing through the base a few different ways to make sure the design stays put. Saguaros bloom on the ends of their branches, so, sew the flower onto the top of the hood. I thought three was a good number, but you could probably do a few more — and even some on the wrists of the sweatshirt.

Step 7: Woodpecker Fail

This is how far I got with the stuffed Gila woodpecker. I began working on it in the early evening on Halloween. After making a small amount of headway, I finally decided that, given the late hour and the fact that I had never sewn a 3-dimensional plush animal, my smartest move was probably to abandon the bird idea.

Still, it would have been awesome!

Step 8: Have a Prickly Good Time

Go out and have a blast! The costume works pretty well on the dance floor, because you can hold up your arms in a dance-y way and you'll be staying true to cactus form.

Riding home on the subway, I looked around and saw lots of drunken, tired people wearing uncomfortable-looking heels, costumes, and face paint. I, on the other hand, was still feeling great in my costume, which, when all is said and done, is just a sweatshirt with a few small things sewn on it. It's fun, simple, and very wearable.

Halloween Costume Contest

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