For me, this costume has been a couple of years in the making - in my mind. In actual making, about a month and a half.
I'm a big fan of the book; 'Where the Wild Things are'. It was one of the books that I really looked forward to reading to my son, and as a result he's been hearing it since before he was old enough to really have a concept of being scared of the Wild Things.
I made him a Max Costume(book accurate) for his first experience of the New York Village Halloween Parade when he was one and a half. That was good, although most people didn't get what he was, but I really wanted a bunch of Wild Things to go with him. It wasn't until this year that I found the impetus to get on and make one, because the movie came out, and two of my friends also took the undertaking to make KW and Alexander Costumes.
This Carol Costume is intended to be as close to the movie version as possible without spending a ridiculous amount of money on things like real hair, custom dyed feathers and animatronics. To that end, there are still a number of improvements that I plan to make, and I'll deal with those in the last step.
A lot of the lessons here could be applied to making other 'Mascot' style costumes and 'Walk-around' puppets - I know from my own searches before starting that there are not many decent instructions for that sort of thing on the Internet, so hopefully this will be of use.
Step 1: Build a Mannequin
It's possible that you could do without this, but I found it a big help and it's reusable for all kinds of future projects. This is basically a Duct tape mannequin - you can find more detailed Instructables about this:
1. Get some old clothes and a TON of duct tape. You can get duct tape at a Dollar store, but the rolls end up being very short and you'll have to buy more of them. I haven't priced this out, but it might be better to go with genuine Duct Tape brand tape.
2. Put on the clothes and make sure you're all covered, ankle to wrist to neck. You can use socks to cover your arms and I wrapped a plastic bag round my neck - you just need to make sure that there is no skin exposed.
3. Have a friend or helpful passer-by wrap you all over in duct tape, leaving no gaps. It's going to be pretty tight. which is good; that will happen naturally because of how hard the duct tape is stuck to the roll. Then using EXTREME care and pair of scissors, cut you out of it. You'll be somewhat vulverable when entirely wrapped, so it might be best to ask someone you trust.
4. Tape back over the cuts and you have an exact replica of yourself. I made a rough skeleton out of 2x4 lumber to go inside and then stuffed all round it with old paper, rags, etc. I also made mine in two halves for some reason, although that's not been useful yet.
4a. Without wanting to get sidetracked into too much detail about this, I'll briefly describe the frame - all made of 2x4s. The lower half is one piece the width of my waist and two uprights screwed on to lift it to my waist height. The uprights have large holes drilled into them. There is a base, which is just a flat piece of wood with two carriage bolts pointing straight up. The carriage bolts insert into the holed in the leg uprights so the mannequin can stand vertical. The upper body has one piece the width of my shoulders and another the width of my waist. There are uprights screwed on to hold these the right distance apart, and the upper body attaches to the lower using more carriage bolts into drilled holes. The stuffing in the manekin then needs to be adjusted to get the posture right.
5. Go on, give your replica you a big hug. It feels weird.
Step 2: OK, Lets Get This Out There...
You will need:
Faux Fur - (~2.5 yds body color 4" pile, 0.5yd face color 1" pile, 1.5yd black 4" pile) These are very approximate measurements, you really need to feel it out yourself.Expect to pay around $20/yd for fur.
Foam - I happened to have 2 twin-bed sized sheets of 2" mattress foam, and one block of 4"x8"x10" foam, and that was enough. I got those a couple of years ago from an economy foam store, but I think they would be more expensive these days. My friends who were making the Alexander and KW Wild Things bought 1" foam sheet from a fabric store for about $10/yd - 4-5 yds are needed. The 2" foam was good in a lot of ways - it holds it's shape and gives a weighty appearance that looks very natural. On the other hand, it's somewhat unyielding and it's obviously twice as heavy.
Feathers - I think the actual Movie Carol has custom cut and dyed turkey feathers. I got a pound of raw pigeon feathers for $30 and used about half. My attitude was that people might remember that Carol has feathered legs, but wouldn't remember what they looked like.
Chicken Wire - Most hardware stores will sell this - I got about 6'
Newspaper - for papier mache
Child's hula hoops or 1/2" PVC plumbing pipe - for the head frame any structural support needed in the body.
Florist's wire - for holding pipes, hula hoops, wire etc. together. Any wire that you can easily bend with pliers will do the trick
Papier Mache paste - I used a 5 to 1 mix of water to flour, but watered down Elmer's might be better.
Hot Glue Gun and tons of Glue - I had a mini glue gun, and on this costume I used almost 175 glue sticks. You'll see why later.
Embroidery thread - or any thick, strong thread. This is for sewing the foam, so it needs to be thickish so as to not rip the foam.
Acrylic Paints - selection for painting the eyes and nose, lips. Also acrylic spray paint in brown and black.
1" PVC pipe and elbows + 3/4" dowels - for the frame to hold up the head
Long coat zipper
Leather work gloves
Old shoes - probably. I build some old shoes into the costume feet, but you could do this differently
Liquid latex - Jury's out on this one. I'll discuss later.
Deli plastic salad bowls - 2
Step 3: Prototype
I'm mostly mentioning this because I have photos of it, but prototyping can really help in visualizing how you're going to build the final costume.
In this case, an action figure stands in for the mannequin, plastic coffee stirrers for structural pipes and craft foam for the body foam and papier mache head. Part of the problem with this costume was having only just enough of some expensive materials - I just couldn't make a big mistake with cutting anything or it could potentially have cost a lot more money. Getting a feel for the way things worked beforehand was worthwhile.
Also, I took the traced outline of a photo of the mannequin and overlayed it on an outline of the Carol action figure. This picture was then a reference for rough proportions.
Step 4: Legs
This was a good positive way to jump into doing something with minimal risk. From the proportion reference, I figured the legs would reach my knees and I estimated the thickness vs the mannquin legs.
I was originally planning to just hot-glue these into cylinders, but it quickly became clear that they would need to be sewed and that would be true of most of the main foam joins in the costume.
Sewing foam, you need an large upholstry or carpet needle; not too fat. Thread needs to be thick and strong so as not to snap or rip the foam; embroidery thread is ideal. Try to give >0.5" border to avoind ripping through the edge. Also, when you're pulling the thread through, pull it straight. If it's looped around, the thread acts like a wire saw and will cut the foam a little bit.
I'm not that good at sewing and you don't need to go overboard or have any fancy stitches. Just loop it round and round and try to keep it tight as you go along.
Step 5: Roughing the Body Shape
The body is made from two rectangles; a left and a right. They join at the front sewed and I used a coat zipper (i.e. long, strong and coming fully apart) in the back so that I could get in and out.
The rectangles are obviously identical. One dimension is the length from knee to shoulder and the other is got by wrapping the foam around the mannequin and estimating - It's always better to have to much in this case. The body can be imagined as an upright egg shape - with the belly part as the widest circumference. When you cut it this first time, you need to be thinking about the two body halves making a cylinder with that circumference.
This is where the mannequin is really useful, you can wrap the foam around it and make just enough stiches in the foam to hold it in that cyclinder. Now you can start to shape it. Round the belly needs to be the widest bit, but it going to taper at the top and bottom and you can see how much by pulling the edges together and tacking it in place until you're happy with the shape.
Don't do this until you're pretty sure, but you're going to want to cut a dart out of the top and bottom on the front and back. Also to think about is that Carol has quite a butt, so if you imagine the dart coming quite low in the back and then sweeping out, that will give the desired effect.
Foam is pretty forgiving, it will bend and curve to cope with the darts unless you're cutting very sharp angles.
At this point I also cut the arm holes and a couple of darts under there too. This is harder to be sure of and in the end I just went for it. If you're worried, cut small. You can always enlarge, but you can't put foam back easily.
A note on the zipper. I've done a couple of costumes with zippers and it always makes them feel weirdly professional. Zippers are actually very easy to do, especially coat zippers that come totally into two halves. Just make sure that the halves will meet up right and sew them onto the back edges starting at the top. At the bottom (where they should still be the same height) cut a little semi-circle scoop into each side. This will give you a little extra flex and make it easier to get the two halves together to zip them up.
Step 6: Body Support Structure
Using thicker foam for the body probably means that I needed less structural support, but it did tend to come to a point where the sewed join was, so I attached a couple of short bits of bamboo or pipe across the join. You can see in some of the pictures that this pinches the foam in at certain points, but that won't matter once the fur is on.
Major structue comes from a loop of PVC pipe around the top and bottom of the body. This was just sewed in with a looping stitch around the pipe and at a couple of points around the loop it's worth getting some pliers and pushing a stitch through the pipe to make sure that it doesn't slip sideways.
I worked out later that the front of the body came up too high, so I cut a big wedge out of the front, moved the pipe down and resewed it. This also pulled the front of the body in a little bit which seems to be consistant with what I've seen in pictures of similar costumes with the heads off - some of the big muppets for instance.
Step 7: Arms and Hands
Arms and hands were entirely made of foam with leather gloves glued in at the hands. If you were using a thinner foam in this case you might want to have a double thickness at the hands, but don't glue it in at first. The intent in cutting the arms was to have enough foam to cover the outside of my arm, with the inside just being covered by fur. I cut it so that it would hang to slightly lower than I estimated the end of Carol's hands to come (from the perspective guide again). Since I wanted the hands to work, and be useable for picking things up, I was planning on having the foam extend a couple of inches beyond the end of my hand, but have the fingers and pad of my hand be mostly clear. On the originally cut of the foam, which also had to take into account how much was left, was wider towards the hands to allow for a monstrous spread of the fingers later. Later test wearing of the costume showed that the arms bent sort of weirdly, so I cut a triangle out of each with a point at the elbow, which let them bend forwards (like arms do).
If you had exact measurements of this, you could do the arms and hand before attaching them. As it is, it's possible that you could tack the arms in place and work out where the hands should be, then remove the arms and work on them separately. I didn't do that, and it can be difficult sometimes to work on the hands while they're attached to the body.
My mannequin doesn't have hands, so at this point I had to take the body off and try it on. Wearing the gloves, put your arms into the 'sleaves' and mark on the foam where the hands should be. Or you can put a bit of hot glue to temporarily stick the gloves in place - a word of warning though, the glue is very hot and it will hurt through the gloves.
Then you want to cut the foam in between the fingers, so it's a good idea to have marked/glued the gloves with the fingers spread out. You want to have the foam fingers be just over 0.25" wider than the glove fingers wherever possible and a few inches longer - however long you imagine finger extensions and claws being, there're all going to be cut from this foam. Using an X-acto knife, carefully cut out an indented glove shape into the foam so that the glove will end up actually set into the foam. When your hand is in the glove it should be completely inside the level of the foam, so you'll be digging into foam as deep as your fingers are thick. Then glue the gloves into the space that you've just cut out. For the fingers, the best way I found to do this is to put your hand in the glove, squeeze hot glue around the finger and then with your other hand squeeze the foam around you gloved finger. As before, this will hurt, but it probably won't actually burn you. Just be careful.
If you were using the thinner foam at this stage, you don't need to do the digging out of foam with the X-acto knife. Probably you could just, having cut the first piece of foam into the shape of the monster hand, cut another piece the same size and cut a glove shaped hole right out of it. Then glue the second layer and the glove on together.
The next step is to cut the fingers and claws out of the foam, but I'll come back to those in the step about horns and claws..
Step 8: Feet
Carol's feet are huge. I decided to build full feet that had my shoes inside them and have some kind of a sole. The Sole is made from some hallway mat, since that is tough. In retrospect it might be better to use something like a car floor mat with rubber. As you can see from the pictures, the feet are made from an upper that wraps over, a rectangle of inside padding, and a strip that wraps round the back. The shoe is sort of wedged in and the tongue is sewed to the front of the inside of the foot so that you can slide your foot in with no hands. The sole is sewed on round the edge and that helps to pull the upper round to start to look like Carols feet do. Once you have the basic shape, you can cut bits out around the edge to get the shape right, you just need to resew the edges. Since the sewing around the edge was so important to it not falling apart, I squeezed a layer of rubber bath sealant around the edge over the stitches. The foot part is is then glued onto the legs, but they'll be attached more securely later.
Step 9: The Head
The head is a big job. It's basically a frame of pvc pipe and chicken wire covered in papier mache. I actaully based the major dimensions of the head on a hula hoop. 2 hula hoops or pvc pipe in the same size lashed together with wire at right-ish angles and then two extra bits of pipe lashed on to support the back of the head - see the pictures below. Chicken wire is then clipped to the right shape and lashed onto the fram with twine. In the pictures, as noted, the chicken wire covers the head from the back of the neck to the top lip. There's some basic shaping done on the face portion, but the nose and brow will be added in as sculpted foam later. Chicken wire is not easy to work with, it's sharp and it springs and it's dirty. That's why I find it easier to cut it into smaller bits and attach them together. If you do get scratched, disinfect thoroughly. Maybe consider a tetanus shot?
Now to cover the whole thing in paper. I'm sure there are other papier mache instructables so I'll just cover this basically. Get lots of newspaper and tear it into strips. You can make a paste out a mix of 1part flour to 5 parts water brought to the boil stirring constantly. Also add lots of salt to stop it from going off. Let it cool and you can start to cover the head. You're also going to need a lot of paste - probably more than a gallon. don't be too worried about putting too much paper on, it shouldn't increase the weight of the head too much and more is better. Equally, you can get away with as little as 2 layers (1 inside, 1 outside) in most places.
When you're papering, try to do the inside and the outside together. Paper will stick to itself, but not to the wire so well. Dip two strips of paper in the paste, smooth off the excess and then lay them against each other on the inside and outside. It doesn't need to be exact, but smooth the paper round any bumps and features.
My suggestion is to fully paper the face and then cut the eyes out later to be sure they are in the right place. Cut through the paper with a knife and then snip the wires with wire clippers
Step 10: Head Support Structure
The head is not hugely heavy, but you need a solid way to support it. The way I did it was with a backpack that contained a frame of PVC pipes. The frame holds two wooden dowels that stick out the top and the head rests on them. For extra security, the dowels attach into two more 'T' shape PVC pieces that are set into the head.
Incidentally the backpack is also used to support the body when it is being worn. Inside the body at about Carol's kidney height, I attached two loops of baggage strap that attached to the shoulder loops of the bag. They were adjusted to be the right length based on keeping the body where my arms and legs would fit in the right place.
The frame inside the backpack is cut to fit very tightly in there, so it's not glued or anything. When putting the costume on, you need a helper to insert the dowels and help maneuver the head into place. The seat where the dowels attach to the head is sewed in so it can't be shifted and the T pieces are threaded so the dowel can be screwed into them and will stay in place, after that, the head can move around a bit, and it can turn because there's some flex in the frame, but it won't come off.
Step 11: Horns and Claws (and the Nose)
All the horns and claws are made the same way; from offcuts of the foam sheet. The large horns on the head are made from the darts cut out of the body at the body front and back. I glued a double thickness of foam in the rough triangle shape of the horns. Then it's just a question of carving the right shape in detail. Soft foam rubber like this is not easy to carve because it moves around. The best way I've found is using very sharp scissors to take off smaller and smaller slivers of foam. Any cut around the edge produces a slightly concave channel with two raised ridges. You can keep cutting off those ridges until you get something close to smooth. Also the horns and claws are supposed to look a bit ragged, so a couple of ridges left are OK.
Do the feet claws next, because you really want to be confident before doing the hand claws - they are part of the fingers and it's harder to start over. Also the nose needs to be neater, so it might be worth leaving that. The nose is the same principle, but cut out of a large block of foam. Use an X-acto knife, or some other very sharp knife to cut the rough shape and then refine it with the scissors.
For the nose and large horns more than the other claws I found it helpful to think about the 2D cross section that the 3D objects make on each axis. For example the horn curves to one side for the front view, tapers symmetrically on the side view and is an oval from the bottom view.
I was originally planning to paint all the foam parts with liquid latex, and keep layering it until it was smooth. In principle that's not a bad idea, if you have access to a huge amount of liquid latex. I didn't. The problem is that liquid latex is a lot runnier than I thought it would be, so it soaks into the foam a lot on the first coat. Also it's really not easy to paint on, because it gums up a paint brush. I still think it's good for the nose, since that does want to be smooth, but expect to put on multiple coats and for this to be a huge pain. Also don't do what I did and try to paint it while it's stuck on the face. Elmer's /PVA glue might also do for under coats and save the latex for later coats.
For the horns and claws, once I realized I was not going to have enough latex, I came up with another solution; hot glue. This is also why I used a lot of hot glue, however hot glue is much cheaper than latex and it drys hard and shiny, which is really good for claws. What you do is this: working methodically around the horn or claw to the right (or left if you're left handed) run a bead of glue from top to bottom. Then using the nozzle of the glue gun, spread it out flat. The next row goes right next to it and you smooth that so that there are no gaps. Continue until the whole thing is covered. I started out gluing and then trying to spread the glue with a knife, but the nozzle works better because it is hot and the glue doesn't stick to it. If you have access to a hot knife, that might work too. Once they're covered, they'll immediately be dry and you can spray paint them black. The finished effect is really good. They look hard and shiny, but they have a bit of give that reduces the risk of them snapping off.
Finally, attach them. I glued them in place and sewed round the edge to be sure they would stay. At this point we can also fur the feet - cut it to shape and glue it on. Fur is pretty forgiving at the edges, so don't worry too much, just cut it and stick it with any edges as close as possible. Do, however, pay attention to the nap of the fur - which way the fibers lie. In the feet the fibers should point down and towards the claws. Cut out holes in the fur for the claws to poke through and glue it round the edge. I did the feet in the same cream fur used for the face and then spray painted it brown and black. Acrylic craft spray paint will stick to fake fur (because it's essentially plastic) and not gum it up too much. Comb it gently through once it's dried and while it won't feel as fluffy any more, it still looks like fur - maybe a little more matted, which is no bad thing.
Step 12: Eyes
I have to say, the eyes are one of the things I'm most proud of. I'd consider them worthy of an instructable of there own if I had any illusion that anyone was looking for ways to make giant glass eyes. The idea for these is something I vaguely thought I'd heard somewhere; that glass eyes are painted on the inside, so that the outside stays smooth and shiny and the features of the eyeball seem to be inside it, like a real eye. After failing to find a clear plastic sphere bowl anywhere that didn't cost a fortune, I tried two deli salad bowls.
You can see something similar in all kinds of takeouts or catering businesses. I just got the only kind I could find. This very thin plastic, so it can be melted and remoulded at fairly low temperatures. It will get soft in boiling water. I got pretty close to the right shape by having a pan of water boiling and, wearing oven mitts, using a measuring cup to push the ridges out of it against the bottom of the pan while turning it. You do have to keep on top of it, because it tends to buckle once it gets to melting temp. The good news is that unless you put a hole in it, you can always remelt it and try a again.
In the end I got better results from putting it in the oven with a round bottomed metal mixing bowl. Watching through the glass for when it start to look melty, I'd snatch it out and smooth the platic over the top of the bowl with oven mitts. Repeated until it was fully smooth round the surface. This is not actually perfectly spherical, but it was rounded and smooth, which is close enough. I was worried that the plastic would stick to the bowl, but it never really gets that hot. Running a knife under the edge just makes it pop off.
Paint on the inside of the eye, you don't need to worry about anything except getting good coverage. If you paint the pupil and white first you can let them dry and it's very easy to paint the iris. I used a CD to get a circle for the white. Once the pupil and white are dry, you don't even need to worry about painting over them because it won't be seen from the front. I put a couple of streaks of gold and green - very light - through the iris first, then covered the whole thing in very dark brown.
Step 13: Lips and Lower Jaw
The lower jaw is just another piece of PVC pipe, taken round inside and held in place with twists of florist wire. I wanted to have it so that the mouth could move, so it's only attached at the back.
Carol's lips are not really fleshy, but they are rounded. I just took a strip of foam (not much left at this point) and sliced into it all the way along one side down to about half way through. Slot that onto the PVC pipe of both lips and sew it into place. This is also going to want to be carved rounded and painted with several coats of latex. They are sort of a purpley red color, so paint them with acrylic paint. One word of warning though, some of these colors, especially kids paints, seem to show up really bright in camera flash, Carol's nose and lips are much redder under flash photography than I intended.
Step 14: Legs and Feathers.
Feathers, especially loose feathers, are a bit daunting. At least, they were to me. I'd bought a pound of pigeon feathers and I really put off till the last minute dealing with them. Feathers seem to mostly be sold 'strung' and that is probably the best way to attach them in this case. By trial and error, I've got to a reasonably good method for stringing them with the caveat that in this case it's ok that the feathers are a bit straggly; they're supposed to be wild after all. I'm not sure this would be good if you wanted something neater.
I got 16 strips of fabric of about an inch thick and some strips of newspaper the same size. Taking the first strip, you lay down a short bead of glue and one by one, press the feathers onto it. The glue cools, so you can't do too long of a squirt. Once you reach the end of the glue, press some newpaper on top of it. You want to overlap the feathers slightly. Once the whole strip is finished you can sew a line parallel to the glue with a sewing machine - that really makes sure you won't lose feathers ( I lost feathers from strips where I didn't do that). BE CAREFUL, it is very easy to break a needle doing this - it may even just be impossible not to - I must have broken 5.
Once the feathers are all done, and I won't sugar-coat this it'll take a while, put them aside and make some 'skin' for the legs. This is any fabric that will cover the legs painted black (or black fabric, even better). I wanted any gaps in the feathers to show through black; for some reason I imagined Carol with black skin under the fur, like a polar bear. The fabric is wrapped round the legs to strengthen them, it attaches the feet securely and then sews onto the body, attaching the legs to the body securely, but with some give. With the thick foam I was using, Carol's body can stand up on it's own, although it was a bit unstable.
The feathers can then attach in loops around the legs, starting at the bottom. The first loop covers the edge of the fur on the feet, the second loop covers the fabric strip of the first loop and so on up the body. The final loop will be covered by the bottom of the body fur. I also sprayed each loop of feathers with some brown paint and they take it very well.
Step 15: Body Fur
Now that the body mostly stands up on it's own, it's time to take the plunge and cut that expensive fur. The fur is probably the single most expensive part of the costume, so be careful. Wherever possible, pin first, cut later. At some point, though, you're just going to have to do it. Be reassured that joins in fur look pretty good without any special skills. There's no pattern for monster body fur, so you have to work at it on the costume. This skill is called draping I think, and personally I'm only OK at it. Again, thankfully, the fur will hide many mistakes. I cut the fur into four pieces for the body; front left and right, back left and right.
I should note at this point - avoid cutting the fur with scissors. When you cut through, you'll cut lots of the fur fibers as well and they get EVERYWHERE. The best way I've found is to slice on the back with an x-acto knife. Only cut enough to get through the backing and then the fur should pull apart on the front. It's also oddly satisfying.
Then, by pinning and sewing, just keep working it until it looks right. I just attached it at the top and zipper and sewed the joins. Everything else is loose. Arms are done much the same way. It's basically a rectangle sewn into a tube. The fur is cut and glued onto the fingers in much the same way as the foam was. Trim it at the end so that the claws poke out.
Step 16: Face Fur and Features
Very much like the feet, there's not much specific instruction here, and in real life making this, I was running very short on time, so there are not many pictures. Just pay attention to where the fibers are going, cut pieces as big as possible and glue them in place. The nose and brow are also glued in place and I found that the eyes worked best by sewing them in. The plastic eyes are thin enough to sew through, and they didn't seem to glue very well.
Step 17: Finishing Up
Can't forget; stripes. These were sprayed on with acrylic spray paint. Spray painting fur is surprisingly easy, You do need to comb it different ways to make sure that the color gets through.
Now we have a head and a body and a way to put the head on, but there is a suspicious gap in between the two. For me making this I also had no more black fur and 1 hour left before we really had to leave. So let me briefly cover what I did to finish and then in the follow on steps cover what is next to fix the more hurried parts of the neck etc.
Using whatever was left, I managed to find enough black to fully cover the head, then used more of the cream face fur to put a skirt round the back that would hang down to the shoulders. At the back, this was attached with a couple of pieces of string to keep it in place. Then a very similar setup round the front from the lower jaw hanging down. Meanwhile, my wife cut some white triangles of craft foam for Carol's teeth. These we glued inside the top lip. And we're done.
Also see my friends' KW and Alexander Wild Things costumes on the orangeblob blog and in the pictures below.
Step 18: Next Steps, Improvements and Lessons
Big things that need doing:
More black fur and another zipper to properly attach the head to the body. The more I look at pictures of that, the more it bugs me.
Some repairs and improvements to the feathers
I need to paint the inside black and put something to cover the mouth. I didn't think how much a flash would light up the inside.
Repaint the nose and mouth plus some other tweaks to the face.
For all the things that I think need fixing, though, the costume was a huge hit in the parade. The body is just so big that I couldn't help but move like a huge monster. I think it's actually come out worse looking in the photos than it did in real life, but the photos have to be my reference for improving it.
Neither the costume, nor this Instructible is fully complete; there will be future updates to both...