The Great Pumpkin Halloween Costume




About: I Build Monsters.

The thing about The Great Pumpkin is that, in the original story, he never shows up.  So you don't know what he looks like.  Which means, of course, that I can interpret The Great Pumpkin however I want!

That's what made me decide to build a Great Pumpkin costume this year: no limits!

It should be noted that I don't embark on these projects with a really specific plan.  I make stuff up as I go along, so I don't have real patterns to follow.  These are descriptions of my efforts, and I hope they give you all some interesting ideas for costumes that might interest you!  Here's a list of some of the stuff I used to make this costume:

Lots of thrift clothing, cut up for patchwork
Two spools of button thread
About seven bunches of embroidery thread
Leather scraps (from a Crate & Barrel sample book)
Fake leaves (some purchased from a craft store, most from a couple of  "autumn garlands" found at a thrift shop)
Three or four yards of fabric with patterns that I liked.
One black satin sheet
One sheer orange curtain
One pair of black corduroy pants
One pair of gloves
Polyester fiberfill
Some sticks
One spool of wide orange ribbon
One fuzzy orange blanket from Bed Bath & Beyond, on clearance
One yard of fun fur
Brass eyelets
Copper napkin rings
One kimono and obi
Long-sleeved green thermal shirt


I don't have a sewing machine.  I don't even know how to use one.  So everything I have done here is done by hand.
This is neither a boast nor a complaint, just a statement of fact.  What I'm getting at is: YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW HOW TO SEW IN ORDER TO MAKE THIS OR ANY OF MY OTHER COSTUMES!
I create a pattern through eyeballing, and rough estimation.  If I need to be more careful, I sketch out a shape on newsprint to get it close to what I want.  I build a costume with a liberal use of stick pins and strong button thread.  If you know how to sew, this should be a breeze!  But if you don't, oh well!  Don't worry about it!  You don't need it!


Step 1: The Mask

The mask is where I started.  Once I decided that I was going to interpret The Great Pumpkin, my first notion was that it should fall somewhere in the spectrum between "European Royalty" and "Norse God".  So I doodled up a simple mask design - really more of a shape, than a design - and got to work.  

I wanted the face to look like a Jack O'Lantern, but for the top to branch off into something like horns, or a crown, or antlers.  Somewhere between vegetable and animal.

I've gone into lots of detail about my papier-mache masks before, so I won't clutter up this instructable with that stuff.  You can read all about it in my other publications.  The main difference here is that I didn't make a full, over-the-head "helmet" style mask, it's just a flat one.  Everything else - from the mache recipe, the sculpting methods, all of it - is just the same as my previous masks.

Where this mask differs from all my previous attempts is in how the mask is worn.  Last year's Joker mask was my first "face" mask, as opposed to a "helmet" mask, and it was just worn with ribbon ties.  The Great Pumpkin mask, though, is too wide and flat for that, and required something new.

My solution was the "crown".  I bent a length of coat hanger into a circle that rested more-or-less comfortably on my head, added an arch over the top to keep it secure, then wrapped the whole thing in velvet to make it soft.  Some fake leaves helped make it cool.
So then I ran the ribbon ties through the mask and tied them directly to the crown.  This way, the mask hung in front of my face, resting on the bridge of my nose (I glued some felt to the back to eliminate chafing).  It actually turned out far cooler than I had imagined, because this mechanism enabled the mask to move more freely when I turn my had, gently rocking or swaying and looking generally spooky.

Step 2: Royal Robes

The "Royal Pumpkin Robes" were the most time-consuming part of the whole process.  As with last year's Impressionist Joker Costume, I went the route of creating a patchwork out of thrift store clothing, scraps, remnants, and fabric purchased on sale.

Probably the best score I made on that front was a set of black satin sheets that I found at a thrift store for three bucks, and I was able to use the flat sheet as the ENTIRE lining for my robes.  Since I found the lining right away, I just used that as my pattern; I cut up cloth and stitched it back together again, making a black and orange patchwork large enough to cover the sheet.
Initially I just bought a bunch of appropriately-colored cheap thrift clothing: a couple of orange velvet jackets, a black skirt, a few ties, that sort of thing.  All in all I only purchased three yards of cloth from the fabric store to incorporate into the patchwork, the rest was used clothing.
I don't have a sewing machine.  The entire process here was taking chunks of cloth, pinning them together, then stitching them with button thread.  I didn't even pay much attention to what I was doing until it got big enough to approach the edges of the satin lining, since there was no pattern to work with.

Once I had a very large piece of patchwork, I laid it out on top of the satin sheet and figured out what orientation I wanted, then began the only detailed work that was needed for this step.  I pinned down the patchwork, and started to lay out the remaining scraps to cover the sheet, pinning everything in place, then finished hand stitching the patchwork.

For decoration, I used three colors of embroidery thread (bright orange, dark orange, burnt orange and black) to make big, gaudy stitches over most of the seams. This created a nice, rustic, creepy effect for the whole piece.

Now that I had the main fabric portion of the robe, I needed to shape it into something wearable.  This required the Ultimate Sacrifice.
I took my favorite brown corduroy jacket and built the robe around it.  I pinned the robe around the front and sides, which left a massive loose portion in back.  This part I hand-gathered and pinned into place, to create a nice, rippled, flowing cape.  Once this was all stitched in, I began to apply the tatters.
The tatters were made from two main ingredients.  First was a sheer orange curtain that I found at a thrift shop and cut into wide strips.  Second was a yard of black burlap, also cut into strips.  I pinned them into place, then got my boyfriend to model it while I walked around and decided what to leave and what to move around.  Once I was satisfied with the dispersement of the tatters, I sewed them down.

Step 3: Fur Collar

For the collar, I used two ingredients.  I bought a yard of sort-of-burgundy fun-fur at the fabric store, and a cheap orange fuzzy blanket that was on clearance at Bed Bath & Beyond.

As usual, I just made up the pattern.  I grabbed some large pieces of newsprint and tried out various shapes that approximated what I wanted for the collar.   This is not an exact process for me, I just make it up as I go along.
Once I was reasonably satisfied with the shape, I used the newsprint as a pattern to cut out pieces from both sets of cloth, and sewed them together by hand.  I used the burgundy for the main part of the collar, and the orange blanket as a lining.
I stitched it down securely around the collar, but aside from that I only anchored it at the edge of each shoulder.  At this point I had not decided whether or not I would be putting in shoulder pads or anything else, so I wanted to keep my options open and not nail down the collar too specifically.

The only decoration I added to the collar was the sequins.  Since those fur collars on royal robes typically (at least in paintings) have those black bits because they're speckled with mink-tails or something, I wanted to do a similar process.  I found a lady's handbag at the thrift store, and it was covered in round and oval brown sequins.  So I tore it apart, and strung the sequins on thread with beads, making little brown shiny dangles, which I stitched here and there into the collar.

Step 4: Shoulder Nonsense

So, I bounced back and forth with a few different ideas here, but my basic plan was that I wanted to blur the line between animal and vegetable by having some kind of branchy growths protruding from my shoulders.  It took some trial and error to make this work.

Ultimately, what I did was this.  I made some large shoulder pads out of canvas and stuffed them with polyester fiberfill.  I cut a hole in the top and bottom of each pad and sewed in more canvas, essentially making two little canvas pillows with two or three-inch wide tubes running through them.  I sewed these pads onto the top of the jacket, beneath the fur collar, with the holes hanging off the back.
I took two sleeves (from two of the thrift store jackets I'd used in the patchwork) and ran them through the holes, cut slits in the fur collar and pulled them out so they protruded.  So, I have sleeves sticking out of the collar, which run down THROUGH the shoulder pads and hang out the bottom, completely obscured by the cape and collar.  I stitched the sleeves to the shoulder pads and to the fur collar.
Then I just used sticks, straw, and fake leaves to make a pair of branchy bundles, which I decorated with scraps of cloth.  One end of each bundle was securely fastened with duct tape so they wouldn't come unraveled.
These bundles could then be simply slipped into the sleeves and rammed down through the shoulder pads, which kept them secure.  They are easy to remove for storage.

Step 5: Fibrous Fingers!

One of the most effective accessories for this costume was the pair of gloves.

You can do this with any pair of gloves, I imagine.   I just used some gloves I had that were falling apart anyway.

First, cut off the fingers and sew them to prevent unravelling.
Then, I fashioned some fake finger extensions out of canvas... again, no pattern.  Just eyeball it, doesn't matter.  These are going to be fibrous, vegetable fingers so they don't need to be even.

Once the fingers are sewn in, the transformation begins!  Trail some hot glue along the fingers and press a handful of polyester fiberfill onto them.  Pull it off.  Pick off the excess.  Add more if you want.  Glue down anything that sticks up too much.
Basically, you're just creating a texture here, and once you're satisfied, paint it!  I don't bother using a brush for this part, just mash it in with the fingertips.  I use a basic green, then streak it with brown and black, a bit stripey, like stems.
I used the same fur combination to make large cuffs for the gloves and sew them to the wrists.  Then I picked some bits of dried grass and sewed them here and there, and added a fake leaf or two.  Nothing major, just to keep the "plant-or-animal" theme going.

Step 6: Pumpkin Clasp

With the cape being unbelievably heavy, I knew I would need some way to fasten it securely so it wouldn't fall off.

The first, and most important, part of this was the ribbon tie, but it's just not that cool.
I just pounded a couple of large grommets into each side of the collar so I could lace a long piece of orange ribbon through it.  This was quite effective, but it needed a little something extra.
At a local thrift shop I found this collection of pumpkin-shaped copper napkin rings.  I ripped off the rings and epoxied a couple of the pumpkins together, back to back.  Their asymmetrical shape meant that there was a quarter inch of unused space on each side, so I filled the space with glue, and painted it black and gold.

Originally I made two of these, with wire loops embedded in the glue so I could have some way of attaching them to the suit.  Ultimately, though, I did not like the way they hung, so I only used one of them.  I stitched one side to the collar, and sewed a small leather loop to the other side, so I just used one copper pumpkin clasp.  It was more decorative than useful, and probably nobody even noticed it was there.  But I like it.

Step 7: Torso!

I spent so long on the Royal Pumpkin Robes that once I was finished, it almost came as a surprise that I had no idea what I was going to wear under them.

But I quickly formulated a plan.

While shopping for cloth to use in the patchwork, I had purchased an obi from a second hand shop (it's what you use to tie a kimono).  It was a lovely orange obi with brown stripes, which I'd thought I might use as a border or something in the early planning stages of the robes.  But I never used it.
Instead, I went back to the same thrift shop and found a simple black kimono, which turned out to be exactly what I needed.  It looked a bit regal, a bit odd, and went well with the robes.  Also, the kimono sleeves aren't that long, and I needed something with short sleeves.
Because I was going to be utilizing long sleeves underneath.

I bought a thrift store thermal undershirt in bright green, and I gave the sleeves the same treatment as I had given the fingers of my gloves.  I streaked them with polyester fiberfill, painted them with the same color palette, to imply that my arms were also stems.  I decorated them with a few leaves and some bits of vine to complete the effect.  

This way, I have these big stem arms extending into the gloves, and green vegetable fingers coming out the ends!

Step 8: These Boots Are Made for Walkin'!

Shoes are expensive.  Ideally, I would have loved to get some sort of crazy boot or something to go with this costume, but that would have been beyond my means.  Instead, I concocted a plan to make boot-shams, which would imply the cool boots without my having to actually purchase them.

I tool an old pair of black corduroy pants and cut off the legs at the knees.  Then I cut a strip out of each side and sunk in a row of brass eyelets all the way down.  I used more of the same fur to decorate the tops of them.  To fasten them at the top, I sewed a button on one side and an elastic hair-tie on the other, then laced them up!
Using the same corduroy, I fashioned some spats (without a pattern).  I sewed on some leather straps (brown on one the left spat, black on the right) with velcro fasteners.  I glued a leather toe shape on each side, just for looks, and added a couple of rows of useless eyelets to the spats as well, to help tie them in with the leggings.

I used leather cause I had it on hand (I found a giant pile of leather samples from Crate & Barrel in an alley a few weeks earlier).  You could use anything, really.

With these boot-shams, I was able to wear my regular work boots, and still give the impression that I was wearing something much fancier.

Step 9: Amaze Your Friends

And now you're ready to go!  The addition of a staff (just a big branch, decorated with more of the cloth and leather scraps I was already using) was a nice last-minute accessory, and helped me to develop the character's walk, but it's not necessary.
It also helps to have long, crazy hair in real life.



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    36 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I'm making a version of this right now. I of course will have variations, but I love the concept!

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    That's great to hear! I want to see pictures of your version!


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thank you! For the first time in years I will not be able to make a new costume for this Halloween, so I am making a few alterations to this one and wearing it again!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    How did you get the mouth all crackly near the edges? just cut out slits from the paper mache before priming and finishing?

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Nope! It's actually NOT crackly at all, just painted to look that way! Simple painted crack-lines, highlighted at the edges, worked out just fine!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! It's surprisingly effective, even up close! I really need to find a good excuse to wear this costume a second time. It was really involved but turned out so great that it seems a real shame to only take it out on the town the once.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    That's friggin amazing. Looks great...but I think that if Linus had seen that rising out of the pumpkin patch...pretty sure he would've had a heart attack.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! And that was the plan. I was really hoping to find some kid dressed as Linus so I could terrify him, but I don't think kids dress as Peanuts characters anymore!


    8 years ago on Step 9

    That might be THE coolest Halloween costume ever...original, handmade, beautiful/scary...awesome! Great imagination and great work. Well done.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 9

    Thank you! I am unbelievably proud of this one. I just wish there were more excuses to wear it! You can bet I'll be busting it out at least a couple of times this fall.

    Dragon Maze

    8 years ago on Introduction

    I will never be able to hear about The Great Pumpkin and NOT think only of your interpretation. You totally made TGP your own. (wish I had seen this instructable back in October. :P

    1 reply