Ever run into a costume project that requires one super bizarre shaped detail? Button? Armor piece? Gluing and pulling fabric over a shaped piece of EVA foam (craft foam) isn't a new practice in the costuming world, this is simply the way that has worked for me. The pieces I've made with this method have held up extremely well.
This simple technique is incredibly versatile for costume or practical applications. I've used vinyl/spandex over foam for: sword hilts, leather alternatives, costume armor, and obnoxiously shaped overlays on fabric costumes.
During this small tutorial I use my fabric covered foam pieces for a garment hem, when bias tape would very clearly not cut it!
Step 1: Prepare Your Materials!
For this process you will need the following items:
-3M Super 77 Spray Glue
-Hot glue (LOW TEMP) (you do not want to scald your fingers)
-Loctite's "Flexible Adhesive" (not pictured, see step 5)
-Paint Scraper (or other flat edged tool)
-Stretch Fabric (stretch vinyl, spandex, or 4 way stretch fabric)
-Foam (eva craft foam in a similar color to your fabric)
Both the contact cement and spray glue need to be used in a well ventilated area or outside! Please pay heed to all warning labels before working with these materials.
Prepare your foam and fabric overlay pieces. Allow for about 1/4" PLUS the thickness of your foam seam allowance for your fabric overlays.
Some notes about your foam pieces:
*Make sure the side of your foam in which you choose to display remains smooth, any indentations will show through the fabric/foam contacts.
*Also make sure your edges are sharp, I recommend cutting out your foam pieces with a fresh xacto knife or a sharp pair of scissors.
Step 2: Applying Glue
Applying your glue in two steps.
*Work in an area with a clean and probably disposable surface. I work on newspaper.
-Dip your paint scraper or other blunt tool into the glue. Get enough to spread a thin layer onto your foam piece. Make sure your glue is applied smooth and in as few strokes as possible. Smooth out any lumps or bumps, they will be visible when the fabric is applied.
-Apply a thin layer! Enough to tack down the fabric, but not enough to saturate it!
-Wait a few minutes or until the glue becomes less shiny, it is becoming more tacky at this point.
-Apply a small dusting of spray glue. Warning, this stuff with get EVERYWHERE. I advise you do this outside.
Step 3: Smooth Fabric Over Tacky Foam Surface.
Apply your stretch fabric over the very tacky surface. Smooth out any bubbles or lumps immediately and press down hard.
Allow to dry completely. Just to be safe, I let mine dry overnight or an entire 24hrs.
Step 4: Finish Your Piece!
1) After allowing the piece to dry appropriately, it's time to perforate the edges so you can glue the fabric to the backside. If you do this carefully, your piece will have a seamless display side!
Some notes about the fabric overlay perforating.
*When creating your fabric overlay make sure your overlap will clear the edges of your foam.
*Beware of corners and tight detail areas, make cuts into your fabric pattern that will allow you to pull the fabric under the foam to create a smooth display surface. But not deep enough that it will show on the display edges.
*Wrapping paper skills and tutorials come in useful if you're not sure how to tackle a 90 degree angle or bizarre shapes.
*Practice, practice, practice! Make multiples of a piece if you're concerned, there is little margin for error in this process.
2) Use hot glue (LOW TEMP, save your fingers the grief!) to pin your fabric tabs to the underside of your foam piece. Keep the fabric taut, but not tight enough to pull the glued down portion from the foam display side.
Some notes about hot gluing:
*Take your time and press your fabric into your glue when it's not scalding but still pliable.
*Use enough glue and pressure to pin the fabric tab and saturate it. The bond will hold very well.
Step 5: Finish and Apply to Costume Needs!
For this project my vinyl over foam pieces were becoming elaborate details on an Egyptian themed costume. I have found that using Loctite's "Flexible Adhesive" works the best for applying your new fabric covered foam pieces. It is very important to allow this clear drying glue a full day before wearing your piece/costume.
In the third photo, I have used this method for most of the gold and blue items you see pictured. Photo by WeNeals Photography.