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My Owl Costume



I finished my part of this ensemble yesterday morning, wore it to a party that night, and got generally good feedback.  Now I’m finally ready so share it with you.



The major components I made include the dress, the wings, and a feather headdress.  Then, of course, there’s the absolutely gorgeous Sundries and Plunder mask I won from a Grosgrain giveway, which not only inspired the whole project but is its crowning glory.


So where shall we begin?


Owl Costume: The Dress


The simplest part was the dress, which was sewn off a pattern largely f0llowing the directions.  It’s made of brown panne, using Simplicity 9508 view F.



It’s a pretty simple stretchy sheath with a pointed hemline, a gathered halter neck, and a tie back (which is surprisingly efficient at covering bra bands, for a halter neck).  I made two modifications: first, I didn’t put a zipper in, because seriously, have you felt panne?  Why would anyone think something that stretchy needed a zipper?



The other modification was to sew two channels up each side seam, then lace a piece of ribbon up one channel and down the other.  This allows me to gather the sides of the dress to whatever length I feel like.



Look, now it looks like all the women’s halloween costumes in the store!  Erm, maybe I’ll let it back down a little.


Owl Costume: The Headdress


Remember the Turkey and his friends?  They drop a lot of feathers, and we tend to pick up the pretty ones.  This has left us with quite a bundle of turkey feathers:


Side mention: if you were wondering how the whole turkey situation shook out this year, there is a (rather sad) resolution: The Turkey, Tom, My Arch-Enemy and Bane of My Farm Life, died during harvest.  He was either hit by a truck or shot- either way, whoever killed him took the body with them (and, since there were no feathers nor blood on the road and lots in the yard, and since the body was taken, we kind of suspect someone decided to shoot him… out of season, on private property, and nevermind that the bird was privately owned).  I swear I was not involved in any way, that I did not bear Tom any real grudge for the damage he did me, and I kind of miss having an Arch-Enemy and Bane of My Farm Life to grouse about/chase back down the road whilst screaming.

Back to the crafting: in order to make a nice feather headdress, I busted out our feather collection (much to Loki’s joy), E6000 glue, and a cheap knit headband I picked up at the dollar store.  I wanted to make sure the headband was stretched while I was gluing stuff to it, so I put it on a soccer ball.



I made sure the gloop on the glue, and had absolutely no problems with feathers coming loose during wear (in fact, I probably would have been fine with less E6000- that stuff is tough and can handle stretch and movement).  I cut each feather and arranged it carefully, beginning with long fancy feathers at the back and overlapping each row until I got to the dark, shiny, short feathers at the front.



Owls don’t have hair, after all.  They have feathers!


It looks better on, of course:




Owl Costume: The Wings


To make this costume, I bought a whole stack of fabric off the red tag shelves at JoAnns: a brown costume satin, and two sheers (one tan, one gray-white).



In order to figure out how much fabric I needed to buy, I measured my armspan from fingertip to fingertip and then rounded up a foot or so to make it so the wingtips would extend beyond the end of my fingers.  I came up with 2.5 yards for the base color, the brown satin and 2 yards each for the sheers.


This is my fancy curve-making tool: chalk on a string.  Pardon the blurriness; we were out of batteries when I did this part.



First I re-folded the fabric so that the cut edges were lined up.  Then James did me the favor of holding the string at one corner of the folded side of the fabric, so that the chalk touched the far edge when held taut.  Then I drew a curve, holding the chalk taut on the string the whole time to make a consistent arc.



Once again, blurry.  Yeesh.


I repeated this with the two other fabrics, decreasing the length of the string each time to make successively smaller arcs.  Once cut out, I pinned all three layers together at their midpoints, then sewed a quick line of stitches all the way across the top of all three.  That gave me this:



Next I had to make the feathered edges.   I folded a piece of paper in half and cut a curve in it, to make a template.  Then I carefully chalked the template around the edge of each curve of fabric, one after another.



That part took a long time.


Now it was time to figure out how to attach the wings to my, well, me.  I knew a) that I wanted them attached to my arms, so they’d stay on without my having to hold them and b) I wanted the part that extended beyond my fingertips to have some kind of rod in it, that I could pick up when I wanted to wave my wings a little, and drop when I wanted, say, to hold candy.  Or beer.


For part a, I sewed two long tubes out of excess panne which fit around my arms.  I put them on, held the wings how I wanted them, and had James pin the wings to the tubes.  Quick tailoring hint: when pinning something while it’s being worn, I tend to opt for safety pins rather than straight pins, so that the garment can be taken off without ensuing stabbage or pulling out the pins.



Next I sewed the tubes down onto the wing, keeping the seam small so that it wouldn’t take too much girth out of the actual tube.  Voila!  They stay on without limiting movement.


That brings us to the tips of the wings.



I actually decided to use knitting needles (aluminum, size 8- knitting needles are very useful things) to stiffen the tips.  I marked the length of the needles plus about 1/2 an inch on the fabric (so the bright blue tip of the needle wouldn’t poke out), then sewed a thin tube in the edge of the fabric up to the mark.  I made sure the tubes I sewed would be very tight on the knitting needles, so they wouldn’t shift around or slide out.  It’s so tight, in fact, that James had to shove one of the needles in, and I’m not sure if I’m getting them back out without scissors (which is okay- I have other size 8s)!


Et voila! Handmade costume wings for an owl…



…which can be fully extended, by grabbing the knitting needles…



…but also leave the hands free, for necessary partying.



And that, courtesy of myself, Corvus, and Sundries and Plunder, is how I made my owl costume.



Happy Halloween!




16 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/31/2010 2:11 PM

    Wow! That is absolutely gorgeous and so impressive.

    And I’ve definitely got to go check out those masks now.

    • 11/01/2010 3:52 PM

      Thank you! I quite love the mask. I’m trying to figure out reasons to wear it around generally.

  2. 10/31/2010 3:12 PM


    I used knitting needles in 7yo’s praying mantis arms last year. Just the thing!

  3. 11/01/2010 1:51 PM

    Wow, you are so darn hoot! Love your l-owely outfit, it is awesome!

  4. 11/02/2010 11:06 PM

    Hey Corvus!
    What a brilliant owl costume – and very crafty solution with the knitting needles!

    Thanks for the kind comment on my blog – I’d love it if you joined in the 30 Day Closet Challenge! I’m really looking forward to having some fun, re-experiencing clothing and styles I’ve forgotten, and pushing myself to not fall back into my old “blogging uniform” hehe;-)


  5. 11/03/2010 2:54 PM

    Wow, you have magical sewing powers…seriously! I would have geeked out at the party if I had seen such a great home-made outfit!

  6. Christoph permalink
    01/28/2011 2:09 PM

    Whoa. Awesome. I wonder if I could design a male version of this. But it would probably either be pretty much trash or look like a nerdy super-hero costume.

    Now on to read other posts to see if I stumbled upon an awesome blog or an insane blog! (Or, preferably, both!)

  7. 02/19/2011 12:47 PM

    Wicked cool.

  8. Michelle permalink
    10/04/2012 3:54 PM

    Great costume! Thanks for the step by step instructions. I’m making one for my daughter. It won’t be just like yours but your tips help alot!

  9. 10/25/2012 1:13 PM

    I’m making a version for myself but this was my inspiration


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