I know, I know, I’ve already shared the photos on this one, but I just can’t resist a few more. It needs its very own post, with the added bonus of how I made it too. So forgive me. Here is the Gandalf costume again. For just one more time.
It will be of no surprise to regular readers that I love making costumes. Given the choice, I’d far rather throw together a dressing up day outfit, for one of the children, than anything else. I think it’s the props that do it for me. Not much call for a papier mache smoking pipe when sewing an ordinary, everyday blouse. Well, not for me at least.
I am the parent that happily dances around the kitchen when presented with a note from school about their upcoming dressing up day. Then spends the rest of the day googling images of characters, diving head first into my craft supplies and ignoring all household chores. Bliss.
World Book Day was last Thursday. Youngest was decisive and instantly declared he wanted to be The Hobbit’s Gandalf. He liked the idea of Bilbo Baggins, but his friend had already called that one, so he’d ruled it out before even getting home. I did suggest Smaug the Dragon. Alas, it fell on deaf ears. I slid my design for impressive flapping wings under my pile of notes. They will have to wait for another day.
Instead, without further ado, this is how we made a Gandalf costume:
The cloak and hat are made out of grey, fleece fabric, after I discovered the blanket I was going to use, just fell to pieces as I cut it. Into tiny, little particles, which, with hindsight, I should have spotted as a possibility. There was a good chance of a health risk, so the blanket was abandoned. I couldn’t find a suitable grey curtain in any of the second hand shops and ended up buying 2 metres of fabric.
I left the cloak as a rectangle, to be held together with a clip. The hat is made up of a cone and a ring doughnut cut out of the rest of the fabric. I lined it with stiff woven fabric and a second layer of fleece. This allowed it to be shaped and wrinkled, as I liked, rather than just flopping down as fleece has a tendancy to do. It was a bit of a rush job and has since been reshaped.
The foundation of the beard is a loop of medium thick elastic that goes under his bottom lip and up to the top of his head. We cut lengths of grey, non-itchy chunky wool, about 70-80cm long. I lost count of how many, but probably equivalent to a 75g-100g ball. Each strand was knotted on to the elastic, using the knot below.
No costume would be complete without a prop or two. It is often the defining feature. The way to rule out other possible characters and identify the intended one. Gandalf’s pipe seemed a good one to add. This would make it clear that you were encountering Gandalf and not Dumbledore. I hoped. There is, of course, always one person….
The pipe is made out of malleable aluminium floristry wire, covered in papier mache and painted brown. As a finishing touch, I added a bit of sheep’s fleece from my spinning wool, to look like smoke. Cotton wool would be just as good.
The floristry wire is easy to shape, providing a good frame to work with. Once the papier mache is added, the pipe keeps its shape, which is perfect for its day at school.
To seal the identity deal, we went for a second prop too. Gandalf’s staff. The one he uses to mark magical symbols on Bilbo’s door, so the dwarves know which Hobbit hole door to knock on.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t keen to send a long, wooden stick, to school, as a staff. Images of it being used as a martial art weapon came to mind. Phone calls home. Difficult conversations. Months of avoiding irate parents in the playground. It would only have taken one other child, dressed as the goblin king or an orc, and battle would commence.
So instead, I found two long cardboard tubes. The sort that’s found in the middle of a tube of wrapping paper. One fitted inside the other, and the overall length could be altered. We lengthened the tubes to the young Gandalf’s height and sellotaped them in place.
Next the tube was pasted in glue and roughly covered with white tissue paper. Wrinkling it up to give texture to the staff. Once covered, it was painted brown. Long slits were cut in the top and a crumpled ball of blue tissue added.
Staff complete and chances of anyone being knocked out by it, reduced. Mission accomplished.
I ummed and ahhed about the gown underneath. Seeing as the cloak would cover it most of the time. In the end, we opted for grey tracksuit bottoms and a top, due to the weather. Also settled for welly boots, for the same reason. March is usually rainy. Except, this time, it turned out to be snowy.
We added a brown belt, and a drawstring pouch to hang from it.
At this point you might be wondering how his day went. The twist to this particular tale is that it didn’t. School was cancelled due to a snow day. Not something that would have stopped the real Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf, I’m sure. The good news is that they have rescheduled the dressing up day for another time. Gandalf will have his day.
This is our last World Book Day. (sob, sob) Next year, he’ll move up to the next school where they don’t dress up. He’s our youngest. There are no more children waiting in the wings to be dressed up. So, this is it. I’m not sure what I will do next year. Maybe find fabric themed around a favourite book, and make a top for myself. What do you reckon? It might work.
and maybe a papier mache prop
to go with it……)
Costumes from previous years:
World Book Day is next Thursday. Hurray! Are you excited? I know not everyone likes it, but I love making costumes.
We’ve had the notice for a while, but I always leave the costume for the last week. Apart from the fact I work better under pressure, it allows time for them to change their minds. I’ve learnt. One year, I had a definite a Golden Compass Lyra who proceeded to change her mind a day before, and was transformed into an Arietty from The Borrowers. It’s OK. I’m good at short notice.
(Can’t find a photo of Arrietty, but this is Hobbit’s Kili from two years ago)
This year is our last year.
Youngest will be at Secondary school next time, where it is major uncool to dress up. (Probably not cool to say “uncool” either, but I’m old school) This is our grand finale. Time to go out with a bang.
(Klaus-Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events – last year)
Given the choice*, we always make the costumes. It’s half the fun. Trying to use what we already have in the house. It’s always their choice when it comes to World Book Day. I have a capsule costume wardrobe (tips and tricks here) that pretty much covers it, with a few accessories thrown in. Other costumes are even simpler and just use their normal clothes with props.
(Astrid and dragon from How to Train a Dragon – two years ago)
Except…not this time.
He has decided to go as Gandalf. He loves the Hobbit, so I’m happy with his choice. My challenge is that it’s all grey apart from the beard. I’m not big on grey and my craft stash echoes this sentiment. Give me bright colours any day.
I’m excited about making the hat. A pointed, slightly crumpled, wide brimmed, wizard’s hat is required. I’ve been longing for an excuse to make a felted hat. It may end up being more cream coloured than grey, due to the fleece I have at hand, but maybe I can slightly spray it afterwards to give it a travelled look.
I have a choice with the beard and hair. Either white fluffy fabric or untwisting lengths of a ball of icelandic wool that I’ve had for eons and not used. Maybe a mixture of the two.
I found an old grey storage blanket. The sort house movers use to protect goods in transit in their vans. No idea why we have this as we’ve always moved house by ourselves. Anyway, it has a couple or so holes but I reckon I can make it into a cloak. I’ve made a few cloaks (instructions here if you’re interested) in the past, so no problem. It is a quick project.
The only parts I’ve not solved yet are the footwear and the grey gown underneath. I could adapt the cloak, so no gown is needed, if all else fails.
That’s my weekend sorted. I’m looking forward to it. Might even start tomorrow if I can wrangle it. I’ll share photos of the resulting costume once I’m done.
How about you? Are you making a costume this year? If you need a costume, do you usually make or buy? Do you love the call for a costume or do you dread the request?
Our last year. Can I come round and make costumes for anyone else next year?
(costume from 3 years ago)
*We love making our costumes for dressing up days and plays. Not always possible. One year, we were sent a link to the desired costume to buy for a play. I could have bucked the trend and made my own, but then he wouldn’t have matched the rest of the class in the line up, so I reluctantly bought instead. Not a happy costume maker.
Do you ever have one of those weeks where nothing seems to have happened? Uneventful.
Don’t get me wrong. I have been busy. I spent the first two days of the week fully focused on work. Barely looking up. Meeting deadlines.
Pancake day, which involved making pancakes in the morning ready for the school pancake race, plus pancakes in the evening for everyone else. Continue reading