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: