When I became a mummy, I knew I’d be taking on many roles. Being the chief chef, reader, teacher, and driver for instance. And butt-wiper, of course. Can’t forget that! I didn’t however factor costume-maker into the equation.
But yes, costume-maker I now am. I’ve never been so well acquainted with cardboard and recycled materials in my life! Over the years, I’ve made Lightning McQueen, constructed some astronaut jetpacks, given Noey some Lego spectacles, made Elsa hair, and dressed my pair up as Charlie & Lola. And those are just the handful I remembered to document!
I never thought myself particularly good at craft but I must say it has grown on me. That said, it is rarely a painless process. It usually starts of with a good idea which I get all excited about, only to have my confidence waver as things start falling apart. Cue the glue! Lots of masking tape! More layers of paint! I pull it together, swearing never to be that ambitious again. And then I see my children’s excited faces and suddenly all that stress I went through feels like a small price to pay. Which leads me to attempt another project against my better judgment…
This year, with Noey In P1, I thought I would be winding down on costumes but instead he came back just before the March holidays with a note about a costume parade for the start of English Week the following term. Furthermore, his costume had to be themed on a list of countries and there were six to choose from, including Egypt, Japan, Italy, UK. This was to fit their overall theme of Around The World In 80 Days, you see. After failing to convince him to be a pyramid — stacking boxes together sounded like an easy costume to me! — we agreed that he would be a Roman soldier.
Then I had to figure out how to make his costume.
I found this really detailed tutorial on Instructables and borrowed many ideas from it while simplifying to make most of the costume. I spent the most time on the helmet but was very satisfied with the outcome! The main structure of the helmet was made with a single piece of cardboard with 1-2cm strips cut into it up to the mid-way point along one length. Fold the strips down in an overlapping manner and glue in place. I actually made an error with mine and when I overlapped the pieces, I realised I had underestimated the width of the cardboard needed, so that instead of overlapping nicely, at I had a big hole at the top instead. No matter, I cut a circular piece to close the hole from the inside and made the rectangular strip at the top on which the broom sits wider in order to cover the hole.
Yah-dah, helmet! The detailing is done with glue, something I learnt from this tutorial, which I thought was very clever.
I guess what I’m saying is that when working with cardboard craft, I’ve learnt not to sweat the small stuff.
I had a lot of fun making this armour, and the materials were relatively easy to find. Cardboard, I have plenty of, thanks to random purchases and deliveries. Just a small brush from the neighbourhood provision shop for the helmet comb, some stick-on velcro to attach the two halves of the front and back armour together, some leftover gold trim for the breastplate, and a cheap belt for the skirt. I got mine from good ol’ Daiso.
Breastplate and skirt, a little worse for wear here. The kids have been having a field day with these!
I’m really just a newbie when it comes to cardboard but here are some things I have learnt from this and previous projects:
1. The first thing to do when working with cardboard is to turn it inside out and use the clean, unprinted side. If it is a box you want to use in its original shape, remove the staples from the side to open it up, flip the box inside out and reattach. The unmarked surface is just nicer and easier to work with.
2. Observe the corrugation lines of the cardboard before you draw and cut it. If you need to roll the cardboard or get it to bend, doing so parallel to the corrugation is much more effective and looks nicer.
3. When joining cardboard, especially over corners, remember to leave an allowance to fold over instead of joining at a right angle. I learnt this the hard way recently trying to hold a box together at corners when I was too quick to cut the pieces down to size.
4. When gluing, hot glue is very strong but I find it very fiddly. Instead, UHU glue works a treat. It dries quickly but still leaves me enough time to make some minor adjustments. Elmer’s glue is very strong too — in fact, a lot of the helmet is being held together by Elmer’s — but it takes a while to dry and you have to hold it/clamp it in place in the meantime.
5. The best way to paint cardboard is to dip a roller in paint (acrylic paints work best, I feel) and roll it on. If you don’t have a roller, use your paint brush. Spray paint is not a great idea. The coverage isn’t great and it tends to seep through, requiring you to spray on another coat, which in turn weakens the cardboard. Spray paint does work quite well on top of a painted surface however, like in the case of this armour. I painted the cardboard black then sprayed it over with silver spray paint. The black showing through underneath the silver was perfect. The “N” on the breastplate had an undercut of white paint for contrast.
My little Roman soldier. He was soon chuffed! Unfortunately I don’t take good pictures under normal circumstances and at 6am, this was the best I could do. I carry his excited expressions in my heart.
Anyway, the reason why I started writing this post talking about costumes earlier was week was that… I had to make another one! This time for Mei and just when I thought I could just re-use this costume, the theme for her costume is Singapore in the 80s. Since there were clearly no Roman soldiers in Singapore in the 80s (or ever?) I’m going to had to make something new. If you’ve seen my pictures on Instagram you would know what it was! That was a fun one which involved, yes, more cardboard. I’ll be back with more on that in a bit.