Tutorial: Making Whiskers and Bendable Parts

I wasn’t really planning on doing a tutorial on anything costume related, but I thought I’d share these two small projects with you.  These can be used to help you complete a lot of costumes and technically, you don’t need a sewing machine to do either.  We’ll start with making whiskers.

*I apologize for the crappy and sparse pictures.  I didn’t really think about posting this until after I had already made the whiskers and everything was done at night in our not-well-lit apartment*

Making whiskers
Yuki’s Totoro costume was starting to take shape, but it was definitely missing whiskers.  I knew that I wanted something thin, but stiff enough to stick out and not be droopy.  I decided to try some fabric stiffener and embroidery floss.  And it worked!  Here’s how you can do it.

What you’ll need:
Fabric stiffener (don’t have any?  read on for other ideas)
Foam brush
Embroidery floss
Wax paper
Flat surface like a cookie sheet or a cutting board
Needle

Lay the wax paper out on your flat surface.  Cut and lay your embroidery floss flat.  Cover generously with fabric stiffener and brush to coat evenly, but leave about 4 inches of embroidery floss without the stiffener.  This part of the floss will be used to thread the needle later.  Let it dry (overnight works well).

So this is my cookie sheet with wax paper and my six extra long pieces of embroidery floss.  It’s a good idea to give yourself extra inches that can always be trimmed at the end.  It may also be smart to make a few extra in case you make a mistake.  These have already been brushed with the fabric stiffener and dried.  The three on the left have been peeled off the paper and the three on the right have not.  You can see the ends (closest to you) have not been stiffened.

Peel the embroidery floss off and thread the needle using the unstiffened end of the floss.

Starting from the outside of your costume, pull your thread through your costume wherever you want your first whisker to be.  Pull it far enough so that the stiff part of the embroidery floss comes through.  It’s a bit stiff (duh), but tie a knot on the inside.  I tied it twice to make sure it wouldn’t slip through the fabric.

Trim the end.

Now you need to tie a knot on the other side of the whisker so that it doesn’t slide out from the inside.  The trick here is to tie the knot as close to the fabric (and the other knot) as possible.  If there is even a bit of space between the two knots, the whisker will sag.  So tie the tightest knot closest to the fabric, sometimes a bit of fabric even gets pulled into the knot – this is good.

Can you see the little knots?  From far away you won’t even notice them.

Now repeat with the rest of your whiskers and give them a trim!

DONE!  If you don’t have fabric stiffener, there are probably other ways.  Fabric stiffener is basically water soluble glue.  Now I’ve never tried it, so I can’t guarantee anything, but I have a feeling that this would work using your regular old white glue (like Elmer’s) or Mod Podge.  If you try this out, let me know if it works.

Now moving on . . .

Bendable Parts – in this case, a leaf.
In the movie Totoro, there is a scene in the rain where Totoro only has a tiny leaf on his head to provide protection from the rain.  I thought it might be a cute addition to the costume.  I wanted the leaf to have shape, so I made it bendable.  This method would be great for any small part of a costume that you want to have some form and bend – like EARS!

What you’ll need:
Fabric
Pipe cleaners
Needle & thread (if you’re hand sewing)
Paper

Start out by drawing whatever shape you want on a piece of paper (I always use something out of my recycling bin which is super full around election time).  Add about a 1/4 inch around your shape for seam allowance and cut it out (I forgot the stem on my pattern).

You’re going to need 2 pieces of your shape, so fold your fabric in half or layer two pieces of fabric on top of each other.  Then use your pattern to cut out your shape (I added the stem in here).

With right sides facing, pin and sew up your shape leaving an opening for turning it right side out.  I left the bottom of the stem open as well for the pipe cleaner.  If you’re making an ear, you can just leave the bottom open.

Flip it right side out!

Now fold that fabric from the opening in and top stitch around the leaf, again leaving an opening at the top of the stem (for the pipe cleaner!).

Now we’re going to sew the casing for the pipe cleaner.  Making sure the space is wide enough, sew two lines along the length of your shape for the pipe cleaner to slide into.

Now it’s time to insert your pipe cleaner.  Take one end and fold it down about half an inch.  This makes it so that the tip is not super sharp (the wire was getting snagged on my fabric and folding it down made it much easier to slide through).  Insert it into your casing and then clip the end about 1/2 inch longer than the stem.

Fold this end up and tuck it into the fabric to avoid any super sharp wires.

And you’re DONE!

Bend it to whatever shape you want!  You can probably sew up the end too, if you want, but I didn’t bother.  Now you can handstitch your bendable part to your costume.

And here’s the updated Totoro hood . . .

My usual model was asleep 😦

Anyways, there you have it!!  I hope you are all having fun coming up with some creative costumes for Halloween.  And hopefully these ideas may even help you put some finishing touches on them!  Remember, it’s all in the details 😉

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11 thoughts on “Tutorial: Making Whiskers and Bendable Parts

    • Aw, Mika, thanks!! That really is the best thing I could hear. I think you should totally get a sewing machine (you can get a decent one for under $200). I bet it’d come in quite handy in your wedding prep!! 😉

  1. Pingback: Sew & Tell: Totoro Costume | you and mie

  2. wow, that looks awesome.
    i think you are very very very talented, it’s kinda sad that i can try making on of your pieces in about 10 years, when i have my own children (i hope a daughter)
    greetings from germany :3

  3. Pingback: Tonari no Totoro | MillerLife.net

  4. Pingback: Totoro Costume Tutorial | you and mie

  5. thank you sooooo much for the wonderful tutorials! my 14 month old daughter is going to be totoro for halloween and i’m almost there – just need to do the whiskers and leaf! i’m gonna try with modge podge and i’ll let you know how that turns out! 😀

  6. Brilliant tutorial on making whiskers. I want to make some for a rabbit I’m making my daughter for Easter. Love the leaf idea and I’ll be using that soon too. Thank you from England. xx

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