Did you miss part one of the Bowser costume series?
In part two, we’ll cover just the shell. This is a really flexible project and could easily be adapted as a pillow or turtle shell if that’s what you’re looking for. For a pillow, I’d advise against using the felt and instead stick with fleece or something more durable. I know I’d be making a million of these little Bowser shell pillows if there wasn’t so much hand sewing involved! The materials required for this project are discussed in part one.
A note before we begin – I was making this up as I went along, and did some things that perhaps weren’t necessary. Do as I say, not as I do!
First, you’ll need a large piece of cardboard. This will help with the structural integrity, as well as limit the amount of stuffing you need. If you’re making a pillow, you can skip this step! Determine the size of the shell (for a costume) by measuring the distance between the neck of the jumpsuit and the top of the tail. Sketch an oval roughly that size on the cardboard. You don’t need to be a perfectionist about it – this will all be hidden under quite a lot of material and stuffing. Cut out the oval and make four cuts, shown in the picture as red lines, where the corners would be if it were a rectangle. This will help us shape the shell.
Overlap the cut edges to pop the center of the oval up a bit and tape them together, as in the photo below. Place your oval on a doubled layer of green fleece and cut about two inches outside the oval. (The photo shows more than two inches, but the extra wasn’t necessary.)
Cut a piece of iron-on batting just slightly larger than the cardboard. Adhere this to the wrong side of the fleece that will be the top of the shell.
Now let’s work on the spikes. If you’re making a turtle shell, you can skip this step, unless it’s a particularly bad-ass turtle. Cut ten half-circles out of felt. The necessary size will vary based on the size of your shell, so try making them out of paper and setting them on your shell until it looks right. Remember that your felt spike will be a bit smaller after sewing and turning it, so make it just a little larger than necessary. Bowser has four spikes down the center and three spikes on each side of his shell. Fold each half-circle in half, corners together, and sew along the straight edge. Clip the point and turn the spike inside out.
Lay the green fleece with the batting on top of your cardboard oval, right side up. Place your spikes in their desired positions, if you’re using them. With white chalk, draw hexagons on the fleece – around the spikes or however you like. Remove the spikes and machine sew along these lines and through the batting.
When I did the next part, I sandwiched the two layers of green fleece, right sides together, and sewed around the edges. Then I turned it inside out. What I would do differently is stuff the spikes, pin them in place (bottom edges turned under slightly, seams facing the bottom of the shell), and hand sew them on. Then I would have basted the two layers together, WRONG sides together, with the cardboard and stuffing in place. There is really no reason to turn the shell inside out since the raw edge will be encased anyway, and it would have been a lot easier to sew the spikes on with access to the back, not to mention sewing through half as many layers for the edge. If you choose to do it the hard way for some reason, be sure to leave a gap large enough to insert the cardboard oval and stuffing. Don’t be surprised if your shell looks like a giant misshapen blob at this point – the binding should clean and tighten it up a bit!
For the binding, we’re basically going to make some giant single fold bias tape (though I didn’t cut mine on the bias). Measure the circumference of the shell and add four or five inches. This is the length of felt you should cut. The width will just depend on how fat you want your binding. My tape was about four inches wide, plus an additional 1/2″ on each side. Fold and press the edges toward the center.
If you need a little help sewing bias tape on a curve, here’s a nice video that explains it. It’s worth a watch before trying this, as this is the method I used. First, unfold one edge of the tape and pin it to the top of the shell, right sides together, all along the edge of the shell. Start at the bottom of the shell. When you reach your starting point, trim the excess tape and make sure to fold the end of the tape under a bit, positioning the folded edge under the raw edge so you end up with a nice seam. Sew the length of the tape, staying right on the fold line.
Fold the tape over to the other side and stuff it with polyfill, pinning in place. Stitch it closed along the seam. You may need to do this by hand – I did, but of course I had more layers to sew through after turning the shell and my machine couldn’t hack it!
We’re in the home stretch now! Remember those upper arm straps we made back in part one? All we need to do is sew them in place! (And hey…if you made a pillow, you’re already done!) Grab your child (or dog, or whoever you’re making the shell for – I have to admit I’m pretty tempted to make a Koopa Paratroopa costume for my Corgi now) and pin the straps into place (think backpack). Hand sew them, and that’s it! Of course, I know there are red rings around Bowser’s spikes, but that’s just not a priority for me right now. I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to add some red cord around the spikes if you just have to have it! I’ll see you in a few days for part three (Bowser’s head) – assuming I finish it!