Halloween costumes DIY-style

RELATED: Halloween costume tips

It’s about time for Francesca Amendolia to pull out her sewing machine.

She dislikes sewing, but it’s part of the Pennsylvania mother’s Halloween ritual – and the one sewing project she can pull off.

“That’s why Halloween costumes are so safe,” said the 38-year-old from Carlisle, Pa. “They don’t actually have to fit or be flattering.”

Like buying candy or carving pumpkins, many parents consider making costumes for their children a Halloween tradition – even if they lack the skills of their grandparents’ generation. Parents with varying levels of sewing skills wander the aisles of craft and fabric stores looking for ideas and inspiration.

“It’s a big time for first-time sewers to come into the store,” said Becky Hermann, who develops craft and sewing projects for Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, based in Hudson, Ohio.


Many are relieved to find so many new products that eliminate the need to sew, Hermann said. The do-it-yourself parent has her choice of adhesive products – fabric glue, Velcro, iron-on tapes – to hold the costume together. Parents who knit but don’t sew can even find inspiration for wigs and costumes online.

“It just has to get through that party at school and that night of trick-or-treating,” said Karen Edenfield, who also works for Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores.

Some parents tackle homemade costumes because they want to save money or create a family tradition. It’s also an opportunity for parents and kids to be creative together, added Jodi Levine, kids editorial director for Martha Stewart Living.

“It’s really about fun,” she said. “It doesn’t take that much effort.”


Many readers of Craft: magazine opt to make costumes because they want to create something cool and different that other kids won’t be wearing, said editor Natalie Zee Drieu.

That’s what the Kitchens family likes about making costumes. Melanie Kitchens, 43, already is brainstorming with her daughter Erin on how to make the 11-year-old look like a tube of toothpaste.

Kitchens owns a sewing machine but rarely uses it. Still, she manages to make or oversee the construction of multiple costumes every Halloween for five children who range in age from 8 to 19.

“If they have an idea, I’ll supervise and help them out as much as I can,” said Kitchens of Longview, Wash. Whenever possible, she uses tapes or iron-adhesive products.

“We like Stitch Witchery and Duct Tape,” she said. “Those are our friends.”


Elaine Osman doesn’t even own a sewing machine. But that’s not stopping her from entering the costume-making fray.

The 31-year-old mother of three has a plan to turn a garbage bag into a superhero cape for her 3-year-old son, Ricky. The pattern she found calls for decorating the bag with bright colored tape and creating armbands out of empty water bottles.

“I think I can do that,” said Osman of Wilmington, Del.

To create a 1950s look for 4-year-old Hannah and 1-year-old Holly, Osman will attach a felt poodle to store-bought skirts. She hopes it’s the start of a Halloween tradition.

“We’ll see how it goes,” the 31-year-old Ellicott City, Md., resident said. “I’m really hoping.”

Katie Fleckenstein has made her five children into a homemade crew of Star Wars characters and the cast of Peter Pan.

“They’ve just grown up with it,” she said. “When other kids are going costume shopping, they’re like, ‘What’s that?'”


Two years ago, when Lori Herrington’s then 3-year-old daughter wanted to dress up as Piglet, she knew her sewing skills weren’t up to the test.

“I owned a sewing machine but didn’t know how to do anything but hem curtains,” said the Fremont, Calif., mom.

So she took a sewing class and chose the Piglet costume as her project. Without the class, Herrington never would have undertaken such an ambitious outfit.

“Piglet was really challenging because of those stupid little stripes on his belly,” the 36-year-old said. “I was in tears trying to get those stripes on.”

The following year, Megan wanted to be Eeyore for Halloween. So Herrington was back at the sewing machine.

“Now she’s come to expect it,” she said. “It’s a huge challenge especially when you’re in the middle of making something and your child says ‘I don’t want to be Eeyore.'”


Last Halloween, Amendolia spent hours sewing a witch costume based on then 4-year-old Helena’s favorite book. When the outfit was done, Helena refused to wear it.

“She said she wanted to be it,” Amendolia recalled. “I checked and I checked, and then, ‘No.'”

On Halloween night, the witch dress stayed in the closet and Helena borrowed a bee costume from a neighbor.

This year, Amendolia expects to get away with minimal sewing. She’s planning a simple costume for Helena, who wants to be a bunny. She’ll add bunny embellishments to one of the girl’s sweat shirts.

“Once bitten, twice shy,” said the Carlisle, Pa. resident.

Her seven-year-old son, Daniel, wants to be a television.

“I feel a box in our future.”