Saturday, December 27, 2014

Making Dragonish Accessories

While the bulk of my Smaug look used pieces from previous cosplays, I did want to make some accessories that would bring it into dragonish territory, so that it wouldn't just be "ooh, fiery dress!" I originally wanted to delve into leather mask-making, but then I got pregnant and had a baby. I think that's just going to be my excuse for things, as in "I used to be an adventurer like you, but then I took an arrow (of sperm) to the uterus..." Anyway. So I settled for a simple horned headband and an eye mask, plus bracers with large "scales" to help bring the whole costume together.

Since I knew I was going to be short on time, I started with the headband first as the most high impact piece. I purchased a cheap plastic headband from the dollar store, raided the recycling bin for ads, and got to work.

I twisted up ads into cones, then taped them into submission. Even though painter's tape is pictured here, I wouldn't recommend it, as it wasn't sticky enough. I ended up going over it again with masking tape.  
Side fins were cut from foam, with floral wire taped to it to make spines. 
Horns and fins taped to the headband. 
I don't even want to know how much tape I used. In retrospect, I would have made the horns shorter, as they didn't quite look proportional. At least they're dramatic? 
Painted black and ModPodged. I bet I could use this for a Maleficent costume if I wanted to. (I want to.)

The eye mask was just a paper mache mask from Jo-ann's that I painted black. I toyed with the idea of building in some brow ridges or even adding a snout, but in the end I decided that it would be more versatile for future cosplaying if I kept it as a plain black mask.

After that, try everything on while the baby is napping in the carrier. 

The bracers were my favorite part of this costume, even though they kind of got lost against the black background of the dress and cape. I originally bought Simplicity 1347 for this project, but then -- I kid you not -- I was too lazy to unfold all the huge pattern sheets to find the one piece I needed for the bracers, so I just started making mock-ups from paper to get the right shape. Except that I ended up making something like twelve mock-ups, so I guess I should've just unfolded the dang pattern. And to think I used to always tell my students that being lazy always ends up causing you more work than doing things properly the first time...I should listen to myself I guess!

Foam shapes, all cut out and scored!
I sealed the pieces with my iron (with a muslin press cloth in between, of course!) then folded/bent the pieces while they were still hot so that they would hold their shape once cooled. 
I got super excited once I'd glued the "scales" to the bracers. They're starting to look real!
Eeeeeee it looks so cool!
Everything got a couple coats of matte ModPodge.
I pressed the grommet bases into the foam once I'd figured out their placement so that I'd know where to hammer them in.
All grommeted and looking cooler by the second!
I used black elastic beading cord to lace them up so that I could just pull them on and off without undoing them and retying them every time. I am so smart. 
Trying them on before the midnight showing. 
I ended up loosening the laces after taking this picture, as I am not a fan of weird underarm flesh bulges.

I am really pleased with how they turned out! Unfortunately, being made from craft foam, they're not too resilient and the ModPodge has started crackling after a night of banging around. They still look fine from far away, but up close they're a little battered-looking, and not in a "I've been through a battle" way, more like a "I'm wearing foam bracers" kind of way. I'm thinking I want to try making a more hard-wearing version from pleather and interfacing/batting, but we'll see if I ever get around to that. In the meantime, if you'd like to make your own bracers but don't feel like buying the Simplicity pattern, or making a dozen versions to figure out the pattern, I've made my pattern pieces available for download here. And just to fill up the space on the page, I've thrown in my headband's side fin thing as well.

I've made this into an Instructable with detailed instructions and a few more process pictures here. Sometimes I feel bad when I get emails saying I have new followers on Instructables, since I only post projects around December every year. And they're almost all props and such, so then I feel extra bad for people who might've started following because of the Superman dress cutout, and then I never did any more sewing ones...


  1. WOW. I'm floored that you made them look that awesome from craft foam, it looks like pretty thick stuff, what brand of craft foam did you use?

    Also, you can totally sew thin leather on the sewing machine. I made quilted leather bracers from a top layer of cheap thin leather scrap, and canvas, interlined with fleece.
    Shameless plug, my (not very artsy) write up/tutorial is here

    quilted bracers are very comfortable, I wear them throughout the day sometimes, just cause it makes life more fun :)

    1. I just used the 3 mm stuff from the craft store... not very thick at all!

      I've sewn thin leather on my machine before, but it was a pain without a teflon foot. If I do it again I have to get one of those first so that I don't tear out my hair. I actually looked at your bracers before I decided to make mine from craft foam! They look great and I definitely want to make a quilted pair eventually.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Melanie! Means a lot, coming from as meticulous a crafter as you!

  3. Did you hear? It's the Dragonborn!🐲

  4. How awesome are you? I love all your accessories, and would never have guessed how you did it!

    1. Thanks! That's the goal, I guess...for nobody to guess that these are just craft foam!

  5. So cool! The accessories look great!

    1. Thank you! Maybe one day your littles will want to be dragons for Halloween :)

  6. Aw, everything lives on instructables forever! (love that stuff). The secondborn and I are freshly back from the final Hobbit this afternoon: one thing that gets dropped is the midnight show premiere. Until, of course, they are old enough to want to attend. And if we are good, they will let us stand near them.

    1. I could seriously get sucked into the Instructables black hole for days if I'm not careful! That's awesome that you still managed to go see it!

  7. You are too cool - how many people can brag about making horns and foam bracers this soon after taking an arrow to the uterus (or ever for that matter)? You rock - keep being awesome!! :) Also, those bracers are so awesome, they deserve a second take in a more durable material!!


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