This year I scratch-built a Double Helix costume for my 11-year-old son Simon. This was a bit tricky because the character was only released on Oct 5th, so reference art was a bit thin on the ground. I did a combination of an original pattern for sewing the jacket plus 3D printing of the goggles, breathing apparatus, and bullets. With such a new character, I knew Simon was going to spend a lot of time explaining whom he was dressed as, but on the plus side he wasn’t going to run into any other kids with the same costume!
To make the head gear more comfortable to wear, I bought a cheap magnifier that had an adjustable head band and adapted the design to fit that. That way it could fit different people and be flipped up out of the way so he could actually see out of both eyes. I knew that he wouldn’t be able to wear it though a long night of trick-or-treating, but it would be reasonable to wear for modest periods of time.
First I sketched curves over the front/side views of the character and used those to model the front plate.
Then I extruded the outer edge and improvised a rim/nose cutout. I looked at an old pair of ski goggles for basic angles and sizes.
I sanded and spray painted the parts, then did a round of aging/dry brushing to make the whole rig look a bit more worn and used. Finally I added a lens retaining ring and a single red lens cut from a cheap pair of John-Lennon-style sun glasses.
I was going to add two smaller lenses and red LEDs to the smaller face projections, but the jacket ended up being quite complicated to design and it ate up the remaining time.
I also modeled the breathing apparatus and the big black bullets that go on his shoulder strap. The bullets were super easy and I ended up just using them “as printed” since they were already shiny black and the amount of time I’d have to spend sanding/painting them to make them perfect glass shiny black just didn’t fit my time budget.
Getting the proper fit for the mouth parts turned out to be hard. I added some adjustable pieces that mounted the jaw parts to the headband. They were quick to print and made it so I could quickly try out different positions on Simon’s face. No kid wants something directly over his mouth on Halloween! I made the mouth-covering parts quite a bit smaller than in the reference picture, but It still ended up being pretty heavy and uncomfortable. It was a good thing they were easy to remove. I was never really happy with the way it looked, but it was time to move on.
I started working on the patterns for the jacket/shoulder belt on the Saturday 4 days before Halloween. I’d already gotten the material, and I was ready to crank, crank, crank. I set up two sewing machines to cut down on thread/foot swaps. I even took a vacation day on Monday so I could really just focus for three solid days.
First up was the ammo shoulder belt.
I used 1″ white elastic and some faux leather plus a 3D printed buckle. I could have made the elastic a bit tighter, but I was worried the belt would be trying to curl away from the shoulder mount. I made the fit just a bit snug and secured each of the bullets with a drop of hot glue. They never fell out so I guess that was good enough. I did eventually file the points off the bullets. Having such sharp things mounted on your shoulder would be a real hazard.
I put Velcro on the underside to mate with some on the shoulder of the jacket. That way it could be removed easily but wouldn’t keep slipping off his shoulder.
I experimented with using painter’s tape instead of pins for the faux leather. It worked fine, but it was annoying to remove in areas where I’d accidentally sewn though it, so I decided to revert back to pins. The extra pin holes are pretty invisible in the black grain of the faux leather, and it wasn’t saving me any time.
Next came the jacket pattern design.
I spent a full day with scotch tape and butcher’s paper tweaking the shape and design of the jacket. It was nice to be doing it during the weekend since Simon was available for testing the shape and size of things. He was a trouper putting up with me making pencil marks on paper he was wearing which was pretty tickle-y.
It was at this point that I started to realize how tricky the asymmetrical design of the jacket was. On the original character’s jacket, most of the panels were made up of many sub panels. I simplified it down some.
Then it was on to cutting out and piecing together. I had never done the kind of elastic cuffs that this jacket required. They almost didn’t fit on my sewing machine and having to switch between white and red thread was a pain, but they came out super nice looking. I’ll never look at an elastic cuff the same way again.
The faux suede I was using was somewhat annoying to pin. I do everything with pins. I also discovered that it was a bit too thin to hold the hood shape well, so I did a felt backing for all the pieces in the hood. That worked, but kind of killed the time I’d budgeted to put a satin liner in the hood and collar. So unfortunately the guts of the hood/collar are visible while he’s wearing the costume.
After a day and a half of pinning and piecing, I finally had the jacket mostly done, but did not have the time to build some of the extra sub paneling I’d been hoping to do. I had thought maybe I could just sew some lines on to show the pattern of the panels at least, but the unbacked faux suede was prone to forming small puckers along the sewing lines that made lines not look that clean. I just punted.
I’m happy with the way the costume turned out. Simon liked it too. In retrospect, I should probably have 3D printed the elbow pads for the character because they would have been very easy to do, but they wouldn’t have been that comfortable and they would have cluttered up the look. Halloween is SO FUN. I love having and excuse to do sewing projects.