It's only the second week of October but I'm getting ahead of the game. The Halloween game, that is! As a Brit living in America, the whole Halloween thing is a bit new to me. In England, it is still feared by most of the population aged over 50 as an excuse for the great, unwashed 'yoof' to run amok. My 87-year old Nan in particular, starts to worry from mid-October and even a visit from the local Community Police Liaison Officer bod doesn't do much to alleviate her concerns.
However, our experience of Halloween here in Houston last year bears no resemblance to this at all. We had a fabulous time! There was a parade at the Big One's school. We had a party with some friends in the afternoon before heading out trick-or-treating with the kids. Being Houston, the weather was positively balmy and we were able to stroll around our estate chatting with the other parents... even enjoying the odd drinky-poos! It was great, wholesome, family fun and embraced by the whole neighbourhood!
It therefore makes sense that the Halloween costume industry is such a massive money making affair here! The only problem I see with that is that the variety and imagination shown in the costumes chosen is so limited! I swear there were about five Transformer Bumblebees parading in the school parade last year. And I lost track of the number of Fairies! So, when the Big One announced he wanted to dress up as Sensei Wu for Halloween this year, I had a mixed reaction. Firstly, I was glad that he wanted to step out from the generic shop-bought costume mold. But then, a sobering thought... Sensei Who? What am I letting myself in for?
The Big One duly filled me in that Sensei Wu is a Ninjago teacher, brother to the evil Lord Garmadon and the master of the power of creation. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. Thankfully, a bit of a rummage on Google turned up a layman's explanation. Sensei Wu is a character from the new Lego range, Ninjago. A further rummage in the Big One's bedroom actually unearthed the man himself.
After a closer inspection at his torso & legs, it appears that Sensei Wu's ninja outfit is not just a plain black affair! It is sleeveless, with gold Chinese characters down the right side of the jacket and down the right leg (as you look at him!). It also has a light grey collar and belt, and what looks like a matching waistcoat underneath. He also has a long sleeved, round neck white shirt under the ninja uniform. He also carries a golden staff... not clear whether this is because he's getting on a bit or whether it's a cosh (hmmmm... maybe we'll go with the first option!).Therefore, it could've been much worse. At least he's humanoid with two arms and legs... the Big One could have chosen General Grievous after all!!!
Anyway, so here's my attempt at a Lego Ninjago Sensei Wu Costume...
- Black Karate Uniform - I got one for $20 (including the shipping!) from an eBay store called World Martial Arts Supply.
- White long-sleeved t-shirt - $5 from good ol' Walmart!
- Iron on applique patches of gold chinese characters & a large gold dragon - http://www.laughinglizards.com/
- 1/2 yd grey jersey fabric - Fabric.com
- Coolie hat - I chose this one from Amazon as it only had a 12" diameter so was suitable for kids as well as adults Hat - Coolie Regular Accessory, plus it was only $10 with the delivery, cheaper than everywhere else I looked!
- White fake beard - similarly, I chose this one from Amazon.com as it had an elastic strap which could be tightened up rather than one that hooks over the ears White Fake MUSTACHE BEARD disguise
- Square paper dessert sized plate, yellow.
- String or elastic, approx. 1 yard
- Sticky tape
- Black and brown permanent markers.
- White card or craft foam.
- Needle and black cotton sewing thread.
- No-sew adhesive hemming tape (the stuff you iron on)
- Stick, approx. 1 yard long
- Gold spray paint
First for the face. I used a small, square, yellow paper plate... the sort that are easily available in party supplies shops. Gently press it inside out, so that it's convex not concave. Then mark on with a pencil the approximate location of the eyes. Use a screwdriver or similar to carefully push through the card to form large-ish pinholes in the mask. Then you will need to draw in Sensei Wu's features using the markers. From a sheet of white card or craft foam, cut out shapes to resemble eyebrows and his goatee beard & moustache. Glue these into place. Finally, create ties to hold the mask in place by attaching lengths of string or elastic to either side of the face with sticky tape.
Now for the body. Because the black karate uniform is almost exactly like Sensei Wu's outfit anyway, very little needs to be done... just a few amendments and embellishments. Firstly, cut off the sleeves about 3/4 of an inch from the shoulder seam. It is important to leave this amount of sleeve so that you can hem it neatly. I used the cheats iron-on hemming web stuff rather than take the time to sew it up. Simply turn the hem (I had to place a few slits in the remaining 3/4 inch of sleeve to enable the hem to sit flat against the jacket when turned inside). Then pin in place with the hemming web in between. Then you need to iron over the hem with a slightly damp cloth over the top. The steam (from the damp cloth) and heat (from the iron) melts the hemming web and fuses the hem in place. Easy. While you have the iron out, you can iron in place the gold appliques that embellish Sensei Wu's costume. He has a series of chinese-style characters down the right side of his jacket and trousers. Plus a dragon on the back. Make sure you follow the instructions for applying your appliques to get the best results. Mine ironed on using dry heat and a thin (dry) ironing cloth.
Sensei Wu's jacket is trimmed with grey around the collar; the same grey as his belt. Cut a wide strip of the grey jersey fabric (I used jersey as it's stretchy and so easier to fit around the curved contours of the collar). You are essentially creating a large binding to encase the edge of the collar (similar to bias binding). Pin the strip of fabric to the front of the jacket (right sides together), along the edge of the existing collar. Sew into place. Turn the grey fabric back and wrap around the collar, pinning into place tightly. Sew again along the collar's edge. You will need to hand sew the bottom edges together. Lastly, Sensei wu's belt. The Karate uniform comes with a white beginners belt. Cut another strip of the grey jersey fabric twice the width of the belt, plus 3/4 of an inch. Fold the strip in half and sew the edges together to create a tube. Turn inside out and thread the belt through the tube, sewing the ends up when the belt is completely encased.
To assemble the costume, dress the child in a white long-sleeved tshirt and then the karate uniform over the top. Tie the belt at the waist with a knot. Place the mask, beard and hat as finishing touches. Sensei Wu does have a golden staff as a weapon which is easily recreated by spraying a 4 foot length of thick doweling with gold colored spray paint (however, the Big One's school has a no weapons Halloween costume policy!).