Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Digital Changeling > Sewing > Costumes > Four and Twenty Blackbirds

For Halloween 2008 I dressed up as a flock of blackbirds that had escaped from a pie. The costume turned out very well and the individual parts weren't hard to make, but since I made 23 felt birds and one felt pie, the outfit as a whole took rather longer than I would have liked.

The mask for the costume was purchased from Tom Banwell Leather. It looks like he sadly doesn't make this style anymore.

I started out by finding pictures of blackbirds on Flikr and Google image search. Normally I wouldn't be so free with other people's images, but I wasn't planning to copy them in their original form or make money from them. Some of the images I used included: a standing bird, a soaring bird, and many silhouettes of the same bird. I also used some really neat images for inspiration. :)

I imported all the images into Inkscape and created vector outlines tracing the outer edges of the birds (this required some external processing for a few of my muddy images). I grouped, sized, and sorted my bird outlines so there was some variety among them without any of them being too ridiculously different in size. Then I printed them out on regular printer paper and cut them out to be used as templates.

I used two kinds of felt for the bird shapes, the black rayon/wool felt and the cream 100% wool felt. The all wool felt was actually not terribly strong, which disappointed me, but it worked okay as a background.

The next step was to iron two sided fusible webbing onto the back of the black felt. I traced the bird shapes (using the paper templates) on to the paper backing that was still stuck to the fusible web and used those to cut the birds out. That sounds really easy, but it took like 10 hours to finish cutting them. The big part was cutting out all of the little details on the birds.

Anyway, after that I pulled the paper off of the individual black bird cutouts and ironed them all down to a piece of the cream colored felt. Then I cut them out and trimmed them to have roughly even looking background borders. At this point the individual patches were done.

In order to make the birds on my shirt and pants, I needed to baste them on. The ones on the pants were pretty straight forward, I just laid the pants on the table and placed the patches, and pinned them on so they wouldn't shift later.

The ones on the shirt were harder, since the shirt is a knit material. The shirt I used is actually a souvenir of when we went to see KA in Vegas. I figured the tree-like part would work well with the rest of the design. In order to get the shirt stretched more like how it would be when I was wearing it I put it on my dummy (who's a little smaller than me, but it was better than nothing!) and then pinned on all the patches. I was careful to pin them on throughly so the shirt un-stretching wouldn't screw things up.

I hand sewed the 22 of the patches onto the shirt and pants using embroidery floss. The final patch got sewn onto a plastic comb so I could wear it in my hair. :)