Check out how I created a colorful DIY Light Up Robot Costume using felt, buttons and EL-Wire. A fun, quirky Halloween Costume!
For Halloween this year, my son asked to go as a robot! I immediately started thinking silver robot, but he specifically asked for a “colorful robot with lots of dials and buttons”. We went to the library and checked out a few books on robots, including the book “Robots, Robots Everywhere” by Sue Fliess. This book was full of colorful, fun robots that were exactly what he had in mind. I used this book and all of its bright and quirky robots as inspiration for our DIY Light Up Robot Costume.
I thought I’d share my process for making this costume, as I didn’t find a lot of “colorful robots” on Pinterest. The costume is actually quite simple – the base is a rectangle of fabric with a hole for the head, called a tabard, and then everything is just sewn onto the front. You could make this without sewing at all and glue felt shapes and buttons to the front of the fabric.
An exciting part of this costume is that it lights up!! A few years ago I costume-designed a show that required a character’s costume to light up on stage with the press of a button. I purchased EL-Wire (electroluminescent wire) from Ellumiglow and it worked out so well! It came with a battery pack and three light modes (Quick Flash, Medium Flash and Constant ON). The great thing about this wire is that it is super flexible and easy to sew with. You can manipulate it in all different ways and hand-stitch it down.
I was so happy I still had these two EL-Wire kits in my costume stash because they were perfect for this robot costume! You can kind of see in some of the pictures the EL-Wire has spots of paint on it from their last use, but they still worked really well for this. I created little pockets on the inside of the garment to hold the battery packs. My son has been wearing this costume in his room with the lights out just to look at it all lit up! I think it will be perfect for trick-or-treating at night!
Supplies Needed for Light-Up Robot Costume
- Base fabric – I used blue corduroy I already had
- Red and yellow cotton fabric
- Stripe and polka dot fabric scraps
- Felt in lots of different colors – I used 8×10 sheets of felt as well as a couple large sheets of felt
- Wonder Under
- Embroidery floss in colors that match your felt
- Buttons – I found the perfect button set that came with square buttons and arrow buttons. The link to the same set I used is at the end of this post
- Cardboard pieces –
- EL-Wire – I used two EL-Wire kits from Ellumiglow in Citron Yellow and Magnetic Green
Making the Tabard
(sleeveless garment with only a front and back and a hole for the head)
The first thing I did to make this robot costume was to make the base that everything would be applied to. I decided to keep it simple and make a tabard my son could wear over a shirt and pants – or a fleece coat if it is cold! Measure your child to see how wide and long the tabard should be. For my son, I cut a piece of fabric 30″ x 44″. I folded it in half lengthwise with right sides together and stitched it into a tube using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
I turned it right side out and pressed. To make the head opening, I folded my tabard in half and traced the head opening using one of my son’s t-shirts as a guide. I cut the hole out and also added an opening along center back, about 8″ so he would be able to easily get in and out of the costume. To make sure the opening didn’t fray, I added a stay stitch by stitching along the edges of the opening at 1/4″.
To give the robot a boxy shape ( I wanted the shoulders to be square), I marked where my son’s shoulders would go and stitched lines that were 3″ apart. After removing the stay stitch between the lines I just made, I ended up with two channels that I could slide cardboard squares into. I made sure my squares were cut just a little smaller than 3″ and that they wouldn’t get in the way of the neckline.
I added extra fabric to the bottom of the tabard to make it a little longer. First, I stitched the bands together with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Then I folded the bands, right sides together, so the yellow fabrics were touching. I stitched along the sides with a 1/2″ seam allowance. After clipping the corners, I flipped it inside out, pressed it and then attached it to the blue corduroy. I did this for the front and back of the tabard.
Creating the Robot Gear Panel
Creating the gear panel was my favorite part! I printed off my robot layout so it was the size I wanted the panel to be. Then it was easy to take the Wonder Under and lay it over the gear panel printout. I traced the gears onto the paper side of the Wonder Under with pencil. After this, I cut out the gears leaving about 1/4″ around each piece. Iron these pieces of Wonder Under to felt and then cut out the pieces along their lines.
Below you can see I have all of my gears laid out where I want them to go. It ended up being a little different than the plan I had made. I added a few buttons to fill in any gaps. Once everything was where I wanted it, I peeled off the Wonder Under and ironed the pieces in place.
I used matching embroidery floss to stitch the gears down using a running stitch. I added some decorative stitching to the top of the gears, too. It was easiest to do all this hand sewing with the gear panel not attached to the tabard yet. I mounted the light blue felt onto a large piece of black felt and added polka-dot fabric scraps to the sides. I machine stitched the black felt and polk- dot fabric to the tabard and then used a running stitch to hand sew the blue gear panel down.
Control Panel, Gauges, Oscillosope
The gauges are a lot of fun and the arrow buttons were perfect for this! I stitched the arrows to white and black felt circles and then machine stitched them down.
The control panel is made with lots of rectangle and square buttons. I added scraps of stripe and polka dot fabric. My son has uses for each button – one makes him run, one makes him jump and the striped part is a speaker!
I knew I wanted to create the oscillator using the EL-Wire, so I created a base for it with yellow and red felt. I eventually hand stitched the felt down to the tabard but after I punched holes for the El-Wire! Below is a picture of it with the holes already punched.
Adding the El-Wire to the DIY Light-Up Robot Costume
Once I had all of the felt pieces and buttons attached to the front of the robot tabard, I added the EL-Wire. I decided on where I wanted the wire to go and then created holes for it to pass through. I used an eyelet setter set I normally use for paper crafting. It worked well to punch through the fabric and create nice clean holes that won’t fray.
For the oscillator, I punched two sets of holes – one set through the felt pieces and one set through the blue fabric. It would have been too thick to go through all of those layers together. I made sure the holes lined up and hand-sewed the felt pieces down after all of the holes were created.
Stitching on the El-Wire was very simple. I just laid it out where I wanted it and hand-sewed it down with small stitches that were close together. Before starting, I decided where my pockets would go to hold the battery packs so I knew where to start the wire.
The El-Wire looks awesome all lit up!!
The last thing I did to finish the tabard, was to add two pieces of ribbon on the sides to keep the tabard in place. I used Velcro so they would be easyto open. I also added a Velcro closure to the back opening and finished off the neckline using bias tape :)
To finish off the costume I added a robot hat. I found the hat at Target and thought it had the perfect colors! I created felt eyes and hand-stitched them onto the hat. To create the robot antennas, I used felt, pipe cleaners and huge Pom-Poms!
I love how quirky this costume turned out! There is a ton to look at and it’s so fun when it lights up!! My son has already had so much fun coming up with uses and names for all of the different gauges and buttons. He is excited to wear it at night trick-or-treating!
Check out my other fun Halloween crafts, including more fun Halloween costumes :)