Friday, October 31, 2008

The Wobbegong is born!

My husband, who in many ways is cosmically trapped in the world of an 11 year old (in a good way, of course!), loves sharks. One of his favorite books on the subject is from his childhood- Album of Sharks by Tom McGowen, and it quickly became on of my son's favorites, as well. My husband has really been instrumental in instilling a love of books into the boys, and this was one of the first books that my son, whome we lovingly refer to as "Dome", really took to. Every time they read it, Dome would push impatiently through the pages, looking for his favorite picture- the Australian Wobbegong. He would giggle each time, pointing and demanding more information on this crazy creature. So, it wasn't too much of a stretch to decide his costume that year. We decided fairly early, too, and I had mad dreams of creating this awesome costume. I had no earthly idea how, but I was going to do it. So, we were set, and arrived in September fairly complacent. We make plans, God laughs, right? OK, so I the fact that I am a compulsive procrastinator probably doesn't help.

Well, things changed. My dad, who had been in a nursing home for almost 5 years, took a turn for the worse. Two really horrible weeks of intensive care, emotional visits, hospice care, and finally, a passing. September came and went, and October was ushered in with a funeral and all the trappings. A long planned trip to New England followed- a blessing that greatly aided the healing process. When we finally turned around, though, Halloween was less than 2 weeks away, and I had nothing. So, I frantically gathered whatever materials I could, as well as my collective wits, and made this "thing".

I don't remember a lot of the process, now, to be honest. I was, understandably, preoccupied at the time. I had a rough sketch, a pile of scrap fleece, and a simple understanding of machine sewing (most of which I had last done in 10th grade home ec!).

Basically, I had my son lie on the floor, I traced the outline of the general shape around him, and went from there. Because I had the extra fleece, I added an extra layer on the back. I sandwiched some quilt batting to add to the dimensional effect of the "back" of the shark, which also made it a bit warmer (it was cold that year). The fins were just drawn and machine sewn (turned and stuffed like a simple pillow) then either attached via the main seams or attached by hand when needed. My husband, the technical consultant, made sure that they were in a reasonably approximation of the correct spot.

The hardest part of the sewing were the "barbels" (the whiskers on the mouth), but I just drew them freehand, cut, then sewed them in the same manner as the fins. The painting on the back was based on the natural camouflage of the shark itself, with some experimental variations on my part. I cut the holes for the head and arms by hand last, and just hand edged them so that they wouldn't stretch too much. It kept slipping down, though, and although it was relatively lightweight, it still slipped over Dome's face when he tried it on. Inspiration struck when I noticed a plastic form inside his toddler sized batting helmet (hubby likes baseball, too!), and with a few securing stitches, the costume was complete.

Now, had I had some notion of creating any sort of pattern, I would have made it closer to his general size. As it was, however, I did not, and the end result was comically huge! I have to say, though, that laughing about these wonderful creatures (both the costume and the little guy wearing it), helped me immeasurably in those early weeks. I would estimate that it took me about 16 hours total (including all of the ripped seams, consultation and swearing) from start to finish. Dome still wears it occasionally, and in the "off season", it lives on the top bunk in his room. The wonder of the Wobbegong has worn off a bit as his interests have changed, but I hope that he will keep the costume for his own little future shark lover.

This year, Dome went out as a Hammerhead shark- and if I ever get around to it, I will post some pictures! In the meantime, the Wobbe got some good press over on, and (via Dabbled, but thanks for picking it up, Michelle!). I am so excited- I just love both blogs, so it is a real honor. Many thanks to Dot and crew- I am so happy that you liked it. ;-)


jennifer said...

Would you be interested at all in making another wobbegong costume? I have a 5 year old son who is OBSESSED with these sharks and has asked for this costume for two years.

Please contact me at I would love to work something out with you! Thanks.

jen said...

This is fabulous! My almost 3yo son just requested to dress as his favorite shark for Halloween...the Whale Shark, so thanks for the inspiration!

Clax said...

Ridiculously amazing!!! I'm attempting a shark ray for my 5 year old this year and this costume and your description has me motivated to go for it! Well done to you and your hubby. "Dome" will love the pictures as he gets older and will cherish your hard work, especially as it surrounds the history of it's timing.

Anonymous said...

My sons favorite shark is also the wobbegong.
We just saw one at the Georgia aquarium.
Please email me at
I would love to work something out if you would be up to making another.
This is the most awesome special costume I have ever seen. You are truly talented!!!

Ryncko said...

Hiya, my mom is the crafter in the family and a little intimidated at the thought of a wobbegong-- but it is my daughter's favorite shark. She pretends to be one daily lol and loves to tell everyone about it.

Our issue comes with how to paint the skin. Any tips?