This year I stitched up some skeleton costumes using black sweatsuits and white stretch fabric. I stuffed up the bones to get a 3D effect.
This project will give you lots of practice using your sewing machine’s free arm. If you’re new to machine sewing, try Mikaela’s excellent, free Instructables Machine Sewing Class to bring you up to speed.
For this project, you will need:
- Free pattern, printed
- Scotch tape
- White cotton jersey fabric
- Fabric pins
- Pencil or other marking device
- For plush version as shown:
- For easier/quicker version:
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Print and Assemble Pattern
Print the PDF pattern (formatted for US letter-sized paper). Align the tiled printout’s registration marks and use tape to secure. Cut out the pattern pieces with scissors.
Hold up the arm and leg bone patterns to your body, and see if they need to be lengthened or shortened. If so, cut them in the middle and either insert an extra bit of paper (to make them longer) or overlap them (to make them shorter).
If you’d like to modify the pattern more, I’ve attached the source files made with Adobe Illustrator (licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike).
Cut White Fabric Bones
Iron your white cotton jersey fabric. Fold it in half so the selvedge edges are together, and pin the ribcage and arm pattern pieces to the double-layer fabric. The arm bones are easy to cut around without additional marks, but the ribcage is complex enough that I used a pencil to trace the pattern before cutting. You will end up with two ribcage pieces and two of each arm bone pieces.
Double the fabric over once more (four layers) and repeat the pattern pinning/cutting process with the leg bone pattern pieces, so that you have four of each.
To recap, you should now have the following white cotton jersey pieces cut:
- 2x ribcage
- 2x upper arm bone
- 2x lower arm bone
- 4x upper leg bone
- 4x lower leg bone
Pin and Sew Ribcage
Lay your sweatshirt flat (iron it if necessary) and align your first ribcage piece to the center-top of the shirt, up towards the collar.
If you are using fabric glue, now’s the time to glue the ribcage in place by lifting one rib at a time.
If you are taking the sewing route, pin the ribs in place and set your machine to a short zigzag stitch. Using the sewing machine’s free arm, stitch around the ribs on one half only, to allow for stuffing.
Stuff and Finish Ribcage
Use a chopstick to stuff the ribs on the sewn side (you may have to temporarily remove some pins). Then sew and stuff the ribs on the other side, one at a time. I found it was easiest to sew around one rib and also around half of the next one, stuff, then repeat. This way, the presser foot isn’t trying to stitch too close to a puffy rib.
Make sure the stuffing is even, using the chopstick to massage it where necessary.
When you get to the end, smush the stuffing away from the last opening, then zigzag stitch it shut. Massage the stuffing to fill in the end.
Repeat the process for the second ribcage on the back of the sweatshirt.
Repeat With Arm Bones
You might want to try on the shirt to get the placement of the arm bones right. Lay them out flat on the sleeve and pin. Then stitch around them, leaving an opening for stuffing, and stuff the arm bones just like you did the ribcage. The sewing machine’s free arm becomes even more important here, and it can be tricky to keep the fabric flat while stitching in the narrow parts of the sleeve.
Repeat With Leg Bones on Pants
Try on for placement and then pin, stitch and stuff the leg bone pattern pieces to your sweatpants. Start with the fronts or backs, stitch and stuff, then do the other side. I don’t recommend pinning all the pieces in place at once, since it’s tricky to manipulate the pants through the sewing machine while there are sharp pins sticking out of them everywhere.
I made two of these skeleton sweatsuits for a coordinated couples’ look. To accessorize our homemade costumes, we added a few store-bought items:
- Skeleton t-shirt for when we get too warm in a sweatshirt
- Skeleton fingerless gloves
- Skeleton balaclava
- Black fanny pack (for marching in the NYC Halloween Parade)
Thanks for following along! If you enjoyed your experience, please share this guide with a friend.
If you like this project, you may be interested in some of my others:
- Emoji Ghost and Emoji Poo Costumes
- Plush Toy (Hand Sewing)
- Slim Fit T-Shirt Mod (with a serger)
- Hair Scrunchie
- FAT Hoodie Applique
- Quilted Vinyl Pencil Case
- Elly Jackson La Roux Halloween Costume