Building Kevin From Up – Part 4, Fun with Feathers

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In this final post about building my Kevin costume, I will go into how I made the body. While Kevin’s body looks elaborate, it was more time-consuming than difficult to make. The two biggest challenges were how to make it cool enough to run in, and how to get the effect of feathers without buying up every boa in the Portland metropolitan area.

I started Kevin’s body by making a paper pattern out of excess Christmas wrapping paper and trying it on for size. The shape is just a very oversized vest that opens in the front. The shoulders of the body rest on a PVC pipe on the frame.

The first challenge was materials. I wanted something breathable but with enough stiffness that it would give Kevin some shape. I got lucky and found some vinyl screening at my local Fabric Depot that came in several colors. They call it “Pet Screening,” and if you can’t find it locally they sell it online HERE.

Screen

The screening was great to work with because you can cut it with scissors, hot glue onto it, and easily sew sections together. Because I knew the “feathers” wouldn’t completely cover the base, I was glad to find colors that were close to my plan for Kevin. If you are doing a project that will have an opaque outer layer, the color would not be important. In fact, I’m using my leftover screening from Kevin right now to make his friend Dug the talking dog.

I cut pieces of the screening according to my pattern and hand-sewed them together. You could probably do it on the sewing machine, but I wanted the option to take it apart easily in case my pattern was off.

KevinInside

With the base taken care of, I needed to tackle the feather issue. Real feathers are expensive and delicate, and I needed to check this costume on a plane. I was rescued from my dilemma by a fursuit enthusiast (who knew there was a whole community of folks interested in fur suits?) who offered a great tutorial on making faux fur feathers. (I also have that link on my Crafting Help page.) Then it was just a matter of making lots of strips of fur and combing them into feather shapes. I made the strips in varying lengths and widths so they would look more natural. I didn’t bother putting shafts on my “feathers” since I wanted them to be flexible. Once I had enough “feathers,” I got out the hot glue gun and went to work gluing them on the base. I didn’t glue them the whole length so they would flutter in the wind a bit.

I did end up buying some real feather trim from Fabric Depot because it was just too spectacular to walk past it. It is the hot pink trim. There are a few real feathers mixed in with the orange as well.

I bought some aqua blue “angel” wings from ebay to use for Kevin’s wings. I hit them with a coat of polyurethane because the blue color came off on everything it touched. Even at that, I have to apologize to anyone who took a picture with me and got home and was puzzled why their shoulder was all blue. More polyurethane is needed to take care of that issue. I put Velcro down the wings to attach them to a piece of vinyl tubing that was attached to the shoulder PVC pipe.

Wing

You’ll notice that a large part of the body is covered in the same navy blue crushed blue velvet that I used on the head and neck. This fabric gave the illusion of very smooth feathers without having to glue a million little bits on. It has a nice stretch so it was easy to drape the neck and back. I just hand-sewed that onto the base.

Once I had my feathers on I hand-sewed some Velcro down the front for a closure. The feathers hide the Velcro very well.

Velcro

The other bits of the outfit were my regular black running tights and a tech shirt from Target that miraculously matched Kevin’s navy blue. For my feet, I took an old pair of my husband’s black socks and cut a slit in the bottoms. Then I used self-adhesive Velcro on my running shoes to hold the socks in place over my shoes. I wrapped up my hair in a scarf made from Kevin’s velvet, and I was ready to run.

People were amazed that I could run in such a large costume, but honestly, it was not that hard. I did not account for California’s heat wave, but it was still only a bit warm. Hearing everyone shout “KEVIN!” and “Kevin IS a girl!” made the miles go very quickly. So did all the kind comments from my fellow runners on how much they liked the costume. It was a total blast and I would do it again in a moment. In fact, I AM doing it again in May here in Portland. We have a whole group of costumed runners that will doing the Starlight Run as the Up characters. I will do a blog post about how I am building Dug, as there are some interesting techniques for making a fur head that I’ve again borrowed from my soul mates, the fursuit people.

My next post though will be about my husband’s Russell costume. There is a lot of good information already out there on Russell so I will link to the posts I found most useful. I’ll also tell you about some shortcuts of my own to make it a bit easier. If you have questions about Kevin or Russell, just let me know.