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Make a NO-SEW Tornado Costume

Okay, I know, it’s November and I actually considered not sharing the rest of these dang costumes and just saving them for next year…..because, let’s move onto Thanksgiving already, right?!?  Aggggh!  To help me decide, I took a poll over on Instagram to see what interested you readers.  And according to my “super scientific method” of questioning a really diverse population over on Instagram (haha, not really), 86% still wanted to see them.  Awww, guys, bless your sweet little hearts for humoring me…..and for being so patient with me this year!  To you 14%…..I get it. Hang in there, I’m almost done…..haha!  So for today, I’m going to show you Connor’s No-Sew Tornado Costume….that fit right in with the weather theme we put together this year!  (Ellie’s Rain & Storm Cloud Costume is HERE, Chloe’s Rainbow & Sunshine Costume is HERE, and Oliver’s Lightning & Storm Cloud Costume is HERE.)

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Living here in Oklahoma for the past 4 years, we’ve seen a lot of extreme weather.  And even though we have super intense thunder/lightening/hail storms, that cause insane amounts of damage, the most frightening weather of all…..would be the darn tornadoes.  However, as horrifying as it is to see the damage these monsters can cause, they’re equally fascinating.  And because of that, Connor jumped all over the Tornado Costume suggestion! :)

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And a perk for you non-sewists out there—this is a N0-SEW Tornado Costume.  Only safety pins, some wire, and plenty of hot glue. 

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What’s underneath all those tornado spirals, helping to keep the shape??  Well, it’s a round trash can with a lid……with lots of holes cut out of it, to lighten it up.  But I recommend some other options down below, so be sure to read through that first.

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And if you know tornadoes, you know they sometimes carry with them the things in their path.  So we added some farm animals, fencing, and tree branches to this spiraling cyclone.  But don’t worry, no animals were harmed in the production of this photo shoot, and all were lowered safely to the ground at the end. 

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My favorite piece of swirling debris, might have to be those power poles that got sucked right up into the storm.  (Steve whipped those up out in the garage from wood scraps, while I was putting this tornado together.)  In case you didn’t you didn’t know, it’s super common to see power flashes in a tornado, which are caused when a tornado hits a power pole. This is actually helpful at nighttime, when you’re unsure if there’s an actual tornado touching the ground, since it’s too dark to get a visual.  Once you start seeing those power surges though, which create big bursts of light, you know the tornado is on the ground causing damage.  Helpful, right??  (I’d like to thank my local weatherman for all this info, which he so freely gives me during tornado season……haha!  I only laugh because tornado season is a crazy time of year and the meteorologists get super amped up, which makes me appreciate their passion.  I kinda bet Oklahoma is every meteorologist’s dream location though, because you can pretty much guarantee having tornadoes (yep, plural), every single year.  When there’s an active storm, the LIVE coverage coverage takes over all the local channels, and can last several hours.  But no joke, the enthusiasm of the meteorologists who’s reporting the tornado activity, equals that of one of those crazy football game commentators.  We call it the Oklahoma Super Bowl. Ha!)

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During the 4 years we’ve lived here, we’ve heard the distinct wails of the tornado siren being tested, every Saturday at noon.  It’s kind of an eery sound but also comforting, knowing we have those in place.  However, we’ve only heard the sirens go off during a true tornado threat near us, maybe 3 or 4 times. And we’ve only had to go down into our STORM SHELTER one time….but thankfully were unharmed.  (Are you curious what that is?  Or where you’d put one?  I was too.  So here’s a post about our Tornado Storm Shelter ….which is something all of our out-of-town guests want a tour of first. Haha!)

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Anyway, that’s probably more tornado info that any of you wanted to know…..but that’s why Connor got super pumped about wearing this costume for Halloween!  And you’d better believe he got lots of laughs and fist-bumps walking around our neighborhood trick-or-treating.  Hey, it’s what you’ve gotta do when you live in a place like this! Haha! :)

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Do you want to make your own tornaod costume?  You know, to save for next year’s Halloween?  Or use for a school play?  Or a local parade?  You never know…..

Well, here’s what you need to get started…

Supplies for NO-SEW Tornado Costume:

  • Trash Can & Lid (or a laundry hamper or a tomato cage….more about the best option below)
  • Fabric, anything light and inexpensive (many yards…but read the tutorial before deciding how much you need. Also, any color fabric works, since you’ll be spray painting, but lighter colors are easier to cover.)
  • Tulle (many yards….but it also depends on how big of a tornado you’re making and what you’re covering.)
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Duct Tape (for reshaping the trash can)
  • Safety Pins
  • Grey Spray Paint
  • Tornado Debris (plastic animals, twigs, toy cars, etc.)


Instructions for NO-SEW Tornado Costume:

  1. Okay, first things first—your tornado base.  We decided to use a trash can because you can buy them nice and big and when you think tornado, you want big, right??  HOWEVER, this heavy duty trash can was too heavy.  We started cutting it up before realizing it though, so we cut a bunch of holes in it (you’ll see further down)….which helped lighten it up.  But, it was still heavier than I think it should have been.  Soooooooo, do as I say and not as I do (like in the pictures below), and try using something different, like a laundry hamper…..because I feel like those would be a lot lighter.  Or, even a tomato cage.  (If you use a tomato cage, I would maybe piece 2 together to make it bigger, and then add chicken wire around it to give it a better structure.  Or, you may come up with another idea…and if so, leave a comment below to help others out. :)  Then, to make it more narrow towards the bottom, we cut 2 pie-shaped slits on 2 sides.
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  2. Then. squeeze those slits together until the edges meet, and use duct tape to secure them in place.
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  3. Next, cut a hole in the lid, big enough for the head.  But instead of a circle, use an oval, because it might make it too wide and will fall off the shoulders like ours did.  To fix that, we added duct tape to the top, to make the opening more narrow.  And then double-layered it by adding the same amount on the bottom side, which also encloses all of the exposed sticky side.
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  4. Now, place the lid on top and tape together really well.
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  5. Okay, this is the point when we realized the trash can was too heavy for Connor to carry around for Halloween parties and trick-or-treating, etc.  So, we grabbed a hole saw and cut out a bunch of holes, to lighten the load a bit.  It definitely helped and he was able to wear it but by the end of Halloween night, his shoulders were pretty tired. 
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  6. To make the top even wider, I had the idea at the very last minute to attach some pool noodles to the upper rim.  This gave the top of the tornado more width, to dramatize the shape a little more. I just tied the noodles onto the trash can, through some holes we made with a drill.
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  7. Okay, time to cover this beast! :)  To do so, you need to measure the distance from the ground, then up and over the can, and then back down to the ground…..and then add 8-10 inches to that measurement.  You need 2 pieces of fabric that are that length.  (This added length will give you extra fabric for creating the tip, but also to help keep things hidden.) Then, place one piece of fabric over the can from left to right, and then the other piece from front to back. 
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  8. Tie a piece of string around the bottom, to cinch in the fabric.
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  9. Then use a piece of wide tape (duct tape or masking tape or even painters tape) to keep the fabric cinched in at the bottom, and held in place.  Just be sure that the fabric is pulled tight and evenly spaced, before taping.
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  10. If you have some aping fabric on the sides where the fabric wasn’t quite long enough to reach the string, just bunch it up and add hot glue, to keep the sides smoothed and cinched in towards the bottom.  You want to be sure to create a funnel shape.
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  11. Next, cut a hole at the center for the neck hole, and add some slits so that you can fold the fabric out of the way.
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  12. Use hot glue to secure the edges of the fabric to the inside of the tornado, keeping it pulled smooth.
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  13. Do the same for the arm holes.
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  14. Now, you’re going to create the look of a spiraling tornado by twisting fabric and then spiraling it down the tornado’s extrerior.  Grab a piece of fabric that is many yards long (I believe mine was 8 yards long….but this amount can vary) and use a clothes pin to attach one end to the opening of the tornado at the top.  Twist your fabric and then start laying it along the top of the tornado form…
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  15. Then continue placing the twisted fabric off the edge of the tornado and begin working your way down and around the outside of form.  Use safety pins to hold the fabric in place, placing them behind the twisted fabric, so they can’t be seen. (TIP: You may need to twist and arrange several times before it looks balanced and evenly spaced.  Just keep at it!)  Just leave the very end of the fabric hanging off the end….because you’ll create the bottom tip of the tornado in a later step.
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  16. REPEAT THE SAME PROCESS with your tulle….attaching it right in between the twisted fabric that you’ve already attached.  Once everything is in place and looks balanced and evenly spaced, add blobs of hot glue here, there, and everywhere… keep everything in place.
  17. At the very bottom edge and in the front, I hot glued an oversized tongue depressor under the fabric (you could also use an old ruler or wooden dowel).
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  18. Then, I forgot to photograph this in better detail but I grabbed the excess fabric that was attached as the base layer, and draped it back over top of the tongue depressor. Then I gathered the front half of this excess fabric down towards the tip of the tongue depressor.  Use hot glue to keep the fabric cinched together and in place….creating a tip for your funnel shape.  (I cut off the extra overhanging fabric that hung around to the back of the tornado, leaving about an inch……and then glued the edges to the underneath side of the tornado.)
  19. Next, grab your fabric that your were twisting around your tornado and continue twisting down onto this pointed tip of your tornado.  Glue in place.
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  20. Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be neat and pretty.  Just try your best to give it the shape it needs to look like a tornado…..but tornadoes are also messy, so don’t get frustrated if everything isn’t laying perfectly straight.  Here’s a peek at the back side, which shows the back of the lower tip….and also how I glued the fabric along the back edge of the tornado.
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  21. Now, to give your spiraling tornado, more of a messy and wind-blown look, grab some scissors and make snips all over your fabric.  Try cutting at an angle, so that little strips of fabric hang off your spiral.
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  22. Now, grab your grey spray paint and completely cover all of your fabric.  (You can add small sprays of black and brown spray paint too if you want….I just didn’t have any.)
  23. And finally, use wire and safety pins to attach small items to your tornado, giving the effect that the tornado has blown around lots of different things.
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And that’s it—your No-Sew Tornado Costume is complete.  Such a fun and unique costume for anyone of any age!

If you end up making this, send me some pictures.  I’d love to see!

Good luck!


Ashley Johnston

Administrator at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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