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Archive for the ‘How to Build a Camel Costume’ Category

Camel Jumpsuits (for the legs of the camel)

For Scott and John to wear under the camel suit, I made a couple of jumpers.  They are basically overalls with elastic at the knees and ankles.  My intention was to give them shoulder straps, but time didn’t permit, so I just pinned the front and back of the “bib” part to their own t-shirts to hold them up. 

how I cut out the camel jumpsuits (click to enlarge)

The pattern I developed was basically a pair of SUPER HIGH WAISTED PANTS!  HAaahahahaha! 

I added elastic to the ankles and the knees and bloused the fabric out around to cover the elastic.  I tied the elastic around the outside. I know, I know, but  I TOLD you I ran out of TIME!  😀 

The proportion worked best for us to put John in the front and Scott in the back. Experiment with your actors in the suit to find the best fit for you.


Camel – The body frame

Here’s one of the more complicated steps to constructing the 2-man camel suit.  This entry describes the construction and assembly of the frame.   

The frame was constructed of PVC, padded, and covered with felt.


 I made the frame of the camel from PVC (that white plumbing-tubing available at hardware or home-improvement stores).  I used long lengths of 1″ pvc.   Heating this stuff in your kitchen is very do-able.  When it reaches the right temp, you can easily bend it with your hands.  A hack-saw made the necessary cuts, or you can heat a kitchen knife (this will ruin the knife!) and “melt” the cuts.  


                        Do not inhale these fumes!    

                        Melted plastic will give you nasty burns if you are not careful!   

                        This stuff will catch on fire, can leave icky melted plastic on your stove, etc.    

The original design.


                        You need to heat all sides of the tube for it to bend correctly.  Just heat the bottom, for instance, and the tube will “warp” as you apply pressure to bend it.  Then, instead of being a nice “flat” curve, it will dip down, or rise up, and the bottom of our camel will be uneven.   

                        PVC pipe comes with “joints” and “curves” you can buy.  I went the cheap way and bent it using heat, but alternatively, you could cut the PVC into the correct lengths and glue on elbow joints for the curves.  This would mean more time and expense, but you would have a much neater end product than my camel.   

I used duct tape to connect the various pieces to each other.   

Cover all this with padding, and then fabric. Padding the frame (I used an old blanket) will soften the shape some.  I hot-glued the fabric over the frame. WHEN GLUING ON THE FABRIC, LEAVE GAPS IN THE GLUE FOR ACTOR HANDS TO GRIP THE INSIDE OF THE FRAME.  My frame was actually sized so that the actors fit comfortably, but snugly inside the frame and the rear frame fit over the actor in the back, making the entire frame supportable by just his shoulders.   

NOTE:  I added straps of fabric to the inside of the frame for the front actor, like suspenders to make it easier to keep the “cage” of the body level.  It’s one thing to hold it all in place standing still, but when you are dancing with a partner and nearly blind inside it, the level of complexity rises and the actors’ concentration will shift from cosmetics to survival!  

 For the final outer layer of fabric,  I used 60″-wide lengths of camel-colored felt that I got on sale. (Most fabric comes on bolts that are either 45″ or 60″ wide. )   

NOTE:  this frame and the “skin” of the camel are the parts of the project that I would re-design.  I never did like the way the front “Chest and neck” just floated around loosely like a skirt.  With more money and time, I would have designed the frame this way…  

A new approach.


The new design would have allowed me to have an elastic or draw-string neck opening that could be slipped right over the hard-hat and under the loose edge of the faux fur that covers the neck… resulting in a smoother neck and chest that looked more camel-like.   

Well, the NEXT time we use the camel… he’s in for an overhaul.

Camel (or elf) shoes

Here’s how I made the shoes for the camel.  Our camel’s name was Aladdin, (what ELSE, right?)  so I made his shoes stereotypical harem guard shoes, with curved toes.  I did resist the urge to put tassels on the points!  

This same design would work well for elf shoes at Christmas.  Or do them in Blue for a Genie, for instance. And I think a Smurf clog has this same shape.  

hugs,  v- 

click to enlarge

Camel – Putting a good face on it.

The images below will walk you through the general idea of how I made the head of the camel for Very Merry Rush Hour 2009.   

It requires 

  • scissors,
  • hot glue,
  • faux fur,
  • brown and red spray paint,
  • a sheet of thin fun foam,
  • about 16″ of fringe or feather trim,
  • and 1″ foam (the kind used for upholstery, found at most fabric stores). 

The basic idea is to roll the edges of the thicker foam into a nose shape, cut out detailed features from foam, add some spray paint, build the eyes and ears, and cover with faux fur. 

Have fun!   v- 

Shaping the nose (click to enlarge)


shaping the rest of the head (click to enlarge)


See the separate entry for info about attaching the head-piece to the neck and hard-hat. 

hugs, v-

Camel Hat Assembly – and spit!

click to enlarge


Here’s a simple diagram that shows how the head of the camel was assembled.  You will need 

  • a foam camel head which you construct (stay tuned for a separate how-to)
  • wooden supports (1″ x 2″ will work, or heavy wooden dowels) 
  • a hard hat
  • duct tape and/or hot glue
  • upholstery foam
  • 6 ‘ of fish aquarium tubing (only if you want your camel to spit) available cheaply in the pet supply area of  “Wally World” or “PaySmart” discount stores.

Cut the wooden supports to size. You will need at least 3 vertical supports (perhaps more depending upon how heavy your camel’s head is).  Cut additional horizontal supports, attach them to the vertical supports to keep them from collapsing into each other.  Duct tape or hot-glue this structure to the hard hat. 

Cut, size, and hot-glue or duct tape together a tube of upholstery foam that will fit over the wooden support to pad the neck of the camel.  BEFORE you hot glue this to the supports, make sure it fits nicely with the head, shaped well, formed at the correct angle to look like a neck, etc.  THEN it’s OK to hot glue it to the supports. 

Slip the head-piece on and hot -glue it to the foam, BUT LEAVE THE OUTER FUR LOOSE AT THE BOTTOM, so you can come back later and attach the fabric that will cover the actor’s face.  When I made this costume, I just went ahead and glued that piece on at this point, and I regretted it later.  I have a new idea for this that I think would work better which I will describe in a separate entry about ways to improve this design.    BUT WAIT! THERE IS MORE! 

WANT YOUR CAMEL TO SPIT?   Leave small gaps in your hot-glued areas so you can run a 6′ length of aquarium tubing up through the neck and into the mouth of the camel (yes, 6 feet, it has to reach down the neck and through the body of the camel).  After testing to see that the water sprays out the mouth the way you want it, glue the end of the tube into place inside the mouth.  In our case, I ran the tubing over the top of the hard hat, up to the head between the faux fur and the foam support piece, and out through the mouth, clearing the tongue with about 1″ of tubing.  

SPITTING IS ABOUT AS LOW TECH AS IT CAN GET.  After experimenting with gadgets, pumps, and syringes, I finally realized the simple solution was best.  The actor in the back of the suit kept a bottled water with him, took a swig and literally blew it through the tubing to make the camel spit.  It took about 2 seconds for the water to travel from his mouth to the camel’s mouth, so he had to know the script and time the spitting with the other actors.  We used regular water, but you could color it, add milk (refrigerate that!) or other food-safe additives to make it show up against your stage’s backdrop, with your particular lights, etc. 

Fun fun!  hugs, v 

Camel Saddle

Assembling the saddle was one of the easiest parts of the project.  Here’s how I did it.  hugs, v- 

The camel’s saddle was simple to construct.  You will need: 

  • foam rubber (like upholstery foam from the fabric store)
  • “blanket” fabric (stripes are nice for a Middle-Eastern flavor)
  •   mock “leather” fabric
  • gold or other rich looking fabric.
  • hot glue
  • scissors
  • two small oval cardboard “jewelry boxes” from a craft store

I started by cutting out the foam shapes.  You will need to cut 1 long rectangular shape for the arch of the saddle, and two half-circle shapes for the ends.  If you’re just going to guess, cut out the rectangle first, shape it in to a curve and hold it over the remaining foam to guesstimate the size of the curve you need.  If you take the mathematical approach, make sure 1/2 of the circumference of the circle you cut equals the length of the side of the saddle.  (see diagram) 

click images to enlarge



Next, I covered all the foam pieces with the gold fabric.  I just hot glued it on, folding over the edges and hot-gluing them to the inside.  

I then hemmed the edges of the faux leather fabric and hot-glued that over the gold fabric.  

Next, I bent the rectangular piece into a curved shape and glue the end pieces into place.  

I covered the small oval craft boxes with fabric and hot glued them to the top of the saddle to look like saddle horns. 

 I cut the fabric for the saddle BLANKET into two equal pieces (note the direction of the stripes) and hemmed all edge.  Next, I sewed the very ends of the two pieces together for stability and hot glued the fabric to the saddle careful to leave the opening for the actor’s head. 

click to enlarge


 By NOT attaching the saddle to the body of the camel, the actor could remove the saddle like a hat to cool off.  These suits can trap heat!  


Click to enlarge


How I made the camel – introduction

“V! How’d you make the camel?!”   “Wait, it spits real water?!!!  How’d you DO that!?”      

The camel performs during Very Merry Rush Hour


Like most things I do… the honest answer is… “ummm, I dunno.”   I just got one of those bees in my bonnet and decided we HAD to have a camel costume. But lots of people have asked me to explain the process, so I’m working on a how-to blog series to explain how I made the Camel suit we used in Very Merry Rush Hour 2009.  

First of all, the disclaimer: Making this camel meant following a series of inspirations one after another. I may have started my research on Google for more practical ideas, but I believe with all my heart that my creative inspiration comes from God. My only frustration is that sometimes my imperfect hands can’t actually sculpt the image God puts in my brain.  

I couldn’t find a design I liked online, and I didn’t want to spend between $800 to $1000 to buy someone else’s creation, so I put this together myself.  It has a serious design flaw, but more about that later… To get the ball rolling, I did a simple Google search for “camel costume.”  From that, I decided to go with a single-hump, two-man costume. Yeah, yeah, I know that makes my camel a “dromedary” – HA! a drama-dery! get it!? snort!  

I used every-day tools, tons of hot glue, and materials you can find at your local hardware and fabric stores. I used light-weight PVC for the framework, because it is easy to work with in my kitchen. (even though I do have a power miter saw and I know how to use it!)  

Gathering camel ideas from the web.


This HOW-TO series will be broken down into several blog entries, so stay tuned for updates. Right now, you’ll find camel stuff in the “Costumes” category. When it’s all finished, I’ll group the series all-together so you can refer to it easily. I do all my own illustrations for this blog and when I actually BUILT the camel, I wasn’t taking notes on how I did it, so the process of documentation after the fact will be interesting to say the least.   

So far, I have posted how I made the tassels for the reins. (Woot! ambitious start, huh?)  That’s a handy little how-to that can be used for an infinite number of projects.  Stay tuned… soon I’ll be posting a how-to on building the framework from PVC and making the saddle and assembling the head-piece.  I’ll also break down for you how I did the shoes and jump-suits, and a lessons-learned section for what I think I would improve upon next time after having done it once.  If you make your own camel from these designs, you will find LOTS of ways to improve on them.  I would LOVE to see how yours turns out!  

Stay tuned… More camel fun to come!  P.S., ever try to find a CLEAN camel joke?  sigh.   hugs,  V-

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