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Saturday, October 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Homemade costume?! Fear not, a glue gun's here to save the day

Seattle Times Ticket editor

Dear Reader

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Last year, "they" banned the Power Rangers, Darth Vader and anything Disney.

This year, "they" said make it from scratch.

We're talking Halloween costumes at my kid's day care/preschool. For a working mom, the words "homemade Halloween costume" are about as appealing as the news, "We've had a case of lice in the classroom."

But I'm game. Time to question Jackson, who's 5. "What do you want to be?" I asked, silently praying, "Please say pirate, please say pirate, please say pirate."

"A blue rhinoceros," he announced.

I think to myself, "I can do this. I'm clever, creative. If my child wants to be a blue rhino, I can make a blue rhino." And this might be the chance I've been waiting for to learn to use that Singer sewing machine we bought to have around the house when my mother-in-law (who, unlike me, sews) comes to visit.

So we head to Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts Store. Jackson picks out a lovely costume suede in a royal blue; I add in white felt for the horns and claws, grab a blue zipper and some batting. Then I peruse the sewing patterns. That's funny. Not a single pattern for rhinos. I select a costume pattern five-pack that includes tissue outlines for a bear, a lion and a bunny, figuring that once I add nose horns, any animal will pretty much look like a rhinoceros.

I quickly discover sewing patterns are as hard to read as a calculus formula. About the only thing I end up cutting out from the pattern is the shape of the inner ear.

For the rest, I crib from another costume already in our possession, a purple dinosaur with the right shapes in the arms, legs and trunk, plus a hood. I trace. I cut. Then I'm ready to sew.

Turns out that being a master of a Sew Perfect machine in 1983 and addicted to "Project Runway" in 2006 do not enable one to operate a Singer. (It has bobbins!)

Hmmm. Someone once told me that anything you can sew you can glue-gun. It seems like the right time to test that theory. But I decide to first stitch in the zipper by hand. Assuming that this costume lasts more than a day, the zipper seam is one that actually might need to hold up under pressure.

Stitching one side of the zipper takes two hours. Glue-gunning the other half takes 5 minutes — and looks better. I will never again sew what I can hot-glue.

Jackson wants to help. And to be fair, this assignment from the preschool is as much about getting the kids involved in their costume as it is getting commercialism off the stage during the annual Halloween show. But here's what happened last time I let him "help" on his homework.

Assignment: Make a castle. So we painted a cardboard box yellow and made a "Cloud Castle," gluing cotton balls to the bottom and sticking popsicle sticks in the top for turrets. The other kids? They showed up with moats and flying buttresses.

So, no, Jackson is not allowed to help. In the end though, I relent, and let Jackson and his sister, first-grader Bella, cut out the horns and claws from the felt.

It's troubling how much their ragged scissor work bothers me.

Here's what Jackson's blue rhino doesn't have: Edging. Elastic wrists or ankles. Two-toned accents. Spats. (Spats?!)

What it does have? A working zipper, a tail, two horns, and some pretty wonky leg seams. Oh, and tell-tale traces of glue all over it.

But my son is happy. He loves whipping around the long tail (much like a real rhino, I imagine), and proudly tells anyone who looks that he made the horns.

And me? A couple of nasty pinpricks and a hot-glue burn on my thumb aside, I've survived this latest stage of motherhood with no more than a few late nights of seamstress work.

Happy kid, tired mom. Just like any other day being a parent.

Note: We're pleased to report that Jackson's blue-rhino suit survived both the photo shoot for this story and Friday's Halloween show. Now on to the real test: Trick-or-treating.

Raina Wagner: rwagner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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