Last-minute homemade Halloween costumes

When our editor bought the wrong Harry Potter cloak for her son, she unknowingly unleashed horror upon her home. By combining her craftiness with her tech know-how, she turned a scary situation into a happy holiday ending.

Boy in Harry Potter Halloween Costume

By Heather Camlot My husband and I bought the wrong Harry Potter cloak for Halloween.

We didn’t know. Really. I’m only reading the first book now with my seven-year-old son and my husband hasn’t read any of the books in the series. So when we went to buy the kids their Halloween costumes, we saw a black robe that was labelled Harry Potter and bought it. Ah, costumes done the first week of October. Yay!


My learning-to-read son came to the realization this weekend that the cloak we bought was for Slytherin, the house of the nasty, mean students in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, not for Gryffindor, Harry’s house. My son was so upset. He wanted to return it (we were passed the return date and didn’t have the bill anyway), he wanted a new one (we’re not buying a second costume), he wanted to throw it in the garbage.

Saving the day with technology

All hail the power of technology (it’s almost as good as sorcery and witchcraft). My husband emailed me about the uprising at home – subject line: literacy is overrated  –  while I was away with some girlfriends for the weekend. One friend pulled out her iPhone and searched the net for the precise description of a Gryffindor cloak. Another pulled out her BlackBerry and pinged her brother-in-law to ask if we could borrow her nephew’s old Harry Potter costume. When I got home, my son and I went online and Googled the Gryffindor crest.

Creating your own costume with your computer

Crafty parents, desperate parents, last-minute parents, listen up. Whether you bought the wrong costume and need a quick fix, want to make your own costume to save money, or have no choice but to create something at home because all the “good” costumes are gone, here’s what you can do.

Step 1: Find an image for your costume on Google and copy it to a photo-editing program.

Step 2: Size the image to your needs. I had to size the Gryffindor crest to hide the Slytherin one, so it came out to be about 5 inches high by 4 inches wide. But you’ll want to go full-sheet size (8.5 inches by 11 inches) if the image is for the centre of a shirt or cape (a pillowcase is good for this), like a superhero emblem or sports team logo would.

Step 3: Test print the image on regular paper. If everything is to your liking (colour, size, etc.), load your printer with printable fabric paper and adjust your printer’s setting to Best print quality and Other Specialty Paper. Print your image.

Step 4: Let the fabric dry for about 15 minutes, then cut out your image.

Step 5: Follow the ironing instructions for your printable fabric. For mine, I lay the new crest on top of the old one, lay a press cloth that came with the printable fabric on top of that, then ironed the whole thing for about 20 seconds with a medium heat. I turned the cloak inside out and ironed the back of the appliqué for another 20 seconds.

Step 6: Assemble any other costumes needs, such as a cap and bat for your little baseball player or a mask for your superhero (a painted paper plate cut to the right shape).

Step 7: Present to your child and hope for the best (like his not noticing the hood’s Slytherin green lining and not Gryffindor red). I receive a big grin. Phew! Magic trumps mayhem.

First published October 27, 2011, on

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