halloween 2012: a fire crew.

Hope you had a fun (and safe) Halloween yesterday! Here in Chico it rained cats and dogs, and we only had a few brave trick-or-treaters.

It’s madness with three boys I tell you – madness. The very fact that they are all dressed in costume and standing in the same photo is in itself a miracle.

I present the fire crew:

One fireman, one fire truck, and one dalmatian. Seriously, that was the best photo I got all evening!

Back story on the costumes: this summer we had a pretty large fire near our family cabin in the mountains (the Chips Fire). Thankfully, the community came through it safely, but there was a period of evacuation and when we finally made it back up there, there were firetrucks and crews everywhere. Cam and Lance watched helicopters use Bambi buckets to put out the fire, and became seriously obsessed with playing firefighters. So it seemed like a really natural costume choice for this year.

I didn’t DIY Cam’s costume. After last year’s viral toy plastic army guy, I knew I had nowhere to go but downhill. Instead, we bought Cam a fairly nice quality firefighter costume, thinking of years of dress-up ahead (he’s worn his pirate costume to shreds, it was pretty cheap). I made the other two costumes.

The dalmatian costume was not my finest hour… in a desire to have it be completely free, I used a 6-12 month pair of white jammies which were ridiculously small on my 97th percentile 14-month-old. Oh, and he pretty much hated it. Yup.  Sorry Kip.

The fire truck costume on the other hand, I am pretty pleased with how that one turned out! So I thought I’d share the DIY steps here with you…

One DIY Firetruck Costume

You’ll need:

One 12″ x 12″ x 24″ cardboard box (we had this lying around the studio)
Two green floral foam wreath forms, 8″ diameter (I had these already in my craft closet)
White Chipboard
4 paper cups
Wooden letters from a craft store spelling “FIRE” (two sets)
4 miniature Picket fences from craft store
Reflector lights from a hardware store
One battery-powered police beacon
Black Ribbon
Spray paint (black, silver, red and white – I had all these on hand in partly used cans)
A hot glue gun

Yes, I can’t believe I wrote that last one. The beginning of a new era, I guess? Just call me Martha.

The whole costume cost me about $20 to make, plus what I had on hand already.

Basically, I used a toy truck as a model and just winged it. This project took two full nap times to finish, so not a one day quickie.

I worked on the individual parts first, creating this assortment:

First, I trimmed the top and bottom off of the miniature picket fences (bought at Michael’s, 79 cents each):

Then, I made a mock-up on the side of the box so I could see if it would indeed work:

Next, I split the foam wreaths in half with an exacto knife. If you can use 4 wreaths rather than two and leave them whole, the much the better. In my case, I had these already and Michael’s didn’t have any more available.

I cut the chipboard into 2″ x 17″ long bumpers and also circles to fit behind the wheels. And I cut down four paper cups to be hubcaps:

Using more chipboard, I cut out the “white” part of the fire engine, and the windows. I laid it out like this:

Next was a whole bunch of spray paint:

Silver for the chipboard bumpers, wheels and hubcaps, black for the tires & windows (I didn’t have any black construction paper, but if you had that you could use that), and white for the ladders and letters. I had all of this paint in my stash. You should always have spray paint in your “stash” – you’ll be more creative on the spur of the moment!! In fact, the only paint I had to purchase was an extra can of primer, as we had run out here at home.

I did a little test to make sure the cardboard box would take the paint well:

And then, I primed (very important!):

And painted:

And let it dry. Yes, the box isn’t really perfect. But I knew it was going to get dinged up once he was wearing it anyway, so no big deal!

The next day, I assembled the parts:

See how it all goes together? I used a glue gun for everything. It’s not my favorite, but it really works well and everything was very secure – which in order for a two-year-old you to wear it, you need that!

And here it is!

I then cut a hole in the top (whilst holding my breath):

I pulled Lance up from his nap to try it on (he was a little bewildered):

Then I cut and fastened straps from ribbon to fit it comfortably at his chest, and it was done! One DIY fire engine!

And then… it rained. Hard. Wop, wop, wop. Do you know what happens to cardboard costumes in the rain? Um. Yeah. So, this little two-year-old went to a total of two houses… Grammy’s, and one dear neighbor who babysits for the boys. That was it. Talk about a lot of work for a little wear…

I’m still glad I made it!

DIY any costumes lately? How was your halloween?



Leave a Comment

  • Kelly Grago says:

    you.are.amazing, Martha!

    • stephen s. says:

      Thank you for the motivation to create a cardboard fire truck. My grandchild is not born yet but I decided to start now! Some modifications: Box 26x16x14, Tires foam wreath (Dollar Tree). Reflector front and back lights (Home Depot), Triangle flashing light (Harbor Freight), Ladder (round and square dowel (Home Depot), Hose (foam pipe wrap insulation Home Depot), letters (Michael’s), hole in box
      pattern (lamp shape to size), hat (EBay) with light and siren, Mega horn (Bed Bath and Beyond), emblem
      logo (online for the Fire Department near where my daughter/son-in-law live, web strap and hook (local hardware store). I used Velcro to attach ladders, flashing light and hoses so my grand person can have more to play with. In regards to the Mega horn, the grand person can both speak and use the siren which in time my daughter and son-in-law will thank me for getting.
      Estimated total cost about $58.00, but worth envisioning my grand person enjoying it.

  • Seyoung Park says:

    hi kippeum! Lance! well-being We love kippeum!! kippeum very cute!

    Cameron looks like Barack Obama^**^ haha

  • Gorgeous! And I’m jealous. I made the carboard John Deere Tractor – cardboard box, styrofoam tires that spin, actual tractor stickers, straps – everything – and he hated it! Only pictures I got and he was crying. Oh well. It was fun. Thanks for sharing .

  • Monika says:

    I followed your blog originally for your amazing letterpress work but have come to admire you greatly for your huge sense of style, fun and what can only be described as love for your family and community.
    Thanks for sharing .


  • Teresa says:

    *Am flabberghasted* You are VERY creative. You should send the costume idea to Martha or one of the other craft magazines. Brilliant!

  • nina w says:

    LOVE the costume you made! i’m planning to make a similar one for my son for this halloween. would you mind sharing how you attached the straps to the box? thanks in advance!

    • rebekah says:

      Hi Nina! I cut slits in the box and ran the straps through. Then on the under side, I tied them in a big knot and also stapled the ends to the underside of the box. It held fine. I hope this helps! 🙂

  • Kelly says:

    This is amazingly adorable!! Would you mind telling me what you primed the box with? Was it silver spray paint? My son wants to be an ambulance this year. He was a dump truck last year, and it was SO difficult to spray paint the box yellow; the color kept running and it was transparent. It took so many coats, so I’d truly appreciate some guidance! 🙂 Thanks!!!

    • rebekah says:

      Hi Kelly! The primer was a gray primer, and not metallic. It’s great for going under transparent paints (like red is very transparent, believe it or not) but I’m not sure about yellow as it is such a light color. It did take a lot of light spray coats, but most of my coats were primer not paint, and just directly one after another (as in, spray, wait 3 minutes, spray again, etc, so not like I let it fry between coats). I hope this helps! Good luck!

  • nina w says:

    thanks so much for the reply about the straps! 🙂 i’m planning to do it exactly as you described. i also ordered the same beacon (i searched online for quite a bit and that was indeed the best one for this purpose) and was curious how you secured it onto the box. it’d be nice to remove it without ruining the box or the beacon. i figure he’ll still have a lot of fun with it after halloween 🙂

  • Guest says:

    Thanks for great idea and walk-through. Just finished making a firetruck for my 2 year old and he loves it! Your guide was awesome and I appreciated all the pictures!