Being that today is Halloween, I thought it would be perfect to share the costume I made for our dog Cricket! This is our first Halloween with him since we adopted Cricket from the humane society 8 months ago. We decided that this year, we wanted to dress him up as Nemo, the adorable orange clownfish from Finding Nemo (which is fitting for him and you’ll see why in a second). As a bit of background, the humane society told us when we adopted Cricket that he was born with a birth defect in his front right leg. This has affected the amount of mobility he has with this leg as well as how much weight he can put on it. Because he can’t put much weight on one side, his leg hasn’t built much muscle mass and is significantly weaker than his other legs. This immediately made us think of Nemo, drawing close similarities to the character’s weak fin. It also just so happens that Cricket’s weak leg and Nemo’s fin are on the same side! Hence, the idea to transform Cricket into Nemo for Halloween was born.
***NOTE: As you scroll through the images, you may notice the way Cricket holds up his paw due to his weak leg. First off, we have been assured by numerous vets that his leg causes NO PAIN whatsoever. Second, the birth defect has effected his development in that it has caused curvature of his spine. Thus, the costume needed to be altered so that he fit in it properly. The patterns of one leg being higher up are NOT a mistake, they were measured in accordance to his abnormal body shape.
Without further ado, enjoy this tutorial on how I made a Nemo dog costume!
The amount of material needed is based on a small dog (Cricket is a Yorkshire Terrier, miniature Poodle mix). Adjust the amount of material needed based on the size of your dog.
- 1/2 yard black fleece
- 1 1/2 yards orange fleece
- 1 yard white fleece
- Fabric glue
- 1 package iron on patches in white (2 per pack)
- Orange and black all-purpose thread
- Permanent fabric markers (will need: black and orange)
- Dritz dual purpose marking pen
- 1 bag poly-fil (you won’t need that much, so if you have even a 1/4 bag left from a past project use this)
- 1 strip velcro
- Small piece of cardboard (approx. 8 x 4 inch rectangle)
- Stitch removal tool
- Take measurements & cut shapes for inner liner. You can see my vision for the costume in the drawings below. Once I measured different parts of his body, I drew out the shapes I would need (based on a past project I did) and modified them using his specific measurements. The basic approach I took to the costume was doing it in two layers: an inner liner that fits to his body shape, and the outside layer as the shape of the fish. Let’s start with the inner liner. Start by cutting out the shapes for the front and back using white fleece. These are pictured below in the image on the right (cut-out on the left is for the front/stomach, and the one on the right will go on your dog’s back).
- Stitch back & front together. Make sure the two pieces are inside out first! Begin pinning the two pieces together. Pin and then sew the portion above the front legs, the area connecting the front and back legs, and a small section behind the back legs. Make sure you DO NOT sew together any part of the 4 leg holes, neck gap, or area where the tail will come out of. Once this is done, cut a straight line down the front/ stomach piece (this is where the velcro will eventually go to close the costume).
- Make & attach sleeves/legs. Use your dog’s leg measurements to make similar shapes to the ones I drew in my initial drawings. Use the orange fleece for all 4 pieces. Fold each piece in half so that you are stitching together the ‘wrong’ side of the fabric, or in other words, so that the piece is inside out. Once all 4 legs are individually stitched, pin them to each leg hole on the inner liner (shown below). Once they are pinned you can sew them in place.
- Check sizing & hem. Fit your dog into the outfit so far. Mark how far down the leg you want to hem each leg using the Dritz marking pen. I recommend using the air & water soluble ink side of the pen so that it will eventually disappear without you having to wash the costume. In terms of the leg hem, I would make the outfit short-sleeved so that it doesn’t interfere too much with the ‘look’ of Nemo. While you have the outfit on your dog, this is a good time to mark where the tail starts on the belly side of the liner. After you mark where the fabric will be hemmed and/or taken in, remove the costume from your dog and pin everything based on your markings. Draw a straight line from where the tail starts down to the end of the fabric. Cut this piece and take it in so that it fits better to your dog and isn’t baggy near his or her backside (shown below).
- Add a hood. You’ll want the hood to be fairly loose so that your dog can easily get in and out of their costume. I forgot to take pictures of this part…sorry! But I DID draw this part out for you (see below). Essentially, the hood will be made up of two pieces. If you need further instruction, you can always look up online how to make a simple hood. Sew together the two pieces, leaving the face hole open. Keep the length of either holes longer than you needed. You can adjust this later when you attach it to the outer layer. Once the hood is sewn, attach it to the inner liner.
- Create the outer layer. Draw a large fish shape on orange fabric. Make sure the shape is much larger than what you want since it will shrink when you stitch both sides together and as well when you eventually add stuffing. As a general note, it is always better to cut pieces bigger than you want them to look. After all, you can always stitch over certain sections to make them smaller and better define the shape you want. It is easier to cut down the size then to have to remake pieces. Cut out the fish shape, flip it over, and create a piece mirroring the initial one. This ensures the right side of the fabric will face the outside. Once both shapes are cut out, layer them so that they are inside out and pin together. Sew together, leaving most of the bottom of the fish open for now.
- Attach the inner liner & outside layer. To check that you have the desired shape, stuff the fish/ outer layer with poly-fil. This is the time to take in any sections that you don’t like the shape of. Simply remove the poly-fil, turn inside out, and sew over the section to smooth out any bumps in the overall shape. It is important that you have a very curved section and leave extra material near the chin of the fish. This will later be folded in for the mouth. When you are happy with the shape of your fish, turn it over onto the belly and place the inner liner over top so that where the head is on the inner liner is in the same direction as the fish head. Match up the seams. Mark either side of each leg. Remove the liner and draw a line connecting the mark on the outside of each leg. This line corresponds to each leg hole. Take out the poly-fil and cut the leg holes on the outside layer. Next take the inner liner, put it inside the fish layer and pull each leg through the correct hole. Hand stitch each sleeve, ensuring the leg hole in the orange fabric is folded in giving you a finished look.
- Cut & hem hole to fit dog’s head through. Now that the legs are attached, fill the fish with stuffing again. You’ll need to mark where to make the hole for the face, based on where you think his head should be. I made mine midway down, but closer to the bottom. On the front of the fish where the face will be, mark the seam that goes down the middle indicating where your dog’s head will go. Obviously you will need to measure your dog’s head first, then mark a spot on the seam. Using a stitch removal tool, you can easily open up the seam between the section you marked. Since the inner line has been stitched at the legs, guide the hood of the inner liner through the head hole. Make sure there is enough ‘give’ in the fabric of the hood and trim the length so that it doesn’t protrude out of the outer layer. Holding the fish so that it faces you, pull either side of the fish so that the fish isn’t’t too flat. With the Dritz marking pen, map out a circle for the head. Create slits in the orange fabric from the seam to the lines of the circle you drew. Keep the hood of the inner liner on the inside of the hole and fold over the slit pieces towards the inside. Pin each down. Once they are all pinned down, you should have a circle. Sew around the circle, leaving a 3/4-1 inch hem around the head opening.
- Add velcro. Create a strip like the one below and sew on a strip of velcro to the right side. Set aside. Pin together the inner liner and fish layer where the opening on the belly is on the RIGHT side of the cut. You may need to cut a line farther down the front of the inner liner if it wasn’t far enough already. The opening should start at the top of the front legs and end halfway between the back legs. Leave the rest of the orange part near the tail of the fish open. In other words, once the two layers are connected for the opening, the rest should not be sewn together. Once the two layers are sewn together on the right side of the opening, sew a strip of velcro beside this. The velcro piece should be as long as the opening. Next affix the velcro strip that you set aside previously to the left side of the opening. Check that it matches up to the velcro on the right side of the opening. Pin and stitch this piece together.
- Test fit & adjust. At this point you need to make sure it fits the way you want it to on your dog. Try it on him for sizing. The gap should be just the right size so you aren’t squeezing it into him. Start by putting his back legs into the costume, then guide his tail using the opening on the bottom. Next pull his head through the opening, followed by both front legs. Last but not least, do up the velcro. Make any adjustments you need to at this time. You can always stitch over and take in the loose parts. If your head hole doesn’t look right, you can always use the stitch removal tool to take out the stitch and re-pin it in a better position. To finish off this step, put the costume on your dog and add poly-fil to desired fullness. Don’t overstuff though, your dog needs to breath! I added just enough so that the costume held shape. You can then take the costume off of your pet and reposition the fluff so that more of it is near the face and on the back of the fish.
- Make the mouth. The loose section that was previously left at the bottom of the face (below the head hole) will be used to make the mouth. Reach one hand inside the fish and grab the section where the mouth will be. With your other hand, push the material into the other so that you are now holding the mouth like a puppet. This will be the shape of the mouth. Using cardboard, create two semi circle pieces of the same size that fill the depth and width of the mouth area you are holding. Cover one piece with black fleece, securing it on the back with fabric glue. Wait until the glue has dried and stitch it from the outside, placing it into the mouth. This will act as the bottom portion of the mouth. Stitch the corners and then follow the edges to stitch the outside. You don’t want to see the thread lines, so keep your stitch as close to the edges as possible. For the upper portion of the mouth use the second piece of cardboard. This time you’ll put it inside the fish and position it on on the upper section of the mouth. Stitch this piece in a similar way so that it stays in place. To further emphasize the mouth and make it into a smile, draw a smile with your Dritz marking pen from the outer corners of the mouth and embroider them through sewing by hand. Use black thread. This process could take a while, you may want to save some time by using a black permanent fabric marker to fill any gaps.
- Draw the eyes. Grab your iron on patches for this next part. First go in with your Dritz marking pen and draw the general shape you want of both the eye and pupil. This is NOT permanent, so change whatever you need to. Cut the shape of the eye following the outline you made. Let sit for a minute before going in with the permanent fabric markers, otherwise the lines may start to bleed. Draw the outline of the iris and pupil. Wait another minute for the outline to dry before filling in the iris and pupil (or again, the lines will bleed). Don’t worry if the invisible markings have not disappeared, mine took a day to vanish completely. Set aside.
- Create white stripes & attach eyes. I only created 2 large stripes on Nemo when he actually has 3 in the movie. This was because the final stripe would have got in the way of completing the tail since it covers the seam. More importantly, your dog won’t be able to wag his tail if you cover this area because it will be too stiff. Cut two strips, long enough to reach over both sides of the fish. They will need to be wider than what you need. Place one strip over the fish, checking that the material sits flat to the seam on the top. This will shift the piece slightly on an angle, which is why it’s vital the strips you cut were wider than necessary. Use your marking pen to draw lines to desired thickness. Use fabric glue to attach both stripes to the body and set aside to dry. At this point I attached the eyes. You could attach them earlier, but I wanted a better idea of what the Nemo costume would look like. At this point you can get a general idea of how the end result will look. I also waited about an hour from when I made the eyes before I attached them to ensure the markers were completely dry and wouldn’t bleed. Next, position as desired and iron on for 40 seconds.
- Create black stripes. Next cut thin black strips that will be placed on the edge of the white fabric. While the edges of the white stripes don’t need to be perfect, the black lines will need to be cut and curved precisely. Glue these to the edges of the white stripes using fabric glue and leave to dry.
- Make the top & side fins. Cut out pieces of orange fleece to make 1 long dorsal fin, 1 small fin, and 1 regular sized fin. Leave excess material at the bottom as this can be trimmed away later. You will also need to cut black sections for the tips of the fins (make sure they are longer than you need). Attach the black tips first by layering your black piece on top of the orange fin so that the shape matches. Use your Dritz marking pen to create a semi circle on the orange fin where you want to attach the black fleece. Turn pieces inside out and pin together, following the semi-circle you drew. Sew together. Repeat for the other side of the fin. Take the two pieces you now have for the fin and turn inside out and sew together. Pull from the inside and it’s done! Use this process for the other fins, creating shapes similar to the ones I made below. Position the fins on the body and use the marking pen to draw in where they will go. For each fin, fold a small section of fabric at the end of the fin inwards so that the hem is straight and won’t fray. Carefully sew each piece to the body, keeping the stitch close to the edge to conceal the thread. The side fins look best if positioned on an angle.
- Make the tail fin. Cut out the following shape of the tail (shown above). Make sure the length of the tail is as long as your dog’s tail since your dog’s tail will fit inside this. The process to piecing the tail together is the same as the other fins (see step 15). Once it is finished, pin it to the gap at the back. Sew together similar to how you put a sleeve on a shirt.
At this point…. you’re done! I know there are a lot of steps and this DIY is a bit complex, but the final product looks unmistakably like Nemo. Follow us on instagram to see more pictures of Cricket and his cute costumes. Be sure to hit that like button and follow our blog for more exciting posts and DIYs.