Monday, January 23, 2012

Make Your Own Ninja Costume Masks

The mask makes the Ninja...

(those of you who've been to this site before may recognize other costume elements... the spy belt and knight party favor bag... I so love seeing party items take on their own afterlife!)

How hard could it be to make a set of ninja masks for a ninja birthday party?  No problem!  Just rummage through the remnants section of the fabric store for shiny black fabric, measure a piece to fit your kid's head, sew it up, and cut an eye hole, right?  An hour or two, tops!  Egads. I don't want to admit how long this simple project took. I don't want to tell you that I went to the fabric store THREE times because I was having so much trouble fun.  Let's just say this post is all about trying to help you avoid the same mistakes if you should get a similar nutty idea about making party masks.

Did you see the post by Secret Agent Josephine on making a ninja costume?    I saw it on pinterest and loved her diagram so much... it fed my I CAN DO THIS attitude.  She drew the tongue sticking out of the little girl cartoon model.  Love it!  However, she used fleece, which is a fabric that wouldn't work with my highly active (sweaty) boys in a usually very warm Virginia climate.  Static, too!  I needed something thin and silky.  More on that later.


In my first attempt, I used Josephine's idea of tracing my kid's head.  I guess it wasn't a total failure in that the boys loved me shining a light at them to draw their silhouette.  However, it is clearly way too much fuss. The neck was too tight even with the recommended wiggle room.  Lesson number one learned:  the best pattern is a rounded pillowcase shape.  With the silky fabric, you get a draped look anyway. The wide neck makes it easy for the guys to flip the hat on and off in their usual hurry. 

I had hoped to put a pattern up for you but after a couple of attempts (oh no!) I realized that the pattern needs to be bigger than I can scan.  The width is about 12.5 inches (32cm), about the width of a newspaper sheet plus 1.5" over the edge.  My guys have big heads, so this is probably really generously sized for the average kid.  The length is about 15.5 inches (42cm). I used my favorite silver sharpie to mark the patterns (works great on dark fabric).  Remember that the large size includes room for the seam, the "shrinking" when you turn it right side out again, and extra fabric to give that draping hood look around the shoulders.


Of the three remnants I tried, my favorite was a Lycra swimwear fabric. Only problem was that I only found one remnant piece of it and it is otherwise $14 per yard (and I ruined most of it with all my mistakes).  I found some shiny polyester blends as a second favorite. The problem I ran into was that I couldn't sew it.  I spent an entire afternoon changing sewing machine needles, ripping out seams, ruining fabric, cleaning my machine, uttering nonsense, and calling my mother.  Turns out that I should have googled the problem immediately.  I had the wrong needle type!  Lesson two learned:  ball point needles and thinner thread are what you need to sew silky fabrics.  Once I had that figured out, sewing up these masks really was as easy as I had imagined. Strike two.


For the eye hole design I again turned to the very encouraging site by Josephine. However, I ruined three (!!!) masks before I figured the essence of ninja mask making.  LESSON THREE:  start the eye hole as a single slit, and cut out more in small increments as needed.   I put the hood on my son (inside out) and marked approximately where the eye slit should be.  That was about 13cm (5.25 inches) down from the top and 6 inches (15cm) wide.  I enlarged the opening for some fabrics, but for the silkiest one, just the slit was enough because the fabric drooped open on its own.  My favorite method was to make the single slit, then roll it over slightly and hem it.  However, I ran out of time for the party so most of the masks were just hoods with eye slits cut into them.

The ironic part is that at least one of the ninjas preferred to wear his mask backwards. He didn't need an eye slit at all!  The fabric was slightly see-through... 

Was all the fuss worth it?  You betcha.  I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  :)


  1. Good to have your tips and tricks.

    Ball needle is best for knits in general, as a helpful tip.

    1. :) I wonder what other helpful tips I am missing out on... Phew!

  2. Thanks for the tips! I need to make 7 masks for this Halloween!

  3. this is wonderful! and I'm so glad to hear that I'm not the only one who has such exciting sewing adventures! thank you so much!

    my needle lesson: schmetz special needle for sewing elastic - changed my life, lol

  4. Thank you SO much for sharing all of this!!