Sock Monkey

I figured that the hardest part of making a sock monkey costume (other than just the sheer size) would be making the head. There has to be a way to see, to breathe, to get it off in an emergency. What you have to start with, though, is the basic shape.

This was my first try and this is not it.

So, like every other costuming mistake, by product, or leftover, it ended up being a toy for my stepson. The reason this one is wrong is because this one will be too small as compared to the finished costume, which will make the wearer appear very thick and wide.

Sock Monkey First shape

The second try at the head turned out better. I just made it bigger around but not much taller. My overall plan at this point was to make a cylinder, close it in with “darts” at the top and smaller darts at the bottom – to close it in somewhat at the bottom but still be able to put it over your head. Also, I planned on cutting an oval over the face and making something out of some kind of mesh to see and breathe through. So I made the foam part first, covered it with fabric and THEN cut the face out. I wasn’t sure at this point what I was going to do with the bottom edge of the headpiece but I strongly hoped I’d be able to cover it with a scarf and make it blend in with the rest of the costume.

Sock Monkey trying to get head shape right


The first material I tried to mold into a face worked but it was a real pain. Plastic canvas from Joann Fabric and Crafts is not easy to shape. I made darts in it and put a lot of basting on it to hold the shape and keep edges together. I had hoped I could burn the edges together (If you try it do it outside – it stinks) but that didn’t work for me. Even once the edges were together it wanted to fold at the cut lines so I had to baste additional strips of plastic canvas over the darts to reinforce.

Sock Monkey mesh face

 The canvas is actually very stiff and as I began to cut an angle on the upper and lower edge I realized I could somewhat flatten out just the face (to imitate most sock monkey dolls I’ve seen). I covered the canvas with the off white flannel but used sheer red fabric for the mouth to see and breathe through. I covered it with the fabric first for 2 reasons: 1) to be able to pin it to face and make sure I could see out of it. 2) to have a way to sew the canvas to the face. Basically I sewed the fabric of the cream and red-colored part to the fabric of the head. I spray painted 2 huge wood buttons I found at Joann Fabric and Crafts and sewed them on with black carpet thread. For the nostrils I used sticky back felt and just cut the rectangles and stuck them on.

Sock Monkey mesh face

Overall, the ears were the hardest part of the headpiece. I tried a few things before I decided on these. I cut 2 fabric circles, laid a fat strip of foam across the middle, folded the fabric across to make half moons and gathered it around the curved edge. Then I sewed them onto the head. I ended up cutting a huge swath of red satin and sewing it to the bottom of the headpiece so it would cover the top of the body of the costume. Then I just tied it in a bow.

Sock Monkey does it work
Working on the torso was pretty straightforward. I did notice that foam takes up a LOT of space and you can’t put it everywhere because it bunches and creates volume. Note: I did use foam adhesive, both spray and paint on. It’s great for static projects but for costumes it’s basically only going to hold the foam together long enough for you to baste it. So I got out the old, old, set of curved needles and basted.

Sock Monkey torso

The key to prevent the bunching of foam in the crotch and under the arms was to REMOVE IT. I ended the crotch at the front of the legs and connected it to the leg parts. In the crotch area the foam is not attached to anything. The foam arms, also, are only attached at the upper areas so the wearer can lower arms without bulk there but also raise arms without ripping foam. Basically, the fabric of the entire costume did the support work while the foam filled it out. The areas under the arms and between the legs didn’t need to be filled out so there didn’t need to be foam in those places.

Sock Monkey body construction (2)

Sock Monkey hands are, well, SOCKS, so I used the same technique as the head and made cylinders with rounded ends. I made the hand parts separate from the rest of the arm so they could be pulled on and off without removing the suit. The darts are tapered so the ends are rounded instead of pointed like the business end of a pencil.

Sock Monkey hands
The legs are basically tubes that meet a flared cone down over the foot. I used a Dollar Store slipper as a base for the foot and glued/sewed an oval just above the floor that connected the slipper to the leg. This was all covered in the fabric.

Sock Monkey foot bottoms

Of course the sock monkey got a red and cream colored butt just like the toy. I just pinned on the tail so whoever wore it could travel in a car. The foam parted in the back and zipped so you’d put it on just like a jumpsuit. Adults love this costume. Most kids do too, but be careful around kids if you make and wear this costume: some kids freak out!!

Sock Monkey red butt


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