Hi everyone, Koholint Cosplay here with a basic tutorial on making “toppers”, as I call them. These can be placed virtually anywhere you need a ridiculous flare on a costume and don’t want to invest hours patterning and making it all as one piece. I’ve used them the most on the wrist as glove toppers, but I’ve also used them on boots, and have also seen where they could be used on the thigh as thigh-high toppers. There’s really no limit, so long as you see a use for them!
For the sake of keeping things simple, I’m going to stick to glove toppers for this tutorial. The exact same method can be used for a topper located anywhere else.
There are technically some drawbacks to making toppers, so I’ll list the biggest pros and cons so that you can decide whether this method is right for you. I prefer this method since I like being able to re-use my gloves and tend to have limited time to make a costume. Everyone has their preferences, though.
- Separate pieces so you can reuse (AND WASH) your gloves/boots/thigh-highs for other costumes
- Separate pieces are easier to store and transport (toppers store flat)
- The separate piece is easier to decorate since you aren’t contending with excess fabric (from gloves or whatever)
- Quicker to make than patterning out gloves/etc with a ridiculous flare on the end
- Separate piece isn’t super obvious, if you match your fabric colors well.
- Separate pieces are easier to lose or forget
- Separate pieces can spin around or fall off during wear if you don’t secure them properly
- Velcro (if used) can snag on other parts of your costume
- A separate piece may not be “100% accurate” (if that’s something you’re concerned about)
- There might be a shadow where your topper connects to itself, and/or a shadow at your wrist (or wherever it’s attached to). I personally have never been bothered by this, and it’s never been obvious in photographs I’ve had taken, but again, we all have our preferences.
If you’ve decided that the topper method is right for you, read on…
One of my favorite things about this method is how quick it is. It can take some trial-and-error to get the exact flare effect you want, but after that, it’s straightforward and gives nice, clean results.
- Pattern paper (your preference)
- Tape (scotch tape, nothing fancy or expensive)
- Straight ruler
- Tape measure
- Writing tool
- Velcro (about ¾” wide is what I typically use)
- Fabric for your toppers (woven fabric is preferred, even if your gloves are stretchy)
- Interfacing (this is personal preference – discussed further on)
- Whatever decorations necessary (bias tape, fancy trim, buttons, ribbon, etc)
First things first, you need to look at your reference images and decide how much flare you want. Some designs have a lot, and some have only a little, so make up your mind about how big you want your topper. With these things in mind, get out some paper and get to patterning!
My favorite paper for patterns is freezer paper, but for glove toppers I recommend something a little heavier such as cardstock or construction paper. These mimic the stiffness of the topper a lot better and will help you get a more satisfying pattern. HOWEVER, if you don’t have anything stiffer, iron two pieces of freezer paper together (shiny sides together), and you’ll get nice pattern paper that way, too!
I almost always start my topper patterns as a sector of a circle. A quarter-circle is often a good start, so take your wrist measurement WITH BASE GLOVES ON, and use that as your full inner length of your topper. (I also recommend adding about 3/16-1/4” to this measurement, to account for bulk from the Velcro that will eventually be sewn on). Now take a tape measure or bendy ruler and position that length at the corner of your paper, making it curve as evenly as possible. You should have something like this (the pink represents your paper):Next, take your straight ruler and measure equidistant from your line, marking points every so often. This measurement will be how “tall” your toppers will be. Connect these points to have a second curve above your first.
Cut this out. This is your base topper pattern; it should look somewhat like this:
Try it on by wrapping it around your wrist, and use tape to connect the edges of the piece together – if it’s not the size or shape you want, now is the time to add/remove paper until you get the exact flare you want. I recommend getting the general size and flare effect you want before doing scallops or any extra details like that. Your flare’s shape may look something like these:
Now that you’ve got your flare ready, it’s time to add in some more paper to account for the Velcro. Cut out one rectangle the size of the straight legs of your flare and slightly wider than the Velcro you plan to use to connect your flares. Tape the rectangle to one side of your flare, so that you have something like this:
We’re going to call this piece the “Velcro tab addition”. It will give you the extra length you need to attach the topper to itself with Velcro.
(If you’re making a scalloped or otherwise unusually-shaped flare, you should make those changes now.)
The last step before moving on to fabric is adding in your seam allowance. This is personal preference, but since toppers tend to be curved, I like to stick to ½ inch seam allowance. I recommend tracing your existing pattern piece onto a new piece of paper first, that way you can use the piece without seam allowance to help with a future step. After tracing, take your ruler or seam gauge and add ½” all around your piece. After that, cut it out and you should end up with something like this:
This is your final pattern. Now you can move to your fabric and cut around your pattern piece until you have enough for both your toppers (this means 4 pieces total). I’m not going to explain how to cut fabric in this tutorial, but please be careful and precise during this process, especially if your fabric is slippery, or has some sort of pattern or obvious right side.
Let’s talk interfacing for just a moment. Your interfacing choice wholly depends on the amount of decorations on your glove flare, the fabric you chose, how big your flares are, etc. I’ve used everything from heavy-duty stiff interfacing, to Pellon 808 Craftfuse, to midweight sew-in interfacing. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it does the job you need it to. For this tutorial, I recommend Pellon 808 Craftfuse to get a nice, crisp finish, and enough support for most purposes. You’re only going to need one piece of interfacing for each topper (meaning 2 pieces total), unless you feel your project requires more support. (If that’s the case, please see Note 1).
If you kept the pattern piece without seam allowance, this next step is a little easier. Take your interfacing and trace around the paper pattern without seam allowance. This ensures you have a perfectly-sized piece of interfacing for your flares. Be very clean when you cut this out – jagged edges and bumps will affect your finished piece. (If you didn’t keep your seam-allowance-less pattern piece, trace your piece with seam allowance and remove ½” from the perimeter).
This is what you should have at this stage (for each topper): one piece of interfacing, and two pieces of fabric. I’ve removed black lines for clarity, and flipped one of the toppers to demonstrate the difference between the right and wrong sides in my diagrams. Please take care to remember that your flares will probably not be perfectly symmetrical, due to the Velcro rectangle we added earlier.
Now you can go back to your fabric pieces. Position your interfacing onto the wrong side of one of the fabric pieces of each topper pair you cut out, and make sure you’re not placing it into your ½” seam allowance. Iron it on according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Now we can get to sewing! Put your interfaced pieces aside for now, and grab your un-interfaced fabric pieces.
First, we have to sew on the SOFT side of the Velcro. Here’s where I get a little picky: I ensure that my toppers are MIRROR IMAGES – this means I have to place the Velcro such that it will be mirrored, too. Take the UN-INTERFACED fabric piece you grabbed, and position the soft side of the Velcro inside the seam allowance, on the RIGHT side of your fabric, opposite the side where you added the extra piece for Velcro. (I realize this sounds weird, but that extra piece was for the rough side of the Velcro, not the soft side)! Do this such that your Velcro placement is mirrored, as shown below, then stitch on:
This un-interfaced fabric piece will make up the outside of your toppers, aka the part that everyone sees. This method ensures that you won’t get the potentially crunchy look of the interfacing, nor any visible stitching from the Velcro. The mirror image reasoning is so that when you wear the toppers on your wrists, they will attach as mirror images, too. You want the CLEAN side of your topper to be seen, and therefore want them to Velcro together such that the clean side (with the soft side of the Velcro) goes to your OUTSIDE, and the rough side goes to your INSIDE. This means that if someone happens to catch a glance at the attachment part of your toppers, they won’t see the place where everything Velcros together.
After that, take one interfaced piece and one un-interfaced piece, place them right sides together, and sew them together using ½” seam allowance. Start from one of the straight sides (preferably the one WITHOUT Velcro), backstitch, then go all the way around until a few inches before your starting seam, and backstitch again. Make sure you leave enough of an opening to be able to turn the topper! Here’s a picture for clarification:
(If you have decorations at the wrist, even if it’s just a color strip, please see NOTE 2:).
Before turning, you should clip into the seam allowance at the top and bottom curves, or clip closely to your stitching using a pair of pinking shears. Flip both flares, poking out any curves/corners/etc, until you have your piece fully turned. Press until your piece is wrinkle-free, crisp, and clean-looking. Make sure to turn the opening to the inside, too!
Time for some fun: this is the stage at which you can decorate your toppers. Most of the time I find that I have to sew on some kind of edge decoration along the top of the topper: I highly recommend bias tape for this, either homemade or purchased. There’s really no limit to how you decorate the toppers at this stage: any topstitching you do will be hidden, since nobody is looking inside the toppers, and you can add whatever décor you like. Just make sure to leave enough room for your Velcro on each straight edge!
Once you’re done decorating your toppers, grab the rough side of the Velcro. Position it on the OPPOSITE side of the soft Velcro on the opposite straight edge, so that when you loop the topper around your wrist, it meets the soft side. Stitch this on, and hopefully you left the opening of the topper on the same side you’re putting the rough Velcro on. This way, you can close the open side of the topper at the same time as sewing on the Velcro.
Now you can attach the toppers around your wrists and marvel at your clean and ridiculous creation! (Seriously, why does anime love flared glove toppers?)
Hope this helps!
*** ALL TEXT, IMAGES, ETC., WERE CREATED BY AND BELONG TO THE AUTHOR. THIS TUTORIAL IS ALLOWED WITH MY PERMISSION ON COSMICCOTERIE.COM ONLY ***
In the rare case that your toppers have a lot of very heavy decorations, or if they’re very tall/flared, you may want to use a very heavy interfacing and use the “stuffing” method, instead. This means that instead of ironing the interfacing to your project and dealing with sewing around the bulk of such a stiff interfacing, you will sew your toppers together without interfacing. Only after you’ve turned and pressed your topper will you insert the interfacing into the topper (do this BEFORE attaching the rough side of the Velcro). Then, continue following the instructions as given. The interfacing shouldn’t move around too much, but if you’re worried about that, either use a fusible one and iron your topper again after inserting the interfacing, OR you can do a very fine topstich at whichever part of the perimeter of the topper that you want. If you’re sewing decorations to it though, I wouldn’t worry much about the interfacing shifting, since your stitches will go all the way through the topper and keep the interfacing in place.
I realize this isn’t the “proper” way to interface, but it works well for pieces like this that are bizarre and unrealistic. However, in most cases if you find that you need extra support, you should probably just interface both sides of your toppers instead of just one. This method is just kind of a “last resort” for the rare times a topper is way over-the-top and heavy.
For wrist decorations, especially for designs with a wrist ribbon such as Madoka and Sayaka from Madoka Magica, I recommend sewing your toppers together such that the top curve and both straight edges are closed, and the wrist curve is left open. Flip the topper from the wrist curve and poke out your corners, then press. Now sew the wrist curve shut, leaving the seam allowance “hanging”. Next, clip the hanging seam allowance off, close to the stitch line, ideally with pinking shears if your fabric is prone to fraying. Get a piece of bias tape that is sufficiently long enough for your wrist curve, and tuck & stitch both ends inwards to get a clean finish. Then, sew this to the edge of the wrist curve, stitching over your existing stitch line and ensuring you catch both sides of the bias tape. Now you can sew ribbon or whatever decorations you want on top of this bias tape! The bias tape ensures a sturdy base that will wrap FLAT around your wrist. (If you were to add the bias tape directly onto the wrist curve without leaving it hanging over the edge, you’d be decorating just the wrist curve and not getting the “bracelet” effect you want.)
I will detail this process more in a future tutorial for Madoka’s wrist toppers!