May Martin's top tips for making your grandchild a World Book Day costume

May Martin's top tips for making your grandchild a World Book Day costume

With schools around the country celebrating World Book Day hitting schools on March 3, thousands of tiny eager readers are hopping with the idea of transforming into their favourite book character for the day.

But if you're the one left in charge of sewing something together for them, we've got some help on hand in the form of celebrity sewing expert, May Martin, who's teamed up with to come up with some costume inspiration. Whether you're doing an intricate masterpieces or a last-minute ensemble, here's the sewing staples May suggests you might need and how to then put it all together:

1. Elastic
Elastic can instantly give shape and flexibility to a flat piece of fabric.To encase the elastic, make either a double hem by turning the edge of the fabric under twice or attach a strip of bias binding. Make an Aladdin Genie costume by taking a bright pair of pyjamas and threading narrow elastic through the hems of the sleeves and legs.

2. Boning
Traditionally used in fitted bodices and hooped skirts, boning is wonderful for shaping and stiffening edges but it is also great for giving structure to a pair of wings for a Tinkerbell outfit or the plumage of a Peacock costume. To make things easier, buy the type that has its own casing and sew along both edges of the tape to secure in place.
3. Vilene
This is another product that is good for stiffening and giving structure to large areas. It comes in several different weights and the quickest to use is the iron-on variety. Use heavy weight to give body to a hat for a Peter Pan costume, headdresses, helmets or a belt for a Mad Hatter costume.
 4. Make your own iron on motif
If you have an old t-shirt that you want to jazz up for your grandchild’s costume, this is the most amazing aid for applying motifs for garment decoration. The process is called appliqué. Cut a square of Bondaweb bigger than the finished shape to be applied. Iron this square onto the wrong side of a slightly bigger piece of fabric with the paper side touching the iron. Draw a shape onto the paper - if letters are being drawn these should be drawn back to front.

Cut out the shapes. Peel off the paper backing. Position onto the garment glue side down and then stick into position with a steam iron. This is great for a Harry Potter or Hermione Granger costume where you can draw out the Gryffindor crest. To find the stuff you need, search 'Vilene 329 paper-backed bondaweb' online.
5. Stick on sparkles and beads
There are endless wonderful products that can be stuck onto fabric. They come in numerous shapes from pearls, jewels, hearts, flowers, stars and much more and can make a real difference to the end result. Great for turning an everyday dress into a Cinderella costume!
6. Sew on sequins and beads
You can purchase these either singly or joined together with a chain stitch. The latter are great where a long continuous line of sparkle is needed, if you were making a star for a Fairy costume or some sparkles for a Little Mermaid outfit. They are easier to work with as individual beads and sequins tend to get lost!
7.  Felt
Another great product that has been around for years. There are a range of styles and colours and it’s great for children’s costumes as it doesn’t fray. This fabric is perfect for hats and flowers to embellish a Mad Hatter costume.
8. Ribbons
Ribbon is easy to use and gives long lines of colour. They're wonderful for bows for an Alice in Wonderland costume.
9. Eyelets
Eyelets are easy to insert and come in many colours. A good way to use eyelet fastening is to mimic a long pair of lace up boots by choosing a piece of fabric to blend with a pair of shoes, shape and hem two pieces of fabric to wrap round each leg. Insert eyelets on the long edges in pairs and lace them together to create a boot effect for a Pirate costume. You could also use this method to create paws for a Gruffalo outfit.
10. Paper patterns
There are lots of dressmaking patterns that can be used as a basis for many costumes. Choose from Superman, Tinkerbell, Little Red Riding Hood and much more. A good tip is to make costumes with generous hems so that they can be lengthened and worn again.

  • For more World Book Day costume inspiration, click here
  • To find all the products mentioned in this article, search the ‘Sewing & Fabric’ category on
  • There are more craft ideas in every issue of Yours