How to make a Tornado Costume…

29 Oct

So my son is seriously into weather right now after we had several tornado warnings in the past month. Tornado warnings are not that common in New York so it has become his current science topic. He decided he wants to be a tornado for Halloween which is easier said than done. It is not like I can run to the local Party City and grab a tornado costume. I researched ideas online for other tornado costumes but none really fit the total picture he described to me. I borrowed some ideas from around the web but here is the final project. Most of the items can be found at your local dollar or discount stores.

You will need:

  • 2 Pool Noodle ($1 each at the Dollar Tree)
  • 2 Cardboard Tubes (2 toilet paper rolls or paper towel roll cut to size)
  • 12 Pencils ($1 for a 10-pack at the Dollar Tree)
  • 2-3 rolls of gray Duct Tape ($1 each at the Dollar Tree)
  • Sharpie-type Markers – black, brown ($1 for a multi-color pack at the Dollar Tree)
  • 1 skein of gray/black mixed yarn (I used Red Heart Zebra Shimmer $3.49 at A.C. Moore)
  • 1 spool of 20 Gauge silver plated wire (I used Darice brand for $2.99 at A.C. Moore)
  • 1 heather gray t-shirt (I used Hanes brand for 2 for $5 at A.C. Moore)
  • 1 heather gray sweatpants (We had a pair that was hand-me-down but you can find them fairly cheap.)
  • Acrylic Paints – black, white, brown (I had paints left over from a previous project.)
  • Silver Glitter Glue (I had glitter glue left over from a previous project.)
  • Tacky Glue ($2.59 for a 4 oz bottle at A.C. Moore)

Tools to put it all together:

  • Hot Glue Gun w/ extra glue sticks($1 for a mini-gun & $1 for a pack of glue sticks at the Dollar Tree)
  • Paint Brushes – thin tipped
  • Paper plate with a lip
  • Scissors
  • Wire Cutters
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Sharpened Pencil
  • Large piece of cardboard
  • Clothes Pins
  • Clothes Hanger

Step 1: Wrap one pool noodle around the head as you would a crown to mark the length you need to cut. Cut to size.

Step 2: Cut the cardboard rolls in half.

Step 3: Roll the cardboard tubes into thinner rolls so that they can fit inside the hole of the pool noodle. Place one inside the uncut noodle and one inside the noodle you sized for the head. Connect both ends to the cardboard roll to create a ring. Secure the rings with duct tape.

Step 4: Using the duct tape, completely cover the pool noodles so they become gray.

Step 5: Gently remove the eraser from the metal ends on 6 pencils. Using pliers, remove the full eraser with metal cap on the other 6 pencils. Insert these ends into the metal end from the pencils with the removed erasers. This will connect 2 pencils together with the metal cap between. Wrap duct tape twice around the metal connection to secure. Completely wrap the pencils in duct tape so they become gray rods.

Step 6: Using a sharpened pencil, puncture 6 holes evenly spaced on the top of each noodle ring. Using the hot glue gun, fill a hole with glue and place the end of the one of the gray rods into the hole. Repeat this step for all 6 holes on one of the noodles. Carefully repeat this process with the second noodle so that that two rings become connected with the gray rods. Reinforce each hole with hot glue to be extra secure.

Step 7: Using the wire cutters, snip about 12 2-inch lengths of the silver plated wire and put to the site. Secure the end of the wire still on the spool around the base of one of the rods. Carefully spin the wire around the outside of the structure wrapping from ring to ring. Some of the wire will slide down the rods. Use the 2-inch lengths you cut off earlier to secure the wire in place in several locations. When you are satisfied with your wire look, secure the ends and use hot glue on the inside of the structure to secure the wires in place.

Step 8: Tie the end of the yarn around the base of one of the rods. Carefully spin the yarn around the outside of the structure. You can use the wire to help the yarn from slipping during this step. When you are satisfied with your yarn look, tied the end onto the structure. Using the hot glue, secure both the yarn and the wire to the support rods on the inside of the structure. Gluing on the inside minimizes the amount of glue that can be seen on the tornado.
NOTE: This completes the top of your tornado. However, you can add items into your tornado like small toys cars, animals, etc but keep the weight of the objects in mind as this piece sits on the head. I used a package of light weight construction toys and 3-D stickers to give the effect of objects inside the tornado.

Step 9: Cut a piece of cardboard to fit perfectly inside the t-shirt. Place the t-shirt on a clothes hanger and slide the cardboard inside. Secure both the t-shirt and the hanger to the cardboard using clothes pins. You want both the front and the back to be taunt because it will make painting easier. Hang the t-shirt up in an area where you can get to both sides. I used our indoor clothes line that we have in the basement.

Step 10: Using the paper plate as your palate, mix the white, black, and brown paints into various shades. The paints do not have to be mixed well because the streaky look works well for the tornado. Using the lightest shade, softly paint the outline of your tornado on to the t-shirt from bottom to neck. Be sure to have the tip of the cone at the bottom. Using thin stroke, swirl various shades into a tornado. Be sure to use a U-type motion when painting to give the tornado it cylindrical look. The final layer of paint should be solid black thinly dragged along the lines to accent the swirls.  Take the silver glitter glue and paint the glitter in the same motion as the paint all over the tornado.  This will give the tornado a rain effect.

Step 11(optional): If you want objects in your tornado, now is the time to attach them. I found that using 3-D stickers worked well because they were made completely out of plastic and can easily be hot glued in place. Place them in all directions all over both side of the tornado and secure with hot glue.

Step 12: Cut lengths of the yarn to match the width of the tornado.  You want them spaced out about 1 inch so the amount depends on the size of the shirt.  Be sure to have a little bit on the ends of the yarn to curl in the swirl-motion.  Using hot glue, glue each length of yarn onto the tornado.  When all the yarn is in place, take your hot glue and use a U-type motion to create lines of texture between the rows of yarn.  This will give the tornado are more 3-dimensional look.

You now have a completed Tornado Custom.

One Response to “How to make a Tornado Costume…”


  1. Wedding Gift Wreath – Kitchen Utensils. | ADDled Adventures - June 28, 2013

    […] seen in the Tornado Costume tutorial, roll a cardboard tube into a thin roll so that they can fit inside the hole of the pool noodle. […]

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