Fabric is a great alternative to painting foam armor, and its easier to do than it looks!
- Foam of choice (craft foam or EVA foam works great!)
- Fabric of choice
- Fabric Glue
- Spray Adhesive
- Eyelets, Grommets, D rings or other strap attachments
- Plastic Wrap
- Masking Tape
- Writing Utensils
- Parchment paper, newspaper, etc.
- Fabric Scissors
- Craft Scissors
- X-Acto Knife or Craft Knife
- Sewing Needle (optional
- Thread (optional)
- Sewing Machine (optional)
- Embellishments (optional)
Step 1: Make Your Pattern
Making a pattern from scratch is super easy! Just wrap yourself (in my case, I’m wrapping my arm) in plastic wrap and tape. I’m using packing tape, but masking tape works as well! Once you’re all wrapped up, draw your pattern on using a marker and very carefully cut the plastic wrap and take off of yourself.
Next, transfer your tape pattern onto paper and cut them out. Make sure they fit together like you want them to. If there are any changes you need to make, make them now!
Side note: When you cut the paper patterns out, be sure to use craft scissors. Never use your fabric scissors on paper!
Be sure to make any notes you need to to remember what the pattern pieces are, how many of each you need, and how they fit together. It will make things easier later! I always write as much information on my patterns as I can! That way I’m not confused if I ever use them again!
Step 2: Cut Out Foam Pieces
Trace your patterns onto foam using a marker. Then, cut them out using a sharp X-Acto or craft knife. A sharp blade will give you nice, clean cuts, so be sure to sharpen it or change the blade if it becomes dull.
Step 3: Cut Out and Prepare Fabric
Now, pin your pattern pieces down to your fabric and cut them out with your fabric scissors. Make sure you leave some extra fabric all the way around your pieces. The size of foam you’re using will determine how much extra fabric you need. Smaller thicknesses of foam (4-6mm) will do well with at least 1/2 inch of extra fabric. Thicker foam may need more.
Its at this step that you’ll do any preparations to your fabric that you need to before continuing. For example. If you need to dye your fabric, do it now. If it needs ironed, do it now. In my case, I needed to layer a piece of lace fabric over my solid fabric, so I stitched them together before going any further.
Step 4: Spray Adhesive
Its time to cover your foam with your fabric! Use a spray adhesive (I’m using Elmer’s Multi-Purpose Spray Adhesive) to coat the front side of your foam as well as the back side of your fabric.
Next, press your fabric onto your foam so that you get a nice, smooth bond. Then, turn the piece over and spray the edges with adhesive. You’ll want to get both the fabric and the edges of the foam coated in glue.
After that, fold the edges of your fabric over and press down. If you end up with extra fabric at the corners, you can either glue them down as well or cut them off.
Step 5: Sew the Edges
Next, (if you choose to go this route) you will sew along the edges of your foam/fabric piece with your sewing machine. If you want to avoid gunking up your machine, wait for the glue to dry before doing this step. To avoid complications, be sure to use a heavyweight needle and go slowly until you know how much your machine can handle when it comes to foam.
Side note: Sewing the edges is a method best saved for thinner (4-6mm) foam. I would not recommend trying to sew thicker foam as it can be hard on your machine.
If you DON’T want to sew your armor edges, you can also use a stronger glue to glue the excess fabric to the back of your foam pieces. You can get stronger spray adhesives, or you can use something else like fabric glue.
When you’re done, your armor should look something like you see above.
Step 6: Repeat steps 4 and 5 for each piece.
Coat foam and fabric with spray adhesive.
Fold extra fabric to back and glue down.
Sew the edges (or use a stronger glue if you don’t want to sew).
Step 7: Attach Pieces Together
My method to attach different pieces of the armor together is once again, to glue and sew. However this time, I go about it a bit differently than before.
Instead of spray adhesive, I use fabric glue! Liquid Stitch is my brand of choice.
Spray adhesive probably won’t be strong enough to attach the individual pieces together, so we need something with a very strong hold. Liquid Stitch takes a bit to dry, but the bond is very strong once it is!
Start with the topmost piece and squeeze a line of glue along the back edge where the two pieces will connect. Then, use pins and small clips to keep the pieces in place.
If you want EXTRA hold, use a needle and thread to hand stitch the two pieces together along the seam line.
Step 8: Add Strapping and Embellish
There are many ways to add straps to your armor. D- rings and Velcro are common choices, but for mine, I chose to add grommets.
Grommets are easy to install and every package comes with directions on how to use them. Essentially, you poke or cut a hole where you want to grommet to go, stick the side of the grommet with the longer shaft though the hole from the front of the piece, put the side of the grommet with the shorter shaft over the back so that the connect, and then use the setter and anvil to pound the grommet in place with a hammer or mallet. Be aware though that grommets will only work with thinner foam, such as 4-6mm thickness. Basically, the grommet has to be able to fit through the entire thickness of the piece, so get a piece of foam too thick, and the grommet won’t work. Take the thickness of your foam into consideration when choosing how to add strapping!
Last, add any embellishments you want to! I added some simple “rivets” to the corners of my armor using metal embellishments and added a ribbon to lace it up with.
After all that, you have a wonderful piece of armor with no priming or painting required!