This project started out as an idea for a Halloween costume, but after thinking back to the ice-levels of that classic 90’s game, I realized that if it’s designed properly it could be a great way to look cool and stay warm on the ski slopes.
Just like with the Elfie Hat, this project will be wearable, so to help me get a better idea of how best to design and build it, I make a quick list of a few aspects.
The first step was to sort out the best materials to help meet the specs. Making it look like Crash was a matter of colors and geometry. Cloth was an obvious choice of material, but what kind? I knew I wanted it warm and it would help if the cloth was very easy to sew (nothing too stretchy or silky). Mostly because I had an easy time finding the right colors, I went with polar fleece, a type of syntheticpile fabric, with a nice fuzzy texture and a sort of ribbed-weave that gives it just enough stretch.
I was excited to see the fleece was one-sided, meaning that the wrong side (side you don’t want showing) looks like smooth fabric, instead of being fleece the whole way through. A lot of the polar fleece in fabric stores is double sided, meaning that the fluffy loops (nap) that are woven into the grid of vertical and horizontal fibers (warp and weft) which make up the texture, end up constituting most of the fabric’s substance.
So the orange and white fabric I found had several advantages to start with. First off, being polyester means it will resist water from snow, sweat or breathing. Then, having a more woven back means it will resist wind better, and because the back is smooth, I can sew in a liner that will help give it even more structure. Comfy, wind/water resistant, sewable, structural and color-accurate. Perfect.
Creating the geometry that fits on a spherical head out of something 2D, like cloth, takes a little thinking. I did a few iterations of paper patterns before I got the coif right. The liner was basically just a reversed, slightly smaller copy of the outside, sewn together then inverted (fuzzy-sides out). .
The ears and mouth/nose presented some interesting challenges. Because they have very specific geometry, I knew they would need a lot of support. They also needed to be lightweight and easy to sew on.
I also knew I needed the mouth to work as a kind of “breathing chamber.” Putting a scarf or banana over one’s face helps to keep the wind off, and works fine while you’re moving, but will eventually get wet with exhalation and feels like you’re being suffocated when standing still. It also muffles speech. I’ve tried making a hard plastic mask to fit over my nose and mouth so I could run in the cold. The design had two one-way valves to draw warm air in from inside my shirt and expel cold air and condensed breath out the front. It worked pretty well, but it was impossible to speak through and not that practical.
I knew I want something that’s a combination of those two ideas for the Crash mask; something that breaks the wind but allows your voice and breath to get through too.
I solve the geometry problem and the breathing chamber problem with one material: pink plastic mesh canvas.
This is like the loose-weave canvas used for rug hooking, but because it’s plastic, it’s flexible and rigid enough be used for 3D constructions.
I made the shapes of the ears and mouth, then sewed on fleece.
I glued some felt teeth onto the plastic mesh and it’s bright, solid and pink enough to look like gums. This is perfect because the thin felt and uncovered mesh allow enough air to pass in and out that it functions as a great wind barrier, but leaves your talking and breathing unrestricted.
I threw on some buttons just below the ears to attach the nose/mouth. The bottom uses a clip to hold the two flaps together at the chin.
The mask is great on the slopes. I constantly get comments about it and it really is warm and comfy.
Let’s not forget though, that this mask was originally meant to be a Halloween costume! I love Halloween parties and I love costumes, but it’s hard to enjoy both. Even my best costumes are sometimes so bulky or delicate that I’m not able to move about and mingle.
I wanted this costume to be fun, recognizable and nostalgic, but also easy to wear around a party. The key was that the hat worked well enough to pass for the character, even without the nose, mouth or other props.
So let’s talk about the Tiki mask. In fact, let’s make another table.
Knowing how important weight will be, I start with a large chunk of Styrofoam use a flame-heated coat hanger to cut the mask. I’ve always wanted to build a Styroslicer like Grant Thompson makes on his YouTube channel, King of Random, but I’ve never found the time or spare cash for all the components. Short of that, almost anything metal can be heated on a stove or with a blowtorch and used on styrofoam to make a clean cut (or melt).
I cut some indentations for my nose and cheeks, along with holes for the eyes. The whole mask was covered with cheap, wood-grain, vinyl shelf-liner.
The eyes included some LED lights from the dollar store, fit into the styrofoam. These lights were perfect because they were battery operated and could be turned on by clicking the clear top down. They added a bit to the weight, but they fit snugly into the foam and were backed against my forehead, so clicking them on by pushing from the other side was easy. Small slits between the LEDs and the nose allowed me to see through the mask.
I made the eyebrows, nose and mouth by wire-cutting other chunks of styrofoam. It was really easy to end up with an uneven plane doing this and, at best, the texture of the syrofoam cells is still visible. I solved this problem with several layers of paint to cover the texture, then painted them the correct color. The mouth pieces I covered with a lighter version of the wood vinyl. The under-eye angles I just made out out of Crayola modeling Foam.
The eyes presented a particular challenge though: they needed to look smooth, yellow and opaque in normal light, but must also be translucent enough to let the light from the LEDs shine through. I cut a crunchy, floral-styrofoam ball in half to make the dome shape of the eyes. This is a lighter crunchier foam. It let light through better and was easier to cut and shape than spongy packaging styrofoam. The problem was that you can’t paint something that porus. Instead I stretched half of a yellow party balloon very tightly over each half-sphere. This hid the porous texture of the foam, looked opaque, yet still let through light.
The mouth was covered by a thin cardboard with teeth drawn on, so it limited my voice as little as possible. An elastic band is plenty to keep the mask on. Finishing touches included feathers and some decorative floral leaves cut into a soul patch.
A few other props were just so simple to make that I couldn’t help myself. I grabbed some foam apples from the dollar store and painted them with acrylic to look like Wumpa Fruit. I happened to have a small square box with a lid, so I hot glued tongue depressors onto it and painted it to match the TNT obstacles from the game.
Crash turned out to be one of the most fun, versatile costumes I’ve made to date.