Making Large Structures with the Sandwich-Framing Method

Tutorial IconTutorial September 26, 2018

The Sandwich-Framing Method is a simple but effective way for creating large, lightweight cosplay that can travel. The basic idea is using layers of wire, batting, and fabric to achieve a solid-looking form. “Sandwich” is in reference to layering of different materials needed to create the frame.

If you’ve seen my Pumpkin Rapper or Omega Squad Teemo cosplay, you’ve seen this method in action. The Sandwich-Framing Method was used to create the heads for both characters.

I wanted to expand on the method more here, in case it might help with your next cosplay.

To achieve this look, you’ll need the following:

  • Some form of wire fencing (I use 1 inch mesh chicken wire)
  • Fabric (better fabrics stretch and are thicker)
  • Cotton batting (the thickness depends on the fabric you’re using)
  • A wire cutting tool
  • Work gloves
  • Goggles
  • Marker
  • Hot glue gun
  • Zip ties
  • Sewing implements

The hardest part of this whole process is, the first step, patterning the form. I often will use paper to generate a small version of what I want then scale it up.

For Pumpkin Rapper, I imagined that the head would consist of a stubby cylinder that was pulled in tightly every few inches. For Omega Squad Teemo, I toyed around with a cone until I got the rounded-hood shape I was looking for. A lot of this first step is trial and error. Eventually, you’ll come up with a shape that can then be laid flat and scaled up to the correct size you want.

Once you are happy with the shape of the pattern you’ve created, lay out the wire mesh on the ground. Wear gloves and goggles as the wire will want to go back to its original state (a round roll). Sometimes it helps to roll the wire the opposite way it was rolled. When you have a nice flat piece of wire, place your patterns on top and mark out out the shape.

This is where the more fun part begins, forming.

As much as possible you’ll want to rely on bending and layering the wire mesh over itself. There are certain areas where you’ll need to use your wire cutting tool though, to cut the wire. In the below photo, you can see where two edges of my wire met.

When cutting the wire, always give some extra allowance around the edge. Allowances can always be cut appropriately or folded to further secure the form. Also note that the edges will be sharp, which is why we want to rely on folding and bending where possible. Any offensive edges will be dealt with at a later time, but for now, just watch out for them.

As you can see in this photo, my pumpkin head consisted of making peaks and valleys with the wire mesh. Because wire, again, has a tendency of defaulting back to its previous shape, this is where zip ties can be helpful. Zip tie key parts as you go along bending and forming the wire mesh to your desired shape. In this example, I didn’t have zip ties, so I used the edges of the wire itself to prevent it from becoming one huge wavy roll again.

I had this wreath form around, which I secured the bottom of my pumpkin frame to. I used small pieces of wire to pull the valleys into the correct position. The same process was completed for the top of my pumpkin.

Soon enough, you’ll have a bare form that looks like a skeletal version of what you’re trying to achieve.

Time to give it life!

As you may have noticed from the above photos, outside of the wire frame is cotton batting and fabric. These two layers help complete the look.

If you haven’t already gotten the batting, you’ll want to first get the fabric that best fits your needs. For me, this particular color and shine was important for Teemo. Because this fabric was stretchy, it informed the type of batting I needed to get. I went with an inch thick batting to provide a more organic shape on the outside.

Generally speaking, batting that is too thin will show the wire frame. Thicker is probably easier to work with but if the fabric on the outside is not stretchy enough, the end result will look bulky. Thinner cotton batting can be layered more easily, if needed.

Going back to the patterns you initially created, trace them onto the cotton batting.

Be aware that any markings on the cotton batting may be seen through the fabric, if the fabric is thin and sheer enough. Flipping the batting so that the marks are touching the wire frame can help alleviate this problem.

Cut the batting, allowing some allowance around the edges. Place the cut cotton batting piece(s) on top of your wire mesh form and assemble them together. When you’re happy with how they are laid out, sew edges together to create a solid cotton batting form. The sewing can be done pretty loosely. Sewing is done simply to prevent the cotton batting from moving around.

When you have a solid piece of cotton batting hugging the metal form, you can further secure the shape by loosely sewing the edges of the batting to the wire form underneath.

Now we’re ready for the last layer of the sandwich, the fabric.

This part involves some trial and error too. For all the constructions I’ve done, I’ve placed a large sheet of fabric over the finished frame, pulled, and secured the fabric until I achieve the look I want. For Pumpkin Rapper, I sprayed the outside of the batting with spray adhesive once I was happy with my pulling to force the fabric to create valleys.

Falling back on the pattern you initially created can help if you’re comfortable with sewing. Cutting the fabric and sewing it together can create a snug, slick look. For Omega Squad Teemo, I didn’t want a seam and actually ended up not needing one after I pulled and secured the outside fabric enough. Once you’ve finished securing the fabric around the cotton batting, of course, you can cut any excess fabric hanging around.

Last but not least, bend away any sharp points in the structure so that they won’t harm you. Any metal points that still stand out can be encased with hot glue to make the points safer.

For travel purposes, you should be able to undo the zip ties holding the wire frame together to flatten and fold the structure. By doing this, I can fit Teemo’s head into a carry-on luggage with space for a few extra things. I carry zip ties with me in my luggage and bring back the edges in the hotel to easily re-create the structure.

If you’re like me and find yourself traveling long distances for conventions or simply have a lack of space, the Sandwich-Framing Method can help minimize the bulk that often comes with creating large heads or props.

Have any additional questions or want to show off what you’ve made? Feel free to sound-off in the comment section below!

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