It’s no secret that I almost never use a sewing machine–we’ve talked about it on many podcast episodes. I’m just not that great at sewing, but I love using glues and adhesives.
My mother was. She used to make all kinds of clothing for me, my siblings, my dolls. She’s a sewing wizard. Why I didn’t learn from her as a child, God only knows. But I do love making costumes—for Burlesque performances, for Halloween, for random Tuesdays when I feel like being a bit “extra” and freaking people out. So, I have had to develop a relative mastery of all the ways I can make costumes that will actually function and last without a sewing machine.
And not just costumes, but props, too. I literally cannot remember the last time I actually sewed anything. Well, I take that back, I do occasionally hand-sew ribbon and such to corsets or more delicate materials, usually because I want the option to later use a seam-ripper and restore the costume piece for use in another costume, but generally speaking, I glue everything.
Over the course of many (I’d rather not list how many exactly) years of costuming, I had compiled a list of some of my favorite glues and adhesives and what I use them for. Here is that list:
If you look closely at any costume I own, you will see at least some element of hot glue activity. Why? Because it’s fast, effective, and actually rather forgiving, depending on the fabric. I made a lamp-shade costume and was actually able to peel the hot glue away and reapply it when I got the seams wrong. One other thing I use hot glue for is to set items while I wait for the more permanent glues to dry. I don’t own a lot of clamps and I’m certainly not going to hold something for twenty-four hours until it sets, so I often use a combination of hot glue and whatever other glue as a setting agent. This works especially well for larger props and outdoor items.
Do I have a favorite hot glue? Not really. Whatever is on sale because I go through it faster than a bottle of wine at a Cabaret & Cocktails rehearsal (that’s fast).
Downsides: Uh, it’s called hot glue for a reason and I have definitely burned the crap out of myself and melted my fair share of fabrics and materials. That’s why I rely mostly on the cooler settings so I can still function if I touch the tip (that’s what she said). Beware, hot glue can also re-melt if you leave it in a hot car and live in a warmer climate (hello, Texas and Hawaii).
Pro Tip: I love using hot glue to fake decorative stitching and, of course, dripping accents like candle wax, etc.
This dress is made from hot glue, fabric glue, and a dream. Headdress? Hot Glue. Gold trim? Hot glue. Blue overlay skirt? Fabric glue and ribbon. Sleeve details? I didn’t even glue those – just cut some holes and ran ribbon through them.
Downsides: the fumes, obviously and this is a no-go for anything foam. I have eaten through some perfectly good props by not reading that fine print!
Pro Tip: Use a syringe filled with E6000 for more precise application for accents like rhinestones.
Another great one for all the jewels, gems, pearls, rhinestones, and general costume bling. I don’t use this one as much as E6000, but it’s still one I have in my arsenal.
I do love that this is waterproof, but man does it take forever to cure!
Downsides: It takes forever to dry and I’m dying inside.
Downsides: Again, you will wait an eternity for it to fully cure. Sigh, I guess I’ll go watch some more Netflix.
Pro Tip: shave off the excess glue and sand it. Poof! The biggest downside is minimized.
Downsides: Overspray is a real issue. I once (okay, okay, many times) tried to use spray adhesive inside my apartment while costuming and crafting (and yes, I realize that is wrong on soooo many levels). And it just freaking gets everywhere, even if you place the smaller items in a box and spray into that box. Side note, I also tried this with spray paint inside my apartment. Same problems. Who knew a fine mist would coat literally everything?
Pro Tip: A lot of cements come with an applicator brush, but you’re going to want to get a bunch of super-cheap brushes to use for a more precise application. They will get ruined, though, so stick with the cheap stuff. This is where the Dollar Store really comes in handy.
Whoa. That’s a lot of glue. And I didn’t even touch on tape… mmmmm, tape. But that’s another blog post. What types of glue do you use in your costumes and props? I’d love to hear about it and get your tips! Halloween is coming…every year!
Disclaimer: Please do not use ANY of these adhesives on your skin. That’s another blog post, too!
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