For Halloween this year my daughter emphatically declared that she wanted to be a ninjalino. What is a “ninjalino,” you ask?
So there’s this kids’ show called PJ Masks, involving three kids who fight crime at night while wearing outfits that transform from footie pajamas into superhero costumes. The kids fight a rotating series of super-villain kids, one of whom is Night Ninja, and Night Ninja’s minions (slightly smaller ninjas) are called “ninjalinos.” I’m not exactly sure why my daughter has opted to be a sidekick rather than a villain or hero, but I think it has something to do with the fact that the ninjalinos wear purple (her favorite color) while Night Ninja wears navy blue (boring). In any case, this is what I had to work with this year:
I quickly determined that while the basic costume– a purple ninja outfit– would be simple to acquire, the fun would be in the details. Sure, I could use bright white or even glow-in-the-dark paint to make the tiny, star-like dots on the costume, but where’s the fun in that? I decided to up the ante and make at least some of the stars out of tiny white LEDs, which would have the added benefit of making her more visible at night in her otherwise dark outfit.
I found a purple zip-up hooded sweatsuit on Amazon, along with a thin purple ski mask. I did try to convince her to go with an eyes-only mask to make breathing and talking easier, but she was having none of it. It took a little searching to find bright white (rather than warm white) lights with battery packs instead of plugs, but I eventually found a set of eight strands at a pretty good price.
After turning the sweatsuit inside-out, I had her put it on so I could see where we’d be placing the lights. I ran the strings of LEDs up and down each arm and leg separately, then ran an extra two strings around her torso (one on each side of the zipper) with a final string on the hood for a total of seven.
Using tape to keep the wires in place initially, I used purple thread to whip-stitch the wires to the inside of the outfit, adding extra reinforcement stitches on either side of each LED and to the areas near the battery packs.
I also added an extra pocket of scrap fabric to the inside to hold all the battery packs in place at the small of her back.
I’m not going to lie, this took a really, really long time. After all, each strand was 10 feet long, and I had to whipstitch along the entire length, with extra stitches for each of the 30 individual LEDs on each strand– that’s 70 feet of wire and 210 LEDs! I restricted my work to two strings’ worth per night (my fingertips got tired) and watched a lot of TV to get it done.
Once the wires were firmly in place, I used my seam ripper to make small holes in the suit to let the LEDs poke out. Luckily the material wasn’t particularly prone to fraying. I used tiny dots of hot glue on the inside of the fabric to keep the LEDs right up against the holes– otherwise they had a tendency to slip back to the inside. You can see below how they just peek through the fabric holes:
My daughter and I painted tiny dots of white paint (some of which I pulled into twinkly star shapes with a toothpick) between the LEDs to get the “stars in the night sky” effect of the original, and also to disguise some of the sloppy stitching that showed from the right side of the fabric. All of the white speckles distracted from any errors, and made the outfit look good even with the LEDs turned off.
Finally, I used some light purple fabric paint to mimic a belt and wristbands, taping off stripes with masking tape and carefully painting between them for clean edges.
Finished! The LEDs are extremely bright– brighter than I’d expected, but overall not in a bad way. It did make getting a good photo rather difficult, though. For the record, she thinks it’s awesome and I fully expect her to ask to wear it for fun after Halloween!