Welcome to Cardboard Costume Challenge 2017!

It’s all about inspiration, the exchange of ideas, and the excitement of making something by hand.

There are no contests.

No prizes.

No endorsements.

No sponsorships.

Just look around on the site, Pinterest Board, and around the web and challenge yourself to make your costume from cardboard, and whatever other scraps you can find.

If you would like to share your costume, send us a picture and we’ll post it.

We’ve already started to receive some costumes for 2017.

Have a look at the AWESOME, creative and inspiring cardboard costumes below!

Cardboard train costume by Alex Nadeau

Busy Bee by Camille www.thecardboardcollective.com

Busy Bee costume by Camille



Busy Bee by Camille www.thecardboardcollective.com

Busy Bee costume by Camille

Busy Bee by Camille www.thecardboardcollective.com

Busy Bee costume by Camille








Mask-Making Workshop


Cardboard Collective mask-making workshop in Tokyo, October 24, 2014

In cooperation with Play Park Kujira Yama ( a weekly pop-up adventure playground in Tokyo) I’ll be leading a Halloween mask-making workshop culminating with a cardboard pinata we’ll decorate the day of the event. Oide!

Who: preschool and elementary aged children and their parents

What: recyclable Halloween hat and mask making

Where: Koganei Musashino Park next to Kujira Yama

When: Friday, October 24th, 2014 from 2pm – 4:30pm

Please bring some light weight cardboard, a stapler and scissors (with your name on them) and okashi/snacks to fill  our pinata!

The Cardboard Collective


Cardboard Costume Challenge 2014

Although it’s already Mid November, I just wanted to say thanks again to all of you who took the Cardboard Costume Challenge this year.

Whether you sent in pictures or just got thinking about the idea for the future, thanks for following us on this year’s Halloween adventure. I had so much fun working on our insect family costumes as well as the other costume tutorials.

I hope to see you again next year, and please visit the Pinterest Board now and then as you start scheming and dreaming for 2014. (I already have a request for a Humback Whale costume from the littlest one and a year might be just enough time to figure it out!)

More Cardboard Heads



We’ve already gotten our first photos for the Cardboard Costume Challenge!

Christine Scheer made this incredible Pavlov’s Dog head entirely from cardboard for a cardboard costume charity event she attended in late September.

You can see how Christine started her head by making the upper and lower cardboard jawbone pieces and then used strips to connect the pieces.

This a truly original costume idea! Thanks for sending your awesome pictures Christine!

Cardboard Costume by Christine Scheer

Cardboard Heads


If you’re thinking about making a cardboard headpiece for your Halloween costume, this weekend is the time to get started!

Last Year we created 2 different kinds of cardboard heads, using two different methods.

the cardboard collective

The first head was for a chameleon costume, and utilized the hood pattern for sewing a kid’s jacket. To read the post about adapting a sewing pattern for use with cardboard, click HERE

The second head was built by making a cardboard skeleton and then gluing down layers of  ripped cardboard. You can see more pictures of the development HERE.

Cardboard Wolf Head by The Cardboard Collective

Because every cardboard head is a little different, I’ll lay out the most basic steps so you can get started. Have fun and experiment, the point is to develop you’re own style…

  1. Make a cardboard band that fits snugly around your head.
  2. Create cardboard side pieces that are similar in shape to the skull of the creature if you look at it sideways.
  3. Glue or staple the pieces to the cardboard band.
  4. Use cardboard strips to connect the side pieces and shape the front of the creature’s face.
  5. Cover your cardboard head with crumpled up and flattened out copy paper, fringed newspaper, Kraft paper, torn pieces of egg carton or ripped pieces of corrugated cardboard. You can take a look at the Cardboard Costume Pinterest Board for more inspiration.

Here’s a great video by John Gleeson Connolly (via Apartment Therapy) talking about how he made a simple cardboard dragon head for his son’s Halloween costume using a similar method.

Stackable Cardboard Dressers for Kids


Stackable dressers

My daughters are young and their needs are always changing. They wear a pair of shoes for 6 months then need a new pair.

They use a little chair, or a booster seat for a year or a month or 2 and then we have to replace it and either throw out the old one, find a friend who happens to need the same thing at the same moment we want to get rid of it, or put it on Craig’s List. (We have no charity shops here in Tokyo and limited recycling opportunities for large items.)

I find this kind of turnover exhausting. I wanted to create a dresser system for the girls that accomplished 3 things:

stackable dressers

  1. Recyclable so that we could recycle the whole thing, or just parts of it as the girls’ needs changed. I didn’t want the guilt of throwing away something that was perfectly good and I didn’t want the extra work of finding someone to take on our old stuff.
  2. Facilitates Independence. I wanted a piece of furniture that was easy to use and functional so the girls could easily pick out their own clothes and put them away starting from an early age (about 18 months-2 years ).
  3. Beautiful. I believe that the things in our life should be beautiful and functional. I want my daughters to value beauty, design, the arts, and momma moxie, so we tried to accomplish all of those things when we made the dressers. If you like hot pink and pattern as much as I do I hope you agree on our definition of beautiful….

The Cardboard Collective

To make the dressers, we collected kiwi boxes over the course of a few weeks, as well as beautiful papers; a mix of washi papers, origami paper, paper bags and Gallery Opening flyers.

I then decoupaged the papers onto the fronts of the boxes with water and white glue. I made a door in each box by cutting two sides about a ruler’s width from the edges of the box, and and then scored the bottom to create the door opening.

The doors of the dressers always stay shut and close easily. In a year and a half of using these boxes, the doors have never flopped open or gotten flimsy.

stackable dressers

The girls can easily open and close the drawers. By decorating each box differently they quickly have memorized what kind of clothing each box holds. (Only Dad is still struggling with this.)

Another benefit of these dressers is that they are not a hazard if they fall over in the event of an earthquake – an important consideration living here in Japan.

stackable dressers

If you’re wondering where you can get kiwi boxes, check out your local produce department. This past summer I wrote a post about how to find free cardboard here. We also use these boxes for storing our toys, puzzles, and art supplies. Yes, kiwi boxes are a definite favorite here in our apartment.


Christmas’ Cardboard Bounty

The Cardboard Collective

Unbelievably, Christmas Day and Cardboard Recycling Day (capitalized on purpose) happened simultaneously this year. It was an amazing day.

After a beautiful morning together opening gifts and sitting in the warm winter sun drinking tea on our living room floor, we headed out to blow bubbles and examine the recycling piles for sturdy and colorful cardboard…we were not disappointed. The beautiful leftover boxes I collected, as well as metallic and wood grain(!) cardboard scraps were definitely highlights.

The Cardboard Collective

These days between Christmas and New Year’s have been a wonderful mash up of cleaning and organizing the house for the New Year, sewing, cardboard crafting, and reflecting on what a great year 2012 has been.

These are a few of the cardboard projects I’ve put together in the last few days:

  • Gift tags: made from tracing tags we received on our packages this year.
  • Gift bags and boxes: decorated with saved paper scraps.
  • Holiday ribbon organizer: ribbons we’ll be using for Valentine’s Day.
  • Mismatched Cardboard Portfolio: I took apart and traced an old folder to make this.

Goodbye 2012 and thank you! See you all next year…

Cardboard Books for Christmas: #1 Lift the Flap

The Cardboard Collective

The Cardboard Collective

I hope the rest of you are organized and ready for Christmas!  We’ve just returned from a week-long pre-holiday adventure which involved a broken laptop, so I’ll be doing what I can to catch up with you now that we’re back in Tokyo.



I wanted to start by sharing with you some of the cardboard gifts I’ll be giving the girls this year, including a batch of cardboard books. If you haven’t seen the 2011 post (one of my very first on The Cardboard Collective) about making cardboard books, you can get the step by step instructions here.

I used some of my favorite summer photos of the girls and printed them out in black and white and then added flaps cut from toddler magazines. (You can use cereal boxes or other kinds of lightweight cardboard or card-stock to accomplish the same thing.)

The Cardboard Collective

This book just adds a few more details which includes a cover that I measured out and cut to size after making a basic cardboard book. I then just slathered the glue on and placed it over the top, weighing it down with a few books to dry overnight. It definitely gives the book a more polished look and makes it more durable too.

I’m really looking forward to reading these books with the girls! They really enjoy it when we make books that include them in some way, whether through pictures or text, and it’s always lovely to revisit our beautiful memories together while they’re nestled in our laps.


Looking Ahead to Cardboard Costume Challenge 2013

I’ve finally gotten the chance to catch my breath, and think about the whirlwind that was October. It’s a wonderful feeling to be totally immersed in something that you love doing for so long, but I’m relieved for a little bit of a break. I do want to quickly throw out some ideas for next year’s challenge and get your feedback if you would be so kind. Here are a few of the things on my mind:

Categories: I’m thinking about eliminating categories altogether and just having a group of outstanding costumes chosen subjectively by the judges or keeping categories and changing them to kid-made, amateur, and semi-pro, so there are different levels of competition. Semi-pro would be designers and those with formal training in art or design, or those that make a living from their art and/or design. I know that some people were intimidated by the level of competition, so breaking it up might entice more people to join in, while still getting a variety of costumes at all skill levels.

Tutorials and Inspiration: I’m hoping to talk about the design process a little more next year. A lot of people have told me that they have a hard time coming up with a plan to execute their idea, so I want to talk more about making models as well as combining cardboard with different kinds of media, glue and paint. I’m also noticing some different kinds of cardboard costume combinations that work well, like cardboard heads, cardboard armor, cardboard vehicles, and gilded cardboard for gods and goddesses, so talking about those options might spark some ideas for people.

Community: Hands down the best part of the challenge was getting to know other cardboard makers through their work, and through communicating with them on the blog. I hope we can continue to build a strong community of people who love to work with cardboard. I’ll be feeding off the inspiration I gleaned from this year’s challenge for a long time, and hope you will too!

If you have ideas or suggestions for Cardboard Costume Challenge 2013, I’d love to hear from you! Don’t be shy, I’m ready for the good and the bad. All of it! There’s lot’s of room for improvement and the best way to make it better is with your ideas! What would you change?

Thanks so much and I look forward to seeing your cardboard costume in 2013!

Cardboard Costume Challenge Results

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(Notes: Because all of the costumes were essentially made of cardboard elements mixed with other media, I eliminated the “hybrid” category. There were no bicycle costume entries.)


Edward Westerhuis: I am the Ram!
Cardboardia: Cardboard Jack-o-lantern
(Special Mention) Leelada via Flickr: Cardboard Cowboys


wrnking via Flickr: Cardboard Knight
Rachel and Tom Morgan: Archery Knight

Kid Made:

Leo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle
Sid: Star Wars Storm Trooper
(Special Mention) Lego Block


You all have me pondering the many new ideas you put out there with your incredible costumes!
I’m thinking about metallic cardboard, felt on cardboard, fringed cardboard, cardboard horns, and wearable cardboard houses and cars.

So much inspiration! I hope you feel the same way! The level of creativity that turned out for the challenge was so overwhelming, I hope everyone feels a great sense of accomplishment from the costumes they created. Tomorrow I’ll be posting some reflections about the challenge and welcome your suggestions for next year.

Deep bows to all our judges and to MakeDo Japan for donating MakeDo kits to all the winners of the contest!