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RUSSELL, THE WILDERNESS EXPLORER – a no-sew costume in under $10, and in just a few hours.

I’ve been thinking of Milo’s halloween costume for some time. It was always my intention to make him one, but I have no sewing machine and limited crafting skills. In a weak moment, I decide to head to the party store and see what costumes were already made, and available for toddlers. We (yes, I dragged my husband and son along) walked up and down the aisle, looking at the costumes stuffed into their 12×12 plastic envelopes. The majority of the boys costumes were character related (Spiderman, Bob the Builder, Buzz Lightyear, etc). Now, I will face the music one day, but until my son has a say so – he is not going to be a superhero. The costumes were terribly cheesy and highly expensive. In addition, most were made of synthetic materials, looked to be very uncomfortable and hot (it’s still in the 80s here in FL), and my son would likely not wear many of these for a decent period of time.

So, back to plan A. Making a costume with limited skills, and now a new added challenge. I wanted it to be far less expensive then the costumes I saw at the party store (most were $20-40). It had to be something he could wear comfortably (hopefully, he wouldn’t tug at it, and just carry about his business as usual).

With a little thought, some Pinterest searching, and inspiration from one of my absolute favorite Disney movies, it was decided. Milo would be “Russell, the Wilderness Explorer” from Disney Pixar’s animated movie, “Up.” Maybe not as popular as “Toy Story” or “Cars” for little boys, but still a recognizable, yet unique character.

I tried to tackle my project during my son’s Sunday afternoon nap (usually 2ish hours). Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough time, and I wrapped it up later that evening after he went to bed. Total project was maybe 3 to 3 1/2 hours. I was figuring things out as I went along, and pulling ideas from multiple resources. Now, with the below tutorial, I believe this project could be done in 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Things you will need, to complete this project. We improvised on some, and made a few alternate selections on colors.

1) Yellow polo shirt

2) brown shorts

3) brown boots

4) white socks

5) yellow hat

6) WE badge sash – DIY instruction below

7) WE flag – DIY instruction below

8) orange scarf

9) props of your choice: backpack, trumpet, balloons, etc. We used our Golden Retriever as a prop, representing “Doug” from the movie.

Here is Russell – take and choose what you can from the image, then make it your own.



Craft items needed:

1 piece of felt in each color: yellow, blue, white, green, brown.

2 pieces of felt in orange.

1 wooden stick. (roughly 24″ in length)

1 yellow bandana/scarf.

1 brown bandana/scarf.

Scrap of cardboard.

Craft glue.


1) Begin, with the badges. Cut 24 circles of the same diameter. Mine were approximately 1 3/4″ each. I used the lid of a bubble bottle for guidance. I cut my circles in yellow (10), blue (3), green (3), white (6), and orange (1).


2) Next, decorate your badges to represent wilderness type achievements. Cut the shapes very simple. Some of my ideas include a campfire flame, tent, fish, and a knife. And some have no particular value at all like a diamond shape or a cross shape. Below are a few sites you can use for inspiration. No need to glue together the pieces yet. Finish cutting all of your materials – and glue later on in step #6.




3) Now, you will start crafting the WE flag. Cut two triangle pieces of orange felt, the exact same size. Mine was 12″ across the top, and 9″ in length. In addition, cut a piece of cardboard similar in shape, but about 1/2″ smaller than the felt. It will support the flag from the center.  This is not an exact science.  Just need some support in the middle.


4) Both the flag, and the hat will need an official Wilderness Explorer badge. Use yellow felt, and cut one large circle (for the flag) and one small circle (for the hat). I used a breadcrumb can, about about 4 1/2″ in diameter for the large circle. I used a standard soup can at about 3″ in diameter for the small circle. Remember – if outlining with sharpie marker, it stains! Don’t use your nice glassware to make circle shapes. 🙂 Next, cut a simple tree shape to fit each badge, using green felt. Finally, use orange felt to cut the letter “W” and brown felt to cute the letter “E.” The “E” should represent the tree’s trunk.




5) It’s time to make a badge sash! You can use any type of fabric you might have on hand. I don’t sew, so I bought a plain brown bandana to cut and use. I cut two pieces, the exact same dimensions of 16″ x 5 1/2″. This is the size that best fit all of my badges, and also my son. You can make your sash any size that best fits your project needs. You can glue, hem, or use an iron hem to piece the two pieces together. I first used Stitch Witchery iron hem, but it did not seem strong enough. I later reinforced the seam with hot glue.



6) GLUE, GLUE, GLUE. Your choice of craft glue – I used hot glue for everything.

*Glue your badges together now. Each shape, to each circle. Naturally, felt sticks together, so just a drop of glue does the trick for assembling your badges.

*Glue your flag together – cardboard in between the orange triangle pieces.

*Glue your flag to its stick.

*Glue your large WE badge together (tree first, then W, then E).

*Glue your large and completed WE badge to your flag.

*Glue your small WE badge together (tree first, then W, then E).

*Glue your small and completed WE badge to your hat.

*Glue your sash pieces together – to make it circular and whole.

*Glue your completed badges, to your sash. I recommend you lay them out in the pattern you like first, then glue them down. Be sure to put something between the sash layers – so that you do not glue it closed! Also, I used an “x” method for gluing down the badges. Then went back and reinforced any badges that needed a little more stuck-ness. But, you still want mobility in your sash. No need to glue every single inch of felt.




There you have it! Your crafting is complete. Now, you just dress your child in the polo, brown shorts, white socks, and brown shoes. Put the sash around them (maybe secure with safety pins). Place the WE hat on their head (secure with a strap, for toddlers). Place the flag in their hands for pictures – or if you have your child wear the backpack, stuff it in the top of the bag, so it’s sticking straight up. Tie a bandana around their neck – and VIOLA – you have Russell the Wilderness Explorer.


Grand total for my project was $9.30. I had some things on hand, and had to purchase others. Here is my shopping tally:

Orange polo shirt – $2.50 – used at Once Upon a Child

1 sheet of orange felt – $0.25 – Hobby Lobby

Plastic horn – $0.59 – Party City

Red infant hat – $2.99 – Hobby Lobby

1 Flag stick – $0.99 – Hobby Lobby

Yellow scarf – $0.99 – Hobby Lobby

Brown scarf – $0.99 – Hobby Lobby

Items I had on hand – so FREE:

All other colors of felt.

Brown shoes.

Brown shorts.

Glue gun and glue sticks.