10 (weird?) Dollar-Store Items I Use for Every Costume

Forgive the click bait title but these are kinda-sorta weird tools that I use. So it fits, damnit! These are all things that I use on most if not all of my recent costumes and while they maybe don’t fit the traditional crafter tool category, they make my life a lot easier.

1 – Tablespoon

Intended purpose

Eating things of a spoon-friendly nature. Like soup, mashed potatoes or serving food.


How I use it

Worbla. Worbla, worbla, worbla! I have talked about my love of spoons before for worbla. The ‘bowl’ of the spoon is good for pressing out any weird bumps and smoothing or holding down parts that might hurt your fingers due to heat.


The edge of the spoon is wonderful for making crisp clean edges and details that would be really tricky to get otherwise.

2 – Painters Tape

Intended Purpose

Masking areas while painting that you don’t want paint on. Comes in pretty colours of green and blue though stay away from actual ‘masking’ tape as if you leave it on plastic too long the tape’s glue interacts weird with the chemicals in it and can damage the plastic. Also Masking tape (the white stuff) tends to leave behind a gummy residue more often. Though It’s easy to get rid of with rubbing alcohol and a cotton pad.


How I use it

A better question is what DON’T I use painter’s tape for? I use wider tape to mark pattern pieces with ‘up’ and the piece name. I use Thin painter’s tape on my dressform to show seam lines instead of the more expensive tape I bought from Mood. (Though be warned painter’s tape doesn’t stick as well and it’s wider, therefore less accurate). I use it to mark my bones for corsets, to hold ribbon and buttons together so the cat doesn’t have a field day knocking stuff around.


I also use it on the foot of my machine when I’m sewing faux leather instead of a ‘teflon’ foot or baby powder.

3 – Dental Kit

Intended purpose

Cleaning your teef.

Note: If you have used the kit on your teeth, DO NOT use it on your costume without thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting it.


How I use it

The tooth brush is wonderful for getting Transpart into nooks and crannies, and later for using to weather paint jobs. The picks are good for scraping off anything that gets stuck to Transpart or thread caught in your machine (Make sure the machine is OFF first. Duh.) They can also double as ‘lock picks’ if you snip the sharp bit off or sand it down so it’s less pointy.


You can also use the picks to do fine detail work on thermoplastics, modeling putty or EVA foam.

4 – Nitrile/Latex Gloves

Intended purpose

Being a barrier between your hands and open wounds during first aid, keeping your hands safe from caustic chemicals or paint.


How I use them

I am… a messy painter. I like using my fingers to move paint around and I get it all over. So I wear these and then cleanup time is significantly reduced. Especially since my primary method of weathering painted objects is to take a gob of Burnt Umber on my finger, smear it around into the cracks and details, then wipe it off with paper towel or an old absolutely-will-never-be-used-again-for-its-intended-purpose cloth towel.

pistol stage 3

Using gloves also lets me bounce between painting and sewing while I wait for the coats of paint to dry. Productivity hack, yo.

5 – Nail Polish

Intended purpose

Lookin’ Purdy. Painting your nails either hands or toes. Nail art, which is frankly well beyond my capabilities.


How I use it

Jems, beads, jewelry. Something need to be covered in a jewel-like finish? I pull out my basket of nail polish and see if I’ve got something handy that can work. What if you’ve got something metal that you need/want to recolor to gold? Nail polish. Got a rip in your nylons? Nail polish.


Here the gems and the crescent moon are all painted with nail polish.

Keep in mind that nail polish isn’t a replacement for varnish, if you cover a large area with clear polish, it will eventually discolour. But if you’re looking to make gems that last a couple years and need to save some cash, test it out. Added bonus is you can coordinate your manicure with your costume perfectly.

6 – Plastic Table Cloths

Intended purpose

Covering a table for a  party that makes for easy clean up. Typically used for children’s parties as children are little tornadoes of cake, icing and mess.


This one is from DollarTree.

While they come in all different colours, White and transparent are the easiest to use.

How I use it

You may have noticed I have a cat. A cat who really loves helping. Her favourite part of helping is cutting out fabric. This is poor news for any patterns I might be using as tissue paper was not designed to stand up to excited kitten toes.


So I trace the patterns onto these plastic table cloths which allow me to…

  1. Draw changes onto them that will allow for better fit,
  2. Drape the pattern on my dress form to check what other changes need to be made and,
  3. Fold the entire pattern back into its envelope with little issues.

7 – Rope

Intended purpose

Tying stuff up, tying stuff down, tying things together, I guess. Clothing line? Um. Dollar store rope is usually not the best for mountain climbing.

Also available on Ali Express!

How I use it

One of the things that fantasy armor tends to have that makes a cosplayer’s life hard (but the armor oh-so-pretty), is fancy ass scrollwork on plate, or raised detailing. I mean, you COULD roll snakes of worbla out and use those. It’s a good use of scraps. But that’s also using a lot of worbla which we know is expensive. So I use rope. I prefer cotton cord the best, since it sticks to hot glue like no-one’s business, and it’s nice and pliable, letting you get tighter curves.


8 – Lighters

Intended purpose

Lighting things on fire. Usually candles, cigarettes, cigars, fires. Not recommended if you’re under the age of 12? 13? I don’t know.

Use these things safely and responsibly. We’ve got enough fire problems up here in Canada right now.

How I use it

melting the edges of polyester ribbons. Melting the edges of nylon rope. Melting faces with how AWESOME ribbon embroidery is.


Wait, not that last one. But basically a lighter is my go-to for stopping ribbons from fraying. You can also use one on poly fabric to create pretty petals for flowers.

Note: Putting a lighter to natural fabrics or blends will cause fire. Do not cause fire. Use over a fire proof surface and in a well ventilated area.

9 – BBQ Skewers

Intended purpose

Making kebabs. Tasty, tasty kebabs.


How I use them

Need to turn out a sharp corner on a seam? use the blunt end of a skewer. Painting something that’s tricky to hold or let dry? Prop it up on skewers that are pushed into Styrofoam. Need to add small dimples to a worbla piece? Poke at it repeatedly with the pointy part.

Armor bits

Really the only thing holding back skewers is your imagination. I’ve even used them like chopsticks to dye smaller cloth items.

10 – Zip Bags

Intended purpose

To ZIP IN FRESHNESS when you throw your food into the freezer until the long winter months. Or something. Basically to store food, though I feel like this is cheating a bit because everyone uses them to hold small things, right?

Plastic zipper bag isolated on white

How I use them

Okay. I use them in two ways per project, which are complimentary to each other.

  1. Take a zip bag and write the project’s name on it in sharpie. (You can get this off with rubbing alcohol later) Basically into the bag goes all the small parts of a costume that you might misplace:
    1. All buttons you’ll be using
    2. All hooks and clasps
    3. Thread
    4. Beads you’ll be using
    5. zippers
  2. For the second bag, in go your pattern pieces, and you can push out the air, leaving the bag flat and saving you space while keeping everything together.


Cat helpers will no longer steal your buttons while you’re out at work.


Don’t worry, they find other ways to help.

What are your ‘go-to’ tools for working on building a cosplay?

xox Calamity


One thought on “10 (weird?) Dollar-Store Items I Use for Every Costume

  1. I have only really worked with sewing projects, so my go-to items are just the sewing machine, chopstick for turning and painter’s tape (FROG TAPE YESSSSSS). I also have a seam allowance marker for when I’m sewing at night…I just need to get a table lamp for my craft room. 🙁