Pickle Rick… ad nauseam

While visiting friends in Texas, the Pickle Rick episode of Rick & Morty came out. I saw it when it aired and immediately knew I had to make that costume. With Dragon Con only a few weeks away, I had to work fast and develop as much of the costume as possible while I sat several states away from my sewing arsenal.

The closest thing to a fabric store nearby was Wal-Mart. I’ve largely been unhappy with W-M’s fabric section (primarily how, for many years, these sections fluctuated between existing and being removed from individual stores thus affecting the sustainability of stand alone sewing-oriented stores). But I digress… I feel very lucky to have found an assortment of fabrics that would serve my purpose. Despite the small fabric selection available, there were several shades of green in the available decor fabrics. The two primary shades used were also, quite fortunately, different dyes of the same fabric manufactured by the same company. This would ensure that the fabrics joined well at the seams.

 After downloading and consulting several images of Pickle Rick, I freehand drew the shape needed for the front of the pickle in roughly the right size. I used this piece to base the rest of the design around. Since I was so far from home but still needed a way to attach my seams and test my pattern, I purchased a large package of small/medium safety pins. This way I could test out what I was creating, adjust accordingly, and also travel home with the piece without it falling apart or stabbing me (I would be carrying it while traveling home by bus). Safety pins aren’t something I use very frequently save for keeping half a dozen or so on hand when attending conventions in costume. This is something I highly recommend for just about anyone in any kind of costume. Safety pins: save your costume, save your con.

I cut out temporary eyes in order to experiment with their size and placement on the pickle. You can see what a huge difference is made by the spacing of the eyes. Here is one of the first images of the pickle after I was able to tackle the project with my sewing machine. It was very helpful to reference the eyes while creating this costume. Basing the eyes off of the desired distance from the top of the pickle, I was able to base the mouth, nose, and eyebrow placement off of the eyes.

 A detail I did not want to do without were what I ended up calling “pickle spots” on this costume. In the cartoon, several bumps were visible on the pickle. To make sure these would be seen easily on the costume, however, I needed to put a contrasting edge around each spot. Their creation was somewhat time consuming, but I feel they were well worth the effort. I started by sewing a half circle into a folded piece of the darkest green fabric I’d purchased. I flipped this inside out and stuffed it with small scraps/slivers of material–I always advocate reusing supplies and finding creative ways to reduce what you otherwise might trash. In this case I was able to avoid using additional materials (stuffing or batting) and save on both cost and time. After the center of the spot was thus created and stuffed, I used it to draw a template on much lighter green fabric (the same fabric as the center/front of the pickle itself). After pairing this circle with another fabric as backing (any of the green scraps would do because the bottom would not be very visible), they were stitched together leaving about a half inch hold with which to flip the circle right side out. After sewing, the circle was trimmed and the seam allowance edges were clipped to aid in giving the proper shape and not bulking up at the edges once it was flipped. The less experienced you are with flipping sewing projects right side out, the larger the hole I recommend you leave. Here the hole was just big enough to allow me to flip the pieces, and then I used a pen to poke around the edges of the inside and reveal the correct shape. The dark green bump was then stitched to the circle base by hand with simple whip stitches. The same technique was used to apply the completed spots to the body of the costume.

Sometimes the smaller details really make or break a costume. If you’re asking yourself whether or not you should bother with an added detail on your costume, I say err to the side of “yes!” Hardcore fans, costumers, and others with attention to detail tend to notice and appreciate these effects.

 After keeping an eye out for a dense enough foam ball to use for the eyes and after having applied a few of the pickle spots, I finally felt like the costume was starting to come together. It was at this point that Pickle Rick, to me, really started to look like he was supposed to, and I felt further driven to complete this project before traveling to Atlanta for Dragon Con.

 I tend to hold on to bits of useful looking foam when I come across it. In this case, I knew exactly what to grab from my stash for use a the nose and as a shape retainer for the mouth: some lengths of foam about 1 1/4 inch across with a half circle shape to them that I had received as packing material for a larger item a while back. Small pipe insulation foam cut lengthwise would also have worked. Here the nose construction is pictured. After cutting the shape I wanted out of foam, I created a corresponding sheath out of the lighter green fabric, flipped it, and inserted the foam.

 I don’t think I took any pictures of the initial installation of the mouth as my hands were quite full with juggling everything. I used a single, long piece of the same foam that was used for the nose. After cutting a large slit where I wanted the mouth to be, I used large pins to maneuver the mouth into the shape and placing needed. This was then glued into place. A piece of green burlap was put behind the mouth because I chose to use that hole to see through. This was hand stitched into place with matte embroidery thread. I used packaged bias tape glued into the inside rim of the mouth to cover up the area where edges of fabric were attached to the foam. The teeth were cut from a 1/4 inch white foam sheet, pressed into place between the burlap and the mouth foam, and then glued. I started with a much longer straight edge on both the upper and lower teeth then cut them down bit by bit until they looked right.

 At this point, the pickle was largely sewn together (with a long zipper in the back), the arm holes were finished, the mouth and nose were done, but there was still a bit more to do.

 I cut a dense, smooth-surfaced foam ball in half with a serrated blade (though I normally use an electric knife or heated blade to cut thick foam). The two halves would serve as the eyes and would be glued on, but I wanted a little additional assurance that they would not get knocked off in the hustle and bustle of a con, so I used a large curved upholstery needle with thick embroidery thread to make a large X-stitch to help hold the foam to the fabric before gluing. If you’d like to experiment with anything similar, keep in mind that you need to push the needle very slowly and evenly to prevent tearing the foam. Tying off the stitch cannot be done very tightly, for the same reason. After both eyes were hand stitched in place, they were glued to the fabric. The pupils were simply done with a black permanent marker. 

In order to both wear this costume and be able to see, the height of the head compared to the wearer’s head needed to be within a certain range. At first, I used a novelty cowboy hat with a child’s pillow pinned to it. The cowboy had size was perfect as the brim filled out the edge of the costume. The pillow, however, was not quite the right shape. I’d considered sewing a pillow in the right shape to add to the hat and stuff, but the added weight was undesirable. During my next trip to the supermarket, I meandered around looking for something else that might do the trick. I came across a thin laundry basket that cost less than a dollar and pretty closely fit the outer rim of the hat. I removed decorative elements from the hat, cut the rim off of the basket, and used safety pins to attach the two. This has served very well. I intend to adjust the shape some now that I have a heat gun. (Will update page to reflect changes.)

 The eyebrow was made from a rolled up bit of light blue fleece. I decided to hand stitch this though the back layers so that no stitching would show on the front. Since Pickle Rick’s unibrow is one of the most expressive parts of his face, I took this as an opportunity to keep it as such and avoided any permanent attachment to the body of the costume. Instead, safety pins are used from the inside to hold the brow in place and to allow for fairly easy alteration of expression.

Here is a close up of the completed project. The face is complete, and the pickle spots are all stitched on.

This was a very fun costume for friends and I to wear around. I’d say you’d be hard pressed to find a character other than Rick Sanchez who gets more overwhelming and forthcoming responses from a crowd. Our con was punctuated by shouts of “Pickle Rick!” from all directions as well as somewhat tired hands from all the high fives elicited anywhere this pickle went. Overall it’s hard not to be impressed with the cosplay community, especially in the case of such extreme fandom: We saw two other Pickle Ricks in attendance at Dragon Con–impressive given that the convention took place so shortly after the episode first aired.