Happy Halloween!

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Happy Halloween from Madame Jocasta Nu and Master Yoda! What are you wearing today?


Mami Tomoe’s bodice

I noticed that a lot of the hits I get on this blog come from people searching for Mami cosplay details, and after reading my old Mami write-up, I realized I never did a good explanation of the bodice/corset/waist-thing. So I’ve taken some pictures of the finished product in the hopes that they will make it clearer.

For the bodice I used Butterick 5371, which is a kind of “miscellaneous Renaissance pieces” pattern:

I used the bodice in the upper right. It required sewing the sides up instead of putting grommet holes and laces there, lengthening it so that it came down further over my hips, and adjusting the top so that it was straight all around rather than lower at the sides, but the shape is right and the modifications were pretty easy overall.

My bodice is made out of twill and is fully lined. If I recall correctly, it’s two layers of twill with a layer of cotton sandwiched in between. The channels for the boning are sewn into the under-layer of twill and the cotton layer, so you don’t see any evidence of them on the outer layer. It’s possible one of the layers is also interfaced for extra stiffness — I’m afraid that after two years, I don’t remember!

The big problem with the bodice in terms of the actual costume design is that, as far as I can tell, it’s meant to buckle shut in the front.


You could do that, but you’d have to alter the design slightly to create actual buckles (just look at the ones in the drawing for a moment…). Plus, that’s potentially a lot of stress on three buckles. To get around that, you can do things like insert a zipper or put laces up the back like an actual corset, for examples.

I have a terrible history with zippers. They break on me frequently, and I’m just not that great at putting them in (remember my post celebrating the successful installation of a zipper?). So I decided to forgo the zipper route and use the lace-up technique instead, but rather than have it lace up in the back, I made two panels in the front, so that the under-panel laces and holds all the weight, while the outer panel is purely decorative and is held together with velcro:

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Note the velcro on the right.

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Velcro sewn onto a ‘modesty panel.’ This is what holds the outer layer shut.

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The two panels branch out starting at the yellow strip of trim (right). I sewed the decorative panel to the outer layer of twill and the under panel to the under layer of twill.

The buckles are made from aluminum floral wire, which is easy to bend but still metallic. As you can see, they’re just stitched on with thread.IMG_1697 (800x533)

The trim is a pretty standard one, which you can get at any JoAnn as far as I know. The only thing special about it is that I flipped it over so that the underside (left) is facing up.IMG_1698 (800x533)

The yellow trim is just more of the twill I used to the skirt, made into bias tape and hand-sewn on. The white trim was also sewn on by hand, because apparently I like hand-sewing a liiiiitle too much.

And that about covers it! I hope this helps — please let me know if you have any questions!

Your bias is showing

I was telling someone at the American Sewing Expo that, because I’m self-taught, I still make pretty newbie mistakes despite having sewed for 13 years.

*pause to feel old*

One of these mistakes is not accounting for bias when sewing circle skirts, which I seem to do a lot these days. (Did I share a picture of my Spudgy poodle skirt?) What can I say? They’re swishy and swirly and other things that start with s and end with y.

Anyhow, bias. If fabric consists of warp and weft threads, one set running horizontal and one running vertical, like on a loom, then the bias is the diagonal line running at about a 45 degree angle across the fabric:

Image from Caribousmom.com

The bias is slightly stretchy because the weight of the fabric isn’t pulling directly along a warp or weft thread. Bias tape (you know, this stuff?) is made by cutting strips of fabric along the bias, rather than straight along the edge of the fabric. This gives it just enough stretch that it can do things like form curves. (Check out whip-stitch’s intro to the bias and bias tape, whence the previous image.) This is why it’s also important to make sure your pattern pieces follow the selvage properly — if you cut them out at the wrong angle, you may end up with unintended stretch.

The point of this is that circle skirts are kind of a bias nightmare, because if you’re cutting out big half-circles, you’re going to end up with parts of your skirt falling along the bias:

Image from InternationalPleating.com. I just love that there’s a website called International Pleating.

Let a circle skirt hang long enough, and, at least with some types of fabric, the parts along the bias will stretch enough that your skirt is uneven:

You can see in the image how the skirt falls unevenly. It can actually make a nice aesthetic, as in the case of that dress, but other times it just looks sloppy or unprofessional. And if your skirt is floor-length and weighs enough, you will end up tripping over parts of it when you thought it was measured and hemmed properly.

You know, like if you make a Jedi librarian skirt out of 6 yards of really heavy linen and then give it 9 months to stretch out while you work on the rest of the outfit?


Bring on the seam ripper!!!

Updates and the American Sewing Expo

I realized upon scrolling through recent posts that I haven’t done a costume update in quite a while, mostly because there hasn’t been a whole lot about which to update. For example, I hosted a prospective grad student back in March, at which point I’d been working on Jocasta for 3 months. Last week this student asked me about the costume, and of course, it’s still not done!! BUT! I am happy to report that I’m about 85-90% of the way through the ansata, after which I just have to re-interface, line, and bind the tabards. Then the costume will be done!

Then I just have to make a pouch.

And some librarian tools.

And a lightsabre.

And a holocron.

And then figure out what I’m going to do about my hair. (Does “clown grease paint” sound a little iffy to anyone else?)

…erm, yes. I do have some Pikachu progress, but unfortunately only one picture to show for it:

IMG_1567 (533x800)^Pants and top, with an old bridesmaid’s dress bodice standing in for the actual bodice for now. I’m planning to disassemble it and use it for pattern pieces because it’s just about the right size and shape. Who says you’ll never use your bridesmaid dresses again?

I’ve lost count of the number of fabrics I’ve dyed for this cosplay. Actually, no, I haven’t. It’s 3. Which is a lot fewer than it feels like! In addition to dyeing the yellow fabric pictured above to make it a bit more golden/orange, I also dyed dupioni silk AND DID NOT DESTROY IT! Seriously, I’m considering this a huge accomplishment. And then I darkened some basic cotton for the chrysanthemum kanzashi I’ll be making for the hairpiece. I’m also pseudo-stenciling flowers onto another fabric for the skirt-thing and gauntlets.

Short version: None of the fabrics needed for this costume exists in pure form in the natural world. I’m having the same problem finding stuff for Raava. Do they not make white upholstery fabric?

*mental montage of kids, dogs, liquid spills, new-blue-jean dye stains. . .*

Oh. I see your point.

On a different note, I visited the American Sewing Expo today! It was a little underwhelming, actually, probably because 1) the last dealer hall I was in was GenCon’s (56000+ attendees, remember?), and 2) I didn’t attend any seminars but mostly roamed the dealer hall and heckled Karmada, who was giving panels and serving as one of their “costume experts.” Because ASE had a focus on costumes this year, I went in my lolita, and then spent the day explaining that I wasn’t actually in a costume per se, or dressed as a specific character, but was actually wearing a Japanese street fashion. I got a lot of really nice comments on it — people especially liked the kanzashi — my favorite of which was from a woman at the McCall booth who said she’d recently been to Harajuku in Japan and had seen girls dressed in the exact same style. Yay, I’m doing it right!

I also met Andrea Schewe, who designs patterns for Simplicty. She was really nice and very enthusiastic about costuming (yay!), and also kind of looked like Meryl Streep (bonus points!). She’s also responsible for the kimono pattern (Sim 4080) I used for my lolita top. As I told her, and several other people, I’m still enamored of the awesome sleeve-lining technique in that pattern, which I never could have come up with on my own. Amusingly, when I told this to the people at the Simplicity booth, they were surprised, and pleased, that I’d managed to figure it out — apparently they get “help!” calls all the time about that part of the pattern. πŸ˜› I don’t usually say this, but… trust the pattern, everyone! It will all come out well in the end!

In theory.

Not a lot else to report. As one of the guests, Karmada got to set up a series of cosplays in their display area; every outfit but the black one with the burgundy bodice is hers:

Photo by LunaLadyofLight Productions

Photo by LunaLadyofLight Productions

At far left are her and her cosplay partner’s World Cosplay Summit costumes from this past year, Watanuki and Kohane from XXXholic (yes, someone did name a manga series XXXholic. No idea. . .) Anyway, shiny kimono-y goodness!

And now, I’m going to put on Mulan and stitch some more ansata. Which reminds me: who’s excited for the premiere of Star Wars Rebels?? Meeeeeeeeeee!


So I was going to write about the serious Impostor Syndrome I’ve been experiencing lately in pretty much every aspect of my life, including con-related things, but then I figured the world really doesn’t need another melodramatic post about someone’s insecurities, so instead, how about a writeup of my first time at GenCon?

GenCon, which bills itself as “The Best Four Days in Gaming”, is a gaming convention (tabletop, RPGs, dice and card games, some computer games, and so on) that also encompasses a lot of sci-fi/fantasy enthusiasm: costuming, writing, crafting, etc. They have panels on everything from Pathfinder, WoW, and D&D, to writing urban fantasy, to make-and-take craft projects. This year GC had 180,000+ attendees over the course of the weekend and 56000+ unique attendees total, which makes it the biggest con I’ve been to by far (ACEN pulled almost 30000 unique attendees this year). I’ve also heard that GC is the second biggest moneymaker for the city of Indianapolis only after the Superbowl, and GC is an annual Indy event, so it may even be making more in the grand scheme of things. Take THAT, football!

I’ve never gone before mostly because I’m really not much of a gamer. My family tends to play really simple games like Hand and Foot, Cribbage, Scrabble, and Apples to Apples, and I haven’t been in a tabletop RPG since college (I played a French exchange student. Ask ThatGameGirl about my French accent. Suffice to say, it wasn’t always French. :P) I’m also one of those people who doesn’t like to invite herself to things, but this year desire not to feel left out trumped discomfort at inviting myself along, so I did. And I’m really glad I did!

Rather than give you a day-by-day rundown, I’m going to just talk about some of the big things, both in terms of importance and in terms of the differences between GC and the average anime convention.

NB: All photos watermarked Crash Bang Labs are, obviously, taken by Karmada, and are pulled from her writeup of GC, which can be read here.


Not all cons are well organized, and even the best can encounter glitches or unexpected swarms of people. ACEN 2011, I believe it was, was a nightmare for Will-call; I heard stories about people standing in line an entire day waiting to pick up their badge. Autograph signings and big industry panels are also places you find Big Lines, and sometimes people will stand in them for hours only to have the line cut off in front of them.

Not at GenCon. Karmada, her husband Aris, and Kristy from ThatGameGirl and I carpooled down Wednesday evening and arrived at the convention centre to get our stuff at about 10pm, because apparently they had Will-call open all night. Even at 10pm, the badge line was huuuuuge:

This is just a small fraction of it, but we climbed in at the end anyway and then realized no one had thought to bring along any form of entertainment. Except Karamda, whose 3DS batteries turned out to be dead. Whoooops. We were in the line, I dunno, maybe 15-20 minutes? It was incredible how fast it moved. They clearly have it down to a science (SCIENCE!): tons of stations open at Will-call with everyone working efficiently. Gold stars!

The con’s method of preventing line build-up during the con is to distribute tickets to their panels in advance, via their website. Want to attend a seminar on writing urban fantasy? Go to the GC website, find the writing panels, and get a ticket for the panel in question, then bring it to the panel and they let you in, no fuss. Some panels cost money (for supplies, or honoraria for the guests), but many are free. I’ll admit, I found this all terribly confusing at first since they have about 10 different panel types (seminars, workshops, “spouse activities” for the non-gamers, gaming, etc.) and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing, but once I got the hang of it it was really handy. An added bonus is that having your tickets with you means you can reference them at any time, so you won’t have trouble remembering when/where your panels are.

Local Color

It turns out that most of Indy, or at least the part around the convention centre, isn’t afraid of geeks! They even had signs!

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Many of the restaurants have themed menus for the weekend, and the priest at Mass said he and his fellow priests were gamers and had been attending the con (seriously, hearing that was one of my favorite parts of the con and it wasn’t even part of the con! Fr. Sean, you be awesome.). Bee Coffee Roasters across the street had quite possibly the best coffee I’ve had this side of the Mediterranean, as well as an awesome sign:

and Enterprise crew members brewing espresso:

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I also got a free Bee Coffee die from them for filling out their special GenCon weekend punch card (yeah, I bought a loooot of coffee there):


(Bottom left; yes, that middle die really is that massive. AND PRETTY!)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there was a Colts game Saturday evening (is that football? I don’t even know…) and many of the “sports cosplayers” walked right past the con site. Most of them were completely floored, if the looks on their faces were any indication. I heard that one cosplayer was going around asking Colts fans for their photos. LOVE IT. Me, I snapped a few photos without asking:

Sports cosplayers.

Sports cosplayers.

Speaking of local stuff, how about some


Food trucks are AWESOME. Rather than getting stuck with overpriced hotel restaurants, or local places (which in downtown Indy are not a problem but at other cons are often too far away to walk to), we had our choice of an array of food trucks which pulled up along the curb across from the con centre. They rotated throughout the day — either two or three cycles (lunch, dinner, and maybe late-night dessert/snacks?), so we had a ton of variety. I had Indian twice (because I LOVE Indian) but from two different trucks, as well as a BLT, gourmet mac ‘n’ cheese, and an amazing ginger mango popsicle. Here’s a rather poor shot. The food trucks are running along the right side of the photo; the tasty Indian food is in the green truck:

DSCN6987 (800x600)They weren’t cheap, but I wouldn’t say they were overpriced, either. I think my Indian was around $8 or $9 and my mac ‘n’ cheese was similar. The desserts were kind of pricey, but I think that’s going to be the case anywhere. Anywhoo, food trucks, you need to come to ACEN! And other cons! FEED ME!


I mentioned the array of panels GC offers above, but just wanted to share a few that I went to. Not being a gamer, I stuck mostly with “spouse activity” and writing panels. SA panels are designed for spouses who don’t game but come along (or get dragged along!) anyway. I get the impression they’re mostly for women because they involve a lot of crafts (knitting, crochet, bookbinding), activities (yoga, how to dance Thriller (yes, really)) and tours of local Indy shops and markets, but both of my bookbinding panels had men in them, too. I learned two different forms of Coptic stitch binding from the owner of Indy Upcycle, one for hardback journals and one for leather. It was coooooool and I will be making more, because I somehow managed to acquire a surfeit of leather while making Kit’s sheaths.

My awesomely pink journal.

My awesomely pink journal.

Aside from those, which both cost money to cover the cost of supplies (leather, yo!), I went to a lot of writing panels. One on constructing realistic biospheres for your fantasy novel (plants!) and one on writing short stories, just to name two. I also ended up in a panel with guest author Jim Butcher for which I didn’t have a ticket — if there are open spots they will let extra people in on a first-come, first-served basis, and I managed to squeeze in and stood in the back because by that point, I was really sick of sitting on my tail and two swords. πŸ˜› Which brings me to…


I’ll be honest, I was underwhelmed by the cosplay scene. I was expecting a lot of people to be there dressed as their RP characters, which turned out to be the case, but it also turned out that many of the people dressed as their RP characters were, to me, virtually indistinguishable from Renaissance Faire-goers. I saw more men (and a few women) in kilts on Thursday at GC than I usually see at the Michigan Ren Fest. Which is all fine — I am a Rennie myself and love garb, but I was expecting a lot more of this:

Karmada in her awesome Lvl. 50 Weaver from FFXIV. Photo not taken at GenCon.

Karmada in her awesome Lvl. 50 Weaver from FFXIV. Photo not taken at GenCon.

World’s best hat(s), hands down. Which is not to say there weren’t some awesome and creative costumes there (I saw everything from a Lego Batman to Bunsen and Beaker from the Muppets to part of the cast from Recess):

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…just that in a con of 55K+ people, I thought there’d be a lot more! On the other hand, I spotted many, many nerdy t-shirts, all of which were awesome.

None of that prevented me from cosplaying, of course. I was Kit from Fey Winds on Thursday and Saturday, Kim Possible on Friday, and Angry!UniKitty from the Lego Movie on Sunday:

Photo by Karmada

Bare stomach, yo! Photo by Karmada

Kim Possible, w/Karmada as Gwen Tennyson

Kim Possible, w/Karmada as Gwen Tennyson

 Angry!UniKitty, with Rajamitsu as Business!UniKitty, Karmada as Emmet, and Samaru as BadCop.

Angry!UniKitty, with Rajamitsu as Business!UniKitty, Karmada as Emmet, and Samaru as BadCop.

As you can see, Karmada and I tried to have “Red-headed Heroines Day” on Friday, except it turned out that we’d both scheduled so many panels and events that day that we were able to see each other for about 5 minutes. Whoooops. Oh well.. we patrolled more of the con for evil villains and alien threats that way! πŸ˜› Didn’t find any.

In fact, if I had any complaint about my GC experience (other than a cosplay/body-image crisis on Thursday) it would be that I didn’t actually see as much of my friends as I’d have liked. Now, on the one hand, that’s good, because we each have our own interests and want to get different things out of the experience, and following someone to a panel I didn’t want to go to, or dragging them to one, just because we’re friends would have been worse. The fact that we don’t need to hang out 24/7 at cons is great, and the more experiences others have the more you get out of the con as a whole, even if it’s just by hearsay from a friend.

On the other hand, I think I’ll try harder next year to go to at least a few panels with other people, because it’s fun to be able to share experiences and bounce ideas off each other and scare our neighbors with inside jokes. *cough* On Sunday afternoon we all just sat in the hall as the con was winding down and watched people walk by, posed occasionally for photos (Sunday is family day and lots of kids recognized Karmada and Samaru), and just talked and drank coffee, and it was actually a lot of fun. Granted, I wouldn’t spend a 4-day event doing just that, but I’m definitely going to try to experience more actual con stuff, like panels, alongside other people next year.

Shout-out to Alena from “…And Sewing Is Half the Battle!” for letting us stay with her Wed and Sunday nights, and also for letting me play with her heat gun and Worbla. Worbla is straaanngee. I also played my first Pathfinder RPG on Sunday evening with ASIHTB and Friends. As a goblin. Who liked to stab things. Two words: RECKLESS ABANDON!!

P.S. I slayed a Dalek:


What will cosplay be like in 100 years?

Or “All that other stuff cosplayers work with other than fabric.” But that title didn’t sound as good.

Actually, there’s a story behind the title. A friend was lamenting her difficulty coming up with blog post topics (I clearly don’t have that problem, as evidenced by the fact that I post so often! Right? ….right?) and someone suggested, jokingly (I think?) HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator. So I tried it out and one of the topics it spewed out was “What will sewing be like in 100 years?”

I don’t actually want to speculate about what sewing, or cosplay, will be like 100 years from now, at least not in this blog post. But the topic did make me think about the evolution of cosplay lately, and what exactly it takes to “keep up with the Joneses” in the world of cosplay these days. I’m talking about things like fancy and high-quality wigs, elaborately-constructed props, and professional photos showing off your work. I still take pride in saying that I sewed a cosplay myself, but nowadays, sewing only amounts to only one part of “being a cosplayer”, or so it seems.

This is where I pause and reiterate that I believe cosplay should be FUN no matter how up with the Joneses you are, and no one is under any obligation to “prove” that they’re a cosplayer by using all the latest materials and gadgets or posting pictures of themselves all over the internet. Also, I’m not saying you can’t be a good cosplayer if all you do is sew — I LOVE seeing crisp, clean, well-tailored costumes, and while I can appreciate a good prop or an amazing set of armor, at the end of the day I am one of those “sewing-centred” cosplayers who runs from Sculpey Clay and is baffled by heat guns, so I always come back to the fabric.

But I do want to relate here some of the things that cosplayers are working with right now in addition to sewing machines, things that, like sewing, require a combination of experience and expense and are therefore rather intimidating. Warming: tons of links and a little bit of bitterness ahead!


Talk to older cosplayers, and they’ll tell you about the days when, in order to get crazy anime hair, you had to either dye your own hair (and then go into work with green hair) or get a crappy Halloween store wig. I’m a newer cosplayer, but even so my first wig (Toph) was a cheap “punk girl” wig from a costume store. Now we have places like Arda Wigs which sell wigs in a variety of styles and a wonderful myriad of colors, and can be dyed and styled using heat (try that with a Party City wig and it’ll MELT). Want spikes? You got ’em! Want a built-in widow’s peak with a fake hairline? We’ve got that, too. Used to be, if you wanted to do pig tails, you had to make your own part up the back of the wig. Now you can just buy a pigtail wig and call it good! From someone who’s absolutely terrible at wig modification, I’ve got to say that I have absolutely no complaints about this development in cosplay “technology.” Also, I don’t work for Arda. Really. But I would if they’d hire me!

Foams and plastics

Want armor or an awesome prop? Forget cardboard; these days we have everything from craft foam and EVA foam to Wonderflex and Worbla, the second of which will run you $80 for a piece 39.25″ wide x 59″ long (and was used to construct the armor pictured in the link above). I used craft foam for Zefiris’ shoulder pads and Mami’s rifle, where all I had to do was cut and glue, but it and the other materials just mentioned can also be shaped using a heat gun or other source of heat. Need something rounded like shoulder armor? Just heat it up, put it in the right shape, and wait for it to cool. Or so I’m told.

If that’s not your thing, a friend of mine is currently making a plastic visor using vacuum forming. Turns out that requires heat, too. Who knew props were so hot? Another option is making your props from wood — provided you’ve got saws, rotors, sanders, and whatever else woodwork requires (I’ve got no idea…). My friend Karmada is a big fan of polystyreme sheeting for swords, and also constructed an entire set of armor out of the stuff.

And a very extreme example, the 3D printer. Just as embroidery machines are steadily becoming more affordable (relatively speaking, that is), so 3D printers will probably become accessible in time, making construction of a prop from a series of parts (looking at you, lightsabre) unnecessary.

Of course, buying the materials and power tools is just the first step. It’s getting them to do what you want, and to look good, that’s the real trick. It’s all well and good to say “trial and error is the way to go” until your errors cost you two weeks’ worth of groceries. Watch lots of Youtube tutorials and practice with small pieces!

Makeup and prosthetics

Let’s face it, makeup is expensive. Almost all the makeup I own was purchased for me by a friend’s mom when said friend was getting married (THANK YOU, Mrs. G!!), though I regularly buy eyeliner and I’ve added some weird things since (stuff to color my eyebrows to match my wig color of the day, for instance). With all the emphasis on photo-taking these days, part of donning a cosplay is making your face, and sometimes the rest of you, look good. Crossplay (dressing as a character of the opposite sex) might require facial contouring or even creating fake facial hair. Then there’re custom prosthetics, which may require making face or body part molds with plaster in addition to the actual prosthetic-making and coloring (and did you know, you can’t color liquid latex with regular makeup, so you may have to buy additional makeup as well in order to createΒ  seamless prosthetic-to-face look). Fortunately a lot of anime characters are pretty normal, but branch into sci-fi and you’re looking at all sorts of wackiness. Someday I’ll cosplay Madame Vastra from Doctor Who. SOME DAY!


A cosplay may not be complete without a signature prop (what’s Cloud without the Buster Sword or Fusion Swords?), but photos of our cosplays are something that, at the end of the day, we can do without. Still, as more and more cosplayers start Facebook pages, Tumblrs, blogs, cosplay websites, and so on, marketing becomes more and more important, especially for those trying to become models or “cosplay famous” in some other way. Want to get noticed? You’re going to need professional-quality photos for that, or at least shots not taken in the hallway at a con. Now, a photoshoot at a con is a pittance compared to what a wedding photographer will cost you (we’re talking, like, $25-$75 depending on the photographer, duration of the shoot, number of people, and so on), but if you want good shots of all your cosplays and no one’s stopped you for an impromptu (and free) shoot (that happened to me with Mami), it’s going to cost you.


Now, I may sound a little bitter about all this cool stuff that I can’t [afford to] do, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s COOL. The ingenuity and resourcefulness of cosplayers continues to amaze me, and I’ve seen people do things I’d never have thought possible using completely random materials in incredibly creative ways. Part of what makes the community so vibrant is the willingness of its members to try wacky new things and then to share their ideas (both successful and failed) with everyone else. What we need to focus on is that these things provide opportunities for growth and improvement for those who want to take them, rather than obligations to prove our worthiness as cosplayers.

As for me, I’m slowly expanding into the prop-making realm, one prop at a time. One of my big considerations, apart from cost (especially the initial outlay), is actually space — I simply don’t have the room to do a lot of these things right now. Another is assistance: without someone to help you plaster your face to make a mold, you’re not going to get very far! Stay tuned for… uh, graduation, a real job, and a new apartment, I guess! πŸ˜›

Meanwhile, I got myself some EVA foam and tried out my dad’s Dremel on it this weekend while visiting my family. The result was promising, except that I got covered in foam dust (I’m COVERED IN FOOAAAAAMM!). πŸ˜› Good thing my dad has all the proper safety equipment:

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