Sewing will resume…

Sewing

…just as soon as I find the sewing machine.

In fact, it’s actually in this photo–can you spot Gandalf the White in his handy traveling case? What I really need to find is sewing space! I’m sure I packed that in one of those boxes…

Cheers!

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A wild defense date appears!

Yeaaaah, so I’ve got no excuse for this particular prolonged absence from blogging except that the story I mentioned in the last post now has about 120,000 words. And STILL no plot. It has the beginnings of a plot. It has a problem the characters have to deal with. But still no overarching plot. But never fear, I will get there eventually! And in the meantime I’m writing the heck out of my pair’s backstory. And drawing pictures of them. Etc.

No, wait, I do have an excuse! I HAVE A DISSERTATION DEFENSE DATE! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! *panic*

It’s in mid-August, and I’m going to be working like a crazy person until then to get my dissertation into proper shape. Unfortunately, this means no cons until after I turn it in to my committee in July, so ACEN’s out (again! GRAR!), but I’m still hoping to make it to GenCon. A recent defend-ee in my program told me the best thing I could do during that month-long period between turning it in and actually defending is take a vacation, so I say, TO THE FOOD TRUCKS!

In cosplay news, I’m pretty much where I was in January (see above dissertation crazyness), but with a bit more progress on Pikachu and a new Jedi outfit in the works that won’t require 2+ hours of hair and makeup every time I want to wear it! I wore Jocasta to ShutoCon in March and didn’t even bother making myself look old–too much effort! πŸ˜›

Here’s a shot of Pikachu; aside from adding poofs to the shoes, the bottom half is done!

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Shoes could use another layer of paint, too, but I may just leave them. Yesterday I tested paint on a feather for the headdress thing. It worked…all right? Not spectacular, but will work if I can’t come up with anything else. Unfortunately my base feathers are pheasant, so I can’t just dye a white feather yellow.

Built a lightsaber:

Saber (640x347)

$20 of random hardware store parts and for-plastic spray paint later, and that’s what I had! It doesn’t have built-in LED or anything and can’t be attached to a blade, but it works as an on-the-belt prop and makes me look like a proper Jedi. πŸ˜€ And Errant Knight Photography, who took my photo at Shuto, was awesome enough to photoshop me a blade and a snazzy background!

EK2

Now I just need to learn to pose properly. πŸ˜› One-handed saber w/two-handed pose, not so much. πŸ˜›

And on that note, I have the afternoon off, so I’m going to make tabards and an obi for Jedi 2.0. Cheers!

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?

Yup.

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!

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!

Wigs

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!

Photos

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:

IMG_0654 (800x533)