My Harley Costume nears completion!

My Harley Costume nears completion!

As you can see, even with depression and fighting, I have soldiered on and worked on my mash-up costume for Emerald City Comic-con this weekend. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be ready, but now, after make-up tests and finishing up the last couple of items, I’m happy with the result.

I will write a run-through of everything I did for this costume after Comic-con, and I will probably have some good photos to share too, so YAY! THEN we shall continue on with the “How do I Cosplay??” series. I have learned a couple of new things to share. (What is a costume without being a challenge and helping you learn new things??

Set-backs and obstacles of my own making…

It is common, dear readers, to be in the middle of a complicated project or costume and become overwhelmed to the point of tears/panic. In the event that this happens (like it is now for me) it is important to be self-aware, and step away from what you are doing, whether it be for 10 minutes, or a couple days.

No matter what brings this feeling on, whether it be illness, tragedy, PTSD, or other parts of your life needing your attention, (feel free to insert your issue here:______) all is not lost.

As the motto of one of my favorite movies states, “NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER!”

4 days before Comic-con. Those four days will determine whether I wear nerd shirts and jeans for three days, or my new costumes, currently half-finished. We shall see.

Harley/Maude Mash-up Progress

Harley/Maude Mash-up Progress

I have sewn all I can sew on the dress, unless I attach the playing cards like I want to. Not sure if I can get it to work though. All the square shapes that Maude has on her skirt would be FANTASTIC as playing cards. I have a magic deck that is red-faced, and I could find cards with black backs or use regular white ones. Either way. I considered punching holes in them and then putting jump-rings through the holes and sewing the jump-rings onto a ribbon, which I would then sew to the skirt. Many steps. Lots of work. It would be appreciated, but my husband pointed out one thing. How would I sit without bending them all? Back to square one.

My next steps will be to attach the straps to the dress (Not sure if I want to do that with snaps or permanently. I’m leaning towards permanently just so I don’t pop a snap in the middle of moving about.) and then having hooks for the bowling-ball pieces on the front. Those pieces have to be finished as well, sanded, painted, and then finished with the decorative edging I found. (Ruffly edged elastic! OMG! Its like it was MADE for Harley!)

I also need to rub down my Viking helmet with some sand-paper and paint it red and black. I will be practicing my face painting too, because I don’t want to try to do that full face-paint for the first time on Friday morning at 5am when I’m getting dressed. (I must admit, the thought of this is making me want to cry inside. Or start laughing insanely. Hmm. The latter is more Harley-ish)

The leather shoes will be interesting. I have some red dye a friend gave me. He used it when he changed some black boots into red ones for a Star Wars costume. He painted his boots white first, and then used the red over it. They looked really nice. Of course, they weren’t sandals. I’m worried that the shoes will rub color onto me, whether I use dye or paint. I will give updates on that once I figure it out!

What I did for the dress today: After basting the zipper (not once, but twice, to make sure the fabric folded properly and the lines of the black/red points matched perfectly) I used a zipper foot on my machine and sewed it down, close to the teeth. Then I pinned down the lining on the inside and hand-sewed it down. I used my serger to tidy up any loose seams in the skirt, and I serged the bottom edge too. I don’t know if I’m going to roll the bottom hem, I kinda like the serged edge. (Ask me again on another day when I haven’t spent 12 hours doing this. lol) The top edge of the bodice is embroidered with small diamonds to get the seam to lay flat. I pinned it first and set my machine to a slower speed so that I could have more control.

I didn’t use the shoulder strap of the dress pattern, instead I used muslin laid across my dress-form’s shoulder to get the placement and shape of the strap I needed (I used a marker to sketch it out and then cut it), and then used the “pattern” piece to cut two pieces of 1/4 inch black foam. I laid the satin over the foam, and then used double folded bias-tape (used by quilters) to wrap around the edge of each strap. It gives it a nice thick padded look, without a lot of weight.

The dress fits! I tried it on, but I’m going to wear a corset underneath to give me the rigidity that Maude had in the Big Lebowski. If the bodice had steel boning directly in it I wouldn’t need to do so, but honestly, I’d rather wear a corset than try to put steel boning in a satin dress!

Maude/Harley update

Maude/Harley update

Another costume update before I continue on with my Cosplay series…

The dress for the Harley/Maude mash-up is nearly complete! I have a lot of work to do though. I’ve finished the wig, but I haven’t done anything else but this.

As far as the dress goes, I’m using red and black satin (The same fabric for the outside AND the lining) and McCall’s pattern #6833 in dress B. I am sewing on my Heirloom Edition Elna 6005 machine, using Gutermann thread in colors 156 and 1001.

I still have to finish and paint the vacuum-formed plastic pieces and the helmet, I still have to figure out how to make the leather sandals black and red. Lots to do!

We interrupt this cosplay series to bring you DARTH!

We interrupt this cosplay series to bring you DARTH!

Sorry I haven’t put up another installment of “How do I Cosplay???” yet, I had to use all my free time this weekend to sew the body suit of a Darth Vader replica costume with a friend so it could be rush shipped on Monday morning.

We made the three piece body suit in less than 20 hours to complete the look you see here. There are some things I would have liked to tweak if I had the time, but when you are limited, you make stuff work.

What we did:

Three pieces make up Darth Vader’s suit in Empire Strikes Back, he has pants, a shirt with the leather sleeves, and a vest that zips up the back. We used thin black leather for the fronts of the pants, vest, and arms, and quilted it. (There is batting on the inside, and the vest is lined with satin too). The pants have black strips of canvas down the sides, on the inside and outside of the legs. The arms are sewn to a plain black cotton T-shirt. I cut the sleeves off except for a small diamond in the armpit, to give the arms a bit more movement. The vest has a high collar that goes around the neck. If at all possible, edges are hemmed up/finished as much as possible.

This was the first time I’ve sewn with leather, and there are definitely some changes I’d make if this was meant to do anything other than be worn by a dummy, but all in all, I’m happy with how he turned out.

Some tips if you choose to attempt to quilt leather: Decrease the pressure of the foot of your sewing machine. The leather stretched a lot more than the quilt batting we used, so when I attempted to start from the middle and work outwards, it was a disaster. I started quilting the lines in the chest piece from one side, and worked my way over. There was some stretch to the side still, but not nearly as much as trying to sew the longest seam first.

How do I Cosplay?? Second Installation: Mad Construction Skillz

How do I Cosplay?? Second Edition: Mad Construction Skillz

Continued from yesterday’s research section. Now that you have ALL the images of your costume that you can glean from the world, your next steps are to start gathering and creating. I find it helpful to put all those photos in one place in a way that you can go back to the sources, so start a Pinterest board for your character and pin all the details you’ll need to complete your costume (That’s right! Pinterest isn’t just for bored housewives anymore!).

What’s that? You don’t know how to make ALL THE THINGS? Time to return to the computer, and get ready for a few more hours of research, this time on techniques:

3) Do I have the skills I need to accomplish my goals?

So you want to make a suit of armor. Or you want to make an epic ball-gown. Or you want to be a Furry in a full fur-suit. Whatever. Do you know how to make these things? Where do you go to find out how to paint your body like Darth Maul? How do you use Worbla to build armor? How do you make resin masks, or latex prosthetics?

Lucky for you, there are amazing folks out there that have blazed a trail for you. If you don’t have the money/time to go to school to learn basic techniques such as how to sew, to the more complicated bits, like making prosthetics and armor, there is probably a source online to find out how to do these things. Some of my favorite/most helpful links are listed here:

– Classes on sewing from professionals:
– Bodypainting tips and techniques from Lex on Youtube:
– Need to make a 4th doctor scarf? or (join Rav and have thousands of patterns at your fingertips for many fiber projects!)
– Make Silicone Molds for small items:
– Resin casting techniques:
– How to make armor (She even sells a book of tips and techniques!):
– Need Fairy wings to complete your costume? No problems!

This is just the beginning. There are a million videos online to help you with techniques. Many of these videos are FREE. FREEEEEEEE! All it takes is time to sit and research. Ask a question in your favorite search engine and see what comes up. You might even find someone who has made the same costume you are attempting.

“But the video confuses me. I don’t get it. I’M NOT TALENTED LIKE _____________”

Cosplayers are just normal people. Seriously awesome, yet normal, people. Who were once like you. Many of them have youtube channels (I linked a couple up above), many of them have facebook pages (try searching “Cosplay” and see what comes up) or webpages. Pour over their pages/pictures/tutorials. EMAIL or message these folks if something in their video/tutorial confuses you. Now, many of these talented folks are crazy busy with a ton of fans/full lives, so don’t lose hope if Ya-ya Han doesn’t offer to make you her Padawan learner 5 minutes after you comment on her picture. Most importantly, when interacting with anyone in this hobby, use the 3 B’s. Be courteous, be kind, and be patient. Someone may surprise you, but no one will give you the time of day if you are a rude jerk-face.

There are also some inclusive/exclusive groups that will bring you into the fold and teach you some of this stuff. The 501st group, the Furry community, see what you need to do to join these groups and it might open some doors that weren’t possible otherwise. (As well as people with tools like vacuum-formers and other complicated/expensive stuff!)

When you start learning all these neat skillz, you may be visualizing your wallet start to empty from the costs of equipment and materials. Follow Douglas Adams’ advice: DON’T PANIC. Its a part of the planning stage. If you are working a minimum wage job, maybe your first couple of costumes shouldn’t include full suits of armor. Start small. Work your way up to the big stuff. More on that in the next post!

How do I Cosplay?? First installation: Research

How do I Cosplay?? First installation: Research

So you love a character in a TV show, movie, or Comic, and want to be that character? What do you do to accomplish this task? Where do you find information to make the awesome armor, amazing wig, or complicated looking costume?

I will tell how I approach this task, and hopefully it will help you.

1) First, Which character are you going to do?

Gather all the photos of your character that you can. If your character is in a movie, you may have to buy the film and watch a certain scene OVER AND OVER AND OVER and over… you get the idea. There are glorious costumes that will literally last seconds on a screen. If you can’t find still shots of those scenes online, you may have to do what I do, and that is put the movie/show on your comp and play screen capture. Sometimes you can find behind the scenes footage of a movie or show that will give you angles you never see in the film. Search out those shots! The little details will set a good cosplay apart. Sometimes the costume designers and makeup/hair artists will even post tips and pictures on their websites. Have you seen the incredible embroidery of the Game of Thrones show? This is what I mean. Search sites like this out:

2) What is the end goal of the costume?

I know this sounds like an odd step after “GATHER ALL THE PHOTOS,” but hear me out. What do you want from this costume? Are you making it for a competition? Are you just wanting to wow people while walking around a convention? Do you want to attend a film premiere, like the next Star Wars Film?

Some costumes have insane design elements that need careful consideration. Will you be able to enlist friends to dress you? Can you go to the bathroom after wearing this costume for 2+ hours walking about a con? (Can you fit in a stall???) Planning these things before hand will help in many ways. If the con has small doors, you may have to be able to dismantle and then put your costume back together once you are inside. Some places have strict rules on weapons, even fake ones. You should plan ahead, to save a lot of headaches later. What time of year is it? If you are at a con in a mascot suit in the middle of summer, did you pack water? Can you carry your I.D., your cash for souvenirs, or your car keys while in costume? Is it Michigan in January? (Maybe forget Slave Leia’s costume for that last one…)

If its for a competition, are there guidelines you need to follow to be able to enter? How much of the costume must be hand-made, vs. bought? Is there a theme that you must pay attention to? Research is critical to a successful competition entry.

Careful planning on paper will save hours of work in the future. Make sure these two steps are completed and you are well on your way to a successful costume!

Next installment tomorrow! (I realized this was getting lengthy… so needed skillz and materials section later!!)