28 April 2013

Caterina Sforza, Queen of Steam-A-Seam

This costume's got to get done soon for Anime Boston.  I only  have two more weeks until I have to move out of my dorm and won't be able to use my sewing machine!  Uh-oh.

So it makes a lot of sense that what I did this week didn't involve a lot of sewing.

This post is kind of an homage to this wonderful material:


This is a gift from the Cosplay Gods.  It works a little something like this.

You cut your shapes out of regular paper, using a ruler for maximum symmetry.  Peel off one side of the wax paper protecting the Steam-A-Seam, then stick that to the wrong side of the fabric you're appliqueing.  Then you trace your shape onto the Steam-A-Seam and cut it out, like so:

It's still got the wax paper on one side so the sticky part doesn't pick up stuff.

Then you just peel the remaining wax paper and stick it to the main fabric piece.  AND IT STICKS.  OMG.

Now you hit that baby with a hot iron and a little bit of steam.  OMG.

No fraying.  It's permanent.  OMG.

Then you just paint it like it's the bloody Mona Lisa or something.  OMG.

We've also got both shoulder patches done.  I posted the right shoulder in my last post...here's the left.  I'm gonna add something more to the shield.

The sleeve cuffs were a little different because they required such minute details in such a small amount of space.  I suspect they could have been painted directly onto the garment fabric, but I don't have any silver fabric paint.

I started off just by printing out the words I wanted in the correct size and font, then cutting out each letter with scissors.

I was worried about fraying because, like all things in the mortal realms, Steam-A-Seam is not infallible.  I decided to use paint later on to add the small details to the letters.  This photo is from after I ironed the letters to one of the cuffs:

After initial painting, it looks like this:

There's still trim to add later and a little more paint, but it looks very crisp.  By now I've sewn both cuffs onto the sleeves and they only await trim (which still needs to be spray painted silver).

Here's what we have thus far (taken earlier in the week without cuffs and left shoulder patch):

The second-to-last thing I'd like to talk about tonight is the silver piping I used along my hems and seams.  It's something I never tried before now, but it seemed like an obvious alternative to the fake-looking trim that I've seen on other Rosencreutz Orden cosplays.

Since I'm super cheap, I started with some fabric scrap left over from one of my Victorian dresses:

I never would have chosen this fabric for any part of the garment where you might actually notice the paisley pattern.  It's too weird and...Southwestern.  It's great for the piping, though, because only a little bit shows.

To avoid having to buy expensive cording like what they use in commercial piping, I decided to use craft shoelaces instead.  I pinned strips of the silver fabric in half, with the shoelace in the crease.  To join the shoelace ends, I cut off the aglets (the plastic tips) and used hot glue to splice the ends together.  It took ten shoelaces, each 48 inches long, to make enough piping for the entire cosplay!

Once I sewed up the piping, I pinned it to the right side of the fabric edge I wanted it on.  Then this got stitched down, slightly to the left of the stitching I made in the previous step so that the stitching won't show when I'm done.

This piping is in a seam along the side of the front panel of the bodice.  The next thing I did was pin the front panel to the side front panel with the right sides of the fabric facing.  Here you can see my interlining, made out of some old butterfly print flannel left over from my Victorian undergarments.

Again, so that no stitching will show on the right side, I stitched slightly to the left of the stitching I used to affix the piping to the front.  This also squeezes the shoelace slightly so that the piping is nice an crisp and fat.

And that was one seam done!  Here's what it looked like before pressing:

Later on I opted not to put piping on the sleeve cuffs because it will be covered with braid trim.  Of all the piping I made, there's only about 18 inches or so left.

Final order of business tonight is a quick preview of my wig.  I'd like to preface this by saying that I have no freaking clue how I'm going to style this thing.  There's enough hair for certain.  In fact, I swore I'd never get another wig more than one meter long (like my Ukitake wig) because they are a pain in the ass to care for, but alas, here we are again.  On me, this wig is about mid-thigh length.  Maybe 1.2 or 1.3 meters long?  Anyway, it's longer than I really want to deal with.

They designed this wig for a Vocaloid named Seeu.  I've never heard of her before, but then I never really got past Gakupo's beautiful voice.  The seller photo looked a little yellow to me, but the wig I received is about perfect.  It's got some beautiful colour variation as well for a more natural look, which is pleasing because the last few wigs I bought from this seller were a little low-quality.  There's also a small patch of false scalp where the wig is parted.

Anyway, as with most wigs like this, the godawful frizzies are the bane of my existence.  It's been awhile since I worked with a wig this long so I guess I'd forgotten just how awful it was.  To solve this I created a solution of water and hand lotion and spritzed it all over the wig.  The idea was to make the wig greasy enough that individual strands stick to each other a little bit.

Hey, grease works on my own hair whether I want it to or not.  Why not a wig?

My initial coat of hand lotion goop tamed a lot of frizz and made the curl look a lot nicer:

I hope the college won't be mad that the dresser smells like cheap lavender hand lotion now.

The result seems pleasing, but we'll know better once it's dry.  Tomorrow I'm taking this thing to the costume shop to use a real wig head and see what can be done to style it properly for Caterina.

I anticipate this is gonna be a nightmare -_-

21 April 2013

Short Caterina Sforza Update

Welcome to another blog post!  This time I promised I'm actually writing about cosplay, which is surprising because that's what this blog is supposed to be about.  I mean, what are we doing here if it isn't to blatantly ignore the reason I started this blog? 

Complementary opening image is included as a public service so that you know just what kind of guy you are talking to--and all you need to do is look at his facial hair!  Far out!

I've got a few quick updates before I get on to the actual stuff you came here to read.  If you are a commenter, your life just got easier because I removed the CAPTCHA codes that everyone would like to burn with a blowtorch then throw into a patch of cacti surrounded by swarming tarantulas (tarantulae?).  The only thing those codes prove is that you are patient enough to refresh the page until you get one that you can actually read.  Second, I removed mandatory moderation for all comments.  Occasionally one will get put in the moderation queue, but most should get posted right after you hit the submit button.  I will just make sure to police things and if I start getting spammed then I will reconsider.

I hope that helps!

Without further ado:

Above, as you can see, is my current cosplay hell hole: Caterina Sforza from the wonderful series Trinity Blood.  She is also currently my only active project--a first, especially since I list three others on DeviantART.  This will change in June when I intend to begin work on a Shino Academy version of Jushiro Ukitake.

Right now I'm not ready to start posting detailed descriptions of the crafting process, but I will share these in-progress photos.  Later this week I will head down to the costume shop, slap the skirt and blazer on a mannequin, and take real photos!

Here, for your delectation:

Buttons for the blazer--they turned out to be a little smaller than the seller described and also a little smaller than I wanted.  They are, however, already sewn on and I will use them because my recent trip to Boson did not leave me with much discretionary spending money.

Detail of the armband appliques

Shoulder patch on the right sleeve

Recently I discovered this absolutely wonderful material called Steam-A-Seam 2.  It's, like, the answer to every cosplayer's dreams EVAR.  What it allows you to do is create appliques out of ANY FABRIC without worrying about fraying edges.  Plus, to attach the applique to the garment, all you have to do is steam it with an iron for a couple seconds.  It's pure genius!

I'm not entirely satisfied with how fake-y the shoulder patch looks.  It may require more paint, and I have not yet added the words "Rosencreutz Orden" to the red part.  We'll see what I come up with when I am less tired.

19 April 2013

So here's some interesting stuff to distract you while I write a real blog post

Since I'm still a little too lazy to write a blog post about my upcoming Caterina Sforza cosplay, and because most of my photos look approximately like blobs on a background of unfocused amoeba, I figured I would try to distract you with this utterly useless post.

Is it working?  Yes?  Good.

So I chose this week's complimentary funny photo because of something whacked out that happened in my Spanish class last year when we got to the food unit.  You know, there are interesting words like chicharrones and galletas and piña, but you know what stuck?  Ensalada.  Yep, every test for the rest of the semester, every student in the class used that word at least once.  It was like we all secretly craved salad.  Every day.  Some people even wrote entire stories about salad!  By the end of the semester it was becoming an art, like, maybe the Louvre should do an exhibit on our crappy Spanish essays about salad.  Except that would be silly because that is an art museum, not some exhibit of crappy student essays.

I said there was going to be interesting stuff in this post, but it doesn't seem very interesting thus far.  What was I really going to talk about?

Ah, yes.


I noticed something really interesting on my viewer stats for this blog.  First of all, the United States is NOT my top country.  Spain is, and sometimes Germany.  Why is that?  My primary area of study is Spanish, but I've never written a blog post in Spanish.  Do I need to change that?  I'm not sure you'll like suffering through my awful Spanish grammar, but I'm willing to give it a try.

I also get an unusually high number of people viewing my blog using the Linux operating system.  Not many Mac users.  I am scared, because most people who use Linux are, like, super intelligent super-geniuses.  Therefore, I am humbled.  Maybe my blog is secretly more intelligent sounding than I think it is?  Nah, that can't be it.

Por favor, explícamelo.  Did I do okay?

I dunno where this is going.

I need a distraction to end this anticlimactic blog post so that I can leave now and not be late to class.

05 April 2013

Obi Jime Collection

 These are not "blog posts" per se, just a photo collection of the interesting and unique textiles in my collection.  To see the rest of my textile collection, click the link at the top of the page or go here:

Textile Collection Main Page

Obi Jime
Obi jime are cords that are tied around the middle of the obi.  They can be tied in intricate knots in the front, or they can be tied invisibly in the back.  Some are braided using a technique called kumihimo.  Some are made of fabric or other flat braids.  You can also decorate them with small brooches called obi-dome.  I tend to wear unique pins as obi-dome instead of buying ones specifically made for this purpose.

Typical obi knot
A maiko wearing a large obi-dome on her obi-jime

This flat braided obi-jime was a lucky eBay purchase.  It is silk, made with two tones of thread: one metallic gold and one yellow-gold.

This length of wide trim comes from a small fabric store in Santa Fe.  I bought it to be part of a maiko ensemble, but have since decided it is one of my favourite obi jime.  I have an antique rose pin that I often attach to this obi jime as an obi-dome.

I have a lot of trouble tying this obi jime because it is made of really, really stiff brocade.  It's really pretty, though...

 This obi jime was a gift from my mother when she and my father went to Japan on their own in November 2011.  It is silk and very finely made.  The colour is a gradient from wine-red to green, although the green got washed out in the photo.

Han'Eri Collection

These are not "blog posts" per se, just a photo collection of the interesting and unique textiles in my collection.  To see the rest of my textile collection, click the link at the top of the page or go here:

Textile Collection Main Page

Han'eri are a long rectangular piece of fabric that get pinned or sewn to the collar of your underkimono (nagajuban).  They can be patterned, plain, or absent.

This is by far my favourite han'eri.  I made it out of some cotton from a small fabric store in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Red silk han'eri that I made as a part of a screen printing project during my senior year of high school.  I carefully cut out the pattern of sakura blossoms using an exacto knife, then printed it onto the fabric using silver screen printing ink.  I've never worn this collar.  Before it is wearable, I will need to iron the wrinkles out and cut off the excess fabric so it does not bunch up under the collar.

If I ever make a maiko ensemble, this is the collar I will wear with it.

Obi'Age Collection

These are not "blog posts" per se, just a photo collection of the interesting and unique textiles in my collection.  To see the rest of my textile collection, click the link at the top of the page or go here:

Textile Collection Main Page

 Obi'age are long rectangular pieces of fabric that are worn right above the obi.  They are used to cover up the ties used to keep the obi knot together, such as the ties attached to the obi'makura (obi pillow).  Obi'age can be worn highly visible, overlapping the obi, or they can be tucked into the obi.  Young women can show lots of the obi'age, but a more mature woman shows less.

Brighter colours are a style reserved for youth.  Red in particular is usually reserved for young women.
This scrap of purple silk came from a small fabric store in Santa Fe.  It needs ironing every time before i use it, but the tiny flower pattern is very cute!

I made this obi'age out of a length of beautiful red silk.  It was originally intended to be part of a maiko ensemble that I never completed.  I hand-painted the design using high-quality silver fabric paint.  This is one of my favourite obi'age, but it is very difficult to wear unless I have someone else to help me put it on-otherwise it gets messed up when I rotate my obi bow to the back.

I wear this obi'age all the time.  It is a scrap of dusty pink dupioni silk that I hemmed up to prevent fraying.  It wasn't big enough for anything else, but it goes beautifully with most of the kimono I own.