21 July 2014

Howl Jenkins, whose 'mother' apparently really enjoyed quiltmaking

For a deceptively simple character design, Howl Jenkins is a ton of work, and you'll know what I mean when you look at that coat and realize that all of those diamond shapes must be quilted together.

I've wanted to cosplay Howl for awhile.  What got me going this time was the fact that one of my friends approached me and expressed interest in doing a pair cosplay with me as Howl and her as Sophie, which would be awesome because I rarely get the opportunity to be part of a group.  We don't know if she'll have the money to afford her cosplay, but it was enough for me.

On a trip to New York City I picked up most of the fabric necessary for Howl.  To maintain the same fabric texture throughout the coat, I bought only pink fabric, with the intention of dyeing some of it purple for the contrasting diamonds.  What I did not anticipate, since the lady at the store swore the fabric was silk (it FEELS like silk), is that it is polyester and therefore almost impossible to dye.

Well, I managed.  Somehow.

You know those iDye Poly dyes that they sell at Joann's and Dick Blick for dyeing synthetic fabrics?  Well, they work.  Surprisingly well, actually.  The problem is that you have to boil the fabric on the stovetop, which makes it a little harder than your standard dip-dye job.  It was also the middle of summer, and boiling a giant pot of water was decidedly unappealing.  I had to wait until the temperature dipped slightly below 90F before cranking on the stove.

The purple iDye wasn't bad.  It's a little more magenta purple than I'd like, but it's a beautiful colour scheme and (in my mind) totally suitable for Howl.  The actual colour is a little darker than in the photo.

Patching together the body of the coat took several hours of work even with a sewing machine.  There are sixty diamonds total, so you can imagine the time it took.  It was also important to ensure that the corners lined up properly so that no colour overlapped itself.

My diamond shapes are measured out precisely using the lining dimensions as a guide so that the pattern lines up perfectly with the hems and lapels of the coat.

I optimized the coat pattern to have as few seams as possible.  The seams in the lining are completely straight, but present in the lining simply because I hadn't yet thought out the possibility of eliminating them entirely.  At that point I still planned to have some shape to bring the coat in at the waist, but film stills proved that totally unnecessary.  The appears like one contiguous piece, more cloak-like than coat-like.  That also made the quilting much easier.

With some scrap brocade from my fabric box, I decided to pipe the hems and collar of my coat.  The core is curtain cord my mother left with me when she replaced it in a couple sets of blinds.  That's upcycling for you.

I generally stitch piping three times: once to encase the cord, once to baste it to the fashion fabric, and once again when I line the garment.  Each line of stitching squeezes the cord a little more so the fabric is drawn nice and tight over it once the garment is done.

A little magic and trim, and the coat is done!  The one casualty is that I realized, after turning the lining, that the back of the coat is supposed to be solid purple.  That's an oops, but tough luck.  This isn't a competition cosplay, and I'm probably the only one who will notice.  I hope.

Yesterday I ordered Howl's wig: Arda's Pippin in platinum blonde.  Shouldn't need much styling, just a bit of a trim to even out the ends and add in Howl's bangs.

Onwards to the shirt!