24 December 2015

Queen Elinor's Hair Problem

I admit it, I'm not good with wigs.  I don't like tangles.  I don't like having fiber all over my hands.  And I definitely don't like having fiber all over my floor for MONTHS because that shit gets everywhere.  So why the everloving fuck did I think it was a good idea to make this awful hairstyle?

So much no, so little time, but a promise is a promise, I guess.  My mother's hair is not long enough or, dare I say it, thick enough for me to steer clear of a wig.  So let's do this thing.

The base style is a Pippin from Arda Wigs, which has been a good style for me in the past, especially for Howl.  It's long, but not too long, and my Howl wig at least didn't have much layering.  The wig I received, however, had layering that didn't like to be tamed and pulled into ties.  Let's just say that I ended up using a lot of Got 2B Glued and hairspray.

First order of business was to add in Elinor's gray streaks.  I stabbed them into the scalp and stitched them in place.  It's not elegant, but if you're looking inside the wig cap you're standing too damn close, man.  I also added a lace front using leftover lace after I trimmed back another wig.  It's ventilated into a slight widow's peak with both gray and brown fibers.  I don't really know why I bothered, it'll be covered by the crown, but there you have it.

I was pretty restless during the rest of the wig construction period.  It was during finals time and I felt the time crunch.  Let's just say that I pulled the wig into pigtails with a couple of rubber bands.  Then, using a Katie Bair technique, I chopped off all the excess fiber and sealed the pigtail ends using caulk.  This should keep all the fiber in place permanently.

Next order of business was the tube...things.  What are these?  I know the Italians used to wrap their hair into tubes in the 1400s and 1500s, but this shit is weird.  Animation artists, amirite?

This is another Katie Bair method.  I rolled quilt batting into tubes, stitched it, and then spray painted it dark brown.  I then laid stripes of caulk along the length of the tubes and attached the fiber.  This isn't a perfect method, and it took me a few tries to get it right.  There was a large casualty in the form of a halfway hair-covered tube that had to be stripped of all its hair.

Caulk didn't turn out to be a foolproof method of keeping the fiber in place and covering all of the batting.  I covered the caulked layer with a layer of loose wefts that could be combed and hairsprayed into place later, then I sealed the ends of my tubes with caulk and sewed them to the wig.  No photos of that process, sorry.  I forget to take photos when I'm frustrated and tired.

It's not a bad end result, though!  I had a lot of stub to cover (meaning I had to deviate from the design, but I didn't plan it that way), so I improvised with hair ribbons.  Before the con I'll ad a couple of beads to ends to make them prettier.

I was delighted with how the trim I wrapped around the tube things created that little kink that Elinor has in the designs!

There you go.  Elinor's basically done.  The final bit that I need to do is assemble the waist portion of the belt.  I can't wait to see my mother wear the entire costume!

Queen Elinor, or, You Thought You Knew How To Do Things

Facebook will show you that I've been working on this cosplay actively since June and at this point I just want it done.  It's been sitting in my queue for what seems like forever.  Good for me, the finishing line is in sight!  Elinor and Merida enter competition in less than a month in Boston at Arisia 2016.

As you might imagine, cosplays like this always start off simply enough, you know, before you get far enough along to realize that your planning skills truly DO suck despite whatever faith you may have had in your skills at the beginning.  I really didn't know much at all, I have realized, which over the last few months has made me doubt every skill I have as a costumer.


In this case I began with a bodice pattern from The Tudor Tailor and a five-yard cut of fabric that was a lucky find on Etsy.  It's a mirage green polyester and the best approximation I have yet seen of Elinor's on-screen dress fabric.

The first version of the dress looked great and pretty accurate.  My only casualty thus far was realizing that those sleeves, no matter how you cut them, take up an enormous amount of fabric.  Any plans I had to self-line the skirt went straight out the window.  Sigh.  To explain the problem this created, I need to back up a little.

When cutting cutaway overskirts such as this, you are much better off to cut on the bias because bias cutting=better drape.  That wasn't possible due to a vertical weave pattern, so it causes the overskirt to hang at a wonky angle that I'll have to fix later on.  Probably I'll install a few sets of tapes in the seams, which I'll tie to keep the fullness to the back instead of falling forward and creating strange puckers at the waist.

Elinor's belt was my first foray into the world of worbla.  This is tragically expensive stuff, and tricky to travel with, which are two problems right off the bat that have prevented me from using it before.

These are a craft foam core sandwiched between two layers of worbla.

Here are the three types of pieces that will be part of the belt.  The round knotwork pieces encircle the waist, while the plain rings hang from the centerpiece down the center.  It's all spraypainted gold and weathered using brown paint.  The above pieces have been reworked somewhat so that the knots are more three-dimensional.  I also re-sanded them to a smoother finish and repainted them.  The final central piece has four stones set in it, one at the center, and one on each of the three spokes, handily covering the oopsie I made while embossing the knot overlaps at the center.

Assembled the front piece looks like this:

While I apologize for the low-quality image, it does show how I chose to solve some issues with the sleeves.  Experience has shown me that medieval sleeves don't have a good range of motion.  They weren't meant to: these women didn't work.  I can't ask my mother to wear that for twelve or more hours, however, so I solved that problem by tying the sleeves to the dress, which is absolutely appropriate for this type of dress.  A few days ago I added in a puffed dark green wool undersleeve, but you won't see that until I have final photos, I bet.

I had a lot of issues with the collar facing and trim, for some reason, producing casualties in the forms of two separate failed attempts at creating something that lays flat.  The facing in the upper image has been removed in favor of a dark green wool one that is much more agreeable AND lies flat!  I used the same dark green wool for the underskirt, which you also won't see until I have final photos.
My wig deserves its own post due to its complexity, but I thought I'd give you a look at the crown as well.  There are two types of acrylic "gems".  The central ones are sparkly dragonglass ones that I special-ordered from an Etsy seller, while the smaller ones are fiber optic gems that I got from a craft store.  They don't look like precious gems, per se, but I think they fit in with the 'fantasy' look that I was aiming for with this set of cosplays.

That's all for now!  Expect two new posts soon: one about Elinor's wig, and one about Merida's finishing touches.

22 December 2015

Basque Dance Costume Photo Gallery

I completed this costume in May 2015 as part of my undergraduate thesis on Spanish traditional costume from Valencia and the Basque Country.  It wasn't required, but I did it anyway as a little extra something and because it was fun.

No progress posts since this was about a week-long build only, but I made the red linen skirt, applied the black stripes, and made the bodice based on a Tudor Tailor pattern.  The apron and headscarf are made from scraps of muslin and then embroidered.  I didn't make the shirt, but really I didn't have time to, and I imported the traditional abarkak shoes from the Basque Country.

Researching this project made me realize that I would very much like to learn the Basque language Euskera.  Let's put that down for the hypothetical future in which I have free time.

Included at the bottom is a selfie that I took the day of the presentation, for those who are interested.


27 November 2015

Holo the Wisewolf Photo Gallery

Holo from Spice and Wolf was my 2015 Anime Boston competition cosplay and she did well, taking home the second place award for master division craftsmanship.

Build time was relatively short--I completed most of the costume between early January and late March.  Textiles are mostly silk, with the exception of the back of the bodice and corset (which is cotton) and the wig is a Lady Winter/Sad Stark from The Five Wits.

The only design concessions I made here were detailing, such as the patterned green overskirt made form an old sari, and moving the tail from the inside of the skirt to the outside so that it would be more visible.  I also added a pair of Basque dance shoes to make it con-legal and comfortable for walking around!

Progress posts:
Wolf and Silk
Wolf Takes All

22 October 2015

Merida goes to NYCC

Phenomenal photos by EMCP, who I hope to work with again in the future!

Long time no write!  I know I say that almost every time, and you'll probably hear it again at least a hundred times...but hey, I'm here now!  Last time I wrote about how Holo won second place craftsmanship at Anime Boston, at which point I disappeared to Colorado for three months to make costumes for a theatre there.  Those who follow me on Facebook have seen photos of the progress I made on Elinor (you know, Merida's mother) while I was there, including my lucky score of the perfect fabric for her dress.

But that's for later.  This here post is for Merida, who you haven't seen hide nor tail of since, what, May?  I am happy to announce that she is close to completion and has in fact already been debuted at New York Comic Con 2015.

Let's start from the beginning, shall we?

I drafted Merida's dress based on a bodice from The Tudor Tailor.  Her patterns are all based on measurements very close to mine, so I almost always use her as a starting point for anything pre-1700s.  Merida doesn't have a waist seam on her dress, which is a little atypical for any time in history, but it is what it is.  The fabric I chose is a blue silk dupioni with a bit of turquoise and gold in it.  Merida could be wearing wool, but as a princess silk seems more likely.

How many layers go into one of these puff sleeves?  The answer: a lot!  The innermost layer is a lining into which we insert four pieces of bone so the finished sleeve will hold its shape.  On top of that is the "puff" fabric, and on top of that are the panes.  There are six panes in each sleeve, piped and then gathered along with the puff to fit the lining.

It's not an easy thing to put together!  So many layers of fabric and my sewing machine coughed and threw needles at me, so this all went together by hand.

At this point the dress sat until September, and I completed in in a whirlwind in the run-up to NYCC that I forgot to photograph.  The basics of what happened included the assembly of the sleeves, stitching down seam allowances, facing the neckline and skirt, and then lacing together the various pieces of the sleeves.  All of this is visible in photos, a better descriptor than I could ever give verbally!

Fabric elements out of the way, which was really the part of the costume that I actually understood based on previous experience, I decided to try my hand at the worbla thing.  Merida's bow and belt buckle seemed likely candidates for this technique, so I got started.

First layer is craft foam.

At this point I covered these with worbla and tooled them with an awl to get sharp line over top the craft foam pattern.  The piece below on the right has been pulled over a spherical shape and will eventually be attached to the top of Merida's bow.

Craft foam didn't seem an option for the bow due to lack of rigidity, so this here is four layers of foamcore glued together with rubber cement and then carved with a box cutter into the shape of a bow.  The result is a lightweight though still somewhat bendy armature for the worbla.

Aaand all done!  Well, mostly.  I made these in such a hurry that there's still a good amount of work to be done on them.  I'm done with the bow itself.  Those designs are etched into the worbla with my awl.  Afterwards I painted the entire bow with dark brown paint and sponged it off so that it stayed in the design and other textural flaws.  While I liked the feel of the leather grip on the bow, I don't like how it looks and I'll probably replace it with worbla for durability and aesthetics.

Final battle was the wig.  Arda has a good base for Merida, which saves a lot of time on styling, but it has a horrendous straight hairline that won't be seen on one of my cosplays.  To fix this I made a lacefront to sew into the wig for a natural hairline.  What you see here pinned to my wig form represents about six hours of work.

Wefts used for lacefronting arrive straight and must be curled.  Once I had the lacefront sewn to the wig I wrapped them around a large-barreled marker and steamed them in place.

In the end, that gave us lots of curls and lots of volume!  I can't wait until this thing turns into a rat's nest...if I'm lucky I'll get through Arisia and their masquerade before I have to face that.  Now on to Elinor!

08 April 2015

Holo the Wisewolf: Wolf Takes All

Wow, so it was a whirlwind weekend at Anime Boston!  Saturday and Sunday at the con were great.  I missed out on Friday due to an unfortunately planned midterm.  Sad days.

In the end, though, Holo did quite well!  She won second place master craftsmanship in the masquerade.  Winning an award at Anime Boston has long been on my bucket list.  I am not quite sure what to do now!  My cosplay competition drive is running on fumes right now, so I was thinking of trying to staff some cons this year instead.  It seems like the next logical progression, I suppose!

Anyway, I'll go ahead and finish up my progress posts about Holo and we can finally put this thing to rest.  It'll probably be some time before I get around to doing a Holo photoshoot, but considering how many TONS of photos I had taken this weekend, I am sure that plenty will crop up!

As ever, I am eternally grateful to Katie Bair for writing her amazing wig book, because it saved me here yet again.  Most wolf ears I have seen looking nothing like the rest of the wig and are poorly blended, if at all.  I wanted mine to look like they sprouted from my head rather than being separate pieces because...well, Holo's ears are a part of her body.

If you've ever looked at wolf ears, you'll notice that the fur differs in colours and lengths:

To that end, I devised a concoction of paper clay and three different types of faux fur.

Then I hot glued all that shit together.

A little Got 2b Glued later, et voila!

I had a little trouble with the flow of the hair once I had the ears sewn onto the wig.  Specifically, it wanted to part near to the crown of the wig and go to either side of the ears, which created a few awful bald spots.  On one side I manage to part the hair so that it wouldn't show the bald spot, but the other side took a bit of silicon glue to keep the hair in place.  After all, though, my wig received a ton of compliments on how natural it looked!

I talked awhile back on Facebook about how much trouble I had finding faux fur in Holo's reddish brown colour.  Well, I eventually did.  On some sketchy ebay seller.  Then it didn't arrive until like two weeks before the con.  It was a good thing that the colour of the fur was indeed quite close to the wig or I would have been in panic mode.

So for the tail I took a fellow cosplayer's advice (seriously, you know who you are, and I am indebted to you!) and cut my tail with a curve.

The auburn fur is overlaid on top of the white fur with a jagged pattern.

Pre-stuffing, here is what I had:

Lots of furries recommended using a belt to attach the tail, but I decided against that in order to eliminate bulk underneath my corset.  Instead I stitched two buttons on the inside of the corset and used buttonholes in the tail to attach it that way.  It worked really well, actually.

Now, I did not document the corset because it truly wasn't that interesting.  It was a regular corset pattern with spring steel boning.  On it I did some bead embroidery in sort of a swirl pattern to mimic wind.  One half of the corset has small pewter flowers, one has small copper spheres that look like little berries, as sort of a reference to Holo's status as goddess of the grain.

For my reticule/neck pouch, I managed to dredge enough scraps out of the red dupioni silk that I used for the bodice and skirt to at least make the upper part of the bag.  I attached two tassels to its base and threaded the drawstring through eyelets.  Those blue beads were a nightmare to get onto the drawstrings because I was stupid and decided to apply the aglets beforehand.  Kinda oops.

At long last, here's what the final thing looked like!

Oh, and here's my trophy!  Isn't it sparkley?

Again, I will make a Holo photo gallery just as soon as more Holo photos start cropping up.

Next up: Merida!

09 March 2015

Sybill Trelawney: Making the Impossible Possible

I've been intrigued with making a Harry Potter character cosplay for quite some time, but it's been on the back burner for just as long because I've clearly had more than enough stuff to occupy my time between personal projects, designs, working on shows, and, you know, trying to get a job.  I'm very happy to have arrived at this point, however, although I surprised myself somewhat.

Since forever I've wanted to do a cosplay of Luna Lovegood, but that's just too...simple, I guess?  Then I wanted to do Bellatrix.  Then I finally settled on Sybill Trelawney.  She's always intrigued me: there's a lot about her that we don't know, and may never know, but I guess that's kind of what drives my curiosity about her.  She plays a huge role in Harry's fate and the development of the series overall, and yet she receives little credit for that and is rarely treated sympathetically.

So I guess that's where this thing started.  I decided to make Trelawney's outfit from the eighth movie, because why not?  That overcoat thing is awesome and honestly something I wouldn't mind wearing as an everyday garment.  Hell, I'd wear the whole thing as an everyday outfit.  Minus the glasses, of course.  I didn't spend hours learning how to stick my fingers in my eyes just to not wear my contact lenses.

To start out, I went to Santa Fe Fabrics to get what I needed.  I settled on boiled wools for the overcoat, a beautiful raw silk with a loose weave for the dress, and various fabrics for the skirt.

L to R: Skirt middle panel, lower panel, and silk dress fabric

The fabric on the lower right was dyed dark green and used for the upper part of the skirt.  There's some leftover, which will be made into a Victorian dress with the other fabrics in the photo.

Now, I bought the boiled wool unpatterned knowing that I would probably have to figure out some way to dye the star patterns onto it.  Unfortunately that was still a lot easier than going on a search for fabric that already had that pattern, because I doubtless would have spent hours perusing the undersides of the Internet for something that should exist but for some reason does not.  As usual.  In my research, though, I came across a wondrous product called discharge paste which is painted onto your fabric using a screen print technique or simply with a brush.  Then you hit it with a hot iron and boom the dye in that area of the fabric is just gone.  It's some pretty amazing shit.

I accidentally spilled discharge paste on the left side green area, so I had to iron the designs I had already painted with the paste and then wash the garment and begin the process anew in that area.

I also found that you really need to apply the discharge paste thickly and leave the iron on it for a long time, or you'd end up with underdeveloped areas in the center of the design.

The discharge paste smells like rotting eggs and sulfur and maybe some other nasty stuff mixed in, but I spent hours on my hands and knees painting every single one of the stupid designs by hand.  There are hundreds of them and the spacing must be measured out.  I'll admit that I used slightly different spacing on the brown areas than I did on the green areas.  Don't tell anyone I did that?  I liked the lower pattern density better.

After all that, here is what I had:

I was very happy with how well the discharge paste worked; it really could have been an absolute disaster.  Also, bonus: you can see the skirt lying on the floor behind the mannequin.  At that point it didn't have a waistband yet.

My mother spun some nice wool yarn for me to blanket stitch the edges of the overcoat with.  That went pretty fast and easy once I found a needle that passed easily through two or three layers of boiled wool while threaded with wool yarn.

As I write this post, the overcoat is actually finished.  The shoulder pieces are attached as well, I just didn't document them.  I had to engage in a little fudgery on the should piece draping and the center front clasp, but I think it turned out fantastic.  I anticipate that the next time you'll see it will be at Genericon next week.  I'll be sure to get photos!

Since this post is getting a little long, I'll probably save the wig for my next post.  I will, however, go ahead and write about the dress.

Basically, the dress is a semi-fitted and slightly more than knee-length.  It is made out of some of the most beautiful raw silk I've ever found.  It was on sale, too, so bonus.  I still have some leftover in case I want to make a sash or scarf or something like that.  Sybill's dress has a leaf pattern woven into it, but like the starry overcoat fabric, I couldn't really find that anywhere for less than my whole bank account.  I decided to compromise and embroidery the sleeves, which is the only part of the dress you really see much of.

It's a very subtle embroidery, but to me it's very much in-line with the original costume design.

Sybill's dress has a tassel fringe that I wasn't looking forward to finding, but I was lucky to find an almost identical trim available on Etsy.  So I snatched it up like a baby on fire...only to find that it was hopelessly tangled up and matted.  Well, I guess I got what I paid for, and it wasn't unfixable.  A little hot water and combing later, it looked fine.

There you have it!  I'm waiting on the arrival of my glasses, and I'm hoping to find some trinkets and a suitable scarf before Genericon.

Next post: creating Sybill's curls