Pattern Review: Truly Victorian #103

IMG_2823After months of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to take the leap and get started on Lulu! The first part I completed was the hoop skirt which will act as the base for her belts.

Lots of Lulu cosplayers have gone with a faux apron approach for the belts and created a separate piece that the skirt snaps on. I took that a step further with this project for a couple of reasons: 1) I’ve always like artwork where Lulu had a fuller skirt in the back, and a hoop skirt is a great way to get that effect, and 2) I wanted something fairly sturdy that wouldn’t kill me after wearing it all day. The shape of this crinoline was popular in the mid- to late- 1860s, and provides an excellent base for several pounds worth of floofy skirts. Fingers crossed that it also works out for my belts!

The Basics: 

Pattern: Truly Victorian 103

Total Hours: Around 20

Fabric: About 2 yards of fabric (I used duck cloth for the front half and a mystery cotton blend from my stash for the back half).

Alterations: Added about 3″ length and reduced the overall circumference of the hoops.

Notions: Thread, grosgrain ribbon, steel boning, boning tips and connectors, duct tape (yes, you read that right), boning channels, belting, thin ribbons.

Did it look like the pattern illustration?: More or less, given that I pretty drastically reduced the overall circumference.

Were the instructions easy to follow?: For the most part.

Make it again?: If I have a need for another hoop skirt, for sure! Otherwise, not a chance. My fingers are still raw from all the hand stitching.

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Other thoughts: The overall construction of this hoop skirt is pretty straight forward. The directions are mostly clear, though there were a few times I had to read over directions a couple of extra times to wrap my head around it since I’ve never made something like this before. If you’re following instructions to the letter, it’s not bad at all, as they provide all the mark lines necessary to give you an even, balanced cage. However, I made quite a number of alterations that definitely added to the overall time for construction.

The one piece I'm still uncertain about. I may go back and reduce the circumference of the middle hoop in the near future.
The one piece I’m still uncertain about. I may go back and reduce the circumference of the middle hoop in the near future.

My big alteration right off the bat was to reduce the circumference of the skirt. That required a fair amount of calculations, and I used this tutorial to determine the circumference for each of my hoops. Ultimately, I decided to go with a 100″ circumference on my bottom hoop, which is almost 30″ smaller than the original pattern.

The base of the skirt is constructed with a bag, which prevents the wearer from walking through the hoops. It’s assembled in 6 pieces. To accommodate my reduced hoops, I removed the back 2 pieces.

Most of the vertical straps are connected in the center back via this crescent piece. Since this pattern is designed for historical costumes, it's intended as a space for bustles. Obviously, I won't be wearing one.
Most of the vertical straps are connected in the center back via this crescent piece. Since this pattern is designed for historical costumes, it’s intended as a space for bustles. Obviously, I won’t be wearing one.

Once the bag is assembled, you add the vertical grosgrain ribbon straps which act as the basic support structure for the skirt. This is where things started getting tricky for me, since I initially added 5″ based on my waist to floor measurement, but then had to reduce that overall length since it proved too long. Figuring out where to place the vertical straps on the bag was also a challenge, since I couldn’t use the original marks on the pattern. My placement changed quite a bit as I started adding the upper hoops.

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Still a little fuzzy, but if you squint, you can see the scrap fabric I used to cover the hoop gaps.

Hoop connectors made forming the lower hoops pretty simple. I struggled with the first couple, but then I started using duct tape to temporarily hold the ends of the hoop together. This was a great fix while I clamped the hoop connectors in place. I had the best luck using my normal pliers to do the initial clamping, then using my jewelry pliers to really get a tight fit. The only drawback to this configuration is that I had a hard time getting my boning casing over the connectors, so I covered them with some scrap fabric. Probably won’t be visible once the belts are on, but why not?

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The ties on the top half hoops are part of what force the crinoline into an elliptical shape.

For the upper loops, I did have a bit of a coordination challenge sliding the U-tips over the ends. I found it easiest to hold the tip down with my finger and clamp the sides with one set of pliers. While holding the pliers, I grabbed a second set of pliers and clamped the tip and around any exposed edges.

Leveling the hoops was one of the biggest challenges of this project. Again, I couldn’t go off the placement lines from the pattern, so it took a lot of eyeballing and readjusting with pins. Once I was finally happy with the placement of all the hoops, I set about hand stitching the top and bottom of each intersection. I initially tried doing this with a zipper foot on my machine, but my pins kept getting knocked out of place. So I just put it on my sad dress form, grabbed a drink, and went after it. It took about 3 sessions of 3-4 hours of sewing at a time. I think I watched 3 seasons of Parks and Rec while doing this :P

All that said, I’m pretty pleased with how this project turned out. I’m really looking forward to adding the belts and getting started on Lulu’s other pieces!

Thor trying to be a helpful craft pup.
Thor trying to be a helpful craft pup.

Newbie Adventures in Embroidery

I mentioned a while back that I finally indulged in a sewing machine with embroidery capabilities. This was mostly for Lulu and her insane lace trim, but I thought it’d be fun to learn how to do other things like making patches and such. Almost six months later, I finally got around to turning on my machine for the first time!

To break in my machine, I did a couple test runs of a Superman logo for a 1970s hotpants Supergirl commission. I purchased the logo off of Etsy, and it was pretty simple to transfer to my machine. Once I unzipped the file, I dragged it to the desktop on my Mac. After plugging my laptop to my machine, it was pretty simple to drag it to the machine’s drive and transfer the file. The machine came pre-installed with a bobbin of white embroidery thread, so all I had to do was put my embroidery thread in for the needle and let it go to work!

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I did 2 initial test runs of this project on scrap fabric before moving on to the real thing. With my initial run, I mixed up the order of the thread, but it wound up working out anyway since I didn’t like the 2″ size.

For my second run, I went with a 3.5″ logo. This time, I got the colors in the correct order and was overall pretty pleased with how it turned out. No problems whatsoever!

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It was only when I got started with my commission that things started going awry. As soon as it started, the white bobbin thread was the only thing showing. Okay, no big deal. I threaded the bobbin incorrectly. Easy fix.

Then the bobbin not only ran out of thread, but it created a huge knot on the wrong side of the project. Okay, deep breaths. Snip away all the extra threads, re-thread the bobbin, and install everything correctly this time.

At this point, my stabilizer was perforated and wonky, but I was also concerned about re-hooping my fabric and hitting the wrong place. So I snapped the hoop back in place and hoped for the best. While the final product turned out fine, it’s not quite as awesome as my second test run.

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So here are my main take-aways from this first dive into machine embroidery:

  • While I wouldn’t call the embroidery interface intuitive, it’s pretty easy to use once you figure out where all the buttons are and what all the symbols mean. I had to stop in the middle of my final project, but once I figured out how to jump to different steps in the embroidery process, I was able to finish pretty quickly. Thanks, user manual!
  • Stabilizers are your friend! This fabric is a medium weight twill with a touch of stretch to it. I used a cut-away Sulky stabilizer that I had on hand for this project. I do need to pick up a can of basting spray ASAP though. I think that would have helped with my final logo.
  • When in trouble, double check threading. Most of my final issues were due to user error.

And here are a couple of resources I found super helpful:

  • BurleySew: Lots of video tutorials on working specifically with the Brother SE400.
  • Embroidery Library: Some great tips and tricks on embroidery, including information on which stabilizers to use with different types of fabric! They’ve also recently released several video tutorials.

Have you done any machine embroidery before? How did you like it?

Costume Breakdown: Casual Wonder Woman

Today I thought I’d do something a little different and show you how I plan my costumes and determine quotes for commissions. I find the planning stage one of the most stressful but also one of the most crucial stages of creating a costume. Planning a costume is where I figure out how much it will cost, how long it will take, what skills I need to learn, etc. Most of my costumes take at least a few weeks of planning before I even start purchasing materials, and all of that starts with a costume breakdown in Google Docs. Let’s take one of my upcoming costumes as an example.

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Art by Hanie Mohd.

Side note: I actually thought about doing this post using Lulu from FFX as an example, but I got to about 1,000 words and gave up.

My first step in breaking down a costume is looking at each component. Sometimes I’ll draw it out on a fashion croquis even if I have reference art, because I’ll catch small details that I might have missed otherwise. Here’s a quick example of what a breakdown looks like for this costume:

  • Wig: Despite owning 4 black wigs, I didn’t have one wig that quite matched this art, so I picked one up from Purple Plum. This is my first wig from them, and I really like it so far! When I plan costumes, I like to overlap as many materials as possible, and this wig is a solid base for one of my future costumes.
  • Contacts: I was fortunate that I had a couple other blue-eyed characters this year, so my contacts from Pinky Paradise have gone a long way! This is of course an optional purchase. Always, always, always check with your optometrist before ordering contacts!
  • Headband/bracelets: I have a similar tiara and bracelets used for a previous Wonder Woman outfit, so money saved.
  • Corset: This bodice could easily be modified as a corset, which actually works out well as a practice piece for Lulu. I had some of the materials on hand, but I still had to purchase the fashion fabric (1 yd casa satin), duck cloth for a strength layer (1 yd), grommets (1 set), binding (2 packs), and lacing (16 yds since I didn’t have a busk).
  • Gold “armor”: I can easily make the gold embellishments on the top and bottom using craft foam covered in gold spandex. I have all the necessary materials to construct these pieces.
  • Skirt: Fairly basic design, but the pattern was the tricky part. I opted for a double circle skirt with an elastic waist band. Callula Cosplay came up with the graphic for the fabric, which I printed from Spoonflower. I used leftover horsehair braid from a different project for the hem.
  • Petticoat: This skirt has a lot of volume, so I’ll probably wear a petticoat under it. I already have one, so money saved!
  • Character shoes: Easy enough purchase, though I had to paint them and still need to find scrap leather to form the T. Fortunately, I had leftover paint materials from Bombshell Wonder Woman.
OMG, shoes.
OMG, shoes.

At this point, I need to figure out details, extras, and skills I need to work on:

  • I think I’d like to make a matching bolero for cold weather cons, maybe with an embroidered Wonder Woman symbol.
  • Aside from the bracelets, there’s no jewelry drawn. I might skip a necklace, but I’ll definitely add earrings that I currently have.
Nearly finished corset!
Nearly finished corset!

Once I’ve got an idea of what skills and extras I want, it’s time to window shop and budget. I do a lot of this online through eBay, Amazon, Etsy and various fabric shops. When I do my budgeting, I also take a look at mailers to see when various companies are having sales. So if I need to buy patterns, I’ll check when my local Hancock’s and Jo-Ann’s are having sales and plan around those pieces.

Planning a commission quote follows all these steps as well, with the added exception of labor. I try to estimate how many hours a project will take based on previous experience and charge based on expected hours.

That’s just a brief look at how I plan my costumes. Do you plan your costumes out or do you wing it?

WIP July 2015 Edition

Another month has completely flown by! After the craziness of my early summer cons, I decided to take July slow(ish) with my workload. It’s been nice to take a few breaks and not rush projects!

Prior to adding horsehair braid to the skirt and finishing the corset.
Prior to adding horsehair braid to the skirt and finishing the corset.

Hanie Mohd Wonder Woman: 60% complete

This has been my big personal project for the month. I finished hemming the skirt over the weekend, and I also knocked out the other big component of this costume: the corset. I went back and forth on making an actual corset. With this style, a boned bodice probably would have been more appropriate (not to mention cheaper). That said, I really wanted to try out some different corset making methods to figure out how I want to make Lulu. So corset it is! All that’s left is making the “armor” and painting my shoes!

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Cut all the lace!

Lulu: 6% complete

Oh, Lulu… I didn’t really get around to doing anything with Lulu this month other than shopping for EVEN MORE LACE and a few other materials. After some thought, I decided to bump Lulu up on my costume roster. I’m still planning to make Shulkie soon (and maybe squeeze in one more simple costume this year), but this is going to be my primary costume build for more or less the next 4 months. I kind of just need to make this costume and get it out of my system. So look forward to lots and lots of lace and belts in the near future! My goal for next month is to make  her corset and a hoop skirt as the base for the belts.

Commissions:

11040603_746740975452011_6846321515076192671_nMy first commission this month was a Codex corset for Callula Cosplay! To pattern this, I made a mock-up of my trusty TV110 in her size. I marked the top edge while she wore it.

The fashion fabric for this is a burgandy upholstery fabric I found at Jo-Anns. I cut the fabric on the cross-grain (technically a corsetry no-no) to match the appearance of “stripes” on Felicia Day’s corset. The fashion fabric is fused to duck cloth which acts as a strength layer, and I used muslin for the lining. The whole thing is constructed using the welt seam method, which is pretty forgiving of cutting errors and also very durable. I bound the edges in pre-made gold bias tape. The front white panel is made of casa satin fused to duck cloth and lined with more muslin. It attaches separately with snaps. Overall I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out, and Dana looks great in it!

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Close-up of the side panel detail prior to topstitching.

My other commission this month is a bodysuit for Kevin Dale. He’s the guy who made my fantastic Captain Marvel cowl! I don’t really want to mention what this is from since he hasn’t announced his plans yet, but with all that red, it should be pretty easy to guess (Hint: it’s a spin on a classic Marvel character with a recently released show ;) ). I constructed this suit pretty much with the same approach I used on my Grihahim commission.

Once we got the mock-up fitted, I drew in seam lines for some visual interest. The base of the suit is red moleskin, and the side panels are high performance red spandex. I interfaced and topstitched 2″ faux panels on the sides and under the arms. I also topstitched the edges of these panels and extra seam lines for more visual interest. I can’t wait to see all of this come together!

wonder woman - blue 2The other major project I completed this month was making the initial run of product for my Etsy shop! I’ve accumulated lots of geeky prints over the last few months, so I sat down over a 3 day weekend and sewed up 18 clutches. So far, I’ve got Avengers, Batgirl/Supergirl/Wonder Woman, Disney villains, Anna and Elsa, and 2 different Star Wars prints. I picked up some Dr. Who fabric recently and will add a few samples to the shop soon!

Do you have any requests for specific clutches? I’m always on the hunt for geeky themed fabric. If you’ve got suggestions for other products you’d like to see (clutches without bows, coin purses, pillows, etc.) let me know!

What have you been working on this month?

5 Fandom Friday: Five Fictional Pets I’d Like To Adopt

5fandomfriday

5fandomfridayIt’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I couldn’t pass up today’s topic!

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Clockwise from top left: Luna, Ghost, Fat Chocobo, Dragon from Dragon Riders of Pern, and Black Hayate.

1. Luna from Sailor Moon: C’mon, admit it. How many of  you Moonies have stumbled across a black cat and checked to see if it had a crescent moon symbol? My inner magical girl as a child (and adult, if we’re being perfectly honest) wanted an adorable black cat to come give me a transformation brooch and tell me I have super powers. Sadly, my black cat did not come with a transformation pen and the ability to talk. Didn’t stop me from talking to her!

2. Black Hayate from Fullmetal Alchemist:  The beau and I are currently watching Brotherhood, and watching it reminds me how much I love Hayate. Shibu Inus are so adorable, and he’s incredibly loyal, coming to Hawkeye’s aid no matter how dangerous the situation.

3. Ghost from Game of Thrones: I went back and forth on whether I’d want a dragon from GoT or a direwolf, and ultimately went with direwolves since Dany’s dragons go from cute to “Oh crap, I think they might eat her.” Direwolves seem much more loyal by comparison, and I love Ghost’s gorgeous fur. That said, I’d also totally adopt a…

4. Dragon from the Dragon Riders of Pern series: I devoured this series growing up, specifically the Harper Hall of Pern books. It’d be so cool to telepathically communicate with a dragon that can also teleport! I also like the fire-lizards from this series too

5. Chocobo from Final Fantasy: Specifically, the fat chocobo from FFXIV. Because LOOK AT IT.

Which video game pets are your favorites? You can see more responses over at The Nerdy Girlie and SuperSpaceChick!

Costume Notes: Margaret

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The Empress

Completed: May 2015

Hours Spent: Approximately 20 hours

Debuted: A-Kon 26

Why This Costume: One of my friends is a huge Persona fan, and asked if I’d join her and her boyfriend for a Velvet Room group at A-Kon. I had just finished playing though Persona 4 Golden when she asked, and thought it sounded like a fun opportunity!

Between shots with Aperture Ashley, so don't mind the derpy faces. Zwookiez got this photo!
Between shots with Aperture Ashley, so don’t mind the derpy faces. Zwookiez got this photo!

How I made it: Much like Batwoman, this wasn’t a particularly challenging build, but it did have a couple of unique elements to it.

The dress: 

My first step was to create a mock-up of the base dress. I used McCall’s 6028 as a starting point. After blending out the shoulder yoke, I did a 1.5″ FBA and raised the front of the neckline 3/4″ to allow for the collar. I made the center front of the base dress hip length to allow for that super high leg slit.

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Base dress. Don’t mind the other con chaos happening in the background.

I used quilted broadcloth for this dress from Fabric.com. Broadcloth is not my go-to fabric for garments since it’s overall very meh, but I knew going into this project that time was essential. So convenience trumped quality.

The front panel is an entirely separate piece made from a matching broadcloth. It’s 3 layers total: a lining, a heavily interfaced base, and a flat piped front. Once I sewed the front panel together, I very carefully sewed it to the front half of my dress by machine. I opted to top-stitch it instead of stitch-in-the-ditch to give it an extra visual pop. A huge thank-you to Yossi on Tumblr and Gen of Team Blase Cosplay for explaining how they made their Margarets!

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Front panel pinned in place.

All of the trim on the dress is bias tape and other bits made from my Batwoman cape scraps. I wish I’d gone with my gut and taken the extra step to make regular piping opposed to doing flat piping. My flat piping was not as even all around as I’d like. I also wish that I’d made the shoulder section a bit larger.

The collar gave me a small bit of trouble. Since this dress wasn’t drafted for a collar, I did have to play with the level of the neckline a bit to get it to work out. The gold buttons on the front were from my Captain Marvel boots, since I had to cut them off for Batwoman.

Accessories: 

My buttons were surprisingly fun to make! I have pretty shaky hands, so I didn’t trust myself to paint circles evenly. Instead, I picked up some jar toppers in the clearance aisle of Hobby Lobby, painted those gold, and topped them off with sticky-back resin domes that I painted blue. I didn’t trust the stick part of the domes to work after I painted them, so I used E6000 for added security. The smaller buttons are wooden buttons that I painted gold and blue. All of the buttons attach with Velcro. I used fabric fusible Velcro on the dress itself and industrial strength Velcro on the buttons. They held quite well after several hours of wear!

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Finished dress.

The belt is made from the same material as the front panel and also trimmed with scrap Batwoman vinyl. The buckle is the largest one I could find at Jo-Ann’s, and I painted it gold to match the buttons.The shoes were a reminder that monitor settings do not necessarily translate to real life. I started off painting my shoes in Angelus Dark Blue, but the first layer dried nearly black. So I ordered a second bottle of Sapphire (off of eBay since Dharma Trading Company’s shipping is insane), and that did the trick!

Props: 

Photo by Alan Tijernia.
Photo by Alan Tijernia.

The book was by far the most time-consuming part of this costume. It took nearly 2 full weeks of working every evening. I used Callula Cosplay‘s tutorial on her Elphaeba Grimmerie, and pestered her with a ridiculous amount of questions. I will say that taking the time to properly sand and prime your book is essential. My first go at the book was a horrible flop with lots of air bubbles because I rushed the priming stage.

I did notice some chipping on the edge of my book where the front flap opened, and Callula said it was probably due to the quality of my paint. Sad panda :( I’m looking into ways to mend (or at least disguise) the chipping on mine so I can use it again in the future.

Double Margaret! Photo by Payton Renee Photography.
Double Margaret! Photo by Payton Renee Photography.

Callula cut out the letters for her book, but my attempt at that did not work well. Instead, I bought some scrapbook letters and painted them gold. Worked like a charm!

The inside of my book is lined with blue and white thumb lights attached with industrial strength Velcro to give it that creepy magic vibe.

Photo by Alan Tijernia.
Photo by Alan Tijernia.

Finally, I made a set of magic cards after chatting with Riddle’s Messy Wardrobe at Dallas Comic Con. This is a super simple project, but people absolutely loved it. After getting my cards printed off from OfficeDepot (thanks to Gen and Fe for the files!), I threaded them with fishing wire and secured them with clear masking tape. Riddle used magnets to do her deck for Heroes of Cosplay, but since Margaret doesn’t wear gloves, I just made a loop at the top of my deck to run my finger through. Works well enough for photos! The base card is secured to the book with Velcro. I do need to work on posing with these, though.

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Photo by Payton Renee Photography. Both sets of magic decks made by me!

Thoughts on this costume: 

Overall, I absolutely loved this costume. Our group was very well received and it was great to get some shots with a full Velvet Room group! It’s also nice to have another comfortable costume in my arsenal, though I think I’ll save future wears on this one for cooler weather cons. After my experience with Batwoman at DCC, I only wandered outside for about 45 minutes, but even that was enough to turn me into a sweat monster!

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Velvet Room derpage. Clearly elder sister Margaret is not to be taken seriously.

All of that said, I’m really looking forward to turning my attention toward my individual costumes again. I’m bumping up some more weather appropriate costumes for the rest of the summer!

Have you ever made a costume that was totally inappropriate for the season you wore it? How did you handle it? 

Life According to Instagram: June 2015

June1. I kicked off June with a trip to A-Kon! This convention is near and dear to me, since it marks my 3rd year of cosplay and attending conventions. Overall, I had a blast, and this was definitely my best experience yet! I got some beautiful shots back from various A-Kon shoots. One of my favorites is this  Captain Marvel profile from Kristi Grunden photography. You can find more photos of my A-Kon experience on my Facebook Page.

2. As I mentioned in my last WIP post, I wrapped up a couple of commissions this month. I was pretty pleased with how both of them turned out, especially Ghrihahim. It’s one of the craziest bodysuits I’ve made to date!

3. I did some cat-sitting for Callula Cosplay while she was out and about on world travels. Her cat Bella is so adorable! As much as I love Thor pup, I’ll always be a crazy cat lady at heart.

4. My boyfriend’s dad visited us a few weeks ago. We trekked out to see the Rangers vs. Twins baseball game. The game got delayed by rain, but we did see a very neat double rainbow!

5. Thor. Because Thor. He’s taken to chewing up his dog beds recently, so we’re taking him on even more walks in an effort to tire him out. My co-worker also just recommended a bed we’ll look into if he destroys his current bed. Have any of you had this kind of issue?

6. I’m making small bits of progress here and there on Lulu! Part of me wants to push all of my other projects to the side and just knock this out. I’ve put this costume off since I started cosplaying 3 years ago, and I’ve made it a monumental beast in my head. I think I’ll feel better once I really dive into it.

7. I had my first live-stream experience at the end of June! I was unsure how it’d go, since I’ve only seen a few and never done something like this before. It was pretty cool to just chat while doing some simple crafting. I wouldn’t mind doing something like this again soon!

8. My friend Allison invited me out to her library as Belle for their summer reading program! They had a storybook/Disney theme with lots of interactive crafts and I was in my own section with a castle backdrop. Hopefully I’ll have more photos to share soon!

9. I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing FFXIV this month since Heavensward dropped. My boyfriend and I took an entire 3 day weekend to chill and play video games and it was glorious. I’m leisurely leveling my White Mage and Astrologian, and I’m really enjoying my new flying mounts. Though all this game play has me thinking I may have to make a cosplay from the game soonish. Ysele is a strong contender (and much easier than her Shiva counterpart :P)!

Etsy Shop is Live!

If you’ve been following for a while, you know that I’ve been talking about getting an Etsy shop up and running for several months now. So over the holiday weekend, I sat down and made an initial run of geeky themed bow clutches.

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Avengers clutch

When I initially set out to open a shop, I had a hard time narrowing down what I wanted to focus on. Pillows and handbags are great, but there are lots of those already available on Etsy. What I hadn’t seen before were nerd-friendly clutches quite like the ones I’ve made (based on the Elm Street Life tutorial). With a little color blocking, these clutches go from basic zipper bag to a super cute clutch ready for the con floor.

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Wonder Woman – Supergirl – Batgirl clutch

I made my first set of bow clutches back in 2013 out of some scrap fabric. I gave one to my mom as a gift and kept one for myself. My mom and I both still use our initial clutches on a regular basis. Mine is most often used as a make-up bag, but I also use it as my con bag while in costume. It’s just big enough to hold my contact cards, phone, money, and touch-up make-up. Plus, it’s small enough to be discreet and easy to hide when I pose for photos. I’ve made several similar clutches out of scrap costume fabric when I want an exact match!

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My Belle clutch was made of leftover satin and brocade so I wouldn’t have to constantly worry about passing it off to a friend or setting it down when posing. Photo by Gone Catawampus

My favorite clutches from this initial run are the Star Wars ones, both the black and grey bows. The black fabric is a mystery poly blend, and the grey is a cotton sateen.

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Star Wars in grey

I hope you guys like these! I have some ideas for Moonie themed ones in the near future, and a few people have already requested Dr. Who. If you have suggestions or requests for future clutches, let me know!

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Star Wars in black

I’m running a sale on everything in my store right now (which also includes some of my older costumes). Use the offer code GEEKYSEWS10 by 7/12/15 for 10% off of your purchase.

How do you store your con essentials while in costume? 

13 Tips to Making the Most of Limited Craft Time

A common comment people make to me these days is: “I wish I had the time to sew like you do.” This is both frustrating and exciting, since I love sharing my passion for crafting, but I think people tend to forget that they have to make time for recreation. Like a lot cosplayers and home sewists, I work a full-time job, have family/relationship/friend obligations, and other personal activities like exercise.

Many (see: most) days, I only have 1-2 hours tops to work on a project. On a good week, that translates to about 12 hours of sewing time a week, assuming I also sew 3-4 hours a day on weekends. But “good” weeks are rarities. They really only happen when I have back to back deadlines or a convention coming up. Most weeks, it’s really closer to 6-10 hours of crafting, since there are nights when I have to do adult stuff (bleh, laundry). Some nights I have obligations with friends or simply don’t want to sew.

As my skills have improved, my projects have gone faster, but I still have to find ways to make the most of otherwise limited craft time. Here are a few tips and tricks I use to speed up the process:

sewing quotes164-11. Figure out a committed, uninterrupted time. 

I’ve changed time frames when I sew several times over the last few years. When I had a 30-45 minute commute, I got up around 5am and sewed for about an hour or 2 before I left for work. It was the easiest time since my boyfriend got up around the same time to leave for his workout.

My commute now is closer to 10 minutes, and the best time for me to sew is in the evenings once I’ve had dinner (see: hanger abated) and the dog has been walked and distracted by a toy. Keep an open mind with your craft time, but make sure you carve out a set time and make it yours!

2. Work on similar tasks at the same time.

Need to cut patterns? Do that on one day. Need to finish hems? Do that another day. Working on similar tasks at the same time cuts down on dead time between steps. With my sewing, for example, I’ll sew all of the hems/darts/etc. I can before it’s absolutely necessary to finish and press seams.

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My cutting table is still one of my favorite storage pieces in my craft room!

3. Keep your stuff organized. And preferably in an area where it’s easily accessible. Corner off a section of the dining room or your bedroom. Label your stuff. Keep it handy. I have a whole craft room at my disposal now, but my last apartment was a 500sq foot loft. I relied heavily on my collapsible sewing desk and all the storage space it provided. I also have some cheap plastic rolling storage units for fabric and other items. Underbed storage is also great for limited space.

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Some of my most frequently used sewing tools from left to right: Rotary cutter, Gingher scissors, pattern weights, and stretchy needles!

4. Invest in quality tools and supplies.

Nothing is worse than taking the time to assemble all your pieces only for a faulty set of scissors to mangle your fabric. Or carefully cutting and planning a costume with cheap fabric only to make a mistake and have the fabric *literally* unravel. A few tools that can change your life: rotary cutter, pinking shears, pattern weights (really prefer these to pins when cutting), and a waist-level table stationed next to your sewing machine for quick pressing.

sewing-meme5. Craft in the right frame of mind.

Hobbies should be enjoyable. I really like sewing most days, but if I’m tired, sick, or just don’t want to sew, I’m going to make a mistake. When I make that mistake, I then wind up trashing a project or having to correct it. Just don’t do it. Take a break, have a drink, play a game, or work on something else. Come back when your head is clear and you’ll be much more productive.

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Image credit: Cosplaytutorial.com

6. Plan in advance. 

This is one of your biggest allies with time management. Allow yourself plenty of time to create and fix mistakes (because they happen). Nothing like botching a piece and finding out the fabric store is out of the fabric you need! Remember the golden rule of crafting: good, fast, and cheap. You can have 2 of the three.

There are a lot of people who get a creative rush on waiting until the week (or the night) before a con to get started on a costume. If that’s your thing, power to you. I can’t do that because it stresses me out sooooo much. The only time I’ll really do that is if I’m working on a simple project like a basic leotard or bodysuit. Otherwise, I make lots of weekly and monthly check-lists to keep me on track with personal projects, costume builds, and commissions. Apps like Trello and Google Docs are fantastic for check-lists!

7. Know your skills. 

And cater to them. Are you great with fabric? Awesome, make costumes that rely on fabric. Can you build armor like no one’s business? Cool, go make Iron Man (and e-mail me, because I need your skills). Building on skills is one of the greatest parts of costuming, but remember to keep a reality check. If you only have 3-5 hours a week to craft, it’s going to take a while to learn a new skill. If you’ve got an intricate costume and limited time, be prepared to cut other costumes from your roster. And while we’re on the topic…

Photo by Gone Catawampus.
Callula Cosplay made this beautiful mirror for me since I fail at props. I made her Huntress bodysuit in return! Photo by Gone Catawampus.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Whether it’s someone you follow or a friend. I’m not great with props, but I have friends who are. We often swap skills to cut down on wasted time and materials, and we also help each other learn new skills. Obviously, don’t be a jerk and ask, “Hey, give me a step-by-step breakdown of how to make X costume.” You’re being inconsiderate of that person’s time and also robbing yourself of the learning process. But if you have a specific question, by all means, ask away!

9. Research on your lunch break.

There are so many tutorials out there. If you’re hitting a snag with a project, check out the interwebs. More than likely, someone has had the same question and there’s already a solution. I stalk search cosplay.com regularly for suggestions.

Skater dresses: great instant gratification practice projects!
Skater dresses: great instant gratification practice projects!

10.  Use it or lose it.

One of my favorite sewing blogs mentioned that you should sew *something* every week just to keep in the practice. I agree with that. Even if you’re not working on a specific project, keep your skills up. Been meaning to make yourself a cute skirt or dress? Need to repair a pair of pants? How about making some cool jewelry from a resin cast? Heck, even just working on mock-ups for future ideas  can keep you in the habit. Maybe not every week, but often enough to keep you fresh. Also, the more you practice, the faster you’ll get!

It begins...
Mock-ups are also great to figure out crazy designs like my Captain Marvel dress!

11. Use mock-ups when possible. Especially if you’re new to a project and trying to test the waters. Destroying $30+/yd fabric  is traumatizing and can be a major time setback.

And while it seems counter-intuitive, doing a mock-up can make the final product go faster. You get to work out all the kinks in the mock-up stage, and you’re already familiar with the end process, so you can proceed with confidence. Or at least, that’s what I try to tell myself :P

12. Micro-craft! Ever have one of those mornings where you wake up 20-30 minutes before your alarm goes off and you just can’t fall back asleep? Or you’ve got half an hour before you have to leave for something? I often use those moments to check off small to-dos on my normal crafting list like pinning zippers, stay-stitching, or even just setting out all the items I’ll need to complete a project. Every little bit helps!rogue13. Build on what you already have. Alternate versions of characters or characters with similar costumes can be a great way to save time and money. For example, my Marvel Now! Rogue took less than 10 hours to make since I only had to make the spandex pieces. It was also super cheap since I had all the materials on hand from previous projects.

Got other tips on time management? Sound off in the comments!

WIP June 2015 Edition

Ah, sweet, sweet summer heat. My two biggest cons of the year are over, but I still have several cons and big builds on the horizon!

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Photo by Alan Tijernia.

Margaret: 100% complete

I made this costume for an A-Kon group with friends. The big thing I finished in early June was my grimerie. This is probably the best prop I’ve made to date, and the cards were definitely a crowd pleaser :) A huge thank you to Riddle’s Messy Wardrobe for showing me her Elizabeth book and cards!

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Hannie Mohd Wonder Woman: 25% complete

I got started on my new Wonder Woman during our live stream last week! I’ve wanted to make this costume for almost a year now and have been shopping for a good fabric pretty much since then. After months of only finding patriotic quilting cotton and Elsa fabric, I finally gave up and decided to have the fabric printed on Spoonflower. Callula Cosplay graciously created the file for me, and it only took about a week for the fabric to arrive in my mailbox! I had this printed off on satin. It is shiny, but not overwhelmingly so. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how painless this process was. I’m planning to debut this costume at Anime Fest over Labor Day Weekend.

Lulu: 6% complete

It’s almost comical at this point documenting Lulu. I bought about 10 yards of lace from Golden D’Or last time I was there, and started cutting out the pieces I want for the trim on my dress. After about 3 hours of cutting, I realized 10 yards was nowhere near enough. Thankfully, Ohheyabear Cosplay donated some lace to my stash, and I’m purchasing 60 yards of lace from cheaptrims.com soon. Yay wholesale prices! Hopefully another 70 yards of lace will do the trick :P In July, I’m hoping to cut and paint the remaining lace and get started on the crinoline that will be the base for the belt skirt.

Commissions:

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Shortly after A-Kon, I knocked out a 1966 Adam West style Batman cape (I promise, a cape tutorial is coming soon!). I turned to Williams Studio 2 for tips and drafting information. I thought about buying their pattern, but it calls for 9 yards of fabric, which seemed a little ridiculous to me. This cape has 6 yards of poly satin. There’s twill tape sewn into the lining side for stability, and it closes at the front with a heavy duty snap. Also, I recently realized I’ve been sewing snaps wrong for YEARS. Oops. The more you learn, right?

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I also knocked out a Ghirahim bodysuit commission this month. This has definitely been one of my most challenging bodysuit builds to date! I combined the top and pants (with a few alterations) on Kwik Sew 3029 to create this suit.

Cutouts on spandex can be very particular, so I made a mock-up and drew all the squares on my client while he was wearing it. To make life a little easier for both of us, I underlined the pants with a grey milliskin to match his bodypaint and treated the squares on the white moleskin as reverse appliques. For the top, I underlined it with an extra layer of white moleskin, faced the cut-outs with scraps, and top-stitched it down. The top opening, sleeve, and exposed portion of the waist cut-out are closed with 3/8″ elastic to give it a bit of extra stability. I also added small strips of 3/8″ elastic to the exposed shoulder so my client can use clear straps to hold the suit up if necessary.

All in all, it’s been a pretty busy month. I’m grateful that I have a small break in commissions coming up and that my next two costume builds are simple and they don’t need to be finished for another 2 months. I’m really looking forward to having time for non-cosplay projects and finally getting my Etsy store set up in July!

What costumes are you working on right now?