I recently knocked out the first major portion of my Mami cosplay: the CRAZY ASS WIG!
This wig was such a steep learning curve. Part of the reason I specifically chose Mami for our Coterie build (aside from her adorable design and the fact she’s my favorite Madoka character) was because I wanted to flex my arguably tiny wig muscles and learn more about crazy styling techniques. Well… I definitely learned a lot!
My main resource with this tutorial was SparklePipsi’sdrill curl tutorial. There are a lot of tutorials on the packing tape method of drill curls, but hers is my favorite. Overall it’s a great comprehensive guide and has a lot of useful tips and techniques (pro-tip: make sure you get CLEAR caulk. I had to get mine off of Amazon because my local hardware stores didn’t have any). Plus, all her tutorials are beautifully designed and in PDF format for easy downloading and printing.
So my first major tip if you opt to take the packing tape/jewelry wire route: you will need WAY less wig fiber than you think you do. I hacked my stubs in half, and they were still way too thick. So thick that they literally separated from the tape when I tried to curl it.
This lead me to my first big deviation from this approach. Every time I tried to start curling the packing tape, huge chunks of the wig fibers would start popping up. After consulting with my wig guru Vicki Bane, I went back and laid the wefts down while the packing tape/wire was in a curled shape. Placing the wefts on the interior while the tape is in a curled formation is difficult, clunky, and time consuming, but it’s really the only way to get the fibers to lay flat.
That brings up the next technique: actually laying the wefts on. After I gave up on my first wig (RIP), I got a Chibi and two ponytail clips instead of another Leia (pro-tip: if you get the Leia as Suzanne notes in her tutorial, make sure to straighten it first). I tore apart the netting on the ponytail clips and laid two layers of wefts on at a time until I got the thickness I wanted. Basically, it was caulk, 2 layers of wefts, thinner layer of caulk, 2 more layers of wefts, hair spray.
I had the best results when I brushed out the wefts just prior to laying them on the tape and then gently adjusting them with my fingers (definitely keep water and paper towels nearby). I’m not sure if I was doing it wrong, but using a comb to smooth my wefts resulted in a chaotic caulk-ridden mess.
Suzanne’s tips about the clear filament (aka fishing wire) were super helpful! I threaded mine through each curl around the wires and then stitched it to the base of the wig. The curls were far too heavy to get Mami’s gravity defying bounce, but the the filament helped me place each curl exactly where I needed it to go.
So what’s my take-away from this experience? Wigs are expensive and terrifying and I don’t know how people deal with them LOL.
Not really. This experience reminded me to constantly research, talk to people who know more than you, and to not to let fear of failure keep you from trying. I really thought that I’d have to scrap this project a couple of times and commission someone. I still see a lot of mistakes when I look at this wig, but I feel a lot more confident trying something outside of my wheelhouse now.
Have you ever chosen a project specifically to enhance your skill set? How did your experience go?
Before starting commissions, you absolutely need to ask yourself the following questions:
What am I willing to do? Are you good with wigs? What about foam? Or resin? Or leather? The idea here is to ask yourself what type of work you excel at and emphasize it. For example, I can do some wig styling, but I don’t consider myself an expert on it, so I don’t offer it in my commission services.
Is my work good enough for commissions? I ask myself this ALL THE TIME. The reality is that there’s a certain expectation of quality with commission work, and if you can’t meet that quality, then you don’t need to sell. My commissions are the same if not higher quality work than my personal costumes, because each piece is a representation of me and my brand.
Are you good at customer service? Being able to communicate with people is one of the most essential tasks of commissions. Many potential commissionees approach the commission process thinking they can get costumes cheaper than eBay or Amazon, or that different tasks are simple when in reality they’re quite time consuming. Being able to clearly and calmly discuss these issues with potential clients is an absolute necessity.
Do I have the time? This is one of my big personal hold-ups with commissions. Working full-time puts a big damper in the number of commissions I’m able to take on at any given time, and it also impacts which costumes I can make for myself. If I have a deadline for a commission coming up around the same time as a con, then I’ll likely have to re-wear a costume, because client work comes first.
2. Pay yourself FAIRLY
Again, this is something I struggle with, but I’ve gotten better at over the years. Due to the rise in fast fashion, many people misinterpret the skill involved in sewing (and any form of custom work, honestly). The reality is that creating a custom piece will ALWAYS cost more than something you can find in an online costume shop.
Much like car or home repair, labor is often one of the largest expenses involved. I used to barely pay myself minimum wage when I first started, and I was miserable. I felt like I sacrificed all my time to creating things for other people, and when all was said and done, I’d barely made enough profit to make it worth my while. Pay yourself an amount that’s commiserate with your experience and skills to prevent this issue. I pay myself $12-15/hour these days, much to the dismay of my friends and SO. I feel like this is a fair price FOR ME since commissions are my extra play money and allow me to get crazy with my personal builds. Keep in mind: this is a low-ball charge compared to some folks who do commissions as their main source of income, so don’t be surprised if you see higher charges as you do research.
To come up with a quote, I use the following formula: Cost of materials + Labor (Est. Hours x $12-15) = Final Quote charge (normally rounded down in favor of the client). When I get a quote request, my pricing process looks something like this:
3. Talk to your clients
This is often one of the biggest frustrations I see with potential commissionees. They get everything set up and send off their money, only to never hear back from the commissioner or have minimal contact. Their deadlines roll around, and they’re in a panic, wondering if their costume will arrive in time. I’ve been in this situation before, and it SUCKS.
A quick message or post to let clients know what’s happening is so, so, so useful. Be honest and open about time frames and when you expect to work and ship so that clients have an idea of when to expect their items. For example, if someone’s at the bottom of my commission queue, I’ll let them know that I won’t be in touch/won’t have progress to show for at least so many weeks, or I’ll let clients know that if I have to order materials online, that they shouldn’t expect to get updates until at least a week or two after said materials have arrived.
4. …but don’t let them walk all over you
On the opposite end of the spectrum, clients messaging every single day is only a situation that should occur if the commissioner fails to deliver or ghosts. If a client harasses you for photos/progress, reiterate that you need time to work.
Likewise, stand your ground on your policies and pricing. People will always ask to bend things here or there. Every case is different, but at the end of the day, you have to stand up for yourself in order to make commissions an enjoyable (and profitable) experience.
5. Remember: Your name is attached to EVERYTHING YOU SAY/DO
Social media is both a blessing and a curse for commissions. If you do it well, it’s an easy way to market yourself and gain clients and followers. But at the same time, you have to be conscientious of your online presence. Insulting another cosplayer’s work, shaming (of any kind), or bullying are obviously huge no-nos (and key indicators that you’re a crap human being, let’s be honest). But there’s more to it than avoiding the obvious. You have to evaluate what your brand represents and how much information you’re willing to share. For example, I’m not comfortable sharing much of my personal life online, partially because I feel odd letting the whole world know what’s going on in my day-today, but also I don’t want to impact mine or my fiance’s day job (or future job hunting).
Think about what works for you and for the brand you’re trying to create. Individuals have a bit more flexibility than companies, but branding still requires conscientious curation.
6. Promote yourself
Again, this is another task I’ve struggled with in the past, but it’s a necessity to generate business. A lot of my promotion work happens at cons. I often wear nerd-inspired outfits on Fridays or Sundays (a.k.a. lazy con days), so any time someone comments on one of my outfits, I try to plug my name and distribute a business card. Most of my friends and family will do the same thing!
In addition to in-person marketing, online marketing is a must! There are lots of Facebook groups that put clients and commissionees in touch with one another in addition to standard social media marketing practices.
One of the most challenging components of commission work for me isn’t the creation of costumes. It’s the juggling work of keeping track of commission inquiries, where they’re coming from, and staying up to date with all the orders you need to make (not to mention deadlines). I get commission inquiries through all my social media platforms, as well as through e-mail and in-person chats. To keep myself organized, I keep track of all this information through Google Sheets and Trello.
Likewise, HOLD ON TO YOUR RECEIPTS, both digital and physical. Anytime I purchase anything related to my commissions or business, I put it in a bin just for tax related purposes. I also keep track of money via PayPal and Etsy’s shop setup. I definitely prefer spreadsheets as a way to keep track of money, so I make sure to go through all my receipts as meticulously as possible so that my headache isn’t so severe when tax season rolls around.
My workflow looks something like this:
Client reaches out to me for quote, and I make a note of the client, along with where they asked and other relevant information in a Google Sheet.
Once the client has agreed to terms, payment, and details, I send them a commission agreement form with fields for measurements and shipping information.
After the client has sent me their down payment, I begin ordering materials and starting on their piece.
I use Trello to organize out individual tasks for each commission, since it’s easy to drag and drop checklist items when they’re completed.
8. Even if you’re not organized, GET ORGANIZED
This ties back in with point number 7. Again, I’m awful at this, but commissions have forced me to get better. There’s nothing worse than needing to work on a commission, only to realize that you’ve misplaced supplies. It’s an obnoxious hold-up and can cut into your profits.
I’m in the process of setting up a new storage unit in my craft room that doubles as a quick pressing station. It is only for commissions and business related purposes, so I won’t have to rummage through my other bins and storage units to find what I need. Knowing where everything is supposed to go will save you time and stress!
9. Have fail safes in place
Shit happens. Your sewing machine breaks. The fabric that’s perfect for a commission is out of stock. You (or a loved one) have serious health issues. Having back-ups will help you keep your sanity as you work on projects when shit hits the fan. I build extra time into my commission quotes for this reason so that clients are pleasantly surprised when their items get to them early, rather than infuriated when items are shipped to them months late.
10. Take time for yourself
Burnout is a real thing with commissions. It’s easy to take commission after commission, and then realize you haven’t made something for yourself in six months. It’s okay to close up shop for a while and take time to work on things for you. In fact, you should do this every now and then to recharge your creative batteries. Your work will be better for it!
Have you commissioned costume pieces before? What was your experience like?
I’m very excited to share a new tutorial with all of you! The Cosmic Coterie crew and I are super close to being finished with our Supers upgrades for ANT, and we also managed to get two tutorials published today. The one linked here is on how we construct our skirts, since that’s one of the topics we get the most questions on.
I hope you find this helpful! If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact me or Cosmic Coterie!
Materials Needed: 2.5 yds matte bridal satin Contrasting thread for basting Matching thread for hem Measuring tape Tailor’s chalk Optional: 7 yds 1/2″ horsehair braid Draft 2 full circl…
Over the weekend, I’m planning to fully dive into my corset for Lulu. This will mark my fourth corset, so I thought today’s post would be a good opportunity to share some of my mishaps and learning experiences in the hopes of helping out a few other newbie corset makers.
1.Do your homework: Corset making is not for the faint of heart. While none of the basic steps are particularly difficult, you do need to have a solid understanding of every step required if you want your corset to last longer than one event. Here is a list of a few tutorials and resources I found particularly helpful:
Sidney Eileen has some fantastic tutorials. Many take you through the entire process of making a corset, and several also focus on specific corset tasks, such as installing a waist stay or a busk.
Foundations Revealed is one of the go-to resources for the corset community. Tons and tons of in-depth tutorials!
2. Make a game plan: Just like other garments, there are dozens of ways you can approach a corset. Do you want a single layer corset? Do you want exposed boning channels? Do you not want visible boning channels? Think about what you want your final product to look like, because your process may change as a result.
For example, I knew going into Belle that I didn’t want visible boning channels, which meant that I needed a floating strength layer. All my hardware went into this layer so that the fashion layer could retain the appearance of a bodice. This also meant that I had to construct each layer separately, which impacted the order of construction.
3. Consider your needs: Many corset makers will tell you that your corset isn’t a “real” corset unless it’s made with coutil and steel boning. Well, that might be useful if you’re planning to waist train and wear your corset on a regular basis, but many cosplayers only wear their corsets for a few hours at a time. And let’s also not forget costuming budgets. Thirty-plus dollars a yard for coutil fabric is way more than I normally spend for costumes!
Plastic boning is a perfectly viable alternative to steel boning if you don’t intend to do tight lacing, and German plastic boning is one of my favorite types of boning to use. That said, most of the boning from your big box craft stores is built more for bodices and strapless gowns and is very prone to warping after a few wears. If German plastic boning doesn’t work for your project, consider using zip ties from the hardware store as an alternative.
As for fabric, I like cotton duck or a very tightly woven twill for my strength layer. I can get either through my local craft store, and it’s about $10 a yard full price versus $30+ for standard coutil.
A note about fabric: In corsetry, your fabric is what does the work of cinching in your waist, so it’s vital to use a strength layer. The boning is there to keep the fabric from wrinkling. You can have a strength layer separate from your fashion layer, or you can fuse your strength and fashion layers together (as I did with my recent Wonder Woman) using fusible web or flat lining them.
4. Pick the right pattern: Big 4 patterns are notorious for building excess ease into their patterns for corsets, making them more appropriate for bodices. A corset is one of those garments that should have negative ease, meaning that it should be smaller than your body’s natural measurements. It’s certainly possible to make big 4 patterns work, but you’ll need to pay attention to the finished measurements on the back of the pattern envelope and absolutely make a mock-up. Many corset makers recommend going down at least 2 sizes if you use a big 4 pattern.
My personal recommendation would be to go with a company known for producing corset patterns even though they’re a little pricier. Truly Victorian and Laughing Moon have some great basic patterns, and TV110 is by far my favorite 12 panel corset. I’ve used it for 2 of my costumes so far as well as Callula Cosplay’s Codex, and it’s been a champ.
5. Mark your shit: You know those lovely marks on sewing patterns that are supposed to line up? Well, they’re super vital with corsets. Being off even as much as a quarter of an inch can throw off your final product. Make sure to mark and use those notches! Marking your seam allowances for your first couple of corsets can also be really useful.
6. Pay attention to grain lines: You know the saying “Measure twice, cut once?”. With corsetry, it’s more like, “Measure thrice, cut once.” Grain lines are hugely important to corsets. Why? Well, let’s have a brief discussion about fabric grain.
Woven (non-stretchy) fabrics are comprised of a grain and a cross grain that run vertically and horizontally on your fabric. These are typically the least stretchy parts of your fabric. The part of your fabric that runs diagonally to the grain and cross grain is the bias, and it’s the stretchiest part of your fabric. You know those packs of bias tape you can get at the fabric store? They’re made of material cut on this angle. Since corsets are designed to cinch everything in, it’s important to use the part of the fabric that *won’t* stretch, thus keeping the corset’s shape even when under heavy stress. So make sure everything is lined up properly when you cut!
7. Make a mock-up: I get it, making mock-ups isn’t a lot of fun. But if there’s any garment I recommend making a mock-up of, it’s a corset. Corsets are incredibly time consuming, so it’d be heartbreaking to pour 20 hours into a project only to realize it doesn’t fit. You also really need to make sure that it will be comfortable for extended wear and that you aren’t inadvertently flashing more (or less) boob than you mean to.
I normally make my corset mock-ups out of duck cloth, since that’s one less set of pieces I have to worry about cutting when I get to my final fabric. I also cut a 3″ wide rectangle of fabric the same length as my back piece to mimic the lacing in the back. Many corset suppliers also have pre-grommeted strips you can use for mock-ups, but I’m not a fan of lacing myself in and out of a mock-up multiple times for fittings. So far the basic rectangle has worked for me!
In lieu of a busk, I baste in a zipper. Speaking of basting, I also baste all my seams and press them one direction. When fitting, I turn my corset inside out and make all my markings on the wrong side so that it’s easier to see places I need to make adjustments. Taping your boning to the channels is also a useful way to see how your corset will fit!
8. Take your time: Corsets might seem daunting when you first dive into them, but the saying, “If you can sew a straight line, you can sew a corset,” is true. The main thing to keep in mind during construction is to take your time and make sure you’re doing everything properly, and you’ll end up with a beautiful corset!
Where I buy corset supplies:
Corset Making Supplies : Go-to resource. Do double-check on some supplies though. Their coutil in particular is a little higher than some Etsy sellers.
Vogue Fabrics : Expensive shipping, but very fast and prompt customer service.
Farthingales : Great service, but based in Canada. Shipping takes a while.
Various Etsy sellers
I hope that helps some aspiring corset makers. Have you made a corset before? What tips would you share?
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!
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!
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.
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?
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:
1. 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.
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.
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.
5. 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.
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…
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.
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!
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 😛
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!13. 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!
Happy Friday! My summer con season kicks off in short two weeks, so today I thought I’d talk about my top 13 con essentials.
So without further ado, here’s my list of con essentials:
1. Fully charged cell phone (and your charger!): My phone is basically my lifeline at cons. I use it to take photos of celebs and cool cosplays, contact friends and photographers for meet-ups, and keep up with my social media. At Fan Days, I made the mistake of bringing in a half-charged phone and leaving my charger at my house. I wasn’t able to contact ANYONE throughout the day and wound up coming home to hundreds of messages and notifications. Lesson learned!
Pro-tip: cosplaying with gloves? Sew in a bit of conductive thread into the thumb so that you don’t have to take your gloves off and on all day.
2. Cash and ID: While vendors now offer credit card or even PayPal sales, some still don’t. Or worse, the wireless signal is stupid weak and you have to wander around trying to get a signal. No, thank you. Got other places to check out! Cash is also useful if you have to pay for parking. Many places will require an ID to pick-up your badge, so don’t leave it at home!
3. A small first-aid kit: I like to prepare for worst-case scenarios, whether that’s a wig-induced headache, blistered heels, or cuts from random pokey props. Antiseptic wipes, band-aids, and ibuprofen are always in my go bag.
4. Touch-up make-up: I normally bring a large amount of make-up that I leave in my big bag, but I always hit the floor with my powder, lipstick, and lash glue if I’m wearing falsies. Hair spray is also handy for wig touch-ups!
5. A fantastic pose (or 3): It’s always handy to practice a couple of go-to poses for when you’re stopped for pictures. Having more than one pose ready keeps you from getting bored and only having the same look in all your pictures.
6. A water bottle: Stay hydrated! There’s nothing worse than being in a costume in the middle of the summer and getting sick from dehydration. I normally keep a water bottle on me at all times.
7. Snackage: Most cons don’t have the greatest food options, and if they do, wait times are atrocious. Plus, why spend your con money on food when you could spend it on dealer’s room goodies? I like to pack a couple of granola bars, fruit snacks, almonds, and raisins to get me through the day.
8. A con repair kit: No matter how well you prepare, sometimes shit just happens. I like to have a small sewing kit, a stain remover pen, and a small bottle of craft glue on me in case something happens. You may also want to include small bottles of paint in the colors of your costume and/or a hot glue gun. Many cons now have costume repair rooms, which is great if you need to do a bigger repair!
9. Contact cards: These are great for getting in touch with people after cons! I never remember everyone’s cosplay names, so it’s useful to go back and look people up using their cards. Contact cards are also super useful when you’re working with photographers.
10. Tic-tacs and deodorant: Let’s face it, we all get a little stinky at cons between sweating and all the crowding. Take a shower before you hit the floor and make sure you stay fresh throughout the day!
11. Make-up/baby wipes/hand sanitizer: Hygiene! No one wants to catch con crud, so make sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer if necessary. I also like to have make-up wipes on hand so that at the end of the day, I can wipe all my makeup off on the ride home.
12. A change of clothes: Very useful for uncomfortable costumes! Or if you plan to go out to eat afterwards and want to protect your costume. At the very least, bring a hoodie so you don’t spill anything on your costume!
13. A great attitude: Smile! Have fun being a big ol’ geek with the rest of your geeky buddies for the weekend.
Budgeting for cosplay is something that’s come up a lot in my feeds recently. Con season is quickly creeping up on us, and I’m seeing a lot of new people express anxiety over the potential cost of getting into this hobby. Believe me, I get it. Cosplay can get expensive, especially when you do big, detailed builds. But it doesn’t have to be! This hobby is what you make of it. Even when you do go for those huge builds, there are ways to keep your bank account from crying (too much). Here are a few tips and tricks to keep your costs down:
1. Plan in advance: At the beginning of the year, I create a list of the costumes I want to create. It’s always subject to change, but for the most part, I stick with my list, since deviation from the list normally means extra $$$. Doing this helps me plan out when I need to buy materials and how much work I’ll need to do on my costumes. That second part is just as important as money to me, since I plan my more intense costumes around non-hectic work time (*cough* Lulu *cough*). You can also plan around sales to get things cheaper. We’ll touch more on that in just a moment.
2. Create an itemized budget: In the process of planning out all my costumes at the beginning of the year, I also create an itemized budget. I started doing this when I began offering commissions, but it’s also really helpful for keeping me on track with my own stuff.
Just as an example, here’s a look at the budget for my current project, Margaret. My first step in creating an itemized budget is to gather up all the reference images I can and make detailed notes on what all is involved. Most of my research is done at this phase. I typically look up other cosplayers’ builds to get an idea of what patterns and materials to use and look up tutorials for new techniques. I also do some preliminary online shopping to get my prices as accurate as possible. In addition, I take stock of what I have on hand and see what can be used to help cut down on costs.
When it comes to pricing, I always go for retail price to prepare for a worst case scenario. Sometimes big sales don’t always lineup with my payday, so getting a discount is a pleasant surprise rather than something I absolutely have to rely on.
Once I set my budget, I figure out how much I need to set aside each month to make my costume happen and time out sales shopping. With Margaret, for example, I waited for one of Arda’s sales since the lacefront wig is one of the most expensive pieces. Which leads me to…
3. Work those sales!: This is one of the biggest reasons I plan most of my costumes a year or more in advance. Black Friday sales are one of the best times to pick up costume pieces, including wigs, contact lenses, spandex, and more. I often use Black Friday/Cyber Monday to buy big materials for costume pieces for the first half of the next year.
E-mail and mobile newsletters are really useful tools plan out your sales shopping. I always keep an eye out for weekly advertisements for Jo-Ann’s and Hancocks, since they’ll list when patterns go on sale.
Liking your go-to shops on Facebook and other social media platforms is also a good way to keep in the loop on upcoming sales, especially for places like Arda, Epic Cosplay, Golden D’Or, and Spandex World.
4. Use those coupons!: Coupons are seriously a cosplayer’s best friend, especially when you hit the big box craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s, and Hancocks. Each of these shops almost always has coupons available, especially if you sign up for mail, e-mail, and/or mobile notifications. Many of these stores also have mobile apps with coupons, so make sure to snag those too!
Even if you don’t happen to have a mailer coupon, these websites all have coupons listed on their sites. Just Google “[insert store name here] coupon.” Most of the time these are for about 40% off, so it’s always worth your time to print one off, especially if you’re picking up a big ticket item!
Another perk to going to these shops is that most of them will accept competitors’ coupons, so keep those coupons handy no matter where you go!
5. Re-use costume pieces: Reusing costume pieces is one of the easiest ways to cut down on cosplay costs. For example, high quality wigs can get pretty costly, so I try to do different variations on characters. My good Rogue wig, for example, cost about $80 to make, so I get as much mileage out of it as I can. I’ve worn it for my Kotobukiya, casual, and Marvel Now! Rogue.
Same goes for my Princess Jupiter and Ms. Marvel variants. Both of those costumes happened since I already had a large amount of materials on hand, making my “total” cost for each of those costumes around $75. Definitely cheaper than my Sailor Jupiter!
6. Trade skills: This is a new thing for me and I’m absolutely loving it. I have several friends who are great with props and leather, but not so great at sewing. So we work out agreements in advance and trade sewn pieces for props and such. It’s been great! Not only do I get something made much better than I ever could, I don’t drop the money I normally do in failure (I tend to muck up even the most basic armor. Whomp whomp).
Of course, you could also expand on this idea for other services, such as photography and web design. Of course, your mileage may vary, but think outside the box in terms of potential swaps.
7. Thrift, thrift, thrift!: Buying gently used stuff from local thrift stores, eBay, or even re-purposing old things from your house is a great way to cut back on costs. I do this a lot with old shoes. I’m not willing to pay a lot of money for shoes I’m going to tear apart and rebuild anyway. Once my flats and pumps are too scuffed for work, I’ll hold on to them until I need them for a costume. And as an added bonus, they’re already broken in and comfortable.
Keep an eye out for used costumes as well. Many cosplayers will sell their used creations for cheap. Storenvy, Etsy, eBay, and cosplay pages are a great way to keep an eye out for such sales.
8. Keep an open mind, especially when it comes to the bargain bin: Sometimes stuff I find in the remnant bin or even in my personal stash inspires my costumes. This was definitely true for Marvel Now! Rogue and Ms. Marvel. Marvel Now! Rogue was inspired by a trip to my local spandex outlet, where I found the perfect green fabric for about $3/yd. I already had black and white fabric on hand, in addition to a leather belt, white leather paint, and an X-shaped belt buckle from my classic Rogue. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a pleasant surprise!
9. Monetize your hobby: One of the main reasons I started offering commissions was so that I could have a bit of extra spending money for bigger costumes like Lulu. But commissions aren’t the only way to recoup costs and fund future projects. Here are a few other ideas:
Set up an online storefront for trinkets or accessories. Something that doesn’t take away too much craft time, but is also profitable. I’m hoping to do this soon!
If you have a blog, set up sponsorships through a resource like Passionfruit.
Sell your used costumes and accessories.
Sell cosplay prints.
10. Learn to say no: This is probably the hardest one on the list for me. It’s so easy to get caught up in the race of “Who can make the most costumes?” Theoretically, I could make a costume a week, but that’s not enjoyable or anywhere near affordable for me. If it works for you, by all means, go for it. But remember that it’s okay to say no to doing a group costume if you’re not feeling it or bumping a costume back to a time when you can afford it. Real life comes first!
I hope this list helps! Do you have any tips on budgeting for cosplay?
It’s hard to get around a superhero suit without some type of applique. Pretty much EVERY superhero has some type of logo, with some more complex than others.
There are two basic ways to create a stretchy applique: slap it on the right side and top stitch or create a reverse applique by cutting out your design from your main fabric. Personally, I like the top stitch approach. I’ve used it for Deadpool, Ms. Marvel, and Supergirl. It’s very easy to do with a few basic tools and adds a bit of extra depth to your costume.
The tutorial linked above covers just about every question you could have relating to appliques, but I will share a few tips that make life easier for me:
You CAN use irons on spandex! I see so many people freak out over this. Yes, excessive heat is bad for spandex, as it will lose its elasticity. Just set your iron to a low, synthetic setting and use a press cloth.
DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use pins for this. You will get bubbles (most likely). While working on Deadpool, I ran out of fusible stabilizer and just pinned stabilizer in place. So annoying. Layer your fabric pieces between your stabilizer like a stabilizer/fabric sandwich and you’ll be good.
Take mechafaux’s advise and trace out your stitch line. It’s very difficult to see your fabric through the stabilizer, so taking just a few extra minutes to sketch out your lines is suuuper helpful.
If your needle is giving you trouble, extend the length of your stitch.
Creating a more complex logo like Supergirl is essentially the same, but requires a few extra steps. You’ll want to create your logo prior to attaching it to your leotard. I used this tutorial from The Dangerous Ladies. Creating your logo is pretty similar to attaching an applique, but you’ll want to use double-sided fusible web to attach the various fabrics together. I’ve used a couple of different brands and had success with pretty much all of them. Test a scrap of fabric before you work on the final thing!
Also, a logo like this loses its stretchiness due to the fusible web. Make sure to attach it to an area that won’t require too much stretch.
Another approach to creating logos or larger designs is to design and create inlays. I mentioned in this post how I came up to my designs for top stitching, and it’s the same for inlays: create a mock-up and draw in your design. Once you create your pattern pieces, you’ll need to add a seam allowance (typically 3/8″). My one main tip for inlays is to baste your stitches before serging or committing to your final stitch.
Remember when I worked on Deadpool and mentioned that my fabric was waaaaayyyy too bright? Well, I fixed that nonsense by dyeing it! I know, seems crazy, right? Well, my friend Meredith shared a tutorial that blew my mind. BONUS: it’s super simple.
Pretreat your fabric, then create a dye bath with iDye Poly and add a small amount (I used 1/4 cup) of vinegar to create an acid bath. This will allow the fabric to accept the dye. Swirl it around in your boiling pot for a few minutes (I let mine boil for about 2 minutes), let it cool, then run it through the cold wash. Boom, awesome color.
Just make sure to use a pot large enough to let your fabric swirl freely. Otherwise you’ll get funky splotches.
Holding up Bootcovers
One of my biggest annoyances with most costumes is ridiculous boots, especially thigh highs. Finding boots that cover my calves is hard. Finding some that fit, kind of match my costume, and are less than $100 is like finding a rainbow-farting unicorn. Instead, I make bootcovers out of spandex. There are lots of awesomebootcover tutorials on the web. What I want to mention instead is how to hold those bad boys up. Many thanks to DJ Spider for her awesome tutorial!
To do this:
Put on your tights and boot covers, adjusting them to the height you want.
Carefully pin your tights and boot covers together, pointing the needle down. More pins helps!
Very gently pull your combined tights/covers off.
Using a zig zag stitch, carefully stretch your tights and boots to the same tension and sew them together.
Grab your excess tight below your stitching and snip it off so it doesn’t twist on you.
Go kick some superhero ass.
Create Super Cheap Armor and Accessories
Need a flexible piece of armor? Cover craft foam with spandex! This is one of the coolest techniques I’ve learned this year, and I used it on Supergirl. RuffleButt Cosplay has more details here, but here are my CliffNotes:
Pattern out the piece you need and cut out your craft foam. Use your pattern to cut out your spandex, making sure to add a seam allowance.
Coat your fabric and foam with contact cement. Let them dry for a few moments, then attach the two.
Once each piece has dried for a few minutes, grab your glue gun. Snip your fabric at corners and over curves and glue the fabric to the back side of the craft foam.
Let it dry and admire your handiwork. I attached the Supergirl belt with Velcro.
That wraps up this series on spandex! I hope you found it useful. If I could leave you with one final tip, it’s this: have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment. Your first couple of projects might not be perfect, but you’ll get there! Just like anything else, you’ll get better with practice.
Welcome back to the Spandex 101 series! If you need a refresher, check out Part 1 on supplies and Part 2 on prep. Today, we’re getting into the meat of spandex construction, and I’ll also mention a few ways that you can finish off spandex projects.
First off, let’s talk stitches on a regular sewing machine. Anytime you work with spandex, you’ll want to use a stretch stitch or a zigzag stitch. A regular old straight stitch just can’t stand handle the pull of spandex and will most likely pop (Note: there’s some disagreement on this. If you stretch fabric while sewing, it should theoretically hold, but I’ve never been a fan of that method). For standard stitching, go with a narrow zigzag (I normally set my machine to 2.5).
I also like to use a chain stitch with spandex, which is basically a stretch version of a straight stitch. Most of the time I use them with top-stitched appliques or with zippers. Your machine may or may not have this stitch. Make sure to check your manual!
You can also baste with a zigzag stitch within your seam allowance. I use basting stitches quite a bit with spandex. It’s great to match up pieces like side seams or neck bands and see how they look before committing to your final stitch.
A friendly reminder: make sure you’re using stretch needles! Ever tried sewing something even remotely stretchy and get skipped stitches? You’ve probably been using the wrong needle. Knit fabrics are structurally different from wovens in that they’re made from lots of loops, which helps give them their marvelous stretchiness. Stretch needles slide through those loops instead of slicing them like a regular needle. You can read more about all that good stuff here.
If you’re serging spandex, I’d recommend a basic 4-thread overlock. It’s super fast, secure, and stretches with your fabric. Make sure to check your manual for the type of thread and needles to use.
One thing to keep in mind with sergers is that you don’t want to use pins. Between the blade and the needles, they can really screw up your machine and/or potentially injure you. If you’re new to serging, I’d highly recommend basting your seams and using short zigzag stitches anywhere that your seams meet. Stretchy fabric can move around on you while sewing, so basting together those seams helps you get used to the machine instead of worrying about the fabric moving around.
Spandex is one of those marvelous fabrics that you don’t technically need to finish. The edges won’t fray (but they may curl up, just FYI!), so once you’ve sewn your seam together, you can call it a day. Of course, if you want to do something more to give the seam a little extra strength, you can add an extra row of zigzag stitching in the seam allowance.
Sergers are awesome for finishing spandex, because you can sew your seam and finish it all in one move. You can also zigzag a seam and serge the edge, but I prefer to just serge. Try it out and see what works best for you!
Hems, Holes, and Everything Inbetween
So you’ve got a garment that’s sewn together, but how do you finish those pesky arm and leg holes? Well, there’s a couple of things you can do:
As I mentioned earlier, spandex doesn’t fray, so if you’re going to be wearing boots or gloves that cover arm or leg holes, you can technically leave it unfinished and be fine. If you want a cleaner finish, a zigzag stitch is a good option. I did this with my polka dot Lady Skater hem.
For a more RTW finish, try using a twin needle. This is a double pronged needle that stitches straight on the right side of a garment but has a zigzag-like stitch on the wrong side, which gives it a bit of flexibility. This isn’t quite as flexible as a regular zigzag stitch, so use it on areas like wrist and ankle openings or skirt hems.
Bands are a great finish for stretch materials, especially if you’re new to sewing them. I used this approach for Supergirl when I realized that I didn’t have quite enough length for the arm. This gave me an extra few inches to work with and was a clean finish. I use my Renfrew and Lady Skater bands a lot, but you can easily make your own!
One final technique I want to discuss is elastic. Let’s say that you’ve got an sleeveless opening or have a leotard leg hole to finish. My preferred approach is to use 3/8″ elastic. To apply it, pin the elastic to the wrong side of your fabric and baste in place. You may have to stretch the elastic as you stitch (especially around curved areas like the bum), so take your time and use as many pins as you need.
Once the elastic is basted in place, fold it over and use your regular zigzag stitch to secure the elastic. This hides your basting stitch and secures everything in place. I love this approach because it’s clean and gives you a little extra security, especially for those high hip leos! Many leotard patterns have guides for how much elastic you need. I always find that they’re a little loose for my liking, so I typically take them in a bit. Make sure to hold the elastic around yourself and see what works for you!
That’s it for this week’s post! Next week, I’ll talk about extra things that you can do with spandex, including dyeing, applying appliques, and more! It will probably be the last post in my spandex series, so if you have any questions or requests, let me know!