Commission Notes: Saitama (One Punch Man)

Completed: August 2018

Hours Spent: 30-ish

Purchased Pieces: 

Patterns Used: 

Super Helpful Tutorials: 

How I Made it: 

Ahhhh, this was such a fun build! My friend Ash (and one of my favorite photographers) is really into One Punch Man, and a few months ago she asked if any of her cosplay friends could help turn her dad into Saitama. I jumped at the opportunity, especially after I decided to watch the show (much to Koholint‘s delight).

I started with the base bodysuit for this build. It’s fairly straightforward, but because of that, I wanted to make sure all the details were correct and clean. I’ve used Kwik Sew 3029 several times at this point, so I was able to quickly note changes and modifications to the pattern (big shout-out to Victoria Bane for cutting these pieces for me!). The top just required adding a white collar portion and zipper. I chose to do the white portion as inset corners and also sewed in an exposed zipper. The rest was a very quick process. I zig-zag stitched the suit together, hit the seam allowance with my serger (overkill, but I like the final look), and added elastic to the ankles to give the pants more of a “puff” look.

The next piece was the cape. Again, big shout-out to Victoria Bane for cutting this for me! My go-to for any big cape is The Dangerous Ladies’ tutorial (linked above). After letting the pieces hang for a few days (let that bias settle, yo), I cleaned up the cape and stitched the fashion and lining layers together.

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First run at the cape. At least I can still use it for Nana Shimura!

What I failed to realize was that my client’s measurements exceeded the length available on 60″ wide fabric. Thankfully, this wasn’t a lost cause. The shape of this cape will work very well for one of my upcoming cosplays, Nana Shimura from My Hero Academia. I held onto the cape for myself since it was already complete, and ordered 120″ fabric from Online Fabric Store for a new one. I again followed the same process, but this time at the proper length. After the new cape was sewn up, I hand sewed snaps to attach to the base leotard and sewed on the giant grey buttons (made from scraps of my Arsene vest!).

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The boots were fairly straightforward. I ordered a base pair from Funtasma in my client’s size, stripped the varnish, and painted them with about 10 layers of Scarlet and Fire red from Anglus. Once they were fully painted, I hit them with Angelus finisher.

The gloves were a little more challenging. I had this bright idea to get some Captain America gloves and paint them to match the boots. However, the gloves were… garbage quality. They didn’t take the paint at all and basically fell apart the second I looked at them. Instead, I made a pair of glove toppers using vinyl that matched the boots. I also realized that the dye I used for Makoto’s gloves was a good match for the boots and vinyl, so I set out to dye a pair of men’s gloves from We Love Colors. It took about 6 washes to get them fully dye free.

To create the belt, I found a Saitama cosplay belt on Amazon. The buckle was fairly accurate, but the belt itself was okay at best. I purchased the belt, stripped off the buckle, and made a new belt out of black vinyl I had on hand.

Thoughts on this build: 

This was such a fun build! I love how absurd this show is, and I’m glad I got the chance to make something from it. I can’t wait to see Ash’s dad as Saitama!

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Costume Notes: Negasonic Teenage Warhead

Today I’m featuring another recent(ish) commission I completed. This one was for Callula Cosplay!

The Basics: 

Pattern: Kwik Sew 3052

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Photo by 10th Muse / Gear Owl Photography

Fabric: Stretch pleather from Yaya Han’s new Cosplay Fabrics line (available at Jo-Ann’s), yellow moleskin from Spandex World, and stretch netting from Golden D’Or.

Notions: Invisible zipper, stretch elastic cording, fabric stabilizer

Make it again?: Already have! I made a second one for 10th Muse of Cosmic Coterie a little while back!

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Photo by Ash Snap ‘Em Photography

How I Made it: As with most of my spandex bodysuits, this one involved a mock-up out scrap fabric and using a Sharpie to draw in the seam lines. Once the seam lines were drawn in, we cut the pieces apart and used the mock-up as a new pattern.

Callula’s learning how to work with spandex, so we’ve been working off of a version of this pattern that’s altered to her measurements. Each time we make something we tweak the fit a little more. Eventually it’ll be perfect!

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Photo by 10th Muse / Gear Owl Photography

 

For the most part, this suit came together quite well. I did encounter some trickiness with the netting wanting to shift as I was stitching. In hindsight, I should have done more underlining with the yellow fabrics. I did that for 10th Muse’s Negasonic and it was much easier to handle.

There’s also a lot of inset corners with this suit, especially around the shoulders. Atelier Heidi’s tutorial is a great overview on how to get these points perfect. I also used topstitching to secure the edges.

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Photo by Cosplay Illustrated

For the piping, I cut 1″ wide strips of the yellow moleskin and filled them with elastic cording. I used my zipper foot to install them on one side of the fabric before stitching pieces together. Twinklebat has a great mini-tutorial on this process!

By far the trickiest part of this costume is the front belt-looking piece. I’ve seen cosplayers handle it a couple of different ways, but I opted to embed it into the fabric. This required quite a bit of finangling, as there’s lots of inset corners to work around, and it’s a highly visible part of the costume. For Callula’s, I had to go back and hand stitch most of this section down since I flubbed a few places.

Callula made the awesome patches for this costume!

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Photo by 10th Muse

Thoughts: All in all, this was a fun build that came together pretty quick. I can’t wait to knock out Angel Dust so we can beat each other up for photos and troll all the Deadpools!

Costume Notes: Pokemon Go Trainer

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Photos by PhotoPersuasion.

Completed: August 2016

Hours Spent: About 15

Debuted: A-Fest 2016

Why This Costume: Not gonna lie… This was mostly to join the Pokemon Go hype train, haha. But honestly, it was a fortuitous build. I really enjoy playing the game, I had about 85% of the necessary materials on hand, and I also wanted an easy to wear costume. So it all came together pretty well!

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 How I made it: This was a remarkably fast and pretty simple build! I initially interpreted my trainer’s outfit as a top, leggings, and shorts rather than as a romper and leggings, so my approach reflects that interpretation.
The top/leggings combo was made using Yaya Han’s ultimate bodysuit pattern. I blended out the underbust seams and used a grey spandex for the center piece. I drafted out the chest design with paper, then cut it out of purple spandex and topstitched the design down. Wondertape was a great help for this!
Since the trainer wears a bolero, I ditched the sleeves and left the sleeve holes undone. Spandex doesn’t fray, and no one sees them anyway! The neckline is finished with 3/8″ elastic. The leg portion of Yaya’s pattern comes in 2 pieces, so I simply eliminated some seam allowance from the outside seam and used that to add in the purple stripe.
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To make the bolero, I turned to my Avacado hoodie pattern. The pattern has a clear top and bottom half, so I dropped the bottom half to make this and drafted quick bands to finish off the neck, bottom edge, and sleeves. I topstitched the princess seams and the yellow stripes on the arms for a more RTW finish.
The belt was made from some awful foam backed vinyl I’ve been hoarding for years. I used that as a base, then covered it with scrap grey and white spandex, again topstitching around the edges for a more professional looking finish. I stitched some webbing I had on hand for the skinnier portion of the belt and held it together with a large parachute buckle. My belt buckle (courtesy of Callula Cosplay!) attaches to the parachute buckle with industrial strength Velcro.
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Accessories! My hat was a basic black one I got off of Amazon. I drafted a quick Pokeball design and cut it out of felt. I used fusible web to attach the felt and then reinforced it with a hand stitch. The choker is quilt bias binding that has a snap stitched on the ends. I purchased the shorts from Wal-Mart.
Most of my other accessories were things I already had on hand. Since my trainer more or less looks like me, I used a clip in bang from Arda (styled by Cosmic Coterie‘s Moon) and picked up a curly ponytail clip-in that I gently relaxed with some brushing and my hair dryer. My gloves were leftover from She-Hulk, and my shoes were leftover from Pokemon Trainer Serena. The Eevee was an indulgence purchase from AMA-con a few weeks ago. He’s just so cute I couldn’t pass him up! My Pokeball was a gift from Callula Cosplay 🙂
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Thoughts on this costume: Man, this thing was stupidly cheap. I think I spent maybe $30 total? I totally don’t count the Eevee in that cost since he lives in my plush collection. Almost everything was something I had on hand, which is how I justified adding this to my roster, haha. While it’s not the most flattering costume I have, it’s stupidly comfortable and a really fun Sunday costume! I can’t wait to go Pokemon hunting and get more photos of this costume in action.
Who’s your favorite Pokemon? 

Pattern Review: M7217

12115489_785108354948606_6219879557741383976_nThe Basics: 

Pattern: McCall’s M7127 (a.k.a. the Yaya Han bodysuit pattern)

Total Hours: About 4 hours for the first suit and 6 hours for the 2nd one

Fabric: Approximately 1 yard of 4 way stretch pleather for Red She-Hulk and a half-yard of purple milliskin. Approximately 2 yards of heavy white moleskin for She-Hulk, a half-yard of purple milliskin, and scraps of grey for piping. The purple milliskin on both suits is covered with fabric from men’s basketball shorts.

Alterations: Added 2″ of length at the bodice cut line. In hindsight, I probably should have also added a half inch to the crotch cut line. I also ditched the sleeves and made my suits with an exposed zipper, as detailed in the Cosplay by McCall’s blog.

Notions: Thread, zippers, knit interfacing, clear elastic, 3/8″ elastic, stretch cord (regular She-Hulk)

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Did it look like the pattern illustration?: Pretty much.

Were the instructions easy to follow?: Overall, yes, though some of the directions weren’t really the norm for spandex suits.

Make it again?: Absolutely. Hoping to make a new Rogue with this pattern soon!

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Other thoughts: My main thought when I first saw this pattern was, “How useful is this really going to be for superhero suits?” While this suit is great in a lot of ways, it will still require a lot of alterations for most superheroes, especially any superheroes that have crazy seam lines (looking at you, Carol) or seamlines that don’t match up to this pattern.

That said, if you want a suit that will be a great resource for a tailored fit, this pattern is fantastic. I’ve never had a suit fit me quite this well, especially under the bust. I’m adding that feature on ALL my suits from now on. If I get around to remaking my Batwoman suit, I’m definitely going to use this pattern.

So now that the pre-amble is out of the way, here are a few tips to make your process go a little bit smoother than mine. In order to give this pattern a fair review, I tried to stick with the design as is for the most part.

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So first up: directions. For the most part, these are pretty straight forward. But there are a few steps that made me shake my head a little. My main complaint was that the instructions call for a casing in the leg holes. While you *can* do this, it’s suuuuuuuuuuper annoying. Instead, I sewed the elastic directly to the leg holes, which is far more common for swimsuits and is a staple in Kwik-Sew spandex instructions. While I didn’t include arms on this leotard, I did take a look at the instructions and again shook my head. You’re instructed to set the sleeves here as you would a woven garment. Again, nothing technically *wrong* with this, but I almost ALWAYS take the RTW sleeve setting approach in spandex suits.

Next up: fit. I don’t know about y’all, but this suit had way more ease built in than I was used to, especially compared to Kwik-Sew. I wound up cutting the sides a size smaller than my pattern measurements, and I also took out a full 2″ at the waist of the front princess seams. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, no pattern will fit every body perfectly right out of the envelope, and lots of seam lines means you have flexibility with tailoring. Still, I’m very glad I made a mock-up with my go-to spandex undergarments.

Finally, difficulty. I would honestly hesitate to recommend this pattern to a complete spandex novice. My suits each had 13 pattern pieces (double that on Jen since everything is double-layered), which is a bit overwhelming for a newbie spandex sewer. Kwik-Sew’s basic catsuits by comparison have 5 pieces. Pattern matching is a big deal here as well, especially at all the bust points, and that can be tricky for folks not accustomed to sewing with stretchy fabrics. I highly recommend basting before you commit to  your final stitches.

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Have any of you used this pattern yet? What did you think of it?

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!

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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 😛

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!

Suit Up!

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4 suits, 4 bodies, 1 pattern.

Or: An ode to Kwik Sew 3052.

I typically save my commission posts for the end of the month, but since I’ve been working on several Gotham-themed bodysuits lately, I thought I’d share a few extra tips and tricks on working with them (P.S. You can find more spandex tips in my Spandex 101 series!).

My go-to pattern for a basic catsuit is Kwik Sew 3052. View A is a perfect blank slate for pretty much ANY superhero suit you can think of (and yes, with a few tweaks it will work for dudes!). A basic, single-color suit using this pattern exactly as drafted takes me approximately 2 hours from cutting to finishing the last seam. It really is a super simple build and a great introduction to working with catsuits. That said, most superhero suits aren’t a single color and often have all sorts of funky design lines on them. So let’s talk about some of the alterations you can do to this pattern.

My first step with this pattern is typically to move the front zipper to the back. You can do this by subtracting the seam allowance for the zipper from the front seam and adding it to the back seam. Voila! Back zipper.

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Obviously, this isn’t Spoiler, but I took a similar approach when drafting out the pattern for my Captain Marvel. I used the same pattern bodice to figure out the general curve of the side seam for the front and back. Don’t worry if you fudge up a little. The stretchy factor will help conceal it!

One of the issues you might run into with this pattern is fitting. Since you only have a front and back seam to work with, it’s easy to look like a giant garbage bag. Adding side seams is a good way to give yourself more flexibility for alterations. I did this for Spoiler since her suit in the reference images I used had a very prominent side seam. This also makes setting your sleeves much easier!

I turned to Kwik Sew 3154 for guidance on how to draft the side seams, since this Spoiler is much smaller than me. Sadly, this pattern is OOP, but you can still find it on Etsy and eBay!

Your curves doesn’t have to be exact. The big idea here is to give yourself a curve for your bust, waist, and hips. Most of us aren’t straight up and down!

Batgirl! I opted for princess seams on Batgirl instead of the the straight up and down strip of purple she's drawn with. Curves are more flattering to those of us who live in 3D!
Batgirl! I opted for princess seams on Batgirl instead of the the straight up and down strip of purple she’s drawn with. Curves are more flattering to those of us who live in 3D!

Another option for fitting on a basic suit is adding princess seams. Princess seams run over the bust and give you a lot of control over your bust and waist. I opted to add princess seams to my Batwoman and Mia‘s Batgirl suit for a more flattering shape. I used a stretch vinyl for my suit which has a limited degree of stretch, so I needed more seams for tailoring.

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Bathroom selfies are the worst for showing seams, but I promise, they’re there!

To add my princess seams, I tried on one of my old muslins and figured out where my bust apex (i.e., the fullest part of your bewb) was. From there, I just drew in the curve I wanted. Once that was done, I transferred the line over to my pattern piece and added a seam allowance. And that’s it! I mucked up a little on Batwoman since I didn’t wear the bra I intend to wear while drawing on myself. I haven’t decided yet if I care enough to remake it. Always wear your intended undergarments when drafting, kiddos!

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Callula Cosplay modeling her Huntress mock-up. We take ourselves very seriously in the cosplay biz 😛

For more complex superhero designs, I like to make a muslin out of cheap fabric and draw on my designs. For Callula Cosplay‘s Huntress, I did just that. To start, I made a quick mock-up, and once we tweaked the fit, I pulled out a Sharpie and drew all the lines she wanted to add while she was wearing it. After we finished, I labeled and cut all the pieces, added a small seam allowance, and went from there. If your suit is symmetrical (like this one), you only need to mark up one half of the suit.

A note: it is vital that your muslin has a similar degree of stretchiness as your final fabric. Otherwise, this is going to be an exercise in futility.

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The process of building Huntress.

Hope that helps for all you aspiring superheroes! Check out my Spandex 101 series for additional information on working with spandex. I’ll post more tips and tricks for all you wannabe vigilantes as I continue working on Batwoman.

Costume Notes: Captain Marvel

Image from CBS News.
Image from CBS News.

Completed: February 2015

Hours Spent: About 45 hours spread out over 2 months

Debuted: Dallas Comic Con Fan Days 2015

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Ran into my friend Rachel, who also dressed as Captain Marvel and dressed her daughter up as Ms. Marvel! Photo by Gone Catawampus.

Why This Costume: I really got into Captain Marvel last year. It started with my Ms. Marvel stashbusting. The more I read about Carol, the more I liked her. I was smitten with Kelley Sue Deconnick’s comic from the first issue I picked up. Since I was late to the game, I barreled through the 2012 run thanks to the digital trades and then jumped straight into the 2014 run. This is one of my favorite comics and always makes it on my pull list.

Awards(!): Best in Show (Fan Days 2015)

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I did a short interview with RedBeard TV, who was one of the judges. Check it out here. Photo by Rick on Facebook.

How I made it: Let’s start with the first item I made on this costume: the bodysuit. I came up with the pattern for the suit the same way I do all my superhero suits. After blending a raglan sleeve skating pattern with a leggings pattern (in hindsight, I think it would have been easier to use Kwik Sew 3052 and draw in the raglan lines and side seams), I made a mock-up, tweaked the fit, and marked all the stripes on the base suit. I then cut up my mock-up and transferred all my markings to paper, evening up the lines and adding in seam allowance.

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I wanted a suit that looked like it could actually be worn in space, so I spent a lot of time hunting down material. Ultimately, I decided on this faux stretch leather, gold metallic spandex, and a football weight royal blue spandex.

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Probably my favorite photo from the con. I didn’t run into my friends who dressed as rapotrs, but I did run into Raptor Jesus! He was a good sport about this. Photo by Gone Catawampus.

There’s really not a lot to say about constructing the suit that I haven’t mentioned in my Spandex 101 series. One of the most difficult things with this suit is matching up the stripes while dealing with the piping (I opted for flat piping, by the way. I liked the look better). I wound up machine basting the piping to one piece, then hand basting the other side, then machine basting again before running it all through my serger. Spandex likes to slide around, and even being off 1/4″ was really obvious. I will not admit how much time I spent seam ripping :P.

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Bodysuit after seam-ripping at least 3 times.

The sash was pretty simple. I just made a rectangle out of the same stretch satin I used for my Ms. Marvel and tapered off the edges with my hip curve. The lovely hip ornament was 3D printed for me by Chaks Productions. I attached it with a spin clip.

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For the boots, I bought a pair of faux leather tan ones off of eBay, cut off the decorations, and painted them with Angelus leather paint. The paint didn’t take to the zipper, so I had to seam rip the original ones out and stitch new ones in.

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Cosplay is serious business, dudes. Photo by Gone Catawampus.

The gloves were definitely the most expensive part of this costume. My original plans to make gloves didn’t go so well, so I decided to purchase some. I bought a pair off of eBay that matched my boots quite well, even if they did come from a China-based company. Unfortunately, my dog got into my craft room and destroyed those. I ordered another pair, but they were orange. Gloves number three was the ultimate winner.

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A moment of silence for the gloves that were destroyed.

I wanted the buttons to match the suit, so I used the DIY fabric covered button kits from Jo-Anns. I picked up several 5/8″ sets and covered them with scrap spandex. Once that was done, I hand sewed them to the collar, the boots, and gloves.

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Hold on, dudes. Rocket’s trying to sell Chewie again. Photo by Gone Catawampus.

The flame fists were fun to make. I used the lovely BelleChere’s tutorial. Basically, you make a sphere out of masking tape. The “flames” are cones of theatre lighting gel that I melted down with my heat gun. I hot glued the cones to the sphere. They’re remarkably sturdy and survived getting run into by con-goers and people trying to touch them.

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The mohawk was also a lot of fun to style! I picked up a Lulu from Arda for this. I was hoping to snag a lace-front, but they were out of the color I needed. To style it, I teased a strip down the center of the wig. Then, I molded extra wefts around the teased base with hair spray and my blow dryer. It’s a very similar to styling anime girl bangs, just in a different direction. It held up surprisingly well, in spite of some nasty wind at the con.

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The gorgeous helmet was made by Kevin Dale. If you need any leather pieces, talk to this guy. His work is phenomenal. It has eyelets at the top and I threaded cord through the wig to hold it in place.

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Rock the hawk.

I mentioned in a previous post that I have a couple of different looks depending on what cons I wear this costume to. I also have a lace front alternative wig from Epic for days I don’t want to wear the helmet. I also drafted a faux fur collar for my bomber jacket for cold weather cons.

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Thoughts on this costume: Overall, I’m really pleased with this costume. It was much harder than I expected, but I’m glad I took my time with it. There are still a few small tweaks I’d like to make, but none of them are major. I can’t wait to set up a proper photo shoot with this costume! Hopefully at one of the air museums near me.

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Photo by Alan Tijernia Photography.

Spandex 101: All the Fun Extras

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Photo by Aperture Ashley.

Welcome to the final post in the spandex 101 series! If you need a refresher, see post 1 on basics, post 2 on fabric prep, and post 3 on construction. Today, I’m going to share a few of my favorite tutorials and tips to turn a basic leotard or bodysuit into attire for a superhero.

Creating and Attaching Appliques

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.

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To create more depth on Deadpool, I top stitched the vinyl pieces to the red.

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.
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Supergirl emblem.The pins indicate where I went back over with a satin stich.

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.

Creating Inlays

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.

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My most recent Rogue costume is an example of a basic inlay. To create the white stripe, I just reduced the overall width of my fabric at the center and made up for the difference with white fabric.Photo by Cayden Vierra Cosplay.

Dyeing Spandex

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.

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A few prayers to the cosplay gods helps. The bottom left image is a comparison of my original fabric (left), the fabric I was trying to match (center), and the results of my dye job.

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 awesome bootcover 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!

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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

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Supergirl made by me, modeled by my mom. The belt is made of leftover gold from the emblem.

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.

What’s one spandex tip you would share?

Spandex 101: Basic Techniques and Finishing

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Photo by Aperture Ashley.

 

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.

Stitches Galore

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.

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Stitches from left to right: chain stitch, zigzag stitch (width 2.5) and a basting stitch (width 5.0).

 

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.

4 thread overlock

 

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.

Finishing hems

Pro-tip: Most knit/stretchy patterns have a seam allowance of 3/8" as opposed to 5/8" commonly found on woven patterns. Be aware of this! It feels hella funky the first couple of times you sew a stretchy thing. Because of this, I normally mark my notches with a water soluble pin instead of clipping them.
Pro-tip: Most knit/stretchy patterns have a seam allowance of 3/8″ as opposed to 5/8″ commonly found on woven patterns. Be aware of this! It feels hella funky the first couple of times you sew a stretchy thing. Because of this, I normally mark my notches with a water soluble pin instead of clipping them.

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!

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Pro-tip: Got a seam that needs a little extra stability? Try adding clear elastic! This is useful for shoulder seams or waist seams where you need a little extra support but don’t want to sacrifice stretchiness.

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!
The top two images are the front and back sides of a stitch with a twin needle. The top side is straight and the back has a zigzag to it, which allows the stretch. Bottom left is a basic zigzag, which I used on my Lady Skater. Bottom right is Supergirl. I used bands from my Renfrew to finish the sleeves.
The top two images are the front and back sides of a stitch with a twin needle. The top side is straight and the back has a zigzag to it, which allows the stretch. Bottom left is a basic zigzag, which I used on my Lady Skater. Bottom right is Supergirl. I used bands from my Renfrew to finish the sleeves.

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!

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Top left: Basting elastic in place. This doesn’t have to be perfect, just try to get as wide as you can. This elastic is 3/8″. Top right: Fold over the elastic and basted spandex and use a regular zigzag stitch to catch the very edge of the two. Bottom left: Your final seam from the right side of the fabric. Bottom right: How this looks on my Ms. Marvel using black thread and black fabric. Your fabric may be puckered on areas that require you to stretch while sewing (e.g., the bum), but it shouldn’t be noticeable when your garment is on.

 

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!

Spandex 101: Fabric Prep, Patterns and Basic Modifications

Marvel Now! Rogue, made with moleskin and milliskin spandex. Photo by Superhero Photos.
Marvel Now! Rogue, made with moleskin and milliskin spandex. Photo by Superhero Photos.

Hello and welcome to part 2 of my Spandex 101 series! If you need a refresher on part 1, you can view that here.

Thank you so much for your feedback on the last post! I knew a lot of you wanted to know more about spandex, but the collective response totally blew me away. Again, if you have specific requests for topics, feel free to ask!

Today, I’m going to talk a little bit a bout pretreating your fabric, my go-to patterns, and  basic modifications. I had hoped to include basic techniques as well, but this post is hefty enough as is. Next week!

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Sailor Jupiter. The base of the fuku is made from white moleskin and attached directly to the skirt base. Photo by Aperture Ashley.

Pretreating Spandex and You: A Love-Hate Relationship

Prepare your eyeballs, because I am going to confess to something scandalous: I rarely wash/pre-treat my spandex. The horror! But… not really. See, spandex is one of those magical fabrics that doesn’t really shrink. The only time that I might pre-treat my fabric is if I think colors might bleed into each other, but that’s pretty rare for me.

With costumes, I find that you have to think outside of the pre-wash “rule”. The idea is actually to treat your fabric as you intend to wash it later. I don’t know about you guys, but my full costumes never go directly in the wash. Since they’re only worn a handful of times (5-7 wears for a well-loved costume), most of the time I’ll spot clean stains and high funk areas and also Febreeze them. As soon as I get out of costume, it goes on a hanger to air dry, which also helps with odor and cleanliness. Since I wear a ton of layers with spandex, this also keeps the fabric from directly touching my skin.

Another benefit to not pre-washing spandex: it helps your fabric lay flat when cutting. When spandex gets thrown in the wash and dries, it tends to curl at the edges, sometimes by several inches. That is SUPER annoying to deal with when you’re cutting fabric.

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Cutting the leotard pieces for Sailor Jupiter. I prefer pattern weights and a rotary cutter to pins and scissors to prevent from slipping around.

Speaking of cutting, I mentioned last time that a rotary cutter and mat is my preferred cutting method. This is true for almost all of my sewing creations, but especially spandex. Spandex likes to slide around on itself when cutting, so being able to lay it flat on my cutting table and just go to town really alleviates some frustration. As I mentioned last time, this can be somewhat costly, but the cost is totally worth it, especially if you think you’ll make a lot of spandex costumes.

Pro-tip: if you have any resistance whatsoever when cutting, either sharpen or get a new rotary blade. Seriously, it is not worth the wrist pain to tough it out. Your lines will be cleaner and your wrists will thank you.

One more pro-tip: When cutting, point the rotary AWAY from you and always be mindful of retracting the blade. Those mofos are sharp and no one needs a trip to the ER or to get blood in spandex.

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Fun fact: All three of these costumes were made using Kwik Sew 3154. Cammy is Jade Cosplay, photo by Tobias Photography. Ms. Marvel photo by Aperture Ashley.

Go-To Patterns

Superhero costumes often have all sorts of crazy design elements to them, and unless you’ve stumbled across a magical resource of superhero specific patterns (please share. I will give you Internet hugs and cupcakes), you’re going to have to make your own patterns for designs. Fortunately, there are lots of awesome basic designs that you can use as templates. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Kwik Sew has tons of fantastic spandex friendly patterns for both men and women. Some of my favorites are 3154 (sadly OOP, but check eBay and Etsy!), 3052, 3636 and 3029 . Their instructions are also great. P.S., Check out WindoftheStars video on patterns.
  • Jalie is a name that comes up often with skating/dance patterns. They have a huge selection, but I haven’t purchased any of their patterns yet. If anyone’s tried them, let me know what you think!
  • Green Pepper’s Crystal Lake pattern (a.k.a. the sailor fuku pattern) is a good basic skater pattern. It only has one seam up the back, so there’s not a lot of places to muck up if you’re new to spandex. The only real down side is that it’s fairly limited in size, so proceed with caution. I used this pattern for my mom’s Supergirl.
  • If you’re feeling brave, you can draft your own bodysuit. This page also includes instructions on how to draft a spandex hood.
To create the bolt for Ms. Marvel, I laid my front leotard piece on the reverse side of my gold fabric then sketched the design out (in reverse).
To create the bolt for Ms. Marvel, I made a duplicate of my pattern piece and sketched out the design.

To draft some of those crazy designs, I typically create a muslin (mock-up) out of cheap spandex. Do be mindful of stretchiness, because you don’t want to make a mock-up of 4-way stretch then do a final version in 2-way stretch. It’ll look all kinds of wonky.

Once my mock-up is created, I’ll draw out the lines of the design that I need and add seam allowances if necessary. I’ll then cut up the design, make it pretty on paper, and use that paper design as my final pattern. This can take some trial and error, but it’s my favorite way of creating design elements. It works great for both inlays and appliques!

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Adding length is a normal adjustment for me. If I think I’ll use a pattern more than once, I’ll tape extra tissue paper in the length I need between the split pieces.

Basic Modifications

Just like other sewing projects, you have a ton of options with spandex to make a project fit you better. The most basic modifications are for height. This is where I find it helpful to look at drafting information on patterns. Kwik Sew women’s patterns are drafted for 5’6″ and accommodate for various cups based on size (a fun bit of information ONLY found on their fitting guide. Ugh). So for example, I’m typically a L in Kwik Sew patterns, and L-XL sizes are drafted for D cups, which works perfectly for me. Fortunately, you don’t really need to do FBAs for stretchy fabrics, since the stretch takes care of that for you. But it might be something to look at if you need more (or less) room with the bust or hips.

To add or reduce length for height, simply cut at the appropriate cut lines and add or reduce your length, blending between your cut pattern pieces as needed. I’m 5’10”, so I typically add 3-4″ to most of my Kwik Sew patterns. A large bust might also mean that you need more length to accommodate everything. If you make a muslin and notice the fabric uh… riding up your lady bits, that’s a good indicator to add a bit of length.

A note for choosing sizes: Wear your intended shapewear when taking measurements and choosing sizes. This is applicable to all patterns, but it’s still worth mentioning. I’ve mentioned before that I wear shapewear with spandex, which means that I often have to grade between several sizes.

An alteration I made to the Crystal Lake pattern for Supergirl. The pattern has a scoop back, so I extended the back piece up.
An alteration I made to the Crystal Lake pattern for Supergirl. The pattern has a scoop back, so I extended the back piece up.

Here are a few other basic modifications:

  • Shifting zippers: If you’ve got a leo or a catsuit and want to move a back zip to the front (or front to back), simply subtract the seam allowance from the pattern piece for the zipper, cut the altered piece on the fabric fold, and add the zipper seam allowance to your intended pattern piece.
  • Adding a zipper: Many stretchy patterns have a large hole in the back or a scoop neckline to allow the wearer to put on the garment without zips. To get past this, I just take my ruler and draw a line up the fabric using the pattern piece as a guide. If the pattern piece is supposed to be cut on the fold, add in a seam allowance (I usually use 1/2″)
  • Going sleeveless: My go-to leo pattern is Kwik Sew 3154. I’ve used it for several turtleneck leotards, but many of the designs are sleeveless. For that alteration, I ditch the sleeve and finish the arm hole with 3/8″ elastic. I’ll describe this process more in my next post.

That’s it for this week’s post! I hope it helps. I covered a lot of information today, so if you need any clarifications, please feel free to ask in the comments or shoot me an e-mail. Next week, I’ll talk about construction techniques and how to finish projects. Again, if you have any suggestions for topics I’d love to hear them!