This is a long time coming, and Free Comic Book Day has come and gone, and I forgot to get the post up with the accessories I made for Tim’s final look. (Sorry!) Here’s what we ended up with:
a plastic bone (found at a costume shop)
a skeletal hand (found online)
a metal sand dollar (found at Joann’s, painted white)
a scroll case (sewn with leather-look ultrasuede)
a “leather” pouch (sewn with the same stuff as the scroll case)
I used a combination of black cotton cord, hemp cord, and jute twine as the stringing materials. The sand dollar was the only real mystery thing. I couldn’t get a decent enough view of what the round white thing was around his neck. In the end, I decided, what the hell — it’s a sand dollar, why not?
The scroll case is a simple tube with one end “capped.” I finished the raw open edge, and used a zigzag stitch to attach the black cord so it could be worn. The scroll is simply an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper rolled up along the long edge and slipped inside. The paper is all that holds the tube’s shape. If you want one that’s more rigid, you could use interfacing.
The pouch was even simpler, I didn’t finish the top edge and the holes for the drawstring are just slits in the material. It took me longer to put the drawstrings in than it did to sew it. Remember to put something in the bag so it has some weight to it. I put lemon cough drops in that one.
Tim’s an enchanter, but I didn’t have the hollow staff full of “petrol” like Cleese did in the film. (Gasoline and comic books seemed like a bad idea…) I really wanted to convey the idea of fire, so I went on a fruitless hunt for orange cellophane. What I ended up with was a red-striped clear bag (from Michael’s) that I altered with Sharpies®. It worked pretty well, and I’m happy with the results. I’ll do another post on how I got the flame-y look, in case you need fire for something you’re working on.
I’m very happy with how the end result all came together. Our local library had a costume contest on FCBD, and he won first place with his, so that was pretty gratifying.
My daughter loves the game We Love Katamari for the PS2. (We got her the PS3 Katamari Forever game, and she refuses to play it, even though it’s essentially the same game.) Anyway. When asked which of the cousins was her favorite, she responded after a bit of thought, Ace. (I prompted her with some of the female cousins, but she came back with Ace.)
I thought, since I still have a few days before Free Comic Book Day, maybe I could throw together something really quick for her in time for the weekend. Tim is nearly done, just waiting on something to arrive in the mail for an accessory, my Bitch Planet cosplay is done. Sure, why not start something else with only 5 days to complete it? /headdesk
Here was my thought: I needed an A-line tank dress in gold, with a matching long-sleeved shirt underneath. Red-violet tights or leggings. And some sort of headgear as yet to be engineered on a headband.
I ended up with a tunic that had a pointed center (Butterick 6170) and a hooded long-sleeved shirt from Goodwill. I made cones for the sides of the hood with the same material as the tunic, and an antenna for the top. That will give the idea of Ace without going full-on headgear (which I don’t think my kid would tolerate).
When I got the pattern out of the envelope, what I thought was an off-center point due to a couple of gathers turned out to be an actual asymmetrical pattern piece. I ended up drafting my own pattern pieces* based on the pattern pieces it came with, since I was planning on lengthening the point anyway, I just created a whole new front piece that was symmetrical, cutting it on the fold. Considerably more work than I had intended, but I got what I wanted in the end.
I modified the back first, since it was already symmetrical, being a two-part piece with a seam up the center. All I needed to do there was lengthen the point. I pinned the pattern piece to some craft paper (we have a roll of it), I determined how long I wanted to make it, marked that point and used a straightedge to connect that point to the original corner on the other end of the pattern piece.
Since the front of the garment was asymmetrical, not on the fold, and one large pattern piece, I laid it out on more craft paper, and put the back piece over the top so I could mark the point. I wanted to make sure that the two pieces were the same length!
I cut the front on the fold and I used the pattern piece’s mark “center of garment” line to make my new pattern piece. After I marked the line based on the back piece, I was able to use the straightedge to create the new bottom hem.
To make the cones, I just sewed yellow cones and stuffed them with fiberfill. I used a small coffee can to get the base size, thinking that was a size that would give enough of a suggestion of the character without being too obnoxious for her to wear on the hood. When I painted the stripes on the tunic, I painted the cones, too, because I was mixing the paint (yellow and white) and wanted the colors to match, and it’s nearly impossible to match colors if you don’t do it all at once. The antenna is stiff craft felt as a base, covered with golden yellow felt (the more conventional stuff), with a red pompom glued to the top.
The katamari ball is a “bumpy ball” we lucked into at Michael’s for $5. I painted the nubs, and there it was! (Or close enough, anyway.)
The yellows do not match. At all. I needed a more golden yellow for the tunic, but I’m on a tight budget and that was the color option in the price range I was comfortable with. This is good enough for now. If she likes the costume and wants to wear it again, when I have more time I can make another tunic in the right color. If not… she has a cute yellow tunic she can wear with leggings, with a couple of random stripes at the bottom.
I’m calling this a “simplified cosplay” because it’s representative of the character without being 100% accurate (like I tried to do with Tim the Enchanter, or the Bitch Planet prison coveralls), but it’s not “stealth cosplay” either. Plus, remove the hooded tee, and the tunic is wearable on its own, not as a costume piece.
*NOTE: This may be obvious, but even if you think you’ll remember later, label your created pattern pieces immediately after you’ve made them. Like, right after you unpin the original tissue from them. Who the pattern maker was, what the pattern number is, what size it is, what pattern piece number (or letter) it is, all the marks/darts/dots/notations, everything that’s on that tissue should be on your created pattern piece. That will also help you know which side is the right side up. That way you won’t come back to the space where you do your sewing later, with miscellaneous pieces of paper that are clearly pattern pieces… but you can’t quite remember which pattern, or which side is the right side, or..? Just do it. You’ll be glad you did later.
I am a Kelly Sue DeConnick fangirl and I don’t give a damn who knows. I loveCaptain Marvel, Pretty Deadly is weird and awesome, but Bitch Planet is f’ing EPIC. This cosplay is my love letter to Kelly Sue and artist Valentine De Landro.
The best part of the Bitch Planet cosplay is that you can literally start it on Monday and be ready to cosplay for the weekend. It’s that easy.
Start with pajama pants; McCall’s 2476 is perfect (and has sizes that run up to XXL, with 48-50 inch hips). Buy enough fabric to make the bib and straps of your coveralls; I erred on the side of caution and twice as much as I needed — I figured if I messed up with my experimentation on the bib, I’d have plenty left over. Since I was using inexpensive broadcloth, that wasn’t a budget-burden. Make the pants but leave out the elastic; the straps will hold up the pants, you don’t need elastic.
The prison uniform in Bitch Planet shows a center seam up the thigh. The pajama pants don’t, but after I made mine, they were enormously too large. I wanted them to be a little shapeless and oversized, but this was ridiculous. I was able to solve the center seam issue and take them in a quarter inch at the same time, just by stitching straight up the leg.
Making the bib will vary depending on your height and waist, so I can’t give you numbers, only show you what I sketched for mine. It’s a sort of wonky “L” shape, that tapers on the vertical and horizontal sides. The skinny side piece that wraps around the waist is where the straps will attach in the back; it wraps around the waist, but not all the way around. (For mine, they ended up being about where my Latissimus dorsi muscle was in my back, because that’s what was comfortable for the strap placement was for me.) I cut four of the pattern piece, so I could have a very sturdy bib with no exposed raw edges. I could have done that with two pieces, but then it wouldn’t have had the center seam that De Landro’s design has.
After I stitched the bib together along the top edges and turned it right side out, I pressed it, and zigzagged the bottom edge and trimmed it with pinking sheers. Then I folded over the top of the pants twice, essentially forming a casing that would have held elastic, but all I wanted was to enclose the exposed raw edge and shorten the top of the pants. I basted that, then pinned the bib to the inside (so the raw edge was not visible). I double-stitched the bib to the waist of the pants; better safe than sorry.
The straps are another thing that you’re going to have to measure for yourself. It will depend on how tall you are, how broad your shoulders are, etc. Mine are permanently sewn in place, front and back. The coveralls, as far as I can see in De Landro’s illustrations, have no fasteners like buttons or buckles, but do what you need to to be comfortable. My straps are 1 1/2″ wide with a 1/2″ seam allowance. I started with 38 inches, because I didn’t want to run short. I box-stitched those to the corners of the bib from the back, so I’d have a nice solid attachment. Then I took safety pins and asked my husband to pin the other end of the straps in place on the back “tabs”, snug but not tight — I wanted to see if I could get out of the coveralls without too much trouble, and it was really no problem.
Pockets. What a pain those turned out to be. The back pockets are smaller than they should be, especially since I really didn’t leave enough for the “cuff” at the top. I hemmed the pockets, back and side pockets, all the way around before I sewed them on the coveralls, just so they’d be a little easier to manage. The size of them will be dictated in part by the size of your coveralls and personal preference — just use the comic as your reference. One thing to consider: if you are using thinner material, like broadcloth, these pockets are not going to hold up to keys and wallets like blue jeans will unless you reinforce them, and the material they’re sewn to, with interfacing. I didn’t do that, and I don’t plan on stuffing anything heavy in my prison uniform, although I did reinforce the corners with the V-shaped stitching often seen on pockets.
When I sewed on the side pockets, I tried to get them as close to the seam as possible. Truthfully, those should have been sewn into the seam when the pants were constructed; that would have made a lot more sense. But I didn’t know how big I’d need them to be, so I didn’t do it that way. It still worked out.
The hem of the pants ended up very bunchy. I think I should have cut them off and hemmed them, rather than try to double-roll the cuff (enclosing the raw edges again). But they’re still a little too long, and still ill-fitting, and look just like they do in the comic, so you can’t really even see the hem.
To make the non-compliant “NC” stamps for the uniform, I used a Plaid® stencil blank that I had on hand. It’s a thin sheet of plastic that you can easily cut with a craft knife; Michael’s and Joann’s should carry them. I printed out the logo (found online), 3 1/2″ high, used double-stick tape to stick it to the plastic, and used my knife and a straight edge to make my stencil.
Here’s a tip: Mark where you need to put all the stamps before you start painting. It’s a lot easier than trying to do it later, believe me! I was pinning aluminum to the fabric so I could gingerly climb into the coveralls and mark where my knee was. Don’t do that. Mark first! Use a safety pin to mark where your knee and back-of-the-knee is on one leg, then you can measure the other side. You will need stencils on the bib, the knees, behind the knees, the side pockets, and the side calves — nine in all.
From there, I had white fabric paint and a stiff brush designed for painting on fabric. I used painter’s tape to attach the stencil to the coveralls, put aluminum foil under the fabric and/or between the layers, and carefully painted my stencil out from the edges (never into the edges). The first layer didn’t have a lot of coverage, so I did touch it up. Even being careful in the corners and on the edges, I still have some errors. I’m calling it a feature, not a bug — hell, maybe on Bitch Planet, one of the things they make the women do is paint NC on their own coveralls. (How messed up would that be? Painting “non-compliant” on clothes you had to wear, every day, forever after?)
The paint does dry fairly quickly, but you’re still going to have to wait a while before you can get to all of it, since there’s paint on the front and back and the sides of the coveralls. Clean the back of the stencil of any stray paint before you move it to another area. A little bit of painter’s tape works really well for that, just use it like you’re removing lint off a shirt. Once the paint’s completely dry, follow the directions on the paint bottle. Mine says to let it dry for 24 hours then heat-set it with an iron. I’m debating whether or not I want to try to “age” the paint with a light sanding in a few places — carefully! — and not all the way down to the fabric.
The shirt I got to wear underneath is an oatmeal-colored pocket-tee (with the pocket removed) I got at Goodwill for $2. I’m wearing beat-up black sneakers that don’t really show because the pants are so long, and my cosplay is complete. From beginning to end, in less than a week.
Things I would change: I would take the bolt of fabric to the window at the store, because in sunlight it starts to look a little pinkish. I should have gone with a darker red. The pants are HUGE; I should have gone down a size. The stencil is a little big; 3″ would have been better than 3 1/2″, I think. But even with those things, I am enormously pleased with the way this turned out. I feel it looks very much like De Landro’s design, and I’m really happy with it.
Free Comic Book Day is less than two weeks away, and my cosplay is not complete. My original idea is one that (I thought) sounded very cool and different, and I bought the pattern and (not inexpensive) fabric for it. Once I got Tim the Enchanter more or less done except for the accessories, I panicked. Was my concept clear? Did it make sense? Was I going to be able to pull it all together, and pull it off? So I procrastinated…
Then I looked at the calendar and panicked again, and went to my stash to find enough fabric to do a muslin of the pattern, because the material was too expensive to screw up with, if I messed up. I found some, and set out to make my mock-up. Things went really well until I got to lining the bodice — something I’d never done before. The directions made no sense, and after ripping out seams four times, roping Marc into reading the instructions and looking at the diagram (he said they were bad, too), and trying to find YouTube videos that would give me some insight, I gave up and did it my way. After a few really frustrating days, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t have time or enough skill to make my original idea come to life, plus my concept was still not solid enough (and I need to work on that).
Talking to a friend, he suggested that I do Zoot from Castle Anthrax — then Marc and I would be cosplaying from the same movie, even, and the lines of Zoot’s dress are simple. So, off we went to the fabric store… only to determine that the fabric I would have to buy to make it look right (even on sale, or with a coupon) was still more than I was willing to spend after I already spent a pile on the stuff for the original idea. We even went to the thrift store, looking for less expensive fabric there (no dice).
So! Plan C was the simplest one yet, and even it has had complications. I’m making the prison coveralls from Bitch Planet, but I couldn’t find a convenient coverall pattern that looked like what I wanted, so I am using pajama pants (or you could use scrubs) and drafting the bib and straps that will go with it. I’m using budget-friendly red broadcloth (on the theory that they’re not likely to spend good money on quality fabric for prisoner’s uniforms, anyway) and will get the tan/beige/grey shirt to wear under it at the thrift store. Painting “NC” (Non-Compliant, the “crime” that got them sent to the facility in the first place, for those of you not reading this comic) will be the only other thing I need to do.
So what complications have I run into? Well for starters, the pajama pattern that I thought I was going to use turned out to be a size for child/teen (I really hate those letter size codes). The pattern was actually one I bought in a bundle at Goodwill, and it would be great, if I was a skinny little teenager like my daughter… but I’m not. So I checked my pattern file on the off chance that I had a pants pattern that might work, and I actually had a pajama pattern that I’d forgotten about, that had pants. I have them cut out, and I think I have it worked out how I want to do the bib, so today is a sewing day. Hopefully I’ll have finished pictures next time.
Anyway, here’s my advice:
* Know your limitations. Know when to back away from an idea, and go to Plan B. Know when to go to Plan C, for that matter.
* Try not to procrastinate too much, but if you areprocrastinating, consider why. In my case, I was avoiding the task because I didn’t think my skill level was up to the challenge, and my concept was too nebulous. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I was unable to complete the muslin as directed and nearly burned the thing in the yard in frustration.
* Know when your budget cannot handle the burden of that awesome cosplay, when compromising on the fabric means compromising the whole look (and know when you can compromise, substituting the less expensive stuff and saving your budget, without sacrificing your look). If you’re not sure, the people at the fabric store can help with this.
* Know when to step back. If it’s not fun anymore, if you’re tearing out your hair (or burning things in the yard), then it might be time to step away from the machine and take a break. I haven’t scrapped my original idea, I still love it, I just need to flesh it out better, and get a better handle on what the hell they’re trying to get me to do with that bodice lining… And I still love Plan B, and will be on the lookout for inexpensive fabric to make that, too. It’s not like cosplay opportunities expire, right?
If you’ve been in a fabric store recently, you know how expensive fabric can be. Once upon a time, sewing your own clothing was something you did to save money; now it’s practically a luxury. However, if you’re willing to compromise a little and be a little adventurous, there are ways to get inexpensive fabric.
Most thrift stores sell fabric pieces that have been donated to them. That can be hit and miss, but it’s always worth looking — never know what you’ll find! They also usually have bed linens, sometimes as full sets, sometimes just as the individual components. Flat sheets are the easiest to work with and have the most useable material for the money. But, how much fabric is actually in a sheet? (North American sizes; other sizes are found via Wikipedia, where I found these.)
TWIN Flat: 72″ (2 yd) x 102″ (2 5/6 yd)
TWIN Fitted: 39″ (1 yd, 3 in) x 76″ (2 yd, 4 in)
FULL Flat: 87″ (2 1/3 yd, 3 in) x 102″ 2 5/6 yd)
FULL Fitted: 54″ (1 1/2 yd) x 76″(2 yd, 4 in)
QUEEN Flat: 105″ (2 9/10 yd) x 110″ (3 yd, 2 in)
QUEEN Fitted: 60″ (1 2/3 yd) x 80″ (2 yd, 8 in)
KING Flat: 110″ (3 yd, 2 in) x 114″ (3 yd, 6 in)
KING Fitted: 76″ (2 yd, 4 in) x 80″ (2 yd, 8 in)
CAL. KING Flat: 111″ (3 yd, 3 in) x 114″ (3 yd, 6 in)
CAL. KING Fitted: 73″ (2 yd, 1 in) x 85″ (2 1/3 yd)
Keep in mind that those estimates can vary, so if you’re relying on every last inch of fabric, this may not be the way to go. Other considerations: tears you may not see because the fabric is folded or the lighting is poor, stains (likewise), or the color may not match what you need it to be (and many sheets are poly/cotton blends and won’t take a dye well if at all). But you could get lucky and find exactly what you need for $5, and considering broadcloth runs between $2-6 (not on sale, without a coupon), $5 for 6 yards of queen sized flat sheet is quite a bargain, if you can find one at that price, in a color you can live with, not counting the gas and time you spend running around to all the thrift stores. If you go to the thrift store for fabric, take your tape measure so you can see if whatever fabric you’re looking at has the yardage you think you need. (Actually, that’s just good advice: have one of those little retracting tape measures on you all the time — they’re handy, and you never know when you’ll need one.)
You can also find curtains and tablecloths at the thrift shop, but for those you’ll definitely want a tape measure, and maybe a friend to help you.
Another source for large, inexpensive pieces of fabric is Walmart. On clearance, these queen sized flat sheets are $9 (full $7, king $11). Plum not the right color? There’s lots more to choose from in this aisle, but the regular price is $11.47 for the queen flat. At that price, it’s only a little cheaper than broadcloth from the fabric store.
Curtain sheers are also pretty inexpensive, and less fragile than chiffon. They’re sold in single panels in varying lengths. The store brand Mainstay 84″ panel is 59″ wide (it’ll be on the package somewhere); that’s 2 1/3 yd x 1 1/3 yd, 11 in. However, because of the rod pocket at the top and the hem at the bottom, you’ll lose some yardage, call it $2.44/yd of nearly 60″ fabric since the sides are selvedge. Walmart sells these for $4.87; the shorter 63″ sheers are $3.62 on the website, so I think the ones in the photo are on the wrong pegs. The color selection is more limited than what you can get in the fabric store, but chiffon can be pricey, so again, that’s a pretty good compromise if you can find a color you can live with.
It is possible to dye polyester and nylon with special dyes. Jacquard makes iDye Poly just for that and it comes in 16 colors, but it looks like it sells between $3-4 per packet, so that would have to be factored into the cost of the fabric and whether or not buying sheers and dyeing them is cheaper than just buying the chiffon to begin with. One packet dyes 2-3 pounds of dry fabric — maybe 3 of those sheers. (I have not tried disperse dyes like iDye Poly myself; if you have, feel free to leave a comment with how it worked for you!)
If you’ve been sewing awhile you probably don’t need a glossary, but for newer sewers this may come in handy.
Appliqué — A decorative surface embellishment usually stitched to another fabric. Armscye — Armhole. Back-tack — A few back and forth stitches at the beginning of a seam to anchor it. Sometimes called backstitching. Baste — Temporarily joining fabrics together with large stitches that are easy to remove. Bias — A diagonal line to the length and crosswise grains of a fabric. “True bias” is at a 45-degree angle to the selvage, and allows for the most stretch in woven fabrics. Bias tape — A strip of fabric cut on the true bias, often used for binding raw edges. Boning — Narrow metal or plastic strips used to stiffen garments or accessories. Bound edges — Raw edges that are covered with fabric (such as bias tape) or trim strips. Brocade — Fabric with an elaborate design, woven to appear embroidered. Buckram — A stiff woven interfacing, often used in millinery (hat-making). Center Back/Front — The true vertical center of the garment’s back or front. Charmeuse — Lightweight, drapable fabric with a satin face and a crêpe-like back. Corselet — A foundation layer in a dress that helps to support and anchor the outer dress fabric to the body. Crêpe — A general term for fabrics that have a textured surface, that can be created by weaving the fabric with a twisted thread. Cross-grain — This is the line perpendicular to the fabric’s selvage. Dart — A wedge of folded and stitched fabric that shapes a garment over curves. Double-folded hem — A hem that has been turned under twice to enclose the raw edge. Drape — How fabric hangs in a garment (and on the body). Ease — (1) The amount of comfortable movement a garment allows. Also the difference between the pattern measurements and the body measurements. (2) To slightly gather a longer piece of fabric piece to fit a shorter one. Fabric marker — A pencil, felt-tip marker, pen, or chalk that’s used to make temporary (removable) tailoring marks on fabric. Facing— A partial lining for finishing any exposed edges, like at the center front or back, neckline, armholes or hem. Feed dog — The part of the sewing machine under the presser foot, that “feeds” the fabric while you sew. These “teeth” can be lowered for free-motion sewing, as well. Flounce — A ruffle made by cutting a curved strip of material and sewing it along a straight line. Fusible web/tape — An adhesive product that glues fabric or trim layers together when heated. Gather — Drawing up a length of fabric in a series of puckers along a line of stitches. Gathering stitch — A long running stitch used for pulling fabric to create gathers. Grain — This is the thread orientation in woven fabric. Warp threads are on the lengthwise grain and parallel to the selvage, weft threads are on the cross-grain and perpendicular to the selvage. Grainline — The double-ended arrow on a printed pattern should be aligned with the fabric’s lengthwise grain (parallel to the selvage). Hand — The way fabric (or yarn) feels to the touch: soft, crisp, etc. Hem — A garment’s finished lower edge. Horsehair braid — A firm, bias-woven nylon strip of threads that is often sewn into hems to give them body and support. Interfacing — Fabric that can be either sewn in or fused to fabric to stabilize, reinforce, or shape it. Interlining — A layer of fabric used between the exterior fabric and the lining, to pad or stiffen the main fabric. Jacquard — Fabric with a woven decorative design. Lining — A layer of interior fabric to hide, protect or beautify the interior of a garment or bag. In the case of a jacket or coat, a silky lining may also make removing it easier. Muslin — (1) Unbleached cotton fabric. (2) A test garment made with inexpensive fabric to ensure fit before making the garment with more expensive fabric. Nap — Fabric that has a directional pile that can be felt by running your hand up and down the length of the fabric, such as velvet and corduroy. Pin-fit — Using pins to temporarily fit a garment or muslin to size while on a dress form or the wearer. Pinking shears — Scissors with sawtoothed blades that cut a zigzagged edge, useful for preventing fraying in woven fabrics. Placket — A faced strip of fabric along a garment opening for buttons and buttonholes. Princess seam — Vertical seams that run from the shoulder seams, over the center bust, to the hemline. They eliminate the need for darts. Raglan sleeve — A sleeve with seams that run diagonally from neck to armhole; there are no shoulder seams. Raw edge — The unfinished cut edge of the material. Rolled hem — A very narrow hem where the fabric is rolled and stitched, either by hand, machine, or serger. Rotary cutter — A circular cutting blade with a handle and used with a cutting mat. Ruffle— A gathered strip of fabric used to embellish or finish an edge. Seam — Where two pieces of fabric are sewn together. Seam allowance — The margin of fabric between the cutting line and the seamline. Typically in home sewing the seam allowance is 5/8-inch, but it can vary. Selvage — The tightly woven edge parallel to the lengthwise grain of the fabric. Set-in sleeve — A sleeve sewn into an armhole (armscye).
Shoulder point — The point where the shoulder seam intersects with the armhole seam. Silhouette — The outline of the garment and the shape it creates on the body (i.e.: A-line, hourglass, sheath). Stabilizer — An underlayer that supports the fabric for machine stitching. Some stabilizers are water-soluble and are washed out, others can be torn away, others stay sewn in the garment. Staystiches — A row of stitches, usually about 1/8-inch from the regular stitch line, made when the garment is being sewn to help support edges and help hold its shape, especially on curved edges like armholes. Stitch length — The length of a stitch, produced by the movement of the feed dogs. Tailor’s chalk — Chalk designed to mark fabric, that adhere well but are easy to remove and do not stain. Temporary spray adhesive — A non-permanent bonding agent that adheres fabrics and stabilizers together and then releases them once it evaporates. Thread tracing — Using hand-basted stitches to transfer markings from a pattern to fabric. Also called tailor’s tacks. Topstitching — Decorative stitches on the garment’s right side. Underlining — A fabric layer placed under the garment fabric’s wrong side, to reinforce seams, hide construction details, or add weight or firmness. Understitching — A row of stitching close to an edge seam on the wrong side, joining the seam allowances to the facing layer and keeping the edge seam rolled to the underside. Waist stay — A ribbon or elastic band on a garment’s inner waistline, anchoring it to the body. Walking foot — A sewing machine presser foot that “steps” across the fabric intend of sliding, to ensure even feed. Zigzag stitch — a Z-shaped machine stitch that is used to sew stretch seams, or sometimes to finish raw edges. Zipper foot — A sewing machine presser foot that allows for sewing very close to the zipper teeth. It’s also handy for sewing piping.
Tim’s accessories are still not done, I still haven’t begun mine, and I’m still sick. My Little Monster’s on spring break next week and that’s going to put me further behind. Begin panic mode… NOW! Sleep is for the weak! …or something.
I have far more ideas than I have time. If I locked myself in the basement, asked my husband to throw me down a pizza once in a while and just sewed for a month, I couldn’t even make a dent in the ridiculous amounts of projects that I have in my head and in my stash.
A few years ago, I really needed to get my stash a little better organized; it was getting unruly. I started putting the smaller projects in inexpensive gallon-size zip-top bags, along with a quick note with what the project was. (Anything too big for a gallon-size bag went into a plastic grocery bag.) In some cases, if I had a specific pattern in mind, I kept the pattern with the project, too. In other cases, if the project was inspired by something I had seen online, I printed it out with some notes and put that in the bag. That way, when I was finally able to get to the project, everything was together, and I knew what it was supposed to be. I set up a shelving unit by my sewing table, and in it are many of my projects. Now, if I want to sew something, all I have to do is grab something off the shelf; it’s right there, handy.
More recently I became rather obsessed with hats, and remnants are perfect for that. I have a lot of remnants… I did some sorting and rearranging in the space under the stairs, and managed to get everything sorted by color, because that’s how my brain works. Maybe you would rather sort by texture or fabric content..? I also have bins of other pieces of fabrics, large enough to be made into something, but don’t have plans for them (yet) that were given to me by my mother who decided she didn’t want them anymore. It’s maybe not a perfect system, but with a limited amount of space since I don’t have a whole room devoted to sewing, it works for me.
I gave in a couple years ago and got a sketchbook to jot ideas down, with the idea that if they weren’t in my head, maybe I could get to sleep. (I didn’t work. Writing them down just made room for more.) Since then, I’ve also had to get a small sketchpad to carry on my person (so I don’t have to try to draw on a paper napkin with a ballpoint pen), and two more sketchpads: one just for hats, and another for clothes/costuming. My drawing skills aren’t fantastic, but they’re improving, and this is a convenient way for me to keep my ideas organized, future projects that I don’t have materials for — so nothing to add to my shelf.
Tim the Enchanter’s not quite finished, but I’ve been sick as a dog and haven’t been able to finish the accessories. In the meantime, here’s some inspiration for the Renaissance festival season.
Forsooth! Festival season is upon us! Depending on what part of the U.S. you’re in, anyway. In the warmer parts of the country, it’s already started; those of us still in sweatshirts have some time to sew our garb.
The Renaissance covers a lot of ground, historically, beginning in Italy late in the 1300s and and continuing into the 1600s. It was quite literally a rebirth for Europe, devastated by the plague — the Black Death may have wiped out as much of 60% of the European population from 1346-1353. Globally, a hundred million people or more died from the pandemic, which is thought to have begun in central Asia and traveled west along the Silk Road.
Since the Renaissance covered so broad a time period, and all of Europe, the clothing didn’t look the same in 1450 Italy as it did in 1550 Germany or 1650 England. Most Ren faires are set around the late Elizabethan period, but unless you are actually working at the faire and have a strict dress code to adhere to, that may not be so much a concern for you. (If you are working at the faire, as a performer or a vendor, check to see how strict they are with period correctness. Some faires are sticklers for that — no modern fasteners or fabrics.)
Another thing to consider is that a lot of these festivals are in the summer, and Elizabethan garb has lots of layers, especially for women. There was a “Little Ice Age” happening at the time, temperatures in Europe were cooler so it made sense for them to wear all those layers. Be sensible, if you don’t have to wear all those layers, skip them. Check the forecast before you go, if it’s going to be a hot day, leave off the petticoat. Or if you start to get too hot, slip it off and take it back to the car. Don’t sacrifice the fabulousness of your costume for your health! (Been there, ladies; trust me, heat exhaustion is not fun!) That goes for you gentlemen, too — yes, you look amazing in that doublet and cape. Take it off before you pass out. Thank you. This has been a public service announcement from Sew Your Cosplay.
If you’re sewing your own costume/garb for the faire, you’re probably also considering class. Peasant class is always the easiest, and certainly least expensive, route. Roughly woven wool or linen fabric dyed from plants would include blue from woad or indigo, yellow from onion skins, red from madder or the insect cochineal, orange from safflower, etc. Peasants would have little time for embroidery or money to purchase ornamentation for their clothes, so they’d be pretty plain. Simplicity 3519 (views B without the lacing, or D) is ideal for men’s peasant shirts. Simplicity 5582 will take ladies from peasantry to upper middle class, depending on the fabric and ornamentation used. Men, up to the the gentry, would have needed Butterick 5936 for the pouches to carry their things, most especially the water bottle carrier for today’s faire-goer when you don’t want your plastic water bottle ruining the look of your costume. Ladies carried simple baskets to hold their stuff.
Merchants or tradesmen would have slightly better fabric, but still rough. They’d have more ornamentation, and the fit would be better — clothing wouldn’t be so sack-like. Since this is a more prosperous group, they’d have more than one set of clothes, so their clothing colors would be a bit brighter since they didn’t get washed as often, but the colors themselves would be the same. However, because indigo was so readily available and inexpensive, it was a color worn by servants and apprentices — social climbers would never have worn indigo so as not to be associated with the working class. Simplicity 4059 would be an excellent pattern for men’s garb for this class.
Upper “middle class” are highly skilled tradesman, gentry, or lower nobility — landowners. Shirts and chemises would be linen or cotton, with ruffles at cuffs and collars. Wool and linen are still used, but are more finely woven. They’d have just a bit of silk satin and velvet, too. Their colors were brighter jewel tones and trim was more ornate, but only the wealthiest members of this group could afford gold and silver trim — and pay the sumptuary taxes that went with it. Simplicity 3809 is a step up the social ladder for ladies, and depending on the fabric and colors, this could be used for gentry or nobility, while Burda’s 7171 is more limited to the nobility.
The nobility are certainly the most colorful and fun to costume, and more expensive, then and now. Silk satin, damask brocade, velvet, finely woven wool and linen, and even Egyptian or Indian cotton in small amounts were used by this class. The colors were bright — but still limited to what could be achieved by natural dyes. And remember: purple is exclusive to royalty! Jeweled embroidery is abundant and the overall effect is opulent. Burda’s 6888 is an excellent example of a slash-and-puff jerkin, with an opulent coordinating doublet in 6887.
For the Silk Road aspect of the Ren Faire, Simplicity 5359 (view B), or Simplicity 2158 and 2159 (designed to go together), are close to what might have been worn by dancers at the time. (Ghawazee coats are 19th century, not 17th. The Ottoman entari coat is similar, and more “period correct,” without the keyhole in the front for the bust.) Again, remember that colors would have been limited to what natural dyes could produce if you’re trying to stay at least within shouting distance of history: orange, golden yellow, red, brown, blue… not green. (Green is the color of Islam, and dancers would not have worn it to dance in; that would have been blasphemous.) Also: no coin bras, no beaded fringe, no giant yarn tassels (those were worn by camels, not people). You want to balance the historical accuracy with your visibility, freedom of movement and comfort, and audience expectations. If you have friends who dance at faires, you might ask what works best for them.
There is certainly a blending of cultures happening at the Renaissance faires. I’ve seen belly dancers, Klingons, faeries, walking trees and royalty interacting with “everyday” people as though nothing unusual was happening at all. What’s not to love about them? I think my favorite memory of being at a Ren faire was getting caught in a downpour, and everyone ran for the nearest shop to get out of the rain. We were all so crowded, there was no “personal space” to be had, and even though the shower lasted for quite some time, the mood remained quite jovial. (It probably helped that it was fairly early in the day, and not at the end of the day, when everyone was exhausted…) Then the sun came out, and we all trooped off, avoiding mud puddles as we could — it was the best day!
For further reading: Elizabethan Costuming for the Years 1550-1580 by Janet Winter and Carolyn Savoy is an amazing reference.
Links: The Renlist — “The easiest way to find Renaissance and other fairs near you.” Renaissance Magazine — they also have a page with a list of faires, but there’s lots more info
After staring at the mostly-finished coif for a couple of days trying to figure out how to attach the horns, I decided to try to use a large button inserted into the smaller hole. I knotted it on a long length of hemp cord — about a yard, because I didn’t know what else I was going to do with it, and wanted to be sure I had plenty — and pushed it into place, where it seemed to hold fairly well.
I marked the placement of the top of the horn with a pin, so I knew where to attach it. Using the tapestry needle threaded wi the hemp cord, I tried to get the needle through cloth layers and Peltex (four total layers of fabric, plus the stabilizer) and simply could not push the needle through it. I had to use an awl to make a hole just to get the needle through, and then had to pin the fabric layers together because the outer fabric and the lining didn’t want to match up when I did.
Satisfied with the placement, I knotted the cords, but didn’t cut them (just in case). If you use a pin or even a pencil in the center/base of your knot as you pull it tight, you’ll get a nice, tight knot that hasn’t wandered from where you wanted it. Even with that trick, I wasn’t able to get the horns as snug to the sides as I wanted them to be, as they needed to be to look right.
NOTE: Don’t do what I did! Do the finish work on the coif before you attach the horns! It was a pain in the butt to work around the horns — don’t do that!
I used perle cotton (for embroidery) for the whipstitching detail on the seams. I had some waxed cotton that would have looked fantastic, but when I tried to pull it through a scrap of the ultrasuede, the fabric tore a little, and I didn’t think I could get it through that and the broadcloth lining without seriously straining the material. The heavy tapestry needle and the thick embroidery cotton were bad enough, and pretty hard on my fingers — this is a good time for a thimble, if you have one.
I made the ties with broadcloth, not wanting to “waste” the expensive ultrasuede on something that wasn’t really going to show. Those are finished, no fraying; I stitched them, turned and pressed them, and tucked in the ends and stitched them down, too. When I sewed them onto the ends of the coif, I double-stitched them. I sewed down the width of the tie, moved the fabric over about an eighth of an inch (with the needle up) and then sewed the same line in reverse. I’m pretty confident the ties are secure. I tried to brighten the photo to show the detail, but it’s black on black, so it’s still hard to see.
As I was doing on the finish work (that I should have done before I started on the horns), I thought about how I was going to get them snug to the side of the head. Sewing them wasn’t an option; thread would tear right through the foam, and getting a needle through the Peltex and the foam would require a really wicked curved needle, assuming I could get it to work at all. The foam at the bottom of the horn, the flat(ish) part, is actually pretty thick. What I came up with that seemed to work is ridiculously simple: diaper pins. They can be tricky to find, but I have bought them at fabric stores, and every costumer should have at least a dozen of them at all times. Srsly — they are incredibly useful. Every bellydancer I know swears by them. (DO NOT USE SAFETY PINS! Safety pins can pop open and will gouge you, or whoever you made the costume for, in the head and make you very sorry.)
Because they’re so lightweight, the pins hold them tight to the fabric; because the Peltex is so sturdy, it doesn’t flex much or give the foam horns much opportunity to move and tear. The pins are high enough up on the coif, practically in the seams, that they aren’t uncomfortable (so sayeth my model, who could tell something was there, but not what). Would I want him to wear this out in a hurricane, or heavy rains? No, but I think it will hold up to reasonable wear, and I’m really happy with how it looks.
All that’s left now are the accessories, and then I can get started on my own cosplay. (W00T!)
After using a pair of pantyhose as a skullcap, and covering my husband’s head with duct tape, I attempted to make a pattern using his head for Tim’s headpiece. Even though the sides were reasonably flat (I sketched the locations of the seams based on the screenshots), the center piece was still way curved. There’s several ways to turn a curved item into a flat pattern piece, but none of them would end up looking like the hat Tim wears, with lots of darts and stuff… so now what?
Well I was clearly overthinking the whole thing. He comes upstairs and suggests I look for balaclava patterns, or Snoopy’s aviator hat — so I did. And I found something even better: an actual coif pattern, which is more or less to the time that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is set: 932AD (according to the beginning of the movie). So instead of reinventing the wheel and making a pattern with duct tape, there’s a much better pattern that can be used for a Middle Ages coif as well as an aviator’s cap (great for steampunk!). Cynthia Virtue has the pattern and instructions on her page.
The pattern is sized by “adjusting the measurements to fit your head,” so I measured Marc’s head forehead to nape, jaw to jaw (over the top of his head), ear to ear (over the top), and the width of his forehead from the outside edges of his brows. I didn’t know how many of those measurements will actually prove useful, but I figured too much info was better than not enough.
I put Ms. Virtue’s pattern pieces into Photoshop, and altered the long center piece first. Using the measurements I took from my husband’s head, I scaled it to the right length and width, saved it to two printable documents and printed them out. After carefully splicing them together, I cut it out with a wide margin in case I needed to add to the length or width of the piece. Then I tested the piece against his head, and even with the seam allowance folded under, I think it’s going to work; it might be a little short, but the width seems good. Excellent.
The second piece is marked “proportional” and I didn’t want to monkey with it too much. I used another measurement I took from about where the side seam would be to his jaw. Using that number, I scaled the side piece accordingly. It seemed a little big, but I printed it out (four sheets this time) and spliced it all together. It wasn’t a little big, it was huge. I’m not sure where I went wrong, but it was way too large. Measuring along the curve, front to back, it was over 6 inches longer than my center pattern piece. To determine the percentage I needed to reduce the pattern to make it the right size, I had to divide the correct measurement by the incorrect one and multiply by a hundred to get the percentage: 15.75 ÷ 22 = .7159 x 100 = 71.59%. I reduced the size of the side piece to 71.59%, printed it out (only two sheets this time), measured the curve, and it was a match to the center piece! Yay math!
Next, I made a muslin with some leftover black broadcloth. The fabric I bought for the costume coif is on the pricey side, so yes, I made certain everything fit the way I wanted it to before I cut into it. The nice thing is, after verifying that the muslin fit (huzzah!), I can line the costume coif with it, since that fabric is rough on the inside.
The ram horns are from Elope (purchased on Amazon), and when they arrived, one of them had been molded badly and was collapsing, right at the base because the foam wall was too thin. I cut a small hole in the center of the base and stuffed polyfill into the hollow horn until it was stable. There is no discernible change in the weight of the horn, but I did add some to the other horn as well, so they’d be balanced. Looking at them, you can’t tell which one was messed up if you didn’t know.
I had a remnant of Pellon 72F Peltex Ultrafirm stabilizer that I decided to try to sandwich between the layers. It’s fusible on both sides, but mostly I wanted something that was a firm base for the horn to rest on, not just fabric. If Tim’s coif was actually leather (and it appears to be) then his ram’s horns (which also appear real) probably didn’t need stabilizing. My “leather” is ultrasuede and the horns are lightweight foam, so they need some firmness since there’s no weight to hold them.
To get the placement of the horns and the stabilizer, I tried to use my tailor’s chalk on the edges of the horns, but the chalk was too hard. Marc suggested baby powder, and that worked great. I rolled the edges of the horns in the powder and placed them where they needed to go on the lining. That left an impression of the horns on both sides, that I then traced with white pencil so if the powder came off, I’d still have my placement. It’s going to be on the inside of the coif, so it won’t show. Next I sketched around the base of each horn (they are not identical), with about a half inch margin, on the Peltex — figuring I could trim it if a half inch was too much.
I pinned the stabilizer in place through the center and put all the pieces together to check the size and placement. They needed to be trimmed a little, and moved forward a bit from where they were, but then they could be ironed on. But wait! 72F Peltex is a double-sided fusible stabilizer — if I wasn’t going to fuse it to the ultrasuede (and I wasn’t), I needed another layer of the broadcloth over the exposed side, or I’d ruin my iron and/or pressing cloth. So I covered the exposed stabilizer and ironed both pieces in place. Since I had the iron out anyway, I pressed a quarter-inch hem around the edge of my lining so I could stitch that down, and not worry about any raveling raw edges. (The ultrasuede won’t fray and doesn’t require a turned hem.)
I’m almost done with the coif… but I can’t quite decide how I want to get the horns attached. I’m still playing with a couple of ideas, but that will have to wait for next time. Stay tuned!