Category Archives: Sewing

Cosplay: Tim the Enchanter, P4

With the robes done except for some additional distressing (more trips through the washer, shredding the sleeves, etc.), all that’s left is the cloak, the cowl, and the accessories.

This is a quick post, because, honestly the cloak really did go quickly. The worst part was cutting it out, because even on my new cutting table (huzzah for the back-saving height!), the pattern piece just didn’t fit on it, and six yards of fabric is simply unwieldy.

I used McCall’s 4139, an altered view B. I shortened it and added the red lining, so sort of a hybrid of B and C — lined, but with the hood, not the collar and capelets. Each layer was sewn separately then stitched right sides together and turned right side out. I ironed the sides and topstitched them to keep the lining from rolling to the outside. The hood was sewn in, and then I zigzagged the seam allowance down after trimming it a little. (The back of the collar ended up a little wonky, not sure exactly what happened, but Tim wears his hood down, so it won’t show, and I can fix it later if I need to.)

Shortened pattern
To shorten it without cutting into it, I just folded it up, and was careful not to snip the fold.

I did not hem the bottom. In the pictures, it does look fairly even at the bottom of his cloak, but I was afraid that a neat hem with everything else being shredded just wouldn’t make visual sense, especially up close and in-person. I already topstitched the front edges; more than that and it might look weird.

The way I decided where to rip the back of the cloak was determined by all those screenshots I took of Tim. I tried to get the same look with my husband’s cloak, and the hardest part there was pinching away that first bit of fabric and making sure that it was only the black, and not both layers. After that it was just a matter of choosing the location, making a small vertical snip, and tearing. I did this with him wearing the cloak, so I could get the placement as close to “screen accurate” as I could manage. In the scene where they’re at the Cave of Caerbannog, hiding behind the rocks, you can see the lining of Tim’s cloak through a large hole on his left shoulder. I tried to rip a hole on the left side of Marc’s cloak that will have roughly the same placement.

The shredded back of the cloak.

As with the robes, the cloak is going to need some more “weathering.” The shredded areas look too neat, so I’ll either need to pick at them or hope the washing machine does the trick. I’m getting kind of excited, because it’s really coming together, and even though key pieces are still not done, it’s really starting to look like Tim the Enchanter.

Over the weekend, I’ll be working on the cowl piece. I have to make the pattern from scratch for that, and it’s going to involve pantyhose and duct tape. Stay tuned!

Cosplay: Tim the Enchanter, P3

I’m using a really modified version of McCall’s 4320 robe to make the robes of Tim the Enchanter. Last week, I left you hanging with a sore back and no fabric for sleeves because I underestimated what I needed. (That’s one of the problems when you modify existing patterns: they tell you how much fabric you need, and the most efficient layout with the least waste — as soon as you monkey with that, your yardage is now really just an educated guess. Or is it for me, anyway.) I purchased the fabric I needed, and got the sleeves cut out.

The top, front layer of the robes are shorter and a bit rounded at the bottom. I folded the front piece in half and freehanded an arc to get that look. It didn’t have to be perfect, I just started from the mark I already had measured on the side.

Freehanding the arc was all I needed — no need for precision.

That piece was also modified by putting it on a fold instead of making it with two pieces, which altered the neck quite a bit. I cut straight across from the shoulder with the idea that I could cut more off easier than adding more. Then I used the red piece I cut off the back (in P2) as a template to cut a larger piece off of the black back piece, and the black front. With the back, it was a perfect match, because the pieces were identical; the red layers were all back pieces.

Collar template
Once pinned into place, I traced the edge with washable pencil.

The front wasn’t the same shape, so I couldn’t use the same template. I pin fit the black layer to him as I had the red layers, to ensure fit and comfort. I marked the new trim line with tailor’s chalk, unpinned him, and cut a slightly deeper neckline. (Since I’ve mentioned comfort a couple of times, yes I consider that to be an important part of any costume. You’ve got to be able to move, eat, drink, carry a wallet, visit the restroom, and not get heatstroke. By all means, look amazing, but remember the practical stuff, too.)

Marking the neck
I would’ve gotten a more accurate fit had he not been wearing a collared shirt, but I wanted it to be reasonably comfortable.

From this point, sewing the robe followed the instructions given, more or less. I sewed the shoulders, but instead of a 5/8″ seam, I did 1/2″ to allow for the bulk of the red robes underneath. The sleeves were particularly simple to sew in: a shoulder seam, and the underarm and side were one long seam. The best thing was no hemming. Since Tim’s robes are a tattered mess, the rattier the better. (Woo hoo!)

My model tried it on for me so I could check the fit. I trimmed the corners of the back piece to round them slightly. Satisfied with the fit and comfort, I declared the robes “done” except for the finishing touches.

Mostly Tim
Looking a little more like choir robes just yet, but getting there!

I cut snips in the edges of the hem and tore vertical strips in all three layers (black, and both red layers). Even though these edges are raw, they’re still not very ragged. I ran it through the washer and dryer, and was rather surprised to see that the edges were still not all that shredded. So the current plan is to throw the robes in the washer every time I do a load from now until FCBD. If that doesn’t do the trick, maybe I’ll drag it behind the car. (Mostly kidding…)

Cut, but before the washing machine.

I still have to make the hooded cloak, the horned cowl, and all Tim’s nifty accessories. I think I know how I want to make the cowl, but I’m not sure what I want to make it with –comfort again: don’t want to use pleather, that would get really hot in a hurry. Lots to do yet! Next time, the cloak!

Cosplay: Tim the Enchanter, P2

Seven yards is a lot of fabric, y’all. I had to set up chairs into the other room in an attempt to keep it off the floor while I pinned and cut the pieces for the red layers.

I had to use four chairs.

Anyway, I got the fabric all washed and folded lengthwise and I pinned the selvedges together in an attempt to keep everything from wandering. I measured 63″ from the end of the fabric, and that’s were I lined up the fold line on the pattern. That lengthened the robe quite a bit, but that wasn’t the only thing I altered. From the waist, I took a straightedge and tailor’s chalk, and marked a line to the edge of the fabric, adding several inches of width to the bottom of the robe as well. Tim’s robes are very full, by using two layers, and adding that width to the base of the robe, I think I can get the same effect.

widening the pattern piece
Widening the pattern piece.

After I got all four pieces cut out, I called my model in to pin fit the pieces to him. The first thing I realized was that the neck hole was far too small. Unsurprising, since I was using two back pieces, with no hole to speak of at all. I marked where it looked like it would be most comfortable with white pencil and took the pins out so he could get out without stabbing himself. Using my markings, I sketched a curve (real pattern designers have tools for that) and then used my ruler to measure 5/8″ from that and marked a cutting line. After I trimmed the pieces, I did another pin fit just to be certain. Then I started sewing.

altering the neck
Altering the neck.

All four layers were sewn together at the shoulder, and I stitched down the neck. I did a seam 1/4″ in from the edge to hold the two layers together in the armscye and down to the waist of the front and back, then I stitched the waist, reinforcing the top and bottom with several backstitches. Once I had everything sewn up, I had my husband try it on again to check for fit and comfort, made him walk around so I could see it move, and I think I’m going to need to add… something… between the layers of broadcloth. The fabric is clinging together too much. I may sew something to the inner layer at the waist, to try and mitigate that. Don’t know what yet. At that point I was falling-down tired and went to bed.

The finished red layer(s), and a closeup of the side seam, showing the anchoring stitch I used to hold the front two and back two layers together.

When the alarm went off at quarter after 5, I was already thinking about how to attack the black layer. The way it’s shaped is really nothing like the way the red layers are shaped, but I still need the sleeves to fit properly. The way I cut out the back on the fold should still work fine, I just have to adjust the curve of where it meets the shortened front. I didn’t want to use the two back pieces again, though. One, because of the neck issue, and two, because I wanted to make sure the sleeve fit properly.

To figure out how long to make the front and where to join them at the sides, I used one of my screenshots and math. I know John Cleese is 77 inches tall, and in this photo he’s 5 inches tall, which is an aspect ratio of 1:15.4. So by measuring from the bottom of the black layer to his shoulder — 3.5 inches — and multiplying by 14.5, I get 53.9, which I will round up to 54 inches. Where the pieces join at the sides are 2 inches from the ground in the photo, times 15.4, for 30.8 inches (rounded to 31). BUT! The estimable Mr. Cleese is 4 inches taller than my husband, so to get the right ratio and length, I need to subtract 3 (allowing for the shoulder seam) inches from those numbers, getting 51 and 28, respectively. Yes, I should only be subtracting 5/8″ for the seam allowance, but that would mean measuring 50 3/8″ for that front piece and I prefer whole numbers. (The only Fraction I like is Matt — ba-dum-tsch! Little comic book humor, sorry.)

Math in action. I hope this makes sense.

The black layer back piece was basically the same as the red, so I cut it out I did the other, with one change: instead of widening it from the waist, I marked it at 28″ (where the front and back side seams meet and part away to form an inverted V at the side) and marked from there. As my scissors sliced into the fabric I had misgivings about that, and I’m still not sure I’m happy with the cut. I guess I’ll find out when I sew it all together.

Mark at 28″ up from the hem, where the two sides will meet.

I laid out the front piece on the fold at an angle and off-grain. This cut off a few inches from the chest, which may bite me later — if I have to, I have small pieces I can splice in under the neck to widen that area. (It will be hidden by all of Tim’s accessories, but I really don’t want to have to do that.) I wanted the front to be all once piece and have some width across the bottom, but I was a little stymied how to do the neck. In the end, I just cut straight across from the shoulder, deciding I could cut fabric off a lot easier than I could put it back. I’ll alter the neck after I pin fit it; that worked well before.

Off-grain and wonky. I’m totally making this up as I go.

Once I got that cut out, I discovered one of the pitfalls of altering a pattern without a clear idea of how much fabric you were going to need: not having enough; I ran out of fabric for the sleeves. After my husband had suggested that I get more (just in case) when we bought it. So another trip to the fabric store was in order, but I had a 50% off coupon and went ahead and bought what I needed for the cloak at the same time. So now the fabric is washed, sleeves cut out, and I’m bloody tired. The dining room table is a terrible height for a cutting surface. I wanted to get the black layer finished today, but I can barely move as it is. Next time I’ll have more to show you!

Cosplay: Tim the Enchanter, P1

I decided to sew my husband a Tim the Enchanter costume from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but quickly discovered that there really are no good images online of the costume. Plus, it’s mostly black, so a lot of detail is gone; you just can’t see how it’s constructed.

I tried taking notes and making sketches from watching the scene (over and over) but even pausing it wasn’t helpful because it’s just too dark to see the details. What I finally ended up doing was putting the disk in my computer and trying to take screenshots (nope, it’s protected, didn’t work), so I used a camera. In all, it took me about 45 minutes of watching about 6 minutes of the movie in slow motion and frame-by-frame to try and find the images I wanted. The photos aren’t good, but they didn’t need to be. All I needed was to be able to adjust them in Photoshop to see detail in the black that I wasn’t able to see otherwise.

Tim the Enchanter
Left: unedited screenshot. Right: contrast turned down, brightness turned up.

If you look in the photo above, you can see a triangular point at his left shoulder. I have a couple of photos showing that, and I’m confident that it’s the front yoke of the hooded cloak. It wasn’t until I blew up the brightness that I could see that. I can also see pretty clearly how the front and back of the black layer connect. I also got several pictures showing the back of the cloak and how shredded it is, revealing the red lining. Tim’s robes?  They’re a mess. The good news is, I won’t have a lot of finished hems to worry about.

I’m using McCall’s 4320 as my jumping-off point for the robes. Instead of cutting two front pieces so the robe opens in the front, I’ll cut two back pieces and modify it at the neck for comfort. The sleeves are thin, they are only a single layer, so they will be made only in black. The red will consist of two layers, front and back (2x) of inexpensive broadcloth I got with a 50% coupon — 7 yards of it. (My husband’s tall, not quite John Cleese tall, who’s 6’5″, but tall.) The black layer will be the front and back plus the sleeves, out of more broadcloth. Once that’s constructed, I still have to make the cloak, and I haven’t decided what I want to use for that yet, but it will be more of the black, with the red lining. Oh, and the ram’s horn headdress! (Yeah, so not buying that plush thing I’ve seen online.) And the accessories! In time for Free Comic Book Day! [insert scream here]

Next time I’ll have work-in-progress photos. Pardon me, I need to get busy…