Tag Archives: research

Cosplay: Tim the Enchanter, P5

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.

Coif muslin
Finished muslin (and lining!)

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.

Powdered horn marking
Here you can also see the small hole I made to stuff polyfill inside to shore up the miscast sidewall of the horn.

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.)

peltex1 peltex2

Finished lining
The Peltex is trimmed and in place, edges finished.

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!

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, 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…