Safety Note: This tutorial uses open flames to heat plastic. This should be done in a well-ventillated area by adults only! Kids, ask an adult for assistance! Test the material you’re going to be heating first and have water on hand for flare-ups as a precaution.
People at conventions are understandably cranky about actual live fire/open flames. And while your costume genuinely may call for fire, in enclosed spaces with other people, it’s really frowned upon.
So, what can you do to get a look of flames without setting anything on fire? When I needed flames for the end of Tim the Enchanter‘s staff, I wanted orange cellophane. Cello is crunchy, reflective, and if you bunch it up just right, can look really fiery. Alas, no place we looked had any orange cellophane. Party City had semi-transparent orange treat bags, but they were a softer (less “crunchy”) material and I didn’t think I could make it work.
We ended up with some clear-and-red striped bags from Michael’s that were still not as rigid as I wanted, but I thought I could make work.
First thing, I cut off the bottom, and slit open the side. I used my Sharpie® markers in orange and yellow to get more color out of the red/clear bag since I couldn’t get the orange I wanted initially.
Once I was satisfied with the color (it doesn’t have to be perfect, or solid), I cut some V-shaped notches in the strip, taking care not to get them too narrow for what came next: actual fire.
Light a small candle, something that doesn’t put out a lot of heat. The plastic is going to melt fast enough without having a lot of heat that is hard to control. Holding the “lobes” over the candle, warp the plastic, letting it stretch a little but not burn through — this will take some practice, but even if you mess up, it’s not a catastrophe. While the plastic is still malleable, bunch it in your hand to crinkle it lengthwise. That will give it some stability to stand up and look like shooting flames. Continue this with the other lobes on the bag until you’re done. Now you can roll the whole strip up and insert it into the weapon or around the end of the staff that’s shooting fire.
Here’s a video I did of the candle/heating process. This should make a little more sense:
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?
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