madmazda86 avatar


I got into cosplay when I joined my Uni's anime society. I really enjoy creating something from scratch and tackling complicated designs (too bad I lack the skills to pull it off so well!) I think the best costume I've ever made has been my Popoi one as it's the most complex one I've ever done and I enjoyed making that one the most.

Last online 4 years ago


Joined: 27th Apr 2008

Completed costumes: 24

Photos uploaded: 129

Progress journals: 60

Events attended: 14

It's amazing how something flat can become something 3D by making the right cuts and folds in the right places! This is Gilgamesh's elbow piece, moulded off a rather large lightbulb by wrapping cling film around it and then covering it in tape. I then cut enough of it off to be able to lift it off the lightbulb, and then snipped into it around the edges until it was able to lie flat. This then became the template for the foam piece!

Worbla moulded over clay, I tried priming with gesso but it really irritated my asthma so I used 4 layers of wood glue followed by a layer of Pebeo Fantasy Moon Apricot and two layers of Pebeo Fantasy Moon Gold.

Xiaomu is a 700-year old fox spirit who is partnered up with Reiji Arisu in the games. They work for Shin-ra, an organisation that investigates disturbances in the space-time continuum, and she originally worked alongside Reiji's father, who was killed when practicing forbidden arts.

Xiaomu is a great character in the games and she has some of the best lines - she has this uncanny ability to say what everyone else is thinking, except she has NO shame and just comes right out and says it, including breaking the fourth wall with free abandon XD Her character design is really fun anyway but tbh I just wanted to cosplay her cos she's frickin' awesome.

This was my first time working with pure silk - I got a very good bargain on Ebay and got 2 metres of black silk for just £35. When sewing silk you need to avoid pinning it as much as possible or pin on the edge of the seam allowance as pins puncture and can warp the fabric. Sharps or microtex needles are required to sew it, as well as a low thread tension. Needless to say, I did a full mockup of the dress in muslin before going anywhere near that silk!

I did the outline of the dragon in Pebeo pearlescent white gutta (THIS DOESN'T WASH OUT unlike the transparent gutta - you've been warned!) experimented with 2 different silk paints to do the white dragon design - Jacquard Dye-na-Flow and Jacquard Neopaque. The Dye-na-Flow soaked right into the silk and produced no colour change at all, so that was no good. So I used the Neopaque, which works very similarly to Dylon fabric paint, and built it up layer by layer to get a completely white surface. It took five layers of Neopaque to get the coverage you see in the photos. You then need to iron the silk (ulp!!) to set the paint. I put off doing this for about 2 months, I was so terrified of ruining all my hours of painting work XD But it was fine, you just need to have your iron on a low setting - use a pressing cloth if you're really worried. You can steam silk, in fact if you hang it up in the shower room most of the creases will drop out. But if you put loads of water on it, which happens with my somewhat leaky steam iron, then it can stain. So I just used my iron on the silk setting and emptied all the water out of the iron before starting. With that many layers of paint the silk does start to curl so ironing it is important to flatten things out too.

After painting the dragon and setting it, I cut an identical copy of the dress out of this gorgeous red brocade satin fabric I have (which doesn't show up in any of the pics, ALL OF MY SADS - might post a separate pic cos it's so nice!) I then sewed both dresses separately from each other, turned the red one inside out and put it inside the black one to act as a lining for the dress. The dress is sleeveless and I didn't want to have to hem the silk because it would have loads of puncture holes from the needle, plus there is a red lining on the reference art, so it was a good move!

Once the dress was all lined etc, I had to cut in where the zips were going to go. They were big chunky zips that I bought from who make them for Kingdom Hearts costumes so I didn't need to worry about having pre-cut in their locations during patterning, there was enough fabric to fold back to expose the zip teeth to make it possible to just cut and part. Believe me, it was a little nervewracking cutting into the dress after all the work I'd done on it! After cutting I backstitched the cut ends several times to stop the thread unravelling. I notched the zip that goes over my chest before inserting it, to help it to curve more easily, but it was still a fiddle getting the thing in, I found it easiest to pin down the front first to get it looking nice, and then do the red lining separately with pins in at the back. Needless to say with it bristling with pins and it being so crucial to sew it in exactly the right place, I hand-sewed it in. I could have actually done some crude basting to hold it in place and then put it under the machine but what with the curve and it being silk and showing the holes from any tacking or basting, I decided that hand sewing was just a better option. I had to handsew the larger zip anyway because the chunky teeth made it impossible to sew close enough to them to get a tidy finish.

The jacket was easy enough because I just took the mockup I'd made for Tiran's Reiji jacket and slimmed it down, omitting the sleeves and widening the armholes down to the lower ribcage. The jacket was made out of regular ol' cotton drill with the black detailing done with bias tape. On the reference art the red 'pockets' at the top of the jacket clearly are folded over so I cut extra fabric in that shape and sewed it onto the jacket, leaving the bottom ends free, prior to bias binding the whole thing. I used two different types of bias tape - a medium width for the front and back, and a large width for the edging. The soft cotton bias tape I used for the edging has a tendency to twist during sewing so you really have to pin it into submission and make sure you haven't accidentally twisted it over during pinning. I didn't need to interface it because it was lined with the same fabric which is reasonably heavy in weight. The studs are regular self cover buttons with no covering, and the rings were wooden curtain rings sprayed silver. At the bottom I used a wide bore needle to weave the black leather thong. The clasps were Worbla sprayed silver.

The shoes were just Ebay specials with some red leatherette used to add the extra straps between the ankle and the toe strap, and green glass pebbles were glued on to add the bit of sparkle seen in the reference art.

Xiaomu's staff, 'Suiren' was made entirely by Tiran and I take no credit for it whatsoever! It's a curtain rod with an acrylic rod attached to some balsa wood dowelling to make the sword cane hidden inside it. The large circle is made out of cintra. The rings are metal because I really wanted them to jingle! They make the whole thing top heavy though. I knocked it over and broke it the week before the con and had to get him to fix the results of my stupidity DX He also made 'Platinum', Xiaomu's gun, out of balsa wood.

The gloves were another Ebay special with white jersey cuffs (and tassels on one hand and not the other, silly reference art!) - they are only attached to the glove at one point otherwise I wouldn't be able to get to the straps to put them on! The prayer beads are actually superglued to my arm DX I tried sock glue but they wouldn't hold!

And then the wig.... well... to be honest, you can just watch the video here:
I dyed the tips using the FW ink method which you can read about here:
And coloured the fringe bits at the front using a brown Sharpie because dying just a small part like that with dip-dyeing is pretty hard to do.

Toupee clips are sewn to the inside to help keep it on my head, it's very back heavy so there are three clips at the front and one at the back to keep it pulled down over the back of my head and all the wire stuff. I used a piece of yellow felt against my head to stop the worst of the wire rubbing. Before I put the wig on I put on a mesh wig cap from Coscraft, it has a hole in the top to enable you to pull it right down over your head, I pull it right down and leave it around my neck. The wirework underneath the wig is then bandaged to my head!! Once it's bandaged in place I can pull the wig cap up which sweeps my remaining hair out of the way. Then I can pull the actual wig down over the wire work and the bandages. I can't say it's the most comfortable wig I've ever worn but it does stay on. The one disadvantage of doing it this way is that my head height does grow a bit, which is evident in the photos. Xiaomu has a really boofy messy hair style at the front anyway so it doesn't look too disparate, I hope. Next time around I would reduce the wirework a lot more but I wanted the hair tails to stay up properly, which they do, so it was worth it!

Overall I'm really proud of this costume, all the individual elements came together really nicely and it has a great visual impact. The wig looks far better in photos than it does IRL, I feel - I was really close to binning it at one point, I got so frustrated with how it was turning out, but when with the rest of the costume you notice its flaws less. It's much harder to get wefts to adhere to a curve when you're then continuing that curve down into a straight line, they start to pull away, so it's at the curves that the coverage of hair is the poorest. But the yellow felt underneath in the few places where it can be seen does blend reasonably well with the wig hair itself in the photos, so that's something. I learnt a lot from the experience, it's the most ambitious wig project I've ever attended.

Tiran joined me as Reiji and we had a fun photoshoot even though it was a bit chilly to be wearing a sleeveless skimpy dress in March! This is probably the most revealing costume I've made but even then it doesn't show that much - tell ya what though, having goosebumps on my butt was an interesting experience DX

We had a photoshoot with ManyLemons as well so I'll add the photos from that to this album when they're available!

I've just ordered five different navy suiting fabric samples for Haman's tunic. They are a mix of wools, twills and polyester wool blend fabrics. Haman's tunic appears black in some pictures and dark blue in others, so I'm shopping around to see which fabric would be the most suitable.

I got hacked off with the wig so I started making the dress. After patterning, I guttaed the outline of the white dragon on the front of Xiaomu's dress. I had two types of white paint to try - Jacquard Neopaque and Jacquard Dye-na-Flow. The Dye-na-Flow was completely useless on the black silk, it soaked in and you couldn't even tell I'd put anything there at all DX But the Neopaque was super and did the job - the picture shows four layers of Neopaque. I initially tried using a stencil for doing the gutta but it was a terrible idea cos it smudged, fortunately I was able to mostly cover that up with the Neopaque.

The gutta I used was Pebeo white but it has a slight pearlescent sheen to it and looks cool. So, things I learnt about using gutta: Every Pebeo brand other than the colourless one DOESN'T wash out! Fortunately I'd picked a white one to work with so it didn't matter, but just a heads up to anyone looking to do something like this in the future who, like me, hasn't done silk painting since primary school! In the end I just freehanded the whole dragon and it looked pretty good.

I did all this painting on the pre-cut pattern piece. Now I just need to cut the back and the lining and sew it together. However, I have now come to the conclusion that there's no way I'm going to have Xiaomu finished in time for Auchinawa, the wig work is really time consuming and she has lots of props and things as well. So Tom and I will be wearing Reiji and Xiaomu at Minamicon next year instead which gives us time to do all the cool guns and swords and things that they have!

Now I've just about handed in my thesis I'm back to work on this - I used steel wire to reinforce the aluminium and now I'm putting on the batting and yellow felt on each 'tail'. It's pretty tedious hand sewing all of this, will be glad when it's done.

Aluminium wire sags when I put the weft on :( Need to get some steel wire to reinforce it I think.

So I don't reeeeally know what I'm doing with this wig mullarkey but I've made a frame for Xiaomu's five fox-style hairtails. It's twisted aluminium wire so it's light but strong. I hope because of twisting it, it will be able to support the weight of the wefts. My next plan is to thread this entire structure through the base wig and sew it in place. After that I'm going to wrap the tails in batting and sew it in place, then cover it with a layer of yellow felt. Then comes applying the wefts, not 100% sure whether this is going to work but my plan is to secure the wefts at the base with stitching, and then coat the felt with PVA glue, press the first layer of the weft against the felt and wrap cotton around the length of it to secure it while it dries. After that I'll continue wrapping the weft around and use hairspray on the upper layer to keep it all in shape. I'm not completely sure if it's going to work so will do one weft on an experimental basis and see how that goes!

So the pantaloons are pretty much done, I need to pick up the red leggings I've bought tomorrow, and then I can hem the legs and sew them to the leggings so they stay up. Then I just need to sort out the waistband which I think I'll just do with a drawstring as I've only a week till the con. Lots of short cuts being taken with this costume as I just lack time this year!

Next on the to-do list is Relm's hat. It's a weird artist-cum-Indian style thing and I've opted for a fudge job. What I've done is cut a rectangle wider than my head, pleated it to make it my head width and sewn the pleats in, then sewn the side seam. This creates something like a pantaloon leg, but on my head! I'm then going to turn it inside out and draw it in at the top so I end up with an indentation. I'm then going to make another drawstring bag type thing with a large wooden bauble in it, and turn it upside down so the ball end is up and all the gathered bit is at the bottom. I'm then going to insert it into the indentation and handsew it in place. Then I can just stuff the hat prior to wearing it to make it nice and puffy like in the reference art!

Having figured out what I'm doing with it, I just need to make a band to go around the bottom of it that will tie off at the back, and then I can start the applique work. For the hat I'm doing yellow flowers but I will tint the petals with red acrylic paint and also use red thread for the applique.

Once the hat is finished, Relm will be all done!

I have 10 of these stars to do. 2 down, 8 to go! Using Gutermann Sulky 1187 thread. My machine was playing up again despite me having it serviced but putting interfacing beneath the stars made a big difference!

Currently drafting Relm's pantaloons! I'm using this tutorial:

Unfortunately what I didn't do (and you aren't told to do in the tutorial) is check to make sure you've left enough fabric at the top to go around your waist after cutting out the crotch curve! I cut one leg out as an experiment and discovered that although the 14" crotch curve was roughly right, I had cut it too far in along the waist and hadn't left enough fabric for it to actually fit around my waist. Woops! So I've cut another leg out, and this one works better. I'm going to cut the second leg tomorrow and then whizz them. This is my first time making a pair of trousers, Tom normally makes all my trousers for me!

I've gone for slightly more slimline pantaloons than the ones you get out of the tutorial, because I liked the artworks I found where her pantaloons were more slimline. I will probably buy a set of leggings from Primark and sew these to the cuffs of the pantaloons to get them sitting right, which will also allow me to pad them a little with some wadding.

So great to be working on cosplay again, I haven't done anything since finishing Popoi back in October!

I couldn't get to the shops before closing time to get zips and felt so instead I spent the evening cutting out the other pattern pieces. We have people over on Saturday and Sunday which means I can't have the sewing machine on the table to sew these bits together. But I should be able to cut out the eyes and pin everything for a big sewing session on Monday!

I cut the new pattern piece and it seems to work okay! I'm left with a bit of a peak in the centre where all the segments meet, just like on the reference art. Having made that, I now have to copy all those pattern pieces again to make the inside cover. Before I sew this big piece in, though, I need to sew the eyes on, which means buying some more white felt tomorrow, as well as two heavy duty zips - one for the inside cover and one for the outside. This allows me to wash the cover if required. Which reminds me that our green Puyo beanbag is in need of stripping and washing!

Sorry I haven't posted any photos so far, I've been so damn busy that I don't really have time to mess about with connecting my phone or camera to the PC to upload!

I sewed all the segments together except for the last one. I had a go at pinning it to the circle acting as the bottom, but there's fabric left over, so the circle is too big or I need to make another panel. I've split the last segment in half almost to the tip to act as a pattern to cut a larger segment, but having stuffed the beanbag with a duvet to get an idea of how big it's going to be... it's pretty big! But then the other Puyo beanbag we have is kinda small and you can sit on it but you can't properly curl up in it, so I think that's why I cut this one bigger when I cut the pattern pieces way back in late 2011. I have PLENTY of yellow fabric so I'm kind of inclined to keep this one the size it currently is rather than make it smaller, in which case I just need to pattern out a new panel to fill in the leftover space. I think that was the stage I was at when I last worked on it - that I needed to pattern that last panel. But then why would I have cut a 7th segment? Past me, you make no sense! Oh well. That's tomorrow's job!

Well, I had 8 days of being sick, which sucked, but I'm back! Last night I dug out all the bits of beanbag I had cut out yonks ago and hadn't done anything with. I've got a lot of yellow fabric left over and it was pretty cheap so I'm going to make the inside cover with that too. So last night I used the original pieces I had as a template to start cutting this. I had 7 segments (the beanbag is going to be circular) but when I pinned them together there weren't enough to go around the circumference of the circle that I'd cut out. Woops! I'm going to sew together what I have tomorrow and see how big the final missing segment needs to be to fill everything in.

I'm making the yellow Puyo from Puyo Pop Fever :D

All finished! Seems to be staying on well, gave it a test run by ironing my fiance's shirt and it worked fine! I seem to be coming down with a cold so that may affect the rest of this week :/

Took me ages to thread the elastic through the channels after turning it inside out! I've put it on the ironing board and it seems to fit okay! I bought 2.5m of elastic and only really needed 2m but never mind. Tomorrow I will sew the elastic to secure it, and slip-stitch the cover closed :D

I have some leftover panda fabric so I might use the rest of this week to make a bag out of it!

Today I sewed the two sides together. I had more fabric than I needed so I thought I'd make it double-layered for extra durability. As an experiment I've done the elastic channel on the inside so there's only one seam on the outside. I tried it on the ironing board and it only just fits. I'm going to buy some elastic tomorrow and see if it's going to work once the elastic's in. If not then I'll just sew a third row of stitches and unpick the innermost row to expand it a little.

I'm super busy this week so am just doing a little each day. Today I stripped off the old ironing board cover (which has a huge hole in it!) to get at the foam pad beneath. I used this as a template for the new cover, which has ALL THE PANDAS XD

After Ayacon, Angela and I decided to give the WCS qualifiers at Play Expo a try, with our costumes. We worked really hard to put together a set, and to design and rehearse our skit in just five weeks, as right after Ayacon I was away till the second week of September at various conferences in different parts of the UK and Europe. Even after this we could only rehearse once a week on a weeknight: Angela was working full time during all this, as she had no annual leave left, and I was writing 350+ lecture slides for the 3 days of university teaching abroad that I was doing the day after Play Expo! I'm writing this from Norway having delivered the first 7 hours worth of teaching.

All our hard work paid off, though, as we came second in the qualifiers and won Best Group in Show too! At the end of the event we were able to get some lovely feedback from the panel of judges - the quality of craftsmanship on our costumes was excellent, and the judges loved many of the concepts in our performance. The only criticisms they had were that we didn't use the entirety of the stage, and our costumes lacked flow, despite having a good visual impact in terms of colour and complexity. This is something that is considered as part of WCS judging now - how well costumes move on stage. This was never something we would have had much joy with, alas, because Angela's costume just wasn't the right sort of design for that, and all the flowy bits of my costume were safety-pinned to buggery to stop the layers of the costume from separating and flipping over when I fell down in the skit. Didn't want to reveal all the goodies I had hidden away for the latter half of the skit - that'd be spoilers! XD

In our skit we didn't use the whole of the stage because we ran the risk of missing the audio cues in our music track if Angela was too far away from me, so it was a deliberate decision on our part to move closer to the boss. However, we could have asked the stage hands to move our Wall-Face set further towards the centre of the stage to centralise the space that we were using. This also had an impact on how much of me was seen to be facing the audience, also. We sent our skit rehearsal video to a friend of ours who gave us some tips on how to stand so the audience could see us better, while making it still obvious that we were interacting with the set. So during rehearsals we designated a part of the room to be the audience and tried our best to perform with our bodies turned towards that. However, in the video of our skit taken from the judges table, although I had my body turned towards the audience we were so far over to the right of the stage that from the judges table it was difficult to see what I was doing while attacking the boss in the latter part of the skit, and it looks like I have my back to the audience. Although this wasn't said to us as part of our judging feedback, it's a fairly obvious thing to me watching the video. It probably wouldn't have happened if we'd moved the set further towards the middle. These things in hindsight!

But everything else in our skit went off without a hitch, and we were really happy about that, as there was a lot that could've gone wrong despite us trying to keep the performance as simple as possible! In our skit video I have 4 different props hidden within my costume, including a 40cm wide frisbee and a 1.5m long piece of orange fabric on a wooden pole! At various points during rehearsals things went wrong with those - they fell out, or got stuck, or I dropped them, etc etc. I'm really relieved that during the actual skit, all these things worked without any problems at all and looked great! We also had fabric hidden inside our Wall-Face set to make it look like it was attacking us and those worked well too (although wish I'd been able to pull the yellow chiffon all the way out of the buttonhole sewn into the central eye, I thought I'd pulled it out completely but there was a tiny bit still stuck in the middle so it dangled!) I think if we were redoing the performance for another event I would make the orbs I was flinging much larger - the dark orb I threw was barely visible even from the judge's table which was right up the front!

But although I may notice these flaws now, overall we were really happy with how our skit went - the sacrifices we made ensured Angela could met the audio cues, and that was worth a lot to us because it would've looked so crap if we'd missed those. We got some lovely comments from people at the end of the show and it was such a great thing to have done, and knowing we were so close in points to the winners of the qualifiers makes me feel even more proud of what we pulled together in just 5 weeks. It's a really nice thing to have won a prize for my costume work too - it's the first one I've ever won and I'm so happy :D

We learnt a lot from the experience of entering the WCS qualifiers (myself especially as it was my first ever skit at an event) and had a lot of fun in the process! Rehearsals were hilarious XD I would recommend having a go at it to anybody :D

I also made a lot of improvements to the costume as well, based on feedback from Pez who was part of the judging panel at Ayacon. I recast the pendant using a larger mould and used the large turkey feathers I'd bought for the original pendant. I also incorporated the third wig into the base wig, by slashing the netting at the top as suggested by Storme, and pulling the hair of the base wig through these and through the gaps in the weft elastic at the back. I decided to plait the base wig to make it easier to pull the hair through, and oh Lordy, that took forever! I only ended up having time to pull through half of the wefts at the back, I'll get to finishing that off at some stage when I rewear the costume.

I also had to glass-paint a plastic Christmas bauble to put in place of the large crystal during the performance, as the staff was too heavy with the large crystal in place for me to move it effectively during the performance. NOBODY noticed the switch till I pointed it out XD Successful plan was successful! On the topic of the crystal, not only did I buy a properly coloured one, I also lined the branches that hold it with felt so they don't scratch anymore, woooo!

So the other added bonus of WCS is that my costume is now DONE and I can put it away and get it out whenever I like. Now onto the next thing, huzzah! XD

Another picture from our performance - Angela tipping candy all over me to try and revive me.

So, I managed to get everything done, and Ayacon has been and gone! However, I am going to make some changes to my costume to make it better, as Ninodog didn't manage to get Randi done for Aya, so rewears will be happening at some point!

I'm going to bite the bullet and order a properly tinted acrylic sphere for the staff, as despite all that heartache with painting, stripping, repainting, varnishing, stripping etc etc etc, when I put the crystal inside the branches it STILL got scratched :( I was disappointed after all that effort that it got scratched up so easily. So I'm paying £50 for a new large crystal (the smaller one was okay). It seems pretty close in colour to what I have and is only 7mm larger in diameter so should fit on the staff okay still.

I'm also going to make the wig thicker by incorporating wig #3! I just plain didn't leave myself enough time to do a proper job of it before Aya. Having had a look at some of the Coscraft wigs on display in Cosplay HQ at Aya and been given a lot of advice by Storme, I have a much better idea of how to tackle this now. I didn't realise you could just cut up the top mesh of the wig, I thought it would fall apart or something, but you can actually slice through it and pull the wefts of the wig beneath through. So I'm going to wash all the styling product out of my wig, and have a go at slashing the netting of wig #3, then sew the original wig to the inside of it and pull the hair through (and do the same with the wefts at the back too.

If the wig is bigger then I can scale up the hair decorations too - I made larger ones initially but they just looked a bit wrong with the wig so I shrunk them down.

I'm also going to cast a larger gem for the necklace - I made a smaller one again because I tried it and thought a large one might look a little silly, but because of the way I've tried to scale everything on the yellow tabard, a big pendant is needed to fill in the yellow space over the chest. I have larger feathers for the pendant as well, which I again didn't use because I thought they were too big, so having a larger pendant will also let me use the larger feathers.

Finally, I'm going to buy some silk painting supplies and have a go at silk painting the flower and diamond trim on the sleeves. If this is successful then I can replace that trim, although that's a little less of a priority compared to the other things.

Blue tabard is done bar cutting the tassels so they're even lengths and putting some gold cord around the collar. Green dress is done bar criss-cross trim down the sides and intermittent vertical strips of trim around the bottom. Yellow tabard is about 3/4 done - I have backed one half of it, tomorrow I'll pin and back the other half and do the trim around the edges, then it's just the collar triangles + trim which will be mostly a handsewing job I think. Should have those all done by Friday, leaving me the weekend to do the wig and the necklace, and then I'll have three days for emergency stuff, or for making my other costume. I've made a start on the shoes too, but they're mostly layers of paint and PVA so not too worried about those.

So I went quiet on this for nearly a month - that's because I discovered that the gold trim wouldn't cooperate with my Singer. Manually operating and with a ballpoint needle, the trim was still being spiked and pushed through the fabric by the needle, causing the gold strands to go underneath and get caught in the feed dog. I got the dress form in the penultimate week of June and made the tulle netting skirt on it, which has helped fix up some of the sag issues but now the Triflex hooping is definitely not dealing and needs replacing with hoop steel. I've then spent the last three weeks handsewing all that bloody gold trim on. Boohoo! It's mostly on now, I just need to wait till the end of this week for my extra trim to come in the post, and then I can finish it off and put the tassels on. I have a day off tomorrow so I'm going to have a shot at making the yellow tabard, I don't think it'll be anything like as bad as this blue tabard as I can bondaweb the felt designs on. After that I then have the mammoth task of sewing all the double welted piping cord on everywhere (it's foam flex so I'm hoping and praying it'll go through the machine!!) I think this is going to be really time consuming and will take at least a week. I have so much to do at Uni right now too. I really hope I'll be able to get everything done.

I cut out the blue tabard to go over the green dress, only to discover I'd run out of fabric and Remnant Kings were no longer stocking the fabric I'd used. Fortunately the original blue layer is covered by the green dress so the fractional difference in shade between the tabard and the blue dress won't be obvious. This has never happened to me before but it wasn't a big deal, I only had enough fabric to cut one half of the tabard so it wasn't a big money loss or anything, and I had a convenient pattern to use in the form of the half-tabard of old fabric, to cut the new one! So I've cut two of everything in order to be able to line the tabard with the same fabric. Next was the gold trim, which I needed to put on before I could do the lining. I spent the last few days pinning all the gold stuff onto the tabard. IT WAS THE MOST BORING THING EVER OH GOD. Seriously, there were times I had to go away and leave it for the night even though I had hours of the evening left because it was so dull! It's really shitty trim in actuality but it looks fab as it was the perfect colour and width! In the reference art for the iOS release of Secret of Mana the gold strips are double with a blue line in the middle, but honestly, pinning this trim was the most boring thing I've had to do for this costume so I'm not in a hurry to replicate that effect!

The trim is stretchy, and the thickness changes with stretch. I don't really trust Tom's Brother sewing machine to sew it without mangling it, so I'm going to get out my trusty Singer. I can operate it manually and that's my plan, I have used this method when doing piping and other things that I need absolute control over to make sure nothing screws up. The last time I did this was when making piping for my Fuuka costume, and I ended up with a big blister on my index finger from turning the Singer's operating wheel. But I think it'll be worth it over the stress of having it mess up, especially when it took so long to pin!

I've actually run out of gold trim (I bought like 27 metres or something and it still wasn't enough, boohoo!) so I'm just going to sew what you can see in the picture. The trim came from Fabricland in Brighton, and I'm not in a huge hurry to navigate their horrendous website or attempt to mail order from them, so I will put this to one side once I've sewn it and work on other things until my friend Carrie next pops in there and can get me more of the trim. I'm also waiting on 70 tassels (yes, 70, there are roughly 35 on each side of the tabard!) coming from Hong Kong which are expected to arrive around early July. Having ordered wigs etc from Hong Kong I don't think they'll be as long as that!

Sewing the trim will probably take me the next day or two, and I'm getting Annette's dress form next weekend so at that point it'll be much easier for me to store and work on the layers of Popoi! The next parts are as follows:

1) Make a tulle layer to go over the petticoat, to fix the sag. The Triflex hooping is not dealing very well with all the layers and is warping a little, so I may need to order some steel hooping instead.

2) Make the yellow tabard. I've bought the red and green felt to do the detailing with (I thought felt would be a nice texture for an otherwise fabric costume). This'll be easy to pattern as it's essentially the same as the blue one but with a wider neckline and it's slightly shorter. This will be really easy to do with my new dressform as I can just put the blue tabard on it and then pin the hems accordingly.

3) Measure around the hems of the green dress, edges of the yellow tabard and the diamond patterns to calculate how much white trim I need to order. I can only do this when the entire garment is pretty much made and hemmed. It took me a long time to find out what sort of trim would be suitable for this endeavour. I am using double-welted upholstery piping:

I'm going to need a LOT of it. On the reference art the trim is double-sided in many locations, plus there's the little loops. The hem of the green dress as it is just now is about 3.3m plus 2.5m for the sides, the tabard will be about 5m all the way around, and I'll probably need another 4m for the front and back detailing on the tabard. When you add all that together including the double sided bits, I would say I'm going to need about 30m of the stuff. It's 67p per metre thank goodness so it's not the bankruptcy it could be! Still about £24 plus postage though :\

So that's my plan for the next few weeks. All being well I should have the costume itself finished in early July, and then I'll have a month for working on the wig.

Here's one sleeve trim! I've only biased one edge as I've run out of white bias tape. I plan to bias the other edge and simultaneously attach it to the sleeve where it's pinned. After that I'm going to use white embroidery skein to tack down the trim edge that's nearer to the armhole, to get that rough stitching effect you can see on his sleeves. The pastel colouring-in looked terribly primary-schoolish when it was taped to the wooden board I was working on, but ironing it to fix the permanence caused the colours to melt in a little bit and it looked pretty good when it was done. For anyone considering working with them in the future - use scrap fabric rather than a teatowel to iron the colour in, as it will transfer!! I had the iron on about two dots to fix the colour. I'll colour in the second lot of trim tonight. I was an idiot when cutting the first lot, despite measuring the sleeve twice I somehow still managed to cut it too short! I fixed this with a strip of bias tape over the frayed ends where they met in the middle but were not long enough for me to overlap.

So I have started actually making Popoi's costume! The blue underlayer is done bar hemming, and you can see a (awful phone) picture of it on the main page for this costume. Attached to this journal entry is a picture of the green upper layer, which has big kimono-style sleeves that I drafted out over the last few days. I mocked them up in calico first before cutting them out of my green fabric, as it's Panama Lime curtain fabric at £8.99pm! Next thing I need to do is design the patterned sleeve trim. I've got some Pentel fabric pastels that I think will give the rich colours I want for this. I looked at silk painting but I couldn't get hold of any gutta at my local art shop. If the fabric pastels don't work then I'll order some gutta and silk online and do it that way.

Really pleased with my progress on the costume over the last week or so. Things are really coming together!

The flexibark cracked apart in a few places, I was bending it a lot more than I did the ones for the crystal holders so it wasn't unexpected. I've patched the cracks up with more flexibark and will be repainting those bits over the next few days. I'm pleased with how the vines are wrapped but I feel the colour is a bit too uniform right now. I'm going to spraypaint lightly with the lighter brown I have and see how it looks, and possibly dry brush some lighter brown on in places to give it a bit more texture so it's not just flat colour. I think it would be fun to add a bit of moss so I've ordered some artificial reindeer moss on Ebay. I'm not planning on adding the leaves until nearer the time as I want to apply fresh ones on the day of the con so they look real.

Next week I'm going to do a final layer of PVA on the crystals and varnish them now the weather is warmer. I'll also varnish the staff when I'm happy with the paint job, prior to adding the moss. At that point I'll put it all together and take a final photo of the finished product! I haven't been able to get on with much sewing with all these vines festooned around the room so it'll be back to that once the staff is done!

Today I nailed the rest of the branch holder bits onto the staff. The wood the staff is made of (hazel) is really hard and it took a good hour or two of hammering and cursing to get them in! Sometimes the netting nails would go a bit skew-whiff and start splintering the wood, because I was hammering them into a curved surface. But they're in, and superglued for good measure! I have covered them with hot glue to even out the surface, then painted a layer of flexibark over the top. They're looking pretty good, I'm quite happy with them. I spent a good hour or two plaiting some aluminium wire today - It was about 3m long initially and shrank down to twoish after plaiting. I then covered it with masking tape and the first PVA glue layer is just drying. I'll probably put another layer on tomorrow, then I'll start applying the flexibark tomorrow evening so it can dry overnight. Once the flexibark is on I'll have a go at wrapping it around the staff and see how it looks. If I'm happy with it then I'll plait wire number two during the week. I think two-three vines will be enough, I'll see how it looks!

Lots of sewing to do tomorrow while I'm waiting for things to dry.

I've not been very well the last couple of weeks so progress on Popoi has been really slow. I had a go at resin casting for the first time but it didn't go so well. I was trying to make the blue jewel Popoi wears around his neck. I bought a 12" plastic bauble and pressed it into some alginate that I'd mixed up. That went fine, a few air bubbles but no biggie. I then made the mistake of leaving the mould for a few days - it was a little tuppaware container so I thought if I put the lid on it'd be fine. I poured the resin into the mould, but after I popped it out of the mould the next day, I discovered there were these large white streaks on the surface of the cast. I thought it was just alginate and would rub off, but no, it was actually embedded into the surface of the resin! I'm honestly not sure what the cause of it was but I suspect it was because I didn't use the mould straight away. I tried painting it with blue glass paint to see if I could salvage it, but it just looked poo. So that was that, I had to do another one, which I did today. I really hope it works, because I've run out of hardener and that clear resin kit cost £16! If it's a failure I might just have a go at cutting the plastic sphere I bought with my Dremel tool.

In other news, I have done both branch holders for the crystals. The big one is partially nailed onto the staff. I bought some netting nails to do this and they're working quite well. Will hopefully have those done tomorrow. I then need to spray the bottom end of the staff brown, and then I'm going to stain it with watered down acrylic paint so that it matches the colour of the branch holders (the brown spray paint I bought is a different shade and slightly lighter than I would like).

Then it's onto making the long vines that go down the staff - I bought aluminium wire for this in the end, so that the look is consistent with that of the branch holders and I don't have to worry about the wood going all funny, as I would if I'd been using willow. I haven't decided whether or not I'll varnish it once it's all done. It would make it more durable, and if I bought matt varnish it would hopefully not look really obvious!

I have started doing some sewing too. I have thrown together a petticoat to go under the outfit, and I bought some Triflex hoop plastic to give it the shape I want. Once the petticoat is finished (this weekend) I'll be able to cut out the fabric for the blue under-dress.

So I managed to bend the wire - it was a pain in the bum =_= It took me about three hours to bend it right so that it hugged the crystal snugly, and then when I thought I had it right, the curls of the branch interfered with the crystal sitting properly in the crook on the staff top. I then wrapped it with masking tape, and PVA'd it. Now I've put a coating of flexibark on it and am waiting for it to dry! I got flexibark all over my jeans, abooo, hope it comes out in the wash!

I did the big one first cos I knew it was gonna be a pain, the little one will be loads easier to mount as I'll only need to do double-twisted wire to get the right thickness and it's just a spiral shape.

Tomorrow evening I'm going to paint the big branch brown, then nail it into the staff with a bit of hot glue for good measure. Then I just need to mask and flexibark over the nail, and then comes the big test of mounting the crystal and seeing if it'll stay on! I can pick up the crystal when it's inside the branch by just holding onto the branch, so I'm hoping the added support from sitting in the crook will do the trick.

I stopped doing stuff on this for a while due to illness and Minami costumes needing to be done, now I'm back! Today I finally got around to making the wire armature to attach the big crystal to the staff. I'm using galvanised steel wire, and I twisted one end around itself, and then the other end around the double-twisted length. It was really hard to do, I had to put a screwdriver into the loop at one end to aid the twisting, and it didn't twist uniformly, so in some places the wire is wrapped around the other wire rather than the two twisting together (although that'll be covered up by the masking tape). So it's now triple twisted (it was far too stiff to plait) and is so stiff that with my puny arm strength I can't actually bend it into the shape I want it to have XD This is great because it means there's next to no chance of the weight of the crystal deforming the wire and allowing the crystal to fall out. The downside is that I now need to go and buy a pair of pliers (maybe even two pairs) to bend the metal with!

Once I've got it in the shape that I want, I can then wrap masking tape around it. I'll then apply a few layers of PVA to get rid of the masking tape ridge edges, and at that point I can then put the flexibark on. Then it'll be time to paint it. I'm trying to get some different colours and textures so I'll probably be taking my time with the paint job, likely a base coat and then a wash or two).

If this all works out, I'll then be doing the same for the little crystal, but that'll be easier as it's smaller, and will only need a double-twisted wire.

Once the crystals are on, I then need to decide whether to buy willow withies to soak and wrap around the staff shaft, or whether I want to do a similar twisty wire and flexibark thing but with aluminium wire, as it's much easier to work with and I don't need it to hold anything in place. I'd like to try the withies first as they'll look the most realistic. I want to get this staff all finished by the end of March, so watch this space!

In other news, I finally found a painting method that worked for the crystals. It's not great, but it'll do. I watered down the glass paint with white spirit and applied it using a plastic spray bottle (the travel kind you get from Boots). The side effect is a star-shaped line of darker paint at the bottom of the crystal (from where the paint pools against where it's sitting on the holder, and I had to blend it with my fingers after the top part had dried), but that'll be sitting at the bottom against the staff and will be hidden by the branches.

I really wish I could've found a better way to do it, but short of spending several hundred quid on an airbrush and compressor kit, it wasn't going to happen. Rit Dye doesn't dye acrylic plastics anymore as they've changed the formula, and an ink bath with Adironack ink failed to stick either. What I should've done is bought coloured crystals to begin with. These things we learn!

Having painted my large crystal to a level I was happy with, I went to my local art store. I told them I had a large plastic ball that had been painted with glass paint and covered with several layers of PVA. I then asked them to recommend me a suitable gloss spray varnish, because I know sod-all about varnish.

The lady in the shop recommended me Plastikote Ultra Clear. I bought it, went home, and sprayed the large crystal. It was still tacky the next day. And stuck to everything, took fingerprints like anything. A week later, it was still tacky, and was so fingerprinted and shitty-looking. The plastic sheet I'd laid it on to spray stuck to the surface and left a wrinkled mess behind. I put it in a plastic bag and took it to the art store, along with the spray paint. It got stuck to the bag. The people at the art store were absolutely mortified. The lady I'd spoken to previously wasn't in.

Turns out that despite the name 'Plastikote', this spray varnish is not designed for non-porous surfaces. I.e., plastic! They gave me a refund without question, and recommended me Krylon Clear Coat instead. Looking online (what I should've done originally), this is much better for plastic things and won't go tacky.

It's now very cold here in Glasgow, and this Krylon stuff is apparently pretty potent and you definitely can't get away with using it indoors like you can with other stuff. This means I won't be able to varnish my crystals until the weather is warmer.

As for the big crystal, I was back to square one. I had to peel everything off, white spirit the whole thing clean, and start again. I had another go, but my brush was totally screwed from the previous painting attempts - even though I'd cleaned it with white spirit between, there were teeny tiny little dried bits of paint on the very ends of the bristles that then got stuck to the new layer of paint.

So I had to buy another brush (brush #3), and a new pot of paint (for the other one had little dried bits around the rim that were also clinging to the pot), strip it, and start again. So this is attempt #5. It's looking a lot better, and I'm hoping again that the PVA layers will even it out like last time.

But if it comes out looking like ass again, I have this to try, courtesy of TheKillingDoll:
Rit-dyeing PET -

3 x 5 minute dips in the hot dye, interchanged with cold water dunks to set the colour. I could use string bags to suspend the crystals to do this.

I'm so desperate now I'll try anything XD I feel like faffing around with these crystals is holding me back on working on the rest of the cosplay, so really hoping this paint job #5 will be successful! But it's good to know I have another option that doesn't involve spending £80 on an airbrush that might still cause issues with coverage/dribbling.

I'm going to move onto the vines that hold the crystals in place next - I can still PVA the crystals so they're vaguely hardy to being handled. I had good results with my flexibark test (see the attached picture) - even just covering the wire with masking tape makes for a good shape, while the flexibark adds texture. It didn't quite work in the way I thought it would, I thought the flexibark would shrink and crack to create the texture, but instead it's got little bits in it that give texture. The galvanised steel wire when it's double-twisted is really hard to bend so I think it will stand up to the weight of the crystals well, and keep them in place.

So my plan is to make the wire armatures and nail them into place, then I can just bend them around the crystals when those are ready to go. I only wanted to varnish the crystals to make them a bit more scratch resistant! So much hassle. But never mind, I'm just going to crack on, otherwise I won't have the costume done in time for Aya.

So my plan for this weekend is to get the wire armatures done, and I also want to have a go at making a mould for Popoi's pendant. It's quite big proportionally to the size of Popoi, but I don't want it to be so big that it looks ridiculous, so I'll be aiming for about 10cm in diameter for the size of it. I'm just going to buy one of those half-spheres that make up the bauble I used for my very first glass paint test, make a little pot of alginate and press the sphere halfway into it. The reference art indicates it's not a total half-sphere, it's slightly flatter, so I'm hoping pushing it only half way into the alginate will get the shape I want.

Today I raided the January sales at the fabric stores! I have everything I need to make the first layer of Popoi's outfit. The layers are as follows:

Blue robe
Green robe
Blue tabard
Yellow tabard

I'm starting off with the blue robe he wears beneath the green one - you can just about see it in the reference pictures. I have a nice cotton/elastane mix with a decent drape. I've got some hoop steel kicking around, and right now I'm not sure whether I want to put a hoop in or just use a tonload of petticoats underneath to floof it. Either way the hoop steel will give me a good guide for sizing it and I can decide that later, as I'd probably want to make yet another layer to put the hoop in to go underneath the blue robe XD So many layers! The fabric together with matching thread came to £35 so that's another month's budget gone!

I've also finally painted the big crystal and am in the process of varnishing it. In the end I bought a new brush and put the paint on by painting continuously in one direction. The PVA did a reasonable job of evening out the surfaces. It's still not perfect, and I think perhaps I should've paid a little extra to get coloured acrylic balls to begin with, but these things you learn! A lot of it is gonna get covered up by bits of vine anyway.

For the vines touching the crystal, I bought some stuff called Flexi-bark from a site called Antenocitis Workshop which does wargames and model railway terrain. The way it works is you wrap masking tape around bits of wire, paint this stuff on, and it cracks as it dries to give a bark effect. The nice thing is it's rubberised so you can still bend things after you've finished with them. I haven't tried it yet, so stay tuned for more progress shots! It was only a few quid for a pot so I thought it'd be worth having a shot with it. I need to also experiment with what type of wire to use. Aluminium wire is super easy to work with and bend but it just doesn't have the resistance that galvanised steel wire does, and the heavy acrylic balls would just bend it away so they could fall out. I might do one sample branch made out of steel wire with aluminium twisted around it, and one of just steel wire. It's being covered in masking tape so it doesn't really matter what's inside, just making sure it'll hold the crystals in securely!

My contact juggling balls arrived at the weekend. They're kinda heavy D: But the big one nestles neatly into the crook of the staff so I think it'll be okay. I've been having a go at painting the big one. I left it under a cover to dry overnight and when I got it out the next day there were bits of dust clinging to it D: I was hoping I might lift it off with the next coat but no joy. I persevered anyway to see what the final result might be like - the PVA I've got turns out to dry matt rather than shiny and it looks a bit crap ><; I tried to use a makeup sponge to apply it evenly but the sponge actually lifts off the paint/PVA as well as spreading it! As I'm not happy with it, I'm going to buy some turps and take it all off, and start again. Having had a go at it I've got a better idea on how to do it now. For the redo I'm going to buy a bigger brush, allowing me to get a more even coverage. I'm also going to get a different tub of PVA to use. I'm also going to do just a single coat of glass paint as the second coat dried quite dark, darker than I wanted it. Not sure what I can do about the dust buildup, though ><;

It looks fab :D Now I have it, I've measured it and figure it needs a 120mm crystal for the top and a 60mm crystal for just below the bigger one. I didn't want to use glass in case it got chipped, plus it'd be really heavy. I've looked also at acrylic contact juggling balls, but I think I will experiment a little with the plastic screw-half ones first to see if they might work, as I'll only lose a few quid from trying that out and it may save me a lot of money (£50) in the long run if they actually work! So tomorrow's plan is to nip to the art store to pick up a plastic ball and some blue glass paint to see what I can rustle up! Annoyingly the plastic balls have a stupid hanging attachment which I'll need to file off, but oh well!

I've also emailed to ask if their Snakewood vines they have in stock could be sold in smaller bundles. They want £59 for a bundle of 12 and I would only need 3-4 of them as they're 2m long! Hopefully they'll get back to me this week on that.

For the bits of vine that are stuck to the crystal, I will use wire to help anchor the crystal in place, and then build on top of it with air-dry clay to make it thicker. I've found some stuff called Flexi-Bark that may give me the wooden look that I'm after, it's only a few pounds for a pot so I'll probably try that out. Expect lots of experiment-y progress shots in the weeks to come!

So I bought a 60mm plastic ball from the art store, and some Marabu GlasART turqoise (colour 498). Things I have learnt about glass paint:

1) It's sticky like anything. Turns out you're supposed to buy solvent cleaner to go with it which I didn't know. Silly tiny instructions on the bottle (ok ok I didn't read them XD) I now have green fingers!
2) Needs overnight drying time
3) Is still susceptible to fingerprints and will need a layer of PVA.
4) Hides brushstrokes fairly well but needs to be applied evenly to prevent blobs.
5) Should probably be done in two halves, including the PVA.

So the verdict on the painted bauble from Tom and I is that front on the seam is invisible, and side on it's really noticeable, especially in light. This means I should definitely get a contact juggling ball for the larger crystal. For the smaller one, I've decided to get a contact ball for that too, so I don't need to worry about hiding the seams (the smaller one is cheaper too, it's only about £10).

So I need to order those, and it will come to about £52, which is over my monthly budget. I could just order them separately, a month apart, to be within budget, but I save £2 with combined shipping for the two from the same supplier, and I can't start making the actual staff until I've bought and attached the crystals. So I'm going a bit over budget.

I will be going over budget more because tonight Tom and I are driving to our local branch of Country Baskets to have a look at their contorted willow stems, and if they are of suitable thickness I'll be getting some of those too. More money!

I've been thinking about branches and vines for ages now - the Decorative Branch people haven't gotten back to me about my enquiry but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if the Snakewood vines I'm interested in are going to be too thick and hard for me to work with. The thing with willow is that it's a lot more readily available if I screw up, plus I know for a fact that it's bendable if you soak it. There are lots of different types of willow, and salix tortuosa has curves and bends in it already, therefore might be suitable for my needs. The trouble is finding thick enough stems. In the reference art there's at least one stem that's about two fingers width. I've found a place online that will do them to broomhandle thickness, but it's quite pricey so I think it's worth a few quid in petrol and a trip down the M8 to go and have a look at some examples and decide. You can buy soaking bags and so on too.

So yeah, I am most likely going to be over budget this month, but as I was going to wait until the January sales before buying fabric, I think it's okay as I can spend up until Christmas making the staff and after Christmas I'll have overcome my deficit and will have enough money for fabric.

From Birchwood Bushcraft:

"Hi, I was going to email you today. Your staff is done and its just drying through. It looks fantastic and has the Merlin twist then the bit on top to hold a crystal etc. I will dispatch it Monday as it needs 24 hours more to dry. So many people who have visited my workshop wanted it, take care and I will email Monday as soon as its on its way!"

SO EXCITED. I'm really happy that I had the confidence to send them a picture and tell them exactly what I wanted, as I think it'll be much easier for me to build upon the staff in the long run.

For the spheres on the staff, I will probably use an acrylic contact juggling ball for the largest one. It will be expensive, taking up another month's cosplay budget (the 120mm balls are £40), but the advantage of these is that they don't have any plastic seams, which kinda ruins the look I want. I don't mind having a seam for the smaller one as it's tucked into the body of the staff and I can hide it, but the big one is visible for a just about 360 degree view, so having no seam is important. I'm going to wait until the staff arrives to see what size sphere I'm going to need (perhaps I'll be able to get away with a smaller, less expensive one). I'm going to paint the blue colour using glass paints, so I can get a swirly effect with it.

When the staff arrives I'll also be able to figure out what kind of decorative branches I'll need. I might make a foray to Kelvingrove Park to see if I can get some ivy vines and suchlike but I might be better off with either plastic ones or decorative ones that have been fumigated etc!

The guys at Birchwood Bushcraft were really helpful - they extended the listing so I could place my order. I've sent them pictures to help them pick one with a suitable finish, as they have a number of different ones but could only put one photo up on Ebay. I'm very excited to receive it and see what I need to do to build upon it. One of the first things I'll need to do is figure out how I'm going to do the blue spheres. They need to all be the same colour and of varying sizes. I'm not sure if it'd be best to cast them in resin or try and find some plastic ones - only I wouldn't want any mould lines to show! I also need to worry about weight - while the staff itself will be sturdy, I don't want the spheres to fall off because they're too heavy. Will have to have a think!

So, from the end of September I'll be saving £40 a month for this costume. I did a bit of preliminary research to cost this out a few months ago - just to give an idea, the decorative branches I'm looking at using for the staff are £72. (Need to see if somewhere else does this sort of thing cheaper!)

And the green fabric I'm going to be using for the bulk of the costume is the same curtain fabric I used for Beat, and that's about £8.99 a metre. And I need something stupid like 30 gold tassels which are like £1.60 each.

So yeah, expensive. The only way this is going to be feasible is to order little bits at a time to spread the cost!

So first things first, I've found a perfect staff to use as a base for Popoi's vine staff:

However, it's £47 and they're only doing them for a limited time. I've messaged them to ask just how limited a time they're doing them for and whether I can order one at the end of September (there goes one month of costume saving straight off! :O). It's quite cool cos they made them for BBC Merlin! Can't get much more magic-y than that :D

P.S. I'm putting these links in more for my own reference!

As Annette didn't get her Makina finished for Amecon we're instead going to wear our costumes on the Sunday of October Expo!

Emma's all done! There were a few fiddly things at the end like the gloves, I bought some cotton show gloves from Tam Shepherd's and they just would not take any dye or watered down acrylic paint, so in the end I had to just slather the paint on neat and hope for the best! There's a few darker stains on them as the blue acrylic didn't mix as well but they'll be fine for photos. I had to mod the boots I bought as well, they were the type with lots of folds at the ankle joint so I had to cut the inside lining to stretch them out, and then glue the lining so I could get my foot inside the boot and not into the lining!

Overall I'm really pleased with the results and this will be a fun and comfy costume to wear.

So two days ago I cut and patterned Emma's tunic top from the pattern copy I took of Kyoko. It required about four metres of piping around most of the edges. The way I decided to do it was to line the tunic with the slightly lighter shade of fabric, and then pipe the whole thing while it was inside out, and then turn it the right way out to expose all the piping as it should be. I was kinda surprised when it worked, haha, I was expecting it to fail horribly XD

So now that's all done and the only things I need to do are her shoulder trim bits, the collar and a mock pocket on the left breast. Then to Primark for white leggings, and doneee! I'll post a picture of the tunic top once it's all sorted.

So most of the Ocean Blue washed out in the washing machine and the fabric is fractionally darker. It actually looks pretty okay. The lady in Remnant Kings warned me that there's only a limited number of times you can dye something using Dylon dye, and as I had three different colours mixed in the original dye lot it's not that surprising that the second round of Ocean Blue hasn't taken. Never mind, I will be happy with my lot and start patterning on Monday!

I have a 97% cotton & 3% elastane mix fabric for Emma's tunic top. I used 25g Bahama Blue, 25g Dark Green, 25g Jeans Blue Dylon hand dye. It's in the washing machine just now having a warm rinse. I did some test photographs and while it looks okay on visual inspection, it does flash-photograph a much lighter and greener colour than the suedette boots that I ordered. I may have to do a run in the washing machine in jeans blue to darken it down, but I'll see what it looks like when it's dried. I think I put too much green in to begin with, I should've done primarily a mix of Bahama and Jeans blue with maybe 12g of Dark Green. Still, it should be fixable!

I learned some lessons from doing Lockon and Feldt's jackets - now I'm dying the entire fabric rather than patterning and cutting first, to minimise the impact of fraying.

I took a copy of the pattern I created for Kyoko's jacket, as the wrapover style is very close to what I need for Emma. I just need to increase the height of the front panels so I can add a mandarin-style collar. I'm hoping it won't take me too long to do this as it's just her top to make.

So I dyed my fabric, and the shade matches the reference art, but it doesn't match the boots. I bought two pairs of boots - a suedette size 5 pair and a leather size 6 pair in case the 5s didn't fit. The 5s turned out to be a great fit and suedette is much more appropriate for the costume, but for some reason they photograph really dark, probably due to the suedette absorbing all the light. On visual inspection the fabric is obviously a few shades lighter than the boots but the colours complement. Photographically, they look as in the picture for this entry. I dyed some swatches in Jeans Blue like I said I was going to, and even with just dipping them for a few moments, the colour became much much darker and went the other way, being darker than the boots. The colour also didn't complement the boots like the lighter shade did, the swatch was almost a khaki colour. You can see the darker swatch in the photo - as you can see, it photographs to be a better match, but I'm not sure how well that would hold up under studio lighting or in daylight (it's pretty dark and dingy in Glasgow at the moment.

I put a white pair of trousers between the boots and the fabric to see if the white would fool the brain into matching the colours better. It works for the darker shade but emphasises the difference in colours for the lighter shade, on visual inspection. Photographically, the matchings aren't too disparate.

So thus is the dilemma I have - do I go for the lighter shade, which matches the reference art,photographs acceptably but mismatches the boots in real life? Or do I go for the darker shade, which matches the boots, photographs acceptably but doesn't fit with the reference art?

In the end I got annoyed with the whole thing, because I'd paid for and mixed up the dye and didn't want to throw it away unused as it would have been a waste. So in a fit of grump I cut my fabric in half and have dyed that the darker colour. It's in the washing machine now.

Now I'm sitting here writing this and feeling like what I've done is a bit stupid. If I'd kept it the way it was it probably would've been fine, and now I don't have the spare fabric for mistakes in patterning etc, so if I screw up I'll have to buy more fabric and do the dyeing process all over again! I would have to have chosen between the two colours anyway because I'm not making the whole tunic top twice. The more fool me.

I guess I'll just see what the other one looks like when it's done and if I don't like it I can just use it for patterning purposes and for the piping. Still kinda annoying, though ><; I only dyed it because I knew the dye would go off in a few hours and then it really would've been a waste.

The thing I've learned from this experience is that sometimes you have to waste dye in experimenting, just like fabric. I should've let go and just poured the dye down the sink and been happy with the mix that I had. Then again, if I'd been happy with the original mix I wouldn't have tried redyeing it. I suppose the process of attempting it made me happier with the original shade, knowing I couldn't get it more satisfactory.

So I resewed it all, and put on the sleeves and the collar. I shortened it a bit too - on the reference art it definitely goes over the hips as that's where her belt sits, so it's long enough for that, but I wanted to have a little more of the skirt showing than in the reference pic 'cause otherwise it looks as if she's wearing a jacket several sizes too big for her.

Today I also learnt how to do something new! I've always cheated on buttons before now and just sewn them on without doing proper buttonholes. But the buttons I have are blazer buttons so if I just sew them on they'll tilt forward at an angle and look stupid. So today I mastered how to do buttonholes on Tom's sewing machine. It's actually pretty easy on his as it has an automated setting where it does a few stitches at the end of each button hole and two narrow bands of applique in between, using the changeable needle position of the machine. So it was just a case of turning the dial ABCD and making sure I had the fabric in the right position. I'm quite pleased with the results, I'm going to split the button hole using a sharp knife as I need to cut through two layers of fabric and some interfacing. I measured the buttons before sewing the buttonholes so I really hope they fit! I've got the option of doing buttonholes on the other side as well, on top of the seam, but as the seam's there I think I might cheat a bit for those ones and just embed the button protrusions into the seam so they lie nice and flat. The jacket I patterned this off has a fake second row of buttons too so I think it's a common design convention anyway.

There's still a few fitting issues with the jacket, I think I'll need to put a dart up the back of it to gather in the excess fabric that's around the front near the bust - or use a chicken fillet-style bra to try and fill it up a little more ._. I have put a bust dart in on the left hand side to match with the reference picture but because I struggled so much to get the wrapover of the jacket lapel straight and lined up, I'm trying to avoid putting a dart on the right as the jacket doesn't quite wrap over far enough to cover it if it were there, and there isn't one on the reference art. I think I'll be able to get away with it provided I can get rid of the excess fabric around the bust area in general (even on the side where there is a dart) to make it look better fitted.

I'll probably slim-line the sleeves a little as well, in the name of not looking like a young girl wearing a blazer two sizes too big!

I also need to line the jacket, but I need to buy some lining fabric which is on the shopping list for tomorrow.

I've also started the skirt - well, actually, it just needs a zip, that I need to buy, and hemming/waistbanding, and then it's done. I've also created the base badges to applique - one patch for the arm, one patch for the beret.

So this morning I went and cut out the sleeves I'd drafted the night before, dumdedum, and was putting the sides of the sleeves together to sew when I realised something. The right and wrong side of the fabric were not the same. This is really stupid but I rarely work with fabrics that have a right and wrong side, I don't often use printed fabric or those where the closeness of the weave varies between right and wrong side, like this brushed navy cotton I'm working with for Kyoko. I hadn't noticed this up until now.

So of course, I went over to look at the jacket I'd been labouring on all week, and sure enough, I've used the wrong side for the jacket front and the right side for the back and facings. Needless to say, this was impossible to fix without unpicking every damn seam I've sewn up until now. FML, progress was so good!

So that's tonight's job. Le sigh. Never mind, the only pieces I have to flip over are the jacket fronts, then just need to whizz it all back together and get on with what I was supposed to be doing, namely sewing on the sleeves!

Once that's all done I just need to cut out and interface the collar pieces and pop those on, and then the jacket just needs trims, epaulettes etc. Then it's on to the skirt!

I need to lengthen the collar so it sits further down the lapels and I don't have to fold them out so much (they look huge!) The collar itself is a mockup so I'm just going to cut it in half, pin the ends further down and pin a strip of fabric in between so I know how much extra length is required. I'll then pattern ANOTHER mockup and try fitting it again. All the mockups!

I won't be wearing this white shirt with the costume, it's just one I pulled out of the wardrobe. I'll probably do a Primark number on the shirt tbh, you hardly see any of it under the jacket! XD

I'm hoping to have this jacket finished by the end of the week and just requiring trims. I reckon the sleeves will take me one evening which gives me another few days to nail this sodding collar!

Soooo, 5 weeks till Ame and I've started making Kyoko XD Today I made a start on the jacket shell. I used a brown buttonover jacket that I already owned and drafted the side and back pieces from that. Cutting those out and pinning them together was easy-peasy, it was getting the lapels to sit right that was the pain. Kyoko has a button over her bust, therefore the jacket lapel had to begin folding from that point yet curve enough to leave a decent sized opening to show her tie. I eventually pinned it into submission! I'll have to unpin that to have a go at fitting the collar, but I might iron those folds in before I do that so I don't have to go through that fitting process again.

The last time I made a jacket was when I made Lisa Basil, and the collar and sleeves were an absolute nightmare to do. Making this jacket is giving me flashbacks to that, but I've made a lot of costumes since then so I'm hoping the extra experience will get me through that!

Monday's job is to cut out the back facings for the jacket lapels, then draft the collar and have a go at fitting it. I think I'll probably do a mockup of it first and get that to fit before cutting it out of the actual fabric, as I only have a limited supply that I bought at the same time Annette bought hers for Chief Makina, to make sure we matched. I plan to use the same technique from the jacket pattern I used for Lisa Basil, where you cut the under collar slightly smaller than the upper collar to get the seams to roll underneath and not be seen. I might even print that page of the Jorinde jacket pattern I used so I have the right ratios to copy from.

So having gotten over my US-related jetlag, I was left with four days to make Frau Bow and finish styling the wig. Challenge accepted! Unfortunately I was so busy making the blimmin' thing that I forgot to take progress pics so a description will have to do!

The first thing I did was to make her dress - it's an all-in-one thing, so I took an existing all-in-one dress that I had and patterned the dress from that. Although the dress I was patterning from was made from jersey stretch fabric, so I had to add some extra seam allowance to account for that. As it turned out I added far too much seam allowance and had to take it in by over an inch on each side, but heydeho, such is the way of things! The dress I was patterning from didn't have a zip down the front, unlike Frau Bow's, so I had to add a bit extra in the middle to account for the seam from that.

I then whizzed all the side seams and fitted the front zip - I just pinned the zip, for before I was to sew that in I needed to put yellow bias tape down either side of the zip opening. This is because I only had a 40cm zip that wasn't open-ended. So I put yellow bias tape right down each side, and where the zip finished I just sewed the two bias tape edges together. So the dress only opens part of the way down, but still enough for me to actually get into it which is the main thing XD

For the sleeves I used my trusty Ladybrooke sleeve tutorial, although sadly the site has been deleted so I can only access it via the Internet archive which won't show the pictures. I was still able to figure it out, though. Then I just needed to use some stiff interfacing and leftover red drill to make the collar and the cuffs. Dress done! Making a yellow neck scarf only took half an hour of whizzing on the machine, and then that was all done too.

The belt I made with some leftover black poly/twill mix (bad choice, the seams rolled around like anything and it wouldn't iron flat!) and then put a piece of gold-painted funky foam on for the gold belt detail. I'd like to make something a bit nicer than this if I were to rewear the costume, such as scoring an emblem in it, or something.

And having actually finished the costume the day before Expo, I then rushed into town to buy a pair of boots! Fortunately the shops still had some winter boots on sale so I got a pair for £18 from Shoe Zone that were suitably knee high and not too detailed.

The wig I then styled at Expo in the few hours we had before the hall opened - I pinned the hair into some curlers and blasted it with a hairdryer, and then sprayed it with hairspray on the underside so that the top side was fluffy and natural while the bottom side was stiff and keeping the curled shape. This simple explanation completely belies the amount of time it took me, honestly, it took about three hours! I've never curled hair on a wig before so I was very timid with it and not giving enough heat on the hair dryer, so the curls weren't staying in that well. With some help from miiol I managed to get going a bit more successfully on it as the morning went on, and eventually the best tactic turned out to be to just pin up the whole lot in one go and do it all in a oner. This was the best way to do it because every time I tried to curl it in sections I'd end up heat-blasting one curl out to put another one in!

I think if I were to rewear the costume I will probably wash the wig and have another go at curling it, but I was pretty happy with it for this wear. There was one bit at the front which kept curling the wrong way but I tamed it eventually to a level I was happy with.

Overall I was really chuffed with this costume given the short amount of time I had to make it. It was really fun and comfy to wear, too!

I then wore the costume to Expo and got some photos taken in the funky space station diorama. Looking forward to seeing those!

I was working really hard to get mine and Tom's Gundam00 costumes finished for Minami so I didn't have time to start on Frau Bow. However I will be making this costume for May Expo instead :D

I just bought the salmon-coloured fabric to make this costume - it's a polyester mix with a small amount of stretch which suits well as it's quite fitted. It was only £4.99 a metre as well. With the zip and bias binding the total came to £18, and I can do the rest with fabric that I already have. Now I need to find a wig...

I love the season 2 outfits for their colour schemes, but geezo, it's hard to find the right colours when you're wanting the fabrics! Tom and I have decided to make the tops underneath the jackets out of stretch material so we can applique the green diamond on and just put the tops on like jumpers. Mandors didn't have the colours we wanted so after ages scouring online, I found a company called - they had a super range of colours so we got all the fabric for the tops and the trousers from there! All their stretch fabric we wanted was £3.50 a metre, so was quite pleased to get the fabric for the bulk of both our costumes for £64, including first class postage so we can get started on them this week.

The next challenge will be finding the right colours for the jackets, which we wanted to make out of twill or drill. Options available are settling for a less ideal fabric to get the colours we want (as they seem readily available in normal cotton but not in twill/drill weights), scouring online to get the right colours (thus far unsuccessful ><;), or experimenting with dyes. I should be okay for Feldt as Dylon do Flamingo Pink and Baby Pink colours which are about right. But getting the right Teal and Petrol colours for Lockon's jacket will be harder.

Is it a sad state of affairs when you don't trust your sewing machine to sew cotton web without the seam creeping and therefore have to do the whole thing manually? Two metres of cotton webbing later and I have an impressive blister forming on my middle finger from spinning around that wheel thing that makes the machine go. Owie D: And the seam still crept anyway. But it doesn't matter all too much because the aim of all of this was to run some cord down the middle to make some piping, so you won't see the cruddy seam, hah! I could've gone for satin but I figured that would be even worse, and I thought that'd be a little fancy for a school uniform. It's difficult to tell what sort of colour the piping's meant to be in the reference pictures - it looks grey to me but I went for white because it seemed the more logical colour. In retrospect maybe I should've stuck with grey because it looks a little bright now, but these things are clearer in hindsight, and short of dying it grey cotton web would've been difficult to do. Time is of the essence for this costume, with just two and a half weeks until the con!

Next I need to put in an invisible zip on the lefthand piping, then I can fit the front panel.

I couldn't get the light circuit to work in the end. I initially hooked it all up like I had planned, but when the power was running none of the lights ever actually switched off; they dimmed but didn't actually go out. So I went scouting around some electronics forums and somebody told me that the 4017 counter couldn't route enough power to work the LEDs properly and I needed some extra chips. These were a ULN2804A chip and some transistors to switch the power up and down depending on which way the current was travelling - higher if it was heading towards an LED and lower if it was heading back towards the timer and counter chips. They even gave me a new circuit diagram!

But this was where I came unstuck - in the interim period I had forgotten which leads were power and earth on my battery connector. So my lovingly constructed circuit was shorted in a moment. Now there's a big melted spot on my breadboard where one of the timer chips completely burned itself out. Not to be deterred, I bought some more components... but despite replacing everything and confirming which wires were which on the battery connector, I could no longer seem to get anything to work, not even a really basic 555 circuit with a single LED like I started off with originally. And despite following the basic circuit diagram, there was now an odious burning smell whenever I connected the power.

I'm not entirely sure what I've done wrong, which is a pretty good indication that I don't know enough electronics to be able to troubleshoot and fix things, which means that
A) If the circuit stopped working at the con I probably wouldn't know how to fix it
B) My circuit might not actually be safe for a floor costume - heck, I could spontaneously combust!

So with reluctance I've had to abandon the whole shebang and have no lights on the costume. I'm really gutted because I spent a lot of money on components, about £65 all up, and if only I knew what I was doing I could probably pull it off. But it looks like I can't construct a safe circuit, so until I can find someone who can help me in person and show me what I'm doing wrong, I shall just have to leave it.

It would've looked really awesome though... *sigh*

This is a 555 timer circuit which has an additional diode connected in parallel with the second resistor. This diode allows the off time for the LED to be greater than the on time. The buttons on Lisa's costume flash on briefly in a sequence, then stay off for about five or six seconds.

Resistors: R1 = 110K
R2 = 738K
C1 = 10 microfarads

See that one LED in the corner that flashes on and off? I had to hook up so many bits just to make that one thing happen. But damn, am I proud of that little LED XD The next step is to take the pulse that switches the LED on and off and hook it up to a counter chip, to convert it into a cascade of pulses. That chip will then be hooked up to a bunch of LEDs to make them come on and off in a wave like Lisa Basil's buttons.

I bought all the bits. It was a bit more expensive than I anticipated... £20 for all those little chips! All the big bags of resistors and capacitators were out of stock so I had to go for the 'lucky' ones where they're chosen at random. I hope I get the right values I need...

Who would've thought making a simple set of flashing lights would be so complicated?

I'm using this tutorial:
to figure out what I have to do. I'm still not entirely sure what I'm doing but it looks like I need the following:

555 timer - this chip emits a series of electronic pulses, the rate of which is controlled by two resistors. I've downloaded a program that tells me what strength resistors I need to produce a particular frequency of pulse so at least I don't have to do any maths!

4017 counter - this converts the pulses emitted by the 555 timer into a series of electrical outputs. By hooking up LEDs to the pins of this counter I can make them flash in succession.

The difficult thing is that Lisa Basil's lights don't operate continuously. They go one after the other, then there's a period of about three or four seconds where they don't light up at all. It looks like to achieve that I'm going to have to use a capacitator to delay the start of the 555 timer's pulse. I think. I should buy two or three of each thing I'm using because I'm 99% sure I'm going to fry several of them in the process of constructing this...!

Well, I'm thinking about how to do Lisa's buttons. I was getting some information from a friend who has studied electronics, and apparently I will probably need to buy some individual chips and wire them up myself, rather than buying a microchip and programming it using a special circuit board. Getting individual chips will cost less but it looks like I'm going to need a lot of tuition to be able to figure out how to pull it off. But costing less is good, right? And it would be really great to learn a skill like this - think how many other cosplays I could apply it to once I learnt how to do it!

My friend is going to get out his old electronics books and see what he can teach me. I shall look forward to it :D

I've also finally bought a printer so I can print out the pattern for Lisa's jacket. Now I need to filch some paper from somewhere...

madmazda86 commented on chatter: Cosplays for Amecon? (4 years ago)