Amir Halgal - A Bride's Story (Otoyomegatari)

In Progress




Embroidery thread count: 200 meters (and counting)

NOTE: Because the designs of her outfit are ever-so slightly different between the front covers of the manga and the inside artwork (additional embroidery designs on sleeves/skirt where they're not there in other pictures) I'm probably going to do a mix of the two designs, whatever takes my fancy really!

So lately I've taken an interest in the history of the Silk Road and read quite a few books about it, from various points in history. One I particularly enjoyed was called 'The Horse that Leaps through the Clouds' about a man following a 19th century Finnish/Russian explorer/spy on his journey along the ancient Silk Road. (I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in Silk Road history).

When nocturnal-blossom and I visited Japan, one of our friends who is studying Japanese asked us to buy a manga for her to read in Japanese. We found this lovely looking one called Otoyomegatari (The Bride's Story) by Kaoru Mori. After reading it,she told us it was a historical manga with absolutely no conflict and was worth a read. With my obsession with historical things I thought why not, and I have to say I really enjoy it! (Its true it has no conflict, and when someone brings out a knife its truly a big deal because it implies conflict might happen!)

The manga is set in the area around the Caspian Sea in the 19th century. Its not specified exactly where in the Caspian Sea region its set, but judging by the clothing (Kaoru Mori tries to be a historically accurate as possible with her manga) and the culture described in the manga - and from some extra research I did of countries, tribes and cultures of the region - it would be assumed that the manga is set about a selection of tribes and peoples with elements from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan traditions and cultures.

Me being the slightly mad person that I am, decided it would be fun to do research into all the cultures and make the costume as historically and culturally accurate as possible. Amira is a wonderful character who is pretty and smart, can hunt and ride horses, but is also very derpy, and quite lovely. Plus I've been wanting a big project to do in a while, and an excuse to study Turkmein, Uzbek and Azerbaijani embroidery techniques, clothing history and culture seems like too good an opportunity to miss!

(Some of my research I might include in the journals, just out of interest and study).


Tsuchinoko posted on 21 July, 2012 - 14:30
I love Kaoru Mori's work so would definitely love to see you cosplay this ^^ You sound like you're going to go all out on it too - good luck! =)

agi posted on 6 August, 2012 - 12:02
woooo you put her up :) This is going to be a work of art

Sephirayne posted on 4 September, 2012 - 19:04
Wow! Gorgeous design. Really looking forward to your progress on this.

Nocturnal Blossom posted on 13 October, 2012 - 08:33
The hat looks great so far <3

KhaosKreator posted on 14 October, 2012 - 09:26
Epic project!

TheStarlightFairy posted on 14 October, 2012 - 20:25
This looks gorgeous so far! I'm so jealous of your sewing ability! So many different stitches!

Freyarule posted on 16 November, 2012 - 10:33
All dem stitches....I'm loving it so far!!

Silantre posted on 16 November, 2012 - 17:06
I wish I had your talent and patience for hand sewing, I bow to your awesomeness!

Monkey posted on 23 November, 2012 - 01:09
Thanks for all the lovely comments everyone. Its a labour of love, but I'm enjoying it. :)

Amy-Lou posted on 25 November, 2012 - 19:03
Embroidery Queen! You're picking it up so fast :D

Sephirayne posted on 26 November, 2012 - 23:17
Hat band is looking amazing. Great job hun ♥

Captain_Marvelous posted on 28 November, 2012 - 18:01
LOVING this so far! amazing work and such an inspired choice of costume from a great series!

otakugirl posted on 28 November, 2012 - 18:18
This is gorgeous <3

Tsuchinoko posted on 28 November, 2012 - 19:14
Wow, your progress is really impressive!

Manjou posted on 28 November, 2012 - 22:40
You've made me want to find out about this manga :D (Gives me something to read as I'm now up-to-date with vinland saga XD) Good luck with this costume, it really looks like a labour of love ^__^

Telly posted on 16 January, 2013 - 11:19

WhiteWraith posted on 8 March, 2013 - 11:23
This is looking amazing!

Captain_Marvelous posted on 8 March, 2013 - 12:20
Progress so far is stunning!

madmazda86 posted on 8 March, 2013 - 14:53
Mental but awesome!

Sephirayne posted on 27 March, 2013 - 01:33
Wow! I am so loving the progress. Each piece is a delight to see. Fantastic work hun ♥

Zomboi posted on 31 March, 2013 - 02:58
amazing work

Kei Lin Sama posted on 24 September, 2013 - 20:17
That's the most realistic and authentic costume I've ever seen. Erm.. when will you finish it?

Monkey posted on 25 September, 2013 - 17:27
Its very much as WIP! I didn't want to set myself a date because I didn't want to rush myself with the project, so its kind of a case of it will be finished when its finished. ^^;;; I have been doing progress though! Its just caught up between commissions and real life work as well!

Sephirayne posted on 3 January, 2014 - 04:22
Loving the test photo. You look great. Really excited about seeing this costume.

Kei Lin Sama posted on 13 January, 2014 - 23:06
I love the way you use traditional techniques to make your costumes. Sorry, I didn't mean to sound so impatient, just that it looks fantastic and I'm eager to see it. Take your time with this one. For me, it will be well worth the wait!

Progress Journal

22nd June 2014

Sleeves 3

Sleeve WIP with more stitches and added seed beads.

2nd January 2014

Wig & Make-up WIP

I did a quickly styled wig and make-up test just to see what everything looked like. I'm looking forward to adding the decorations to the wig!

8th March 2013

Sleeves 2

Updates have been slow since I've taken on a whole batch of commissions, but I am progressing very slowly - I'm glad I didn't set a date for this cosplay to be finished by!

Each alternative line of stitching is done with heavy-chain stitch followed by herring bone stitch, followed by heavy-chain stitch and so on.

I've got to the 'disk' section of the design, and have to say I can't quite work out how to make the circular pattern look good or correct in relation to the design. Eventually I came across a type of stitch traditionally used to sew tiny bits of glass to fabric, and is generally used in traditional garments called 'shisha stitch'. Although not wholly accurate to Amir's design, it was a stitch I really wanted to try out, since it would still be a stitch likely used in the tribe and period that its set.

Shisha stitch is a bit like a looping backstitch motion that circles a piece of glass (or in my case a large mirror-sequin) in a circle to hold the sequin in place and also look decorative. I went around the shisha again with a chain stitch and went over the top with a basic running stitch in alternate thread just to give it a bit more of a design. Its a little fiddly to stitch, but I think the final thing looks really good, and I'm looking forward to working on the skirt section of the tunic with this type of stitch!

15th January 2013

Sleeves 1

I've been sewing the sleeves for the tunic dress, which is pretty hard work! The pattern has to be replicated each side of the sleeve (because its double-sided) and then repeated on the second sleeve! I'm trying to keep the patterns neat and consistent creating a 'forwards-backwards' type pattern between each stitched line. (So many individual little stitches!)

Everything is pretty much stitched so far, each line is sewn in one stitch or another, including; heavy chain stitch, wrapped back stitch, herringbone stitch, zigzag stitch, running stitch.

(Photo coming soon!)

12th January 2013

Bow 1

I've been working on a few things since the last update, and have started work on embroidering the sleeves, however that is a long process, so updates for that will be slow.

However, I've been in the process of working with the bow. I didn't want it to be a working bow due to numerous con-rules against them, so I decided just to have it as a large prop I can pose with for photos.

The bow is currently made of two sheets of thin wood with a foam insulation core held together with sealant. The wooden edges have then been sanded down, sealed again, before being duct-taped for additional strength and support. The foam core is intended to make the bow still very light and not be dangerous for anyone, and it seems to have worked!

28th November 2012

Hat 6

Stitches include: Pekinese, running, cross, interlaced running stitch, interlaced back stitch, closed blanket stitch, open chain stitch, stem stitch, herringbone stitch, wheatear, circle stitch and Portuguese stem stitch.

28th November 2012

Hat 5

All the embroidery on the hat is complete! I'm really pleased with how some of the stitches came out, especially as some of these were my first time using these particular stitches to fill in large spaces of fabric. I particularly liked using Pekinese and Herringbone stitch for this method. I tried to keep a similar variety of stitches on the top of the hat as with the hatband so the two pieces matched, and I even finished the piece off with some wheater stitches like on on the underskirt.

The hat is covered in bleached bone beads to give it a final overall finished look. I am very pleased with it and think it was a great test before I start making the tunic dress!

15th November 2012

Hat 4

Top of the hat progress is coming along nicely. I'm trying out a variety of different techniques and am trying to branch out a little in the way I use the stitches involved. For example, I'm making a lot more use of whipped-back-stitch to create boarders and outlines, while using herringbone stitch and pekiniese stitch to fill in a large surface area neatly and effectively. I've even started making an attempt at doing a striped effect with a red and black thread in a herringbone stitch, similar to the example posted in the Pakistan example in my first underskirt journal.

Stitches include: Backstitch, whipped-back-stitch, threaded-double-stepped-running stitch, stem stitch, pekinese stitch, open chain stitch, closed blanket stitch and herringbone stitch. I'm beginning to get a firmer understanding of the effect different stitches can create.

8th November 2012

Hat 3

Amir hat-crown progress. I started work on this the other day and am quite proud of how neat it looks already. I want it to look like a whole pattern when its done, but when you look on closer inspection, its got lots of detailed, intricate textures and stitches within it.

In the Bride's Story manga, you meet Amir’s brother who is still part of her old clan, and you see some of the patterns on his clothes (specifically the use of diamond motifs) that are akin to Amir’s clothes. There are common references throughout where characters from the clan Amir marries into often state that Amir’s clothes are strange or look different from what they are used to, and I believe this is also due to the patterns and motifs made in the embroidery.

Therefore I am trying to use a similar motif for the crown of Amir’s hat (since you can’t see what design she actually has on it).

Stitches included so far: cross stitch, Pekinese Stitch, whipped back stitch, stem stitch, open chain stitch, herringbone stitch and running stitch. I’m especially pleased with how neat the herringbone stitch has come out. From a distance it looks like a solid block of red fabric, not individual stitches!

1st November 2012

Hat 2

Progress on the hat is now at around 80%. I've finished the initial collection of stitches, and now I'm onto stage two of the stitches, which consists of the use of metallic silver thread. This stage involves a row of portuguese stem stitch which is essentially a running stitch, with a backstitch and a loop about them both, creating a nice knotted-chain effect, I believe this also gives the hatband some needed texture, as the raised edge of the knot gives it a 3D element over the other 2D looking stitches.

In the center of each diamond of the hatband I have stitched a single woven circle. There are some discrepencies between the artwork of weather the center of the diamonds has a circle, or further triangles, but I decided with all the angles in the detail already (The triangles, diamonds, crosses, uses of cross-stitch, etc.) it would create an interesting and sudden element change to have a distinctive circle in the center of the diamonds of the hat. Once completed, I shall see about sewing a small circular bead in the center of each circle to finish the point. Then I intend to line the hat, and then start work on the crown of the hat!

12th October 2012

Hat 1

I'm using the hat as a way of testing out which stitches I like and how to do them before I do the main tunic/dress. Its quite fun being able to experiment like this to try and create different effects!

The material is a thick weave wool since I wanted to try and be as accurate as possible. Wool would be good for all weathers, especially for Nomadic tribes such as the sort Amir is originally from.

The stitches included currently are: cross stitch, back stitch, satin stitch, interlaced-stepped-running stitch, interlaced running stitch and herringbone stitch.

11th September 2012

Underskirt part 5

The underskirt is finished! I did yet another line of heavy chain stitch (I think it looks so neat and attractive, and I think I've gotten better at doing it as it looks a lot neater than my first two lines of heavy chain stitch). I decided not to double it up this time, as a finer line looked nice, especially offset against the two heavier lines down below.

I was originally debating doing an oyster stitch for the lines/pods on the artwork, but in the end changed my mind and decided to go for a more 'arrow-like' stitch. In the end I went for a 'Wheatear' stitch which looks like a combination of an arrow stitch and a chain stitch. When put in long rows alongside each other they tend to look like rows of wheat (hence the name). I think these look really nice! From a distance they look like pointed lines/arrows like in the artwork, but when you get closer you can see the stitch is deceivingly detailed.

The underskirt is now finished! (I know I said that last time, but it really is this time!) I believe I shall move on to making the hat next, as a pre-cursor for the types of stitches I'm going to use on the main tunic.

2nd September 2012

Underskirt part 4

After seeing a couple of cosplayers who had already completed Amir and debating between the discrepancies between the artwork (Volume 1 and 2 front covers, I blame you for inconsistencies) I've decided to do a bit more work to the underskirt. I've made the two already embroidered lines thicker by doing some more heavy chain stitch next to the stitch that is already there. (I think it looks better already!)

I then plan to do a third line on the underskirt, perhaps with an oyster stitch to create the obvious vertical lines/pods that seems to be evident at least in most of the artwork. More news as it comes!

I also decided to remove the Pekinese stitch from the skirt. I like the stitch a lot and hope to use it again! Just not on the skirt as it tends to look out of place with the herringbone/heavychain stitch combination.

5th August 2012

Underskirt part 3

Sewed some loop holes last night and embroidered them so they wouldn't tear. My sewing machine stopped working so the fabric threaded through the top is actually all hand stitched with no machine stitch at all! This consists of a white thread running stitch, interlaced with the off-pink thread, the same used for the bottom row embroidery.

I also decided to interlace the top row of cross-stitch (unfortunately my web-cam is rubbish and you can't see the interlaced thread, but I assure you its there - will get a better picture asap) with silver embroidery thread. Finally I decided to test out a bit of Pekinese stitch at the bottom hem of the seams just to see what it would look like - I might include this as a stitch in the rest of the outfit at a later date.

I might also add something to the tips of the waist-lacing, but I haven't decided yet. Other than that, the underskirt is complete!

4th August 2012

Underskirt part 2

The main decoration on the bottom of the skirt is complete. This was made up with the lower stitching being a backstitch, overlayed with a heavy chain stitch. The upper stitching was made by a heavy chain stitch again, and then a line of basque-stitches to make the loops around the bottom edge. In some designs it looks like she has a third row of stitching in the middle of the two rows, but I haven't decided if I want to do that or not yet.

The seams are finished now, though I may add more designs as I see fit. These are made up of interlaced herringbone stitches made of white embroidery and the lacing being silver thread. Around the edges at every other insert in the herringbone stitches are satin stitch arrow heads made of silver embroidery. I have considered perhaps adding touches of gold embroidery between these, but that hasn't been decided yet.

I'm going to start the waist tie today!

25th July 2012

Underskirt part 1

Due to the sheer importance of embroidery relating to a potential bride’s capabilities, most garments were inundated with a variety of different stitches for the women to show off their skill and craft. They range all over the embroidery stitch spectrum and often cover most areas of a garment. It has been seen in various cases throughout the Middle East and Western Asia that embroidery even goes so far as to cover and conceal the seams of a garment to enhance the appearance of a bride’s skill. The example shown here (on the left) is from Pakistan. For my under skirt (shown on the right) I have covered the seams with a horizontal double herringbone stitch which has then been laced with silver thread. On the top of the skirt, where the seam meets the gathers I have created a collection of cross-stitches and begun the main embroidery as shown in the outfit design. This so far includes a backstitch running over the hemlines with a heavy chain stitch next to it to thicken the line and make it appear like one whole piece of embroidery.