Opera and Cosplay Duke it Out

When I last posted I had this vision that a heap of things were going to be done by now.  I was going to be finished the Junketsu and I was going to have worn it triumphantly at PAX.  I was going to be churning out shirts and skirts and things for summer.  I was going to have finished all the performance dresses that I stupidly started right before comps and concerts.  Hell, at one point I even thought I would make a gown.

Haha, NOPE.  It’s a crazy story.

So I entered the New Zealand Aria the night before entries closed.  Then I realised that it was on at the same time as PAX so there was no point finishing the Junketsu (wrong, but we’ll get to that in a minute).  Then I cut out two Man Repeller-inspired ruffled shirts for My Wardrobe S/S 16, but sewing the pleather for my Attack on Titan cosplay had killed the tension wheel on my Janome and it went off to be serviced.  Two weeks of waiting for it to come back and consoling myself with fan art later…

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I tend to only ship characters with musical instruments.

…I should have done all the finishing on the fuchsia performance dress then, but stupidly I chose to binge on Noragami instead.  Then I did an audition for Opera Australia in Sydney.  Then I got a callback, so I had to cancel on New Zealand SO THE MORAL OF THAT STORY IS IF I’D JUST FINISHED THE DAMN JUNKETSU I COULD HAVE GONE TO PAX ANYWAY.  I was sad and happy and confused so then I entered the Diamond Valley Eisteddfod (again the night before the damn thing.  Noticing a pattern?). I hand-hemmed the fuchsia dress at the venue on the day, and then I won the aria section.  Then I found out I had the job with OA.  Then I didn’t sleep for about 48 hours.  Now I’m doing weird random procrastinatey sewing things instead of finishing the summer clothes that I know I’ll need up north.

Like how I suddenly decided that the arm and pocket badges on my AoT jacket look wrong and need to be fixed.  The method I’m  using now (just appliqueing on a big general wing-shaped cut-out and then zig-zagging the lines on over the top) is a lot quicker and easier than the first method I used, and I think it reads better too.

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Way better, right?

I’ve started on one of the summer shirts, but I’m currently baulking at the buttonholes because my machine is still a bit hit-and-miss with buttonholes.  It’s just the frumpster shirt pattern with the sleeves cut in further, and a ruffle on a strip of bias binding added over the top.

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If it looks like it’s spent the week scrunched up in a corner, that’s because it has.

The Junketsu has now been hemmed.  Behold it in its shortness if you dare, along with my best attempt at a faux-fringe (which really just ended up looking kind of vintage.  Oh well.  Satsuki’s kind of a pin-up anyway).  I ordered a wig online yesterday, taking my chances with a random cosplay wig shop on AliExpress.  The shipping times are so variable that I just put in the address as my parent’s place in case it takes a month and I’ve moved out of the sharehouse, so Mum, if you get a very long blue wig in the post please don’t get a shock.

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As if getting a wig in the post could be any more shocking than the length of that skirt.

I have decided I’ll attach the sailor collar with snaps, but the ones I have in my stash are tiny, so I’ll zip out to somewhere and get bigger ones.  I’ve glued  I-don’t-know-what-you-call-thems on the boards.  They’re the bits that you pass epaulettes through to button the boards on.

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They don’t look very nice because I glued them on and used Fray-Block to finish the edges.

I will add epaulettes to the Junketsu and then the boards can button or snap on.  I was worried that the boards were too big, but even just pinned on they look really good.  The scarf tie things are another story though.  I’ll take them off and make them smaller and pointier.

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With both boards in dynamic pre-transformation pose

I’ve also ordered the white stretch-PVC for the boots, and I’ll put them together on my friend’s serger, because I really don’t want to be servicing my poor old machine twice in as many months, and comparing my sewing machine to Sergei the serger is like comparing an elderly lady who’s still ok walking the dog with some kind of super hardcore Russian SAS person with muscles on their muscles.  Then I’ll get a pair of op-shop heels and glue them over the top.  The PVC was a bit expensive, but there’s really only one place in Australia that had it and I only need a metre for my scrawny pins so it’s not that bad.

Then the only thing will be the sword, Bankuze.  It’s basically a big white katana with a fancy cross-bar (no idea what you call that part on a katana, and behold my apparent inability to google it).  The internet has many which are expensive, not super great-looking and of dubious customs-passability.  I’m contemplating how hard it would be to make a passable Bankuze-like-object out of cardboard or papier mache or plastic or something.  Satsuki doesn’t even usually bother to unsheathe it unless she’s fighting Ryuko anyhow.

 

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Attack on Cosplay Part Two – The Thousand and One Infuriating Straps

I’m not gonna lie, I would seriously rather hand-sew another set of 18th Century stays than make another Attack on Titan harness.  True, the stays took me like 8 months longer, but they didn’t involve trying to make my craptacular Janome come to terms with pleather.

Internet research confirmed that pleather is a special snowflake, and because it’s both stretchy and sticky, it needs extra help to go under the presser-foot without bunching and puckering.   Some recommended a roller foot (sounds awesome but couldn’t get one), or the ol’ paper trick, where you pin paper over the fabric and rip it off after.  Others recommended a teflon foot, which I got, as my local Janome dealer didn’t have a roller foot.  The poor shop lady looked at me with plain distress on her face when I said ‘cosplay’ and ‘pleather’ in the same sentence.  Sadly, when I got the foot home it only kind of vaguely worked, more on that later. Pleather’s other extra-special attribute is that it doesn’t like pins, because it’s not woven and pins will leave holes.

But this is me we’re talking about, and I like leaping in at the deep end without checking for pointy rocks/stingrays/Cthulu first.  I already felt I’d done enough planning by drawing up a ton of notes on what attaches where.  Bear in mind there are much MUCH better diagrams in google images, and even though I’d drawn these out, there was no guarantee I’d follow them perfectly in the moment.

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Haha, even just reading those back now there are so many places where I deviated from the plan.  Because I am Captain By-The-Seat-of-My-Pants.

So first I just made oodles and oodles of strapping from the pleather, with the non-stretch direction lengthways. Turning a tube was too hard because the right sides stick to each other, so I folded an 8cm-wide strip in half, wrong side to wrong side, topstitched the fold, then folded in the other edge a cm or so and topstitched it too.  Because by that stage I hadn’t had a chance to haul my butt to Maribyrnong to get a teflon foot, I used the paper method, and because pleather dislikes pins, I used bobby pins.  It helps that because I have stubborn hair, I have extra-strong bobby pins.  BOBBY PINS ARE THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING.  Also, if you are someone with Hermione-levels of hair like me, you probably already have loads of them lying around.  If you have short hair/love office products, I hear paperclips work too.

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Yes, that’s La Traviata.  It was in an old subject reader from my undergrad so it was an excerpt anyway.  I wasn’t sacrificing actual sheet music.  The paper rips very cleanly off in this instance because the pleather doesn’t try to come with it the way a knit fabric does.

After I’d made metres and metres of the stuff, I started with the back pad and made my way down from there, sometimes using Dido the dressform, but trying it on me every now and again because sometimes she goes a funny round-shouldered shape that’s not helpful.

The back pad (and both the scabbard pads, for that matter) were a cheap grey poplin underlined with felt leftover from a dragon plushie I made for a friend’s five-year-old a while back and forgot to blog about.  Problem is, this is the colour of the felt:

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Naw, how cute was it before it got loved to death?  Anyway, back to AoT.  Turns out when you underline grey poplin with green felt and then expect to cut what are effectively large buttonholes for straps to pass through, you inevitably see the green felt on the inside of the slash, like your harness is secretly Bruce Banner or something.  Not a massive problem, but weird up close.  And cartoon-prompting.

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Have a very dark photo of the pattern, because I can’t be bothered lightening it.

Then it was a matter of trimming straps to size and adding them one at a time.  The upper back first, then the sternum buckle, then from there.  Somewhere along the line I realised it’d be easier to make the whole thing in one rather than trying to keep the top and bottom separate.  I’m sorry I didn’t take better notes as I went, but it was pretty damn confusing, the whole process lasted a couple of weeks and I’m not entirely sure I knew what I was doing at the time.  There was wine was involved at several points.  Also some pretending to be Levi, some pretending to be Veronica Lake, and some wearing the flower crown from when I was Woodsprite 1 in Rusalka earlier this year. Pro-tip, don’t drink and sew, and definitely don’t let a soprano have access to wine, cosplay and a camera at the same time.  Do have a montage though.

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By the end it was crazy trying to get the whole thing under the needle…

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And sometimes I resorted to some dumb tactics…

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Most of it was sewn together using a variant on this criss-cross pattern:

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Right up the top in that photo you can see what I mean about the green felt too.

Some of the details ended up being pretty crucial.  For example, I realised early on that it’d be silly to permanently attach any of the straps to the scabbard pads in a way that they couldn’t move.  So this is the arrangement I came up with on the back, using fabric loops.  The thigh straps just feed through enormous buttonholes the way the shoulder straps do in the shoulder pad:

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The buckles were just sewn on and the holes for the latchets were made with a stitch ripper because my awl (and by awl, I mean very sharp pencil) didn’t work.

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I didn’t end up attaching the straps at the front with buckles to the belt because I couldn’t really think of a way to do it, I ran out of buckles, and really I was just looping them around the belt loops of my jeans and using the belt (which is totally separate) to hold them down.

Here it is in its completed (if slightly dodgy) glory:

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I tried taking a couple of videos of putting the whole catastrophe on to see if I could document it clearly, but it didn’t make it any clearer and it takes roughly ten minutes (I can see why humanity is dying out if it takes their strongest members that long to get their kit on and off, you know what I mean?), so make do with a talkthrough:

  1. Lay the catastrophe on the floor, front side up.  Make sure nothing is tangled (HA)
  2. Sit yourself down smack-bang in the middle.  Shimmy thy legs under the bit that will cross over just below your stomach in the end.
  3. Then get each leg down into the leg loops until your feet are at the bottom.  Make sure nothing’s twisted again.  If something is twisted, swear at it for a while until it goes away.
  4. Do up the thigh straps.  Adjust the crap out of all leg bits so that everything sits where it should.
  5. AWESOME FUN TIP: Put on some socks now!  It’ll keep the foot loops from leaping off your feet when you stand up, and stop them squeaking like you’re walking through a rubber ducky warehouse in stilettos when you put your boots on.  My socks have cats on them.
  6. Grab hold of the back pad over your shoulder and stand up.
  7. Squiggle all the straps up over your bum at the back.
  8. Pop your arms through the arm-holes at the top and shimmy the top half on without throwing your neck out.  If you can’t turn your head after, time to swear some more and then call the physio.  Make sure those straps aren’t twisted first though.  See earlier swearing comment.
  9. Do up the sternum strap.  If you are a boob-owner and need to move yours out of the way, do that now too.  If you just have massive pecs like Captain America I can offer you little advice except good on you for having them, and can you do that thing where they pop individually?  That’s hilarious.
  10. The ends of the straps that come from the back button on around the front ones (because I found if I sewed them down I couldn’t get my hips through it.  Your mileage may vary if yours don’t prompt strange older women to compliment you creepily on your physiological suitability for childbirth.)
  11. Now’s when I add the belt over the top.  I’m about to tell you about the skirt too. If you’re still reading that is. If you’re not then I guess I can call you a spleeny bat-fowling scut and you’ll be none the wiser. Thankyou Shakespearean Insult Generator…

The skirt thing was a lightly shaped arc thing with holes for the belt loops so I could still put the belt through them.  It tied on to the belt loops with little ribbons (aww).  It goes on after stage 10, and there are slits for the belt loops of the jeans to go through so that the belt can still be threaded through them.  Then the ribbons are tied on to whichever strap is closest.

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It’s pretty hard to see in these photos.  Sorry.  The areas of shaping and the edges were folded over and topstitched, and this is where the teflon foot came (vaguely) in handy.  Vaguely because it was only a bit better than the metal foot, but on seams in the middle of a piece of pleather the paper method gets a whole lot harder.

The bit that really made sticking hot forks in one’s eyes sound like fun was the boot covers.  I loosely followed this boot cover tutorial, mostly because I didn’t want to have to destroy any of my shoes and I didn’t want to buy any new ones to cover.  First I was going to cover a set of riding boots that I can be seen wearing in most of the above photos, but the problem is I have scrawny wee calves, so the boots aren’t fitted.  So the first one looked completely wrong and the top flaps were more flops.  So I re-drafted them to go over a pair of ankle boots and then fit directly to the leg.  Much better from a fit perspective, but such a nightmare from a topstitching perspective.  And the teflon foot did a very half-arsed job. Then when I thought I was out of the woods, the top flaps were still disappointingly floppy (yes, I’m being dirty, you love it) because the pleather was quite soft, even after being interfaced with heavy linen.  So I went with my usual sewing panacea of using twill tape to create a bone casing and putting a cable tie in it.  That appeared to help.

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The other inaccuracy was that the cords on the AoT boots are brown.  But I had green rat tail left from when I butchered the green soprano gown (the gown as it was, and as it is now and ever shall be).  So I have green cords on my boots.  Shh.

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You can’t really tell, right?

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So that’s a wrap really!  I’ll make a cloak at some point to add to it, but I’ll wait for the perfect green wool so that it’ll be warm and rain-repellent and heavy and gorgeous. In the meantime, have some more pictures of me and my friend having fun outside the movies in our costumes!  I may have taken to photoshop and done a Who Framed Roger Rabbit on two of them… couldn’t resist.

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Two Hanges are better than one.

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Levi’s kicking himself he picked the berry paddle-pop when he could have had dulce de leche but didn’t want to look like he was copying Hange 2.

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Eren’s wondering if the Hanges would catch him if he tried to escape.

OH!  And if you haven’t already done so, check out the Society 6 store I just got!  I do way more art than just photoshop characters into silly photos, and you can get it on a mug or a phone case.  It’s pretty awesome. 🙂

Attack on Cosplay – Jacket Potato (Sasha wishes…)

That Attack on Titan cosplay I hinted at in my last post is done.  Done and worn and everything. Though, if you know me on like any other form of social media you’ll already be sick of it, so if that’s you, I’m not going to be offended if you sit this one out.

If that’s not you (or if that’s you but you want to know how I made it/feel some weird obligation to read everything I thoughtlessly spew forth like some kind of projectile-vomiting random word generator), strap yourselves in.  It’s probably going to be a several-post ride.

First, BEHOLD IT IN ITS FINISHED GLORY!

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Double the Hange = Double the chance Eren’s getting dissected today.

Now onto the iconic jacket, before I totally forget how I did it.  I didn’t take loads of photos because for once I really got into the flow of it and who has time for photos when they’re in the zone.  Eye of the tiger.

Stage The First: Draft It.  Draft It Good.

Step one (which probably isn’t all that helpful for anyone who’s not into this sort of technical crap) was go to my copy of Natalie Bray and nut out a jacket block from my standard bodice block pattern.  This took me longer than anticipated because my standard block is a helluva lot snugger than the one Natalie recommends, partly because it’s not 1968 and partly because I make a lot of dresses that need a no ease/negative ease block.  But it still didn’t take as long as I’d anticipated, so win.

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Then I found a picture of someone in a jacket standing nice and still in a well-lit place.

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Extra helpful because Armin’s build is me without the hips, so I can see how the jacket should sit.

 Thanks, Armin, you’re a gem.  None of this lurking in the shadows business like other people we know but love anyway.

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“Shut up.  Sun-safety is almost as important as cleanliness.”

Then I wrote a giant sticky note of all the design elements and how they would relate to my pattern draft.   I stuck with a pretty simple pattern in the end – no shaping except a tiny bit at the side seams to stop it kicking out at the back, and a yoke seam to tidily hide a little shaping at the front.  It was mostly going to be hidden under the patch pockets anyhow, so I didn’t worry about the fact that no yoke seams are apparent in the anime or manga.  The sleeves are a slightly widened version of the sleeve from my shirt pattern, as I find it almost impossible to draft a sleeve based on my top-arm measurement (thanks, broad bony shoulders and skinny arms, so helpful).  The collar went through a couple of revisions, because in the first toile (yes, I know, I made one for a change), it was ridiculously small.  This was what I ended up with:

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I’ve lost the toile and I didn’t take any pictures because I’m scatty like that.  It basically looked like the finished jacket, only without sleeves, and in some ghastly aqua poly-pop.

Step The Second: Hunt A Fabric

Fabric-wise, I originally wanted a lightweight wool because I thought it would a) be nice and b) be warm, but the Fabric Store had nada (they did have a nice brown pleather though, more on that later), the internet had zip and Spotlight had cotton duck in as close as I was ever going to find to the right colour.  If I ever, ever find wool in the right weight and colour, I would totally re-make the jacket because I think it would look damn spiffy in wool.  But alas, cotton it was.  In a slightly more burnt shade of caramel brown than what was required.

Step The Third: Sew For A Bit

So I set to work cutting it up and sewing the body of the jacket together, cut out the collar,  prepared the collar, and starched the hell out of the collar (seriously, starch is my favourite thing.  I went so overboard on the starch).  With the collar, because the cotton duck is heavy, I fiddled around with what’s called ‘turn of cloth allowance’ or ‘roll allowance’ (the blogger at that link also does an excellent collar-drafting tutorial, and pretty fabulous tutorials in general).

Step Four: Get Distracted (But Productively, I Swear)

Then I got sidetracked making patches.  Because I was being silly frugal, I went with fabric scraps I had to hand.  I had some cotton jersey in a good blue-grey colour (from the sailor pants) so I underlined it with the cotton duck and then for the three smaller patches I just machine-zig-zagged the wings on in a vague, haphazard manner that makes them look more like the scribby ones from the manga as opposed to the neat tidy ones in the anime.  Still better than the muddy faded ones in the movie.

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Flügel der Ungleichmäßigkeit

For the larger back patch I appliqued on pieces of navy and white fabric.  I tried to find some offcuts from the Junketsu for the white bits, but failed, and used white cotton moleskin instead because it was there in the scrap-box, which in retrospect was a mistake because fluffies were everywhere.  The fluffies seem to come off after a while though, so maybe it’s not the end of the world.

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Then, dear readers, I made a classic rookie error.  I should have sewed all the patches and the epaulettes on now.  While the pocket and sleeves were still not sewn on to the jacket.  You see where I’m going.   But no, I was in the zone and getting ahead of myself and I was too excited researching how to line the damn thing about practical stuff like that.

Stage Five: Have Soprano Tantrum

The other reason that sewing the patches on the sleeves before attaching them would have helped is that it would have stopped me having the terrible time I had the night I ended up sewing on both sleeves on inside out and/or back to front.  Multiple times.  Having the patches as an obvious visual marker to say THIS IS THE RIGHT SIDE would have been amazeballs. Just goes to show, always make sure you have the right notches matched up, and don’t overthink what way is right-side-to-right-side.  The Road of Overthinking leads through the Vale of Eternal Stuffups.  On the way to the Gorge of Angry Soprano-Harpies.  I ended up putting it away and watching almost all of Glitch (HEARTILY RECOMMEND) to calm down, and then got the jacket back out of the Naughty Corner the next day and unpicking and re-sewing the sleeves.  I may have cried when I got them right.

Stage Six: Collar That Puppy

The collar went together exactly like a shirt collar.  Some people struggle with shirt collars, I hear.  I found the tutorial antidote to shirt collar struggles many moons ago at Male Pattern Boldness, as Peter is a gun at shirt collars.  This post and the couple that come after it show what good collar sewing is all about.  I’m too lazy to bother with interfacing, however, and just starched the crap out of my collar instead.

Then I sewed up my pocket flaps and attached them and the patch pockets, adding the buttons from my stash and buttonholes too.  And the epaulettes because I’d forgotten them earlier.  There was much weeping and palming of faces.  I’ve noticed that I also tend to forget the epaulettes whenever I draw cartoons involving AoT characters too, so I guess I’m just a little epaulette-blind.  If they’re not enormous and dripping with gold fringe, what’s the point of noticing them, right?

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Stage Seven: The Lining of the Beast

Then I dug some old navy acetate out of the stash, cut a facing from the brown duck and sewed up and added a lining.  I’m not even going to try to explain this.  It was my first go at lining a jacket anyhow.  So have a link to a tutorial.  This is the one I found most useful, but if you’re in the same situation I was for the love of Dog read the whole thing first before you go step-by-step.  I ended up having to rip out the most perfect bloody slip-stitches because I got ahead of myself.  This series of illustrations was also helpful.

Stage Eight: Glory in Thy Achievement

Put on Blue Steel like you’re God’s gift to the Survey Corps.

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Admire the way the uniform flatters your butt jacket hangs perfectly at the back.

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Give the salute with a cheezy expression of hope and determination.

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And stay tuned for the next instalment, Scheherazade and the Thousand and One VMD Harness Straps.