Monday, November 23, 2015

Meeting Ivy Doomkitty

You guys, I met Ivy Doomkitty!!! She was at VA Comicon in Richmond yesterday, and she was awesome. She's gorgeous and nice and did a panel on confidence and body image relating to cosplay. And I got her autograph and took a photo with her!

I know, you were expecting me to be Daryl Dixon. First, I ordered the rest of the leather a little later than I probably should have, so I would have been rushing to finish the vest. Then I thought, "I have to make TWO costumes before the Force Awakens premiere, because Birk wants a Jedi robe." So I've decided to be Han Solo for the premiere instead of Rey, because I think it'll be less work (slightly). Which means I can finish making the vest, use it for Han, then add the wings after December 17 so I can be Daryl in the future. (I don't plan to repeat Han.) And I won't feel compelled to make Han's blaster, because... well, it's just not a smart idea to bring that kind of prop to a movie theater, especially not on a night like that, completely packed with people.

BUT that means that I used one of my go-to costumes, the Marauder's Map dress, so Ivy and I matched themes (that's her Slytherin corset, if you can't see the crest in the photo). Which was pretty awesome.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Arkham Knight Harley Quinn!

Halloween at last! And that means I finally got to wear Harley. I took her to O'Connor Brewing Company in Norfolk for Tidewater Comicon's Halloween party, plus we swung by my tattoo place (they were giving out gift certificates to anyone who showed up in costume) and Chipotle ($3 burrito for anyone in costume). Birk apologizes in advance for his photography skills.

Leaving for the party!

I have no reference photos for what HQ's face looks like when she attacks, so I guessed.

I don't have a proper ledge to crouch on, so the stairs will have to do.

I love the industrial look outside the brewery!

Outside O'Connor Brewing Company

Posing with the TARDIS, as one does

Beer and laughing gas bomb, can't go wrong

I know Harley's insane, it's canon, but now I know why...
she puts on all this before doing absolutely anything.

It was super fun being Harley. Sure, it's not a particularly comfortable costume (it includes a real corset plus a corset cover that does NOT breathe, one bra on top of another, wigs always give me a little bit of a headache, plus this makeup means constantly reminding myself not to touch my face). But it's the first one I made on my own (sure, I got help from Birk, but that will probably always be the case... let's be real, I can't even get into one of the pieces of this costume without his help) and I'm pretty darn pleased with it. I have some adjustments and additions before I wear it again (make a new corset from scratch to fit a little better, clean up the edges on the red/black bra, add a few more O-rings to the leather harness) but that'll be sometime next year.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Harley Quinn Wig

Next time I say, "I'm going to dye this wig with Sharpies!" someone should slap me and hide all my Sharpies from me. If I do something like this again, I'll be using the method where you make a dye out of the Sharpie ink and alcohol and submerge the wig in it. But this time, I hand-Sharpied. I consider it a small miracle that I didn't gouge out one of my eyes with one of the Sharpies out of frustration.

The little piece I started with to make sure this was going to work.
(The scariest part by far.)

I used the book to raise the mannequin head so the hair wasn't laying flat on the table.
I taped the head to the book to stabilize it so it wouldn't wiggle around while I worked.

This is what my nervous smile looks like.
The mannequin looks like she's heading to the firing squad.

Work work work

I started each side by making a few marks at the highest point I wanted to color,
so that it would stay relatively straight across.

Ta-da! The red side looks a little too straight across,
but once I comb it out and swing it around a little, that'll break up
and look a little more natural.

Pre-Halloween: Death!

I've had all the pieces for a Death (from Sandman) costume for a year now. She was a backup for NYCC 2014 in case I needed another cosplay, but I didn't. Then I considered wearing it to AwesomeCon, but I chose to go costume-less instead. So then we decided at work that we should dress up today, since most of us won't be at work tomorrow for Halloween, and out came Death!

Always bring a book for reference if you want
to introduce your character and/or their source material
to a new audience!

Death should absolutely be a librarian.
Considering it's the Year of the Comic Book for the public library this year, it was only appropriate to be a comic book character, I thought. Another one of our librarians was Ms Marvel, so I was in good company.

This is the "lite" version of the Death costume, for many reasons. I left out the black lipstick because I don't wear lipstick and didn't want to spend all my time at work glancing in a mirror to worry about whether it was on my teeth or something. I left out the black nail polish because I need clear nails for tomorrow as Harley Quinn. I didn't do full eyeliner because I like being able to see. And my ankh necklace isn't exactly right because I like this necklace (Birk made it for me YEARS ago) and it's close enough.

Finishing Harley Quinn's Bomb

Since I don't play Arkham Knight and I can't find much about this online, I'm mostly guessing that this thing is a laughing gas bomb. But it's my best guess, and I loved it in the shots from the game trailer, and it was just too much fun to make, so I had to have it.

As soon as I decided to make it, I knew exactly what to start with. Did any of you have Splash Out as a kid? It's a mechanism that you put a water balloon into, set the timer, and you play hot potato with it... when the timer runs out, it pops the water balloon, the person holding it gets splashed, and they're out. It looks like this:

And the laughing gas bomb looks like this:

So I ordered a Splash Out on Amazon. (I almost felt a little bad... the seller sent a note with it saying to enjoy it in the last few weeks of summer we had left at the time. Nope, sorry, gonna paint it, fill it with lights, and carry it around on Halloween.)

I can't find any photos of painting it, but I started with a coat of white to cover up the orange and purple, both inside and out. Then I painted a few coats of black on the outside.

This is when I discovered the magic that is EL wire. That's the same stuff I used to make the lights for the Iron Man scale dress, but I ordered and tested the pink wire for this bomb first. I checked the listed measurements for the battery pack and it looked like it would fit, and it turned out that it did.

I coiled the wire up inside and closed it, and it looked like this:

(I also added another coat of black paint after that photo was taken.)

Pretty cool, right? I didn't love that I could see the wire through the holes but I decided that fixing that up would go way down low on the list to make sure I get other stuff done first.

So today, after I made sure all the clothing fit and looked okay, I added vellum paper to the inside to cover the holes and make the light more of a glow than individual lines of wire.

Cutting and inserting the pieces of vellum paper, with tiny pieces of
double-sided tape to hold each one in place.

Taping down the battery pack to the center piece (which originally is supposed to pop the water balloon).

Outside view with the vellum paper in place

The original plan was to be able to turn the light on and off by poking my skinniest paintbrush handle through the holes and poke the button, but with the paper there, I have to twist the ball open to reach the button. No big deal; I'm just trying not to do it too many times so I don't wear off the paint around the opening.

Edited to add: I got a great photo of the laughing gas bomb at O'Connor Brewing Company on Halloween and thought it would be appropriate to add here:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Distressed Bat

It's really scary to have to distress/age something you've already created. You put in a lot of careful work to make something that looks really nice, and then you have to mess it up on purpose, but equally carefully. It has to be messed up in just the right way. Last night, I finally distressed Harley's bat, and I'm pretty happy with it.

I would assume that the edge of the end of the bat would get a lot of
wear and tear, so I did quite a bit of distressing there.

There's one big spot at the top that seems to have been well-used,
and a smaller area on the flat of the bat where you'd typically
aim to hit the ball (or skull, or whatever you're aiming at as Harley).

A few more little spots. I didn't want to go overboard,
so I just picked a few places that might get used to the point
of wearing off paint, and stopped myself after five or six.

In the reference images, the lines dividing the layers of tape
are very clearly defined. It looks kind of like dirt and grime have
set into it on the edges of the tape. So I colored them black for emphasis.

All I did for distressing it was use a metallic silver Sharpie and my finger to smudge it around quickly before it dried. The tape lines are just black Sharpie (it bled on its own, which I thought looked really cool and gave it a shadow without me doing anything). Also, while smudging one of the spots, my finger slipped and my nail dug a little divot in the side of the bat, since it's just foam. So I silvered it up and made it look like it was damaged in a fight.

So, it was fun, but it was tense. I didn't know if I'd be able to paint over it if I messed up, since I hadn't tested that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Gotta sketch 'em all! #300, #709, #129, #538

Yeah, I came up with a catchier name than "Pokemon Gijinka Project" last night.

I couldn't decide where to start, so I used to choose a random number between 1 and 721, and it gave me 300, so I started with #300, Skitty.

I traced the croquis (both of them) because I'm not that good at that yet, and if I trace enough of them, I'll get much better at free-handing them. The front view I traced from here and the back is from here. I traced the Skitty in the top corner directly from the Pokedex I'm using.

The thing I like the most about this one is the hair. I didn't expect to be any good at that part, so that was a pleasant surprise, and I'm really happy with the way it turned out here.

When I realized that I finally found my Prismacolors but couldn't for the life of me figure out where my pencil sharpener was (and that none of my knives are appropriately sharp for sharpening pencils by hand) I decided to sketch another one instead of coloring with dull pencils.

This time, gave me 436, which is Bronzor, and I had no idea what to do with that one just yet. So I made a new rule: I can get five numbers from and pick whichever one I want out of the five, so I'm not stuck working with something that doesn't inspire me. That would be a project-killer. (Of course, if I think of something for a specific Pokemon, I'll just jump straight to that one and skip the random number thing.)

So I wound up with #709, Trevenant, which I had never seen before. (Pretty much anything after third generation is totally new to me.)

It's so painfully '90s, I love it. The crop top, the fuzzy bracelets, the side ponytail. You may recognize the croquis from the Skitty sketch. I like this pose; I'll probably be using it a lot. (Except when I get to the shoes... I need a lot of work on angles for shoes.)

This morning, I started on #129, Magikarp, but I didn't take a picture of just the pencil sketch. When I got home with a pencil sharpener (and a Pink Pearl eraser because, I don't know if it's visible, but my mechanical pencil eraser left orange streaks) I could color everything... Plus I did one more while I waited for glue to dry on Harley's gauntlets.

Yes, I know I need to go back and color in the hair
on the back view

This one's croquis is from here

This is a SUPER fun project so far. I'm trying to do at least one thing I need to look up and learn how to do on each one. Skitty was the first one, so that was ALL new. Trevenant, I had to figure out that darn heel... shoes are hard. Magikarp, I looked up boots (and learned a bit about belt placement). And with Throh, I used a new croquis to work with different angles and proportions (she's more of an artsy croquis than a practical one).

Monday, October 12, 2015

Gijinka Pokemon Design Project

One of my goals for the near future is to learn how to do proper fashion illustration, so that I can plan my costumes better, especially when I go off-canon. For example, my upcoming Unown dress only exists in my head, and that's a very unstable storage space. But I can't draw it properly, so it's all I have.

And once I've learned the basics, I have the perfect project to help me fine-tune the skill: design 721 gijinka Pokemon costumes (one for every single Pokemon there is... so far). I won't necessarily go in order (what fun would it be to do Bulbasaur, then Ivysaur, then Venosaur all in a row? It would get redundant every time there was an evolution series) and I'll practice new things with each one I do, to make a learning experience instead of a weirdly self-inflicted real-life grind quest.

Here is the Pokedex I'll be working from. I think that's all I'll use, instead of pulling in other reference photos. I'm far and away more familiar with the original generation, since I actually played those games, and seriously. But I think between their names and sprites, I'll have enough information to design around the rest.

I don't know if I'll actually make any of them... as soon as I had the idea, I knew I badly needed a gijinka Dratini in my closet, but we'll see. For now, this is a fun way to improve a skill I really need.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"Quilted" Pleather

This weekend was supposed to be all about Harley Quinn's torso/corset/shirt/whatever you call that thing. I actually bought a corset to use as a base, and it fit well enough after one adjustment... but then after probably half an hour of me and Birk scrutinizing every Pinned photo I have of Harley, we determined that what I really need to use is a bra (that fits just perfectly) and an underbust corset. So that means next weekend will have to be torso weekend, so I have time to get what I need. But in preparation for this weekend, I made some "quilted" pleather I can cut into the pieces I need to cover the front and back of the underbust corset when it gets here.

So to make up for the sad day that was today (trying to make leggings, giving up and making a new plan for that, and sewing what barely passes for a skirt that also isn't hemmed... sewing garments is really, REALLY not my forte, guys) I'll give you a photo step-by-step.

First, I made a 2"x2" grid on the back of the pleather using a pink highlighter.

Then I used the ruler to make straight lines with a black Sharpie to make an X through
each 2"x2" box of the grid in each direction, giving me a diagonal 1"x1" grid to follow when I sew.

First line sewn, and it went really well. I started with a small line in the
corner in case I needed to make adjustments to the sewing machine before I continued.

Action shot!

All the lines are sewn!

And when I'm all done, I flip it over and it looks exactly like I wanted.
It was really, really easy, to be quite honest. This is the kind of sewing I can handle. Patterns and curves and fitted pieces (and freaking knits)? Not so much. But I'll get there.

Contact Cards

It occurred to me last weekend that many cosplayers have a card. They hand them out for several reasons. If someone takes a photo of you and you'd like them to send it to you, you can hand them a card and ask them to do so. If you sell or design pieces, you might have a shop with a card you can hand out when people admire your work. If you just want more people to follow you on social media or read your blog, you can hand cards to your admirers and they'll have the information they need to find you online.

Mostly, I wanted cards for the first reason: to get people to send their photos of me to me. But I also want to be able to stay in contact with some of the amazing people I meet while doing cosplay, and this seemed like the easiest way to do that. Plus, I don't think I'll have many costumes where I don't have somewhere to tuck away a few cards to hand out. (I have to be able to carry my wallet and phone anyway; a handful of cards aren't much bigger than that.)

So I made some at Vistaprint last weekend after I finished the harness, and they're here!

Now I just can't wait to hand them out!

Friday, October 9, 2015

One Year of Cosplay

It might be weird that I know the anniversary of my first cosplay, but it's easy to remember... it was at NYCC 2014. Beth told me she was going to NYCC in October and I should go with her, and I thought... yeah, I should! Plus, she was going to make me a costume, so that was cool. That's how, one year ago today, I found myself walking into the Javits Center in NYC and my mind was completely blown. NYCC is HUGE. It takes up a ton of space, there are a ton of people there, and everything is just so... GRAND. So of course I was immediately in love with the entire thing.

Then I started walking around. And I learned that Beth had not been joking when she said that total strangers give you compliments and ask to take photos with you. That really surprised me, even though I had been given fair warning. After one year and six cons, there have to be at least a hundred pictures of me on strangers' phones, cameras, Flickr feeds, Facebook pages, blogs, and what have you (not counting the photos my friends and I have taken... Chris probably has 100+ all on his own). It's weird to think about, but it's also really cool.

NYCC was unbelievable. It was tiring and crazy and I loved it. Then I came home and later that month, we went to Tidewater Comicon and it was even better, because it was at home, and I saw that these people exist in my own city; it's not just a weird New York thing.

This year, we've gone to another Tidewater Comicon, Wizard World Richmond, Awesome Con, and Baltimore Comic-Con, plus I have two more in the next month and a half. Every con is different and fabulous in its own way.

We've entered the Tidewater Comicon cosplay contest each time we've been there, and I love the way they do it. On the exhibit hall floor, you go to the contest table whenever you want, and you get a number, they take a photo, and you talk to the judges about your costume (character, methods, materials, everything). We really appreciate the judges there, because they asked well-informed questions; they clearly know what they're doing.

At Baltimore last month, I did my first stage cosplay contest. It was different and a little terrifying, but I got to talk shop with other cosplayers. We swapped ideas and plans and materials vendors. (The Ring Lord should really give me a commission for that one.) I hadn't really gotten a chance to do that before, so that was really fun, and I hope to see some of those people again at future cons.

And now, I'm in the middle of putting together a costume on my own, which is an entirely different experience from watching Beth swear at a sewing machine and being her cheerleader.

I freely admit that I love the attention I get when I'm cosplaying. Strangers come up to me to compliment me, ask questions about how something was made, take pictures of and with me... it feels amazing, and there's nothing quite like it. Everyone is so unbelievably nice.

I haven't had any bad experiences, like harassment or even mild rudeness. Every con I've been to has really pushed the "cosplay isn't consent" idea and it seems to have sunk in really well. I haven't seen anyone take my photo without my permission, much less touch me. (I had to actually invite people to touch the Iron Man dress at Baltimore because they didn't want to ask, but it just looks so interesting.) This doesn't, by any means, mean that it doesn't happen; I'm just saying that I'm lucky and haven't experienced it myself. And I am confident that if anything does happen, there is a huge community that would protect and support me, because cosplayers are tight like that.

Cosplaying has also taught me a lot of new skills, mostly in the way of crafting. In the past month alone, I've learned about leather crafting, painting, EL wire, and how difficult it is to sew on pleather. For my next few attempts, I'll be learning how to craft with foam, making a mask, and so much more about sewing.

Anyway, all I wanted to say is that it's been an amazing year and the next one will be, too. I have more ideas than I have time/money/energy so it's hard to say what will come next!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

More Research = More Work

That moment where you're looking for better reference photos for one piece, and you find out you missed some things on a piece you already finished...

Specifically, I needed images of Harley's back, and I found more images that show different angles of the harness... and I have to go back and add six O-rings (two of which I already knew about). And I was going to leave off one of the straps (the one that goes around the neck and down to just about armpit level in the front) but I'm not sure I can get away with that now. We'll see.

Sure, it showed me I have more work to do on the harness...
But on the bright side, this is a really excellent image.
And it makes me wonder if I want a police hat.
(That doesn't sound right... "police hat." What are they called? A cap?)

Monday, October 5, 2015


I learned yesterday, by testing them, that brads are much easier to put in the leather than actual studs. So that's what I'm rolling with.

Problem was, I had small silver ones, and what I needed was large black ones. So I went back to Michael's today and did not find what I needed. What I did find, however, was large brads that look like baseballs. So I decided to get those and paint them.

As you can see, it was going to require a couple of coats. Then I saw something else already sitting out on my sewing table and decided to try it to see if it was more effective...

Nail polish! It was thick enough to cover it with one coat, it's shiny like metal would be, and I'm fairly sure that it won't chip (but I might need to put on a clear coat just in case). I don't think they'll fully dry before I go to bed tonight, so I'll have to work with them tomorrow.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Harness Weekend

The harness is complete! Okay, I still need to add the studs on two of the straps but that's only because I have silver studs and I need black. But I had a weekend that went from learning how to use a sewing awl to putting on a COMPLETE harness!

Finished product first:

I didn't take nearly enough photos to do a tutorial, but I did take enough to share the journey with you.

I now own a sewing awl, which (and I only thought of this because of all the Walking Dead I've been watching) would make a decent anti-zombie weapon in a pinch.

Have to test it first, of course!

I didn't actually use it for any of the actual sewing, as it turned out, because I was sewing edge-to-edge, and the instructions for the sewing awl showed me how to sew flat side to flat side. So I used the awl to make the holes and I sewed with a blunt needle.

I knew I needed something under the work to keep my sewing table from being utterly destroyed, but I started off with just a few layers of cardboard. So this happened:

(Look very carefully. That isn't dust on your screen, it's little marks all over my sewing table.)

The first thing I sewed on was the snap to the under-bust band.

It may look like there's a lot of waxed thread getting in the way on the right picture, but actually, the snaps were kind of wobbly to begin with, so that solved a problem for me. They snap really snugly and don't pop open too easily. The top picture is the hole I had to bore out for the middle of the "innie" snap (I'm sure they have a technical name but I haven't learned it yet). I made the hole with a combination of the sewing awl, needle-nose pliers, matte knife, and scissors.

Next up was sewing the over-arm pieces to the under-bust piece.

I don't mean to brag, but damn that's some fine spacing and snug stitching, not to mention a tight knot that won't budge a millimeter. (Yeah, I'm proud of my work, what can I say?)

One thing that was kind of a problem until I got into the swing of things was my needles.

This happened twice (but I only took a picture of the first one). I was worried that it was going to be an average of one needle per strap. The problem was that, most of the time, I couldn't pull the needle out of the hole with just my fingers (waxed thread makes your fingers kind of... waxy) so I used the pliers, but apparently I sometimes had too much of an angle on it so they snapped. But I got better at that whole process, and no more needles were sacrificed.

Then I added a snap and the O-ring to the neck band (and modeled it for myself, because photo breaks are an integral part of my creative process). Then I added the bands that I called the clavicle bands (and modeled again).

Then, Birk and I (okay, Birk, because I can't see my own back... it's a personal flaw that I embrace) measured/marked the back of the over-arm bands for where the X on my back needed to go.

Marking where they need to go
(and the circle drawn on my back is supposed to be the O-ring).
Then I attached the X bands to the O-ring
and we taped them into place to make sure
everything lines up the way it's supposed to be.
Seriously, Birk did SO MUCH measuring and lining up and adjusting and taping and Sharpie-ing this weekend, and he deserves a big round of applause.

The arm bands just needed some elastic and they'll hold in place on my arms just fine, so I used some Krazy Glue (which worked spectacularly) and held it in place with binder clips while it dried.

And then I was done! And you've already seen the final product up there at the top.

I'm really proud of this one. I wanted to get this whole thing done this weekend, and I did. I learned a new skill and it turned out really well on the first try. I managed not to injure myself (though my shoulder is pretty sore from all the awling, but so far no bruise) despite all the scary pointy objects involved.