3 Mar 2015

Cosplay Shenanigans: Me Tarzan, You Petticoat

My weekly post has degraded into a fortnightly one, but I have an excuse - I climbed Mt Taranaki this weekend!

Not exactly cosplay related, but it was cool! It also meant I had no time on the weekend to work on Jane!

I have got a bit of progress to show, however. I found this wonderful tutorial on how to make a Victorian petticoat. Thankfully mine didn't have to be floor length. I dug out a couple of metres of white cotton that I don't remember buying, let alone what I bought it for. Now it's going to become a petticoat!

After cutting all the pieces out, I started assembling the frills. Messed up a bit by not making them long enough. I made them twice as long as the across-back measurement, not twice as long as the actual back piece. Whoops! I reduced my four frills to three, and split one between two of the others to make it longer.

With my overlocker working really well right now, I joined the trim to all the frills, and assembled the front and side panels.

Each frill was then gathered and sewn down onto the back panel.

I decided to use elastic to gather the back, because I'm lazy and it means it will fit over my head.

Then the side panels were sewn to the back, catching the frills along the way.

And here's the result when worn over the bustle. So poofy! Now I need to trim the bottom, attach the lace, then start ripping it all up!

19 Feb 2015

Simplicity 9891: The Elven Dress

What would you do if you won a pass to Hobbiton? Sew an Elven dress to wear, of course! No...?

Two weeks before Hobbiton, I picked out a pattern - Simplicity 9891. I liked the collar on View C, but didn't like the bell sleeves. I decided I would combine it with View A, and have the chiffon sleeves.

That weekend I made a toile, minus the sleeves. I was really happy with the size, not so happy with the bust, however I didn't have time to adjust it. I finished the toile sometime in the evening on Friday, then went fabric shopping on Sunday (one week before Hobbiton!). Saturday was a beach day!

While I was initially going to find a nice, elfish silver for the main fabric, I stumbled across something I couldn't resist.

A printed cotton from Japan, with metallic ink that caught the light. It was just sooooo pretty! Also, on sale! How could I say no? I also bought some light blue polyester chiffon, and a thick fabric (cannot remember the type for the life of me) for the collar and yoke. I also bought some hefty fusible interfacing.

Time to start sewing the real thing! One problem - our small dining table wasn't long enough to cut the full length panels. I had to do some awkward fabric shifting while I was pinning everything. Cutting the fabric is probably my least favourite part. I just want to start sewing it already!

The eternal dilemma - what is the laziest way I can finish these seams? I decided against sewing everything together with the overlocker, and instead finished the seams on all seven panels before assembling them with the sewing machine. This meant I could press the seams open, which gives the seams a crisper look on the outside. It also reduced the bulk at intersections with the yoke.

Sewing the yoke was fun, but the fabric I got frayed every which way. Why didn't I finish those seams with the overlocker? I have no idea why not. I just didn't, and that was stupid. Also, after sewing it all together, I realised the interfacing was way too stiff. It made the collar stick up all awesome, but the front of the yoke didn't sit flat.

On Sunday evening I had the main bodice all together, minus the hem and the hook and eye closure at the neck.

Monday meant back to work, so I only had the evenings and Saturday to finish the dress. Somehow I only got around to sewing two nights that week. I stayed up way too late one night cutting the sleeves out. I also managed to smash a jar I was using as a paperweight onto the ground at midnight. I assembled the sleeves on another night, and left everything else for Saturday.

As I started sewing the set-in sleeves, I realised that this dress has no armhole facing. I could have made some if I realised sooner. Now I had these notched, ratty seams that you could see from the outside. Argh! After some intense pressing, and some stitching to keep it all in place, the result was acceptable. Fortunately the sleeves set in really nicely. Probably thanks to the slightly stretchy polyester.

Next up, I got to test out the hemming assist contraption on my dress form. It was pretty quick to use, although a neater result would have come from hand sewing with a catchstitch or slipstitch. This just produces a running stitch with a controlled stitch length.

At this point it was only the afternoon on Saturday, so I decided to make some pockets to keep all my elvish goodies, and finally got around to fixing up the $2 shop ears I bought. Some lipstick applied with a brush made a huge difference. I sprayed them with a fixative (meant for pencil drawings but whatever), and they looked infinitely better. Not quite the quality of the silicone ears that Courty made, but from a distance, they'd do.

And here's the final result.

Close up of the collar and yoke
Zipper - my dress form's neck is a bit bigger than mine

See what we got up to as Elves in Hobbiton!

17 Feb 2015

Cosplay Shenanigans: Elvish Invasion!

Apart from friends, feels, and fangirl moments, something else I got from Armageddon Expo was a pass to Hobbiton, thanks to Kayoss Cosplay! This past weekend we finally got to use the pass. Of course, we had to dress up! This did require sewing an elven dress in about a week. Quite a challenge, but I managed to finish it in time, and without rushing - too badly, that is.

We started our journey early (ish) on Sunday morning, hoping to leave plenty of time for nosing around and getting ready when we arrived. The weather was just about perfect, and the roads were uncluttered. Co-pilot Courty handled the tunage (the LOTR soundtracks, naturally).

"Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky..."

Our Elven trip wouldn't be complete without home-baked Lembas bread, which indeed filled us up from breakfast to afternoon tea!

It was a straight-forward drive to Matamata, where we pulled up by the information centre (adorably styled like a Hobbit house) and got our bearings. A brochure from the centre contained what appeared to be a good road map with directions to Hobbition itself, so we took that with us.

Something must have been wrong with our Elven compasses (it appears they only know which way to go if it's out to sea) and we missed the turn-off towards Hobbiton! Fortunately we didn't go too far before we realised something was off, and we were soon back on track. Mostly we blame the brochure map, that failed to note things of import like railroad tracks.

As we got closer, the excitement rose higher! Each brown tourist sign branded with "HOBBITON" elicited girlish squeals. How could we help ourselves? 

The road become windier as we drove further and further into nowhere - and almost out of nowhere itself, the Shire's Rest came into view. Trying not to crash the car while screaming and bouncing, I parked up and we checked in to get our tickets. All around, tourists were milling; some were queuing, some were sitting in the few spots of shade, some looked a little bored waiting for their tour slot. On a perfect Shire-sunny day, I guess I shouldn't have expected any different.

Getting changed in the parking lot was...a challenge. But not impossible, with a little Elven magic (read: awkward bouncing and contorting). We attached revealed our ears and did our hair, then set off.

Everyone knows elves like to party
We got a lot of stares, a lot of excited children, and a lot of tourists who were confused out of their minds. It was a one of a kind experience. At one point, a queue formed of people wanting to take photos with us. Many, if not all, thought we were part of the Hobbiton exhibit! Fortunately, our tour time arrived and we hopped on our bus. The driver was ecstatic, as was the tour guide. This was going to be a good day!

The first view of Hobbiton was the Green Dragon. Smoke puffed happily from the chimney, and we could see throngs of people wandering around. It's hard to describe the feeling when you see a landscape you thought was limited to a movie, or your imagination from a book. Hobbiton was perfect.

Cabbage butterflies lazed around the vegetable gardens, the air was thick with the aroma of hundreds of kinds of plants. The detail was astounding - I almost expected Hobbits to start appearing from their houses!

We slowly wended our way up towards Bag End, my eyes trying to absorb everything they could. Tiny Hobbit laundry, sculptures, painted gourds, little benches and seats, stocked pantries through thick glass windows. Everything was carefully prepared and placed. 

Preserving jars of jam - probably made from a real harvest from Hobbiton

We soon arrived at Bag End itself. Bilbo's writing desk was sat by one of the windows, his quills and books just visible through the panes.

No admittance except on party business!

Party crashers don't count!

We came across one of the smaller scale Hobbit holes, which allowed for an excellent photo opportunity. Being tall helps, but standing next to a tiny Hobbit door helps more!

Soon after Bag End was Samwise Gamgee's house, location of one of the more feels-inducing scenes in the movie.

Elves tend to partake in the feels on occasion

Winding through a forested section, we followed the path that led to the Green Dragon, one of the more anticipated locations of the tour.

The atmosphere was spot on. Soft lute music emanated from somewhere (we soon discovered the speakers disguised as rocks), and the lighting was dark and homely, just as it should be. Carved woodwork adorned most surfaces, including an impressive green dragon across the top of the bar. I felt like I was inside a tavern from Skyrim.

The other tour guides and workers were very happy to see us - we even had a posing session with one behind the bar! 

We were all served a chilled cup of Hobbiton's finest brews - a crisp apple cider, and a refreshing ginger beer. It was a little too hot to be sitting by the fire, but we couldn't pass up a good photo op!

We had a scant fifteen minutes in the Green Dragon. It would have been wonderful to properly spend an hour or two over some fine food and drink, but these Elves had overstayed their accommodating Hobbit hosts. It was back to the Shire's Rest, and back to somewhere that wasn't Hobbiton.

The Lembas bread tied us over until 3pm, but it was about time to snack on something un-Elvish, like Coca Cola and fries.

While we might have been a little tired of photos, we weren't sick of Hobbiton. We both bought adorable Green Dragon mugs, and I took home a bottle of their ginger beer to enjoy with it.

It was an unforgettable experience, well worth frantically sewing a dress in a week. Hopefully we'll be back - the Green Dragon could always use some exotic Elven visitors!

9 Feb 2015

Cosplay Shenanigans: The one week Elven dress

Did I mention I'm going to Hobbiton? Because I am. With Courty of Kayoss Cosplay.

Hobbiton held a competition at Auckland Armageddon Expo where the best photo of you in front of the Hobbiton door won you a double pass to visit, and we won! Courty posted the entry though, so she gets extra credit.

Naturally we had to make a costume - this time, Elven garb. I don't think I've sewn a full-length gown before, but no time like the present!

Only problem is that I only have a week to make it. Eep! The three day weekend lent a lot of time to sew, and I got way more done than I thought. I finished the toile on Friday, had Saturday off to go to the beach, then made the majority of the final garment on Sunday.

I also found the most amazing printed cotton to use. Not very elvish in composition, but it was on sale!

There's a pattern sewn in to the weave or part of the print that has a metallic sheen, so the sunlight dances off it when you get the right angle. Siiiiigh! Once again, Smart Dress Fabrics wins the prize for the most well-rounded and fairly priced collection.

Here's the dress as it stands today. This is also my craft supply corner. I think I need a second room.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to work on Jane at all! There's still a fair amount of time, but I've got a lot of leather work to do. No pressure, ha, ha...

2 Feb 2015

Cosplay Shenanigans: The great expanding foam failure of 2015

I was pretty stoked on Thursday when I finished a few evenings' worth of work making the bustle in one day. My productive streak ended there, though; I forgot I had a dinner on Friday night, so that was written off. Then on Saturday we had a hike on Mt Rangitoto which wrote that day off as well.

So that left Sunday, a whole day!

Only I don't think I started work on anything until about 3pm...

I started on the spear for Jane - it's the tip of Tarzan's spear from when he was fighting the leopard.

I started by cutting the template from card

Then placing a wooden pole into the gap

Then hot glued it all together.

At this point I was getting excited - I could finally use the expanding foam I bought a while ago!

I brushed up on the technique by watching Kamui's video tutorial.

However, while my boyfriend and I were spraying one side, we could feel the nozzle beginning to block up, and realised we only had one shot at this.

The only problem was that the foam wasn't sticking to the cardboard in its non-expanded state - it was too slippery on the wax cardboard. So when we held the prop vertically to get the other side, it all started plopping off onto the tray we had out.

And then the can ran out.

My advice for next time? If you have to use expanding foam, buy two small cans, and be sure to do one side at a time like the tutorial says.

Next time, I'm going to try and find the foam that you mix two parts together to activate - that way you don't have to worry about the nozzle blocking up while you wait for one side of the thing to set.

On a better note, I bought a little fibreglass starter kit! I'm going to hopefully use this with my Witch King helm, which I'll start after Hamilton Armageddon.