18 Mar 2015

Hamilton Armageddon!

After so many late nights finishing off my PA Jane cosplay, it was awesome to finally bring it out at a con!

The convention started early for a lot of us with a picnic and photoshoot on Friday at the Hamilton Gardens.

I pulled out my Season 4 Korra for the occasion. The shoes are now more durable (ADOS instead of hot glue) and I've weathered the garments a little more.

Here are my favourite photos from the day!

Photo credit: Dan Hardwick

Photo credit: NichelleMedia Photography

Staying in Tauranga meant getting up early and driving to Hamilton in the morning, but with Courtney of Sparky Cosplay, one and a half hours passed almost too quickly!

We had about 15 minutes at the actual event before running out to our group photoshoot at the gardens. There are so many different kinds of scenes, it was easy to find a setting for all of our characters.

The four of us - Kealy-Ann, Brooke, Courtney, and I - had Cyren from Pixiscene Cosmedia as our photographer. We all got some really incredible shots! Here are my favourites.

Our full group!

After the photoshoot, we headed back to Claudelands Arena to experience the rest of the con, which included the Cosplay parade, and buying excessive amounts of merchandise!

The next day Courtney brought out Six Tails from Naruto, and I was Korra (season 4) again.

Hamilton Armageddon certainly has a different atmosphere to Auckland. There is a greater percentage of people cosplaying, and it's easier to run into friends! I had such a fantastic time, and bought a whole lot of merchandise.

The competition had only a small amount of contestants compared to last year. Most of them being our friends, we got a lot of cheering done. Our voices were hoarse by the end!

By the end of it all everyone was already making excited plans for Wellington Armageddon. I'm going to be making my Witch King costume for the competition, and on one of the other days I'll be wearing PA Jane. So that leaves one day where I will most likely be Korra - only, which Korra? There are a fair few months to decide, but I might be making something new....again!

9 Mar 2015

Post Apocalyptic Jane nears completion!

Hamilton Armageddon is less than a week away now (*internal screaming*) but I'm progressing pretty quickly.

I'm nearly finished making my first (ish) prop! The spearhead from one of the earlier scenes, when Tarzan is fighting the leopard.

Camping mats! They are very squishy and difficult to rough-handle.

After attacking it with a dremel

First pieces of Worbla - so nervous!

Post worbla! It's hard!

Several coats of gesso sanded down, then three coats of a PVA/water mix

I just realised I did so much last week. I finished the petticoat, the leather poncho, the armband, and I did a lot of weathering.

A pair of gloves I picked up from First Scene's garage sale

Cutting holes and roughing them up with sandpaper

Using dark foundation and soft artist's pastel chalk to apply dirt and blood stains
While working on leather belts and closures, I had the awful realisation I've done all of the buckles wrong. Ugh!

I also stumbled across a Gaelic fair while out with Louella - the re-enactment actors let us wear their helmets!


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!