Crafting Yue: Part 2, The Bodice and Zip Ties

This is the second part in a series I am writing to share my process in making a Yue cosplay. Part 1 is here. In this post I will show how I constructed the bodice of Yue’s gown and experimented with using zip ties for boning. I used McCall’s 6838 pattern and made the dress version seen in the picture below, on the right. On the left is the reference picture I used for the costume for comparison. I chose this pattern for its versatility and look. I wanted to make a strapless mermaid-style gown with a straight top-line for the bodice and this pattern had exactly that. I did not have to make many modifications to achieve my desired look. The bodice and skirt sections were constructed separately and then sewn together.

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Here is the fabric I bought for this project. I didn’t know exactly what it was because I found it in the mystery bargain section on sale. I loved the texture and shine in the light and dark purple fabrics, which I suspected were some kind of crinkle satin. They certainly looked moon-like to me and I was very happy with my finds. The outside of the bodice was made from the the light purple (lilac?) fabric on the right of the photo. The white fabric on the left was a basic cheap polyester mix lining, which I used for the bodice lining and underlining. I had no idea what the white sparkly stuff at the bottom of the photo was, but I thought it was really pretty and perfect for the flowy white sash that went around the skirt. The dark purple was for the belt around Yue’s waist. I decided to make a separate belt instead of inserting a panel on the dress because it was less modification and seemed easier to do.

12966696_10156726286960517_1403037621_nTracing and cutting the pattern was a breeze thanks to my new magic marker that I raved about in Part 1. You can see the lining and underlining traced and ready to be cut in this photo. I debated whether I really needed to underline the bodice, but the pattern called for it and I have learned to trust the pattern over my own misgivings. There have been enough times where I skipped a step or tried something my way that ended with a seam ripper and frustration for me to have (mostly) learned my lesson. The people who made the pattern know more about sewing than I do.  

The bodice pattern consisted of five panels with an opening in the back for a zipper. I had decided early on to skip the zipper in favour of laces and grommets. I found I preferred laces over zippers to give a better fit and some wiggle room in case I ever changed size. I was also wary of wearing a strapless dress and wanted to be able to lace it up as tightly as I could to avoid any downward sliding.

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Above is the bodice right before I put in the home-made boning. The lining that I attached the boning to is at the top of the photo. Below it is the underlining basted to the outside fabric. This is a good example for anyone wondering what the difference between lining and underlining is. Lining goes next to your skin; underlining goes next to the outside “good” fabric. Once the boning is sewn in place they get sandwiched wrong sides together, tucking the seam allowances and boning neatly in-between them. Underlining is mostly used with sheer fabrics so that the wrong side of the lining is not seen through the outside fabric. I am very glad I listened to the pattern and used it here. My outer fabric was not sheer but it was very thin and the underlining added structure and smoothed out the boning ridges.

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This is a close-up of the prepared boning before I attached it to the bodice. I used long, heavy-duty zip ties that I bought from Canadian Tire for less than $5. That’s way cheaper than any of the boning I ever bought from a fabric store. The zip ties were also sturdier than plastic boning and I was happy for the extra support it would offer in holding up the dress. The pattern called for boning in its casing so I got some white bias tape to act as my casing. I laid the bias tape along the bodice seam lines and cut the length I needed. I did the same with the zip ties. I used my heavy-duty kitchen scissors to cut the ties and it was still difficult for me. I rounded the ends the best I could and cut off any sharp bits to hopefully prevent the zip ties from poking through the lining with wear. I laid the bias tape along the seams of the bodice lining and stitched the long sides, leaving the top and bottom ends open. Then I slid the zip ties into the home-made casings and stitched across the top and bottom, going over it a few times to make it extra secure.

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Above and below are the (mostly) finished bodice! I stitched the lining to the outside, right sides together, then flipped it around to encase the seams and boning. I did not sew down the side edges or bottom because the skirt will be attached later. You can see where I pressed up the seam allowance along the bottom edge of the lining in preparation for that step. The seams for the boning came out a little crooked, but no one is going to see them. I was very pleased with how my experiment with zip ties turned out. I will probably continue to use this method in the future.

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That’s it for this post! Thanks for reading and happy sewing 🙂

 

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Crafting Yue: Part 1, Research & Supplies

il_570xN.277845610My latest cosplay project is Princess Yue from the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series. She has been on my list for years, ever since I first watched the show. Her tragic story of sacrifice and love really touched me. I love heartbreaking, beautiful tragedy and her story is squarely in the middle of it. She was born a princess of the Northern Water Tribe. As a baby she got sick and nearly died until the moon spirit saved her life, turning her black hair white and marking her as special. Princess Yue lived a life of self-sacrifice for her people, putting their needs well above her own wants. She knew that her life was a gift on borrowed time and wanted to benefit others with her second chance. It came to the point where she was willing to sacrifice love for a marriage of duty that would help her tribe. But before she could go through with the arranged marriage, her home was attacked and the protective moon spirit was slain. Yue made an even greater sacrifice by returning her borrowed life force to the moon and becoming the new moon spirit. She gave up her physical existence and chance for love to repel the attack and save her people. She remained a lonely spirit for the rest of the show; able to observe and assist, but not experience, the everyday loves and joys in the lives of those she cared about. She watched as the one she loved falls in love with another, and ultimately Yue lost everyone she fought so hard for. *sniffle*

fcba3d86df20cc991eff9aaea86049f6I loved Yue’s story, so of course I had to cosplay her. When researching her character, I had two main options for what she wears. There’s her mortal princess outfit (on the left) which consists of a long dress under a large, fur-trimmed winter coat. While the outfit is gorgeous, I predicted that it would also be difficult and expensive to make her coat. Second, there is her Moon Spirit gown (On the right). I decided to do her Spirit form for a few reasons. First, I am way more comfortable sewing fancy dresses and already had a pattern in mind for it. The second reason is entirely my own bias. I just like her Moon Spirit dress and love wearing long, flowy dresses with bell sleeves in general, so I’m going to take any excuse I can to wear one.M6838_07

Decision made, I moved from researching to gathering materials. I already had a very pale blonde wig from another costume and even though Yue’s hair is usually pictured as white, I figured it was close enough and I’d make do.  I wanted a mermaid-style strapless gown for the main costume and I ordered the pattern I had in mind right away. I got McCall’s 6838, a versatile dress pattern that included exactly the style I had pictured (Seen here on the left).

12966256_10156726282785517_659757646_nNext, I began gathering my materials. I bought my fabric from Marshall’s, a great local store with amazing selection. I found everything I needed super cheap in their bargain section! Next, I was off to Fabricland for notions. I have a membership with them so I can usually take advantage of discounts on their notions. The pattern called for a zippered back closure but being the silly person I am, I decided to make it a lace-up back because I love the look and it ensures that I can’t put it on by myself. Because what cosplay is ever easy to get in and out of. The struggle is half the fun, right? Right??
My last trip was to Canadian Tire for some long, giant zipties. A friend told me they could be used as a substitute for the plastic boning usually found in fabric stores, at a fraction of the cost. The bodice in this dress required some minimal boning along the seam-lines so I figured it was a good time to give it a try.12957367_10156726285445517_750988818_n

12957137_10156726286480517_1873398443_nI went out on a limb this time and decided to try something new in my sewing process. I have always used old ends and bits of bar soap as my fabric marking utensil for tracing out patterns onto fabric. This method is basically free and handed down to me from my mom, and I have never considered using anything different. The downside is, my soap-marker is often imprecise and doesn’t show up very well on some fabrics. I have had many moments of frustration and tracing patterns and cutting out the resulting ambiguous lines had always been my least-favourite part of sewing. I finally broke down this time and bought a marker made specifically for fabric.

12966696_10156726286960517_1403037621_nI was very skeptical at first, but OMG this thing is amazing!!! My lines are now clear and precise, the marker tip glides easily across the fabric, and my tracing and cutting time has been halved while my precision has increased. The best part was that the ink, or whatever magical substance is contained in the tube, fades and disappears after a few days. This means I can make marks wherever I want and don’r have to worry about them showing up on the final product. It seems like a small thing, but being able to mark anywhere on the fabric can really streamline the process and eliminate some stress. In summary, this marker is magical and has greatly improved my sewing experience and I needed to rave about it somewhere.

I end Part One with a picture of my beautifully drawn lines as I trace and cut out the pattern. Seriously, this marker has changed my life!

Jedi Transformation

I was playing around with my Jedi Consular costume today to see what I could change. I really wanted to try a longer, darker tunic underneath my sleeveless white one to give more layers and add some depth to the look. The original costume is what I think of as my Jedi’s battle outfit. The shorter hem, sleeveless, no hood design allows for good movement and there’s no flowy robes to get in the way of any “aggressive negotiations” I might need to conduct.

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Ready for battle. Or pictures.

I wanted the longer tunic to go underneath my white one so that all the work I did to hand-embroider the symbol of the Old Republic Jedi on the back would still be visible. I had an idea to go with something floor-length with bell-type sleeves. Less practical, but befitting a Consular who spends her time healing and studying artifacts in the Jedi Temple archives. I debated colour, originally thinking to make it out of the same fabric as the white tunic since I still had lots of leftover fabric from it. Then I thought about making it a different colour, perhaps some shade of brown to match the leather belt and bracers and make the white pop out a bit more. With this in mind, I dove into my fabric stash to see what I had. I really didn’t want to go buy more fabric and was determined to use something I already had on hand.

I found nothing that fit the picture in my head. I flopped on the couch in defeat to ponder my predicament. Then I remembered that I had made a robe to wear over top of my Jedi costume when it was cold. I suffer from the tiny-girl ailment of always freezing, so I made the robe to offset my sleeveless battle outfit.

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White tunic and ginormous robe!

Alas, another tiny-girl problem is that when a pattern says it makes a size small, it is usually still too big on me. This robe drowned me in its folds and also hid my lovely embroidery work. Because of this, I did not wear the cumbersome robe with my costume very often. On top of that, I had made it out of a lovely brown-coloured bed sheet that was exactly the sort of fabric I had searched for to make my other tunic out of. Sigh. Such wasted potential.

Or was it? What if the robe was cinched in with a belt? That would make its over-sized volume more manageable. And what if I wore it under my white tunic so that the embroidery was still visible? It even had large bell sleeves! I pulled out the robe and realized it was just a really large tunic with a hood. Getting excited, I decided to test my theory. I put on the robe, crossed it over in the front to overlap and close it, then put on the white tunic, then the green tabard, then the belt and bracers. The robe certainly added bulk and it was a little challenging to get everything on over it by myself.

Here’s a cosplay secret: Costumes often require another person or even a whole team of people to get into them. Sometimes I feel like putting on a costume takes just as long as it did to make the whole thing. It doesn’t, but it can certainly seem like it sometimes.

Once I had everything layered on, I took a look in the mirror and saw a totally different Jedi. Rather than battle-ready and mobile, this Consular was more regal and patient. I certainly believed that the Jedi in the mirror spent more time inhaling dust than dueling Dark-siders. I was very pleased with the overall effect, and spent some time swooshing around the house in it. For scientific reasons, of course.

This story showcases one of the things I love about creating costumes. There is no such thing as a final product. There is “acceptable to wear in public” and “I probably won’t get arrested for this” and even “I’m kinda proud of this one” but there is always something to fix, improve, or re-design. I find this way of thinking very freeing. I tend toward perfectionism in the things I make and it is very difficult for me to deem something ‘perfect” or “finished”. Instead, I look at each incarnation of my costumes as one form it  can take, among many possibilities. Keeping this fluidity in mind is what allows me to proudly wear an outfit to a con or event knowing it may not meet my definition of “Final form”, but it is a form that is worth showing off.

 

 

 

The Making of Winter Belle: Part Two, The Dress

A winter photoshoot  was coming up and I decided it would be the perfect reason to make a Belle costume. I decided to make her pink dress and red cloak that she wore for one scene outside in the snow. This post will be about how I made the pink dress. You can read about how I made her red cloak here, and more on my inspiration for the costume here.

5e5f2374122ac262ea52921f25225fb2My first step when creating a costume is always research. I go to Google and browse for as many pictures of different angles and movements of the outfit as I can. I also see if anyone else has done the costume before and posted pictures or advice from their experience. I love to read about other people’s tips, hardships, and victories before I begin my own creation. They have often inspired my designs and saved me from mistakes or disappointments. The picture to the left is one of very few I found of the dress without the cloak. Even here, she has a book blocking most of the view of the bodice. I could not find anything of the back of her dress. Fortunately, since it is from an older Disney movie, the design is relatively simple and I can fill in the blanks fairly easily.     Belle Pink Dress1

The next picture is the only close-up I could find of the bodice that wasn’t covered by her cloak or a book. It is also a great view of her face, makeup, and hairstyle. Cosplay is not just about the outfit, it’s about the whole look. I am not getting a wig for this one, as I have long, light brownish hair. I will curl my hair and then pull it back into a twist ponytail, finishing it off with a pink bow. Her makeup is thankfully very simple with light pink lips, a little mascara, and natural-looking eyeshadow. I already have everything I need for the makeup, which is a nice relief. The cost of makeup can be one of those expenses that gets overlooked in creating an authentic costume.

1327729_1389299936730_fullI was pleased to find this last picture for inspiration because it showed that Belle’s skirt has a hidden layer underneath, and the light and darker pink in the top skirt are all one piece, including the bottom ruffle. This was what gave me the idea to essentially make the dress in two layers, an overdress and an underdress. I really like the look of two-part style dresses and feel that it adds a nice dimension of depth and movement to the garment.

I decided to play with the different shades of pink in this dress and make a light pink underdress for the sleeves and base, then make a darker pink overdress that closed like a corset in the front of the bodice and had a slit down the middle of the skirt to show off the line of the lighter pink dress underneath. The hem of the overdress would be shorter than the underdress to show off the light pink “ruffle” at the bottom. I decided to leave out the actual ruffle, the one element of the dress I really wasn’t fond of.

12312107_10156257101325517_1940962553_nI was very excited to find this pattern already in my stash. It’s almost exactly the style I envisioned. It’s Simplicity 2573 and the largest modification I would have to make was in the sleeves. The overskirt and bodice were made in two parts, so making them different colours would be wonderfully easy. The light pink fabric and thread in the photo were the beginnings of the underdress.

The following are a lot of pictures of my process for the underdress. Unfortunately, I was rushed to finish the overdress and didn’t have time to take many “in-progress” pictures. If you just want to see the final result, you can scroll down to the bottom of the post.

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The underdress was composed of a large front and back piece sewn together at the sides. I love how easy it was to make. The large pieces are pictured on the right, all cut out, with my matching scissors. Times like this have made me very grateful for having a large dining room table to work on.12666507_10156454363480517_1838572806_n

The sleeves were where I had to make some minor modifications to the pattern. Belle’s dress had sleeves that stopped at the elbow in a ruffle, but the pattern called for long sleeves. I measured the length from my shoulder to my elbow and cut the sleeve short, leaving a bit of room for seams. Then I tackled the ruffle, which was what the light pink organza in the photo is for.

12647870_10156454363765517_1090787747_nI started off with the idea of adding a mini full-circle-skirt to the “elbow” of the sleeve. I drafted what I wanted on newspaper and slid it on my arm. The full circle was far too voluminous and instead of a nice cone-like shape I ended up with a floppy mess. So I decided to use a half-circle instead and you can see my improvised pattern in the photo on the right.

These three photos show the making and attaching of the sleeves. First I turned up a very thin hem around the edge of the organza ruffle, then sewed the straight edge of the half-circle together to form a cone. Next I attached the cone to the sleeve edge, right sides together so when I flipped the cone right-side-out the edge of the sleeve was nicely finished. I added a zig-zag stitch next to the stitching on the seams, then trimmed them for a finished look which you can see in the middle photo. Lastly, I sewed the sleeves to the body of the dress and then finished the neckline.

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The neckline turned out to be my surprise snag. It was very simple in concept. Sew a casing, insert the elastic, and done. The dress was made to slip over your head and had no closures. Unfortunately the elastic I had on hand was old and the light pink fabric was stiff, which was the perfect combination for broken elastic and much frustration. I went through three different elastics before I found one that was strong enough to not break under the weight of the fabric and the pressure of being fed through a snug casing.

Once that headache had been dealt with, all that was left was the hem. I tried the dress on and it fit wonderfully. The sleeves ended right where I wanted them to at the elbow and the cone ruffles held their shape nicely. I had to cut a good five inches off the bottom of the dress, but that’s just the life of a short person who works with generic patterns. Better too much than too little, I suppose.

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This was the only photo I snapped of the overdress before I went into panic mode because it was the day before the photoshoot. The red fabric was for the bodice and it was stiffer and thicker so that it would provide a corset-like feel and support. I went for red with the bodice over another shade of pink because I wanted to, and the reference pictures I could find did not give a good guide for the colour.

12140938_10156286671795517_535476015656289161_oThis is a selfie I snapped while getting ready on the day of the photoshoot. It’s the only photo I have of the upper bodice of the dress. you can see the pink underdress and the red bodice over top. I used some of the leftover organza from the sleeves to drape over my shoulders as a last-minute touch. I really like how the lacing down the front turned out and love the red and pink contrast.

You can also see my hair done up in a ponytail and bow here. It’s a similar hairstyle to one I wear a lot, but I usually braid the “tail” part.

Finally now, the finished shot. This photo was taken at The Forks, Winnipeg. Melissa was the one who captured this photo. You can check out her other work at MTK Photography.

The weather was perfect and I am rather proud of how the whole thing turned out. The costume is incredibly comfortable and very fun to wear. I am looking forward to making more appearances as Belle in the future.

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The Making of Winter Belle: Part One, The Cloak

Before Christmas I had shared my plans to make Belle’s winter outfit for an upcoming photoshoot. I made it, got shot in it, and am very pleased with the results. In this post I will write about my process of making Belle’s red cloak, with pictures of course!

1976f3202fcb96008c3041bd62fd8db3Here is my inspiration picture that I pulled from Google. This is one of my favourite Belle outfits, along with her green library dress (Perhaps another cosplay down the road?). I am an avid reader and not the most socially graceful, so when Bell is described as “odd” and “with her nose in a book”, I can easily identify with her character. I’ve seen many beautiful interpretations of her yellow ballgown but it has never been something I thought I would like to wear. I also have this thing about cosplay where I like to make less well-known creations. Belle’s winter outfit certainly fits the bill. While she is a famous Disney princess, she is not often seen in her pink dress. I believe she only wears it for parts of one song, when she falls in love with the Beast. It also happens to be one of my favourite scenes in the movie. Plus, this outfit comes with a cloak. what cosplayer doesn’t have a weakness for any reason to wear an epic, swooshy cloak? I certainly couldn’t resist.

In the movie, the cloak sits behind Belle’s shoulders and doesn’t appear to close at the front. In my earlier post I mentioned that I had some red felt that I hoped would be enough to make it. Upon further measuring and research, I decided I wanted to make a much fuller cloak than the one portrayed in the movie. Realistically, one that just hung down the back might look pretty and show off the dress, but would do very little to actually keep me warm. I live in Winnipeg. I know cold.

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Pattern found here.

I wanted a full cape that would close in the front and actually do something to keep me warm, especially since the photoshoot was going to be outside in predicted -10 temperatures. This is surprisingly warm for Winnipeg, but terribly cold for tiny-no-insulation-in-a-3/4-sleeve-dress me. I already had Simplicity pattern 5794 in my stash and was very excited to have a reason to make it. I decided to make “View A” in the top left but only add one caplet layer instead of the two pictured.

The next step was a trip to Fabricland. I found a cheap fleece for the outside of the cloak and got very lucky searching the bargain aisle and found a gorgeous Chinese brocade on 70% off that was the perfect shade of red for the lining. The brocade was heavy enough to cut the wind and the fleece would provide a soft exterior and some insulation. I then went to Marshall Fabrics Winnipeg to pick up some lovely white faux fur to line the edges of the cape. I had decided not to line the hem of the cloak with fur as seen in the top picture, knowing that it would just get muddy and ruined the first time I wore it outside. I was only going to use the fur for the hood and caplet edges.
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Above is a picture of the mostly-finished caplet and hood. This was my first time sewing with faux fur, and it is a real beast to work with. It took much longer than I had anticipated to add the fur and by the end it looked like I owned a white cat. The vacuum is just barely visible at the far right of the picture, and was an essential tool in this part of the process. I was pretty proud of the end result, though. The fur added a lovely “floof” to the way the fabric settled, and kept the hood from collapsing and drooping around my face.

The gorgeous contrast of the fleece outside and the brocade lining can also be seen above. The pattern told me to sew the caplet into the collar of the cape, sandwiched by the hood. That made for a very thick seam, one I doubted my sewing machine would appreciate. I decided to keep the caplet separate from the rest of the cloak, giving me the option to wear the cloak with or without it, wear the caplet separately, and reverse the entire thing if I felt like showing off the brocade on the outside. I love the versatility and options this gives me for the future. I think the caplet on its own would look stunning and stylish over a fancy dress, and keep me warm too.

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This photo shows the final step of making my cloak. Hemming. A nicely finished edge is like the glaze on a pie crust. It will taste just fine without it, but the finishing touch makes it look so much more professional and appealing. I always have to cut a bunch off the bottom because I’m not as tall as the pattern thinks I am. Here I have pinned up about five inches to cut off, then I would roll it up another half-inch to enclose the raw edge of the hem. The pattern said to sew the bottom edge of the lining and the outside together, but I decided to sew them as separate hems to avoid any awkward bunches or bubbles that might form as the fabric stretches from wear.

*Protip* Always do separate hems for linings and outsides on long garments such as dresses, cloaks, and coats, to avoid weird bunches and stretching. The double-hems allows each type of fabric to flow freely and move independent of the other. It might be more work, but in my opinion, it’s definitely worth it.

Speaking of worth it, here’s the final product. I am absolutely in love with this cloak and it is so much fun to wear. This picture was taken at the winter photoshoot by the very talented Melissa. Check out her page MKT Photography for more of her great work. The location was The Forks and the weather was perfect, with light snow and a -6 temperature that was nearly balmy for this time of year. Everyone at the shoot was friendly and it was wonderful to be a part of a group of people so passionate for cosplay and photography. None of us were paid to come out to the photoshoot. We were there because we truly enjoyed it.

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Confessions of a DM: NPC’s are people too.

One of my favourite parts of being a DM is creating and playing NPC’s. An NPC (Non-Player Character) can be a person, creature, deity, or any other inhabitant of the world who is not represented by a player. It is part of the DM’s job to not only create a world for the player characters (PC’s) to explore, but also to fill the world with living beings for them to interact with.

12270550_10156219912035517_1761353909_nThe nature of the game puts the PC’s at the center of the story. For all the players know, the world appears to revolve around their characters. Players can become conditioned to see NPC’s as either quest-givers, loot fodder and XP farms, or final bosses. The world ends up being a vehicle to carry the heroes to fame, fortune, and victory. Very often, players are surrounded with NPC’s that pop in and out of existence based on whether a player chooses to interact with them. All the shopkeepers in a market are glossed over unless a player wants to buy something. The beggar on the street is ignored unless the players think she has a quest for them, or is somehow significant to their story. Hundreds of guards can be killed and looted without a thought, but if a PC’s life is endangered, no power in the multiverse is going to keep his friends from trying to save him. Usually. If he brings snacks.

This can lead to a very black-and-white view of the in-game world. The people are immediately divided into two categories upon meeting them. The first is Useful. The NPC is identified as friendly and of use to the players in meeting their goals. The second is Enemy. This NPC is either useless or hostile toward the players. Here is where an interesting dichotomy develops. If the NPC is useful or aligned with the player’s own goals, she is allowed to live. If the NPC is useless or set against the player’s goals, he is deemed an enemy and often attacked on sight.

As a DM, it quickly became my goal to counteract this way of seeing the world that I had created for my players. I began giving enemies backstories and families, making some allies annoying or unlikable, tallying the cost of lives in battle, and showing the players both the good and bad consequences of their actions. I tried to create a world that has depth to it, with lives and events carrying on whether or not the PC’s were there. I hoped to teach my players the in-game value of life and give them a sense of a larger world that they are a part of, rather than the masters of.

The more I think about this, the more I realize that it does not happen exclusively in-game. It is also apparent in real life. How often do I walk down the street and ignore everyone else, turning away and thinking, “I don’t know them, not my problem”. I pass by a homeless man and pretend he is not there. I see a child slip and fall and pretend I didn’t notice. A girl sits alone at the bus stop, hunched over and crying, and I tell myself she’ll be fine. If any of these people had been my friend, a fellow player, I would have jumped to their aid. But I didn’t, because in my mind they were NPC’s who only become important if they are useful to me and my own story.

As I write and re-read the previous paragraph I have the urge to delete it and tell myself I’m a good person. I try to be kind to my friends and family. I don’t go out of my way to hurt anyone. Dismissing strangers as NPC’s does not make anyone a bad person. It makes me human. But a little more awareness of the larger world around me could make a difference. Every person I see is the hero of their own story, with their own quests and hardships. I am no more special than any of them, I just happen to be the one playing me.

If there is anything I am learning from DMing, it is that the fantasy world has a tendency to point out things in the real world. As Christmas approaches, perhaps it is a good time to apply my own goal and pay more attention to the NPC’s that I encounter in life. A second to smile, say something kind, offer to help, or lend an ear to listen, is all it might take to let someone know that they exist and have worth in the world and I see them as a fellow PC.

 

 

Winter Belle

 

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First Snow

I am planning on attending a photoshoot that is coming up in early December at the Forks in Winnipeg. The theme is holiday/winter and based on the view out my window, having snow won’t be a problem. Currently, I do not have much in the way of cold-weather costumes, as most of the cons and events I attend happen in warmer weather or indoors. But we are Canadians, and an outdoor photoshoot in December is not unheard of. I am excited for this one and the cosplay opportunity it presents. Now that C4 is a year away, I’ve found myself struggling to find enough inspiration for projects to keep me busy. This event has renewed my motivation.

The first idea that immediately came to mind was Yue, from the animated Avatar series. I’ve wanted to cosplay her from the moment I saw her appear in the series. I love her sad story and self-sacrifice. She also has fantastic hair and fashion sense. A winter photoshoot would be the perfect excuse to make her character a reality. Excitement built as I looked at pictures and envisioned fabrics until I looked at my calendar and realized I had just under three weeks to do it in. This is definitely a costume I want to do well and put the time in to make it perfect. Three weeks is not enough time to satisfy my perfectionist attention to detail.

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Princess Yue

I was feeling a little crushed until I realized that I live in Manitoba and winter is the longest season of the year. I have plenty of time for another snowy photoshoot in the new year. Oddly consoled by our long winters, I began a furious google search for winter themed characters and outfits that were simple enough to satisfactorily complete in my short timeline. I stubbornly refused to do anything from Frozen for now because it’s everywhere and I prefer to stay in my lesser-known niche of comfort. Also, if I ever was to cosplay Elsa I would want my sister to be Ana, and she is currently in another province.

That is when I remembered that one of my favourite Disney characters, Belle, has a whole winter scene in her movie. I pulled up the google search and was delighted to find a sweet pink dress and luxe warm red cape.

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Winter Belle

Done. I’ve always identified with Belle’s character and she’s been on my cosplay list for a while. I’m not terribly fond of her yellow ballgown and have thought her blue dress to be rather plain. Looking at pictures of winter Belle, I felt new inspiration course through my thoughts. I already have some pink and red fabric laying around and several dress patterns that fit her style perfectly. I’m anticipating the hardest thing for me to obtain will be the white fur. Faux fur tends to run on the pricy side so I’m hoping for a seasonal sale or a lucky Value Village find.

I was so excited to start planning for this costume that I had trouble sleeping. I got up earlier than usual and dove into my fabric stash.

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Red felt and bed sheet lining

I knew I had picked up a beautiful red felt remnant from Value Village a couple months ago. Belle’s cape was the perfect use for it and it matched what I had pictured exactly. I even found a red bed sheet that would do nicely as a lining. However, I only have about two meters of it. Most cloak patterns require at least four to get the beautiful flow. Luckily, the cape only covers Belle’s back and upper shoulders in the pictures so I’m hoping to get away with making a rather skimpy cape. Otherwise I will have to go buy more fabric. I decided to start with the cape so that I can get a rough estimate of how much faux fur I will need when I go fabric shopping for a third shade of pink fabric for the dress. Also capes are supposed to be easy, right?

It is my plan to post my progress on this costume so that anyone who is curious can see my scattered process. It involves a lot of guessing, trial-and-error, and picking out seams. My hope is that you might learn something useful or at least be entertained.

Cons and Consequences

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My Templar Assassin from Dota2 cosplay.

Dear Reader, I know it’s been a while since my last post, but for the past three weeks I have been madly sewing in order to complete costumes in time for Central Canada Comic-Con, or C4 for short. The Con was this past weekend and, of course, my costume construction crunch came down to the last minute. I was still finishing things up the day of the Con, despite my goal to have everything done before the day of.

Goals are funny like that. They can serve to motivate me to get something done but they can also become a measuring stick for my own failures. I will set a goal well in advance, completely intending to accomplish it. Then time trudges onward and before I know it the deadline has barreled me over, broken my confidence, and left me bewildered as to where all the time had gone. It has left me in the dust with two choices. I could berate myself for failing to reach my goal and sit in the dust, convinced I will never catch up. Or I could realize that my goal was more of a guideline really, and  know that my self-worth is not tied to failure or success, but in how I deal with the consequences.

This is the challenge that faced me last weekend. I had not reached my goal of finishing my costumes before the Con began. The consequence was that I missed out on a sizable amount of time I could have spent at the con, instead spending it frantically finishing my costume. I did end up making it to the Con and had done a half-decent job on my costume. However, I also missed seeing friends and panel events that I would have seen if I’d been there the whole time. This is where I faced my choice. I could define the whole weekend as a failure on my part and proceed to be miserable the entire time, lamenting all the things I missed out on. Or I could acknowledge that life happens and sometimes my expectations are not going to be met, and be okay with it.

My Old Republic-style Jedi Consular cosplay.
My Old Republic-style Jedi Consular cosplay.

The choice was difficult, as I tend to be rather hard on myself, but I ended up choosing the second option. Yes, I had missed out on some things that weekend. No, it didn’t mean I had to be miserable for the rest of it. The failure to reach my goal was in the past, and there was nothing I could do to change it, short of hijacking a TARDIS. Which I did consider. I was at a Con, and saw many TARDISES. TARDISI? I’m not sure how to pluralize that. I decided to accept the consequences, take a step back, and realize that there was still an entire other day of Con fun to be had.

I had a blast. Took some pictures, met awesome people, bought some amazing artwork from very talented artists, and generally geeked out. I also received many compliments on my costume, and was inspired by other peoples’ amazing costume creations in turn. Looking back on the weekend, most of my memories ware positive and they still bring a smile to my face. That is the power of perspective. The difference between personal success and crushing failure is often a matter of how you look at it and deal with the consequences. Sometimes, you just need to decide to have a good time in order to enjoy yourself. And give yourself some credit. Chances are, you’re a lot better at what you do than you think you are. Chin up, and may the Force be with you.

Scissors, Triscuits, and Toasted Walnuts.

Today I spent most of the morning tracing and cutting out little fiddly pattern pieces. I’m making a set of arm bracers, two belt pouches, and a corset-like belt, to finish off my Old Republic Jedi costume featured here. It’s a lot of small buckle and strap pieces and my hands are already sore from all the cutting. The pattern I’m using is Butterick 5371 and I’m making views B, D, and G. I’ve got everything labeled and separated into piles because with so many pieces, it is very easy to lose and confuse them . The last thing I want is to mix something up and have to pick it all apart or cut new pieces.

The brown fabric is a faux leather and 12032539_10156065340310517_1628315504_nwill be the outside layer. The white cotton (used to be a bed sheet) will be the lining. I still need to cut out a layer of paper-backed fusible webbing that will go in-between the outside and the lining to bond them together and strengthen the structure. I’m really excited to finish these, which is why I’ve been working on them non-stop since my shopping spree on Tuesday when I picked up the webbing. This is also what I needed all those little D-rings for.

A little while ago I realized it was after 2pm and I should probably grab some lunch. I wanted something quick and easy that I could eat while I typed and wouldn’t take up a lot of precious sewing time. I settled on Triscuit pizzas. I remember my Mom making these as a snack for me and my siblings when I was young, and I still devour 12025325_10156065339690517_458161968_nthem. For me, they are a tasty snack with a dash of nostalgia. Perfect. To make them, I cover a plate in Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuit crackers, although you can use whatever flavour you prefer, and dollop some marinara sauce on top. The type of sauce doesn’t matter either, any kind of tomato-based one will work. Then, I cut slices of my favourite cheese and drop them on top of the sauce. Pop the plate in the microwave for 30 seconds or until the cheese melts, and I’m ready to devour.

I also brewed some tea for lunch because I had finished my cup from this morning, and I’m a little (okay, a lot) addicted. Today I am sipping Toasted Walnut from David’s Tea. It’s a warm green tea infused with walnuts and a hint of sweet pineapple that brews a cheerful yellow cup. I drink it straight without adding any milk or honey. This is one of my favourite green teas because it is light and sweet, and doesn’t taste as bitter as some other green teas can.

I’m done my triscuit pizzas and my tea is getting low which means it’s back to the sewing table. My hope is to have the fabric layers fused together tonight and then all I will have to do tomorrow is sew. May your scissors stay sharp, your Triscuits crunchy, and your tea at a pleasant drinking temperature.

A Cosplayer’s Shopping Spree!

Today’s post is late and short because I’ve spent the day shopping and sewing. I always find my motivation to sew renewed after I purchase new materials. I get so excited to work with them, I will craft for hours and not notice the time slipping by until my fingers are sore and my back hurts from bending over my work. Comic-Con is just over a month away and I am beginning to feel the time crunch.

The building pressure and anticipation was my inspiration for going shopping today. I’d been meaning to for about a month now, to pick up the last bits of things I need in order to complete my costumes. Here’s what I got.

Look at all the shineys!
Look at all the shineys!

My first stop was Mitchell Fabrics, a great place with a nice selection of notions and large bargain section. This is where I picked up the black broadcloth and the grommets, boning, zipper, paper-backed fusible webbing, and D-rings. There’s definitely a corset in there somewhere. I also picked up the shimmery pink-purple fabric. I found it in the bargain bin and fell in love with it. I think it’s some kind of chiffon and it changes colour in the angle of the light. My phone camera didn’t pick it up very well, but it’s perfect for one of my costumes.

The next stop on my list was Canadian Tire. I had scoured the internet for the best place to get wire, and this place had what I wanted. It’s amazing how difficult it is to find non-electrical, non-super-expensive-craft-wire but I did it. Huzzah! I bought two spools of 15 meters because I suspect I’m going to need a lot of it.

My final shop was Michael’s. It is usually my last resort because everything there is often expensive. However it’s located right near Canadian Tire, and I wanted to get home, so I went for convenience over miserliness. I only needed one thing from there, metallic gold fabric paint. It’s for painting gold designs on fabric because I’m too lazy to sew on gold fabric cut-outs, and one of the costumes I’m making has a lot of gold details on the robes.

My shopping done, I hurried home as fast as the buses in Winnipeg would take me (anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour), and proceeded to sew the rest of the evening.

I’ve been writing for too long and now it’s after midnight but I did start writing this before then, so as far as I’m concerned it still counts as Tuesday’s post. I’m heading off to bed now and I’ll probably dream about sewing, that’s how much of it I’ve been doing.