Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sweetheart Sheer Top

Alright, lets talk about this cute shirt! I tend to bring a little sketchbook with me on the subway and draw cool things I see people wearing. This design was based on a combination of things I had seen in various outfits. I wanted to try something that involved having a sheer layer and a sweetheart neckline. Also a collar. This is the result. You can also see how I made the skirt.

I started with a basic block, and drew my desired neckline and armholes onto this mockup. From there I transferred my changes to my pattern.
The pattern ended up looking like this. The front and back were both made of 3 pattern pieces each. The center front pieces were all cut on the fold so that I had no seam running up the center front.

I sewed the bodice pieces together (excluding the center back pair).
To the center back pair I added my zipper before attaching to the rest. I made my adjustments and then finished all the inner seams.

I first sewed my sheers together at the shoulder seam and then carefully attached it at the front to the sweetheart neckline. I finished this seam and top-stitched it down.
Before attaching the sheer to the back of the garment I finished the open edges with a thin black bias tape. Then I stitched these pieces down the same way as the front.

I finished the armholes using more black bias tape.
The last step was to make a collar. This was done with two collar sections. Each section was made of two pieces that were sewn right sides together (leaving the neckhole edge open) and then flipped right way out. The collar pieces were then stitched to the inside of the neckhole, raw edges finished with a zigzag stitch before being flipped to the outside. The collar was then top-stitched to keep it in place and hide the finished edge.

The last step was to add a button and loop at the top of the collar to close the shirt at the back. The rest of the gap was left open. :)

I wore this lovely skirt and shirt combo to my cousin's engagement party! :D

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Adjustable Marimekko Floral Skirt

Taking a break from cosplay projects to post some of my original work from this summer! This is a fun summer skirt I designed, using the beautiful Marimekko my sister got me for Christmas. I really love the large floral print and it was a challenge to design something suitable to show it off. But I think I nailed it. ;D My favourite part of the skirt is the two large pockets on the side.

First thing I did was make a broadcloth mockup of my garment, to make sure that the pleats had enough volume, and that the pockets would hang the way I wanted. Since this is expensive designer fabric I didn't want to waste any by making easily preventable mistakes. After some minor adjustments to my pattern I was ready to move ahead.

The pattern is made mostly of rectangles. When cutting I had to be very conscious of the floral print ensuring that there weren't too many noticeable gaps in the pattern, and that the print wasn't upside-down on any of the panels.

The two back pieces were stitched together first, then the zipper was inserted.
Then I added in the pleats on the front and back panels. These were only stitched a few inches down at the top.

Calculating for pleats is not too hard, but requires some math. I purposefully did not make all my pleats even (but they were still symmetrical).
The side panel pocket detail was constructed before being attached to the rest of the skirt. For this I chose a nice contrasting orange/brown fabric.

I first sewed the two curved top edges together and flipped the pocket to the inside. This left me with a nice finished edge which I ironed and top-stitched.
To create the loose hanging pocket edge the wide angled inner pocket piece is attached to a narrower rectangular piece that would be attached to the waistband later.  (This piece is the visible piece on the hip of the skirt.)

I finished up my inner seams then attached the side panels (now with pockets) to my front and back panels. Then I added a waist band, which closes with a hook above the zipper. Then the skirt was hemmed to the desired length.
The last step was making the skirt adjustable so it could be worn in 3 different styles. I added in 2 button holes and a button that allows you to pin up the side of the skirt to form the second style (see left). Also there are two strips on the inside that can gather up the sides for the third style which reveals more leg. ;D

I wore this skirt to my cousin's engagement party. :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Asuna Kagurazaka (Knight) - Armour (Cast) - Negima

The last post from my Asuna set, then I am officially done Anime North 2013 stuff! Hahaha

Go here for my Heat Molded Armour, Wig, Bodice, Skirt, and Sword. And you can find the rest of my photoshoot with EleventhPhotograph here! The armour looks particularly stunning in these photos, the paint job on the shoulder piece really reflected light well.

So here we go with the second part of my armour tutorials, except this time we get to talk about casting. Probably one of the more finicky aspects of the whole project, and in spite of all its faults it turned out really well (particularly since this is my first time casting anything myself!) Before I get into the technical talk of this post, I would like to thank my friend Ian (aka Elephutan) for taking the time to walk me through the whole process! It would not have been possible without him!

The shoulder piece I am the most proud of, of the entire costume, while the elbow piece I am the least proud of (in terms of shape, size, rigging, etc. it just didn't fulfill my expectations.)

First I would like to say that it was an executive decision to change the design of the elbow armour to be something more physically possible. On real armour there are no metal bits on the inside of your joints so that you can actually bend your limbs. On the original design however the elbow piece encircles the entire elbow (see picture on the left). This would have made it a) more difficult to cast, b) more expensive to cast, and c) physically impossible to bend my arm. That being said I was so mobility impaired anyway that I doubt it would have mattered, but I didn't want to hamper myself from the get go. So I modified it to go only halfway around the arm.

While the heat molded armour is quite economical, the cast pieces are quite pricey. However, with the styrene plastic it would not have been physically possible to achieve the shapes I wanted. I could have carved it out of foam also, but I would have had my constant dilemma of foam being easily dinged, and carving the inside cleanly would have been nigh impossible. The hollow cast shell was what I was looking for in this project.

...And now for something completely different: The first thing I cast for this project was actually my legs to use as a base for heat molding. This was done with a plaster bandage mold.

First we covered the front half of my leg in plaster bandage, then after that set we covered the area of overlap in a generous layer of vaseline. Then Ian covered the back half in the plaster bandage. Obviously I could not do this by myself as it had to be done while I was standing, and I had to stand still so it didn't set in the wrong position.

These were then peeled away. We coated the inside in vaseline and then sealed the side seams and bottom. Using elastic bands to hold everything in place.

Following the instructions on the package we mixed the correct proportions of plaster and water. This was then poured into the molds. It wasn't a perfect replica, as the side seams were rough, and one leg didn't turn out as well as the other, but it made an excellent base to heat mold my calf and knee pieces around. 

Now on to the real reason we are here! I actually started this process by taking detailed measurements analysing my proportions and those of the reference pictures, mocking up my plans in autocad. This ensured I was on the right track before I started carving.
Using contact cement I glued 5 semicircle layers of foam together to create my starting shape. I drew on the semi circle cut outs on the top and bottom as reference points. The radius of the semicircles here were the same as the widest point of the piece. 

I carved down to the rough shape before switching to sandpaper.
I drew up my imagined elbow piece to scale. Unfortunately I was working under the assumption that the cast would be thicker than it was and as a result the piece wound up being very loose fitting.

I traced out pieces of my top view and cut out the layers.
I glued these together and began carving.
I then fine tuned these pieces. I filled in any divots or dents and sanded it smooth. This was repeated multiple times, keeping in mind that any mistakes on the master would be duplicated in all the replicas.

Then it was time to begin the casting process. I went out to Sculpture Supply Canada and they set me up with everything I needed! I brought both pieces with me so that they could ensure I had the right materials for the job in the right quantities.
We started by making the silicone mold. This is a brush on mold, that would be open on one side. The open side was tacked down to a scrap piece of foam so that it wouldn't make a mess and was easily moveable. In several layers we made a silicone shell that was about 1/8" thick. (Tip: always have like a million disposable paint brushes on hand for this, every time you use one it becomes garbage.)
We took extra care to ensure there was a thick layer of silicone on the tip and the ridge so it wouldn't tear.

Then we made a plaster bandage mother shell. Again this was done in a few layers. Like the leg molds I did earlier we first did one half, then put a coating of vaseline on the area of overlap, then did the other half. This ensured that we could take it apart and line it up easily when putting it back together.

Then we de-molded the pieces, meaning we took the foam originals out of the silicone casings.
The mold and mother shell were then put back together, ready for casting.

Following the instructions on the package we mixed the proportions of part A and B accordingly.

The cast was brushed in so it would be a hollow shell. This means I needed a resin with a short work time so it would stay on the vertical walls and not slosh back down before it was done curing. (Lots more disposable brushes were used.) I should have done more thin layers on this part, instead of fewer thicker layers as this resulted in a buildup of resin in the bottom of the mold, making the tip a lot heavier than I had anticipated.
Using my dremel I cleaned up the edges and cut out the two semicircles on the shoulder piece.

Then I heat molded two strips of styrene to nest into the curved sections. These were hot glued in place.
The last thing I did before paints was to drill some screw into the thick buildup of solid resin in the bottom. These were used as anchoring points for my rigging, which was much more secure than trying to adhere anything as the pieces are quite heavy. Unfortunately on the last screw we managed to crack the elbow piece. With no time to recast it, I filled the fracture with duradex.

All the pieces were then sanded to be even smoother than the foam originals. Then I painted them the same as the heat molded pieces.

The rigging for these was very complicated and resulted in me needing a squire to dress me for battle. I made the straps out of leather so they wouldn't chafe my skin (like pleather/vinyl would have) and they hooked around my anchor points on the inside. I used buckles to cinch everything in place. Unfortunately the straps stretched over the course of the day, meaning that things started to shift, hanging in the wrong place and slowly strangling me. This was remedied by boring more holes in the straps, although they continued to stretch and be a problem.

Final notes for casting: Unless you have someone to help you along every step of the way like I did, start small! Don't cast anything crazy large or complicated as your first project! Also, always read the instructions like 8 times before starting and ensure you have everything you need laid out before you start.

Overall I was super happy with the costume as a whole, and it was very well received at the convention. I hope to pull it out again next year, perhaps I can fix some of the rigging issues in the mean time!

Hope you enjoyed the Asuna tutorials, I had a lot of fun making it! We will be taking a short break from cosplay things before looking at Otakon costumes!

Monday, August 12, 2013

August Update

Hey everybody! What's that? It's August already? D: Nooooooooo.

This past weekend I attended Otakon, which marks both my second US convention and the last con of the season for me, as for the first time in about 9 years I will not be attending FanExpo. (However, there is a possibility that some of my panda and owls may be making an appearance at my sister's table in the artist alley!)

Otakon was quite excellent! Saw lots of cool costumes, hung out with my people, bought some stuff and ate a heck of a lot of delicious food. I only found one Sakura to take a picture with at the con, but she was just as excited as I was, so it was ok!

Tomorrow I will be concluding my Asuna posts, which means that I will be finished with Anime North 2013 stuff. But fear not! There are still lots of cosplay projects to catch up on! Otakon costumes will be posted over the coming months, so there are still plenty of things to look forward to! Coming up will be Kero & Suppi from Cardcaptors, Presea from Tales of Symphonia and another alternate costume for Asuna. (This will probably be enough material to last me until November. Hahaha)

I'm still just like a kid and don't want to go back to school again! :P

Bye for now! :D

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Asuna Kagurazaka (Knight) - Armour (Heat Molded) - Negima

Hey all! Welcome to part 5 of my Asuna posts. This time we are going to look at the armour, specifically the heat molded pieces!

I had a ton of help on this armour, as a lot of the heat molding was just not possible with only 2 hands. So my friend Alli deserves a huge thank you on making this happen!

Go here for the Sword, Wig, Bodice, and Skirt. Go here for my fabulous photoshoot with EleventhPhotograph!

This part of the costume was referred to as the sexy battle armour, the leg pieces specifically were called my sexy battle shorts. Haha

All of the pieces are made out of styrene plastic which I bought at Plastic World in North York. A great place to find plastic sheet materials (like plexi/acryllic).

I started by cutting out various shapes from my material. These were all measured beforehand so they would be the right size. (Above is the toe & heel pieces, left is the calf.) I cut pieces for the back of my calves, but didn't end up using them, because the material was not working exactly how I wanted.

The raised details would be added on later. (Above is the knee & thigh pieces, left is the arm pieces)
For the neck piece I carefully mocked it up using paper, before going to the good copy. It took a lot of tweaks to get it right.

I found paper made a good representation of the plastic, because although the plastic would bend and curve, it didn't stretch or pull very well... Meaning there were some shapes that it wouldn't do for me. As it was my first time using the material I was unsure of its limitations.

The actual molding process itself was quite easy, but it was time consuming and required a second set of hands for some pieces. I bought a heat gun for about 27$ at Sculpture Supply Canada, which is pretty reasonable, particularly if you plan on making armour using this method a lot.
Using bbq tongs I would bend the pieces against a concrete floor while heating them up, then allow them to cool in that position. For the more complex curves and fine tuning I would heat up the piece and then shape it using my hands, wearing some decent heat resistant gloves. I found this method much easier, but I highly recommend wearing a pair of gloves regardless while doing this.

To check the pieces I would wait for the plastic to cool, then try them on.

The neck piece was made from 4 pieces. The front and back were designed to nest and separate for easy removal.
The raised detailing was added with strips of craft foam, which I hot glued on. Be warned: once glued you cannot undo! These materials bond ridiculously well, which is great, unless you make an error...

After doing several gesso layers to protect the craft foam from the spray paint I was ready to start painting! (I did a test with the styrene plastic and it did not melt from the spray paint, meaning I did not have to coat those surfaces.)

The paint was applied in several stages and many layers over a few days. First I did a primer grey, then a few coats of black as my under tone, then a few coats of a metallic silver.
All the armour ( both cast and heat molded pieces) was given the same paint treatment so it would all look the same. 

The next step was weathering. In case you haven't noticed, a flat coat of metallic spray paint can look kind of cheap, by weathering the armour, it looks more realistic.

First I started by carefully sandpapering the surfaces. My goal here was to slightly expose hints of the black layer underneath. This was done mostly on the bare surfaces, not in the corners. Then using black acryllic paint I dry brushed the crevices to make it look dirty and older. (I simply used a very small amount of paint and pushed it into the corners, using papertowel to wipe at it.)
Then I had to rig the pieces. For this I was struck by a brainwave. I used those small gold paper fasteners that I used to use in crafts as a kid. (Gold dome top with the two metal prongs sticking out the bottom that you bend to fasten in place.) I bought a pack of 100 at Staples. Using my dremel with the drill bit I drilled the correct size holes in the armour pieces. The prongs were used to secure the elastics in place so that they would easily slip on and off. Unfortunately, the metal on these things is kind of cheap, and so they would need replacing a lot.

For the hip pieces I used two gold buttons, some cord and a few hooks to hold them in place to the shirt.

After many hours of work, my armour was ready to wear!