Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Forest Guardian - Embroidered Panel

Everyone I apologize this post is late, I had a small accident yesterday and was unable to finish typing up this post. I will explain in more detail at the end of this post! Meanwhile, without further ado I present Forest Guardian, Part 3! Let's take a look at the embroidered panel, since I know that's what everyone has been dying to see! XD

For part 1 go here! For Part 2 go here!

[New snowy photos were taken by EleventhPhotograph in Feb 2015! Thanks Mike! They look fab!]
Let me just preface this by saying this was my first time embroidering ever. I learned a lot doing this project. I have a new-found mad respect for the woman who does the embroidery on the Game of Thrones costumes. I highly suggest you take a look at that! It's crazy awesome!

So now let's talk embroidery! The project (just the embroidery, not even the rest of the costume) took me about a month and a half--give or take. Some of those days were 14 hours, some I only worked on it for 2. I constructed the panel itself on my Christmas holidays, but didn't start embroidering until April. I knew this piece would be time consuming, but I didn't quite realized how time consuming. This piece is the reason I didn't compete this costume at CostumeCon 32 as intended: this was just not done. There were still 2' left of embroidery to complete on the back side, this included the rabbit and most of the vines between the deer and fox. Knowing my pace, 2 days was simply not going to work for the amount I had left, so I wore the otherwise completed costume to the convention, without the main piece.

First I had to make the panel. I drafted it out in paper, putting it over my shoulders so I could decide the finished length. Then I finalized my design and drew it out full scale on the paper. I cut out the different sections and cut those pieces out of the corresponding fabrics.

I sewed those together so it was all in one long piece.
Then I used the rest of my pattern pieces to construct the gold/yellow border around the edges.

I pressed all the seams flat, and top stitched down the corners.

Then I attached a white interfacing backing to the entire piece. This would make it easier to embroider as the cottons I used for the coloured panel were nice and light.

Above is what it looked like pre-embroidery. In the lead-up to actually starting this project I streamlined my embroidery design, re-drew some of the animals and cleaned up some of the messier areas. Some people have asked me where I got my embroidery pattern: there wasn't one. I designed it myself to suit the piece and to suit the character. When I was completely satisfied with the design I transferred the main shapes to the fabric. This was done using a combination of a spiky tracing wheel, pencil and grey pencil crayon.

I had to look at a lot of reference pictures to ensure my animals had the colours in the right place, and the most importantly the limbs bending in the right directions! I can't stress enough the importance of actually looking at animals when undertaking a project like this. You may think you know what a fox looks like. Your memory may not be so reliable! Mine wasn't! If you are trying to maintain some degree of realism, reference is key.

I didn't attack this in any particularly logical order, I mostly embroidered whatever I felt like doing next. I actually started with the fish on the front, then moved to the fox, then the birds, deer and lastly the rabbit. In between the major pieces I tackled the various branches and greenery.
 Mostly I created the different looks through experimentation: since I wanted to maintain some realism, even if the animals were stylized. The challenge was to create the different textures. Long haired animals had to be obviously different than short haired animals, while feathers again had to appear different than fur or scales. I would describe the process as a combination of painting and pointillism with thread.

In terms of process I don't think there is any real right or wrong way of doing this. On any given animal I typically started with the detail bits first (eyes, nose, beak, hooves, spots, fins, etc), these usually had stark contrast and so placement was important. The more stitches you get in there the harder it is to see the lines, so I would like to get those done first.

Next I would start in one of my main colours and go around the outside of a section, to ensure that I didn't go outside my lines. I typically started at the head and would work my way towards the tail. On the fox for example I started by doing the eyes, nose and black parts on the ears. Then I outlined and began to fill the white section in my main colour. Next I outlined and filled the light orange sections of the face, then did the same with the dark orange. Lastly I speckled in my secondary colours to breakup the transitions and give variation and texture. To continue with my fox example I speckled cream and light brown into the white sections, light brown into the orange sections, and orange and brown into the dark orange sections. This is because fur isn't just all one colour. 

For the birds I modeled them after blue-birds. I went with a slightly pinker colour for the breast than they actually do because I preferred that with my colour scheme. I started with the details, then simultaneously worked on the head and breast leaving the wings to last. For the head and tail I used a medium blue as my main with a blue-grey and warm grey as secondary, while for the breast I used a salmon-y pink as my main, with a peach and white as my secondary.

The deer were done much in the same way as the fox; details, light/dark main sections, then colour breakup. It was a bit different because I had to work around the spots, and also because I had to make my stitches smaller and more controlled to denote short fur.

For the branches they were just done haphazardly. On the original design I drew out exactly how the branches would look, but when I transferred the pattern I just drew out a single meandering line to follow for each branch, that way the path was the same, but the width and stitch direction was freer.

Jelly was not impressed that I took over his favourite spot for a month.

The rabbit was very similar to the rest, but a little more troublesome because rabbits don't have as much colour variation as other animals do. That actually made it more of a challenge than some of the others.

The greenery I had down to a science. It was very controlled and directional, with specific colours for all the parts. Every leaf was divided in half--it would have a dark half and a lighter half. I would go in with my 2 main greens and then add in a couple highlights with my secondary greens. All leaves were done with the strokes extending outward from the stem diagonally toward the tip.
Here is what it looked like with the finished embroidery! You can see that it doesn't stop at the places that are hidden under the belt.

Once that was done all that was left was to add the backing to the panel so you couldn't see all the threads. This was done in 2 pieces, which were bagged out, then carefully pinned and hand-stitched at the neck and shoulders.
Here are some close-ups of the finished embroidery.

In regards to the fish, I did the scales each stitching in a tiny radial pattern extending from a central point. My colour variation was don so that the lighter colours were concentrated on top, while the darker colours covered the bottom.

I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out how to do the extended wing on this bird, but it turned out alright in the end!
The fox is still perhaps my favourite, but I am most certainly proud of the piece as a whole. I will probably do another embroidery piece in the future, as I really enjoyed this project, but I think it is safe to say I am pretty burnt out on embroidery for a while.

More to come on this costume set!

In terms of why this post is late, I injured myself at work yesterday and had to go to the hospital. An embroidery machine needle pierced through the top of my finger nail, went all the way through and broke off inside. I am fine, bandages come off tomorrow, but my hand was frozen last night, making it difficult to operate a keyboard and finish typing this post. For the record, it was entirely my own damn fault. :P

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Atomic Lollipop 2014

I surprised myself and impulsively decided to attend Atomic Lollipop at the last minute last Saturday! I went with my sister Elanne (aka SweetBoake) and we had a total blast! APop was a very different, very casual con environment that was completely opposite of what I am used to. But it was certainly a nice change. :) It was also nice to see the Science Center, which I hadn't been to in like 10 years!

I wore my Toothless kigurumi to the event (and only overheated a little bit). Lots of people asked me where I bought it, and I'm sorry to say I made it myself. :P (I think I disappointed at least 15 different people.) An in-depth look at how I made that is coming up sometime in August. (Though if anyone is interested in commissioning me to make another one this summer... just send me an email! ;D )
I think what impressed me the most about Apop was the amount of really crazy events and crafts that were offered! My sister and I attended a few crafting session, explored the Science Center and even played a few video games. :)

It was nice to see a few of my cosplay friends for a short time! Looking forward to seeing them at the next event. (Though knowing me that will be AN next year... hahaha)

Overall I really enjoyed APop and I will definitely be going again next year, even if it's only for one day! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Forest Guardian - Belt, Bracers & Quiver

Greetings! Welcome to part 2 of Forest Guardian. If you want to look at my pants, shirt and cape, go here!

Thanks to EleventhPhotograph for taking some nice shots of me at Costume Con!

I must say, I am very inexperienced at working with leather, but I daresay I learned a great deal on this project! Namely that leather stretches a lot when you try to sew layers together. You can't pin it, but mini bulldog clips work surprisingly well. I suggest picking up a pack from Staples (or any other local office  supply store) if you are going to do this, its worth it. I have red and green ones! :) Also get a leather needle for your sewing machine.

You may notice that there are 2 different colours of leather used in this project; I used the 2 different sides of my main leather (the leather side and the suede side) as well as a matching suede for reinforcement purposes. Any outer detail is done with the suede side of the leather, while the inner reinforcement layers are done in suede.

I started with the bracers. First I patterned my shape in paper, when I was satisfied I cut out 3 for each arm: 1 suede, 1 leather, 1 leather (with the middle cut out).

I sewed the suede and leather layers together, then sewed the fancy outline piece on suede side out.

Then I attached the loops for the lacing. It was basically a strip of suede with circles cut out of the middle folded in half. (Above you can see it folded and open) These were sewn on following the top stitching line of the inner part of the topmost detail piece. I added one more loop above where my middle finger would be on the inside so I could take the end of the lace and secure my hand into the bracer. They were designed to go over the top of the hands, and without that loop they would just flap awkwardly. The bracers are strong enough, but still bend easily at the wrists allowing me full range of motion.
Next I made 2 pouches for the belt. One is a coin purse, the other was for my cellphone. I didn't have any pockets in this garment, so the pouches were both practical from a wearers point of view as well as a design point of view. Meaning most adventuring type characters would need a place to put stuff.

The coin purse was actually based off the dice bag of a friend of mine at D&D. It was made using a strip of leather with an eye shaped piece of suede attached to each side. the suede was pinched and folded evenly along the top edge where I marked and punched holes for the laces. When pulled tight the laces cinch in the top, closing the purse. I attached a loop at the back to hang it off the belt.

The second pouch, or my ye olde cellphone pocket was made by simply plopping my phone down on the leather and drawing a rounded shape slightly bigger than it. I cut 2 pieces like this and attached beltloops to the back piece before sewing them together. Then I made a fancy flap to go over the top.

 The belt itself is both decorative and functional. It had to be strong enough to support the weight of the quiver and pouches while still remaining tight and holding the layers in place at the waist. Like the bracers there is a piece of leather with a piece of suede underneath to give a bit more support. Visually I didn't want any buckles on this costume, I wanted all the closures to be done with ties, because it looks more organic/more handmade. The belt folds under itself and the narrower section is threaded through a slit in the belt.

This is then cinched tight with a tie. On the surface of the belt there are belt loops that hold up the ties. This keeps the pouches and quiver from shifting positions. The tie is simply 4 different laces sewn together at each end with a triangle of leather. There are a couple feathers hanging off the end as a detail.

The quiver itself was a big rectangle with a "cuff" added at the top to make it a little more fancy.

Attached to the main piece on the inside is a thin strip of styrene plastic (leftover from Asuna) to provide reinforcement and help the quiver keep shape when the arrows are removed. I simply sewed a piece of suede over it to attach it. The stitching is visible on the back of the quiver, but that part is to the inside and is therefore unnoticeable. (Though there are 3 pieces pictured I only ended up putting in 1!) I was going to make the quiver lined with an extra layer of suede to hide the reinforcement, but that didn't work well so I scrapped that bit.

I used bulldog clips to "pin" the quiver into it's finished shape and marked where the beltloops needed to go. I attached the beltloops to the back of the quiver, then stitched the bottom in, before closing up the side seam.

In the original design, the quiver was actually supposed to go at the shoulder, but with the straps, embroidered panel and cape that area was going to be too busy. Also I didn't want the straps to tug on any of the embroidery. So it was a last minute decision to move it to the hip, but was worried I would get called out on this for inaccuracy because I know next to nothing about archery. Incidentally I was told by a fellow costumer in the greenroom that it was actually a perfectly accepted location for the quiver (apparently used by Olympic athletes, or so I was told) more logical than a back quiver in certain circumstances. Woo!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July Update

Greetings all! It's shaping up to be a pretty busy month here, after a fairly lazy June. Debating attending Atomic Lollipop this weekend for one day, but still haven't decided yet...

In other news I finally joined the 21st Century and got Instagram! I've been posting lots of detail shots and progress pics, as well as cool fabrics I find and other random things. My username is bobbinsthread so be sure to check that out if you're interested!

Lots of projects on the go including my 2 new costumes for Otakon, which is coming up in August. They are Sakura (school uniform) from CardCaptor Sakura and Toph (fire nation disguise) from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Two easy costumes for the unbearable temperatures of Baltimore. :P I will probably bring one more costume to that convention, but I will probably leave that selection up to you guys!

Those following me on facebook or instagram know this already, but the kigurumi I was working on is finally done! Excited to take some finished shots of me wearing Toothless sometime this week. I've also finished the shirt I was working on and nearly finished the messenger bag I am making.

I have updated my Cospix profile, which now includes all of my costumes, including the ones I made for my sisters and the ones that are currently in progress. Check that out here!

I've begun posting my Forest Guardian costume (which will be presented in 4 parts), so stay tuned for more of that! More exciting things to come this month! :D

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Forest Guardian - Pants, Shirt & Cape

[Edit: New photos added from Feb 2015 shoot with EleventhPhotograph!]

Welcome to my first look at the Forest Guardian! I thought we should start with the pants, shirt and cape because in terms of the actual build of the costume that's where I started. I think at this point it has been a full year since I started the concept sketches for this costume, wow! This is my first real original design costume and I'm pretty proud of it. 
I wore most of the costume to CostumeCon 32, excluding the embroidered panel, which I was sadly unable to finish in time. The costume was completed for Anime North, and I competed it in the Masquerade. I won an award for my embroidery in the Master Division, which I am super proud of! This was my entry.

I still need to do a photoshoot of this costume, hopefully that will happen sometime in the near future. I have been location scouting in the forest behind my house. :P 

I started the design concept of this last summer. I had bought my badge for CostumeCon 32 at Anime North last year, so I knew I wanted to make something original. There were several different designs leading up to this one, several different versions before I arrived at this one. I developed the design over the course of the summer and got started on the project after returning from Otakon. 

 The hardest part once I had the shapes down was colourizing everything. I knew I wanted the character to have auburn hair and that the shirt was going to be off-white but other than that I wasn't sure. I didn't even know if I wanted to make the mask look like metal or clay & bone. There were several different coloured versions before I settled on this one (there was even one where the animals on the embroidered panel were to be done as silver silhouettes). It ended up being quite colourful in the end, I was sort of going for ceremonial garb when I first started drawing it and ultimately I think the colour suits the design. Even then there have been several changes that developed over the course of the build since I did this "final" sketch. I purposefully designed the under clothing for this costume to be quite simple, as I wanted the focus to be on the embroidered panel and accessories. 

 I started by patterning and mocking up the shirt. The shirt was designed to be a looser fit, with flowy sleeves that would allow easy/unrestricted movement. The shirt itself only has 2 darts at the armhole to the bust, the waist get cinched in by the belt. The sleeve pattern had required some adjustments initially because unlike a regular sleeve this had a slit in the front. So I had to move the seam from the bottom to the front.
After doing a mockup, I cut and sewed the pieces. I closed the darts and then sewed the front and back pieces together, leaving a little slit open at the bottom of each side seam. I cut the slit open at the front and finished off the edges with a strip I made out of the same fabric. This would reinforce the fabric when I added the laces later.
I then sewed on the collar and gathered the sleeves. Then I finished/reinforced the edges of the sleeve opening. Originally I had intended for the sleeves to be laced shut, but I decided I really liked the look of them open and left them that way.

 I hemmed the bottom of the shirt.
Then I gathered the edge of the sleeve and added the cuffs to the sleeve. Later I put 3 buttons & buttonholes on each to close them.I also added in the holes on the front closure for the laces. These were done in the same way as the button holes rather than with grommets.
 Once the shirt was done I began work on the cape.

The cape itself had originally been designed to be longer, but after much consideration I felt it would detract from the embroidered panel so I made it a short cape, but still kept the large hood. I am pretty inexperienced patterning hoods, and this was my first cape. It took a few tries to get it to look how I wanted it. The only advice I can give is make a mockup!
The pattern pieces for this look pretty odd!

My main design feature on the hood was the two slots for the antlers to stick through. It was one of the design elements from the initial concept sketch that came all the way through to the end. I had to make a reinforced edge piece that went all the way around the edge of the hood and the hem of the cape. It had to conform to all the odd angles and contours. It is made of the same fabric as the hood lining.

I started by sewing the sides and center seams on the hood, hood-lining and cape pieces. For the hood I attached the trim piece to the lining and bagged it out. Then I slotted the outer fabric under the trim and pinned it in place. I carefully measured and folded under the raw edges then top stitched the trim in place.

For the main part of the cape I bagged out the trim, having stitched it directly to the inside of the outer fabric. I folded it to the outside and finished the raw edges in the same way, top stitching it all in place. This way the raw edges are all hidden inside the trim, leaving for a clean look on the inside and outside!

You can see how the hood collapses in on itself. Which was frustrating as even when worn over the mask the edges of the antler slots just drooped. I later re-opened the seam and added in a wire to the hood, which kept it rigid and held the desired shape perfectly!

The red wrap around the stomach is simply a long strip of fabric that is wider at the ends (narrower in the middle) bagged out to finish the edges. It has velcro to close it, which is hidden by the belt. (The belt pictured here is actually from my Presea costume, which I was using when trying things on until I made the actual one.)

The pants are actually based on a pattern I had modified for a costume I started but never finished. (Jack Frost) I modified my modified pattern to get the pants I made for this costume. Haha

To make the leg wider I opened up the front of each pant leg and added in a pleat on each. I flared each pant leg out more as well. This way, it still fit nicely at the butt, but the legs would pouffe out a bit.

When I was satisfied with the changes to the pattern I cut and sewed the pieces.  I started with the pleats on the front, then the side seams. Then I partially closed the crotch seam and finished the inner seams.
Next I added my waistband. The pants front closure was a bit tricky. I decided I wanted laces rather than doing a fly-front... even though it isn't even visible, I wanted authenticity. hahaha I had to reinforce the edges where I put the holes, and add a modestly panel so you can't see my underwear through the gaps in the lacing. But in the end it worked well.

Lastly I finished the cuffs by cinching them and then adding on a strip of fabric that I had closed to be a circle.
I can definitely say that the base outfit for this costume is very comfortable.