Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Vaporeon Gijinka - Wraps, Bracers & Gloves - Pokémon

Part 5 of the Vaporeon saga! Let's talk about wraps, bracers and gloves! This was probably the most time consuming and difficult part of the entire costume to construct. Lots of hand painting and hand stitching was involved. The end result ended up looking even better than I had envisioned! >:D

Links to Part 1: BoleroPart 2: Under LayersPart 3: Wrap Skirt Tail, and Part 4: Wig and Hairpieces!

Thanks to Elemental Photography for the wonderful photoshoot! Credit for the original costume design goes to Cowslip!

The way I started drafting the pattern for these was super scientific! Not really. I literally traced my leg onto paper. This is so I could figure out the relational distance between my ankle, knee and thigh. This was purely to use to get the proportional heights of the bracers and wraps correct.

From there I was able to mark how tall I wanted the bracers and wraps to be. Then I drafted the pattern for the wraps and bracers separately. I also drafted the arm wraps and bracers at this time.

I'll start with the bracers first, since I finished the construction on those first.

I cut out my pieces in the various fabrics. I had an under layer in a shiny synthetic navy blue fabric and an over layer in a light aqua cotton (which was leftover from the Suppi costume).

I nearly cut out the wrong amount of pieces when I was laying out my pattern. Every piece has a backing because I needed that to properly finish the scalloped edges on the top and bottom. This meant every piece was doubled. The navy under layer was backed with the same navy cotton as the bolero lining because I ran out of my other navy fabric.

I assembled each of the fronts and backings separately, sewing them along the side seams. I ironed the seams open flat.

At this point I took the front over layer pieces of the bracers and painted on my scale pattern. I lightly drew this out in pencil and then traced over my lines with navy blue fabric paint. It sounds simple, but it took a really long time. I ironed them to set the paint before moving on.

Next I pinned each piece to its backing right sides together. I sewed them together along the top and bottom edges, leaving both sides open to turn them right way out. Before turning them out, I trimmed the excess seam allowance on the inside. I top stitched along the edges to neatly finish them.

I also added in my top stitching detail on the tops of the under layer at this time.

I aligned my side edges, zig zagged stitched over the raw edge of the fabric and then turned that to the inside and top stitched it down.

Then I used a punch to punch out the holes to put the grommets in for the laces. At this point I still had access to the grommet press at school, which I made good use of.

This was the point where I laid the project to rest for a year, because one of the main hurdles was the leg wraps, which I was positively stumped on. I didn't know how to rig them, I didn't know how to do the detailing and I didn't want to rush them and do a crappy job of it.

When I returned to the project, along with replacing the wig to fix the colour matching issue I also found another thing that was bothering me. The bracers were too teal for the rest of the costume, especially now that I had replaced the wig.

After re-evaluating, I decided to upgrade the paint job on the bracers, and in the process change the colour of them to be bluer. I added in depth to the scales, but also dry brushed over the whole thing to tint it. You can really see the difference it made in this progress shot.

The gloves I bought in Kensington market. I made gloves for an earlier project and decided it was by far the most horribly tedious thing to do ever. So I decided to buy and alter a pair. I cut out the hole that encompassed the index and middle finger on each glove, then zig zagged stitched the edges to finish them so they wouldn't fray all over the place.

The gloves were painted in the same style, except instead of laying them flat, I had to wear them each on my left hand in turn to paint them.

By doing the scale pattern and adding the depth to both the gloves and bracers it helped to meld them together visually and also give the false impression that they are even remotely the same shade of blue. Because they really weren't.

Now let's travel back to the beginning of the project when I traced my leg and started patterning. For the wraps I was venturing into an area I didn't have much experience with at the time--stretch fabric. In this project I can freely admit that I had no idea what I was doing and problems I encountered in the construction of these wraps are one of the main reasons I stopped working on the project for a while.

I will start with my first mistake: I bought fabric that was one-way stretch. Somehow it was more unpredictable than stretch fabric. I don't know, I just didn't like working with it.

I patterned out my pieces, figuring out the overlap at the top. In this picture you can see the two pieces for a leg wrap on the left and the two pieces for an arm wrap on the right.

I took them to school to assemble them with the serger, because this fabric frayed like crazy. I ended up making them slightly uncomfortably snug, but since I had serged off the seam allowance I couldn't let them out, and I used up all my fabric so I couldn't remake them.

I used the silver silk bias tape I had made for the bolero to finish the top edges.

At this point, I had no idea how to rig them. They were super snug, but not enough to stay up without slipping. This is when I threw in the towel on the project.

Zoom forward to one year. I am one year wiser. And I have ideas about how to finish this project.

First I decided to actually add the floral pattern to the fabric, which I had originally decided to not bother with (because of time constraints).

I decided to make stamps to create my design, rather than hand painting on the floral design. This is much quicker and easier if you are making repeating patterns/patterns with repeating elements. Based on the barely visible details in the reference image I sketched out some suitable flower and leaf designs, then traced those onto craft foam and cut them out. I glued the pieces onto a foam backing creating my stamps.

I laid out my wraps and began stamping. Using a blue fabric paint, I used a brush to apply the paint to the stamps and then pressed the stamp into a spot of my choosing on the wraps. I made the paint application purposely patchy. I didn't want the flowers to be solid. 

I wanted the flowers to be random and sporadic. There is no science to the design. I just made sure not to have too many of the same stamp to close to each other. 

I had to wait for them to dry before flipping them over and doing the sides and back. When everything was painted and dry I heat set the paint with an iron.

Next I decided to finish the overlaps differently. My original plan was to make the overlaps a functional closure. But it wasn't working--it pulled the fabric on a weird diagonal, and looked super bad. So I decided to sew it shut and just fake it. I sewed the frogs on top as decoration.

Next I used bias tape and hand stitched on all the fancy loops and detailing on each of the wraps. This took forever.

Lastly I had to rig them so they would stay up. As I mentioned in my wrap skirt section, the rigging for the wraps was attached to the inside of the skirt's waistband. At the back there is an elastic strap that attaches to each wrap using garter hooks. They are stretched to be pretty tight, but not so much that I can't bend or sit. Then I have a second backup strap made of webbing that doesn't put as much tension on it. This is for the sake of redundancy--if the first strap fails, the second will keep it up. You can see a bit of the rigging system in the picture below. I tried to keep it as invisible as possible.

The arm wraps are attached to the bolero with simple buttons and loops. Unfortunately they tend to pull the bolero sleeves down oddly. I plan to remedy this in the near future by stuffing the bolero sleeves.

Friday, February 12, 2016

February Update - 5th Blogiversary

Today marks my 5th Blogiversary! 5 years of blogging, this must be some kind of milestone? Wow! :,D When I started this blog, I didn't know how long I would stick with it. It was a huge undertaking to start documenting all my costume making progress and some of those write-ups take me practically forever, but over the last 5 years I've had such wonderful support from my fans. Whether there are 10 people or 200 who follow regularly, you guys are my motivation to continue sharing what I learn on every costume journey. I believe that knowledge is for sharing, and so as long as there are those who want to learn, I will do my best to keep writing for you guys.

Some highlights of this year include: finishing my university degree (with honours!), presenting design work at Prague Quadrennial, having a piece of mine in a museum exhibit, building my own website, and finally completing my Vaporeon costume!

I didn't finish nearly so many major costumes this year--and I started a whole bunch more. Costumes I completed this year include: Vaporeon, Inkling, Toph, Tomoyo, and Sakura. Considering how busy I was, I'm pretty amazed I was able to even finish 5 costumes--though only one of those was a notably ambitious project.

As I mentioned in my January update, this year's goal is to finish the 6 costumes I have in various states of completion. Another goal for this year is to go back through 200 blog posts and fix all the broken images, and re-vamp the blog. I think it's time to change up the layout a bit. Wish me luck with that... Because it will take AGES. But considering my lack of employment, I should really work on that while I have the free time.

Upcoming posts include the conclusion of the Vaporeon posts and some small DIY projects I did. Hoping to finish my Jack Frost costume before all the snow disappears so I can do a photoshoot, but considering the lack of snow we've been having here, that may not happen. Fingers crossed! Facebook followers have been seeing all the progress pics of the paint job on that sweater. Holy crap it's taking forever!

In other news, I'm back in school again. Well, night school anyway. I'm taking a millinery class! Hat-making ahoy! >:D (I'm starting to feel like by the time someone hires me for a job I will be extremely over-qualified, what with all this schooling...)

I have more exciting news coming in another post near the end of the month... stay tuned for that and more great stuff this year!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Vaporeon Gijinka - Wig & Hairpieces - Pokémon

Part 4 of the Vaporeon saga--Wig and Hairpieces. After my initial rocky start, I quite enjoyed creating the decorations for this wig. Though not the most construction heavy wig (like my Presea or Asuna wigs) it required a lot of labour and styling. This wig presented a new challenge for me: dyeing.

Links to Part 1: Bolero, Part 2: Under Layers, and Part 3: Wrap Skirt Tail!

Thanks to Elemental Photography for the great photoshoot! Credit for the original costume design goes to Cowslip!

It's a complaint I have made many times before but I'll say it again: it is really difficult to find a base wig that perfectly matches your character if you need it to be a specific shade of grey, green, blue or purple. And even if you find one that matches you may not be able to find it in the length you need. I had similar problems with finding a wig for Tomoyo and Suppi because they fell into this colour spectrum where there is just not a lot of wig selection.

My problem was that I ordered my wig first, before I went fabric shopping. The wig I picked was a teal wig from Epic Cosplay (though it is really difficult to see here, believe me when I say it is really teal). When I was shopping for fabric I ended up shifting the colour palette to be more blue. When the wig arrived in the mail it really didn't match the costume. Also the wig I picked did not have enough length for the desired style...

(For the record, I don't blame Epic Cosplay for the teal wig, I blame myself for choosing a teal wig and then changing my mind about making the costume blue!)

At the time I was still under the impression that I could meet my original deadline, so I didn't have time to order another a wig--it wouldn't have arrived in time for me to style it.

I went ahead and styled the wig I had, but was super dissatisfied with it. Shown right is the original wig I styled with the original hairpieces I ended up later discarding.

A year later I re-thought my plan for this wig and decided that I really wanted to attempt the slight gradient that is in the original rendering. To do this I needed to order another wig that was longer, and much lighter--so I could dye it to the desired colour.

The second wig I bought was much closer to what I wanted for my base. I ordered a much longer curly wig in "ice blue" from Epic Cosplay.

The first thing I did was trim the bangs to the desired length/style. Then I sectioned off the remaining hair into 4 parts: the two lower pigtails would form the long braids, and the two upper pigtails would form the buns. The lower pigtails I took scissors to and thinned the hair. The bottom needed to be these two wisps rather than the chunky sections you can see in the picture on the left.

I changed the design of the hair a bit, because the upper part was actually supposed to have a lot volume before feeding into the braids, with these spikes of shorter hair sticking out. After the problems I encountered on my first failed styling I decided to add the buns to the top half and use the curls in the wig to create the shorter strands of hair sticking out. This gave me the width/apparent volume without me having to tease it/add it in with hair spray. Suffice to say because the wig was curly I was worried that any attempt to add volume was going to lead to a messy tangled disaster... So the deviation from the actual design was quite intentional.

Looking at some tutorials, I began by creating my dyes. I tested them of the off-cut hair from the bangs until I was satisfied with the colour. The dye was made using 99% alcohol and india ink. I created two bottles of dye--one that was blue and one that was more teal. There was no scientific formula for mixing these, I just added drops of ink until the colour was dark enough. Just write down what you did because if it is a long wig like mine was, you will probably have to make more. Which I did.

The bottles of 99% alcohol I bought already had these hand spray nozzles, but if not I would have bought spray bottles at the dollar store and mixed my dye in there. That makes the application easy.

I did this outside, because I didn't want to end up with blue dye residue everywhere. As it was, my fingers were blue for days after. I covered my stool (which is vintage and actually belongs to my mum) with a heavy duty garbage bag to protect it also.

I started with the bangs. To apply it I simply spritzed it with dye and combed it through. The more saturated you make it, the darker the concentration of colour. In the design, the crown of the head is where the darkest tint is, so I did the bangs first so as to give myself a reference point to compare to for the gradient.

I tied the upper layers out of my way and worked on each bottom pigtail next. I would let down the pigtail and carefully comb out the hair. Since I was trying to preserve the curls and keep the wig from tangling, I dyed each curl individually. Once That section was finished, I would carefully roll up the curl and pin it in position, allowing it to dry. If you leave them hanging wet it can straighten the fibers out a bit, leaving the wig more wavy than curly--which can be a good thing, but not what I was going for. To give it the gradient it had to be most saturated at the base, and I would carefully comb it down to pull the dye down through the hair.

You can see at the back that I parted the hair in a sharp zig-zag so as not to reveal the base of the wefts/netting. This was to save me from having to add in wefts to make a proper part. This works fine for this particular project since the lower half of the hair did not have to pull upwards into the high buns.
Using straight pins and plastic bags, I covered the bottom half of the wig while I worked on the top half.

The top half was done to be much darker than the bottom. I simply made it more saturated with dye. Same with the bottom, I did each curl individually and pinned it up to dry.

The finished dye job, before I brushed out the curls again. You can see the gradient best here. It was meant to be subtle, and mostly to match the wig colour to the costume. I think if I would revisit this wig I would make the crown another shade darker.

This is what it looked like once I brushed it out.

Next I went about styling the sections. I did a quick test style first (pictured left). Many bobby pins were used to create the buns. The lower braids were done in a fishtail braid style. I didn't pull the braiding too tight at the start of the braid, because I wanted it to retain some volume. I sprayed the finished braids and buns with hairspray to keep them looking tidy. I later replaced the black elastics with clear ones.

After doing the back, I moved on to styling the bangs. I used hairspray and a hair dryer to create the big curl and the large section that crossed over.

I decided to take my scissors and thin the ends of the hair even more. Reducing volume, but not length.

I made the silk flowers for the hair in a kanzashi style, like I did with my Cloche Hat last year. A good tutorial for how to make them can be found here! I sewed an assortment of beads into the center of each. The beads on this costume are a range of colours: navy, medium blue, pearly blue and teal. Each flower was hot glued onto a hairclip base. The barrettes I used had a little hole in each end, this came in hand later for attaching the bead strings.

I strung the beads on tiger tail and used claw hooks to attached the ends to my barrettes. This means they are removable.

Overall this wig was super fun to make and looked great. As much as it hurt my pride to do so, I am glad I scrapped the first wig and started again fresh.