Thursday, June 29, 2017

Female Squall Leonhart (Leon) Cosplay

    After a long, intense, sometimes stressful, mostly fun 10 or so months of work, I finally finished our costumes!  We took on ComiCon in Knoxville this past weekend, and it was a lot of fun as usual.  We didn't win the costume contest (as usual!), but we got tons of compliments and had our picture taken dozens of times.



    From left to right, my sister M as Cloud Strife, my sister D as Sora, and me as Squall Leonhart (aka Leon).  All female versions of the male characters, and all based on the looks that they wear in Kingdom Hearts 2.  I designed the female looks, and created most of the pieces.  M and D each worked on some pieces, as well, and our dad made our awesome weapons out of foam core.  

    I'd like to go through each of our costumes (in separate entries) in a little more detail and tell you how I made the pieces.  Starting with mine!



Inspiration - Squall Leonhart (Leon) from Kingdom Hearts 2



Concept art




    Let's start with the jacket.  I bought a 3/4 length sleeve, black, "leather" cropped jacket, Body Central brand, from swap.com.


    My first step was to cut off the sleeves to short-sleeve length and re-hem them.  I cut them shorter than Leon's actually are, for a more "feminine" look.  Then I started adding details.  I found some red pleather on sale at Joann (in their home decor fabrics), and I used the lion's head necklace that I found on eBay -


    - as my template to cut out the emblem for the jacket sleeve.


    This one I hand stitched, since I figured it was easier than trying to get the sewing machine into all those little nooks and crannies. 
    The "wings" on the back of the jacket I sketched out by hand based on some screenshots I found, and I sewed them on with the machine.


    For the silver edging I used metallic silver paint.  Here's a pic of me baby-wearing and painting at the same time! 😂


    And the finished product, minus a second coat of paint...


    Next step was to add the fur trim.  I bought the fur from Hobby Lobby, and getting it cut and sewn on was a tricky procedure.  I had a lot of help from my mom on that one (hard to get it pinned on unless you're wearing it!), and I still can't tell you exactly how we did it haha. 
    The last step was to add the black panels to the front of the jacket.  I used some leftover fabric from Sora's skirt, which made things interesting since it was stretchy.  If you had better fabric, you could potentially turn these into pockets, which would make it easier to get them sewn on flat/straight, and be useful when it came ComiCon time.  But I just decided to stick with what I had on hand.


    For the white shirt underneath the jacket, I used a v-neck camisole that I already owned (it had some lace trim on it that I tacked down so as not to be TOO feminine!)
    The skirt I made from scratch with some semi-sheer black fabric from Hobby Lobby and two super long zippers that I found on Amazon.  I wanted it to be reminiscent of Leon's zippered pants, and look basically like a maxi that had been unzipped up both sides.  Basically it was just two panels of fabric, sewn together at the top and then zippered together the rest of the way, with an elastic waistband.  I tapered the skirt in toward the bottom so that it would better show off the leggings and boots underneath.


    The leggings were another swap.com purchase (can you believe I didn't already own black leggings?), and the boots were from eBay.  I did already have a pair of knee-high black boots, but a. they weren't the style I wanted, and b. I didn't want to mess them up by putting zippers on them!  I discovered in my online searching that boots with zippers up the front are extremely rare, and if you do find them they are super expensive!  So instead, I bought plain black boots and a couple more zippers from Amazon, and I glued the zippers to the front of the boots.  It ended up working really well, it was not at all obvious that they weren't functional zippers.  I highly recommend this glue -


    - for all your cosplay needs!  I lost count of how many projects we ended up using this stuff on.  For the boots, I glued on a little of the zipper at a time, held it in place until it became tacky, then used painter's tape to hold it while I continued up the zipper.


    Excuse the extremely messy background!  I also used some rolled up cardboard (frozen pizza boxes, to be exact!) to stuff down inside the boots so they would stay upright while the glue dried.  


      Now for accessories...the belt that I wore around my waist actually belongs to my husband, but the other 3 I bought off of eBay.  Size XL, so that they would fit all they way around my hips, though I think I could have gotten away with a size down so that there would not have been so much of a "tail" left over.
     The armbands I decided to make rather than buy, to keep the cost down.  They were a royal pain, mostly just because it's difficult to cut and work with leather, but they turned out well!  I found a bag of leather scraps at Hobby Lobby, and cut the 3 armbands out from one large piece of brown leather.  The buckles also came from Hobby Lobby.  I measured my arm where I wanted the armbands to be, then added a couple of inches to that.  I punched 3 holes in each one with an awl, with the center hole being the one I actually used.  Then I sewed a small piece of elastic to one end of the armband, looping around the center bar of the buckle.  Because of the elastic, I was able to just slide the first two armbands over my hand and up my arm.  I only had to actually unbuckle the one on my wrist, since I have a really small wrist.  


    Sorry I don't have any photos of the actual process!
    My gloves were originally basic black leather, and they also came off of swap.com.


    I used more of the same leftover fabric from Sora's skirt, and finished the edges of 3 different strips to go across the gloves.  I had to hand sew these, since I was going up inside the glove.  The silver details I made out of air dry clay (from Hobby Lobby or Walmart), and spray painted them with the same paint I used for my gunblade.  I glued them on with the E6000 glue (see above!)


    I'm sure you could easily find some kind of buttons to use instead, but again, I was trying not to buy anything else!  I also debated using more leather instead of fabric for the straps, but was afraid it would make hand movement difficult.  Also, after all the work on the armbands, I was over the whole working with leather thing haha.
    My weapon, known as the Gunblade, was made by my dad out of foam core and a Pringles can for the revolver!  I painted the whole thing with metallic silver spray paint, and learned in the process that if you spray on too much at once the top layer of the foam core will buckle up.  I was able to smooth it out with a straight edge, which actually ended up leaving some cool looking marks on the blade that made it look "battle worn".  




    The handle and the shading on the revolver I painted with craft paint.  The lion emblem was definitely the most difficult part!  I finally found a picture of it online that was clear enough to use, and my hubby resized it on Photoshop to the size I wanted for the blade.  Here is the original file that I cropped, before resizing.


    Once it was resized and printed, I used graphite paper to transfer it onto the blade.  This, however, was only semi-successful.  In several places the transfer barely showed up, and I had to fill in the blanks by hand, looking at the original.  Then I traced over all the lines and filled in the solid parts with a Sharpie...much easier than paint and a paintbrush, and it looked just fine!


    For the "keychain" on the end of the handle, I removed a few links from a plastic chain that we already had and spray painted it with the same paint I used on the sword.  My dad cut a notch into the middle layer of foam core, and inserted half of one of the chain links into the notch with some glue.  I created the lion's head on the end out of more air dry clay and silver spray paint.


    As far as hair goes, I used a couple of different gel and wax products coupled with plenty of hairspray to get the raised bangs that Leon wears.  I also separated a section of hair over each ear and held that all in place with the same products.  
    For makeup, I actually researched biker chick looks, and based mine off of that!  Squall/Leon may not actually own a Harley, but his outfit definitely says biker to me.  My sister D did my smoky eyeshadow, and my husband made Squall's iconic scar with a light bronze cream foundation and a makeup brush.  Finished all that off with black eyeliner, my normal light rosy-brown blush, some highlighter, and bright red lipstick, and some finishing spray to help hold it all in place.  (Tip: don't let your little sister do the finishing spray part, or you might almost drown.)


    That's all for mine!  To wrap up, here's a fun picture that D and I took at ComiCon, recreating a moment from Kingdom Hearts 1 when Sora and Leon first meet (even though both our costumes are different, we couldn't resist!)



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I Don't Have Time to Blog

    Yep, you read that right. This is a blog post about not having time to write a blog post. Makes total sense, right? 
    Okay, so obviously, technically, I have time to blog. I actually have tons of down time, sitting right here where I am right now, on the couch holding a sleeping Buttercup. We've been dealing with colic for most of the last two months, and she's a very restless sleeper during the day. The real story is that up until today, I hadn't thought of using this time to type out a post on my phone. Of course that's a rather slow-going process...not only because I'm typing an entire blog post with one thumb, but because I'm also trying not to ignore Sugarplum. So typing is being peppered with getting my teeth checked, conversations about an imaginary bug, and telling her to stop throwing toys. Also putting Buttercup's pacifier back in her mouth over and over again until she finally decides to stay asleep. 

    I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining, though. I wouldn't trade these girls for anything. Adding a second child hasn't been easy, by any means, but in most ways it hasn't been as hard as I was worried it would be. It just involves a lot of improvisation and making do with the time you have...like one finger typing a blog post on your phone while holding a sleeping baby. 

    Anyway, the original point of this blog post was to talk about the things I'm doing when I'm actually NOT sitting on the couch holding Buttercup. There are a few short moments each day when either she has just eaten and is awake and happy, or I'm able to lay her down and she stays asleep for at least a few minutes. Also, of course, I can sometimes hand her off to DH or a visiting family members and steal a few minutes away. Some of that time has to go to things like eating, showering, taking care of Sugarplum, and trying to give her a little one-on-one attention. Also there are things like occasionally doing some dishes and laundry, and oh yeah, maybe eventually taking down the rest of my Christmas decorations. 

    But honestly, one of my biggest focuses lately whenever I get the chance has been our costumes for this year's ComiCon. We have 5 months left, and there is sooo much left to do. M, D, and I started thinking about our costumes literally on the day after the con last year, and had decided before I even made it back home. We're doing a group cosplay this time. Buttercup and Sugarplum will be participating as well. DH hasn't decided for sure yet, but I'm hoping that he'll end up joining us. I'm not going to share exactly what we're doing quite yet. I will tell you this...our three costumes (M, D, and me) are femme versions of male characters, are designed by me, and involve quite a bit of crafting and sewing. There's a pretty good combination of sewing from scratch and altering pieces that we purchased. 

    My dad, also, will be involved with some weapon and armor crafting. We owe that guy big...he never actually signed up for this whole cosplay thing, nor did my mom. But they love their girls, so he fills our orders without (a whole lot of) complaining, and they both help us craft and dye and paint and come up with solutions and ideas. Love y'all!

    Without going into a ton of detail, right now I think the only thing I have completely finished is D's shirt (not counting my shirt, which didn't need any alterations, and a couple of accessories that we bought online). I'm currently in the middle of alterations on my jacket, D's jacket, and M's top. I still have to start on skirts for all 3 of us, and there are still several accessories yet to buy, including wigs for the two of them. 

    I know what Buttercup's costume is going to be, but I'm trying to wait until closer to June to start on it so that I'll know for sure what size she'll be in. I haven't actually decided on Sugarplum's costume yet. I have a few choices, but I'm waiting on DH to decide on his before I make a final decision. 

    I haven't hit panic mode yet, even though it does seem like a ton of stuff to do in a very little amount of time. I really enjoy the whole process of planning and making costumes...even more than actually wearing the costume and going to ComiCon! The good news is, I recently acquired a carrier that seems to be working well for Buttercup, so hopefully I'll start being able to get some more stuff done while wearing her on days when she wants to be held all the time. 

    So...yeah. Life's a little hectic at times, and free time is a very limited commodity. But hey, I did at least finally write a blog entry! Check that one off the list. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

DIY Abby Sciuto cosplay

    So, it's been absolutely forever since I've updated my blog.  ComiCon has come and gone, and we finished all of our costumes in time...whew!  It was definitely a tight race to the finish, but we made it!  Everyone had fun (other than maybe Sugarplum, who had been fighting a cold and was pretty exhausted most of the day), and my little sisters are pumped for next year already!

    My main excuse for not updating has been my computer being on the fritz...yet it's still on the fritz, and here I am, so clearly that wasn't an entirely valid excuse.  It did make things a bit more complicated - I had to get the pictures I wanted off of my super slow computer onto a flash drive, and then actually write the blog on DH's computer since mine won't currently connect to the internet.  But I'm making it work!

    Having said all of that...it's time to start recap entries for each of our costumes, so that all the info is in one place and easy to follow.  Starting with my own cosplay, Abby Sciuto from NCIS.

    Most of this costume involved searching for and ordering pieces, there were not a lot of projects to complete.  First, every Abby cosplay needs a good goth-style top.


    I was originally looking for maybe something with skulls, which for some reason was a lot harder to find than I anticipated.  Maybe if you look at this time of year it would be easier!  But I ended up finding this skeleton tank on eBay, and it's extremely similar to one that Abby has actually worn on the show.

    Next you'll need a skirt or pants.  From my research, Abby does wear some of both, but the plaid mini skirt is her most iconic look.


    I was looking for either red, green, or blue, though I was leaning toward red.  The fact that this one came with a studded belt was an added bonus...but unfortunately, you couldn't even see it once I put it with the shirt.  Oh well.  This skirt came from swap.com.

    The next important piece is a lab coat.  I found mine on eBay, and added the embroidery myself.  I'm sure you could probably find a pre-embroidered NCIS lab coat if you don't have the means to do the embroidery, though they'll probably be a bit more expensive.  



    As an added detail for the final look, I hooked an ink pen into this pocket since Abby often carries one there.

    An optional piece, depending on what type of bottom you need up with and how comfortable you are in short skirts, is a pair of black leggings.  


    I accidentally ended up with a pair with holes down the front, which ended up working well for the overall look.  Like I said, the leggings are optional, since Abby doesn't actually wear them, but I didn't personally want to wear just a mini skirt with no other covering!  These came from swap.com as well.

    A key piece of Abby's look is her knee-high socks. 


    She wears a variety of patterns, including argyle, but I decided to go with the black and white stripes.  This was another eBay find.

    Of course as we're working our way down to the feet, the next obvious piece would be a pair of boots.


    While I admit these are not the most "Abby" boots I could have possibly gone with...I already owned them, and boots are expensive!  Abby generally wears taller boots, with lots of buckles and such.  But I felt like a simple pair of black combat boots worked pretty well without having to spend all that extra money.

    If you don't already have black hair and bangs, you'll also need a wig to complete your look.


    I found this one for cheap on eBay.  Keep in mind when buying wigs, what you pay for is what you get!  So while a cheap wig ended up working for me in the end, it was a lot more work to get it that way.
    The first thing I had to fix was the bangs.  They were VERY uneven!



    As you can see, there were sections on each side that weren't short enough to be bangs, but not long enough to mix in with the rest of the hair.  I cut those off to bangs-length.  There were other long pieces randomly mixed in throughout the bangs, too.

    Next I worked on de-shining the wig, which I have written a post on already, so I won't go into detail here.


    In this picture the left section has been de-shined.  It's not a huge difference, but it's one of those subtle details that makes the wig look more realistic.  

    I really wanted to give my wig Abby's iconic high pigtails.  Unfortunately, this is what happened when I tried that.


    I don't know how well you can tell without zooming in on the photo, but you can see the netting of the wig right through the hair.  Nothing I did to style the wig solved the problem!  Even with a black wig cap on underneath you could still see it.  This is probably another result of buying a cheap wig.  A better quality wig would most likely be thicker and have better coverage and styling options.  So, I ended up going with another Abby look, the low braided pigtails.


    Even this look was a bit hard to accomplish without exposing the netting underneath.  I will go ahead and admit that I got very frustrated with this wig before it was over with!  But in the end, the bit of netting that was exposed was not noticeable enough when paired with the black wig cap to continue to worry about.
   A side note...if you're going to do any kind of cutting or styling on a wig, you'll want to get one of these wig heads.  They only cost about $5 at Hobby Lobby or Jo-Ann.  Also, do yourself a huge favor and rig some kind of stand to put it on, because they are super lightweight and will fall over constantly while you're trying to style. You can see somewhat in the picture above the one that DH made for me...basically it's a board with a spike/dowel sticking out of it and up into the hole in the bottom of the wig head.

    Now for the details!  The fun stuff!  First, jewelry.  Abby loves her jewelry!


    If you're going to cosplay Abby, a dog collar choker is pretty much a must.  I got mine on eBay, and I'm pretty sure it was an actual dog collar and not meant to be a necklace!  The skull bracelet also came from eBay, and the studded cuff was something DH had lying around.  As long as you stick with metal, black, and leather, you're pretty safe to be as creative as you'd like with your bracelets.  A choker and bracelets are about as far as Abby usually goes, though.  No earrings, and if she ever wears rings I didn't notice them.

    And, of course, you can't really be Abby without the tattoos.  This is certainly the most difficult part of the whole look!  Thankfully I married an artist, so he was in charge of my tattoos, though my sister M and I each did one on my wrists to help him out.
    There are several methods for creating your own temporary tattoos, and we weighed the pros and cons of each before settling on the simple Sharpie method.  If you want to be able to print your tattoos instead of having to draw them, there is a method with water transfer paper that you should look into.  For us, the Sharpies worked well - we drew them on the night before ComiCon, and they lasted throughout the day with very little fading.  The main issue I had was with the ones on my wrists, because I had bracelets rubbing on them, but they were easy enough to touch up.  Just make sure you take your Sharpie to the con with you!  That goes along with step #10 on my guide to ComiCon, which you should definitely check out if you're headed to your first con.
    Here are a couple of pictures of my tattoos compared with Abby's, with mine being on the right.



    Another little detail you might notice in the top picture is my black fingernail polish.  Not my usual look, but definitely an Abby thing!  For makeup, I kept it simple, with black eyeliner (but not a ton), a very small amount of light blush, and dark red lipstick.  

    And here it is, the final look!



    This was such a fun new look to try, and I got a ton of compliments on how much I looked like Abby.  Even with my baby bump, haha!

    Now let's talk cost.
    Skeleton tank: $4.99
    Mini skirt: $9.00
    Lab coat: $11.79
    Leggings: free! (long story, see my costume update post for that)
    Socks: $1.76
    Boots: free!
    Wig: $6.99
    Skull bracelet: $.74
    Dog collar: $3.70
    Cuff bracelet: free!
    Makeup, tattoos, and nails: free!

    TOTAL COST: $38.97
    Now that's cosplay on a budget!  This was actually the first time I had added up the cost, and I have to say I'm pretty pleased.

    I'll eventually get around to posts on Rey, Vanellope, Samantha Parkington, and The Man with No Name.  Hopefully it won't take me quite as long this time!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Sewing Rey's Pants

    Aka: turning dress pants into harem-esque capris!


    The journey to completing M's pants for her Rey cosplay has been an...interesting one.  A bit longer and more complicated than any of us hoped.  But they are done now, so that's what matters!  

    I mentioned in my last costume update that I had found what I hoped was the perfect pair of pants for M at Goodwill.  We really liked the color and the how the fabric draped; they seemed to match the pants from the movie well. 



    But, once I got the pants to her and she was able to try them on, it turned out they were too small, even though they were the size she normally wears!  Women's clothing...ugh.  They wouldn't even go all the way over her hips, so we weren't sure that there was anything that could be done about it.  So we started looking for other options, but I was too sick to get out and do any physical shopping (oh btw, have I mentioned I'm pregnant? ha), and it's so hard to tell what you're getting color- and fabric-wise online.  My mom ordered another pair off of eBay, but they ended up being way too gray and not at all the right fabric.  

    So, recently I was finally well enough to be able to make it back over to their house and actually see these pants in person.  My mom and I had hatched a possible plan to open up the side seams far enough for her to actually get the pants on, and then fill in the gaps with the excess fabric that we were already going to be cutting off of the legs.  Thankfully, that worked (that is, after my pregnant brain decided to use a completely wrong measurement the first time and make them way huge on her), and the pants now actually fit her.

    But anyway, assuming that you actually buy the correct size pants for your cosplay, what you'll really need to know how to do is to make them fitted at the knee like Rey's are.


    Most capris that you find are going to be fitted through the leg, unlike Rey's.  So the easiest thing to do is to find a pair of long dress pants that are loose fitting, or possibly a pair of gauchos.  Try the pants on, mark a spot just under the knee where you want them to end, allowing some extra room for seam allowances, etc., then cut both legs off at this mark.  

    Next you'll need to create a cuff for the ends of the pants.  Measure around the largest part of your calf, even if that's not where the pants will actually end.  You want to make sure the cuff can slide all the way up to where it belongs!  Use some of the fabric that you cut off to make the cuff.  In my case, the original bottom of the pants had a very wide hem, just the right width for my cuff and already nicely finished off for me.  If you don't have this luxury, then I suggest 2-3 inches wide, and you'll need to hem one side.  You can choose either to cut one long strip, the length of your calf measurement (plus seam allowances), and sew the ends together (right sides together) to create a loop, or cut 2 pieces of equal length and sew those ends together (right sides together).  I did the latter.


     Hope you're still with me so far!  I pretty much make this stuff up as I go, so I'm certainly not an expert at explaining it all.  

    Okay, your next step is to gather the end of the pants.  Run a double gathering stitch (long stitch length) along the edge, then pull the threads until the pants are gathered enough to just fit inside the cuff.  You'll need to do this one side of the pants at a time, since the existing side seams won't gather. 



    Getting it to the right size will take a little bit of trial and error; just place the cuff around the gathers and readjust as needed.  It's easiest to gather a little too much to start with and then pull it back out a little once you're holding the cuff on.

    Next, once you've tied off your gathering stitches, turn the cuff inside out and pin it over the end of the pants.  When you sew this, make sure that you leave enough seam allowance to cover up all of your gathering stitches.


    Turn right side out, repeat on other leg, and ta da!  You're done! 


    Didn't get a picture of the finished product on M, but there will be plenty to come.  At this point I'm trying to decide whether there's some kind of tie on Rey's pants, around the cuff.  Anybody have any input on that one?  I have plenty of fabric still left over, so I can easily add one at the last minute if I decide I want to.

    Another quick update on how everything else is coming:  Now that we have the pants done, M's costume is basically finished other than acquiring the fabric to wrap around her arms.  
    D's Vanellope costume still needs stripes painted on the leggings and stitches added to the hoodie pocket, and we need to make candy clips for her hair.  She does have her hoodie strings dyed pink, and she actually ended up getting a different pair of white leggings and dying them the correct color to better match her hoodie.
    DH finally found a hat for his "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" cosplay!  However, it needs some work before it's ready to go.  Also, we bought some fabric for his poncho, but it still needs to be made and the design painted on.  Those are his two main pieces that needed work.
    Sugarplum's Samantha dress is nearly finished.  All the sewing is done (and was that a task! I hate patterns so much!), all that's left is to finish tacking down the ribbon belt and to find a gold piece to be the "buckle" at the center of the belt.  I also bought her some black stockings this weekend.
    This week I'm excited to finally get back to work on my Abby Sciuto costume!  All of the pieces did come in, and they all look great.  Today I gave my wig a slight haircut, and over the next couple of days I hope to work on de-shining the wig and styling it.  That will probably be my next post, so keep an eye out!