Monday, 30 September 2013

Moxxi Part 10 - Hats off!

Old school Robin!
Like this! But curvier.
So there are exciting things going on at Chez Crankypants! If you recall, I was training up for a half marathon for an extended period of time, and as of last Sunday - I did it! I finished in 2h43 min, which is about 13 min longer than I intended, but it was my first half, and my bigger goal was to finish - and I DID IT! I've been a little slow getting back to running, but as a little extra motivation, the hubby and I signed up for a run that combines running AND cosplay, The Ottawa Hospital's Rattle Me Bones 10k on October 27th! It's a great run to raise money for bone cancer, and since it's a Halloween themed run, and I get to run it in costume! 

I had considered trying to make Moxxi run-friendly, but with all the accessories and the cleavage? I can't see it working out well. So instead, I'll be revamping the Robin costume I had thrown together thrift-store-style for a Superhero Scavenger hunt last year! I wish I had pictures, but it wasn't a priority that evening. It's based on the original Dick Grayson Robin, somewhere between the movie and comic versions.  At this point, all I need to do is build a new belt, make gloves and shoe covers, and pick up skin-colour tights and green briefs! I'll have to finish it fast, as I have a photoshoot with a friend scheduled for Saturday to help promote some interest in my fundraising efforts! Can't wait to see how it turns out!
In the meantime - the task at hand, Moxxi's hat! I looked for a while to see if there was a pre-made tophat of the proper size that I could re-cover or paint or whatever to no avail. So I went to what all good cosplayers do - how can I make that? Again, small surprise, but I didn't take nearly enough pictures of this phase.  I swear for my next costumes I'll take more detailed pictures... mostly because I won't be in nearly as much of a hurry!
Moxxi's hat - front and side
Front and side!
Materials needed:
-3mm craft foam
-Left-over fabric from the jacket
-Left-over fabric from the cuffs
-Black fabric marker
-Black and purple thread
-A pack of multi-colour feathers
-Acrylic paint
-Bristol board
-Water colour pencil crayons

The prototype hat
Matt made a sweet model
I started out with bristol board to make a prototype, attempting different sizes of brim and top, cutting and taping as necessary until I had something that I was happy with.  I judged in the mirror to check for sizing and proportion.
Tophat pattern!
Something like this, pretty straight forward!

Once I had my "pattern" I moved on to craft foam for the base construction of the hat. I used purple just in case, but intended to cover it with fabric to match the rest of the costume. Once the pieces were cut out, I made a cover for the brim and a cover for the rest of the hat.  The cover for the brim was made using two pieces of jacket fabric cut to the same shape as the brim, but with just a little extra for seam allowance. Then it was sewn (with "right sides" facing in) around the outside, flipped outward, and the craft foam brim was stuffed in. I used an iron to heat shape the brim, using VERY light pressure so as not to squish the foam flat, and bent it into the appropriate shape (or as close as I could get).

For the top cover, I did about the same, cut the material pieces just a bit larger than the craft foam, sewed the rectangular piece into a tube, then sewed the oval piece to the top. Once the cover was together, I stuck the oval piece of craft foam in, then placed the rectangular piece of craft foam in, and glued them in shape with hot glue (craft foam to craft foam, I did NOT put glue on the material.) 

Attaching brim to top
Not perfect, but it works...
At this point, I needed the hat band! The hat band was made of the same stripy fabric used on the cuffs.  Super simple, just made two rectangular pieces, sewed them together and flipped them right side out. I ensured that it would fit around the base of the top, then sewed the ends together and slipped it on! Finally, I folded the excess material on the top cover in to the top and hot glued it in place, then folded the excess from the brim cover into the top and hot glued THAT in place and TA-DAA! Hat! Oh, and as per usual, black fabric marker, cell shading, blah blah blah.

The mistakes I made! Because I was in a huge rush at this point (I'm pretty sure the hat was two nights before con) I failed to notice that I had made the hat too tall, and the band too thick. Oops.  Also because I was rushing, I ended up gluing the brim on in the wrong direction, the seam is out of place, and a laundry list of pickety things most people wouldn't notice that bug the crap out of me.  Also, the top cover doesn't fit quite right, so the seam buckles a little around the outside. Need I go on?

The clip used to attach hat to head
The attaching clip
Anyway, to ensure the hat stayed in place over the day, I sewed a hair clip in to the back of the brim right at the base of the top to clip it on.  In reality, I should have used more clips or one of those little comb thingies, as I ended up adjusting it many multiple times over the course, but it worked well enough to be getting on with, and the hat didn't fall off in the middle of the masquerade or anything - so, success!

Next, for the accessories - I'm actually proud of this stuff!  I looked and looked, but couldn't find feathers in just the right colours or just the right sizes.  There were some that were kinda close, and I could have bought a few different bags of a few different mixes, but who really needs a million feathers?  I ended up going with a multi-colour pack of large feathers that had orange and green, but not turquoise (I figured blue would work worse come to worse.) I started with the colour accurate ones, and cut them into the desired shapes. As always, my default to making things just right, I used acrylic paint to add the graduated yellow and cell-shading. I had been planning on using the blue to make the turquoise feather, but there was a white one in the pack as well, so I gave that a shot and BOOM, the paint took to it perfectly!! I set the feathers down to dry, and all was right with the world!
Making the feathers for Moxxi's hat

The Queen of Hearts was actually something I completed ages before as it was one of the few pieces I could work on at work. It's totally possible to use just a standard Queen of Hearts from your average pack of cards, but for the size and accuracy, I opted to make my own out of bristol board and watercolour pencil crayons. There's not much to describe for process, I just drew it as accurate to the in-game images as possible (plus a little detail... artistic license and all), coloured it with the watercolour pencil crayons, then painted the colour in with water.  Because I was working on it during a night shift (and had all the time in the world) and because I am easily amused, I took the time to make the back of the card red with a vault symbol pattern, even though it was likely no one would ever see it (except for YOU! Muahahahaha!)
The card for Moxxi's hat
Once the feathers were dry, I hot glued them in the appropriate order and at the appropriate angles to the back of the playing card, then hot glued the playing card to the inside of the hat band - and it was finished!
The work pays off! Moxxi's hat!
In spite of all its (many) flaws, I was happy with the way the hat turned out, and received many compliments about it at the convention.  I love the way the accessories looked, and it translated well in the photos. That said, I'll probably be re-making it or attempting to modify it before the next wear as there are just enough things that piss me off enough that I feel the need to fix it!

Next time, the only joint tutorial - Cell Shading and Blood Spatter! It only made sense to spatter everything at once, so I finished off the smock, gloves, and spats all in one go!

All the Moxxi parts I've written tutorials for so far:

Part 1 - Spats
Part 2 - Finding Fabric and Starting the Jacket
Part 3 - Jacket continued, Stripes and Zipper
Part 4 - Cuffs and Collar
Part 5 - The Button Solution
Part 6 - The Patches!
Part 7 - Belt and Buckle!
Part 8 - Rubi's Holster and Garter 
Part 9 - Finishing the Jacket, Piping, Rick-Rack, and Curly Tails!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Moxxi Part 9 - Bias Tape, Rick Rack, and Curly Tails!

Not much yet, but full of LED goodness!
Cosplay seems to be a dangerous hobby. Beyond the finger pinning, hot glue burns and drain on the bank account, it's very addicting. I can't stop thinking about it! Every time I see a movie or video game character with a neat design/costume, all I can think is  "How could I make that happen?" Once I have a specific character in mind, all I want to do is look at others who have succeeded in making that costume before, research methods for creating bits, pieces, props, armour, search the internets for material sources, sketch out ideas for how to piece things together... all I want to do is make costumes!  Dangerous stuff I tell you! That's pretty much how it's been going with Gaige, so far I've mastered LED wiring and played quite a bit with craft foam and my wannabe Dremel while working on my Rubi, but more on that when I finally finish going through all the steps for Moxxi and Dr. Zed!

Bias tape and rick rack needed here!
Bias and bumps on boob line!
So, I know I promised this again and again, but finally, back to the jacket! With the jacket all striped up and ready to go, it was time for rick-rack and bias tape!  Again, my friend Fatima was huge help here, pinning while I worked on something else, but this is how it went -

Materials needed:
-About 3m of yellow double fold bias tape (I used 1/2", but if I were to do it again, I might use 1/4")
-About 30cm of matching yellow rick rack
-Yellow thread
-A lot of pins

It went a little like this!
For the chest, I really wanted to have the bumps along the cleavage, just like Moxxi. I know I promised some pics of a mock-up, but I just keep forgetting, so this will have to do! To create the look, the exact length of bias tape needed for the bust had the yellow rick rack sewn to the back of it allowing just the bumps to show. The bias tape needed to be folded open, and the seam needed to be stitched exactly in the centre of the fold so the bias tape will still worked properly. IMPORTANT NOTE, the rick-rack needs to be measured out for the different sides, and applied where it will show. The left and right sides will end up being placed differently to ensure the rick-rack is on the "back" of the curve. With the rick rack in place, the bias tape was pinned on and sewn in place as per usual.

Installing the zipper in the bias tape
Pardon the sheets... Zipper!
The bias tape along the front opening of the jacket was sewn on at the same time as the zipper, with the bias tape folded around the edge of the fabric, and the zipper pinned in place behind it - I sewed both on together, which ensured the zipper wouldn't be visible once closed. Unfortunately the zipper wasn't quite enough to close up the front, and Fatima added snaps to help keep my chest in place.

From there, the edges of the jacket were pretty straight forward, with the exception of the tails. I wanted the tails to be solidly curled, so the logical method to me was wiring them with some nice, stiff wire.  As it was the most readily available resource, I used wire coat hangars, and sewed them directly into the piping. The coat hangars (one per tail) were bent into the shape of the tail, starting from the center in the back, and following the edges from there until the end of the wires. I squeezed a little ball of hot glue on to the ends of the wires to avoid having the sharp edges pop out the sides - this was effective, but I kinda forgot about the hot glue when I was ironing the bias tape after, and ended up making a little burn mark at the first end I came to, but I learned to avoid the hot glue after that.
Sewing the hangar into the coat tails
As always, seemed like a good idea at the time!
The pinning process was an ordeal and a half, and sewing it in place was a trial (a proper zipper foot would have helped, but alas), but the end result was exactly what I was aiming for!  That said, I saved the curling to the last minute (so I wouldn't have the curls in the way while working on other bits and pieces) and didn't make them nearly curly enough at first (as I can't see my own backside). Before the masquerade at Ottawa Comiccon, I did notice and rectify my mistake, but I walked around all day with only semi-curly tails - what a bummer after all that work!

The only thing left once the bias tape was on was making the bias conform to the shape of my hips. While the tape curved nicely along the edges of the fabric, it stuck out strangely at the hips.  To aid the curving, I threw the jacket on, pinched/pinned the tape in where necessary, and sewed it down.  There may be a better way to address that problem, but for the time being, it worked!

With that (and a little cell shading for good measure) the jacket was FINALLY complete.  It was a long, trying process, but all in all, I was definitely happy with the result.  That said, it was nowhere near the end of my work on Moxxi, as she's full of accessory goodness - we've covered the belt, buckle, garter, holster - but we've still got the hat, choker, bra and more, no, my work wasn't finished yet! Next time - the hat, feathers and card! Until then:

Trying to keep up? Moxxi Cosplay Tutorials so far:

Part 1 - Spats
Part 2 - Finding Fabric and Starting the Jacket
Part 3 - Jacket continued, Stripes and Zipper
Part 4 - Cuffs and Collar
Part 5 - The Button Solution
Part 6 - The Patches!
Part 7 - Belt and Buckle!
Part 8 - Rubi's Holster and Garter 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Dr. Zed Part 3 - Buckles!

This is a super exciting post for several reasons. First - I finally got around to taking damned pictures of the damned buckles - huzzah! Second - I am officially over 1000 pageviews!! Granted, that's pretty much less than peanuts in the internet world, and about 10% of those are from lovely spambot sites like "" "" and "," but I'll still call it a win, because actual people are actually finding my work on google (or through my postings on and looking at my tutorials! Heck, my stats are telling me people are actually searching my blog out by name - how cool is that?! In honour of my 1000th visit, here's my favourite hall shot from Ottawa Comiccon. Why is it my favourite you ask? A. Because we were photobombed BY A ROBOT! and B. Because my chest looks pretty fantastic. Just sayin' Thanks to Always an Upside for this fab shot!

Lookin' good at Ottawa Comiccon!
Robot Photobomb = WIN! Happy 1000 pageviews!
 But that's not all ladies and gents, the most exciting news (for me anyway) is there's another convention coming up in Ottawa, and not only am I going, but I've booked a table in Artist's Alley to share with my partner in crime Meghan to sell our awesome jewelery to the masses, and... I'm MAKING A NEW COSTUME! Remember way back when I was whining about passing on the chance to make a Gaige costume? It's happening - for Pop Expo in December (and maybe Halloween if I finish it in time)!  I've already picked up all the supplies for pretty well everything but the vest (thank you 50% off at Fabricland sale!), and have finally started work on Rubi, because I'm darn well going to need her now! Oh, and that ALSO means... Gaige tutorials incoming (but probably not for a little while)! More on that later, for now - buckles!

Time was growing short as I waited for my buckles to arrive from EverythingRibbons, and my stress level was rising accordingly. In reality, they took less than two weeks to show up (having been ordered on April 26th) but in the meantime I kept staring at the smock and imagining what I might be forced to do if the buckles never materialized.  You can imagine the joy when that little yellow shipping envelope was finally in my mailbox!

For those unfamiliar with the standard military style web belt buckle, they're nifty little devices that clamp the end of the belt in one side (with a toothy flap), then the other end is passed through the buckle and jammed in place (by a barrel pin). I chose these because I couldn't find anything else that quite met the shape of Dr. Zed's AND was metal to give it the authentic feel.
All them buckles!
Buckles, buckles everywhere!
Materials necessary:
-8 military style web belt buckles (once again, I ordered mine here)
-About 50cm of nylon web belting (I used the excess from an old belt)
-About 10cm of 1" elastic
-A small piece of black fabric (I used spare liner from Moxxi's holster)
-More of the bias tape made in Part 1
-Grey thread
How a web belt buckle works

One of Dr. Zed's buckles attached!For the buckles running down the front of the smock, first I figured out the placement and sketched/measured it out on the smock.  Then I made the "holes" for the right hand side of the smock (where the buckles attach).  Essentially, I sewed on bias tape (tucking the ends underneath) and made a very large "buttonhole" down the center of each piece.  I had originally planned on using the buckles functionally (sewing belting on both sides of the smock and using the buckle to hold it together) but in the end, I made the buttonholes just small enough that when I jammed the pinching end of the buckle through the hole, it wouldn't budge. For extra safety, I also stitched them in place with embroidery floss in the back to ensure that it wouldn't budge. Ever.
The buckle, stitched in place
Not going ANYWHERE
The "loose" buckle
Once each of the buckles was jammed in place, I fed the web belt into the buckle and secured it, then cut it off at the desired length (reaching past the bias tape on the other side by about 3cm), ensuring that I heat sealed all raw ends as I went. To hold the other end down, I sewed on another piece of bias tape, folding in the ends and sewing around the perimeter - easy peasy! Oh, and of course I left the bottom buckle unsecured, but to avoid having to listen to the barrel pin jingling all day, I jammed a little piece of belting in the buckle and cut it off so it would be unseen.

The elastics on the front of Dr. Zed's smock
The buckles securing the front of the armour piece to the front of the smock were a little different.  The buttonhole concept was just the same, but instead of using web belting to secure the buckle, I made little fabric covered elastics so they would be scrunchy like on Dr. Zed.  If I were to do it again, I would have made them around web belting as well as elastic (or SOMETHING with no give), as the elastics got a little floppy under the weight of the buckles and didn't secure quite right, but I'll fix that before next wear.  What I did was first I made the fabric sheath out of some spare black lining from Moxxi's holster.  Next I cut a piece of elastic that was quite a bit shorter than the sheath, fed it into the sheath, and sewed it at one end to secure it in place.  Then I bunched the sheath up so the elastic was flush with the other end and sewed that down too - voila! Perfect little elastic things!

To attach the elastics to the shoulder armour, I sewed them on to a piece of bias tape, folded in the ends of the bias tape and sewed them in place, then sewed the bias tape under the front edge of the armour with a bit sticking out, as per the reference - also, I sewed the armour piece on to the under armour piece at this point so it wouldn't move and shift over the day. When that was together, I jammed the elastics in to the buckles and secured them (again, as much as I could as they were too thin and slipped over time.) Front done!

On the back, the process was a little different again (and not quite ideal, but I was running short on time).  Attaching the buckles was the same process, but the belting on the back is gray. I used more of my trusty bias tape in place of the belt, and attached them with thicker pieces of the bias tape turned sideways and sewn around the outside. This also served to sew the shoulder armour piece to the back of the under-armour.  Again, running out of time, but I ended up needing to draw on the detail for the straps with the fabric marker.
The back buckles on Dr. Zed's smock
So classy. For realz.
And that's that for smock construction! I'm still jazzed about how well it came together, and in relative terms (ESPECIALLY relative to Moxxi's jacket) it was SO easy. Next time, we'll be back on Moxxi with the bias tape, for once and for all!

Dr. Zed costume tutorials so far:
Dr. Zed Part 1 - Smock Basics
Dr. Zed Part 2 - Shoulder Armour and Flask Pocket

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Moxxi Part 8 - Holster and Garter

Happy times ladies and gentlemen! I'm home, I'm ready to get back to work  and I'm back to two of my favourite things, obsessing about cosplay and obsessing about fitness!  For the first, my props for our costumes are closer and closer to reality. All the bits and pieces are together, and all I need to find now is the time. For the next order of business, fitness! I haven't talked all that much about it, partially because I didn't have enough time for it in the time leading up to Ottawa Comiccon (what with the only 20 days to make the costumes while working my full and part time jobs), and after I only had a short time to catch up with life before taking off for the summer. That said, it's been an overarching theme in my life for years.

As of summer 2008, I weighed 207lbs... It wasn't a good look for me. I was unhappy with the way I
My weight loss
Two years of hard work = success!
looked, but for years had "tried" with no success due to lack of consistent effort. Eventually, I had enough. I don't know what clicked, but something did, and I changed. Over the following years, I worked and worked hard.  I started out with walking, wii fit, and chosing lighter calorie options, then graduated bit by bit to bigger and better things - from biggest loser videos to beachbody videos and weight lifting.  Fast at first and slower as things went on, the weight came off, and it only got better from there.  Things haven't been perfect every step of the way by any means, I've lost and regained more times than I can count, but at my best, I was down 65lbs, and even though I'm up from that, all is well, and I'll get back there, and I'll go beyond because that is my goal. At the moment, getting back there means keeping up with my running, and getting back into weight lifting. The running need to be a priority because I have my very first Half Marathon coming up in a very short three weeks. Wish me luck, I'm going to need it!

Anyway, part of the reason I mentioned all of this is because I chose to cosplay Moxxi. Where I am now is certainly NOT ideal for her body type (but then again, without surgery whose is? Amiright?), and while I WANTED to cosplay as Moxxi, I had thought "Maybe once I get to my goal weight" or "I'm not quite there yet." Heck, even after I made the jump from "one day" to "THIS year," I had doubts just about every step of the way... When I first put the jacket together and tried it on, all I could think was "how the hell am I going to wear this in public?" In the end, I think I went with it as a challenge to my former "fat girl" mentality, not only have I changed so much, but cosplay is about having fun and paying tribute to things you love, no matter your body type. I'm still not perfect and may never be, but in that costume, I had SO much fun, and darned if I didn't feel sexy! Granted, at first I was more than a little nervous being in public with that much flesh showing (I'm not one to show off my chest..underwear..body), but it didn't take long to get into character, and I had an awesome time being Moxxi, if only for a day!
Holster reference
The holster, front and side

Back to the task at hand, as promised, the holster AND the garter, as you can't make the one without the other. Luckily the garter is pretty simple - I went with , so I suggest making it first, as it needs to be attached to the back of the holster, and the holster was a royal pain in the keester.

Materials needed:
-Black pleather
-Black lining
-Black thread
-Black lace (I used 1.5" I think)
-Black elastic (I used 1" I think)
-Clear rigid plastic
-Acrylic Paint (black and white)

Moxxi's garter detail
Zig-Zag the lace on, zip up the end, and voila!
Making a garter was fast and relatively painless - so much so that I didn't even take pictures. There isn't much detail to it, so I got stretch lace, and elastic. Stretch the elastic around your leg at the appropriate height to find the right length. Make sure it's loose enough to be comfortable, but tight enough to stay. Next, stretch out the elastic along your lace to about 1.25x its length, and pin the two together. Switch your machine to zigzag stitch, and sew the lace and elastic together with the elastic stretched out.  Once you've run up one side and down the other, fold it in half (right side in), and sew up the end to complete the loop. Voila! You have a garter!

Holster pattern and fabric
Paper template, plastic stiffener, and traced out on the back of the pleather

Loops on back of holster
Two-loop system
The holster was a lot more complicated, and just like everything else, I made mistakes. Please forgive the lack of step-by-step photography. I literally measured the holster on my screen to get the proportions right. Using the length based on where the holster sits on Moxxi and how long that is on my body, then  measured out a template on paper. I ended up making it a little oversized in order to accommodate Rubi, which I didn't end up finishing in time for the convention (I WILL make it... sooner or later). The main holster has two components, I made the back and sides as one, then the end and bottom as a long strip. Then two loops need to be attached to the back, one for the belt, and one for the garter. I used the paper pieces to trace the back and sides as one piece on to the backing of the pleather. I made the loops using small rectangles, seamed on the sides, then folded on the ends and secured to the back. I tried to put them at approximately the same level as they seem to be in the game. The garter had to be in place inside the bottom loop before it was sewn on.

Holster liner
Note the liner, and the seam
I wanted the inside of the holster to be black (which the back of the pleather was not) so I lined it with polyester  lining. I'm sure there are other options, but it worked, and looked nice! The lining was put on AFTER the loops, but before the pieces were sewn together. I made duplicates of the back and sides in the lining material, then sewed them directly to the pleather pieces, wrong sides out, leaving the bottom to open flip them right side out and add the plastic pieces to stiffen the holster. I then put a quick seam around the entire outside to keep the original seam from puffing out. The stiffening pieces were made of plastic from the original paper pattern, but unlike the vynil and polyester versions, the front, back, and sides were separated so the corners would be relatively sharp. The pieces were inserted before I sewed the holster together. Herein the problem lay. I'm not sure how I would do it differently, but I sewed it together inside out, with the seams as close to the edge as possible.  Because of the stiffness, it was almost impossible to finish sewing up on the machine, and also almost impossible to flip back right side out once I was finished sewing. In the end, it worked, and you couldn't tell from the outside that the end of the bottom didn't come together quite right, so.... Success!

Once the holster was together, I painted it to look as much like the source material as possible, and had a great time doing so! I mixed up the black and white paint in a gradient much like the paint I used for the back patch so I could use different shades of gray for the gradual colour changes.  I messed up the sizing of the "Rubi" a few times, and just painted over it and re-started until it was right.
Moxxi's belt, holster, and garter - Finished!
The belt, holster and garter complete <3

And that was that! Really, it was one of the pieces I was most proud of once the whole costume came together, and it fit and looked right! I had intended to make Rubi so it could actually have something inside it (un-like the game), but as I ran out of time, it made a wonderful purse for the bits and pieces I had along and picked up over the day at the con! Up next, I SWEAR I'll get back to Dr. Zed, as he took a lot of work as well, and now that I'm home, I can get some pictures of my buckle solution!

All the tutorials for pieces of my Moxxi costume to date:

Part 1 - Spats
Part 2 - Finding Fabric and Starting the Jacket
Part 3 - Jacket continued, Stripes and Zipper
Part 4 - Cuffs and Collar
Part 5 - The Button Solution
Part 6 - The Patches!
Part 7 - Belt and Buckle!