Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Moxxi Part 5 - For the love of Buttons

Once again I seem to have lied.  I meant to post about the bias tape, rick rack and tails, but again, I didn't have the time to get the pictures together.  Now I know it probably doesn't matter to anyone, but I must say I was entertained to notice that there have actually been people reading my blog - over a hundred pageviews from as far away as France, Russia, Holland and China! That probably doesn't mean much in internets land, but it's nice to know I'm not "playing" to an empty house.  Anyway, this DID take place before the bias tape went on, so I guess it's fitting!

Paper Placeholders
Looks about right! Except the paper bit...
Oh the buttons... I looked SO hard for buttons that were even "close" to what I wanted.  Essentially, there are 11 buttons on the jacket - 10 smaller black buttons (plus 8 if you're using the same ones for the spats) and one huge yellow/turquoise one. My first step was figuring out the approximate size I would need, which I did by cutting out various sized circles of paper and trying them out on my (at the time very unfinished) jacket to see if the size looked "right." The sizes I ended up deciding I needed were approx 30 mm for the small buttons and approx 40 mm for the large button.  Obviously I tried the local fabric stores first, but everything was either too small, looked wrong, and in any case even next best thing options would have run me about $2 a piece, which I was NOT willing to pay.

So I took to the internets! I searched both ebay and Etsy for round, wooden buttons (easily paintable) in the size ranges I needed, and found a couple of promising options... all of which were in Singapore, China, or Hong Kong, and not likely to arrive until AFTER con (unless I was willing to pay through the nose for express shipping which still wasn't a guarantee). I was crushed. What in the world was I going to do? How would I find a local source with EXACTLY what I wanted, or how low were my standards going to have to drop if I didn't?  Hang on, the only way to get EXACTLY what I want is always the same - make it! In this case, out of polymer clay!

Moxxi's Buttons!
Materials needed:
-Polymer clay (fimo, sculpley, whatever!)
-Acrylic paints
-Gloss varnish for acrylic paints
-Circular objects of varying sizes
-Aluminum foil
-Baking sheet

Circular objects for buttonmaking
Any circular thing I could find...
For someone who has never worked polymer clay before, this may be annoying/nigh impossible, but the goal was to make 10 identical 30 mm or so buttons, and one 40 mm one.  I started by rounding up every small circuilar object I could find to make the impressions in the middles of the buttons.  As I wasn't certain what size I would need, I had a whole collection on the counter when I got the process underway. 

Making of a button
Smoosh and poke!
Next I worked the clay to make it malleable. This can be a time consuming process, as the clay is pretty hard and crumbly to start (especially as this clay had been sitting around my craft box for two years or so), but bit by bit it warmed up, and once it stopped cracking, I knew it was ready to rock!  I made the large button first, starting by smooshing a decent amount of the clay into a generally circular shape on the counter, rolling it back into a circular shape, smooshing it down and repeating until it was the right diameter. From there, I smooshed a circular object of the right size into the center to create the raised perimeter, then removed the object (old film cannister) and smoothed out the perimiter - repeating the smooshing and smoothing as necessary to get the button as "perfect" as possible. When I was happy with the result, I used a toothpick to make the holes (four holes) and laid the button on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet to wait for the rest!

Failed button smoosh
Smooooooosh! Oops.
Because I wanted the other 10 buttons to be as even in size as possible, I took the remaining poly clay and rolled it into a log, flattening off both ends to make it a cylinder with even diameter along the length. I chopped in in half, then chopped it into as-close-to-even fifths as possible. Of course they weren't perfectly even, but I did my best and in the end, a little bit of unevenness is fine - maybe I was just drawn that way!

My first attempt on the smaller buttons was rolling the clay into a ball, then smooshing to make it smoosh out evenly.  This was a bad idea, and the ball cracked. Just sayin'.  What actually worked was smooshing, smoothing, and flattening, but I made this picture illustrating each of the six stages to SHOW how it worked:
The button making process!
Step one: The original disc from the cut outs
Step two: Smoosh inwards to build up the "perimeter" of the button
Step three: Smoosh the center to flatten it out and raise the perimeter further
Step four: Flatten the center with a small circular object, then smooth the perimeter
Step five: Flatten the center further with a circular object of the exact desired size
Step six: Poke four holes with toothpick

Baked polymer clay buttons, pre-painting!
Oven fresh, mmmmmmmMmmmmm

Moxxi's buttons, finished!
Soooooooo perfect!
There was a lot of smooshing and smoothing involved, and eventually it worked out. Once all the buttons were in shape, I laid them out in the aluminum foil lined baking sheet, then baked them following the instructions on the package from my polymer clay. After cooling, I painted them all using my reference pictures as a guide, and applied gloss when dry to finish the look. Check out those damn buttons! $20 + for store bought, not quite right buttons, or $3 for a pack of poly clay to make perfect freaking buttons? It'll be the poly clay every time!

Now, I may have mentioned once or twice that I might have gone a little overboard when it came to accuracy.  Well, attaching the buttons was one of those places - if you look at Moxxi, there is NO thread on the buttons, and once I noticed that, the little X marks on the Moxxi cosplays I looked at bugged me greatly.  I vowed - no X for me!  The solution: I sewed (actually, Fatima did) on leftover buttons from the spats (I had bought a huge box of assorted buttons for the sake of not having to spend a fortune on individual packs) on where I wanted them, then used hot glue to attach the polymer clay buttons to the space holders - no strings necessary! 

Well... I screwed up twice in that process.  First, I didn't take the time to properly gauge where the buttons needed to go - attaching them was a last night, last minute gotta-get-it-done task, and I just grabbed the jacket and drew on approximate X marks for Fatima without taking the time to put the jacket on and make sure they were right.  I ended up making the pattern too large, and had two of my buttons so low the belt was above them - easy fix for next wear, but after all the effort I put in to accuracy I was a little embarrased by the gaffe.  Second, hot glue was NOT the right choice for attaching them (I will be using e6000 or super glue in the future).  I started losing buttons before I was even out the door, and nearly lost my prize huge blue and yellow button several times over the course of the convention.  At final count, I need to re-make four of the ten small buttons (three cuff and one of the below the belt) before next wear. Oh well, I'll make the ones for the spats at the same time, and then all my buttons will be the same! Success!

The buttons were a triumph! With those complete, all the jacket was missing was patches and bias tape. That said, I've been neglecting my Dr. Zed posting, so next time, we'll be talking buckles!

Need more Moxxi? My 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


  1. And i'm one of those people in France reading your blog! here! And I thank you immensly for putting your work up on the net, because I [who also will be cosplaying Moxxi from BL2] find very obscure the few screenshots on here outfit (the behind of her coat, the inside, even the buttons from you have noticed more than me!).
    You blog helps me find new ideas on how I will elaborate the costume (I won't be copy/pasting your creation or doing as good a costume for that matter) before this december.

    So thank you very much for sharing with us around the World your project! I look foward in your next post! :D

    ~La Frenchy

  2. (sorry for my english mistakes)

  3. Bonjour Mlle Frenchy, et merci beaucoup! Votre anglais est vraiment meilleur que mon français, et je vous comprenais bien!

    Thanks so much for commenting, and don't worry, more posts are coming! ... In a little while! I'm away on a summer contract at the moment, but come the end of the month I'll be right back to posting, and I'll do my best to share all the details well before December! Best of luck on your creation, and if you end up needing any further elaboration or help, let me know and I'll do my best to give you a hand!