Wednesday, August 27

Making A DragonCon Costume: Done and Did

Previous Project Littlefinger Posts:
Sew Very Doomed
Another Adventure
Test Case
Idea Collision
Poncho Paint 
A Needle Pulling Thread

We're in the home stretch now because the show is less than a week away.

On Saturday, the wife helped me position the tabbard atop the robe so we could attach the Velcro. She marked the underside of the tabbard with chalk lines. We didn't need to do this for the robe because the Velcro was going atop the shoulder seams.

It was left for me to sew the Velcro strips. The success with the collar hooks encouraged me to tackle this with gusto. She warned me to attach the hook strips to the robe, and the fabric to the tabbard, and I did.

But -- and this is a big "butt" -- you have to stab the needled through the Velcro strips like you're Norman Bates. It's thick and plastic. It will not yield. You stab it with your steel knives but you just can't kill the beast. And now I know the value of thimbles, because my fingers are perforated. It took forever -- FOREVER -- to get the Velcro strip stationary and wrangle the robe and sew around the collar without sewing the collar to the Velcro strip.

This was the first strip. The lay of the cloth makes it look like the Velcro is tugging the cloth. It's not. I worked hard to keep the fabric flat when attaching the strip, mostly to avoid any chafing when I wear the robe (even through a t-shirt).

I made the second strip approximately as long as the first and lashed it to the other shoulder. "Lashing" is the word because, keep in mind, I hadn't sewn anything before this summer. To keep the Velcro in place, I cross-stitched the strips in place. Overkill, perhaps. But I want this thing to last for two full days of wear and tear.

And this is the robe with both strips. This took hours on Saturday. I could have been playing video games. I mourn my lost time. I'm old. I need every hour.

Monday night, the wife and I double-checked the tabbard placement on the robe, and I added the soft fabric strips to it. I again cross-stitched the additions and again tortured my eyes with black thread and black fabric.

 The seams are barely noticeable on the exterior of the tabbard, and only the tallest of folks will see it. I may have to redo some gold dots broken up by thread and punctures with the fabric paint pen, but that should take a few minutes, tops.

The hem needed adjusting, and I clipped the tabbard ends to sew together the next day.

On my Tuesday lunch break, I went back to the fabric store to simplify the belt. The filigree clasp I chose opened too easily, and I initially bound it closed with black thread. I rethought that in the weeks since, choosing instead to sew the clasp ends to my tabbard edges. The cord would then wrap around me and under belt loops I would add that night. The belt cord would be more decorative than necessary, and I wouldn't have to worry about it falling apart in all those convention crowds. Tuesday night would be a bear with hemming (and hawing) and belting. I didn't want to sew anything on Wednesday. That was my arbitrary deadline. I would burn out my eyes Tuesday night rather than put needled to thread the next day.

I got home Tuesday night and hemmed the tabbard. I had earlier Googled hemming tutorials. The first one said hemming was simple. Just grab your sewing machine. I had never punched Google before.

I put on the costume and clipped the tabbard ends based on how they lay over the shoes. I measured the ends to even length and pinned the folds in place. I cut the excess and bound them with a mix of whip stitches and cross stitches.

With both those done, the last detail was the belt. Again, I decided to forgo a cord wrapping around me and instead suggest a belt with the filigree clasp. I marked the positions on the tabbard and attached them with lots and lots of thread.

The tabbard is heavy enough to create tension on the clasp, keeping it closed. The tabbard also now veers together, matching the lay of Littlefinger's. Amid a music shuffle of Evita, Beatles, Huey Lewis, and Pink Floyd, I was done. I finally put on the entire costume. There will be no Wednesday sewing.

Now I just have to shave Saturday morning to match the character.We'll iron the tabbard that morning in the hotel room before the parade. I'm packing a small pile of black t-shirts, slacks, and socks for the bottom layers, and I'll definitely have to change all those after the parade.

We made a costume, she and I. I can sew now. Not great. Not cleanly. But I can patch and secure and hem. If this outfit makes it through two days of packed crowds and hot, hot heat, it's a success. And if people know who I'm dressed as. Recognition will be good too.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 18

Illustration and a Beer

I was interviewed by the Illustration and Beer Podcast from Gallery two weekends ago. You can listen to it here.

Zapow sells a number of my prints and comics. Located in downtown Asheville, it's a pop-culture studio. A daily downtown convention.

Making A DragonCon Costume: A Needle Pulling Thread

Previous Project Littlefinger Posts:
Sew Very Doomed
Another Adventure
Test Case
Idea Collision
Poncho Paint 

It's been a while. I was on vacation, and I let the costume pieces sit on the back burner as I considered how best to tackle the last stages.

Before vacation I bedazzled the tabbard pleats. That's easier than it looks. The fabric paint pen allows you to just dab the pen down, and the mark remains. It went by quickly and dried immediately.

I also bought my shoes. I'll wear them around the house from now until DragonCon to break them in. Always break in your shoes before walking around for four days. Learn from our mistakes.

A few days later, I went back to the fabric store to shop for belt pieces.

The original is slim and purely decorative, and I couldn't find anything ready-made to match it. I would have to make it. After hovering at the scrapbooking, jewelry, and decor sections, I found a hinged thing that suggests the floral buckle.

This closure opens very easily, and I tied the hooks together with thread. I may redo it with thread more closely matching the closure color. Maybe not. It's a tiny detail.

I considered a chain for the belt but decided a string would be lighter and easier to maintain. I bought two packs of cords. If the belt breaks during the show, I have enough cords to repair it even if the color varies a little. The cord will slip through the buckle's bookending loops and tie behind it. Once the tabbard is Velcroed to the robe, I'll sew small loops on the robe to hold the belt in place. Or not. I might discover the belt is tight enough to stay in place. But if I need to make belt loops, that can be done quickly.

Bu first, I had to fix the robe's collar. Months ago I started this costume buy buying a Matrix Neo robe for the bottom layer. Two problems were obvious when the shipment arrived:

1) The robe buttons are purely decorative, embedded into the fabric, and can't be removed. OK. I'll live with that. They're black on black fabric. Not so bad.

2) The collar is flimsy. That is bad. Instead of staying up on the neck, it droops, and I wanted to match the way Littlefinger's collar sits. I considered a few ways to fix that before deciding on attaching hooks inside the collar. This would be my first effort of actually sewing on the costume. Yikes.

I dug out some closures from The Countess's sewing kit and experimented with placement in the collar on front and back.

The costume has a string tie in the back, but that will be tucked inside once the hooks are connected. The robe's tags were, for some reason, attached right at the inside back collar, and I cut those out.

Then the sewing commenced. I probably added five pounds to the weight of the robe by overdoing it. But I did it.

Black thread on black fabric to secure black hooks and black loops. My eyes were exhausted quickly. This is the inside of the back of the collar. I intentionally set the hooks to face outward so the flats would be against my neck. This took forever, by the way. I would pay someone to thread the needles for me. I then did the front of the collar (with the back hooks connected to learn the fabric tension points.

With that done, I put on the robe and fastened the collar together at the four points. I need to stress again that I have never tried something like this before, so no matter what the collar looks like, I am delighted it didn't, say, burst into flame once I put it on. It's not just good. it's good enough.

I attached the pin too.

Yeah. We're getting there.