Vikings Cosplay: Week Three

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Let me just start by saying, this was not a fun week. We ran into some snags and realized things are coming along slower than they should. With only three weeks before the con, we need to start wrapping up some of our projects. But let’s not focus on what didn’t get done and focus on what did.

Shield Wall Complete

We are finally ready to make our shield wall. Bosses are attached and edging stapled in. All they need are something round to cover the staples.

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Swords

I’m really proud of how the swords are coming along, except how long they’ve taken to make. I was really anxious to make weapons, and I debated whether to make them out of foam or PVC before settling on wood. I’m really glad I decided to go this route instead of buying something from a Halloween store. Sorry I forgot to take pictures. I will next time.

It’s Sew Time

So, I’m finally sewing. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Turns out, most sewing machines are the same, so it didn’t take me long to figure it out. I modified a pattern to avoid having to use a zipper. I DON’T do zippers. It turned out great. I’m using the children’s Rey pattern to make Rylee’s shirt and leather vest. I took an 8-piece pattern and turned it into a 5-piece pattern by attaching several pattern pieces together that should have been separate. This eliminated so many steps–and the pesky zipper. His short is almost done. I just need to add the grommets and lacing and it should be done.

I forgot to take a picture of it, but here is a picture of the fabric. Just look how well this matches Bjorn’s shirt  in color and pattern.

I know that was kind of a short update, but just didn’t have a lot of time to take pictures. I’ve got to get back to sewing. So hopefully more to show next week.

Vikings Cosplay: Week Two

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Two weeks down: four to go. So what did we get done this week?

Well, let me start by saying this was a tough week; I used tools I haven’t touched in over fifteen years and tried some I’ve never used before.

Let me start off by thanking my friends for loaning us some of their tools and letting us use their shields as reference. I bought you a new 1/4 drill bit because I wore out the one you gave me.

Also I wanted to thank my son who has  been eager to help this week.

 

Lastly, I want to “thank” the cats for all of their “help.” Laying on the fabric and biting my chain mail rod and knocking stuff off of my work desk is shaving hours of time and layers of stress from this project.

So everyone pitched it, and I think it shows.

Preparing to Sew

Yes, preparing is progress. It takes me a week to “prepare” a sewing project. Aside from buying the fabrics, patterns, and thread I have to literally psych myself into it. I hate reading patterns and sewing. Just hate it. It’s nerve wracking and tedious–probably like surgery, I imagine.

You might think I’d be less stressed sewing shirts, vest, and pants after sewing a centaur costume. I mean, at least there are patterns for shirts, right. You won’t find a centaur pattern. I had to make it out of a tablecloth. Believe it or not, this might be more daunting because I have to sew three shirts, three vest, three sets of bracers, a set of leg bracers, and a pair of pants. Luckily my sister bought a pair of pants for her and Rylee. While I’d like a majority of this project to be handmade, it doesn’t all have to be. This will save me hours of work, and the pain of sewing pants.

On a happy note, the fabrics we got are wonderful. I forgot to take pictures so I’ll share in a future post.

Shield Wall: Almost Complete

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Last week we cut out the shields. This week we cut out the hole for the boss as well as drilled the holes for the handle and the boss. We also got to the part I’ve been looking forward to all week long: painting. I love to paint. The colors of Lagertha’s shield are so bright and contrasting: that green with the black. I love it. Went through a lot of tape to get the lines straight. I can’t wait to see it done. Sis is still completing some final touches on hers so I don’t have a picture of it yet. Rylee’s shield is done. He even helped paint. He had a lot of fun. It’s been nice having little projects he can help with. I hope he learns a thing or two about wood working, painting, and sewing by the time this is done.

Weapons: Almost Combat Ready

Last week, along with the shields, we cut out the swords and the ax. This week we started shaping them. Bare in mind this is with minimal power tools, so we’re shaping them mostly with hand-sanding, an electric sander, flush saw, chisel, and file. Honestly the electric sander is almost useless. The swords still need another week’s worth of work, but the ax is finished, painted and waiting to be assembled. I’ll try to share a better picture. This was taken at night without flash, because I turned off my flash for some reason.

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That’s our progress so far. Other than that, still working on chain mail. Technically we’re on schedule, except for the chain mail. I’m falling dangerously behind. I should have had the other sleeve done by Sunday. Oh well, I scheduled off an extra day this week to get ahead (or catch up).

Stay tuned for next week’s progress. This week I start (pause for dramatic effect) sewing.

Lagertha Cosplay: Week One

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Well, all year my sister and I have been teasing a great top-secret cosplay idea. The only problem: we didn’t get it done … or started. With weekly doctor appointments, our mother’s passing, and getting her condo ready for the market, there just wasn’t time. Not to mention all of that procrastination.

So last minute we decided to do a Vikings cosplay. My sister will be Thorunn, Porunn (whichever), my son will be Bjorn, and I will be (the fan favorite) Lagertha. I think it’s really ironic that once again, my son is playing the role of my son–only last time I played the role of father (Thranduil). And once again, he’s playing the role of my sister’s boyfriend–or would-be boyfriend.

For the record, we did not choose Vikings because it would be “easy” just “easier” than our other idea. To be honest, if we’d wanted easy, we’d have bought bed sheets and made Kylo Ren and Rey costumes … not too late to do that.

Vikings is just an awesome show and what better time to create a Vikings cosplay than right before the second half of the latest season. So excited to see Lagertha and Aslaug battle it out for Queen. Hoping Bjorn joins the plot this season. lol

Our Raiding Party

vikings-bjornSo, obviously my kid looks like Bjorn, and he’s my son, so who he was going to be was no debate. I wanted him to go as kid Bjorn at first, but to be honest, big Bjorn’s costume will be easier than the child’s costume. And he gets an ax.

imagesMy sister and I really liked the character Throunn. We’re probably the only fans of the show who do. Not sure why. She’s a fun character with an awesome hairstyle (sis already has the shaved head). She’s a slave turned free woman exploring her new found freedom, which makes her a little wild and reckless. Sadly, the fans hated her and the producer wrote her off the show, which happens to almost all of the children and women characters I’ve noticed. Ironically enough, this will not be the first time my sister has cosplayed as a truly despised character. Two years ago she went to Kokomo Con as Tauriel, the controversial OC for the Hobbit trilogy. While we loved her, she was simply detested by die-hards. So it seems my sister is drawn to a certain type of character. Can’t wait to see how she pulls this one off.

Obviously I chose Lagertha.  Mostly because I can relate with her. She’s a single mother and a fighter who tries very hard not to put up with male BS, but gets screwed anyway, and has a hard time getting the respect she deserves. Personality aside, I love the intricacies of her hair and outfits. And there were a lot of outfits and hairstyles to choose from but I’m going to do this one from Season 3.

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Goals

One of our biggest regrets with the Hobbit cosplay was that we didn’t personally make the costumes. At the time I didn’t have the confidence to sew. It had been almost fifteen years since I’d taken sewing class (and I wasn’t very good. My teacher let me pass for “effort”). I gained a lot of confidence building the centaur costume (completely and utterly by hand), so I feel like there isn’t anything I can’t do.

Sidenote: for those of you who think you’ll never use what you learn in shop class or home economics, if you want to cosplay, you will. It’s been fifteen years since shop and sewing class, but I can’t believe all the instant recall I’ve had while working on this project. I’m glad I took theatre, shop, and sewing in high school. A lot of people said I was wasting my time, but it turns out, I have some useful skills. (Also, as an adult, if you want to eat, take cooking class. Just saying).

Obviously we have our work cut out for us with elaborate hairstyles, wood working, leather working, sewing, and making chain-mail. It’s going to be slow going, but with five weeks left, I think we’ll be done in time for Kokomo Con.

Progress

So, after a week of settling on concepts, we finally made a solid week of effort.

So what did we get done?

Our swords, shields, and the ax are all cut and ready to be filed, sanded, and painted. The swords themselves took an entire day to cut out (I was still getting acquainted with the jigsaw), but the shields and ax we cut out in two hours after work.

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I have one sleeve of chain-mail finished (don’t judge unless you’ve done this). I can’t feel the tips of my fingers anymore. To clarify, I didn’t order a chain-mail shirt, or even chain-mail links. I am making my own links and linking them together one by one. There are many ways to do this, but I prefer the method where you attach them on a rod like so. There is a video on YouTube that shows this process. I made the thing to hold the rod out of PVC pipe. It took all of five minutes to make. As you can see, it is portable, sturdy, and adjustable. (you can put longer or shorter rods and pipes in the top and bottom to make it longer or shorter depending on how long a chain you need to make.

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Next week I hope to get some sewing done. Thanks to friends and family who deserve more than just an honorable mention, I have a sewing machine to sew the garments. It was absolutely free so I’m going to take very, very, very good care of it. Their kindness saved me time and hundreds of dollars, which helps a lot because leather (even fake leather) isn’t cheap.

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I’ll be sure to share photos and updates on my blog, facebook, and Twitter as the weeks go by. Stay tuned for next week’s progress.

 

 

Back to the Beginning

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What’s worse than starting at the beginning? Starting all over again.

Beginnings are hard, usually because they start at the ending of something else.

This year marks the beginning of my 30’s and the end of my 20’s. My original goal was to publish a book by the time I turned 30, but alas, I am only starting–or rather starting over yet again.

How could I not finish a book in a decade? Well, I did, actually. I completed a draft for book one and two. I spent hours outlining, researching, writing, re-writing, falling in and filling in plotholes.

So why is there not a completed MS?

I believe your twenties are for discovery and learning.

What I discovered: There were a lot of plot holes in my writing.

What I learned: This story was good but it could be better. I also discovered that my major supporting character should really be my main character. That changes everything.

So after starting all over on the outline, yet again, I finally began the first chapter for hopefully the last time.

So I didn’t accomplish my original goal. I thought I’d be finished by now, not starting over. I didn’t publish, but I did accomplish something. With diligent research and outlining and planning, I think I will be able to write the best book I possibly can by the time I’m 40.

 

Be the Centaur of Attention (Part Two)

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One of the complements I keep getting for my centaur costume is the sculpting. It doesn’t look bulky or unnatural and it moves realistically. Not only does it look real, it feels real. Because I use foam instead of chicken wire, it’s warm and soft like a living, breathing, creature.

Most of the centaur costumes I found online were framed with either chicken wire or layers of foam that were carved into shape.

This isn’t how I did it. Not to toot my own horn, but I think my way is easier.

Ready to learn how I did it? This post will be dedicated almost entirely to how to sculpt your centaur costume.

Making the Legs

Remember how I said to put off glueing the pipes on the legs. It is now ok to glue the PVC pipes together.

Now that the legs have a skeletal frame, they need some meat.

I used a 1 inch poly foam that I bought from Hobby Lobby in a giant roll.

I used the paper outline as a stencil for the foam so it would line up with the pipes and cut out four pieces (two for each leg). I then put one piece of foam on either side of the PVC pipe legs (like a sandwich) and stuffed those into panty hose. You were probably wondering where that was going to come into play. This gives them a curvy appearance and holds the foam together without glue and shapes them without having to carve.

After that, I used some stuffing to round out some of the places even panty hoes couldn’t make curvy.

I did the same thing for the body, cutting out foam pieces shaped like the back. I cut holes in each piece so the middle pipe would go through and hold them in place. I cut about four of these. You could even use a solid block of foam, but this was cheaper and made it lighter, because I just filled in the space between with stuffing.

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After this I glued the PVC on the frame together.

Attaching the Tail

Now is the time to add the tail–well, part of it anyway. Remember the plastic tube. I ran a wire through it so that I could attach the tube to the PVC pipe, but also to make the tube bend. When I add my hair later, the wire can be bent so the tail can be bent up to give  it a more realistic look.

Making the Harness

I’m actually going to dedicate an entire post to this in the future. I didn’t take a lot of pictures because this was a lot of trial and error, so I’ll have to make some doodles. The concept comes from a security harness–like for climbing mountains. We’ll come back to this.

Sculpting the Body

After this, you’re ready to build up your body. So why didn’t I use chicken wire like everyone else? I did at first, but I didn’t like it. It made it too bulky. So after three nights work, I tore the chicken wire off.

After much banging of my head and laying on the kitchen floor sobbing and moaning, I decided to put batting around the frame (not the legs) and stuff that with polyfiber stuffing to fill it out just as I did with the legs. The batting is optional, but it helps the stuffing stay in place. Here is a picture below of the costume with the batting and the panty-hoes-covered legs. As you can see the harness will be attached around the foam underneath the batting.

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The stuffing, as I’ve mentioned before, makes the costume lighter and lovable. The kids at practice could not stop touching it, just like a real horse. If I’d used chicken wire, the costume would not move as realistically and it would feel fake. I got extra points for realism. It was a treat for the kids, which made it worth all the hard work.

Covering the Frame

After this came my least favorite part: sewing the body. I bought three yards of fabric  to cover the frame from legs to front. Since there aren’t any patterns for centaur costumes, obviously, I bought a plastic tablecloth to make my own. It was based on the pattern you might find for a stuffed animal. I did not want a seem on the back, so I designed my pattern so the seam would be on the bottom sides,  but for simplicity, you could follow the concept that is used for stuffed animals, which includes a back seam.

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Once I cut out the fabric, I put it over the body and pinned it in place. Once it was pinned in place, I then sewed it on the machine. This was probably the most challenging part because I’m not a good sewer.

Important note: I was able to pin it and slide it on and off the body because I used a 4-way stretch fabric. Originally, I was going to use a 2-way stretch fleece. This would have made it harder to sew and hinder the movement of the legs.

I chose to use a 4-way stretch fabric in a polyester/nylon blend. This way the fabric would be less likely to tear or move unrealistically. It can also be stretched onto the frame so that all the sewing can be done on the machine, limiting how much handsewing you’d have to do. Not only can it be stretched on like a pair of tights, but it can be removed for mending or washing.

Jo-Ann Fabrics has a new cosplay line of four-way stretch fabric. This is great for making super hero costumes. I wish they’d had this while I was working on this project. Oh well.

I left some extra fabric in front so I could tie the costume around my waist; this held the horse body flush with my own body. I just tied the extra fabric in a knot; nothing fancy. Don’t worry, the knots are hidden by the next step.

I sewed a very basic fur belt to hide where the costume attached to my body. I literally just used a safety pin to fasten this in place, but you can use snaps or Velcro. I used the same color fabric to sew fetters for the legs and for the front legs to hide my shoes. I sewed elastic in these so they slide on and off. I didn’t want them to be permanently attached to the costume so that they could be removed in the event I need to wash or fix it.

Attaching the Tail

Remember the tube for the tail? I left a hole in the fabric for that to stick out. I tied a wig to it to create the tail. You can pick up a decent wig for 5-20 bucks. Fall is a good time to get them because most stores will be carrying them for Halloween. The wire that I ran through the tube made it possible to bend it so the tail would not drag.

So this is the costume so far. Next week I’ll try to post the DIY harness. After this the final steps are putting the costume on and making it walk. Thank you all for your wonderful comments. For those of you who are in the process of creating your own costume, I hope this helps. Let me know if any of the steps needs more clarity or depth.

Be the Centaur of Attention (Part One)

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If you want to be the center of attention at a con or costume party, dress as a centaur.

As many of you know, I built a centaur costume for my role in the Ole Olsen production of The Lion, the Wtich, and the Wardrobe.

This was going to be one very long post (a very, very, very long post), but I’ve recently decided to break it up into several smaller post outlining–in detail and with pictures–how to create a walking centaur costume from start to finish.

I recently had someone contact me wanting help creating a costume. There’s so much advice and information to give, it only makes sense to start at the beginning.

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Create your Concept

The first thing I did was what anyone would do … consult Google of course to see how other people mastered this challenging costume.

And boy was I not disappointed … in the number of pictures of finished projects, that is. What was lacking was a detailed how-to instruction. No where in the infinite interweb, could I find a complete guide, not even on YouTube.

When Google and YouTube failed me, I read forums and watched videos to develop my concept.

My DIY project just became a FIOY (Figure it out yourself) project.

It is my personal theory that cosplayers fall into two categories:Those who like to keep their ideas and techniques a secret and those who like to teach others.

Apparently I will be the first person to share a step by step tutorial from beginning to end.

From what I could tell, other people used chicken wire, metal or PVC pipe frames, and hinges for the joints. They then crisscrossed wires from the horse legs to their own legs.

All of their ideas seemed to work …but

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After trial and error–many, many trials and errors, I decided against chicken wire and attaching the wires to my legs, or using drills or hinges of any kind.

By creating my own design, what I ended up with is a lightweight, walking centaur costume that is fully washable that can be assembled with only one step requiring another person.

What You’ll Need

  • PVC or CPVC piping. I don’t know what the difference is. I just asked the guy at Lowes which one cuts easier. You will only need about two pipes. 1 inch or 3/4 inch pipe.
  • A pipe cutter or hacksaw. I got a cutter for $10 I like the cutter because you can cut them in the house without messing up tables or floors. Got it at Lowes.

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  • PVC pipe joints, tees, elbows, and bushings (I’ve included photos of which ones) You’ll need 4 T’s, two larger T’s, 8 elbows (2 90 degrees, 4 45 degrees), 2 caps, and 2 bushings.

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  • PVC glue (cement glue)
  • Marker (for marketing–duh)
  • Measuring tape
  • 1 inch poly foam. I got a big roll at Hobby Lobby
  • Fabric for body. roughly a yard to a yard and a half or two, depending on how long. (I recommend a spandex, rylon, polyester variety–something that stretches four ways if you want it to move naturally like skin) Go to Jo-Ann Fabrics
  • Material for a harness (I used the material you find on backpack straps). I bought several yards.
  • Black faux leather (for hooves)
  • Panty hose or tights (not for your legs. doesn’t matter what color)
  • Parachute buckles and strap adjusters
  • Rubber chair tips
  • Faux fur
  • Knife
  • Clear tube (optional)
  • Metal wire (optional)
  • Wire cutters (if you use the wire)
  • Fishing wire (10 or 15 pounds)
  • Fake hair or wig
  • Stuffing
  • Batting (optional)
  • Tylenol or Aleve. I really like Aleve for headaches
  • Alcohol (don’t mix with the pain meds)
  • Music or show to play in the background (the longer the better because this could take time)
  • Bandaids for boo boos

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Make sure you have a large area to build this. Remember, you’re making the butt of a horse. You’ll look like a weirdo, so I recommend making it outside where your neighbors can see. Weirding out neighbors will make the project more fun. Also you won’t have to worry about getitng marker, glue, or cuts on your nice floor, carpet, or other surfaces.

Now that you have your supplies, let’s go ahead with the next step.

Measuring

I can’t just give you measurements because how long you make it or how tall depends on your body.

Have you ever been told, measure twice, cut once? Take this advice.

First I measured from where the frame would rest on my lower back to my feet (if you’ll be wearing highheels or platforms for hooves, don’t forget to factor that in. Measure how long you want it and how wide. Make it thinner and shorter than you want the finished project to be. This is only the skeleton. Remember you’ll be adding height and thickness with your foam and stuffing.  I made it waste high so the straps would come around my waste like a seatbelt.

 

Building the Frame

Now you are ready to start making cuts in your PVC pipe. Measure and mark and then just cut.

 

This is the basic structure for the body.

After I laid them out, I attached the pieces with the fittings. DO NOT GLUE.

The section in the middle is for support–also to hold the foam in place (we’ll cover that more later).

Next I cut out the legs.

To make the legs, I drew an outline of the legs and cut the pieces so that when they were jointed, they would make a shape like that of a horse.

Fit all the pieces into the fittings and do a trial walk. DO NOT GLUE.

As you can see, the front of the skeleton is held together with 90 degree elbows while the back has T’s. This is so you can attach the legs. I’m not sure if you can see in the pictures, but the big T’s are for the legs. This is how I created a joint so the legs move back and forth. Because the big T’s are larger, They fit over the little T’s. I put a piece of pipe through to connect them and put a cap on the end so it doesn’t fall off. What I like about the way I did this is that it requires no screws or drills or hinges. If for some reason, the costume breaks, it is fixable. If you use a hinge or screws, once it breaks, it’s harder to fix. The picture on the end shows the bushing that you attach to the big T so that the fitting will hold the smaller PVC pipe (that way you only have to use one size pipe).

I hope this helps you get started. The next post will show you how I sculpted my costume using foam and stuffing.

If any of these steps are confusing, or if you  need a deeper explanation, please contact me in comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Stay tuned.

Fictional Fridays #17

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I just wanted to share this delightful post from my latest follow Nandini, who I found via a meet and greet posted by Smorgasbord. I thought this was a great way to find more blogs to follow. I highly recommend you check out the meet and greet here. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/welcome-to-the-party-meet-and-greet-some-new-bloggers/

Pages That Rustle

Who thought holidays could be more stressful than the months I have to attend college? Strangely, I find myself having no time to do the things I want to finish and having all the time in the world to complete TV series in record time during my semesters. Another example of time being a vindictive creature, I suppose. Putting aside selfish concerns for a bit, I decided to write something, anything, to take my mind off of things. Here is the result (Incidentally, it fits this week’s Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes Prompt Challenge #33 – Favourite Food).

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