Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mommy and Me Batman Beyond Cosplay

Before I had SHB, I used to scoff at moms whose wardrobes devolved into leggings/yoga pants and spit-up and milk-stained t-shirts. Can't you be bothered to wear real, clean clothes, I'd secretly think. And because the universe is fair like that, I now find myself the owner of multiple pairs of black leggings and I've totally thrown on a tank top that "only" had a little bit of questionable fluid stain in order to go grocery shopping. I naively thought that once I had my body back I'd go back to wearing my cute fitted dresses made from woven fabric, but alas, stretch knits are so comfortable and none of my geeky dresses have boob access.

Despairing, I wondered how I could get some of my groove back while still being a functional milk machine. Black Milk has geeky leggings, but at $80 a pop they're hardly affordable. Then one day I looked in the mirror and realized I was wearing black leggings and a black fleece jacket (because it's so easy to wipe milk crud off of fleece and it dries quickly to boot, then there's the warmth factor because you know, winter, and zip front = easy access) yet again, and hey, you know which superhero I love wears an almost entirely black outfit? That's right, Batman Beyond. 

From the Batman Beyond animated series: Terry McGinnis, high school student by day, Bruce Wayne's "errand boy" by night.

I used to love watching Batman Beyond when I was in high school. Yes, that's right, I binged on cartoons every Saturday morning as a teen, because gosh darn it I deserved those Saturday mornings after missing out on eight years of cartoon watching, thanks to Chinese school. I thought Terry McGinnis was so cool (he was in high school, just like me, and he had that reformed bad bay persona that silly girls love!) and kind of hot (inasmuch as an animated character can be), and his girlfriend was actually Asian, so it's no surprise that he quickly became my favorite superhero. It's too bad I've never come across any Batman Beyond sheets in my thrifting; I think I would pass out from excitement if I did. Anyway, my glorious return to sewing for myself and not for SHB was to add a red bat applique to my generic Target jacket. Does sewing two seams and doing a lot of ironing of fusible interfacing even count as a sewing project? 

Simplest sewing project ever: sketch bat design on Heat-N-Bond, cut out fleece, fuse to jacket, sew around the edges. Done!

Mom uniform with a smack of geek!
Our green, suburban front yard is just about as opposite as you can get of future Gotham's gritty, run-down urban vibe. 

In the event that two seams and some ironing doesn't qualify as a MBU, I decided that since SHB could use more non-hooded outerwear, I might as well make it subtly geeky. I pulled out the fleece stash and had just enough brown fleece left to make him a little Terry McGinnis jacket. Unfortunately, because of the odd-shaped remnant pieces, I ended up having to cut it so that the stretch runs vertically. I guess that's okay, since SHB is on the long skinny side? He's still wearing his 0-3 month pants because the waist fits, but they're capri-length on him. Hmm, maybe I should make him some pants next. Or I could just pretend that he's a hobbit. From Gotham City. Um. Right. No mixing fandoms.

I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, even if none of the inside seams are finished and there's no actual closure. 
SHB was pretty pleased with how it turned out, too. I know it looks like he's crying, but this is his happy scream face. 
Despite the grain issues, mobility is good. Good enough for eating links. 
This picture is probably the most accurate in terms of capturing Terry McGinnis' moody, brooding expressions. 

And now, for a rare, unheard-of occurrence: you get to see a superhero and his alter ego at the same time.

Quick, take a picture to capture the evidence! 

Of course, on the day that we're taking pictures of our fleece jackets, it would be 73 degrees. 

Wait, the alter ego isn't supposed to be the one flying through the air. 

Okay, it's time for the alter ego to go inside and fight his nemesis: NAPTIME. *cue dramatic music and JJ Abrams sun flare*

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hobbit-y Pyrography

These days, SHB is sleeping somewhat better in the evenings, meaning I can be fairly sure of having an hour or so to myself after dinner. I was so excited at first (a whole hour! I can do ALL the things!), but I quickly learned that after working part time and taking care of SHB the rest of the time, not to mention making dinner and cleaning up, I have no energy left for anything mentally taxing. There are so many lovely new patterns I want to get to (hello Sewaholic button-down shirts -- perfect for breastfeeding access!), but I can't seem to muster up the gumption to tackle muslins or fitting or even thinking about where that one fabric is in my stash.

I still want to do something mildly productive, though (I can only read so much before the words start swimming before my eyes), and I have that whole irreversible task resolution, so I have to settle for my brain-dead craft of choice: pyrography. It's essentially tracing, with very little thinking involved, so it's perfect for a tired new mom. And being the geek that I am, naturally it would all be Tolkien-themed. I'm lucky that one of my fandoms lends itself so well to this medium; it's harder to do convincing wood-based, rustic-looking crafts for say, sci-fi fandoms like Star Wars and Firefly.

So, during Christmas break, I burned two small cheese-sized cutting boards:

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

It was tricky getting the wood grain to cooperate to make the elvish designs smooth enough. 

Not actually from the books, admittedly, but I still love the list of hobbit meals. 

Oak leaf motif. Because hobbits. 

IKEA won't let me forget where I got the board from. 

I ended up gifting one to Elaine and keeping the other for myself. It was awfully therapeutic to do, and there's the added bonus of a pleasant smoky wood smell (so nice in winter, especially when you discover that your fireplace is out of commission and will cost $4000 to fix!). It was so fun, I found myself itching to do more. Then I realized that we were storing our teabags in an old gelato container, so when I was at Daiso the other day I picked up this wooden box for making into a more aesthetically pleasing receptacle:

I've always been the tiniest bit sad that I gave these boxes away at my hobbit-themed birthday party, so it was about time I made my own Thorin's-map-themed box.

It pleases me that the green tea is on the Lonely Mountain side, since it's vageuly Mt. Fuji-esque. 

I'm really pleased with how well the wood grain works with the mountains on this side. 

The great wyrms of the North came out looking a little goofy. 

Even though nobody will see it, I like knowing that this inscription is under the, tea. 

All credit for the design on the box goes to Tolkien himself, of course.

It's tempting to make even more random LOTR decor -- Jo-ann's has so many nice blank wood items -- but considering only one person in this house is actually a fan, I think I'd better hold back. Unless, of course, I can indoctrinate SHB...then it'll be two to one!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mr. Cation's Birthday Shirt

When I used to actually try to upload pictures of my makes to BurdaStyle, Mr. Cation would complain that it would make his computer games lag like crazy. I don't bother with BurdaStyle anymore (just getting to my blog is a major undertaking!), but we still have problems with lag: namely that it took me five months to get around to blogging his birthday shirt! Oops. I blame this adorable little dude:

I did not make SHB's shirt. That was from his Christmas outfit, which we admittedly purchased because it matched. 

A recap, since it's been so long since I actually made this: last summer I took a class with Lynda Maynard on copying RTW clothing. Since I was seven months pregnant at the time (and didn't have plans to stay at that size!) I opted to make a garment for Mr. Cation instead. I traced his favorite shirt using the silk organza (process documented here) and made it up in this black and white checked fabric for his birthday. I was originally concerned about finding a shirting fabric he would like (he's really picky about plaids; the only other time I made him a shirt, he didn't like it because it looked "too much like Aeropostale shirts from middle school"), but then I remembered this one in my stash. It's especially appropriate because I bought it on our first anniversary England trip (my goodness, my me-mades from back then look so...home-made). It's nice to finally sew up such old and treasured stash!

Front view.

Back view. 

I added my own "label" by embroidering a piece of ribbon. 
A closer look at the pocket. My walking foot was not cooperating, so the plaid is every so slightly off. 
I realized too late that the yoke isn't quite on the bias; it's like 48 degrees instead of 45. Oh well. 
At least the inside flat-felling looks nice and clean!

Honestly, I don't remember too much about the making of this shirt, other than that it was a pain bending over to cut out the pieces with my huge belly in the way. And now that I look at these pictures, I realize that the shirt doesn't actually fit that well. There are drag lines that I don't like the look of, but I have absolutely no idea how to adjust the fit on a man's shirt like this!

Pattern: Copied from a RTW shirt
Fabric: A little less than two yards of cotton shirting
Notions: Buttons, interfacing for the collar and front plackets
Techniques: Plaid matching, flat-felling seams, making a collar? It was going to involve making tower plackets, but then I got lazy and made it short sleeved instead.
Hours used: I don't even remember anymore...I want to say seven?
Will you make it again? Yes. I still have more of that fabric left, which will eventually become a long-sleeved version for my brother (thankfully the muslin fit both of them, and my dad as well! It's the brotherhood of the traveling shirt?), whenever it is that SHB manages to nap for more than 30 minutes at a time...
Total cost: I don't remember how much this fabric cost anymore, I bought it such a long time ago. Also I bought it in pounds. But the buttons cost a $1 at Joann's; that much I remember.
Final thoughts: I'm kind of annoyed at myself for taking the easy way out and making this a short-sleeved shirt. I should've taken a hint from Mr. Cation's existing wardrobe that he doesn't really wear short-sleeved shirts. Since I was trying to avoid making a tower placket and cuffs (granted, I had a good excuse), I basically sank a bunch of time and fabric into a garment that doesn't really fit his lifestyle. Consider that a lesson learned: being lazy will only come back to bite you later!

I realized that I have a love-hate relationship with plaids. Assuming that they're woven and not printed, plaids can make finding the grain so easy. On the downside, when they're even just a little off, you can really tell. This is why I stick to crazy prints with no rhyme or reason to them for myself. It's too bad Mr. Cation doesn't want to wear hippo-print or Batman shirts! Maybe SHB will be more amenable...

One more matchy-matchy picture!
The way our tree topper is placed, it looks like Mr. Cation has a random star antenna popping out of the side of his head. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

It's funny looking back now at my 2014 resolutions. I had all these grand plans for practical, historical, and costume sewing, but pretty much none of them happened, because almost exactly two weeks after writing that post, I discovered that I was pregnant with SHB. While I stayed the same shape during first trimester, I was so tired that all I did was read through all of the available Game of Thrones books. Second semester, I was more energetic, but I had no idea what my body was going to look like so I didn't sew too many garments, settling instead for outfitting SHB's nursery. Third trimester was a total flop as I felt like a whale and was busy with moving. And of course, once I had SHB, things got busy in a totally different way. Still, I've got a nice collection of year-end wrap up posts going on this blog, and I like the process of summing up and reflecting.

Let's take a look at what I was able to accomplish by way of finished garments and objects:

Garments, from left to right, top to bottom: Ballister Blackheart cape and Dr. Blitzmeyer lab coat, Ursula lite, Mother Gothel, neck corset, waterfall cardigan (unblogged), BHL Polly #1 and #2, maternity tops #1 and #2, Rambo cardigan thing, wedding guest dress (unblogged), Totoro maternity top, Mr. Cation's birthday shirt (unblogged), cat onesie (no sewing, just drawing), whale bibs, baby jacket.

Finished objects: manatee plushie, Nimona cats, marine-themed color pencil drawings and paintings, hammerhead shark plushie (unblogged), whale lovey, marine-themed mobile, Totoro bouncer, taxidermy narwhal, marine-themed quilts and Giants quilt, taxidermy blobfish, various doorhangers, and dragon-ish accessories.

I also did some Christmas-specific sewing; something about having an SHB makes one want to do stereotypical things like hanging stockings:

Mr. Cation gets the normal one, mine is covered with cats, SHB's has hippos, and Walnut's is obviously the fish one. 

Not nearly as prolific as other years, but not bad, considering. There's no way I'm gonna bother with tallying up stats like hours, average cost per project, types of garments sewn, etc. though. Instead, I'm jumping straight into the reflecting.

Thanks again to Gillian for hosting the Top 5's this year!

Top 5 Hits:

  • My bustier top, used for my Ursula costume. I loved the process of making such a fitted, complex garment, even if it was occasionally stressful since I had to finish it in time to be graded. Unfortunately, almost as soon as I finished it, I didn't fit into it anymore (still don't, thanks to breastfeeding-sized boobs, but hoping that changes after weaning!). 
  • My Mother Gothel costume. Again, totally impractical but it was comfy and a fun way to announce my pregnancy.
  • BHL Polly tops. I made three versions of this top and they served me very well as my belly expanded. 
  • SHB's quilts. They were seriously fun to dream up and seeing him play around on them is so sweet. 
  • That's it. I really didn't sew a lot this year, so I don't even have five things! Although I guess the last "two" are really six, so that's fine. 

Top 5 Misses: A couple of these are unblogged because I just couldn't be bothered to take pictures. 
  • Simplicity 1804. I made this during third trimester hoping it could be a work dress, but I chose an awful fabric (red mystery knit that was warped, weirdly stiff, and had no recovery) and had the same issues with the back that Aleah had. By the time I had fixed it, I had no interest in wearing it anymore. I tried it on a couple weeks ago, after it had had some time in the closet, but now it's both too small in the chest and too big in the waist. Fail. 
  • Rambo cardigan-thing. Not really drapey enough to be a cardigan, but not structured enough to be a jacket, and it doesn't match anything in my non-maternity wardrobe. Plus Mr. Cation thought it was weird. 
  • Baby mobile. I made this before we moved, and after we got settled into our new house and figured out where we were putting all the baby things, I realized there was nowhere to hang a mobile. I ended up taking the squares off the mobile and just showing them to SHB, but even then he found them interesting only for about a month, and he's moved on already. 
  • Mr. Cation's birthday shirt. This is a little sad, because I spent a lot of time making up the pattern and then sewing the shirt. Part of it is my fault, because I was so tired by the time I made it (third trimester + sweltering summer heat + no AC in our apartment) that I just made it short-sleeved so I wouldn't have to deal with cuff plackets, and short sleeved shirts are just not as practical. Part of it was the timing, as pretty much right after I made it, it was too warm to be wearing collared shirts, but by the time it was cool enough to wear it, SHB had arrived and ain't nobody got time for nice shirts when there's baby spit up all over everything. 
  • At least I haven't got a full list of misses, either. 

Top 5 Highlights: 
  • I had a part in making a human being. I think this is self-explanatory. 
  • Mr. Cation and I bought our first house! Again with the obviousness of this highlight.
  • I had some pretty fantastic internet exposure. My Nimona cosplay was featured in Publisher's Weekly (and I got to meet Noelle Stevenson!) and Lee Pace tweeted my Party King Thranduil cosplay.
  • I had some of the best students of my career in my AP Chem class. It's rare to have kids so fun, diligent, bright, and kind. They even threw me a surprise baby shower, which was totally touching. 
  • Again with the four items!

Top 5 Reflections: 
  • When they say that having a baby changes everything, they're so right. I don't have time to do all the things I want to do; sometimes I have time but am too tired; a lot of things no longer seem worth doing. 
  • Switching back into buying RTW clothes was both easier (wow! it only took five minutes to acquire a new outfit, as opposed to five hours!) and harder (my goodness, why does nothing fit right?!) than I thought it would be. I thought long and hard about trying to go me-made for my maternity and nursing wardrobe, but in the end decided I'm not going to beat myself up about being too tired or not having enough time to do so. Buying RTW is not ideal, but it's not the end of the world, either. 
  • Following on the heels of the above reflection, my time is too valuable to spend doing things I'm not excited about. Especially now that SHB is in the picture. 
  • One of the governing principles that Mr. Cation and I go by in order to decide what to order when eating out is could we make this ourselves? If the answer is yes, then we don't bother. I used to try to do that with clothes, but let's be honest, cooking is a lot faster (generally) than sewing. Just because I could make camisoles and underwear doesn't mean I want to (or have to). As Gillian herself said, no guilt.
  • Holding onto a stash is often portrayed as a negative thing (especially when I was running the Stashbusting Sewalong), but it's not all bad. I used several craft items this year that I had been holding onto for years, and I was glad that I had them! Now if I could just keep that up for fabric...
  • Oh look, I made it to five for this category. I was beginning to worry that this was going to be a Top 4s list. 

Top 5 Goals:
  • No guilt sewing. Do it because I want to. I do what I want, Thor. This includes stashbusting -- no sewing things I'm not passionate about anymore just because they were once higher in the queue. 
  • To that end, actually sew things. Some days I just waste time on Pinterest and don't bother with doing irreversible things, and then suddenly I blink and a week has gone by without any creating and I'm a grumpy bugger and I don't know why. Except I do know why. 
  • Figure out how to take sewing classes again. I really loved learning last school year with my textiles, pants, bustier, and other miscellaneous classes. I'm not really sure how it's going to work with SHB in the picture (and no family help), but I think just recording this will help me to remember that continuing education is a worthwhile goal. 
  • Enjoy SHB. This has been really hard, as I don't think very young babies are that fun in the moment. There's a lot of monotony and selflessness, but then suddenly I blink (I'm doing a lot of sudden blinking here) and he's grown out of his 0-3 month clothes and I'm tearing up wondering where my tiny little newborn went. I'm still not sure how to go about trying to enjoy something that I don't really enjoy, but I'm willing to bet that this is more important to figure out than say, trying to enjoy grading papers. 
  • Spend more time with non-SHB family. After spending so much time taking care of SHB, I really just want to be alone (OMG Walnut why are you jumping in my lap *again*). But there are other relationships to be kept up, and while alone time is important, I'm willing to bet (I'm also doing a lot of imaginary betting) that nobody on their deathbed wishes they spent more time doing selfish sewing or pinning costume ideas instead of spending time with family. 

Let's hope that this year my plans, vague as they are -- note the lack of specific garments! -- don't go awry. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Making Dragonish Accessories

While the bulk of my Smaug look used pieces from previous cosplays, I did want to make some accessories that would bring it into dragonish territory, so that it wouldn't just be "ooh, fiery dress!" I originally wanted to delve into leather mask-making, but then I got pregnant and had a baby. I think that's just going to be my excuse for things, as in "I used to be an adventurer like you, but then I took an arrow (of sperm) to the uterus..." Anyway. So I settled for a simple horned headband and an eye mask, plus bracers with large "scales" to help bring the whole costume together.

Since I knew I was going to be short on time, I started with the headband first as the most high impact piece. I purchased a cheap plastic headband from the dollar store, raided the recycling bin for ads, and got to work.

I twisted up ads into cones, then taped them into submission. Even though painter's tape is pictured here, I wouldn't recommend it, as it wasn't sticky enough. I ended up going over it again with masking tape.  
Side fins were cut from foam, with floral wire taped to it to make spines. 
Horns and fins taped to the headband. 
I don't even want to know how much tape I used. In retrospect, I would have made the horns shorter, as they didn't quite look proportional. At least they're dramatic? 
Painted black and ModPodged. I bet I could use this for a Maleficent costume if I wanted to. (I want to.)

The eye mask was just a paper mache mask from Jo-ann's that I painted black. I toyed with the idea of building in some brow ridges or even adding a snout, but in the end I decided that it would be more versatile for future cosplaying if I kept it as a plain black mask.

After that, try everything on while the baby is napping in the carrier. 

The bracers were my favorite part of this costume, even though they kind of got lost against the black background of the dress and cape. I originally bought Simplicity 1347 for this project, but then -- I kid you not -- I was too lazy to unfold all the huge pattern sheets to find the one piece I needed for the bracers, so I just started making mock-ups from paper to get the right shape. Except that I ended up making something like twelve mock-ups, so I guess I should've just unfolded the dang pattern. And to think I used to always tell my students that being lazy always ends up causing you more work than doing things properly the first time...I should listen to myself I guess!

Foam shapes, all cut out and scored!
I sealed the pieces with my iron (with a muslin press cloth in between, of course!) then folded/bent the pieces while they were still hot so that they would hold their shape once cooled. 
I got super excited once I'd glued the "scales" to the bracers. They're starting to look real!
Eeeeeee it looks so cool!
Everything got a couple coats of matte ModPodge.
I pressed the grommet bases into the foam once I'd figured out their placement so that I'd know where to hammer them in.
All grommeted and looking cooler by the second!
I used black elastic beading cord to lace them up so that I could just pull them on and off without undoing them and retying them every time. I am so smart. 
Trying them on before the midnight showing. 
I ended up loosening the laces after taking this picture, as I am not a fan of weird underarm flesh bulges.

I am really pleased with how they turned out! Unfortunately, being made from craft foam, they're not too resilient and the ModPodge has started crackling after a night of banging around. They still look fine from far away, but up close they're a little battered-looking, and not in a "I've been through a battle" way, more like a "I'm wearing foam bracers" kind of way. I'm thinking I want to try making a more hard-wearing version from pleather and interfacing/batting, but we'll see if I ever get around to that. In the meantime, if you'd like to make your own bracers but don't feel like buying the Simplicity pattern, or making a dozen versions to figure out the pattern, I've made my pattern pieces available for download here. And just to fill up the space on the page, I've thrown in my headband's side fin thing as well.

I've made this into an Instructable with detailed instructions and a few more process pictures here. Sometimes I feel bad when I get emails saying I have new followers on Instructables, since I only post projects around December every year. And they're almost all props and such, so then I feel extra bad for people who might've started following because of the Superman dress cutout, and then I never did any more sewing ones...