Mediumweight Fabrics

Thursday, 9 December 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

This post will introduce you to the most common medium weight fabrics.  Each fabric has different characteristics which determine the look and maneuverability of the fabric.  You can find detailed advise on how to cut and sew a specific fabric (including what size needle and presser foot to use) by checking out Sandra Betzina’s More Fabric Savvy and Claire Shaeffer’s Sew Any Fabric.

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LINEN

content: 100% linen

difficulty: easy

cosplay uses: This is a great natural looking cloth that has a lot of texture and visible weave.

construction notes: Iron and pre-wash fabric.  It does not respond well to pleating and wrinkles easily.

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MICROFIBER

content: polyester, rayon, nylon, or acetate

difficulty: easy

cosplay uses: Great for uniforms.

construction notes: The fabric is very smooth, but may not adhere to a sharp angles as well as other fabrics.

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SILK

content: 100% silk.

difficulty: easy

cosplay uses: Creates a luxurious appearance and is useful for royalty.

construction notes: There are many types of silk which vary in sheen (e.g. shantung and dupioni).  To reduce snags, you need to sew with a sharp needle.

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TRIGGER

content: 65% polyester and 35% cotton

difficulty: easy

cosplay uses: Great for uniforms.

construction notes: This fabric is a bit thin and stiff, but is commonly used for retail store aprons.

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BROCADE

content: silk, rayon, cotton, polyester, or nylon.

difficulty: moderate

cosplay uses: Multi-purpose.

construction notes: Brocades are treasured for their raised designs, which when woven in the same color as the background can provide subtle texture to your costume.  They can be similar to silk and require sharp needles.

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DENIM

content: 100% cotton

difficulty: moderate

cosplay uses: Pants, Jackets

construction notes: Prewash to prevent shrinking.  Use a heavier denim needle when machine stitching.

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FAUX SUEDE

content: 100% polyester

difficulty: moderate

cosplay uses: Great for fantasy series or traveling characters.  Can provide interesting texture for sheaths.

construction notes: There are various types of suede.  Avoid butter suede as it is the cheapest looking and not particularly soft.

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SATIN

content: Usually polyester; originally made from silk

difficulty: moderate

cosplay uses: Great for flashy outfits.  I’ve heard it is a popular cosplay choice in Japan.

construction notes: Some satins fray at the ends; hem the edges properly.

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VELVET

content: polyester or cotton

difficulty: moderate

cosplay uses: Velvet is very soft in texture and appearance.  Great for luxurious costumes.

construction notes: Requires a special velvet board to iron without crushing.  The bushy fibers will make it tricky to sew.

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SPANDEX

content: 100% spandex

difficulty: hard

cosplay uses: Due to it’s elastic nature, it is great in tight-fitting costumes.  It has also been marketed under the trade name Lycra which is especially popular for swimsuits.

construction notes: Spandex can stretch up to 500%; use a sharp needle and narrow zigzag stitch, stretching slightly when sewing.

Lightweight Fabrics

Thursday, 2 December 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

This post will introduce you to the most common lightweight fabrics.  Each fabric has different characteristics which determine the look and maneuverability of the fabric.  You can find detailed advise on how to cut and sew a specific fabric (including what size needle and presser foot to use) by checking out Sandra Betzina’s More Fabric Savvy and Claire Shaeffer’s Sew Any Fabric.

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COTTON

content: 100% cotton

difficulty: easy

cosplay uses: It is a multi-use fabric and should be considered for capes, shirts, pants, skirts, and dresses. Can be used as lining.

construction notes: Cotton shrinks; wash and iron before cutting patterns. Best stored in acid-free cardboard/tissue paper.

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MUSLIN

content: 100% cotton

difficulty: easy

cosplay uses: Pattern making; specifically to make a “mock-up” which will allow you to make alterations to your costume on a relatively inexpensive fabric.

construction notes: Muslin is available in a white or off-white color and can be purchased in a variety of widths (from 45″ – “108”).  Since cotton is the main fiber, remember to prewash.

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LINING

content: usually polyester

difficulty: moderate

cosplay uses: Used to cover the inside of the costume and give it a finished look

construction notes: The best quality lining is Coup de ville.

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TULLE

content: 100% nylon

difficulty: moderate

cosplay uses: This lightweight, rigid fabric provides soft support to skirts.

construction notes: Use a short stitch.  Generally, it is softer than netting but may need to be lined if it is too scratchy.

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CHIFFON GEORGETTE

content: 100% polyester

difficulty: hard

cosplay uses: Since this fabric is transparent, it works great for sleeves or can add an additional hue over another fabric.

construction notes: Requires a sharp needle. While sewing, you can sandwich the seams between pieces of water-soluble stabilizer to resist shifting.

Introduction to Fabrics

Thursday, 18 November 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

Understanding fabric, the process through which it is made and the differences in manufacturing, is the foundation of costume construction.  In this post, we will examine fiber content, type of weave, and fabric weight so that you can determine what fabric will be most suitable for each project.  All too often, cosplayers default to cotton fabrics because they are the “easiest” to sew, however, there are plenty of other interesting fabrics out there that all have different properties.

FROM FIBER TO FABRIC

Fabric is created by intertwining the base fibers (1″-25″ in length) or filaments (there is no limit to their length) into yarn, which in turn is intertwined to create the yards of fabric we see in stores.  The following definitions are cited from The Costume Technician’s Handbook.

natural fiber: Originates from plant fibers and animal hairs.  The yarns that are most commonly associated with natural fabrics include cotton, linen, wool, and silk.

man-made fiber: Cellulose from plants is chemically altered and forced through spinnerets that creates artificial filaments.  The yarns that are most commonly associated with man-made fabrics include  rayon and acetate.

synthetic fiber: A chemical reaction called polymerization, liquefies the chemicals found in water, coal, and petroleum.  Differing from man-made fibers by the lack of natural materials, this mixture is also forced through a spinneret to create filaments.  The yarns that are most commonly associated with synthetic fabrics include nylon, polyester, spandex, and acrylic.

Once the yarn is prepared, the strands must be combined to create fabric using one of three processes:

woven: Weaving is the process of interlacing two sets of yarns on a loom.  There are three types of weaves: plain (brocade, flannel, monk’s cloth), twill (denim, herringbone), and satin (cotton sateen).

knit: Knit fabrics are produced by the interlooping of yarns; loops are formed and new loops are drawn through previously formed loops.  Industrial knitting differs from hand-knitting in that each loop is on its own needle.  There are two types of knit styles: weft (i.e. fake fur) and warp (i.e. waffle weave).

nonwoven: Adhesives; chemicals; or pressure, moisture, and heat are all way to create an unbroken bond between fibers.  A common nonwoven fabric is felt.

THE BURN TEST

Many sewers have learned to distinguish fiber content simply by sight and touch, however, it is not always so simple.  If you cannot readily identify the material, you can burn a few threads to determine what fibers it contains – assuming the fiber content is relatively pure.  The test requires you to take note of key signs such as smell, color, rate of consumption, and extinguishing qualities.  It is important to know your fabric material to properly care for and maintain it.

FABRIC WEIGHT

Many fabrics are categorized by weight: light, medium, and heavy.  Although you will not usually see this terminology on the bolt, it is most relevant when you are purchasing interfacing fabric to reinforce your primary fabric.  The yarn diameter and the number of yarns per inch affect the fabric weight, which is measured by the number of ounces per square yard.

Over the next few weeks we will be introducing you to the most common fabrics within each weight category.  Once you have been acquainted with the most common fabrics, you will be able to make an informed decision about which fabric to use for your cosplay.

Planning for Sales Events

Thursday, 11 November 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

You should never pay full price for any fabric as long as you plan ahead. Store-wide sales happen every few weeks and many stores offer additional coupons through email or newsletters. While working for a local fabric store, many customers hesitated when I asked them if they wanted store mailers. They didn’t wanted to sign up for junk mail when they could simply pick up a flyer during their next visit.

What customers don’t realize is that each store has different marketing tactics. Hancock Fabrics always prints “exclusive” coupons on the mailers. You can always expect two important coupons: 10% of your entire order and 40% off one fabric at regular price. JoAnn Fabrics offers the same coupons in their flyer, which is located next to the front entrance.

Similarly, I would never purchase patterns except during a sales event. Popular brands (including McCall’s, Butterick, Simplicity, and Vogue) that ordinarily sell for about $15-20, can be purchased for $1.99 each or 5 for $5. That should give you an idea on how much profit they normally make on pattern sales.

To take advantage of all these savings, you should plan months in advance to select the right fabrics and patterns. It’s always smart to survey the fabric store ahead of time and collect swatches of your favorite fabrics. When choosing your fabric, make sure it is a “staple” item, meaning the fabric store normally carries it and it can be reordered. Most stores have codes on the bolt that indicate whether or not it is a staple item, so you should always check with an associate. If you decide to purchase super-value fabric ($1.99 per yard), be careful.  These fabrics arrive randomly and can be difficult to track. You should always consider buying an extra yard or two to compensate for mistakes.

Anime Synopsis: Bakuman

Thursday, 4 November 2010, 8:00 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

As an average Japanese junior high student, Saiko keeps his head down and just focuses on the daily chores of school life.  He has no hopes or dreams for his future career and spends much of his classtime drawing pictures of his crush, Miho.  His fellow student, Takagi, notices his exceptional drawing skill and makes him an offer – they could team up and try to produce manga for a living.  Saiko initially refuses, until Takagi drags him to Miho’s house, where he accidentally makes a marriage proposal to the girl of his dreams.  She declares that if he can become a successful artist and she  accomplishes her dream of being a voice actress, then she will marry him, but until then they must not see each other.  Now Saiko must help Takagi create a popular manga in order to fulfill his vow with Miho.

An interesting romantic drama is always a good pick, but what makes Bakuman truly compelling is the insider look it offers into the manga industry.  Created by the successful manga writer behind Death Note, Tsugumi Ohba, it offers a glimpse into the issues and people that drive the stories that we enjoy.  Don’t expect it to be sugarcoated either – the first episode focuses heavily on Saiko’s uncle who worked himself to death after failing to maintain his initial popularity.  That might sound like a downer, but it balances well with the lighthearted romance.  This one is well worth a look for its unique ‘story behind the story’ premise.

My First Cosplay

Sunday, 31 October 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

I remember when my older brother first started watching Japanese cartoons.  He and his friend would turn on Sailor Moon and spend the entire episode mocking its every element.  Of course, I was sitting there with them and following my brother’s lead.  It would take me a few months to realize, however, that I actually enjoyed watching this cartoon style called “anime”.

As I became an avid fan of Sailor Moon, I naturally started looking for white and black cats to cross my path that could tell me I was a chosen warrior.  It is difficult to know which Sailor Scout I was supposed to be without one of the guardian cats revealing it to me.  However, it didn’t take long for Amitie to be named Princess Serena (since she already owned a white and black cat).  I chose to become Sailor Jupiter and Janet, likewise, was Sailor Venus.

We were ten years old when we started cosplaying Sailor Moon.  It followed naturally that we should assume the identity of our chosen Sailor Scout in our everyday life.  As Sailor Jupiter, I started collecting rose earrings (both pierced and clip-on), memorizing her montra, and wearing a ponytail everywhere I went.  When Halloween came around, I was anxious to wear her entire outfit.

Thanks to my mom’s hard work, the picture above depicts Janet and myself kneeling to our queen, Princess Serenity/Amitie (October 1995).  We may look a little silly, but I think our love for the show is evident.

Thanks for all the fond memories, Sailor Moon.

Anime Synopsis: Shinryaku! Ika Musume

Thursday, 28 October 2010, 8:00 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

English Title: Invasion!  Squid Girl

For generations, humanity has abused the seas and oceans, with little thought to the creatures living within.  Now, Squid Girl has emerged from the depths of the sea, ready to conquer humanity for its insolence.  Unfortunately for her, the task is far, far more difficult than she had anticipated (she’s dismayed to learn there’s over six billion of us), and for now she’d be happy to merely conquer one small seaside restaurant and the family that runs it.

The poor Squid Girl is naive, malicious and powerless all at once.  She gets increasingly frustrated that nobody will take her seriously, even though she’s far out of her league among even normal humans.  She makes for a great underdog villain, hopelessly outclassed but ever enthusiastic.  Her failures, though expected, make for solid comedy in the most fun show this season.

Anime Synopsis: Otome Yokai Zakuro

Friday, 22 October 2010, 8:01 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

English Title: Spirit Maiden Zakuro

During the Meiji era, humans and spirits coexist in an uneasy peace.  The spirits are increasingly annoyed that the humans have started taking on Western practices and forsaking their traditions, so the military creates a Ministry of Spirit Affairs to try to improve relations.  Three soldiers have been assigned to the Ministry, paired with four half-spirit women.  Pretty-boy lieutenant Agemaki Kei is matched with the lively Zakuro, despite his secret fear of all spirits.  While everyone else begins to adjust to their new working relationships, tension continues building between Kei and Zakuro, but they’ll have to learn to get along if the Ministry of Spirit Affairs is going to be successful.

If there is any one genre I have a bias towards, it’s probably the Shinto-style supernatural monster show.  A few examples of note: Spirited Away, Kamichu, Natsume Yuujinchou, Mushishi – all rooted in a romanticized Shinto worldview, and all quite entertaining.  The presence of so many odd creatures tends to lend these stories a sense of whimsy and wonder lacking in most shows.  This particular show has a significant shoujo romance aspect to it and appears likely to be a slowpaced, lighthearted tale about the growing relationship between Zakuro and Kei.

Fall 2010 Anime Recommendations

Friday, 22 October 2010, 8:00 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

With this latest batch of anime previews, we celebrate our first full year of Anime Recommendations!  Four seasons, twelve shows, and lots of quality!

Of note this season is an abundance of sequel series.  Most shows last only a single season, since they’re generally based on a pre-existing manga storyline.  The original season attempts to retell the original manga story, and when it’s over, there’s nothing left to cover (excluding the original Full Metal Alchemist).  This fall, ten different shows return with more episodes for anyone who enjoyed the earlier seasons.  Here’s a listing for convenience:

A Certain Magical Index (season three, if you count ‘A Certain Scientific Railgun’)
Arakawa Under the Bridge (previously highlighted on this site)
Battle Spirits
Hakuouki
Pokemon (barely counts – Pokemon is still a huge ongoing franchise)
Sora no Otoshimono
Super Robot Taisen (another ongoing franchise)
Tegami Bachi
To Love Ru
Yumeiro Patissiere

These shows are never considered for recommendation.  Anyone who didn’t enjoy the first season is unlikely to change their mind, and people who did enjoy the first season hardly need our recommendation.  With only three shows recommended per season, we’re going to focus only on the newest series.

Finally, a brief followup on a show we highlighted in February: Durarara!!

Having now watched the series to completion, I have to recommend it once again.  All the various characters interconnect in compelling ways, and even the simplest characters have more going on than first appears.  The headless rider is particularly interesting, as both the most supernatural individual in the series, and arguably the most humanized.  The ending feels incomplete, and I’m still hoping they’ll announce a second season this upcoming year, but the story is an interesting tale of friendship, community and conflict.  Two thumbs up!

Can There Be Only One?

Friday, 15 October 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

Back when Fanime was a small convention, located in the Santa Clara Convention Center, I crossplayed a character from Slayers, a series which was fairly popular for its time.  Amitie, Janet, and I completed a full group of Filia, Lina Inverse, and Zelgadis respectively.  It was our first official cosplay attempt and we were very excited with our coordination and craftsmanship–though, I assure you, it was amateur.

Throughout the weekend, we realized we weren’t the only convention attendees who wished to represent this series.  We stood in the dealer’s room line with another Lina Inverse.  I also recognized Xellos and Amelia, each of whom I considered interacting with (via roleplay), but inevitably decided against.  Since we did not have those specific characters in our group, I could see the benefits of inviting the “missing” characters to form a larger and more impressive cosplay group.

Alternatively, I was horrified by the presence of any doppelganger cosplay–in my case, any additional Zelgadis cosplayers.  I mean, I’m all up for merging into a large cosplay group, but only with characters that were currently absent from our group.  Perhaps it is my egotistical nature that refused to accept any competition, but somehow it felt like a violation to see my duplicate standing across from me in the same room.  I lean heavily towards the doppelganger myth that it is “an omen of death if one was ever to see their Doppelgänger” (Urban Dictionary).  Now, imagine how I felt when the said duplicate walked up to me and said, “How about we take a picture together?”  I couldn’t politely refuse.  What sane reason did I have, except to say, “There can’t be two of us!”  So I stood there while his friend took a picture of two Zelgadises standing side by side.  I ran away from my duplicate at the earliest opportunity.

I’d like to think that my behavior was a product of the convention atmosphere at the time.  Back in the day, Fanime did not organize and coordinate cosplay gatherings and cosplayers were seen more sparingly than today.  However, I also think that I’m just unreasonably minded.  Each of the other Slayer cosplayers seemed equally complacent to mingle with any and all Slayers characters in attendance.  Whenever Amitie, Janet, or I wandered too far from our small group, one of us would be “temporarily borrowed” by another Slayers group for a photo opportunity.  I remember finding a photo online with Amitie/Filia standing next to a different Lina Inverse and I thought, “Amitie shouldn’t be posing with that Lina!  She is with Janet!”  I’m sure my possessive nature is in contradiction with the current convention atmosphere-but hey, I really don’t want to GLOMP you either!

So what’s the lesson to be learned?  No matter how obscure is your costume, there is a good chance that there will be at least one other person in attendance cosplaying his or her own version.