2017 Update

Four months in, 2017 has thrown me some real curve balls so far, which has badly depleted a lot of my energy and motivation – but my cosplay builds are still miraculously crawling along.  I am going to get around to full posts for each project but for now, here’s a quick update on how things are going.

Empress Celene

Celene has fallen onto the back burner a bit recently, as I had to postpone my plans to go and make the ballgown.  That said, she now has a mask and a wig is on its way, so I’m going to have to get myself sorted out for dress making and fittings in May, otherwise my brother isn’t going to have an outfit to wear to the ball when The Calling comes around in June!

Celene mask

The other big task is going to be the lion’s head for the back of the dress, so I’ve been doing a few experiments with resin casting and need to find the time to actually sit down and make a clay master.

Lindiranae

My Emerald Knight is slowly but surely coming together.  I’ve finalised the embroidery design and started drafting patterns for the sewn garments.  Her foam armor pieces are pretty much ready for priming and painting – just the sabatons to build and a few tweaks to the breastplate, then I need to settle on which shades of paint I want to use.  I decided that I wasn’t happy with the foam scalemaille that I made for Mahariel, so I’ve been busy weaving chainmaille for Lindiranae’s sleeves, which is almost finished, and to remake Mahariel’s Regalia of Weisshaupt.

Other DA-related Stuff

A while back I booked an appointment to get another geeky tattoo and decided to get the Inquisition sigil just above my ankle, to balance out the Stark direwolf on my other leg.   I have a couple of other designs pretty much ready to go – I just need the funds and to decide exactly where I want to put them!

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Last month we went to MCM Birmingham and (after a few trips back and forth waiting for a quieter moment to queue) I got Gareth David-Lloyd to sign my Inquisition art book.  I’ve since started stalking the other voice actors’ Twitter and Facebook pages to see if we’re likely to get any of the others at relatively local conventions so that I can get the other character pages signed.

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Our next scheduled event is The Calling in June (UK Dragon Age fans, go check it out!) so I badly need to crack on!

Hunter Coat Arms – Part Two

 

After Wellingborough Museum’s Victorian day, I found myself with most of a pair of gloves and had the stitching finished off  couple of days later.IMAG1552

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It took me a ridiculously long time to talk myself into staining the leather.  I loved the natural colour and the contrast with the dark stitches, and I was really worried about finding that I hated the way they looked with a dark stain.  Finally, I decided that if I didn’t get on with it, they’d remain half-finished forever, so I psyched myself up, diluted the dye a little and sponged it on.

It took three coats to reach a shade I was happy with, then I applied two coats of leather conditioner every day for a week to help the dry leather to soften again.  The last job was to fit the studs and braid the loop-closures from embroidery thread, and I finally had a finished pair of gauntlets to go with my Inquisitor’s Hunter Coat.

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My next leatherworking project is to make a matching pair of boot covers, then I get to do it all over again in my “dragonscale” leather to make a set for my new coat!

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Hunter Coat Arms – Part One

Coat front

I knew when I started that I wanted to use the upgraded arms as my reference, but it was surprisingly difficult finding an image of the first layer of the gloves, with all of the detail visible.  I spent a ridiculous amount of time going through my (many, many) screenshot folders trying to hunt down a few good reference images and managed to make a few usable by lightening them to a ridiculous degree to make the stitching stand out.  The inner seam is fastened with six studs per arm, so I figured I’d make the gloves separately from the arm, make the shape of the arm from craft foam, cover the whole thing with faux-suede and sew the glove and sleeve together.

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Ta-da!  One pair of gloves and a pair of foam sleeves.  I was puzzling out whether to do the detailing as an extra layer of foam before covering it with fabric, or whether it would be better to sew the detail onto the fabric before finding a way of sticking it on (or better yet, making a slip cover for the foam) when I managed to get my hands on some decent leather (thanks, Mom!) and decided to take a completely different approach….

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Fabric test pattern
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Leather pieces cut to size

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My mother machine stitched the detailing, purely to save a bit of time, and then I spent most of Wellingborough Museum’s Victorian Day carefully hand-sewing the pieces together with linen thread.  I still have the left hand fingers to finish, then I can trim the inner edge down a bit, stain the leather and start fitting the studs along the seams.  Then I’ll decide whether to go for the straps and buttons of the un-upgraded version, or if I want to start figuring out how to do the cuff and cover to go over the top.

 

Superior Hunter Armor – Part One

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I spent hours looking at screenshots and trying to figure out what the leather armour underneath the Hunter coat actually looked like, so when Bioware added new casual outfits to Skyhold, I was ridiculously pleased that this was one of them!  I spent about a week taking screenshots and making sketches before settling on a pattern and it took me about three weeks to get it wearable for MCM Birmingham, even though it still needs a fair amount of work (and lots of buttons!) before it’s finished.  I tend to hand-sew as much as possible, partly because my sewing machine is ancient and prefers eating fabric to stitching it, but mostly because I find sewing by hand relaxing, so making anything takes me ten times longer than it actually needs to!

If I ever remake this, I don’t think I’ll go about construction in quite the same way again.  I knew that I was going to need to put a layer of wadding in it to give it some weight but I didn’t have any to hand and I didn’t want to keep putting it off until I could get a new roll delivered, so I started with the outer layer.

I think I spent twice as long doing the “decorative” stitching along the outside of the seams than I did putting it together.  Over-sized, messy stitches were surprisingly difficult – I tried to channel my inner Sera and imagine what her attempts at repairing her equipment might look like, but she must have been working really hard in tongue-sticking-out concentration to impress the fashion-conscious Madame de Fer!

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I managed to get the wadding and the lining fitted, and with a week to go I started panic-sewing the straps.  Although only six are visible on the front, I assume that a seventh is covered by Lavellan’s belt, and there are two on the lower back.  Fortunately, I was planning to wear it under my coat and wrap, so I figured I could get away with four in the interim, which I managed just in time for the con.

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I’m slowly but steadily working on the rest, so I’ve got three straps, some more decorative stitching and a shed-load of buttons to sculpt, but it’s coming together – hopefully I might have it done by the time our next convention rolls around!

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t think to take my coat off and get a picture of it at Birmingham, but I did get a post-con selfie!

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Firewalker Prowler Coat

Shrine of Mythal

Firewalker Prowler Coat - Front

This coat was my second love on my first play through and my Inquisitor wore it for the final battle (plus it looks phenomenal while galloping on nug-back across the Hinterlands!).  I was so pleased when I had killed enough dragons to be able to craft it.  It’s not the best piece of armour in my Inquisitor’s wardrobe any more, what with the DLC and updates that have come along since then, but it’s still one of my favourites.

Firewalker Prowler Coat

A few months back, my mom and I found some gorgeous leather that we thought would make a nice real-world analogue for dragon scales and it’s been waiting for an opportunity to start putting it together.

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It needs straps adding and about a million buttons but I’m really pleased with how it’s looking, and compared with my Superior Hunter Armor, it’s really light-weight which will be a plus for summer conventions!

Skyhold Casual – Part One

My Inquisitor’s casual Skyhold shirt has been the bane of my life for the last six months or so.  I’ve gone through three different patterns and multiple tweaks, and I think I have four versions of the shirt in varying stages of completion packed away in my sewing box, having discovered some fatal flaw with the fabric or the fit.  In October, I thought I was virtually finished.  I had painstakingly hand-sewn meters and meters of piping, sewn the body together, finished the bias tape around the hem and down the front, messed about with the edging for the armscye and my sleeves were ready to be sewn on.  And that’s when disaster struck.

All of the pieces fit perfectly individually, but once the sleeves were sewn onto the body, suddenly nothing came remotely close to fitting.  I took the sleeves off again, double checked the fit, pinned the sleeves on and after carefully checking again, I sewed the shirt back together… and it still didn’t fit. So I took it apart again, scratched my head in frustration and packed everything away in my craft box to take with me the next time I went to visit my mother.

My mum is a very talented seamstress and has a small business making re-enactment clothing and equipment so when I drove down to housesit for a few days, we had a look at the shirt together when she got home.  We decided to start from scratch – new fabric, new pattern, new bias tape and piping.

Everything seemed to be going well, until I came to attach the sleeves again.  The problem seemed to be exactly the same one that I’d had with the previous pattern and I couldn’t see any reason for it.  The pattern had been made to measure and the two of us had triple checked all of the measurements.  I had allowed a generous seam allowance so that the finished shirt wouldn’t be too form-fitting but also wouldn’t be a shapeless sack.  I couldn’t wrap my head around why the shirt fit so well without the sleeves, and the sleeves fit my arms perfectly while unattached or pinned on, but once sewn into place kept on causing problems.

I unpicked the sleeves yet again, double and triple checked that all of the parts fit nicely on their own, pinned the sleeves on and checked again.  Everything seemed fine, so I spent another evening stitching them back on only to find that the fit was even worse than before.  On the fourth attempt, I managed to achieve a fit that wasn’t perfect but also wasn’t causing the shirt to bunch up, and with November’s MCM Birmingham at the end of the week, I decided that it would have to do for the time being – I would enjoy myself at the convention and see if I could fix whatever the issue was before the next one.

As it turned out, I ran out of time and planned to spend the drive to Birmingham sewing the clasps and embellishments onto it, only to find that I had packed the shirt, the buttons and the clasps but my miniature sewing kit was missing in action!  I ended up wearing a blue long-sleeve tee-shirt under my Hunter coat instead, and while I had lots of kind comments, I was really disappointed.

Things got busy over the festive period and I got distracted by other projects, so I didn’t get the shirt out again until this week.  By some miracle I have managed to lose just over a stone in weight since my mum and I took the last set of measurements, so I could actually do with taking it in a little bit.  But the problem seems to have been that something somewhere in the sleeves must have been a fraction too tight and it was throwing the entire fit, which now appears to have resolved itself!

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Scale Maille – Part Three

I’ve finally finished the first piece of scale maille for my tabard, so tomorrow I’ll make a start on painting it and see how it turns out.  I did initially start by painting the individual scales, but they were too light for my airbrush (even with Blutac on the underside to weigh them down!)  and I kept dropping them when I tried hand-painting so I decided to have a go at painting them once they were secured together.

Cutting the scales is the most tedious part but the knitting goes surprisingly quickly.  I’ve got about 2ft 3in of maille and the knitting has taken me about six hours.  Don’t ask how long cutting out all the scales took!

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A number of people have asked for a guide to how I made it, so here’s my…

How to Knit Foam Scale Maille

I’m using A3 sheets of 2mm craft foam (about 80p each in HobbyCraft), 4.5mm needles and some navy blue yarn that I had left from an earlier project that’s a good match for my fabric.

I used an office holepunch for my first attempt at putting holes in the foam, but I found the scales weren’t really large enough to hide the hole and the yarn underneath, so I used my knitting needle instead to make a smaller hole, slightly further to the top.

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The foam only needs a little bit of heat before it will hold a slight curve. The pattern is four repeating rows so, for the narrow width I wanted for the Regalia of Weisshaupt, I worked on just enough scales to do a few rows at a time.

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As I want my maille to be narrow strips, I cast on seven stitches which has given me a width of two and a half inches. To give me a bit of length to secure the bottom of the strip to my tabard, I knit two rows before starting to add scales.

It’s ultimately a basic garter stitch with scales added every second row. You need two stitches to secure each scale, so the repeating pattern is:

  1. knit, scale, knit, scale, knit, scale, knit
  2. knit the whole row
  3. knit, knit, scale, knit, scale, knit, knit
  4. knit the whole row

Once the first stitch has been knitted, push the right needle through the next stitch as you would to make a new knit stitch, then slide a scale over the point, with the curve to the outside.  Loop the working yarn around the point of the right needle, then gently pull the needle tip and the working yarn back through the hole in the scale, and through the stitch on the left needle.  I found the foam ripped quite easily if I wasn’t careful here, so I lost a couple of scales while I found a technique that worked for me.  Secure the scale with the next stitch.

Once you reach the end of the first row (make sure it ends on a stitch, not a scale), knit the second row all the way across.  The third row will have scales on alternating stitches to row one, which gives the diagonal pattern.  Knit the first two stitches, then add a scale to the third.  Follow the pattern of scales and securing stitches until you reach the third stitch from the end of the row.  Add a scale to this one, secure with the next and add another knit stitch to finish the row.  Knit the entire fourth row.  Once four rows were done, I adjusted the scales slightly so that they lay how I wanted them.

That’s pretty much it.  Once you’ve reached the length you want, knit two rows before casting off.  The scales will move a little bit, so you can adjust them to sit neatly.

Painting begins tomorrow, so if it all goes horribly wrong I’ll have some pictures to share!