Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Addams Family Cosplay: Making a Doll Accessory

For my cosplay, I needed a very specific accessory. My character is sometimes seen carrying a headless doll, so I went to my local thrift store to find an appropriate doll. I found some plastic dolls at about the right size, but I dislike plasticky dolls, so I got this Cabbage Patch Kid (CPK) instead.

Growing up, my sister loved CPKs. She had at least 3 of those things. Me? I wasn't very much into dolls, preferring stuffed animals and action figures. Gleefully, I asked my Viking to decapitate it. He was more than happy to oblige.

The stitching on these are very amusing, from actual butt cheeks to a belly button. While the original CPK was dressed as a boy, this particular doll is getting a gender change. Luckily, it was already androgynous.

But, first, I had to ensure none of the inner stuffing came out. I made a red pillow to sit in the empty neck cavity as a "bloody neck stump".

I measured the circumference of the neck and used a protractor to draw out the circle (plus added seam allowance), and then stuffed it with fiberfill. I sewed my little round pillow right into the neck cavity. I might cut out some felt to simulate more of a cross-view of the neck, but that's for later.
For the costume, I used this pattern for the doll, plus I also used the adult version as a base for my costume with a lot of modifications.

Doll patterns are extremely small, but very quick to actually sew. There were only three pattern pieces for the doll's tunic. Unfortunately, because some of the pieces are so small, I also had to do a lot of handsewing, especially setting in those tiny, tiny little sleeves. Luckily, handsewing such small pieces is quicker, but it's still handsewing.

I also had to modify my doll pattern pieces a little bit, as the pattern was made for a shorter doll with skinnier arms. I had to lengthen the tunic as well as add additional width to the sleeves.

 Using left over scrap fabric from my costume, I finished the primarily tunic in an about 1.5 hours. (Yes, I already finished the primary costume, which I'll discuss more in another post!)

After I made the basic costume, I used my new skills at creating collars & cuffs.

I cheated a little bit on making proper cuffs and a collar, because, well, it's a doll and these pieces only need to look like the real thing and they are also sewn down to the tunic dress.

Afterwards, it was a matter of attaching buttons.

The last and final step for the doll is making the stockings. I picked up a cheap pair of tights at a local Japanese dollar store.

My Viking reminded to sew first, then cut. I pulled the tights onto the doll, and pinned the seam line, ensuring that there was negative ease (so as to get a nice stretch). After testing the new seam, I cut off the excess parts of the leggings.

As a nice bonus, I ended up getting a pair of long arm warmers. :-)

The final doll looks pretty darn good! She's missing shoes, but I'm going to scour the local thrift stores for something appropriate.

Viola! One finished doll accessory! Her name is Marie. :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Addams Family Cosplay: Making Separate Collars & Cuffs

I'm starting a new cosplay (sooper seekrit stuff). My costume requires separate collars and cuffs, so I'm learning how to make them.

Separate collars and cuffs were developed  (read the history) in the late 1800s by a beleaguered housewife who didn't like having to deal with the "ring-around-the-collar" of her husband's shirt. They were used extensively throughout the Victorian era and persisted until just after WWI.

So, I got out my books and my drafting tools -- protractor, French curve, rule, and a pencil, as well as looking things up on the Internet.

First, I made a paper mockup of how I thought I wanted the collar to look on my costume. When I had an approximation of the correct angles, I started to draft.

The Burda website (link below) was probably the most useful on how to draft a collar, and walks you through creating a collar stand and actual collar using the measurements for your shirt.

I had to make several different versions of the collar with various "angles" to see which one would actually lay correctly on the costume. The steeper the angle, the more the points of the collar flare out (think 1970's collars), so I went with a fairly sedate angle of 7 degrees.

While making the 2-3 mockups of the collar, I learned a few things:

Tip 1: One of the keys to getting a really nice crisp edges and points is to make sure to press it well, which can be hard, but this tailor board really helps in pressing those hard-to-reach places.

For example, using the "tip" of the tailor board, I can effectively press the fabric down. so that points are easily pressed.

Tip 2: It also helps to sew and press only one seam at a time. For example, for the above collar, I seamed the top of the collar first, pressed, then did the side seams.

Tip 3: Use a point turner to help turn the points and to press the seams.

You eventually get a nicely turned collar.

For this cosplay, the collar didn't need to be super stiff so I used only a light interfacing on the collar. The rest of the stiffness comes from the linen.

Then it was onto the cuffs, which required a similar, but different design. This piece was a bit harder, as I couldn't find a lot of information. At first, I tried to actually make the cuffs just like the collar (in two separate pieces), but the mockups didn't look right. The cuffs shouldn't have that middle seam.

After ruminating on it for a day or two, I turned to for the book,  The Cutter's Practical Guide 1893-1898 by W. D. F. Vincent, which had some good illustrations of the various types of cuff and collars, which was extremely helpful! (Cuffs are the bottom 3 illustrations).

I took the cuff pattern pieces I made, which was close to how I wanted it to look, and combined the two of them, aligning them at the bottom seam allowance.

Here are the mocks (from bottom to top), the collar, the first attempt at the cuff, to the final version of the cuff.

The final mockup looked pretty darn good, so I made the final ones in my linen.

Normally, cuffs and collars are buttoned into the piece of clothing and have button holes created for them. However, I decided to not use that function, but instead opted to carefully tack down the collar and cuffs for a slightly permanent fixture so that I wouldn't have any wardrobe malfunctions on stage.

More on this cosplay at a later date.

Resource Links:

Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: Dragonscale Handbag of Holding from ThinkGeek

I have a small bag fetish. I love bags of all sorts, and I started lusting after ThinkGeek's Dragonscale Handbag of Holding the moment I saw it. After all, it was red; it had "dragonscales", and it was a bag of holding. What more could a geek girl want?!?!

So, when it went on sale just before Christmas (at 40% off), I ordered it as a gift for myself. When it arrived in the mail, I was squee'ing with joy!  But I wanted to really test drive this bag thoroughly before I could give my opinion of it in any sort of review. I need a bag to not only look stylish but be functional as well. I was hoping that this would be the perfect bag that would carry everything I needed on a daily basis.

Here it is right out of the box.

I loved the red, the dragonscale patterning, and the D20 embossing. This bag is really beautiful. I'm usually not a fan of polyurethane fabric (i.e. vegan leather), but I liked how this looked. Also, I didn't notice any off-gassing from the fabric, which can happen with polyurethane.

When you pick up the bag for the first time, you'll notice is that this bag is heavy! When completely empty, it weighs 2.2lbs. This fact wasn't a complete deal breaker for me as I have leather bags which can also be heavy, but it might be an issue for some people. This empty weight is about on par (if not more so) with a real leather bag.

The other thing you notice is that this bag has a TON of pockets. There are so many pockets that you might lose your stuff because you can't remember which pocket something was placed, which might have happened to me a couple of times....

The front has two pockets with magnetic closures. These are good for those things you might need immediately (phone, small notebook, pens, keys, small dice bag, energy bar, etc).

There are front and back "slide" pockets with inner handy zippers. So, if you just need to put things like papers, receipts, or random crap, you can do that here.

The inside of the bag has even MORE pockets. It's divided into three sections by a middle zippered pocket.

One side has separated pockets -- for wallet, small field notebooks, pens, sunglasses, etc.

The other divider has another zippered pocket and key chain holder so you don't lose your keys. (I particularly like this feature, especially since I always find myself digging around the bottom of my bag for keys.)

The bag has these "side" pockets, which are supposed to be for water bottles or something. However, these pockets are too small for a water bottle or travel mug. I tried putting in a sunglass case, but had to really shove it in there to make it work well. These side pockets are only useful for putting in your phone or something small and flat.

The first few times I carried this bag around, I got a ton of compliments on it from friends and co-workers (especially the geeky ones), but a bag is more than just a sum of its compliments or its components. It needs to be functional and carry around everything that I need.

Here's what I tend to carry around on a daily basis:
  1. Crafty projects (1-2 knitting projects, ranging from socks to a sweater or shawl). 
  2. Small container of crafting accessories (darning needles, stitch markers, pair of small scissors, etc.)
  3. Tea mug or a water bottle.
  4. Work laptop (during the week) or iPad mini (during the weekends), 
  5. Small stuff -- wallet, sunglasses, keys, eye drops, lip balm
  6. Snacks -- Usually an energy bar or small bag of nuts.
  7. Shawl / fingerless gloves
  8. Assorted paperwork (for work) or books (during non-working days).
Top to bottom / Left to right: Medium knitting project, small knitting project, Color Affection Shawl, Contigo Tea Mug, sunglass case, wallet, eye drops, lip balm, pen/pencils, notebook, laptop paper, keys, small crafting accessories. (Cat not included)

So, how did this bag hold up after 5 months of usage? It did "okay". It wasn't bad, it wasn't great, but it wasn't the "perfect" bag that I had hoped.

  • Beautiful color. Lovely patterning. It's eye catching and you will get compliments on this bag.
  • Lots of pocketesses, especially if you have a lot of little things you want to carry.
  • The grey of the inside pockets lets you see everything quite clearly.
  • Covertly geeky.
So-So (not good, not bad):
  • Bag doesn't stand up on its own. It tends to fall over unless it's completely full.
  • Heavy when empty at 2.2lbs
  • VERY heavy when full of stuff.
  • Can't fit a medium to large knitting project into the bag. (Explained below)
  • Mostly useless side pockets.
  • Straps (both shoulder and handles) aren't grippy and will slip off your shoulders.
This handbag of holding CAN hold quite a bit of stuff. However, it also becomes extremely heavy very quickly. I tried using it as my daily bag, but couldn't fit everything that I needed without the bag becoming much too heavy and big for  me to carry around comfortably.

The fully closed bag looks like a a small pregnant dragon. I really can't fit anymore into this bag without being able to close it or being too heavy. The 13" laptop fits into this bag beautifully. However, I'm not sure if I could fit a bigger laptop into it.

When fully loaded, the bag is big and bulky. I have to use the handles because the shoulder strap slips off my shoulder if I don't carry it messenger style. As it is, even the handles slip off my shoulders regardless of the weight.

Also, the shoulder strap is not very comfortable wearing across your body (ala messenger bag) if the bag was full. The straps dug into my shoulder and back. Other reviewers complained that the strap broke easily, but I hadn't had that problem. I thought about replacing the shoulder strap with something more ergonomically correct, but it wouldn't match the bag (and yes, that is a consideration!)

If I only carried a smaller knitting project (i.e. socks), the bag no longer looked like a small pregnant dragon and the lines of the bag are restored.  Less bulk means that it's easier to carry.

Photos of bag minus the medium knitting project


What you carry in this bag really does make a difference in how heavy and bulky it can get, which is true of any bag, but especially THIS bag.

Left photo: Fully loaded with all the items.
Right photo: Removed one medium sized knitting project.

The bulkier the bag, the harder it is to carry.
Left photo: Fully loaded with all the items.
Right photo: Removed one medium sized knitting project.

If I wanted to carry a bigger knitting project, I would have to forgo any laptop, books, etc.. With my current carry, the lines of the bag are already distorted. Stuffing a half-finished sweater into this bag made it look like a large pregnant dragon. As a crafter, the ability to carry only one small knitting project is a big disadvantage in any bag.


Overall, this handbag of holding is only a "quasi" handbag of holding. It does hold a lot, but be prepared to carry around a heavy boulder on your shoulder because of it.  For me, it's uses are limited.

  • As a crafter's bag? This bag is a poor choice if you want something geeky, stylish, and will carry your crafty projects with you.
  • For a convention-bag? This bag is also a poor choice. Due to the weight issue, it was obvious that this bag would be much too heavy to carry around a convention filled with all the con-necessities (extra water, snacks, etc) AND any purchases.
  • As a work / laptop bag or even a gamer bag?  This bag is an okay choice. I began using it more as a work bag where I could carry my work laptop, papers, etc., that I needed for work. For that purpose, the bag worked just fine.  If you have a bigger laptop than mine, you might find it hard to squeeze it into this bag.  Any gaming books, character sheets, dice, etc., can fit into this bag without issue. However, I ended up also carrying another bag for more personal items, including my knitting projects. 
If you're planning on simply carrying your gear from point A to point B (like from your house to your gaming location or to work), then this bag should work well enough for you --- pack your stuff, carry to your location, unpack it. The end.

However, if you plan on carrying a lot of stuff around for hours on end (like a convention) or just as your day-to-day bag, then I would find a much better bag to suit your needs than this one because of the weight & bulk issues and how the straps slide off your shoulders.

For myself, as much as I love the look of this bag, it is not utilitarian enough for me to use it on an every day basis as my "go-to" bag.

I found another bag for that, and will probably either sell or gift this to a friend who might find it more useful than me. (More on that other bag later...)