Thursday, October 31, 2013

Important tools in a seamstress' arsenal: numbah 1 (and a little catch-up)

Firstly, dear readers, let me say that I am so grateful to you all for sticking with me through my two-week absence and my last attempted post. There will be a short version (tl;dr for those more versed in chatspeak) and a long explanation version of what's going on in my life at the bottom of this post.

For now, my loves, we'll turn our attention to cosplay! I'd like to point out a tool that those newer to sewing don't always know they should have in their arsenal:

This is the seam ripper I have!
It's served me well. Link is the
image's source.
The seam ripper! I'll admit, when I first started getting tools for my newest addiction hobby, I didn't think I needed a seam ripper. I mean, I'm trying to sew things, not rip up the stuff I sewed! Right? Wasn't long before I proved myself wrong on that particular opinion. I sewed a seam on my Howl shirt far too long and had to rip part of it out, which broke my little amateur heart. I've sewn many seams since then that I've had to rip out for one reason or another, whether it be that the fabric puckered, I sewed the wrong two pieces together, the finished product fit too snugly, or I sewed it to my own pants. (That last has happened on several occasions, but only while hand-sewing.) Seam rippers are essential to the inventory of any seamstress or gentleman seamster.

Things to consider when purchasing a seam ripper:
  • They can come very cheap. The one pictured on the side can be found at the link provided for $3.65 at the time of this posting. A quick search of JoAnn's website found the same seam ripper normally listed at $3.79 but currently on sale for $1.89. They range up and down the scale from the prices listed. Shop carefully!
  • Many have special features designed to make them more comfortable...but really, do you need all that special stuff? I've seen them with comfort grips, padding, all sorts of things. If that's important to you, then by all means, find a tricked-out seam ripper! For me personally, it's best to go simple.
  • Seam rippers also come with a variety of features meant to make them more effective. These range from built-in lights to folding to having an attached magnifying glass. (All of those referenced can be found with a quick search for "seam ripper" on JoAnn's website. Click through a page or two. You'll find them.) If these things are important to you, go for it! Just remember that when you're in a hurry, you may find that magnifying glass gets in your way rather than helps you see the seam, or that the battery on the light goes out and you have a horrid time trying to replace it. Extra bells and whistles, while shiny and wonderful and nice, also increase the number of ways something can go wrong. Bear that in mind.
  • They range in size from a couple of inches to scissor-sized. I find the tiny ones too small to be comfortable and prefer my larger, fits-in-my-hand seam ripper. If you're going to be ripping out long seams but also trying to get in tight places, you might want to consider getting a large and a small seam ripper. I like my mid-size perfectly fine, but that's just me. 
And that's about it! Seam rippers are, for the most part, simple. If you don't have one in your arsenal, I strongly recommend acquiring one (or three - backups are also a good idea if you lose things easily) - you won't regret it. I do believe you'll find yourself using it quite often, too!

Now, dear readers, for the catch-up!

Short version (tl;dr): We put my horse Stinger down two weeks ago Monday. I'd had him over ten years and I mourned him before and after I lost him. I'm still mourning him. The week preceding was a very difficult time. I also started a new job this Monday (four days ago) as a Course Editor! This is very good, happy news, and though I'm adjusting, I'm very happy about it! Also, J-Jo Cosplay, my partner in crime and a master of mayhem, spontaneously decided to take a bus to visit me on Friday and just went home today.

Long version: Three weeks ago this weekend, my horse Stinger's condition started to deteriorate. As mentioned before, he's struggled with cancer in the past and was being treated for it at the time. Last Sunday I noticed that his left hind leg, which he'd been favoring for a while, was significantly swollen and the swelling was fairly firm. This boded ill. I called a different vet and got a second opinion since I already knew what the original vet would say. She gave me the verdict that the swelling resulted from lymphatic drainage and the firmness of it meant it could not be reversed. She gave me options, but none included any real long-term improvement. I made the difficult decision to make him as comfortable as possible for a week and at the end of that time put him down. During that week I cried daily and went through all the stages of grief. It was...rough. I couldn't see past the day we'd put him down. I just walked in a haze of pain and crying. I didn't want to lose him and I couldn't imagine life without him. When Monday rolled around at last, I cried several times that day. My family and friends rallied around me both in person and online. Without their support I would have been lost and floundering. One friend spent the day with me and we watched a movie and gamed some. It still hurt, but I could see forward again. On Wednesday I received a phone call from a lady with whom I'd interviewed a few weeks prior. She offered me a position as a Course Editor, which I naturally jumped on! She said I'd be starting this Monday, which was fine with me though there was a bit of job overlap. J-Jo Cosplay decided to hop on a bus and come visit me because she's wonderful and wanted to make sure I was okay and cheered up, so I picked her up from the bus station Friday. She's been with me through today and on Monday we had an impromptu photoshoot with my Belle cosplay (cape included) out behind my house. She outsourced the editing to the incredible HS Media Cosplay Photography and Videography as a Christmas present to me (her birthday presents to me were incredible too), and even though the shoot was far darker than optimal conditions, several photos came out fairly well! I need to work on expressions more for future photos, however, as I'm far from satisfied with my own expressions in the shots. Still, J-Jo did an amazing job, as did HS! Again, dearest readers, thank you so much for sticking with me and being here for this blog post. I appreciate your patience and loyalty! The update schedule may be changing due to my new job, but that's not for sure yet. I'll keep you all updated.

Here's a little teaser from the shoot for you beloved folks.
HS Media Cosplay Photography and Videography here:
J-Jo Cosplay:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blog post forthcoming!

Sorry it's not up on time, dear readers. As some of you know, I've had a lot of....stuff going on. I'll tell you more tomorrow when I've got the post done, and I'm so sorry for the wait.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cosplaying on a budget?

So am I!

Cosplaying on a budget can be hard. I know, I'm on a pretty darn tight budget. I work as a server at the local Olive Garden. I make good money some nights, okay money some nights, and downright poor money some nights. It all leads to an extremely variable income, also very dependent on what nights I'm scheduled to work. So I have a slim budget that changes week to week and no shortage of cosplay goals and projects. I'm no expert at cosplaying on a budget, but I will gladly pass on some tips and tricks gleaned from my own experiences!

  • Plan ahead. I know, I know, you just had to do that character from that one series for the con that's in two weeks so you just couldn't plan ahead! That's all well and good, and you might be able to do it cheaply. But when you can do so, I STRONGLY recommend planning the cosplays in your lineup well in advance. This way you have more time to scout, plot, shop sales, etc. After all, if you can purchase something at half price, there's no sense in rushing and buying it at full price.
  • Connect with your local fabric store. Most fabric stores have newsletters you can sign up for. My local JoAnn's sends me coupons and sale notifications in the mail, via email, and via text. All of these have helped me keep track of sales and purchase fabrics and materials as inexpensively as possible. Unless what you're buying is cheap anyway, always use coupons when you can. I just bought 5 yards of a dark blue micro-suede fabric for 40% off because I shopped sales. If I hadn't done that, the darn fabric probably would have broken the bank. Oh, and the fabric for my Belle cloak? 50% off because I stumbled upon a sale. It's so worth it, and if you've planned ahead, you'll have time to shop sales and wait to purchase fabrics until your coupons take effect.
  • Check out Goodwill. Sometimes you won't believe the things they have at Goodwill! If you're planning a modern cosplay, Goodwill is especially useful. I bought all the pieces for my Murasame cosplay (other than the wig) for less than $10. (The wig itself was a lucky find on ebay for $18.) That's far cheaper than making it myself. Additionally, check Goodwill for fabric options. They sometimes have bolts of fabric and don't realize just how valuable what they have really is, so sell it for cheap. Also, if you see a shirt with fabric you really like at Goodwill, why not buy it and use it for fabric scraps? If you're on a budget, you have to think creatively. And remember that since Goodwill is funded by donations, different Goodwills will have different stock. Check more than one for the best chance of finding what you need.
  • Always carry reference images when looking at fabric. This isn't as important with characters like Murasame, who doesn't have an in-color reference available. But for characters like Belle, or Tulio, or anyone who has multiple in-color references, you need to make sure you're buying the correct color of fabric the first time. I bought several yards of the wrong color fabric for Belle the first time and had to buy more. Luckily I wasn't on quite as tight a budget then, but that still wasn't an expense I needed.
  • Measure twice, cut once. Why does this point belong in tips for cosplaying on a budget? Simple! If you cut before making certain of your measurements, you run the risk of ruining the fabric beyond repair and forcing yourself to purchase more. If you're cosplaying on a budget, you probably can't spare the extra expense. And remember, it's ALWAYS better to make something too big than too small. You can always hem it shorter, or sew it a bit tighter, but adding material? That's far more difficult and can look downright awkward. So always double-check your measurements before you cut! 
These are definitely not all the ways to save when cosplaying on a budget, but I hope these tips will help those of you on budgets like me to save some money where you can! Now if you lovely, dear readers will excuse me, I'm going to actually eat lunch. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Good evening, dear readers! In this week's blog post I want to talk about procrastination.....the very thing that caused this blog post to be so late.

It's the bane of all of us, from cosplayers to writers to students to professionals. Across the board people struggle with procrastination. It drives us nuts and drives the people around us nuts as they can't figure out why we're not just starting on that project already. I certainly haven't figured out how to destroy my habit of procrastination, but for this week's blog post, I want to look at the roots of procrastination and give some tips that have helped me combat it.

1. The root of procrastination is not laziness. I've seen different theories about the roots of procrastination. This article, using Netflix as an example, points out that people go for instant gratification over long-term planning. Is it instantly gratifying to start that project you know will take weeks to accomplish? No, it's way more instantly gratifying to start playing a video game or watch an episode of Family Guy. And as this article says, procrastination is "a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth." I strongly recommend reading the article, especially skipping down to the section titled "The real causes of procrastination." It goes on to say that, for procrastinators, failure and criticism are very painful, and the prospect of encountering either one makes the procrastinator hesitate to do anything reflecting his or her abilities. In a nutshell, procrastinators are often perfectionists and hesitate to start for fear of messing something up. 

2. Find the root of your procrastination. I procrastinated doing this blog post because I couldn't figure out what to write about. I discarded topic after topic after topic, pushing most into the realm of the future because I thought "How in the world could I possibly tackle that? I'm not ready. I'm not good enough." I read over the posts I've made already and cringed, nitpicking details and seeing mistakes that may or may not even be there. I thought, "If I tackle this or this, I'll muck it up. If I write about this, I'll just be ranting. If I work with this, no one will find it interesting. If I go this route, I'll bore everyone to tears - including myself! What can I do???" The root of my procrastination with many cosplay-related issues is the fear that some sloppy stitch will be seen, or that I'll cut this wrong, or I'll pin it wrong, and it will be a failure. I don't want to mess it up, and - even worse! - I have money invested in it. 

3. You found the root of your procrastination. Now tackle it! Remember the bodice I made for Belle? I was TERRIFIED of making that bodice. I had to work with boning, and interfacing, and bias tape, and all these things with which I had NO experience. I just knew I was going to suck at it and ruin it. So, I bought twice the amount of almost everything that I needed. No embarrassing trips back to the fabric store. And then I told myself the inner lining and interfacing shell wouldn't be seen by the world. Pfft, it's always hidden by being against my body, and the absolute inside of it won't be seen ever once I sew the outer shell on! So I could make that part without fear of failure, because the only one who'd ever know was me. No one else ever had to see or know I'd messed up if I did. I was able to do that. Then with the outer shell, all the stitches were on the inside. They wouldn't be seen either! In this way, I talked myself through each step and convinced myself there was nothing to worry about one piece at a time. 

4. Buddy system. What honestly helps me the most is being with someone else who is working on something creativity-oriented. I can hold them accountable, and they can hold me accountable. I like to sew with friends because it helps me actually get stuff done and not just re-watch an episode of Ouran on my laptop. It also helps, if you can't have a friend physically there, to just call and talk to them on the phone, or message them online, or something like that. You can have them text you every so-often to ask if you're working on your project. It doesn't fix the problem, but it helps. My sewing goddess - you know who you are - is my biggest resource. If she says "Have you finished this?" and I have to shuffle my feet and say "Erm....well no, I mean I got distracted....." then I feel terribly guilty and I start work on it promptly. Being around her helps me get things done. I sewed almost my entire Belle skirt while I was with her because she is my security net when it comes to cosplay. I felt like I'd be okay as long as I was with her because she could help me if I ran into a snag. 

5. Plan ahead. Yes, planning can be a form of procrastination. I know it, because I do it. But I find that if I plan that I will cut all my fabric on Wednesday and I force myself to stick to that plan, I am able to be productive. If I let myself slide by, I'm met with more guilt than before. If you plan to meet a friend and sew all day, then you have another person to hold you to your goals, and you know in advance that you'll be working on the project that day. Routine sometimes helps as well. Getting in the habit of working on something during a particular part of the day, every day, can help ensure that at least a little of it gets done. Additionally, if you start well in advance, your procrastination won't do as much harm. I started on my Belle bodice six months before Otakon and often procrastinated for several weeks at a time, but it got done way in advance. 

6. Don't let yourself slide. If you plan to work on something a particular day, put all the fail-safe measures you can in place and have a friend hold you accountable. Don't brush it off unless an emergency comes up. And no, an emergency is not "Ehhhhh I just wasn't feeling it." That doesn't count folks, sorry. (Also, "Oh my gosh this movie will only be on Netflix today!" doesn't count as one either.)

7. Know that you're not in this alone. Procrastination is something that many people suffer from, and it's a serious problem. Procrastination, perfectionism, feeling inferior - these are universal things. You're not the only one. If nothing else, there's me, fighting procrastination daily. 

So, dear readers, it is with this that I must leave you. Remember that it is in understanding the enemy that we take the first step in besting him, and we are one step closer to understanding and besting this opponent. We will fight procrastination together! And in all honesty, I fight this battle daily. I'm a perfectionist. I was a very smart kid, got straight A's without trying through high school, graduated valedictorian of my class with a 4.0 GPA, and was punished for getting C's on tests and quizzes. I grew to hate failing and having anyone disappointed in me. I'm terrified of not living up to the expectations of others. I bolt rather than facing that I've hurt someone I love because I can't deal with the fact that I'm not as perfect of a friend as I want to be. So I put off starting things because I don't want to mess them up. I don't want to screw up something that really matters to me. I love sewing, and crocheting, and writing. But I hesitate to start things because I don't want to fail. You're not alone. I fight this battle too. Tonight, I may have only won by a slim margin, but I still won. This post is up. You're reading it. And hopefully, you're a little better armed than you were before. Good night, dear readers, and good luck.