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Cosplay Closes out Fiber Arts Hangout at Bennett Drive FamilLab

Dateline: Sunday, 01/28/24

The Cosplay curious came out Sunday, January 28, 2024, from 3-5 p.m. for a presentation on Cosplay, from Idea to Iteration, by Aleysha Arce.[1]


Cosplay workshop flyer

She covered:

  1. Deciding on what to build: How to choose what to create, from multiple awesome ideas.  Key factors

a. Be Creative!  Cosplay doesn’t mean you have to re-create the Hollywood or anime version of a character, though many cosplayers take great pride in how perfectly they can match what the Costume Designers have done.  You can always do your own interpretation, improvising to simplify or to account for the materials you have access to.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and do mash ups.  Aleysha used examples from her cosplay creations of a “Steam Punk Elsa” (from “Frozen”), a Sith Elsa, and a Jedi Belle (“Beauty and the Beast.”)

Steam Punk Elsa

b. Challenge yourself, but don’t bite off more than you can chew; that leads to frustration, and unfinished projects hidden in the back of your closet.

c. Time Management and Balance: Be aware of how much time each part of the build will take and be realistic about the time required.  (Beware the Planning Fallacy)!  Don’t let the build consume your entire life – take the time to balance out work, family, friends, and other responsibilities and activities.

2. Research, research, research: Finding photos, from multiple angles, of your chosen costume, information about what the original Hollywood version was made with (if there is one), and what other cosplayers have used to create their versions.

3. Figure out your budget and make a list of all materials and tools needed for each part of your make.  Adjust materials based on how much you can spend.

Aleysha introduced us to a wonderful resource, called “Cosplanner,” that helps you organize each item needed for the costume, your budget for each, how much you spent on each, and after you finish each piece you can check it off your list and see easily what is still left to do.

4. Shopping! Get all the fabric, thread, notions, and prop materials you need.  What you can get from Second Market Shopping (thrift stores, etc.), and what you need to go to JoAnne’s, Michaels, and local fabric stores for.

Aleysha recommends shopping locally.  She prefers buying fabrics in person, rather than online, because she likes to see and touch the fabric, get a sense for how it moves and flows, or its stiffness. One local store with specialty fabrics is the Sewing Studio.

Aleysha also recommended Worbla (“non-toxic, easy to use thermoplastic that allows you to make costumes, props and accessories that are lightweight and durable!”)  For less expensive foam, she uses EVA foam.  For fabric paint, Aleysha loves Fabrica acrylics.

Worbla - (“non-toxic, easy to use thermoplastic that allows you to make costumes, props and accessories that are lightweight and durable!” EVA Foam Fabrica acrylic paint

For contacts, and other cosplay makeup items, she recommends TTDeye.

5. Toolbox.  What machines and hand tools to always have in your tool kit, and best choices for assembly.  (Have glue gun, will travel)!

a. Sewing machine: Aleysha started on a little Pixie, when she was 12, that had limitations on what it was capable of.  Now she has a Singer that can manage many more kinds of fabrics and has a lot more stitches it can do!

Pixie (Singer) Sewing Machine

b. Hot glue gun: Aleysha always carries a hot glue gun with her to events, and it is a must-have for fast and unexpected repairs.  This is one of the tools that made it possible for Aleysha to help set up a Cosplay repair booth at events.

Hot Glue gun

c. Heat gun:  This is used to melt foams and plastics into shape for armor and for seamless joins (the Worbla is great, she says, because it can be heated until a seam or join blends in and disappears).

Heat gun

6. Plan out which piece to start with, work out how to build it, and practice with cotton muslin or cardboard until you’re sure you know how to put it together with your expensive materials, and that everything fits well.

a. Aleysha advises that you know what you are making, first.  Solidify your vision of your finished product.

b. Patterns!  There are numerous sewing patterns available for various costumes and costume pieces.  But if you don’t buy a pattern, you can use:

c. Paper and tape!  For example, Aleysha taught us how to use Duct tape to make a form for a pattern, by having a friend wrap you tightly in duct tape (over an old t-shirt you are okay with cutting) and using that as the initial pattern shape for a corset.  But the best tip she gave was something I’d never heard of before: stuffing and otherwise filling in that form, to make an adjustable dress-maker’s dummy to measure your costume pieces against, and assemble them to see how they lay, and how they fit together.  Since store-bought adjustable dummies cost several hundred dollars, this is a great idea!

d. Tutorials: YouTube is your friend!  Look at what other Cosplayers have done and find their explanations and demonstrations of specific pieces and techniques, especially if you get stuck. She recommends this Cosplay Tutorial.

e. Swap tasks: don’t get overwhelmed!  If you do get stuck and frustrated, don’t keep trying.  Move on to another piece of the project to take a breather, and go back to finish the frustrating task later, so you can come back to it fresh.

f. Reach out to other, more experienced Cosplayers for help and advice.  The Cosplay community is remarkably open to sharing and helping.  Aleysha invited us to message her at her Facebook page if we need help. Aleysha’s friend, Lorentz, is also a great resource.

7. Assembly: Once each piece is finished, put it all together, and adjust until everything works properly.  Aleysha recommends giving yourself plenty of time before the target event, to fix potential problems, to test your costume and props over time and various circumstances (sitting, standing, walking around) and to make sure everything fits and works the way you want it to.

8. Finishing touches: Painting and detail work, to make it look perfect.  She shared some of the detail pieces that she made for various costumes, that helped really make the finished piece pop.

9. Troubleshooting: At each of the above steps, how to work out what to do when you’re stuck, or when something isn’t working right, or you make a mistake.  Hot glue, duct tape, and fabric tape are important to keep handy for fast fixes on the spot.[1]  Remember, You Tube and Google are your friends, and Cosplayers as a community are always more than happy to talk about their work, tell you how they did their version, and offer advice on how to fix your cosplay issues.  Reach out!  And take heart – everything has a solution.

10. Show off!  Wearing your creation at Halloween parties, Comicon et al. conventions, special events, entertaining at children’s hospitals, and anywhere else you can find an excuse to be “in character,” (all while planning out your next project)!

Megacon was this past weekend, February 1-4, 2024 – if you missed it, and don’t already have a costume for the next convention, go to whatever cosplay events and conventions you have access to, to see all the wonderful things other people have created. Get inspired for the next con, or for Megacon next year, and get building!

Aleysha's Cosplay comparison to original

Conclusion

Aleysha stressed how important it is to have a resource like Familab, where you can reach out to other Cosplayers and crafters of varying kinds to assist with the parts of the project that are not your forte.  The way she described the cooperative nature of her builds, was as a circle of makers who each had their strengths and skills.

She would frequently outsource the making of one or another piece of her costume or props to someone else good at that type of build, or who had the necessary skill to make it, in exchange for helping that person with their costume, doing the parts she was good at that they couldn’t do.  Everyone helped everyone else in making their Cosplays, so each costume was truly a community effort.  That’s exactly the kind of cooperative atmosphere Familab encourages!

See Aleysha’s full presentation here:


[1]  Aleysha Arce has been cosplaying for over 19 years, making her own costumes since the age of 12 and acting as a Judge for multiple conventions in Puerto Rico.  You can find her Cosplay Facebook page at Is Masker.

[2]  Aleysha also helped start, and used to staff, a booth at conventions for “Cosplay Repair,” helping other cosplayers when they would have a wardrobe malfunction.

Vivienne

I started in fiber arts with knitting, when I was 8. Over more than 4 decades since, I've added crochet, embroidery, applique, needlepoint, quilting, machine sewing (including costuming), spinning (with a drop spindle), weaving (with a table loom), and other skills. Dana recently got me into 3D printing, and one of our first projects together was the swift and winder for my friend Brielle that I will be blogging about. Next, I've found the files for a 3D printed spinning wheel I want to make. Brielle wants a 3D printed sock machine, next, so we may end up starting our own fiber-processing cottage industry! >D

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