Six Rules for Homemade CosPlay Costume Designing

Another PAX East gaming convention has come and gone, and now that the caffeine and sugar has filtered out of the system, it’s time to start looking ahead to next year. Or better yet, Halloween which is much closer! One of the fun, unique elements to PAX are the cosplay costumes that attendees wear. It’s a chance to embrace a favorite character and have fun with others who share your interests. But cosplay can quickly get expensive.

Not everyone can afford to spend $300-1,000 on a costume, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on the fun. Homemade costumes offer a more cost-effective alternative without compromising originality. Before you get overwhelmed, it’s important to keep a few rules in mind:

1.  Break down the costume’s design into manageable parts.

This is key to not feeling overwhelmed during creation. Rather than looking at the costume as a whole, look at is a grouping of multiple parts. Then take the parts, one at a time, and construct them at your own pace. I like to use my sketchbook to help work through ideas. If a costume requires a tunic and gloves, I’ll sketch a design out on separate pages. It becomes more manageable this way, and then I’m less likely to feel overwhelmed. Always try to avoid this feeling, because feeling overwhelmed is closely linked to self-doubt, and that’s definitely not an emotion you want to feel.

2.  Don’t get hung up on perfection.

Unless you’re already employed as a painter, designer, or a tailor, don’t get hung up on perfection. This can easily become another enemy that leads to self-doubt. Use the skills you do have, and improve on them, but don’t beat yourself up if your stitches aren’t in a perfect straight line or the paint you’ve mixed isn’t the same exact shade of blue. Chances are, what may be a glaring error to you will go completely unnoticed by others. Cut yourself some slack, pat yourself on the back for working your creative muscles, and continue without the self-depcriating thoughts. You’ll be glad you did when it all comes together.

3.  Allow yourself time to be creative.

Starting an elaborate costume the weekend before an event might not be the smartest decision. In order to avoid undue stress or panic, give yourself time to chip away at your costume, rather than rushing to get it done. It’ll give you a better chance to focus on your ideas and bring them to fruition.

4.  Improvise and disguise.

Masters of any craft are not the ones who perform the task perfectly, but are rather the most adept at correcting or hiding their mistakes. So you forgot to buy enough fabric to make that cross-body strap? The back of the costume will be obscured by a cape anyway, so make the front look how you envisioned, and skimp on the fabric’s criss-cross on the back. It creates the illusion of completion, without waste or requiring another trip to the store. Your costume requires blue boots with a large white cuff? I haven’t seen those in the stores lately, and I’m certainly not a cobbler; but I have access to a sewing machine, leftover blue cotton fabric, and white felt makes a solid cuff. With a little improvisation, those boots became a reality

5.  “Shop” the house to use what you have.

It’s trendy to shop the house for new accent pieces to reinvent the living room’s design; so why not apply that same philosophy to your crafting? If I had to buy all the tools to make a costume, then it would become very expensive. But since I’ve been crafting for years, I’ve amassed a collection of paints, tools, and other general supplies that make this easier. Excess materials from past projects or are never wasted, so with some key organization and an eye for up-cycling you can reduce the costs of buying buttons, fabric, black leggings… I even found a gold belt loop in my button box – which was a great time and money saver! Also, I don’t own my own sewing machine, but I have several family members and friends who are more than happy to let me use theirs. Repurposing and borrowing helps keep your overall costs down, so try to look for easy ways to do this wherever you can.

6.  Have fun.

Never forget the reason why you started crafting in the first place. Creating a costume should be just as much fun as wearing, if not more. And if you’re creating the costume for someone else, keep in mind that they’re going to think it’s awesome not matter how “professional” it looks. To that person, you are the costume designer, so be confident and enjoy every moment.

In future posts, I’m going to provide DIY instructions on how to make your own cosplay costumes. I’ll show you what I’ve designed, mistakes I’ve learned from, and how I’ve applied all six of these rules. In the meantime, remember there’s only six more months until Halloween!

Happy crafting!

Going in Circles; How I conquered my fear of knitting in the round

Knitting has always been an effort of trial and error for me, fueled by a fierce desire to teach myself. However, as with many skills sometimes guidance is needed to at least grasp the basics. Take for instance, the purl stitch.

The Purl Problem

Easy right? Can you remember the first time you tried it though? I just couldn’t get the concept of moving both the yarn and the needle to the front, so instead I was accidentally adding a stitch every time. My swatch looked like a bad triangle shape after a few rows.

I had a solid handle on the knit stitch, my grey garter stitch scarf was coming out fine. But I needed to know how to make the elusive purl stitch. So I did what anyone would do – asked a stranger on the bus!

The Girl on the Train Bus

I carried my knitting in a little bag, and scanned the bus after I boarded. I spotted a woman with fiery red curly hair knitting a hat. I sat next to her and pulled out my  scarf and started knitting, stealing sidelong glances at her advanced project. It was a gorgeous hat, brown with a pattern of owls – and she was knitting with five needles.

Immediately intimidated I asked, “Is that hard, knitting with more than two needles?”

“Not at all.” She replied nonchalantly.

I didn’t believe her obviously.

“Can I ask another question? How do you do a purl stitch?”

She demonstrated the second most basic stitch in all of knitting on her own hat.

Next to her I silently agonized about two things: 1.) The trouble it must be to do a stitch that isn’t part of the pattern and then have to undo that stitch. Un-knitting, as I like to call it, was very difficult for me, and here was a stranger willingly messing with their pattern! 2.) I needed the put BOTH the yarn and the needle in front?

From Scarves to Squirrels

A few months later, purl and knit stitches successfully understood, I came across a hat pattern that required ears knitted in the round. It was a challenge I accepted, in a small scale. My needles were all over the place and I had to restart at least eight times, but eventually I had two small ears. Then I graduated to the squirrel pattern in Knitting MochiMochi by Anna Hrachovec.

Knitting amigurami actually helped me get a better handle on knitting in the round. Unlike knitting socks or mittens, which need to be symmetrical and ultimately require accurate gauging, amigurami don’t need any of those requirements. You can use any size needle, any weight yarn; it’s like a knitted free-for-all. With the common pressures removed, I could focus on the technique of knitting in the round and really become comfortable with it.

Now, knitting in the round with five needles has become one of my favorite ways to knit. I even become confident enough to bring this type of knitting on the bus, which really challenges my coordination. Next up is learning this so-called “magic loop method”.

Until next time, happy knitting!