Creating Chrom’s Tunic by Avoiding Near Disaster

For PAX 2016, The Boy and I wanted to go as Chrom and Lucina, two of our favorite characters from Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Awakening. I sketched the costume designs and we bought a few yards of fabric in the colors we needed. Problem was, we underestimated how tall The Boy is… and didn’t buy enough fabric to make the tunic.

 

Rather than accept disaster, I improvised. 

Knowing that The Boy would wear an undershirt with the costume, I altered the design to be more like a smock with adjustable ties down the sides. This ended up having more benefits than I originally anticipated:

  • The smock used less fabric, essential since we didn’t buy enough
  • Adjustable ties reduced the margin of error of making the tunic too small or too large
  • Less pressure for perfection, because the costume’s cape would hide mistakes

How to Save the Project:

First, I cut two identical lengths of the fabric for the front and back of the tunic, making sure to cut a semi-circle for the neck for a more natural fit. Second, I cut 8 long strips out of the remaining scrap fabric to use for fabric ties. I hemmed these strips with the sewing machine so there would be no loose ends.

Next came the hem. I pinned the tunic all around, and affixed the ties on both sides in two main locations: one near the chest and one near the waist. I sewed the main hem for both the front and back panels before attaching them, because it was easier to feed through the sewing machine at this point. Then the two identical panels with ties were sewn together at the shoulder.

For detailing, I trimmed the tunic in a gold ribbon that I stitched about 1-inch in from the hem. The gold trim adds a nice touch to the costume, without being overly complex.

My dad once told me that all crafters make mistakes, but it’s the masters of their craft that know how to hide them.

We were talking about knitting. Or carpentry. One of those two. Either way, the concept still applies. I still consider myself a novice seamstress, but I’m a master at fixing my own mistakes and making the best of any situation.

I was really happy with how the tunic turned out. It wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t going for perfection. The goal was to make a Chrom costume and have fun; and I think I achieved that with this tunic.

The takeaway from this crafting session:

  • Measure twice.
  • Create backup plans when a project doesn’t go as anticipated
  • Measure a third time.

 

Save the files, Resetti’s all smiles – Making the Mr. Resetti Mask

Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the DS takes some of our favorite characters from the GameCube version and mingles them with a whole new cast. Mr. Resetti may be a little rough around the edges, and outright startling the first time you meet him, but he’s no doubt recognizable. I made a mask for my friend’s Mr. Resetti CosPlay Costume he wore at PAX East 2016. While at the convention,  a woman approached him with her three boys and said, “Are you Mr. Resetti? You made my kids cry when they were younger. Can I get a picture?” And that became their Christmas card.

Okay, maybe not their Christmas card, but it was a great mask. And I’m going to teach you how to make one of your own. Just try to leave the scaring children until they cry to the actual in-game character.

dsc_0298

Mr. Resetti, of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series, mask next to the Mr. Resetti amiibo.

 

Getting Started

Skill: Beginner

Project type: Papier-Mâché, painting

Time: Full weekend (8+ hrs or overnight dry time required)

Materials:

  • Mask base (purchase at a craft store)
  • Newspaper
    • Some pieces whole for shaping
    • Some pieces torn into 1-inch strips
  • Glue (I prefer Elmer’s School Glue)
  • Water
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Paint brushes
  • Acrylic paint
    • brown
    • black
    • white
  • String or cord to tie mask
  • Covering for workspace – this can get messy!
  • paper / plastic bowls (optional)
    • For mixing glue / water
    • Holding shredded newspaper
    • Mixing / holding paint

Making the Mask Part 1:   Shape the Mask

First things first, you’ll need to make the mask look like shape of Mr. Resetti’s face. He’s got a long, pointy nose with little hairs. To shape the nose, take a piece of newspaper and roll it into a cone. Using masking tape, tape the cone shape together so it will not unravel. Sometimes it’s easier to shape the cone and tape it first, then cut the length to size with scissors. Then attach the cone to the mask with masking tape.

When the cone is in place the next step is to secure it to the mask using Papier-Mâché. To do this, first you need to mix the adhesive. There are many recipes available online, but this is the one is the one I prefer because it’s very simple:

Easy Papier-Mâché Mix

  • 3 parts glue

  • 1 part water

Mix these together until combined. You’ll want the substance to be fluid but not runny.

This is when things start to get a little messy – definitely make sure your workspace is covered, extra newspaper is a good option, and you’ve removed any jewelry or nice clothes. Keep the bowl with your glue mix close to your shredded newspaper strips.

Take one of the strips and dip it into the glue mixture. Using your fingers, wipe off the excess glue. If you have too thick of a layer it’ll delay your dry-time. Then apply the strip directly onto the mask. You’ll want to continue doing this until the mask is mostly covered. Take care to ensure that the cone is secured by multiple layers of Papier-Mâché across the front and underside of the mask. Don’t forget to secure it from the bottom. Also, be sure to wrap the cone completely, this will further secure the shape that was originally set by the masking tape. Try to smooth out any bubbles or rough edges while the glue is still wet.

Take care not to cover over the holes at the edge of the mask for tying the string later.  Leave the mask to dry for several hours, overnight is best.

Making the Mask Part 2: Painting the Face

When the mask is dry and Resetti’s nose has been shaped, it’s time to add the paint to really bring it together. First, prime the mask by painting a white base. This will coverup much of the print on the newspaper so it doesn’t show through, and ensures a more uniform final look. Depending on the newspaper you chose, you may need to do more than one coat of white allover the mask.

Let the mask dry between coats; typically a thin layer of acrylic paint will dry within 20-30 minutes. This is why I like to use acrylics for these kinds of projects, because acrylics have a very quick dry time and they’re easy to paint over if you make a mistake. I use the craft store’s basic acrylics line, typically running $3-7 a tube. Expensive paints are not necessary. I also have a lot of paint brushes for use with acrylics and watercolor paints. I take very good care of these brushes and because of this many of these brushes have lasted me for over 15 years.

Then it’s time for my favorite part: the decorative painting. The paint really brings the mask to life. Start with a medium brown paint, for Resetti a Sienna tone is good. Paint the mask brown all over, using two coats if necessary. Again, let the mask dry between coats. Then paint Mr. Resetti’s thick eyebrows with black paint above the eyeholes in the mask.  Don’t forget to add some thin black lines on his nose for his whiskers! Let it dry completely.

Add an elastic cord or some string to create ties for the mask. I used hemp string for a rustic look, with two 12-inch long pieces on either side that could easily be tied together behind the head. If you choose to use elastic, measure twice and sew the ends for a stronger hold.

Making of a Mask: Lucina’s “Marth” Mask

When we first meet Lucina in Nintendo’s Fire Emblem: Awakening, she appears disguised as the legendary hero Marth wearing a dark navy mask that shields her eyes. Though the design initially appears complex, by breaking it down into manageable parts, it’s not too challenging to create your own. Here are easy-to-follow instructions for a mask you can make in a weekend.

Getting Started

Skill: Beginner

Project type: Papier-Mâché, painting

Time: Full weekend (8+ hrs or overnight dry time required)

Materials:

  • Mask base (purchase at a craft store)
  • Newspaper, torn into 1-inch strips
  • Poster-board or thick paper for shaping
  • Glue (I prefer Elmer’s School Glue)
  • Water
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Paint brushes
  • Acrylic paint
    • brown
    • black
    • white
  • String or cord to tie mask
  • Covering for workspace – this can get messy!
  • paper / plastic bowls (optional)
    • For mixing glue / water
    • Holding shredded newspaper
    • Mixing / holding paint

Step 1: Shaping

Start with the mask base, available at most craft stores, this saves you a significant amount of time and is totally worth it, especially if this is your first mask. Using the poster-board, create the lower edge of Lucina’s mask by tracing a shape that looks similar to the lower half of a butterfly’s wing. Cut the shape out, and use it to trace an identical one for the other side. With the two shapes cut, tape them to the bottom of the mask base using masking tape.

Step 2: Papier-Mâché

DSC_0227 Lucina Mask Base Papier-Mâché

Messy but worth the effort – Papier-Mâché strengthens your mask.

Definitely take a few minutes to prep your workspace, because this step can get very messy. We’ll use Papier-Mâché to secure the poster-board cutouts to the mask and create a well-balanced piece. Use a paper bowl to mix the Papier-Mâché. There are many recipes available online, but this is the one is the one I prefer because it’s very simple:

Easy Papier-Mâché Mix

  • 3 parts glue

  • 1 part water

Mix these together until combined. You’ll want the substance to be fluid but not runny.

Dip the strips of newspaper into the glue mixture, using your fingers to remove the excess. Gently apply the strips to the mask, concentrating on covering the poster-board for support and securing where it attaches to the mask. Take care to smooth any ridges or air bubbles out while the glue is wet. TIP: Don’t cover the holes for the ribbon to tie the mask on, or you’ll have to punch them through later.

Let dry completely, for 6-8 hours or overnight.

Step 3: Apply a Base Coat

Newspaper is great for using in Papier-Mâché because its thin, inexpensive, and a great way to recycle. The downside? The black ink will show through projects unless you apply a solid base coat. It’s worth the extra effort.

Paint the entire mask white. I like acrylics because they’re easy to use and dry fast. Let the mask dry completely, 1-3 hours depending on how thick of a layer you’ve painted. Apply a second coat of white paint across the entire mask. This will ensure that your base coat is even, and will make your decorative paint colors appear more uniform across the mask. Let dry completely.

Step 4: Painting – The Fun Part

My favorite part of the mask project: Painting! For the Lucina mask, begin with a base of dark Navy blue. If you have navy paint – great! If not, mix small (and I mean tiny!) amounts of black paint in with a dollop of primary blue until you reach the desired shade. It’s better to start small and mix more black in, than to go in too strong and waste a lot of blue paint to get the hue right. I like to use a larger brush for this part.

When the navy dries, using a small brush, paint the detail in white. This thin white layer will dry quickly, and then you can go over it with gold. I find that this method is easier than trying to keep white boarders while painting the mask navy. It does require a little more patience and a steady hand, but the results are worth it. Even though acrylics layer really well, I find that the white base allows the color to pop more – so the white base will help the gold paint stand out better. Let dry completely.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

DSC_0299 Lucina Fire Emblem Mask

The completed Lucina CosPlay Mask

The mask isn’t complete without a way to wear it. Here are a few options arranged by difficulty:

Easy:  Purchase a pre-strung mask, it’ll already be fit to size and ready to wear

Medium:  Cut two lengths of string and tie the ends of each through the holes. Leave the second ends loose to tie around the head to wear.

Hard:  Cut elastic cord 1-2 inches longer than the snug length around head. Thread an end through the mask hold and hand sew to attach. Repeat on the other side, ensuring that the mask will fit snugly on the face without falling off or giving the wearer a headache.

Now your mask is ready to wear.

Challenge your fate, and happy crafting!

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!