I spent most of Saturday working on my Halloween costume: Princess Pinecone from Kate Beaton’s excellent children’s picture book The Princess and the Pony. With the exception of a couple hours lost to trying to figure out what was making my bobbin stitches so loose and at the same time making the bobbin thread show on the top side of the fabric, it went pretty well. The fact that the dress is basically a long sleeveless tunic made it a lot easier than the cosplay tunic I made a couple weeks ago.
Having dedicated projects like this really helps my mental state. It’s a great opportunity to experience what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “flow” (also known as “the zone,” according to Wikipedia), which keeps me off a lot of the self-destructive psychological paths I often find myself heading down.
As for that unidentified fear I wrote about last week, I’m still not sure what that is. Perhaps I had such a good time with this particular Halloween costume because I work with little kids who are just gonna be happy to see someone dressed up as a character from their favorite book about cute flatulent ponies.
I was reading an article about self-control the other day, and one commenter noted that self-control is connected with the ability to tolerate ambivalence. The range of creative endeavors I’m interested in has recently widened and I think the ambivalence got to me last week, because while on Sunday and Monday I lost a collected four hours of sleep working on that friggin’ cosplay, by Wednesday I was spending my evenings watching TV, and not doing much else. When I tried to muster the enthusiasm I’d had over the weekend, I could only obsess over my discovery that the fabric is slightly the wrong color. I am under no illusions that my cosplay will be the Most Accurate and Perfectly Detailed Ever, so a teensy thing like that shouldn’t topple the whole project. It’s not like someone’s going to run up to me at Fanime and be like, “Hey, wait a minute! That’s the wrong shade! *gasp* You’re not really [character x]! …But [the papier-mâchéd exercise ball] looks like the real deal.”
But boy was it easy to pinpoint my lack of enthusiasm on that one thing.
I reluctantly texted my friends Saturday morning to ask if they wanted to get together to work on cosplay things, feeling pretty “now or never” about the whole deal, and thankfully having three other people work on the same kind of thing in the same room did help me get motivated again. Plus, as my friend pointed out, the fabric is the highlight shade of the clothing I’m copying… I just need to stand in sunlight the whole time and it’s accurate again. That helped me feel a bit better. Also, we played with EVA foam and a heat gun while watching YouTube tutorials on how to craft fake armor that way, which was fun.
I’m just not sure what I’m afraid of.
And then the whole North Bay caught on fire.
It’s been a rough week for pretty much everyone in the Bay Area, more so for those who were evacuated and even more so for those who lost homes and/or loved ones. By the grace of God the fire never got close enough to where I live to be evacuated, but I live next to hills covered in very flammable dry brush, and I slept with one eye open.
Work was canceled Thursday and Friday because the smoke made the air quality too hazardous, so I spent both days indoors. Trying to keep fear at bay, I hauled out my sewing equipment and made excellent progress on my cosplay. The 8 hours I would have spent working on Thursday were spent trying to draft, cut, and insert a single sleeve. (That’s the thing about sewing… you can work on it for hours and have made no visible progress, but you will have learned a lot. You will also end up with a lot of thread scraps and tiny holes in your garment from ripping out the seams of every unsuccessful attempt.)
Rain in the forecast for Thursday and Friday. I’ve never looked forward to wet weather so much.
Much of Saturday was spent with my friends diving into the cosplays we were excitedly brainstorming on the way home from the anime convention Labor Day weekend. (And we did papier-mâché an exercise ball. It turned out better than we expected, but we’re gonna need a couple more rolls of kraft tape and like a bucket of Mod Podge.)
I’ve made my own cosplays before, but they weren’t terribly ambitious—mostly cut-up T-shirts. Adequate for my purposes, though maybe not the prettiest. But this time, I’m making a tunic, and I need something a little better than a butchered Hanes Beefy-T. I need a pattern. And not just any pattern—I need one I make myself.
Thankfully one of my friends is experienced with making her own patterns and helped me out step by step. I started by tracing a tank top, then enlarging it by 2 inches on every side, and then taking careful measurements of me front and back to make sure it would fit around me. I was so excited that after finishing the patterns for the front and back pieces, I quickly pinned both them to the fabric, cut them out, sewed them together about 3/4 inch from the edge, tried putting the semi-finished tunic on and… couldn’t put my arms down. I had to have two people squeeze me into it, and then one person cut me out of it with a seam ripper. So this week’s takeaway lesson is you can never have too much seam allowance.
Still need to put sleeves on it, and hem it, and decorate it, and fix up the collar, but I’m still excited. And committed. (Which means everything else kinda fell by the wayside this week. But I’m trying to enjoy my hobbies, not feel like I have to be slavishly devoted to them.)
Busy week (and weekend). A few things of note:
- I went to another anime/nerd convention with pals over Labor Day weekend and we had so much fun watching and interacting with cosplayers that we made a mutual commitment to actually cosplay in the next year or so. The next day saw us designing cosplays and trawling fabric and craft stores for supplies and materials. We’re trying to keep each other motivated because these projects could easily fall by the wayside into a pile of craft foam and broadcloth, and this in particular is something we’re pretty excited about. (We’re going to papier-mâché an exercise ball and put googly eyes on it. …It doesn’t make that much sense even in context, but the idea left us in tears with laughter and we hope when it is completed it will amuse others, as well.)
- At the above con I impulse-bought an ocarina (a gorgeous 12-hole Brio from St. Louis Ocarina’s booth), which I am currently enjoying annoying the cat with. It has a lovely full sound, especially in the low notes. Fingering is a little tricky, as is making sure my fingers are covering the holes all the way.
- On Wednesday I gathered all the acoustic musical instruments I own (accordion, harp, ukulele, ocarina), plugged in my $7 microphone I bought when I was abroad to use while Skyping my family, opened up Audacity, and played around for a good two hours. No, I am not going to be a producer anytime soon. But I had fun.
I spent this weekend with the aforementioned dear friend/houseguest and had an excellent time exploring different parts of the Bay Area. She’s from the Midwest, so of course we needed to go to the ocean and take a day trip into San Francisco. We also stopped at Fanime/Clockwork Alchemy in San Jose on Saturday to see the cosplayers. Where else can you see Ariel from The Little Mermaid walking down the street casually with Kylo Ren?
I’ve been going to cons with my friends for almost a decade but don’t cosplay too often. When I do it’s never anything too fancy—quite the opposite, actually, given my limited skills with a sewing machine/clay/paint/wig styling. More than once I’ve chosen to cosplay characters whose costumes can be deliberately crappy. (My favorite was in 2012, when my friends and I cosplayed cosplayers from Inspector Spacetime, a thinly veiled parody of Doctor Who from the sitcom Community. It basically consisted of stuff we already had plus maybe $10 of stuff scavenged from Goodwill and Dollar Tree–things like bathrobes and toy sheriff’s badges, and things made of cardboard). But after every con I always come home thinking that I want my next cosplay to be an actual good one.
The idea of having a big summer sewing project is appealing, but I’m doubtful of my abilities and discipline. I’ll think about it. First I’d need to figure out who I even want to dress up as.
Or I could just take my accordion to a con, hang out around the corner from a Zelda cosplayer gathering, and play Kass’s theme.